Tuesday, January 31, 2006

tom waits
The complete idiot’s guide to Tom Waits
with some great downloads - grab them while they last!
It Is Born
Here, I came to the boundaries
where nothing needs to be said,
everything is learned with weather and ocean,
and the moon returned
with its lines silvered
and each time the shadow was broken
by the crash of a wave
and each day on the balcony of the sea
wings open, fire is born
and everything continues blue as the morning.

Pablo Neruda
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Monday, January 30, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Saturday, January 28, 2006

For women the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time.
Isabel Allende

Friday, January 27, 2006

I like Mozart, but I'm not buying a bra or a teddy bear to celebrate his 250th birthday today. Instead I'm listening to Mitsuko Uchida playing his piano sonatas. It seems strange now, but at first I didn't much like Mozart. Then one day, while I was at University, I bought a couple of old budget-priced LPs of Ingrid Haebler playing his piano concertos. These recordings were full of fire and passion, and were a far cry from the prettified, lacklustre stuff I'd associated with the composer. Everything fell into place and I began to realise how subtle and heart-rendingly beautiful Mozart's music was too. The works he produced towards the end of his short life - the late symphonies, concertos, and the Requiem - are such stupendous achievements that I could probably even listen to them on a bra.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

important news
More than 200 reality TV hopefuls queued up to conceive a baby with a stranger live on air for a £10,000 prize. They were the victims of a spoof set up to see how far people would go to get on television, and not even the presenters of 'Let's Make a Baby' were in on the joke. One said: "They are playing for the ultimate prize - life itself." Contestants agreed to live in a 'love hotel' with the least attractive being voted out each week. The last two couples were then supposed to race to conceive a child and win the cash.

A special limited edition 14-inch mohair musical Mozart teddy bear is being released to celebrate the composer's 250th birthday tomorrow. German toymakers Hermann, known for their teddy bears of the Queen and Pope Benedict XVI, say the the bear will wear period costume, a white wig, and play Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Other recent Mozart merchandise includes a musical bra.

Religious groups in Chile are calling for an art exhibition showing naked women posing among fruit and vegetables to be banned. Adult nappy sales are soaring in China as millions of people prepare to endure marathon train journeys to be with their families for New Year. According to a new study if you're nervous about public speaking you should first have sex to ease the stress. Fur-lined underwear has been banned in Uzbekistan after authorities deemed it too sexy. William Shatner has sold his kidney stone to an online casino.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Robert Burns
It's Burns Night in Scotland, so haggis and whisky are being consumed in vast quantities, although not by me. I've been to a couple of good ones in the past, but I can't think of a Burns Supper now without remembering Hugh MacDiarmid's A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle:
You canna gang to a Burns supper even
Wi-oot some wizened scrunt o a knock-knee
Chinee turns roon to say, 'Him Haggis - velly goot!'
And ten to wan the piper is a Cockney.

No wan in fifty kens a wurd Burns wrote
But misapplied is aabody's property,
And gin there was his like alive the day
They's be the last a kennin haund to gie -

Croose London Scotties wi their braw shirt fronts
And aa their fancy freens rejoicin
That similah gatherings in Timbuctoo,
Bagdad - and Hell, nae doot - are voicin

Burns' sentiments o universal love,
In pidgin English or in wild-fowl Scots,
And toastin ane wha's nocht to them but an
Excuse for faitherin Genius wi their thochts.
Burns was a great poet, and maybe even a greater writer and collector of folk songs. His method, he said, was to become familiar with the traditional melody, to catch a suggestion from some fragment of the old song; then, humming or whistling the tune as he went about his work, to work out new verses, going into the house to write them down when inspiration began to flag.

So, as an alternative way of celebrating the life of 'The Ploughman Poet' here's a piece of ancient pibroch music from the Isle of Skye, which a friend of mine arranged and recorded on guitar. Burns probably didn't know it, but I feel he might have liked it.

The Harp Tree [mp3]
arranged and played by George Adams.
rufous-bellied thrush
The delightfully nonchalant whistling song of Brazil's national bird, the rufous-bellied thrush
Lots more Brazilian birds here
Photography by Kathleen Connally
This is a selection of what Kathleen Connally considers her best work over the past few years. She's a very fine photographer in the first place, but her post-processing of images is among the best I've seen. She knows exactly what to emphasise in a photograph, and she's daring as well. These are photographs that take full advantage of the digital revolution without losing sight of the goalposts, and a lot of them are more than just 'pretty pictures', they have something extra. I also like the fact that she's self-taught and that her work initially developed and reached an audience through her blog.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lomo copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lomo copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
useless information
- One in ten Europeans is conceived in an Ikea bed.
- Madame Tussauds spent £10,000 separating their wax models of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.
- Scientists have discovered that when faced with danger, the octopus can wrap six of its legs around its head to disguise itself as a fallen coconut shell and escape by walking backwards on the other two legs.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Art is a hammer to beat the world, not a mirror to reflect it.
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Whenever I talked about sound, I stressed the inadequacy of the classical languages that composers had used to describe it. I said that the evolution of the electronic instruments and recording processes had created a situation where the whole question of timbre - the physical quality of sound - had been opened up wide and had become a major focus of compositional attention. Modern composers and producers working in recording studios were experimenting with sound itself and were quite content to use largely traditional "received" forms (such as "the blues") upon which to hang their experiments. It struck me that this had been completely missed by classically trained musicologists, who were always looking for innovation in places where it wasn't happening. They were expecting that any music that deserved the title "new" would be making breakthroughs in harmony, in melody, in compositional structure; but here they were faced with a music that, in those respects, had barely made it past the turn of the century.

