Monthly Archives: April 2012

Cry me a river

I’m an unashamed lover of weepie movies. And even un-weepie movies that have some kind of triumph-over-adversity element (Sister Act being a prime example). Plus, most Disney films (Up‘s opening montage is a killer), black-and-white films ranging from Brief Encounter, to Bette Davis’s entire oeuvre (Dark Victory chief among them) and the “backstage” genre (especially Stage Door and Ziegfeld Girl). Oh, and this one Yellow Pages ad. And then of course, pretty much any film I watch on a plane*. Now, Project GoodCry is crowdsourcing the sadface films that people enjoy the most.

Recent research suggests that the appeal of sad movies is that they actually make us feel better. According to a study reported in Science Daily:

People enjoy watching tragedy movies like “Titanic” because they deliver what may seem to be an unlikely benefit: tragedies actually make people happier in the short-term.

Researchers found that watching a tragedy movie caused people to think about their own close relationships, which in turn boosted their life happiness. The result was that what seems like a negative experience — watching a sad story — made people happier by bringing attention to some positive aspects in their own lives.

“Tragic stories often focus on themes of eternal love, and this leads viewers to think about their loved ones and count their blessings,” said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, lead author of the study and associate professor of communication at Ohio State University.

Weirdly, Titanic does nothing for me. Maybe I’m selectively dead inside. Anyway. With the pathetic fallacy of April’s unending grey rain, it seems to be the perfect time to explore the greatest hits of tearjerkers, helpfully and socially compiled at Project GoodCry. For those needing a quick weep to cheer themselves up (paradoxical, but that’s science, innit), there’s a feed of the most popular tearjerking videoclips, ranging from sad cat YouTubes to the teary classic Beaches. They’re usefully ordered according to sadfacedness, and viewers can vote for the most tragic by clicking the “I Cried” teardrop. Probably NSFW – not in the usual porn way, but in the “don’t want to be crying at my desk if i ever want my colleagues to take me seriously again” way.

*There doesn’t seem to be any science to explain why a normally rational person would cry on a plane at such rubbish films as Dreamgirls or Twilight, for example. You’re in an enclosed space with strangers – and judgey ones at that – which you would think would prevent public weeping, but apparently not. Is it the altitude? The sharp red wine? The loneliness of the long distance traveller? Answers on a postcard, please.

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The Shock Of The New

As an avowed futurist (albeit one who seems to spend a lot of time in fusty auction houses these days), I’m always fascinated by new stuff. And when I heard about Pxl, a photo app by designer Rainer Kohlberger which manipulates your images into machine-like pixels, dots and dashes. I instantly loved it, having grown a bit tired of Instagram’s ubiquitous rose-tinted photo fix-all, but it seemed like an aberration, such is Instagram’s hold on digital photography. But no. Apparently it’s part of a whole movement called, unabashedly, The New Aesthetic (the whole thing’s explained over here at Wired) .

Now, Wired isn’t usually the place you go for new design directions (although I maintain that it’s one of the best-designed and best-printed mainstream mags out there), but the essay, based on a panel as SXSW, makes a good argument. In short, The New Aesthetic eschews analogue nostalgia in favour of a more honest and vibrant depiction of the relationship between the “real” and the “virtual”. Now that the two are ever more blurred, it makes sense to celebrate the impact of what Sterling calls the “eruption of the digital into the physical” . Or as the SXSW tumblr says:

One of the core themes of the New Aesthetic has been our collaboration with technology, whether that’s bots, digital cameras or satellites (and whether that collaboration is conscious or unconscious), and a useful visual shorthand for that collaboration has been glitchy and pixelated imagery, a way of seeing that seems to reveal a blurring between “the real” and “the digital”, the physical and the virtual, the human and the machine. It should also be clear that this ‘look’ is a metaphor for understanding and communicating the experience of a world in which the New Aesthetic is increasingly pervasive.

