Sunday, 31 October 2010

Death at Intervals

by José Saramago

It was not until my last visit to lanzarote that I learned about the death — and life — of this island’s famous resident, the nobel prize winner, thanks to the obituary, published in local magazine, which mentioned several of his novels, including death at intervals, which was why I picked the book from the library, and was not disappointed.

Saramago’s novella, satire, fable, parable, fairy tale, or whatever you may wish to call this book, deals with a curious case of death taking a break, a sabbatical, so to speak, from her duties, in an unnamed landlocked country, with rather catastrophic consequences for national economy and psyche, not to mention the concomitant rise of maphia, with a ph (to distinguish it from the original mafia), followed, seven months later, by death’s spectacular comeback, accompanied by epistolary manifestations, further damage to national psyche, and the discovery that death, with a small d, is actually a person, more specifically, a female, of uncertain age but who, at certain moments, can look like a very pretty woman of thirty-six — I knew it! — who, apparently, never failed in her undertakings before, until now, that is, when the postal service refuses to deliver her letter to, wait, wait, a single man, a musician, who once said that he couldn’t see himself in any piece of music other than chopin’s étude opus twenty-five, number nine, in g flat major, also known as “Le papillon”, but that’s about all I was going to tell you, thank you for reading, good night.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

My dearest reader,

you must wonder why anyone in their sound mind would devote any time to this absurd romance, for a mere perusal of its abominable cover makes its very premise and scheme abundantly clear. And yet, three dozen pages on, I found myself quite amused, nay, intrigued and unwilling to give up; by the middle of the book, I was thoroughly engrossed in the misadventures of Miss Bennets, Mr Darcy and assorted officers, not to mention the unmentionables. Worse still, by the last four score pages, I was unable to put the wretched tome down, even for a few short moments. The truth must be said that I would never willingly embark on reading of Miss Austen’s masterpiece if not for the most gratuitous addition of dreadfuls and ninjas in this frivolous edition. Its deficiencies are aplenty; the style, I dare say, is rather vulgar (calling Brighton “that gay bathing-place”? Well I never); but, for want of a decent literary companion, you may as well find Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a delightful reading indeed.

Yours, etc., etc.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Red & Green

by Ali Farka Touré

Red & Green is a CD reissue of two LPs by the late Ali Farka Touré. Incidentally, the original LPs were not called anything like “Red Album” and “Green Album”. According to the BBC review, they were
the last two of seven untitled discs he <Touré> released on the Paris-based Sonodisc label between 1975 and 1988.
In the liner notes (in both English and French), Andy Kershaw writes how, back in 1986, he came across the “Red Album” in the bargain bin of an African record shop in Paris. This find led to “discovery” of Ali Farka Touré by the Western audience.

Personally, I have a trouble with telling the songs apart. At first, most of the “Green Album” sounded like one song to me. It does not look that there are any chord changes either. But this is kind of irrelevant. The music is hypnotic, eternal, beautiful. Like a desert. It puts you in the mood where you don’t want the chord to change, you don’t want the song to end.

Red & Green

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


by Timur Kulikov

Paper, felt-tip pens.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Life: Apathy Made Easy

by Gray Joliffe

This was probably the very first book I bought in England, back in 1995. It could have changed my life then if only I were not so busy working and really followed its advice. Still, it was and remains a great source of wisdom for me. Check it out — if you can get your hands on it.

Dinner conversation

  • Ecology It’s all a good idea. Whales should be saved and you agree wholeheartedly about that, except as far as you knew they were all pretty strong swimmers anyway. Rhinos should also be saved, but where would you get a rubber ring big enough to go round them?
  • Health

    Ask any biologist or anybody in the medical profession, and if they’re honest they will tell you that the single most effective way to be lithe, muscular, good-looking, fit, healthy and generally obnoxious, with every chance of living to a ripe old age, is to choose the right parents. But you didn’t, did you?

    Insurance and mortgages

    Don’t bother with either of these unless you really have to.


    Procrastination is a loafer’s best friend. Leave something until it can no longer be left, and there is a reasonable chance that
    • it will no longer need doing, or
    • someone else will have done it before you got round to it.


    Lazy sex is perfectly normal and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you indulge in it. What’s more, women can be just as lazy in bed as men, though many of them are too modest to admit it.


    Don’t be ridiculous.

    What to do on holiday



    — wait, I have another blog for those quotes.

    Friday, 15 October 2010


    by Céu

    From Amazon’s editorial review of CéU:
    It’s no surprise that Starbucks is behind Brazilian chanteuse CéU’s self-titled debut disc. <...> The slinky, soulful sounds would be right at home amid mocha frapuccinos and lattes with extra foam. But CéU is more than a mere coffee-club cutie.
    Ceu (Dig)
    And so on. Not exactly a description that would sell a CD to me. Luckily, I got it as a gift and was (until today) spared this uncalled-for knowledge.

