Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I dutifully drive up to Fnac this morning to try & find a copy of Julia Holter's Loud City Song. The Wire lists it as album of the year & I (generally) trust their judgment. In any case, as a teacher of literature & media I feel it's incumbent upon me to keep abreast of what's 'going down' in the world of off-piste music. 

I'd taken out Ekstasis some months ago but never found the time to give it a proper chance. However, listening to the first half of Loud City Song will change all that. Maybe it's the right moment (no teaching ... time to unwind ... late December sunlight ... the peculiar sense of endings & beginnings that New Years Eve entails ...) or simply the sheer quality of the music. Whatever - this is a terrific record. Sadly the little booklet is irritatingly printed with poor colour contrasts for track listing and information & the fold out lyrics are in a minuscule font & - to my eyes - blurred. Or perhaps this is the point & in keeping with the shifting layers & merging timbres of the compositions against & within which her disarmingly clear vocals move. 

Digging out the March 2012 feature in The Wire I discover - surprise! - that she has connections with Anne Carson (which explains the poetic nature of the lyrics, the sense of spacing, & the Greek mythological preoccupations). However, there's much more that goes beyond this one particular influence. To my ears, she has more than a little in common with Broadcast & Trish Keenan's writing methods & aesthetic. 

Anyway, I couldn't be happier finding a new voice to lead me in to 2014. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

No claims for authenticity on this recipe but here's tonight's dinner - a Jumbalaya.

1. Brown chicken thighs in olive oil in a large casserole. Remove when browned.

2. Add sliced pieces of chorizo & a thinly sliced onion.

3. Add sliced peppers (R, O, Y, G - as you prefer) & celery. Put the chicken back in.

4. Add garlic.

5. Add rice & coat in the other ingredients.

6. Squeeze in tomato concentrate.

7. Add chicken stock.

8. Add cayenne pepper (according to taste).

9. Bung in the oven at 170 degrees for 55 minutes.

10. Remove from oven. Add prawns (uncooked would be best). Return to oven. Give it another 5 minutes.

11. Remove & serve - you can sprinkle chopped parsley & spring onions for a bit of colour & zing.

12. A gutsy red (Aussie/ S. African) does it justice.

6/10 from E; 7.5 from L. Who cares - we'll eat the rest tomorrow!

Well we managed to get to GU46 & back despite the dire weather warnings for the South East of England. Were this a Shakespeare play, it would be all too obvious - the macrocosm of Nature reflecting the microcosm of human affairs & so how appropriate that 'Dave' should get an earful as he tries a caring photo op walking among the Common People who've not had any electricity since before Christmas. Power cuts - there's a resonant phrase. (Wait for the staggering profits & management bonuses to be announced later in the year by the electricity companies).

Listening to Radio 4 as we drove down to Folkestone there was a glimmering candle of hope as customer after customer complained about the inadequate information - try phoning the 'power provider' & you get either pre-recorded messages or an actual human being telling you they are not, in fact, the company responsible. etc. etc. The labyrinth of ownership & evasive responsibility starts to come into focus. Surely people are beginning to cotton on? (& this was a good one: a spokesperson stating that all the numbers were available in Yellow Pages - so, your phone line is down AND you're in pitch darkness ... now where is that copy of the phone book? ... oops! just fell over the chair ...).

The Big Society strikes again.


Having been a good boy (mostly) all year I got several interesting presents which should take me well into the New Year:

A collection of essays on Agnes Martin (plus what seem to be good reproductions of notoriously difficult-to-reproduce paintings)
Robert Motherwell Early Collages ('Mallarme's Swan' has to be a key work)
A fat box of Jonas Mekas films on DVD (includes 'Walden')

I had also ordered in advance:

The Practice of Poetry, ed. Behn & Twichell (I particularly like the idea of a 100 card pack 'Universe')
Geoffrey Hill Collected Critical Writings (forbiddingly heavy - in both senses - & probably best to read at intervals to allow time to follow up the names & works each essay throws up in its wake)
Daniel Mendelsohn Waiting for the Barbarians (part of the ongoing modern essay research)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (read this straight through between 10am and 2pm on Christmas Eve. I like it a lot - might even put it on the IB Lang & Lit syllabus)

& picked up a secondhand copy of another Amelie Nothomb - The Character of Rain

& just as I was thinking I'd not had the ritual food-porn Christmas cookery book to salivate over, Mrs Waffle chucks me a copy of Nigel Slater's new volume from her suitcase ("you better have it now as you'd only order it later on Amazon ...") ...

... as usual plenty of useful & straightforward recipes. This time, the very format of the book is part of the pleasure - a squat volume with a pleasing sweet potato orange wrap-round cover. I also like the minimalist three-letter word title in bold lower case. Nice job.


& while on the topic of food ... we managed another speedy visit to Bob's Seafood caravan on the harbour at Folkestone. No lobster at this time of year but we did get some crab & coquilles St Jacques  & cockles for knock-down prices. Delicious. (Supplies depending on "weather conditions and hangovers" I noticed this time on the side of the shop).


Wednesday, December 18, 2013



Miley Cyrus to play Snow White 
 at the Whitby Pavilion Theatre


Wishing You All 
Much Merriment 
The New Year

(let's face it - we need it ...) 


Friday, December 06, 2013

Renault Clio IV


So ... pretty much the first time I'm able to see the new car in daylight & here's a picture (suitably cropped to exclude the licence plate which has - sadly - neither an F nor a Z in it. You can't have everything).

Given I have read many reviews of this car before ordering it & since - some of which were useful & others downright misleading - here are my thoughts having driven it for two days. (I'll plagiarise the typical car mag categories). You never know someone might happen by & appreciate another opinion - while certain friends & family might be amused at me (of all people) showing an interest in cars. 


