More on coping.

Life Early last year, I asked How Do You Cope? in relation to the amount of creative stuff there is to consume in the modern world and where to start. In the main, I'm coping better, trying not to feel "guilty" for ignoring all the stuff I'm not interested by in favour of the usual. Quitting is part of that. Deciding that if you're not enjoying something like a television series or a book or a film, that it's ok to stop.

Daisy Buchanan in The Guardian:
"We live in a world that tells quitters they will be punished; that life should be hard and there are rewards for hanging on in there. This idea forms the basis of half the motivational quotes on Instagram, and I think it’s poisonous. I’ve wasted so much time thinking “winners don’t quit, and quitters don’t win” that I’ve put up with a range of frustrating and miserable situations, assuming that I needed to fix myself and not the external problem. However, quitting has only brought me joy, and helped me to discover other people and experiences that I really care about."
All of which said, it's still important to challenge yourself, try new things, step out of your comfort zone because that's probably how you developed the interests you have now.  It's just about knowing when to back out.

"That was Tuesday ..."



Politics In case you missed it, here's Michelle Obama's rally in New Hampshire today and what might be the best speech of the campaign. Notice how she pivots from talking about Hillary's opponent to talking about Hillary and getting the vote out. This feels like the equivalent of her husband's convention speech in 2004. As far as we know she has no political ambition, but if she did decide to run for President, surely, utilising this kind of rhetoric, with this confidence, she'd win.

Hypernormalisation.

TV Documentarian Adam Curtis has updated his blog for the first time in two years (removing the "This page has been archived and is no longer updated." banner from the top) to advertise his new iPlayer documentary "Hypernormalisation" which judging by the trailer seems to be about "How Trump happened."
"The film has been made specially for iplayer - and is a giant narrative spanning forty years, with an extraordinary cast of characters. They include the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, the early performance artists in New York, President Putin, intelligent machines, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers - and the extraordinary untold story of the rise, fall, rise again, and finally the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi.

"All these stories are woven together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created. Part of it was done by those in power - politicians, financiers and technological utopians. Rather than face up to the real complexities of the world, they retreated. And instead constructed a simpler version of the world in order to hang onto power."
Hopefully it includes my favourite line of his "but this was a fantasy" with a jump cut to footage of 60s hipsters and the music of Devo.

V&A.



Museums Yesterday I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum for the first time in my forty-one years, a day trip from Liverpool. There are plenty of justifications for this, but partly it's because of the reasons outlined by the Cancer Doctor who appeared on the PM programme tonight. He told Eddie Mair that one of the key decisions people make after a diagnosis, especially after a terminal diagnosis, is that they fling themselves headlong into a bucket list and how he wished more people would take that attitude before a diagnosis so that they don't feel like they have any unfinished business should the worst happen. Recently I decided that since I am nearly forty-two, that we only have one life and we don't know what might happen tomorrow, I should do some of the things I've always wanted to do.

Yesterday I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum for the first time in my forty-one years, a day trip from Liverpool. Instead of offering a review, because it's pointless to review a hundred and fifty year old museum of this magnitude, here's a list of things I learned.

(1) Pay attention to the tube map and don't panic on the underground. 

 After heading down to Euston Square tube station, for some reason although I'd already checked the route beforehand, I managed to confuse the Circle and Piccadilly line in my head and then rushed onto a train which meant I not only managed to get on a train on the wrong line but it was also going in the wrong direction. Fortunately, I was able to calculate that I could alight on Edgeware Road and swap to a Circle line train going in the opposite direction taking me back round to South Kensington station. Londoners can now feel free to call me the "fucking amateur" that I undoubtedly am.

(2)  Tyrone Guthrie invented the thrust stage. 

The key reason for visiting the V&A other than so that I can actually have the memory of visiting the V&A now whenever anyone refers to it, was to see the theatre and performing arts display. This was somewhat of a return visit having previously seen much of it when originally housed that the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden nearly ten years ago. As expected this is a shadow, a mishmash of the highlights collected around themes which does the collection something of a disservice.  It's a continued disgrace that we don't still have a national theatre museum, but I expect one of the reasons the original closed was due to visitor numbers -- it was deserted when I went -- so I'm not sure what the solution is.

For Shakespeare fans there are three key objects.  They have a Shakespeare First Folio, which was an unexpected surprise, opened on the first page of The Merry Wives of Windsor rather than Shakespeare's portrait which makes a change.  There's also the tunic Henry Irving wore for his Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing at the Lyceum in 1882.  Then there's a large diorama which explains the history of thrust stages with miniature recreations of festival theatre in Ontario, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford and the recreation of the Globe which really explains the difference between a genuine thrust, a half thrust and a glorified proscenium arch with Tyrone Guthrie's original designs as the standard.

(3)  Wherever you go, there you are.  

