Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fifth Anniversary

The reason the posts in Baghdadskies petered out in 2006 was a comprehensive disgust at the mess the Americans had created in Iraq and the feeling that nothing I could say would be anything more than repetitions of this feeling.

But here a selection of posts in Slate on the theme of Why Did I get Iraq wrong? to coincide with the 5th. anniversary of the invasion on March 2003, starting with Kanan Makiya.

I felt, desperately hoped, the invasion might produce a good result for the Iraqi people, even though I knew the reasons Bush and Blair gave for invading were lies.

In recent months Blair (my former prime Minister) has not publicly admitted he cocked it up. Perhaps when he has retired he will do so.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Robert Bresson

Bresson Retrospective at BFI. Gilbert Adair does a fine essay in the Guardian today:

The supreme genius of cinema

I have the DVD of Au Hasard Balthazar (1966). I'm one of those who doesn't like the amateur acting. It would be interesting to know if he encouraged the actors to act in that deadpan manner, or whether that is all they could come up with. As Adair says, the star is Balthazar herself.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Poetry blog - Mind of Winter

Check the blogroll: you won't find too many poetry sites. But this one, Mind of Winter, by or connected with Michael D. Hoke, which wandered across my path a few days ago, is one I like. Reading bits of that encouraged another return to a book on poetry to make one final effort to get to grips with the most basic terminological/technical aspects which I really know little about, and which never stick.

Though there are various little snippets in my notebooks of what I must have thought to be poetry, those few who have seen examples of my work tell me they don't scan, which is a thing I would never have considered as I scribbled down something which suddenly appeared in consciousness and begged to be preserved.

When I first started looking at Mind of Winter, something convinced me it was a woman. Well, it may be, who can tell. Michael's name is at the bottom. What I like about the site is not being left alone with the poetry: a sign of lack of confidence, true. Reading poetry in tandem: if the other person makes the first comment or analysis, it is easier to add your two-pennyworth.

I once (only once and not again) attended a introductory writing course - to suddenly find yourself the first one to make a remark, with a dozen people listening around a table, is disconcerting: Stephen Potter {2}territory. Envision: Mr. Brown, say, a graying student - probably a retired English teacher by the quality of his prose submissions - chips in quietly after you with something along the lines of "The dominant meter is iambic", when all you have done is impulsively remarked on a pair of lines that had hit the spot.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

A hypertextual Exploration of hypertext

A Project by Tara Martineau at Arizona State University

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Towards a Consilient Study of Literature

Towards a Consilient Study of Literature

Steven Pinker discusses The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative, edited by Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson, Northwestern University Press, 2005 in Philosophy and Literature, 2007, 31: 161–177

Thanks to Garcila for mentioning this article in comments in my post Cutting Remarks.

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The Purpose of the Novel

It is possible to read a novel because you are impressed by the writing more than the story itself. Or: what drives you on is not the story, even if it has its interests, but the hope of some patches of good writing cunningly interspersed throughout the text like oases arrived at just in time for a life saving drink on a long desert journey.

When I came across a quote from Nabokov which I put in a post, Cutting Remarks, it was natural to re-read him. Of course, revising his life and work is easy now.

The only Nabokov on my shelves now is a yellowed 1960 Penguin paperback :
The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. Been lying around for years: not me the book. Hadn't read it before. Or, maybe I did what we all do when in need of a novel: after the first few lines decided it wasn't quite what I was after at the time.

Now, inflamed with the admittedly simple axiom of what Shattuck, on Proust, talks about “..the purpose of all fiction, which both mimics life and provides a template that life can seem to mimic...”, and mimicry and camouflage in and of Nabokov, it is to Nabokov that I turn for examples of this business of life and art; art and life.

Sebastian Knight is said to have been written (1938: his first novel in English, published in 1941) in his Paris flat, sitting in the loo (it does say if he sat on it) with a suitcase over bidet for a desk. If you haven't read it yet and are tempted to, don't spoil it by checking reviews and background (and wiki) inadvertently getting a spoiler.

There is that thing about what you know about the author as you read the book, which either is a distraction or a source of fascination.

Here - it is not giving too much away just to give a an example of the style and humour - the narrator is SK's younger half brother :

When Sebastian visited us in Paris at the close of his first university year, I was struck by his foreign appearance. He wore a canary yellow jumper under his tweed coat. His flannel trousers were baggy, and his thick socks sagged, innocent of suspenders. The stripes of his tie were loud and for some reason he carried his handkerchief in his sleeve. He smoked his pipe in the street, knocking it out against his heel. He had developed a new way of standing with his back to the fire, his hands deep in his trouser pockets. He spoke Russian gingerly, lapsing into English as soon as the conversation drew out anything longer than a couple of sentences....

The very first sentence of the book tells us Sebastian Knight was born in 1899 in "... the former capital of my country", so from the beginning we are primed to think Nabokov might be using his own life as a template. Only a short way into the book I couldn't resist a few reviews, several preoccupied with it being based firmly on Nabokov's own life.

