TINGS AR BIN RIDDIN AN AUDIOCOMBUSTULATIN DIS WAKE #2

December 11, 2013

ok ok, and not just this week either,  it’s two getting on for three, delayed by sundry drinking and a visit to Madrid, where although I had a cool view from my hotel room, with deep sierra in the far distance, i did not see much other than the inside of television corporations, no different by and large to the inside of tv corporations anywhere.

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I didn’t see any of Goya’s frescos or his paintings of scenes and people through whom nightmares have crept into the world. I did, on freezing evening, have pointed out to me a large, modern building – a set of flats, 30 floors or so high, pyramidal, almost gothic, expressive of wealth – with not a light a shining from one of its countless windows, and with the entirety of its ground floor boarded up against the poor, whose ranks grow daily, and who muster in the tube stations for warmth against the freezing cold that visits from the same picturesque sierra that I could see framing the city from my hotel balcony. Government oppression, restriction on protest, and a limited period of welfare support. Vast semi-gothic empty buildings and the nightmare of poverty creeping from the underground. Goya would have something to paint in Madrid today.

I took with me All Souls by Javier Marias and didn’t realise or remember that he is from Madrid, as is the main character. It’s set in Oxford though, deals in the main with an affair between the narrator and a female academic, and speculations about the emotional and sexual orientations of the characters – a reductive system of emotional interactions taking place behind a veil of Oxford inscrutability that the narrator, as an outsider, has some uncertainty perceiving, even though he is in the middle of its web. It is not at all diverting, though fairly easy to read. That may have been tho because it was the only book I had with me and the typeface was fairly large. There are some thoughts interleaved about people who inhabit time or places like vagrants – lost and marginal souls – and how they can intangibly touch upon our lives by brushing up against the past of our pre-existence. I am being kind, it wasn’t really much about that or enough about it to make any difference to reading the book. It seemed a Laodicean novel, neither hot nor cold, but with no pose either that I could make out. It made me feel dull, as if I were missing something that I didn’t really feel like looking for. Go on, someone make a case for it.

—-

^ listening to this was what I felt like for stretches before I went to Madrid off the back of an internet recommendation. There is a melancholy so intense sometimes that it produces a dull pain in your torso, it is almost separable from feeling and so may be examined, and the taste of death in it is like the taste of death in wine in particular, or drugs of any sort in general. It is not exactly unpleasant, it has savour, and Chanson de la folle au bord de la mer is a helluva piece if you’re paddling in those black waters without armbands.

Oh, and a barcarolle. I’m a sucker for a barcarolle:

—-

The moonlight coming through the leaves and flowers of the apple tree scattered the most whimsical bright spots over Katerina Lvovna’s face and whole recumbent body; the air was still; only a light, warm breeze faintly stirred the sleepy leaves and spread the subtle fragrance of the blossoming herbs and trees. There was a breath of something languorous, conducive to laziness, sweetness and obscure desires.

[…]

A golden night! Silence, light, fragrance, and beneficent, vivifying warmth. Far across the ravine, beyond the garden, someone struck up a resounding song; by the fence, in the bird-cherry thicket, a nightingale trilled and loudly throbbed; in a cage on a tall pole a sleep quail began to rave, and a fat horse sighed languidly behind the stable wall, and outside the garden fence a merry pack of dogs raced noiselessly across the green and disappeared into the dense black shadow of the half-ruined old salt depots.

Made a start on The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories, a volume of Nikolai Leskov short stories that I drunk bought on visual appeal alone and promptly forgot about before it arrived in an exciting and entirely unnecessary large box.

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I like the placement of the sounds here, which gives a feeling of stillness because they are isolated in the night, and there is something about those song and those silent merry dogs – they are the things we notice when we contemplate the night, sounds that produce a feeling of distanced contemplation of ourselves in the world in the day, of our own placement, and isolated location. (In the story it is also the place where an emotional contract of jealousy that results in death, and later hatred and self-annihilation is made, though it is not clear that is what it will entail, and the seductive night seems almost to have brought about the dangerous promises that are made in it.) Kind of a bit indifferent to the Russian fable thing going on generally, but that’s just probably because I wasn’t in the right mood.

