?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Dandies skull-to-skull - click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Page 1 of 3
[1] [2] [3]
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 10:44 am
Dandies skull-to-skull

"I've concluded that it is far better to borrow elements of dandyism rather than merely trying to actually become one. It's far less predictable and far more interesting. Better dandyish than dandy," says Lord Whimsy, very sensibly, in his entry today about London self-promoter Sebastian Horsley.

Horsley, oddly enough, agrees. "Dandyism" completely fails as an idea," he wrote in his New Statesman pan of Whimsy's book. "How can originality replicate to create a whole movement? How can you dress alike to assert your individuality? How, on the one perfumed hand, can you talk about freedom when you willingly give it up with the other ungloved mitt? How can you be unique and yet part of the gang? ...Clownish eccentricity is often a mask for nonentity."



Since there are none in the room, let's make no bones about dandyism. Dandies -- rather than people who are merely elegant and poised, like Whimsy -- are tiring to spend time with, because they really are larger than life. They glaze over when they aren't talking about themselves. They've arranged everything in their lives (except possibly their accommodation: Horsley lives in a tiny flat in Soho) to be bigger than yours, so the casual trading of anecdotes that happens in any normal conversation becomes a contest in which the dandy trumps you time after time. Eventually you just shut up and let them speak, and it's entertaining for a while because they've collected a lifetime's-worth of Wildean one-liners (common sense turned through 180 degrees to make it "interesting") and insist on repeating them to anyone who'll listen. (This, by the way, is why you should never, ever become a dandy's girlfriend. The repetition will drive you insane.)

Soon, though, you feel energy draining away from you. You start to feel the weight of your own skeleton. You'd rather take a walk through the dusky streets with the waitress, the cashier, the Filippino chef. You'd rather have someone say "I don't really know," and proceed to think things through in real time rather than tug an endless supply of handy, witty, polished me-axioms from their frilly me-sleeve.

That's not to say Horsley doesn't have some good riffs up his ruffs. The strongest are about the universality of artifice, the unavoidability of performance, and the realness of fakery. "Show me a man who doesn't paint himself a face," he says in the video below. "We all perform our lives. Look at the doctors, the lawyers, the accountants, the artists. They think they're real people. They're not, they're just face paint. The reason that I piss people off is that I make the joke explicit.... Because everybody else is just as phoney as I am. I'm just a real fake."



Like all 180-degree inversions of common sense that depend on the very logic they seem to deny ("property is theft" is another example), this one self-destructs if examined too closely. But never mind, it entertains for seconds before dissolving in the mist.

What's -- for me, anyway -- most interesting about Horsley is his face. Turn the sound down and watch it. Somehow, his face in motion has inscribed in it the entire history of British dandyism, post-punk. He's every sacrificial dandy the British have ever ushered toward the pyre of destruction-for-amusement.

There are wide-stare flashes of his hero Johnny Rotten, and of Rotten's pantomime villain svengali Malcolm McLaren. That takes us neatly to the era of New Romanticism, in which Horsley is Adam Ant without the songs. Then there's the decline and fall of New Romanticism, hastened by Bowie as Screaming Lord Byron, Brideshead Revisited on TV, and Rupert Everett as, well, every English male lead that isn't Hugh Grant. And Horsley looks like Rupert Everett gone slightly Cro-Magnon, or a degraded Peter York drinking at the Coach and Horses with a permanently-queasy Jeffrey Bernard. Then Goth takes over, and you can see it all in Horsley's face, and explicitly in the snapshot of Nick Cave and Horsley in the desert, trying to get off drugs. Then of course Morrissey becomes the big star and Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp are everyone's heroes, including Horsley's.

In the 90s he fossilizes into a Dickens character just in time for BritPop, also headed by two fossilized Dickens characters called Liam and Noel. Then, for a blink, new Romanticism is back -- it's called Romo, it happens in the Melody Make for a few months in 1995, and it gives the world Dickon Edwards -- and Horsley can ride that wave too, before jumping off when he discovers Johnny Depp's belated discovery of Goth. By mid-decade, though, he's more interested in being a confessedly-crap YBA artist, collecting Damian Hirst-style skulls and sharks and staging self-crucifixions. As the millennium approaches he becomes a too-old Nathan Barley. Now, just in time for Retro Necro (and to go skull-to-skull with our own Lord Whimsy's Bloomsbury book), Horsley has published a memoir, "Dandy in the Underworld: an unauthorised autobiography" (Sceptre). And for this period, sinking elegantly into middle age, Horsley looks a bit like Retro Necro figurehead Jools Holland.



