Friday, March 25, 2016

Help I’m a Rock #2

The previous post about Tracey Emin marrying a rock asked, “I wonder how the rock feels about this. Will no one consider the rocks?”

Rocks have feelings too. Maybe not all of them, but some do. Basalt not so much, probably, or granite, but at Amazon a large, Italian, maritime rock named Jamie considers the book How to Avoid Huge Ships (Cornell Maritime Pr/Tidewater Pub., 1993) by John W. Trimmer and gives it 3 out of 5 stars:
Good Advice For Most Readers, But Doesn’t Cover All The Bases
There is one major oversight in this generally well-written book, and that is that it addresses animate readers exclusively. As a large rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Giglio Island, I have recently been confronted with instances in which avoiding huge ships was of fundamental interest to my personal well-being. However, the methods presented in Capt. Trimmer’s book were none too useful in my efforts to avoid huge ships, as I was recently struck by a very large ship indeed, a cruise vessel called the ‘Costa Concordia’. I think the ship came off slightly worse in the exchange, but the experience was disruptive to my afternoon and rather jarring. In a situation such as this, Capt. Trimmer’s advice would have been immensely beneficial to humans, fish, seabirds, and other animals, but I am none of those things. I’m a big rock. I can’t zig-zag or duck and cover. Rocks don’t do that. I’ve tried. I tried some time ago to scoot over to the left a bit to get some better sunlight, and it took me three thousand years! That’s not fast enough to avoid even the slowest huge ships. It is for precisely this reason that I would advise Capt. Trimmer to augment this edition with a section intended for readers like me—perhaps “How To Avoid Huge Ships If You Are A Rock, Iceberg, Or Coral Reef”. There is an audience out there for this, Capt. Trimmer, and I assure you it would be well worth your time and effort.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Help I’m a Rock

The Art Newspaper reports that “last summer, under an olive tree in her garden in France and wearing her father’s white funeral shroud”, Tracey Emin, professor of drawing at the Royal Academy 2011-13 (above: Trying to Find You 1, 2007), married a rock. Not a rock star, a rock. Quote unquote:
You formed a union with a stone outside your studio in the south of France last summer. What does this mean to you?
It just means that at the moment I am not alone; somewhere on a hill facing the sea, there is a very beautiful ancient stone, and it’s not going anywhere. It will be there, waiting for me.
I wonder how the rock feels about this. Slightly used? Will no one consider the rocks?

So here are Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention with “Help, I’m a Rock” from their 1966 – 50 years ago on 27 June – debut album Freak Out!, the first double album in rock but not the last, oh no:

Monday, March 21, 2016

What I’m reading #133

For the last two weeks I have mostly been reading three novels by JRR Tolkein. You might have heard of them. Kind of a trilogy. As in the recent post about a week spent reading three books by Stephen Fry, this was for work, not for pleasure. I also had to watch the DVDs of Peter Jackson’s movie version of the trilogy. The extended editions.

I expected the Jackson movies to be tedious, but I had completely forgotten how awful the Tolkein novels are. I loved them when I was a teenager , which just goes to show what terrible judgement teenagers have. 