Brian Eno, from Scents and Sensibility
(thanks to rb for the link)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Teenage Mary said to Uncle Dave, I sold my soul, must be saved, gonna take a walk down to Union Square, you never know who you're gonna find there

New York, 1966

Andy Warhol rented the Cameo-Parkway Studios for three nights to produce 'The Velvet Underground and Nico'. Lou Reed did not want Nico on the album and Nico wanted more songs to sing. The album was turned down by every record company in New York, and when Warhol and The Velvet Underground went to Los Angeles to perform at the Trip, they met with various record companies to try and sell it there. One rejected it, saying "no drug songs". Elektra rejected it, saying "no violas". Tom Wilson at Columbia was interested and told the band to wait until he moved to MGM so that he could release them on the Verve label. He suggested they make it more commercial by adding more Nico songs, so Lou wrote 'Sunday Morning'. Andy had suggested making it a song about paranoia, which Lou did with lyrics like 'watch out, the world's behind you'. However, Lou insisted on singing it himself on the recording even though Nico sang it at live performances.

Lou Reed: "Andy made a point of trying to make sure that on our first album the language remained intact. He would say, 'Make sure you do the song with the dirty words, don't change the words just because it's a record."
Andy Warhol: "The whole time the album was being made, nobody seemed happy with it."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Too Many Names
Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formallities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

Pablo Neruda

(thanks to Christy for reminding me about this poem)
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

She: Do you like doing this job?
Inspector: Well, it's a living, isn't it?
She: I mean, don't you get bored reading people's poets all day?
Inspector: Well, you know, sometimes ... Anyway, I think I'd better be going.
She: (seductively) You've got a nice torch, haven't you?
Inspector: Er, yeah, yeah, it er ... it er ... it goes on and off.
She: (drawing closer) How many volts is it?
Inspector: Er ... um ... well, I'll have a look at the batteries.
She: Oh yes, yes.
Inspector: It's four and a half volts.
She: (rubbing up against him) Mmmm. That's wonderful. Do you want another look at the poet?
Inspector: No, no, I must be off, really.
She: I've got Thomas Hardy in the bedroom. I'd like you to look at him.
Inspector: Ah well, I can't touch him. He's a novelist.
She: Oh, he keeps mumbling all night.
Inspector: Oh well, novelists do, you see.
She: (dragging him onto the sofa) Oh forget him! What's your name, deary?
Inspector: Harness.
She: No, no! Your first name, silly!
Inspector: Wombat.
She: Oh, Wombat. Wombat Harness! Take me to the place where eternity knows no bounds, where the garden of love encloses us round. Oh Hamess!
Inspector: All right, I'll have a quick look at yer Thomas Hardy.

Monty Python
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Monday, January 16, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
Oh, that magnificent young LIFE! that crowned us kings of the earth; that rushed through every tingling vein till we seemed to walk on air; that thrilled through our throbbing brains and told us to go forth and conquer the whole world; that welled up in our young hearts till we longed to stretch out our arms and gather all the toiling men and women and the little children to our breast and love them all--all. Ah! they were grand days, those deep, full days, when our coming life, like an unseen organ, pealed strange, yearnful music in our ears, and our young blood cried out like a war-horse for the battle. Ah, our pulse beats slow and steady now, and our old joints are rheumatic, and we love our easy-chair and pipe and sneer at boys' enthusiasm. But oh for one brief moment of that god-like life again!

Jerome K Jerome

Sunday, January 15, 2006


"Two 1990s adolescents, the reclusive David (Tobey Maguire) and his sexy sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) are magically transported to the alternate world of Pleasantville, a 1950s TV sitcom ... In this bland white picket-fenced town, nothing ever changes, and everything is in black-and-white. People stifle their emotions and sexual urges; there is no rain or fire; and the basketball team never loses. Jennifer stirs things up by sexually seducing the high school basketball star. David introduces Mr. Johnson, the soda shop owner, to modern art. Soon their mother and other members of the community come alive by expressing their inner spirit. The telling sign is a literal change to color from black-and-white. The catalyst could be sex, literature, art, or the expression of a caring and loving nature." (Gary Ross)

I watched Pleasantville again last night. A fabulous film - beautifully crafted and acted, with a particularly fine performance by Tobey Maguire. It manages to be both funny and poignant at the same time, and the satire is nicely understated, which makes it all the more effective. One critic said it was like a mixture of 'Back to the Future' and 'The Truman Show' but better than both. I agree. For a start neither of these films is anywhere near as visually stunning as Pleasantville. Every frame is a joy to behold. There's a David Lynch influence there too, which is, of course, a good thing.

