Nostalgia for an age yet to come…rage, rage against the dying of the light

So I look up to the sky
And I wonder what it’ll be like in days gone by
As I sit and bathe in the wave of nostalgia
For an age yet to come.

So wrote Shelley – that is Peter Campbell McNeish, not Percy Bysshe – in his 1978 song Nostalgia.

As opposed to, nostalgia not being what it used to be.

Never Mind the Wrinkles DadRecently looking for a birthday card for my niece on online greetings card website Moonpig I came upon this one – Nevermind the Wrinkles Dad You Still Rock. Nevermind the indignities and infirmities of your great age Dad we know that you were once cool, you tell us often enough anyway, it might as well imply.

The album it was spoofing if you do not know was English punk rock album Never Mind The Bollocks…Here’s The Sex Pistols from 1977. Such is the march of time it could have been aimed at Granddads too.

What should we call this? Mainstreaming? Wait long enough and no matter how shocking or ‘out there’ something once was, given enough time it eventually becomes part of the conventional furniture, the very weave of the social fabric

The album title courted controversy itself, (nevermind the contents, twelve songs spitting filth and fury) being prosecuted for indecent display of the word ‘bollocks’ – yes just the word itself! – the prosecution was not successful, the publicity in their favour was. Now we have TV cooking programs with far less quaint names like The F Word and none of us save some self-important hack from a conservative rag masquerading as a newspaper with more time than sense at their disposal would bat an eyelid about it.

Notable too that though the title was the subject of a court case, the name of the band, the Sex Pistols, did not meet the same level of controversy. But we like innuendo in Britain – nudge-nudge wink-wink – we will imply something within an inch of its life but we won’t actually call the spade a spade unless we really must as where is the fun in being explicit! This was still the time of the Carry On films though we were at the fag-end by this time with Carry On Dick and Carry On Behind hardly leaving much to the titillated imagination.

A couple of the songs on the album did court controversy namely God Save The Queen and Anarchy in the UK. Perhaps other songs like Bodies (about abortion but it was so lacking in nuance and coherence it was not clear whether they were pro-choice or pro-life or perhaps both) and Holidays in the Sun caused scandal too but I was too young and even more innocent than my age implied to know let alone care. I was barely a teenager and the only music I knew before punk came into my life was by Abba, the Wombles and I can barely write it G-a-r-y G-l-i-t-t-e-r – he asked us if we wanted to be in his gang and where he would be leader – shudders! – who would have thought that a forty-something man in a shiny golden lame all-in-one-suit seeking out the teenage market was something for those said teens to be wary of! – until one day a fellow school-boy coolly announced from his dormitory bed a new group he had heard called the Sex Pistols. You see I was a boarder at an all-boys Grammar school, cloistered as we thus were in a simmering pubescence of imminently threatening destabilizing testosterone and which thirteen year old boys shared our bedroom term-time with seven other boys.

He went on that they had a song called Problems. How did it go we asked. Blah blah, blah blah – he replied. No literally that’s what he replied! (Actually what was being intoned was not like Ke$ha (the spiritual grand-daughter of Joey Ramone) clearly enunciating, if with bubblegum drawl, Blah Blah Blah, but in another grand tradition of misheard song-lyrics Johnny Rotten drawling out the word Problem hyphenating Prob-lem as if he were saying Blah Blah – like seeing a face in a curtain pattern if you listen hard enough you will hear it too. If you dare to listen. Or even care to listen.

But anyway I was piously aghast and resolute that I would not be giving up Abba for this. They had songs you could sing along to with seriously profound and profoundly serious words like Fernando

There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me
For liberty, Fernando

But call it peer pressure, call it the drip-drip exposure of punk songs every waking non-rote-studying minute, I soon succumbed to the Sex Pistols and the Clash and the Buzzcocks ad punkinitum – what sounds for young barely formed minds! – we were already rebels without a cause most of us, this was legitimizing this wordless feeling in song, gloriously noisy nasty song.

