September 26, 2006
A BIG DRAW
Sunday was another Big Draw day ( the last one I went to was in September 2004) and, as is my wont, I got there late and couldn't make a decision as to which to choose out of the huge number of things to do and see and join so I walked around simply absorbing the scene in the courtyard of Somerset House.
The most stunning sight was the children frolicking about under jets of water which spouted from the ground in variable sequence, sometimes shooting high up into the air, sometimes standing like water-sculpted Giacomettis in silvery motion. Most of the kids had stripped to their underwear and their beautiful bodies moved like dancers in the play of light and water against the sober, mellow background of noble architecture. The scene shifted too fast for me to draw so I took out my camera and looked for the best angle. Just as I was about to click, I was approached by one of the "guards" who told me sweetly but firmly that photographing the children was not allowed "because they are in their underwear". There was no point in arguing that many paintings in the gallery feature cherubs in underwear or no underwear, or that this event is about art and the tableau before us is most certainly art and worth recording, or that political correctness brands us all as voyeurs and paedophiles and that....I could see that pc indoctrination made rational discussion impossible so I moved on. As soon as I was unobserved I managed to take a few shots but I did, in order to preserve your morals, crop away the small boy who was doing something unmentionable as he straddled a jet of water.
(I removed the photo as it was getting some unwelcome attention. Maybe the pc guards are right after all).
Art materials were freely available at various points but I had brought my own and decided I had to do at least one sketch before the day ended. I stood at one of the easels set up on the back terrace overlooking the Thames and the London Eye with a lot of shrubbery blocking out the view. My drawing turned out extremely boring so, to rescue my amour propre, I jazzed it up in Photoshop when I got home and here is the result - more like the tropics than London but what with global warming and everything, it might look like this one day (as Picasso said to Gertrude Stein about the portrait he painted of her).
It was wonderful to see people of all ages sitting and drawing, outside and inside Somerset House and the adjoining Kings College. This event was more intimate and focused than the previous one I'd been to in Trafalgar Square and all the better for it. There were workshops, performances, famous guest artists, illustrators, cartoonists, designers, talks, group projects etc. I kicked myself black and blue for missing nearly all of it due to my infuriating and apparently incurable habit of late to bed, late to rise and waste as much time as possible before doing anything constructive such as shutting the computer and Going Out.
Below are some of the cartoonists from various newspapers (Financial Times, The Guardian, Private Eye, The Independent) competing to create a spectacular banner to be displayed with a fanfare at the end. Did I see the finale? Did I talk to the cartoonists? Did I try and do some networking for my stuff? No, of course not.
But all was not lost because I did manage to catch the great Gerald Scarfe (at the last Big Draw I did a sketch of him) drawing one of his political satires- this one featured his familiar ape-like GWB balancing the world on one wobbly finger while pet rabbit Blair sits at attention at his feet. It wasn't all that original but Scarfe is a hero to me and quite sexy looking to boot. When he finished the cartoon he invited the audience to come and add anything they wished to the background but I don't think anyone took up the challenge. Instead we queued for his autograph. I don't believe in autographs or autograph-hunting but I thought this signature from someone who doesn't miss anything would make up for my missing so much of the Big Draw day.
September 22, 2006
BLOGGERS ON AND OFF STAGE
That's him, Dick "Patteran" Jones, who bears a slight ressemblance to Ernest Hemingway, or maybe John Peel? But I'm more convinced than ever that the camera lies because this photo gives no indication of the warm, observant personality behind the image, the one that comes across so vividly in Dick's blog and in life. I took another couple of pics - the one outside the theatre was completely blurred and another in the bar, with flash, looked as if he'd been drinking all night whereas he only had one beer and the teeniest shot of single malt. Mine was half a Guinness and a Campari soda (not all at once), in case you're interested.
For an accurate and well-written summary of the evening and the play, read it now at Patteran Pages. I must confess that I wanted to see Dick's report before writing mine because I knew that his would be the real McCoy (spelling? maccoy?) whereas I am not a good reporter or reviewer. As he says, we had to shout to hear each other in the pub before the show but I did learn a little bit about the Jones before-blog life. The great thing about getting to know someone via their blog is that you already have more insight about them than you have about almost anyone you meet in normal life, so meeting up for real is simply an added bonus. I am always curious to know if my real-world self matches up to my online construct but so far, no fellow-blogger I've met has said, Omigod, ugh! You're nothing like the wonderful Augustine! Or: Omigod! You're so much more wonderful than that Augustine character! Well, how do I know what goes on behind people's knitted brows? Knitting perhaps? Dick Jones and I were in complete agreement that the decision of what to be when one grows up could be put off indefinitely.
Courtesy of Prof. Jones, I was among the invited audience at this private showing of Bloggers - Real Internet Diaries, devised and compiled by Oliver Mann (a friend and ex-pupil of Dick's) from real blogs. The show got rave reviews at the Edinburgh Festival and deserves them. It took real flair to detect the dramatic potential in bloggers personal journals and a great deal of skill to select, assemble and edit some of them into fast-paced monologues, brilliantly acted by a cast of five who each took on two roles. The emphasis is on the characters sex-lives and relationships with family and, as on the blogs themselves, nothing is out of bounds. I noticed a few dropped jaws in the audience but they were probably non-bloggers. The director (Ollly) was given permision by the selected bloggers to use their material and he changed names and locations to protect their privacy. I imagine that some of them may have been in the audience and I wondered what their reactions were to seeing their words acted out and whether they recognised themselves in the actors.
