Dark side fame

Today’s premise will require a degree of set-up and I can virtually guarantee that the pay-off will not be worth it.  However, they do say that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive: so why don’t we all strap-in and try and enjoy the journey despite our foreknowledge of its disappointing conclusion.  In many ways, this post will be an allegory for life – sometimes, I wonder if this blog is too clever for its own good…

So, let’s start with the dark side.  I refer not to the Force – fear may lead to suffering via anger and hate, but this need not trouble us here – but rather to the moon.  The dark side of the moon is not, to the best of my knowledge, exposed to any less sunlight than its obverse: the name is just another aspect of our species’ tendency to anthropocentric thinking.  As tidal locking means that our satellite constantly shows the same face to us, earth-bound humans, we have decided that the side we could not (historically) see must be “dark” (never having been illuminated by our hubristic regard, I presume).

My head is shaped not wholly unlike the moon and, as a result of limitations in my cervical vertebrae, use of a single reflective surface reveals only a single face (mine) to my gaze (were I an owl, it may be a rather different story – but I’d probably struggle to blog in quite the same style or quantity).  As a result, the back of my head is somewhat analogous to the dark side of the moon – though has yet to be celebrated in album-form by Pink Floyd (or any other popular beat combo of the last half-century, for that matter).    When my hair is cut, I am usually asked how I would like the dark side of my noggin to be coiffured.  I have tended to allow my interrogator relatively free-rein on the basis that I will never see their work (except on the single occasion when the haircut is complete and a second reflective surface is deployed that I might admire their efforts) – however, I am starting to think that this may be a mistake.

Earlier today, I came to the realisation that the dark-side of my head has achieved a considerably greater degree of fame than the side where my features are located and on which I lavish the vast majority of my, admittedly limited, cosmetic attentions to tart up what nature has provided (and subsequently decayed).  For the purposes of my current thesis, I am defining fame in terms of appearances on the internet: either as a still or in a moving image.  How, you might ask, has this come to be?

Appearances, on the web, by the business-side of my head (as we might call it) are relatively rare.  I have added few myself (I feel this blog is suffering enough for one man to inflict on the general public) and have generally managed to avoid having pieces of my soul captured in the photographs that have then been placed “on-line”.  If you (or at least I) image search my name, you will see more pictures of John Finnemore and nearly as many of both my blog brother and Saint Rita of Cascia as you do of me.  Only a single video of my visage seems to exist, created by the author for Metablog 6.

The back of my head, by contrast, is a regular star of both video and stills: three of each from last night alone.  This arises through my regular attendance at music gigs in the Art House Café, here in Southampton.  To enjoy greater legroom and obviate the need to use my glasses to correct my myopia, I tend to sit in the front row: audience participation is rarely required (though this has happened, but luckily I am a shameless show-off).  For what I presume to be marketing purposes, fragments of these events are often captured on the digital equivalent of film and then released into the wild via the café’s Facebook page.  Satisfactory visual capture of an event seems to benefit from a little distance from the action (unlike my ageing eyes) and so the back of the front row (and often more) of the audience is captured.  After last night’s very enjoyable time spent with the musical stylings of Cat Eliza T and then Daisy Chapman, I happened to check Facebook to discover the back of my head appears in more of the uploaded content than either of the “talent”.  Should I, perhaps, be selling advertising space on the dark side of my bonce?  Does it need an agent?

Those with the desire to follow our every move (along with reading our every email et al) have invested significant money in facial recognition software.  This is in line with our own human obsession with the business-side of the head – but why should we inflict this preoccupation on our software children?  My own experience suggests that the dark-side of the head may be a far more valuable target for intelligence gathering.  I await the call from MIn (for suitable n)…

Writing of distinction

I return to the theme of big heads previously explored in Stalking, though many of you may not have made it far enough through that particular magnum opus to know this: never mind the quality, just feel that quantity!  And, do remember that 1200 is the new 500 (well, it is when it comes to word count).  On this occasion, the over-sized cranium in question will be mine.  Yes, roughly a month has passed since the last use of this particular shoe-horn, so it is once again time for me to try and slip in a reference to my essay prowess.

