Friday, 24 July 2015

Goble goes Gitanjali

In the deep shadows of the rainy July, 
with secret steps, thou walkest, 
silent as night, eluding all watchers.

Today the morning has closed its eyes, 
heedless of the insistent calls of the loud east wind, 
and a thick veil has been drawn over the ever-wakeful blue sky.

The woodlands have hushed their songs, 
and doors are all shut at every house. 
Thou art the solitary wayfarer in this deserted street. 
Oh my only friend, my best beloved, 
the gates are open in my house- 
do not pass by like a dream.

In one salutation to thee, my God, 
let all my senses spread out 
and touch this world at thy feet.

Like a rain-cloud of July hung low with its burden 
of unshed showers let all my mind 
bend down at thy door in one salutation to thee.

Let all my songs gather together 
their diverse strains into a single current 
and flow to a sea of silence 
in one salutation to thee.

Like a flock of homesick cranes 
flying night and day back to their mountain nests 
let all my life take its voyage 
to its eternal home in one salutation to thee.

Images: Warwick Goble (1862- 1943)
Words: from Gitanjali, or Song Offerings, by Rabindranath Tagore (1861- 1941)

North Utsire

Cerridwen's Cauldren: Album Artwork

North Utsire

Dark City vs The Matrix

Am I the LAST person in the WORLD to get the stupifyingly OBVIOUS connection between Dark City and The Matrix? I wouldn't mind so much except I saw Dark City almost as soon as it came out in 1998, and was exceptionally impressed by it. And I saw all the Matrix films pretty much as soon as they came out too, and concluded "ohh its my favourite film evorr". The first Matrix film came out only 1 year after Dark City so should have been in recent memory. AND I bought all of them on DVD. But it was only recently, watching Dark City again for the first time (admittedly since 1998) that the stark, almost coarse, similarities (you could say exactitudes) seeped into my dim little skull. At this point, I'm supposed to congratulate both films, but conclude like most aficionados, that Dark City is the superior enterprise (presumably in inverse proportion to its box office sales), but actually I love them both. and I promise not to let Dark City go off the radar for 17 years again. As an aside, Jennifer Connelly vs Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity? Well, that's just a re run of the Jane Fonda vs Sandra Bullock debate. Which would be history repeating itself, wouldn't it.

Retro Junk Review: Dark City vs The Matrix
Matrix City: A Photographic Comparison
Dark City: The Thinking Man's Matrix

North Utsire

Representations of Wealth Inequality

North Utsire

How To Build Community & Anarchist Kid

There is an abiding belief swollen by media distortion, that anarchists are only about throwing petrol bombs at times of social unrest, and want to parade around in black hoodies with paint spray cans and an evil scowl in dark alley ways. If that is your opinion, fine; just don't try and convince me that the current state of the world is the only possible outcome & that I have to put up with it silently. Quotes are by anarchist theorist, Colin Ward.

“The anarchist conclusion is that every kind of human activity should begin from what from what is local and immediate, should link in a network with no centre and no directing agency, hiving off new cells as the original grows.”
Anarchy in Action

“the ideal of a self-organizing society based on voluntary cooperation rather than upon coercion is irrepressible.”
Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction

This is from the back of the WC door,
Bamford Quaker Community, Peak District

A King in New York is a 1957 British comedy film 
directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin in his last leading role, 
which co-stars, among others, his young son Michael.

North Utsire

The Man Who Planted Trees

The Man Who Planted Trees is an allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono (1895- 1971), published in 1953. I chanced upon a copy of it when I was on retreat. The slim version I had included some delightful wood engravings by Michael McCurdy, and an engaging Afterword by Norma L. Goodrich. Giono wrote more than 30 novels, as well as many short stories, plays, poetry, essays and film scripts. Many of his books have been translated into English. The words of Goodrich are equally affecting as those of Giono, and some of her insights are reproduced below.

The name Elzeard calls to mind some forgotten Hebrew prophet, wise man, or Oriental king. The last name means in both French and English something grandiose: boufii, bouflé, that is, puffed up (like a great man), puffed out (like wind, or a cloud in the sky). Such an old hero appears remarkably in most of Giono’s early fiction, often a shepherd, or else some venerable alcoholic, storyteller, old hired man, or knife sharpener, but usually escorted by beasts; sheep, bees, a bull, a stag, a toad, or a serpent. Such lonely old men in their delirium directly hear the voice of God, or that of some ageless Greek divinity such as the great Pan. One must think of these variously gifted old men as embodying the creative gods themselves as native survivals in this ancient Provence, to which they continually brought their wisdom, their knowledge of agriculture, their message of life indestructible, all of them teaching, like the titanic Dionysus, the precious secret of humanity's ancient kinship with the earth.

