Thursday, 25 February 2010

The pride of the artist stripped bare by his patroness, even.

As a last resort, Marcel Duchamp rode the subway north, alighting at 66th Street. Fastening the belt of his raincoat tighter, he walked quickly to the Arensbergs’ house (a journey he had made many times before). He knocked on the large oak door, and Louise answered wearing an elegant long white dress, with a blue silk scarf around her neck. She took a moment to survey Marcel on her doorstep in his filthy brown mackintosh, then flatly intoned ‘Marcel, how wonderful to see you. Please come in.’
Marcel followed Louise through the hallway, and into the drawing room where he took a seat close to the fireplace. Louise remained at the doorway: ‘Can I get you a drink? Walter is out of town, I’m afraid. Tea? Un café?’
‘Louise, I need help’
Louise released a small sigh, and then took her place opposite him, all the while keeping her eyes fixed on his face. That Gallic, chiselled countenance that she knew so well: Older than its years, yet handsome enough to charm. For his part, Marcel kept his gaze downcast, studying the intricate patterns of the Indian rug.
‘Marcel we already are helping you. How can we do more?’ She paused, suddenly enjoying the power that she held over him. ‘Perhaps if you were more forthcoming with your work? We haven’t had anything from you for so long. Walter believes that we may never see The Large Glass. I defend you, of course, but I wonder how long this can continue, when I have nothing from you?’
Marcel had not expected this attack. He lifted his head to meet her eyes: ‘But…the sketches. I showed you the sketches.’
‘Oui Marcel, but those were just ideas. If we are to continue this agreement, then we need more from you.’ In the silence that followed, an idea formed in Louise’s mind: ‘Ah! But let us not talk of work. It can be so lonely in this big house, all by myself. It is so good to have some company.’
Like a puppy that has been struck by its owner, Marcel looked uncomprehendingly at Louise.
‘Perhaps there is some way that I could help you,’ she drawled, ‘but of course, you would have to do something for me in return. No? Then I am sorry Marcel. It seems we have reached something of an impasse.’
This time he knew that he must speak, but for the longest time, he did not know what to say.
‘What do you want me to do?’ he asked, in all innocence.
A smile wound its way around Louise’s face. Conspiratorially, she walked over to where Marcel sat, and lowered her face to his: ‘There is a new game of which I am rather fond. In this game, two players must compete to build a tower of wooden bricks – each time taking a brick from the bottom of the tower, and placing it at the top with sufficient care to ensure that the tower does not tumble.’ As she spoke, she retrieved a wooden box from a drawer. ‘The player that fells the tower is deemed the loser of the game. It is really most diverting.’
Marcel could not help a curl of disgust to form around his lips. Though a placid man, he had his limit. Though he was renowned as an artist, he spent most of his time playing chess in the cafés around Greenwich Village. He took chess very seriously, and he played well - the game was the right combination of mathematics and Machiavellian plotting to appeal to Marcel. This new game of bricks and towers was infantile! An insult!
He raised himself to his full height, pushed his patron out of the way, and in so doing cascaded the wooden blocks in a clatter over her floor. ‘I WILL NOT LOWER MYSELF TO THIS! GOOD-BYE.’ He exited the house, slamming the door shut behind him, and marched down the street.
After only fifty paces, he reached inside his trouser pockets to find them empty, and considered for a moment going back to Louise’s front door to ask for a nickel for the train-ride home. It was too late. He pulled his collar up high, and as the rain began to fall, he began the long walk home.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Insecurity of a sasquatch with above-average intelligence is exposed

