Sunday, December 31, 2006

Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen
I got a book entitled 'Fish Who Answer the Telephone and other Bizarre Books' for Christmas. It's a compilation of weird and wonderful book titles, with reproductions of some of the equally strange cover designs and occasional quotations from the books themselves. While browsing through second-hand bookshops I've often stumbled upon similar oddities myself, although I rarely buy them. Here, however, are a few gems from this bizarre anthology:

The Guide to Owning A Quaker Parrot, Not Worth Reading, Gardening with Brains, Hell: Where Is It?, Play with Your Own Marbles, Some Account of my Intercourse with Madam Blavatsky from 1872 to 1884, The Big Problem of Small Organs, Happy Though Married, The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry, The Romance of the Beaver, Enjoy Your Skunks, Erections on Allotments, Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, How to Enjoy Your Weeds, Twenty Beautiful Years of Bottom Physics, Briefs Calmly Considered, A Letter to the Man Who Killed My Dog, Squid Jiggling from Small Boats, Penetrating Wagner's Ring, The Romance of Leprosy, Harnessing the Earthworm, The Missing Fanny: A Tale of the Divorce Court, Queen Victoria and Ping-pong, A Complete and Illustrated Catalogue of Antique Barbed Wire, How to Write While You Sleep, and my personal favourite: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
Everyone would like to behave like a pagan, with everyone else behaving like a Christian.
Albert Camus

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.
Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

the perfect pop song, and just look at those cheekbones!
(the drumming is pretty amazing too)
It takes a very long time to become young.
Pablo Picasso

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

I'd like to wish everone who is kind enough - or bored enough - to visit this moment a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! A blog without visitors would be a sorry thing, so thank you all for dropping by and keeping me entertained with your comments, and, of course, your own excellent blogs.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
Yesterday I was sitting on a bench in Princes Street Gardens with Edinburgh Castle in front of me and the bronze war memorial to members of the Scots Greys Regiment behind me. The statue is of a soldier on horseback, wearing a busby similar to those worn by the guards at Buckingham Palace in London. I was eating an egg and tomato sandwich and watching the world pass by when along comes a father with three young boys, all about 8 years old. One of the boys sees the statue, stops in front of me, and addresses it in a very correct English accent: 'Hello Mr soldier, I see you're up here from Buckingham Palace. How was the parade today?' He pauses momentarily, before adding 'Oh but you're dead aren't you? You can't hear me.' Then a slightly confused look crosses his face, and as he scampers off to catch up with his friends he shouts back at the statue: 'No, that's wrong ... not dead ... stuffed. Sorry!'

Friday, December 22, 2006

time to put the decoration up ...

it's Christmas
Men ask the way through the clouds,
The cloud way’s dark, without a sign.
High summits are of naked rock.
In deep valleys sun never shines.
Behind you green peaks, and in front,
To east the white clouds, and to west –
Want to know where the cloud way lies?
It’s there, in the centre of the Void!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

It is only possible to succeed at second-rate pursuits - like becoming a millionaire or a prime minister, winning a war, seducing a beautiful woman, flying through the stratosphere or landing on the moon. First-rate pursuits - involving, as they must, trying to understand what life is about and trying to convey that understanding - inevitably result in a sense of failure. A Napoleon, a Churchill, a Roosevelt can feel themselves to be successful, but never a Socrates, a Pascal, a Blake. Understanding is ever unattainable. Therein lies the inevitability of failure in embarking upon its quest, which is none the less the only one worthy of serious attention.

Malcolm Muggeridge
Did you know that Ernest Hemingway wrote a six word short story? Here it is:

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

He is said to have called it his best work.
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This Moment is taking a break from blogging for a little while.
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
experiencing a little difficulty with your computer?

Monday, December 11, 2006

And if ever the suspicion of their manifold being dawns upon men of unusual powers and of unusually delicate perceptions, so that, as all geniuses must, they break through the illusion of the unity of the personality and perceive that the self is made up of a bundle of selves… A man, therefore, who gets so far as making the supposed unity of the self twofold is already almost a genius, in any case a most exceptional and interesting person. In reality, however, every ego, so far from being unity, is in the highest degree a manifold world, a constellated heaven, a chaos of forms, of stages and stages, of inheritances and potentialities. It appears to be a necessity as imperative as a eating or breathing for everyone to be forced to regard this chaos as a unity and to speak of his ego as though it were a onefold and clearly detached and fixed phenomenon. Even the best of us share the delusion.