—-

Otherwise? Well, kicking off on the goats to this deranged funk blast:

And this will also be in my Songs of the Year:

woke up at three am ETERNAL one morning, and couldnae sleep, so put on the World Service to drift to. At one point there was an interview with Omar Souleyman, which in my dream state was a bit confusing as I’d been listening to this track a LOT the previous day:

it gets p intense at the 5:12 mark. that’s the point when i usually start jigging my head somewhat.

(Then there was an interview with the doctor who did the third ever, and at that point most successful, heart transplant for a baby:

Stephanie Fae Beauclair (October 14, 1984 – November 15, 1984), better known as Baby Fae, was an American infant born in 1984 with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She became the first infant subject of a xenotransplant procedure, receiving the heart of a baboon. The procedure, performed by Leonard L. Bailey at Loma Linda University Medical Center, was successful, but Fae died 21 days later of heart failure due to rejection of the transplant.

The doctor said they still don’t know why she died.)

—-

What else? Well, One Week One Band did The Fall, which was good, tho – FOR SHAME – they were dismissive about I am Kurious Oranj, one of the great ART PIECES of the LATTER HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY.

There was a great post on Berberian Sound Studio here, (my less substantial tho still frighteningly authoritative thoughts here) – oh and I went to the cinema to see a film very close in spirit to BSS – Dead of Night, one of my FAVOURITE films, and confirmed to myself that I still know many of the lines by heart, such as:

‘Funny sort of joke, it… it isn’t funny!’

‘I am not accustomed to solving complex problems with the casual ease of your Brains Trust, Mr Craig’

and of course

‘Private show for the LOOONIES’.

And over the past two days I have only been listening to this:

Also RIP Colin Wilson.

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and if these not-even-weekly scrapings become any more laborious i’m departing to live a life of eremitic hebetude in the outer hebrides straight after xmas, xmas.

see ya, frenz roman.

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Tail Ponds #1

November 20, 2013

My weekly sick bag of indigestible cultural items:

Listened to about four or five times every day over the past week christ. Part nostalgia, part it seeming to suit this time of year. The low comforting bass, the fractured vox of alien elation.

————–

Facts without authenticity, without detail, without control, without value

from The Taming of Chance by Ian Hacking

[phrase is from a report on the winner of the 1835 Montyon Prize. Jean Civiale statistically compared two methods of operation for gallstone removal, to find which had the best survival rate. Four adjudicating mathematicians, including Simon-Denis Poisson (even I’ve heard of Poisson distribution), used the report to talk about the relatively novel application of probability to medicine. Their target, according to Hacking, probably the polemical battle between two opposed doctors FJV Broussais – a blood-letting military doctor and speculative pathologist, who believed all illness could be located in specific organs (and indeed suicide was due to the absence of a ‘stay-alive’ mechanism in one of the major organs) –  and A Miquel, who pointed to rising death rates wherever Broussais was in charge. The debate on both sides was polemical and philosophical, which is where the critical quote comes in.

such battles are part of the forging of the tailing ponds of reality that flow out from the alchemical furnace of the present.

gallstone operations. erk.]

In the West [of Europe] the spirit of positivism made out that all laws were mere regularities. A belief in causes over and above regularities was an illegitimate residue of the metaphysical age. Hence it was quite in order to speak of statistical laws. 

from The Taming of Chance by Ian Hacking

[The 19th Century battle to define the extent and power of the province of statistics and probability over the universe and humans. (as against the ‘German’ approach – myriad little causes, which generate statistical distributions, do not cause those distributions; so the distributions are not laws. But only law could constrain human freedom.) On such philosophical disputes huge edifices of political, personal and social perception are built.]

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GET THE LP.

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A vast yet seemingly invisible presence hovers over the northern suburbs of London. Screened from the consciousness of the city dweller by the pressures of the day-to-day, by self-concern and an inward-looking and anthropocentric culture, the North Middlesex/South Hertfordshire escarpment – or Scarp as I prefer to call it – broods and waits.

from Scarp by Nick Papadimitriou

[Scarp’s a psychologically and stylistically raw, uneven book, but I like the anti-humanist, slightly alien de-anthropocentrised approach, there’s something Ballardian about it.]

