pretty pretty #2

In Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons there is this whole thing about precious jewels and the pull, comparable to madness, that they have on people. The rocks in this story are a giant pile of emeralds and I will always remember the ending, where one of the characters gets to keep a single emerald as a sort of kindness on Poirot’s part and there is a great line about how all sorts of jewels are beautiful, but emeralds suit her the most, because green is the colour of magic. :B And it totally is. Green is also associated with water in western culture, especially deep, mysterious water. It is not a coincidence that the Hollywood remake of Dark Water is full of a murky, sickly, dangerous green:





Incidentally, both the original Japanese and re-made Hollywood versions of Dark Water are great movies, and amazing haunted house stories. Really atmospheric and gloomy and sad.

In the early years of the 19th century, green was dangerous, because green paint mixtures  and green dyes were made using arsenic as a main ingredient, which provided the paint with a rich, emerald colour, but then also provided people with death. Green is obviously no longer the silent killer it once was, so thankfully for all of us, we can now enjoy the following photos in the privacy of our own homes and underwear, even if our houses don’t look like this themselves.

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domestic tick tock and lifestyle blogging


I’m not a giant fan of house/lifestyle blogs a lot of the time because they seem to always just read as either an enormous shopping list, or a continuous ad. Plus the way the internet makes it easy for people to show only the parts they want you to see, and in the best possible light, is kind of exhausting. It’s not that interesting to read (or look at, lets be real) perfectly arranged snapshots of a very select part of someone’s life, even if it’s very pretty. And a lot of the time it’s very, very pretty. So if I am in the mood for some quality interior porn, I usually tend to turn to tumblr or Pinterest, because every picture in the cosmos will be right there at my fingertips, without needing to filter through unnecessary crap.

However! I do have a few home blogs I really like, and you can find them in the links section to the left, but what they have in common is this very intimate approach that doesn’t try and gloss over the dirty little bits of life that we all know exist. I like when people post about things they’re actually interested in, that have relevance to their everyday lives. When Meg Zandi of the really fun Radical Possibility made a post about re-arranging her living room and put up photos of every possible furniture arrangement she was thinking about, it hit this switch in my brain where I was like Yeees, This Is What Home Blogging Should Be About – I want to get a glimpse into your real home and the real way you live your (domestic) life. The images in the r/p post, or maybe the idea behind these images, are also oddly soothing. Like there is this domestic rhythm that everyone has in their lives, and it was cool seeing a concrete demonstration of a small part of that.

The final Radical Possibility living room - isn't it it lovely though?? Also see Meg's tutorial for the HELLO here.

The final Radical Possibility living room – isn’t it it lovely though?? Also see Zandi’s tutorial for the HELLO here.

Back at uni I read this great essay called The Aesthetics of Everyday Life by Michael Owen Jones and I keep coming back to the ideas in there whenever I think about the culture of blogging, particularly home/lifestyle blogging. The text starts of by detailing the everyday, household, personal rituals of the author’s friends, Norm and Jean Smith. This elaborate, anecdotal list of their preferences was really intriguing to me and it set an atmosphere of a really tidy, calm domesticity, with a definite sense of different rhythms of living during the course of a day. This kind of thing has always appealed to me because I really enjoy the idea of people doing little things every day that create a kind of contentment – little things that enrich a person’s life. And that’s really what I’m interested in seeing in lifestyle blogs; something really personal to the author and also genuine, without ulterior aesthetic and/or commercial motives.

Michael Owen Jones goes on to say that what the Smiths do is to actually produce art, because “art consists of behaviors and products considered special that generate an appreciative, contemplative response in the recipient.” Putting aside the fact that this is a pretty limiting statement, what art consists of, according to the author, is certainly what Norm and Jean do, and what most people do as well, whether they’re trained artists or not, just by making sensory-based decisions daily – what colour to wear, what food to eat for lunch, how to arrange their living space etc. It’s a very democratic viewpoint – everything is worthy of notice and aesthetic appreciation, even the everyday things we choose to do (and sometimes don’t even think about while doing them) because they make us feel more content. I like when a blog becomes an archive of these small decisions on the blogger’s part, particularly because a lot of it is so glamourised and magaziney instead.

The author goes on to state that “most folk-art belongs to ordinary day-to-day experiences.” The assumption being, of course, is that ‘real’ art is removed from, or above ordinary day-to-day experiences, which is not something I personally agree with.  However, even though what Norm and Jean do every day can be read as art in this way, I’m guessing few people would actually do so. The essay does pose the view, though, that Norm and Jean have achieved “formal perfection.” That is, they have succeeded in being able to create things every day based on sensory and aesthetic decisions that give them satisfaction and enrich their lives. And also probably prompt compliments by other people, meaning Norm and Jean’s (and Ms. Zandi’s etc) creations are also appreciated by others.  And that’s really nice imo. A life doesn’t have to be airbrushed and hidden behind screens – there can be something good and interesting in even the most mundane things, or to be honest, in even in the most nasty little stains (there is a lot of those in my own life, but yeah I can see why people don’t blog about them).

