Writing

Some kettle suggestions

The other day I asked on Twitter whether anyone could recommend a good kettle. I didn’t expect much but ended up with lots of suggestions, many for kettles I hadn’t seen before. So I thought I’d share them here.

I said:

Anyone got a kettle they really like? We need a new one. I’m not sure one can feel excited about a kettle but they’re all a bit mehhhhh.

Our current kettle, a chrome Kenwood, dribbles when pouring, although it was fine for most of its life (15+ years). Our criteria for a new one:

  • Water gauge (common, but missing on our current one)
  • Fast and quiet boiling
  • Looks nice
  • Not stupidly expensive

I was quite keen on a variable temperature kettle – less-than-boiling is better for coffee – but not at the expense of the other criteria.

We made targeted strikes on a few department stores and came away uninspired. Most kettles were ugly or boring or both. So, to Twitter!

As Peter Merholz reminded me the first stop for recommendations should be The Sweethome, and their top pick is:

Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp kettleCuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp kettle

It’s about £70, which seems a bit much for a water-boiler, and that button-filled handle looks a bit too Star Trek for my taste. Variable temperatures and a Sweethome recommendation sound good, but reviews on Amazon say the kettle’s blue light stays on all the time, even when it’s not boiling, which puts me right off.

Peter also said:

This is ours: https://www.amazon.com/Oster-2-Liter-… Inexpensive, use it everyday, doesn’t make us angry, does what you want.

I should have added “doesn’t make us angry” to my list of requirements.

Oster 5965 kettleOster 5965 kettle

It looks interesting but I’m a bit put off that when I try and visit Oster’s page for this kettle I’m redirected to the front of osterblenders.co.uk. It’s not for us Britons, obviously.

Philip Bragg said:

I’m keen on our purple kenwood kettle, it feels right, might be discontinued. Also Severin WK 3389 great for ppl with arthritis

I hadn’t heard of Severin (“Tasteful Technology”) but they do some fairly simple-looking kettles. And that WK 3389 is a pleasing shape:

Severin WK 3389 kettleSeverin WK 3389 kettle

About £35. But it only holds 1.2 litres (about 0.5 litres less than most) and is only 1500 watts. Fast-boiling kettles seem to go up to 3000 W, so I guess this would be a bit slow.

Kumail Hunaid said:

I haven’t gotten it yet but I really like the Delonghi kettles

http://www.delonghi.com/en-au/products…

http://www.delonghi.com/en-gb/products…

Here’s the first of those:

De'Longhi IconaDe’Longhi Icona kettle

About £50. Another, private, correspondent said of their De’Longhi Icona, “it hasn’t broken and boils water”. Aside from these important criteria, I’m not crazy about the design.

You could say that this style is not my… wait for it… cup of tea.

I couldn’t resist that any longer.

Matt Croydon said:

we’re ridiculously happy with our Breville Tea Maker. It’s a bit over the top but has been making several pots a day for 2+ yrs.

Breville Tea MakerBreville Tea Maker

This “revolutionary tea experience” (also the strapline of the Boston Tea Party) looks fairly clean and simple if you only need hot water for tea. But we need it for coffee and for boiling water for cooking (quicker than a saucepan). It also appears to cost about £200. So, no.

A private correspondent admired the look of the Skandium Emma kettle, although they hadn’t used it:

Skandium Emma kettleSkandium Emma kettle

It does look classy, as you’d hope for £120. My first thought was that the handle looks like it’d break off easily, but that’s based on no evidence. Only 1.2 litres and no details on the wattage, but still desirable.

Nick Marsh said:

here’s an electric kettle with a pleasing form http://www.muji.eu/pages/online.a… - N.B I have no personal experience of this kettle

Muji kettleMuji electric kettle

Nice to see something that’s not metal or glossy plastic, but £60 seems a lot for such a small kettle (0.5 litres).