Yesterday evening, TMA03 was returned to me by the electronic magic of the Open University: marked and commented on in the by now traditional manner.  To my significant surprise, my marks had risen once again to reach a level that would gain a Distinction, though you should not expect this quality of writing to make an appearance on GofaDM any time soon (I do only produce one post a month for the OU, and puns are frowned upon).  Plato scored rather better than the Dalai Lama (yes, I am thinking of developing AA100 Top Trumps as a way of garnering extra credit), so perhaps I did pay a price for my lunchtime spurning of the latter’s element of the Open Day back in April.  Or perhaps I’m just a natural at philosophy and it’s time to start inviting young ladies to come back to my place to see my stone?

However, this ever upward ladder of achievement is doing nothing for my performance anxiety.  I’m going to have to pull something pretty spectacular out of the hat for TMA04 (and thinking about TMA07 just brings me out in a cold sweat).  Still, I did have a small epiphany this morning as my bowl of porridge slowly rotated in the microwave, which will help to fit the Jewish element into my 1200 words.  This post is, in a very real way, a form of procrastination before I start my essay plan.  A plan!?  What have I come to?  Next, it’ll be running my life based on PRINCE, and I worry it will be the project management methodology rather than the self-help manual penned by Niccolò Machiavelli.

In other news, Spring is finally busting out all over Sawston and so my swollen cranium has had a chance to gain a little colour and my body some much needed vitamin D.  In response, I’m heading off to the seaside tomorrow: bucket and spade in hand and hankie knotted to protect the top of my head from the sun’s ultraviolet rays (it may also help to connect me to my virtual Jewish grandmother – of which more in another post).  OK, I may be exaggerating a little, but I am off to Brighton, “a town which looks like it is helping the police with their enquiries” in the immoral words of Keith Waterhouse.  I shall be visiting that city’s famous Dome to take in a performance of Shostakovich’ 13th Symphony Babi Yar (in which at least one regular reader of GOfaDM will be performing) which is (a) about as Jewish as his output gets and (b) demonstrates that symphonic composers are rather less triskaidekaphobic than hotel and airline operators appear to believe that we, the great unwashed, are.  So, my visit counts as both homework and one-in-the-eye for superstition.

Now, I really must start that essay plan…

Stalking

Or should that be buttering?  It’s so hard to tell the difference.  NB: Anyone under the age of around 35, should ask a parent or grandparent to explain that last quip.  Perhaps I should try to write more material which could be understood (if not actually enjoyed) by a slightly younger demographic?

Anyway, I’m probably exaggerating to say I spent yesterday stalking the cast of Being Human (or at least two of them), it was more a case of a themed (or high-concept) day out – rather like the themed evenings so popular with the controllers of even-numbered TV channels in these Isles.  Whilst the day was constructed backwards to achieve its thematic ends, for the sake of narrative clarity I shall describe the day using the arrow of time pointing in its traditional direction: i.e. you should expect to see overall entropy increasing as this account progresses.

The meat of the day started at the National, with my second viewing of Travelling Light.  This was an experiment as I have never seen the same play (or more accurately, production) twice before – though have often re-read a book or seen a film or TV programme more than once – an experiment made more than possible by lastminute.com (other discount theatre ticket sites are available, and may well be better).  I don’t use this very often, but occasionally it offers a serious bargain – and as I was going to be in London anyway, the cost of my experiment was very low (only 20% of the cost of the first attendance and in an even better seat).  The production certainly rewards a second viewing, and I did catch things that I missed the first time – curiously, I also found it a rather sadder story this time: it would seem that familiarity breeds melancholia (in me at least).

