Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Amy Winehouse and Russell Brand

I see that Russell Brand has taken the opportunity of Amy Winehouse's death to write a cri de coeur, asking for sympathy and understanding for addicts. He is a rather smug and smirking former addict who is 'recovering'.I suppose that it is, against all the media background (if that is true), likely that Amy Winehouse died as a result of the application of a toxic substance in a lethal amount. However, that has not yet been established, Russell.

He starts off by saying that, when he first knew Amy, she appeared to him to be a 'twerp'. Choice - and it comes from, someone who probably qualifies as the Twerp-In-Chief of all twerps.

This is an example (even if a minor example) of media manipulation from the author of the Booky Wooks. Of course, the media often select and edit real events and create their own version of 'the news' for us to chew on over our toast: a small girl (Madeleine McCann) goes mysteriously missing in the night: dreadful for the parents and family but children go missing all the time - there was a poster up in the local shop the other day - about a small girl snatched by a  motorbiker in the street (possibly a relative in a family feud but, still, will the world ever know her name?); a Norwegian nutter goes on the rampage and wipes out a boot camp  - again, tragic but so were all those scud missiles that finished off whole areas of civilian population in Iraq, just to 'get Saddam' but we didn't hear about those too much. Anyone (even remotely) connected to a 'news' story will know that truth and reality and social relevance are mere background to selling 'news'. The trouble is that most people lap it all up and there is something also in the fact that they lap it up as they tuck in to their processed, pre-cooked, chilled 'ready meals' from the greedy, controlling 'supermarkets' which have finished off all the little shops that used to exist in every town selling well-made, good food.

Moreover, while people are pointlessly fuss-arsing around over whether to break reasonable conventions of dress, in an age which is increasingly the age of the slob; the schmo, and the schmuck, there is building up a whole raft of pernicious modern conventions and norms, over things that really do matter; and two important examples are: the growing cult of selfishness and the promotion of hoarding and thriftiness over charity.

Seeking the truth applies to everything. It's not confined to scientific proof (which is good until disproved) or forensic truth (which is often dependent on dodgy identification and shaky memory); it is even more relevant in relation to the human heart. You can even apply it (less importantly), to a pair of shoes: are they true: in the sense of materials and workmanship and fit. I don't see any contradiction in seeking nice things (from shoes to food and drink) but these things are ancillary to living well in the proper sense. To allow ourselves to be seduced into mere materialism is our greatest self-betrayal. And this is not a 'religious' point because humanism supports the same altruistic position.

But please, Russell Brand, the poor girl has not yet been buried and you are holding her up as an example of a doomed addict, as against the shining example of your resolve to 'recover': maybe Amy found the world in which you (you patronizing twerp), are such a wonderful success too painful to face without some kind of medication.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

The great thing about people like Amy Winehouse is that they are original and true: not just in what they do and what they present to us but in what they are. And what they are may even be partly very bad, as long as there is also something very good and they can also be confused and hurt and sore and even somewhat lost, as long as they remain true. Most modern 'celebrities' are fake: from their silicon breasts, to their reformed teeth, and cut-about faces, to their soggy brains and their silly social-climbing.

Amy Winehouse was one of those people who are night-riders, on a death drive. I admire her guts to tell everyone where to get off; her talent; doing what she wanted to do, bloody-well regardless; her refusal to compromise herself. She also had a wild and extravagant kind of beauty; which no amount of tacky tattooing could defile.

OK, she made cash and was a 'celebrity' but I have the feeling that she was a reluctant one: unlike so many others: no voice (in any sense); no 'look'; nothing: cultural blankspots, with amazing bank accounts, for being nobodies, from nowhere, seducing a generation into believing that they 'have' 'It'. There are too many fake 'celebrities' and too few Amy Winehouses in this sorry world. The sad thing is that the fakes go on and on and on and the Amy Winehouses suddenly fade as the morning star, in the face of the sun.

I certainly raise my glass to you, Amy Winehouse. You might be glad to know that, in fact, I raise it several times.

And the Southern Cross burns brighter tonight.

It might be the thought of you.

It might just be the booze.

But, as you might have said: "Who gives a f***?!"

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Nasty Stench

A while ago, I mentioned my hopes that David Cameron would prove to be 'a safe pair of hands'. Unfortunately, not only does he look like all the rest of them including the Millibands (who look like a pair of wandering tinkers and sound like adenoidal schoolboys), there is now a nasty stench arising from  his direction, on account of his clandestine relationship with the Murdochs and the previously undisclosed acceptance of lavish 'hospitality'. Many a time I have heard countries such as Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria mocked for the corruption of their politicians and administrations but it seems to me that they are amateurs in comparison with the current British 'Establishment': from the MPs and (unelected) peers convicted of stealing from the public with fiddled 'expenses' to all the major papers using private dicks and the police routinely selling information to newspapers, which then  close ranks and 'can't remember' anything of importance.- apart from the surprisingly frank Piers Morgan, who spectacularly fouled up as editor of the Daily Mirror, before he was promoted to be 'a celebrity in residence' by CNN.

"Pooh! What's that stink?"

I thought that the select committee hearing dealing with the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks was toothless and clueless. The only member with any idea about cross-examination was the former Observer journalist: the rest were either too old or too young and all were far too wet. Moreover, there were far too many of them to allow any line of questioning to be rammed so far down the slippery Murdochs' throats (during their quaint, obstructive "one-two" routine), that they would have to deliver the goods. Insincere apologies and false-humility did't trip any switches for me and the pair of them should have been forensically reduced to rubble. Their ultimate responsibility (which they did and did not accept) for the disgusting way in which their paper paid for the telephone of a murdered girl to be tampered with for the sake of a  story and sales was enough to justify it.