I saw this car first in the much-hyped 'Flame Red' along the road from E's piano teacher & it was undeniably eye-catching. I'd never noticed a car with the concealed rear door handle - not that I had noticed much about cars full stop. Neat (& intriguing). I also admired the overall design - the 'sculpted' claims of the brochure are not too far-fetched. Talking things over with the dealer, we reckoned that the full-on red would be a little too mid-life crisis, the yellow & blue better for the South of France, while the black looks great in the showroom but gets dirty the moment it's on the road. Therefore ... good old sober & restrained middle-age grey ("Gris Cassiopeia" sounds so much more enchanting don't you think?).

The hub cap mystery is partially solved - for some reason the factory decided to put on Paradis 15" that belong to the Clio IV Estate rather than the standard Expression options. A bit different & for no extra cost - fine by me. The chrome 'flash' is a surprise - by my reckoning this would have required a further 200 euros as a 'personalisation' choice. Someone was feeling generous over there in Flins. 

At the front you get the big diamond logo (which I like) & the thin beads of LED daylights which give a certain style in addition to security (good combination) while the back is squat & predatory with the small rear window. 

I reckon it looks bloody good. 


When I took one out on a test drive back in October, I wasn't so impressed with the glossy black door panels & trims. Again, in the catalogue being modelled by glamorous young Parisians it all looks rather chic whereas I have to think more in terms of grubby little fingers, half-eaten sweets & school bags. The sheen would disappear pretty quick. Thus, standard Expression option interior - matt grey - & I don't regret it at all. (To be honest, the higher spec Dynamique tips towards bling.) I bought some Clio mats yesterday & they give it all a lift. So save yourself 500 euros (or more) & play it simple. Less is more, etc.. The seats - also standard - are fine & more stylish & comfortable than photographs suggest. Again, the colour options look tempting but would wear badly I fear. 

I did opt for a leather steering wheel (the basic plastic one looked ugly). It was a good choice - this wheel feels good to the hands, is pleasing to the eye & the black gloss fill is just enough to liven things up. 

Knobs & things

Everything seems to work (hooray!) but I do notice a certain plasticky quality (but then what do you expect - it's not a Bentley). Electric windows require continuous push, the indicator feels a bit stiff but does have a nifty one tap for overtaking. Heating/air conditioning is pretty much standard issue - and efficient. What for some might be a fault for me is a plus: it's all very simple & minimal. 

Music (the really important stuff)

No CD player seemed a major drawback at first & then I realised that you can connect an iPod or use a USB stick. Yes, it means a bit of a hassle transferring files but it does save CD boxes jammed in the door pockets. Sound quality is very good - I don't care what some people are saying about "barely adequate". I've been playing Zappa's 'Guitar' at mid volume & there's no need to go higher. The 'bass reflex' system works for me. 

It's all housed in a central console (again - simple, minimal) & works like an iPad by touch screen. Within the options there's also the Sat Nav which is much better than some reviews suggest. The mobile phone link is fun rather than essential for me - I don't make calls much. The Bluetooth connection is reliable & seems to connect pretty quickly when you get back in. Of course, there's the upmarket option of R-Link but I can't think why I'd be e-mailing or using Apps in a car. Surely you're meant to watch what's on the road ...

The money that might have gone into the decor I put into the Europe maps for the Sat Nav (here in Belgium you just get Benelux). 


It purrs ... a really nice throaty kind of engine sound. It feels so much more car-like (for want of a better word) than the C3. The much-talked about TCe 3-cylinder petrol engine is more than adequate for what I want - it accelerates well away from the lights & on the Ring was hitting 120 km/h with ease. Again, I don't know why there are some snide comments from reviewers. I can't speak about fuel consumption yet - but I'm sure it will be superior to what I've been used to & it's about as eco-friendly as you can manage short of a hybrid or electric car. Handling, torque, under or over-steer I leave to the petrol heads. Put it this way, the Clio feels good to drive. Correction: really good. 

Yes, reversing is a bit of an issue - the price paid for the stylish design means the back window and moulding give limited visibility. The solution - aside from looking even more carefully - is the extra reversing alert. Money well-spent.

Final verdict 

I love it. Frankly I never thought I would ever own or drive such a thing. For me the combination of the design & performance are just right. Cheaper & you'd notice it. More expensive & I think I'd feel embarrassed. I don't really approve of cars (an issue going right back to my twenties) but I'll make a real exception in this case - much as I did with the Citroen C3 of ten years ago. Laurens van den Acker has done a good job in shaping these bits of metal. Of its kind, it is a sculpture. Five stars then from me. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

A red letter day.

The car has been delivered - a good week or so earlier than anticipated. Saint Nicolas must think I have been a good boy (despite everything).

I can see the Clio parked outside the garage as I say good bye to the old Citroen. Immediately I notice that the side panel has the chrome flash (not ordered) and wheels that are far from the brochure standard issue (also not ordered). A mistake? No, le garagiste confirms that's yours - and even better than I'd imagined. Extraordinary. If it wasn't so dark I'd attach a photo but as it is that will have to wait until tomorrow.

To say I am as pleased as Punch is an understatement.


Sunday, December 01, 2013













Sunday morning asemics



As Roland Barthes might say, here it is not only the juxtaposition of structures and materials (cathedral architecture/car/tree; stone/metal/vegetable) but also the cumulative metonymy (cobbled street, bistro 'au coin', tables & chairs, the light shining through the door pane, carte des vins = Paris) that fascinates

In short, just about everything is right with the image except that ... I am not there ... 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Not one to usually give a damn about cars - beyond 1) it goes, 2) the CD player works - the past two months have been uncharacteristically Top Gearish. I have been paying undue attention to such things as hub caps, chrome side finishes, metallic (or not) paint options. The reason? Answer: the not too distant (I hope) arrival of the new car.

