October 29, 2012

Collection bound

One thing I would like to achieve during my lifetime is to collect all of Ngaio Marsh's 32 detective novels. I unashamedly call Ngaio Marsh my favourite author, and along with Raymond Chandler, Joseph Heller and Haruki Murakami, it is due to her amazing use of language. She uses some wonderfully obscure adjectives.
I am one who generally judges books by their cover. And I mean that literally. I try not to apply that phrase to people, but will stand by it when it comes to literature. There are some wonderful Ngaio Marsh covers, from the hand illustrated to the more boldy graphic as the editions move through from the 40's and 50's into the 60's. From the early 70's onwards, as photography was commonly used, the covers progressed steadily downhill.
So I am keeping my eyes peeled for striking covers that proudly proclaim the amazingness of the words which they contain. Above are some of the best. 

October 21, 2012



Chess sets designed by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp.

Man Ray chess pieces 1926 / Man Ray chess set 1947 / Marcel Duchamp chess pieces 1918-1919 / Marcel Duchamp pocket chess set 1943

The two friends in the midst of a game.

October 20, 2012

Dust settling

Dust Breeding, 1920, Man Ray

Man Ray's 2 hour long exposure of Duchamp's masterpiece The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-1923), covered in a years worth of dust.

I am at present reading Man Ray's autobiography, appropriately titled Self Portrait, published in 1963. My favourite passage so far concerns his first meeting with Duchamp, around 1915.

"Visitors continued to descend upon us, one Sunday afternoon two men arrived - a young Frenchman, and an American somewhat older. The one was Marcel Duchamp, the painter whose Nude Descending the Staircase had created such a furor at the Armory show in 1913, the second a collector of modern art, Walter Arensberg. Duchamp spoke no English, my French was nonexistent. Donna acted as my interpreter but mostly carried on a rapid dialogue with him. I brought out a couple of old tennis racquets, and a ball which we batted back and forth without any net, in front of the house. Having played the game on regular courts previously, I called the strokes to make conversation: fifteen, thirty, forty, love, to which he replied each time with the same word: yes."

The Large Glass is most likely the one work of art I ardently desire to see in the flesh in my lifetime. 

October 16, 2012

Den nakna ön

Hadaka no Shima (The Naked Island), has been one of the highlights of this season's Cinemateket programme so far, and it was spellbinding viewing tonight. I look eagerly forward to the remainder of the Japanese New Wave selection.
Kaneto Shindo's 1964 film centres on the continuous uphill struggles, living in isolation on a small island in the Seito Inland Sea.
Shot in black and white, and almost completely void of dialogue, Shindo uses repeated daily actions to spell out the monotony of hardship - the breaks from the constant work (a family trip to the mainland, local celebrations) stand out in stark contrast as short interludes of spontaneity. Dialogue is not necessary; even if there had been a script, it doesn't feel like family would have anything to say to each other that could be conveyed with language.
Accompanying the daily farming grind is an incredibly moving soundtrack by Hikaru Hayashi, perfectly reflecting and enhancing the back-breaking labour, one repeated motion after another. Tending to their precious crops, staggering up the rocky, precarious slopes of the island laden with full buckets of precious water - there is a certain elegance to the characters movements, as the gingerly place one foot in front of the other, sinewy arms supporting the yokes across their backs and shoulders in a delicate tightrope balancing act.

Films like this continue to fuel my love of, and fascination with, islands.

October 14, 2012

Set it to Music

 The Owl and The Pussycat - The Bards // The Seventh Seal - Scott Walker

 I am listening to a compilation called 'The History of Northwest Rock vol 2: The Garage Years. One of the songs compiled is The Bards' take on Edward Lear's magnificent nonsense poem from 1871. The poem has wonderful memories for me of my grandmother, and the only downside is that they don't manage to fit in my favourite line (someone please put 'runcible spoon' into a song):  

"They dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon"

 This in turn, naturally led me to think of my favourite Scott Walker song 'The Seventh Seal' in which he recounts the events of Ingmar Bergman's cinematic masterpiece as an equally powerful pop song. If you do not have the mettle to sit through the film, you can at least listen to the song, which will give you enough knowledge to follow a conversation about the film with people you are trying to impress, or even subtly divert the conversation with the comment "have you heard Scott Walker's interpretation of 'The Seventh Seal'?" which will surely garner you respect and admiration from all (and therefore continue the conversation along lines well traversed by you. A win-win situation).

 Here are a few choice lines from the song:

Anybody seen a knight pass this way / I saw him playing chess with Death yesterday / His crusade was a search for God and they say / It's been a along way to carry on 

 My life's a vain pursuit of meaningless smiles / Why can't God touch me with a sign / Perhaps there's no one there answered the booth / And Death hid within his cloak and smiled 

 My life's a vain pursuit of meaningless smiles is such a wonderful phrase.

4 things


4 images that I have been really drawn to of late. Firstly a lovely colour page from my excellent book 'The Lore of Ships' -  the flags make me want to write out mantras to live by in a sort of drape-y semaphore as a hanging soft sculpture. A wonderful knotted sponge-like form, created by Jens Risch, twisting and contorting upon itself in painful confusion. TV series 'Psych' parody Twin Peaks, and include many of the original cast. Here Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer) and Lenny Von Dohlen (Harold Smith) discover the body of 'Paula Merrel' "wrapped in plastic". And fourthly, a very large palette with (in hindsight) a rather Audrey-ish looking girl) found in the wonderful image archive that is Old Chum.

October 7, 2012

Untitled: The 12th Man

Alain Delon as Tom Ripley in Plein Soleil (1960). A great film I watched recently. based on Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Delon's first starring role. Here he is most likely listening to 'The Only One' by Roy Orbison.

I have spent the weekend listening and dancing to some great music on Friday and Saturday nights. Nothing quite like twirling around on an empty dance floor to a favourite song with a Red Stripe in your hand. People watch you and they can see, that for that moment, you are having a good time.
These 12 songs are a collection of Florence staples and recent discoveries, a mixture of songs I own on record, ones sourced through various compilations I have inadvertently stumbled across, and recommendations from certain people who usually know what I like before I do.
I seem to be naturally drawn to songs whose lyrics are of a more sombre nature, and these days, the more organ the better. Great songs to listen to in the evening while nursing a gin & tonic and reflecting upon life, or a soundtrack to accompany a spring clean on a Sunday morning.

Hurt - The Futuras
She - The Monkees
Disillusion - The Minute Men
Always With Him - The Living Daylights
I've Got A Way With Girls - Lavender Hour
The Only One - Roy Orbison
Mirage - Tommy James & The Shondells
My Baby Is Gone - The Untamed
Don't Think It's Me - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
So Many Times - The Sweetarts
Lonely Weekend - The Remains
So Hard To Bear - The Banshees

* I felt the need to give this collection of songs a cricketing title, having had just watched the West Indies' triumphant win over Sri Lanka at the Twenty20 World Cup. Titling things is hard, perhaps I should do the opposite to what I do with artworks, which are often named after songs, and name mixes after artworks. On that note, let's just add an 'untitled' in there for good measure.