————–

KONSHENS

————–

She was expecting a dressing room out of some movie musical? What she finds; is a sort of casually upgraded ladies’ toilet, stall partitions and so forth – some, to be sure, with glittery stars taped on the doors – a litter of pint liquor bottles, roaches both smokable and crawling, used Kleenex, not recognizably a Vincente Minnelli set.

Stu Gotz is sitting in his office, with a cigarette in one hand and a paper cup of something ambiguous in the other. Soon teh cigarette will be in the cup. He runs a lengthy O-O. “You want to audition, MILF night is Tuesdays, come back then.”

from Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

[I’m enjoying Bleeding Edge – here the internal uptalk, the easy use of emoji shorthand, conversation, thought and descriptions full of wide-ranging referents, the fooling about in the playpen of expression, the easy indifference to proprieties. That reminded me of a phrase from Blanchot’s famours Gaze of Orpheus essay:

Il introduit, dans le souci de l’œuvre, le mouvement de l’insouciance où l’oœuvre est sacrifeé : la loi dernière de l’œuvre est enfreinte, l’œuvre est trahie en faveur d’Eurydice, de l’ombre.

(It adds a certain carelessness to creative carefulness – a carelessness that sacrifices the work of art. It infringes the work of art’s most sacred law, betrays the work for Eurydice, for a shade.)]

————–

well, that faith/soul axis seems a bit fucked right now, but there’s always hope.


Euston, We Have a Problem

November 11, 2013

from J.-P. Falret’s 1822 dissertation on hypochondria and suicide, giving the predisposing causes of suicide:

heredity

temperament

age

sex

education

reading novels

music

theatrical productions

climate

seasons

masturbation

idleness

 


Berberian Sound Studio

September 2, 2012

Hey, it’s me. yes me.

Summer’s over, and i’m back from sojourning in my secluded, larch-bound chalet in HELL. I started a tumblr. it’s more of a conventional microblog – what i had for tea, sub op ed ‘thoughts’, emotional overdisclosure, that sort of thing, so it’s not a replacement for this fantastically serious and heavyweight… well, ‘blog’ doesn’t really seem to do something so profound justice – it’s more like something, idk, that i goddam curate. anyway, from time to time, i’ll xpost things from there that seem to have a place here, and vice versa, because believe it or not there are still tremendously exciting things bubbling under at the idiot and the dog. anyway, here’s something cnp’d from there on BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO – GO SEE IT (unless you’re the sort of twat who gets intellectual film studies self-kudos from just going to see hollywood dreck – hey, when i went to see Charlies Angels II: Full Throttle I felt like goddam UMBERTO ECO, so fucking what?)

berberian sound studio #1

berberian sound studio is the best film i’ve seen in years. that is all.

berberian sound studio #2

no that is not all. (a lousy phrase, no better than ‘enough said’ or ‘end of’)

(+ kind of SPOILERS I guess – I hate knowing anything about a film other than the barest elements before going to see it).

berberian sound studio was the best film i’ve seen in years (and I like it even more this morning), because of

1. its spatial and physical representation of sound to create a tangible psychic landscape within which the events of the film take place.

2. the remarkable way which the film allows its sonic & psychical content to constitute the reasoning and plot of the film. yes, the clue’s in the title, but it still seems an artistically daring thing to do (the film is rather runic) and requiring exceptionally brilliant execution to work, which it gets.