Nick also said:

I have this kettle. It’s very pleasing to look at and use: http://www.davidmellordesign.com/cooking-and-ba…

Gateway Japan kettleGateway Japan kettle

I can imagine this £90 kettle is very satisfying but we’re planning to stick with a kettle powered directly by electricity.

While we’re on the topic, Tom Coates suggested:

I have the oxo good grips stove top one and I like it a lot, but I’m not a huge kettle user

Oxo Uplift Anniversary Edition kettleOxo Uplift Anniversary Edition kettle

I do love the ease and comfort of OXO products but, leaving aside it being a stove-top, it doesn’t appear to be available in the UK. It’s about US$50.

Paul Pod said:

I don’t feel strongly about it, but this has been alright http://www.johnlewis.com/russell-hobbs…

Russell Hobbs Oxford kettleRussell Hobbs 20090 Oxford kettle

That looks perfectly fine. About £20, 1.7 litres, 2400 watts. Probably just the kind of thing we’d buy unless this exhausting search turns up something that ticks all the boxes in a better way.

Tom Hostler said:

Four years and counting with this one … https://m.johnlewis.com/dualit-jug-ket… #philgyfordneedsanewkettle

Dualit Jug kettleDualit Jug kettle

Dualit’s toasters seem to have a great reputation so I’m interested in their kettles. But for some reason I’m not keen on that handle. Otherwise though, it’s 1.5 litres and 3000 watts for £50+ so sounds good if you like the look of it.

Aegir Hallmundur said:

Very late to this, but the Burco 2 litre catering kettle is good. Just a plain old un-fancy kettle.

Burco KTL02 2 Litre catering kettleBurco KTL02 2 Litre catering kettle

That’s an interesting idea. Something designed to Just Work for industry. Nothing fancy. £50. Also available in a 4 litre version if you really like your tea. However its claimed “5 minute heat up time” is double that of a lot of domestic kettles.

David Thompson said:

I like our Bosch TWK8637.

Bosch TWK8637 kettleBosch TWK8637 kettle

I’d seen this before, when looking for variable-temperature kettles, as there aren’t many options. It’s around £45. I quite like the cylindrical business-like design but find the size of the base a bit off-putting. I guess it keeps the kettle itself simpler, unlike that Cuisinart we saw first, or this alternative, also from Bosch:

Bosch TWK86103 kettleBosch TWK86103 kettle

That’s around £40. Both of those Bosch kettles are 3000 watts.

Finally, a private correspondent reminded me to look at Which?. You have to pay to see their exhaustive reviews, although if you cancel after a month you’ve only spent £1… so I signed up again.

I find Which? of varying use… I’d never consult them when looking for something like a laptop or a camera. And sometimes their domestic appliance reviews are frustrating because the things they’ve reviewed are never available. Partly because the manufacturers do their best to confuse everyone with their product numbering and availabilities in different stores.

But kettle reviews seem more practical. Although, as usual, Which?’s priorities — some might say “obsessions” — are often different to mine. For example, they seem very interested in how easy or hard it is to clean inside a kettle. Is that something you’re supposed to do?

It’s also interesting to read the reviews from users. Although Which? rate the Dualit kettles (seen above) extremely highly, there are lots of people complaining about theirs leaking from around the water level indicator. Another, the Russell Hobbs Buckingham was found to be extremely quiet… except the user reviews are full of people complaining that it gets noisy after a few months. Of course, one has to balance user reviews — people who are quietly satisfied rarely seem to review their products.

Anyway, one kettle I hadn’t seen before that I like the look of is the Bosch TWK6A1031GB (catchy!):

Bosch TWK6A1031GB kettleBosch TWK6A1031GB kettle

That rated well (80%), looks a bit different but not stupid, is 3100 watts, and costs £40. It also has a good limescale filter, one of Which?’s obsessions which, this time, coincides with our needs given the hardness of London’s water.

That’s about it. I’m not sure which to get yet but we have a different, and more interesting, shortlist than before I asked Twitter. So thanks everyone!

