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For the third time now, I've sat down with my photo collection and tried to get to grips with Cherry. I hope doing it properly this time will mean it sticks. He's tricky in that his two dominant features are his proganthous nose and his glasses – it's easy to throw those down on a face that doesn't work right and say 'Ta-daa, it's Cherry!' when you're really just using them to hide your lack of knowledge. (This is precisely what I was doing whilst drawing something else, the awareness of which prompted me to do this study.) But as you see in my notes to myself, if he doesn't look right without his glasses, he's NOT RIGHT – so I've left them off in these drawings, so as to check them against the reference photos more clearly, and not allow myself to lean on them.

As he ended up being more or less at the centre of most aspects of the Expedition, he really needs to have a proper model pack done, but as usual my time is conflicted at present so I can't sit down to do it now. This is a down-payment on the sort of work that needs to happen, in the hope that dipping my toe in now will make it easier to dive in when time allows.
tealin: (actually)

I've gone through rather more of Cherry's notes than most sane mortals have done. It seems sometimes as though he was desperate for people to know the facts, and if they were not going to come to him as the obvious source for the facts and persist in willful ignorance, well, he was going to write them down anyway, in ink, in hardbound books, so someday when they realised they were not in possession of the facts he could remedy that situation from beyond the grave, as it were. I know this. And yet I still blunder ahead sometimes without asking him for his side of the story. Someday the lesson will stick.

It's dangerous to identify too much with someone you'll never know and who, chances are, probably wouldn't have liked you very much if you did. But as someone who started saying 'actually' with alarming frequency quite shortly after learning to talk, I feel like I really get Cherry in this regard ...
tealin: (think)
Is it just me, or is social media feeling increasingly pointless?

I mean, no offence to the friends I keep in touch with through various online channels – you guys are great and I would not want to swear off social media because that would mean losing you, and that would not be OK. But as far as the wider world of social media, that great big cloud-sourced stimulation machine and distraction engine ... it doesn't ping the 'reward' neurons like it used to. Is it that the people I follow for entertainment rather than personal purposes are getting wrapped up in their own lives and not posting as much? (This is true enough for me.) Or are they still posting and I just don't care enough to notice? I fell out of fandom post-Avengers, when I realised I could not summon the enthusiasm even to pretend to care about the Marvel Universe; since then everyone's gone off on things I am not remotely interested in even investigating. But my Tumblr feed has even run dry of posts about whatever the 2016 equivalent of Hannibal, Game of Thrones, or True Detective might be, so something is up. Someone I talked to recently said that everyone was leaving Tumblr for Instagram – I'm not chasing the fickle crowds onto another platform, especially not one that's even worse for conversation and serendipity than Tumblr is! It's not like I've ever seen a penny from all the hours I put into my 'online presence'. Why all this migration anyway?

Nevertheless I still keep getting stuck in my virtual rounds, even though it takes half the time it once did to catch up on it all, even though I finish a round and think 'what did I even see?' It's become so much a part of the rhythm of my day I almost do it without noticing. What would I do instead? What should I do instead? Cultivate a longer attention span and focus for longer periods on what I'm doing? (ha, ha!) That did serve me very well when I was in high school and we only had the one shared computer. But it's one thing not to have the distraction engine available, and another to have it an outstretched finger away but voluntarily refrain from using it, even if I'm only using it to confirm for the fifteenth time today that no, there's nothing online ...

On the other hand, this is exactly what happened with TV for me, over ten years ago now, so it's not unreasonable to hope I may be weaning myself off the Internet the same way. But the people I know who don't bother much with social media are the people who have an engaging social life in the real world, whereas my giving up social media would leave me in what is, more or less, a social vacuum. And I'm not the most gregarious person, but I've had enough isolation in my life; I don't want to go back to that.

So I leave you with this little puddle of thought, and excuse myself to go back to drawing dead guys. Maybe that tells you all you need to know.
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Friday is Birdie's birthday. I have this post queued up to go live on Tumblr on the day, but I couldn't wait that long to post it, so you loyal Real Blog followers get a sneak peek.

