The chapter is in. And now, just for a few days, my brain can rot. Erode. Turn to mulch. By few I mean two and by rot I mean, well, I don’t do drugs and you don’t get sloshed at home, so, TO THE INTERNET.
1. Backyard Bill – I first found Bill Gentle on theselby.com, as part of a shoot which I first loved, subsequently loathed and eventually used as a reason to stop visiting the site. You can see the shoot here – Bill Gentle and Fanny Bostrom, at home in Brooklyn, New York.
It took me a while to work out what was bothering me. What looked… familiar.
The Selby aesthetic is a bit too big-strong-man, how-lovely-is-this woman. Cue young girls with peroxided flicky hair, smiling sunny little blonde-blonde faces, playful behaviour including lots of rolling around happily (pref. with a baby called Lowe, although Gentle and Bostrom haven’t managed that – actually, I exempt Lowe from my bitterness, she’s completely fabulous and her name is not her fault), and a tendency to wear big shirts (sometimes with tiny shorts) that (while the blokes stay fully dressed) imply nakedness (yep, lots of implied female nudity. Not so much for the guys) from the waist down. I’m guessing Selby is a leg man – also the man sitting/woman sprawled pose (did someone say woman sprawled? Or, legs?) is definitely a favourite (with some man standing/woman crouching for variation), as is woman with legs in air (just like Bostrom, except now she’s holding a soft toy. Sometimes you get small pets and soft toys). In other, briefer, calmer words: all these photos are the same. What does this photo tell us about the creative person? That this ‘multitasker‘ has nice legs? For variation (remember that?), here are his photos of men: Mitch Alfus, Francois Curiel, Andre, Joel C. Robinson, Frederic Beigbeder, Andrew Neuhes and Jonny Makeup.
There’s something really vulnerable about a woman dressed to suggest lower-body nudity. Perhaps it bothers me because it’s the look Tracy Letts chose for a woman’s first appearance in his 1994 play Killer Joe. Sheila appears ‘naked from the waist down’ on the first page (no equivalent nudity for the boys) and is demeaned and assaulted for the rest of the incredibly nasty play. In the Selby Bostrom/Gentle shoot, Gentle spends most of the shoot looking cerebral/exasperated/lovingly fond and v. practical, while Bostrom shows off her prettily-tattooed inner thigh, and/or plays with a kitten.
Not that the Gentle/Bostrom shoot was the worst offender; I’m willing to blame that on the dreadful Peaches Geldof shoot, for the instantly-engendered rage. I am willing to bet that bloody Bunny (I-christen-thee-Henry-slash-Archie-slash-Quentin if ever there was one, and yes some of my best friends do have those silly names) isn’t a hustler, that Lily’s “Teen Vogue Intern” isn’t a profession recognised by the census-takers, and that Geldof, Flower and Rabbit all get somebody else in to cook and clean (they’re not students. They’re not even real people. Where’s the pasta in their kitchen? The stirfry veg?). But, leaving aside my bile and spleen, leaving it in a little paper packet along with my heart, lungs and brain, some Selby shoots are still amazing – try Daniela Kimiliotis or Annakim Violette, even if the latter’s survey answers indicate that sometimes the beautiful shouldn’t be allowed to talk.
But I really like Bill Gentle’s shots of young men; above all, Wesley Belknap Rose (that face – American Gothic older-brother-misery, except that when he smiles it’s like beautiful Depression propaganda) and the amazing Simon. He just looks like city winters. This shot is my favourite.
Unfortunately, Gentle tends to shoot women the way both he and Selby shoot Bostrom – faux-naive, heavy-jawed stuff (why are we still idolising a style of beauty that’s the second-rate version of a 1920s debutante?), kittens much in evidence, which just ends with the subjects looking underage and a bit, er, thick (pointing out examples here seems, well, cruel. No that comma wasn’t a hyperlink. No really).
I’m aware that I’ve complained about this guy on and off for paragraphs, but the fact that I still can’t get enough of Gentle’s work on men means I HAVE NO PRINCIPLES you should check him out. 1) he looks a lot like Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine. 2) He doesn’t wear socks. 3) Maybe you’ll just really like spoilt, underage-looking girls. Though that’s probably illegal and you should keep it to yourself. Lots of the girls seem to come from nice bits of uptown New York, though, so you should also go if you like rich girls. Which isn’t illegal, as yet.