    The truth is, there is nothing lazy or clubby or particularly cute about Céu’s music. Instead, she offers ingenuity, sincerity and restraint. It took me a quite a few listenings to fully appreciate this album. I love the way she mixes vocal with electronica, turntable scratches and percussion — watch the video of Rainha and you’ll see that she can do it live too! My other favourites are Ave Cruz, Mais um Lamento, Roda and Valsa pra Biu Roque.

    Thursday, 14 October 2010

    The Naked Gun Trilogy

    by David Zucker and Peter Segal

    The nights are getting longer, you may have noticed. So, if you happen to have three evenings to fill, search no further than this DVD set. Three words: silly, silly, silly. Actually, rather clever. I am sure a good half of cultural references is lost on me but it doesn’t matter because these movies are so mindblowingly hilarious.

    I found The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! the best of the three. Maybe it is the sequel effect; maybe that the assassination of Her Majesty is so much more sinister plot than influencing the US energy program (The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear) or bombing the Academy Award ceremony (Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult). Indeed, the gratuitous appearance of celebrities such as Mariel Hemingway or Raquel Welch in the last instalment of the trilogy makes you wish Rocco (I quite liked the guy) had succeeded in his mission — but not before the multi-talented Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) takes part in Pia Zadora’s chorus line.

    According to IMDb, the opening scene of Naked Gun 33⅓ was originally meant to be used in the first movie.

    Monday, 11 October 2010

    Guitar tabs with LilyPond

    Adding guitar tablature to the existing LilyPond score cannot be easier. By default, LilyPond generates tabs for Spanish guitar in standard tuning. So, I took the score of Autumn Leaves and inserted
    \new TabStaff
    in the score section. However, by some obscure reason, the resulting tab is one octave off the notes on the staff. To remediate this, I transposed \staffMelody one octave lower:
    { \transpose c' c \staffMelody }
    To add a nice header to the whole thing:
    \header {
     title = "Les Feuilles mortes (Autumn Leaves)"
     composer = "Joseph Kosma"
    Still, I thought that was not enough changes for today’s post, so I replaced the chord progression (with a simpler one). Here’s the final version:
    % ****************************************************************
    % Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma)
    % ****************************************************************
    \version "2.12.3"
    \header {
     title = "Les Feuilles mortes (Autumn Leaves)"
     composer = "Joseph Kosma"
    \sourcefilename ""
    \include ""
    \storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {a:m6}
    \storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {b:9-}
    \storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {g:maj7}
    theChords = \chordmode {
      \set majorSevenSymbol = \markup { maj7 }
      \partial 4 r4 
      \repeat volta 2 {
      a2:m7 d2:7 
      g2:maj7 c2
      a2:m6 b2 
      a2:m7 d2:7 
      g2:maj7 c2 
      a2:m6 b2:9-
      a2:m6 b2:7}
     \alternative {
      { e1:m }
      { e1:m }
    staffMelody = {
       \key e \minor
       \partial 4 \times 2/3 { e'8 fis'8 g'8 } 
       \repeat volta 2 {
        c''2. \times 2/3 { d'8 e'8 fis'8 }
        b'4 b'4( b'8) r8 \times 2/3 { c'8 d'8 e'8 } 
        a'2. \times 2/3 { b8 cis'8 dis'8 } 
        g'2 (g'8) r8 \times 2/3 { e'8 fis'8 g'8 } \break
        c''2. \times 2/3 { d'8 e'8 fis'8 } 
        b'4 b'4( b'8) r8 \times 2/3 { c'8 d'8 e'8 }
        a'2( a'8) fis'8 a'8 g'8 
        e'2( e'8) r8 dis'8 e'8 \break
        fis'8 b8 fis'2 e'8 fis'8 
        g'4 g'4( g'8) g'8 fis'8 g'8
        a'2( a'8) d'8 d''8. c''16 
        b'2. ais'8 b'8 \break
        c''8 c''8 a'!8 a'8 fis'4 c''4
        b'4 b'2 e'4 
        a'4 a'8 g'8 fis'4 g'8. b16 }
       \alternative {
      { e'2( e'8) e'8 fis'8 g'8 }
      { e'2( e'8) r8 r4 \bar "|." }
    \score {
        \context ChordNames { \theChords }
        \context FretBoards { \theChords }
        \new Staff 
          \with {
          \consists "Volta_engraver"
          \context Voice = "voiceMelody" { \staffMelody }
        \new TabStaff 
        { \transpose c' c \staffMelody }
    \layout {
        \context {
          \remove "Volta_engraver"
    And the output:

