Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Mirza Sajjad Ali (Sanjeev Kumar) and Mir Roshan Ali (Saeed Jaffrey) play chess oblivious to their wives and the world
Satyajit Ray is one of the great film directors. He's up there with Tarkovsky, Bergman, Fassbinder, and the rest of them. 'The Chess Players' (1977) is an affectionate satire on the decadence of Indian society in 1856, the year before the Mutiny that ignited the long struggle for independence from British colonial rule. The two central characters are obsessed with playing chess, oblivious to the personal and political upheavals around them. This piece of dialogue demonstrates that Ray was also an accomplished writer. The British are playing their own game of chess, and General Outram, who has been sent to take over the kingdom of Avadh under the pretext of the Nawab's misrule, is quizzing his subordinate, Captain Weston, about the Nawab.

Captain Weston (Tom Alter) and General Outram (Sir Richard Attenborough)
Outram: Tell me, Weston, you know the language, you know the people here - I mean, what kind of a poet is the King? Is he any good, or is it simply because he's the king they say he's good?
Weston: I think he's rather good, Sir.
Outram: You do, eh?
Weston: Yes, Sir.
Outram: Do you know any of his stuff?
Weston: I know some, Sir.
Outram: Well, can you recite it? Do you know it by heart?
Weston: (taken aback): Recite it, Sir?
Outram: Yes, I'm not a poetry man. Many soldiers are. But I'm curious to know what it sounds like. I rather like the sound of Hindustani.
(Weston remains silent, slightly ill at ease.)
Outram: Are they long, these poems?
Weston: Not the ones I know, Sir.
Outram: Well, go on man, out with it!
(Weston recites a four-line poem.)
Outram: Is that all?
Weston: That's all, Sir.
Outram: Well, it certainly has the virtue of brevity. What the hell does it mean, if anything?
Weston: He's speaking about himself, Sir.
Outram: Well what's he saying? It's nothing obscene, I hope?
Weston: No, Sir.
Outram: Well, what's he saying?
Weston (coughing lightly): 'Wound not my bleeding body. Throw flowers gently on my grave. Though mingled with the earth, I rose up to the skies. People mistook my rising dust for the heavens.' That's all, Sir.
Outram: Hmmnnn. Doesn't strike me as a great flight of fancy, I'm afraid.
Weston: It doesn't translate very well, Sir.
Outram: And what about his songs? He's something of a composer, I understand? Are they any good, these songs?
Weston: They keep running in your head, Sir. I find them quite attractive.
Outram: I see.
Weston: He's really quite gifted, Sir.
(Outram glances briefly at Weston and begins to pace the room thoughtfully.)
Weston: He's also fond of dancing, Sir.
Outram: Yes, so I understand. With bells on his feet, like nautch girls. Also dresses up as a Hindu god, I'm told.
Weston: You're right, Sir. He also composes his own operas.
Outram: Doesn't leave him much time for his concubines, not to speak of the affairs of state. Does he really have 400 concubines?
Weston: I believe that's the count, Sir.
Outram: And 29 'muta' wives. What the hell are muta wives?
Weston: Muta wives, Sir. They're temporary wives.
Outram: Temporary wives?
Weston: Yes, Sir. A muta marriage can last for three days, or three months, or three years. Muta is an Arabic word.
Outram: And it means temporary?
Weston: No, Sir.
Outram (raises his eyebrows): No?
Weston: It means-er, enjoyment.
Outram: Oh. Oh yes I see. Most instructive. And what kind of a king do you think all this makes him, Weston? All these various accomplishments?
Weston (smiling): Rather a special kind, Sir, I should think.
(Outram stops pacing, stiffens, turns sharply to Weston.)
Outram: Special? I would've used a much stronger word than that, Weston. I'd have said a bad king. A frivolous, effeminate, irresponsible, worthless king.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Tao is beyond words and beyond things.
It is not expressed either in word or in silence.
Where there is no longer word or silence
Tao is apprehended.
Chuang Tzu

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution and Anna Karina as Natasha Von Braun in 'Alphaville'

Natasha: Got a light?
Lemmy Caution: I’ve travelled 9,000 kilometers to give you one.

