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Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Late summer holiday continues apace. An extra visit was required for the slightly saddening, slightly maddening* Joseph Cornell exhibition at the RA because the Summer Exhibition, even without consideration of the Humument in its entirety is too exhausting to allow for anything else the same day.

There was a weird buzz about going to an exhibition where almost everything is for sale (prices from under a hundred to the low millions) - the kids especially were madly window shopping, "can we take this home"? The chairs I only know the prices because a lady who was either rich or faking it like a boss went and asked at the desk - ask at desk is code for "substantial investment". There was plenty of the weird and horrible on display, including a creepy porno/soldier theme which saw pornish women justaposed against men exploring the horrors of war and/or depicting the weight and complexity of modern soldiergarb so repeatedly it had gone through theme and tired trope and emerged deep in the fields of creepy insistence. The presence of so many different genres, mediums and even sizes - architecture, sculpture, collage, tapestry, installation, painting, printing, clothes woven from the artists' own hair, etc. - was bewildering. You had to have a strategy. And so it was that timscience and I strode round each gallery in semi-opposite directions picking favourites.

I drew a scribble in my catalogue next to everything I liked - Tim seemed to be using his memory. We didn't agree about everything but there were some clear winners, mostly already sold.

Fancy a wander? The whole thing is online, and here are my picks, plus one Tim wanted to buy (it was sold out), minus a couple I didn't care for in the cold light of the following week, and with duplicates (two by the same artist) stripped out. Highlights include a neon football stadium, twenty-six geese, a couple of nice vases of flowers, various cats and what appears to be a tribute to Bananarama/80s fashion magazines. Go the RA.

*Although I do love Cornell I find him relentlessly melancholic, and all the little boxes look like places I end up trapped in in anxiety dreams.
For our wedding anniversary this year we went to the Southbank to be locked in the Hayward Gallery overnight, and sleep in moving sculpture/installation Two Roaming Beds (Grey) by Carsten Holler. This was part of larger exhibition called Decision, which is entered via door A or door B. You've paid in advance, and there's a huge queue behind you so you can't baulk at the doors. You have to choose.

In the spirit of the show, I have two perspectives, so you can choose which/order to read.

full superman

Carsten Holler : The Future is Toyetic

locked in fiction, toothpaste conundrums, harvested dreamsCollapse )

delighted ceratopsians, uncertain sauropod

Carsten Holler: Dinosaur Decisions

the dinosaurs in the galleryCollapse )

the restaurant dream

Looking outside, it seems the perfect weather to be reviewing garden Shakespeare (my plan for this evening) but I digress:

the restaurant dreamCollapse )

Some may have reconstructed from the echoes that timscience and I went to the Hayward gallery and were locked in for the night and left at the mercy of two (thankfully benign) robot beds. It was an interesting night, but I'm still digesting the experience and will talk about it later.
It got properly muggy today for the first time this year; at work, we were all unplugging the phone and laptop chargers and plugging in the fans. I got in this morning to find three cucumber plants by my chair and a parish magazine ("The Sprout") on my work scanner. I felt well village.

My work scanner is old and slow, but not broken, unlike my home scanner, which is now stuck permanently on the dreaded Dell invalid ink cartridge error. No amount of power cycling, jiggling, or inserting another completely valid Dell ink cartridge (I only have completely valid Dell ink cartridges) will shift my Dell all-in-one from the terrifying conviction that I am monstering it with a knock-off cartridge, and must perforce be prevented from using the scanner (I only ever use the scanner) until I have restored its entirety with a new and intact printer cartridge. The scanner had an irritating judder in the bottom left-hand corner, so I probably should have replaced it ages ago, but still. List of things I am never going to buy again: an all-in-one, a Dell Printer, anything by Dell.