This I find very instructive:

Conversations on contemporary Drama by Clayton Meeker Hamilton:


A Manual of the Art of Fiction by Clayton Meeker Hamilton, 1918. It is easy to read, the full title indicating its target audience: A Manual of the Art of Fiction, Prepared for the Use of Schools and Colleges. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1918. 808.3 H18

If you have read TRLSK and wouldn't mind running through it one more time:

from The Constant Reader:

Demoss, John. The 'Real' Real Life: Sebastian Knight and the Critics

The Fledgling Fictionalist by Michael H. Begnal

The Life and Works of Vladimir Nabokov

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bergman on Bergman

YouTube has a 4-parter of Jorn Donner's 1998 interview with Ingmar Bergman.

When Bergman died I became intrigued by Faro, as it was so important to him, and here, there are some glimpses which you can't really find elsewhere.

It is not just head-to-head: there are biographical pieces, including family stills, and longish chunk of the 10 nerve-shattering thwacks scene in Fanny and Alexander. Donner, Finnish, is a director in is own right, was the producer of FaA. This goes a long way to explain the intimacy of the interview. They must have been friends.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ibsen - discovery or rediscovery?

A Virtual Walk in the Spirit of Ibsen

Came across this at Grow-a Brain explains

Also from the same source: The Infamous Proust Questionnaire

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Cutting remarks

The poor rubbish man must wonder what is in the recycle bin. For several weeks it has weighed a ton, full to the top with news print and old mags: the latest cuttings cull goes on unabated. So many of them were put in lidded cardboard boxes unsorted, so are of limited value. The occasional scratching about in boxes to try to dump at least half the newsprint that has accumulated over the years often brings up something that would otherwise have lain there unread or unreread and forgotten.

I do not read in blogs of peoples cuttings problems.

An undated colour supplement review by Lucy Hughes-Hallet in The Sunday Times of Marcel Proust: A Life by William C Carter and Roger Shattucks' Proust's way: A Field Guide to in search of Lost time, has a few sentences tucked away near the end which are informative:

“Shattuck writes illuminatingly about the doubleness of Proust's vision. The “I” of A la researche is both the young and the mature narrator, the two merging only in the book's last pages. Shattuck takes off from his description of this two-tiered narration to discuss the purpose of all fiction, which both mimics life and provides a template that life can seem to mimic [...].”

In the same cardboard box a wonderful, short, 2000 review by Jonathan Bate of Nabokov's Butterflies: Unpublished and Uncollected Writings. He tells us there are few who would want or need to plow through this 783 page book from beginning to end; recommends Lolita and Pnin as “two of the very few novels of the second half of the 20th. century which deserve to go on being read throughout the 21st.” ; and points out

“The key connection between Nabokov's two loves was his fascination with mimicry and disguise.”

He quotes Nabokov:

"Consider the trick of an acrobatic caterpiller (of the Lobster Moth} which in infancy looks like bird's dung, but after molting develops scrabby bymenopteroid appendages and baroque characteristics, allowing the extraordinary fellow to play two parts at once (like the actor in Oriental shows who becomes a pair of intertwining wrestlers): that of writhing larva and that of a big ant seemingly harrowing it."

“Here”, Bate writes, “he discovers in nature the same delights that he sort in art. "Both'" he [Nabokov] says, " were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception. "

Nabokov is reported to have asked if there is “a high ridge where the mountainside of scientific knowledge joins the opposite slope of imagination?”

Bate notices a misspelling which has slipped through: on the jacket he spies one of the authors is credited with being “the author of six books on butterlies”, a blunder which he thinks Nabokov would have relished.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nudge,nudge, film referentiality

Keywords: Python, Antonioni, film, referential, self-referential

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni


8 minutes of the end.

Dan Schneider's 2006 review of Criterion DVD

The Passenger

Where's the join?

To achieve the physically staggering effect of the camera movement Antonioni had a special gyroscopic crane built, named after its Canadian inventor, Wesscom, and took 11 days to film the shot. {1}, {2}

The cafe scene at 1.14 mins.

Review of L'Avventura by Gary Morris

Rick Lyman 31 July 2007, New York Times.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman 14 July 1918 - 30 July 2007

The slide show is the front page. The link to the site itself is below the frame of the pictures. That's the only way your going to stop the music! Some of the same movie clip interviews and trailers to be found on Youtube.

Ingmar Bergman Face to Face

Ingmar Bergman: The Swedish master who hides away on a small island, Geoffrey Macnab, Independent, 13 July 2007.

Ingmar Bergman by Hamish Ford (2002: Senses of Cinema). Heavy duty, with words such as meta-diagetic { 2 - narratology discussed} and oneiric, but does the job.

At the height of the anti-Bergman wave, the Swedish cinema magazine Chaplin decided to produce an anti-Ingmar Bergman issue. There were many vitriolic contributions. One of the most telling came from an Ernest Riffe, who demolished the filmmaker with astonishing insight. "This artist without any substance of his own," wrote Riffe, "needs a literary work to fall back upon. Then, and only then, can his best qualities be released." As this coincided with the view held by most Swedish intellectuals, the essay was welcomed. Then Ernest Riffe revealed his true entity—none other than Ingmar Bergman.

from : As normal as smorgasbord by Charles Marowitz (Originally published in The New York Times, 1 July 1973)

Making of Saraband: Part I

Part II
Part III

Autumn Sonata

....cinematography has conquered the human face,the moving picture of the human face. The apparatus, the instrument - the camera and the film - they are so sensitive that the smallest movement.... for registering the human soul as reflected in the human face.