Related to this has been a lottery-style calculation of the current licence plate series. (Due to Belgian law, my old plates will have to be surrendered for the new European issue). Right now we're at 1 - FXL ... & I was working out the odds of an 'FZ' coinciding with my car being certified as road worthy. Pathetic, I know, but it passes the time staring out the window at the procession of traffic as students grapple with their essays.

However ... what do I discover but due to some obscure bureaucratic decision after 1 - FX ... the series will skip to 1 - GAA ... . What!? No 1 - FY ... or 1 - FZ ... ! Why?

So bang goes my chance of a Zappa-related plate (unless by some weird twist I end up with the 1- FXZ ... due next Tuesday, which wouldn't be bad).

Have I lost all sense of proportion? Or is this a form of lettrist mania/ arcane alphabetic superstition?

I'll let you know which combination turns up.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Watched Lift to the Scaffold again after many years & notice this time around the role of cars : Tavernier's convertible, the German tourist's sports model & the Renault Dauphine Jeanne Moreau drives.

The closing scene remains as stunning as ever, the gradual development of the crucial photograph (& its subsequent disappearance through overexposure).*

Last week it occurred to me how photographs are changing. The ubiquitous teenage BFF snap with an iPhone or Touch (bunny ears, V sign, funny face which are now standard for the genre - hold up the iPhone, put our heads together, make a face, snap! Giggle.)

More significant (disturbing?) is this way of looking into the camera which already anticipates the result - a kind of boomerang effect. Gone is the uncertainty of lens/film/exposure/developer and the delay (trip to the Chemist, SAE to the lab, etc). Or that late Victorian kind of pose where one sat for posterity). Now the moment returns immediately, the pose is always-already taken. In a sense, each snap fulfils a pre-established image & is forgotten as quickly. Send/ delete/ ...

Whereas, watching Moreau, the close ups, the sheer astonishment occasioned by this face - how little of it would survive today's pixilated encoding.


* a pedantic objection (or fascinating alternative reading) to the final scene: who is the 'third' who took the compromising pictures of Tavernier & his mistress? Someone else was in on the secret - the tiny camera was surely not able to manage time delay shooting?

Sunday, November 17, 2013


(Reading left to right) My uncle, an unknown little girl, my paternal grandfather (who I never knew), an unknown older boy, my Dad.

The date? 1939? (I'm guessing). 

The occasion? A Sunday walk along the cliff tops? Portland? 

These (& other) questions. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rumour has it, Belgian car licence plates FVZ were issued today. Given my new car is meant to arrive in a month, is it too much to hope I might just get one? No idea of the odds.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"In my religion all believers would stop work at sundown and have a drink together 'pour chaser la honte du jour'. This would be taken in remembrance of the first sunset when man must have thought the oncoming night would prove eternal, and in honour of the gift of wine to Noah as a relief from the abysmal boredom of the brave new world after the flood. Hence the institution of my 'Sundowner' with which all believers, whether acquainted or not, would render holy that moment of nostalgia and evening apprehension. Brevis hic est fructus homullis. In my religion there would be no exclusive doctrine; all would be love, poetry and doubt. Life would be sacred, because it is all we have and death, our common denominator, the fountain of consideration. The Cycle of the Seasons would be rhythmically celebrated together with the Seven Ages of Man, his Identity with all living things, his glorious Reason and his sacred Instinctual Drives." (Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave)

Plucked Enemies of Promise from the shelf in passing which, in turn, sent me back upstairs to find this volume. One of those you keep going back to.

This morning I sat eating breakfast on my own (the girls still abed) my yoghurt accompanied by Samuel Barber's Agnus Dei unscrambling its digital bits across the choppy Channel from Broadcasting House. One of those 'moments': unaccustomed calm, sunlight, smoke lifting off chimney pots, steam from my cup of tea. Monday rhymes.

On days such as these I wonder what I might achieve ... that teasing sense of opening, a pause, a beginning to draw a circle in which ... knowing tomorrow it will all dissolve. & so we lurch on ...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I should have known better by now ... but what seems like a simple update (to OS X Mavericks) is ... not.

My password is rejected sending me frantically searching through boxes & files trying to locate what was originally typed in. Only to remember that I never did have an Admin. password - I just clicked Return. & that, of course, is the point. Apple in its wisdom (?) has now worked it such that the new Operating System will not accept blank passwords & so I have to create one. Great. A new complication. The 5GB file is downloading again - fluctuating between two and seven hours. I started the original download round about lunchtime.

This comes hard on the heels of my bank blocking a simple online Visa transaction until I agreed that a computer generated password would be sent via my mobile for "extra security". (I'd argue quite the opposite - another vulnerability opens up.)

Who thinks these things up? What kind of twisted minds &/or what special interests are being served? (Let's hook up the computer to the mobile ... ever more dependency upon technology).

Heading for the UK tomorrow & what seems to be a major storm ....

On the look out for badgers who might have "moved the goalposts". Good on them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Underlying so many aspects of the policies discussed in these two books is the fallacy of uniformly measurable performance. The logic of punitive quantification is to reduce all activity to a common managerial metric. The activities of thinking and understanding are inherently resistant to being adequately characterised in this way. This is part of the explanation for the pervasive sense of malaise, stress and disenchantment within British universities. Some will say that such reactions are merely the consequence of the necessary jolt to the feelings and self-esteem of a hitherto protected elite as they are brought into ‘the real world’. But there is obviously something much deeper at work. It is the alienation from oneself that is experienced by those who are forced to describe their activities in misleading terms. The managers, by contrast, do not feel this, and for good reason. The terms that suit their activities are the terms that have triumphed: scholars now spend a considerable, and increasing, part of their working day accounting for their activities in the managers’ terms. The true use-value of scholarly labour can seem to have been squeezed out; only the exchange-value of the commodities produced, as measured by the metrics, remains." ('Sold Out', Stefan Collini, LRB 24 October 2013)

An article that sits well with Idiotism by Neal Curtis.