I make no apologies for the dreadful rhymes you will find in the following. I am immensely proud of every last one of them.

Happy 133rd birthday, Birdie!

And because I am that much of a nerd, full citations are below the cut (along with details of the illustrations).

Dive in ... )
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A rather cursory basket for you this week as I haven't had much opportunity to listen. As always you are welcome to browse the Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra schedules yourself and see what else you might like.

The Victorian in the Wall - A bit of domestic renovation introduces a struggling writer to a Victorian who'd been stuck in his wall, somehow. A cute and energetic production which expires in a few days so listen quick if you fancy ...
Roald Dahl: Served With a Twist - Grownup stories from the 20th century's master of children's fiction.
The Voice of God - Simon Bovey's acoustic weapon story set in the Australian Outback, featuring his usual Full House of compelling story, brisk pacing, strong female characters, and unusual perspectives.
Night of the Triffids - It's like someone read Day of the Triffids and thought, 'I like it, but it could be more Michael Bay ...' But it's a nice tight radio movie, which is sadly infrequent these days.

Dilemma - Sue Perkins puts her guests through the ethical wringer.
The Horne Section - With the news being a perpetual source of angst these days, why not listen to the children's show for grownups instead?
John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme - A pleasant reminder that there are four whole episodes available right now, and another airing Friday morning, so if The Horne Section still hasn't got the taste of news out of your mouth, have a go at this.
Talking and Not Talking - 30 minutes of barmy sketch comedy, with a pinkish picture of a woman!
Concrete Cow - 30 minutes of barmy sketch comedy, with a pinkish picture of a man!

A Gremlin in the Works - Gerald Scarfe tells of the Roald Dahl story that Walt Disney almost made into an animated feature film. Almost.
Out of Armenia - In these times of Migrant Crises, a look at what became of a nation fleeing genocide in 1915. This episode focuses on the Armenians in Paris.
The Invention of Childhood - A great series for anyone who thinks it was better in The Old Days. (It wasn't, they just had nicer production design.)
My Teenage Diary: Chris Packham - This episode made me at once joyful that there are still nature nuts out there, and despairing over how one might ever meet any.

The Last Prairie Home Companion - Garrison Keillor's variety show was my first radio love. I remember my parents listening to it when I was small; when I got older I inflicted it on them until I got a radio Walkman and a stereo in my room on which I recorded episodes compulsively. Before Martin and Douglas and Arthur In Black-And-White Times, it was Dusty and Lefty and Guy Noir who kept me company while I drew or tidied or whatever. I suppose I 'grew out of it' well before finding Radio 4, but it continued to send ripples through my life, whether through musical exposure, or an early taste of radio comedy, or even just painting a picture of an America that could be, in direct opposition to the America on the news and in my face. It was bittersweet to listen to the last ever episode from my room in Cambridge: So much of my life has been getting as far as possible from the life from which Prairie Home Companion was such a gratifying escape; listening to those familiar voices was both comforting and upsetting as they dredged up old feelings that were better left behind. But it's a good send-off, and if the show has ever meant anything to you, worth a listen, if only to hear how much it's meant to other people as well.
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A Point of View: Belongings

In these strange times, we're communally facing realities many of us have already faced. ... In short, many of us have suffered losses. From luxuries, to little treats, to furniture, to homes, to health, hopes, potential. The belongings that let them be in their worlds. And these weren't all bad people; they didn't all deserve what they got; they weren't in a Hollywood movie or a fantasy press release, they weren't just puppets created by this or that propagandist, they were people. Public discourse in the UK has marinated us in the myth that good people are rewarded and that the unrewarded can't be good. That bad people are punished and so the punished must always be bad. There is no mercy about that. One way or another, it condemns us all. In a reality of poor doors, spiralling repayments and free-range pain, it seems to me that mercy might be something we would seek to cultivate.