P.S. If you are interested in reading this essay, you can find it in the book Self-Taught Art: The Culture and Aesthetics in American Vernacular Art edited by Charles Russel. The google books preview unfortunately doesn’t have those pages available for viewing, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find this book in your local library, uni library, or even on Amazon if you’re in a buying mood.

fitting perfectly

My favourite tumblr atm:


Also, this is unrelated, but it made me sick to my stomach – if you can, please sign this petition to save the life of a service dog:

And for your reblogging needs if you want to help spread the word.

superstitions, compulsions and unfinished business

While I was cleaning the bathroom the other day, I came across at least three spiders, and instead of just spraying them with water and letting them swirl away down the drain like any normal person, I left them and cleaned around them, all because of that superstition that says it’s bad luck to kill a spider inside your house. They’re meant to be like house guardians. I don’t even know the actual wording of the superstition!!! And yet, I still allowed it to control me.

Then two nights ago, I was about to go to bed, when I saw a thick spider on the wall. Normally the spiders I come across are just Daddy Long-legs, and I leave them to roam about the house as they wish, but this juicy, squat specimen had to go. What if it crawled in my ear during the night and laid eggs? What if pushed it’s way into my mouth and I swallowed it and added to this statistic? No, it had to go. I squashed it with a slipper. A painless death, but a death all the same. Will I now be haunted by seven years of bad luck? Will horrible things keep happening to me, until I can atone for the sin of killing a spider inside my own house?

The weird thing is, it was harder to kill that spider, than it was to decide to leave the other three Daddy Long-legs while I was cleaning. The compulsion to obey this vague superstition, this curse, was too strong, so when I killed the thick spider, it felt like I was breaking out of chains. I felt a vague and ridiculous thrill at not doing what I was told, which just added to the danger and the sense of validity surrounding the superstition itself. This is a pretty personal post I guess, because it’s not something I talk about usually, but there are so many things that have this compulsive hold over me, and while I do manage to keep it all under control most of the time, when I do slip up, it’s like the house decides to enslave me.

Do you ever have really weird and morbid thoughts? Maybe something makes you think of funerals and you imagine a friend or family member dying, and then imagine the funeral in unwanted detail and obviously the thought of that is horrible and maybe makes you really anxious, but you can’t stop? Or you’re walking along outside and you see a rusty nail on the pavement and you imagine stepping on it and having it carve it’s way through your entire foot? And you don’t want to be imagining these things, but there is nothing you can do to make your brain just chill out and stop producing anxiety when there really is no rational reason for it. Well, I have lots of morbid thoughts at really random times and I hate them. Now that I’m older, I can more easily decide to think about something else, but while I can consciously think other, more diverting thoughts, I am still aware of the morbid ones lurking just below the top layer of my mind. It feels like I am merely sitting on them and squashing them underneath a heavy wooden board, but then I feel them squirming beneath and know with terrible certainty that they will eventually be able to toss me aside and take over again.

Sometimes, the only thing that makes it better is touching a piece of wood (another superstition), or if I’m at home, and the morbid thoughts happen to involve someone breaking in perhaps, or something burning on the stove and setting the entire house on fire, then the only thing that helps get rid of the anxiety these stupid thoughts cause is giving in to the compulsion that wants me to regulate the parts of the house that are involved in them. So, it wants me to check and re-check and re-re-check that the front door is locked, and that all the burners on the stove are off, to turn the lights in a room on and off, on and off, so that I am sure that there is nothing that’s creating a fire hazard, or a choking hazard for our dog, even though I can see after the first check that there is nothing. Nooooottthiiiingggggg.

Now that I’m out of adolescence, I am able to disobey these compulsions much more easily, some of the time without any anxiety at all, but when I was younger, it wasn’t so easy. It still elicits a peculiar set of emotions though. It feels deeply ridiculous to be walking up and down the hallway while checking that the door is locked, because you know that it’s fucking locked, and it feels comforting to know that you are doing something to prevent catastrophe, and shameful that you’re giving in to this irrational demon on your shoulder, and also hopeful that the scribble of anxiety in your gut might lessen a bit, if you just stay obedient and do what your brain is telling you to do, while all the while knowing that you need to stop, and that you’re going to stop right now or you’ll never be able to keep on top of this. It makes you feel like you’re both in control, and very deeply out of control, all at the same time.

