Monday, 31 August 2009

The Last Day of Summer

by Jock Sturges

For me — no matter how they define summer in the United States and elsewhere — summer starts on 1 June and ends on 31 August. Therefore, today is the last day of summer.

This also is the title of the first collection of photographs by Jock Sturges, published in 1991. These beautiful black and white photos were shot mostly in Northern California and Montalivet, France, between 1978 and 1990. Finally, the two photos there are also entitled Last Day of Summer #1 and Last Day of Summer #2. The excerpts from the afterword by Sturges explain the title.

Often I photograph people who are at an age at which, in my own life, I was least happy. Time and again my few good friends would disappear from the schools and summer camps I attended, swept away by time, by the end of terms and semesters, by the end of summer. And very often I’d never see them again.
From the onset I photographed my friends almost exclusively, because the prints somehow kept them for me. And since then most all of my portrait projects have begun with kids the same age I was then. I have evolved as a social, intellectual, and sexual human being in no small part by virtue of having experienced photographically the span of maturation in others so many times.
I often spend weeks and in some cases months with my subjects. Toward the end of that time, a certain urgency builds, because soon they will leave, and I am going to lose them anew. I make my best work the last days of summer. Anytime I photograph a person, there is loss implicit in the image, because the next time I photograph them, they will have changed.
Jock Sturges

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Annie Hall

a film by Woody Allen

In Annie Hall (1977), Woody Allen and Diane Keaton (born Diane Hall!) seemingly play themselves. Well, Allen always plays himself. At times, the movie looks like a documentary — a really good one though, with some multi-layer time travel and stuff. It has far too many absolutely brilliant quotes to pick one. Maybe Jeff Goldblum on the payphone: “Hello? I forgot my mantra!”

Something that Allen’s hero apparently fails to do is simply to tell Annie that he loves her.

Monday, 17 August 2009

سكر بنات

a film by Nadine Labaki

Sukkar banat (Caramel) is a Lebanese movie directed by Nadine Labaki (who also stars in the film as Layale). There’s not much of a plot, just some beginnings or ends of love stories. The scene where Nisrine (Yasmine Elmasri), aka “Julie Pompidou”, is getting ready to become a virgin again, is hilarious. The one where Layale is waiting, in vain, for her married lover to turn up, is heartbreaking. If I had to choose my favourite character, it would be Rima (Joanna Moukarzel) — the one who can rev up the generator. A film full of longing, humour, sadness and hope; a work of beauty.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Return To Forever Returns

by Return to Forever

I missed my plane to Helsinki, because I forgot my passport at home. After getting back home, I booked myself a ticket for the next morning. I decided to spend the night watching a DVD which I got for my birthday. Watching and listening and having a beer and reminiscing.

My first encounter with music of Return To Forever happened in mid-’80s. Somebody brought in the double LP compilation album by Polydor, named simply The Jazz Rock Album. (It could be that it was never re-issued as a CD.) I duly taped it. The first LP opener was Song to the Pharoah Kings by RTF. I never heard anything like that before.

30+ years since Song to the Pharoah Kings was recorded, the band (Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Al Di Meola and Lenny White) reunited. The DVD contains the live recording of RTF at Montreux Jazz Festival 2008. The first half of the concert is ‘electric’, the second is ‘acoustic’ (I liked it more). The solo parts (apart from Al’s solo), although technically flawless, left me cold; but the band (as a band) sounds awesome. Still, I couldn’t decide what is more amazing: that all material they play now was written by these guys 30 years earlier, or that the band is able to play as good (or better) 30 years later.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Psychic Psummer

by Cave

On 2 August 2009, I walked into the Monorail record shop (at the back of the excellent Mono veggie bar/restaurant) and heard this. It sounded, as this review puts it, “at once immediately familiar and entirely original”. “Who’s that?” I asked the guy behind the counter. “Cave”, was the answer. (Never heard of them before.) “Here’s the cover.” He gave me an LP cover to peruse. (I read here that LP is limited to 1000 copies and is available in blue and yellow vinyl. How cute.) “I think there should be a CD as well.” Indeed, there was one, so I walked out of the shop with my copy of Psychic Psummer.

I am listening to it right now, again. Believe me, it is gorgeous.

Psychic Psummer

Monday, 10 August 2009

Kalmuk

by Kimmo Pohjonen

Finnish accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen plays music which is very difficult to categorise or describe. Wikipedia says that his

singular mission is to expand the capabilities, sound, scope, performance and experience of the accordion to levels never before attempted, seen or heard.
And he succeeds. On Kalmuk, he is joined by percussionists Abdissa Assefa and Samuli Kosminen and Tapiola Sinfonietta. Maybe it is chamber music, but of very unusual kind. Psychedelic, spontaneous, repetitive, endless, mesmerising. My kind of music.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Wells-next-the-Sea Carnival

Unbelievable as it is, it’s been 20 years since I last went camping. Well, not true any longer, thanks to Arco Iris. Yes, another gig! Yesterday, we hit Wells-next-the-Sea to play at the annual Carnival. We were playing three times: the first set — a 20-minute static for the arrival of the Carnival Queen; then parade around the Wells; then another short static, during which we were introduced as the “Irish Samba Band Arco”. During the parade, we were closely followed by another drum band (perhaps the organisers thought that two drumming bands together will sound better than one). It was glorious sunshine for the whole day. We were camping at the Mill Farm, a walking distance from the town centre. The highlights (apart from drumming): The Corner House restaurant; sky lanterns in the evening; and, this morning, the boat trip to Blakeney Point to see the seals.

