Friday, 31 December 2010

Fire

by Timur Kulikov

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Sherlock: Series 1

by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss

This Christmas, we’ve spent three evenings watching this DVD (from the library). A classic with a modern twist. Of the three episodes, I liked the best the first one, A Study in Pink.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the most arrogant (even though frighteningly brilliant) Holmes I’ve ever seen. Martin Freeman is a fine, very intelligent Dr. Watson — just like Conan Doyle’s hero, he is back to London from Afghan war. (A nice 21st century detail: both Holmes and Watson are bloggers.) However it is “minor” characters who make Sherlock such a fantastic show: rather likeable Lestrade (Rupert Graves), not your caricature dumb Scotland Yard inspector; Sgt Sally Donovan (Vinette Robinson); Jeff the cabbie (Phil Davis)... On the contrary, Moriarty (Andrew Scott) is a disappointment: too psycho to be truly scary; the first appearance of Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) is so much more impressive.

Both Gatiss and Moffat are Doctor Who writers — which explains the Time Lord’s fingerprints all over the place. Which I mean as a compliment. The picture quality of the DVD is excellent. I am looking forward to more Sherlock in 2011.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Green Dragon

by Timur Kulikov

More vector graphics — this one inspired by Merry and Pippin’s song from The Lord of the Rings:

“...the only brew for the brave and true comes from the Green Dragon.”

When we move to Fuerteventura, Timur wants to put this sign on our house. Apparently he thinks we are opening a pub there.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Seas

by Samantha Hunt

From the first words of prologue, this novel got me hooked. I liked its premise — a girl who think she is a mermaid falls in love with an Iraq war veteran — and the inventive language. Sometimes it gets really disturbing, but for the most part, it is a pleasure to read. Saying that, it would be so much better if it was a short story, or maybe several short stories. The mermaid’s mother, who grew up on the deaf people’s island, deserves a story of her own. And a name. It looks like, by the last third of the novel, the author got tired with all the writing, and the ending (if, really, this is an ending) is a let-down. Even so, I definitely want to read more of Samantha Hunt.
When Jude was in the war I liked to imagine how difficult it was to get my letters past the war censors with their big black markers. I doubt that there are actually censors anymore, but I’d imagine them all the same. Sometimes I thought that what I had written to him would arrive looking like this:
Dear Jude,
Today my ■■■■■■ and I found a ■■■■ It was a ■■■■■ with black and ■■■■■ spots on its ■■■■.
Love,
■■■■■■■■■
When Jude was in the war I cleaned empty hotel rooms for money. In most of the rooms a man had taken a woman or girl and loved her with her face against the wall so she couldn’t see him. When I cleaned at the motel I’d touch the wall with my own face. I’d pretend he was behind me. I couldn’t see him. He was in the war. The walls tasted like salt.
The Seas: A Novel

Friday, 24 December 2010

Six-string Artist Pro Bass

by Jon Shuker

I was so impressed with my upright bass that I decided to order another instrument from Jon. As before, I paid him a visit in Sheffield to look at various models of electric basses and decide what exactly I want. Jon just introduced his new single-cut bass which looked fantastic. On the other hand, I really loved his semi-acoustic Artist design. As a result, we came up with a specification which combined both designs. Here it is (as from July 2006):

  • Six-string Artist Pro Bass
  • Fretted
  • Single-cut, set neck
  • 34″ scale
  • String spacing 17 mm at the bridge
  • Schertler transducer system + EMG TW pickup
  • Mahogany body
  • Top wood to be decided *
  • Mahogany maple neck
  • Macassar ebony fretboard
  • Two way truss rod
  • Carbon fibre reinforcement
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Black hardware
  • Jumbo fretwire
  • Mother of pearl side dots
  • Polyester basecoat
  • Satin topcoat
  • Custom shape headstock
* In his workshop, Jon presented me with a bewildering array of exotic woods. Later, he emailed me the photos as well. All of them were beautiful but in the end I chose figured cedar.

As with the EUB, Jon kept me up-to-date with the bass construction via email. The instrument was ready by June 2007. However I had to cancel my trip to Sheffield because of heavy rains and floods. Luckily, Jon was able to evacuate his workshop, literally minutes before the building was flooded. I went to collect the bass in July and saw all the destruction.

As far as I know, this was the first single-cut Artist bass Jon has built. Another unusual feature was a combination of Schertler (“acoustic”) system and EMG TW (“electric”) pickup. The latter is a combination of two electromagnetic pickups in one: single-coil and dual-coil, and one can switch between two modes. A separate knob works a balance between “acoustic” and “electric” signals. The purely “acoustic” sound is more similar to the sound of acoustic bass guitar rather to that of a double bass. The bass was (still is) fitted with Rotosound Swing Bass roundwound strings.

