William Morris (1834-96) regarded beauty as a basic human birthright. In this fascinating book, which accompanies a major exhibition, Morriss biographer Fiona MacCarthy looks at how his highly original and generous vision of a new form of society in which art could flourish has reverberated through the decades. In 1860 Morris moved into the now famous Red House at Bexleyheath in Kent. Here his ideas found practical expression in its decoration, undertaken with the help of his artistcraftsman friends Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who envisaged the project as the first stage in a campaign against the debased artistic standards of the mid-Victorian age. From these beginnings, MacCarthy charts the development of a revolution: the setting-up of Morriss shop (later Morris & Co.), his embracing of radical ideas of sexual freedom and libertarianism, and the publication of his visionary novel News from Nowhere (1890), in which he advanced his hopes for a dismantling of the stultifying structures of society and their replacement by a more equable and fluid way of life. Later chapters explore how Morriss ideas came to influence the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain, Europe and the USA, the Garden City movement, and numerous artists and craftspeople who sought to negotiate a viable place within the modern world in the troubled years that followed the First World War. Finally, MacCarthy explains the continuing relevance of Morriss ideals, as expressed in the planning and execution of the Festival of Britain in 1951, a regenerative project of the post-war Labour government that inspired a number of young designers such as Terence Conran with a direct sense of mission to bring the highest design standards within the reach of everyone.
How is it that though we are so interested with our life for the most part, yet when people take to writing poems or painting pictures they seldom deal with our modern life, or if they do, take good care to make their poems or pictures unlike that life? Are we not good enough to paint ourselves?
…but woke up again not long after in that curiously wide-awake condition which sometimes surprises even good sleepers; a condition under which we feel all our wits preternaturally sharpened, while all the miserable muddles we have ever got into, all the disgraces and losses of our lives, will insist on thrusting themselves forward for the consideration of those sharpened wits.
“…I thought of this relation in connection with the predicament facing this country. It’s news from nowhere to be reminded that there is a deep political divide in America today. Many people I know are anxious. We watch lips move. We hear the words. But it doesn’t add up. It is hard to really even comprehend the thoughts or feelings of people on the other side. It is as if our political culture has gone the way of skepticism.
Our alienation from each other is so great that we stand to each other in something like the ways that skeptical philosophers have always supposed: We are confined to the outward marks, the mere behavior — and that’s just not enough to know another, to really understand him or her, or to trust….”
My novel comes out in 19 days. Our pre-order numbers are looking good to my publisher and I suppose that’s pretty encouraging. They did an article in the local paper the other day, and that spread the word pretty hard locally. I’m maybe getting a book signing out of it? Life is weird. I’ve been re-reading over my contract, and it’s kind of great. So fingers crossed for film rights, folks.
I went to Punk Rock Prom with Dave Hause and Beach Slang on Wednesday night with a bunch of bleeding heart boys and we had the kind of revelry they only write about in really good pulp novels. Dave has a physical copy of my book, he’s working on an endorsement quote, and he was so good to all of us. It’s weird being recognized.
Life is really difficult this time of the year. I’m getting lots of attention from new avenues, I’m starting to really build up a proper support system full of people that really matter again…. and yet this time of the year still crushes me. It’s a hard thing to turn off the brain, to remember trying and failing, to remember that just because you’re told you can trust somebody, it isn’t always the truth. I can’t sleep without klonopin anymore. It;s a little concerning, to be honest, but I’ll chase the dragon a little if it keeps my sleep nightmare and heartache free.
My grandfather is in a rough place. It’s hard to talk about, but he’s having a tough time. His memory is going, and I’ve spent the last year having to remind him multiple times that she’s not around anymore. He’s a spitfire for 89, but he looks close to giving up on certain days and it’s tough to watch. I gave him the first, hardcover copy of my book and he teared up, and then I was a big sobbing mess. My mother’s told me in no uncertain terms that I should be prepared to have to write something, and that realistically, it will be either my father or me that has to give the eulogy. I can’t even talk about it out loud without a lump building up in my throat.
A year later, I still can’t believe how much rebuilding I’ve had to do. I’ve got boxes of my own book on my desk though, two new tattoos coming soon. and I’m just trying to do my damnedest to be as happy as I can. That’s all I’ve got for today. Expect an old piece and another ad for the book later. And thanks to every single one of you for the kind words, encouraging messages, and clicking those like and reblog buttons.
“Don’t pin your hopes or pin your dreams to misanthropes and guys like me.” - Paul Westerberg, It’s a Wonderful Lie
My recipe Bujo’s spread. I will be makin Kaisersprizer for guests tonight so I needed my recipe. Also, I have been diagonally re-reading « News From Nowhere » since I plan on writing the essay I’ve got to do on it this weekend. It’s not due until a few weeks, but I prefer to have it finished in advance.
