Thursday, July 31, 2008

unleashing the inner musician

really simple, accessible yet creative music instruments - especially those created for non-musicians - people who hover outside formal music and prefer to let their inner musician speak, sing, and play for them - are finally hitting the streets. now a lot of the stuff that is becoming available isn’t cheap but then why should anything that lets you tap the channel through to the muse of music be cheap?!

first up: the airpiano. now the video you’ll find on the homepage will convince you that it’s an easy piece but i wonder how the guy pre-programmed and figured out exactly what little bit of air to stick his hand into to get a particular sound or chord or rhythm? have a look here . . . i love the concept though and that’s good ‘cause that’s what this is - a concept!

this next item has great appeal as both my kids have nintendo ds’s and i would love to see and hear them messing around with this in addition to my son’s electric guitar and my daughter’s keyboard. on the other hand, if i can get them to leave their ds’s lying around i might be able to score one and load up this tasty item ”the glitch ds”. which could provide some suitably messy backdrops to the funky poetry readings i could start doing.

got a ds and your kid hasn’t noticed it’s missing? then head right over here and load it up with musical goodies!!

but i’m not done!!! oh no, there’s this lovely beautiful recorder type thing still to come..... what you have here is a modular recorder that is made up of detachable cylinders that can each be separately loaded with a unique digital sound (either by using a pc to drag-and-drop it or by using it to manually record input) which can then be played with a push of a button. if you go here first and click on “alle meine klange” next, then click on the “video” button after which you’ll see some pretty harmless stuff being created by two pre-school children. but i think there could be more to this! much more!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the golden fish summer reading list (pt. 6)

well, as i said at the end of the last summer reading list “, chances are that this list won’t actually get completed - there’ll be other books arriving . . . .” ahhhh i know myself so well! yep, more books have arrived and more are going to be ordered so here’s the latest installment of the golden fish summer reading list.

26. first up is "interworld". this one is hot enough that it gets its own wikipedia entry so rather than being all clever i’ll trust that you’ll use that link and learn more about the book than i can provide you.

27. next in the "in" pile is "the push and pull". i’m thinking that i might start with this book because i have a mega bike trip planned this summer - from peterborough to kingston - and i might feel like it’s more achievable reading this guy’s book. essentially a novel about sex, death and bicycling - three subjects that at the about-to-be-becoming age of fifty one i am intrigued, informed, and influenced by in varying degrees depending on the time of day, the weather and most especially, my mood. the push and pull uses a journey through eastern canada as a metaphor and a means for approaching issues of substance to the author. paramount in his many realizations is the idea that “any desire is a weight”.

28. i'm very, very excited to read this next one simply entitled, "flight". readers with an eye for detail might recall that i mentioned wanting this book when i purchased amulet: book one~the stonekeeper. well here ‘tis. a quick skim through reveals much the same eye-candy as i discovered in the amulet.

29. i came across this title while cruising through the pages of a graphic design company that won an award for the cover of this book. the book is provocatively entitled "worldchanging".
when i read several reviews of this title that referred to it as “the whole earth catalog retooled for the ipod generation” i had to have a look and i liked what i saw. a hefty 593 pages that unpacks the world as it is and in turn posits a better world through a combination of technological advance, socially conscious entrepeneurship, worthy grassroots projects and simple care. authored by a bevy of familar names including cory doctorow, kevin kelly and introduced by bruce sterling, it’s an almost complete compendium of information for how to stop being dragged along by the wave and actually ride it.