A dazzling amalgam of film noir and science fiction in which tough gumshoe Lemmy Caution turns inter-galactic agent to re-enact the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice in conquering Alpha 60 … Godard’s theme is alienation in a technological society, but his shotgun marriage between the poetry of legend and the irreverence of strip cartoons takes the film into entirely idiosyncratic areas.
Tom Milne, Time Out

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Natasha: You're looking at me very strangely.
Lemmy Caution: Yes.
Natasha: You're waiting for me to say something to you.
Lemmy Caution: Yes.
Natasha I don't know what to say. They're words I don't know. I wasn't taught them. Help me.
Lemmy Caution: Impossible. Help yourself; then you will be saved. If you don't, you're as lost as the dead of Alphaville.
Natasha: I... love... you. I love you.

closing dialogue from 'Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution', by Jean-Luc Godard (1965)

Whatever was written on the paper, it must have some kind of political meaning. So far as he could see there were two possibilities. One, much the more likely, was that the girl was an agent of the Thought Police, just as he had feared. He did not know why the Thought Police should choose to deliver their messages in such a fashion, but perhaps they had their reasons. The thing that was written on the paper might be a threat, a summons, an order to commit suicide, a trap of some description. But there was another, wilder possibility that kept raising its head, though he tried vainly to suppress it. This was, that the message did not come from the Thought Police at all, but from some kind of underground organisation. Perhaps the Brotherhood existed after all! Perhaps the girl was part of it! No doubt the idea was absurd, but it had sprung into his mind in the very instant of feeling the scrap of paper in his hand. It was not till a couple of minutes later that the other, more probable explanation had occurred to him. And even now, though his intellect told him that the message probably meant death -- still, that was not what he believed, and the unreasonable hope persisted, and his heart banged, and it was with difficulty that he kept his voice from trembling as he murmured his figures into the speakwrite.

He rolled up the completed bundle of work and slid it into the pneumatic tube. Eight minutes had gone by. He re-adjusted his spectacles on his nose, sighed, and drew the next batch of work towards him, with the scrap of paper on top of it. He flattened it out. On it was written, in a large unformed handwriting:

I love you.

For several seconds he was too stunned even to throw the incriminating thing into the memory hole. When he did so, although he knew very well the danger of showing too much interest, he could not resist reading it once again, just to make sure that the words were really there.
George Orwell, from 1984

Friday, November 26, 2004

Now tHis is what I call fun!
well, for 5 minutes...
and when you get bored you can always try this
A non-stop personality that will amaze you!
Show off Hannah in any setting in your home!

If you happen to believe that an inanimate object can have a 'non-stop personality' you probably deserve to be parted from your $199.
Mr Cheerychops

I think this is an interesting insight into the creative process

The Onion: How surprised were you when Murder Ballads became your biggest-selling album?
Nick Cave: Oh, very surprised. I just figured that Murder Ballads was destined to fail. In fact, it was made with the lightness of touch that things are made with when you know that no one's going to buy them so it didn't really matter. We were just in there having a good time.

more here

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Love and Sleep
Lying asleep between the strokes of night
I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
Pale as the duskiest lily's leaf or head,
Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat made to bite,
Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
But perfect-colored without white or red.
And her lips opened amorously, and said--
I wist not what, saving one word--Delight,
And all her face was honey to my mouth,
And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
The long lithe arms and hotter hands than fire,
The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
And glittering eyelids of my soul's desire.

Algernon Charles Swinburne
still from 'La Belle et La Bête' by Jean Cocteau, 1945

Belle: Vous êtes le maître.
La Bête: Non, il n'y a ici de maître que vous.
Whatever was the beginning of this world, the end will be glorious and paradisiacal, beyond what our imagination can conceive.
Joseph Priestley

