Butterflies and Asparagus

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Jun 082014

In the 1972 film ‘Butterflies Are Free’, a curious exchange takes place in a clothing store. Jill Tanner (Goldie Hawn) has taken her blind neighbour Don Baker (Edward Albert) out to buy some new clothes: “I’d love to pick out something really wild for you,” she tells him. The pair set out into San Francisco, and soon pass a trendy clothes shop: “let’s go in here, they’ve got wild things,” exclaims Jill, and in they go.

The owner of the shop, wearing a fetching pair of red trousers and a pink vest top, comes over to help. Jill introduces the shop owner to Don as “Mr Asparagus”, but that is not his name. His name is Roy Stratton.

Roy Stratton explains.

“Mr Asparagus” meets Don and Jill

Here’s the exchange:


Found anything yet?


Don, this is Mr Asparagus.


No, my name is Roy Stratton. The shop is called Asparagus. I named it that ‘cos I always think of asparagus as being a friendly vegetable. I mean, you might see one potato, or one onion, or one corn, but you never see one asparagus, they come in bunches, they’re involved.


You never see one pea.


Well I don’t like peas.

I think this is the first and only time I’ve seen asparagus used as a metaphor, or properly discussed on the silver screen. The screenplay was by Leonard Gershe, who also wrote the play upon which the film was based. As soon as I can, I’ll check the play to see whether the asparagus conversation occurred on stage, or whether it was penned specially for the film.

Mar 232014

I’ll say this for René Magritte, he had some amazing trousers.

Here he is, showing them off near some trees.


Now that’s a pair of trousers.

Jan 032014

Or, as it’s billed: “The Pipe of the Millenium”. And here it is, in a “walnut smooth” finish:

millennium pipe


The number 2000 is inscribed upside down so the owner can read it while smoking.

Because, of course, if you were to peer downwards at your pipe, as you puffed away, and tried reading the uninverted inscription, the pleasure of your smoking (and reading) would be significantly reduced. Part and parcel of the joy of smoking this millennial pipe is that you can smoke and “read” the digits simultaneously, and with ease.

It’s a twofold experience: smoking and reading the number. Naturally, with all this reading to do, you would want the number to be inscribed upside-down on the stem, facing upwards, so that you could read and re-read the digits without strain or confusion. Were they not inverted, the smoker/reader would be forced to stop puffing and hold the pipe away from his face to read the number, then return the pipe to his lips, smoke for a time (taking care not to glance down at the uninverted digits), and then draw the pipe again from his lips to study the date. And where’s the pleasure in that?

Oct 032013

Gilbert & George, it seems, are turning their joint hands to photography. They’ve invested in some matching cameras, with matching straps, and some typically natty hats, and they’ve taken to the streets of Bethnal Green to snap up some inspiration…


Gilbert checks his settings, as George ponders a new artwork entitled ’293A’

As they made their stylish way along Bethnal Green, doing their best to blend in, the strain of mastering a new artform was etched on George’s face. Gilbert, meanwhile, was quick to snap off some long lens shots…


George appears tense, as Gilbert zooms in hard on some Bethnal Green life.

Fans of Gilbert & George, or photography, or Bethnal Green Road, can look forward to these images of East End life cropping up in an aesthetically challenging exhibition soon.

Dec 172012

Mrs Coren Mitchell wrote a very funny piece on Sunday about fashion angst, asking: “When, precisely, is the thermal vest going to have its turn at the top of fashion’s spinning wheel?” This, I would suggest, is the closest it’s come so far:


So, not very close. (What is that stance, by the way? Is he skimming stones?)

Mrs C-M also mentions the Anna Wintour Secretary of State rumour, pointing out: “I can’t imagine why anyone would think that a woman who permanently masks her face with giant designer sunglasses is the perfect symbol of friendly international relations.”

This made me laugh, and also reminded me of that Army advert they played a gazillion times a few years ago featuring the soldier taking his sunglasses off to diffuse a tricky situation…


The sunglasses were *acknowledged* to be a profound psychological barrier between people. But maybe this is the idea. Arguments get heated at the UN, fingers are pointing, treaties are being snatched up and stuffed into shredders, then with a magnificent sweep of a svelte wrist, off come Anna’s sunglasses, and in a trice everyone quietens down and Anna takes command, her bare eyes gleaming. The sunglasses are her secret weapon.

Although, if it’s all about power-sunglasses, then I would much prefer to see as the new Secretary of State Lou Reed of the 1970s…


Surely these days, with CGI technology and AI this is possible? I think it could work. He can’t have any less luck at sorting out the Middle East. At the very least, it would make for an amazing press conference at the White House.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce our new Secretary of State, Lou Reed of 1974, who’ll be singing Kill Your Sons. Take it away, Lou!”