Shopping in London: Love Delfina Delettrez‘s wacky, surrealist jewels; at Purdey, we met Chris of English Handmade Knives who explained how intricate marbleized effects are created by folding sheets of steel again and again under intense pressure, to increase the metal’s strength while producing an incredible decorative effect; jokey cigar ashtrays in the shape of Havaianas; we visit Thomas Goode, the blue-chip destination for the best china and silverware in the world. But the place is like a museum. No doubt they make their budget each month by selling three or four trousseaus to Qatari princesses. Who else (besides my husband) continues to buy this stuff?; I discover a new and amazing handbag brand (misspelled in the Instagram story): LONB (“Love Or Nothing Baby”). My gut feeling is that their marketing and ad campaign misses the mark (black and white 1960s images) but their bags are to-swoon-for. Hard to believe that someone would launch yet another handbag brand in today’s saturated market. But this team, formerly from Labelux, definitely knows what it’s doing with the product. Equally brave, they’re not wholesaling and ONLY sell through their website and their first and only flagship boutique located on South Audley Street. Seriously, I’m saving up for the Vagabond already….; after a bang-up lunch at yummy new Indian restaurant, Jamavar, on Mount Street, we head to Hampton Court and take a walk around the gardens because it’s too late to enter the house; while buying some wine for dinner, I notice some of the most pretentiously labeled and branded alcohol products ever; trout for dinner; what do people see/taste in rhubarb?!
Weddings; the step change in my tennis game isn’t a fluke; the maximum limit of my concentration; I keep on having to throw out my vlogs about The Week because there’s always a new issue before I can wrap the vlog post about the last issue; undaunted, I post lots of examples illustrating why The Week rocks; the Ritz is badly in need of refurbishment; the people with taste, refinement and style have no money, whereas the people with taste are usually tacky and uneducated; checking out Jorie Jewellery‘s arresting deer tusk jewels at Harvey Nichols with the designer.
[Main topic of this vlog: How Waitrose gives insight into the British middle class.] I experienced a step change in my tennis game, largely because of some simple, mechanical, bright line rules. If only our emotional or professional lives were as easy to improve; Waitrose is a great window into the British middle class; I’m consistently impressed by the high quality of every single product and the evident concern with provenance. To wit, the green beans were from Senegal, so I didn’t buy them; while their product assortment overlaps significantly with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, there’s no liberal, progressive, hippie marketing schtick. Instead, the credo of whole, natural foods whose provenance and chain of custody is clearly documented is a mainstream, middle class concern. (Just remember that the British middle class is NOT the same as the American middle class. See this Quora post for elucidation.) Compared to a normal American grocery store, Waitrose has only the tiniest selection of processed foods; FINALLY, I signed up for Spotify, partially to get up to speed on Benjamin Britten in time for the Aldeburgh Festival; the Aldeburgh Festival is THE most important cultural event in my neck of the woods, East Anglia, and is a well-known classical music festival of global renown. Frankly, I would KILL to be involved with the festival in any way, shape or form; I’m a classical music fanatic actually, in case you didn’t gather from my content. Lately, I’ve become fascinated with contemporary classical music, of which, of course, Benjamin Britten was an early progenitor. Specifically, royalties from his music fund the Aldeburgh Festival. In fact, I’m a proud board member of Asia’s leading classical music solo recital series, which also founded the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival: Premiere Performances of Hong Kong. Honest to god, I would do ANYTHING for the founder, Andrea Fessler, who, in my opinion, has singlehandedly raised the bar on Hong Kong’s cultural scene for the past decade. How many people are insane enough to start a NEW cultural organization spearheading classical music in a city as culturally sere and vapid as Hong Kong?! As a board member of PPHK, I’m constantly thinking about how we can entice young people to try classical music for the first time; on vlogging: I deplore young bloggers’ preferred style of countless jump cuts. It’s too, well, jumpy; to avoid this effect, I only tape myself after I’ve worked everything out intellectually by laying down countless takes. These preliminary takes are me thinking out loud, rehearsing and logging my intellectual peregrinations as they occur. But at the end, I jettison those early takes and start from the beginning, striving to tape myself in relatively long, unbroken segments, in order to avoid that jarring jump cut style; indeed, I vlog in the same style as I write; and since we’re on the topic of speaking, I’d like to unequivocally condemn the excessive use of the word “like” — because it makes you sound like a teenage idiot; STOP already! Consider taping yourself in full conversational flow and you will see with your own eyes and ears how you come off. I assure you, you will not be impressed; the first track I listen to on Spotify is the sound track to the movie, Arrival, by Johann Johannsson. (I also downloaded Sicario by Johannsson.); in today’s United States, I can’t imagine venturing below the Mason-Dixon line, although Nashville does tempt me; hair elastics: will they last? They’re a prime example of the built-in obsolescence of cheap consumer products manufactured in China; fully one-third of British homes struggle to use the internet in the evening. I’m right to bitch about the horrendous lack of internet service in the countryside after all.
