Culture binge (and other binges)

The National Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts. I don't think I'd been to the main galleries at The National Gallery since I was doing my art GCSE. I only went through the 1700-1900 rooms. Being genuinely moved by art? It doesn't happen often. But I was blown away, just wanting to stare for hours. Monet's Parliament at Sunset just tugged the old heart strings, as did his studies of poplar trees. Van Gogh's farmhouses made me smile. When I was younger, I appreciated impressionists in a "they were incredibly important" kind of way. It was all academic. So, does my new-found appreciation of fine art signify some increased maturity? Dunno.

So then the Royal Academy, and their 3 Emperors exhibition. As much a sensory and cultural onslaught as an exhibition. Textiles, tapestries, pottery, scrolls, calligraphy; every facet of court life in China over a period of about 150 years. Quite a bit happened in that period apparently, including the introduction of Jesuit missionaries in the imperial court, bringing the first western influences into Chinese art. It was, however, the calligraphy that took me, and not the imperial stuff, but the works of the Literati - the deposed artists with ties to the previous, Ming Dynasty. Their subversiveness expressed in the raw emotion of their writing was startling when compared to the disciplined strokes of those in the status quo. And I don't even know what it was saying. Quite a bit of it reminded me of Blake, the combinations of words and images, though without the dogma and lunacy. Remember those Smirnoff adds, where it would show a bunch of hornets flying? But looking through the Smirnoff bottle there'd be helicopter gunships? Well, with the more tame illustrated poems, usually quietly observant of nature, you could imagine holding the Smirnoff bottle over it and seeing some crazy Blake. In any case, if you're anywhere near London while this exhibition's on, go and see it. Worth every penny. I got in for free though, but if I'd had to have paid £11, I wouldn't have minded. Honest.

I then found that the best burger in London is available at The Wolseley on Piccadilly. It ain't cheap, but damn it's good.

Prior to all of these events was a night out in the ultra-fashionable Notting Hill area, where £50 for a round of 5 cocktails is the norm. I know the area fairly well as I went to school around there, though in those days the bohemians had the edge on the ultra-chic. Nowadays it seems as though the bohemians have become the ultra-chic... sell-outs. It was cool in an antropological sense. Ultra-style bars that only serve beer in half-pints (not amused), cocktail lists that seem to be taking classics and putting an exotic fruit in them and charging the earth (lychee mojitos? you've gotta be fucking kidding me), and people surrounding me that are unbelievably pretty and pretty vacuous to boot. I drank a lot to convince myself that the fat, bald, wannabe writer, American fit in (as that's what most American writers abroad do to fit in - Hemmingway? Fitzgerald?). Not too much though... didn't make an arse of oneself. Some of the cocktails were brilliant. My chat was, possibly, on form. We ate a lot of dumplings. I was with an old friend and some friends of his, and most of us appreciated some of the ridiculousness of it all. I was ultra flash and took a taxi home (the tubes were shut - what can you do?).