More photos of six-string electric bass @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Octupus *

by Timur Kulikov

Tamara gave Timur the first lesson of Adobe Illustrator this morning. In just a couple hours, Timur has created another of his sea life epics — this time, in vector graphics.

* It’s like an octopus but spelled with two “u”s rather than two “o”s. This is how Timur named it.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

This is Spın̈al Tap

a film by Rob Reiner
Derek: David, we had a fifteen-year ride, mate. ‘Mean, who wants to be a fuck’n forty-five year old rock’n’roller farting around in front of people less than half their age?...
David: So true, so true, yeah...
Derek: ...cranking out some kind of mediocre head-banging bullshit, you know, that we’ve forgotten...
The movie was released in 1984, allegedly documenting the Spın̈al Tap’s 1982 American tour, and this was already funny. (To those, who got the humour, that is: even the guys in the business thought it was a real documentary about real band.) Make it “a forty-five-year ride” and “seventy year old rock’n’roller” and it could have been made now and still be believable. Even funnier.

Of course, some people still are wondering what’s so funny and how on earth TIST (and the band) acquired the cult status. I myself watched the movie for the first time just now. (I bought the DVD last week in a charity shop for £3.) I think... it could have been great. So what? Now and then, I can afford to watch a movie that is simply very good.


By the by, This is Spın̈al Tap is the only film that IMDb rates 8.0 out of eleven. Unfortunately, the users still can only give it maximum of ten stars, so in effect, its rating is lower than it should be.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

by Karen Russell

The heroes of these ten tales are children on the verge of adulthood. While the title story firmly belongs in the realm of magical realism, the others, such as Ava Wrestles the Alligator and Haunting Olivia, appear to be made from the material of dreams — and, just like dreams, do not resolve, satisfactorily or otherwise. Children’s Reminiscences of the Westward Migration could be either. (Do you have dreams where you are reminiscing?) And Out to Sea, perhaps the best story of the collection, is thoroughly realistic. Maybe it is a true story.

When things first started to go missing around the cabin, Sawtooth chalked it up to the onslaught of dementia. He was relieved when he realized it was just Augie. He does little experiments to test her. He’ll leave something small on the table, a pack of Sir Puffers or a withered red starfish, and go crouch in the bathroom. When he comes back, the table is always empty, the girl smiling with her hands folded neatly in her lap.

Sawtooth likes it best when she takes sentimental things, objects with no resale value whatsoever. She steals his left socks, his grocery lists; she pries the little hand off the wall clock.
On her last visit, the girl stole one of his family photographs right out of the frame. He thinks this means she is starting to care about him, too.
Out to Sea
St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Vintage Contemporaries)

Monday, 20 December 2010

Abantu

by The Mighty Zulu Nation in coalition with Aki Nawaz

I first heard The Mighty Zulu Nation six years ago, thanks (again) to the Songlines magazine. MZN were introduced in their Top of the World review as “the dozen-strong choir from Durban”, and the covermount CD had a track that blew my mind: Mdavu The Man.

mdavu bakubiza umbombela
isitimela samalahle
Eh? Eh? How was that? I bought the album immediately and must have listened to it at least one hundred times, last time just couple days ago. Mdavu The Man remains one of my favourite songs there, together with Ebumnadini and Shobana. But it was not until I started on this post when I discovered that MZN are based in Huddersfield. Hooray for Yorkshire!

Abantu

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Տղամարդիկ

a film by Edmond Keosayan
Наутро, конечно, выпал снег — такого раннего снега старожилы не запомнят. Синоптики, как водится, объясняли это редкое явление циклонами и антициклонами, столкновениями каких-то там холодных и тёплых масс, где-то там, над морем Лаптевых... Мы-то с вами знаем, отчего снег выпал именно сегодня.
In the morning, of course, the snow fell. The old-timers won’t remember snow that early. Weather men, as usual, did their best to explain this rare phenomenon with cyclones and anticyclones and collisions of cold and warm air masses somewhere there, over the Laptev Sea... But you and I, we know why the snow did not fall any other day.

Isn’t the internet great? Couple of days ago, a closing scene of this film, with Russian voice-over (see the quote above), came to my head, although I could remember neither its title nor any actor. The only thing I was reasonably sure was that the movie was mostly in Armenian, with short narration bits in Russian, and that there were scenes of men dancing kochari (no, I didn’t remember that word either). A few minutes of search with keyword Armenfilm, and here it is: Tghamardik, the Russian title: Мужчины (“The Men”). I didn’t realise until now how famous this film is: according to Russian Wikipedia, in Yerevan there even is a monument to its heroes, the taxi drivers Vazgen, Sako, Suren and Aram.

