Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"...a delicate balance between chaos and order..."
Thanks to the delightful PostGrad N , I went to this private view on Monday night. It was worth the cold, dark trek along the outside of Hyde Park to get there, and despite being late and therefore missing the free bar, it was a great exhibition, made even better by the high spirits generated by the private view crowd. It's very bright and playful and had the same effect on us as a bagful of fruit-flavoured chewy e-number sweets. Colourful, chaotic, curious - scoff a handful of Skittles before you go in and enjoy the buzz.

The events around this exhibition sound fantastic, in particular the game of It on the lawn. I will unfortunately be away that weekend but someone please go and play It with Tomoko and tell me all about it! And then come to the Takeaway the following weekend with me - I've got my eye on the tiny Hotpoint toy washing machine and toy baked bean tins... Go see!
"You've got a present on your desk..."

According to T.S Eliot, April is the cruellest month but every year, February beats it hands down for misery. I hate February, it's almost chemical how it affects me and brings my mood to a very low point despite the nice things that might be happening. We've had a cracking Chinese New Year, I'm still not smoking, I've improved a little in my dance classes and enjoying them more, spent quality time with my sister and got two new pairs of shoes... and yet, I've felt it. A drop in my mood, for no discernible reason whatsoever, just a sudden cloud descending on an otherwise upbeat moment when I least expect it.

Then again, it's worth remembering that sometimes, you have to make your own happiness. And sometimes, happiness will find you.

I gave myself a late start this morning because I've been doing lots of early starts for various reasons, mainly bringing in some new business for the organisation and simultaneously helping out a neighbouring company score points on one of their big contracts by being on hand before 9am each day.
And I thought, well, I'll get into the office for 10am today to give myself a break from the sweaty journey through Hell that is rush hour on the eastbound Jubilee Line and actually got a seat on the train, wasn't tripped up or sworn at squeezing through the gates or forced to buy milk yet again from my own money because I hadn't sorted out expenses in time - which meant I had a nice start to the day.
Then as I bounced into the office feeling quite bright about things, a colleague said "Hey, you've got a present on your desk," and you know what? There was a bottle of wine and a thank you card from the neighbouring company, for the early starts and the extra mile I went for them. Nice.

Off to lunch with my brother in a little while and I'm going to try a different dance class this evening, a mixed ability class that, with any luck, I'll be able to keep up with and pick up some new ideas. How's your February been so far?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

"I'm very, very sad. Death of a dramatist - what can you say. He is the grandaddy of us all, really. We modestly try and put social issues on screen and stage through character. He's our model for all that." - Mike Leigh, on the death of Arthur Miller in The Guardian
On the back of news about Charles and Camilla geting hitched, the news that the greatest of all American playwrights has died makes all of our eye-popping, rubber-necking and hand-rubbing about the middle-aged divorcees quite, quite irrelevant - and crass. Who cares if they are getting married? They love each other, they've waited until the time is right and they're going to say their vows and grow old together. What the hell - go ahead, go crazy, enjoy it. Now on to the real news.

We've witnessed the passing of one of the bravest, most uncompromising and truly dramatic writers of the 20th century - a writer that students, critics and bog-standard audience members feel touched by in all the different approaches and contexts we experience his plays. I've read and / or seen several of his plays and managed two thirds of his autobiography and I've studied some of them, I've read some of them independently, I've performed bits and pieces and directed excerpts. I can safely say without any fear of exaggeration or overstatement that every contact with his plays has stirred my blood and shaken my imagination and made me realise how close our everyday lives are to tragedy - tragedy in the ancient Greek sense, the terrible, towering, pure tragedy that isn't just about being sad but about realising, in a moment of horrible clarity, how fallible one is as a human being.

Miller in all his plays shows in the most heartbreakingly clear way the honourable, dishonourable, intense and noble yet flawed life that sits just under the surface of the average, the everyday for folks who are just trying to get by. We strive to be the best we can, to have ideals and live by them - and yet, in trying, we realise that we never can achieve them, as long as we are human and have human weaknesses. The salesman, the ammunition maker, the dockyard worker, the farmer all strive towards the American dream of freedom, of riches, of independence. Yet in striving towards it, they lose everything. Our actions have consequences - we have to face them, live with them, or die by them. We cannot choose to not take action - therein lies tragedy.

MOTHER [of Larry, the letter]: The war is over! Didn't you hear? It's over!
CHRIS: Then what was Larry to you? A stone that fell in the water? It's not enough for you to be sorry. Larry didn't kill himself to make you and Dad sorry.
MOTHER: What more can we be?
CHRIS: You can be better! Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it, and unless you know that, you threw away your son because that's why he died.
(All My Sons)

I'm not sad that Arthur Miller has passed on; he was old and ill when he died and I'm pleased to think he's not suffering or in pain any more. And what a life he has led! What a body of work to leave to the world! Wherever he is now, I hope he knows how important he has been and will continue to be for the arts and for freedom thinkers. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Wow, that's the first meal I've had since getting here that hasn't made me feel like I'm about to explode!"
It's Chinese New Year and my sister is in town. I'm on holiday and in between my own extensive programme of sleeping in, watching Futurama in bed and inhaling the contents of the fridge every hour, I've been taking part in the wider family's gruelling regime of eating out, eating in and resting between meals. We've also:
- been on the Tate to Tate boat - ha! soon EVERYONE I know will have been on this boat and then my plan to rule the world through alternative modes of transport and modern art will be complete!
- we've also been through Chinatow
- a sushi bar
- the Paddington Basin development, making failed attempts to make the Heatherwick Bridge move
- bought shoes in an insane super-sale that turned into a sort of shoe-worshipping commune with the overwrought staff setting up their own specialist, anarchic shoe locating and payment receiving system
- accidentally eaten apple crumble and custard in a cafe where we were just going to stop for a coffee
- done the whole rice porridge and turnip croquettes thing

Hope you're all well and happy new year! Cock-a-doodle-do!