30. the last book on this installemnt is a year in provence. i’m probably the last person in the western hemisphere to read this but i saw it lying around here and picked it up and thought i’d give it a go. here’s what the amazon review says of it: "in prose that skips along lightly, mayle records the highlights of each month, from the aberration of snow in february and the algae-filled swimming pool of march through the tourist invasions and unpredictable renovations of the summer months to a quiet christmas alone. throughout the book, he paints colorful portraits of his neighbors, the provençaux grocers and butchers and farmers who amuse, confuse, and befuddle him at every turn.” i’m always intrigued by befuddled brits abroad so i’ll be giving it a chance! actually, i can't tell a lie . . . i couldn't wait to read it before i posted this and it was hilarious, well-written and i want the sequel!!! should you decide to read it then nip out to the shops and line yourself up a loaf of french-bread, some unsalted butter, olives, prosciutto, some chevre, and a nice bottle of bordeaux. a day's reading well-spent.

the thirty-nine steps (pt.iii)

well, i don't know about you but i can't wait to see what happens to this poor guy. somehow he always seems to come out alright. here's the third and final installment of “the thirty nine steps”.
part 7.
part 8.
part 9.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the thirty nine steps (pt. ii)

a beautiful summer day here in peterpatch with the temperature hovering around 25 celsius, feels like 29 celsius says the weather channel. my friend cathy took me berry picking for the first time in my life. we each picked a basket of strawberries - apparently it's late for strawberries but there were tons and tons of them - well hundreds of them anyway! the berry patch lies about twenty miles north of peterborough in a lovely setting of orderly rows of berries, gorgeous tree-lines, and dusty cart tracks.

when we went to pay for the berries my friend asked in an unnecessarily loud voice, "how old are you steven?" "fifty one" i replied . . . . "and it's his first time berry picking!" she added with glee. shock and horror and absolute stunned amazement rippled through the little shack. "where do you live that you can't pick berries?" asked the bemused proprietor. i was not too ashamed to answer that i'd always always bought my berries at the shop or that my parents had done all the preserving and bottling so why would i bother . . . . . but now when i reflect on it all . . . oh i'm so ashamed of myself!!

however! positively . . . . i am going back in a couple of weeks to pick tomatoes and i am going to try my hand at chutney. so there. i loved loved loved picking the berries. it was so fun! in-between picking and eating the bright red firm luscious lovely yummy sweet little berries, my friend and i talked education research and planned out some big plans for the coming academic year which made it double fun. right now i am enjoying a tasty dark beer from hockley valley. tomorrow my wife and son will be on the eurostar train that will take them under the english channel to paris. later tomorrow they will go up the eiffel tower and then have dinner at a lovely restaurant and a special illumination drive. it amazes me to write all that.

tonight i am going to continue to enjoy the "thirty nine steps". in this episode things get a little sloppier as in more interesting still! here are some cool pics from the movie including this one that if you watch early in the film, features our very own hitchcock - yep the director - in a very brief cameo....
here are a couple more stills . . .

you know you're tired of teasers so push the play button and find out what happens in the second installment of “the thirty nine steps”.

part four.
part five.
part six.
absolutely ripping stuff! i can't wait for the next installment . . . tomorrow i'll post the third and last post of . . . the thirty nine steps!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

the thirty-nine steps (pt.i)

a while back i mentioned in the golden fish summer reading list (# ) that i would be reading john buchan’s excellent mystery thriller ”mr. standfast”. well, i read it through at breakneck speed and was truly disappointed when it finally came to an end. the good news i discovered is that the protagonist in that story richard hannay also has lead roles in four other books. it is this that enriches amazon’s overflowing coffers!

the first in the series is buchan’s most famous novel, “the thirty nine steps”, it is followed by ”greenmantle”, which in turn is followed by the previously mentioned “mr. standfast. hannay then appears in ”the three hostages”. hannay also appears in a minor role in ”the courts of the morning”, returning to the protagonist’s role in ”the island of sheep” and finally in ”sick heart river” which was published posthumously.

i remember reading the thirty-nine steps when i was in grade six, way back in 1969 and at the time i sort of understood it but to be honest i was much more interested in scott young’s hockey books, the hobbit, and the hardy boys and so i didn’t really sink my teeth into the thirty nine steps. however, as an adult i have seen a couple of the film versions and it is one of those that i will start to share here today.

the three versions of the thirty nine steps were filmed in 1935, 1959, and again in 1978. the version i prefer, and the one that is most widely considered the best is the one i’ll share here today directed by none other than the great alfred hitchcock. hitchcock took several liberties with the plot, crafting it to match his fascination with innocent men on the run. a theme that carries through into his excellent films, “saboteur” and “north by northwest”. that having been said, the film more than holds together and through the introduction of a love interest, is more colourful for the “adjustments”.