Talking about his cinematographer Sven Nykvist [ Youtube]

Film Great Ingmar Bergman Dies at 89

Film Director Ingmar Bergman dies
(ABC <= Associated Press) Andrew Pulver's Guardian blog revises his best movies: Ingmar Bergman's greatest scenes

Telegraph obit

Google News result: Ingmar Bergman

Ayn Rand

Magellan's Log:

Best English Language Books of the 20th Century

Not many readers can resist checking these out. But there is something strange here.

You might vehemently disagree with:

Modern Library Best 20 th. Century English Novels

then just to compare you look at:

Modern Library 100 Best 20 th. Century English Novels: Readers’ Choices

What is going on here?

1: The Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
6: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
22: Anthem by Ayn Rand
33: We the living by Ayn Rand

Conclusion: this is a joke; then: this is American; then: why do they do reader's choice which is more a demonstration they haven't read much.

Not having read Rand it was apparent pretty quick she was very popular in the States, her books still selling 100,000 a year.

Wiki: Ayn Rand

The internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Ayn Rand

The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult by Murray N. Rothbard

By the time you have read these and maybe

Jenny Turner's LRB review of Ayn Rand by Jeff Britting

the final conclusion is you don't really need to read any of Rand's novels but are still puzzled by why so many Americans do (until, that is, you read this):

Death at the gazebo : Conservativism In Extremis at Hillsdale College

which brings in Rand.

P.S. All this reading has brought up a connection between Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan, late of federal reserve. Apparently he was a disciple of Rand's in the early days.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

George Grosz's drawings

Magellan's Log (No never seen it before) lists and links to 28 of Grosz's drawings. There is a link to Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa who is also new to me.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reasons to cheerful Part 803

One one side of an A4 sheet (filed away):

If Koestler was a rapacious man, this aspect of his character must be set against his art. The unsavory sexual nature set against genius.

Attributed to a 'Raphael' (possibly Frederick, me rethinks).

Conclusion: the necessity of writing down in a more scholarly fashion things one comes across. Was that what FR thought or my precis? Or a combination of the two?

The point? In 10 seconds an answer from the web from the Independent, 23 February 1999 :

Storm as Raphael defends Koestler


On the other side of the A4 a joke or a quote:

Woman seeing two dogs in street 'procreating' asks policeman to "Do something".

Policeman: What?

W: Throw a bucket of water over them or a biscuit

P: Would you stop for a biscuit?

And there too, the mystery is solved (though as the sentence was typed into Google between inverted commas the hypothesis was "That won't be there!").

A source: interag Miscellany 39, which includes another classic from Irish News further down, conjuring up a whole world or overworked apprentice journalists and type-setters, strangely echoing the rushed posting in blogs when the technology has conquered this problem by replacing hot metal with light.

Exchange between a Mull policeman and a lady tourist, who was upset by two dogs engaged in the act of procreation:

Tourist: Officer, can’t you stop them?
Policeman: What would you want me to do?
Tourist: I don’t know, throw a bucket of water at them ... or a biscuit.
Policeman: Would you stop for a biscuit?

Wester Ross local paper.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Books we have never read

Adrian Tahourdin in TLS reviews Parlez des Livres que l'on n'a pas lu (“How to discuss books that one hasn’t read”). Take to heart the quote at the bottom:

"in order to . . . talk without shame about books we haven’t read, we should rid ourselves of the oppressive image of a flawless cultural grounding, transmitted and imposed [on us] by the family and by educational institutions, an image which we try all our lives in vain to match up to. For truth in the eyes of others matters less than being true to ourselves, and this truth is only accessible to those who liberate themselves from the constraining need to appear cultured, which both tyrannizes us and prevents us from being ourselves."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cabinet Magazine

Half way through an article about mind control in Cabinet, had a sneaking suspicion this might be Borges world, with two artists going to the Madrid flat of Dr. Jose M.R. Delgado, which begins:

The letter from Professor Delgado carries two insignias. One is made of Hebrew letters on what looks like a Torah scroll. Under the scroll it says "lux et veritas"—light and truth. The other insignia reads "Investigacion Ramon y Cajal." In our letter to him, we have explained that we are two artists who have been studying his "astonishing research," and that we are interested in his views on the relationship between humans and machines. José M.R. Delgado has written that he will be most happy to receive us at his home in Madrid.

The home page in the side panel under mags. There is an RSS feed button.

Trying Banging the Keys swiftly: Typewriters and their Discontents, by Barry Sanders ('The tangled history of typewriters and guns.')