The complete Russian-narration version, featuring the incomparable voice of is Zinovy Gerdt, is available here; YouTube also has the Armenian-only version.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving

by Betty Dodson

If that was not clear from the title and subtitle, this book is dedicated to masturbation. Which is a hugely fascinating topic on its own. However, Betty Dodson — an artist, sex enthusiast and a very brave woman — manages to cover, in one slim volume, much more than “just” masturbation. This book is about loving your body. This book is also about liberation from the stereotypes, from the traditional gender roles, from the myth of romantic love forever. It is also about not being ashamed of your fantasies; about not feeling guilty of pleasure; about being honest. It is about having fun. (Which includes having an orgasm when and how you want it, but also, importantly, giving it a miss when you don’t want it.)

Sex for One is not an impersonal masturbation manual. It is very much personal, sometimes to uncomfortable degree. You don’t have to agree with everything Dr Dodson says to enjoy the book. It is written with a great sense of humour. It has tasteful pencil drawings. And you will never look at the heart symbol ♡ with the same eyes again.

The best way to keep a population docile and easy to manipulate is to prohibit masturbation, insist on marriage and monogamy, withhold sex information and birth control, criminalize abortion and prostitution, condemn homosexuality, censor sexually explicit entertainment, and deny the existence of sexual diversity. With a list like that, we’re all sexual sinners.
♡ ♥ ♡
It’s only one woman’s dream, but I believe when more men can really worship their phallus, guns and MX missiles will become obsolete.
♥ ♡ ♥
I can hear the Romantic Feminist Matriarchy screaming, “That’s disgusting! She thinks an orgasm is like taking a dump.” And I’d answer, “A lot of orgasms aren’t nearly so satisfying.”
♡ ♥ ♡
Once I realized that masturbation was an active form of meditation, I thought, Hallelujah❣ Now everyone will want to meditate.
♥ ♡ ♥
Cordless wands are delightful to take out on the sun deck or pack in a picnic basket to take onto a deserted beach. Or bring one along in the car in case you get stuck in traffic. No one will know why you look so happy unless one of these big trucks pulls up alongside.
♡ ♥ ♡
Having an orgasm with a new fantasy is every bit as good as having sex with a new lover. Some times it’s even hotter. People can be so unpredictable, but I can always count on myself.

Monday, 13 December 2010

CL4 Black n’Silver

by RotoSound

Ever since I broke the first of the “original” strings (of unknown maker) on my Clarissa, I was sticking to nylons from American manufacturers such as D’Addario, La Bella and Martin. I was wondering if there are European makers of black nylon strings of comparable quality. (Why? Because black trebles look cool.) And here they are, “Proudly made in Sevenoaks, Kent, England”, beautiful strings with clear, rich sound. I put them on just two days ago, so it remains to be seen for how long this sound and these strings will last. But for now, I am happy with them.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Djembe

by Timur Kulikov

Paper, felt-tip pens.

This drawing of djembe was intended for a school competition for the best drawing. In the end, Timur did not submit it because he thought more work was needed. He brought it home and finished it on Friday.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Pedal B♭ and Jingle Bells

Last week I was practicing pedal B♭ on trombone:

Pedal B♭1 is an octave lower than B♭2, the lowest of harmonics in the first position. It is not particularly difficult to play B♭1. I found that the less I think of how to play it, the easier it is for me to hit it. The key is to relax my mouth as much as I can.

Today in Duxford we were playing the trombone duet of Jingle Bells. Just like last year, except this time I was playing the funky bass line (featuring, you may have guessed, pedal B♭1). I wrote it down with LilyPond. The only new embellishment here is glissando. (I say, there is no point learning trombone unless you get to play glissando.)

  • To link two notes with glissando, put \glissando between them, for example
    c2 \glissando f2
  • If these two notes are separated by the forced break \break, add the line:
    \override Glissando #'breakable = ##t
  • Default glissando is represented by a straight line. Add a touch of style in the following fashion:
    \override Glissando #'style = #'zigzag

Here goes:

And the LilyPond file:

