Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thanks to Jim Jupp's Belbury Parish site for posting a link to this video - What Cricket Looks Like To Americans.

You can see it by following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEH4ahCCrJo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

(At least I hope so).

A perfect antidote to all the oh-so-terribly serious sports analysis we have to endure this summer.

File alongside rounds of Mornington Crescent, Tati and Antonioni's tennis matches, and Python's Philosophers' Football.

Sheer delight.

... and this morning a new bread recipe (as you'll see too long in the oven or too high up in the oven - we live and learn) ... while this afternoon it's a first go at making raviolis (stuffing: mushrooms and garlic).

Monday, July 30, 2012

This afternoon's efforts with les filles: authentic gougeres (recipe taken from John Burton Race's book French Leave).

Not only do they look good - they taste good.

A second batch (larger blobs) are currently in the oven - we're hoping for a final size like the ones you get in the Burgundian bakeries.

If you want the recipe, let me know.

(Next time we'll experiment with slivers of smoked salmon and bacon bits in the mix).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Artichoke or art I choke? A Sexed On Blake Mystery ...

Well, whatever else I have to say about Blake in Cambridge, the fact that virtually every available free moment this weekend has been spent either reading & rereading the volume or delving back into Blake’s original texts suggests it's had an impact. For a critical text to send you back to source with fresh enthusiasm and interest has to be a good thing.

There’s plenty I could say about this book and the author himself. However, for now I’ll limit myself to one particular section which gives me concern and seems particularly revealing. I’m encouraged in such a fragmentary response by Ben’s own championing of such reading strategies. As Zappa might say, it’s where the poodle bites.

On pages 124-127, Ben moves swiftly (pun partly intended) from J.H. Prynne’s Kazoo Dreamboats and his use of the phrase “rolling like wheels” to a quotation from Blake’s Jerusalem (itself employing several “wheel” phrases) which occurs in a montage featured in – of all things – the first edition of a Saskachewan magazine Utilitarian Donuts to then ... hope you’re following ... tease out the etymology of Jerusalem artichokes by way of proving Blake’s refusal of the Christian-Cartesian wItalicorld picture.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Such catholic (a bad pun, this time) referencing is what we expect when we pays our money and enter the Universe of Out to Lunch. From Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play on that’s what we enjoy – the giddy mix of high/low culture (terms he’d deny, of course), anally retentive scholarship and record collector lore, Hegel and S&M. However ... let’s examine the movement of Ben’s sentences.

The Prynne sequence is fine – in any case I haven’t yet got my copy from Cambridge and so can’t verify the analysis. It’s with the “then” opening the next papragraph that things begin to slide. “Then” – when exactly? The same day as the other “plop!” through the letter box – Ben always attentive to excremental metaphor – when Kazoo Dreamboats arrived? Or while he was subsequently writing the chapter? Or while he was going about his business (pooh, again) and the post arrived? That "then" is rather shifty in its simultaneous suggestion of causal relation and gosh-what-a-coincidence.

That’s not all. Yes, William Blake employs wheel imagery and yes, so does Prynne. And so, yes, that’s rather coincidental that while Ben is engaged on his Blake project a magazine arrives with a fortuitous quotation. (Although not, perhaps, so shattering a coincidence as had it been – for instance – Ben’s sub to BBC Good Food Magazine. I suspect that Utilitarian Donuts – from its title alone – inhabits a roughly similar world of cultural connections).

Now the Big One. Via a triumphant exclamation – Jerusalem! – Ben swerves off on to Jerusalem artichokes. I don’t want to be the kind of academic pedant he lambasts throughout his book but I am not aware that either Prynne (the point of departure) or Blake (the follow-up quotation) is at any point talking about artichokes - Jerusalem or otherwise.

Drawing upon Gerard’s Herbal (1621) Ben then explores the artichoke's etymology from the Italian girasole (i.e. turn-to-the-sun) which – as such – is a lovely little poem in itself. However, this isn’t enough – Ben is after the “famous flatulence” the vegetable causes when eaten. Why? Because this allows him to ground spiritual reverence in bodily frailty.

But Jerusalem – the geographical city, Biblical place name laden with religious significance etc. etc. – derives from completely other linguistic/cultural roots (and yes, let's allow etymological and botanical language to co-exist).

So where does this leave us?

One, feeling that in this instance, Ben is guilty of the sort of judgement avant la lettre he accuses others of. He is out looking for anal/excremental meanings and will force the evidence accordingly. That isn’t allowing the shiver-down-the-spine discovery of latent energies declare itself. It’s good old fashioned stacking the dice e.g. I find what I'm looking for or if it isn't there I'll shoehorn something in.

