(Posted by Fi)

Oh dear I’ve made it to the final hurdle and run out of steam. You’ve probably all gone home for the week already anyway, so I’ll just talk about shoes.

I love shoes. Not in a fetishistic way, just in that way that one woman can love her shoes. Don’t understand what I mean? Go stand in a shoe shop and watch women fight over the final pair of suede boots with the kitten heel and tasseled edgings around the top that have been reduced to sell.

My favorite shoes are my most comfortable ones. I heard someone say that in life you need comfortable shoes and a comfortable mattress cause if you’re not in one you’re on the other. I’d have added a couch in there myself but it would have thrown the “one/other” format off. They’re made by a company that does far too much sponsorship so I won’t add to it here. Rhymes with “dyke” though. They’re also the least feminine shoes I own.

After the running shoes there’s a myriad of flats, sandals and flip-flops before we get to kitten heels. Kitten heels are called that because they were discovered by kittens, specifically Puss in Boots, whilst accompanying Dick Whittington to London noticed that high heels caused her boots to sink into the ground and flat soles were just not stylish enough.

I have boots with Cuban heels too. Cuban heels are special because in the early sixties JFK had to threaten Castro with nuclear retaliation if he didn’t stop the propagation of Cuban heels across the USSR, they were putting the US kitten heel industry in danger of extinction. The gambit paid off and ever since Cuban and kitten heels have been in a carefully balanced eco-system.

Platforms however are entirely different. For one thing I hate having trains stop beside them when I wear them. Very inconvenient. People stand on your toes, nudge towards the front and just cramp your style underneath the arches. They do however turn you into one tall b*tch that nobody is likely to f*ck with.

Probably my best pair of shoes, albeit the most uncomfortable are a pair of YSL Rive Gauche black leather sandals with leather laces that tie up to the top of the calf muscle and 4 inch metal spiked heels. They’re lethal. I came close to killing three people including myself with them one evening in an incident I try not to think about involving a bannister, a very short dress and a desire to relive the thrill of sliding down said bannister.

When we think about heels, what do we actually conclude? Were they designed by men to make women easier to catch? Were they favored by women because they countered the height difference? Are they merely useful tools for stamping on people’s feet? Do they really accentuate the legs, tighten the calf and thigh muscles and flatter the female form or are they merely a way of warning people you’re coming up behind them with that endless click-clack noise… I don’t know, I just like shoes.

6. Was That All It Was? (Kym Mazelle)

(Posted by Buni)

Do you ever get to the end of a relationship, be it for a night or a for a much longer period, and through all the upset of it finishing / ending you have to think to yourself, “Was That All It Was?” – just a way to pass the time?

The former, where you’ve been out for the night with mates or perhaps on a date, you’ve had a few drinks and the beer / wine goggles are kicking into action. Though, for that night and that night only, the other person was the most important, beautiful and interesting person in the room; they meant absolutely everything to you, or so you thought.

The next day, the sun rises, the milk and postie comes and goes. You wake with that realisation that, there is someone else in the bed with you. Then it all comes flooding back, the flowing drinks, the flirtatious attention, the dancefloor, the taxi (the shocked taxi-driver), the hall, the bedroom……..here, to now. You then have to admit to yourself that it wasn’t such a bad night after all, you had a good time didn’t you? In fact thinking about it, it was a damn good night. You take a glance over your shoulder to check out the bedmate for some reassurance. They stir; NOT YET! Actually they’re not at all bad. It’s at this point that you have a choice; more of the same, a repeat performance or tea / toilet / polite conversation. You decide on the first option, just to make sure that you did have a good night. After – much delayed – polite conversation you ask if they’d like to get together again, perhaps their phone number? While they’re putting on their clothes, you’re politely told that they think your both old enough to realise you’re not going to call each other. “Let’s be grown up about this, eh? We had some fun, that’s all.”

Was That All It Was?

The latter is more involved. It may or may not start like the above but the ending is different, you both realise that you are old enough and mature enough to call them / them calling you. You begin to see each other and grow fond of each other. Time passes and your lives become interwoven into a neat tapestry of commitment. The initial insecurity about letting your barriers down about certain things has been overcome, you know they’re not going to hurt you. Don’t you. You enjoy a period of happiness and then at some point, something happens, for whatever reason there has been a short circuit somewhere in the relationship and it all starts to falter. It all starts to go terribly, horribly wrong; before you know it you’re back to square one (see above). You feel bitter and betrayed. It wasn’t your fault it was theirs, they >>ADD YOUR REASON HERE<< and they didn’t see your point of view. We’ve given up x amount of our lives for each other and that’s it, over, done, finito.

