Monday, October 29, 2007

I've Been Robbed.

This weekend we went down to the big city to meet Brain and Di for the afternoon and I finally got to see what they have done to The Kelvingrove in Glasgow. The Kelvingrove re-opened eighteen months ago after an extensive, and expensive (£27 millions quids worth of expensive) restoration. I love the Kelvingrove. It's a magnificent building, a high Victorian basilica of the arts and a monument to the stinking richness of the city at the time it was built. A hugely impressive and solid building, it used to be stuffed full of treasures from all over the world eclectically displayed, sometimes oddly juxtaposed by time and random acts of curation, but full of goodies and oddities. It was, in short, a marvellous place to go and look at things and marvel at the ingenuity and creativity of the human race of the all the ages from all over the world.

What it is is now is a series of coffee shops with a kids' playground strung between them.

They spent 27 million quid fucking the place up. It is terrible. There's no room to look at anything and often no way of finding out what it is you are trying to look at. Most of the wall space seems to be taken up with laminated signs telling you fuck all about anything but asking "How do you feel...?" about this that or the other. The galleries that used to be stuffed full of paintings, and furniture, and sculpture, and artefacts of every kind are now stuffed full of patronising uninformative notices and grandiose display cases that are more about showing how smart and clever the twats who redesigned this place are, than showing to best advantage anything that they may contain. They are so busy interpreting everything for you they don't let you see anything. My lowest point came when I was presented with a glass case full of armour (most of it unlabelled) - at one end of the case was, for no discernible reason, a pair of arms from a suit of armour and underneath them was, for an equally indiscernible reason, a stuffed armadillo. Then I got it. Arms + Arms + Armadillo. Oh, ha bloody ha. They must have pissed themselves with self-congratulatory smugness when they thought that one up.

The kids needless to say loved it. It was full of things to push and crash and flap and squeeze. But so is everywhere else these days. If everywhere turns into a huge feely bag for five year olds where are they going to learn about all the other things in life that are important. If every museum is reduced to the level of the Early Learning Centre with interactive brightly coloured plastic and patronising Janet and John notices, how are they ever going to learn about stillness, and awe, and respect for the arts. If all art is is a bit of background decoration upon which to hang a 'Hands-on Interactive Learning Experience', where are they going to learn about beauty and the sheer overwhelming gobsmacking joy of discovering something wonderful for themselves? How are they going to make the thrilling discovery of hidden treasures if there are only two over-interpreted objects in every room?

The Philistine fuckwits who did over the Kelvingrove wouldn't know an artist experience if it bit them on the arse. Take Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross for example. I'm no great Dali fan myself - too much of the chocolate box painter / showman made good for my taste, but people like him and the Kelvingrove's painting is a famous work of his. So famous in fact that it features heavily in the museum's literature. Why then is it stuffed in a corner with two huge spotlights shining on it? Spotlights which reflect so brightly off the glass, that you can't get close to the painting and see it? It is just a terribly piece of hanging. There are others. Avril Paton's equally iconic (in Scotland anyway), wonderfully voyeuristic painting of a Glasgow tenement block, The Window on the West, is hung way way too high. Far higher than it was in the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art where I last saw it. The only reason it is hung so high is because the structure of the building means there is a stone dado in the way of hanging it any lower. It's in the wrong space. The viewer's eye line needs to be level with the top floor of the block for the painting to do its work, not halfway down the building. Hanging on the wall next to The Window on the West is a massive, floor to ceiling painting. It looked interesting. I would have liked to have been able to step back and look at it - but I couldn't, because there was a huge Janet and John book disguised as a 'learning zone', or some such shite, plonked directly in front of it - which meant you couldn't do anything other than look at the bottom of the the painting and stare up at the rest somewhere near the ceiling, and so it went on, and on etc. etc. etc.

It was a depressing experience. It's crap. The whole place is crap. It didn't used to be. And I feel robbed.

27 million fucking quids worth of robbed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I think I need more sleep. I have just spent an hour giggling myself stupid mixing this out of tracks found over at I'm not sure why, but it just had to be done.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In a fit of script avoidance. (Must learn Archibald Cuningham's impassioned - but mercifully short - speech for the Lament show tonight. Loads of bile in a heavy costume) I have signed myself up to NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month - A blog entry a day for the whole of November. Why? No idea. I just liked the sound of 'NaBloPoMo'. Sounds like a Spanish artist: Nablo Pomo. You must have heard of him, used to go drinking with Picasso and Dali. A great practical joker, Pomo used to turn Dali's canvases sideways on the easel when no-one was looking. Sometimes Dali would be so wrapped up in his work he would continue for hours and only notice his friend's little jape when the painting was completed:
"Pomo, you great twat! You ruined my picture! This watch I painted, it goes round a corner now. It looks like it's bloody melting!"
Other times Pomo would sneak into Dali's studio and tilt his easel back a little bit more each day.

What a wag.