The V&A has a vast fine art collection, much of which is strewn throughout the chronological and geographic displays more on which later, but two rooms are dedicated the Sheepshank collection, gifted to the museum by a cloth manufacturer from Leeds.  Almost as soon as I walked into these rooms, I realised that I'd stumbled into just the sort of display I'd expect to find in a regional art gallery and that for the following half hour I was essentially on some lost version of one of my old Public Art Collection visits, more so considering, as was so often the case then when I'd turn up in a town only to discover the gallery was closed for renovations, that one of the rooms was closed for a rehang, the one which just happened to have my beloved pre-Raphaelites.

Many of the same artists feature, a Landseer, some Ettys.  I imagined myself, notebook in hand, giddily jotting observations about their William Blakes or excited about what could the best painting on display, Danby's Disappointed Love.  A young woman crouches in woodland next to a lake in total despair, miniature portrait and torn letter signalling something horrific has happened to her heart.  The mystical detail of the brushstrokes isn't realistic but still draws you into the image, her white dress popping against the dark green of the trees.  If this had been the result of travelling to a Macclesfield or Oldham I would not have been disappointed and here it is hidden away in a corner of the V&A.

(4)  Gallery fatigue continues to be a threat.

As you'll have noticed from previous dispatches, if I'm even slightly interested in an exhibition, I like to take to time to see everything which generally means I'm wandering around for quite some time longer that most people.  Shakespeare in Ten Acts at the British Library a few months ago took me three hours.  The upshot is that gallery fatigue tends to set in after about two to two and a half hours, as the ability to absorb what I'm seeing disappears.  After the theatre and painting rooms, which also includes a display of Turner and Constable and despite the intervention of lemon cake from the cafe, gallery fatigue really began to lay it groggy clutches on me by about half two in the afternoon which is a bit of a problem if you're there for a whole day on purpose, especially since ...

(5)  The space is big. Really big. 

The V&A, like most national galleries, is huge, the equivalent having the whole of National Museums Liverpool in one building five times.  With my approach to museums, I'd could spend a day just working my way through a single room or section, so it would take me roughly three months to see the whole thing.  With just a few opening hours remaining, I took the unsatisfactory decision to simply walk the place, map in hand, making sure I'd stepped through all the rooms attempting to make the gallery fatigue work for me as I only stopped to see the items which really caught my eye, mainly the paintings mixed with the furniture and decorative arts materials telling the story of a particular period in history.

The experience was a bit like that sequence in George Pal's film adaptation of The Time Machine as Rod Taylor watches history unfold before him, or Lucy in Luc Besson's film of the same name.  So much to see, too much to take in.  I dawdled most in the rooms which have been scooped up from their original establishments and recreated in the museum, panel by panel, like pocket universes (which also made it also somewhat like seeing a National Trust property or stepping through the mirrors in Doctor Who's The Girl In The Fireplace).  But even then, I was conscious of the clock, the deadline of the museum closing time causing a need to push on.  Seeing so many beautiful objects in one place is overwhelming especially when there's barely seconds for your mind to gather context, read notes.

(6)  You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.

The one room which must be visited is the Raphael chamber.  Massive frescoes leant by her Majesty the Queen line the walls of a space which is the size of a church if not a cathedral, which given how much of the rest of the surrounding spaces have low ceilings is truly awe inspiring.  The paintings themselves are actually pretty difficult to look at, light shining across their protective glaze, but the equally massive information labels offer a decent synopsis of what we're seeing.  Oh to have a day to simply sit in that space and watch people's reactions on entering looking up and around the contours of the ceiling boggle eyed.  But the V&A is rather like taking the Grand Tour in one place, probably because much of its collection is from the results of that Grand Tour.  The cast galleries feature plaster recreations of some of Europe's great statuary including Michelangelo's David which is much  taller than I expected.

(7)  There aren't enough toilets.

As we've discussed before, I'm usually happy if there's some decent paintings and adequate toilets at a museum or art venue.  The problem at the V&A is that because they gallery is so vast, it takes a good five minutes to walk to the nearest toilet which is a problem if you have the constitution of a child and need to go more than most especially if you're standing up a lot.  Eventually I worked out some good routes back to the main toilets but please, the V&A, for the love of Daenerys Targaryen will you please add some more conveniences or failing that better signage in the middle of the exhibition spaces demonstrating their locations.

(8)  I ain't nothing like a Dame.

In the performance section, alongside a recreation of Kylie Minogue's tour dressing room (add another day to unpack that visual feast) is a selection of costumes for dress up amongst which is Widow Twankey's dress.  Once I'd worked out which way it was supposed to fit, and after another visitor offered to attach the velcro at the back, I took this selfie:



I'm sure having a hat would have made the difference.  On the upside, having lost all of this weight over the past few years, most of the costumes were way too big for me.  Yes, I tried them all on.

(9)  You can't see everything.