Was That All It Was?

The science of second-guessing

(Posted by Mark)

Advertisers like to state about their products that they are ‘the thing you can rely on’ or comment that ‘if only everything in life was as reliable as Brand X’. It’s part of the way that they play upon the unreliability of so many aspects of our life, feeding into our insecurities about dependability and inconstancy, hoping that we will recognise their product as a way of enhancing our otherwise topsy-turvy, late again, broken down humdrum. Of course, Troubled Diva readers are far too canny to be duped by such messages, but issues of inconsistency and reliability are why we spend time (or waste time, depending on your particular viewpoint) on the science of second-guessing.

Is it true?
Interpreting what people say and what people mean is, to put an honest face on it, bloody difficult. Firstly, you need to establish whether they are wilfully lying to you, whether they are lying to you by omission, or whether they have dressed up the message in obscure, arcane or masked language. If they are outright lying to you then you have the option of corroboration, unless they are expressing a personal opinion. The old “it’s not you, it’s me” line is particularly apposite here, for the varying shades of meaning and duplicity it can cover. Translating what the other is saying is akin to revealing a Potemkin village.

When Catherine the Great toured her empire, she wished to see things in the best possible light, despite her advancing years and failing eyesight. In order to ensure that the Empress was presented with a positive view of her domain, her chief minister Potemkin ordered that elaborately constructed and beautifully crafted fake villages be built in the Ukraine and Crimea for the Imperial visit. Thus, when Catherine toured these places she was shielded from the poverty, drudgery and desperation of the average peasant, instead seeing happy, clean and well-dressed subjects outside their warm, safe homes. Once the tour was over, these villages, like film sets, were struck and normal life was resumed. Seeing past the façade of guarded conversation is very much like taking a closer look at the Potemkin village to reveal the stagecraft behind.

Body language considerations come into play as well. The most interesting time to interpret body language is when you believe that someone is lying. And, as with all good things, the best way to interpret this is through the use of monkeys. The ‘speak no evil’ monkey tells us that when someone is speaking with their fingers to their mouth, or using their hand to block the sounds, they are lying. The ‘hear no evil’ monkey tells us that the liar will somehow protect their ears, by covering them with the hand or directly blocking the earhole with their finger. The ‘see no evil’ monkey tells us that when lying, the person will rub their eyes when talking. There are a lot of other characteristics, but we don’t have enough monkeys for them.

Is it sure?
Of course, second-guessing at a meaning is not only necessary when the other person is lying. They may well be truthful, but unclear in their own mind as to what message they are trying to convey and by speaking their unorganised or unstructured thoughts, they will help themselves to decide. In this case, you are attempting to get to the root of their feelings, not necessarily their words: opening a small window into their minds to work out the real meaning rather than how they are expressing it. This is extremely intricate because you are sifting through a disorganisation of potentially conflicting or self-contradictory opinions and statements, as well as emotions which ebb and shift while they are trying to form a coherent, unified approach to the situation. To get to the determinate point may well take many narrow, bending roads.

Perhaps this is why an oft-repeated phrase in arguments or when having the dreaded ‘deep and meaningful’ conversation is “I don’t know”. The questions which you ask or are asked may well be ones you can prepare for or ones which directly address the thinking you have done on the issue, but there are always those particular posers which leave you answerless. Then it is the turn of the questioner to second-guess whether you are answerless because you haven’t thought about it, because you are trying to work out a way of making it sound better, or whether you are devising a way to leave certain things out.

Is it complete?
Whether they are telling you the truth or not, they are probably not telling you everything, so you’ll need to be alert to omissions. “This is pretty much everything,” you will be told. What this means is that it is not everything. There is the possibility that this is a stylistic tic of spoken language which this person has adopted and that they do mean everything, in fact. There is also the possibility that they are covering themselves in case certain factors or consequences occur, in which case they will legitimately be able to point back at the conversation to defend themselves with “Well, I did say ‘pretty much’, I didn’t mean everything”. You’ll have to decide which of the two you believe.

There are also situations where you can only hear half the story. When A splits up with B and you only hear one viewpoint, it’s fairly safe to say that you can second-guess some of what really went on, but until you’ve heard about or directly spoken to the other side to get their perspective, you are still a long way from completing the picture. Even when you have both sides, the variety in how certain incidents are recalled, how they each expressed themselves, what actions took place in what order may all be wildly changed. Whether this is done for self-serving or self-protecting reasons is what you have to work out for yourself, as well as trying to adopt a middle view and then seeing what they’re missing out and why.

