Archive for the ‘Cynicism’ Category

The one Ronnie

Friday, June 17, 2005

Van Gogh, Munch, Caravaggio. Mad as bag ladies at Hogmanay, but artistic geniuses to a man. I was excited, then, when I heard that another mad artist’s work was coming up for auction in Lincoln on July 2. If madness is the food of art then Ronnie Kray, one half of the murderous East End twins and occasional avant-garde decorator of Whitechapel pubs, has excess of it.

Ronnie Kray paintingPainted during Ronnie’s “Broadmoor Period”, Untitled Landscape with Cottage and Tree is one of a number of similar works depicting in bold colours a rough hewn landscape touched by a distant vision of civilisation.

Note especially the angle of the tree, the gentle disregard for perspective in the cottage and the shy, almost anonymous signature.

As bad art created by celebrities goes, it is right up there with D. H Lawrence’s A Holy Family.

Apache indian

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Native Americans are faring much better since they managed to find a collective name that doesn’t immediately conjure images of a savages with a penchant for ritual killing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of the occasional atrocity.

viz the Apache Wedding Blessing, a piece of ethnic tat beloved of cheap wedding planners:

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two persons but there is only one life before you.
Go now and enter into the days of your life together
And may your days together be good and long upon the earth.

(Helpfully supplied by Helen)

Apart from being as profound as saying “Have a good one, mate”, it is also nonsensical. How can neither of them feel the rain? As a metaphor for the strength of the family unit it is peculiarly inappropriate. The message is essentially that one of you will be exploited.

Just because Native Americans in films make extensive use of dramatic pauses doesn’t make their sayings deep. You might as well stand in the pulpit and say: “Let us smoke a while, Dances With Wolves.”

Train of thought

Monday, June 7, 2004

Our timetable might be haywire at weekends, a poster at the front of the Aylesbury to London train informs me, but that is only because of “track improvements”.

Now I may be as thick as the knot of hair blocking the plughole in Brian May and Anita Dobson’s bath, but even I can see that this is a gross euphemism. Improvements are when you make a competent thing better. Performing essential work so your customers don’t die is called repairs.

Travelling on Chiltern Trains is bad enough without being patronised by middle management functionaries. Credit us with some intelligence.

(originally posted June 7, 2004)

Eee bah gum

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

I rarely enjoy avant garde theatre, but it is worth going occasionally to remind oneself why it doesn’t deserve any more public subsidy. Leaving the Royal Court Theatre’s attic space last weekend after watching Lucky Dog, I felt that public funds could be profitably diverted into sealing playwrights inside a small container until Godot turned up.

Lucky Dog, by Leo Butler, is a play so tedious that I kept myself amused only by running a private sweepstake on which of my buttocks would fall asleep first. But what really bothered me was the characters’ arbitrary Northern accents.

Why do fringe playwrights and directors insist on a Northern twang? Do they think it lends their characters an earthy quality? Do actors need to put on a voice to get into character?

I think it is because playwrights think Received Pronunciation is uncool. They see Northern accents as the antidote to the bourgeois, everyday feel of RP, without the need to explore anything as vulgar as Estuary English. It is a lazy way of creating a person who is remote yet familiar, moral but unpredictable, and dramatically encumbered by the decline of post-industrial Britain.

I also think it is a cheap and patronising way of disguising inadequate characterisation. By all means tell your actors to match their accents to their location, but don’t think that you can import a socio-political agenda just by having them say “anyroad” for “anyway”.

(orginally posted June 1, 2004)

Colonel of truth

Sunday, March 28, 2004

KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken but renamed for alienating its core market with excessive use of syllables) has a new and highly calorific salad (438 kCal) for its health-conscious clientele. The soundtrack to the advertisement promoting this greenery (which, with 28.7g of fat, is worse for you than a burger) is a song by The Flirtations called Nothing But a Heartache. Heartache, shortness of breath, tingling in the left arm…

(originally posted Mar 28, 2004)

Rupert/ Rupert the Bear/ What a tedious bastard

Friday, March 19, 2004

It should have been obvious from the moment Paul McCartney expressed a love for Rupert the Bear that there was something fundamentally naff about him, but the full extent of Rupert’s suitability for a life in the circus wearing a frilly collar and dancing on hot coals has only recently become apparent.
First there is the circumstantial evidence:

a) Rupert and all his mates have children’s bodies but animals’ heads, as if they were test subjects in some sort of macabre experiment.

b) The drawing style is a forerunner of those dreadful fantasy vistas you find on posters in New Age crystal shops. I should know. As a schoolboy I had such a poster. It was called Sanctuary, after the album of the same name by the heavy metal band Motherlode, and depicted an enormous and structurally dubious bridge. In my defence I was probably in one of those proto-gothic teenage phases and to this day I have never listened to their music.

c) Rupert’s creator, Alfred Bestall, capitulated when the Daily Express told him to change Rupert’s fur colour from brown to white because the cartoon’s white readership would relate to it better.

However, thanks to a biography of Bestall that I had the misfortune to pick up, we don’t need circumstantial evidence. It doesn’t help that the biographer, a relative of Bestall’s, has no sense of narrative, but I suspect no-one could write a roaring yarn about a man so life-sappingly boring. He left behind him a set of diaries containing a wealth of material about his life, but he was either amazingly successful at avoiding drama or proved incapable of expressing it.

The man was a lorry driver in France during the First World War, but the pinnacle of his experience was his encounter with a German gunner’s post with three dead soldiers in it. The rest of his war diaries are littered with banal observations such as: “I saw a cart that was being drawn by a cow!”

None of his cartoons, drawn for a wartime propaganda sheet, were funny, and Rupert would be his only memorable creation. The book attempts to pad out his life story by reproducing his travel diaries, but they reveal nothing interesting either about their author or the places he visited. It is like reading postcards from a child with Asperger’s syndrome.

It leaves me with the lasting sense that Rupert and the Daily Express were made for one another.