Much of what I read these days seems to be deeply depressing & exhilarating by turns. Depressing in that it confirms the collapse of so much that I hold dear. Exhilarating in seeing inklings and hunches crystallised in print and realising that I am not alone in sensing things are spinning out of control.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Miss Stackpole's ocular surfaces unwinkingly caught the sun."

(Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, Chapter X)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Discovering Meredith Monk ...

... above is a link to the Peter Greenaway film devoted to her. There's also a BBC Radio 3 programme currently available on iPlayer (which sparked my curiosity). & The Wire (August 2013) has a main feature, too.

Worth exploring.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Big thanks (& this time I really mean it) to the lady who picked up L's spectacle case (containing one week-old spectacles) on Friday morning in the 94 tram where they must have fallen from her school bag & who then returned them to L this morning as she got on. & on her 14th birthday, too!

Which goes to show there's some hope for us all.

(We'll pass over the shouting & recriminations of Friday evening & the weekend ...).

(The car's fixed, by the way).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A big thanks to the person who smashed the side window of our car, opened the glove box & rummaged around behind the back seats.

There wasn't anything, was there?

& now the visit to the police, insurance forms, repairs ...

A great evening.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

5:30 - vaguely awake & wondering what time it is

6:00 - Internet radio alarm goes off (World Service)

6:00 + 5 seconds - switch off radio alarm with right hand forefinger

7:10 switch radio on again & suffer another edition of Something Understood (these days mostly a string of platitudes)

7:30 - stumble out of bed, go down, feed cats, sort out swimming stuff, get ready

8:00 - pool, 20 lengths, feel smug & virtuous

8:30 - breakfast (miraculously already laid by elder daughter)

9:30 - supermarket (with aforementioned daughter)

10:15 - start making chicken soup (chicken legs, onions, carrots, celery, a potato)

10:30 start marking student essays

11:00 coffee & soup supervision

11:30 resume marking

12:30 preparations for lunch (said soup, grapes, mandarins, apple)

1:30 retreat upstairs to listen to Round the Horn on iplayer (intermittent nap)

2:30 last batch of essays

3:45 afternoon walk (conker collecting, pondering, deep breaths & mindfulness in line with the teaching of Thich Nhat Han)

4:30 tea (Earl Grey Red Baron) & piece of chocolate cake

5:00 further retreat upstairs, music (remainder of Peter Grimes disc one, Octet by Steve Reich, part of Kurt Weil's Concerto for Orchestra)

6:00 preparations for dinner (lamb, beans, oven potatoes)

8:00 read the Observer on the iPad, check emails, write replies, decide to write this Blogpost

9:30 everyone seems to be in bed (or on their way)

Thus Sunday ...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

September has been a horrendous month in several ways. Somehow blogging just hasn't seemed to be appropriate.

Here's hoping October is jollier for all concerned.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Browned, corners and edges slightly bumped outside, edges slightly bent outward from smoking household, clean inside and no registrations or marks!"

(description from seller on Abebooks of the copy of Schuyler's The Crystal Lithium I've just ordered for a pittance. Postage is double the cost of the item. Of course I have the text in the Collected but I want to see how the poems appeared on the page in the original collection. I'm guessing, but somehow "browned" and the "bent edges" and "smoking household" would appeal to Schulyer's wry sense of humour? "Clean inside", too, no doubt).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Like many people these days (no?) I come to Norman Douglas via Elisabeth David (in this instance her pieces collected in An Omelette and a Glass of Wine). Siren Land arrived this morning & I have just read the first chapter 'Sirens and their Ancestry' which - according to Ford Maddox Ford - was the most beautiful thing the English Review ever printed. One can see why. Pound, Olson, Davenport, Lawrence (D.H.) seem to be in attendance along with that other very distinctive Douglasian note.


Also worthy of mention is the re-release of Rip Rig & Panic's original albums in Extended Edition CDs (plenty of bonus tracks). I Am Cold has long been a favourite of mine from the cover in (that wonderful solo piano track ...). Although what Norman would have made of 80s punk-jazz outfits God alone knows ...


A line in George Herbert's poem 'Affliction (4)':

"My thoughts are all a case of knives"

In my case, blunt pencil stubs?


Rain off & on throughout the day. A distinct chill to the air. September declares its hand.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

"Here are two telltale words: abstraction and control. To manage a cloud there needs to be a monitoring system that controls its functioning, and this system is by definition hidden from users. The more the small item (smartphone) I hold in my hand is personalised, easy to use, "transparent" in its functioning, the more the entire setup has to rely on the work being done elsewhere, in a vast circuit of machines that co-ordinate the user's experience. The more our experience is non-alienated, spontaneous, transparent, the more it is regulated by the invisible network controlled by state agencies and large private companies that follow their secret agendas."

Zizek in today's Guardian.


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Discussion over dinner concerned the phrase 'papier-machine' which, it seems, isn't used here in Belgium. The English equivalent would be 'typing paper' or - currently - 'printer paper'. The point being that Derrida is setting in motion an object-word play with which to put in question an apparent opposition between the 'spiritual' nature of the blank sheet and the technologically corrupted apparatus of printing. L. offers 'papier mâché' (which has its possibilities, too). However, on being asked whether she knew anything at all about Derrida's work said - with remarkable authority for a 13 year-old - "well, he's bonkers".