2. Ladies Against Feminism. Dude, I know. I know. These people are crazy. Crazier than the Merton Time Ceremony (unique to this list for being splendid rather than terrible), crazier than the one Oxford church running an exgay programme, crazier than my extended family and crazier than Tony Higgins’s face (did anyone see the last episode of Lewis? He was playing a formerly-promiscuous closeted-queer rockstar whose ‘hydraulics were shot’ and who’d taken every drug known to formerly-promiscuous queer. His face was presumably why they’d hired him).
But I keep going back. I love it. I love that just when you think we’ve reached our limit of outrages perpetrated in the name of a man who loved, without reservation, prostitutes, centre-right civil servants, gay centurions and the diseased, the loonytunes West just gives us that little bit more. The ladies of LAF doesn’t even make me angry. They probably should, since some of them are actually anti-female-suffrage, but honestly, I just laugh. They don’t have the organisational skills of the Westboro Baptists, and since the core of the movement seems to be that women should sit at home waiting for their wombs to prolapse, I doubt that one of these poor women will be infringing my civil liberties any time soon.
Some of what they say is good. You know, the bits about the love of God healing us, stay-at-home motherhood being an incredibly valid and valuable choice (I’d like to be a stay-at-home mum, if I can, although my current parenting plan involves, so says the co-conspirator, ‘feeding it on make-believe and Ritalin’) and the fact that God made us in his image and has a plan for us that shows he recognises our worth and skills.
On the other hand, you can get that from any sane church or sane Christian (and recognition of the role played by SAHMs surely-to-God from any sane woman), without the encircling doctrine of madness, terror and hate. This is the so-bad-it’s-good face of Christian blogging, and as a special bonus, there are more Daddy Issues than you can shake a stick at. Go marvel.
3. Fantasy shopping. All the crap, all the time. Despite being at least 50% FRUGAL in my real existence (as an antidote to being 50% TERRIBLE WITH MONEY, a genetic trait from a father whose motto is ‘well, you’re a long time dead/you have 40 years to go to work/let’s open another bottle and do another degree, floss’), my imagination spends millions of imaginary pounds every time I click. For the record, were I to win the Lottery I do not play (the gambling equivalent of a Virgin Birth), I would fill my hand with the Tiffany Celebration Rings (I’m not proud), then buy these, this, this and these. And a pony. Note: my female friends are equally as shallow. I did a quick straw poll which threw up mention of Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Brora and Toast. And by my female friends I mean Chloe. In my defence, I would also probably take Arabic lessons and learn to properly paint. Maybe go on retreat. Build a theatre at my secondary school. Go back to Rome. But I’d also buy a mews flat in Soho and start having my nails done. You see.
4. Pop/indie/acoustic/I’ve never understood genre SONGS ABOUT THINGS WHICH ARE NOT TRADITIONALLY SUITABLE FOR SONGS. I cannot tell you how much I love these. Being simultaneously synaesthetic and melodically dead inside means I prefer lyrics to melody (unless it’s baroque or early music which I enjoy because it’s very very structured, just like I enjoy owning cleaning products and keeping things in boxes. In boxes. Boxes), portraits to landscapes, and the weeping scabs of human experience to the vicissitudes of love/above cry/bye baby/maybe. This is not to say that my tastes are either highbrow or gloomy. Hence my first song choice is Cool by Gwen Stefani. WRITE MORE SONGS ABOUT FIRST HUSBANDS, people. Especially cheerful poppy electric ballads that make me slightly want to kill myself. And also convince you that Gwen Stefani’s first husband cannot have got over her, because who possibly could.
I must admit that from here on in, things do get quite depressing. Or at least ambiguously happy. Cue the laceration that is Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin (daddy issues! in the Midwest! Absentee fathers, rubbishness and plausible cycles of appalling horror! It’s so good) and the unbelievably brilliant Daddy’s Gone by Glasvegas. Jenny introduced me to this lot, who also wrote the only extant Ballad of A Social Worker, Geraldine. I also like my mother’s all-time favourite song, many-people-are-dead-but-everything’s-splendid, The Beatles’s In My Life. If I was going to pick an Indelicates song, it would probably be New Art For The People, but only because when I heard the first two verses I vaguely thought it was about Brady and Hindley (and liked it all the better). Actually, no, idiot me, it’d be Unity Mitford, which is actually much better than Our Daughters Will Never Be Free because jesusgod, they wrote a song about Unity Mitford, but anyone can point out feminism’s going backwards. Tho admittedly not so well.
