Tuesday, August 30, 2011


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This arrived today - a postcard from A. . Flipping it over I see it's by Jan Fabre and should read 'Bic-dweil / Only acts of poetical terrorisme' (sic).

But what about that official blue sticker? A deliberate act of obliteration (censorship)?* Or itself a kind of poetic intervention (creativity)? Or involving no human hand or thought at all - the card shot though some label machine (automation)?

And the hovering nature of the message itself: the rather chummily inclusive "we". The conciliatory "may have" (although stopping short of apology). As against the politic use of unspecific terms: "the sender", "an alternative service". What kind of alternative service I wonder? Carrier pigeon? Lame postman who has to walk the distance? Slug?

Oh the joys of reading.

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* if so, the obliteration in fact accentuates the potential offensiveness - the block capitalized "TERRORISME" now shouts from the bottom of the card.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


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I happened upon this DVD at the Mediatheque (the old habits!) and it's led me back to ( ) - playing as I type - and on into their entire catalogue.

I'd always imagined them to be a group of blond Icelandic longhairs (wot cultural stereotype?) - sort of Reykjavik's answer to Yes. Jonsi hits the kind of searing high notes that Jon Anderson sustained on Relayer.

How wrong could I be?

In fact they're a long way from Prog rock celebs. What's lovely about the first disc of the 2-DVD set is the low-key makeshift nature of their music: improvising on slates, setting up on a mountainside, or playing in what looks to be a school assembly room. Accurate or not, the overriding impression is of a group with a close fan base - wives, girlfriends, extended family, friends they went to school with. There's no rioting, no gobbing, no chucking fireworks on stage. In such a climate few would tear off their tops - chunky fisherman's sweaters are the preferred choice. (Jonsi seems to like a cap with earflaps. I don't blame him).

The DVD intercuts footage of the band with pans of the Icelandic landscape: sea, mountains, streams running through ferns. You get the impression that the usual tantrums and narcissism of the Music Biz would be given short shrift in such a context.

Little people. Big old world.

And let's not make a pun on rock music.

Have a listen, anyway.

I've set up a new Blog at a rival provider (deliberately to keep things separate).

The new Blog will be exclusively concerned with teaching and the new IB course and so may - or may not - be of interest to my usual readers.

You'll find it at: https://logopedagogix.wordpress.com/

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Our job is to keep our receiving equipment in good working order."

( 'Art Objects', Jeanette Winterson)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

... been going through my mind ...


"The loving cup of strawberry ice-cream soma was passed from hand to hand and with the formula 'I drink to my annihilation', twelve times quaffed. Then to the accompaniment of the synthetic orchestra the First Solidarity Hymn was sung.

Ford we are twelve; oh make us one,
Like drops within the Social River;
Oh, make us now together run
As swiftly as thy shining Flivver

... "

(Brave New World, Huxley, p70)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011


[1] In da beginnin' Big Daddy created da heaven an' da earth.

[2] And da earth wuz widdout form, an' void; an' darkness wuz upon da face o' da deep. And da Spirit o' Big Daddy groved upon da face o' da waters.

[3] And Big Daddy enunciated, Let dere be light y'all: an' dere wuz light.

[4] And Big Daddy seen da light, dat it wuz fine ass: an' Big Daddy divided da light from da darkness.

[5] And Big Daddy called da light Day, an' da darkness Night. And da evenin' an' da mornin' wuz da first day.

[6] And Big Daddy articulated, Hey beotch, let dere be uh firmament in da midst o' da waters, an' let it divide da waters from da other waters.

[7] And Big Daddy made da firmament, an' divided da waters which wuz under da firmament from da waters which wuz above da firmament: an' it wuz so.

[8] And Big Daddy called da firmament Heaven. And da evening an' da morning wuz da second day.

[9] And Big Daddy rapped, Let da waters under da heaven be gathered together unto one place, an' let da dry land appear: an' it wuz so.

[10] And Big Daddy called da dry land Earth; an' da gathering together o' da waters called he Seas: an' Big Daddy seen dat it wuz pimp-tight.

