Erwin Blumenfeld, from Dada to Vogue

Today is the last day of the office in Cavendish Square, with the advantage of the Mayfair galleries just a short step away. So very glad to have caught a great exhibition of work by Erwin Blumenfeld this lunchtime at Osborne Samuel on Bruton Street – Erwin Blumenfeld: From Dada to Vogue.

The exhibition includes some of his brilliant early work in collage as well as a wonderful selection of his experimental photography.

Erwin Blumenfeld: From Dada to Vogue

Nude, Paris, 1938

Above, Left: Nude, Paris, 1938

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Above: Hitlerfresse, Amsterdam, 1933

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Above: Shadow of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

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Born in Berlin in 1897 Blumenfeld left Germany after the First World War, settling first in Holland, where he established a Dutch arm of the Dadaist movement, then Paris, where he made some of his most famous images, including Nude Under Wet Silk (1937).

Fleeing France in 1941 he settled in New York where he became one of the most internationally sought-after portrait and fashion photographers in the 1940s and 1950s. Remember his iconic Vogue cover of 1950 (not in the exhibition):

erwin_blumenfeld_vogue_1950

For more information see http://www.erwinblumenfeld.com/

From Dada to Vogue until 29th October 2016: www.osbornesamuel.com

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The Circle

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The circle of the last year is complete; the new one just beginning. The party’s over, or it’s just beginning. Let’s face the music, and dance. Wishing you, dear Reader, a happy New Year.

[Image/post in response to this week’s WordPress photo challenge theme of Circle]

Documentation, Disrupted

Just came across this great presentation by Google tech writer Riona MacNamara at WriteTheDocs recent Portland conference (May 19, 2015).

The subject area is technical documentation, and is very interesting on that score. But it’s about so much more – most importantly, what you can achieve by being audacious (but not reckless), focused (but open and generous), and unafraid.

I love the subtle qualifications that make all the difference – audacious, but not reckless, for example. Though note that there is no qualification for unafraid: you’ve just got to be unafraid (or, maybe as likely, feel the fear – and do it anyway. There’s also a lot of good stuff on happiness, work and making a difference.

Now looking at ways to get to the WriteTheDocs conference in Prague.

Anyway, enjoy – and one thought to take away:

“Authority and influence don’t derive from your resumé, but from action and impact.” Riona MacNamara

Handshake addendum

Whilst on the subject (of handshakes), remarks by Professor Peter Piot on Desert Island Discs this morning made fascinating – and poignant – listening.

He is Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an expert on HIV and Ebola.

On a recent trip to Sierra Leone he noticed that the local people have developed new conventions for greeting – the ‘Ebola shake’ – in order to avoid the touching of hands which, in the presence of Ebola, can be deadly.

Men are greeting each other by touching elbows; Women, a touch on the dress.

He emphasised what a significant change this was in a culture where “touch is huge” and making a physical connection when you greet someone is deeply rooted.

It will be interesting to see if this marks a permanent change or whether, after the epidemic, people return to shaking hands.

You can listen to the clip here, and the entire programme here.

And incidentally (I’m just discovering this subject is huge!), listen to how campaigner and supreme networker Julia Cleverdon’s “fingers itch every time I arrive at a gathering” here.

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How to Give a Good Handshake

shaking-hands

Getting out and about in the New Year has got me thinking about handshakes. We all know how important first impressions are – so how can you make the best first impression with your handshake?

It’s seems the subject is fraught with insecurity – according to a survey for Chevrolet (quoted by The Daily Mail) some 70% of people said they lacked confidence about their ability to give a good handshake.

So, gathering together some advice (including from etiquette international) – How to shake hands with aplomb:

First things first

  • Use the right hand
  • Keep the fingers together with the thumb open and up
  • Extend your hand forward to the other person’s so that thumb and forefingers meet

Proper character

  • Squeeze firmly, but not bone-crushingly (!). The object is to convey trust and reassurance, not overbearing dominance
  • If the other person offers a very limp hand, consider giving a gentle squeeze; he/she may take this as a cue to grip more firmly
  • If you are sitting down, stand up before extending your hand (unless you are both sitting at a table)
  • Leave your left hand open by your side; don’t leave it in your pocket – a clear signal of lack of interest

How long should a handshake last?