Last night, left to my own devices, I watch All About Eve on DVD. Marvellous. & now I know where Peter Sellers got the voice for Gryptype Thynne - Addison DeWitt aka George Sanders.


A definite chill in the air. We're into September ...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The neighbours opposite have decided to declare their newly-painted gate once again an access to their garage by sticking a no parking sign (plus number plate) and threatening tow-away sign. This, despite the fact that they - and everyone else along the street - know that they condemned their garage on moving in, built a small (verging on absurd) swimming pool in front, and grassed over the rest. There is absolutely no possibility of a car getting in or out.

Instead, they have decided to interpret 'right of access' to mean a personal parking space in front of the gate. Unfortunately, given the length of their car, they cannot actually fit within the width of the gate access leaving them no alternative but to jut forward into their right-hand neighbours' gateway. (So far she has been generous enough not to complain).

A further complication is that a lamppost stands on the other side, meaning that any car can park up to this point without preventing access (were access feasible) to their garage. And cars do. In response, the neighbours have decided to park right up onto the bumper as if declaring their 'space' has been trespassed upon. (Do this in town & you'd have your wipers pulled out or wing mirror twisted off).

The new development we witnessed on opening the curtains this morning is their decision to now park partially across their gate access (thus a good meter or more back from the right-hand neighbour's access way) and a good two meters past the right-hand post of their entrance. In effect, they are now taking up two parking spaces along the road - all in their effort to assert a right to a space which is not, in fact, theirs in the first place. (Imagine the consequences were everyone to assume their driveway gave an automatic parking space to the left and right).

The icing on the cake is to watch them leaving (husband opens the little side gate, they embrace, she gets in & drives away) or returning (one or other gets out to check the car reverses within half an inch of any enemy car encroaching on their putative land). There is something both theatrical & pompous about the whole business.

I was wondering what it reminded me of when the penny dropped: the sister's house in Tati's Mon Oncle. In this instance I'm tempted to laugh also were it not so utterly pathetic - such arrogance, such small-mindedness, so little self-awareness. Who do they think they are?

Perhaps I should go out in the dead of night & chalk a parodic reserved parking rectangle with a symbol for the socially handicapped ... What do you think?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, August 25, 2013



I was booked in for the 12:50 crossing to Calais & so as I sail past Maidstone services before 9 am I'm wondering what on earth I'll do at the Terminal for three hours (it being the busy holiday season, earlier trains are most unlikely). So I head down to Folkestone to see the sea & inhale the ozone. 'Harbour' seems the best option & by 9:30 I'm in Elinor's Cafe having a morning coffee but I'm too excited to let it cool & only drink half the cup. Off to explore!

I walk to what I assume will be the sea path but find it only leads into a lorry car park. No luck. I retrace my steps & go left & find I've hit some kind of promenade with more cafes & restaurants & - far more interesting - stalls selling fresh fish & seafood. I hit on 'Bob's' & after a bit of discussion end up buying two lobsters for a tenner each. (Back in Brussels I'm reliably informed by Mme Waffle we'd be paying 45 euros or more for that weight). He tells me he's sad the Sea Cat has stopped - "we used to ring up our mate over in Boulogne, "two crab salads s'il vous plait", & we'd go over there & be back by the evening. Lovely." 

The point is: why has it taken me so long for the penny to drop? That just ten minutes further on & there's the sea. Why not enjoy Folkestone itself rather than hare up to the M25 or (the other way round) squander the hours in the miserable Terminal? 

Walking in, still with plenty of time before the crossing, I see what's laughably (chillingly?) called The Family Zone. You guessed it: a wall-size screen playing a Pixar film plus other screens & terminals delivering further doses of virtual Kiddie Fun. I want to run in there & shout that just down the road there's the sea & the sand & the sky & a horizon without edges ... Go & dig a sand castle! Throw stones at sea gulls! Have a chat with the crusties! Just get your eyes away from a screen! 

Next time, we're making that ten minute detour. & I'm having fish & chips staring out to sea. I know my Dad would approve. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Whereas the cell occupies a determined point of the organism, an idea really fills our whole self. It is necessary that all our ideas become incorporated in this way into the mass of our states of consciousness. Many float on the surface, like dead leaves on the water of a pond. By this we mean that when our mind [esprit] thinks it always finds them again in a state of immobility, as if they were outside it. These are ideas we receive ready made and that inhabit us without ever becoming assimilated into our substance, or ideas that we have neglected to take up, and that have been dried out, abandoned. If, to the extent that we distance ourselves from the deeper layers of the self, our states of consciousness tend more and more to take the form of a numerical multiplicity and to deploy themselves in a homogenous space, it is precisely because, increasingly, these states of consciousness take on an inert mode of being, a more and more impersonal form ... But if, digging beneath the surface through which the self makes contact with external things, we penetrate into the depths of living and organized intelligence, we will observe the superimposition, or even the intimate fusion of many of these ideas which, once dissociated, seem to mutually exclude one another according to logical contradictions ... "

(Bergson, quoted in Thinking in Time, Suzanne Guerlac, p75)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

still life










Getting to that point in the holidays when I look back over the eight weeks and wonder what might be defining moments. The Morandi exhibition at the Bozar has to be one of them. This morning I went (again) with sketchbook & tried to do justice with a pencil to what is going on in one or two of the canvases. Naturally, you're snatching glances between people browsing past. However, one thing is clear: looking 'with' the pencil opens up many aspects of the painting the gliding eye fails to see. & something else: trying to map each object & the relations between each object & you start to find you're out by several centimetres. The pictures get bigger beneath your hand. How does he fit it all in? That's before you try to do justice to the interplay of line, of tone, the light 'within' the canvas as well as the light of that precise moment of the morning. 

