Thursday, May 31, 2012

The holes in need of repair

Up at 6:30, a swim, a leisurely breakfast & then the tram into town for 10 a.m.. The general going-about-its-business of a city in the early morning. A snatched coffee. Then a tour of the main collection at the Art Museum with a small group of students followed by a quick lunch at Le Pain Quotidien (chat & pontification with colleagues) before another hour or so at the Stanley Kubrick exhibition. Back home I leaf through the first couple of pages of Maggie Nelson's 'Bluets' thinking I'll save it up for the holidays. But something compels me to continue & I end up gobbling the whole volume in one go. It's a delight.

& I'm thinking: why can't every day be like this?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quite by accident I happened upon this 4CD set of La Belle Helene in the local MediaMarkt - not the kind of place you'd expect to find such music.

In the box: Credo, Chopin/Rachmaninov; Reflexions; and (ta-da!) her recording of Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto.

OK, you miss out on the booklets containing her thought-provoking essays, coiffure & carefully chosen outfits but at 17 euros for the lot you can't complain too much.

I'd not seen this listed on any of the Amazon sites (maybe deliberately?) so it's worth scouting around in the record shops - those that remain, of course.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

(minor) historic day

Just planted:

1) courgette seeds
2) runner bean seeds
3) carrot seeds

& watered them well.

High hopes of waking tomorrow morning to a jungle & several beanstalks soaring into the sky.

Lone wolf

I found this documentary on Youtube last night, watched it right through and cannot recommend it highly enough. For some days now I have been more and more fascinated by Helene Grimaud having chanced upon her recent Mozart recording in the Mediatheque on Saturday. Perhaps 'chanced' isn't the right word, more inexorably led - first the Paul Lewis recordings, then Brendel's essays and now her. There's a sort of logic. However, it was the liner notes (by HG herself) to an earlier CD Resonances that convinced me that something else was going on. In an anthology of pieces by Mozart, Liszt, Berg, Beethoven and Bartok she traces a geo-political evolution of music from the late 18th to early 20th Century. Pure Deleuze & Guattari.

Starting to research her recordings, work and background I then find out that she has a parallel career running a ... you guessed it ... wolf sanctuary. I haven't yet got hold of her autobiography but the little I've gathered from snippets suggests a clear affinity between her own unbelongingness (living and studying in France, yet feeling un-French; sublimely gifted in classical piano, yet frequently flying off in directions of her own; delivering interpretations of the monoliths of the concert repertoire while defying conventions) and the wolf's wanderings. It's hard not to think of D&G's lines of flight, nomadism, & her very technique as a form of stammering within the orthodox language of the piano. Not so much of the press pack more a lone wolf carving out a territory of her own.

& that's the point. Take a look at the covers to her CDs and you'd be forgiven for thinking she is simply one of the many confections of the Classical music industry. Even the album titles can at times flirt with ghastly dumbed-down product (Resonances, Reflection ...) until you read what lies behind the project and actually listen and then the titles justify themselves.

Watching the documentary it's impressive to hear how Grimaud expresses herself - such intelligence, precision and lucidity. In an age where celebrities with a fraction of her talent and disicipline sound off at length it's really refreshing to witness. She gives me hope.

A few posts back I wondered who would merit the Jonathan Miller accolade he awarded to Susan Sontag ("the cleverest woman in America''). Given Grimaud now lives in the US, I reckon she's high up on the short list.

Go & listen to her.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Anyone else out there who finds it hard to reconcile a collapsing world economy (Greece today, Spain tomorrow, who knows the next day ...) and the billions of dollars floatation of Facebook.

It just doesn't make sense. Does it?

New crop


It's been a while & I had to dust down the machinery & oil the rollers ... but soon the presses were turning again. Jubilation across the nation!

& here it is: the first pickings of 2012 (I'm not even going to attempt the title in Blogger).

More details over at The Sticky Pages site.

Sunday, May 13, 2012



A typical Sunday routine of going to the one supermarket in the area that's open (yoghurt, vegetables, fruit, cheese ...). Not a big shop but useful.

I'm two back in the queue and there's obviously a bloke with simply a loaf of bread standing behind me. So I do the decent thing & say he can go ahead of me. This prompts the man in front of me to make the same gracious gesture and so Mr Loaf of Bread is now propelled to the cash till, pays, and turns and thanks each of us in turn. Myself and the other man exchange words, each bathing in the glow of our little bit of do-gooding.