today richard meets a beautiful, mysterious woman pursued by gunmen. hmmmm perhaps it’s time to try and figure out who she is and what she wants richard for!

here then is the first of three installments of the thirty nine steps.
part one.
part two.
part three.

should you have lots of time on your hands and not wish to see the serialized version i will present over the next three posts then you can watch this version in its entirety here:

should you wish to read the book, it is available here as a pdf.

the rocket car

one of my favourite children’s films has to be chitty chitty bang bang. based loosely on a book of the same name written by ian fleming (yes, the very same man renowned for his authorship of the james bond series), chitty chitty bang bang is now considered one of the all-time classic children’s films. the story hinges on one key moment when baron bomburst, the tyrant ruler of vulgaria, who wants to steal chitty chitty bang bang and keep it all for himself, has his men begin firing at the car as it sits on the beach during a family picnic. amazingly and magically, as the family begin to panic, chitty suddenly develops powers which enable it to float, and they escape!

how many kids saw that film and wished that they could have a car with those features? well somewhere out in silver lake, los angeles someone has banged together something that takes the design ethos of that wonderful machine and unleashed it onto the streets. the good folks at l.a. metblogs have put together an excellent story and stunning accompanying photographs like this . . . bottom line here is - if you’ve gotta drive then drive big! this is the way to go!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

sheung yee's incredible paper structures

yesterday i saw my wife and son off on a journey to london and paris. my son phoned from a telephone kiosk on a london street this morning as excited as he ever gets. had he been to see the sights? oh no. he was absolutely gushing about all the aston martins, rolls-royces, spykers and assorted other exotic cars that commonly fill the streets of the capital of my birthplace.

speaking of cars and amazing buildings brings me to today's post. origami is a magical artform that had its origins in china and eventually moved to japan in the sixth century. my own experience with origami is that it involves the precise folding of paper into little objects that sort of resemble what they are based on. more recently i have used it in my classroom after reading sadako and the thousand paper cranes, a short and beautiful story about a little girl battling leukemia. sadako was two-years-old when the atom bomb was dropped on hiroshima at the end of world war II. central to the plot of her fight against the disease was her will to fold 1000 paper cranes, which japanese legend held would prompt the gods to make her well again.

the crane is a relatively simple origami design that to be honest, i find challenging enough. so you can imagine how astonished i was when i came across the work being featured here today.

canadian paper artist sheung yee shing has been crafting paper into perfect, highly detailed models for some time now. for example, if you visit yee’s website, you can see and buy this exquisite model of notre dame which arrives like this . . . begins to unfold . . .
and ends up like this . . . which when seen closer, looks like this . . .
but yee has outdone even himself this time 'round with an unbelievable paper model of a v12 engine.

what’s truly incredible is that with the help of a couple of 1.5v double "a" batteries, each of the 12 spark plugs (leds) will be ignited according to the firing cycle. the motor comes with many moveable parts including a compound crankshaft, a cooling fan, 12 rods and 12 pistons. it is made almost entirely of paper (except for some little wooden sticks, some tape, 12 leds, some electrical wire, 12 switches, a resistor, a motor and a battery holder).

but there’s more! (sounds a lot like an infomercial but this is really good!) if you buy the engine now, yee’ll throw in the model of notre dame for free!! so if you’ve got a steady hand, tons of patience and time - yes i suspect you’ll need lots of time - then you should pile over to yee’s website and have a look ‘round.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

robert fripp chills out at eastnor castle

i began this day earlier than most, due in large part to the restless sleep i experienced after a middle-of-the-night storm. heavy rain and the long dolorous rumble of thunder is a fave experience of mine not currently shared by either of my children. i was much the same at their age - strangely afraid of the sound of thunder. no amount of logic about what thunder is and how it in no way affects their continued aspirations towards a long and healthy life matters to them. in the same way as it didn’t matter to me, and likely won’t matter to their children.