From Rubber Soul, I also love Little Girl (ambiguously paedophilic lovers vow revenge and murder!) and Girl, mostly for the enormous sniffs Lennon and Macartney do, halfway through recording. A lot of popular standards do have wonderfully odd plots – Springfield’s Son Of A Preacher Man (seduction by cleric’s offspring), Turner’s River Deep Mountain High (sexual relationship analogous to childhood love for stuffed toy) and Thriller (I mean, my God).
My favourite line in all music is from Glenn Miller (pick yer own) – there were angels dining at the Ritz (note: I have never eaten at the Ritz. Please add to item three), juxtaposing the surreal with the sublime. I like the incongruous, and so many lyrics are bizarre that I can include plenty of really good music in this post and perhaps remove the guilt. But liking these songs for their weird subject matter is a bit unusual, and although I would very much appreciate song recs about weight loss, paternity tests, ex-wives and tube delays (Yeti’s Northern Line obsessed me last summer – I love that the second last.fm tag is ‘depressing’), I am quite prepared to be judged. Quality is almost immaterial, as long as the subject matter is odd.
5. Lewis. I don’t watch a lot of television. This is due to three things; I don’t have a TV in Oxford, ITV Player won’t work on my Mac and, as a source of media and procrastination, the internet has the ineffable advantage of letting you bite back. I will, however, break any number of laws and kill any number of braincells in search of Lewis.
Guys, I love it. I never got sci-fi. I couldn’t care less about romance. I do like soaps, having been raised on EastEnders and Coronation Street and a daily dose of the Archers (hurrah for Lilian, boo hiss Ruth god RUTH), but Lewis… it has everything I could ever want. Detectives: my huge vice. I went from Blyton to Christie and never looked back. The bits of me that didn’t apply to Oxford for Brideshead did so re: Sayers’ Gaudy Night. Religion. Beautiful Laura Hobson and beautiful DSI Innocent. Ridiculous continuity, impossible plotlines, snarky banter, gay angst, beautiful Laurence Fox and Oxford.
People never cease to save other people from drowning, fires, or (last week) being drowned and cut up with manure-chopping knives. People are constantly leaving the priesthood, perving on their relatives, unzipping corpses and pretending Brasenose is Univ – and at the centre of it all is a crumpled Geordie man and his wife’s amazing cardboard tombstone. Every episode has at least forty-seven establishing shots of the Rad Cam, forty-eight reaction shots of Hathaway and forty-nine instances of somebody stepping out of the Rad Cam and suddenly being opposite St Giles. I love it. I love it so much. The writing is simultaneously ridiculous and makes you glad to be alive.
Also, Lewis loves his sergeant slightly more than air. As he should. Hathaway is a beanlike ex-Tab, ex-rowing Blue, ex-priest who left the seminary after recanting his homophobic Catholic views and who celebrates every setback by having angst in his face (such angst, you guys, such angst) and playing the guitar (actually playing the guitar. In a floppy shirt. He makes me clutch my hair). He weighs eight stone and looks like a horse. He’s part of a world music band, has no friends, is of ambiguous sexuality and is, for some reason, the only remaining TV character allowed to SMOKE CONSTANTLY on primetime TV. Lewis is continually leaving him against railings so he can light up and look hot.
Despite being unbelievably posh and basically despising the working class, the other day Hathaway was also allowed to go all Gene Hunt and slam Our Villain up against Brasenose with the words ‘You’re dirty and I’ll Have You’. And he sulks at the slightest provocation. In Series 2 Lewis carried him out of a burning building (and yes I did link that picture twice. I’m fond of it).
Go and watch it. You’ll either hate it and despise me (I shan’t care – there’s a DVD!), or be seized with uncontrollable love and long to join in some sort of fanbased pilgrimage walking-tour. Oh, Lewis. If ITV don’t recomission him them, I shall probably die. If there’s a word on the internet related to this series, I have probably read it already. Look at the beauty. Look.
[Author’s Note: one day I will blog a list of credible things that I also enjoy. But probably not while academic work requires me to use my brain. Expect the usual fare of smalltown blues, theatre gossip, David Tennant and inanity until such time. If you’re lucky, I’ll start talking about the figures from my thesis like they’re personal friends. Woot!.]