Saturday, March 30, 2013


No sooner than I have set up my spiffy new iMac than I discover it possesses some in-built obsession with self-assigning an IP address. Start a new session & the previous connection path has been erased. Which silicon valley boffin came up with that? (The same anal retentive type that devised Key Chain - another bugbear).

I have dutifully trawled through the various sites offering help sensing that no one solution works for everyone & I am loathe to act in haste & repent at leisure.

However, if there is a fellow sufferer out there who has the Ultimate Solution ...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Just to say that all things being equal I should be in Washington (Bethesda area) as of Sunday afternoon & then heading to New York on Wednesday where I'll be until the weekend. Yes, belgianwaffle crosses the Atlantic for the first time in ... sixteen years?

If there is anyone out there who enjoys the Blog & would like to meet up for a cup of tea or could pass on any great tips in terms of bookshops/interesting places/etc I really should visit that'd be great.

Please use the Comments or e-mail direct.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Old timers of this blog will no doubt be astonished to see such a post but - I admit it - there was a time when Tangerine Dream was one of the bands that occupied my ears and afternoons (and those after-prep chats with my chum Matthew plus his chocolate digestives). We even made the trek down to Hammersmith (am I right?) to hear them play a set largely based around Tangram.

Round about 1979 album covers for Force Majeure and Cyclone seemed about as cutting edge as you could imagine (punk must have been going on somewhere else and with someone else - but where was I?).

Hearing it again now in the car - I picked up this compilation for 6 euros at Media Markt this afternoon - it seems terribly dated and the sort of music you could knock out on an iMac with GarageBand over a weekend. Funny to think of the banks of synths they used to play behind. Nowadays, a few laptops would suffice.

But that's not the point. I wanted the synthesised rush of nostalgia, that particular thin glass percussion sound they used, the cheesy-signalled-a-mile-off climaxes. O long scarves and your Dad's old overcoat! O fusty teenage bedrooms! O acne besprinkled cheeks! O stylus-pocked vinyl and scratch and hiss! Those weren't the days, my friends ...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Seeing In The Rain

One of those things you happen upon while following up a lead concerning something you're reading (in this case, a mention of a name by Kate Greenstreet in an interview I sourced mid-way into case sensitive.)

Happy stumbles.

Think I'll be playing it to my creative writing students during the week.




I can't whip up the same enthusiasm for the All-School Exhibition in March as when it was later on in the year. Nevertheless, The Sticky Pages Press did make an appearance - here are some shots of the January collage book and the other collaborative sketchbooks. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

30-3 says it all, really.

Now, were I a betting man ...

Big smiles here.
A Short History of Writing

... She ... thumbs stabbing at the screen of a mobile, shoulders hunched, eyes intent on the screen, headphones dizz-dizz-dizzing in both ears ...

... He ... fingers turning a pen around, then grasping it, writing in a small notebook resting on his knee, then pausing, resumes pen turning, then looks out of the window, then around at the passengers opposite, smiles, looks out of the window again, checks the stop, then writes a few more sentences ...

(seen on the 94 Tram this morning)

Only a few hours to go before what could be a genuinely interesting & exciting game of rugby. Can Wales not only beat England but also by a margin that will make them outright winners?

Looking into my crystal rugby ball I see the following misty possibilities ...

Scenario 1. England win by percentage rugby - not going for tries but forcing errors for Farrell to convert into penalty goals. In the post-match interviews there will be much talk of no one cares how you win as long as you win. Bollocks!

Scenario 2. The referee wins by blowing the whistle for every error and thereby killing the flow of the game. Either side then goes ahead due to a last minute penalty. Afterwards there's little rugby to talk about but plenty concerning lousy decisions and impossible to enforce rules.

Scenario 3. Stupidity wins as either team commits a serious foul which means they're down to 14 men. Whoever wins, the victory becomes hollow & rugby loses (again).

Scenario 4. Wales finally click & deliver a performance of a lifetime, buoyed by the partisan Welsh crowd. England crumble & there are Welsh tries galore. Cardiff is awash in beer. Tom Jones is made Pope.

Obviously, I'm hoping the last one comes true (minus the Tom Jones bit, of course) but fear that 2 or 3 will be closer to the mark.

We'll have to see ...

