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Vultures Circle March 15, 2010

Posted by markswill in Media, That's Entertainment.

“Clarity is the last hiding place of the man who has nothing to say.” – Friedrich Waismann.

Taking that on face value what follows, whilst woefully bereft of meaning or worth, may well be a shining model of lucidity . But of course that won’t stop me… and arguably ‘twas ever thus. But that quotation from a rather obscure Austrian mathematician and philosopher has been exercising me somewhat of late. As has the little matter of philosophy itself, because for the past few weeks I’ve been attending a course of evening classes in the subject run with a delightful informality by a retired professor of same in our local greasy spoon (or ‘multi-purpose venue’ as we prefer to call it).

Don’t worry, I’m not going to ram a load of epistemology down your throats – not least because I’m still wrestling with the very basics of what I’m trying to learn – but as Ms. S surmised when I had to scamper back home for the following evening’s lesson, for a sleepy border town of just some 2000 souls, there’s an awful lot of culture going on.

Back in January I mentioned the inaugural salon that I was co-launching and which is now well established and a modest success, and we also have music nights two or three times a months in my local pub with a quite surprisingly eclectic range of performers, classic and cabaret nights two doors up at the Assembly Rooms and the fortnightly film society in the same venue. (And let’s not forget the Xmas panto. Or on second thoughts, let’s). The film soc. is affiliated to the Bordelines Film Festival, a now well established, 14-day orgy of the indie, the arty and, um, the borderline mainstream which, whilst based in Hereford’s glitzy Courtyard Arts Centre, has screenings in remote village and town halls throughout the Marches.

Our own contribution was a showing of Rumba, a charmingly amusing if very derivative (of Jacques Tati) little flic directed by its lead players, Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon which attracted a healthy audience for a such an obscure work. But as I pointed out to Ms. S as I was going off to see the rather better known Me & Orson Welles – albeit the last of its three performances at the Courtyard – the fact that there is so much happening culturally hereabouts, it is but a fraction of what’s available in her hometown, i.e. London. Where of course there must be more philosophy evening classes than you could shake a stick at (but exactly what, you ask, is a stick?), and certainly more music and film in a week than you could attend in a year or two down here.

As a consequence I think that the culture vultures who live here tend to be less discriminating in their patronage than those in the big cities because a sense of gratitude that there’s anything available overwhelms the specifics of their taste, however eclectic they might be. Of course much of what actually is available exists relies heavily on public subsidy and private sponsorship, and it will be interesting, and perhaps depressing to see how art in the sticks fares when the next slew of budget cuts kick in. And in a worst case many of us lucky liberals may reverse the flight from the cities that brought us here and return to London, Bristol or Birmingham where if nothing else, we can be sure of a nice night out at the Camden Town Odeon or shaking our ageing butts to Aerosmith at the O2.

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1. Pete - March 15, 2010

Whilst there is undoubtedly a bigger choice of cultural offerings in the cities does one still get the same sense of local community that attends events here? Doesn’t that sense of community counteract the gravitational pull of the cities, given that budget cuts will affect those places too? But what is a community, and what is a city? Is a city just a community with the ommun removed? If so, what is an ommun?

(That should keep you going for a class or two…)

markswill - March 15, 2010

Obvious point Pete… so bloody obvious that I didn’t make it. But some might argue (not me, BTW) that the relative lack of community in the cities mean that they’re ideal for losing oneself in… culturally and otherwise.

Pete - March 15, 2010

Not quite sure how to read that reply and whether my talent for pointing out the obvious has fallen on stony ground….! Speaking as a city boy adrift in the country I know where you are coming from and indeed do feel that tug back to the smoke now and then. Having the choice to lose oneself in a city is the privilege of the well heeled perhaps as you suggest. The less well off can get lost in a more profound sense. That said, I knew and lived in some lively London communities but they were aware of their status as part of a metropolis. The communities on the border have boundaries that are less blurred I think.

Personally, I think people are still pretty discriminating about the events arranged along the border. If they weren’t the likes of the film soc would be heaving on every available night, and sadly that isn’t true.