These are extraordinary paintings which jpegs & the reproductions in catalogues fail to convey in the same way. You just have to stand & look there and then. Which, of course, is precisely what the paintings are 'about'. 

Below two sketches. The pencil one is a particular favourite. 




Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Still here & reading Suzanne Guerlac on Bergson (among other things).

Copies of azimhuth & signiticanf (amazing! my autocorrect now suggests this spelling!) went out last Friday. I hope they all land safely - the person doing the weighing & franking didn't seem to have a clue what they were doing.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

& another ...


... like buses, you wait a small eternity for one and then two come along at once.

More info at the Sticky Pages site.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Oh no I don't believe it ... George Duke has died. Really?

If I had to choose an incarnation of The Mothers it'd be the Duke era (Napoleon Murphy Brock, Chester Thompson, Ruth Underwood etc.) & albums such as One Size Fits All, Apostrophe, Overnite Sensation ... I know Zappa said they were a boring bunch in some article or other but the music was terrific.

Today ends on a diminished chord.


Hard to believe, I know, that I could have reached this ripe old age and never (knowingly) listened to anything by Shostakovich. Maybe as the background to some BBC Four documentary some fragment or other went in one ear & out the other but nothing registered or made me want to find out more. & I know why - a conversation a long time ago in a train in the Paris Metro with someone who knew lots more about music than I, who made the statement that Shostakovich was "a first rate composer who wrote second rate music". What a silly way of categorising music (I'm thinking in retrospect) but at an impressionable age such pronouncements go deep. & so I found myself listening to that other S - Stravinsky - & avoiding DSCH. 

Time to make amends. This week I've discovered the two Piano Concertos (the Andante of the Second is especially beautiful) and - just now - the String Quartet everyone seems to talk about: number 8. (& yes, it's worth all the hype). On order are sets of the Symphonies & Quartets but they'll have to wait until the weekend. 

It's been raining since 10 o'clock this morning. I should have known that buying two garden tables on Tuesday would put the mockers on the weather. Never mind, it's the perfect excuse to stay indoors & listen to Shostakovich. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Hot off the press ...


a z i m h u t h 



finally finally ... a z i m h u t h is ready to issue. 

More details on the Sticky Pages website (http://stickypagespress.blogspot.be).

Monday, August 05, 2013

Unlikely as it seems but ...

... two good bits of news:

1) You can still hear Zappa's G-Spot Tornado & The Adventures of Greggary Peccary being played at this year's Proms festival - http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2013/july-31/14638

(Pity about the simpering low brow link material - why not ring up Ben?)

2) Peter Capaldi transforms from Spin Doctor to Doctor Who - an inspired bit of casting (for once!). Finally the Daleks meet someone whose language is able to exterminate ... "You? You f!@$%ing lump of $%^^&** who d'you think you are? I've seen more horrible %^^&(^(* in my sister's &*)*&*&. So get out of my f*&^*ing galaxy will yeh!"

(& maybe a crafty dig at both the BBC & the current government as being nothing but a collection of tacky monsters & cybermen?).

I might even tune in.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Antwerp. & a new (at least to me) secondhand bookshop a little way past the church. In which I find ... this Black Sparrow Press edition of Barbara Guest's only novel. So why did I buy it when I have it already (the Sun & Moon edition)? Partly as the larger format & cover collage beguile, partly because I think I'm on to a bargain (it wasn't particularly), partly as a way of memorialising the day : seeking air, indeed.

There's something about this city. It gets me every time.

Just before leaving I see a man in one of the many courtyards, sitting at a table, crisp white shirt, an interesting-looking book open before him, a large glass of white wine to the side & think to myself yes ...

Hypocrite lecteur! Mon semblable! Mon frère!

Friday, August 02, 2013


zhuth (n/v)

1. A form of mania in which the next vertebra fits. 2. Slits in the circumference of the sky through which the Critic passes. 3. The doctrine of moths.

(... and that's it. Now to tidy things up & make it all into a book.)

Thursday, August 01, 2013


yhuth (n/v)

1. Over, throughout, across but not close. 2. A miniature toy resembling the female organ formed of timber and covered with turf. An object of veneration. 3. The writer himself on board ship surrounded by the 'white'. 4. A 4,320,000 year itch. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Only remaining: 'y' then 'z'. Once they're complete I can make the book. (At last!).

Went into town (Schleiper's) to buy a deep blue card for the cover. I'm thinking of a run of 50. (25 definition paragraphs which makes for three pages double-sided more or less.)

Further details to come.


xhuth (n/v)

1. A sally in oscillation continued beyond the apex. 2. Of reading, etc. to flay the dregs that remain after sifting. 3. A moisture of words cursed upon the diocese. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


"Mercury represents syntony, or participation in the world around us; Vulcan focalization or constructive concentration... A writer's work has to take account of many rhythms: Vulcan's and Mercury's, a message of urgency obtained by dint of patient and meticulous adjustments and an intuition so instantaneous that, when formulated, it acquires the finality of something that could never have been otherwise. But it is also the rhythm of time that passes with no other aim than to let feelings and thoughts settle down, mature, and shed all impatience or ephemeral contingency."

(from 'Lightness', Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino)   

A volume to take slowly - letting each essay dissolve in the mind & to follow up over the next few days hints & names. 

Festina lente ...


whuth (n/v)

1. The action of binding a cloud tightly. 2. Downy, lanate, tomatose. A frothy exudation on the palate. 3. Due to the imbricated surface of the filaments, applied to words fished or scarfed. 4. The amorous solicitation of cuckoo spit. 5. (Not) to say anything (more) about (things).