So, another significant purchase. After the Wardrobe and the Sofa (IKEA had finally exited their muesli and tears colour scheme phase and emerged into a world of bright block colour, so we had to take advantage) I have significant purchase fatigue. And also significant purchase build up, as along with the scanner, there's a long list including things like kitchen, mobile phone and car (all still just about functioning, though their last legs have long since become no legs). Still, the sofa is beautiful.

Music of the spheres Ladybirds by post

Above: visiting Music of the Spheres and Ladybird larvae by post. I thought I'd lost them all (there was a gust of wind when I was gently shaking them out of their box) but I looked at the rose bush that got the lion's share of the beasties today and all the greenfly are gone.

March compilation comes in a bit late

I started using this is my jam this month, which I thought might replace these compilations; but fundamentally it doesn't do the same thing, and nice as the jam is, I'm ready for a full 17-course meal now.

So, March: I was insanely busy at work, my commute the quietest bit of the day, with every day more spring to be seen on the tow-path. Similarly the songs are light, bright, with as much brass as wist (although Damon's homage to the ephemerality of your sexts is pretty wistful). It also includes a clash of colossi feminin - Gaga and Beyonce, whose song Ego lead to lols so mighty they caused a coughing fit. Though Gaga (of course) wins the video. I also broke my 5-minute rule on Holy Ghost!'s Dumb Disco Ideas because I wanted more cowbell.


Full tracklist and Youtube playlist under the cutCollapse )

slow TV, swallows and the stinky compost

BBC4 is doing a season of Slow TV at the moment. They're being a little non-literal (three hours of making a knife compressed down to 30 minutes, for example) but the aesthetic is there; an absence of music or voice-over, the soundtrack instead comprising of ecstatically detailed ambient sound; movement of viewpoint and focus minimised or eradicated; the hyperreality of blown up HD close-ups; an almost unhealthy obsession with the moment. This being BBC4 (home of the documentary) there are some facts in some programmes, presented as captions, which (for example) in the Dawn Chorus identify the birds. I did offer to pause it for timscience (cooking at the time) when a particularly handsome pheasant hopped up onto a branch, but he declined. "Isn't the point of Slow TV that you don't need to do that?" he asked, "You can just dip in and out as you please." Hmm. Or staring transfixed at perfect glistening dew-drops while trying to untangle the songs of a Stonechat and a Willow Warbler, maybe. Of course I'm vulnerable to this sort of thing anyway. I spent half an hour watching swallows being nearly blown into the Thames this evening (the swallows are back) (air-punch).

Then we watched an episode of Gotham to bring ourselves up to operational speed again.

Over the weekend I bought some New Horizon peat-free compost which the apprentice in the garden centre carpark assured me me was "uh, yes, fine for potting". It hasn't done a great job on the seedlings, but it has filled the shed and the verandah with the aroma of parmesan and startled cat. It's my usual brand for general use but this is the first year I've used it for potting. Maybe the last. Could just be a bad batch.

Election wipe has just finished. And tomorrow: the election.

I had a dream

I had a dream last night that I got sunstroke from walking down the tow-path without a hat on. I woke up still feeling woozy, with a cat wandering around on my stomach. The garden needed watering again; these dry springs are strange. Of note recently:

I baked a loaf in a casserole pot, like it said I should in the amazing bread book. The pot handle exploded in the oven, leading to a quest through the various replacement options available and agonising decisions like, Le Creuset? Or knock-off Le Creuset? The replacement fitted fine, but now timscience keeps getting suggestions from Am*z*n that he might like to buy more pot handles. I don't know, Am*z*n. Some things you only just need one.

I discovered cardboard boxes of fresh dates for sale in my local greengrocer (the same one I get random plants and smoked garlic from) and my lunch box as a result became both more and less healthy. This week it's been dates and olives (there is a token sandwich in there too) after the Maroc deli turned out to have good deals on both. Between the oil and the sugar, I'm not altogether convinced of the health benefits, but we'll see.

Spring on the tow-path:

But I have seen neither swallows nor ducklings yet.

