Saturday, 30 January 2010


Continuing the prosumer / Prometheus allegory, with a frisson of Carmen thrown in, consider these portrayals as notions of choice. To what extent are choices externally imposed or internally selected? How much of ourselves are we truly in control of?

After all, humans have a propensity to rationalisation, the need to feel that they are in control of their destiny, however futile that might be. Even in error people will post-rationalise their decisions to salvage something.

But in this exhausting era of positive thinking, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to think that being buried alive in Haiti is going to, in any way, add up to some sentimental notion of it all being for the best, in this best of all possible worlds. And yet, incredibly, I recently heard someone propound that these folk are so poor - only eating one meal a day - that their bodies have the ability to better withstand incarceration underground.

Back to Prometheus, choice and whether we are really prosumers or just consuming life in a different way.
Consider Briton Riviere’s 1889 Prometheus. Notwithstanding the obvious proximity of the poor man’s genitals to his liver (glad that’s out of the way), here surely is a portrayal of man vulnerable, totally exposed, not for a moment seeming in control of his destiny. He stole the fire and got caught.

Henry Fuseli’s 18th century Prometheus on the other hand may be bound but he is certainly not portrayed as vulnerable. With his powerful musculature and scant restraint, he looks more than a match for that blunted beak. Actually he seems to be offering his visitor a tasty morsel. Here surely is a man protecting himself, only offering what he is prepared to give. He made a contract when he stole the fire.

I think Fuseli made choices in his life whereas poor old Riviere, steeped in the privileges of the institute, had them made for him. As a metaphor then for prosumerism, there will be those who make their own stories and those who will have them made by others. God bless the child that’s got his own.

Or maybe ...

…Carmen did write her own story. After all what do we have here? - a gypsy working in a cigarette factory, daily devoured like cigarettes, ignited, drawn, inhaled and discarded; ash. She must have known that the love she chose to exploit was finite.

So perhaps, just perhaps, at the height of her powers, she decided to take responsibility for her own end. Carmen, dear:

That’s no way to say goodbye
But it’s a bloody good way
To make sure someone else does


Friday, 29 January 2010


From the beginning, Carmen says her new lover will kill her and the rest of the story is its inevitable methodological working out. She couldn’t have changed her destiny had she wished, written as she was written, into a story. But we, we modern people, we tell our own stories and, if we’re fortunate, we write them too.

I’ve just returned from a conference in beautiful Durham where I heard about Reality Plus, an augmented reality view of one’s own life and here through technology - integrating our own presence across multiple platforms such as social advertising, programming virtual existences - we are, apparently, becoming , not consumers but ‘prosumers’.

We are creating our own roles and relationships with the world and with the people in it. New Prometheus then (only this time the girls get to play too), we steal the fire again and again. Blurring the boundaries between public and private, we place our viscera on the internet, expose our innards and hope… Hope what? – That the new organ grown will be different, better or more interesting than the previous?

I think, maybe, it’s because there’s now a place in this enormous sphere we inhabit where we can feel for just a while, safe enough to take a risk. Maybe even fly a little when no-one’s looking…

Almost forgot, the title of this blog is ‘Goodbye’ – it’s goodbye to Pablo who’s flown away from us, hopefully to a better place where he will cut the hair of wealthy women in Caribbean sunshine and, again hopefully, play with his lover on white beaches and in warm seas. So farewell Pablo, I’m going to miss you - many can cut hair but not many discuss Gabriel Garcia Marquez with their clients. Hoist the yellow flag Pablo…

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


In the construction of this blog I have been greatly exercised with how it looks. Is it clean, pleasing to the eye? Do the words work with the pictures? Will the music co-ordinate well with the thought? This preoccupation with appearance takes me straight to a guilty place where a voice says, ‘those who are concerned with appearance are foolish, shallow and vain.’ Perhaps that voice could lessen the sting of its message by amendment: ‘those who are solely concerned with appearance… ‘. So I construct a place to seek refuge for my foolishness and vanity…

Media images are being rushed out to show the suffering of the people of Haiti, especially the children, and old philosophies are being invoked to talk about the earthquake in different ways. Do you suppose the poor folk stunned by this catastrophe are interested in how they’re being portrayed around the world? Probably not, they have other things on their minds right now.

But look at this photograph. Is it not beautiful even as it purports to portray agony? I struggle with my desire to look again and again at this photograph. I struggle because I cannot avert my eyes to give these people some dignity. After all this time, and after all I’ve learnt, my western eyes are still gazing frankly on their beauty and their suffering.

There is subjectivity, in Kant’s view, in focusing upon an object’s aesthetic qualities (rooted in personal feelings of pleasure and pain) but also ‘a kind of objectivity on the grounds that, at the purely aesthetic level, feelings of pleasure and pain are universal responses.’ While the notion of universality is flawed because there is no guarantee that this photograph will have the same meaning in different cultures, I challenge any onlooker not to see the quiet dignity in the central woman’s face and to hope for her.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Tonight to see Carmen, broadcast live from the Met - alone but that was good. What was even better though was Elina Garanca. What a wonderfully powerful performance as Carmen – a truly sensual experience from a woman so connected with her role that she mesmerised the audience with her sexual allure. Her mercurial loving was as convincing as her gypsy dancing and even her blue eyes did not belie the passion of her nature. A fatalistically believable story.

So for the first video stream on this blog, it wanted to be Gregory Buchalter conducting Entr'acte Act 3 from Bizet's CARMEN live in Fairbanks but then this appeared:

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Virgin Blog

And so this is blogging