[11] And Big Daddy did verbalize, Let da earth bring forth grass, da herb yielding seed, an' da fruit tree yielding fruit afta his kind, whose seed iz in itself, upon da earth: an' it wuz so.

[12] And da earth brought forth grass, an' herb yielding seed afta his kind, an' da tree yielding fruit, whose seed wuz in itself, afta his kind: an' Big Daddy seen dat it wuz pimp-tight.


And that concludes the lesson for today.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

this afternoon

video







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(scan of the cover of my copy of Neuromancer -
is the computer trying to tell me something?)

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Trying to cram in as much reading as possible before The Return. Yesterday was devoted to William Gibson's Neuromancer (a text that has waited on the runway for several years). It is a fascinating 'novel' (such a term begins to crumble) and although written two decades back in the previous century seems - at least to me - to be an essential item in the toolkit for the 21st.

It's a text that comes at exactly the right moment as I'm trying to formulate ideas for the new course, for what I see going on (the U.K. riots, the Murdoch family and News International, gradual disintegration of the money markets) and for possible directions to follow. In the way Deleuze expected all literature to work: it is a book that demands you do something with it. In the short term, this means teach it (if only in extracts - I have to be realistic), in the long term - well ... plug it in and see ...

Today, I work through Larry McCaffrey's anthology Storming the Reality Studio which is abundantly useful both for throwing up new texts and reminding me of things I read years ago & could usefully re-read. After this post, I'll look into after yesterday's crash.

As always it's frustrating - as the free days evaporate so I strike a new seam. The Waves occupied a previous week (and sent out ripples into Woolf's diaries, essays, novels, stories). This week it seems to be Cyberpunk. I remember being asked on the last day of term what I was going to read during the break and tentatively suggested Wallace Stevens and The H.D. Book - but that I wouldn't be surprised if things took another turn. Well, I've read a little Stevens and not touched the Duncan (despite lugging it all the way to Burgundy and back). However there's been the Tanizaki ... Kawabata ... Jeanette Winterson discoveries ... . Go with the energy I tell myself.

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second attempt

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"I have a friend, Tom Maddox, who did a paper on my work. He's known what I've been up to for a long time - he says I display "a problematic sensitivity to semiotic fragments". That probably has a lot to do with the way I write - stitching together all the junk that's floating around in my head. One of my private pleasures is to go to the corner Salvation Army thrift shop and look at all the junk. I can' explain what I get out of doing this. I mean, I used to have to spend time there as a survival thing, and even now I'll go in and find something I want." (interview with Gibson in the McCaffrey anthology)

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"To call up a demon you must learn its name. Men dreamed that, once, but now it is real in another way. You know that, Case. Your business is to learn the names of programs, the long formal names, names the owners seek to control. True names ..." (Neuromancer, p 289)

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and surely one of the great last lines in literature:

He never saw Molly again.

(the simplicity ... the banality ... the pastiche of crud fiction ...
& the nod and the wink to the wise guy ...)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dig your garden


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I know this post is going to have some of my readers guffawing into their laptops but I'm happy to admit to buying three - yes, three - volumes by Monty Don during the past week. Admittedly they were all at knock-down prices but each has its merits - The Complete Gardener, the Home Cookbook and this - (in my view, the best) - The Ivington Diaries.

I'm pretty much of the Gertrude Stein persuasion - "I am fond of paintings, furniture, tapestry, houses and flowers even vegetables and fruit-trees. I like a view but I like to sit with my back to it." As Daniel our neighbour said to me a while ago (himself a passionate gardener) "tu lis beaucoup dans le jardin ..." (translation: what an idle English slob you are - why not mow the lawn, weed the beds, prune the roses? ...). Nevertheless, I feel that Monty and I are, well, soul mates in some ways.

Evidence: he likes his breakfast (even getting up early to enjoy it alone), he anguishes about the work-real work equation (in his case the requirement of writing about gardening as against actually gardening), he seems increasingly at odds with the consumer-driven society he finds himself within and trying to find another way of living.