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Walter Benjamin

Wiki: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

suggests Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit translates into:

"The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lawrence Durrell

Charles Trueheart in American Scholar does a substantial Durrell - useful both for those who have read the Alexandria Quartet and those who haven't and might be thinking about it - under A Seductive Spectacle ( The languid bazaar of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet still beckons 50 years later)

On my bookshelves: Faber paperbacks of The Dark Laybrinth, Nunquam and Tunc, none of which I got very far with. Expecting to find Justine there too, but it was not. Must have read a library copy. The one thing that flashed through my mind as I set out reading this essay was the disappointing disjunction between the characters and what they thought or said. And here was the yup moment:

If Durrell’s Alexandria has a mind and soul of its own, the same is not always true for his human characters, whose exoticism and wordiness hide more than they reveal. The more Durrell tells us about them, perversely, the fuzzier they become. He was carefree, or careless, about imputing thoughts and behaviors to characters as the spirit moved him, not as their integrity would demand.

Looking for something else on AQ found these essays by Rexroth written between 1957-60. The Trueheart would not be enough on its own.

There are a few snippets here in the Google sample of Lawrence Durrell: Conversations
By Lawrence Durrell
, Earl G. Ingersoll, though some twit has copied a few pages upside down. You could tip the monitor upside down.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Orson Welles: The One-Man Band

Wood's Lot mentions a new addition to UBUWEB :

Orson Welles: The One-Man Band

1995. 90 minutes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Writer's Rooms

From the Guardian


A few VN sites:


Nabokov with Prof. Elizabeth Beaujour

Drawings of butterflies here


The Life and Works of Vladimir Nabokov (New York Library)

Session 5 had some facsimile handwriting. E.g. Some notes on translation of Pnin


The Barcelona review Nabokov Quiz


Nabokov Under Glass

Many facsimiles. This diagram from his lecture notes on Anna Karenina is intriguing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chekhov's Fist

It started as it can with something quite prosaic. The cat wanted to sit behind me on the chair. Cats on laps or tucked behind backs can make typing difficult. Offering her instead the top draw of my cuttings chest-of-drawers she settled, purring, but I noticed she was sitting on Chekhov. Lifting her off the famous playwright and short-story writer [201 stories by Anton Chekhov], I was mortified to see the large photograph of him and his wife Olga Knipper in The Daily Telegraph Friday 16 July 2004, had been been ripped.

The picture had always appealed to me. Here he seemed so unlike his plays. It must help to look like that if you are a writer.

The paper rip created by cat ran right through Chekhov's hand up through his jacket sleeve to the elbow. And it was to the hands - I remembered and re-remarked on - my eye had eventually traveled the first time I looked at the picture. Both his and Olga's fists are tightly clasped. One of the reasons why the photograph seemed so well posed was the each smiling face leads diagonally through each bent arm to a curled right fist. Chekhov's fist seemed particularly interesting because the fist was end on with the curled index finger neatly tucked under the straight thumb.

There is a cropped version of this famous photo.
It has been used at the top of an article Chekhov and the Cherry Orchard.

If pussy hadn't ripped my precious newspaper cutting it is unlikely I would have come across the details of the circumstances of and ritual at Chekhov's death at the age of 44 in a hotel in a spa town in Germany, or where Chekhov and the Lapdog mentions, 'A few months before writing "Lady with a Lapdog," Chekhov had spent a fortnight in Yalta with Olga Knipper ', and that after the story came out many ladies strolled the promenades of Yalta with dogs.... or that there is a 1959 film adaptation of "Lady with a Lapdog," by Soviet director Josef Heifitz.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Novels and essays

The democracy of Don Quixote


Jonathan Ree, Prospect, June 2007

Why do some people resist science ?

Again it's not my title. Even if you can't quite bring yourself to reading popular science books, at least read around the subject here:

Why do some people resist science ? By Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg

The effort is worth it alone for the graph showing public acceptance of evolution (2005) in 34 countries.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Viewing Moleskine Modality

If you find the text in the posts too small, hold down the Control key and roll the mouse wheel towards you - hey presto! - the text gets bigger

Moleskine Modality doesn't work in IE

I've said this before. Decided to put up a periodic message to those who might be wondering why there are no side links in this site.

If you view Moleskine Modality in Internet Explorer, you will not get the benefit of the side links. It was created within FireFox, which may explain it, or else I just don't understand the settings in IE.

Whatever is the case, if you want to see the whole site then view it in FireFox. For those of you who didn't know - and many don't - you can run different browsers at the same time and toggle between them, so there is no need to shut down one browser to load another. If you don't have FireFox, why not try it as well as your current browser.

One problem in using two browsers: if you are an assiduous collector of bookmarks/Favourites you might end up saving some in one browser and some in another. Plus of course running two browsers takes up more of your precious RAM.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Noticed a rather nice newspaper stall when strolling down Passeig de Gracia {2} on a late April day. Requiring a map or two, tried out my rudimentary Spanish on the friendly vendor. Pleased to discover he had a reasonable map selection from which I chose two: a decent large-scale street map and one of departments of Catalunya. Noted on display a large-format magazine with Tintin and Snowy on the white, glossy cover. Vendor, assuming I had no Spanish, told me it was not in English. Told him I could use it to brush up my Spanish : his face lit up and we exchanged a few words about this and that.