Also, you can second-guess meanings through the detail of the language: the more vague the wording, the more likely that real reasons and key motivations are missing. You can probably make your own list, but ‘sort of’, ‘kind of’, ‘partly’, ‘appears to’ are all genuine contenders for a Top Ten of words and phrases which mask the deeper, underlying meaning, and getting past them appears to be sort of partly tricky. You see what I did there? Second-guess me, go on.

Is it them?
What you believe and what you want to believe are two completely separate things and you should be careful not to colour your second-guessing with wishful thinking, as this is likely to lead you into areas that the other person hasn’t even mentioned. What you thought was the case and what you wanted the situation to be should not be merged because then you are speaking to the other person on completely different levels and your estimates of what they really mean will be way, way off. Such conversational disconnects provide us with the basis for most sitcoms where, along with mistaken identity, amusing consequences tend to follow. In real life, these disconnects are not often as funny, more often they are disappointing and emotionally charged.

These are just a few of the elements in the science of second-guessing, which resembles an elaborately choreographed verbal dance between people, occuping many different strata of meaning: emotional, social, familial, financial, rational. I’ve deliberately avoided mention of solutions and results in second-guessing because they vary depending on what you are trying to get at, and also because your second-guessing may well have no fixed results. Trying to calculate the motivations of others is frustrating precisely because some statements or actions are motiveless. Even when there are motives, the chances are that you will only second-guess correctly a small percentage of the real reasons. But it’s still better than taking everything at face value, right?

5. Are you ready for love? (Elton John)

(Posted by Buni)


I’ve always questioned how some people can just flit from one relationship to another; one relationship ends, another starts; or a relationship hasn’t quite ended, and the other is starting already. How? How is this so and how do they do that?

Take ‘X’, they’ve been seeing ‘Y’ for the last year and a half. Things haven’t been easy for a while and they have been drifting apart. One day, Y says to X that they should split (NO chromosome jokes please), which they do. Then, before you know it, X is seen out and about in town with Z. Barely a few weeks have gone by and they’re at it again.

At this point I should point out that I’m all for picking yourself up and getting on with life, but it just seems so……..disposable. What about depth of feeling, do they have depth of feeling or are they just going along for the ride? Are they just settling into taking second best (i.e. pretty much anyone) as it’s a much more appealing option than being single. I have no idea.

I have absolutely no qualms about being single. I’m not desperate for anything, maybe that’s why I can’t see the above perspective. If I go out or go clubbing, I rarely if ever go looking for anything, I go to have a good laugh, spend time with friends and relax. If I meet someone then that’s just a bonus. I like to meet guys, there is no denying that, but I’m not one for flitting about. I like to bide my time, meet a guy I genuinely like and then go for it. I’m a typical Taurean, once stirred I go at it like a bull.

Kill Bill

(posted by Buni)

HaraKiriIt must be terribly difficult for a director to come up with decent plot lines, cinematography and direction each and every time they release a film. This must be especially so when the said director happens to be Quentin Tarantino who, with such iconic films to his name as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs (amongst others), happens to have quite successfully pulled it off this time too.

Kill Bill is an all round action movie that is pleasing to the eye as well as the ears. With the former, you can clearly see where his influences are; there is traditional Japanese and U.S. cinematography that switches to some of the best Manga out there. With the latter, Tarantino has cleverly spliced together tracks as diverse as Nancy Sinatra, Luis Bacalov, Isaac Hayes, Bernard Hermann, Tomoyasu Hotei and many others to create a soundtrack that is both exciting and inspiring.

Many have commented on the level of violence within the film and the graphic way it is portrayed. The violence within this film is however, well within context. It is a Samurai film about Samurai Assassins, they’re not going to be doing crochet or ‘pearl one’ for 110 minutes are they? At the end of the day, we know what level of violence we are going to get with Tarantino anyway, if you don’t know by now, where on earth have you been? I’ll give him dues in this area; he switches from contemporary colour in the goriest parts to the more traditional black and white Japanese Samurai films of the 60’s and 70’s, just to save us from the level of red out there.

I said earlier that Tarantino manages to pull off cool, iconic film after cool, iconic film. I’ve though long and hard over the last 24 hours to try and attempt to work out how he manages this. The only conclusion I can come to is that he flies in the face of critics and not only avoids but also uses clichés in the areas of the that it matters most; he’s not afraid to use clichés from his own films either. His advantage is that they are his own; he created them so he will bloody well use them.