We're human: we look for patterns in the firelight, stock prices, weather, anything and everything. Sometimes there is no pattern, we're mistaken; sometimes we don't have enough information; sometimes we're misled. Demagogues can offer us rousing lies. Self-aggrandizing hates then light the touch-paper and retire. A percentage of us will cling to violent illusions of certainty if they're offered, confuse cruelty with strength. But if we're looking for justice, we might begin by being just, because life isn't, so we have to help it. Promises offered and never fulfilled, and in odd times, transitional times, our frailty can seem at its most stark. There are no Hollywood endings. Even if we're very lucky and we get the perfect sunset, or the first kiss, we have to go on, take the long road to what can be a terribly bitter end. So if reality won't be kind, then surely we must.

Many of these ideas have been chasing each other around my mind for the last months and years, but AL Kennedy puts them so much more clearly and concisely. The whole audio article is worth listening to, but this bit stood out especially.

Tom Crean

Jul. 8th, 2016 08:41 pm
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Well, it's been a hard slog all week, but I think I've finally got Crean on paper. It's not a final design – I have to push it graphically some more, as I won't have the luxury to draw his head 5 inches high every time and need to make him recognizable at a small scale, but I need to let that step steep before I take it.

These are the first sketches in which I felt like I'd captured him, but of course it's one thing to hit the mark once or twice and another to be able to hit it every time, so I had to put him through his paces:

Many many more below the cut ... )

And of course, had to give him a dog ...

tealin: (Default)

I'm trying to draw Tom Crean.

So far he's come out looking like:
  • Mel Gibson
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • The life drawing teacher at Disney
  • Keith Wilson
  • My former housemate's brother
  • Superman
  • George W. Bush
To be fair, he does seem to look different in pretty much every photo, and I have never tried drawing him before, but even so ... ??  I'm kind of aiming for somewhere between Colin Farrell (eyebrows) and Mark Rylance (crinkly face) plus many hours of hard work in the fresh air, but none of those come even close...

There's a 1916 edition of The Now Show on tonight at 11pm BST so I'll keep working till then, and just hope something (anything) percolates overnight.

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I haven't been able to listen to much radio at all lately, but there's been a glut of stuff I have listened to in the past which I know is good, and stuff I suspect would be rather good if I had the opportunity to listen to it now. So I proffer it to you, and you can tell me if I was right.

My Teenage Diary - A series in which public figures read the thoughts of their teenage selves to the public. Sometimes cringeworthy, but frequently touching and insightful, and always deeply human.
All the Planet's Wonders - comedian Josie Long and her genuine heartfelt passion for learning things
The New Young Fogeys - As someone who has self-identified as Old Fogey from about the age of 8, I relish the affirmation (and want to know where the rest of them are).
Love From Boy - These excerpts from Roald Dahl's life of letters to his mother are all interesting, but this episode specifically describes his experience working with Disney. In all the worship of 'the old guys' I never heard of 'Walt's #1 Artist' Jimmy Bodrero though ...?
The Life Scientific - In which various scientists are interviewed about their life and work; in this case Sheila Rowan and gravitational waves.
In Our Time: Bronze Age Collapse - Apparently around the end of the Bronze Age a number of established cultures (e.g. the Hittites) collapsed and disappeared. The first I heard of this was at 9 this morning; now I share it with you.
Shakespeare's Restless World - A series exploring the times in which Shakespeare lived, through a collection of contemporary items.

Brave New World - I thought being a skeptical outsider in a hypersexual consumerist culture helped me 'get' this book when I read it in high school, but thanks to this excellent adaptation I 'get it' even more now. Episode 1 expires on Sunday, so listen now.
Day of the Triffids - It gets a bad rap for being your quintessential 1950s sci-fi B-movie – man-eating plants, oh no! – but the actual book (of which this is a reading, not a dramatisation) is actually a cunning observation of human society dressed up as a sci-fi B-movie. 28 Days Later basically replaced Triffids with zombies. Highly recommended.
The Spy - James Fenimore Cooper, best known for Last of the Mohicans, tells a somewhat more nuanced tale of the American Revolution than one usually encounters ...
The Lives of Harry Lime - I don't remember much about this Orson Welles radio series about a con man taking on different personas for various missions, but I remember liking it, so here you go.