The magazine turned out to be a pretty cool Arts mag. called Vanguardia (the Spanish seem to have a flare for these well-designed publications) or a supplement to a newspaper . The April 2007 issue (number 3) is dedicated to Herge on his centenary. It is full of wonderful photos and cartoon pages from Tintin: a magical cornucopia of source material for the enthusiast and an education for anyone who might have thought Tintin just for kids.

Recently came across this Independent article on Herge

and this [added 9 July] by Tom McCarthy in the Guardian:

From Zero to Hero

Friday, May 25, 2007

Are screenplays literature ?

It's his title, not mine. This essay has three parts:

Are Screenplays literature? Part I

Are Screenplays Literature? Part II

Are Screenplays Literature? Part III

This came about because of a decision suddenly - the decision version of a flash memory which had a simple, clear nachrechtfertigung to drop a very absorbing and pleasurably expanding (the polite word for ideas-creep) novel in favour of a very ancient screenplay/novel project which began in the late 80s.

Without getting through the first part of this essay on the screenplay I was already running with the notions. Yes, of course, the film = the novel. Then: what, if we are drawing tables of analogues, is the novel equivalent of the screenplay? Reading on I see the publication of screenplays as if they were literature has become the thing.

I have never seen the screenplay as the finished product. The bit that we do when we read the book (because it is the reader input which adds the final touch to the skill and insights of the writer) is what the writer (constantly readjusting his script to the needs of the film), director, actors, cinematographer, stage designer, location manager do. Then, as I have hinted at in some of the links under screenplay/scripts, there are later adaptations of the original screenplay floating about which the novice would have no idea are not the start point. It can be difficult to see which is which when someone hasn't been careful enough at the time to record what is what, and/or because things get lost.

I have mentioned something I noticed when doing a generalised screenplay foray a while back: often what you see online is someone's transcription of the film, not the screenplay itself.

To make the screenplay as much like the finished novel ( = [novel] + [readers cognition]} necessitated the writer's instructions. Stating the bleeding obvious, though a perfect dialogue by itself can work pretty well given an imaginative reader, without 'stage' direction something of what is in most novels has been left out. Strictly speaking like is not being compared to like/span>

The money quotes come from part III:

What is Literature?

The 19th-century novelist George Eliot (a woman writing under a man's name) defined literature this way: "the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds (=limits) of our personal lot (=fate)."

Terrence McGiver, a teacher, expands the definition: "Literature helps us grow, both personally and intellectually. It provides an objective base for knowledge and understanding. It links us with the cultural, philosophic, and religious world of which we are part. It enables us to recognize human dreams and struggles in different places and times that we otherwise would never know existed. It helps us develop mature sensibility and compassion for the condition of all living things -- human, animal and vegetable. It gives us the knowledge and perception to appreciate the beauty of order and arrangement, which a well-constructed song or a beautifully painted canvas also gives us."

Other observers have pointed out that literature is written to be read aesthetically; that it emphasizes character over plot; that it must be worth re-reading; that it contains enduring human themes; that it is the opposite of trash.

All these definitions give clues why it's so easy to conclude that screenplays are not literature.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Italo Calvino - If on a Winter's Night a traveller

Posted this before but it gives me great pleasure to type it out from my notebook: came across it again while idly flicking pages....

What makes love-making and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them time and space open, different from measurable time and space.

Many times I have thought that the good advice of the master-writers, well learned, would obviate the atrocious passages that even quite famous novelists include in their stories. Anyone who want to send me links to examples of inexcrable, inexcusable, unlikely literary love-making, please feel free!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Shadow of Barc.

Well folks, that's what they call it over there. Over heard a couple of Barcelonans talking football in a bar just a week or so ago....Real vs. Barc. produced a lot of glum, unusually quiet Cataluyans.

The subject today is Barcelona in literature. Not counting Homage to Catalonia which I don't really see as fiction. HTC apparently has a lot of inaccuracies, misinformation, bias - or what we might call spin - in the facts within the 'fiction'. The only other book I have read with a Barc. theme : Shadow of the Wind. But do recommend Woodcock's Anarchism if you want to get a few snippets of Barcelona together with its connection to Spain's 19th. and early 20 C. history.

It is not anything very profound: simply that thing about reading a book and wishing you could check if the street names were real or made up. My paperback copy of SOTW has maps inside both covers. Bit of a tease: a vertical block amounting to half a page 'hides' both the maps.

Having recently visited this great city for the first time, and being mightily impressed - from a cultural point of view if not from the levels of CO and NOXs - I can now recognise which part is shown in the SOTW maps: the area just south of the Universitat below the Grand Via. The business of going through the whole book yellow penning every street name has not come about yet! It's one of those deferred gratification know you are going to enjoy doing it but it is also quite pleasurable just to anticipate the enjoyment to come.

To start with - by random page flicking - there is Monjuic Cemetery to check. So far no cemetery IRL, But in looking found a small street off the Las Ramblas called Fortuny, and above it Bonsucces, which gives close readers an idea of how he came up with some of the family names...and the re-realisation that this was a book written in Spanish with a readership familiar with the names, the city and the wordplay possible with the knowledge.

