Thursday, June 30, 2005

Film as dream, film as music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul. A little twitch in our optic nerve, a shock effect: twenty-four illuminated frames in a second, darkness in between, the optic nerve incapable of registering darkness.
Ingmar Bergman from 'The Magic Lantern', 1987
I always forbade everyone to clean my studios, dust them, not only for fear they would disturb my things, but especially because I always counted on the protection of dust. It's my ally. I always let it settle where it likes. It's like a layer of protection. When there's dust missing here or there, it's because someone has touched my things. I see immediately someone has been there. And it's because I live constantly with dust, in dust, that I prefer to wear gray suits, the only color on which it leaves no trace.

Picasso, from Brassai, Conversations with Picasso

This reminds me of the character in Spike Milligan's novel 'Puckoon' who said something like: 'a good pair of brown shoes won't show the mud, and a good pair of green ones won't show the grass.'
Catholytic Converters

and from the same source:

Dead iPod Remembered As Expensive
VENTURA, CA—A third-generation, 30-GB iPod, serial number AP356372, died early Monday morning at age 2. "I'll never forget all the great music it used to play during my workouts," said the late iPod's owner Sarah Zartman at a brief memorial held over the junk drawer. "It was convenient, portable, and really pricey—almost $500." Zartman said that, had she known the iPod's lithium-ion battery would have such a short lifespan, she might have spent more time listening to it. AP356372 is survived by a BlackBerry.
Lomo copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

In real life, of course, it is the hare who wins. Every time. Look around you. And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market. Hares have no time to read.
Anita Brookner, from 'Hotel du Lac'

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

One never reaches home. But whenever friendly paths intersect, the whole world looks like home for a time.
Herman Hesse, from 'Demian'
battleship in Leith docks

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.

This was the ship that was recently berthed where the orange ship is now. Someone suggested it was connected with the forthcoming G8 Summit here in Scotland. I don't know about that, but I certainly hadn't realised that satellite tv was so popular among sailors.

Monday, June 27, 2005

orange ship in Leith docks

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.
The distinction between children and adults ... is at bottom a specious one, I feel. There are only individual egos, crazy for love.
Donald Barthelme, from ‘Come Back, Dr Caligari'
I don't read much new fiction. I think the last contemporary novel I read was 'Trainspotting' and the one before that was probably Tom Wolfe's rather patchy 'Bonfire of the Vanities'. No doubt I've missed out on a lot of good books as a result, but over the years I've developed a distrust of the publishing industry which makes me shy away from fiction written roughly post-1980. A give-away line in a recent magazine interview with a moderately talented Scottish tv comedienne reminded me of why I feel like this. The line was: 'she has been asked to write a novel'. Yes, that's how it works these days. People have seen you on the box, so they're bound to want to read your novel, aren't they? Oh well, I suppose like the rest of us she's got a novel buried in there somewhere, but if she's too busy to excavate it I'm sure the publishers will be able to ghost-write something suitable to which she can append her D List Celebrity moniker. After all, as Marcel Duchamp proved when he signed the Empire State Building, it's the signature that counts.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Is it fact, or have I dreamt it -- that by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time?
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The saving grace of the cinema is that with patience, and a little love, we may arrive at that wonderfully complex creature which is called man.
Jean Renoir

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.

Friday, June 24, 2005

water #4

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.

You may be wondering what all these pictures of water are about. The answer is Willie's Hole. I was invited for a day's fishing a few days ago, and decided to go, despite a backlog of work which had piled up during last week's spyware wars. The forecast was for cloud and drizzle, which would have been good for salmon fishing, but when we arrived at the river the clouds evaporated and the midsummer sun began to beat down. We decided to head downriver to a spot marked on the fishing map as 'Willie's Hole', which the weasely little man who sold us the permits assured us was the best place to fish. Well, we'd already fished some of this stretch of river last year, and searched in vain for Willie's Hole, but undeterred we headed off downstream once more. It was a long hike following a rough path along the riverbank, then skirting round a seemingly endless field of barley, now and again returning to the river to check for Willie's elusive Hole (the map was practically useless), but we eventually got there.