John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme - I just assume that by telling you the title of the show you will listen to it. There is a reason for this. You may have to listen to find out.
Concrete Cow - Those of you who've followed my radio tastes for any length of time will know I have a soft spot for barmy sketch comedy; this is one of those, with the distinction of starring Robert Webb.
Crème de la Crime - Spoof "true crime" documentary comedy series
Armando Iannucci - Before he was producing television programmes that are both surreal and strangely prescient, Mr Iannucci was a DJ on Radio 1. Yeah.
2000 Years of Radio - Radio Victoriana! Three cheers for the Empire, I say, what!
Bleak Expectations - Speaking of Victorian radio: This spoof Dickensian sitcom(?) may be on Series 5, but by this point it's got so weird you really won't need to know what's gone before.
Old Harry's Game - A Health and Safety engineer gets sent to Hell and seems not to be able to leave his job behind.
Think the Unthinkable - This time the comedy consultancy agency takes on the world of Finance.
Knocker - This 15-minute comedy series about a door-to-door canvasser has been described as "a chillingly accurate documentary" by a friend in the trade.


Jun. 17th, 2016 09:11 am
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A few weeks ago I uninstalled Firefox in an unusual fit of pique. It had been maddeningly slow to put together Tumblr posts at a time when I was lining up quite a few, and there were other minor grievances that, accumulating, and with the Tumblr problem as the final straw, prompted the rash removal of the browser from my computer.

It was only a few days later I realised that, with it, had gone years' worth of bookmarks, not only of convenience but of strange little back corners and obscure reference materials that I had bookmarked because I feared never finding them again. But I'd settled into Chrome for the time being (which opened up a bewildering new dimension of advertising, wow) and resigned myself to having to reassemble my bookmarks at some point in the future and learning a salutary lesson about backing up one's system.

This morning something ticked over and I decided it was time to get back on speaking terms with Firefox, so I reinstalled it, and when it opened – there were all my bookmarks! All my settings were preserved! My immediate thought was that I ought to be creeped out that this stuff was still on my computer somewhere despite doing a system uninstall – how would I find it and delete it for real if that is what I wanted to do? – but I couldn't manage to care about that no matter how much I felt I ought to. It was too nice to take the old girl for a spin. If the NSA wants to know about modern printmakers or the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica definition of "forlorn hope" they are welcome to it – maybe it'll make them better people.
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I've had this half-baked list sitting in my drafts for a while; I post it in the hope that some of these, at least, may not have expired yet...

Pick of the week:
The Science of Resilience - This is an EXCELLENT PROGRAMME and I HIGHLY recommend everyone listen to it RIGHT NOW. Seriously, just do it, you won't regret it. Fascinating and useful.

The Man Who Was Thursday - swashbuckling and surreal Edwardian adventure from G.K. Chesterton
The Brothers Karamazov - I don't know much about it and didn't get around to listening to it (alas!) but I am developing a sincere fellow-feeling with Dostoevsky, so if you have similar, you may enjoy.
Painting the Loneliness - A look at the feelings and artist behind the famous (and oft-parodied) painting Nighthawks
Soul Music: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis - This piece means a lot to me; it's interesting to hear what it means to others, and to learn a bit about its creation. Something I learned: if listening to this while working on animation of a dead polar explorer, you may be attacked by The Feels. SURPRISE!
Departure - Excellent radio play about (essentially) a flying Dignitas.
Soundstage: The Oak Woodland - Gorgeous soundscape of oak woods through the year. Best with headphones. Utterly transporting and reviving.
tealin: (terranova)
I've been trying to do the model sheet treatment on Birdie since about February; I kept having to put it down and pick it up again, relearning what I'd done, going a few steps further, then having to put it down again. The photo studies were done in about February, I think:

Once I figured out his facial structure (in bits and bobs not pictured), doing expressions was actually a fair bit of fun.