On the theme of Lost in Translation (favourite film right now) - and in memory of a few short passages in Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach, we have the problem and fascination of translation which reared up for me big time when studying around Proust a few months ago. How much is lost in translation? Some mathematician must have come up (or will do now that I mention it) with a generalised formula which could be used to say in percentage terms roughly how much any book lost read in another language. Seems like about 25% of ALR to me. Then I can't read French well enough to tell.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


It would have been easy to immediately write something on him. I tried my damnedest not to till there was something to say. There have been any number of well-wrought essays and encomiums from all over the word. What I wanted to say just arrived and I am writing it straight down here without preplanning.

I didn't read Slaughterhouse-Five till I was in my 30s, but can picture clearly a day, when I was about 17, while staying with a friend from boarding school in one of my stop-overs between flights to my parents in North Africa, watching him reading the book while sitting on settee of their lounge. I can even see the weather outside behind him, in my minds eye - a sunny, late June day in the suburbs of London. Tree lined street in Ealing.

At the time, having opted for science at A Level, not reading novels as he was as part of his English A Level course, I missed out on all this stuff. And the point is? I recognised even as I watched him all those years ago with the book, how much I was missing in not reading the latest books. Standing there watching him engrossed in Slaughterhouse-Five, I knew I should be reading it: I had read about in the newspapers in the school library. The same literary envy overcame me when I observed someone reading Catch-22 around the same time.

It should have been relatively straightforward to read them myself and so be au courrant as well. But the in-little-boxes education system, with too early specialisation - or was it just my mindset at the time? - prevented me from doing so. I was doing science not Eng. Lit. so didn't read lit. (!) What was to stop me reading these books in the holidays? Why should a science student not read novels.

The thing is the sort of novels I read up to the age of 16 were mostly of the Neville Shute category.....anyone who saw what I read then who could see what books I have read since then might be surprised and impressed.

added later:

The point I was going to make but forgot was the business of there being a perfect time to read a book. I wonder if reading Slaughterhouse-Five at 17 would have been the right time. I had certainly been interested in modern history from quite early and did well academically up to 16 in history. So there would have been the context. But had I really read enough, and seen enough film footage, about the horrors of war at that age for the book's impact to be optimal? I think not. But reading it perhaps 20 years later, my mind had been formed by much more reading of all sorts.

The immediate objection would be that the novel itself would adequately do the job without the wider knowledge. This is rarely so - fiction or non-fiction - because part of the joy of reading a book or watching a film (noticing the film playing in the background in a scene in Lost in Interpretation and knowing it was La Dolce Vita)
makes for a greater understanding of the film you are watching.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Moleskine Modality only works in Mozilla - please note!

I don't use IE so have not noticed till today that in IE there are no side links. Sorry about that to my 6 regular readers!

Not such a big deal to have several browser all up at the same time....

Thursday, March 22, 2007

André Gide

On his (1936) travels by train through the vast country he was met at each station by a reception party carrying large banners of welcome in identical words – “The Russian proletariat greets André Gide, writer of genius and friend of the labouring masses” or some such formula. Initially he took this to be just another sign of the growing regimentation of cultural life, that each local party branch had received detailed instructions from Moscow as to exactly how he was to be greeted. Later he discovered that the truth was even simpler: the banners travelled with him in the baggage van of the train.

Enda O’Doherty: Koestler's Anti-Communism


A fine example of what is on offer from magnatune:

American Bach Soloists - J.S.Bach Favorite Cantatas

John Buchman set up Magnatunes

Monday, March 19, 2007

Beckett and Bion

where traditional psychoanalysis functioned like a nineteenth-century inheritance plot, in which the forward movement of the narrative is defined by the desire to retrieve the past, and this forward movement culminates and concludes with the reappearance of that past, the kind of analysis proposed by Bion would inhabit the looped, interrupted, convoluted duration of the modernist or postmodernist text, in the form represented by Beckett's Trilogy, and anticipated in Beckett's own attempted rescue of the work of Proust from the atemporal condition of consummated unity; in a review written in the early months of his analysis, Beckett protested that Proust's work was `the search, stated in the full complexity of all its clues and blind alleys, for that resolution, and not the compte rendu after the event, of a round trip'. [Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment, ed. Ruby Cohn (London: John Calder, 1983), p. 65.]

Beckett and Bion

Someone's already done a script with this title, surely? Beckett and Psychoanalysis: The Movie. Though only less than a third through this long paper, it seems it has a lot to offer. In a sense it is is the sort of explanation which could form the rational basis for tackling some of his plays and or novels for the first time.

It is one thing to have learnt about Beckett because you recognise he is an important figure in 20 C. literature, quite another to wade through the titles when there is so much else to read and life is short.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Jose Luis Borges: The Mirror man - a film by Phillipe Molins

Borges: 47 minute film from ubuweb archive

Tried this twice and never got beyond the 31 minute point, which is very aggravating. If anyone has tried it and got all the way through please let me know.

A bit or reading around on Borges suggests he was soft on the Junta or at least did not go out of his way to condemn it for its human rights record.