In Misc on 28 November 2016. Permalink

Thanks Leonard

Twenty years ago I used Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man to begin a phone message on a dating service. Ridiculous. The chances of me “stepping into the ring” for anyone are remote. And few of us could match up to the sound of Leonard’s voice. Despite all that, it worked.

I’d found an ad in the Guardian’s Soulmates listings that stood out, for reasons I no longer remember. I called and listened to the woman’s message. She began with part of a song I now forget so, having liked the rest of her message, I felt obliged to respond in kind.

I looked through the track listings on every CD trying to find the few seconds of music that would sell me appropriately. I hate promoting myself and doing so with a song can only be embarrassing. Whatever my shortlist was I assume I’m Your Man’s directness was the quality that won out:

If you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner
Take my hand, or
If you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I’m your man
If you want a boxer
I will step into the ring for you

Fortunately the sound of my voice following the gravity of Leonard’s hadn’t been too disappointing because Tanja called me and we chatted and we got on. She knew the guy I sat next to at work and, after we hung up, she asked him about me. Thankfully he was complimentary.

We chatted a few times before she suggested meeting. We met upstairs at Maison Bertaux in Soho; her choice; I’d never heard of it. It was my birthday — I’d had no other plans — and she gave me a present of a toy gun.

Atomic gun

It was a good evening, a pleasant birthday to remember. We went on to a pub in Fitzrovia, had dinner at Mildred’s (then on Greek Street), followed by coffee on Old Compton Street.

We got on fine but, despite the promise of “Soulmates”, we’d never be more than friends. After that we spoke on the phone occasionally and we hung out a few times before we gradually drifted apart a few months later.

I hope Tanja’s doing OK now, two decades on. I can’t remember her surname but it was nice to have her as a friend briefly.

Thanks Leonard.

In Personal on 11 November 2016. Permalink

What isn’t an Incredible Journey?

A couple of years back I wrote What is an incredible journey? clarifying what qualifies for inclusion on this site. The short version was, and is:

  • One company buying another and closing its services down. This is a purchase of the second company’s staff, rather than their product. An acquihire.

[This post is a copy of a post on Our Incredible Journey.]

But this still leaves plenty of wriggle room, which the closure of Vine highlights. If one company buys a service and closes it after a few years (four in this case) is that still an Incredible Journey? I’d say it depends.

In Vine’s case I’d say probably not. Some businesses fail despite their best efforts. Those aren’t Incredible Journeys; businesses fail every day. If a company (Twitter) buys another (Vine) and tries to make a success of it but gives up after a few years, that seems like a good try to me.

On the other hand, if Twitter had bought Vine and given up on it after six months that would seem more like a standard acquihire-and-shut-the-service, an Incredible Journey. And more so if Vine might otherwise have had a promising future independently, or under a different purchaser.

There’s obviously still a grey area here. What about if Twitter gave up after one year? Two? I don’t know. But four years seems like a good shot.

Having said that, there are occasions when a service is bought, and then stays alive for years, that qualify better for “Incredible Journey”.

For example, Dopplr (featured here) was bought by Nokia in 2009 and only closed in 2013. Another four year span. So why does this count? In this case, Nokia didn’t make any effort to develop Dopplr, or show any interest in it. The site only stayed alive as long as it did, with no new development, due to the skills and efforts of its founders. (Disclosure: They’re friends of mine and they’re lovely.)

So if Twitter had bought Vine and done nothing with it, finally closing it four years later, that sounds more like an Incredible Journey. Buying it, trying to make a go of it, and finally admitting defeat after four years maybe isn’t.

But, Incredible Journeys aside, we now have to see how Twitter deal with that vast archive of creativity over the coming years. Saying “nothing is happening to the apps, website or your Vines today” is one thing. Being responsible for what they’ve bought and encouraged, and keeping this stuff alive for the future, is another matter.

In Misc on 28 October 2016. Permalink

Failing and trying and failing and trying again

It’s been eight years since I left LISPA, and a few months after that I was no longer trying to do any acting. But it was only a couple of years ago that friends stopped occasionally asking “Are you doing any acting?”