Monday, July 29, 2013


This Pelican Original (price 95p, secondhand, I note) and the resissued The Quattro Cento and Stones of Rimini had been down on the bottom shelf in the lefthand corner since I shipped everything up into this room. They looked tempting but somehow the moment wasn't ripe. However, as the past twelve days or so have been spent thinking about stone and light and water Adrian Stokes seems to be the person to turn to. 

Indeed he is. 

Here's a taster of  'Art and the Sense of Rebirth' from Smooth and Rough:

"In Italy I have been much alive to what I eat. I cannot judge how the enjoyment of food has stimulated architectural interest but I feel certain that pleasure in building broadens the appetite, whether it be for the cylinders of maccheroni and spaghetti, the pilasters of tagliatelli, the lucent golden drums of gnocchi alla romana or for fruit and cheese like strong-lipped apertures upon the smooth wall of wine. We partake of an inexhaustible feeding mother (a fine building announces) ... " (p67)

Reading a passage such as this I'm hearing a Roland Barthes avant la lettre. Other pages recall (inevitably) Ruskin or Pater. And it's well-known how Stokes corresponded with Pound which perhaps explains why I also hear something of Hugh Kenner and Guy Davenport in the mix. 

It's a strange prose: in places overwrought yet saved from preciousness by the dislocations between sentences, the warped syntax, and the sheer weight of felt experience in the knowledge. 

Here's the opening to The Quatro Cento - you'll see what I mean:

"No sign of Frederick Hohenstaufen in the railway station at least. They say that his mother was delivered of him in the piazza San Giorgio, afterward named the piazza Federico. Jesi, to-day called the city of silk because there are silk factories outside the walled town, a city upon a hill with walls pushed half-way down the slope. A light afternoon rain has been prepared, falls upon the road from the station. Here, then, the town above the road that fumes into hovel doors. Before the gate there is a bridge over water that rushes to turn a mill. Inside the gate climbs old Jesi. At the moment three children under the age of six descend the steep cobbles under great eaves and long, shuttered buildings. Neither rain nor sunshine disturbs a corpse. But wait a minute! A siren yelling at the silk factories rattles every rickety shutter. Ruins are kindly; they have no shutters. They whisper through baked, uncovered lips. ..." 

Notice the abrupt opening - hovering between casual acquaintance and connoisseurship; the absent main verb in the third sentence; the morphing of "fumes" into a verb; the Ashberyian faux-immediacy of "wait a minute" (think 'The Instruction Manual') ... 

There are pages and pages of this kind of thing. Gorgeous. (And maybe add the Rilke of Malte Laurids Brigge and the Letters on Cezanne to the list of voices ghosting this text?). 

I'd put money on Stokes being a fave of John Latta. No? 

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Back from the annual vacances en France ... and waiting for me on the window ledge next to the front door was a small packet containing six Steve Lacy CDs. In the haste & perspiration of unpacking the car yesterday afternoon I hadn't noticed. During the night we had a major downpour and so it was a bit of luck that the discs remained dry and intact. So far I've listened to the first two: Only Monk and More Monk and I'm wondering why has it taken me so long to 'dig' (as we jazzers say) Lacy. Cloth ears? Expecting something else & not finding it at the time (circa early1990s, Leicester)? So what (cf Miles). Now's the time (who wrote that? Charlie Parker, no?). I can't get enough of this sound. 

I delve into my piles of old Wire magazines dating back to 1992 & sure enough there's a long article/interview with Richard Cook and - 2002 - an Invisible Jukebox. 

"I started playing because I heard the call. It's an artistic calling. The first question is if you hear it, and the second question is if you heed it. ... Each thing you hear determines the direction that you go. You just follow the music, and if you follow the music you can go anywhere ... Music is just there, and you just have to leap, take a chance, go off the ledge, off the edge." 

Twelve days of - more or less - no internet & computer use which has allowed plenty of time for reflection & reconsideration. 

Lacy on Monk: "He told me: 'It's very important what you don't play ... Don't play everything. Let things go by.'" 

Why not expand this to a Philosophy of Life? 

If only ... 

Sunday, July 14, 2013


this might be a more reliable link.

I think this is the link to follow:


Alternatively, google Chris Petit for videos and it will be the first to show up (76 minutes shown on ARTE).

I urge anyone & everyone to watch this film. Vital & important.


vhuth (n/v)

1. i) A defender of fabrics; ii) A frequenter of inlets; iii) A hurdy-gurdy of epithets. 2. Committed depredations of llamas originating in Vienna. 3. More or less contiguous edges shading off into the surrounding. 4. That is to say. 

on the throne with zizek & zappa



The wife of a colleague asked a question on my behalf to Slavoj Zizek during a conference last week at Birkbeck. As far as I am aware Zizek has never made or published a statement on Zappa & they seem to have certain things in common. It seemed worth asking. 

Apparently Zizek's immediate response was violent & unpublishable for a family audience of this Blog (an expletive related to Zappa's original choice of name for The Mothers). His subsequent remarks were equally hostile - I have to wait to hear the exchange. 

However, the photographs above seem to suggest I'm on to something. So why such hostility? A classic case of repression/ denial? Or is Slavoj more a Captain Beefheart fan?

& let's not ignore the fact that Zappa's trousers are down around his ankles, whereas Zizek's jeans remain firmly in place. Philosophy refuses to bare all? The constipated nature of Western Thought? Material here for a thesis ... 