Two, by way of pre-empting his claim but this is poetry! That’s my point! I glimpse these connections afforded by the language then fine. I accept this and – again – rejoice in his (and others) writing when this occurs. However, elsewhere he attacks authors for such specious arguments, abusing language to fit ideological ends. Are we playing the academic game or not?

Three, why do I feel that we’re still in the college library (to adapt W.C. Williams’ riposte to T.S. Eliot). Ben seems to be Satan-like trapped within the very system he purports to despise. I, too, dumped academia but as this Blog has shown still have hankerings (my earlier to the point of absurdity reading of a Ray DiPalma poem). I, too, know the thrill of making such unforeseen connections in the course of reading a text. And I know when and how the habit formed: in the Bodleian or sitting in lecture halls listening to my own generation's charismatic Professors. It’s catching. Notice, too, how Ben’s connectionnitus is so decidedly verbal, textual, based on the printed page. It’s a thinking conditioned by Western scholarship dating all the way back to Biblical commentary. So what about other ways of thinking and arguing? Break the mould! Open the field! Say bye-bye to the quad, the cloisters and your tenured chums. And while we’re about it, I doubt Murray was the most jive-ass lexicographer the 19th Century produced. However, how strange that the so-cold-it’s-frozen prose of the OED is so semantically (surely sementically) fecund? The very Authorised Version of the Language, such a monument to disinterested linguistic research and the Propriety of the Tongue, is what allows Prynne to run riot (p. 115) and – phew! – prove his Marxist credentials.*

And so that’s my sadness. For I, too, share Ben’s despair at the commodification of learning and the vicious dismantling of the English university system. I, too, wince as another generation of high school students seem to show little real enthusiasm for literature beyond what might be of service to get a grade to get onto a course in Business; I, too, see a use for my life “outside the prerequsites of capital”. However, I can’t swallow Ben’s constant torquing of the argument back to “fucking Marxism”. Despite his efforts to prove to the contrary, it’s just another Big Book and locks reading in. Urizen keeps pulling the chains no matter how many shits fall.

Blake's words “I must Create a System. or be enslav’d by another Mans” (Jerusalem, Plate 10) still ring true.


*and who could say what strange desires expressed themselves in the reading, collating and writing of the Big Dic(k)tionary? I will always remember a fellow sub-editor chortling as he put his finger on the entry for twat (n).

Friday, July 27, 2012

I suppose I should have consulted the BBC's own site first - blame it on sheer exasperation.

This link explains it all:


Explains but doesn't justify. Am I the only person to see a very dangerous and frightening precedent being set here?
Correction to the previous post ... at the time of typing (8:33 pm) BBC Radio 4 is coming through the internet. So perhaps it's not a blanket exclusion. News-based content only? We will see ...

O Limp Fix!

Having made it clear that this will be an Olimpbiz-free site for the next two weeks you can imagine my ire when - on tuning in the trusty old iPod Touch to BBC Radio 4 - I discover this smug phrase being repeated again & again & again:

"Due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable. Due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable. Due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable. Due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable. Due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable. Due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable. ..." (you get the idea).

A quick Google for: bbc radio 4 blocked ... and, surprise, surprise, you guessed it! the BBC has blocked access to BBC Radio 4 for the duration of The Games (yes, I really share the sense of fun implied by the phrase). An ex-Radio 4 controller out on holiday in Italy (where else?) is also lamenting this craven submission to IOC force majeur.

Now I thought this kind of media obstruction (a form of censorship?) was only employed in those kinds of benighted countries We in the Free World despised. Cut to an earlier slogan: Keep Politics Out of Sport.

Yeah, right.

IOC? or IOU?

Back from the annual week or so down in France (apologies for the absence of posts - Internet connection is haphazard at best).

A few interesting items were waiting on the door mat, one of which being Out To Lunch's new slim volume on William Blake. A guaranteed provocation right from the start: I haven't seen Ben in several years but that's quite a frightening author photo.

After six hours of driving I'm not in the mood right now, but a quick flip through suggests this is going to be fun - many of the usual suspects (Marx, Zappa, Prynne, Joyce), intense pen and ink bio-cosmorphic drawings, and maybe some Blake in there, too.

Via Ron Silliman's blog I gather there's been some rumpus about this book - Ben and Sean Bonney going head to head as to who's the truly revolutionary. It's the sort of in-fighting that I remember in the 90s and the journal Parataxis - precisely what Cambridge English studies seems to thrive on.

Meanwhile I've been trying to make progress in Paradise Lost (both an obligation due to work and a feeling that my 48 year-old self should see what my callow 19 year-old youth missed reading all-too hastily for the weekly essay). Perhaps not the best choice of holiday reading given the multitude of distractions and I'm currently only half way through Book IV. It's slow going although not through lack of interest. I find I spend a lot of time dreaming in and around the annotations and the density of the language. Exactly what I used to find so frustrating is now perhaps the greatest pleasure. A Paradise Discovered.