Lenina shook her head. "Somehow," she mused, "I haven't been feeling very keen on promiscuity lately. There are times when one doesn't. Haven't you found that too, Fanny?"
Fanny nodded her sympathy and understanding. "But one's got to make the effort," she said, sententiously, "one's got to play the game. After all, every one belongs to every one else."
"Yes, every one belongs to every one else," Lenina repeated slowly and, sighing, was silent for a moment; then, taking Fanny's hand, gave it a little squeeze. "You're quite right, Fanny. As usual. I'll make the effort."
"And to tell the truth," said Lenina, "I'm beginning to get just a tiny bit bored with nothing but Henry every day." She pulled on her left stocking. "Do you know Bernard Marx?" she asked in a tone whose excessive casualness was evidently forced.
Fanny looked startled. "You don't mean to say …?"
"Why not? Bernard's an Alpha Plus. Besides, he asked me to go to one of the Savage Reservations with him. I've always wanted to see a Savage Reservation."
"But his reputation?"
"What do I care about his reputation?"
"They say he doesn't like Obstacle Golf."
"They say, they say," mocked Lenina.
"And then he spends most of his time by himself–alone."
There was horror in Fanny's voice.

Aldous Huxley, from 'Brave New World'

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Molecular Biology of Paradise
Homo sapiens, the first truly free species, is about to decommission natural selection, the force that made us. Soon we must look deep within ourselves and decide what we wish to become.
Edward O Wilson
You only see well with your heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint Exupery

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.
Carl Jung

La Bête: Mon cœur est bon, mais je suis un monstre.
Belle: Il y a bien des hommes qui sont plus monstrueux que vous et qui le cachent.

Monday, November 22, 2004

you want to sell pens on the internet
you obviously need a domain name
you think about it for, say, 2 minutes
and what do you come up with?
Picasso with bread rolls, by Robert Doisneau, 1952

Picasso once found himself discussing art with an American GI who claimed to dislike abstract paintings because they were excessively unrealistic. The artist said nothing and the conversation moved on to other subjects such as the GI's girlfriend - a snapshot of whom he proudly produced. 'My,' Picasso exclaimed, examining the picture, 'is she really that small?'

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Hahaha! babygoths !

Do they cook beans? do they cook rice?
Do they do ritual sacrifice?

After which you'll probably need a drink ... but do barmaids in America normally take a mouthful first?
The nature of genius is to provide idiots with ideas twenty years later.
Louis Aragon

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A film is a petrified fountain of thought.
Jean Cocteau

still from 'La Belle et La Bête' by Jean Cocteau, 1945

Belle: Pourquoi êtes-vous dans ma chambre?
La Bête: Je voulais ... j'étais ... je suis venu dans votre chambre vous apporter un cadeau.

Un collier de perles se forme dans la main de la Bête.

Friday, November 19, 2004

For a long time I found the celebrities of modern painting and poetry ridiculous. I loved absurd pictures, fanlights, stage scenery, mountebanks' backcloths, inn-signs, cheap colored prints; unfashionable literature, church Latin, pornographic books badly spelt, grandmothers' novels, fairy stories, little books for children, old operas, empty refrains, simple rhythms.
Arthur Rimbaud
Crofter's hands, South Uist by Paul Strand, 1954

Alfred Stieglitz took the young Paul Strand under his wing, giving him his first solo exhibition at the '291' Gallery in New York, and dedicating two issues of 'Camera Work' magazine to his photographs. Perhaps Strand was remembering his friend and mentor when he photographed these crofter's hands in 1954 for his book 'Tir a'Mhurain' . The image below, of Georgia O'Keeffe's hands with a thimble, was taken by Stieglitz in 1920.

Georgia O'Keeffe's hands by Alfred Stieglitz, 1920

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
Carl Jung

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Stieglitz - Paul Strand 1919

Paul Strand photographed by Alfred Stieglitz
Two of the undisputed masters of photography.

I enjoy looking at contemporary photography and photoblogs, but it can be exhausting. There's just so much to see, and a fair amount of it is either too derivative or self-consciously 'arty' for my taste. Occasionally I need to retreat into the past and look at some Harry Callahan or Minor White or Tina Modotti. There's a good selection of work at the Masters of Photography, and you can see just how influential and ground-breaking many of the great early photographers were.

I discovered the early plant photographer Karl Blossfeldt there.

'... the delicacy of a Rococo ornament, the severity of a Renaissance chandelier, the mystically tangled scroll work of flamboyant Gothic, domes, towers, and the noble shafts of columns - a whole exotic language of architecture. Crosiers embossed in gold, wrought with trellises, rich sceptres: all these man-made forms find their original form in the world of plants.'