Not quite an interview with, more an observation of, legendary journalist Clare Hollingworth. She did many great things but is best known for reporting live on Germany’s invasion of Poland. She is still with us, aged 104. I had a drink with her once, in the FCC, aka the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong. I say “with”. We were seated side by side, were not introduced so did not speak, but I knew exactly who she was. It was thrilling just to be in her presence. Quote unquote:
By then, Clare was back in her Polish hotel in Katowice and saw the first German tanks moving past her window. When she called the British embassy in Warsaw, a diplomat refused to believe her story – so she held the telephone out of her bedroom window so he could hear the sound of German tank tracks.
Brent Underwood shows how to become a #1 Best-Selling Author on Amazon in five minutes. His one secret trick you won’t believe? He took a photo of his foot and published it. Quote unquote:
I decided my foot was worthy of the “Transpersonal” category under psychology books and “Freemasonry & Secret Societies” category under social sciences books. I’ve always wanted to have an affiliation with the Freemasons.
The British composer Peter Maxwell Davies died last week, at 81. A good innings, though 81 does seem young these days. I saw him in the Auckland Town Hall some time in the very late 70s or early 80s conducting the Fires of London in Eight Songs for a Mad King, which featured a man screaming, and Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, which had a juggler. I have spent many evenings in the Auckland Town Hall, but that was the most memorable. Here is a decent obituary from the Guardian. Quote unquote:
In these later years there was no let-up in Maxwell Davies’s productivity. He was one of the most driven and hard-working composers of all time, with an output that easily exceeds the work-lists of Stravinsky and Schoenberg combined. His second opera, The Doctor of Myddfai (1995) was written in six weeks, during which Maxwell Davies worked 16 hours a day, pausing only to sleep or cook a quick bowl of pasta (the love of Italian food he had acquired in his Rome days was his one concession to human frailty). It was premiered by Welsh National Opera the following year.
This amazing productivity is actually an obstacle to the survival of his music. It is hard to know where to start, and plunging in at random may lead to one of the many grey patches in his music, particularly in the later works such as the Strathclyde concertos.
I’ve been playing that opera over the last few days – it’s great fun. And I don’t agree that the concertos are grey, not compared to the sludge of some of the symphonies. But his music is always interesting – as was the composer. Here from 2005 is the best story ever about him, when he was arrested for being in possession of a dead swan. Quote unquote:
He told the BBC: “I didn’t realise the police had also taken some wings from previous swans which were hanging in the shed. I was going to give them to the school because they use them as Gabriel’s wings in the nativity play.
“On Monday morning a police car came whizzing up the lane with a very charming young man and a very beautiful young lady. They didn’t accuse me of killing the swan, they accused me of being in possession illegally of a corpse of a protected species.
“I had to give a statement. I offered them coffee and asked them if they would like to try some swan terrine but I think they were rather horrified. That was a mistake, wasn’t it?”
 So here is Kelvin Thomas as King George III in Eight Songs of a Mad King, Salford, 2012. Talk about uneasy listening:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Architectural historians

They can’t all be like this, surely. Here is Nigel Farndale in the Spectator in a piece celebrating the magazine Country Life:
The Queen Mother was once drawing up a list of guests when someone suggested Country Life’s architectural historian, John Cornforth. ‘Oh no,’ she said, ‘Corners is far too grand for us.’ I don’t know about that, but Cornforth, who died in 2004, was certainly a convivial and flamboyant character who, it was rumoured, had a penchant for experimentation regarding the attire he wore in private. Chatelaines were said to lock their wardrobes when he came to stay, not least because he was ample–figured, and silk gowns tear easily.
I know a few architectural historians and writers, because for a few unhappy years I was editor of Architecture New Zealand, journal of the NZ Institute of Architects. Unhappy because while I was very interested in architecture and counted many architects as friends – two of them asked me to apply for the job – that was a problem for the publisher, who basically hated architects. I was regarded with deep suspicion because I had been to dinner at Patrick Clifford’s, Malcolm Walker came to my wedding, I’d shared an office with Nigel Cook, I knew Marshall Cook, Jane Aimer and other big names in the NZIA, Peter Shaw was a former colleague and so on. And now there is Paul Litterick.

But I don’t know that if any of these people came to stay I would have to lock up my wife’s wardrobe.

So here are Genesis with Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett in the 1970s performing “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Books do furnish a room

I have always admired my friend Murray Grimsdale’s decoration of the Leys Institute and Grey Lynn library. The 1722 Klementinum library in Prague lacks the South Pacific element Murray brings to much of his work, but even so it has a certain something:



Our libraries here in Cambridge and Te Awamutu are pretty good. But on balance I have to say that Prague is the winner on the day.