PS should our correspondent from Frimley be reading, could he confirm that the second photo is indeed Zizek & not him a few years ago? Uncanny ... 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

That time of year again ...


uthuthful (n/v)

1. That ordinarily happens (an urn-shaped process, a crystalline principle, a tingling pain). 2. Of a person i) who walks before; ii) who arrives before another; iii) who has charge of the door. 3. To fossil a moth. 4. Astr. In the constellation of C minor. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tonight: La Regle du Jeu (Jean Renoir)

Just a thought - is this where John Cleese and Connie Booth got the idea of the Major for Fawlty Towers?


thuth (n/v)

1. Said of things to cut a tongue on. 2. In addition; furthermore, besides, also. Reduplicated for emphasis. 3. Med. Wedge-shaped glands inserted into a groove as a religious practice or rite. 4. Words spoken on the night following this. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Yesterday I absent-mindedly started filling up the car with petrol when - *!?#*!&*! - I remember it's a diesel engine. Panic. Phone calls. Q: How much had I put in? A: 3 litres (in a 60 litre tank). Apparently that's OK providing you resume filling up with diesel.

Having made the trip back to Brussels this morning without kangarooing, explosions or the car falling to bits I think I got away with it. (Fingers crossed).

But what an idiot.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


slhuth (n/v)

1. An ink-knife choked with clinkers. 2. Vowels glide obliquely across sea and sky. 3.i) A piece of nimble. ii) Smut driven between the bilgeways. 4. Hist. The Counts of Warps to different sets of slay. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


rhuth (n/v)

1. A native of nests and handwriting circles around the object. 2. Dimensional extent or a form of type pertaining to the vernacular. 3. A memory frolic after the introduction of matter. Varying locally. 4. A broken perfume resembling penguins.

Monday, July 08, 2013


quhuth (v/n)

1. To wince the tender flesh. 2. i) Profit flowing through veins. ii) Motion of the foetus. iii). Productive of interest. 3. In theological matters (fig.) a question found under the nails. 

Friday, July 05, 2013



Dropped by work this morning & found this had arrived in my absence. Perfect timing! I take a breather from Cinema I to gulp down Chapters One (Life of Spinoza) and Six (Spinoza and Us) - admittedly perhaps the 'easy' ones. 

As always with Deleuze there are sentences that burst upon the brain and concepts that pull things unexpectedly together (e.g. p126 and his discussion of ethology and relations - "Now we are concerned, not with a relation of a point to counterpoint, nor with the selection of a world, but with a symphony of Nature, the composition of a world that is increasingly wide and intense. In what order and in what manner will the powers, speeds, and slowness be composed?" - which cries out for an extension to Zappa's Project/Object and theory of the Big Note).

And what about this on pages 129-30:

"He is a philosopher who commands an extraordinary conceptual apparatus, one that is highly developed, systematic, and scholarly; and yet he is the quintessential object of an immediate, unprepared encounter, such that a non philosopher, or even someone without any formal education, can receive a sudden illumination from him, a 'flash'. Then it is as if one discovers that one is a Spinozist; one arrives in the middle of Spinoza, one is sucked up, drawn into a system or the composition ... the individual who, without being a philosopher, receives from Spinoza an affect, a set of affects, a kinetic determination, an impulse, and makes Spinoza an encounter, a passion."

- which is pretty much the experience of reading Deleuze himself. 

... the search ...


"Besides, I was always hoping that somewhere in the house, in a closet, perhaps, in a drawer, I might come upon some paper or some object that would throw light on the manner in which his life had been spent during the long silence of the preceding years - some clue which would explain the reasons for his flight or at least suggest a direction in which to look for him ... I had already gone through I don't know how many cupboards and wardrobes, and examines stacks of cartons filled with packets of letters and old family photographs, or with artificial flowers, feathers, aigrettes, and birds long since out of style. The faded scents, reminders of so much that was dead and gone, aroused in my own mind memories which for a whole day filled me with depression and brought the search to an end ... "

(Le Grand Meaulnes, Alain-Fournier, Chapter 13 'The Exercise Book', p188)

& perhaps one of the best statements of Joseph Cornell's poetics ... 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

lotta bottle


So, Morandi ... a mixture, in fact. The negative, first: another example of poor gallery decision-making in hanging a series of works against black backgrounds which kill any sense of the works' colour. And, Morandi's later flower and shell period leaves me cold (there's one especially dreadful example which would not look out of place in a local Sunday painters' exhibition). However, the positive: a ravishing early still life that is (apparently) rarely exhibited; a superb pencil sketch; and the main room with a series of paintings that take your breath away. 

It's this room that really matters & that you need to return to again & again. If ever there was a painter who does not transfer to reproduction it's Morandi. The catalogue images are dull substitutes and I'd imagine a digital camera image would distort in the other direction - too bright. As it is these images conjure light from the dusty air that surrounds the bottles and other objects. Seeing the paintings arranged along the wall the set of variations becomes clear - think Goldberg or the Art of Fugue & fugacity. A. & I talk about the conditions in which he painted - the ascetic Chess Grandmaster level of concentration & intensity; the deliberate restriction of objects & means to open up such immense possibilities; the attention to light knowing how the tiniest of fluctuations would threaten the entire arrangement. As I'm looking I'm also thinking of Ben Nicholson, Sean Scully - use of negative space (the former), formal variation (the latter). Thinking, too, of the defiance (& courage?) to turn your back on the window and concentrate on a load of old bottles day after day. (Unlike models, though, they don't need to be paid, don't need breaks ... ). So much he excludes - but that's the bargain you strike. 

Nosing around the internet afterwards I happen upon a very good video interview with Wayne Thiebaud (http://vimeo.com/20806297). Thiebaud's modesty, flawless speech & precision of analysis are exemplary. 

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