Altogether an excellent evening. Thanks very much, Dick.
September 22, 2006
MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE REAL PEOPLE
Looks like September is the
time for getting out of my computer-shaped
By sheer coincidence we were both wearing red t-shirts and are also both just under five feet tall though I must have shrunk because she is about half an inch taller and several centuries younger. Besides being a whizz at engineering, maths, computer science, languages, this simpatica twelve-year old (allright she only looks twelve) runs her own IT company, can solve any techy problem, build a chicken run, climb high mountains and God knows what else. I have no doubt that she'll be gently and efficiently running this country, or maybe the BBC, in a few years time. I'd vote for her with no hesitation, whatever she does.
That's not all: tomorrow evening I am meeting for the first time live - though friends for three years online - Dick Jones of Patteran Pages which, as everybody knows or should know, is extraordinary for its fine writing, wit and perceptiveness. (This is not flattery, Dick, I sincerely mean it, even if you are giving me a ticket to a play about and by bloggers).
Full report will follow and maybe even some photos.
September 18, 2006
You must see and hear this absolutely marvellous Pipe Dream. Many thanks to Andy for the link and to whiskey river where he got it. If you can't connect to it from here, try it from Andy's or Whiskey's blogs.
And now for something absolutely trivial and amateurish (in my own voice).
UPDATE: I've moved this sound file to here because I've been told that some people hear it automatically starting up, together with the Josephine Baker song I posted on August 15. So I'm moving that one too. Can't understand why the auto-play should be on when I most definitely switched it off in Parameters. Apologies to anyone who's had this problem.
September 16, 2006
PROOF THAT IT HAPPENED
One of the BBC crew took this photo and kindly emailed it, so there you are. You can see the shoes.
September 15, 2006
AUGUSTINE'S BBC-TV INITIATION: The Full Story
It was brilliant, they were brilliant, I was brilliant. The only potential fly in this ointment is I how I will look on film. I couldn't see what they saw through the lens so I may retire to a nunnery in November. But if camera, lights and editing are as sympathique as the people who were behind them, I have nothing to fear.
You want to know what I was wearing, right? Here's photographic evidence. Trinny and Susanna would have the vapours over my choice but that would please me no end. (Non-UK readers: T & S are two fashionable, infuriating ladies who tell women "What Not To Wear" ). I didn't want to look like lamb dressed as sheep or depart from the familiar comfort of soft, loose garments and adolescent shoes. My snazzy green and white patterned trainers from Camden Town were highly praised and will, I hope, occupy most of the screen when I appear. I have a very distinctive dress-sense - it's called "immature" and fits perfectly with my outlook, life-style and (lack of) finances. When I'm rich and famous I won't change my style at all except to slightly upgrade the fabrics. Designer labels mean nothing to me and they, like all clothing labels, must be removed because they irritate the back of the neck as well as the conscience.
I was collected from home at 6 pm sharp by a BBC-booked taxi and expertly whizzed through the rush-hour traffic by the charming chauffeur who was curious about Augustine, lying beside me in cardboard inertia. I explained the circumstances as best I could and then we chatted about the usual things - television, traffic, terrorism. I didn't agree with his politics (Tony Blair was the best PM ever!) but such was my about-to-become-a-celebrity benevolence that I let the poor man keep his blinkered views without challenging them. A little media attention does wonders towards temporarily mellowing one's mood about the universe.
At the Television Centre, a huge building (question-mark-shaped if seen from the air) buzzing with apparently random activity, Augustine and I sat quietly waiting in reception. In those surroundings there was nothing unusual about a short, mature woman in teen-age clothes accompanied by a three-foot cardboard cut-out somewhat ressembling her. There were other, bigger cardboard cut-outs standing around, more elaborate ones representing characters from TV dramas and on five huge screens, a selection of past BBC programmes were simultaneously, soundlessly playing. On one screen, crocodiles deep in mud were sinking their teeth into hopelessly struggling wildebeest. On another, a chef was taking pies out of the oven. On another, a newsreader was reading the news. On another, a fictitious belly was being cut open in a fictitious hospital. On another, a famous pop star was gyrating. Yes, all the thoughts you would expect ran through my head: sensory overload, the soundbite culture, the medium wiping out the message, the unbearable lightness of attitude, etc. But since I was there to participate in that culture, it was the wrong time to come over all disapproving.