Finally, I’d like to comment on the totally obvious way he has created a serial film. Wednesday nights viewing was only Part I, we still have Part II to go yet. I’m not so sure I like this idea or the fact that the film ends just at the point where you start to think that you’re getting into it. I’m not going to ruin the ending for anyone so all I’ll say on the matter is that my point about films is that I find them more interesting and enjoyable when they just leave you wondering if there is going to be another.

The five stages of working in Paris.

(posted by Mike, who has been up since 4:00 this morning and is therefore feeling a bit jet-lagged, even though the time difference was only an hour, and who is aware that what follows might consequently be a rambling, spaced-out jumble of a piece, but – since time is so tight in his newly acquired eurotrash-business-jetset lifestyle – is also keenly aware that it’s this or nothing, and that he can’t leave everything to his actually quite scarily talented guest posters, and oh God, he’s rambling already, OK, focus…)

1. This is bewildering.

Pitched into an unfamiliar (dare I say alien?) environment, where all life’s little details feel somehow other, one’s capacity for making the wrong choices increases exponentially. On difficult days, my expectations will shrink back to that classic, irreducible, middle-class English ideal: to get safely from one end of the day to the other without suffering any noticeable embarrassment along the way.

During my first week in Paris, this proved impossible. I pushed doors marked tirez, and pulled doors marked poussez. I caused bottlenecks in front of crowded Métro barriers, frantically scrabbling through my satchel for that sad little placcie bag containing my carnet of tickets. Given a choice of directions, I invariably set off in the wrong one. I struggled with suitcases, room keys, breakfast juice dispensers, coffee machines, small change, tables in cafés, plates of unfamiliar food (how the hell are you supposed to eat escargots, and why did I order the bloody things in the first place?), tips, the language (how I hated it when well-meaning Parisians answered my faltering French with grammatically perfect English, always, always, always – humour me, goddammit!) … embarrassment compounded embarrassment, leaving me feeling trapped inside a bad sitcom.

Mr. Bean Goes To Paris. Sometimes, I could almost hear the laugh track. I could even feel myself starting to pull the facial expressions. Behind closed doors, I sometimes did. Hey: got to keep yourself entertained somehow.

2. This is exciting.

Hang on a minute – I’m in freakin’ Paris! Cool as!

Pavement cafés! (Refreshingly free of all that creeping demographic segmentation, with hand-holding teenage couples bunched up next to gnarly old men, and neatly coiffed Madames next to merry groups of homeward bound office workers – every single last one of them smoking of course, but somehow getting away with it, because this is Paris, and this is what you do. Comme il faut, sort of…)

Beautiful manners! (None of that sod-you-mate Brit solipsism in evidence here, thank you…)

Timeless, understated elegance! (Thank God I got that ridiculous it’s-for-a-play-it’s-meant-to-look-stupid Hoxton Twat bleached fin hairdo chopped off in the nick of time…)

Iconic buildings! (Eiffel Tower, Pompidou Centre, Notre Dame, Louvre…)

All those sexy Marais ‘mos a-poutin’ and a-struttin’! (I’d do you, and you, and you, and you…)

Two nights running, I met up with Sarah, who had seen my shout-out on the blog a couple of weeks previously. Up until that point, my existence in Paris had been a steadily de-humanising round of work / eat / read / sleep. Now, I could finally start having proper conversations again. It still took a couple of drinks each night to unfurl my tightly sprung mental coils, but Sarah’s stimulating company gradually eased me back into a more functional, natural engagement with my surroundings.

Towards the end of the second night, I met Sarah’s charming Italian boyfriend, who spoke no English. So there we were, none of us native French speakers, conversing in the one non-native language which we all shared. My first proper French conversation in years. I don’t think I fared too badly, all things considered. The wine helped, of course – as it always does with foreign languages, relaxing you into a state where, the less you consciously try and search for them, the right words will instinctively start to bubble up to the surface of their own accord.

Sitting in the back of the Italian boyfriend’s car, zooming along the Seine embankment past all the illuminated guide-book sights, heading towards the twinkling Eiffel tower (that hourly light show turns out to look much better from a distance), I found myself grinning with glee. Wheeee! I’m zooming through night-time Paris in the back of a car! This is living!

3. This is fantastic.

Commuting to and from the office every day on the Métro with all the other workers, headphones playing Blur’s Think Tank or – best of all – Bowie’s Reality, newspaper on my lap, I started to feel like quite the proper Parisian. No longer the innocent abroad, but a seamless part of the crowd. Striding purposefully across the Port St. Cloud, with the crisp, clear Autumn sunshine lighting up the glass buildings ahead, and all those gorgeous height-of-autumn colours in the trees of the Parc St. Cloud, and on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne behind me. Heading back after an intensive (best behaviour in front of the client!) but surprisingly satisfying day’s work, to the hotel where they know me by name, and the little Internet place over the road, and my favourite local café/bar next door, and those wonderful early morning markets underneath the raised Métro tracks…oh yes, I’m up and running now, and lovin it lovin it lovin it.