Adam Schriver, a sasquatch from the Yukon area of Western Canada was notoriously insecure about his education. Born to a middle-class family of sasquatches, in fairly affluent forest, Adam had a more privileged upbringing than many of his friends and colleagues, and had achieved reasonable exam results. Nevertheless, he often underestimated his own intelligence, and as a result, his ambitions in life were limited.
This was highlighted in Adam's mind one Friday night, when he sat down, as he often did, to watch an episode of QI (a panel show featuring a human named Stephen Fry that Adam greatly admired). During the programme, Adam noticed that Stephen used the word 'one' as a pronoun: He said that 'one could use it as such if one so wished'. Adam reflected that he had never had the confidence to use 'one' in such a way. He felt sorry that this was the case, and resolved to slip it in at the earliest possible occasion, in order to somewhat improve his image as an intellectual ape.
The following day, on a lunch break with the boys, talk turned to the Winter Olympics, which were currently taking place in BC. The rest of the sasquatches present felt that the luge was an event ruled by chance, a sport which required luck more than skill. Adam saw his chance. He had a cousin that had once participated in the sport, and so he felt more qualified than most to comment on their mistaken assumption.
'Actually, a great deal of skill is required to steer the luge. One must use one's calf to exert pressure on the front runners, and one's shoulders on the rear of the seat. A professional luge athlete must maintain a fine balance of shifting their body weight, applying pressure with their feet and rolling their opposite shoulder simultaneously. It is really quite a difficult sport.'
As the words left Adam's mouth, his co-workers stopped eating their sandwiches and stared, open mouthed at Adam. Eugene (the Alpha of the group) waited patiently for eye contact, and then sardonically raised one simian eyebrow.
Adam went on to live for another 42 years in the Yukon area of Western Canada. He never again used the word 'one' in this way.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A List of reasons

There are reasons. I mean, I couldn’t come up with them at the time, but yes – there are reasons to get rid of them. Lots of reasons:
1) Life is short.
2) I work long hours, and so seldom see them anyway.
3) They are ugly.
4) We have to employ babysitters to feed them when we go on holiday.
5) I could do without the extra responsibility.
6) It’s not environmentally sound to keep them (and I think it may be cruel).
7) Their staring eyes taunt me.
8) I don’t think it’s hygienic to be touching their food.
9) When I drink, after you have gone to bed, I place my hand into the tank and look at it magnified through the glass, the fish exploring my outstretched fingers. Sometimes I can be there for thirty to forty minutes. I don’t think that this is healthy.
10) We could scoop the fish up with a net, carry them in a jar to the sea, release them and watch them gratefully swim away. Then we could return to the tank with a lump hammer, smash the glass and watch the water flap in one liquid lump to the floor, then crash and split into bouncing droplets before settling into one large soggy puddle punctuated with shards of glass on our living room carpet, and we could stand over the scene, the two of us, and for the moment before regret and thoughts of cleaning up set in, we would feel like: Yes! This is life! This is living! I am ALIVE!

So anyway… those are my reasons. I’ll let you make the final decision. They’re your fish.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

...Like a sore thumb

The scar on your thumb, which you caught on a nail while taking down shelving, is bothering you. Each time you place your hand in your pocket, or slip on a glove (which is often, during this gelid weather) the scab catches, and a small amount of translucent fluid is secreted. You wonder if it is infected. You prod it and squeeze around it, but no – it seems fine. It's just a nuisance.
It could have been so much worse. You don't realise this, but if you hadn't caught your thumb on that nail, there would have been a much worse accident, so really it was lucky for you that the shelves needed removing.
Following the initial rejection, people told you that you took the news well. You were characteristically philosophical about it. 'It's a part of the job,' you declared, 'I'll bounce back.'
In fact, you felt fine in yourself: maybe a little more snappy with the children, perhaps a little quicker to frustration when dealing with phone calls, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Taking the shelves down from the wall should have been a fairly straightforward job. The problem was that the screws were very old, and so it was difficult to get a purchase with your electric screwdriver. After trying a number of different screwdrivers, your patience was wearing thin. Puffing, sweating and shouting expletives you threw down your screwdrivers and reached for the claw hammer. As the shelf finally ripped from the wall (along with the plaster behind it) it hit you on the side of the head, and a nail tore the skin at the side of your thumb (the thumb which has been causing you so much trouble of late).
The episode with the shelving was unpleasant, but it was a release. You can't deny that it shifted that little ball of rage that had been lying dormant within your rib-cage. And if it hadn’t been the shelves, then that fury would have found a way out somehow. Just think: you could have crashed the car, or punched your boss, or got drunk and picked a fight with an old friend. It could have been so much worse. Really. You should thank those shelves.