Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My brilliant careen


Tiger in an urban jungle (surprised) by Pants

My first canvas is complete. If you think you recognise bits of it, you're right. It's an established convention called 'appropriation' that allows the artist to swipe other people's ideas, chop them around a bit and call them her own. Ask Chris Martin of Coldplay. He knows all about it. I had the good sense to use a work that is well and truly in the public domain as the centrepiece of this painting. The background comprises imitations of a combination of masterpieces by a living artist who has much better things to do than chase me down and are so naively rendered as to make them unrecognisable anyway. I'm accepting bids over US$400,000. Krug doesn't come cheap.

One of the top universities in Victoria today announced it's ditching all foreign language courses except for Vietnamese (don't know why - that lecturer is the only one with tenure?), to focus on the study of English. It may already be too late to reintroduce literacy into our tertiary institutions but I applaud the gesture.

Although the tutors at Larrikin's End School of Fine Art and Advanced Macramé are all exceptionally fine artists and indeed deliriously advanced macramists, not to mention reassuringly attired in eccentrically clashing patterns, not one of them has been tempted in the direction of a dictionary of late. I have given up trying to convince Mistress of the Brush that 'complementary colours' are those sitting opposite each other on the colour spectrum, whereas 'complimentary colours', should they exist, would be more interested in telling you how much they like your red and green swirly leg-ins... ohh, now I get it.

I believe it was Kant who said, 'an intelligent child who is brought up with a mad child can go mad', and I beg your leave to invoke him. I have a feeling that I once used to be smarter than I am now. Perhaps there's only so much you can blame on negative subliminal messaging but it often feels like I'm spending all of my limited head time on trying not to lose what I already know rather than on channelling a blossoming conscientia.

I've been following with a melancholy mix of anger and outrage the plunging fortunes of the British Labour Party and failed lamentably to scratch out the poignant, witty and insightful responsive piece I imagined I had in me. I realised, going over some of my old posts about the Labour Government and Gordon 'Scrooge McDuck' Brown in particular, that I normally need a comic spike to inspire me. The laughs are all lead balloons now. I reproduce in full below a post from January 2007, before Scrooge became PM, and we could all still see the funny side. Enjoy.

A Scrooge Loose

Watching as Gordon ‘Scrooge McDuck’ Brown fluffs himself up and waddles self-consciously into the international spotlight is almost always a painful experience. With equal parts of David Brent, X-Factor contestant and third choice best man giving a wedding speech, he invariably looks as if he will break down at some point during the delivery of his routine quackery and start blubbering that all he ever wanted to be was a retail marketing manager for a small to medium sized enterprise in Dundee. Pity us world for he is our next leader.

This week he’s in India fielding questions about our perpetual inability to get along with people from other countries following accusations of racist bullying by three of our finest belching and farting chavs on Celebrity Big Brother -

'Yes I know we invaded your country and enslaved your people while we systematically stripped your natural wealth, following which we invited your compatriots to live and work in our country and subjected them to appalling bigotry but we still want to be seen as a nation of fairness and tolerance.’
It’s worth a try.

Unfortunately, Scrooge’s trusty moral compass was confiscated at Heathrow Airport
due to heightened security threats, (‘I’m sorry sir, they interfere with the aircraft’s ethical guidance system’). This meant he had to hoof it when listing his heroes and went a little off course, citing Winston Churchill as a source of inspiration. Hang on Scroogy old chap, Winnie batted for the other side. Surely you mean Clement Atlee or Harold Wilson – those were your guys. Scrooge told our BBC this morning,

‘I think it was Churchill who said that you cannot meet the challenges of the future by simply building the present in the image of the past. And therefore I'm also seized that we face new challenges, first of all a security challenge, secondly an environmental challenge, and thirdly, of course, the challenge that British people want most of all is the prosperity challenge. And that will need new policies.’

Probably better not to quote Winnie in his ‘vintage’ period, and by that I mean the things he said after his fourth bottle of Pol Roger. Still, it’s nice to see that Scrooge is acquiring his soon-to-be predecessor’s finesse with the non sequitur.

Remembering where he was, Scrooge explained that Mahatma Ghandi had also been one of his great heroes. (When in South Africa,it’s Nelson Mandela. When in Jamaica, it’s Marcus Garvey. When in Germany, it’s Gerh… Yes, well). Scrooge explained to our BBC about Ghandi,

he showed a strength of belief and a strength of willpower, a determination to move for a more just and fair order. And people of courage always inspired me.’

I know I’m nitpicking here, but the thing I remember about Ghandi is that he didn’t move. That’s right isn’t it? Forgive me, but didn’t he sit and meditate? Wasn’t that the whole point and what made it so powerful?

What Scrooge says next indicates that, in conjuring Ghandi, he might have been invoking a particular historic era and perhaps needs to get out more,

‘I think if you look at the shape of the international institutions, you will see they were built for the age of 1945. We are in a new age. Reshaping these institutions can give us an environmental improvement, they can give us a security improvement, and they can give us also greater prosperity.’

If this is true, what’s happening in all those new Norman Foster buildings that we’re paying for? The fashion for neo Bauhaus architecture aside, what is slightly more worrying is Scrooge’s recent repetition of the phrase ‘there is a new world order’ whenever a microphone appears. It’s not a topic that has surfaced in the ‘community conversations’ in which we are encouraged to participate. Perhaps there’s a hint in this,

‘We need to strengthen the alliances we have, a strong alliance with America, a strong alliance in Europe, a strong role in the Commonwealth. But we also need, and I think this is now very clear to people, to reshape the international institutions so that they can meet these challenges of the future.’

I’m not entirely sure what ‘people’ he had in mind to be the recipients of this particular clarity but as a citizen of Britain born in a Commonwealth country, I can tell you I have no idea what these ‘international institutions’ might be, or indeed, what shape they might assume. Could there not be a reality TV show to assist me? How about Colour Your Commonwealth, hosted by Rolf Harris?

It all seems horrifying until you remember that politicians are scary and if all they’re about is trying to work out what will keep them in the positions they don’t even think they’re smart enough to have, then they are probably not that dangerous. Prove me wrong McDuck or you’re paté.

Sources – www.timesonline.co.uk and my warped imagination.

PS - It's Pants from the present. If you're still with me, come for breakfast tomorrow at Seat of Pants. Specialty of the house - duck paté on toast.