so, i made my way downstairs, put together a batch of wickedgood coffee, sat in my favourite chair, took some good, long, deep breaths and put on my headphones to listen to robert fripp’s latest soundscapes release. this music comes from the 2005 ”big chill” music festival at which robert played three sets spread over three days. through the magic of the ‘net i was able to nip over to dgmlive (link below) and purchase and download sets from august 6th and 7th a few nights ago.

so, this morning as the eastern sky filled with tangerine clouds washing over into a lingering bank of deep grey-purple bruised sky, and with the promise of much much more rain, i listened to the second of his three sets which took place on august 6th.

for those of you who are new to fripp, and then also new to soundscapes, there is much to tell. i can’t tell it all here, but suffice it to say that soundscapes are an interesting way of listening to the music that passes through robert fripp. fripp is probably more broadly known for his work with the band known as king crimson. where his work with king crimson feels like an articulation of the possibilities of work within a creative social structure placed inside the rigours and expectations of the marketplace, the soundscapes seem more descriptive of the work of a person within themselves engaging with what emerges from the real world, while still placed in the broader context of the marketplace.

soundscapes feature robert creating washes and waves of sound by sending the signal from an electric guitar to be processed through a bank of delay units and processors that act much like a painter’s palette in providing a form of relational mediation between the music and the musician. this mediation sounds on the surface like texture and colour and shape. beneath the surface (where as robert reminds us in one of his aphorisms, “lie riches”) it affords an opportunity to experience a release into a space that is difficult to term and likely wouldn’t benefit from naming.

robert’s soundscapes can be lovely pastoral works that gently unfold and provide the listener with a sense of . . . well, reassurance and care are ideas that come to mind ..... they can also be charged with a complex, spiritual intensity that compels the listener to be utterly focussed and inside the moment.

this set from august the 6th would largely fall into the former with its languorous unfolding beginning with the tinkling, then chiming bell washes of “threshold” that echo and then fade into the first of two “improvisations” in which the longer, layered more meditative soundscapes appear.

a more “aggressive” “threshold ii” then appears with rushing waves of bell orchestras intermingled with breathy voices. this leads into an extended improvisation which includes some lovely restrained but dissonant washes that unfurl inside the larger waves of the soundscape. this music has much in common with a set robert played at new york’s society for ethical culture. both give the sense of an unpacking of a moment and (without boxing the music into an express purpose) there’s a sense of the eastnor and the new york music offering hope and care. the eastnor set ends with the sudden inrush of “threshold iii” which compels the listener to return to this world.

the popular press as represented by lisa verrico of the times had a very different sense of this music: “robert fripp opened the festival and appeared on all three days, but his impact was minimal. fifteen minutes into his saturday set, folk were asking when he was starting. fripp's feet were busy at effects pedals making wishy-washy ambient sounds, but his guitar was practically unplayed and anyone waiting for a tune was out of luck.” lisa’s experience provides a worthy learning. her comments suggest that she arrived with her ears set on hearing something, and so her words describe the space between her expectations and the actual features of the music that arrived.

should you choose to head over to robert’s website where you can listen to samples of this concert and perhaps even line his pocket, you are advised that “waiting for a tune” will result in the sort of tremendous disappointment experienced by ms. verrico. there simply isn’t one! rather, listen with your ears to what is there, and then “listen also with the ears of the heart”. this is music that affords the listener the opportunity to strip off the veneer of their relationship between music and themselves and to enjoy the truly beautiful - the riches just beneath the surface - without expectation.

if you are curious about what a complete soundscape sounds like and feels like, then you might want to give this piece entitled 'refraction" a listen. it is an older example, dating back to the year 2000 when robert was musician-in-residence at the world trade centre.

sundown lights

the ending of a day - a summer’s day. long and warm and broken in the early evening by a soft breeze that shook the leaves of the trees so the air was filled with their rustlings.
the small birds that show up in the early evening to catch the mosquitoes and other small flying insects flew past in long arcs, twittering excitedly . . . and all the while, the sky enfolded the day in a gentle cloudscape that i couldn't take my eyes away from . . .
to accompany this evening enfolding, here’s walt whitman writing in his collection specimen days back in 1892.