Never Mind the BollocksWhilst God Save The Queen and Anarchy in the UK could and did seriously irk and trouble the British establishment to our young and easily impressed minds Problems just as well hit home as intoning ‘blah blah’ was reveling in its own dumbness and was thus irresistible and we knew it would be if not shocking then at least as irritating as hell to our parents, teachers and any other adults in eye and ear shot nevermind the far more significant but distant nameless and faceless adults of the aforesaid British Establishment. There was coherent rage in punk but the incoherent rage would do us just as well.

And it was Punk’s way or the highway of course. Year Zero – any music made before 1975 was suddenly redundant and had nothing to say to us. I could no longer like Abba. Liking both SOS and London’s Burning – unthinkable! Well at least unsharable.

What is interesting to me now about this was how ‘the year above us’ (as our one year senior peers were dismissively referred too) were completely unmoved by punk. We were pretty much as spotty and indistinguishable a group of seething teenage boyhood as each other to any passing adult stranger and for that matter most of our teachers. Yet they were not going to be swayed from the Seventies Rock music of the time – some of them may have been to the heavier side with Black Sabbath and Deep Purple others the more gentler faux-cerebral musings and noodlings of Prog Rock in the guises of Yes and ELP – this they chided us was proper music where band members could not just play their instruments but aspired to play them very well and for the most part did. We on the other hand admired groups where bandmembers could barely hold their instruments let alone make music from them and could care less either (best summed up in One Chord Wonders by The Adverts) – did they not understand it was all about attitude not technical competence. Our condemning sneering scorn for them was only matched by their deep derision for us. The tribalism of teenagerhood. We were right and they were wrong and that’s all there was to it.

The Clash The Clash

 

But like breakaway religions there were tribes within our tribes too. Whether you really got punk really depended on whether you preferred the Sex Pistols or the Clash – the former courted controversy purely for the sake of it, they did not really believe it, they were just manager Malcolm McClaren’s art-stooges whereas the Clash were political and had a serious world-changing agenda, or so the wannabe Clash City Rockers would have it. And to the Pistol Heads, Clash fans were just a few birthdays away from becoming card-carrying member of the Labour Party – pub-rock aspirants at best.

Though what really mattered was not the bands lyrics and rhetoric but who had the best tunes, the most glorious racket…

The ‘year above us’ were not the only ones in the school baffled by us. So too of course were our teachers. They hoped it was just a phase and that we would grow out of it. Well the more measured calmer ones did anyway. There were the few who feared not just for us but the future of our once great country and the very pillars of civilization itself – that just made us feel even more (self) important of course.

Punk itself did pretty much implode by 1978 – there was its politer well-mannered cousin New Wave who was interested in alien concepts like melodies and careers. Or another uglier idiot cousin who went by the name of Oi and who I think you can guess the rest.

But though Punk as a genre had expired its best-by date by 1978 we teenage grammar school punks were not so easily vanquished of it. It had got into our bloodstream after-all, and a hormonal surging one at that. I said that I was a boarder but most in my year were not – about a third of us were and it was us third that the were the most resolute – we lived, ate and slept punk, and we did so together, encouraging or egging each other on to greater acts of punkishness – the rest of our class alas had given up on Punk for Pink Floyd or at best 10CC.

The initial self-indulgence of our teachers toward us was now giving way to some serious concern towards us, or at least to our professional futures. In particular our careers adviser was very troubled.

Our careers adviser was also our Geography Teacher and in retrospect it is not really clear how qualified he was to offer such specific counsel for our young futures.

The future he had settled on for me if I applied myself to my studies with greater dedication than hitherto was that of a merchant banker. All these years later I am still none the clearer as to what a merchant banker is, what it is they do with their working hours! Except now it might be a euphemism – we are back to the Carry On up the Sex Pistols again!

In the questionnaire where I was asked for my interests I had put simply ‘Punk’! It was who I was. End of! My careers adviser commented that I might need to widen my interests. He himself offered that unlike most of his colleagues he did know a bit about punk and could discuss it with me for at least five minutes but did not think it would be enough to satisfy prospective employers that I was long-term career-material.

We both agreed to paraphrase another Rotten lyric that I had ‘No Future’. But as I was still fifteen I had as little interest in my future as I had in my past. I was all present. All present and incorrect.

And so back to the future and this Nevermind the Wrinkles birthday card for Dads, for your old increasingly dysfunctional dad. This is what memories do to events, they soften the edges, obscure the lines, make a gentle mocking joke of our yester-passions, fears and cares.

