Recessive jeans

Cover of JeansMy parents shaped me way beyond my DNA. Hard as it is to believe, those two humble Scots forged my fashion destiny. To this day, my clothing choices hark back to them. Thanks Mom and Dad.

My father (normally a mild-mannered man) got in first when he forbade the wearing of denim jeans from under his roof. This was the Sixties for heaven’s sake. I did what any self respecting teen would do – developed an obsession with the faded blue fabric, hid my jeans at friends’ homes and married young.

My mother was not to be outdone. She loathed pink, thought sparkle in daywear was Common and honestly believed a nice frock was a fitting substitute for denim jeans. Bless her.

Even though fashion was such a fraught topic at home, I sewed a lot of my own stuff. Cover of 1960s Fashion PrintAnd, in what I now see as an early start in how to make life difficult for myself, I disdained Simplicity patterns and headed straight to Burda. Navigating their maze was the closest that I would ever come to Air Traffic Control. To this day I can smell the tailor’s chalk, feel the tracer’s wheel in my palm, hear Woodstock playing in the background, and see myself cutting my way round my absolute favourite fabric – Paisley.

I meet people who say they haven’t a creative bone in their bodies. They lie. Every single day, when we get up and get dressed, we make creative choices.  And you can reminisce on this in beautiful fashion books, you can even dream of featuring in The Sartorialist (the street fashion of real people). Truth is, what was everyday clothing to you all those years ago has probably attained iconic status by now.

Fast forward a few years. See that old lady in the boots, the jeans and the wildly patterned Paisley shirt?  That’s me. What will you be wearing when we meet?

What good are the arts?

Featuring John Carey (What Good are the Arts?), Denis Dutton (The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution), and Sarah Thornton (Seven Days in the Art World), Friday’s What good are the arts? session has left me with questions rather than answers, and so in the spirit of giving I’m passing them right on to you.  Please also bear in mind that my own educational background has taken the literature, libraries and psychology route, rather than the fine arts and high culture route, and that my current heroes include a lurching zombie and a man wearing an iron suit.  Oh, and check out the Friday night audio wrap-up to hear me possibly insulting one of the world’s best and brightest experts in the art world.  I am on fire here.

Here are a selection of some of the questions I wrote down.  Some are comments from the speakers, some came from the audience, and some are just my own little musings.  Ready?

1.  Is there a rule that art critics and art writers can only use words of more than 5 syllables, all of which must end in -icity, -osity, -ality or -ism?

2.  Is calling someone a neuroaesthetitian a compliment, an insult, or a job description?

3.  If, as the Auckland Festival says, Ideas Need Words, does that make literature the highest form of art?

4.  Can anyone, in fact, claim that there IS a highest form of art, or is all art appreciation an absolutely solitary and individual matter of personal taste?  In other words, are there, as Denis Dutton says, universal and cross-cultural eternal values, or is it the case, as John Carey posits, that “you cannot be another being”, thus making it impossible for anyone to pass judgement on anyone’s taste?

5.  Is there a a shop where you can buy paisley cravats and smoking jackets?  And if so, can someone take me there right now?

6.  If the purpose of art is to make us better people and to draw us closer together, does that make football a higher form of art than painting or poetry or sculpture?

Well, people?  I just know you all have ideas and opinions about these questions …  (Just please don’t get all shouty at me.)

Things we’ve learned (so far)

1.  The clothes change as the sessions change – What Good Are the Arts? inhabited by paisley/scarves/tweedy/horn-rimmed glasses/pea-green velvet smoking jackets AND A CRAVAT, while both the Jill Dawson set and the Michael Otterman lot are a mix of the twin-set and pearls crowd and the casual-rumpled-suit-sans-tie guys.

2.  Some people have really cool toys:  I sat behind a woman yesterday who was reading Mark Twain ON A KINDLE.  And David Levithan did his on-stage reading FROM HIS i-PAD.  I forgot to ask if I could touch it, but perhaps that’s for the best …

3.  It’s still perfectly acceptable to knit before, during and after sessions.

4.  Also to just randomly buy tickets and not have a clue what a session is about till it starts.  I love this, and say, Big Ups to you brave and passionately supportive people.  After all, every session is going to be a winner on some level. 

5.  It is actually possible to begin to miss vegetables.

6.  Shoes.  Shoes are really important.  You should, however, be careful never to wear pink patent leather heels with your burnt orange long-line cardigan.  No, really, don’t.  Also, two-tone lace-up brogues appear to be the shoe of choice.  I’m still looking for the ultimate ‘Festival Shoe’, but will let you know when I find it.

7.  Festival volunteers are here because they love what they are doing, and we love them.