sundown lights
“this is the hour for strange effects in light and shade — enough to make a colourist go delirious—long spokes of molten silver sent horizontally through the trees (now in their brightest tenderest green,) each leaf and branch of endless foliage a lit-up miracle, then lying all prone on the youthful - ripe, interminable grass, and giving the blades not only aggregate but individual splendour, in ways unknown to any other hour. i have particular spots where i get these effects in their perfection. one broad splash lies on the water, with many a rippling twinkle, offset by the rapidly deepening black-green murky - transparent shadows behind, and at intervals all along the banks. these, with great shafts of horizontal fire thrown among the trees and along the grass as the sun lowers, give effects more and more peculiar, more and more superb, unearthly, rich and dazzling.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

gil evans and miles davis - sketches of spain

i’ve always been intrigued by the paths we follow that lead us to the place we are at in this moment. music is one of those paths that if i trace it back, has followed a circuitous route with many branches, box canyons, open vistas, and is characterized by risk-taking and an equal number of beautiful and painful experiences. in this way it mirrors much of life. where did the journey of music begin for me? well, i don’t know that i can identify the beginning.

the first time i heard the music of gil evans was his album “out of the cool”. i wasn’t so informed about jazz and its many stylistic periods that i knew that the title had to do with the leaving behind of cool jazz , a form typified by its avoidance of the aggressive tempos and harmonic abstraction of bebop. cool jazz emphasized the intellectual aspects of the music including carefully detailed arrangements, innovative forms, and a completely composed feel (including the improvised sections.) as such it was a reaction to the openness of be bop.

what i did know was that it sounded different. that it sounded like it was crafted by someone who knew about music and colours, and especially that they really got something unique about the human condition and could express it through a big group of musicians. oh and getting kudos from miles? well that made gil cooler than cool!

on the subject of cool . . . cool jazz is typified by albums like miles davis’ “birth of the cool”, and dave brubeck’s massive best seller ”time out” which featured the hit tune “take five” . . . give it a listen here . . .

i picked up gil’s album at the local library and then signed it out so many times that my room would have looked like something was missing if it hadn’t been lying on the floor with all my books and drawings.

at the time i didn’t know that gil had been born in canada, (in toronto actually) back in 1912. he was born ian ernest gilmore green but changed his name to evans when he moved to california with his step father. during the fourties he moved to new york and basically lived and worked there for the rest of his life.

”out of the cool” was produced late in 1960 and was released the following year. featuring the stellar rhythm section of ron carter and elvin jones at the core, “out of the cool” was released the same year as gil’s well-known collaboration with miles davis entitled ”sketches of spain”. my favourite piece of music off "out of the cool" would have to be "where flamingos fly" which i have heard in many incarnations but which has never been rivalled for sheer mood and colour as in this version. susanne abbuehl's take on it would come a very close second.

miles worked with evans on three albums. ”miles ahead”, ”porgy and bess”, and ”sketches of spain” . considered one of miles’ most accessible albums, sketches of spain steps away from jazz and is more suggestive of colour and tone and seems to provide more of an impression of spanish music than to actually be spanish based. as miles put it “it’s music, and i like it.” gil’s arrangements from this period are immediately recognizable and serve for me as an aural depiction of the big american city against the background of which, the lone instrument makes its way.

here’s a track entitled “will o’ the wisp” from sketches of spain . . .

and here’s the beautiful “concerto de aranjuez” from the same album . . .

miles’ playing against the haunting, majestic, lush and thoughtful arrangements of gil evans is surely one of the better collaborations in jazz history.

gil's band had a very long and colourful life including an almost connection with jimi hendrix that fell apart with the singer's death but which gil continued through his interpretations of jimi's music. a lengthy association with sting of the police also resulted in a number of concerts and some recorded music.

here’s a lovely instrumental piece from the 80’s featuring (among others) drummer billy cobham, and mike brecker playing “time of the barracudas”. it starts as a languid floating blues sustained by a gorgeous trumpet solo that then takes off into a full-force big band in flight piece with all sorts of amazing solo work and if you listen to the pieces that collectively form the whole - well, it’s a stunner!

to learn more about gil evans then you should definitely visit his ”official website”. wealthy completists might like to know that a six album set of all of miles and gil’s collaborations including numerous outtakes that reveal the process of crafting the three albums they made together can be purchased here . an excellent review and overview can be found here .

