Art Dump 30-09-2014

Soldiering on with the crowd photos:

Dogget’s, South Bank.
V&A Garden, South Kensington
Same as above
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Muffin Fail

I’ve never made muffins before. I can identify two major problems with what I’ve ended up with:

  1. Too much flour, so they’re not really what you’d call “light and fluffy”.
  2. Not enough of one of the flavours I was intending to use.

Recipe:

  • 1 egg (medium)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 125ml milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
  • 5ml vegetable oil
  • 200g plain flour
  • 5tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

What I actually put in, for some reason related to my painfully terrible understanding of mental arithmetic:

  • 275g plain flour
  • 25g of custard powder
  • some rhubarb

What that should have been:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g custard powder
  • some rhubarb
The beginning, featuring a 99p store silicon baking thing.
The beginning, featuring a 99p store silicon baking thing.

Part of the problem I think was not being able to reduce the recipe down sufficiently. What I have there made about 17 bloody muffins, which is a lot more muffins than I need. I am growing increasingly annoyed by the assumption of every recipe site ever that the only person mad enough to cook their own food is someone with a household of, apparently, 10 people.

I'd love to be able to take twee, romantic shots of baking but the reality is kind of messier.
I’d love to be able to take twee, romantic shots of baking but the reality is kind of messier.

Well, with any luck my coworkers won’t object to some slightly bland muffins with rhubarb in them.

I lied, I can definitely do twee.
I lied, I can definitely do twee.

At least they’re not very big. I suppose I could just lob them out of the window at the people in the beer garden behind my house. Maybe I could coat one in rubber and bounce it off the head of that one woman who sounds exactly like Graham Chapman pretending to be an old lady. Anything’s possible.

Pride: There Is Power In The Union

Ordinarily, the more I like a current release, the less I want to write about it. Not through superstition or a kind of hipster snobbery – “no one else should be into this thing because they’ll only like it wrong” is stupid, and with small films actively damaging – but through a kind of fear that, should I express enthusiasm for the thing, ten thousand people will descend at once to explain to me that I am wrong, bad, and On Some Kind of List for having liked it.

However, I feel that the only people likely to be pissed off by Pride are the kind of people I should relish pissing off.

Pride, 2014

Set almost exactly thirty years ago, Pride tells the story of L.G.S.M; “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners”, the 84-85 miner’s strike, and the power of the union; not the miner’s union but the union between two groups of people persecuted by the red-tops and Thatcher’s government.

In some ways it reminds me a little of The Full Monty, which I rewatched recently and which I discovered still has the power it had when it was released, to lift my spirits and provide a sense of warm, familiar welcome in a canon of film dominated by American releases and aspirations that enter the realms of the delusionally glossy. It relates to the UK’s lost industries, too, and to the ability of unusual friendships and activities to raise people from the gloom and horror of external/financial depression.

Because the subject matter is very hard – the attempt by the privileged and wealthy to break the backbone of the hard-working and supposedly powerless – and because of when it is set – right at the first peak of the AIDS crisis – there are some terribly bleak and sad moments in this comedy. There are some terribly dignified and heartwarming ones too, amid the laughter, and the acknowledgement that fear brings out the best in some people and the worst in others.

A slew of familiar locations, character types, and class coding, as well as the very faint and nascent memories of the time, formed in an extremely young mind, made this feel as if the film had been made especially for me. As the Resident Australian commented: “It’s about queer history and socialism, it’s like they wanted you to come and see it”.

I don’t think I’ve been made this happy by a film in a long, long time: it has a perfect blend of established talent and new stars, it has the perfect mix of triumphs and bitter failures, it has humour and kindness and warmth by the bucketload, and it has a great deal of pride in the union between working men cast down by their callous government, and queer men and women cast out, in many cases, by their families.

Definitely worth watching more than once.