3. its mapping of the whole frigid anglican male v catholic kitsch schlock v genuine evil. i did half wonder whether the whole virginal and pure anglican male thing was slightly played out or in danger of being trite (wicker man, yes, but also wolf solent by john cowper powys, arthur machen’s earnest young post-victorian men, disorientated in fin de siecle aestheticism). But for several reasons this isn’t the case. Toby Jones is great, for a start, with his mole in wind in the willows features, also, the film avoids triteness by playing the role subtly, its only an element of the film, not the point. there’s also a scene… no, that’s another point. but there is that always interesting exploration of the strength of purity against corruption, and how puritanism itself is intensely corruptible, more so than more pragmatic spiritual states.

just with regard to that point about ‘genuine evil’. by upping the tangibility of sound in the film, it also does something to the appreciation of evil, itself intangible or difficult to capture. it’s as if the viewer’s radar has been readjusted to appreciate the taste of things in a film that would not normally be portrayable. there is a subtle sense of how madness comes creeping in on the back of evil, how they work together. (incidentally, i’ve since seen reviews which say that gilderoy goes ‘mad’, i think that’s an exceptionally simplistic approach to take to this film, nevertheless, madness, or rather mental unhingeing, plays its part. it’s also taking a non-literal film very literally.)

4. the documentary of box and leith hill. a brief and wonderful scene that played straight to my heart and mind. my heart, because it’s some of the countryside i love most (was it cobbett who said that dorking was reputed to have the sweetest air in england – before the M25 of course). my head, because of the way it located the battles going on in the sound studio and in gilderoy’s head in english pastoral – it was both a moment of sweet respite, and a representation of the malign or sinister pastoral of john cowper powys, machen, also john ireland – the dismembered rural, the something nasty in the woodshed, the rustic earth as inimical to human civility.  so yes, this was pure catnip to me. maybe i’m overplaying it as a consequence, but this is a very associational film (brief memories or moments of reality flash up in gilderoy’s head, stimulated by momentary verbal or imagistic associations).

5. it being, in my experience, a very accurate portrayal of how italians and english work together.


British Library – Writing Britain exhibition

July 1, 2012

[Posted this elsewhere, on a messageboard, hence the lack of the usual Jamesian poise and Flaubertian precision, but it’s RED HOT OFF THE PRESSES, I only went this morning:]

I just went to British Library exhibition, Writing Britain.

It was a bit rubbish. [<— it wasn’t THAT bad, it was meh it was ok.]

The organising principles, as represented by the groupings of works and the title they were grouped under, seemed by turns vague, unhelpful, misleading, and without any overall structure. With a subject as large as ‘Writing Britain’ there has to be some kind of argument, or underpinning set of principles. The section headings were occasionally a little weird – ‘Dark Satanic Mills’, fine, but in a section that didn’t include ANY Blake, just mainly 19th C thru Victorian novels, bleeding into some stuff about the contemporary workplace (David Lodge’s [i]Nice Work[/i] in a glass box, with a catalogue entry by it, really?).

Also, if you’re displaying books and manuscripts, you’ve really got to have a catalogue that situates them as objects. This object you are seeing before has this context, and this meaning for the subject in hand. Ok, so from time to time you’d have ‘Wordsworth wrote Tintern Abbey when he yadda yadda’, or ‘Keats wrote this letter to his brother Tom while on a walking holiday in Scotland’ (great! I enjoyed peering at Keats’ massive letter with tiny writing). But there wasn’t much more than that. Occasionally it would be as bad as ‘Disraeli wrote a book about social divisions, called Sybil, here is an edition of Sybil’. Well, maybe never quite as bad as that, but I thought it shd have worked a lot harder at making the objects talk. These are garrulous, companionable and informative objects, but they go silent under a glass case. Lots of dodging your head about trying to nix the reflection, and squinting at your enforced distance, decoding handwriting from the neatly miniscule (19th century women writers + RLS) to the formally incomprehensible (yes, you, William Dunbar).

Good things!

  • Done Keats’ letter – huge and with a sonnet in the top left-hand corner. Good letter.
  • Gerald of Wales’ 12th Century Topographia Hibernica with a marginal illustration of a werewolf asking a priest to administer last rites to his werewolf friend. At least, the catalogue note said werewolf, and indeed said they were mentioned as such in the text, but thinking about it, the normal interpretation of animals in mariginal drawings would be via fables and exemplars, although strange creatures like the anthropophagi and ape-pygmies do also appear. Anyway, good picture.
  • Manuscript of Crash with Ballard’s emendations.
  • Victorian board game, which was a map of Britain, where you had to progress from the Thames Estuary, round the country, with its various industries and back again. Looked incredibly not fun, but I don’t like board games and anyway the map was good.