From the 1920's, Giono continually praised this harmony whereby human beings conserved and enriched the earth where they coexisted with animals, both enriched by the silent but responsive, living vegetable kingdom. Giono also praised work done in solitude, where creation originates and, especially in humankind, where the free expression of compassion and pity begins. 

People have suffered for so long inside walls that they have forgotten to be free, Giono thought. Human beings were not created to live forever in subways and tenements, for their feet long to stride through tall grass, or slide through running water. The poet's mission is to remind us of beauty, of trees swaying in the breeze, or pines groaning under snow in the mountain passes, of wild white horses galloping cross the surf. 

North Utsire

Magma: De Futura (1976)

I must admit I had never heard of Magma until I watched the documentary film Jodorowsky's Dune in which he said he wanted Magma to play the soundtrack, along with Pink Floyd and (I seem to remember) Frank Zappa. Long haired French 70's prog, futuristic eco- space rock... what's not to like?

Magma is a French progressive rock band founded in Paris in 1969 by classically trained drummer Christian Vander, who claimed as his inspiration a "vision of humanity's spiritual and ecological future" that profoundly disturbed him. In the course of their first album, the band tells the story of a group of people fleeing a doomed Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Later, conflict arises when the Kobaïans—descendants of the original colonists—encounter other Earth refugees.

Vander invented a constructed language, Kobaïan, in which most lyrics are sung. In a 1977 interview with Vander and long-time Magma vocalist Klaus Blasquiz, Blasquiz said that Kobaïan is a "phonetic language made by elements of the Slavonic and Germanic languages to be able to express some things musically. The language has of course a content, but not word by word." Vander himself has said that, "When I wrote, the sounds [of Kobaïan] came naturally with it—I didn’t intellectualise the process by saying 'Ok, now I’m going to write some words in a particular language', it was really sounds that were coming at the same time as the music." Later albums tell different stories set in more ancient times; however, the Kobaïan language remains an integral part of the music.

De Futura is a track from their 1976 album Üdü Ẁüdü which was their sixth studio album. For the first time ever I am stuck right down the middle of being unable to decide between the Live & Studio versions, so I have included both.

North Utsire

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Maurice Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor (1914)

1. Modéré
2. Pantoum (Assez vif)
3. Passacaille: Trés large
4. Final: Animé

Yehudi Menuhin, violin
Gaspar Cassadó, cello
Louis Kentner, piano
Rec. 1960

Ravel was not by inclination a teacher, but he gave lessons to a few young musicians he felt could benefit from them. Manuel Rosenthal was one, and records that Ravel was a very demanding teacher when he thought his pupil had talent. Like his own teacher, Fauré, he was concerned that his pupils should find their own individual voices and not be excessively influenced by established masters. He warned Rosenthal that it was impossible to learn from studying Debussy's music: "Only Debussy could have written it and made it sound like only Debussy can sound." When George Gershwin asked him for lessons in the 1920s, Ravel, after serious consideration, refused, on the grounds that they "would probably cause him to write bad Ravel and lose his great gift of melody and spontaneity". The best known composer who studied with Ravel was probably Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was his pupil for three months in 1908. Vaughan Williams recalled that Ravel helped him escape from "the heavy contrapuntal Teutonic manner ... Complexe mais pas compliqué was his motto."

In 1900, Maurice became part of a group comprised of innovative artists and musicians, who called themselves The Apache Club. Women weren’t allowed to join this organization but members of the group met regularly and inspired each other, until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Here, Ravel met Apache members: Erik Satie, Jean Cocteau, André Gide, Paul Valéry, Igor Stravinsky, Nijinsky and Serge Diaghile. The Apaches usually met at the home of Ida and Cyprien Godebski. One of the first works of Ravel’s performances for the Apaches was ‘Jeux d’eau’. Another one of his early masterpieces was ‘Pavane pour une infante défunte’ in 1902.

Maurice Ravel, Vaslav Nijinsky, Bronislava Nijinska in Paris (1914)

Vaughan Williams's recollections throw some light on Ravel's private life, about which the latter's reserved and secretive personality has led to much speculation. Vaughan Williams, Rosenthal and Marguerite Long have all recorded that Ravel frequented brothels. Long attributed this to his self-consciousness about his diminutive stature, and consequent lack of confidence with women. By other accounts, none of them first hand, Ravel was in love with Misia Edwards, or wanted to marry the violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange. Rosenthal records and discounts contemporary speculation that Ravel, a lifelong bachelor, may have been homosexual. Such speculation recurred in a 2000 life of Ravel by Benjamin Ivry; subsequent studies have concluded that Ravel's sexuality and personal life remain a mystery.