[Main topic of this vlog: I explain why I want to write a book about the evolution of the photographic image and associate, riff and reflect free-form on the subject.] I leave London at an ungodly hour in order to meet John at the antique dealers’ fair in Long Melford; I end up buying an Ironstone pitcher from the turn of the century; I’m intimidated to walk around the hall by myself because it’s full of (only) superannuated white men. Yes, I’m serious; My favorite house in the countryside (so far): the pink house in the center of Cavendish; I seriously mull the idea of writing two books, one about environmental photography, the other about the evolution of the photographic image over the past thirty years, especially these past ten; Not only should the evolution of the image itself be considered (technically and technologically) but the ethical and societal implications of these shifts and what they mean for our interactions with others, our self-image, our morality, etc. THAT is the principal reason why such a book would be fascinating and why this question has piqued my interest so ferociously; Here are the issues about the evolution of the photographic image that I have identified very quickly: 1) photoshopping, its prevalence and universal acceptance 2) the selfie (and its implications for our body image, self-image and psychology) and 3) the democratization of photography (i.e., the phenomenon of everyone becoming a photographer); documentary, “objective” reportage in the style of the Magnum photographers has mostly gone out of fashion and been replaced by a much more subjective style of photography which uses photography as the instrumentality of content or messaging, frequently activist-style messaging, to wit, environmental photography; that’s largely explained by the democratization of photographic technology which enables the man on the street to mimic the style of most news photographers these days. It means that the value-added of the photographic image originally conferred by mastery of equipment and darkroom processes has been replaced, of necessity, by content and meaning. To my mind, that’s a major and welcome improvement in the culture of photography; similarly, realistic, gritty photography in the style of Terry Richardson and Terry Jones (ID Magazine) are now outmoded; gardening is futile – by definition. I don’t get it; not having a Facebook page is really stupid because Instagram is a really impoverished and unsuitable platform for sharing third-party content, especially textual or lengthy, or, for that matter, my long-form rants about capitalism, art, the environment, millennials, child rearing, etc.; my favorite stories on Instagram are Eva Chen‘s because she’s so real, with huge doses of thankfulness and humility. Plus, she’s completely average-looking; My vlogging as a talking head is stymied because my intention to vlog about The Week, my favorite magazine in the whole world, has been defeated by the near unanimity of commentary on the past three weeks of headline news, dammit! (The Week’s strength is collating and summarizing the full range of political opinion on the same issue, news or topic, even when those opinions are diametrically opposed to one another); totally psyched to discover that Macron’s wife is way older than him; and that he may also be bi – ha!
This Daily Mind-ful clip is mostly about my visit to V&A’s Museum of Childhood, so I’m going to dispense with the customary recapping of every Instagram story contained in the accompanying video and share my impressions about the Museum and why it’s a destination as entertaining and enriching for adults as it is children.