To my relief it did indeed look like a good fishing spot, with the river falling several feet into a deep pool of churning water before gliding off through long flat pools separated by smaller weirs towards a sharp bend where an impressive sandstone cliff face rose vertically above the river. However, by now conditions were so bright that it was hardly worth fishing, so I amused myself by collecting odd shaped stones - as you do - and occasionally casting a hopeful fly into Willie's Hole. By late afternoon the sun was low enough in the sky to start fishing in earnest. I walked down towards the cliff face and tried a pool below one of the weirs. No fish were interested - or perhaps none were there - but I did notice a beautifully curved spout of water where the river slipped over the rim of the weir. Unfortunately I'd left my camera a fair distance behind, but later on I decided to try to wade back across to where I'd seen this incredible natural sculpture. It was too deep to reach it so I had to turn back, but I decided to take some photographs anyway. The contrast between the flow of the water above and below the weir, along with the unusual late evening light which made the smooth water seem like oil, was extraordinary.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

water #3

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.
The Octave
The divine mysteries of the harmony of a verse
you would not think of unravelling from the books of sages:
at the edge of drowsy waters, wandering alone, by chance,
lend an ear, in your soul, to the whispering of the reeds,
the murmur of the leafy grove; their unusual sound
experience deeply and comprehend... In the consonance of poetry
Involuntarily from your lips regular octaves
will flow, sonorously, like the music of the grove.

Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Delphine Seyrig in 'L'Année dernière à Marienbad'

Film meme passed on by Brian

1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video:
No idea. I'd guess about 100 on video and half a dozen DVDs.

2. Last film I bought:
Cocteau's La Belle et La Bete on DVD.

3. Last film I watched:
Tarantino's Pulp Fiction on TV. I didn't mean to watch this again, but got sucked into it.

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order):

Ivan the Terrible - This powerful film is painted on a huge canvas, and it really demonstrates what cinema is capable of. Gance's Napoleon had a similar effect on me when I first saw it, and Tarkovsky carried on this epic tradition in Andrei Rublov. Early directors like Fritz Lang and DW Griffiths also worked on a big scale, but to me their films are shallow and sentimental compared to this searing masterpiece by Eisenstein.
The Colour of Pomegranates - Pure visual poetry, and totally original. I revisit this the same way as I revisit a favourite piece of classical music. I actually find it very moving, but I'm not sure I could explain why.
Wälsungenblut - I only saw this obscure film (based on a short story by one of my favourite writers, Thomas Mann) once, but I have never forgotten the highly erotic closing love scene between Siegmund and Sieglinde. I once tried to track down a copy, but failed.
Last Year at Marienbad - If you could capture a lucid dream on film this is probably what it would look like. It's so cleverly done, with such restraint, that you can't tell whether it's saturated with meaning or devoid of it. The image of Delphine Seyrig above gives an idea of the beauty of the cinematography. Every frame is perfect in itself.
Withnail and I - I couldn't really decide between this and Mike Leigh's gentler but equally hilarious 'Nuts in May'. Both are cult films, but Withnail is probably better known, and Richard E Grant is simply phenomenal as the paranoid, self-obsessed, unemployed actor permanently teetering on the edge of total mental meltdown. Makes me laugh every time.

some more all-time favourite films here

who's next? paquito? elaine? ashleycrowe?
water #1 & #2

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

ok, normal service almost resumed. thanks to all who offered advice on how to treat my ailing computer. hopefully it's more or less fixed - after 5 full days and several nights spent rummaging around in the murky depths of the windows xp operating system.

here's a little poem till i remember how to blog:

My Star
All that I know
Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
(Like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue;
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too,
My star that dartles the red and the blue!
Then it stops like a bird; like a flower hangs furled:
They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
What matter to me if their star is a world?
Mine has opened its soul to me, therefore I love it.