Clive James had recently written on this under the title Jorge Luis Borges - Can a writer be blind to the world around him

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Orson Welles being argumentative

Stumbled upon this audio from Things I find Curious

Friday, March 02, 2007

Film script resources - Network the movie

A new side link under 'screenplays' to INFlows Screenplay repository and directly to the script of a film I liked very much: Network, starring the late, great Peter Finch:

"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Still not clear if these are transcriptions from watching the films or the author's efforts. Though in the case of Network Paddy Chayefsky is credited and it says underneath: Revised - January 14, 1976.

That's why there are two versions of the Charade script in the sidelink: to demonstrate. Dialogue is great. But if you want to see how they are made you gotta have the instructions!

It says at the Museum of broadcast Communcations that PC wrote the script for Ken Russel's Altered States but refused a credit. He died in 981. No, not Russell. He's still waddling about in his outre trainers!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jamendo - Ehma: Opus solemnis

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Three long pieces on Riefenstahl at kino Fist

Man does not live by revolution Owen Hatherley

Riefenstahl and the mountain Infinite Thought

The Fuhrer Daniel Miller

Catty tonics?

Schönpurrg at Infinite Space

Music: Zontube

Zontube is a (aaaargh, where did they get the word?) mashup site explained at Lifehacker

Il n'y a pas de hor

Web 2.0: The Machine is Us/ing US

We’ll need to rethink a few things…
We’ll need to rethink copyright
We’ll need to rethink authorship [This page has 123 words matching your text]
We’ll need to rethink identity
We’ll need to rethink ethics
We’ll need to rethink aesthetics
We’ll need to rethink rhetorics
We’ll need to rethink governance
We’ll need to rethink privacy
We’ll need to rethink commerce
We’ll need to rethink love
We’ll need to rethink family
We’ll need to rethink ourselves.

ksmith on Digital Ethnography has annotated this 'viral' with Mojiti in an attempt to explain it. [Friday 23 Feb] Actually Wesch himself posted his video to Motiji for people to annotate.

Where it has been linked to (vastly, everywhere) there is a tendency for the linker to say Wow! but not much else, which is suspiciously of the species of "This looks fantastic and must be significant but I haven't a clue why.."

Wesch's original plus the transcript can be viewed at Digital Ethnography together with three video responses to it. CoryTheRaven's is the most interesting to me.

While the first few viewings of Wesch's video made me ask if Web 2.0 meant the semantic web, and lead to a long search for answers, which led to a handful of tangential topics, it was Cory's video that got me a thinking again along the lines of a post way back on Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, where I used his text as an example of how ownership and copywrite in the digital age had a few questions to answer.

There were a few flights of fancy about the author, as I imagined him, constantly slightly altering the text so that anyone copying it and claiming it as their own would be caught out. Or that software would running to achieve the same end.

Reading about the semantic web [ What is the analogue of the sematic web? ] and attempts to bring it about (including Cory Doctorow's critique - SEE also wiki:metacrap) it seemed, even if it is not achievable, the software they are developing for the purpose of creating machine readable meaning, such as OWL (Introduction to OWL, Wiki:Web ontology langauge [OWL], OWL web ontology language [W3C]might be incorporated into word processors. Whatever text is being created is being embedded with code which will create the wherewithall for texts to be automatically compared for content (There is alreadty a raft of plagiarism software which many universities use). The writer of the text will have the ability to link any word to any other words in order to fix into it the meanings he wants, which will help to ensure that even if someone else steals the text, it will not however contain the embedded links. This will require software tricks that keep the metadata and the text separate so that the embedded information is only there at certain times. This might work in much the same way as graphic on a website is merely a set of instructions for where to find it, not the picture itself.


Watching CoryTheRaven writing his reply in longhand (and for it to be filmed in this way) makes one wonder if this is one of the ways people will ensure ownership of their work in the future. Handwriting is distinctive.So are hands. Although there will only be a short window for this before digital images become so life like this will no longer work.

Weird - watching handwriting in video on the web - to have to go through so many stages to do what one could do in one with a piece of paper and a pen.

Maybe if Proust was writing today he'd have a webcam over his shoulder filming every jot, including all the alteration and editing... thousands of hours of digital video filmed over decades, with jaunty talking head asides to camera.

A lesson in viral video
Inside higher education explains what Wesch did and why

What's the social in social software? => Time's person of the Year : You

How does Six Degrees of Separation work?



Visualising online social networks


Why do I think of The Library of Babel ?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Meet the Bontas

Via negativa

Plummer's Hollow

For a moment you might be forgiven for thinking you have come across the Waltons de notre jour. There's:

* Marcia Bonta - author of nine books and hundreds of magazine articles on nature and natural history
* Bruce Bonta - Plummer's Hollow historian and coordinator of our deer hunting program
* Mark Bonta - grew up in Plummer's Hollow and put together the first edition of Bioplum, the
biological inventory of the property

* Steve Bonta - naturalist and amateur entomologist, currently living in Tyrone and working hard to
add new species to Bioplum
* Dave Bonta - poet, blogger and amateur photographer, currently staying in the Guest House in
Plummer's Hollow

Dave Bonta says in Dave's 9 Rules of Blogging:

2. Provide substantial original content now and then. That’s the only thing that keeps the endless conversation at the heart of the interactive web from devolving into empty, meaningless chatter.

Amen, Dave, but we don't all have your facility.


