one-off at the wrist


Of course no sooner did I blog yesterday then the skies opened up with torrential rain. Long time the end of the world scenario of man’s demise.

Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 1

When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Of course the sea rise levels needed for most of these tales [apart from temporary tsunami events] are not believable/possible. Apparently if ALL the ice/snow etc melted on the entire planet, sea levels would only rise about 75 metres. Certainly not enough to top Mt Everest let alone to submerge even the tallest of skyscrapers. So as long as you settle somewhere just above that altitude then your descendants at worst will enjoy a beach side property.

Waterworld [1995] not possible, AI [2001] just about feasible in extremis; though they make visually striking metaphors.

AI, 2001

AI, 2001


Middle of the day and I can hear the delicate sound of thunder outside; the weather has been unsettled for a week, with temperatures hitting 30. water-saving-awareness-campaign-bench I found this great advert for using water wisely. In the 21st century it will become as precious as gold [that and oxygen perhaps]. Amazing how we take such a resource for granted. I guess history is easy to forget when you don’t feel you are living in it? By which I mean, everyone’s day to day needs [not arguably for most, out of absolute necessity] create a short-sighted ‘in the moment’ style of being/behaving. The proverbial Easter Island problem. Taking rungs from beneath you in the ladder to make the rungs above?

I noted this lovely illustrated edition of Ballard’s Drowned World recently. With the now soon to be ‘fake’ replacement chimneys of Battersea Power Station. Another iconic landmark due for a contemporary makeover retrofit.



ready reckoner

I have found myself in the last week collecting several old dictionaries.

  • Webster’s new school and office dictionary and atlas, 1946
  • Oldham’s Concise English Dictionary [1940s?]
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1971 but with thumb index pages
  • Pitman’s English and Shorthand Dictionary [1950s?]

I will look at old atlases next. I love all kinds of old reference books, especially maths, science, biology, with illustrational drawings.

Interesting to see artists using old dictionaries as the ground for illustrations themselves based on illustrations from old dictionaries.



Strangely, whilst I can think of quite a few movies about writers/their books/narratives coming to life, I can only think of three that are actually about books in their own physical self, The Name of the Rose, The Ninth Gate and FAHRENHEIT 451.

The 9th Gate

The 9th Gate

Arguably also The Book of Eli but for most of the film it seems little more than a McGuffin. Of the four films mentioned only Ninth Gate feels to be really, primarily about books, without too much other distraction.


I rarely [if ever] seek to know anything about the personal lives of artists or authors. One is always afraid that their masterworks will turn out to be nought but thinly disguised autobiography. I have never believed the, to my mind, daft commonplace interpretation of the quote by Mark Twain, “Write what you know.” Strikes me as both lazy and apt to lead to rather boring output?

I have to say though that I was intrigued by learning that Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, whilst not in utter isolation [apparently he was unable to look after himself], in the seclusion of  the island of Jura.

Books and desert islands as it were. There be treasure.


Tower of Hanoi

click to play

click to play

Another classic ordering puzzle. Of course the story behind it was made up in the late 19th Century by the puzzle ‘inventor’ Lucas to market his version. Or at least we hope. A long time to find out [roughly 585 billion years].

Legend has it that a group of Eastern monks are the keepers of three towers on which sit 64 golden rings. Originally all 64 rings were stacked on one tower with each ring smaller than the one beneath. The monks are to move the rings from this first tower to the third tower one at a time but never moving a larger ring on top of a smaller one. Once the 64 rings have all been moved, the world will come to an end.

see this excellent link for more information.


The inconsistency of memory. I long remembered [or so I thought] a poem from ‘A’ level English, which has stuck with me always, or at least the imagery of the final line,  “they found her in the morning, daws pecking at her hands”.

Alfred Hitchcock, the birds, 1963

Alfred Hitchcock, the birds, 1963

I searched long time for the poem and the poet to no avail. I even asked at the British Poetry Library, convinced that it must be an English poet, as the romantics and metaphysical poets had been the area of study. No one had any idea [even 'daws' comes up as an incorrect spelling in most auto-spell checkers].

Only years later did I stumble upon the answer, in relation to one of my favourite poets Ted Hughes and his Crow series. Why such works remain little known amazes me [though I do believe my misremembered 'daws' is more powerful than 'sparrows'?] but I guess it is down to the dominance of the English language publishing world?.

Five minutes after the air raid by Miroslav Holub

In Pilsen,
twenty-six Station Road,
she climbed to the third floor
up stairs which were all that was left
of the whole house,
she opened her door
full on to the sky,
stood gaping over the edge.
For this was the place
the world ended.

she looked up carefully
lest someone steal
or Aldebaran
from her kitchen,
went back downstairs and settled herself
to wait
for the house to rise again
and for her husband to rise from the ashes
and for her children’s hands and feet to be stuck back in place.
In the morning they found her
still as stone,
sparrows pecking her hands.

Translated from the Czech by George Theiner`

bird of rarest-spun heaven


click for La gazza ladra overture by Rossini

Of course in the Indian sub-continent and the far east, trained fortune telling birds are fairly commonplace. But the Shearwater Rooks album cover reminded me of The Thieving Magpie [La gazza ladra by Rossini rather than the progish rock live album by Marillion] and knowing that apparently all the Corvus genus of birds are partial to a bit of shiny bling, I wonder whether these birds could be trained as pickpockets?

Parts of Rossini’s opera were used most memorably in scenes from Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange.


cover image for Shearwater album Rooks, Kahn & Selesnick, 2008

cover image for Shearwater album Rooks, Kahn & Selesnick, 2008

One of my favourite albums. I guess I have always loved ‘high range’ male vocals for some reason; Beach boys harmonies, Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, Jon Anderson [no relation] from YES, Peter Gabriel circa Genesis, Steve Tyler from Aerosmith etc

Though not a concept album per se, the imagery is so strong.

When the rooks were laid in piles
by the sides of the road,
they were crashing into the aerials,
hanging from the laundry lines.
And, gathered in a field,
they were burned in a feathering pyre,
with their cold, black eyes.

Poor birdies, but I guess they are early warning devices for natural disasters.


VIPAKA (2012)

VIPAKA (2012)

I know nothing about the film pictured above [except that it "mixes equal parts mystery and horror"] but this movie still is full of potential.

In trying to explain the hook that catches the viewer [if you are so inclined] in the works of a director/story teller like David Lynch, say, I have seen the phrase “use waking rationality in a world of dreams”. That compelling dream logic that makes perfect sense in that half awake, half asleep world.

As Dali said “The quicksands of automatism and dreams vanish upon awakening. But the rocks of the imagination still remain.”

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Running the entire tube network to raise money for Alzheimer's Research UK and War Child

Big American Night

The Notebook of James Reeves


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