And don’t get me wrong. I get nostalgia. The longer we live the more good times and experiences we have to look back with pleasure on if also the more painful times to coax us back to the present.

As we get older indeed we have ever more past and ever less future, until one day we will be all past and no future. Literally. And on that intimations-of-oblivion note I can only leave you with this.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

A Book on One Page…

A Book on One Page - BronteA Book on One Page invites us to overturn a conventional wisdom and to judge a book by its cover. Well, sort of.

A Book on One PageA book on One Page is an idea, concept and website courtesy of Spineless Classics. I don’t think you need me to spell out the idea – okay a cheap pun but at least I did not follow it up with a winky emoticon!

They came to my attention via a Tweet back in December – okay Christmas Day – yes I was on Twitter on Christmas Day! The tweet was from Wired Magazine – Wired being a print and online magazine about technology and its place in our lives or in their own words ‘the first word on how technology is changing the world’ – yes I know we live in an always-on never-sleeping connected world but what’s the deal with always having to have the first word anyway, or indeed any word – sometimes silence is all that needs to be said – but I have digressed!

A Book on One Page - Wired TweetThe tweet as you can see was a link to a more detailed article on the Wired Website.

I could in fact simply include one such image for you to understand all that needs to be understood about said A Book on One Page site and service but I like to let you know my thoughts and feelings about things too. I just cannot help myself. That is why I blog – to unburden myself on the unsuspecting blogosphere – okay moving on!

In essence what this site is providing is full text novel posters. As with many ideas on the web they are copied quickly and there are other websites offering similar services. Of those that I have seen A Book on One Page produces the better art in my view – yet other sites dispense with the art altogether reproducing only the text in poster form.

This site and company was set up by the aforementioned Carl Pappenheim. The Wired article explains how he came to set it up

Pappenheim created the first Spineless Classic as a last-minute Christmas present for his mother. Having watched “architectural drawings roll off the presses at a friend’s printing company,” he figured that he could fit 100,000 words on each poster-size sheet. The reaction to the resultant poster led to the creation of the company, and posters are now available to be shipped worldwide.

I noted on LinkedIn he describes himself as Owner at Spineless Publishing Limited and does not detail much about his art background. Perhaps because he has customized his CV as it were to a particular audience. He has also his own website which works as a hub and portal to his other online endeavours. However I could not find much more in the way of his artistic output.

The advertising strapline for his A Book On One Page site is

Imagine a whole book on a single sheet. A bold art print on which, up close, you can read the full and complete text of your favourite classic work, right from “It was the best of times” to “a far, far greater thing”.

Further and greater detail about them can be found on their website – on their About Page, no really!

A Book on One Page - categories

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I’m not even going to comment on!

The collection of books on show covers best-sellers and classics but is still quite a modest store. Chances are your favourite book if you wanted to buy it so framed in this format is not available. They are though adding to their library all the time, additionally we can suggest new books via their site contact form.

You might consider that the books so chosen would concentrate on the slimmer volume end of the literary canon but you would be mistaken. Large volumes such as The King James Bible, War and Peace & The Wealth of Nations are among their tomes – though as you might imagine the larger the volume the higher the price tag.

Choosing an image to illustrate a book is no easy task. How to alight upon just one that captures the complex narratives and ideas of a book.

A Book on One Page - Ascent of ManA case in point is Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species – there are two versions available on this site – one with a single finch and another with the Ascent of Man theme – the latter works better for me not just because a more familiar and iconic image but because it is a more striking and resonating image. The finch on the other hand feels a less compelling image and work of art. You of course may feel quite the opposite. As said it is subjective which is why the choice of image as noted is no easy task – I guess though this being a web-store more than an art-gallery it will be commercial sales that will determine which images will endure rather than the preferences of the artist himself.

This Ascent of Man image is one of the poster books which actually is not A Book on One Page but A Book on Two Pages – and works well like that too – as long as you have the wall-space!