% ****************************************************************
% Jingle Bells (duet) in Bb major
% ****************************************************************
\version "2.12.3"
\header {
 title = "Jingle Bells (for two trombones)"
 composer = "James Pierpont"
}
\score {
<<
  \new Staff
 {
  \clef bass
  \key bes \major
  \override Glissando #'style = #'zigzag
   d4 d4 d2
   d4 d4 d2
   d4 f4 bes,4. c8
   d2. r4 \break
   ees4 ees4 ees4. ees8
   ees4 d4 d4 d8 d8
   d4 c4 c4 d4
   c2 \glissando f2 \break
   d4 d4 d2
   d4 d4 d2
   d4 f4 bes,4. c8
   d2. r4 \break
   ees4 ees4 ees4. ees8
   ees4 d4 d4 d8 d8
   f4 f4 ees4 c4
   bes,1 \bar "|."
 }
  \new Staff
 {
  \clef bass
  \key bes \major 
  \override Glissando #'style = #'zigzag
  \override Glissando #'breakable = ##t
   bes,4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,4 a,4 g,4 f,4 \break
   c4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,4 f4 f,4 f4
   c4 f4 f,4 f4
   c2 f,2 \glissando \break
   bes,4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,4 a,4 g,4 f,4 \break
   c4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,4 f4 f,4 f4
   c4 f4 f,4 f4
   bes,2 bes,,2 \bar "|."
 }
>>
}

See photos of trombone @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Zaz

by Zaz

I, for once, want to say something good about Ryanair. And what is that? They have really informative flight magazine. (Unfortunately, nowadays you have to ask them to hand you one. And then they have a cheek to collect them back. Doesn’t it say “Your Free Copy” on the cover?) Last time I was flying with them, I read a feature about Paris. And there (wait, let me consult my free copy... here: Ryanair Magazine 2010, issue 44, page 55), in section “On the Ground”, they recommend Zaz, the album by Zaz (never heard of her before), “the 21st century’s Piaf”, as one of five things one must buy in Paris. No offence but the other four did not excite me at all.

When back to reliable internet connection, I went to check this album on the web. Wow. (Or should I say, Ouah?) It is wonderfully upbeat and happy album. My favourites, for now, are Dans Ma Rue, Le Long De La Route, Les Passants and Ni Oui Ni Non but there are no dull songs at all. And, with all due respect to the French cultural icon, I daresay Zaz sings better than Piaf.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Disobedience

by Naomi Alderman

Once upon a time, there were three good friends: two schoolgirls, Esti and Ronit, and a boy, Dovid. They dreamed of the future where three of them will be together.
And then? I don’t think we’d quite decided. Being together in the same city, away from my home, seemed enough.
Of course, the future did not turn out quite as the children imagined it. Esti and Dovid, now a married couple, are still trapped (can’t think of other word) in their native Hendon. Ronit escaped to New York years ago; now she is coming back.

There are many parallels between Disobedience and Brick Lane — I am saying this in a good way, mostly, for I liked both of them. Unfortunately, they both have less than convincing “happy endings”. Ronit, the subversive one, maybe a bit too arrogant to be likeable, accepts a bribe to be quiet. Worse still, it is said that now she even observes Shabbat and sometimes prays. What happened to the rebel? Esti, the silent one, surprised me by being stronger and bolder than I thought. Still, why didn’t she follow the love of her life to New York? On the contrary, her apparently “ineffectual” and also rather quiet husband, now the Rabbi, deserves all respect. Maybe he is only one of the three who is truly happy.

Disobedience is a highly readable, intelligent, thought-provoking (at times, just provoking) novel. It has its flaws, but so do a lot of good books. Most importantly, I started to care about the characters, even though in the end they disappointed me.
These are subtle things. We don’t condone wife-beating here, or genital mutilation, or honour killings. We don’t demand head-to-toe coverings, or cast-down eyes, or that a woman must not go out in public unaccompanied. We are modern. We live modern lives. All we demand is that women keep to their allotted areas; a woman is private, while a man is public. The correct mode for a man is speech, while the correct mode for a woman is silence.

I’ve spent a long time proving that this isn’t so. I’ve spent a long time insisting that no one else can tell me when to speak and when to remain silent. So much so that it’s hard for me to tell when I want to be quiet.
Disobedience: A Novel
The “exclusive additional material” of this Penguin edition contains an interview with Naomi Alderman, a list of her favourite kosher restaurants in London, and even (for the kitchen-minded) some Jewish recipes.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Rivers and Tides

a film by Thomas Riedelsheimer
I don’t think Earth needs me at all. But I do need it.
Andy Goldsworthy

I have a couple of books by Andy Goldsworthy. They are great to peruse at your leisure. (They are great, full stop.) What is missing from the books, however, is the sense of time. Whether it is his ephemeral creations (the icicle sculpture which is meant to last only a few hours) or more permanent constructions (the seasonal changes around his trademark cairns), Goldsworthy is always working with time. Well, that is what this film’s subtitle says.