The Collapsing Upper Lip: Loving The Unlovable Early 20th Century Masculinity

If one was so inclined (which I am) it would be easy enough to argue that Western Masculinity has been undergoing a dramatic change in nature over the last century, far more rigorous and bewildering than that of Industrialisation and the rise of the merchantile classes spreading the notions of masculine power and responsibility through more individuals. Improvements in communication, I think, may have a lot to do with it: women more able to speak to each other without interruption, across countries and continents, are more able to organise and achieve what their forebears were already battling for.
It would be hard to pinpoint the exact moment when the notion of the All Powerful Upper Class White Empire Male began to decline, because it hasn’t been an abrupt descent, but a series of small jerks and crunches. Doubtless each of the World Wars have played a part in crushing class barriers and gender inequalities. For Britain, the dissolution of the Empire brought more and more knocks to the notion of Natural Leader role we’d collectively brainwashed ourselves into thinking we deserved.
The imminent crash of Western Masculinity & Power, and the conflict between a fully-bought subscription to the idea of Masculine Power & Responsibility/The Empire and the necessary sense of Otherness derived from being homosexual (or merely not-heterosexual) is, I think, a potent source of fascination for me and at least partially at root in my interest in figures like T. E. Lawrence and Siegfried Sassoon.
T. E. Lawrence as a cadet at Newport Beach, near Falmouth, Henry Scott Tuke, 1921-22, Clouds Hill (National Trust), Dorset
Siegfried Sassoon in a rare smiling shot.
There is none of the sense of righteous struggle that there is in more visibly maligned demographics of the time: while there is the sense of secrecy and imposition of internal struggle due to societal homophobia, sexual orientation is one of the few things than CAN remain secret, festering as an internal wound comprised of self-disgust and fear of exposure. With the misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, classism, and other vicious prejudices in the last days at the height of an already-fading empire, there was no option for recipients of this treatment to participate in expected rule while carrying their own weight of internal self-horror with them.
Righteousness without hypocrisy bores me as a reader: it interests me more to see individuals unpicking their own beliefs and in conflict with themselves, and T. E., at least, is a rich seam of internal conflict. He is rabidly, ashamedly self-aware, and in later life filled up letters to Charlotte Shaw with self-analysis and recrimination for earlier views. Even in the midst of driving the engine of Empire he was engaged in doubt, piling transparent (even to him) self-deception over his too-soon clarity at what he was enabling. In hypocrisy and in self-pity, in high-mindedness born of torturous childhoods (the standard fare for men destined to Run An Empire: psychological destruction and the attempted murder of compassion), queer manhood in the upper and upper middle classes as the Empire reached the brink is a specific and heady drug.
There is again, I think, a particular idea that role models and subjections of historical fascination must be morally upright, and people we want to emulate rather than learn from, which remains with us from childhood. Peter Pevensie, who becomes a fine and wise heroic figure of a man, is a children’s role model. Sad, flawed, mistake-making men who are not quite brave enough to completely destroy their own privileges or buck the narrative that claims they somehow deserve them – who eat themselves from the inside while pouring their best efforts into Not Failing those they feel responsible for* are mine. Not because I think I ought to be like them, but because I think there’s a lot to be learned about how to improve from both their failures and their successes, and from their blind spots as well as their self-awareness.
More than this, I suspect I have a certain amount of fondness for them because it is handy to be reminded that at least some people felt that the powerful place they occupied in society conferred a responsibility of care onto them. I don’t believe it was universal, and I am sure there are people who still hold that belief, but it feels less as if that is the case; perhaps it is only that the few individuals who feel a real sense of responsibility for those less powerful than them no longer have such eloquent and self-assured figureheads.
Perhaps I will be optimistic, and suggest that the power in society is more evenly shared. It doesn’t look that way from here.

Sewing: Moleskin Greens

The 30s women’s trousers pattern with adaptations is working overtime: after the scarlet breeches and the tweed breeks, and the joyous perfecting of no-hassle elasticated waists (the trick is to make the entire waistband, including elastic, separately, and have the cloth the same length as the undarted waistline, then you can just attach it to the finished trousers in one easy go), I put together these:

No amount of tapering prevents these very full trousers from turning into plus-fours.
No amount of tapering prevents these very full trousers from turning into plus-fours.

Fabrics: furnishing fabric from Saeeds Fabrics in Walthamstow, leftover tweed from the breeks, and leftover £1-a-metre cotton from making a toile for future coat magnificence.

unflattering angles

The elasticated waist looks a bit ridiculous but as it’s also going to be somewhere above my navel no one is going to see it under normal circumstances.

And gold thread to lace it together.
And gold thread to lace it together.

Necessity as always the mother of invention, I didn’t have quite enough on the strip for both the waistband and the cuffs, and didn’t want to cut more from the material, so I “mounted” the moleskin on some tweed, which extended it enough to meet against itself (and damn my fat calves). Reinforced the back of the tweed with tape, got the other half to slam some grommets through it, and laced it up with silk cord. Magic.

The transformation into an Elizabethan stock theatre character continues…