Summer fires

All in the golden afternoon
….
In such an hour,
Beneath such dreamy weather,
To beg a tale…
“There will be nonsense in it!”‘
Lewis Carroll, preface to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

gainsboroughwoodedlandscapeThomas Gainsborough Landscape with a Woodcutter and Milkmaid 1755
Oil on canvas

“Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present.
The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”
Midnight in Paris, 2011, film written and directed by Woody Allen

“Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.”
Ecclesiastes, Chapter 7, Verse 10, King James Bible, 1611

constablebrightonJohn Constable (1776-1837) Coast Scene at Brighton: Evening, oil painting, ca. 1828
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

      “….colours from the sunset take:
From something of material sublime
Rather than shadow our own soul’s day-time
In the dark void of night.”
(Keats, Epistle to John Hamilton Reynolds)

“Set yourself on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn”
attributed to John Wesley (1703-1791)

marsdenmoorfire1

“The people who started the moorlands fires are responsible for a catastrophe that has endangered an enormous number of people. People are having to evacuate their homes, livestock has been lost and natural beauty spots have been ravaged. Resources have been sent from fire and rescue services all across the country.” Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack speaking of the wildfires on Saddleworth Moor, Lancashire, England, which spread for 2 weeks during the heatwave of late June and July, 2018

“They never reached a golden age, or found El Dorado. ‘The journey, not the destination matters’, Rachael incanted, out of habit,
while they could see there was nothing left that glittered through the smoke ahead,
and the smell of burnt dirt did not stop rising from the ashes.
Philippa was in too sour a mood to stomach either irony or elegy and she snapped back:
‘Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn’.”
Noëlle Mackay Human Rites 

gainsboroughevening3Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) Wooded Landscape with Herdsman and Cattle

‘And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.’
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), preface to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

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The Levee of the Great High King

The Universe, O my brothers, is flinging wide its portals for the Levee of the GREAT HIGH KING.
Thomas Carlyle, THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

After the attrition of thirty humdrum years, he no longer loved her for her human qualities. He still found her attractive because she was as self-possessed as a cat. Observed or unobserved, wherever she was, she behaved the same, with the same rhythm and attention, a graceful kind of selfishness, true to herself, if not to him.

Watching her brushing her hair, applying ineffable creams to her face and body, swiping her tablet as if it were a mirror to her other, secret selves, or eating her small helpings of balanced meals at the same table as him without once looking at him, he felt he barely existed. He was not offended. He admired her independence and indifference to other people’s petty jealousies. When she came home in the small hours, without telling him where she had been, he knew better than to ask.
She was her own damned cat.

On balance, he suspected that she wasn’t having sex with anyone else. She felt entitled to go where she pleased and would despise him for thinking badly of her. Honi soit qui mal y pense. Showing his age, he preferred to think of the ancient chivalric motto in Sellar and Yeatman’s translation: “Honey, your silk stocking’s hanging down”. So that’s what he said to her, and she smiled.
Noëlle Mackay, HUMAN RITES

….anything self-conscious is lousy.
You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.
Ray Bradbury

Well, it all comes to this, there’s no use trying to live in other people’s opinions. The only thing to do is to live in our own.
L.M. Montgomery, EMILY CLIMBS

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF KING CAT

Reunite or Self-Destruct

Second Brexit referendum has 16-point lead as half of Britons back new vote, opinion poll shows

Orpheusand EuridiceOrpheus and Euridice by G.F. Watts c. 1890

Humans are selfish by instinct, like all animals. We are narcissistic, like no other animal. We reason, like no other animal. We squander our natural gifts, like no other animal. We are cruel, like no other animal. We have more regrets than any other animal. We cannot bring the people we love back to life but we can make at least one sensible decision for the common good before we die. (Noelle Mackay)

We, the people, must demand another chance to let our true voice be heard, not the one manipulated last year by a reactionary, zenophobic, racist coup d’état.

We must be able to accept or reject the deal being negotiated to Leave the EU.

And, we must be able to reject Brexit entirely. No reasonable person could claim that the EU is perfect; no reasonable person could claim that leaving the EU under the present conditions is anything but catastrophic.

It is time to stop separating personal from universal destiny. We are all implicated.

Whether you voted Leave or Remain, this Brexit is a mess. I’d have written “a dog’s breakfast” for a cheap laugh if it wasn’t an insult to dogs. There are too many cheap laughs in this world at the expense of things we should value.   “Only connect”.

Pomeranian Bitch and Puppy circa 1777 by Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788
Gainsborough, Pomeranian Bitch and Puppy c 1777. © Tate Gallery.
Is there nothing else than the love of cute animals that can unite people?
Does humanity loathe itself so much that it will extinguish itself?

Only the delusional, or right-wing billionaires planning to turn Great Britain into Little Englanders’ Tax-Haven Ltd, could still want it. The hopes of idealistic Leavers have been betrayed, the worst fears of Remainers have been exceeded by reality.

It is still legally possible to reverse Brexit. Common sense and self-preservation demand it. “In a healthy political culture, this would be a moment for reappraisal” Ian Dunt.