Then, as I'm packing my carrier bags, a little old lady asks the cashier if she can buy a bunch of flowers - she's not in the queue and so is told to wait. "Don't worry" she says "they're irresistible and in any case my children aren't around these days to offer me flowers". The man who is now behind me leans forward and tells the cashier to include the flowers on his bill. The little old lady says she doesn't understand. The man explains: "your children aren't here to give you these flowers; my mother's living too far away for me to give her flowers today. So, why don't I give you these flowers - that's how it works!" The little old lady reaches up and embraces him (he's rather tall and large - in a nice way, though).






Saturday, May 12, 2012

A gruesome week being subjected to personal development seminars by two soi-disant education 'experts' who could have been invented by Ricky Gervais after a bad hangover. Beyond belief.

Still ... looking on the bright side* - three books arrived reminding me that life is worth living, after all ...


I'm not sure when Jonathan Miller called Sontag the cleverest woman living in America but I wonder who'd merit that description today? This, the first volume of her diaries, came in the post on Tuesday and I read it right through in one sitting - short entry paragraphs lend themselves to this kind of gobbling: reading as voyeuristic bulimia.

Here's Sontag on New Year's Eve 1957:

Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one's private, secret thoughts - like a confidante who is deaf, dumb, and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather - in many cases - offers an alternative to it.

& what would she have said of Blogging?



Martha Verschaffel is a young illustrator & zine creator living and working in northern Belgium. I happened upon her work through a link in a link on someone else's Blog. I love the way she works - almost exclusively with pencil and paper (you can read an interview with her at in which she explains her draw-erase cut 'n paste methods). And it turns out she's a big fan of Broadcast and Valerie's Week of Wonders - so what more can I say?).



& here's the latest volume by Ian Pindar. This demands serious attention & so I'm setting it aside for the time being. However, I had a quick flip through and see that this time poems are being worked in sections and series rather than the separately entitled pieces of Emporium.

Oh ... and I happened to notice on the dedication page: to the Carpenter ... I wonder who that can be ?


Yesterday I nipped out to buy card stock for covers; today I found some good flyleaf papers. Yes! ... the beginnings of a new Sticky Pages volume. Keep you posted.


* my mum pops by the Blog occasionally and reads the latest entries. "You always seem so sad" she said on the phone the other day. Is this true? I suppose I was hoping for more of an Ed Reardon tone of bitter cynicism, but so be it. Mums always know best.

I will strive to be more jolly in future posts - or "fun" as one of the ghastly experts said, earlier this week. Fun? He must be joking.


("Fun" - the American substitute for pleasure. Sontag in an undated entry 1963)


Sunday, May 06, 2012

According to the Belgian news Hollande looks to have won the French election. Whether this is truly good news remains to be seen: everyone we know seems to agree Sarkozy has to go (0bjectionable, puffed up, etc.) but don't really see how Hollande's policies will add up - certainly in the current economic climate.

So, as in the U.K. it's the choice of no-choice. And as will be clear as the Greek result comes in the politicians aren't calling the shots. Any claim to democratic politics has gone out the window as we all live in thrall to the money men, the ratings agencies and the algorithms driving the markets. Buy/sell - that's the choice. Depressing, isn't it?
It all begins last week with this envelope - I was (and still am) fascinated by the compass-like image with what looks like a fragment of secretary hand Latin and tiny Chinese characters at the cardinal points. And the utter simplicity of the pencil-drawn circle and arrows beautifully rhyming with the franking stamps (more circles and lines) and the repeated A I R beneath the President's face.


It took a while for the sender's name to sink in: Lenore Tawney. Tawney? Why, it was my dad's second name (but the one he went by); my second middle name; my elder daughter's middle name. Tawney, Tawney, Tawney. But who was this Lenore Tawney?


Turns out she is the 'mother' of textile art - working away with threads and looms before Eva Hesse was tying her shoe laces (born in 1907 Tawney lived to be 100). How had I never encountered her, her name, her work before? The textile pieces aside, her collages are outstanding - the best, I feel, using the fewest materials as seen in the envelopes and postcards.

And there's a further coincidence. Who wrote an insightful piece on Tawney's work but one James Schuyler ...