Skip: I think I should go home now.
Jennifer: Why what's wrong?
Skip: I think I might be [looking down]... ill. Something's happening to me.
Jennifer: [looking with him] That's supposed to happen.
Skip: It is?
Jennifer: Yeah, trust me.
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
The 29 Healthiest Foods on the Planet
Why would someone make a list of 29 foods? Surely they could have found just one more to round it up to 30? What about royal jelly, or breast milk, or beer?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
Five Songs

This is a song for you alone:
of childish longing,
of pious tears...
Through morning gardens it sings,
lightly winged.
This song is meant
to move but you alone.


In the wind's murmur my quest
was a mere dream.
A smile was all
that you had given.
Out of the wet night
a radiance sparked -
Now May lends urge,
now I must live all day
in longing
for your eyes and hair.


Beside the stream
the earliest to bloom
are the hazels.
A bird whistles
in the cool meadow.
A glow touches,
warms us, softly,
trembles and fades.
The field is fallow,
the tree still grey...
Perhaps Spring will shower us with blossoms.

In morning dew
you came with me
to see the cherry tree
in bud,
to drink the scent
of grass.
Dust swirls afar...
Nature not yet
has brought forth
leaf or fruit -
Only blossoms abound...
And the southwind blows.

The bare tree strains
its freezing life
in winter's mist.
Let your dream arise
in calm uplifting
at sight of it.
It stretches forth its arms -
Think often of it with this grace.
That in pain,
that in ice
it still hopes for the Spring.

Stefan George

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees.
Paul Strand

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

This is a section of wall in an old brick hut on the sea-front, which was probably used in the past to watch for boats approaching the harbour (below). It's obviously been taken over by teenagers as a place to drink, smoke and light fires, and the yellowed plaster wall is chipped, charred and covered in graffiti. There's a small window facing east, through which the setting sun casts a golden glow.
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Monday, January 09, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Minor White - Sun Over the Pacific, Devil’s Slide, 1947
No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer it has chosen.
Minor White

Friday, January 06, 2006

Edward Weston, Nude 1925
The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.
Edward Weston

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
His good friend Jarndyce and some other of his good friends then helped him, in quicker or slower succession, to several openings in life; but to no purpose, for he must confess to two of the oldest infirmities in the world: one was, that he had no idea of time; the other, that he had no idea of money. In consequence of which, he never kept an appointment, never could transact any business, and never knew the value of anything! Well! So he had got on in life, and here he was! He was very fond of reading the papers, very fond of making fancy-sketches with a pencil, very fond of nature, very fond of art. All he asked of society was to let him live. That wasn’t much. His wants were few. Give him the papers, conversation, music, mutton, coffee, landscape, fruit in the season, a few sheets of Bristol-board, and a little claret, and he asked no more.

description of Harold Skimpole from 'Bleak House'

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bleak House
"In his lowering magazine of dust, the universal article into which his papers and himself, and all his clients, and all things of earth, animate and inanimate, are resolving, Mr Tulkinghorn sits at one of the open windows enjoying a bottle of old port. Though a hard-grained man, close, dry, and silent, he can enjoy old wine with the best. He has a priceless binn of port in some artful cellar under the Fields, which is one of his many secrets. When he dines alone in chambers, as he has dined to-day, and has his bit of fish and his steak or chicken brought in from the coffee-house, he descends with a candle to the echoing regions below the deserted mansion, and heralded by a remote reverberation of thundering doors, comes gravely back encircled by an earthy atmosphere and carrying a bottle from which he pours a radiant nectar, two score and ten years old, that blushes in the glass to find itself so famous and fills the whole room with the fragrance of southern grapes."
from 'Bleak House', by Charles Dickens

Over the holidays I've been watching the BBC's adaptation of Bleak House. The casting in particular is spot-on. Charles Dance has really matured as an actor and is outstanding as Tulkinghorn, Gillian Anderson, of X Files fame, makes a perfect porcelain-featured Lady Dedlock, Phil Davis as the villian Smallweed is superb, but really the entire cast is excellent. Dickensian England is recreated very convincingly, and the direction is sharp and pacy. Dickens is no Dostoevsky - he creates caricatures rather than characters - but he is an entertainer, with tremendous descriptive powers, a great ear for dialogue, and an expert way of weaving a good story. I expect Bleak House will be syndicated world-wide, so if you live elsewhere keep an eye out for it.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Oh I'd rather go and journey
Where the diamond crescent's glowing
And run across the valley
Beneath the sacred mountain
And wander through the forest
Where the trees have leaves of prisms
And break the light in colors
That no-one knows the names of

And when it's time I'll go and wait
Beside a legendary fountain
Till I see your form reflected
In its clear and jewelled waters
And if you think I'm ready
You may lead me to the chasm
Where the rivers of our vision
Flow into one another

I will want to dive beneath
The white cascading waters
She may beg she may plead
She may argue with your logic
And mention all the things I learned
That really have no value
In the end she will surely know
I wasn't born to follow.

The Byrds