    Saturday, 9 October 2010

    The Diving Pool

    by Yoko Ogawa

    This book contains three early novellas (or short stories, whatever) by Ogawa. All three are told in first person and have some disturbing, eerie quality about them. The Diving Pool is a story of untold love of a high-school girl, Aya, for a high-school boy (also, her childhood friend) Jun. Pregnancy Diary is narrated by a young woman affected by the pregnancy of her sister (always referred in the text as “my sister”). We never meet the baby or learn much about the baby’s father. Finally, Dormitory is a very “Murakamiesque” tale which involves the tracelessly disappeared student and the mysterious Manager of a slowly disintegrating dormitory.

    While reading, I couldn’t help imagining how beautifully these stories could be made into anime. Especially the touching scene of The Diving Pool where Aya helps Jun to wash his swimming suits, and the whole of Dormitory.

    I doubted that we would ever have a quiet chat about the night we washed out his swimsuits. One after the other, the children at the Light House all went away, leaving me behind. I had no idea how many of them I had watched go, standing alone at the window of my room; and there was no reason to believe that Jun wouldn’t leave like the rest. One day he would go, dressed in his new clothes, accompanied by his new family, disappearing around the corner where the Thought for the Week was posted. And that was why I wanted to remember the happiness we’d had together while we still could.

    Tuesday, 5 October 2010

    Rome, roman, romance

    First published 20 September 2010 @ just some words
    All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

    It’s a very good question, but for now, let us look just at the word “Roman”.

    In English, “roman” refers to a type “of a plain upright kind used in ordinary print” (OED). Rome may be in Italy but the antonym of this kind of “roman” is italic. The antonym of “roman” as in roman numerals is, of course, arabic. (I have no idea whether and how it is possible to combine these adjectives. Can one describe the upright arabic numerals as “roman arabic”?) In many European countries, Roman (or Роман) is a rather common given name.

    The Latin word for “Roman” was Romanus. Its descendant, român, gave the name to Romanians and Romania. In many languages, the noun roman means “novel”. What is the Roman connection? It seems that modern roman got the name from Romance novel, the literary genre descended from medieval romance. According to Wiktionary, French roman is derived

    From Old French romanz [“common language (as opposed to Latin)”], from Vulgar Latin romanice [“in the way of the Romans (as opposed to the Franks)”]. The meaning “common language” changed into “book in common language” and then into “adventure novel”.
    Wikipedia adds:
    In later romances, particularly those of French origin, there is a marked tendency to emphasize themes of courtly love, such as faithfulness in adversity.
    In French, the adjective roman refers both to Romanesque style (art roman) and Romance, as in Romance languages (langues romanes), the language family that includes French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian, as well as Romansh and Romagnol. (It has nothing to do with Romani language spoken by Roma.) The Russian word роман also stands for love affair, i.e. romance. In music, romance is a type of ballad originally sung in a Romance language. The Spanish phrase hablar en romance means “to speak clearly”, as opposed to hablar en griego, “to talk double Dutch” (literally, “to speak Greek”).

    citycitizenadjectiveart stylelanguage♫♩ genreaffairfiction

    Wordle: Roman

    Sunday, 3 October 2010

    And My See-Through Heart

    by Véronique Ovaldé

    As strange and poetic as Kick the Animal Out (even the toponyms Camerone and Milena reappear here), but ultimately disappointing. Partly because, intriguing as it is, it does not resolve to my (or anyone’s) satisfaction. Partly because I fail to like its protagonist, Lancelot. After death of his beautiful wife, he discovers that he knew next to nothing about her. And whose fault is that, one may ask. When Lancelot cries out, “For God’s sake, what did she see in me?”, I totally share his bafflement.

    Still, Ovaldé’s quirky sense of humour alone makes it a worthy reading.
    Your job’s filming bears?
    No, it’s filming animals in general.
    Ah ha.
    The DP called because the last director encountered some difficulties...
    What sort of difficulties? Lancelot managed (while internally it came out as: but what’s a DP?).
    The bear came across him one night and the guy got eaten.
    Eaten eaten?
    Eaten eaten.
    The bear ate what he could and buried the rest. For later, she explained.
    And you’re off to take this guy’s place?
    Actually (flick of her right hand which sweeps open the stolen robe, revealing a portion of her vinyl corset, an utterly incongruous intrusion at this point), I don’t think he was very careful... I’ve worked with him before... He was the sort who didn’t follow any of the basic safety regulations...
    And My See-through Heart