Because we’re so connected through social media it’s easy to think everyone knows everything I’m up to. But, understandably, they often have no idea. And they’re even less likely to know what I’m not up to. How would anyone detect my lack of interest in finding roles, even if they read every single one of my tweets, poor things?

It was a relief when friends gradually stopped asking about what acting I was doing, because I felt bad about doing none, given all those evening classes and then two years of training… and then nothing. Why did I bother?

So when, earlier this year, I started doing some acting classes again I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want to confuse everyone. It’d be doubly confusing if I soon stopped again. But it’s been fun and challenging, and I’m still going, and so I don’t care if you know.

I think the reason I gradually stopped, after LISPA, was that I didn’t really know what to do. LISPA was very geared towards devising new work, of a physical theatre nature. I found the devising really difficult. Not the ideas and development, but the process of working (which I wrote about afterwards). I didn’t want to do any more of that for a long time. And although I like some physical theatre, I really wanted to do some… non-physical? normal? theatre. Being in a play with a script and a director… that would have been such a relief!

But even if I’d wanted to continue with collaborative devising, most of the people I’d have enjoyed doing that with from LISPA left the country, going back home. So I didn’t really know what to do, or who to do it with. I auditioned for a few student and no-budget short films, which was OK but was increasingly hard to be enthusiastic about. I didn’t want to do more part-time or evening classes — I felt like I’d done enough classes for now and needed to somehow do actual stuff… but with no clue how, I gradually stopped entirely.

Jump forward a few years and last year I was chatting with some friends, and we somehow ended up talking about acting and I realised how interesting I still found it, as a thing to try and do well, and I realised how much I missed it.

So this year I looked around for places that taught the Meisner technique, which I’d read about (my notes) and had the briefest taste of a decade ago. I settled on trying classes at the Salon Collective and for a few months, until the summer break, I went once or twice a week and… it’s been great.

I may write more about what I’ve done there in a separate post, but I’ve loved getting back into acting: using my body (rather than my usual days of moving only my typing fingers); trying to behave honestly in a very artificial situation; trying to lose everything that makes you you; trying not to think when your head is full of things to think about; interacting so closely with strangers in high-stakes situations as if they’re lifelong friends or relations. Failing and trying and failing and trying again.

Even aside from the classes and the activity itself being enjoyable and absorbing, it’s been great to have something else. Last year I’d been getting in a huge rut, work-wise. I’ve rarely had any idea where my so-called career is going, or how to direct it, and I was becoming pretty despairing about it all. This year I’ve had something else, something very, very different to split my focus, and that’s helped everything. I feel bigger and better and happier. I spend less time agonising about work and so have enjoyed doing it more. The spare brain cycles I’d have spent worrying about “career” have been spent creating back-stories and emotional preparation and… well, maybe more about that next time.

I’ll be starting more classes shortly, until the end of the year. I’ve no idea what I’ll do then, but hopefully I’ll feel a bit more momentum this time and it’ll carry on, somehow.

In Salon Collective on 7 September 2016. Permalink

Django Ditto and archiving your stuff

I recently made a collection of apps for the Django web framework, called Django Ditto. It’s for grabbing your photos from Flickr, tweets from Twitter, bookmarks from Pinboard, mirroring them all on your own website.

It can save data about:

  • Flickr photos/videos
  • Flickr photosets
  • Pinboard bookmarks
  • Twitter tweets
  • Twitter favorites

Hopefully it’ll do more in the future.

It can optionally archive copies of your original Flickr photo and video files, and images attached to tweets. It can’t save videos from Twitter as the API no longer allows access to original video files, only a stream.

It can do this for multiple Flickr, Twitter and Pinboard accounts. Private photos, tweets and bookmarks are saved, but Ditto’s views and templates only display public ones; private items are only visible in the Django Admin screens.

You can go and look at:

This is only of use to people who are developers, and who want to use Django. It’d be nice to make something like this that’s easily usable by non-coders. Maybe one day.


