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:,d.d2k

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 ( Thiebaud's modesty, flawless speech & precision of analysis are exemplary. 

busy, busy

Off to have lunch in town with A. & then to see the Morandi exhibition.

Last night - Bresson's Mouchette. I'll post a few thoughts later on.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Postscript to the previous post.

I see there was an incident in Sainsbury's where a cashier refused to serve a customer at the check-out who was on their mobile phone. Quite right. The number of times I have stood behind someone with their phone crooked into their shoulder making a fist of putting their shopping into bags or fumbling for a wallet. It's as if the check-out person, other people in the queue, the entire world come to that do not exist. I phone therefore I am - and no one else is.

Coincidentally, in the Murnau film (1924) this very issue is explored: how people are erased in unequal social exchanges. The door man, relegated to a toilet attendant, proffers a towel to the hotel guest who ignores him completely (much as, earlier, the hotel manager sat at his desk smoking with his back to his employee).

Returning to 2013 and the lesson has passed unheeded. Sainsbury's have compensated the customer (&, no doubt, the cashier will be sacked or otherwise disciplined).

Big society. Big deal. Loser wins all.

Books may be renewed


I sometimes dredge for/ immortality, among the second-hand book shops, and elsewhere.

('A Web', A Windmill Near Calvary, Keith Waldrop)


Up to Chapter Five 'The Perception-Image' in Cinema I and it's more or less (sometimes a little more, sometimes far less) making sense. Which, of course, is the point as I'm ever more aware of when reading Deleuze. There are paragraphs over which the eye roams and you have an impression of understanding and then sudden crystallizations - a sentence, an image - when what has come before acquires an utterly different set of possibilities. Impossible - at least for me - to read Deleuze as a passive absorption, a string of ideas served up in order. Instead, an active engagement (fight?) which also involves simultaneous other reading: Difference and Repetition, the Deleuze Dictionary, other essays, parts of interviews. But it's worth it. There's something exhilarating about reading his prose - the sheer intelligence, the range and depth of reference - and intimidating, too. Crossing to Teletheory and Ulmer seems plodding in comparison.

And, inevitably, Deleuze has revived my interest in films themselves. Sunday's viewing of Breathless followed on Monday by some early Lumiere Brothers shorts on the BFI Primitives and Pioneers DVD (workers leaving the factory, knocking down a wall, snowball fight, etc.). Then, yesterday evening, I watched Murnau's The Last Man with the extraordinary performance of Emil Jannings and that revolving door*.  And, again, it's the luxury of the holidays to allow time to distend, to be able to move from book to screen and back, a rhythm disallowed during the working months.


"Each face, even if just seen yesterday, is different today, because today isn't yesterday. Each day is the day it is, and there was never another one like it in the world. Only our soul makes the identification - a genuinely felt but erroneous identification - by which everything becomes similar and simplified. The world is a set of distinct things with varied edges, but if we're near-sighted, it's a continual and indecipherable fog." (Paragraph 167, The Book of Disquietude, Pessoa)

A new first thing in the morning routine to read a page of Pessoa & it's perhaps inevitable that the eye lights on passages that chime with other reading. Here, what seems to be a beautiful encapsulation of Deleuze's rethinking of perception - how "an atom perceives infinitely more than we do" and that the first gesture of subjectivity is "subtractive". 


Listening to ...

Evidence, Steve Lacy with Don Cherry
The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961, Bill Evans
Kveikur, Sigur Ros
Screenplay, John Parish
Various compositions by Olivier Greif 



* The revolving door ... it's interesting how Deleuze homes in on the opening sequence of the camera-bicycle descending the lift and then moving towards the door. It's the door that fascinates me: the impassivity of the door boy who just stands to the side, staring impassively before him, typifying the form of alienated labour and dehumanisation the film explores in several ways. The hand is separated from intention, simply an automated movement, a wave that acknowledges no one (think Chaplin's more exaggerated wrench work at the conveyor belt in Modern Times). The contrast, too, with the smooth turning of the door (accentuated by silent cinematography) and the hustle and bustle of the affluent guests in and out as well as the constant to and fro of people and traffic in the rain outside. Yet, at the same time, there is something hieratic about the boy's pose - a guardian of the Threshold (seen, too, in the posture and regalia of Jannings as the door man). The way the revolving door starts to work in the film: mythic as wheel of Fate (the sudden demotion and the equally sudden 'stroke of luck' of the inheritance at the end) and socio-political as arbiter of employment/leisure/redundancy, old/young, movement/immobility, moneyed/poor, high and dry/ a rainy day. And, cinematically, the way the revolving door enacts Deleuze's Bergsonian fascination with the break up of continuity as images of the passersby are multiplied and dislocated as the move right to left and left to right. And, surely, a cinematic 'memory' of its zoetrope 'ancestor' - even here a kind of embodiment of the films central theme of the casualties of progress? 

To think ... a week ago & I wasn't even aware of this film. I'm now thinking I could build an entire course around it. 


Wet. Then sun. 

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