Sunday, September 30, 2007


Do you think humans have as many lives as cats? I certainly hope so because I know they must be fast running out. From a couple of very near drownings, as a child sleepwalking my way off a five metre high balcony, almost being squished by a Spanish express train and to, most recently, Friday's falling off the stage at the concert in Belfast.

I remember it was dark, had just finished verse 3 of Cruise, and was heading back to the instrument table to let Philip unleash his '50 questions' when suddenly in a split second everything changed: flat out on a cold floor looking up at the ceiling not being able to move.

The good news is that the heavy duty painkillers are now doing their job, and there's no permanent damage, just torn muscles and some exotic bruises. The paramedics and nurses at the hospital in Belfast were, despite working under testing circumstances, extraordinarily warm, friendly and dedicated; and as surely as they won't be reading this, I'm compelled to say a huge and sincere thank you for everything. Many, many thanks also to everyone who has sent messages, it really means a lot.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


A severe test of one's faith or beliefs that is a common psychic crisis or passage in a person's midlife.

Christians typically reframe as tests of faith everything that might seem to be incontrovertible evidence of there not being a divine entity. Just like victims of natural disasters, what could logically be perceived as acts of a cruel and unjust god, the focus is on the baby who survives against the odds beneath the rubble: the evidence of the miracle. Mother Theresa suffered her dark night of the soul for the last 45 years of her long life - and in reality was much more likely to be the dull unconscious regret made up of a lifetime's lack of gratification, and of pointless self-sacrifice for the benefit not only of an illusory non-existent divine being but also a cabal of degenerate and cynical clergymen.

Since so much of our personae is constructed upon our acquired beliefs and worldviews (by definition an extremely shaky foundation), and which we cling to stubbornly and defiantly often against all reason, it seems perfectly natural that there should come a time in our lives when we, at least on an unconscious level, critically question ourselves in this way, and in a way which gives a deep sense of unease. The so-called dark night of the soul.

As a teenager, one of the best philosophical lessons I learned from the divine marquis (and to an extent ancient Greek philosophy) was the desire to avoid the human arrogance of the fixed idea, of the rigid sense of moral purpose. And to me, there's an important distinction between that and being amoral or immoral, which incidentally is similar to my mild personal discomfort at the label atheist as I see atheism as essentially a Christian construct. Therefore, I don't believe in any god, neither am I an atheist; my attitude is the same regards morality.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Are we blind or do you just close your eyes?

Slaughterhouse: The Task Of Blood is substantially more shocking than any horror film you'll see in a while. Quite topical as the country finds itself once more in the grip of another farm crisis: foot and mouth disease (again) and the disturbingly named bluetongue. This mad cow's mind boggles about that one.

A personal comment about this horrifying documentary: my own misanthropy isn't so much enflamed by the actions of any given individual, but rather our grubby human institutions and the way we organise our overbearing, arrogant, ugly selves together to carry out this and other dirty work.


Even though I watch precious little television, I have become addicted to the French channel Mezzo. MTV it isn't. It serves a stylish mix of classical, jazz, and other musics from around the world that, despite its arty seriousness, is a source of ideas and inspiration and joy that commercial music seems utterly incapable of satisfying.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, through Mezzo, I discovered the young jazz trumpeter Christian Scott's new album Anthem which is the most pleasing thing I've heard since I was earlier this year kindly introduced to the diabolically entrancing Ghana Funeral Field Recordings; and Scott's lugubrious Katrina-inspired melodies have become a constant soundtrack around here. I'm guessing this won't be everyone's thing, maybe I'm wrong.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Not sure if this vignette of our times is funny or depressing? Seventy-two years old. The rationale given by the supermarket at the end of the report is pathetic and symptomatic.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Sherrybaby (Laurie Collyer, 2006)

Confession time: I watched this because of Secretary. A minute into Sherrybaby however you know you've hit real gold (isn't it funny how you can tell a film's worth within seconds?).

Sherry, a recovering drug addict, returns home from prison and struggles with both the parole conditions to stay clean, and with reestablishing a relationship with Alexis, her estranged 4 year old daughter.

This is a brilliant female character study, with a painful and courageous virtuoso performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal alongside a superb supporting cast, full of memorable, occasionally shocking, yet believable scenes. Gyllenhaal's favourite actress is cited as being Gena Rowlands and this will truly delight all you fellow John Cassavetes fans, I know there are quite a few of us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



flora_mundi said...
bravo. i think that devouring a mango in all its messy glory is something everyone should experience. most people are much too prissy about eating...