It has the same it-is-what-it-is  spirit as the artisan/utilitarian look that’s everywhere these days (described wonderfully by Russell Davies here), but rather than showcasing the honesty of the materials and handiwork that’s gone into it, the New Aesthetic is honest about the technology and innovation that’s gone in (loads of examples here). Although there are similar visual cues to the retro 8-bit stuff that rears its head every now and again, this is truly modern. After all, the 8-bit aesthetic was some of the first truly computer-generated graphics. We can now make computer graphics look like almost anything else – Pixar are kings of this, obvs.

So why not let technology look like what it really is? Use the whole zillion-colour spectrum; the structure of pixels; the strange typography of hashtags, hypertext protocol and binary code; the precision of algorithm-generated graphics; the unreal images of GoogleMaps and satellite photography. Facebook may have bought Instagram for all its cosy sepia-tinted sharing, but an app like Pxl sure seems more honest when you’re using a digital smartphone camera.

Retro comforts always take hold in the first uncertain years of recession – harking back to a more ordered or comprehensible time (even if that was the 70s). But looking back isn’t what takes a society out of recession – it’s looking forward. The shock of the new bolts people out of their comfort zones into a new, brightly coloured world of innovation, where new surprises and pleasures await.

Scent of a woman

As spring rears its head, I’ve been thinking about perfume, and the seasonal switch from complex florals and heady synthetic numbers to the simpler one- or two-note fragrances.  Prada’s Infusion d’Iris has been my perfect summer scent for a few years, alternated with Diptyque’s Precious Oil for Body & Bath (also Iris-fluenced). But now I’m looking around for something new. I got a giant bottle of Marc Jacobs’ limited edition Ginger splash from last summer for half price, and lovely though it is, it’s just a cologne, and doesn’t last the day. So now I’m lusting after Jo Malone’s Rhubarb and Lilac cologne, purely based on the belief that all things involving rhubarb are excellent (especially mother’s rhubarb crumble, Koya’s pickled rhubarb and Space NK’s rhubarb and tomato candle), and the fact that it’s sold out everywhere.  Damn you limited editions! Slave to supply and demand, me.

But, thanks to the excellent Women’s Room blog, I’ve come across Katie Puckrick Smells, which should help with finding alternatives. Yes, that Katie Puckrick, erstwhile presenter of The Word. Her manner might not be to everyone’s taste, but she knows perfume, and talks about it in a real, not PR way. Having briefly covered the beauty beat at WGSN, this is no small relief. There’s no PR tripe like beauty PR tripe, forreals.

Also, like me, she’s a huge fan of Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. I interviewed Monsieur Malle a few years back, and instantly fell in love with him and his work (not least because he took me and a couple of select sybarite journos to Helene Darroze in Paris, then rescued me after they tried to hold me captive for breaking a 100-year-old bottle of brandy. But that’s another story). He spoke eloquently and frankly about the great and ridiculous parts of the fragrance industry, and what fragrance says about a person. He correctly guessed what fragrances I wore (I didn’t wear any of them that day), and suggested a couple that he thought would be “me”. And he was right: L’Eau D’Hiver (a “warm” cologne) is now part of my daily routine – a quick spritz before leaving the house adds what my friend Becky calls “gumption glaze” – an armour of confidence to face the day. Then, for night-time, saucier scents like Dans Tes Bras (meant to evoke the smell of a lover’s skin “after”) and Carnal Flower (a heady tuberose)  do the trick.

And even though fragrance is very personal – after all, it smells different on everyone – I’ve had some great influencers. My dashing and dastardly boss in Amsterdam splashed Vetiver around like it was water, and I can’t now take it seriously as a result. The bon viveur founders of the Future Laboratory – who I hold entirely responsible for my expensive tastes – got me hooked on Acqua Di Parma and Diptyque candles at an impressionable age. The lovely Amanda from The Women’s Room and I often share perfume-geekery over tweets, usually about unusual scents like Comme’s recent release, which smells like stationery. Delish. And then of course, there’s the man I briefly dated almost entirely because he “got” perfume – it was a very Les Senteurs affair.

So, dear reader, what I’m getting at is: any recommendations?