Hermann Hesse, from Steppenwolf

Sunday, December 10, 2006

hello readers, if you only do one thing on this wet, miserable evening, discover the haunting goodbye jack vettriano by edinburgh band st jude's infirmary.

the controversial scottish painter jack vettriano is self-taught and extremely successful, but utterly despised by purists within the art establishment. he was recently accused of copying a couple of his best-known paintings directly from a 'teach yourself to draw' book - not a problem that affected roy lichtenstein's or jeff koons' credibility, but which, in vettriano's case, only added grist to the mill. i'm not a huge fan of his work myself, but i can easily see why he has such mass appeal.

for more about the song see this or this.
Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
We come in peace
I suppose any excuse will do

Thursday, December 07, 2006

When, her apparel laid aside, she stood naked before mine eyes, not a blemish was to be seen on her whole body. What shoulders, what arms it was my privilege to behold and to touch. What bliss to press a bosom shaped so perfectly for such caresses. How soft and smooth her skin beneath her lovely breasts, how divine her figure, how firm and plump her thighs. But wherefore should I here tell o’er the number of her charms? Nought did I see that was not perfect, nor was there aught, how thin soe'er, between her lovely body and my own. Need I tell the rest?
Ovid, from Elegy V
What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself.
Jean-Paul Sartre

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
standing by the window where the light is strong
Anyone who has seen Woody Allen's (very funny) film 'Zelig' will probably understand my feelings about the Irish pomp-rockers U2. It's the way they - or more particularly their guiding light, Mr Bonio - crop up everywhere. I think it began the day I discovered that U2 had hired Eno to produce their 'Joshua Tree' album, although at that point I didn't think 'here's a bunch of Irish punks trying to buy some serious credibilty by hiring Eno' so much as 'has Eno lost it, or is he just selling out?'. Who knows? I've never managed to listen to the album all the way through. Anyway, that was just the start.

I mean, one day I'm casually browsing through Bob Dylan's autobiography 'Chronicles' and suddenly Dylan's talking about how Bonio is visiting him and advising him on lyrics for his next album, and then picking up the phone and putting him in touch with Daniel Lanois as a possible producer; I'm watching a documentary about Mick Jagger and who's at the door? Yes, Mr Bonio again, this time dropping in to add some vocals to Sir Mick's solo album; I'm reading something about Lou Reed and here's old Bonio advising him to extend the ending of 'Satellite of Love' so that the audience can sing along; I'm watching the most recent Live Aid thingy and here's Bonio and Co. opening the show with Sir Paul 'Grecian 2000' McCartney belting out 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'; and so it goes on ...

It's not that U2 aren't decent enough performers and songwriters, but somehow everything about them seems to have an underlying element of pastiche - from their supercool stadium rock personas to the fact that much of their material sounds as if it derives from a careful trawl through the works of the generation of great writers and musicians who immediately preceded them. They are the mynah birds of the rock world, adeptly parodying all the great riffs of the past and making them their own. The process even works in reverse. Not long ago I noticed that one of their songs sounded suspiciously like an attempt to out-snow-patrol those young upstarts Snow Patrol. Anyway, true to form, the ubiquitous shamrockers pop up again on the recent Leonard Cohen tribute album, this time accompanying the man himself on Tower of Song, which is not at all bad, but then it is a great song, and Lenny (sans Grecian 2000, a knighthood or a pair of yellow-tinted wraparound shades, but born with the gift of a golden voice) sings it just beautifully.

ps (thanks brian)
The years of my life
have been roadways of searching,
a climbing of stairs,
a crossing of reefs.
Trains hurled me onwards
waters recalled me,
on the surface of grapes
it seemed that I touched you.
Wood, of a sudden,
made contact with you,
the almond-tree summoned
your hidden smoothness,
until both your hands
closed on my chest,
like a pair of wings
ending their flight.

Pablo Neruda, from ‘Versos del capitán’

Monday, December 04, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction
The duration of passion is proportionate to the original resistance of the woman.
Honoré de Balzac

Is this true or just a blast of hot-air from a bygone age?
There is something suspicious about music, gentlemen. I insist that she is, by her nature, equivocal. I shall not be going too far in saying at once that she is politically suspect.
Herr Settembrini, the humanist, in Thomas Mann's 'The Magic Mountain'

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction

Saturday, December 02, 2006

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

The Swan
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Mary Oliver

Friday, December 01, 2006

Image copyright Alan Edwards. No unauthorised reproduction