There is a kind of ritualistic aspect to it too. You find yourself feeling like a ghost, repeating the same movements over and over again, touching the same objects over and over again, interacting with the same parts of your house over and over again. It’s no wonder that ghosts or hauntings in stories get fixated on certain rooms or certain areas of their house. Those ghosts that always walk down the same staircase, the ones that always open and close the same cupboard doors, the ones that only make their stomping footsteps heard in certain hallways, they’re all feeling the compulsion of unfinished business, and they’re giving into it. It’s actually deeply sad. They’re trying so hard to do this one thing, because they think something good will happen if they finally do it right, that they’ll finally be able to leave, without realising that they could just let go, disobey, and float away in freedom to whatever place of peace awaits them. :[

top 5 matisse interiors (imo)

5. Interior with a Goldfish Bowl, 1914matisse_interiorwithgoldfishbowlMatisse is one of the artists that just make me so happy that art exists. I feel satisfied just looking at his work and the colours and patterns etc. There’s that whole thing about the pleasure of painting and just basic visual pleasure, and Matisse epitomises that for me. Interior with a Goldfish Bowl was painted during the beginning of WWI at a time when Matisse was becoming more interested in Cubism and was making friends with Picasso and Juan Gris (as Spanish nationals, they were not subject to conscription, so remained in Paris). What I love the most about this painting is all the different blues in it and how tranquil it seems. Although he obviously uses certain Cubist concepts (rectilinear divisions, intersecting planes etc.) I really like how he doesn’t ~go all the way and we still get to be treated with this nice chunk of his studio. And those orange cigar fish lol.

4. The Black Fern, 1948
Bright colour and pattern everywhere (dat spotted jaguar skin…). Love the scraggly paint application and the different approaches to the various parts of the painting. LOVE that black chunk of paint at the bottom in which he’s scratched his signature and the date (Venice, 1948 – and basically ~mattise waz here~). Many of Matisse’s late-life works are interiors that have been squished into one plane, so like in this one, although the floor and wall are separated through colour and pattern they share the same plane, so that the rectangular window showing a ‘view’ of some nice trees actually looks more like a painting itself. And that fern! It has more sass than the human figure in the painting.

3. My Room at the Beau-Rivage, 1917-18
Apparently people were disappointed upon seeing the actual hotel room this painting depicts because it was nothing like Matisse’s inviting and cheery rendition. I like that he turned this default (and probs quite ugly) hotel room from something anonymous into a lovely painterly piece of candy. It’s just such an appealing and charming painting. It radiates light and colour and a kind of domesticated contentment.

2. The Pink Studio, 1911
This was one of four massive paintings that were later named Matisse’s “grand symphonic interiors“… !!!! It’s a very all-over painting and the eye is free to move around at will and greedily suck everything up. There is definitely an aesthetic delight in this, like in so many of his other works. To me it seems very happy (that pink!), but I also like how he’s included so much of himself in it, even without depicting himself at all. Instead he shows us the things he was working on at the time. The book I was reading about him described it as a “parade” of his work in every medium and I think that’s totally fitting!

1. Harmony in Red, 1908
This is my favourite painting of all time ever. That red with the electric blue… It’s pretty stubbornly two-dimensional, so everything seems to only just cling to the surface. Like I just want to reach in and pluck things out and eat them. Also the garden view could again be mistaken for a hanging painting. I personally really like the lovely, colouredy, patterny domesticity of this painting, but I learned that to draw attention away from the human element and the human action in the painting, Matisse renamed it Harmony in Red, to place emphasis on the formal elements of the painting, when it was originally called La Desserte – obviously referring to the figure placing fruit on the table. For me this painting basically defines the phrase ‘the pleasure of looking’ and fills me with happiness. It’s just full of painterly fizz. This was one of the paintings people living at the time really didn’t like (like much of the Fauvist works of many different artists), because it was too wild for them and thought of as ugly, but like whatever shows what they knew which is NOTHING.

tv home makeover unhappiness

I have always wondered if anyone has ever been unhappy about the makeover their house had received on a TV home makeover show, so this is a short list of just that.

  1. Trading-Spaces-Straw-on-walls-3A designer on Trading Spaces called Hildi covers a room in straw lol. Even if she had used a bit more it would be better, rather than this half-assed balding thing. You have to commit to stuff like this Hildi you’re in America go big or go home!!! The homeowners were not pleased and I read it took them 17 hours to scrape it all off haha.
  2. An innocent woman gets the nickname Crying Pam because she hates the denim makeover of her living room so much, she runs off camera during the reveal and sobs while everyone listens lol.
  3. A grieving husband loses his shit after his brother puts the man’s house up for a 60 Minute Makeover, in which the designer ends up removing all of his late wife’s belongings. :[
  4. Another Trading Spaces disaster, in which a woman called Ruth Nelson lies through her teeth during the reveal and then has to spend three months undoing the makeover.
  5. A homeowner tries to sabotage the designer’s work because she hates what is being done to her room so much.
  6. A Style Network’s Clean House makeover stop when the cameras do, leaving much of the work undone, and piles of rubbish for the unsuspecting homeowner to clear away.
  7. An unhappy family sues FOX’s Renovate after a shoddy makeover and a pool that nearly drowned their paralysed son.

Most of these are from Trading Spaces. What kind of hell house designers were employed by this TV show??