So. November. Blogging every day sounds a lot more achievable (and worthy) than NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. 50,000 people have signed up to that one. Does the world really need fifty thousand more novels? Maybe I should start NoMoWriMo. No More Writing Month, where no-one writes anything. Nobody types anything at all for thirty days, no-one witters on drearily about their kids' talented drooling, no-one inflicts their 'poetry' on anyone else, no-one struggles with that difficult second novel. No-one writes ANYTHING for a whole month. Apart from shopping lists and notes to the milkman. I think that would be allowed.

We might all get some reading done.

I'm going to cheat and count cartoons as blog entries.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I hate advertising. Always have. I turn the sound off during the commercial breaks on the television and then go for a piss (whether I need one or not) so I don't have to look at the pictures - I take the remote with me in case anyone else in the room is tempted to turn the volume up in my absence*. I don't listen to any commercial radio, and throw junk mail straight in the bin unopened.

Over the past few days I have finally realised what it is about the bloody stuff that I loath so much. All advertising is designed to make you buy something or, at the very least, feel good about some 'Brand' so you will buy something off them later - or not mind if they do something really shitty in a Third World country because well, they did do those funny adverts with the monkey after all, so how evil can they really be.
There are various ways you can be made to buy something. You can be made to want it because it will make you feel better. It will make you happy if you use this product or that. Or you could be persuaded to want something because evil things will happen if you don't. Paranoia advertising - "Look at all those fucking germs lurking down your kitchen plughole!" stuff.

Or snobbery. "People will sneer at you if you haven't got the new cool technological gee-gaw in your pocket." - or, even better - "If you get the new cool technological gee-gaw in your pocket NOW! you can then you can sneer at THEM!", That will make you feel better "Ha! Ha! I'm officially cool You're not!" and you'll have a nifty up to the minute do-dah which you won't know how to operate properly but everyone will be jealous of it and you for at least three weeks - till it becomes obsolete.

The one thing all advertising seems to have in common (and I feel really dumb for only having really worked this out at the tender age of 48) is that to be effective it has to make you feel unhappy.

Advertising is all about identifying people's miseries then dangling the magic carrot that will cure them.Advertising is all about telling people they are sad, lonely, miserable, depressed ugly and stupid - then selling them the cure.

I don't know how many adverts the average person is exposed to during the day but that bombardment of negative messages must have a qualitative effect. I don't need overpaid 'Creatives' telling me I'm shit.

That's what my family is for.

*This is a total lie - but a good idea.

Meanwhile if anyone has a copy of the original of this they can lend me, I WANT!

Any film that has dialogue like:
"Follow our example, Comrades!
Unite into a family of workers in a
Martian Union of Socialist Soviet Republics!"
has to be worth a look.

The full 100 minute version is, by all accounts, a total chore to watch but the Martian sequences look extraordinary. Especially the battle towards the end. I remember the 1950s American remake Flight to Mars being a total turd. And I don't remember there being impassioned speeches about the dignity of Labour and the Rights of the Proletariat, lumpen or otherwise. It was all running around corridors with zap guns, and girls in short skirt heaving their interestingly large 1950s pointed Martian boobies (well maybe not a total turd) at hunky square jawed Space jocks.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The other day while laying the fire, and reading, as you do, the month old newspapers that I was scrunching up before laying the sticks. I came across this gem of a letter in The Sunday Times. It was in a section of the letter column devoted to pouring scorn on Germaine Greer for an article in which, I'm guessing here, she had the temerity to suggest Diana Princess of Wales didn't walk on water, didn't cure the sick with a glance, and may well have gone to the toilet from time to time like the rest of us. From the general tone of the letters you would have thought Ms Greer had accused The Sainted Diana of being someone who regularly snorted pure heroin off the nipples of prepubescent girls before pummelling kittens to death with a meat tenderizer. Most of them were just the sad outpourings of lonely people. One of them just made me laugh,
Power Play: What a pity Diana died when she did. Had she survived to inspire the men of our nation, our rugby team would be winning every match and the war in Iraq would be won.
Ken Wilson
I suspect this was written tongue firmly in cheek just to see if the paper would be foolish enough to print it, but it wasn't hard to see the ten year dead, simpering, Hug an AIDS orphan, anti-landmine, people's Princess as some sort of British boy's comic cartoon hero. Smashing the Taliban with one hand, and, with the other, kicking the winning conversion in the Six Nations Championship before nipping off to the showers with Johnny Wilkinson and the rest of the team*.

Sort of like Tupper 'The Tough of the Track' who used to appear in 'The Victor' when I were a lad, a working class hero who would eat vast quantities of Fish and Chips, probably fought Germans with his bare hands "Achtchung! Die Englander!" but always made it back, despite all the odds, to win the Three Peaks Race in his bare feet - but with tits and a tiara.

