Wednesday, August 31, 2005

recent news
Victoria Beckham claims she has never read a book - not even her own autobiography. Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly says she likes to multi-task during sex with her husband: 'I like to read a book, and talk on the phone. If the room's dark enough I like do some online shopping. You can get so much done'. A Russian man who tried to sit university entrance exams for his sister was caught because his breasts were too big. 40,000 Catholics went to see a 5ft white marble statue of the Virgin Mary in Acerra, near Naples, which 'became flesh' and started to dance. Some witnesses photographed it with mobile phones. The parish priest says the church is closed while they count all the money tests are carried out on the statue.

Tests? Is there a crack team of Holy Statue Testers sitting around the Vatican in Papal lab coats ready to investigate inanimate objects that suddenly break into the hokey-cokey? And why on earth are they testing the statue rather than the witnesses?
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Like cuttlefish we conceal ourselves, we darken the atmosphere in which we move; we are not transparent. I pine for one to whom I can speak my first thoughts; thoughts which represent me truly, which are no better and no worse than I; thoughts which have the bloom on them, which alone can be sacred and divine. Our sin and shame prevent our expressing even the innocent thoughts we have. I know of no one to whom I can be transparent instinctively. I live the life of the cuttlefish; another appears, and the element in which I move is tinged and I am concealed. My first thoughts are azure; there is a bloom and a dew on them; they are papillaceous feelers which I put out, tender, innocent. Only to a friend can I expose them.

Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Last evening one of our neighbors, who has just completed a costly house and front yard, the most showy in the village, illuminated in honor of the Atlantic telegraph. I read in great letters before the house the sentence 'Glory to God in the highest.' But it seemed to me that that was not a sentiment to be illuminated, but to keep dark about. A simple and genuine sentiment of reverence would not emblazon these words as on a signboard in the streets. They were exploding countless crackers beneath it, and gay company, passing in and out, made it a kind of housewarming. I felt a kind of shame, and was inclined to pass quickly by, the ideas of indecent exposure and cant being suggested. What is religion? That which is never spoken.

Henry David Thoreau

Monday, August 29, 2005

Shane Warne

I've been watching England and Australia battling it out for the Ashes. Who says 5-day Test cricket isn't compelling viewing? This is the most dramatic series for years, and each of the last three matches has gone to the wire. Next week's grand finale at the Oval, in which England only need to draw to regain the Ashes for the first time since 1986, promises to be a cracker too.

WG Grace

Australia’s first victory on English soil inspired a young London journalist, Reginald Shirley Brooks, to write this mock obituary in the Sporting Times: "In affectionate remembrance of English cricket which died at The Oval, 29th August, 1882. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances, RIP. NB The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia."

Saturday, August 27, 2005

This is one of the saddest photographs I've ever seen. It was taken in 1926.

Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed ...
So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I'm at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it's gonna take
To find dignity.

Bob Dylan, from 'Dignity', 1991

Friday, August 26, 2005


original garb
Kitty told me today that she would dance in a deluge before ever she would starve in such an ark of salvation for, as she reminded me (blushing piquantly and whispering in my ear though there was none to snap her words but giddy butterflies), dame Nature, by the divine blessing, has implanted it in our hearts and it has become a household word that IL Y A DEUX CHOSES for which the innocence of our original garb, in other circumstances a breach of the proprieties, is the fittest, nay, the only garment. The first, said she (and here my pretty philosopher, as I handed her to her tilbury, to fix my attention, gently tipped with her tongue the outer chamber of my ear), the first is a bath ... But at this point a bell tinkling in the hall cut short a discourse which promised so bravely for the enrichment of our store of knowledge.

James Joyce, from Ulysses

Thursday, August 25, 2005

parallel lines

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Serbian authorities are investigating reports of a real-life Superman after hundreds of residents of Ljubovija claimed to have seen a cloaked figure flying over their houses 'as if he had an invisible engine on his back' and changing directions in mid-air.