Which feels like I'm repeating myself, but it's true.  As closing time descended, I was just stepping into a gallery dedicated to the Americas.  Having barely glanced at anything, the staff were pulling chords across doorways and closing the rooms down, a massive physical hint that they wanted to go home.  Sorry, photography.  As I wandered with urgency back to the cloakroom to pick up my backpack, I was impressed with the speed that the staff were able to coax visitors towards the exit.  Having worked in similar situations, there are always straddlers and yet here we all were streaming towards the doors before the closing time of a quarter to six.

(10)  You can't walk back to Euston from the V&A in three hours.

Or at least not the way I was attempting it.  Google Maps indicated it was possible to walk to Euston from the the V&A in just over an hour.  Deciding it would be a good way to see new parts of London, or parts of London new to me, and with a three hour gap between closing time at the gallery and my train home, I photographed the route ahead of time.  This took me into Knightsbridge which meant I could visit Harrods food hall (to buy a Christmas pudding) and the original Harvey Nicks and wander through Hyde Park at dusk, see the lake and then step under the actual Marble Arch.  Which was all fine, except I then misread the map on my tiny iPod screen and walked way too far up Edgeware Road to the point that I was completely lost.  After asking a street sweeper for directions, who spent the next three minutes telling me he didn't know, I walked up another wrong street and ended up taking the tube from Paddington station back to Euston following much the same route as before.  Fucking amateur.

Soup Safari #73: Broccoli and Stilton at the The V&A Cafe.







Lunch. £5.75. The V&A Cafe, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL. Phone: 020 7942 2000. Website.

My Favourite Film of 1925.



Film When Sight and Sound published their top 10 greatest film list in 2012, there were a number of changes in comparison to 2002 in the critics, the most remarked upon being the swap over at the top with Vertigo knocking Citizen Kane off the top spot after half century having shifting slowly up the list since its first appearance in 1982. Here, conveniently are all of the list for successive years. See if you can spot the other huge moment:

1952

Bicycle Thieves
City Lights
The Gold Rush
Battleship Potemkin
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages
Louisiana Story
Greed
Le Jour Se Lève
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Brief Encounter
The Rules of the Game
Le Million

1962

Citizen Kane
L'Avventura
The Rules of the Game
Greed
Ugetsu Monogatari
Battleship Potemkin
Bicycle Thieves
Ivan the Terrible
La Terra Trema
L'Atalante


1972

Citizen Kane
The Rules of the Game
Battleship Potemkin

L'Avventura
Persona
The Passion of Joan of Arc
The General
The Magnificent Ambersons
Ugetsu Monogatari
Wild Strawberries

1982

Citizen Kane
The Rules of the Game
Seven Samurai
Singin' in the Rain

Battleship Potemkin
L'Avventura
The Magnificent Ambersons
Vertigo
The General
The Searchers

1992

Citizen Kane
The Rules of the Game
Tokyo Story
Vertigo
The Searchers
L'Atalante
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Pather Panchali
Battleship Potemkin
2001: A Space Odyssey

2002

Citizen Kane
Vertigo
The Rules of the Game
The Godfather
The Godfather Part II
Tokyo Story
2001: A Space Odyssey
Battleship Potemkin
Sunrise

Singin' in the Rain

2012

Vertigo
Citizen Kane
Tokyo Story
The Rules of the Game
Sunrise
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Searchers
Man with a Movie Camera
The Passion of Joan of Arc


That's right. After appearing in every list since the 1952, Battleship Potemkin's finally dropped out, having fallen into the 11th place in the top 100. Admittedly this was close, just one vote below 8½ but given how far up the list relatively it was in previous years this is still a magnitudinal shift especially considering in 2002 it managed to hold in there during The Godfather blip.

There's a couple of reasons, I believe. Firstly, Man with a Movie Camera had recently been rereleased in a couple of restored editions with decent soundtracks so it was at the surface of people's minds. The Passion of Joan of Arc had also been recently released on a superb Criterion edition. A restored Potemkin wasn't to be released until late in 2012 after voting ended.

But I also think that unlike the other films on the list, with the exception of Joan, it's not an easy film to love. The whole rest of that list has titles which aren't just spectacularly ahead of their time in some way, but also at a basic level very entertaining. Any of those films bare repeat viewing just for the sheer pleasure of it.

Whereas Potemkin is a film to be admired on a technical level, academically studied, but it's not something that you'd want to watch over and over because you like the characters, it's designed not focus on any, or the story, the resonance of which is more historical and only emotional if you're politically invested.

Yet, for the odessa steps sequence alone, it's my favourite film of this year because so much of later cinema, especially action cinema springs from it, and sometimes it's ok to simply admire a work for its artistic brilliance even if it's not something you'd want to watch every night. Having said that, in writing these paragraphs, I'm very tempted to watch it again very soon.