What's the point of all this? I have no idea, except for the past day or so I have had the nagging desire to do a comic strip in which Diana does just that; Diana of the SAS blasting her way through hordes of Kalashnikov wielding Taliban with her trusty British Tommy Gun while barking out lines like "Like eat lead, yah? You Ragheads, Okay? Cool!" Before jumping in her trusty British Harrier Jump Jet and whizzing back to Twickers to run out with the England team and thrash the Froggies 53 - 51 after a nail-biting climax.

I am so tempted...

*Okay, I'll give you that bit. I can imagine that bit - her climbing into the showers with the entire England rugby team - I don't want to, but I could. If I wanted to. Which I don't. (I also know you don't kick rugby balls with your hands, either of them.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Don't Say "Bungee Jumping Mermaid!" - That's Rude!

I sometimes wonder how some people manage to make it out of bed in the mornings without straining their brain.
This afternoon I was in the queue for the till in the village shop, loaf of bread in one hand bar of chocolate in the other, it's a small Co-op with tiny Post Office (pronounced 'po - stoffice' round here). In front of me in the queue was a lady of middle to advance middle years who I didn't recognise (i.e. almost certainly a tourist) and behind the counter was the new lad, I don't know his name, who is friendly and helpful but still finding his way around. She is attempting to pay and he was having trouble with her card.

He stabbed at a few keys on the till. Shook his head and apologised. "I'm sorry. The system hasn't recognised the card, could you put it in again, please?".
She pulls out and then reinserts her card. He waits for a moment. But it's obvious from his expression that the same non-recognition thing has happened again. I can see the doubt on his face. I can see him wondering whether it something he has done, or hasn't done. Should he call the supervisor? He decides to have one last go.
"I'll cancel the transaction," he tells her, "and we'll try again. Could you take your card out again, please?"
He presses a few more buttons on the till as she removes her card. The queue has grown in length by now, and those of us who can see what is going on are exchanging typically British "tut tut, I don't know..." type micro-eye contacts. The rest who are around the corner next to the crisps and can't see what is going on, probably assume that someone up front is buying a Lottery ticket, a process which any time I have seen it acted out, seems to take the entire shop staff, several keys, and a lot of apologising, "The machine is usually a lot faster than this, the lines are slow today. Was it a Lucky Dip you're wanting?"
The lad finally gets the amount re-entered into the till and asks the woman to insert her card for at least the third time. She slides it into the machine. Still no joy. He is feeling awkward. What's he supposed to do? He's new on the job. He's never encountered this situation before. He's just on the point of saying something when the woman pulls out a twenty pound note and some loose change. " I'll have to pay with cash." she says, "I don't know my PIN number for that card anyway..."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I am getting really worried about me. The other day listening to some Radio 4 remix of the Desert Island Discs format I heard this brilliant piece of music.. I mean it really knocked my socks off and about half an hour ago I downloaded it.
I love music. I don't know a lot about it (but I know what I like) and I am in constant awe of friends like Chaz who understand what keys are and what to do with them, and can make music. I've always had eclectic musical tastes (thanks, Pa!) and have never been a great fan of any particular type. Back in my student days I still managed to listen to Steve Hillage, Gong, and all that other Hippy - "Ooooh take me on magic trippy teapot ride!" - druggy stuff and alternate it with loads of Bang your head on the table, "Gonna cut my liver out and nail it to your door" punk (other druggy) stuff, depending on my mood (enhanced or otherwise).
These days I flit from old Blues, to Techno, love mashup, Enrico Morricone, and minimalist composers like Glass, Reich and Nyman. From time to time I will have short crazes for Jazz or Baroque organ music but Never. Ever. In my entire life did I think I would ever ever ever! listen to...

Bert Kaempfert.

Bert K, it turns out, had earned his place in musical history by being the first person to pay The Beatles to go into a recording studio, but his album Swinging Safari makes me want to upgrade him. It's a work of pure genius. It stands in direct ratio to my usual cheesy listening as a great slab of honking, live Roquefort does to a individually wrapped Baby Bellette or a sterile slice of Dairylea. It is wonderful. I want more!

And it got Popcorn out of my head!

When I think of all the Bert Kaempfert LPs I have idly flipped past in the charity shops over the years I could kick myself. I'll be buying James Last LPs soon.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sorting through the pictures on my phone today I came across a few that weren't of the kids, or of total strangers - the number of pictures I have on my phone of people who are total strangers is quite worrying, - or floors. I seem to have taken a lots and lots of photos of floors. I don't remember taking these but I guess I must have done - though why is a good question. (God, I hope this is my phone). Anyway, I thought I would share some of the oddness I found in there. You lucky people.

This year's Truss Award for most misplaced apostrophe
on a professionally made sign goes to:

This was from a 'continental' market in Fort William.

I just don't understand that one at all. Even if it was supposed to say "Made of Stuff" it would still be pretty weird.

The white hot heat of oil lamp technology
reaches the far north of Scotland
And finally...

I wonder what a 50% official Power Ranger looks like.

There, that wasn't to painful was it?

Missing CD? Contact vendor

Free CD
Please take care
in removing from cover.

Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

(this copyright notice stolen from

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