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the belldog

the meeting of brian eno and cluster resulted in one of those heaven-sent collaborations that music lovers wish for but which rarely come to pass. in fact their collaboration resulted in two albums ”cluster and eno”, and ”after the heat” . each succesfully melds cluster’s electronic minimalist sensibility with eno’s broader and more colourful palette resulting in a series of mini tone poems focussed as much on establishing mood through texture and tonal colour as on anything.

in my view, the song that defines the most successful moment of the entire collaboration would have to be “the belldog”.

when asked about the roots of the words for this song, eno is quoted as having based them on this experience . . . .
'i was walking through washington square park, towards the "arc de triomphe" style monument there. there was a little group of people under the arch, and the full moon stood low on the horizon, visible through the top of the arch. as i got closer i saw what it was that had attracted their attention. a very grubby man of indeterminate age was playing an out-of-tune upright piano on wheels: his touch was that of a plummy night club pianist, but the chords he used were completely strange. over this sequence of soft discords he sang, again and again, in a trembling voice: "the belldog, where are you?" i have no idea what he meant by the belldog. for me it was (and is) an unidentified mythical character from some unfamiliar the vague feeling i have about the belldog is that he is a herald; of what is not clear. whatever it is, in the song he has either not yet appeared or has gone away...' - brian eno in ”more dark than shark”, quoted by craig clark.

here are the lyrics to “the belldog” . . .
most of the day
we were at the machinery
in the dark sheds
that the seasons ignore
i held the levers that guided
the signals to the radio
but the words i receive,
random code, broken fragments
from before.
out in the trees
my reason deserting me
all the dark stars
cluster over the bay.
then in a certain moment
i lose control and at last i am
part of the machinery.
(the belldog) where are you?
and the light disappears
as the world makes its
circle through the sky.

the belldog . . .

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the globe chair

there will be those among my readers who will recall the glory years of danish design when it was cooler than cool to own danish teak furniture. i myself owned a gorgeous teak student’s desk that i wish i had kept, but as with all things, it got sent to where it was needed. marimekko was a key player in the area of finnish design, providing gorgeous if not bold designs in material. i still have some that i bought from a very cool company called contemporary cloth who still have the odd bits and pieces of marimekko material, but you have to hunt through their site to find them. i should also mention that they (as a truly worthy company should) donate a percentage of their sales to help homeless people which i think is way cool. if you're interested in learning lots more about marimekko then be sure to pay a visit to marimekko where the current drop-dead gorgeous marimekko lineup is on display!!!

another feature of those times was plastic furniture. high up on the list of those whose products were coveted was (and still is) eero aarnio. among the many enduring designs that aarnio brought into the world was the bubble chair (seen here with his daughters relaxing inside their very own bubble chairs) about which aarnio says: "after i had made the ball chair i wanted to have the light inside it and so i had the idea of a transparent ball where light comes from all directions. the only suitable material is acrylic which is heated and blown into shape like a soap bubble. since i knew that the dome-shaped skylights are made in this way i contacted the manufacturer and asked if it would be technically possible to blow a bubble that is bigger than a hemisphere. the answer was yes. i had a steel ring made, the bubble was blown and cushions were added and the chair was ready. and again the name was obvious: bubble."