"Colors of time passing - old sheet music, foxing, scorch, Gothic print, weathering, and water stains - intergrade with the aliveness, or the freshness, of raw wood, new paper, linen, white porcelain (cups holding bits of eggshell: a fine distinction); as in a spice or herb chest, labeled and out of date, with white and black peppercorns (which are neither white or black). Time, of different moments and of different sorts, is brought together and made tangible: the time it took to make the cabinet and for it to age, another kind of time that is the cycle of a peppercorn growing into a tree and producing more peppercorns; a cycle that extends its potential into a future beyond the viewing.

And sometimes she cancels time with a sky-blue wash."

(Great last sentence - just ripe for a Schuyler poem)

And so it's back into the notebooks trying to make sense of the power her images release. And those photographs of her at work: head in hand pulling absent-mindedly with a thread, or cross-legged at the loom - is it just me or she looks like a younger more severe Bjork? And the loom like some Harry Partch-type musical contraption. And those suggestive pictures tacked on the wall ... Clotho (the spinner) ... Lachesis (the drawer of lots) ... Atropos (the inevitable) - the Moirai ...


Or, as Tawney herself phrased it:

Creation is a defiance of ordinary verbal communication. Its origins lie in the ineffable part of one’s own being and are much closer to the silence of the universe, than to its noises and verbalizations. Art is always just beyond language. Each work seems to be called up from a bottomless chaos and despite the magic order it finds in the artist’s creation, retains always the memory of the original chaos to which it is destined to return. The man of deep insight knows that authentic life is not lived arbitrarily but is governed by a secret mesh of invisible images.

(From Scraps of Memory: Findings from Lenore Tawney's Notes: Poetry)

And as if that wasn't enough ...


... it was yesterday that I woke up to Miroslav Tichy's work (you'll have to forgive the missing accent on the 'y'). Judging by photographs such as those above, in his eighties he looked like a cross between Keith Waldrop and Robert Wyatt. The images he produced with his bizarre self-made equipment are astonishing and disturbing by turns - disturbing because although you hadn't seen them before (or had you?) they seem vaguely familiar. Out-of-focus and deliberately distressed, the faces and figures become half-remembered as if in some strange way you could squint your inner eye and turn the lens of memory and suddenly it would all become clear. Kundera-esque moments of longing and forgetting. Disturbing, too, for their subject matter - the kind of thing that would lead to confiscation of a hard disc or a cabinet minister's abrupt resignation. Or maybe not that bad - but going that way. Dodgy, for sure, in these days of paranoia and political correctness. (One wonders at the circumstances under which the pictures were taken - or was it simply accepted in the neighbourhood that a shabby-looking man was hanging out by the swimming pool? "Who's that, Irina, standing behind the fence? ...").

And - damn it! wouldn't you know - Geof Dyer's written a good essay on Tichy. I particularly like the phrase 'stone-age photographer' and his re-situating of a quotation by Michael Pisaro:

"It's almost as though he has discovered a language or, better, has heard of a language: heard about some of its vocabulary, its grammar and its sounds, and before he can comprehend it, starts using this set of unformed tools to narrate the most important event of his life".

Originally about Dylan, it works beautifully for Tichy.

Another of those questions that dog me: why does Geof Dyer always get there first?


And so we continue, discovering further reasons to continue ... Have a good Sunday.

Friday, May 04, 2012

A case in point. Let us imagine Mrs A. who receives an additional pension of X pounds. Under the current tax ratings she is liable to be taxed and finds that her income has dropped by £324 over the year (meaning £27 pounds a month or £6 a week).

Let's rewind the clock to the years, months, days when the money was earned to pay into the said pension fund (and taxes all the while being deducted). Would it be naive to think that the government (that strange amorphous monster) had already exacted its more than twopennyworth?

And now to balance the books for a financial system that has - essentially - gone berserk these very same people who have lived and worked prudently are being squeezed again.

It fair makes your blood boil.

& this on the day of the local elections when - by all accounts - the Conservatives are being given a right hammering and the Lib Dems what they have deserved for selling out on their principles.

May Cameron & Clegg and all the bosses of our fine financial institutions sleep peacefully (with their bonuses) in their beds. For it escapes me how you can live with your consciences.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

About to watch The Girl In The Cafe which has materialised on iPlayer. Many people have recommended it - which isn't necessarily a good thing. However it does have Bill Nighy. As I think I've said before, in my good moments the voice I hear in my head has more than a passing resemblance to Nighy's. I suppose I aspire to his enchanting mix of world-weariness and wry disdain.

Mind you, Richard Curtis (writer) was also behind the godawful Notting Hill. So expectations are not exactly high ...

I'll let you know.

. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...