A Book on One Page - F Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

The Complete Robert Burns is also available – it is illustrated by the Scottish St Andrews National Flag – he is a poet very much of the Scottish national (ist) consciousness but the flag inclusion here feels a too obvious and cheap choice out of place with his body of work – Scotland was at the heart of him but there was much more to him than that. As a piece of art too it feels tending towards opportunistic tourist gift-shop knick-knack ‘art’.

Not all of these books on one page include art images at all – the Complete Works of Shakespeare for example includes the words of every one of his plays and every one of his sonnets – it is not available on one sheet either or even two rather five – should you want to purchase this bard’s work you will definitely need a large room to hang it.

I include images of other Books on One Page that I think did work and would consider ponying up the readies for.

If the prices are beyond your respective purses and wallets there are also versions available as jigsaws and postcard-sets. I don’t do jigsaws but understand near-completing them only to find a piece is missing is a source of quite substantial angst compounded even more then if you are wanting to finish your Complete Robert Burns jigsaw so as to then read its poetry and prose!

I guess this alternative range of mediums may be extended in time – if not to the usual mugs and bookmarks then perhaps to duvet covers and rugs – even wall-paper?!

These works are available to purchase online but if you prefer to see close up and smell and touch the art you are buying first they are for sale at retail locations. Currently though you would need to be resident or visiting in just three countries – the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.

Any literary works you would like to see done this way?

A Book on One Page - MilneA Book on One Page - Robert Louis Stevenson

Kate Spade comes to the UK

Kate Spade New York Logo

Kate Spade RUFFLED BETHANNE DRESS

Ruffled Bethanne Dress

Kate Spade the quintessentially New York store has arrived in the UK. Well England, well okay then, London.

Though to quibble in this web-age it matters not whether we live in a city with stores full of fashionable threads or we live in a slumbering sartorial back-water. But nevertheless if you want to check out in person – to do more than look not touch – then Kate Spade’s cool clean colourful wares are now available to try on and buy in London’s Covent Garden. And even posher Sloane Square to follow.

Kate Spade, if you don’t know, do clothes and their accessories. They also do covers for iPhones and iPads – though can you really make these Apple icons anymore better looking than they are already? – they also dabble in home-wear and bridal.

On their website there are a number of other features too such as Deborah Loves and Westward Collection. The Deborah doing the loving being Deborah Lloyd its current president. The Westward collection is the work of Los Angeles fashion duo Emily Current and Meritt Elliott, known together as Maude.

Kate Spade also have a colour of the month – as I type this it is blue but as you read it…

The stylish looks of the Kate Spade website are in keeping with the looks of its fashion.

It will be interesting to see whether Kate Spade London follows in the footsteps of Kate Spade New York – will its global brand overbear or will it allow – can it allow? – a space for local spirit?

That Kate Spade sell Apple fashion accessories is perhaps fitting – they are themselves the Apple of retail fashion – producing pricey pieces stylish and complete enough with the unspoken longed for hope that you will never feel the need to purchase a competitor product again!

And unlike Apple’s over-dependence on one man, its just stepped down CEO, Steve Jobs, Kate Spade has both its eponymous founder and president & chief creative officer Deborah Lloyd at its helm to sustain its brand into the future.

Live colourfully.Kate Spade dresses

Kate Spade Westwood Collection

Westwood Collection

Giambattista Valli – affordable fashion for Macy’s

Giambattista Valli Fall 2011 Ready To Wear

Valli Fall 2011 RTW - model Codie Young

Giambattista Valli Fall 2011 Ready To Wear

Valli Fall 2011 RWT - model Caterina Ravaglia

Giambattista Valli is the latest couturier to provide collections for customers who love high fashion but don’t have the budget to do more than window shop it.

The first haute couturier to go downtown was Matthew Williamson with their Diffusion Line available online at My Wardrobe. However with prices of £413 for a dress and near £500 for a coat Matthew Williamson is clearly far to ensconced in his high fashion bubble to have any sense of what most people’s budget can afford at the most prosperous of times, let alone what they can manage in an extended economic downturn with their credit cards being paid down not maxed up.

Next up was Karl Lagerfield with their collection for Macy’s. And perhaps surprisingly Lagerfield has a much better sense of what is affordable than Williamson – their ‘Lagerfield for Impulse’ collection available in store then online from August 31 has prices starting at £30 through to the £100 marker – I am converting from the US $ – Lagerfield in effect competing with Debenhams and Marks and Spencer – and Matalan, almost!