Why did I make this?

I’ve been intending to rebuild my own website for years but the site’s become so large and complicated that this is a daunting feat. When planning to re-make the whole thing in Django, rather than the current nest of Movable Type and PHP, it made sense to split the task into smaller chunks of work.

The first was to combine the aggregation of Flickr photos, Tweets, etc into one system, rather than the differing ways they’re sort-of captured at the moment. I found an existing Django app that did some of this, django-syncr and started updating it in 2011 but soon ground to a halt, through a combination of work and boredom.

The following year I started again, with a new project, django-archivr, using the bits of django-syncr that I liked but, again, I couldn’t sustain the momentum for more than a couple of months.

Last year I started for a third time, with Django Ditto, and through a combination of greater free time and greater bloody-mindedness, I’ve got somewhere. There’s plenty I want to add, a prospect that doesn’t fill me with joy at the moment, as it’s been a grind, but this is a good start.


As with so many of my projects (like that Ansible stuff, or Twelescreen, or the Mappiness chart), I’ve overdone it. Ditto is probably way over-engineered, and I certainly spent longer than necessary refactoring various bits (which might have improved them).

For example, unlike the previous two abandoned projects, Django Ditto can archive multiple Flickr, Twitter and Pinboard accounts. I don’t need this functionality myself, but it seemed like it could be useful, and so I did the extra work. It’s the kind of feature that’s easier to build in from the start rather than retroactively. If you need it. Maybe someone will.

As ever, I feel the code is terrible, an embarrassment. I’m too much of a self-taught, self-doubting, solo programmer to have much confidence in my skills. But I’ve learned a lot, and some of that purposely; I want my personal projects to stretch me, and give me a chance to learn things that might be useful for paying work. This is the first project on which:

  • I’ve learned how to package a python module for PyPI

  • (which will mean being stricter with myself about release and version numbering).

  • I’ve written more tests than I ever have before (I’m sure some are awful, but still).

  • I’ve learned how to use tox to run the tests on multiple versions of python and Django.

  • I’ve used Travis to run the tests when new code is pushed to GitHub.

  • I’ve used coverage locally, and Coveralls online, to see how much of my code is probably covered by the tests.

  • I’ve written documentation using Sphinx to go on Read The Docs, rather than rely on a single overly-long README.

  • I’ve made a demonstration site using the latest release.

None of which is groundbreaking, but it’s mostly new to me. It’s also often quite dull, more dull than it seems a personal, free-time project should be. But trying to improve one’s professional skills sometimes is dull, or frustrating — if it was all easy and fun I’m not sure I’d be learning as much. At least, that’s how I’m justifying spending days writing documentation for something no one else might ever use.


There’s another “Why?” question: “Why does anyone need to mirror all their tweets and photos etc on their own site?” Maybe if one’s Flickr photos only exist on Flickr, it makes sense to make copies of those precious memories. But does anyone need to copy all of their Tweets? Or bookmarks? Or YouTube favourites? Or Foursquare check-ins? Who’s going to look at or care about any of that? Maybe one’s “digital wake” or “digital exhaust” should remain as ephemeral as those metaphors suggest.

I’ve long believed that we should have control over our own digital “stuff”, no matter which commercial service we post it on. In my ideal world, I’ve often thought, everyone would have their own website that would contain copies of everything they posted elsewhere. You should own the photos and jokes and thoughts and videos and events you post onto platforms controlled by companies over which you have no control, that might suddenly vanish. These platforms provide great services, with network effects that achieve so much more than posting things solely on your own website could. But it feels wrong to me to give it all away, sending it into the corporate-controlled ether, without maintaining your own copy.

At least, that’s what I believed, 100%, a few years ago when I first started on all this. Since then, part of me has become less sure. Is it essential to have copies of all this stuff? And if so, does it need to be hosted online, on your website? If you can download a copy of your material, maybe that’s enough (e.g., Twitter’s downloadable archive of your tweets is pretty good).