The handsome grey tom-cat that has moved in across the road was starlted by Tim in the greenhouse, and in a state of abject (and wholly unjustified, but hey, cats) terror, exited dramatically via a pane of glass, neatly breaking it in two, knocking a sundial base askew and fled the garden at top cat speed. He was fine; the following day I saw him unconcernedly sitting on the patio steps. Not a scratch. The greenhouse is fine, too, having had a spare pane slotted into it. It's all drama.
"Why do you know the names of things"? I was asked, again, this time in relation to Plane Trees, because I knew the name of the big trees that had shielded our offices, that were cut down last week. Or possibly pollarded (there's a tall stump left, about ten feet high - but that's not how you pollard a London Plane, they're cut back to a framework of branches, although it is how you pollard a willow, which are the only currently maintained pollards in Oxford). I like trees, I said, and she replied, I like trees, but that doesn't mean I know the names of all of them. I think it's safe to say that we all liked those trees, not least because they were part of the temperature management for our building; but looking out onto green leaves, or a lattice of twigs, or hearing the clatter of the pigeons in the branches, or the squirrel... "What about the squirrel? Where will that go now?" It's homeless. And that's frowned on in Oxford.

I'm rattling through my coursework at the moment. Resilient daughters of battered women, twelve-year olds caring for depressed parents, reintegration of orphans after the Rwandan genocide. It's a world of misery, albeit very well described misery. Also, at some point in almost every paper, there's a paragraph of pure poetry as the statistical methods used in the paper are described, and you get to discover whether this particular suffering population passes Bartlett's test of sphericity, etc. Definitions, drifting terminologies. Each time I look up from a day of study I can feel my functional vocabulary expanding, like a blast wave.

Speaking of which, I followed a reference from a puzzling sentence and discovered Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, which is facilitated (but never guided) by a Difficultator and has no actors or audience, only Spect-actors. It sounded simultaneously horrible and fabulous, like the bleeding of bureaucratic architecture through from another (maybe better) world. In the usual way of the internet (written on wind and water*) that Wikipedia page seems to have been edited since yesterday, and now no longer includes Boal's quote "only the oppressed are able to free the oppressed" which must in any case have been translated from the original Portuguese - ah, no it's on this page. My mistake.

Speaking of mistakes, my urge to name everything does drive me to put marker names on things when I don't remember the name. Pepper Jasmine, for example. I'd scored - implausibly - two bare-root Daphne Mezereum rammed into a pot and sold as a decorative pot plant from a local greengrocer (the one in Cowley Centre). I couldn't remember its name for a week, so I called it Pepper Jasmine, because flowers and fruit grow straight from the stem, like pepper, and it's a Jasmine. That's a terrible name for it - it's poisonous. But when I did look up a common name for it, it was called Spurge Laurel (also a terrible name).

Speaking of extraordinary things, I found a reference to a ballerina drinking tea "Russian Style" - black and sweetened with spoonfuls of blueberry jam. Tea with jam? Yep, and also a fifteen minute brewtime! I think this has to be tried. But what flavour jam? So far I see the ballerina voting for blueberry and the Russian tea shop saying strawberry. Any more suggestions?

* in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua - Catullus

baking and pott(er)ing on

Holiday is over this morning. We had some fun, although a lot of it was taken up by the car (digest version - the nice Ford we bought last year developed a serious and inexplicable electrical problem which turned out to be covered by no form of insurance, necessitating some hard financial decisions, writing off a few grand and getting a different car) one way and another. Also, a surprising amount of it was spent baking. Not the actual baking, of course -- that's a quarter-hour work here and there -- but the process of timing your absences from the house to match the proving time of your loaf. Baking days are days of short errands.