But when I got to posing, it became rapidly clear to me how long it had been since I had attended a proper life drawing class.

That was sometime in April ... back on the wagon again, if it'll pause long enough for me to catch up ...
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Me: I need to go for groceries and fix the grapevine and type stuff and generally function as an adult human being.
My nose: You are going to sit right there and wait patiently for me to siphon every ounce of liquid out of your body.

If this is hay fever, it's behaving very unusually.

If this is a cold, I cannot wait for it to move on at last to plain old congestion.
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Things I ought to do today:
  • Sketch hippies at Strawberry Fair
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Practise quick location sketching

What I am about to do:
  • Hang out in a cafe reading Going Postal
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I have, a few times now, been honoured to be asked to teach at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark – I've admired their grad films, and graduates' films, for years, and feel I have more to learn from them than they from me, but I know enough at least to help the first years, so that balances out. And it's an opportunity to stuff myself silly on Danish bread, which is a nice perk.

Having benefited enormously from watching other people animate, I like to include demos in my instruction, and as I was teaching a dialogue class I figured it was a good chance to animate a snippet of dialogue which has been on my plate for at least a year. The intent had been to use it to learn TV Paint; now I've done a whole production in TV Paint and have used that to do this.

This follows on some character design exploration work I'd done last autumn, which you can find here. As you will discover from that link, I've now started a Tumblr specifically for Scott stuff – my own creative work, when I do it, but also factoids, explanations, quotes, interesting tidbits of research as I come across it; that sort of thing. If you are interested and are on Tumblr, then by all means give it a follow; if you are interested but not on Tumblr, that's what your browser's bookmarks are for; if you're not interested, then never mind! I'll post new creative work here when I post it there, but won't be crossposting everything, as the whole reason for creating that blog is to keep the Scott stuff from flooding everything else, so if you want the full experience you'll need to go there.
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I've been very busy, but not the sort of busy that takes a lot of radio to get through. Luckily a weekend spent drawing has coincided with a glut of good programming, so here's another Radio Roundup ...

John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme - I mean, how can you say no. It's like ice cream, with or without slightly-off Disney characters on the side of the van. This episode has an unprecedented number of American accents.
Just a Minute - Mr Finnemore is back in a slightly more recent recording, in which he politely battles three veterans of this classic game of wits and rhetoric.
Facts and Fancies - Armando Iannucci has gone on to fame and (presumably) fortune producing comedy shows for TV, but this is a series of surreal comic essays from before all that, proving he Had It from day one.
Knocker - All the comedic potential of being a door-to-door market researcher.
The Rest is History - History-based comedy panel game, in which guests guess about historical things and an expert tells them what they got right.
The Unbelievable Truth - Fact-based comedy panel game, in which guests spout a stream of lies with some hidden truths, their co-panellists guess what those are, and the host tells them what they got right.
The News Quiz - There isn't anything particularly notable about this episode, just a reminder that the News Quiz is a thing that exists, and as long as it continues to do so, the world won't be all bad.