The present Prime Minister has been too weak so far to turn us back from a suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade on a national scale.

horsedelacroixHorse Frightened by a Storm, watercolour by Eugene Delacroix, 1824. Image source: WGA

Our democracy should serve the national interest, not destroy it. If our representatives in Parliament don’t have the guts to revoke Article 50 themselves, we must advise them ourselves through another Referendum – not a second referendum, but the third since 1975.

Last year’s referendum was advisory. A responsible government would never have allowed the public a vote on an unfeasible option. No government is infallible. Nobody is infallible. History will condemn the political leadership of our times – that doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook.

If history is about ordinary people, not who and what kings and queens had for breakfast, ordinary people must show the future what a human being should be.

Sovereignty lies in Parliament, not the “Will of the People”, a meaningless slogan unless it includes the right to change our minds. If anyone insists that the 2016 Referendum was binding, then they should consider that the 1975 Referendum to stay in the EU was also binding.

Never again should an elected representative of the people have to say, as Margaret Beckett did, “I believe this will be catastrophic for my constituents, but nonetheless I feel duty‑bound to vote for it.”

Nuts.

In future, recanting MPs might have to put one of their hands in the fire before they betray the interests of the people.

Our generation is seeing the British dream turned into a nightmare created by ourselves. STOP IT.  Brexit will be the worst mistake ever made by a modern democratic nation.

Let’s stop Brexit. 

Bored with Brexit? Tough. I’d have given up this blog, ranting at an audience of two, if it wasn’t for the biggest cause of in our lifetimes. It’s not just British lives that Brexit will ruin. The fate of nations is in our hands.

Stop Brexit, I’ll stop boring you.

girl withcageripplRippl-Rónai, Girl with Cage 1892 Oil on canvas
Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest.
Image: WGA

The Autonomous Woman

I’m still looking at her. I lied in the previous post about ambivalence. I know very well that she is informed, not defined, by other people’s abuse.  This post is too long for comfort, but if you want to see Artemisia Gentileschi meet Jane Austen, read on.

marymagdaleneArtemesiaG The Penitent Mary Magdalen 1620-25
Oil on canvas, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. Image: WGA

“Till this moment I never knew myself”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

Of all women, why should the Magdalene repent? As a composite of erotic and spiritual love, a triumphant victim of patriarchy who earned her own living, became a player in global religion, and a legendary heroine of romance, we should be honest enough to celebrate, not patronize her.

Whatever the true source of her anguish, the distraught Magdalen is looking into the darkest shadows of her psyche. She is examining her own actions, thoughts and feelings, holding herself to account. We are looking at her at the moment she knows herself.

Gentileschi also cast Mary Magdalene, the sinning woman, as the personification of  Melancholy, an ambivalent attribute.

ArtemisiaGentileschiMaryMagdaleneMelancholy

Artemisia Gentileschi, Maria Maddalena come la Malinconia 1621 -25.
Oil on canvas. Museo del Soumaya, Mexico City. Image: Wikipedia.

The Renaissance began the modern cultivation of melancholy, or predisposition to depression, as a desirable creative condition, on the dubious premise that the more you suffer, the better your art. This has been proved true only in cases where there is pre-existing talent and a strong technique. Intensity of feeling alone never wrote a good book or painted a great picture. greatest struggle is to transmute personal experience into art

Gentileschi’s interpretation of a passive Temperament is characteristically unromantic: the sensual, dishevelled Magdalene is slumped in her chair, looking like a lethargic and sulky teenager, the opposite of her usually dynamic heroines.

Gentileschi (the daughter, not the father, the overshadowed Orazio, a dutiful father and fine painter in his own right) is a colussus straddling art and gender history. Continue reading

Egocentrism before the Selfie Age

Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”
Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband (1895)

“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?”
Jalaluddin Rumi (1207 – 1273)

romneyrussell
George Romney, Portrait of Lady Barbara Anne Russell née Whitworth
holding her son, Sir Henry Russell, “on one of the pier tables, playing with the looking glass”
(quoted from Sir Henry Russell’s memoir about the commission of the painting)

Oil on canvas, 1786/87. Last exhibited in ‘On Reflection’ at the National Gallery in 1998.

That tragic, ruthless glance… is a question of his salvation…..
All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce
Kierkegaard (1813 -1855)

One of the mirrors in the house, an old pier glass inside a gilded oval frame that had lost its lustre a generation ago,
had cracked from too much self-reflection.
The more often they looked, the less clearly they saw themselves.

Noelle Mackay, All the Rest (2017)

When children don’t want to live any more

‘…it was in his nature to do it…it is the beginning of the coming universal wish not to live’
Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure, 1895

It is the most infamously morbid passage in English literature. It is more shocking than the infanticides of medieval history or Jacobean tragedies, worse than the murders of the Little Princes in the Tower, Macduff’s children, or Tamora being fed her own sons by Titus.

Jude’s eldest son, nicknamed Little Father Time because he has an old soul in his tiny body, overhears his father and step-mother lamenting they cannot afford to feed so many children, and then, being precociously intelligent and logical, kills his infant siblings and himself in the belief he is helping his parents.