... hey, you're so right, messy eating is so good, and children still understand that. Supermarkets and their delivery, distribution, and storage methods have already managed to kill most people's sense of taste and smell, and likewise, cutlery deprives of us of the pleasure of the kino of eating. Admit it. You know what a thrill you get to have permission to longingly hold that food in your fingers. Even more when you know it might otherwise be frowned upon. And afterwards just let the back of your hand wipe down your smug satisfied chops.

Monday, September 17, 2007


One of my favourite treats is to have an impertinently soft plump over-ripe mango to sink my teeth into - and not solely to avail of its fabled aphrodisiac and life-enhancing properties. You know the taste and texture is so so sweet and good. This Sunday evening, after a few seconds of initial pointless reticence, I finally succumb to the temptation of going wolfman and wilfully plunge my stubbled snout into that yielding mango flesh, allowing the juices of that most fucking beautiful of fruits to stream all the way down and over. Delicious.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Commonly, you see the focus of demonstration skills eclipsing the ostensible principle skill - and, in the originally cited example of the guitar soloist, although extraordinarily talented showmen like Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix might have a lot to answer for, you can't really blame them for the inevitable apists, epigones, and other absurdist tailchasers that followed in their footsteps.

The widespread criticism of Britney Spears' recent performance at this year's MTV Awards also highlights this. Note that nearly all of the sniping comments refer to her demonstration skills - that is, her dancing, her looks, her lipsyncing (the performers to receive good press get complimented on those very same ephemera). Give the girl a fucking break - it's not like her songs are better or worse than anyone else's. Maybe even a bit better.

Of course, at this MTV level, the basic skill of singing a song (let alone writing) was forgotten about a long time ago. It also reminds me of Chris Morris's wonderful The Day Today series that satirised TV news' addiction to endless overblown computer graphics and camera edits that end up superseding the news reporting itself. The Day Today hit its target so unerringly and so accurately that it's hard to watch the real thing nowadays without a sense of profound cynicism.

To me, demonstration skills are absolutely fine, and moreover useful, as long as the original and main purpose isn't lost. The intent.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


In several recent interviews, and also in some blog postings, I've attempted to explain my particular artistic notion of asceticism (for example, here) - and I'm not sure if I've totally succeeded in articulating what seems, at its core, to be a total paradox.

How can one artist be better than another doing ostensibly exactly the same thing just because he or she is choosing not to do something else that we can't experience anyway? How can you explain the effect of the presence of something that can't be seen, touched or felt? You know, the more you think about it, the less it appears to make sense; while the less it appears to make sense, the more we know it has to be true as it's happening all around us.

One way is by applying a kind of intangible compromise, or what I call a transparent concession (originally referred to here), and I believe I've got a more effective metaphor for articulating this concept, culled once again from my favourite source of inspiration, the theatre.

Imagine you were playing the leading role in a play of two acts. In between the acts there's a 20 minute intermission where you have some time to yourself backstage. The question is, what would you do with this time away from the focus of the audience in order to maximise your performance? Do you relax and exchange small-talk with the staff perhaps, or do you spend it staying in character?

Of course the latter. It's an example of a transparent concession being employed - not something the audience is ever aware of, yet makes such a profound creative difference. Successful magicians and miracle workers employ transparent concessions - like in this Indian Rope Trick demonstration. If it's not transparent, then it's not magic!

You may now be wondering how you might put this to good use in music or painting or photography or other artistic endeavours - and in my typically cryptic, evasive (if not downright irritating) style, I won't provide any further real-life examples - all in the hope that it will serve to cognitively whet your creative juices in unexpectedly pleasing and productive ways.


Since the original post regarding my interpretation of the guitar solo as a demonstration skill (used in all sorts of contexts ranging from when a person's real potential might otherwise be invisible, or where a person might need some instant charisma), I have received a couple of emails wishing for further examples, so here provided are a few more.

- preachers slaying in the spirit
- fancy flourishes and card shuffles by magicians
- singers' fancy shines and dance steps during a song
- comedians singing songs
- footballers' acrobatic goal celebrations
- mediums' use of knocks and taps from beyond the grave
- poker players doing chip tricks
- wheelies by bike riders

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Really worth having a look at Ben Fairhall's fascinating blog - not just because you have a special interest in the Madeleine McCann mystery.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Walking home one night, I chanced upon this handwritten poster - and it broke my heart.

And it may strike some people as shocking that a human tragedy of similar dimensions would more often than not leave me emotionally unmoved. Not that I'd wish that on anyone, it just wouldn't affect me. Yet, a little girl's lost toy mouse and the poster she wrote really hit me hard and makes me feel sad. Does that make any sense at all?


This last week tricked myself into seeing Death Sentence, 1408 and The Walker. Avoid, avoid, avoid - if it's still not too late. I mean, I really don't care about the money, but is there any way at all I could just have my time back? No, I didn't think so. Fuck, what a waste.