Hamlet - I have a Definitive Hamlet so cannot judge any other equitably; however, this radio production isn't bad, so if you don't have my baggage you might really enjoy it.
Julius Caesar - You can hear the above's Hamlet as Marc Antony in this radio adaptation of a play for which I don't have prior baggage, and therefore am comfortable saying is quite good. It expires in just over a week, so listen quickly.
Beware of the Dog - Roald Dahl writes for grownups – a story about a downed airman in WWII and the benefits of joined-up thinking.
The Man Who Was Thursday - If you think ideological radicals blowing people up in public places is a recent phenomenon, check out G.K. Chesterton's rather exciting story about the infiltration of an anarchists' collective in the early 20th century.
Freud vs Jung - A nice in-depth hour-long documentary on the relationship between the famous fathers of psychology.
Habbakuk of Ice - WWII wasn't short of nutty ideas, but I hadn't heard of the battleship made of ice until this radio play came my way.
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In 1948, Ealing Studios produced a film about Scott's Last Expedition. There were still quite a few survivors kicking around, and despite initial misgivings, most eventually came around to the idea of supporting it. Frank Debenham, who founded SPRI and was more or less the official keeper of the Terra Nova flame, did a fair amount of consultation on the film, and got a credit of thanks. Cherry, on the other hand, "was asked to sign a form permitting the film-makers to change his character into anything they liked, and he replied by giving the studio bosses a good telling-off."1 He never saw it.

The film was popular when it came out, and my impression is that it has been a staple of British television since the latter went mainstream, often getting shown around Christmas. I believe it's largely because of this film that the majority of people here will recognise the line "I am just going outside and may be some time," and all you need to do to set up a Scott-based comedy sketch is start out with the sound of howling wind and a flapping tent.

Nevertheless, despite all my obsession, I had never seen the film. It wasn't easy to find Stateside, and after I moved here there were so many other things clamoring for my attention. But, as always, the BBC loves me and wants me to be happy, so it aired the film a few days ago, and I finally got to see.

I'm afraid I have to side with Cherry on this one, but it was very interesting to see it at last, and it made me think ... A Very Partial Review, as a Twofold Insider )

1Sara Wheeler, Cherry, p. 288
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Having been off a regular work schedule, and doing more with words than with pictures lately, I've fallen off the radio wagon somewhat. But there's so much good stuff available at the moment, I can't let it go unpromoted, so here's a list for your listening pleasure:

This Is Not A Banksy - Sam goes to a house party and gets a Banksy drawn on his bum. The madness of the art world ensues.
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury's tale about a sleepy midwestern town visited by a sinister circus. The radio adaptation races through the book in an hour, but embraces all the depth that the film left out.
Beyond Endurance - Just as the Worst Journey radio play followed the men 'left behind' while the more famous stuff was happening elsewhere, this drama tells the story of the men left to wait on Elephant Island while Shackleton & Co. did their daring voyage to and across South Georgia to get help.

John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, Series 3 - I mean. Do I really need to tell you to listen to this. You know what's good for you.
The Unbelievable Truth is back for another run, with its dependable mix of truth and lies, both funny.
No Tomatoes - Barmy sketch comedy
Radio 9 - Even barmier sketch comedy. Radio 9 blindsided me one day at work, and it was years before they reran it again, so I'm always happy to see it come round and be reminded it wasn't a mid-afternoon dream.
I Think I've Got a Problem - Tom has a four-piece lounge band in his head. It makes things difficult.
The Masterson Inheritance - Completely improvised historical epic family drama, usually somewhere on a scale between silly and really quite silly. This one's about scurvy!
Bleak Expectations, Series 4 - Pip Bin must join forces with his former nemesis Gently Benevolent to save spoof-Dickensian London from ... pudding?
Radio Active - An oldie but goodie, sort of sketch comedy stitched together by the conceit of being a radio station

Mitch Benn's Wondrous Stories - An engaging comic history of the symphonic narrative concept album. As both Les Mis and Jesus Christ Superstar started out s concept albums, if you like modern musicals you may find this interesting as well.
Natalie Haines Stands Up for the Classics - the comedienne brings us to some brilliant if occasionally smutty ancient Greeks, which she nerds out over, as one does.

Free Speech - I really highly recommend listening to this fascinating look into the role freedom of speech, and all it entails, plays in modern western civilisation. A+ in-depth stuff, broken into easily digestible 15-minute chunks.
More or Less - The programme which takes a closer look at the statistics in the news is always a valuable listen, but may attract a wider audience this week as it checks out whether or not more celebrities have died this year than average.