This is probably my last gig with Arco Iris this Summer: the carnival and fête season is nearly over.

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Same Earth

by Kei Miller

The cover illustration of Kei Miller’s first novel shows its heroine, Imelda Richardson, dragging along the single suitcase, as she leaves behind her flooded house and village of Watersgate, Jamaica. The polka-dot panties of Tessa Walcott (the disappearance of which is to blame for Imelda’s troubles) are flying in the air... Once you start reading it, you won’t stop till you come to the end — but it is not there. You are left to wonder what happens next to Imelda and her friends. A beautiful writing.

‘Miss Johnson, I was tryna be reasonable, but I see a person can’t with your sort. Well then, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know what you’ve got growing inside your house. Blooming pothead is what you are! I’m tempting to call the coppers on you. Yeah. How’s that?’
‘The coppers?’
‘The police, Miss Johnson!’
‘Police?’ Purletta giggled. ‘You think me ’fraid of police? But is what wrong with this wrinkle-up old woman who come to disturb mi peace, eeh? Think say big woman like me ’faid of police?’
Purletta slammed the door on Mrs Farquason, and then, to make her point abundantly clear, she proceeded to call the police on herself.
From across the road the old woman watched in alarm as sirens approached. Purletta ushered two uniformed men into her living room. She sat the officers down and poured two mugs of ganja tea for them. The tea had been brewed with peppermint, cinnamon leaves and then sweetened with condensed milk and the two young policemen sipped it all the way to the dregs, commending Purletta for the soothing exotic blend of ‘island tea’. They inspected her house, saw the marijuana plant on the balcony but dismissed it as something else. She wouldn’t have called them and left something like that out in the open. They left as confused as they had come, a little more mellow, however, and happier, and that evening three teenaged boys who would normally have been looked up for public mischief (they had been caught spray-painting graffiti on the side of a building) got off with a light reprimand, and even a ‘Cheers, mate’.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian

a film by Terry Jones

This was the first Monty Python’s film I ever seen (back in 1996, on the telly and from the middle). I still think it is the best (certainly, most coherent, but also funniest) of Python’s feature movies. 30 years on, it remains funny even though I doubt that today it would cause such furore as it did at the time. You never know — Wikipedia says that “some bans <of the film> continued into the 21st century”.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Peter Pan @ Kensington Gardens

We went to see Peter Pan today. Whatever the high-brow reviews say, it was good. Peter Pan (Ciaran Kellgren) was rather annoying, but then perhaps he was meant to; and that “I believe in fairies” moment was thoroughly embarrassing, but then it always is. My personal favourites were punky Tinkerbell (Itxaso Moreno) and Smee (Ian Hughes) with his Singer sewing machine and mandolin. And then there was this amazing coat-hanger contraption of a crocodile. (Yes, the coat-hangers are prominently featured in the production).

Practicalities: the tickets start from £22.50 and kids get 25% discount (apart from Saturdays and Sundays). The show in is a big circus-like tent, so you can see rather well even from cheap blocks A and E, but try to get the higher seats (KLM rather than ABC). The nearest tube station is Lancaster Gate, from which it is less than five-minute walk (well signposted). Last but not least: try not to go to London during any industrial action that can affect your travel (that’s exactly what we did).

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Kneller’s Happy Campers

by Etgar Keret
He is a brilliant writer, entirely different from any other I know. He is the voice of the next generation.

The quote from Salman Rusdie, that graces the cover of this book by Etgar Keret, was enough to persuade me to read it. Indeed, it is very much unlike Rushdie, whose writing style is not my cup of tea at all. For starters, it is short (less than 100 pages). It is not easy to write about suicide and be funny and touching without being nasty. But this is what Keret manages to do. He creates a whole world inhabited by those who have “offed” themselves. Like the world we all know, that other world does not make much sense at all. I liked all the crazy characters, and till the very end hoped that Mordy will make out with Leehee.

I told Leehee about Uzi’s dad, who calls this place Deadsville, and about how the people here all seem like they don’t want anything, and that most of the time when you’re next to them it feels like everything is OK, when actually you’re half dead already. And Leehee laughed and said that most of the people she knew, even before she offed, were either half dead or completely dead, so I was in pretty good shape.

Origin: Spirits of the Past

a film by Keiichi Sugiyama

Yuri got this DVD for his birthday but I only had a chance to watch it yesterday. Gin-iro no Kami no Agito is a beautiful animation which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. True, the plot and imagery are “on loan” from Miyazaki’s works, especially Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, and Princess Mononoke. Does it matter? Surely it does, but to me Sugiyama’s tribute to Miyazaki looks more interesting than Miyazaki quoting himself. The opening theme is sung by Kokia.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Martin Taylor & Alison Burns

I went to Òran Mór tonight to see Martin Taylor and Alison Burns. Just two of them, with songs from their last album, plus Martin playing several pieces solo (this, this and this). Alison sings with a beautiful accent, I want to listen again and again.

Again, this couldn’t happen again
This is all once in a lifetime
This is the thrill divine

What’s more, this never happened before
Though I have prayed for a lifetime
That such as you would suddenly be mine

Mine to hold as I’m holding you now and yet never so near
Mine to have when the now and the here disappear
What matters, dear,

For when this doesn’t happen again
We’ll have this moment forever
But never, never again.