BEST bit of writing was a letter written to John Betjeman complaining that one of his Metroland poems was historically inaccurate, ended with this

I remember Willesden Green station when it was lit only by oil lamps, and one left it into unlighted lanes with hedges, which is my first recollection of Walm Lane. I remember walking to Cricklewood and being so frightened of the loneliness of it all that I turned tail and scuttled back home again as fast as I could!

I quite like Cricklewood – it’s nothing like London – but for some reason that description seems to me strangely still pertinent somehow.

Most surprising thing I didn’t know – John Galsworthy was a fuckin NOBEL LAUREATE?

Most unsurprising thing I knew already – typewriters really are the only tool for creative writing. The pen is too laborious, generally, the computer too much like writing in water if you’re not careful, but the combination of permanence, clarity and immediacy of typewritten manuscripts puts them in first place for me.

Oh, couple of other things:

Wales shamefully under-represented (as was Cornwall). [<—- yeah yeah the mabinogion wotevs. Conan-Doyle half mentioned as a decent suburban writer, but no mention of Arthur Machen, also an exceptional writer of London and suburbia. I know you’re constrained by your exhibits, but not to have The Hill of Dreams anywhere is bizarre. (He was represented by a quote on a board, from his excellent autobiography Far Off Things.) Also, no Jocelyn Brooke, scant mention of the Powys clan (they could have joined them thru John Ireland – they had soundscapes and Mai Dun would have fit in nicely), Chesterton, yes, but no Belloc. YES he’s a cunt, YES he should have been in there.

Think that’s why you need an argument, because without it you become necessarily inclusive: with such a large subject, the exhibition becomes patchy and somewhat incomprehensible.

They probably could have done more with the representation of words in the landscape. Especially considering their gates were designed by the wife of David Kindersley, who proposed an effective and attractive national design for roadsigns, was himself apprenticed to Eric Gill (font+literary sculpture of Prospero and a big-willied Ariel on the front of Broadcasting House), who was a student of Edward Johnston, designer of the font used on the tube.

A bit more imagination, plus a bit more rigour might’ve produced a better exhibition. Like I’d know. I’m sure a helluva lot of work went into it.

Oh, and an entire section on London but NOTHING on Henry Mayhew (Neil Gaiman, by contrast, seems to have his grubby fingers everywhere).

Still, plenty of bits to enjoy here, just feel more could have been done with it. Wouldn’t have minded something I’d disagreed with more – it all just felt a bit nebulous.

Did make me think I must do my thing on MALIGN PASTORAL or whatever it was going to be. It got a bit unwieldy.


How Do I Shot Sordello? Book II

May 7, 2012

I read Book II last week, but didn’t have time to write anything. It was one of those weeks where sportive gods shy what shit they can your way. I’m going to have to refer to my more or less haphazard notes and riff on them as I see fit.

WARNING THIS ENDS UP V LONG-WINDED, TALKING ABOUT SORDELLO’S POETIC PSYCHE. IT’S BROWNING’S FAULT.

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Sordello – Book the First

April 22, 2012

Browning’s early long poem Sordello has got a bit of a reputation for being difficult. I started it yesterday and suspect that reputation must be built largely on its notorious reception – I won’t rehearse the usual anecdotes, but Opta stats show of an edition of 500 copies only 157 were sold, while 86 were given away to reviewers and friends since the publication of the poem. Poor Browning! We’re not talking ziggurats at the front of Tesco here. And he really thought he was writing something accessible:

in 1850 John Westland Martson told Rossetti [DG] that ‘Browning, before publishing Sordello, sent it him to read, saying that this time the public should not accuse him at any rate of being unintelligible (!!)’.

I started reading it yesterday and I’m not really sure it’s as unintelligible as all that, tho there are admittedly difficulties. Here are some appropriately disordered thoughts having read Book 1:

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