The team arrived - the two brilliant BBC people who invited me - and thanks to Augustine, they had no trouble recognising us. She was carried, I followed in my snazzy shoes, and to my immense relief, the studio where I was to lose my televisual virginity was small, cozy and untidy and the three-man sound/light/camera crew couldn't have been more friendly. Surrounded by reflector screens, an armchair was set upon a platform against a backdrop of patterned wallpaper. Augustine, it was decreed, could not join me in the hot seat. This didn't upset me too much, I was feeling relaxed and ready to go it alone, but I can't swear my other half didn't shed some hot cartoon tears. To make up for it, at the end of the session I took her picture with the producers and the crew. I'm waiting for permission to post the crew's picture but here's the wonderful BBC team and the wallpaper you willl see behind me in November. Zoe (that's her on the right) sat away from the camera, quietly and skilfully leading me into the ever-pleasant temptation of talking about myself, focusing me on what's relevant to the theme - the DIY aspect of this blogging phenomenon, how it's influenced the way I work and so on. I'm not going to sum up what I said (can't remember now anyway), let's see what will emerge from the final version. Zoe was a brilliant (there's that word again) interviewer, knowing what she wanted and unobtrusively, sympathetically getting me to deliver. Meanwhile, her colleague's encouraging smile was lighting up the darkness beyond the camera so how could I not feel at ease? If only we could all have such a responsive and clued-up audience at all times.
Before the session ended, the platform my chair was standing on began to revolve slowly, a laptop was handed to me and I was told to look as if I was typing and thinking a blog as the camera rolled. I didn't enjoy this part. First of all, a 360-degree revolving view will show up every single unacceptable angle of my persona. Secondly, I can't act worth a damn - even pretending to think is too much pretense for me. Thirdly, I never use a laptop and thus my normal lightning performance with two fingers was severely impaired. Fortunately the camera wasn't on the laptop screen where gibberish was flowing. After going round and round I was asked to stand, clutching the closed laptop, and then to keep my hands in the clutch position when the laptop was taken away. Never mind, it will all make sense in the final cut, I presume. Finally, l was instructed to write my blog's URL on the wallpaper with a marker pen. This was good - I'd been wondering how to get my blog address in (will it show up against that pattern?) Some time next month, apparently I'll be asked back to get some rostrum-camera shots of cartoons and to do a voice-over of the speech bubbles. I'm hoping, trusting, that this will happen because otherwise no visual material from Augustine was included. I mentioned the God Interviews, of course, and emphasized that my Blaug is irrevocably wedded to images. If the only picture people retain from my small appearance in this programme is of my talking head rather than Augustine's, we will both be very sad, even if pleased to get the attention at all.
Let's get this in perspective: the bit about blogs will take up only about one fifth of the whole programme and four other bloggers besides me are featured (they were all filmed the same day, my evening slot was the last). The rest of the show will be taken up, it seems, by musicians and others who are making use of the internet's opportunities (like MySpace etc.) to get their work to the public directly. I don't know anymore about it at the moment and don't want to speculate. I'm chuffed, I'm excited, I had a great time and now I'm going to bed. Will post the other photo if I get the crew's permission.
UPDATE: Enthusiastic permission granted. Here's the charming, handsome, efficient, talented BBC crew who did the work on me . I'm counting on flattery, faking, retouching. If the end result looks like I (Natalie) really do, I'll get even by drawing cartoons all over their photo.
September 13, 2006
TODAY THE BEEB, TOMORROW THE WORLD
Going up, that's for sure. Tonight's the night we're making our television début, moi and my shadow, but you won't actually see us until November when the programme goes out. I'll be announcing the date in large capital letters - not one to hide my light under a bullshit even if I am quiet and unassuming in real life. Ask anybody who knows me. Apart from family - don't ask them, they'll say I'm bossy, know-it-all, opinionated and unstoppably helpful.
Am I nervous about tonight? Only visually. Revealing one's self to a blog is one thing but actual physical exposure in unflattering lighting to an audience of, what, millions? That's something else. Augustine isn't the person you see if you meet me. Making a blog is a way to reconstruct one's self and also to hide one's self. You can be whoever you want up here, control the lighting, choose your words, your image. But out there in the televisual universe, you're at the mercy of Other People....all those Others! Seeing whatever they want to see, beyond your control. It shouldn't be allowed.
One thing I can affirm unequivocally is that I'm not in awe of authority, any authority or celebrity or institution or position. HRH the Queen could phone me and say: can you come over, I want to give you an OBE? And I'd say: Madam Queen, I'll think about it, on condition you give up all that royal nonsense, learn to speak like a normal human being, give away half your fortune to the poor and ask somebody to tell you how to dress. Since you're not going to do any of those things, I'm not going to accept the OBE, sorry. After all, if I can interview God, I can't be impressed by mere royals, or the BBC, or Hollywood or any of those luminaries who are going to be begging for my presence. Enough of this nervous chatter. For the last couple of days I've been assaulted by a common cold with more than the usual eyes-ears-nose-throat misery but this morning it all vanished as if by magic. Thank you God and the common cold, I appreciate it. I must also give very sincere thanks to daily straying , the one responsible for Blaugustine coming to the BBC's attention. She showed us to them during the course of some consulting work and it was entirely due to her enthusiasm that we got the call. I did not know Stray before but we're planning to meet very soon.
On Saturday there was a small and happy gathering of bloggers chez moi, some of whom I'd met only via their blogs, but it's as if we had been friends for years. The unintentionally blurred photo seems to capture the liveliness and warmth of the meeting.