May 2008 Archives
Lots of debate over a literature exam at Cambridge in which final year students were asked to compare an Amy Winehouse lyric to a poem by Sir Walter Raleigh.
I can vividly recall the horror and/or amusement of commentators and critics in the late 60s when it became known that the words of Bob Dylan (right) songs were being subjected to academic analysis and postgrads were doing MAs and doctorates based on his work and cultural significance.
I don't like watching people snog. Pecking on the cheek is fine. Kissing on the lips is OK too. When people start putting their tongues into each other's mouths I feel the need to divert my eyes and then wonder why I should have to.
This week I went swimming at a private fitness club and was more than a little irritated at having to divert my eyes for 45 minutes while a couple snogged between cavorts in the water and the rest of us had to dodge them as we breast-stroked and crawled up and down.
When I tried to make a complaint to the duty manager, I was astonished to discover that the club has no policy on snogging and therefore no action was taken.
"Can you believe it?" I said to my colleagues when I got into work the next day. "Do people really find snogging in a fitness club acceptable?"
I was in full-blown outraged-of-Birmingham mode when one of my peers said: "Isn't it a bit like the argument about breast-feeding in public?"
So, the first stupendous series of Mad Men is behind us. Several shelves-worth of Golden Globes and Baftas are just waiting.
The series-closing expression on the face of Don Draper as he sat at the foot of the stairs in his empty, expensive house was heart-stopping, at once tragic and hilarious, like a Hamlet played by Buster Keaton scripted by Tennessee Williams accompanied by the high, lonesome sound of a bitter Bob Dylan ballad all about love, whatever that is, in the words of Highgrove's most famous tree-hugger.
The first International Dance Festival Birmingham is finished - and what a four-week feast it's been! Beginning with tai-chi on water at the Hippodrome and ending last night with the general public salsa-ing at sunset in the Mailbox, the IDFB triumphantly lived up to its own slogan - 'Bringing the city alive with dance'.
Now it's all over, I wish to honour the efforts and achievements of those involved with my very own awards ceremony (you'll be relieved to read that no phoney phone-ins nor he's-a-mate nepotism have in any way affected the resuts):
Another day, another museum, another big success - monstrous, even.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's major show for the summer, Myths and Monsters, was packed today - that's Sunday, May 25, only the second day of opening. It runs until August 31 and it's an absolute must for a family outing.
The show, at the Gas Hall, has something for everyone and very effectively incorporates exhibits from the museum's collections with newly-commissioned animatronic figures (huge dragon, scary yeti, even scarier cyclops, weird chimera, strangely neutral unicorn) which fascinated and delighted the legions of kids.
Great start to our holiday weekend, thanks to Mr Punch and family - that's wife Judy, of course, baby Asbo and Toby the Dog. And Professor Clive Chandler, Birmingham's puppet man, right, had a couple of hands in it as well.
He was booked at Kettering (where the tyres came from originally) to do a couple of shows as part of Museum and Art Galleries month. The venue was the Manor House Museum, so he gave his performance (as brilliant and funny as ever) an appropriate heritage slant, making us all appreciate the weight of history behind the evergreen character.
This may well turn out to be a piece about cult sci-fi and horror movies. For radioactive ants, giant squids, killer bees and the like sparked much jovial banter - and a surprising and worrying depth of knowledge - among the lads last night.
It sounds like a boozy night in a bar - but it's even better than that ... I get paid for it. Is that by the way, Ellie, the correct use of ellipsis? See http://ellielovell.wordpress.com/ for clarification. She's a Warwick University student who worries about such things. Isn't the blogosphere an interesting place?
In the final movement of Jewels by the Kirov Ballet at the Hippodrome, it finally struck me. Ballet is the synchronised swimming of the dance world. Plenty of opaque smiles, lots of legs high up in the air and whatever's going on beneath the surface is out of sight and out of mind.
I can't help placing ballet in the same category as rhythmic gymnastics or figure skating. Whatever the costume colour or music style, you've got to produce officially-recognised positions of a sufficiently high quality in order to qualify. That's sport for you - not art.
Kenneth Wolstenholme is best remembered for uttering "they think it's all over", but the line he intended for 1966 immortality was one he'd practised: "it's twelve inches high, it's made of solid gold and it means that England are World Champions". He'd never get away with it now, as a nation our minds are far too dirty, but that's not my point. A year earlier when The Rotunda was completed, that wouldn't really turn out how architect James Roberts intended either, but for Brummies it became something just as iconic.
Yesterday I attended a screening of Nic Gaunt's film 'Rotunda: 21 Stories', a film ostensibly about the building that stands, er, 21 storeys tall at the bottom of New Street. But, while the film radiates from the Rotunda at its central core, it pushes far beyond that to be a film about identity, family, and how the built environment can help shape the way we feel.
Apart from possibly being the cinematic work that contains the word "round" most often, the film takes time to talk about how Birmingham has been shaped by its architecture and by using only the voices of Brummies and those involved in the building means that it's thankfully free of theories, instead focusing on emotion.
The 21 stories range from the base and James Roberts, with tales of how the building grew taller almost on a whim, to the top, restoration, and a young carpenter who's too scared to work alone in the basement. In between are a host of people talking about, confessing almost, their relationship with a huge pile of concrete and glass and by extension their lives.
Ask a Chinese person what their opinions are of Englishmen and a majority will sigh (women only, usually) and confidently reply, "Englishmen are gentlemen."
How embarrassing for me when I have to correct them and say, "well, actually....not anymore.."
Sometimes I just don't say anything. I just smile and raise my eyebrows.
Exactly how out of date are these perceptions that China has about England? Are we talking Austen era? Shakespearean times? Because I can't remember the last time I thought to myself, "that man was so chivalrous when he chose to spit into the bush and not onto my walk way".
Having said that, I've been away from home for a long time, and have somehow also begun to believe that English men are all floppy haired and bumblingly apologetic, in a Hugh Grant-esqe way.
Very rarely will a Chinese man hold open the door for you, offer you his jacket, or allow you exit the elevator first. Out here, it's every man for himself. I cuss under my breath, as I convince myself "this would never happen in England".
Perhaps I've been in China far too long. You could live in paradise and begin to get narky at something or other. The stupid weather is too hot on my perfect caribbean island. Those flippin' angels are playing those harps again, don't they ever give it a rest?! It's completely true that we're never happy with our lot.
When I'm in a bad mood, I become Miss Patriot 2008, I don't wear a sash or tiara or anything, but I do convince myself that the food, weather, people, and even the traffic are so much better in England than anywhere else. Much alike when we have a bad day in England, we consider emigrating.
I secretly console my bad moods with my 'Pride and Prejudice' ideal of England and English people, that could only have been created through a detachment from home.
Man, am I in for a shock when I return home...