Sunday, August 30, 2009

DIARY 111 - Sleepy Hollow

Don't understand particularly why, but this week I was tired. It wasn't that work was harder or more grueling, if anything it was a bit on the light side. I slept badly on Wednesday night, waking half cold and half sweating at 2am, and failed to get back to sleep after, as is my usual pattern. Now, I have these evenings, but normally I can easily work through it. By Thursday evening, however,I was mentally functioning on low wattage. This carried over into Friday morning, though I'd slept better overnight, and felt OK when I got up, as soon as my bum hit the meditation cushion it was obvious this was not going to be high quality concentration. It had all the qualities of watching paint dry, in that not much was happening very very slowly. After three quarters of an hour I'd only got to the second stage of the Mindfulness of Breathing. Time had flown by, but not in an exalted focused state of mind, but in a fog filled absence of clarity and awareness. Oh well, the day could only get better, I thought. Extreme tiredness causes me to partially close down communication. I can become very quiet and withdrawn, my interactions struggling under a weighty blanket of lethargy. Things perked up a little later on, perhaps the looming relief of the weekend helped lift my energy and spirits.

The weekend has been lovely, so far. Last night we had a delightful meal out at La Margarita, our favorite Italian restaurant in Cambridge. This was to celebrate missed birthdays, Jnanasalin's ordination, and starting new jobs all round. In the morning we took our usual walk into town to shop and have a coffee in the Cafe Nero in Heffer's bookshop,followed by a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum to view an exhibition called Endless Forms - Charles Darwin, Natural Sciences and the Visual Arts. I was quite excited by the idea of the exhibition which was to explore how the idea of Evolution affected the Arts. I found the exhibition a major disappointment. It took a very limited and somewhat academic perspective on its subject matter. But this is Cambridge after all, what do you expect? I would guess the curator is more a scientist than an artist. The overall impression it left was the effect of evolution on the Arts was mainly in subject matter, in a prevalence of paintings featuring apes,exotic birds and dramatic depictions of geological formations. There was a cursory ramble through the Pre-Raphealites and Impressionism without clearly stating what the influence was, and that's as far as it went. The exhibition ventured not out of the safety of its nineteenth century haven.

There is, to my mind, a larger range of possibilities to be explored, as the evolutionary idea filters through into the Twentieth century. Utopian movements like De Stael, Futurism and The Bauhaus, even late 20th Century Minimalism are shot through with raising humanity to new purer heights. Once we accepted the idea of evolution as being essentially true, we appeared to want to take hold of, and control our future destiny that went far beyond any Millennial or Post World War effect. Though it would be controversial, a look at fascistic and communist art movements in Germany,Italy and Russia in the Thirties, might have been revealing. Darwin's idea has its artistic and political down side too, if deliberately misinterpreted or taken incorrectly. There is also modern process orientated art,or digital interactive computer based work that evolves and learns from what it did previously, even the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy owes an aesthetic debt to Darwin. The exhibition seemed to barely scratch the surface of its chosen subject matter in so many ways, it seemed positively pedestrian.

Jnanasalin and I watched a fascinating programme of Channel 4 called Trantasia. It was all about a beauty pageant in the USA for those who are male to female Transgender. It was often funny in a touching way, whilst remaining, for me, essentially perplexing. It is really hard for anyone to grasp how difficult things are for them. As a gay man I can empathise with a sense of always being on the outside, but I can't really know how it feels to be a woman in a male body, or visa-versa. I've known a few transgender people, and this programme didn't particularly remind me of them. It was after all in the US, where there are, apparently, no holds barred. The difficulties and desires remain essentially the same - the ardent wish to be seen and to 'pass' as a women, and the extreme levels of surgery and finance they go to to transform there external appearance to more accurately represent their internal experience. What I found perplexing was that quite often their view of what constitutes the feminine is so resolutely a masculine viewpoint i.e. big tits, velvet soft skin,voluptuous lips, shrouded, if not concealed, beneath faces heavily plastered with cosmetics. This is the most archetypal of male perspectives of what is womanly. There were a few who achieved an ordinary degree of femininity, but the majority ended up as uber-femes, and looked for all the world like very bad drag queens. Now drag queens generally send up, not femininity necessarily, but the masculine view of it, its part a homage and part a camp parody of this. There wasn't even the merest hint of irony in these transgendered beauty queens, they either had very low self esteem or an extreme self belief - both of which seemed to have somewhat lost touch with reality.

There was a view that the pageant was going to help them become more acceptable to the outside world. However, at one photo shoot in the streets of Las Vegas, some of the contestants couldn't stop themselves from thrusting their hormonal crotches and silicon based bosoms in the faces of a bemused group of men, who looked collectively embarrassed and bemused. After all, no self respective woman would behave like this, unless she was a street hooker. It seemed to do the opposite of making them seem more acceptable, some of the contestants themselves were disgusted by this OTT, rather slutty behaviour. Overall there was a sort of feisty camaraderie, but also a confused grasping for something which was going to be everlastingly unobtainable, which left me feeling quite sad.

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