Although a parade of prams and baby buggies greets you at the entrance, the museum’s huge collection of toys, dolls, games, party favors, costumes and childhood whatnots archived since Victorian times is a treasure trove for the most exigent adult socioanthropologist studying the stuff of childhood over the generations. What’s missing, however, is exhibits dated after 2000, as if childhood ceased to evolve, when, in fact, the stark opposite is the case. Indeed, my main impression of the museum was a rueful sense that, in one or two generations, childhood and adulthood have converged – possibly to the point where there’s no longer anything to separately archive for the former. Considering that the material artifacts of childhood amassed over one hundred years could undoubtedly cover the surface area of a few small countries, the museum’s curators have chosen objects which are not only good exemplars of their age but idiosyncratic, eccentric, exquisite or weird in many cases. As a bonus, adult art, such as Sarah Raphael’s sculptural Childhood Cube and Rachel Whiteread’s large collection of dollhouses, “Place (Village)”, punctuates the exhibition halls as a sort of meta-commentary on childhood, its obsessions and playthings. In one of the captions, the museum states “all creativity has a value,” espousing a highly progressive vision of childhood education which dovetails perfectly with its embrace of multi-ethnic, multi-culturalism, a theme expressed with multi-lingual captioning in one of the exhibits. (I didn’t bother to scratch the surface of that exhibition and only noticed the unorthodox signage.) Last but not least, I was struck by “Searching for Ghosts,” the thought-provoking exhibition about Britain’s housing crisis in the front hall of the museum. It certainly wasn’t for children and featured photographic portraits by Tom Hunter of families living in one of London’s original council estates. While it wasn’t a suitable diversion for a child, the art made sense in the context of families, households and their inhabitants and asked viewers to engage with a pressing civic issue. The name “Museum of Childhood” doesn’t reflect the kaleidoscopic richness of this museum, not at all. Suffice it to say that I walked through it like a kid in a candy store.
I don’t understand dogs. They’re so domesticated that they won’t leave the house after 8 hours inside unless a human takes them on a walk; travel and logistics nightmare today because I have to go to London and Dulwich and the trains are being repaired. It means we have to take the train from Stansted into the city – NIGHTMARE; an article in the the SmartCities SmartBrief about my home town, Cincinnati, Ohio, catches my eye: it’s about how the digital divide — and a lack of internet — prevents social mobility among the lower rungs of society; I complain about the lack of internet in the countryside but the digital divide mirroring the structural poverty of the poorest strata of society in the United States is actually much more serious. Living in the UK, perhaps I’ve become myopic and blind to such important issues; I dart into the “America After the Fall” exhibition at the Royal Academy and am struck by how many of the works painted during the Depression reflect the dystopian atmosphere and problems of today; at 45 Jermyn Street, I’m struck by how the thin value-add of Virgin Mary sauce on top of a smashed avocado justifies its overpriced place on the menu; then, we head off to Dulwich for my cousin’s birthday lunch; next time, I’ll check out the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the UK’s oldest art gallery, which also boasts an outdoor gallery of street art; after 11 hours, we’re back home; John lights a fire in our kadai, a giant cauldron fit for roasting small children; I review and annotate the most recent issues of The Week in preparation for my next vlog; I download the Google Art & Culture app which allows you to discover the art and culture destinations in the vicinity of your real time geolocation. It’s a fantastic, invaluable information resource; my stepdaughter tells me about a new app, Smartify, which is the equivalent of Shazam for art; I end the night by watching the Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko fight for the heavyweight championship of the world.
My diet has change dramatically since I moved to England, from rice, meat and vegetables to potatoes, bread and tons of cheese and dairy. It means I have to work out twice as much to avoid becoming a big cow; my husband has such white man eating habits: he can’t handle eating meat or fish on a bone; sorry if my stories have been prosaic lately, I’m entitled to be boring from time to time. Plus, you have to remember that I’m using stories to diarize my life :(( ; one thing about living in the countryside: My life and happiness are entirely dependent on one person, my husband. Therefore, my days go up and down depending on his mood. Most days, it’s no problem. But his grumpiness can definitely torpedo my day; the brain begins to shrink at the age of thirty.