Apr. 16th, 2016 04:13 pm
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Last week I went on a short walking holiday up to the Norfolk coast with my friend and fabulously talented animator/teacher/graphic novelist Sydney Padua, who had declared it a sketching holiday. I've been hearing from people for years that the Norfolk coast is a lovely place but had never managed to get there myself, so this was a good excuse to make the trip at last.

Sketches and photos together in the photo album below:


As I say, the Norfolk coast had come highly recommended, but what people mentioned was the wide sweeping seascapes, the dramatic weather, the bird life, the light and air ... what they completely failed to mention, and what might have got me there a lot sooner, is that's where Britain is hiding all its seafood – omigosh, so much amazing seafood, so many tasty pink sea bugs; I got so full on that trip I hardly ate for days afterwards.
tealin: (actually)
When I scanned the news headlines this morning, I saw something about Ted Cruz having bought 100 cans of soup. Why is this even a story I wondered, before turning my mind to the important matter of whether it was too early for breakfast.

This afternoon, this Tumblr post crossed my dashboard, and I realised that there were lots of people out there who didn't understand why this was a non-story – a hundred cans of Campbell's has some sort of inbuilt fascination, as Andy Warhol discovered, and it was a funny story, and we apparently needed some way to caricature Ted Cruz because Donald Trump sucks up all the available satire in the room. I am no fan of Cruz, but it bugged me that Tumblr, international HQ of outsiders aggrieved that no one makes the effort to understand people unlike themselves, should be pointing and laughing like this, so I wrote something. I don't expect its presence here to make any difference, but I know I'll lose it forever if it only stays on Tumblr, so here it is crossposted with very minor rewrites (I can't help picking at things).

Dear Internet,

I know you like a story about The Crazy, and doing down politicians you don’t like, but I think a lot of you are missing what might be important cultural context here.

Ted Cruz is Penetcostal (on the Evangelical fringe of the Evangelical Christians) and from Texas (if we’ve all agreed to forget that he was born in Canada). He is not Mormon from Utah, yet there is enough cultural crossover between right-wing Christian sects in the Western US that some of my experience living amongst Utah Mormons in Middle America might help make this story comprehensible.

In Mormonism, and in Utah especially, you’re strongly encouraged to have a large stock of food and survival supplies on hand because, as we all know, the End Times will shortly be upon us, and you will need to keep your large family fed and secure while the world outside your house falls to pieces.

It is also a fact that an inordinate number of recipes common to middle-class Utah Mormon families start with a can of Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup.

As the Mormon expectation of an imminent Armageddon is shared by many other Evangelical Christian groups, and the suburban middle class in Utah shares many other characteristics with analogous populations throughout the West – not least the delight in loading one’s enormous vehicle with several months’ worth of supplies bought at wholesale distributors like Costco, which is considered completely normal behaviour – it is not in the least bit surprising that a newly married man should embark upon his new life by supplying the family home with a large quantity of a staple foodstuff. The story doesn’t specify the soup, but in spite of an aversion to gambling I’d happily put $10 on it having been Condensed Cream of Mushroom.

To be clear, I don’t like Ted Cruz. I don’t like his policies, I don’t like his rhetoric, I don’t like his style, and the little I’ve seen of him, this far away and without a television, rings all my bells for ‘phony.’ While it rankles to step into the shoes of a Cruz apologist, there’s a more important motivation here than politics: A lack of understanding of the other side – a lack of trying to understand the other side, or indeed even wanting to – is what has made the current political and cultural situation in the States so vitriolic and hazardous, and it’s a phenomenon that, having become standard on the internet, is spreading. 100 cans of soup may be inherently funny, but pointing and laughing is just deepening the divide that is causing so many problems. If you want others to understand your group and not point and laugh unthinkingly, then don’t do that yourself. Golden rule, Humanity 101.


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