Robert Browning

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I mentioned Eno's new album recently. Quick, go grab this while you can!
Thanks to 'just for a day'

Friday, June 10, 2005

Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth (detail)

I saw him one day at the late venerable Professor Ferguson's, where there were several gentlemen of literary reputation ... Of course, we youngsters sat silent, looked and listened ... His person was strong and robust; his manners rustic, not clownish; a sort of dignified plainness and simplicity, which received part of its effect perhaps from one's knowledge of his extraordinary talents. His features are represented in Mr. Nasmyth's picture: but to me it conveys the idea that they are diminished, as if seen in perspective. I think his countenance was more massive than it looks in any of the portraits. I should have taken the poet, had I not known what he was, for a very sagacious country farmer of the old Scotch school, i.e. none of your modern agriculturists who keep labourers for their drudgery, but the douce gudeman, who held his own plough. There was a strong expression of sense and shrewdness in all his lineaments; the eye alone, I think, indicated the poetical character and temperament. It was large, and of a dark cast, which glowed (I say literally glowed) when he spoke with feeling or interest. I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time. His conversation expressed perfect self-confidence, without the slightest presumption. Among the men who were the most learned of their time and country, he expressed himself with perfect firmness, but without the least intrusive forwardness; and when he differed in opinion, he did not hesitate to express it firmly, yet at the same time with modesty ... I was told, but did not observe it, that his address to females was extremely deferential, and always with a turn either to the pathetic or humorous, which engaged their attention particularly.

Sir Walter Scott recalling the occasion when, as a boy of 15, he met Robert Burns in Edinburgh. I've never been convinced by the romanticised portraits of Burns like the one above by Nasmyth, and I think Scott's verbal description probably gives a better picture of what the great poet was really like.
Lomo copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

When virtue has slept, she will get up more refreshed.
Friedrich Nietszche

This is plainly nonsense. Virtue never sleeps, or so I've heard.
Jack London
I liked her from the first. She was of most pleasing appearance. She was very mild. Her eyes were the mildest I had ever seen. In this she was quite unlike the rest of the girls and women of the Folk, who were born viragos. She never made harsh, angry cries, and it seemed to be her nature to flee away from trouble rather than to remain and fight.

The mildness I have mentioned seemed to emanate from her whole being. Her bodily as well as facial appearance was the cause of this. Her eyes were larger than most of her kind, and they were not so deep-set, while the lashes were longer and more regular. Nor was her nose so thick and squat. It had quite a bridge, and the nostrils opened downward. Her incisors were not large, nor was her upper lip long and down-hanging, nor her lower lip protruding. She was not very hairy, except on the outsides of arms and legs and across the shoulders; and while she was thin-hipped, her calves were not twisted and gnarly.

I have often wondered, looking back upon her from the twentieth century through the medium of my dreams, and it has always occurred to me that possibly she may have been related to the Fire People. Her father, or mother, might well have come from that higher stock.

Jack London, from Before Adam, 1906
Never the Time and the Place
Never the time and the place
And the loved one all together!
This path -- how soft to pace!
This May -- what magic weather!
Where is the loved one's face?
In a dream that loved one's face meets mine,
But the house is narrow, the place is bleak
Where, outside, rain and wind combine
With a furtive ear, if I strive to speak,
With a hostile eye at my flushing cheek,
With a malice that marks each word, each sign!
O enemy sly and serpentine,
Uncoil thee from the waking man!
Do I hold the Past
Thus firm and fast
Yet doubt if the Future hold I can?
This path so soft to pace shall lead
Through the magic of May to herself indeed!
Or narrow if needs the house must be,
Outside are the storms and strangers: we --
Oh, close, safe, warm, sleep I and she, I and she.

Robert Browning

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

This Lady is about 21, of the middle size, red hair, and very good teeth. She is far from being disagreeable, if it were not for her sulky temper, which sometimes cools the keenest desire even in the height of their mutual embraces. (We hope also, she will take the above hint.) Notwithstanding, when she meets with a lover, she gives him the utmost satisfaction, as she understands the power of friction admirably well.
from Ranger's Impartial List Of the Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh ~ attributed to James 'Balloon' Tytler, 1775