Words matter. Especially in Iran where what is permissible — to say, to do, to be seen to say or do — is an ever changing thing.
It took us many years of trying to finally be allowed in to Iran, the country with whom we have probably the most contentious relationship on earth. At the time, we thought that perhaps, our welcome was an indicator of a new attitude, an opening of a window. But as it turned out, that is probably not the case. The window appeared to slam shut in particularly ugly fashion shortly after our departure.
What we saw, what we came back with, is a deeply confusing story. Because the Iran you see from the inside, once you walk the streets of Tehran, meet Iranians, is a very different place than the Iran we know from the news. Nowhere else I’ve been has the disconnect between what one sees and feels from the people and what one sees and hears from the government been so extreme.
Iran’s official attitude towards America, its policies, its actions in the region, are a matter of record. How it treats its own citizens as far as their personal behaviors is also, a matter of record. You do not want to be perceived as behaving inappropriately in Iran — as we have seen with the recent video of kids dancing along to the song, “Happy.” And what is inappropriate is an ever shifting thing. What the “government” or the president says is okay one day, might be deemed dangerous or unacceptable by the clergy or the “basij”, the roving, unofficial but official religious police, on another — as we came to find out.
I’m going to be careful about what I say here. Even here. Like I said. Words have consequences. Not for me. I can go to China, for instance, and come back, and say whatever I want about Tibet or human rights without fear. But what about the people I leave behind? The ones who were kind to me, helped me, innocently put their trust in me and my crew to not hurt them? That is something I think very seriously about — and its something we are very careful to not do: put people in harm’s way for no other crime than associating with us. Innocence, in much of the world, is, sadly, no defense against accusations..and worse.
One of the reasons this episode is deeply confusing might be because the “vibe” in Iran, the general feeling of walking down the streets, through the markets, the way we were received everywhere by total strangers and passersby, was overwhelmingly friendly. I have said that Iran is the most outgoingly warm, “pro-American” place we’ve ever shot — and that’s true: in Tehran, in spite of the fact that you are standing in front of a giant, snarling mural that reads “DEATH TO AMERICA!”, you will, we found, usually be treated better by strangers — meaning smiles, offers of assistance, curious attempts to engage in limited English, greetings and expressions of general good will — than anywhere in Western Europe. It would be hard to imagine strangers in Germany or France or England, on recognizing you as American, giving you a thumbs up and a smile simply for your nationality. That was overwhelmingly the case in Iran.
We were having an off camera gathering to celebrate our producer Tom Vitale’s birthday at a restaurant in Tehran. When the other diners heard there was a birthday at our table, the whole dining room sang us Happy Birthday in farsi and English. This was not an isolated incident, only one example. Our daily experiences were filled with delightful incongruities.
At the time we were there, the mood was cautiously hopeful for a time where we, Americans and Iranians, might see more of each other in the near future. Iran, it should be pointed out, is very beautiful. The food is spectacular. Iranians are very proud of their cooking — and for good reason. They are also famously generous hosts.
During my time in Iran, I was not naïve about where I was — or the realities of the situation. The secret police camped out a few doors down from my room (very congenial ones, to be fair), were a reminder. The fact that twitter, instagram, and Facebook are forbidden. The sinister sounding “Ministry of Guidance”, for whom we had to refer for approvals, were unfailingly congenial and helpful, however. No intrusive government presence — or attempts to shape our story were felt as we went about our business, unlike any number of other places we’ve shot over the years.
We were not there to do an “expose” of life inside Iran. Nor were we there to do a fair, balanced, comprehensive overview — or anything of the sort. My intention was simply to give a flavor of that weird intangible, what it feels like to walk the streets, sit at the table, look around. To listen. To show you what I saw.
This is not a black and white world — as much as people would like to portray at as such. That’s not an apology for anything. I’m just saying that the brief, narrow slice of Iran we give you on this episode of PARTS UNKNOWN is only one part of a much deeper, multi-hued very old and very complicated story. Like anything as ancient and as beautiful as the Persian Empire, its worth, I think, looking further. It’s also place that can warm your heart one day and break it the next.
At the time of this writing, Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian remains imprisoned. The reasons for his arrest have never been explained. In our time with him, on camera and off, he was unfailingly affectionate and generous in his portrayal of Iran — an advocate for — if anything — understanding. It is a mystery and an injustice that any would find fault with him or his wife, Yeganeh (who has only recently been released).