the ball chair that aarnio referred to is my favourite of all of his designs. replicating the effect of a womb without the claustrophobic side-effects, the ball chair effectively isolates without isolating. here’s what aarnio had to say about this spectacular design: "the idea of the chair was very obvious. we had moved to our first home and i had started my free-lance career in 1962. we had a home but no proper big chair, so i decided to make one, but in some way a really new one.
after some drawing i noticed that the shape of the chair had become so simple that it was merely a ball. i pinned the full scale drawing on the wall and “sat” in the chair to see how my head would move when sitting inside it. being the taller one of us i “sat” in the chair and my wife drew the course of my head on the wall. this is how i determined the height of the chair. since i aimed at a ball shape, the other lines were easy to draw, just remembering that the chair would have to fit through a doorway.
after this i made the first prototype myself using an inside mould, which has been made using the same principle as a glider fuselage or wing. i covered the plywood body mould with wet paper and laminated the surface with fiberglass, rubbed down the outside, removed the mould from inside, had it upholstered and added the leg. in the end i installed the red telephone on the inside wall of the chair. the naming part of the chair was easy, the ball chair was born."

these and other eero aarnio designs can still be purchased. if you have a look here you’ll find a link to someone in your country who stocks these delightful items.

the globe chair was to have been the real focus of this post but to be really honest, eero arnio’s work is so amazing that it deserves a little bit of a going over if only as homage to the globe chair's obvious design heritage. that having been said, this item is also a lovely design in its own right.

not quite as earth-shattering for its time but still very lovely and somewhat desirable. if you nip over to fathom designs, you’ll find three lovely products but in my opinion it is the globe chair that carries away the most desirable object award. i love its symmetry and then too the swooping longitudinal curves. you’d want to pack it with nice cushions or line it with something that would make it kind to your back and bum, but overall this is one pleasing piece of furniture.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

anna hempstead branch

i found myself cruising through bartleby’s excellent collection of literature and came across an edition published in 1919 entitled “modern american poetry.” the temptation to dig inside it was enough that i decided to chuck my list of “things-that-absolutely-must-be-done” in favour of finding new poets - well new to me! and with that attitude i lucked out by coming across a poet named anna hempstead branch.

anna was born in connecticut in 1875. she began writing poetry while attending the american academy of dramatic art in new york city and shortly thereafter had a poem published in century magazine which more-or-less assured her some fame as a writer.

anna once said most revealingly: ““order is a lovely thing; on disarray it lays its wing, teaching simplicity to sing.” this is the first line from her poem entitled "the monk in the kitchen" which is a poem i could write - but that's another story!!.

today’s poem is taken from her collection published in 1905 entitled “shoes that danced and other poems.”she wrote this old-fashioned but lovely piece entitled “while loveliness goes by” . . .
sometimes when all the world seems grey and dun
and nothing beautiful, a voice will cry,
"look out, look out! angels are drawing nigh!"
then my slow burdens leave me one by one,
and swiftly does my heart arise and run
even like a child while loveliness goes by—
and common folk seem children of the sky,
and common things seem shapèd of the sun.
oh, pitiful! that i who love them, must
so soon perceive their shining garments fade!

and slowly, slowly, from my eyes of trust
their flaming banners sink into a shade!
while this earth's sunshine seems the golden dust
slow settling from that radiant cavalcade.

kirlian photography

the first example of kirlian photography i remember seeing was on the cover of king crimson’s april 1975 release ”usa”. seen here in all its diminutive splendour. if you look carefully in the middle of the cover you’ll see the kirlian photograph being held by what appear to be long female fingers.

kirlian photography is nothing new, in fact it was first discovered back in the late thirties (quite by accident) by its namesakes semyon and valentina kirlian who observed tiny flashes of light between the electrodes and the skin of a person undergoing electrotherapy. after refining the process, kirlian claimed that his corona photographs produced information relating to the energy in living things. for some that's led to a belief that what is actually being photographed is the human aura. for others - well read on.

so how does a kirlian photography come into being? basically, kirlian photography is high voltage, contact print photography. a sheet of film is placed on top of a metal plate, called the discharge or film plate. then you place the object that you want to photograph on top of the film. if the object to be photographed is inanimate, such as a coin or a leaf, an earth ground is connected to the object.

high voltage is applied to the plate momentarily to make an exposure. the corona discharge between the object and discharge plate passes through and is recorded onto the film.

when the film is developed you’ll find that you have a beautiful kirlian photograph!

here’s a more detailed explanation about kirlian photography . . .