The first movement of Piano Trio in A minor was used extensively as a soundtrack in the 1992 Claude Sautet-directed love triangle Un cœur en hiver (A Heart in Winter), starring Emmanuelle Béart, Daniel Auteuil and André Dussollier. The music credits in the film are given to Maurice Ravel.

North Utsire

Woodfordes Welly

Don't judge a beer by its bottle

Woodfordes Wherry



3.8% (draught)
4.5% (estimated for Homebrew)

When after years of patronising old man boozers with yer dad, he suddenly pipes up and says Woodfordes Wherry is his favourite beer of all time, you tend to sit up & pay attention. He had never mentioned this Norfolk Ale in all that time. Not even once, like it was some dark & secret pleasure. 

Having enjoyed the fragrant pleasures of Woodfordes Wherry on draught the day pops made his revelation, sat outside in the grounds of a country pub with birds chirping on a crisp spring afternoon (an occasion approaching Beer Nirvana), I approached this homebrew offering with more than a modicum of foreboding, not wanting to knock ol' Wherry off its pedestal. Especially as it wasn't brewed by me, but by my brother in law. Would it fall short in its homebrew incarnation?

It was one of those brewing projects that overshoot a special occasion & need a couple more weeks to mature. Christmas in this case, stretched into mid January “for safety”. A couple of take home bottles therefore sat in the wellies in my car boot acting like a winter refrigerator. I needn’t have worried. Without any doubt this is the best homebrew I have ever enjoyed. I hope it wasn't the wellington boot technique that made the difference. I guess life is made up of such idiosyncrasies though. I should call it Woodfordes Welly.

The aroma is fruity with that indefinable ‘homebrew’ essence (where does it come from? Nobody kows!). The bitterness/ sweetness is perfectly balanced. The whole beer is poised on a knife edge of perfection. Its not too gassy but the vitality of the flowers provide a crispness and lucidity (I think this is what the over- gassing of lesser ales is attempting to captivate).

The beer was bottle conditioned so there was a light yeasty residue & overtaste which is actually quite welcome. The beer has a warmth, and the alcohol content is sufficiently high (the brewers claim 4.5% on homebrew, but its 3.8% on draught). The beer is not abrasive or overpowering at all.

And so I am gloriously transported on wings of gracious corvids, back to Lincolnshire, to that crisp spring afternoon outside amongst the ancient oxygen of benevolent trees, with the ambrosia of Woodfordes Wherry chirping on my tongue.

You know when you’ve had a good homebrew because you forget youre drinking homebrew. The brewer becomes the ghost in the machine & the brew shines through. If you want to make a good homebrew, choose Woodfordes Wherry maltings.

Marks /10
9.75 (loses 0.25 for yeast sediment & overtang)

North Utsire

Nearly Thai Salmon Curry

Corker this one. Multiple elements to its preparation though but as ever, you can be flexible once you get the grock. Its not a classic Thai dish, just an idea I had, but it does come out on the Thai side. It has a smooth, warming & moistening effect & feels like a very harmonising meal. 

(about 3 Tbsp puree)
Start this first.
Cut a block of Tamarind 1” x ½” and chop it as finely as you can. Add enough boiling water to cover it & allow to stand for 30 minutes. Get on with the other prep, chopping vegetables, preparing spices, etc. After 30 minutes, press the soggy Tamarind through a sieve to separate off the liquid/ soluble fraction from the fibrous remainder. Discard the fibres, and keep the resulting puree (circa 3 Tbsp)

1 Cup Toor Dhal (oily)
400ml tin coconut milk
400 ml water
1 Onion, chopped
2 Cloves garlic, chopped

Mix the ingredients in a pan and bring to a gentle boil.
Make sure you mix the Toor lentils, they're little buggers for getting stuck to the bottom of the pan until they soften a bit. 

1Tbsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Cinnamon pwdr
½ tsp ginger pwdr
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp Himalayan rock salt
½ tsp Turmeric

Mix the powdered herbs
Add to the dhal as it cooks
2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp Peanut butter
1 Tbsp Tahini
3 tbsp Tomato Paste
1 Vegetable Stock Cube
1 bunch Coriander, chopped

Add these ingredients after 15 minutes or so when the dhal has been turned down to a simmer.
In total the dhal takes about 45 minutes on account of the Toor dhal, which needs to soften. If you want it quicker, you could use Red Lentils, or do a 50:50 for a mixed texure.
French Beans
Baby Sweetcorn
Sweet Red Peppers

Slice and prep the vegetables any which way you prefer.
500g Fresh Salmon
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut into ¾” chunks.
Bake the salmon & vegetables in an oven dish
200 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes
Final Presentation
Both the salmon & dhal should complete at roughly the same time. Combine the 2 items by laying the salmon & vegetables out & covering in dhal. Add a sprig of coriander. Serve with rice.

Serves 4-5

North Utsire