Many moons ago, when I was struggling to earn a living as an artist, I took what promised to be a 'dream-job' compiling a guide to Edinburgh's pubs. This involved copious amounts of drinking because every publican would offer a free pint of beer in the hope of receiving a favourable review. There are hundreds of pubs in the city and I - and my small crew of 'researchers' - were expected to check them all out in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. Anyway, thanks mainly to the free beer, we soon discovered we could only actually get round about six pubs each in a night. Forms had to be filled out, and notes taken - did Rabbie Burns once seduce the landlord's daughter in the cellar?, and so on - but as the evenings wore on these jottings became increasingly incoherent and illegible. Often vital bits of information such as the actual address of the pub, the type of beer they sold, or the state of the toilets would be missing entirely. I would therefore spend the next day trying to decipher these notes and fill in the gaps by phone before writing them up in a supposedly witty but informative and unbiased manner while labouring under what soon became a permanent hangover. What I had happily envisaged as a merry jaunt through the capital's colourful watering holes turned into a logistical nightmare welded to a blinding headache, and for a while I wondered if I'd ever complete the book. But I did, and as soon as it was published I fled to the country to dry out, and to avoid the wrath of a few pub owners who took exception to my perhaps too-candid reviews. There are one or two pubs I have never set foot in again.

But I digress. On the dubious strength of the pub guide I was surprisingly offered work as a writer and sub-editor on a big, up-market guide to the city. This was much more like it. The pay was good and the work not nearly as damaging to the liver and brain cells. However, when it was finished the publisher decided that since over 200 years had passed since the publication of the above-mentioned 'List Of the Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh' it was time for an update. He offered me the job of writing it - under an assumed name - and waved a wad of money in front of my nose. It would be published in a 'plain brown paper cover', he said, and would be a sure-fire success because nothing sells better than sex. I was dubious to say the least, but the wad of money clouded my judgement, and before I knew it I had been assigned a young, largely illiterate, and somewhat wayward member of the aristocracy as my assistant and we set to work exploring the massage parlours (brothels in any other language), strip joints and go-go dancing establishments of the city. In fact we were meant to cover anything and everything remotely connected with sex in the city - call girls, contraception, sex shops, nudity at the Edinburgh Festival, glamour modelling, and so on. I soon realised that exploring the seamy side of life was even worse than trawling around endless bars checking the cleanliness of the toilets and the clarity of the beer.

It was certainly more difficult and dangerous because most people involved in the sex industry were operating either on the edge of the law or outwith it entirely, and just about everyone was highly suspicious of a couple of guys showing up and claiming to be researching a book about it. My assistant was packed off with fifty quid of expenses to do some 'hands-on' research, which he seemed to enjoy enormously, having found a young lady with as admirable an understanding of the power of friction as her illustrious antecedents. As far as I was concerned this was an infinitely better use of his time than attempting to get him to write anything remotely coherent for the book. I, meanwhile, collated the information and typed it up. At other times we visited saunas, interviewed off-duty masseuses, and found ourselves sitting nervously in darkened rooms with sun-tanned criminals - flanked by enormous minders - just back from their second home in the Algarve to check that everything was running smoothly on the business front here. It was not exactly my cup of tea, but I'd accepted the advance for the book and felt I had to soldier on.

My blue-blooded assistant, despite receiving a generous monthly allowance from the bulging family coffers, was always short of cash, and one day had the bright idea of making a bit on the side by phoning a well-known gossip columnist at a national Sunday newspaper and selling the story of how a peer of the realm was researching the sex trade in Edinburgh. He threw in some photographs of himself loitering outside a couple of dens of iniquity and pocketed a few hundred pounds for his trouble. I knew nothing of this till I saw the full-page spread in the paper, and immediately blew my top. I was incensed, not because he'd been so stupid but because he actually mentioned my name as his co-author. It was the last straw. I refused to work with him again, bundled up the manuscript, such as it was, and dumped it on the publisher's desk, informing him that he could do what he liked with it but to make sure my name was never mentioned in connection with it. I asked for payment of the remaining fee, which he sheepishly handed over, and I fled abroad to Amsterdam for a few weeks. When I got back I discovered - to my huge relief - that the book was no longer going to be published because of certain 'legal complications'.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.
Hunter S Thompson
Dance to the Velvet Underground
Listen to the original instrumental. If you could bottle the Velvet Underground sound this is what you'd hear when you pulled the cork out.
the song of the wood warbler is a loud 'pew pew' in an accelerating, shivering trill