4. This is routine.

Almost as soon as you’ve reached Stage 3 – the very next morning, in fact – Stage 4 stumbles up, bleary eyed, and clobbers you round the back of the head. In a trice, the thrill of the new evaporates, leaving you once again with that familiar feeling: same old, same old. After all: routine is routine, wherever you go. Suddenly, you’re back to wanting out.

5. This is enough.

You’re exhausted – okay, so it’s earnt exhaustion, “good” exhaustion – but no less knackering for all that. You feel ground down, fed up, wanting your man back, your home back, your life back. The misery of the shabby, over-familiar satellite lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport is the last straw – especially when you find that the bar’s shut. All your fellow passengers irritate you to distraction. The massed ranks of self-important business wonks are de-briefing into mobiles, with as much manufactured assertiveness as they can muster, all with the same emotionally distanced and faintly absurd vocal patina. There’s a tense Daily Mail type on your right, eyes narrowed and suspicious, muttering her inecessant litany of minor grumbles about absolutely f***ing everything to her silent, defeated looking husband, who looks as if he stopped listening years ago. You can’t get home quick enough.

On the plane, you put REM’s Bad Day on repeat, and crank it up nice and loud. When was the last time you kept hammering the same song over and over, because it gave you that “Yes! This is ME!” feeling? Pissed-off music for grown-ups. Bloody marvellous. Sipping your G&T from the trolley, you revel in your misery. In fact, you positively celebrate it. Dinner’s waiting when you get home. As you start planning your comic monologue, a wry smile creeps over your face.

I’ve not been in Paris this week. I’ve been in Cologne instead. Meaning a whole new set of unfamiliarities, of course – but somehow, I’m becoming familiar with the very state of unfamiliarity itself. If that makes any sense at all. (I can’t tell anymore; it’s getting on, I feel even more f***ed than I did when I started.) I’m beginning to sense that – for now at least, until even the familiarity of the unfamiliar ossifies into dull routine, as it surely must – this is actually doing me the power of good.

The Art of Science/The Science of Art

(Posted by Fi, after Mark and Zena)

How often have you heard the phrase “I know what I like and I like what I see”? How meaningless and subjective can that statement appear to people who have a different frame of reference to the observer. One man’s spam is another man’s steak. So what if I think that modern art is a load of old Pollocks. What really Lichtenstein’s my Klimt and makes my Gaugin Gogh is a nice Seurat or Monet. I can’t explain what it is about those 19th century French painters that makes my Botticelli all warm inside.

What does all this have to do with Science? Well, if we are to believe Robert Pirsig in his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the unifying value behind art, science and religion is quality: a judgement brought by the observer to the object being observed and not just a street made of chocolate.

With science we postulate theories, make logical progressions through experimentation and draw conclusions that support our original theory. With art… with art… well… we sort of dab paint on canvases and step back and hope it doesn’t look too crap. Or we cut out square blocks and put them one atop the other and sell them for millions of pounds.

Science has its foundations in art of course, undocumented unfortunately, but true nonetheless. The famous caveman scientist Ug-ugog used stick-figure cave paintings to develop his first invention “fire”. Fire was such an immediate success that the cave was turned into an art gallery with nice lizard canapés served hourly and freshly fermented mammoth pee lager available at the bar.

Conversely art’s roots can be traced back to science. Across the other side of the super-continent Pangea another caveman known as Og-ogug was attempting to determine the origins of a particular species of spineless fish by pinning it up on the wall and rummaging around through the internal organs. The resultant cross of biology and art was also turned into a science museum where tour guides refused to tell you where the nearest dunny was and small pamphlets for coming attractions were handed out.

This conflict and chicken/egg-style paradox lead to the emergence of the first two true religions: The Church of the Fish and the Flowchart Appreciation Society. Suddenly the continent was in turmoil, split right down the middle. Whole tribes went to war to defend the premise that reading the fish innards revealed the future against the blasphemous idea that the flowchart predicted the way. Thousands died clutching small keychains of fishguts or postcards depicting the best panels from the flowchart.

Unsurprisingly, it all ended in tears when the true messiah, Mastadon Smith, left his tall black obsidian obelisk in the middle of the monkey enclosure…