  • Shake hands by creating and up and down motion by raising your hand from the elbow a couple of times so that the handshake lasts about 3 seconds.
  • Release after the shake, even if you are continuing to introduce yourselves. More than three ‘shakes’ begins to suggest ‘psycho’; or extreme nervousness.
  • Do not pump the hand (‘unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand” – Tom Chiarella)

Whilst you are shaking hands

  • Smile
  • Maintain eye contact with the other person
  • Offer an appropriate verbal greeting e.g. ‘Very pleased to meet you.” [Sidebar: classically, the correct answer to the question ‘How do you do?’ is to repeat the question. However, I find this a bit formal for most purpose and prefer a “Very well thank you; And yourself..?” or something along those lines. Naturally I say ‘Very well’ even if feeling at death’s door.]

Handshaking turn-offs

  • Sweaty palms
  • Limp-wristed grip
  • Extending fingers only

Handshaking tips

To prevent clammy hands:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water beforehand
  • Consider applying a spray of antiperspirant once or more a day, and/or using alcohol-based wipes
  • Drink plenty of water

If you are at an event with drinks, hold the drink in the left hand to avoid giving a cold, wet handshake

A caution

“You can tell the character of a person by their handshake.” Kathy Magliato. But beware: giving a proper handshake can also be learned and deployed by the bounder — “I have twice met Jeffrey Archer, and on both occasions was struck by the firmness of his handshake – and the way he looked me straight in the eye, too.” Craig Brown

And finally

Thank you kindly for stopping by, and If you have enjoyed this post please share it on your preferred social networks. 

Twelve Shims at Dorchester Hospital

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Twelve Shims, by David Nash. (1999)

Really enjoyed this work at Dorchester hospital this afternoon.

Luckily this time only an out-patient but seeing this you can almost forget why you were there. It makes a difference and transforms the space. Like a row of full sails gusting along the corridor, it’s a joy to behold and lifts the spirits.

“Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship in the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick …Sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” (Susan Sontag).

Art in hospitals helps to make the other place more bearable.

Jack Kerouac’s essentials for prose

Jack Kerouac (right) and Neal Cassady (photo by Carolyn Cassady)

Jack Kerouac (right) and Neal Cassady (photo by Carolyn Cassady)

I just picked up Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones and was struck by the four essentials that she quotes from Jack Kerouac’s ‘Essentials for Prose,’:

1. Accept loss forever

2. Be submissive to everything, open, listening

3. No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language, and knowledge

4. Be in love with your life

And of these the first and fourth run deepest, not just for writing but for life: Accept loss forever. Hitting the hard, flinty truth of what’s necessary to keep focused on today and tomorrow, and leaving yesterday behind. And perhaps a necessary condition for number 4.

There are others, including ‘Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in the mind’ and ‘Keep track of every day, the date emblazoned in yr morning.’ But I also like:

Like Proust, be an old teahead of time.

And coincidentally… in my inbox the latest from Jamie Jauncey’s excellent blog at A Few Kind Words – I love that title. This week he is talking about writing, mentioning in passing Stephen King whose ‘On Writing’ I have also just been reading, and sets out the ‘Flowers Paradigm’ of Betty Sue Flowers (who is emeritus professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, amongst much else):

Every writer brings four people to the writing table: a madman, an architect, a carpenter and a judge. The madman is the unfettered creative genius, the source of raw energy and ideas. The architect is the visionary and planner who gives shape to the building born of the madman’s ideas. The carpenter hammers away bringing form to the architect’s plans. The judge waits till everyone else has finished, then goes round with a magnifying glass shaking his or her head. The trick for the writer, of course, is to understand that he or she needs them all at different stages of the process.

Written largely in a single burst of creative energy in April 1951, few books match On The Road for sheer exhilaration – the exhilaration of being alive, of being on the journey. I remember the first time I read it and how I was completely enthralled, intoxicated even, devouring page after page late into the night until I reached the end. Then starting all over again.

On The Road first editionThe extraordinary energy of the prose, poured out onto a single 120-foot roll of tracing paper sheets that he cut to size and taped together, retains its power, even if some of the attitudes have dated. The book’s essential wild mix of of hedonism and asceticism is still thrilling: Accept loss forever. Be submissive to everything, open, listening. Be in love with your life.

