Thursday, 23 September 2010

Coco Chanel

Interesting stuff going on with Coco Chanel right now: HarperCollins is launching two books by two women at the same time. The Daily Mail has done a spread on Justine Picardie’s book today. Tilar Mazzeo’s book, The Secret of Chanel No. 5, is out in November. Will both reveal Coco’s war record? The movies haven’t.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Culture Watch - Tamara Karsavina

A painting of Tamara Karsavina revealed at London’s Wellcome Library after years of being wrongly identified:

See here for the painting.

(And you can see the likeness of the painting to the person here.)

Tamara decided to learn English after achieving the position of Prima Ballerina Assoluta in Corsair in 1909, and so perhaps the pages in her hand are by Swinburne or Robert Lewis Stevenson – two authors she read to help her learn. Or maybe she is reading a letter from home.

Tamara Karsavina lived in Frognal, Hampstead in the early 1960s. Many Hampstead houses declare the names of people who lived between their walls, but there isn’t a plaque on Tamara’s house.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Hawking on God

Following the media hype surrounding Professor Stephen Hawking’s new book, there seems to be two conclusions emerging:

1) If you want to call the laws of physics God, then go ahead.

2) We are never really going to know why the laws of physics are as they are.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Papal Visit

You won’t be hearing it here first but Pope Benedict XVI is coming to town. Last night Conway Hall in Red Lion Square was packed with people debating whether or not his visit should be a State Visit (estimated cost to the tax payer - £12 million). The Central London Humanist Group in partnership with the British Humanist Association and the South Place London Ethical Society hosted the event that Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee chaired. Philosophy professor A.C. Grayling and gay activist Peter Tatchell were for the motion - “The Papal Visit should not be a State Visit” - and Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh and Friar Christopher Jamison argued against. Then it opened to the floor.

I noticed Austen Ivereigh start the evening a mild shade of pale that simmered to pink and boiled over red by the end of the night (this picture was taken at the start of the evening). When he said The Pope was right about condoms – that they don’t prevent the spread of HIV – the floor went wild.

But there was also a strong pro-Pope crowd. I’d say heckling was almost even on both sides.

A.C. Grayling said he was pretty sure The Queen would give him a short answer if he rang her up and asked whether he could have a £12 million four day holiday on account of the fairies living at the bottom of his back garden that he'd privatised and turned into a republic. Someone from the floor said that she might give a different answer if 178 states had officially recognised his “fairy garden”. He replied that if that were the case he would tell Her Majesty that she was using the argumentum ad populum - a fallacious argument that concludes X must be true because Y number of people believe it is: just because millions of people believe something, doesn’t make it true. Later on, when he brought up a similar point on the subject of belief, a heckler pointed out he was straying from the motion.

One girl from the floor said that she found Catholicism empowering; that it enabled her to live out her femininity in a real way. What on earth does that mean? I didn’t get to ask her. Austen Ivereigh said women have power in the Catholic Church – they run schools, abbeys… (The heckling drowned out the rest).

A great evening.