Friday, August 31, 2018

About toilet paper

Part of the response from the ethical toilet paper company Who Gives A Crap to a Facebook query as to why they wrap each roll individually (which appears on the face of it to be an environmental own-goal:
They work better with an online product and were more visually appealing and shareable.
Yes, we are in a world where people take to Instagram to show us the product they use to wipe their bums. Sometimes I’m not sure whether it’s really worth saving.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

About the Elephant Man

A new TV drama about the life of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, has run into trouble because the actor portraying Merrick is not disabled; indeed, it’s been compared to the practice of white actors blacking up. The real-life Elephant Man probably had Proteus syndrome, a rare condition that affects fewer than one in a million people, but nobody appears to be suggesting that they need to cast a Proteus sufferer; as far as I can tell, all that matters is that the performer - unlike the actor Charlie Heaton, the one who’s actually got the gig - has some sort of disability.

I’m a little uneasy with this, mainly because it appears to set up a rigid binary divide, disabled actors on one side, non-disabled on the other, and all parts are to be allotted accordingly. That said, the actor Adam Pearson, who has called the casting of Heaton “cripping-up”, has neurofibromatosis, which was Merrick’s assumed diagnosis until the mid-1980s, so maybe he has more of a right to it than, say, an actor with Down syndrome, or a wheelchair user; although that would imply some sort of hierarchy of disabilities. And the alternative to that is a situation where characters such as Quasimodo, Long John Silver and Tiresias would be off-limits to the non-disabled, but the one-legged Silver might be played by someone with the standard complement of limbs, but deaf, or epileptic, or... take your pick.

I do get it - opportunities for actors with disabilities are already limited, so it looks like a kick in the teeth to make an able-bodied actor pretend. And, yes, there’s an equivalent situation for ethnic minorities (more of that later). But we may be getting to a situation where political sensitivity leaves some roles essentially unplayable, leaving important stories forever untold. At least Merrick’s tale has already been told, and superbly, which raises another question, of why film and TV seem insistent on remaking things less well. I’m not sure whether John Hurt’s portrayal of Merrick should now be seen as unacceptable, the disabled cousin to Olivier’s Othello, but it moved me to tears the first time I saw it and it does the same today. What do you think?

PS: In Twitterland, Archie Valparaiso brings up this comedic classic and I wonder whether it too would now be verboten:

Thursday, August 23, 2018

About the post-Bowie world

The more I think about this, the more tempted I am to take it utterly seriously...

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

About a hole

A man fell into a hole. More specifically, he fell into Anish Kapoor’s art work Descent Into Limbo, which is a big hole, currently in a floor in Portugal.

Two thoughts. First, since this is part of a temporary exhibition, how does one transport a hole, a gap, an absence? How does one insure it? How much does it weigh?

Then, presumably the unfortunate gentleman stepped into the hole because he thought it was only an image of a hole, a picture of one. But it wasn’t; his fall was ultimately a confrontation with empirical reality. As is so often the case, I blame that Belgian rascal Magritte. Ceci est un trou.

Monday, August 20, 2018

About Shelley and Corbyn

From Joe Kennedy’s anti-Blairite screed Authentocrats:
When Corbyn quoted Percy Shelley’s “The Masque of Anarchy” at Glastonbury Festival in the summer of 2017, various figures on the political right and centre were quick to take to Twitter to claim that referencing Romantic poetry was hardly an example of the common touch. Imagining how Raymond Williams might have responded to this idea is good fun, to say the least. If you’re tempted in any way to concur with it, think a little longer about the implications of saying poetry, books, music, painting and so on are only for the well-off.
Well, yes and no. Obviously, poetry, especially the poetry of a dazzling radical such as Shelley, *should* be on the lips of everyone. But it really isn’t, is it? If I were to amble into my nearest branch of Lidl and ask them who wrote The Masque of Anarchy, what sort of strike rate should I expect? In fact, I rather suspect that going to Waitrose wouldn’t be any more productive and the vast majority of those who Kennedy would define as “well-off” wouldn’t recognise a line of Shelley if crawled up their trouser legs and returned the trains to public ownership.

Which is, to Kennedy, probably Tony Blair’s fault, but it’s still true.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

About the Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced a new category for the Oscars; Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. Nobody’s actually decided what the criteria might be for said film, how they might calibrate said popularity, whether there’s an online poll or a focus group or a pin in a list or they just put the question to the same people who vote for the... what will it be now, Unpopular Film? Is there a certain level of ticket sales or rentals a film has to hit in order to qualify? Is it down to likes on Facebook or Instagram or whatever the young folk will be into next year? Or they could just ask Warren Beatty what he reckons – and then pick something else.

The funny thing is that nobody at the Academy thinks that these elusive Popular Films actually need such an award; they’re popular, which is an award in itself. It’s just that very few people are bothering to watch the Oscars ceremony on telly, so the Academy isn’t making enough money from it, which is another reason I’d be wary of taking their word on what popularity and how it should be done. And will anyone who hasn’t already seen a movie be tempted to see it because it’s the Best Popular Film?

“So this is the Best Film?”
“No, it’s the Best Popular Film.”
“Well it can’t be that Popular, if we haven’t seen it.”
“No, not the Most Popular – the Best Popular. The Most Popular Film wasn’t nominated.”
“Why not?”
“It wasn’t very good.”
“But we saw it.”
“Yes. Everyone did. Hence its Popularity.”

In essence, what a Best Popular Film award will say is that This Film Is Good – Just Not Quite As Good As The (Less Popular) Best Film. Which I’m sure will look great on the posters.

And it’s going to be Black Panther anyway, so there we go.

PS: Oh, hang on though...

PPS: Apparently it’s Piers Morgan’s fault.

PPPS: More sensibly, IndieWire comes up with seven new categories we actually need.

PPPPS: This:

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

About Stalin and Magritte

Don’t ask me why I ended up at the home page of the Stalin Society of North America. And, when you haven’t asked me that, don’t ask me why they’re co-opting Surrealist iconography (and my Blogger profile pic) for their murky ends.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

About Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh has written a piece in which she discusses a brief, strange, awkward sort-of-relationship she had 20 years ago with a well-known writer that she refers to as “Rupert Dicks”. In the accompanying interview, Alex Clark says, “Inevitably readers will come to it in the context of the wider conversation about male privilege and predatory behaviour.” Which may well be true, but surely they’ll also come to it in the context of WHO THE HELL IS IT?

I’m saying John Updike, but what do I know?