I still firmly believe that all this stuff needs to be archived permanently somewhere, in a browsable way that’s as close to the original experience as possible, even if that’s difficult. Tweets may seem like ephemeral nonsense, but some of the most fascinating ancient discoveries are “unimportant” things that, at the time, no one would have thought worth keeping.

But is it important to archive all your own ephemeral digital stuff, and do so publicly? Running your own website is often a pain in the arse, and a website that relies on many external APIs and services even more so. Plenty of friends who also work in this field, perfectly capable of building their own website, have no desire to do so, or if they do, keep it as simple as possible.

But I’ve tried not to think too much about these doubts recently. Yes, it’s important to own your material, your self-expression. That’s what I keep telling myself, or I’d never have got this far. Stay on target. Stay on the bus, Archive everything. Publish it. Worry about whether it’s worthwhile later.

In Web Development on 15 August 2016. Permalink

The Shaolin Film Club

Back in the mid-90s, when I used to go out, I went to an evening called The Shaolin Film Club two or three times. Twenty years on and it barely exists online, even as a phrase. So I thought I’d aggregate what I have so that this ephemeral thing lives a little longer.

Because I’m a selective hoarder I discovered I still have my membership card, which I think got me £1 off subsequent admissions.

Shaolin Film Club membership card

I also found an email from a friend describing one of the nights in 1996:

OCTOBER 11, FRIDAY

8-9 happy hour drink special half price beer
9 pm One Armed Boxer…the sequel
11 pm a jackie chan flick

dj’s spinning hip hop, breakbeats, and funk… playstation/ saturn games, and the retro arcade (including pong, atari, nes, jaguar, and intelivision)

148 Charing Cross Road above the book case. Tottenham Ct Tube it’s right on the corner, the building with the huge book mural on it.

doors open at 8pm addmission £4 or £5

0171 209 3549

I’m not sure if that’s written by my friend or whoever ran the club. But it gives an idea of the flavour. I must have gone at least twice as I also remember seeing a Lone Wolf and Cub film there. I should add that it’s not like I’m a huge fan of these films, and probably haven’t seen any apart from those I saw at the Shaolin Film Club. But it was an interesting, friendly and fun place to go.

I can only find one person on the web describing going, AshRa posting in a Kung-Fu Films thread at Dissensus on 13 June 2005:

Did anybody used to go to the Shaolin film club in London around ‘95 - 2000…? The main venue was upstairs in a disused building at the top of Charing Cross Road (seem to remember it was pretty near Silverfish but i’ve not been back to London for years and my memory is failing!) They would show a shaolin double bill interspersed with Tekken tournaments plus music & food (CUP NOODLES!) in another room.

It was my favourite night out for ages when I lived down there but it disappeared for a while and came back to club 333 for a couple of nights, but the magic just wasn’t there any more!

And, for completeness, here’s Matthew Presley in the rec.music.hip-hop Usenet newsgroup asking about it on 18 September 1998:

This is for Uk headz…..sorry everyone else..
Anyone in London know about Shaolin Film Club.
Like a Hip-hop club with Martial arts flicks etc…
Later…..
Mp.

148 Charing Cross Road no longer exists — it was flattened to make way for Crossrail. It used to be the northern-most shop on the eastern side before you got to Centre Point. The closest photo to 1996 I could find was from 2008’s Google Street View sweep, when “the book case” had made way for Mr Topper’s haircuts and, downstairs, Orbital Comics. Although both may have left the building by 2008.

148 Charing Cross Road, June 2008

The Shaolin nights were on the first floor of the Victorian(?) building. The front room, overlooking Charing Cross Road, had the “retro arcade” set up around the edges, a DJ, and cans of drink and noodles for sale. The back room, which I remember being larger, had the films projected towards the back wall, with chairs set up for the audience. Between and/or before the films, Tekken (according to AshRa) was projected instead.

The only other mentions I can find now include a record of the Shaolin Film Club being awarded a grant of £4,050 by Arts Council England on 19 March 1997.