The truth is that we British and Americans can't really do dandyism. We're too cuddly, too eager to please, too unscary, too self-deprecating. Our dandyism, as a result, becomes self-sacrificial. We mount the cross before we're asked.

When the British dress up in old clothes they look like genteel imperialists, and when Americans do it they look like traitors to a republic which broke away from Britain's genteel empire. The people who do dandyism best are the Germans. Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria is the perfect dandy, because to be a real dandy you need unlimited power and wealth, unbridled egomania and bad craziness. Recent German dandies include Klaus Kinski and Jonathan Meese. Oh, and mustn't forget that wretch Adolf Hitler. Lots of skulls on his mantelpiece too.

132CommentReplyShare


(Anonymous)
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 09:48 am (UTC)

"Internationally-recognized standards" is the clincher for you, is it? It's the same vague, pompous waffle the Court of Europe puts on its website when it says "The basis of human rights... can be found in most of the world's great religions and philosophies". O'Really?

If the language is vague, then it's vague in both directions. It doesn't particularly point to "human rights" as being naturally derived, but it doesn't negate the possibility either. What that's telling me is that the derivation of human rights isn't terribly important. As a good relativist structuralist, Momus, why are you so concerned with origins and derivations? It seems strangely essentialist. People like Rorty and Foucault would place the emphasis on the utility of a concept, not on its truth value. Unless you want to argue that, on balance, the concept of human rights has brought more bad things to the world than good things, where's your beef? In fact, you do seem to want to argue that, which is perverse, since that's the standard criticism from the Right. And it's the same line of argument against Marxism in general – that it's a "myth" that's done more harm than good.

I think a few days of actually working at Amnesty, manning the phones, hearing from desperate people unfairly evicted by oil companies in Angola or wherever, and then getting on to government officials and newspapers to try and do something about it – I think after a few days of that you wouldn't give good goddam about where 'human rights' came from.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)

You're on the wrong page, mate! This one's about dandies. You want this one.


ReplyThread Parent
peacelovgranola
-
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 10:44 am (UTC)

it would be interesting to know just why this guy is so bitter and unhappy. but, like he said, "no personal questions"--oh, well. the pathological manifestations are themselves interesting, in a way, i guess.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 10:47 am (UTC)

Do you think he's bitter and unhappy? I didn't get that feeling at all! He even says in one of the videos "I try to be melancholy but I fail miserably". Which is, you know, a cut-price Morrissey cast-off line of some sort (or perhaps Morrissey if he were a bit more honest?)


ReplyThread Parent Expand


(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand




petit_paradis
petit_paradis
erik
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 11:21 am (UTC)

do you ocnsider yourself a dandy or, for that matter, a dandyist? I mean dandyist in a purely sartorical sense. when you walk the streets in muslim attire or indian wedding clothes? I imagine hisae whispering (not whimpering!) almost unnoticable "I'm not going out with him dressed like that!"


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 11:29 am (UTC)

No, I don't consider myself a dandy at all. The scenes of Horsley going through his (polythene-protected) suits! Nothing could be further from my routines. You should see me picking out what to wear. It takes me ten seconds, max. I pick up some crumpled clothing-balls, check they're vaguely co-ordinated colours (which already makes me "suspiciously aesthetic" compared to most people, I admit), and sling them on. Then I might add some accessories before going out -- a pair of red ear protectors or something. Maybe an apron. Okay, some of the things I sling on are a little unlikely, our out of context. But does that make you a dandy? I think not.

The other day I had to convince Hisae to wear the red earwarmers herself. She gets cold ears, but she still wouldn't wear them! "This is Berlin, you can wear anything here! You can walk down the street with a teacup on your head! Of course you can wear earwarmers on a cold day!" So she put them on, and her ears did indeed stay warm.


ReplyThread Parent





(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 11:23 am (UTC)

"Like all 180-degree inversions of common sense that depend on the very logic they seem to deny ("property is theft" is another example)"

Owning property, especially anything over and above that which one needs to live on (for example, owning a forest, or a factory) *is* theft - the definition of theft being to take something one doesn't own and, in doing so, *deprive someone else of it*. We don't own the planet, we just live on it. No twisting of logic is necessary for Proudhon's statement to be true. To claim it is a self-contradictory phrase is to fall back on Ayn Rand-style capitalist libertarian arguments.