Despite the excellent prune and almond slice in the interval (a fine recommendation by a member of NT staff), after play #1 it was time for an early dinner before play #2.  Working with the day’s leitmotif, I went with a restaurant recommendation tweeted by the star of both TL and BH the previous week (lest you think I am letting adherence to the theme overcome my critical faculties, I did check his view against more established critics of fine dining first).  I may have to buy Damien Molony a pint (or several): not only has he provided me entertainment through his acting, he has introduced me to what is now my favourite place to eat in London.  10 Greek Street offers excellent food, friendly staff and unexpectedly low prices for central London – it is even conveniently sited in Soho (so easy to go to before, after or between cultural activities).  The only potential downside is that it seems pretty popular (even before being introduced to the massive worldwide audience of GofaDM) and does not allow reservations – but, I prefer (and usually need) to eat early and, even on a Saturday, arrival at 17:30 means that obtaining a seat is no problem.

From Soho, I had to make my way to Dalston for my second play of the day – in fact, East London (I place I have rarely visited before) was a secondary theme for the day, as my trains into town were diverted offering me a magical, mystery (and rather slow) tour of Stratford.  The journey to E8 involved the #38 bus, and this was an early example of Boris’ exciting new take on the Routemaster concept.  Whilst these do look to have involved a “designer” and do have the trademark open platform at the back – with a sort of conductor to ensure people dismount safely – I fear they do rather betray the fact that the Mayor has never actually used a bus (and probably isn’t too sure what they are for).  The bus has three sets of double doors – one at the front, one in the middle and the open platform at the back – and two staircases – on at the front and one at the back.  All these features which allow easy passenger flow both on and off the vehicle do come at rather a high price: the bus has an only slightly higher passenger carrying capacity than my Toyota IQ.  Still, I was lucky enough to rest my weary limbs on one of the few seats ‘up top’ (a space with very low ceilings).  I also noticed a complete absence of opening windows; there was the sound of a fan, so the bus may have had aircon (not terribly wise for a space constantly open to the outside) but it was not very successful, leading to a rather warm and humid trip east.  Still, a brave attempt at design by someone who had obviously never seen or used a bus – and, he can only improve with his subsequent efforts (fortunately, as a citizen of Sawston, I am not paying for his training through my Council Tax).

I was in Dalston to visit the Arcola theatre – which seemed to be in a once industrial space (you can still see the joists and girders) and offered an even more intimate experience than a small Elizabethan theatre.  I must admit I rather like this fact as I’m not a fan of huge performance spaces to the extent that I generally refuse to see stuff in the relatively modest environs of the Cambridge Corn Exchange as it is too large and impersonal.  The play was from East Germany (though, fortunately translated into English as my German is largely limited to words relating to power stations): The Conquest of the South Pole by Manfred Karge.  Despite my broadening theatrical horizons, this was quite unlike anything I’d seen before, for example, it contained poetry and characters talking about what they were saying to each other, rather than saying it.  It had an amazing energy to it and was very entertaining and funny at times (laying to rest at least one rather tired stereotype), though I wouldn’t like to claim I fully understood it (the line between reality and fantasy did become rather blurred to me: so, much like real life in that respect).  So, if anyone could explain who Frankieboy was, I’d be terribly grateful.  I’m not sure what the 11 year old lass sitting a couple of seats from me made of it, but she didn’t seem to be unduly traumatised.  I’m seeing another German play in a few weeks, so I think I better start training my intellectual muscles now – perhaps its time to tackle some Brecht?

As is now well established, my attention can wander at the best of times.  Towards the end of the play, I did find myself worrying about Andrew Gower’s cholesterol level – he is required to eat rather a lot of less than healthy fare during the production and over a month’s run this is going to take its toll on his figure.  However, the largest source of potential  distraction, in every way, was the back of the man’s head in front and to the left of me.  It wasn’t in the way much at all, but it was absolutely massive: I have never seen such a vast head.  His body seemed fairly normally proportioned, so  I’m still amazed that he was able to hold all that weight upright for the full 90 minutes.  He must have some serious neck muscles or a very light brain.

I think I shall return to the Arcola: East London is not as remote as I’ve always believed, tickets are cheap, the demographic was a lot younger than most of my cultural activities and the place had a lovely feel to it.  I shall also have to try more, randomly themed days-out: it seems to encourage the trying of new things, which is always good for the middle-aged stick-in-the-mud!