Even so, this documentary offers more than just one extra dimension to the artist’s work. The beautiful photography captures his working environment — that is, nature; his techniques (Goldsworthy often uses no tools but his bare hands and teeth); him watching his sculptures fall down and starting anew. He does not seem to be concerned with his works outlasting him. Which makes it all more important to appreciate the artist in his lifetime, don’t you think?

Among other things, this film introduced me to the music of Fred Frith.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Alternative flags of Fuerteventura

The very day I made a photo of an ideal location for reading Lolita, it occurred to me that what I saw around me looked like a flag of the place where I want to live. (A few months before that, I came to the conclusion that Fuerteventura is the place I want to live.) But the flag of Fuerteventura (unofficial anyway) looks nothing like it. See for yourself:

From top to bottom: sky, sea, sand. Now tell me that it does not look like this:


Flag A: a view from the shore

Then I went for a swim and, turning toward the land, discovered an alternative view. (Next time I will take my waterproof, sort of, camera and make a photo.) From top to bottom: sky, sand, sea.


Flag B: a view from the sea

So simple. And yet it does not look like there is a national flag like either A or B. Well, not among the sovereign-state flags anyway. The closest (colour-wise) flag is that of Gabon, which looks just like my flag B upside-down. That, of course, is how you’d see Fuerteventura while performing a surf flip. Or simply swimming on your back, head toward the land.


Flag of Gabon

More photos of Fuerteventura @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Despicable Me

a film by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

I did not really want to watch this film today. Timur and Yuri wanted to see it, so I went with them. I’m glad I did. A few trailers I’ve seen do not do the film any justice. No, there’s nothing groundbreaking in this animation, but it is a jolly good fun all the same. If it has any take-home lessons, they are not particularly original. OK, here is a couple:

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Mill Road Winter Fair 2010

My, the time is flying: it’s Mill Road Winter Fair again! Luckily, it was not as cold today as for the whole of this week. The mini-parade led by Arco Iris started from Ditchburn Gardens at 2:30 pm. We were supposed to arrive at Argyle Street Housing Co-operative (the same spot as last year) at 3:00, but, given the distance, we did it about quarter an hour earlier. Then we played a 30-minute static set. We had a good 50+ strong band which sounded great — I mean, even greater than usual. The photos are to follow.

This was our last gig of 2010.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Lolita

by Vladimir Nabokov

I first read Лолита (Nabokov’s translation of Lolita) twentysomething years ago. It was a hardbound, poor-quality photocopy of an American edition — a notch up from “real” samizdat. It weighed at least half a kilo. I loved the book. In 1990s, I bought a then newly published Russian edition. It was a bliss.

My earlier attempts to read the novel in its original tongue were unsuccessful. Somehow I couldn’t keep struggling with Nabokov’s language beyond the first forty pages or so. The last time I gave up was about five years ago. Then, last month, the breakthrough came: I went to Fuerteventura and finally discovered the ideal conditions for reading Lolita:



What can I say? English Lolita really is as good as Russian Лолита. Now I wish I knew French enough to read all of it without Internet help (for, in contrast to Russian version, the numerous French phrases are left untranslated). It is one of the greatest love stories ever written.

You may jeer at me, and threaten to clear the court, but until I am gagged and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth. I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine; Changeons de vie, ma Carmen, allons vivre quelque part où nous ne serons jamais séparés; Ohio? The wilds of Massachusetts? No matter, even if those eyes of hers would fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and crack, and her lovely young velvety delicate delta be tainted and torn — even then I would go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of your dear wan face, at the mere sound of your raucous young voice, my Lolita.
Lolita

Thursday, 2 December 2010

불꽃처럼 나비처럼

a film by Yong-gyun Kim

OK that was it. After watching this film, I am taking a long break from Oriental historical martial arts movies. I don’t know much about Korean history but judging from the fact that every half-decent character is eventually brutally murdered, this film even might be historically correct (shudder). Still, I got more confused than usual. Could it be that some illuminating parts of the story were edited? I can’t make much sense of the title The Sword with No Name. (Ditto the original Korean title, Like Fireworks, Like Butterflies.)

Saying that, there are some very impressive moments, and good acting too. The scene of first encounter of Ja-young (Su-Ae) and Moo-myoung (Seung-woo Cho) is genuinely touching. It’s a shame then that the whole thing is spoiled by cheap and completely unnecessary CGI effects. Also, you don’t get to see a lot of quality swordplay, because most of fighting is happening in the dark. In the end the truth is revealed that no matter how good swordsman you are, the sword is no match for firearms. Doy, I knew that from Indiana Jones.