Two versions of the book are now available, before and after the interventions of the judge: The (standard) text as first published by Viking in 1957, which is the first draft revised and edited by Kerouac and incorporating changes demanded by the publisher, and the first draft itself (the madman unfettered), published as On the Road: The Original Scroll.

On The Road original scroll
Original scroll of ‘On The Road’Jack Kerouac – Beliefs and Techniques for Modern Prose

Here’s the full list of Kerouac’s essentials. As you can see, not necessarily just for prose, but also for life. Or the other way round.

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy

2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house

4. Be in love with yr life

5. Something that you feel will find its own form

6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

7. Blow as deep as you want to blow

8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind

9. The unspeakable visions of the individual

10. No time for poetry but exactly what is

11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest

12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you

13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time

15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog

16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye

17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself

18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea

19. Accept loss forever

20. Believe in the holy contour of life

21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind

22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better

23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning

24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge

25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it

26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form

27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness

28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better

29. You’re a Genius all the time

30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Terror, success and French wine

I like the quick boost a good quote can give you, and just stumbled on three great ones this morning:

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou:

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

Georgia O’Keefe:

Georgia O'Keefe

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.

and this thought for the weekend… from John Keats:

John Keats

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.”

More on my Fire Starters Pinterest page

 

Are you ready?

Rolling Stones at Glastonbury

Rolling Stones at Glastonbury. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images via telegraph.co.uk

One for rock trivia fans:

“Everybody seems to be ready. Are you ready?”

Mick Jagger, Madison Square Gardens, November 1969 (only two weeks before Altamont, or so I read on Amazon).  ‘Get Yer Ya Yas Out’.

Leonard Cohen at the Isle of Wight“Are you ready? Is everybody ready?”

Leonard Cohen, Isle of Wight, August 31 1970.  ‘Leonard Cohen Live at The Isle of Wight 1970′.

After that, things get pretty different. But both great performances. And, after seeing LC recently at Waldbühne in Berlin – a fantastic, magical performance – and the Stones at Glastonbury (though on TV only sadly), both are still going strong.

Leonard’s recent renaissance, incidentally, is a good example of a positive created from misfortune: having his money stolen by his manager has led to his re-engagement with life and the world. Bad luck or good luck? Or are they just two sides of the same coin?

If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same; (Kipling)

Meanwhile… know any other live albums that begin with ‘Are you ready?’

Carpe Diem – Proust on fishing

water-birch

There’s no irony (is there?) that a novel the length of ‘In Search of Lost Time’ is in fact about seizing the moment – or rather, trying to understand / appreciate / experience the full depth of every moment.

In this it is closer to the more accurate rendition of the phrase ‘carpe diem’ as ‘enjoy the day, pluck the day when it is ripe.’ (thank you, phrases.org.uk).

Here he is on catching the fleeting glance of a stranger through the window of a carriage travelling in the opposite direction:

… as soon as her individuality, a soul still vague, a will unknown to me, presented a tiny picture of itself, enormously reduced but complete, in the depths of her indifferent eyes, at once, by a mysterious response of the pollen ready in me for the pistils that should receive it, I felt surging through me the embryo, equally vague, equally minute, of the desire not to let this girl pass without forcing her mind to become aware of my person, without preventing her desires from wandering to someone else, without insinuating myself into her dreams and taking possession of her heart. Meanwhile our carriage had moved on; the pretty girl was already behind us; and as she had—of me—none of those notions which constitute a person in one’s mind, her eyes, which had barely seen me, had forgotten me already.

For Proust, every day is ripe for the picking; it is only habit and familiarity (and laziness) that dulls our vivid experience of every moment.

In the first place, the impossibility of stopping when we meet a woman, the risk of not meeting her again another day, give her at once the same charm as a place derives from the illness or poverty that prevents us from visiting it, or the lustreless days which remain to us to live from the battle in which we shall doubtless fall. So that, if there were no such thing as habit, life must appear delightful to those of us who are continually under the threat of death—that is to say, to all mankind.

And to fully appreciate every moment, it’s no good standing back, on the sidelines:

in the state of mind in which we “observe” we are a long way below the level to which we rise when we create.