He writes well - on the pleasures of early mornings, on working compost, on the passing of seasons, on routines, of finding quality in the everyday. The Ivington Diaries (strange to say) seems to draw on rich literary soil - his creation of a utopian garden with his wife Sarah reminds me of Blake's home industry and shared creation. There's barrow loads of Thoreau in here, too - although never explicitly stated. Ruskin is there in the background, as well (the celebration of manual labour). And to go back to the beginning, isn't it Adam and Eve all over again? Then there's Monty's face - weather-beaten, drilled and spaded - that has the authentic imprint of a Son of the Soil. If I were casting for the film version of Piers Plowman he'd be first choice.

It's easy to ridicule him (the earnestness, the cultivated dishevelled look, a Bloomsbury-like sense of the Good Life) but I admire the energy and the line he's digging. Particularly now, that energy matters.

Here's an extract from his entry for 26 March 2006:

Some years ago Sarah and I were staying with the first of our friends to have a child. I suppose he must have been just over a year old. In the morning we heard this call from his bedroom: 'It's day! It's day!' Ever since then we have used it as a kind of mantra to remind ourselves of the wonder of a beautiful morning or a call to arms. ... Well, at this time of year I am chanting a constant, euphoric 'It's day! It's day!' Last Tuesday was the vernal equinox and this morning the clock acknowledged this tipping towards the light and gave us an extra hour of daylight in the evening. For all but the most resolutely matitudinal gardeners this makes all the difference in the world. It is, at last, day.

Recent acquisitions

Moments of Being (Woolf)
Selected Essays (Woolf)
Flush (Woolf)
Chronicles Vol.One (Dylan)
Tarantula (Dylan)
Reality Hunger (David Shields)
It's All About the Bike (Robert Penn)
Poems (Li Po & Tu Fu)
Zero History (William Gibson)
H.D. (Rachel Blau DePlessis)
The King's Speech (Logue & Conradi)




Friday, August 12, 2011



well worth a listen ...

Big Society (II)

'... Andrew Maxwell, an Irish comedian, put it best: "Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people's ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people's ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper." ...'

(Boff Whalley, 'In Defence of Anarchy' in today's Independent
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boff-whalley-in-defence-of-anarchy-2336159.html)

I recommend his article to any and everyone - even David Cameron.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Big Society?

Have you ever deliberately set yourselves to imagine and measure the suffering, the guilt, and the mortality caused by the failure of any large-dealing merchant, or largely-branched bank? Take it at the lowest possible supposition - count, at the fewest you choose, the families whose means of support have been involved in the catastrophe. Then, on the morning after the intelligence of ruin, let us go forth amongst them in earnest thought ... strike open the private doors of their chambers, and enter silently into the midst of the domestic misery; look upon the old men, who had reserved for their failing strength some remainder of rest in the evening-tide of life, cast helplessly back into its trouble and tumult; look upon the active strength of middle age suddenly blasted into incapacity - its hopes crushed, and its hardly-earned rewards snatched away in the same instant - at once the heart withered, and the right arm snapped; look upon the piteous children, delicately nurtured, whose soft eyes, now large with wonder at their parents' grief, must soon be set in the dimness of famine; and, far more than all this, look forward to the length of sorrow beyond - to the hardest labour of life, now to be undergone either in all the severity of unexpected and inexperienced trial, or else, more bitter still, to be begun again, and endured for the second time, amidst the ruins of cherished hopes and feebleness of advancing years, embittered by the continual sting and taunt of the inner feeling that it has all been brought about, not by the fair course of appointed circumstance, but by miserable chance and wanton treachery; and, last of all, look beyond all this - to the shattered destinies of those who have faltered under the trial, and sunk past recovery to despair. And then consider whether the hand which has poured this poison into all the springs of life be one whit less guilty red with human blood than that which literally pours the hemlock into the cup, or guides the dagger to the heart?

(John Ruskin, The Work of Iron, in Nature, Art, and Policy, A Lecture delivered at Tunbridge Wells, February 16th, 1858)

Friday, August 05, 2011

An article in yesterday's Daily Telegraph is yet another proclamation of the Death of the Book (at the expense of the e-book).* Obviously it's something that concerns me 'professionally' (hem-hem) as well as in all the ways this & the related blogs imply. I need to develop a more sustained response both for students and myself but - for the time being - here are a couple of thoughts that have been turning over in my mind for the past weeks and months ...