And Valli follow in his high-fashion footsteps also with Macy’s as part of their Impulse designer series. The prices are in the same price range as the Lagerfield ones. Macy’s are to be congratulated on this further venture and clearly have a much better understanding of the everyday budgets than My Wardrobe do.

According to Valli we can expect lace, brocade and tulle in bold prints and vibrant colours.

A lot of their 2011 Fall Ready To Wear collection was black and white via grey but there were occasional outbursts of pink, red and yellow.

I have included photographs of such pieces in this post.

Will it be marked down versions of them that will be filling up Macy’s racks and shelves? Here’s hoping.

Giambattista Valli Fall 2011 Ready To Wear

Valli Fall 2011 RTW - model Anais Pouliot

Princess Catherine Doll – and other Royal souvenirs

I received an Email today from Gadget site Firebox where all the merchandise listed was to cash in – sorry, honour! – the coming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

From Top Trumps to Tea Towels.

I think they have likely hit a winner with this Princess Catherine Doll though – at £35 a pop Firebox and its manufacturers really could be minting it.

If I were ever to be famous I think being turned into a mass-production doll would be one of celebrity’s more pleasing outcomes!

I was amused by the disclaimer too ‘Posable doll bearing a purely coincidental resemblance to Kate Middleton’.

I just wonder how many more royal wedding souvenirs with an unintended passing likeness to the future monarch there will be!

Mary Portas – shopping with Mary

The Secret Shopper

Having enjoyed Mary Queen of Shops I was looking forward to Mary Portas’ new project Secret Shopper from production company Optomen aired on Channel 4.

In Mary Queen of Shops the focus was on the shop as business and how best for it and its staff to promote itself. For Mary Portas: Secret Shopper the focus was on the customer.

Mary Portas considers that we in the UK have some of the worst service in this area in the world – though I am not sure exactly the basis for that claim – clearly she has not been shopping in every country in the world! She explains in an interview on the Channel 4 website her hopes for the program and the reasons for it.

The program addressed service without a smile and what might be done to change this. It is clear that some customers are pretty awful and the mantra of ‘the Customer is always right’ must be pretty challenging to adhere to in every circumstance. It was also clear that a lot of retail staff are minimum wage with minimum training – by bosses who short-sightedly see training as a cost rather than an investment. The low wages themselves are not going to guarantee staff loyalty and motivation.

On the Channel 4 website there is a lot of feedback about the program – both from customers disgruntled with staff and staff disgruntled with customers.

I always have some suspicion about these programs that the very presence of a television crew and the prospect of an audience of millions may change behaviour while the cameras are on but wonder whether it lasts when the last crew-member has packed away their camera and mic?!  In the fashion make-over shows How To Look Good Naked hosted by Gok Wan and previously What Not to Wear with Trinny & Susannah; and in the restaurant food and service shows Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay and Big Chef Takes on Little Chef with Heston Blumenthal to name just a few and the best of them – this was addressed to some extent in that they would re-visit a year or so down the line to see whether the lessons learnt were still being acted upon.

Like these hosts Mary Portas is a larger-than-life charismatic go-getting figure – very motivational and who clearly has great experience and understanding of retail from both sides of the till.

At four episodes duration the series was not long.  I can understand why in that each episode must involve a lot of production time and work – both in preparation and implementation and then not to spread herself and her team too thinly across other retail outlets.

Perhaps though that is the limitation too of being over-reliant on one charismatic individual.  The aims of this program are big and perhaps require a bigger team to carry out.  But again perhaps it is not the sole role of a television program to do such a thing – rather it acts as a campaigning voice and rallying cry for wider consumer action.

The real success of Mary Portas won’t be a few changes to a few shop branches here and there but a cultural change to shopping service itself – and that is a big ask.  Alongside the program she is running a campaign to celebrate the best and castigate the worst in customer service – not just in shopping retail as I understand but in other areas too such as banking and transport.

Another good series and television idea from Mary Portas.  She left the BBC for Channel 4 for this show – I can well imagine both these channels wrangling over her for her next television opus!