To truly catch the fleeting moment we need to engage our imagination:

We need, between us and the fish which, if we saw it for the first time cooked and served on a table, would not appear worth the endless shifts and wiles required to catch it, the intervention, during our afternoons with the rod, of the rippling eddy to whose surface come flashing, without our quite knowing what we intend to do with them, the bright gleam of flesh, the hint of a form, in the fluidity of a transparent and mobile azure.

Proust on fishing! Who knew?! It certainly slipped by me first time around. But caught this time. All of which is to say, in a roundabout way, that after a break I’m just limbering up for Volume III: The Guermantes Way.

Beauty and daily life

Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera

Stop. Listen. Think. Look
The point of art is to remind us to be alive. To open our eyes. This is a great quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera:

It is wrong to chide the novel for being satisfied by mysterious coincidences, but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.

Thank you musicthoughts.com (a new site by Derek Sivers) for reminding me of this great quote from the book by Milan Kundera. The site is a growing compendium of quotes, mainly about music. Here’s another great quote on the site, from Proust:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Being You

I was listening to Tom Waits version of ‘Somewhere‘ (on ‘Blue Valentine’) and remembering Leonard Bernstein, in the documentary of the 1984 recording of West Side Story (the first time he conducted his own music, incidentally), tearing his hair out because Jose Carreras (playing Tony) just couldn’t help but keep slipping back into perfect pronunciation, away from the street gang edge that Bernstein was looking for.

Tom Waits by Anton Corbijn

Tom Waits by Anton Corbijn

More than likely Waits would be more than a few shades too far the other way for Bernstein (and indeed my mother-in-law who thought the CD player had broken), but opera singers versions of folk or pop songs rarely work because the sound of their voice is just too pure and polished.

And you don’t have to go as far as opera singers. Just think of the Byrds’ limp, smoothed out version of Mr Tambourine Man which empties the song of all challenge and meaning (even whilst it way outsold Dylan’s version). Listen to the sand and glue of Dylan and you feel the power of the words.

It’s something Seth Godin pointed to in his post ‘Effortless’,  taking John Coltrane playing ‘Harmonique’ as an example:

Sometimes, “never let them see you sweat,” is truly bad advice. The work of an individual who cares often exposes the grit and determination and effort that it takes to be present.

Perfecting your talk, refining your essay and polishing your service until all elements of you disappear might be obvious tactics, but they remove the thing we were looking for: you.

To get in the mood for celebrating you, just watch this encore from the proms in which Gustavo Dudamel and the Bolivars (Simon Bolivar Orchestra) don tracksuit tops in Venezuelan colours and rip into ‘Mambo!’ (from West Side Story). Speaking to Intelligent Life, Jamie Bernstein (daughter of Leonard) had no doubt her father would have loved it:

“I never thought I would again have those chills in a concert that I used to get watching my dad conduct … He would have gone down there, to Venezuela, in a shot. He would have crushed every rib in Gustavo’s body with a hug … He would have been beside himself with excitement.”
 

Remembering the Holocaust

Stolperstein

When one works, one suffers and there is no time to think: our homes are less than a memory. But here [in Ka Be, the infirmary] the time is ours: from bunk to bunk, despite the prohibition, we exchange visits and we talk and we talk. The wooden hut, crammed with suffering humanity, is full of words, memories and of another pain. ‘Heimweh’, the Germans call this pain; it is a beautiful word, it means ‘longing for one’s home’.

Primo Levi, ‘If This Is A Man’ (from Chapter 4 ‘Ka-Be)

A ‘Stolperstein’ (‘stumbling block’; plural Stolpersteine) on Nollendorfstraße, Berlin, just down the road from No. 17, Fraulein Thurau’s boarding house, where Christopher Isherwood lived between 1929 and 1933 and wrote the stories that would be published as Goodbye to Berlin (and inspired the movie Cabaret).

The Stolpersteine are a memorialisation project by artist Gunter Demnig. These small, cobblestone-sized brass memorials to the victims of Nazism are set into the pavement in front of buildings where a victim once lived or worked, calling attention both to the individual victim and the scope of the Nazi war crimes.

So far more than 32,000 Stolpersteine have been installed in over 700 cities across Europe, including Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, in the Czech Republic, in Poland, in Italy (Rome) and Norway (Oslo).