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Man: Is, your uh, is your wife a sport, eh?
Squire: Um, she likes sport, yes.
Man: I bet she does, I bet she does!
Squire: As a matter of fact she's very fond of cricket.
Man: Who isn't? Likes games, eh? Knew she would. She's been around a bit, been around?
Squire: She has travelled, yes. She's from Scarsdale. (pause)
Man: Say no more! Scarsdale, say no more, say no more, say no more squire!
Squire: I wasn't going to.
Man: Oh! Well, never mind, dib dib ... Is your uh, is your wife interested in ... photography? 'Photographs', he asked him knowingly?
Squire: Photography?
Man: Snap snap, grin grin, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more?
Squire: Holiday snaps?
Man: Could be, could be taken on holiday. Candid, you know, candid photography?
Squire: No, no I'm afraid we don't have a camera.
Man: Oh. (leeringly) Still, mwoooo eh? mwoohohohohoo eh? hohohoho eh?
Squire: Look ... are you insinuating something?
Man: Oh, no, no, no (pause) ... Yes.

Monty Python

Monday, November 15, 2004

Lomo copyright Alan Edwards
Only silence is great; all else is weakness.
Alfred de Vigny

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Honey at the Table
It fills you with the soft
essence of vanished flowers, it becomes
a trickle sharp as a hair that you follow
from the honey pot over the table

and out the door and over the ground,
and all the while it thickens,

grows deeper and wilder, edged
with pine boughs and wet boulders,
pawprints of bobcat and bear, until

deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,

you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of the tree, crushed bees - - - a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything lost is found.

Mary Oliver

Saturday, November 13, 2004

What is it in the end, that induces a person to go his or her own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass as out of a swathing mist? Not necessity, for necessity comes to many, and they all take refuge in convention. Not moral decision, for nine times out of ten we decide for convention likewise. What is it, then, that inexorably tips the scales in favour of the extra-ordinary? It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a person to emancipate him/herself from the herd and from its well-worn paths. True personality is always a vocation and puts its trust in it as in God...But vocation acts like a law of God from which there is no escape...He must obey his own law, as if it were a daemon whispering to him of new and wonderful paths.
Carl Jung

Friday, November 12, 2004

absolute certainty
That religious experiences exist no longer needs proof. But it will always remain doubtful whether what metaphysics and theology call God and the gods is the real ground of these experiences. The question is redundant, actually, and answers itself by reason of the subjectively overwhelming numinosity of the experience. Anyone who has had it is seized by it and therefore not in a position to indulge in fruitless metaphysical or epistemological speculations. Absolute certainty brings its own evidence and has no need of anthropomorphic proofs.
Carl Jung, from 'The Undiscovered Self'
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; send these, the homeless tempest-tossed, to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door. How about rooting for our side for a change, you liberal moron.

much obliged

This is pretty scary, but this is ... well, judge for yourself.

" ... the President must have sensed my nervousness (it would be hard not to) and he whispered, 'It's okay,'. I stood up straight. His hand was on my back. I felt his hand rubbing my back. My back, in other words, was being rubbed by the President of the United States in a comforting, fatherly gesture."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

This is a great resource for music lovers.
Arthur Schopenhauer

Truth is no harlot who throws her arms round the neck of him who does not desire her; on the contrary, she is so coy a beauty that even the man who sacrifices everything to her can still not be certain of her favours.
Arthur Schopenhauer

How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
With half-shut eyes ever to seem
Falling asleep in a half-dream!
To dream and dream, like yonder amber light,
Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;
To hear each other’s whisper’d speech;
Eating the Lotos day by day,
To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;
To muse and brood and live again in memory,
With those old faces of our infancy ...

Tennyson, from 'The Lotus Eaters'

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

There's a lantern in the window
and a wild boar in the wood
as I'm standin' in the plantin' field
and feelin' pretty good
'bout my farmin' situation
an' my plans for wintertime,
'bout that woman from Winooski,
'an how glad I am she's mine.

Got a bottle in the bureau,
and a smokin' ham out back,
as I look about my holdin's,
there ain't nothin' that I lack,
'cept that boar ... he keeps escapin'
every time we hunt him down:
like a ghost he disappears and leaves
us shootin' at the ground.