Home-made wholemeal bread, though, I have to admit - it is a joy. Among the other good things was a visit to Modern Art Oxford (they have performance art on at the moment, and bits of it are turning up in the surrounding streets), the return of Gotham, and my little cat, of course (speaking of which I recently found a way to fully identify her variety (the rough designation "crossbreed" on all of the documentation seeming insufficient to describe her tininess). She is a bicolour (black and white) mask and mantle with a blaze and nose-snip. That link is to a page that will allow you to identify any cat with similar precision.

Minecrafting and gardening continue as twin obsessions. The links are obvious, I suppose. On the tow path, Goose Castle is back in play for the spring, and has been joined by Goose Island, Goose Scrape and Goose Twighouse (already predated). Casualties in the garden include my Primula Francesca and Tragic Oberon, though the winter being as it was (too mild to kill pests) they went to vine weevil, not frost.

We went to London to see some art too. The most striking things were a) comfortable or b) a missile.

This week's poll comes to you courtesy of the Achacha fruit, as recently imported by Mr M&S, which I bought (my normal practice when discovering new foodstuffs, committed as I am to omnomnivory) expecting something bland and dull, novelty driven, probabaly a bit like a lychee. Not a bit of it. The texture is banana-ish but the taste combines the juiciness of lychee with the flavour of sweet lime fizz. Achachas are actually amazing, flavour-wise - though between rind and seed there's not a lot of meat on them.

But I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for strange fruit. What about you? Are you a fruit hater or a fruit lover? Are you a strict Northern European fruitist, fond of apple pies and rhubarb crumble, or does your heart belong to the tropics and banana, pineapple, mango and papaya? Answers below and as ever take any issues, tales of strange and glorious fruit experiences, debates about fruits vs. juices and all the rest of the fruit salad to the comments.

Poll #2005579 apples are not the only fruit

The most unusual/bizarre fruit I have eaten is..

Ugli fruit
Dillenia (Elephant Apple)
Custard apple
Another fruit - I will say which below

The weirdest fruit I have ever eaten is... and it tasted like....

When I see a new or unusual fruit for sale...

Fruit is not alluring to me.
Fruit is actively dangerous to me for digestive or sugar-content reasons.
Not interested, unless it's in a pie.
Mild curiosity only. Other foodstuffs are more interesting.
I want to know what it's called.
I want to know what it tastes like.
I buy it immediately, if practical.
I buy it immediately whether practical or not.
My monkey brain yells get it! sniff it! eat it! FRUIT!!!
Has it got a rude name?

Fruit is improved by cooking

Depends on the fruit
Depends on the cook
Is pastry involved? If so, yes.

My least favourite fruit is

Apple - one of the gakky ones
Pear - hard? soft? what?
Blackcurrants - an acid wash for mouth and stomach!
Gooseberries - like little sour exploding hedgehogs
Kiwi Fruits - incredible hulk coloured furry balls
Plums - the squidgy wasp attractor
Melon - especially that white one which tastes of nothing
Lychees - eyeballs eyeballs eyeballs
Anything sold as an exciting new fruit

I can't believe you didn't include my least favourite fruit in that list, which is

I can't believe you included my FAVOURITE fruit in that list, which is

Fruit makes me feel

Fruity fruity fruity fruity froot!
Sugar buzz!
Mouf ulcrs
Toot toot
I was terrified by fruit as a child you insensitive clod

I like fruit so much I have grown it myself! I've grown

I kind of inherited an apple, pear, plum or cherry tree
I totally planted a fruit tree! I'll say what below.
I've got raspberries, loganberries, blackberries, or other drupes
I grow currants (of any colour)
I've got a gooseberry bush!
I've got a fearsome clump of Rhubarb
I grow fancy berries like Blueberries, goji berries, cloud berries
I grow citrus! Respect my ability to defy the climate!
I grow exotic fruits like banana, passion fruit or kiwi
I grow another fruit, and will say what below

Respect my fruit growing skills! For I have grown... (insert your most impressive fruit here)

And last, but not least, if you had to choose, what would be your only fruit?