Friday, March 15, 2013

I press the STOP button on the last oral exam recording, an action which usually heralds the first thoughts of the summer (the March sun shining, the first grass cutting of the year, a sense of the exams nearing the end).

Whereas ... this year, snow still lies on the playing field, temperatures are some way below zero and everyone seems to be starting or recovering from yet another cold.

This isn't the place to talk about individual performances but I do sense a trend of ever more superficial reading, of ideas grasped at mid-height without roots in the writing itself. It's increasingly rare to find the student who has read the text thoroughly - re-read it, even more rare - and is prepared to dwell on a page, on a sentence, on a word. At the risk of being boring, is this is the inevitable result of the screenager, a generation so 'in touch control' they're out of touch with what's right in front of them? (Samsung announces a new phone technology which will even respond to eye movements for a richer life experience. Can they be serious?) Scrolling, skimming, grazing ... generations of sheep nibbling the tops of the grass. Wasn't it Nietzsche who advocated ruminating over a text? O for a student with the stomach for reading!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Finally my ("my"!) copy of The Levinas Reader arrives in the post, all the more extraordinary given the weather yesterday. I ordered way back in January so it's arrival is something of an event.

Flicking through between oral exam sessions, I'm struck by a phrase which crops up in an interview and which is used by Levinas at the start of an essay. It derives from Pascal - here's the section in full:

295. Mine, thine.—“This dog is mine,” said those poor children; “that is my place in the sun.” Here is the beginning and the image of the usurpation of all the earth.

"That is my place in the sun" - that's the part that fascinates me. I think I understand the literal meaning - shove over, I was here first - and yet it doesn't stop there. It's a phrase which keeps speaking, deceptive in its very casualness. Why, I suppose, Levinas uses it in the first place.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Remember that time when a Christmas present arrived months late from some mysterious uncle or aunt who lived abroad? Well, that's pretty much how it feels today as we wake up to serious snow & the news that it's an officially declared Snow Day. In mid-March? Who'd-have-believed-it?

Sheer luxury.

Monday, March 11, 2013

That time of the year again when I sit in a small drab room for several days & experience what dentists must feel every day - in other words it's the IB Orals.

Today, given a series of interruptions, I have plenty of opportunities to watch the snow flakes swirl around in the wind and the gradual whitening of the world beyond the window.

A snow day tomorrow? Given the nasty conditions on the roads tonight & more snow likely during the night, it's not completely ruled out. However ...

(By the way, the Steve Reich Phases set arrived last week. So far I've only listened to the 18 musicians piece & there's plenty to enjoy despite the odd reservations).

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Just the two of us this morning, L stays in bed, I go to the pool & do my lengths thankful to feel like swimming again after the lousy weeks in February. Walking to the car, the trees are full of bird & song. Spring scents the air.

There's a vaguely recognisable piece on the radio as I prepare breakfast, a distinctive brass sound that can only be Aaron Copland. Indeed - Quiet City. Not sure what it is but I always feel this sense of optimism in Copland's music.

This is followed by a short discussion about Steve Reich and his discovery of a book on African drumming. Having been listening only yesterday to a couple of Toumani Diabate CDs, the Reich takes on a new focus and urgency. (I see there's a 5CD set on Nonesuch at a very reasonable price).

Last night I browse through The Portable Henry James (awful title - could there be anyone less portable?) searching for some 'flavour' but not knowing what. I light upon this passage in his essay on Shakespeare:

"We can catch, across the ages, the searching sigh and the look about; we receive the stirred breath of the ripe, amused genius; and stretching, as I admit I do at least, for a still closer conception of the beautiful crisis, I find it pictured for me in some such presentment as that of a divine musician who, alone in his room, preludes or improvises at close of day. He sits at the harpsichord, by the open window, in the summer dusk; his hands wander over the keys ... "

sending me, inevitably, to my copy of Harmonium and 'Peter Quince at the Clavier':

Just as my fingers on these keys
Make music, so the self-same sounds
On my spirit make a music, too ...

This afternoon I'll continue clearing up the workroom. A ritual to clear the head & prepare for new ideas.

In the green water, clear and warm,
Susanna lay,
She searched
The touch of springs,
And found
Concealed imaginings.
She sighed,
For so much melody. ...

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