The pleasures of delay

Living down in a little village in France for a couple of weeks was an instructive experience - haphazard cell phone coverage, occasional places where I could parasite someone's unprotected Internet access - basically we were 'cut off' in the modern sense of the term. A few days into the holiday, I read Jeanette Winterson's Art Objects - a book I'd taken on the off chance I might find an essay to use for the new course. Sudden awakening. From someone I'd only known about (and, I admit, been put off - the 'wrong' people recommending her etc.) she became someone I desperately wanted to read. Then the problem hit me: how to get hold of her books? Bookshops? Where? And which would stock English fiction let alone hers? Amazon? But I couldn't rely on a connection and - knowing my luck - delivery would be only after we'd left. In any case, to where? The house we were staying in doesn't, as such, have a postal address. An O'Hara state of quandariness.

Yes, I found the solution - a phone call to friends who were coming over from England and had access to good old-fashioned English internet suppliers. However, that's not the point. I experienced for several days a feeling that has all but disappeared for anyone living in the privileged 'connected' 21st Century: the sense of not having to hand. As a result, my reading - my engagement - with Winterson's writing deepened, intensified. I re-read the book that I did possess. Certain pages took on particular significance because of this very situation. I read other books I'd brought along but now subtly influenced by Winterson's writing. I started projecting what her first novel might be like. In a funny way, she'd come on holiday too. She coloured the days. When I finally had her first novel in my hands it felt different - an occasion. The book had become a different kind of object. Back home, now, and it's lost itself in amongst the many piles - and that's concerning me.

It's why the Lawrence quotation jumped out yesterday - and there are plenty more lying behind it. The point being that availability dulls. The desire for the next comes at the cost of the this. (See the past months' discussion in The Wire about music sharing - the temptation to download to the point of no longer listening. Read also Heidegger's thoughts on modern technology and the effects of storage).

Don't sell me selling

What never seems to come up in the e-book debate (or if it does it is seen as a kind of 'invisible' or 'neutral') is the necessity of an interface. The e-book relies not simply upon the hardware of the iPad, Kindle or other reader (with all the attendant anxieties of dropping/ cracking/ losing/ recharging the thing) but some kind of software and financial exchange (and the same can be said about iTunes and music). Is it so paranoid to see this as yet another calculated move of consumer society to intrude another step - a transaction - into daily life? To be able to charge you for something you'd have got directly?

Example A: I go to the bookshop and buy a book. Obviously, the book reaches the store via a network of production and delivery and I have to hand over money. However, once I've paid it's mine, in my hand. I can do what I like with it and - all things being equal - it will be on the shelf in ten, twenty, thirty years' time.

Example B: I purchase an e-book - I have to have the required hardware (itself a purchase); I have to have the required software (another purchase); I have to pay via my account (the main purchase); I have to charge up the iPad (that electricity bill). And - let's think like a marketing type for a change - what stops me then finding ways to limit your now 'unlimited' access to 'your' book? That purchase might be for only a finite period of time (a year?), for a number of reads (three?), that the software will require updating (more expense), that the add-ons and revised features will require further payment. And in ten years' time? Will that file still be readable? And so it goes.

And what about privacy issues? I walk out of the bookshop with my book in its little bag - only I (and the salesperson if they're paying attention) will know the title. Whereas, e-books - what elaborate methods of surveillance are possible - lists of purchases are but the beginning and the subsequent 'mailshots' of further suggested reading. What about which pages you've read, and how many times? And the constructions that could be placed upon this.

And let's think about the incursion into education ... Let's get them early.

You can see how this argument develops.

Look around at the number of daily activities which have necessitated some kind of sales opportunity where - before - you simply did it directly. Notice that what is trumpeted as 'convenience' and 'ease' is calculatedly set up to be able to squeeze cash out of you. And that it's not necessary to physically dig into your pocket but is transacted 'invisibly' makes it all the more clever - and dangerous.

How many of these people proclaiming the end of the book have vested interests directly or indirectly in this kind of 'wedge' effect - the seemingly transparent intrusion between 'me' and 'what I want'.** We've always been sold things but the old model was simply to make people want the lawnmower, the soap packet, the car. Now it's to find ways of making you pay to access what it is you want to buy. Clever, huh?