Sacha Baron Cohen was dragged into the sea by Pamela Anderson's bodyguards after rugby-tackling her on a Malibu beach during the wedding of her golden retriever to a chihuahua. The Ali G star, dressed as Kazakhstani TV journalist Borat, emerged from the surf on an inflatable turtle, wearing trunks, leather jacket and Village People-style cap, before sending Anderson hurtling to the sand.

A library in Holland is lending out people as a way of challenging stereotypes. As well as books, people can borrow gays, gipsies and Muslims for an hour and talk to them about their lives
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Too bad! others will lead me to happiness
By their tresses knotted to the horns upon my brow:
You, my passion, know that, purple and perfectly ripe,
Every pomegranate bursts open and murmurs with bees;
And our blood, in love with whoever will seize it,
Flows for the whole eternal swarm of desire.

from 'L'après-midi d'un faune' by Stéphane Mallarmé, 1876
shuffle ...
Love ~ Alone Again Or
Sleepyheads ~ Rescued
Raveonettes ~ Uncertain Times
Junior Brown ~ So Close Yet So Far Away
Dick Dale ~ Pipeline
Hank Williams & Anita Carter ~ I Can't Help It
Iggy Pop ~ The Passenger
Teenage Fanclub ~ It's All in my Mind
Byrds ~ Hickory Wind
Harald Thune ~ Personal Jesus

Monday, August 22, 2005

great photographic portraits #1

Puerto Rican woman with beauty mark

Diane Arbus ~ Puerto Rican woman with beauty mark, 1965

I'm resurrecting this from the recent archives because I lost track of my plan to follow up the painted portraits with photographic ones. What is a good photographic portrait? To me, it's an image that tells us a bit extra about someone, something they wouldn't normally reveal to a chance acquaintance. Like a painter in the days before photography, a good portrait photographer seems to be able to capture that special moment when the defences are down and the mask is pulled aside. It's a definite knack, and there are plenty fine photographers who can't take good portraits. You need a certain temperament, a particular way of relating to people, as well as tencacity and a refusal to be fobbed off with something 'safe' or superficial. It's like being a film director. You can't sit back and let the actors direct themselves, but at the same time you're looking for something that you can't give them.

Compared to some Diane Arbus portraits this one appears fairly conventional, but there's an intensity in the look, matched by the way in which the woman physically presents herself to the world, that borders on the deranged. Like many Arbus subjects she seems to be living on the edge, or very close to it. She is literally wearing a mask - the makeup, lipstick, the Marilyn beauty spot, the hair - but we see through it. Her gaze is confrontational, but there's something vulnerable, human, there too. It's disconcerting, and that's why I like it. Diane Arbus may have seen life as a freak show, but she's never condescending; she respects her subjects. A few photographers who followed in her footsteps - Joel Peter Witkin, for example - seem to me to lack her basic humility. The one thing we don't see in a Diane Arbus portrait is the photographer.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Shiants - copyright Charles Tait

The sun shone all day yesterday in a cloudless sky. I spent the afternoon relaxing in the garden reading a fascinating and beautifully written book about a small group of Hebridean islands called The Shiants.
In summer, the grass on the cliff-tops is thick with flowers: bog asphodel and bog pimpernel; branched orchids, the stars of tormentil and milkwort. ‘Under such skies can be expected no great exuberance of vegetation,’ Dr Johnson wrote, but this miniature spangle of Hebridean flora, never protruding its yellows and deep purples more than an inch or two above the turf, is a great and scarcely regarded treasure. I think of it when in England I walk on expensive Persian rugs; the same points of dense, discreet colour, the same proportion of ground to decoration; a sudden flash of the Hebrides in a rich man’s rooms.
You can download the first chapter of 'Sea Room' by Adam Nicolson here.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Rick: I mean, what AM I supposed to call you? My "Girl Friend"? My "Companion"? My "Roommate"? Nothing sounds quite right!
Joanie: How about your "Reason for Living"?
Rick: No, no, I need something I can use around the office.

Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury

Thursday, August 18, 2005

This is what I thought: for the most banal event to become an adventure, you must (and this is enough) begin to recount it. This is what fools people: a man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his own life as if he were telling a story. But you have to choose: live or tell.

Jean-Paul Sartre, from 'Nausea' 1964

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Very

My friend Charlie has two sons, both of whom are drummers. Casey is in The Magnificents and his younger brother Jake (above right) is in The Very, a two-piece outfit who are getting a lot of attention these days. I saw them at the weekend and was impressed. Tight playing, tons of energy, and some good songs. They've been compared to The White Stripes - presumably because they are the only other guitar/drums duo anyone has ever heard of - but The Very's music has its roots in punk, while The White Stripes sound a lot more more blues influenced to me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?
Group Captain Lionel Mandrake: I... no, no. I don't, Jack.
Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. Nineteen forty-six, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.
Mandrake: Uh, Jack, Jack, listen, tell me, tell me, Jack. When did you first... become... well, develop this theory?
Ripper: Well, I, uh... I... I... first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.
Mandrake: Hmm.
Ripper: Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I... I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.
Mandrake: Hmm.
Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake.
Mandrake: No.
Ripper: But I... I do deny them my essence.

Dr Strangelove, 1964

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch— hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into—some fearful, devastating scourge, I know—and, before I had glanced half down the list of ‘premonitory symptoms,’ it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

I sat for a while frozen with horror; and then in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever—read the symptoms—discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it—wondered what else I had got; turned up St Vitus’s Dance—found, as I expected, that I had that too—began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically—read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diptheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee.

Jerome K Jerome, from 'Three Men in a Boat'

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Friday, August 12, 2005

Venus in Furs
Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Comes in bells, your servant, don't forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Downy sins of streetlight fancies
Chase the costumes she shall wear
Ermine furs adorn imperious
Severin, Severin awaits you there

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Severin, Severin, speak so slightly
Severin, down on your bended knee
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now bleed for me

Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Severin, your servant comes in bells, please don't forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

The Velvet Underground

This was the first song I ever heard by the Velvet Underground, and I was immediately hooked by the sound. In fact it's not so much a song as an 'atmosphere'. It was as if I'd always known this kind of music existed somewhere, but I'd never heard it. Even now, many years later, I don't know of a better, more consistently brilliant band. The lyrics to 'Venus in Furs' were written when Lou Reed was in his teens I think, and maybe that shows in places, but the arrangement, the playing and the vocal delivery are all absolutely perfect. This is why it's so hard to do covers of VU songs, because the versions they recorded are definitive.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

window #3

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
I was told that the Chinese said they would bury me by the Western Lake and build a shrine to my memory. I have some slight regret that this did not happen, as I might have become a god, which would have been very chic for an atheist.
Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

window #2

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
The perfect love affair is one which is conducted entirely by post.
George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Highland stream

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Monday, August 08, 2005

Teatr Nowy Faust

It's the Edinburgh Festival again. Tonight I saw a Polish version of Goethe's Faust adapted and directed by Janusz Wisniewski, artistic director of Posnan's 'Teatr Nowy'. This is the third play I've seen by Wisniewski over the years at the Festival. The first one, 'The End Of Europe', was the most powerful piece of modern theatre I've ever seen. 'Faust' doesn't disappoint either, even though there is a lot more dialogue, all of which is in Polish. It is visually stunning, faultlessly executed, brilliantly acted, and highly original. I'm certain it would be even better if I spoke Polish, but it still provides the sort of experience that makes me glad to be in Edinburgh at this time of year.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Love Without Hope
Love without hope, as when the young bird-catcher
Swept off his tall hat to the Squire's own daughter,
So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly
Singing about her head, as she rode by.

Robert Graves

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

I don't know how common this is elsewhere, but water in Scotland often looks black because of the high peat content. And when sunlight hits it, it's like golden honey.

Friday, August 05, 2005

more water ...

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

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

river gorge #4

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

river gorge #3

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.
Henry Ward Beecher
red spaghnum moss and wildflowers on moor

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Monday, August 01, 2005

river gorge #2

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction