On Hedonism

I’ve recently been re-reading one of my favourite books, Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History‘. I fell in love with it as a teenager because it reminded me so clearly of the sensuous decadence and lyrical lushness of one of my other all-time favourites, ‘Brideshead Revisited‘. Tonight I’ve been invited to a Bacchanalia-themed party, which brought me back to the classical debauchery of Tartt’s dark and evocative story. I plan on dressing in a long white flowing dress, with flowers in my hair, and I will be drinking wine from a bowl and revelling with the gods. Here’s to hedonism, indulging the senses and being alive!

“It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown I back, throat to the stars, “more like deer than human being.” To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.”

(unknown, unknown, Waterhouse, Brideshead Revisited, David LaChappell, Paloma Faith,  The Great Gatsby, Le Divan Rouge, Erwin Olaf, Mert & Marcus, unknown, Manko Honey, Annie Leibowitz)

Cultural Review: March Madness and Beyond

Here comes my round-up of the new and recent culture that has caught my eye. With a bit of a mental-health slant (well, sort-of). Here are a few of my picks of recent weeks, enjoy!

The Apprentice

Last week saw the return of the nation’s favourite display of arrogance and narcissism and general meanness. Another group of entrepreneurs brutally fight it out to go into business with Sir Alan Sugar. Cue bitchy back-stabbing and stitching-up, compulsive car-crash viewing. Watching this always reminds me of the Board & Fritzon paper on high levels of personality disordered traits (psychopathy, OCD, narcissism) in business managers. Wednesday at 9.00 on BBC1.

The Master and Margarita at the Barbican

I’ve been excited about this one for a while. Bulgakov’s classic of black magic, decadence and insanity on the streets of Moscow, is this month brought to the London theatre. The book, which inspired Mick Jagger to write ‘Sympathy for the Devil‘, features naked, flying witches, a talking cat and a rather brutal decapitation, so I’m very curious as to how they will bring this to the stage. Rather like an grown-up Alice in Wonderland, this surreal and often very bizarre tale tells of how the devil comes to Russia, and sooner or later everyone is losing their heads (some literally).

50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I decided to read this book after hearing all the fuss about it. Baring in mind I have neither read Twilight, nor am familiar with fan-fic (aside from a time about aged 15, when my all-girls school had a bit of a craze for Harry Potter slash, passed around at the back of the classroom), I can’t really comment on the book’s relating to either. There are no vampires in this one, but stars an emotionally aloof playboy love-object who bewitches our rather personality-less virginal heroine. She wants him, he wants her, but on the condition that she enter his kinky world of BDSM. If you’re looking for a good bit of book-porn, you might be disappointed. The sex scenes are actually remarkably short and simplistic, there’s a lot more time given to a rather twee and trite love-story. High-class erotica this also isn’t; there’s rather a lot of cliched phrases like ‘come for me baby!‘ and our heroine is always saying things to herself like ‘Holy cow!‘ when she sees her beau take off his shirt. It is rather silly but enjoyable in that way. There’s quite a bit of speculation about how Christian must have had an awful past to develop his ‘need’ for domination, which I found a little unconvincing. Apparently there are 2 more books to come, not sure if I’ll bother.

Mad Men

Ah advertising, one of the greatest abuses of psychology to date. Don Draper and Co return today for more whiskey in the morning, casual adultery, sexism and sharp dressing.   I’m hoping there’ll be a bit more of a focus on little Sally Draper, child of the Draper’s broken marriage, carted off to therapy in previous series by her neurotic mother. Undoubtedly smarter than she is disturbed, Sally seems to work people out. And she mixes a good cocktail.

Korn

My favourite daddy-hating, adidas-wearing nu-metallers are on tour this week. There can be something very therapeutic about screaming ‘Shut up! Shut up! Shut up, I’ll f**k you up!’ at the top of your lungs. There’s no-doubt to be some coverage of tracks from their marmitey dub-step album, produced with Skrillex. If you prefer something with a little more depth, prog-metal superstars Tool just announced their releasing a new album.

Save St Paul’s Carnival!

I may be living in London now, but I think I left my heart in Bristol.

Sad news today as I heard that the famous St Pauls Carnival is being scaled back due to lack of funding. This will mean the carnival is contained within the Portland Square and there won’t be any late-night sound systems. If you’ve never been to the carnival before, it really is one of the highlights of the Bristol year. In the middle of the summer, the event sees a massive parade through the St Pauls area, with floats, dancers, musicians and other performers. Similar in some ways to the Notting Hill Carnival, the event has an afro-carribean flavour, celebrating the city’s rich multicultural heritage. The masses are attracted to come and see bands and DJs play the various make-shift stages, visit the fairground rides, eat some jerk-chicken from a stall set-up in someone’s garden and lounge on the grass with a pint of cider. The entire area has a festival atmosphere to it as streets are closed off to cars and masses mill around. The event attracts people from all over Bristol and beyond. In the evening various sound-stages are set up to play an eclectic mix of music, one of the most famous being in the Malcolm X centre car-park, and hoards of people dance their way into the next day.

It’s a truly fantastic event. Being there made me really feel part of the city, wandering around, taking in the spicy scent on the air, seeing so many different people of all ages and backgrounds coming together. It feels like this is what Bristol is about, art, diversity and community. St Pauls does have a bad reputation from the past as an area for drugs and crime, which has been hard to shift. But this event really pulls people in and celebrates all that’s special in the area, its unique character. Seeing school children in the parade with their hand-made costumes and banners sends a strong message that this is not an area to be ashamed of, this is the true beating heart of the city.

The event costs £250,000 to stage and sadly they only received £3,000 in donations at the event last year. This hasn’t been well-publicised so there hasn’t been much opportunity to fundraise before the decision to down-size the event was announced. But there is still something we can do to help this event stay great. On the St Pauls Carnival website they have details of how donations can be made by text, I’ve just done mine. See you next summer!

Photos by me.