I start the day with a Facebook fail; I’m interviewing photographer, Edgar Martins, next week in London, at the recommendation of a FORMAT Festival curator. Like Konstantin Bessmertny, whom I just vlogged about, he’s from Macau!; it’s outrageous that Maria Sharapova is back on the professional tennis circuit; my 18-year old son is much more organised than I am; experiencing a crisis of self-confidence after realising it won’t be easy to start my new business, I call an old, very good friend, who spurs me on to hustle, a simple but effective exhortation; I spent most of my day editing footage of FORMAT’s artistic director, Louise Clement Mazmanian; much of my day is about music discovery: one of the best resources for royalty-free music is a site called PremiumBeat; after listening to countless tracks on the site, I find a perfect backing track for a project; but of course, I can’t buy it until the client has A-OKed it. Therefore, and in the meantime, I need suggestions from you for an interim specimen backing track which can be used for aural illustration. Any ideas?; pressed for time, I listen to the work of Johann Johannsson who composed the music for Arrival to find a suitably uplifting “human drama” track; his music is perfect; in a related observation: it’s interesting to note how contemporary classical music which is otherwise unbearable to listen to takes on a totally different sci-fi character once the sound of a distorted human voice is overlaid, another, different type of music discovery. You listen to the track in question here; tonight is one of the only occasions when I have to look semi-decent because I have a dinner with civilised people — in the countryside. Not being able to find the single one piece of clothing I’m looking for, a pair of brown corduroys, I put on a Dior Homme suit instead and wear it with my faux mucking out boots from Frye; having been in the fashion industry for so many years, I can make almost any outfit match; I never owned or bought a pair of brown shoes my entire life — until now — giving you some idea of how I’ve been a country chic virgin until now; dinner with the Brexiters was fun and memorable. Contrary to what you may think, there are quite a few people like me in the countryside!; it’s long overdue to vlog, with myself as the talking head; I watch Agon, a ballet by Stravinsky choreographed by George Balanchine. (And, frankly, it’s too conventional for me to vlog about.)
I take my cousins to look at the Bures Dragon, a huge earthscape shaped like a dragon which is the most dramatic example of land art in Suffolk. As an added bonus, Saint Stephen’s Chapel, the grounds of which serve as the de facto viewing stage for the land art dragon, approximately half a mile away and otherwise inaccessible by foot, was open because it was the Easter period. The chapel is a little-known, special historic treat because it’s the chapel for the aristocratic DeVere family, the forbears of the dragon’s creator, Geoffrey Probert, and contains the ancient tombs of several DeVeres, dating back as far as the 13th century. Walking into the small chapel and viewing the tombs, almost perfectly preserved, up close, is not something you’d ordinarily be able to do at a museum, so, being able to see such ancient, museum-quality relics totally undisturbed, in total quiet and serenity, was an unexpected windfall which my cousins enjoyed immensely [I didn’t film inside the chapel because it is a sacred place. But wanted to mention our visit there nonetheless]; we continue our sightseeing tour through Suffolk to Lavenham, the most popular tourist destination in Suffolk, where we visit its best-known building, the Guildhall, which was once the centre of wool trading and then became a workhouse after Lavenham lost its pre-eminent position in the industry. First sight: a stuffed, apotropaic cat. “Apotropaic” means “intended to ward off evil.” ; The harsh lock-up and bare bones mortuary behind the Guildhall; the public footpath system is one of Britain’s greatest public goods and treasures. The footpath system and the corresponding ordnance survey maps allow the public to walk on the public easements crisscrossing the nation’s countryside; entertaining and hospitality are as exhausting as any day at the office; OMFG, HAIL!; WOO HOO! my stepdaughter, Louise Bleach, representing the water desalination technology, Desolenator, wins a HUGE startup competition, Pitch at Palace, over 900 other startup contestants chosen from all over the United Kingdom.
My cousins arrive this morning; my husband thinks 11 am is too early for lunch but Chinese people always prefer eating earlier than later; my wi-fi solution, utilising the mobile, rather than landline, telephone network, is unbelievably expensive; again, I can’t believe how the British government is letting the countryside languish in Luddite backwardness, adversely impacting economic productivity in huge swathes of the nation; an Instagram friend clued me into the fact that “posh crisps” can sometimes contain high levels of carcinogens called acrylamides; we love entertaining at home but it makes John tense; John can never remember the names of anyone, including my imminently arriving cousins; I can’t believe that Putin has sent troops to North Korea. So glad I’m no longer living in the US! I suddenly realise that the speed limit signs and our car’s odometer are calibrated in miles, not kilometres, as I had believed since moving to the UK, meaning that I’ve been driving much much faster than I ever imagined; Oysters, oysters, oysters on Mersea Island, the home of the Colchester Oyster; the Colchester Oyster Fishery supplies all the starred restaurants in London with oysters; John excels at table setting; Bluebells; a Coalbrookdale cast iron fern chair.