so let’s just say that you’re brave, or that you don’t mind the possibility of electric shocks and burns. alternately, let’s say that you don’t feel like springing for a dedicated setup to make kirlian photographs. then this is the site for you. here you can learn how to use standard or polaroid film to make your very own kirlian images. another page that will be of use to the d.i.y. kirlian photographer can be found here.

on the other hand, perhaps you are prepared to spend money for the comfort of knowing that not only will it all work the way it’s supposed to, but it might also be a bit safer. then this is where you should go first. if that doesn't float your boat. then you might like to have a look at this kirlian photography device. this same site offers a very detailed document on kirlian photography. the opening paragraph is not only revealing but very reminding and eye-opening. . . “warning: kirlian devices are very high voltage contact print photography devices. all high voltage devices are potentially dangerous and must be operated with extreme caution. do not attempt to operate this device without reading the instructions. disclaimer: images si inc. or its affiliates assume no responsibility for damages consequential or inconsequential or incidental for the use or misuse of the kirlian photography apparatus. images si inc. makes no warranties, expressed or implied to the fitness of this device for any particular purpose other than that which is listed herein.”
another site offering a modification kit for an existing polaroid product can be found here. i also came across a site offering a machine that links up to your computer. operating under the very interesting company name of “body electro enhancements” (the mind boggles), they will sell you this. finally, kirlian research will sell you a set up that is expressly designed for taking pictures of human fingertips.
the bottom line here is twofold. firstly, there is conjecture about what you are actually seeing that ranges from the esoteric, to the exoteric. secondly, as suggested above, there are some safety concerns around this whole field so be careful! either way, the images are compelling!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

cyril pedrosa's three shadows

an amazing stack of free downloadable graphic novels, sci-fi, and fantasy has been made available for a short while at the home page for such luminaries as cyril pedrosa whose book "three shadows" is by far-and-away the best graphic novel i've read, and is definitely the best book i've read this summer! want to download a free copy and see what the hype's all about? then go right here as quickly as possible while it's still available. it's a stunner and you will not be able to stop flipping the pages to find out what happens next.

walt whitman's specimen days

i can’t get enough of walt whitman and so many of the other american writers who really focussed on the natural world around them and connected so deeply, almost spiritually to their environment. i just came across a wickedgood resource while scanning and skimming through bartleby’s great books online resource - walt whitman’s collected prose works published in 1892. in the section entitled “specimen days” whitman paints his experience of a day with such an economical yet rich palette that it is like haiku - savoured and revelled in for its simple resplendence!
here’s a sampler:

colours—a contrast
“such a play of colours and lights, different seasons, different hours of the day—the lines of the far horizon where the faint-tinged edge of the landscape loses itself in the sky.
as I slowly hobble up the lane toward day-close, an incomparable sunset shooting in molten sapphire and gold, shaft after shaft, through the ranks of the long-leaved corn, between me and the west.
 another day. — the rich dark green of the tulip-trees and the oaks, the gray of the swamp-willows, the dull hues of the sycamores and black-walnuts, the emerald of the cedars (after rain,) and the light yellow of the beeches.”

summer sights and indolencies
“june 10th. — as i write, 5 1/2 P. M., here by the creek, nothing can exceed the quiet splendor and freshness around me. we had a heavy shower, with brief thunder and lightning, in the middle of the day; and since, overhead, one of those not uncommon yet indescribable skies (in quality, not details or forms) of limpid blue, with rolling silver-fringed clouds, and a pure-dazzling sun.
for underlay, trees in fulness of tender foliage—liquid, ready, long-drawn notes of birds—based by the fretful mewing of a querulous cat-bird, and the pleasant chippering-shriek of two kingfishers. i have been watching the latter the last half hour, on their regular evening frolic over and in the stream; evidently a spree of the liveliest kind. they pursue each other, whirling and wheeling around, with many a jocund downward dip, splashing the spray in jets of diamonds—and then off they swoop, with slanting wings and graceful flight, sometimes so near me i can plainly see their dark-gray feather-bodies and milk-white necks.”

needless to say, i’ve put this book on my wish list!!!