Susannah Herbert, quoted in the Telegraph obituary of Detta O’Cathain, the former Barbican boss:
The tragedy of Baroness O’Cathain stems from her passionate self-belief and her inability to persuade others to share it.
Very belatedly I’m becoming aware of the importance of image description in social media, a courtesy that allows people with sight loss to engage better, especially with image-centric platforms such as Instagram. Either one can rely on the platform’s inbuilt object recognition technology, or write a brief description of the image, which sight-impaired users will be able to access with text-to-speech software. Of course, the principle has long been used in audio-description for films, and in audio guides in art galleries and it’s certainly a good way to make such art forms more accessible, although inevitably it has its limitations; it can tell you what’s depicted but the wobbly heft of a Rubens thigh, or the wild, mad intensity of a Van Gogh yellow may be harder to put across.
There is art, of course, where such subtleties aren’t really the point; where the whole reason for the work being there is something that can be wholly encapsulated in a paragraph. Indeed, the object itself is secondary to the idea. In fact, maybe this could be a useful rule of thumb, a sort of Turing test for art. If an image description can entirely and satisfactorily communicate a work of art to someone who can’t see said work, then that work can be categorised as a piece of conceptual art.
I don’t think I’ve ever been interested in any play about the happy, successful, lighter moments of life. I think that’s a very modern, pervasive idea in our entertainment, whether it’s on Instagram or in fiction, to show only the good and the perfect side of yourself. It’s just a lie and it’s very dull, and it’s nothing that anyone should even strive for. Obviously when you’re younger, all the dark side of life holds a lot of interest. Every teenager listens to the Doors and reads Sartre.
91 years ago today, on April 18, 1930, the BBC evening news bulletin consisted of the words “there is no news”, with piano music filling the rest of the 15 minutes. Cursory Googling suggests that this wasn’t a bad call, and that very little of historical importance occurred on that day; beyond, of course, the announcement that there was news, which became the only thing that anyone knows about that day, certainly raising its significance above that of the 17th or 19th. Once again, absence becomes a presence.
A lot of time and energy has been spent on arranging for you to listen to me to take a long time to declare open a building which everyone knows is open already.
Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.
I will not be pointing and laughing at an old man who has just died, nor at a woman who has lost her husband of over 70 years. However, I hope I’ll be permitted to raise an eyebrow at the various media organisations that have seen fit to pad out what’s at best a 20-minute story (he’s dead; here’s some archive of when he was alive; here are some people saying nice things about him) into a rolling news juggernaut that’s swept all other programming before it. The BBC in particular is tugging its forelock across all channels, which is pretty impressive for an organisation that’s supposedly a quivering nest of Trotskyite wokeness.
Special mention though to Reuters which ran a live feed of an aerial view of Buckingham Palace, which would have been an odd thing to do even if Prince Philip had died there (he was at Windsor Castle) and then it turned out the footage was of the Tower of London anyway.
PS: A reminder of the wonderful Kastom people of Vanuatu, who worshipped the late Prince as a god.
PPS: And this.
I remember watching the Marx Brothers’ movie A Day At The Races for the first time, on TV, when somebody repeated a reel by mistake; and I was so wrapped up in the lunacy, I just assumed it was part of the film.
I remember Richard Nixon’s blood clot.
I remember Stanley Green the protein man and Lord Mustard the tap-dancing busker.
I remember answering the phone with a number.
I remember the London Planetarium.
I remember when everybody had a poster of Béatrice Dalle.
I remember the death of General Franco. I didn't know who Franco was or why it was important; but my mother said it meant her friend Carmen could go home now.
I remember polo necks under shirts.
I remember “Nicholas Parsons is the Neo-Opiate of the People”.