Until next time: try phoning a hotel direct to book a room and ask a few questions.

And of course, my next blog post will be via carrier pigeon ... I know, I know ... We're all implicated.

__


* the article referred to can be read at:
** let's take it further still: not even buying but simply doing anything will soon require this kind of intervention. A 'freedom of choice' purchase option. Much as to cancel a car insurance that was no longer required I found it was normal practice to charge a cancellation fee. (So I pay for something I am no longer buying ...?)


So it is. Once a book is fathomed, once it is known, and its meaning is fixed or established, it is dead. A book only lives while it has power to move us, and move us differently; so long as we find it different every time we read it. Owing to the flood of shallow books which really are exhausted in one reading, the modern mind tends to think every book is the same, finished in one reading. But it is not so. And gradually the modern mind will realize it again. The real joy of a book lies in reading it over and over again, and always finding it different, coming upon a another meaning, another level of meaning. It is , as usual, a question of values: we are so overwhelmed with quantities of books, that we hardly realize any more that a book can be valuable, valuable like a jewel, or a lovely picture, into which you can look deeper and deeper and get a more profound experience every time. It is far, far better to read one book six times, at intervals, than to read six several books. Because if a certain book can call you to read it six times, it will be a deeper and deeper experience each time, and will enrich the whole soul, emotional and mental. Whereas six books read once only are merely an accumulation of superficial interest, the burdensome accumulation of modern days, quantity without wisdom. (4-5)

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We always want a 'conclusion', an end, we always want to come , in our mental processes, to a decision, a finality, a full stop. This gives us a sense of satisfaction. All our mental consciousness is a movement onwards, a movement in stages, like our sentences, and every full stop is a mile-stone that marks our 'progress' and our arrival somewhere ... (50)

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Start with the sun, and the rest will slowly, slowly happen. (126)

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(Apocalypse, D.H. Lawrence)

Biro marks in my copy of A Writer's Diary (Woolf)

Our tragedy has been the squashing of a caterpillar (12)

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Even the muscles of my right hand feel as I imagine a servant's hand to feel (17)

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a brain still running along the railway lines (18)

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... I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art ... (23)

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a strip of pavement over an abyss (37)

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Where is my paper knife? I must cut Lord Byron (53)

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A change of house makes me oscillate for days. And that's life; that's wholesome. (69)

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More and more do I repeat my own version of Montaigne - 'it's life that matters'. (77)

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The actual writing being now like a sweep of a brush. (79)

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Never mind. Arrange whatever pieces come your way. (85)

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partly to glut my itch ('glut' an 'itch'!) for writing. (86)

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

A cold? In August? Don't ask me why. Or how.



More D-I-Y sushi - California Rolls are the business.



Reading Woolf (The Waves) who sends me back to Deleuze who - in turn - sends me on to Lawrence (D.H).

The beauty of this time of the year, these kinds of days, to be able to drift ... follow a thread ... dissolve ...



Bill Nighy in the Charles Paris mysteries (x2 CD).

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Monday, August 01, 2011


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A useful morning reading & typing up materials for next year's new Language and Literature syllabus. It's more a question of what isn't relevant rather than searching for texts or topics to include. As always I over-estimate - knowing that when term begins, students sit in front of you and the weeks start to pass drastic cuts and compromises will have to be made. And it's always worth remembering that there's a year and a half for things to unfold. Impossible to do it all at once - and perhaps even unwise. By its very nature this course is going to require a different method, a different approach. Real time cooking rather than re-heating in the microwave. And as Olson said to Creeley: "You can learn something too."

Then, as if in reward, going down to prepare lunch I see there's a brown A4 envelope on the door mat. A book! And - of all things - "This is LSE: Language as a second English. English as a grammar of ghosts. Words as the snowfall of ideas" written on the back cover. Too much of a coincidence. A page or two of this has to go in.

Let's keep things open!

(Many thanks to Gary B..)

. rrh'isOIV  ... a wasp just buzzed in through the Velux & went scrabbling across the desk & keyboard ... now up & ...