Friday, July 13, 2012


A modest haul this time - at least for me. This trip over to the UK I count as a personal triumph as the elder Wafflette discovered the joys of Charity shop book bargains. I now have a willing accomplice to drag around the high streets. Over here in Belgium you just don't have this kind of outlet (& in any case, English books would be thin on the shelves). So, this time, it was her returning with the carrier bags of books: teen romances (*sigh*) & cupcake recipes - some fifty quid's worth in RRP terms for ten. Plus she discovered the local library where you get to take out even more books for free. How good is that? (So good, in fact, they're closing them up and down the country ... When will people learn?).

Still, we agreed driving home that England does have its good points - at least for the time being.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I know these two people - or rather I will. The shutter must click during a second during which year ... 1959? Cutting out a moment for years to come. I wait (unknowingly) until today to see this image for the first time. Thus the peculiar tense required for the verb: a future imperfect?

Whose eye frames the picture?* A passerby? A friend or relative along for the trip? And why does my father remind me of the young Marlon Brando?

And yet not everything is a mystery. Someone (Dad?) had the presence of mind to record what was on the menu -

A picnic, then.

* & then it dawns on me: nobody's. The camera had been set with a delay. "We did a lot of that sort of thing in those days" (Mum).


Rock Alphabet


Another one of those days spent sifting and sorting through drawers: A1-size building plans, Christmas and Birthday cards, unfinished things, clippings & all sorts. I separate out what I want to keep as against feel I should keep as well as bits and pieces I just might be able to work on back home.

In amongst it all I find this picture torn from I know not what magazine. Given my dad's limited knowledge and tolerance of anything in the popular music category it's all the more mystifying - my guess is he simply liked the little figures. That said, I'm not too sure of them all - these I do recognise:

Abba ... The Beatles ... Cher ... Eminem (?) ... Ice-T ... The Jacksons ... Kiss ... Led Zep (?) ... Nirvana ... Ozzy ... Public Enemy ... Queen ... Red Hot Chili Peppers (?) ... Stevie Wonder ... Village People ... White Stripes ... &, of course, a rather chubby Zappa.

Sets me wondering what would be my own Rock A-Z ... the kind of exercise Michael Lally excels in. Or maybe I'd need Rock & Jazz ... or maybe ...

Monday, July 09, 2012

Now we know what he really feels ...


Being over in the UK - aka Pound Land - for the moment I'm more than usually aware of the ghastly machinery of the British media. Thus, this morning, the nation wakes to newspapers proclaiming "now we know what you feel" after Andy Murray's (for me, at least) toe-curling dissolve into tears before the cameras. Do we? Or at least beyond a few of the most predictable sentiments anyone in a similar position would muster. Give me Ivan Lendl, any day.*

What is it about this country which seems to vampirically crave such moments of vulnerability while also lapping up ghastly docu-dramas of near-fatal accidents, traffic pile-ups, police swoops and Come Dine With Me licensed viciousness?

But, of course, Andy is 'one of us' - although no one seems to be quite clear who the 'us' are. He's not English and the Scottishness seems rather doubtful, too, given he's spent many years living abroad. And well done Tony Hawkes for pointing out this morning that yes, Murray is a role model for young British players, but let's not forget he went to Spain to train.

Now Wimbledon's done attention switches to the Olympics and I'm even more determined to avoid anything to do with this charade. The build-up TV sequence is telling: animated athletes running, diving and cycling with those kinds of cyber-polished anatomies typical of computer games. For what is this Olympics - and, increasingly sport in general - but a kind of Frankenstein experiment in manufactured humanity (by which we should understand athletes and spectators)? If anyone wins an event will it be down to the true principles of the Olympian ideal or who has the most sophisticated equipment, the highest financial investment, the most successful brain-washing by sports psychologists and trainers? It's now generally agreed that events such as sailing and cycling are way beyond the budgets of many countries to compete given the level of technology being used. Is that right?

And broadening the argument, also on this morning's radio was an objection to Heineken being the official beer sponsors for The Games. The objection wasn't about beer being allied with sport, rather that this particular beer is so generically gassy and tasteless. Why bring in an international conglomerate when London boasts many small independent breweries? Why not inspire visitors from across the world to sample some of Britain's finest? The answer? Well - you know why. This is Pound Land, after all.

And finally, let's see how this one plays out: the London residents who are going to court concerning missiles that will be located on the roofs of their apartment buildings in case of terrorist attack. No one seems to have posed questions such as: high grade weaponry in dense residential areas - what if something was set off accidentally (remember those Riots)? or: doesn't this make these people potential targets? or: if you do shoot a plane, where will it come down? Hmm ...