As for using the essentialist howler, "common sense"....


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:02 pm (UTC)

Owning property... *is* theft - the definition of theft being to take something one doesn't own

That doesn't work! Here's the recursive circle.

The Dictionary: Property is when you own stuff. Theft is when you take it without owning it. The terms are antonyms; there is no concept of theft without a concept of property. Generally speaking, property is seen as good, theft as bad.

Proudhon: Property is theft!

People: That's a striking phrase! But what do you mean, Proudhon?

Proudhon: I mean that property is bad, because theft is bad.

People in the world: So you're not saying that theft is good?

Proudhon: No, no, I'm saying that property is good. No, wait, I mean property is bad! Because theft is!

You see what knots we get tangled in when we try to invert the semantics of mutually-defining terms 180 degrees? They won't stay there, defined as the same thing. They swing back to their original positions very, very quickly.

In a world without property, there is no theft. But we don't live in a world without property. Best, then, to modify the concept of property, leaving it -- and its relationship with its antonym -- intact and meaningful. We do this with ideas like "public property" or "collective property". It's still property, but everyone owns it. This is a very powerful and stable concept. Property-as-theft is a weak and unstable one.


ReplyThread Parent Expand

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand


















cerulicante
cerulicante
cerulicante
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 11:31 am (UTC)

It seems like Horseface just needs to be smacked over the head with an empty bottle of bourbon and sent off to the coal mines for an honest day's work. he'd fix up quite nicely inside of a week.


ReplyThread
electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:04 pm (UTC)

IDK I was thinking more along the lines of DYING. Then possibly he would stop annoying me.


ReplyThread Parent

mippy
mippy
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)

AMEN brother. I really have no time for this contrived business that went stale some time after Victoria's corpse. Dickon Edwards can stay, though, he's a nice bloke.


ReplyThread Parent

electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:02 pm (UTC)
no girls in the dandy treehouse!!!!!!!!!111

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH HORSLY
I just threw up all over myself.

And Hitler wasn´t a dandy, he was a S&M Master. GET YR TERMS RIGHT.


ReplyThread
electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:14 pm (UTC)

"Horsley is Adam Ant without the songs."


That just made me have such a spasm that keys broke off my laptop. YOU KILLED MY LAPTOP MOMUS.

I HOPE YOU´RE HAPPY.


ReplyThread
microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC)

MOMUS IS A PIRATE WITH SONGS

AND NOT A SEXY PIRATE EITHER

AND WITHOUT THE TALENT


ReplyThread Parent Expand




electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:18 pm (UTC)

Also, I am so challenging you to a duel for saying that about Adam Ant. DO NOT BANDY A LADY´S NAME.

Only it won´t be so much a duel, as me killing Sebastian Horsley.


ReplyThread
microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)

HE MIGHT AS WELL HAVE COMPARED BOLAN TO TINY TIM WHILE HE WAS AT IT


ReplyThread Parent Expand




electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:19 pm (UTC)

Oh and also for the honour of the 1 key on my laptop.


ReplyThread
electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:22 pm (UTC)

It is an honest key and wishes to return to the protection of its mother.


ReplyThread
electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:24 pm (UTC)

hai where did the rainbow colours go.


ReplyThread Parent Expand




electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:26 pm (UTC)

Also, I hope Astral Marc makes him pregnant in the ass for stealing his song/album title for his awful book.


ReplyThread
electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:27 pm (UTC)

ASSBABIES!


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:31 pm (UTC)

Oh no, we're going to get to 50 comments really quickly this way and then I'm going to have to click on little folded threads to read them. All because of "Assbabies" and the like.


ReplyThread Parent Expand






electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
the last romantic


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:56 pm (UTC)
Re: the last romantic

God, that just reminds me of how much I hated the 80s in Britain. The rightward lurch, the New Romantics (and ABC!) in league with Thatcherite aspiration, and everything all boaters and boating. A mere two decades before, your average hero in a British film (by Karel Reisz, Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson) was a witty, unorthodox Northerner who looked like Joe Orton and came south to cock a snook at the bourgeois. 1920s-style toffs in punts were already long dead. Who reheated them? Why?


ReplyThread Parent Expand



















electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Nov. 13th, 2007 12:44 pm (UTC)

Besides, assbabies are an important cultural phenomenon. My friend did her MA thesis on MPREG.


ReplyThread