There is in Britain a right to decline to answer questions on the basis that the answers might be self-incriminating but the right has to be claimed. There is not, so far as I know any right to refuse to answer the questions of a Parliamentary Committee on the vague basis that the answers might incriminate somebody else - because the only result of that would be that the witness would end up as a witness in a criminal trial against the defendant. So all that rubbish (allowed to permit the slime-balls to evade disclosing the truth about their sleazy operations), was invented by the likes of Lord Macdonald QC and Lord Grabiner QC, toadying Counsel to the Murdochs (Macdonald, as a former DPP also with a plain conflict of interest), and accepted by the weasle-like committee chairman, who really should have stayed at home with his knitting.

It was also most undeifying to see two committee members interviewed afterwards (it seemed to lack the remote dignity which should attach to Parliamentary proceedings) let alone to hear one of them (who looks about eighteen) confess that she had been 'terrified' of questioning Rupert Murdoch. First of all: why? He is just an inarticulate, obstructive  rough-neck billionaire. Secondly: if you don't have what it takes to represent the people without fear or favour, stay at home and continue writing your chick-lit novels (Mrs Mensch's other job).

When Rebekah Brooks was asked whether she had any regrets, she really ought to have come clean on that at least and replied:

"I lost a well-paid job turning you slobs upside-down and inside-out - and I just got arrested. What do you think?"

Today's picture is a modern representation of The Fall of Lucifer.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Rake

In Tin Trumpet (1836), H Smith wrote: "An old rake who has survived himself, is the most pitiable object in creation.", which makes the choice of the word (by anyone with a feel for language), a strange one as the heading for any fashionable enterprise. Today's picture is William Hogarth's The Rake in Bedlam, from which, of course, he did not emerge.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Book II Reviews

History of Men's Accessories: A Short Guide For Men About Town has received several good reviews now which are viewable on the Pen & Sword site. The latest one is from The Chap magazine and we have been promised some more reviews too.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Weekday Drinking

I have just read that a few people whom I know have developed a scheme to avoid alcohol for five nights a week. Presumably, they avoid waking up with hangovers to carry in to their work. Gosh, I admire these people. I'd find it very hard to go a whole five days without at least a little tipple:for me it would be the whole nine yards; five nights stretched out to one thousand and one and only desert in view and no Sheherazada to soften the length of them. Today's picture features two Martinis awaiting consumption in Alessandro Palazzi's bar in Dukes Hotel, St James's. Alessandro is probably one of the best bar managers in the world and oversaw my 'drinks' section in History of Men's Accessories. However, his current receipt for the Vesper Martini includes: Berry's No 3 Gin; Potocki Polish Vodka; Angostrura Bitters, and Lillet Blanc. Whether or not Krystyna Skarbeka (Christine Granville) really was the inspiration for Ian Fleming characters Vesper Lynd and Tatiana Romanova, this heroine is nicely remembered in her own right anyway in the use of the Polish Vodka. Well done, Alessandro Palazzi.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Swinging the lead

I have been swinging the lead here recently: not giving it the whole eight eighths; not been going the whole nine yards: the result of being busy with other things but normal service will be resumed shortly.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Nelson's Life Mask

Just to even it up: here's Nelson's life mask. They are, in truth, both amazing faces.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Napoleon's Death Mask

This is the death mask of Napoleon I, taken from the mould made by Dr Burton on 7th May 1821 (Napoleon having died on 5th May). The front of the mask was stolen by Napoleon's housekeeper, Madame Bertrand and, later, she gave copies to another of Napoleon's doctors (Dr Antomarchi) and the whole thing has generated enough controversy and mystery to generate a book called Les Masques Mortuaire de Napoleon by E de Veaux.

Looking at the mask, it is not difficult to understand Heine's dictum: "Napoleon was not the stuff that kings are made of - he was the marble from which gods are hewn." Every time that I cross Brunel's Tamar railway bridge and look down into the harbour of Plymouth I think of Napoleon out there, pacing up and down on HMS Bellerophon, awaiting the British government's answer to his asylum request, before he was refused and shipped off to St Helena.

I once had the privilege to see many mementos of Napoleon in (of all strange places), a house in a Cornish town. My father had started chatting to some new neighbours; a charming elderly couple. It turned out that their name was Bonaparte-Wyse and that William Charles was the four times great nephew of Napoleon I, through his niece Laetitia (Letitzia). I went to see them and recall that William Charles' favourite sundowner was British naval rum; it also turned out that he had been ADC to General Charles de Gaulle in the Second World War.

They showed me quite a display and archive of memorabilia; including silhouettes of Napoleon; locks of his hair; papers; pictures and a jet and gold mourning cross which Napoleon's mother had given to Laetitia on Napoleon's death.

I remember the evening that I spent with them very clearly. They are both dead now and the archive is in the Waterford Museum in Ireland (the Wyse family having Waterford connexions).

Now I shall never know how or why a Bonaparte ended up in a Sleepy Hollow in Cornwall but I recall a splendid evening spent with two delightful people.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Wombles of Wimbledon 2011

So...Henman Hill, now Murray Mount remains, for another year at least, Bumbler's Bump and 1936, for British tennis (just like 1966 for British football), is the latest date for excellence that we can do, as 1936 was the last time that an Englishman (Fred Perry) won the men's trophy in the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Association Championships. Fred Perry is shown in the picture of his statue at the Wimbledon Ground.

Poor wee Murray exhausted himself in the first set and then made a couple of dozen wholly unforced errors, which made him look as though he hasn't quite finished his apprenticeship. You need to sharpen up, Andy and good luck for next year but I am not sure that I shall have the stomach to watch you again.