Came across the Bontas pretty much by chance, except that that is never true of surfing is it? You are almost always going in some sort of direction, which you can reflect in the contents of your website.


The name of this website intrigued me, and drew me to it. Then I read a bit and he used the word apophatic. This has not cropped up since I overheard, in the way the flaneur dreams of, the piece of a conversation (on the radio maybe), a raised voice, slightly frustrated: "...I said apophatic not cataphatic!" Two theologians in heated debate perhaps. I didn't know what either meant and the dictionary was unhelpful.

This was quite a few years ago now just before the the internet became commonly used. A character called Wolf (a jumping spider: to confuse the matter because there are also wolf spiders) who lives in a telephone box in the middle of the countryside popped into my mind. The first time we see Wolf, a man rushes into the telphone, ending up shouting down the phone "...apophatic NOT cataphatic..." slamming the receiver down, jumps into his car and drives off.

When weblogs came in it seemed the ideal vehicle for an ironic treatment of what people might write in weblogs. Hey guess what happened to me! So much of what we tell other people are repetitions of what we have heard. There are our deepest thoughts and feelings and our successes and failures, but something overheard is almost the via media of social intercourse, next to the joke.

Wiki: via negativa

Reader trap

Should have been listening harder to In Our Time because it was dealing with Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The old story: having a basic handle on it, the words of the experts slid through my brain unobtrusively, the occasional word or phrase popping up above the surface. One of these was 'reader trap'.

Immediate reaction: sounds self-explanatory; and maybe quite a useful thing to think through for the novice writer. Checking, just in case it meant something quite different, came across this Google Booksearch sample of one of the contributors the BBC programme, Robert Hanson. Though it was another of the three experts, Susan Jones, who used the term.

She also said Heart of Darkeness was almost a metafiction. Immediate reaction? What fiction is considered metafiction to give an idea of what she means by almost. Wiki:metafiction has a lists 'common metafictive devices' with examples. Where'sThe French Lieutentant's Woman?. But the bit of Robert Hanson's introduction available is instructive, particularly page xxix.

Reading on, there are a few pages under the title VI. An image of Africa, introducing Chinua Achebe's critique of Conrad. Again, for someone as ignorant as I am - but keen to learn - very useful.


Have I been caught by reading about reader trap into spending more time than intended on metafiction?

Wiki:List of metafictional texts

The Reading Experience: metafiction (a August 23 2004)

The Literary Encyclopedia: metafiction

Kate Liu has draw up a little table under the heading: General issues and signs of metafiction


And then to metafilm (because film precoccupies me right now...)

Under It's a commentary! It's a film! It's a metafilm! Tuwa at MetaFilter asks for examples. Boy do they this....there is a documentary called Derrida (2002) in which:

him [Derrida] and his wife watching video that they've shot (and which the audience has already seen) to get his reaction to the film within the context of the film.

Finally: noticed there was a metafilm table here too. Saw mention of Icicle Thief. Overweaning desire to write email correcting spelling. Later learn there is a film of this name: Ladri di saponette (1989, Maurizio Nichetti). A review by Damian Sutton is great fun.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Illiers - Combrey

Cartofile has a a whole page of Illiers-Combray postcards. Click each on to get an enlargement.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Albertine Disparue. ll. Venice

Seemed at first not to be Marcel Proust but Charlie Chaplin.

Don't try doing a short cut to Proust/Marcel's Art by going straight to Venice!

In the shade of the girls in flowers

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs translates in Babelfish as ' In the shade of the girls in flowers' which seems pretty good compared to Within a the Budding Grove.


Marcel Proust, Edmund White Chapter 1:

in 1895, she [Collete] wrote Proust a letter in which she acknowledged that he had recognized a crucial truth: "The word is not a representation but a living thing, and it is much less a mnemonic sign than a pictorial translation."

Marcel Proust, Norman Barth, Paris Kiosque - July 2001 - Volume 8, Number 7

contains a sample of Proust's handwriting


Can someone tell me what Cocteau is saying:

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Contre Sainte-Beave

Il n’y pas de meilleure manière d’arriver à prendre
conscience de ce qu’on sent sou-même que d’essayer
de recréer en soi ce qu’a senti un maître. Dans cet effort
profond c’est notre pensée elle-même que nous
mettons, avec la sienne, au jour. Nous sommes libres
dans la vie, mais en ayant des buts. . . . C’est à un
sophisme tout aussi naïf qu’obéissent sans le savoir
les écrivains qui font à tout moment le vide dans leur
esprit, croyant le débarrasser de toute influence extérieure,
pour être bien sûrs de rester personnels. En
réalité les seuls cas où nous disposons vraiment de
toute notre puissance d’esprit sont ceux où nous ne
croyons pas faire oeuvre d’indépendance, où nous ne
choisissons pas arbitrairement le but de notre effort.
. . . Le sujet de romancier, la vision du poète,
la vérité du philosophe s’imposent à eux d’une façon
presque nécessaire, extérieure pour ainsi dire à leur
pensée. Et c’est en soumettant son esprit à rendre
cette vision, à approcher de cette vérité, que l’artiste
devient vraiment lui-même.

Contre Sainte-Beuve p 140

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