Twenty Twelve is now available on my version of BBC iPlayer and funny as it is reality is increasingly so unbelievable as to outstrip such attempts at satire.

Next up: Bob Diamond. I wonder what he really feels?


It's always fascinating to watch the camera between points scan the crowd for faces. Indeed, who - or what - dictates the selection? ( a) Minor/major celebrity, b) Wimbledon has-been, c) politician, d) Posh & Becks, e) friends/family of player - especially the girlfriend, f) Kate & Pippa plus the now de rigueur close-ups on any sweet little kids belonging to the players - cf. Euro Final & the Spanish soccer-dads, and, if all else fails, f) Cliff Richard and/or humorous glimpses of Ordinary People).

A belgianwaffle award goes out to Ivan Lendl who - to our knowledge - maintained an impassive expression throughout the entire tournament. I'm sure he was feeling a lot but has sufficient nous and sense of decorum to keep his feelings for himself, Murray and the locker room.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Heading for Pound Land early Sunday morning staying until Thursday. Plans are still vague but if you are in the vicinity let me know ...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

"... the weave of anecdotes of the book and of life ..."

Went into town this morning with L. to buy sepia ink and some other materials. This afternoon, finishing my daily lecture by Barthes, it suddenly dawns on me that I have (unconsciously) bought the very same brand of ink that figures on the cover - Encre Sennelier.

Can I really be this dozy & unobservant?

Absence of attention as one of the figures of The Neutral?

"Weariness: the demand for a position. The present-day world is full of it (statements, manifestos, petitions, etc.), and it's why it is so wearisome: hard to float, to shift places. (However, to float, i.e., to live in a space without tying oneself to a place = the most relaxing position of the body: bath, boat.)"

Session of February 18, 1978; The Neutral, Roland Barthes

To which I would add: chair in the garden + book

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Just for once the BBC gets it so right: PM on Radio 4 signs off with its tribute to Eric Sykes - a minute's noise (as against silence) from The Plank.

The joke being, of course, The Plank depends upon visual humour: so the minute is mostly crashes, bangs, whistles and theme.

And the joke behind the joke (serious, too): Sykes was deaf. And so here we are saying good bye, listening 'blind' to his joy of a film.

He'd have seen the joke.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Another timely arrival for the holiday reading season. I haven't yet got much beyond the prefatory material but a quick glance down the Contents pages offers many delights - great titles for poems to be or perhaps in some cases poems in and of themselves ...

The Wirelike Sharpness of Mourning

To Keep Silent as Worldly Tactic

Drags, Dodges, Hollow Corrections

The Time of the Adjective

A Little Bit of Symbolic


To Be Sitting

and this from the March 18, 1978 Session:

a. Thankless

b. Shirking

c. Muffled

d. Limp

e. Indifferent

f. Vile

(reminiscent of a Charles North poem?)
In the mid-eighties, working in London, I met up with an old friend from university who'd 'gone into the City', to use a phrase which - at that period - was still untarnished and had a certain glamour to it. As I remember, we were eating in one of the newly in-vogue fish restaurants and at the side of every table stood ice buckets with bottles of white Sancerre. We talked about our different paths since Finals; his into banking, mine into publishing. At the end of the meal, when the bill came, he graciously waved away my attempts to pay half. He explained they'd just received their first round of bonuses and intimated an amount that exceeded by a margin what I was earning for the entire year. I didn't press the issue.

Since then, and over the past couple of years especially, I have thought back to that meal. I do not pretend to understand the complex machinery of modern financial institutions but it was clear that even then (c. 1986) merchant banking was pretty much gambling with pinstripes on. It also became evident that although you were pulling in handsome amounts both for the bank and yourself, the money was far from assured. My friend sketched out a world of obligatory 'free' lunches, trips to Henley and the races, which were all thinly disguised occasions for networking and deal-making. There were phone calls, too, with tip-offs and you'd -be-a-fool-to-miss-this-one whispers. And you knew that you had to rise to the bait for fear of offending a useful connection and losing out to the next Big One. Sometimes it would be a scam, others a genuine failure, once in a while you'd hit it lucky - and that would make up (on balance) for the others. And, in any case, the real losers were people like you and me, paying for the losses in the indirect way we all do, like it or not.

So hearing this morning that Bob Diamond has resigned from Barclays and a whole murky world of City finance has started to spill into the clear light of day comes as no great surprise. How can this have gone on for so long? everyone wonders. However, as my friend's initiation into this world revealed, the answer is simple: everyone is in it together. Who has the balls, let alone integrity, to raise an objection? If you were seen not to play the game then you'd be out: no more tip-offs, no more jollies, no more bonuses, and - finally - no more job. Just not the right sort of chap ...

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