I got 'coons and I got turkey,
I got squirrels and I got deer,
shoot 'em, skin 'em, cook 'em, eat 'em,
that's the way we do it here.
But that boar, he keeps eludin' us,
he's smart as twenty men.
I b'lieve I'll know true happiness
when I make a ham of him.

J. Eric Smith

This is poem #194 in the 2004 'Poem a Day' project at Giant Nylon Hairnet. As soon as I read it I imagined it as a song. So here it is, recorded down on the farm by Gordon (12-string pitchfork, bass and handclaps) and myself:
(for personal use only, words and music copyright Smith/Edwards)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

'I don't want anybody taking care of me in a nursing home some day to think I came from a monkey.'

hmmmnnn ..... good point
Cease to fear and you will start to live.
Ventosa Dellasciarpa
Cease to hope and you will cease to fear.
call me on my dog and other stuff
A Turkish petrol attendant who thought his mobile had been stolen dialled the number and his dog's stomach started ringing. He was reunited with his phone the next day. Residents of an entire Indian village have been sleeping outside a police station for the last four years to protect themselves from thieves. Next year's World Testicle Cooking Championship will include an 'exotic' section featuring camel and ostrich testicles. An Indian man can write with both hands simultaneously in two separate languages. A London man made the world's biggest origami penis. A German woman caused £15,000 of damage trying to eat breakfast while driving to work. She laid out a bowl, a packet of muesli, a pint of milk and a spoon on the passenger seat before setting off, but lost control of the car while trying to stop her bowl tipping over. Renee Zellweger is afraid that airport security guards will handle her underwear, so she sends it home by courier. An Indian man was arrested for hiding a piece of wood in his hair to meet the minimum height requirement to join the police. A talking dog has been discovered in the republic of Bashkiria, Russia.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I had now brought my state of life to be much easier in itself than it was at first, and much easier to my mind, as well as to my body. I frequently sat down to meat with thankfulness, and admired the hand of God's providence, which had thus spread my table in the wilderness. I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them, because they see and covet something that He has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.
from 'Robinson Crusoe', by Daniel Defoe, 1718

I've been reading 'Robinson Crusoe' lately. It's a great book, very evocative in the descriptions of the island, and the tale itself is so well told - in a relaxed, conversational style - that it's almost believable. The model for Crusoe was Alexander Selkirk, an interesting character in his own right.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Kate and Anna McGarrigle at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, 1975. Photo by David Gahr

Swimming Song
This summer I went swimming
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath, kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around,
I moved my arms around

This summer I did the backstroke
And you know that that's not all
I did the breaststroke, the butterfly
And the old Australian crawl
The old Australian crawl

This summer I swam in a public place
And a reservoir to boot
At the latter I was informal
At the former I wore my suit
I wore my swimming suit

This summer I did swan-dives
And jack-knifes for you all
And once when you weren't looking
I did a cannonball
I did a cannonball.

This song is on the 1976 debut album by the French-Canadian sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle. It was written by Loudon Wainwright, Kate's husband at the time. The album also features two of Anna's most beautiful songs, 'Talk to me of Mendocino' and 'Heart Like a Wheel' (the latter covered by Linda Ronstadt among others), and the whole album still sounds as fresh as it did when it was first released.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.
William Blake
Lomo copyright Alan Edwards

Friday, November 05, 2004

Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.
JL Borges

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I occasionally think about breasts. So does Ivor Cutler, and you can hear his observations on the subject here.
lux in the city

Lomo copyright Alan Edwards
Opsound is "a record label and sound pool using an open source, copyleft model, an experiment in practical gift economics, a laboratory for new ways of releasing music."

Sounds a bit dry and worthy as a mission statement, I know, but some of the downloadable songs are actually very good.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

We are near awakening when we dream that we dream.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I laid hold of her hands, and the tears became a sparkling bond that could not be broken. Into the distance swept by, like a tempest, thousands of years. On her neck I welcomed the new life with ecstatic tears. It was the first, the only dream -- and just since then I have held fast an eternal, unchangeable faith in the heaven of the Night, and its Light, the Beloved.
Novalis, from 'Hymns to the Night'
Your song caresses
the depths of loneliness,
high mountain bird.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Lomo copyright Alan Edwards