Posted on Holocaust Memorial Day. Photo: Westrow, Berlin, 5 Sept 2012

David Bowie and George Orwell meet in blank space

Blank space is the central theme in the design for two iconic works released this month.

The album cover for the thrilling and unexpected release of new music by David Bowie, with strong allusions to his Berlin period, is presented in a blanked out cover of Heroes:

Album cover for 'The Next Day' by David Bowie

Album cover for ‘The Next Day’ by David Bowie

In his post on the design, Jonathan Barnbrook writes

The obscuring of an image from the past is also about the wider human condition; we move on relentlessly in our lives to the next day, leaving the past because we have no choice but to. [read full text here]

In the new edition of George Orwell’s 1984 released to commemorate the inaugural ‘Orwell Day’ (today! 21 Jan 2013), the text is blacked out using matt black foil over debossed type, leaving just enough of an imprint for the reader to make out the words – and subtly communicating the idea that censorship and authoritarianism will never fully succeed in eradicating memory or possibility.

Cover for 1984 by George Orwell by David Pearson

Cover for 1984 by George Orwell by David Pearson

We can be heroes, for more than one day …

Proust on Procrastination

Proust, portait by Jacques Emile Blanche

In this wonderful passage Proust nails procrastination and all the evasive and equivocal excuses we give ourselves for putting off until tomorrow what we should be doing today. Incisive, but also very funny. We may deceive others, or even ourselves, temporarily, but deep down we know:

Had I been less firmly resolved upon settling down definitively to work, I should perhaps have made an effort to begin at once. But since my resolution was explicit, since within twenty-four hours, in the empty frame of the following day where everything was so well arranged because I myself was not yet in it, my good intentions would be realised without difficulty, it was better not to start on an evening when I felt ill-prepared. The following days were not, alas, to prove more propitious.

[ … ]

Confident that by the day after tomorrow I should have written several pages, I said not a word more to my parents of my decision; I preferred to remain patient for a few hours and then to bring to a convinced and comforted grandmother a sample of work that was already under way. Unfortunately the next day was not that vast, extraneous expanse of time to which I had feverishly looked forward. When it drew to a close, my laziness and my painful struggle to overcome certain internal obstacles had simply lasted twenty-four hours longer.

[ … ]

To my parents it seemed almost as though, idle as I was, I was leading, since it was spent in the same salon as a great writer, the life most favourable to the growth of talent. And yet the assumption that anyone can be dispensed from having to create that talent for himself, from within himself, and can acquire it from someone else, is as erroneous as to suppose that a man can keep himself in good health (in spite of neglecting all the rules of hygiene and of indulging in the worst excesses) merely by dining out often in the company of a physician.

[From In Search of Lost Time Vol.II]

He goes on (of course!), but it really is time I got some work done …

How to do what you need to do to achieve what you want to achieve? It’s summed up perfectly in this morning’s daily truthbomb (#193) from Danielle LaPorte:

Love the necessary hard work.

 

Rituals to Reach Your Potential Every Day

Though we start off with the best of intentions, especially at this time of the year, all too soon – and all too often – things can unravel.

I came across these six rituals in a fast company article early in December and am finding they actually work – and are fairly easy to keep to on a daily basis. They are simple, but powerful:

1. Drink a glass of water when you wake up

This helps to rehydrate your body after a night’s sleep and prepare you for the fresh day ahead

2. Define your top 3

Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise! Decide the three most important things you need to get done each day, and don’t finish for the day until you’ve got them done!

3. The 50/10 rule

Taking a short break every hour helps keep your mind fresh and gives you the space to re-frame and re-focus your thinking about a project

4. Move and sweat daily

Exercise relives stress and helps keep you alert and healthy.

5. Express gratitude

First thing you do every morning, write out in a journal at least five things you’re grateful for. Helps to balance the mind for the day ahead.

If you use a Mac and/or iPhone I can recommend Day One, a brilliant little app which makes journaling very quick and easy.

6. Reflect daily

Last thing – reflect on what went well during the day and what can you do better

Read more here in Amber Rae’s article on Mike Del Ponte’s top tips for keeping yourself in shape and ready for anything. And let me know how you get on.

To your success in 2013!