Hardy was congenitally cruel to his characters when he finished his sport with them – his betrayal of Tess, just as she’s being executed, by throwing her younger sister at Angel Clare fulfills his private misogynistic fantasies rather than any loftier authorial purpose.

Jude’s little boy is a fatalistic novelist’s symbol of society’s moral decay, he lives and dies as a plot device, it is hard to believe anyone so frail themselves would have the strength to hang a baby, but there is something uncomfortably plausible, even inevitable, about Little Father Time’s character. He is clearly not a criminal, not a misfit. The wise child is the next stage in human evolution: the executor and inheritor of our will, even if we’re too cowardly to sign it.

There is nothing more terrible under the sun than the death of a child. The death of a child by his or her own hand is the most terrible of all,  and it implicates all of us, not as individuals, not when even the kindest, most loving of parents is unable to save their darlings from reality, but collectively, as a species of social animals, unable to make our environment safe for our young.

Painting, 1592, of the legend of the Pied Piper copied from the glass window of the Market Church in Hameln, Germany (c.1300-1633). Image: Wikipedia

We are hateful, and don’t be resigned, not here, anyway. Face up to it, and for humanity’s sake don’t click Like. Not on this blog. It’s not a “popular” blog”. It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.

Don’t like, don’t be resigned – change. Change what is happening in the world. What is popular is seldom right. What we enjoy eating most is usually not good for us.

Even fastidious cats don’t know what’s good for them to eat, only what tastes nice. Maybe an innate fatty, sugary death-wish will kill us all before the bombs do. About a third of the children you see in over-developed western nations are too fat; elsewhere in the world they are starving to death; there are others butchered by perverse strangers, or their own feral parents, or even each other; and now there are a few, discomfiting ghostly presences on the edge of liberal consciences, lingering in suicidal despair because of war and exile, because of the society we have colluded in.

Henry Wallis The Death of Chatterton 1856 © Tate. Image: Wikipedia.
“The marvellous boy” who committed suicide in 1770, aged seventeen, became a symbol to the Romantics of resistance to social injustice and cultural repression, of the battle of the authentic self
against modern society’s crass oppression.

We can’t blame the food: it’s us, it’s what we’re made of, our rottenness, poisoning the children. Thousands of years ago, societies sacrificed children for the common good. Now there are children doing the dirty work for us.

Refugee children in Sweden, one of the few countries in the world where asylum seekers are well-treated, have been exhibiting symptoms of a death-wish when their families are threatened with deportation. They dwindle into a  semi-comotose state, refusing to eat or drink, confined to wheelchairs and have tubes stuck in their mouths. This has been called uppgivenhetssyndrom, “giving up on life syndrome”.

It has been identified as resignation, but in adult refugees similar behaviour might be called hunger-strike, passive protest or martyrdom.

The children were lied to when they were brought into the world. They see for themselves that living without hope is not worth the cost of existence. They believe they are burdens on their parents.

Through their death-wish, the children might be trying to help us.

The barely visible author

bazille mericJean-Frédéric Bazille, The Terrace at Méric (Oleander) 1867 Oil on canvas, Art Museum, Cincinnati. Image source: WGA

QUOTES FROM WRITER NOËLLE MACKAY:

I like being invisible. I reject the meek life of a wannabee. I don’t want to spend a life in waiting for a dish that might never come, or that I’ll have to send back when it’s served cold.

I’d rather be a successful fraud than a failed tryer. Chameleons are the best of nature’s artists. If people don’t understand or like what you’re saying, change colour to communicate the same thing.

blueroomancher

Anna Ancher Sunlight in the Blue Room. Helga Ancher Knitting in her Grandmother’s Room 1891
Oil on canvas, Skagens Museum, Skagen. Image: WGA

As I write to please myself by following trains of thought to their derailment, reaching success station was never likely. After so long in the sidings, I started missing other people, even the voice saying “Eh? What did you say?” or “That’s stupid”.

I don’t think effort and/or self-belief are substitutes for talent and finishing skills. If something’s not working, shut it down. A hundred new beginnings are worth more than one bad ending.

lazinessRamon Casas i Carbó Laziness 1898-1900 Oil on canvas, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.
Image: WGA

Rosalind was joking when she said good wine needs no bush. If truth is essential to good (as distinct from popular) writing, the possibility of being neither good nor popular should not be discounted.

Writers, artists, and actors have a professional duty to hold the mirror up to nature, not to reflect ourselves fumbling to hold the mirror up in the right position, in the right light, on the right day.

madameinthemirrordegasDegas Madame Jeantaud in the Mirror 1875 Oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Image: WGA

The selfie is the death mask of self-criticism.

While we were mesmerized by our own reflections, we slipped into akrasia. We have lost self-command and feel justified by proof of existence alone.

I work in anti-social media.

A STORY BY NOËLLE MACKAY CAN BE READ HERE

hammershoiVilhelm Hammershøi Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor, 1901.
Image: SMK