Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Layer 221 . . . Part 2 . . . Snippets from the Arts

Trawling through the arts and TV pages you come across many interesting snippets, and quite a few gems.

From a review of a new film, Jennifer's Body - "Hell is a teenage girl."

From a review of the Letters of Ted Hughes - "The only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, and didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all." And "Hughes's output . . . is vast, ranging from Shakespeare, nature and religion to mink farming."

From a review of Hackney's very own Leona Lewis at the Hackney Empire, by Kitty Empire [no relation] - "Lewis has traded the ugly, mano-a-mano dangers of Hackney for an altogether different calibre of menace - celebrity stalkers. But tonight she's among friends. This is a stadium-ready show crammed into a pocket-sized venue. The production values are stratospheric. This free show in a tiny venue in front of an adoring crowd makes a great rehearsal for Lewis's worldwide tour, planned for next year. But why has it taken Lewis this long [3 years] to play live? Her transformation from local hopeful to anodyne celeb has been a bit too complete. There is some evidence of actual spirit in her. But this is a characterless, if slick performance. Sadly she could be any starlet and this could be anywhere."

From a review of Michael McIntyre at the O2 - MM's incredulous comment on his wife wanting to spend £500 on a clutch bag: "For £500 I could hire a person to walk behind you carrying your lipstick!" Of the designer dress she covets: "No one should spend that much money on something you can't drive."

From Philip French's review of Jane Campion's "Bright Star", a film about John Keats, "It is the man and his work that attracts . . . and as played by Ben Whishaw he's an engaging figure: sociable but socially awkward, proud but not arrogant, a dreamer but not dreamy, and curiously vigorous despite the tuberculosis that so often drags him down . . . "

From Kate Connolly's interview with Nancy Kienholz: "Ed taught me everything I know about art and we worked together for 24 hours a day," says Nancy. It was an intense collaboration, friendship and marriage which worked because she quickly recognised "that art was more important to him than he or I or our children, and once that was clear, it became our focus and it was fun." [Ed and Nancy's biggest environmental sculpture, The Hoerengracht (Whore's Canal) is on show at the National Gallery]

From a piece by Tim Adams about Alan Bennett and his new play, The Habit of Art - Bennett recently wrote, "It seemed to me I had nothing to put into what I wrote; and nor had I. I did not yet appreciate you do not put yourself into what you write, you find yourself there." The habit of art is, above all, a process of self-discovery.


And on television -

Butcher of the Year? Bloody good idea

The BBC's attempt to find the young butcher of the year makes a refreshing change from the usual reality talent shows, writes Euan Ferguson
By the end everyone's covered in fat and blood and gore, and just-dead entrails, and a host of dirty little unmentionables, and they're all panting, and smiling.

And this is, precisely, the kind of thing your children should be watching. It's been dubbed "Chop Idol", and this programme, about to grace . . . BBC3, could and should lead the way in any bout of whatever the opposite is of hand-wringing – hand-clapping, I assume – over the state of Our Youth Today.

The reality is that this is the most enthralling hour the channel has ever produced. It's to be followed by the three other "best youngs"… mechanic, hairdresser, chef. And, yes, you, like me, may want to quibble a bit at the category choices – where's the engineer/ scientist/ architect etc? – but at least there's no one who has just majored in celebrity tweetlogs from Brooks Polyversity or some such. This is about people who want to learn things, do things, and not be famous: just do the things they do, extremely well.

"I was just astonished," says Justin Preston, one of the judges."They were all about 22, 23 years old, and they simply wanted to be good at what they were good at. No one wanted fame, celebrity, money. They wanted, if anything, to prove that they were simply bloody good at what they did.

"It showed me also that passion can come from anywhere. Every single contestant was utterly determined to… not to show off, just to be good. The winner gets a certificate. That's it. It's like looking at Jamie Oliver. He didn't set out to be a 'celebrity'. He set out to be a good cook. Everything else happened because he cared passionately about it, knew his stuff and spent years knowing his stuff. The rest followed."

Dominic Bird, the executive producer, echoes Justin's thoughts. "It's not meant to be an antidote to X Factor or whatever. But not everyone can sing. People can have just as much satisfaction at being stunningly good at their job, and happy."

These people, all of them, get up at about four in the morning, and saw and cut meat, with such dexterous skill that your jaw drops. With cold hands. And hangovers. They know it all, "from hoof to hook", as Gary put it, but they're still learning and fabulously willing to learn.

"I still read everything I can get my hands on about meat," Justin told me. "You're always learning. There are older guys in this industry who still suddenly shock me with a brilliant new way of cutting. Isn't there an absolute joy in just learning for ever?"


It's repeated on BBC3 this evening at 9.00 and 11.45pm.


Some other little gems on TV this evening -

Imagine - 10.35 BBC1 - Sculptor Anish Kapoor prepares for a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Horizon - 9.00pm BBC2 - How Long Is A Piece of String? String theory, presumably.

Later Live - 10.00pm BBC2 - keeping up with what young people are listening to.

Berlin - 11.20 BBC2 - Matt Frei explores the history of Germany's capital.

How To Look Good Naked - 8.00pm C4 - I love Gok Wan.

Gordon Ramsey's F Word - 10.00pm C4 - still good value.

Jimmy Carr In Concert - 11.05 C4 - irritating, but clever and funny in parts.

Talking Landscapes - 7.30 BBC4 - the Pembrokeshire coast

Life - 8.00pm BBC4 - David A on insects. Stunning photography.

The Daily Show - 8.30pm More4 - the brilliant Jon Stewart and friends.

The Music of Buddy Holly - 8.00pm Sky Arts - documentary

John Lennon: Live in New York - 9.00pm Sky Arts - RIP

In Treatment - 10.00 Sky Arts - Haven't seen it yet but I hear this series is very good.

Sellers Best - 11.00 Sky Arts - the early movie career of Peter Sellers.

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