And then these mentions of whatever the club became after moving to the 333 in Shoreditch:

‘Chosen Few: clubs’, Independent, 23 November 1997:

Clubocular @ The Blue Note N1 22.00 - 05.00 pounds 10/pounds 8 concs

A night exploring the crossover between film, music and graphics with influential film scores set against a diverse backdrop of contemporary soundscapes. Contributors to the night include Faze Action’s Simon Lee, David Arnold and The Shaolin Film Club. This night runs in conjunction with Ocularis, a multi-media experience at The Lux (box office 0171 684 0201).

‘The 333’ at Thee Chronicles ov Jstevekane, 4 March 2010:

…in the early days off the 333 i attended on a regular basis at the time there was a regular Hip Hop breaks night at this club which i used to attend which had a DJ named 33 1/3 other nights i attended included “OMSK” and the “Shaolin film club” at which my Kung fu teacher did a Kung Fu demostration.

If you have any other information or memories about the club, let me know.

In Misc on 11 July 2016. Permalink

Everything had to be new

I enjoyed Luc Sante’s ‘The Birth of Bohemia in Paris’ in the New York Review of Books from 22 October 2015. The way 19th century Parisian artists began creating fleeting, odd fashions sounds quite familiar to modern ears.

[Artistic bohemia’s] earliest manifestation was hatched around 1818 by the students of Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, a painter…

They … launched, perpetrated, and squelched dozens of fads, in a way that appears to have had few precedents. There was first a medieval fad, countering the prevailing obsession with Greece and Rome, which began with them reading cheap romances and soon saw them wearing satin jerkins and gigot sleeves, carrying around lyres and short swords, and speaking in affected medievalise. They even changed their names: every Jean became a Jehan, every Pierre a Petrus, every Louis a Loÿs. Then they were onto the Sots (via Sir Walter Scott), the modern Greeks (thanks to Byron), the Turks (by way of Lamartine’s Méditations and Hugo’s Orientales). They alternately grew their hair to their shoulders, after the English Cavaliers, and shaved it down to a stubble, after the Roundheads. At the theatre they made a great show of yawning at tragedies and laughing at melodramas. “A great anxiety haunted them: everything had to be new at all costs.”

By 1830 they’d split into different camps with different aesthetics and interests, then:

All of them faded away around 1838, leaving only a joint hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom they called “grocers”. The bourgeoisie, however, converted those fads into consumable objects, which were still turning up at flea markets a century and a half later:

Clocks in the shape of cathedrals, gothic bindings, letter-openers in the form of daggers, inkwells and night-lights and innumerable other objects made to look like dungeons or medieval castles with drawbridges, posterns, brattices, machicolations, watchtowers, allures…

It sounds familiar, the pattern of young artists combining clothes and ideas from earlier periods, desperate to make something “new” out of the old, all of it ultimately commercialised and sold to more conservative markets keen for something “arty” or “different”. But all of this in the early 19th century, decades before even the early example of the Creative Class — Picasso, Apollinaire, Modigliani, et al — helped transform the quiet village of Montmartre into something rather more louche, around the turn of the century:

The Montmartre bohemians had no choice but to get their clothes from the flea market, and weird clothes were cheaper because they were less in demand. They wore Rembrandt hats, cavalry trousers, sailors’ jerseys, Spanish capes, coachmen’s capes, hooded cloaks, mechanics’ jumpsuits, dusters, priests’ hats, jockeys’ caps; the women sometimes unearthed elaborate ballgowns or the short eighteenth-century jackets called pet en l’air (fart in the open) — it was as if they were replaying all the fads of [Guillon-Lethière’s crowd] at once. Since oddball health regimes were also, almost inevitably, in effect, people went barefoot for reasons of “circulation” and wore colourful turbans that allegedly relieved headaches. Their parties were as loud and disruptive as things could get before the advent of amplified music: firecrackers, animal noises, breaking bottles, obscene songs, target practice with revolvers.

In Periodicals on 4 July 2016. Permalink

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