2. WTK - March 15, 2010

I am so tired of culture and culturists in this city. I found a Halal chicken shop in Flatbush, Brooklyn where for a lousy $3 I can sit on a crate and watch chickens getting slaughtered. I can see they picked up the Daniel Pearl technique. P.S. don’t spread this around Tower Hamlets.

Speaking of movies, Flatbush is the original home of the earliest Western cowboy films. I can picture it.

When the chicken shop is closed I often peruse http://www.muslima.com for cultural relief.

These are the only tips I have to share…

markswill - March 15, 2010

Terry, you are, as ever, my cultural hero

3. Martin Craig - March 15, 2010

Thanks again Mark, more nourishing brain food. “What is a stick?” And is it still a stick when you’re not looking at it in its stick-ness?

Your former prof may be retired, or he may have been ‘early retired’. The philosophy department was shut down at Newcastle Uni; seemingly not vocational enough for today’s MBA – infested culture of strategic goals, early wins and a step change in the way customer-facing services are delivered. 

After a while, the absence of people with training in philosophy allows MPs and others to get away with blatant non-sequiturs such as, “We are doing this (insert draconian policy) because It Is The Right Thing To Do.”. “It was right that we (invaded/bombed/shut down/wiped out) and it would be right if we were to do it again, for the same reason. Reason? Only a philosopher could catch them out on that one. 

I hope your course exposes you to a nice little book called ‘Straight and Crooked Thinking’ by Robert Thouless.  It’s the earliest and best crap detector I’ve ever come across. 

We don’t have 2,000 souls ’round these parts (unless sheep have souls, which their eyes would suggest is so) so we have to make our own amusements – no sheep-related wisecracks, please.  As a one-time city dweller, my biggest fear would be to live at the heart of so much culture without the means of accessing it.  At least in the sticks (that word again) we get the drama of nature, we can play instruments and sing at the top of our voices and our faithful (but threatened) mobile library has enabled me to read two DeLillo novels on one weekend. God, what snobs we are. OK, I am. 

markswill - March 16, 2010

Thanks Martin, and I’ll look out for Mr Thouless’s book. Everything else you say is entirely apposite, although I personally would go stir crazy submitting to your level of isolation, mobile library of not (and will it still be trundling round the Highlands when the next public spending cuts are announced.?

4. colin higgins - March 15, 2010

Having spent most of the 70s and 80s in old London town, an occasional day return ticket fulfils all my metrocultural needs now. A small, lively and monumentally over-priced centre with a galaxy of tasteless bits around the edge – the Ferrero Roche of cities. And the fishing’s crap.

5. markswill - March 16, 2010

Funnily enough, I was staying on a houseboat in Chelsea (or rather, off Chelsea) and mine hostess remarked that the evening’s supper was fished out of the Thames the pervious evening. (Nothing like fricasse of old boot to satisfy the digestive system).

6. colin higgins - March 16, 2010

To be completely even-handed the lower Thames is cleaner than it has been for over a century. Even so, when a cloudburst threatened to overwhelm the lavatorial conduits of SW1 a couple of years back, the men with levers lost no time in freeing the capitals turds into its silvern waters. And they’ll do it again.
Takes one back to the Trent ghosts (used prophylactics), Kleenex streamers and bankside bouquets of a misspent yoof. As much of a cultural progenesis as anyone can handle.

Bon appetit.

7. Ian H - March 28, 2010

In my experience those that live in Cities have greater access to cultural activities but are less likely to avail themselves of the opportunity. Whereas those in more isolated communities seem more likely to make the effort to travel or make things happen.
This is exacerbated by the fact that in Cities culture becomes increasingly narrow minded as there are sufficient like minded individuals to support narrowly focussed events. In rural communities culture seems to be worshipped at a broader more eclectic church.
At this Fridays folk session in the back room of my village local the fellow musicians were equally appreciative of the traditional tune Jesse James as they were of the drum and bass version of The Clash’s Bank Robber played on acoustic bass guitar and cahon. Something I have never experienced in city based events. I also offer Broad Sheep as a reinforcement of this

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