Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

The abiding belief of this site is: The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his modest peculiarities and his right to these peculiarities.' (Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate.)

You can view a video of the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra's preparations for a concert in Huddersfield, here

I am certain that the world would be a better place if we spent our time working out how to turn vegetables into music instead of taking offence and threatening people.

When cutting edge fashion backfires

A group of Danish t-shirt manufacturers are facing trial on charges of sponsoring terrorism, a crime under post-9/11 Danish anti-terror laws that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

The offending t-shirts carry slogans supportive of two groups classed by the EU as terrorist organisations: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). According to the Guardian's report

F+L describes itself as "a private enterprise dedicated to the cause of freedom and hard-rocking street gear". Pictures on the company's website show the gear modelled by beautiful people with even suntans and moody expressions doing rebellious things. One shot shows a young Adonis in sunglasses scaling a fence wearing a bright yellow T-shirt with a pink Farc insignia and a picture of a gun.

However as one of the defendants, Katrine Willumsen, a 24-year-old student, notes.

". . as the person who put together the hundreds of T-shirt orders we received from around the world before we got arrested, I can tell you that the majority of our customers were fat, old men," she said. She knows the buyers were not hip young things because almost everyone asked for XXL size, and they had "old-fashioned names".

Guest post: On cutting one's hair

My cousin Marlene, who lives in France, updated her Facebook photo earlier in the week. Quelle revelation!

At my request, she has written the following guest post:

In 1975 I walked into the hairdressing salon in Harrods and had my hair cut. It was such a success that I kept that cut until last week. During this time there have been two hiccups: a pregnancy in 1986 which rendered my scalp so hot that I felt I was wearing a mink hat and then in 2001, my daughter became a weekly boarder at her lycée. On both of these occasions I had what I can only describe as a compromise cut – much shorter, but not short.

The original shape was what they call a lion cut. Short on top and miraculously layered to shoulder length. The maintenance involved was regular cuts which became progressively more challenging as the overall length grew, and regular professional conditioning treatments. This look was hugely popular with rock stars, some of whom sensibly wore wigs.

During the last 32 years two strange and inexplicable things have happened, I am no longer size 12, and most of the visible lines on my face are vertical.:

Long hair doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years and the physical habit of having this matter caressing your neck and shoulders is strong and comforting. There have been signs during the years which would have lead any impartial observer to yell “CUT IT OFF”. The fact that every time I put my hair up in the last 20 years, everyone applauded – especially my mother – made me even more defiant.

When clothes stopped fitting beautifully and my jaw-line became more rounded, I said to myself, “my hair still looks great” I have shoulders on which you could land aircraft. I also have a smallish head. This combination yelled “BIG HAIR”. A year ago, I had chocolaty streaks put in my almost black hair. Everyone loved the colour and were silent about the shape.

When many things both practical and physical start going seriously pear-shaped in your life, how wonderfully comforting to have something which has stood the test of time – something unchangeable. Sadly, or maybe fortunately, everything changes – if you don’t accommodate those changes you’re living in a permanent battlefield of ineffectual and tiring compromise.

Getting my hair cut short is nothing to do with wanting to look younger – it’s more to do with invisibility and visibility. My hair was huge and very long – it is now pixiish and very short. Instead of disappearing, I have appeared.

Recently, I looked in the mirror and said two things to myself: If this was the hair of a good friend, I would take her to one side and with great love and firmness, tell her what she must already know: “It’s OVER. Get it cut off. Marlène, you never were, nor will be a member of a successful 1980’s rock band.”

There was neither hesitation nor agonising; just the knowledge that the time had come to move on. This is not unlike the feeling when you end a long-term relationship which has not been working for many years. You had a dilemma, you agonised, you wallowed in guilt, you bored your friends rigid and then finally, you float out into the calm waters of indifference, free of all hesitation and fear.

Thirty-two years go, wearing tight jeans, no bra, a black t-shirt and black pearls, I let Nick McLean in Harrods salon work his magic on my hair. Last week, Thierry at the Jacques Dessange salon in Divonne-les-Bains in France, did likewise, leaving ten inches of my mane and my useless baggage on the floor.

The acid test of a radical change in hairstyle is your first sighting of yourself in the morning mirror. Hair crushed out of shape, face plump with repose and eyes like two peeled prawns. So far my reaction has been identical every morning – “why didn’t I do this years ago?”


Sins of omission

Stephen Moss in the Guardian has an amusing piece about books one has never read, after A.A. Gill confessed that he had not read Cranford, currently the BBC's Sunday tea-time serial (I've read it, nya nyah.)

Stephen's erudite list of books he has either not read or not completed is:

The Bible (I've dipped, no more)
The Koran (ditto)
Saint Augustine's City of God
Dante's Divine Comedy (more blind, braindead dipping)
Boccacio's The Decameron
Vasari's Lives of the Painters
Thomas More's Utopia
Proust (several failed attempts)
The Brothers Karamazov (several failed attempts, including one three weeks ago that ended in me almost shooting myself on about page 212).

And here is mine:
Couldn't finish
War and Peace (can't get past all the nattering in the opening chapters)
Dance to The Music of Time
Proust (about two thirds through, but I'm still alive, and I will finish one day, the problem is that as a writer if you are reading Proust you start to think like him)
London Fields
Moby Dick
Tristram Shandy

Never read
The Naked and the Dead
Finnegan's Wake
Almost all of Henry James
Cormac McCarthy

Do add your own embarrassing failures.

Thought for the day

There is nothing touches our imagination so much as a beautiful woman in a plain dress. Joseph Addison 1672-1719