Music is everywhere if only we had the ears to listen.
John Cage

That same morning very early Tristan and his companion had taken each other by the hand and stolen out through the dew and gone to the flowering meadow in their delightful valley. Calander-larks and nightingales began to blend their voices and salute their fellow denizens, Tristan and Isolde. They greeted them warmly - those wild woodbirds welcomed them most sweetly in their own parlance; the lovers were welcome there to many a sweet bird. They were all delightfully busy giving them their greeting. From their twigs they sang their joygiving airs with many variations. There were innumerable sweet tongues singing their songs and refrains in tenor and descant, to the lovers' rapture. The cool spring received them, leaping to greet their eyes with its beauty, and sounding in their ears with even greater beauty, as it came whispering towards them to receive them with its murmur. How sweetly it whispered its welcome to those lovers! The lime-trees welcomed them, too,with fragrant breezes; they gladdened them outside and in, in their ears and in their senses. The trees in all their blossom, the lustrous meadow, the flowers, the green, green grass, and everything in bloom - all smiled its welcome!
Gottfried von Strassburg, from 'Tristan', translated by AT Hatto

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Everyone lives in his own fantasy world, but most people don't understand that. No one perceives the real world. Each person simply calls his private, personal fantasies the Truth. The difference is that I know I live in a fantasy world. I prefer it that way and resent anything that disturbs my vision.
Federico Fellini, from 'I, Fellini', 1995
Original illustration for 'L'après-midi d'un faune' copyright Alan Edwards 1998. No unauthorised reproduction.

I adore you, rage of virgins, o fierce
Delight of the sacred naked weight slipping away,
Fleeing my fiery lip as it drinks, like trembling
Lightning! the secret terror of the flesh:
From the feet of the heartless to the heart of the
Timid one, abandoned together by an innocence,
Moist with wild tears or less unhappy vapours.

from 'L'après-midi d'un faune' by Stéphane Mallarmé, 1876

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Friday, June 03, 2005

shuffling along ...

Ali Farka Toure ~ Soukora
Belle & Sebastian ~ The Boy With the Arab Strap
Howlin' Wolf ~ Smokestack Lightnin'
White Stripes ~ We're Gonna be Friends
Jim Reeves ~ He'll Have to Go
Warren Zevon ~ Werewolves of London
Tom Rush ~ No Regrets
Bonzo Dog Band ~ Lookout There's a Monster Coming
REM ~ Don't Go Back to Rockville (live)
Jefferson Airplane ~ White Rabbit
I think interpretation is trying to liberate what one is unconscious about. When one can let go some things one doesn't know are there - the unexpected things and the surprises in the performance - that's when its worthwhile. This is also what I appreciate in other performers. When they are masters of their means of expression, this does not exactly interest me. That interests me in a teacher, but in a performer I am interested in what happens behind or in spite of the things the performer consciously wants to do. Maybe I am a little bit of a voyeur, you know, that way. But this is what I love.
Martha Argerich ~ from a 1978 interview

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mrs Conclusion: Hullo Mrs Premise.
Mrs Premise: Hullo Mrs Conclusion.
Conclusion: Busy Day?
Premise: Busy? I just spent four hours burying the cat.
Conclusion: Four hours to bury a cat?
Premise: Yes, it wouldn't keep still.
Conclusion: Oh, it wasn't dead, then?
Premise: No, no - but it's not at all well, so we were going to be on the safe side.
Conclusion: Quite right ... We're going to have to have our budgie put down.
Premise: Really - is it very old?
Conclusion: No, we just don't like it.

Monty Python

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

And now the graceful dancer appeared transported with the very delirium of love and passion. She danced like the priestesses of India, like the Nubians of the cataracts, or like the Bacchantes of Lydia. She whirled about like a flower blown by the tempest. The jewels in her ears sparkled, her swift movements made the colours of her draperies appear to run into one another. Her arms, her feet, her clothing even, seemed to emit streams of magnetism, that set the spectators' blood on fire.

Suddenly the thrilling chords of a harp rang through the hall, and the throng burst into loud acclamations. All eyes were fixed on Salome, who paused in her rhythmic dance, placed her feet wide apart, and without bending the knees, suddenly swayed her lithe body downward, so that her chin touched the floor; and her whole audience,--the nomads, accustomed to a life of privation and abstinence, the Roman soldiers, expert in debaucheries, the avaricious publicans, and even the crabbed, elderly priests--gazed upon her with dilated nostrils.

Gustave Flaubert, from 'Herodias'