Saturday, 31 December 2016

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933)

North Utsire

The Coming War on China (John Pilger, 2016)

I watched this documentary when it aired on ITV on 6th December. I had been really looking forward to it as I am a fan of John Pilger, but I must admit to being a little underwhelmed, dare I say it, on the grounds of his journalistic quality. The documentary started very well, with a broadside against the appalling US record in the Marshall Islands, but after a potted  postwar history, I felt there wasn't much evidence for what Pilger was saying, beyond the expansion of 400 military bases in the area. I know that's a crazy sounding thing to say, but as Pilger pointed out in the film, the US have been expanding their bases in every country and corner of the planet that they can, so the China situation is not unique.

Please don't get me wrong; any idiot can see America's imperialist intentions in the area, but I was looking for an expose or some incontrovertible evidence, like a CIA or administration insider ready to spill the beans, but hawkish apologist Andrew Krepinevich just farted a lot neocon hot methane, like neocons do. I was waiting and waiting to see the economic, or political case for the coming war on China, evidence of wounding cyber attacks, or some kind of paper trail like the bank statements funding a coup attempt or political uprising, diplomatic gerrymandering, trade war, or even a leadership assassination as with Cuba, but nada. Even the discussion of China's human rights record was shallow considering how much there is to go on. The thing I was most surprised about was the failure to engage the Russia question in any substantial way. It was the elephant in the room throughout the whole documentary. Having intimate trade connections and treatise, China and Russia are a combined military force to be reckoned with but this remained unaddressed. Oddly, I left the documentary feeling mildly reassured that if John Pilger armed with a ginormous wooden spoon and some formidable journalistic abilities couldn't unearth anything material, we're probably going to make it to the other side of 2017 in one piece. It comes to something when that's your grounds for optimism I know.

Anyway, Happy New Year!
North Utsire

Ikarie XB-1 (1963)

Ikarie XB-1 is a 1963 Czechoslovak science fiction film directed by Jindřich Polák. Ikarie XB-1 was a hit at the 1963 Trieste Science Fiction Film Festival and it is now widely regarded as one of the best Eastern Bloc science fiction films of the era, boasting impressive production design, above-average special effects, a strong ensemble cast and an intelligent screenplay (although much of the subtlety of the original is lost in the English-language version).

While it shows some influence from earlier American ventures such as Forbidden Planet (1956), the film was also influential in its own right — critics have noted a number of similarities between Ikarie XB-1 and Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and it is believed to have been one of the many 'space' genre films that Kubrick screened while researching 2001.

In 2005 Filmexport Home Video released a DVD of the original Czech version of the film with English subtitles. The DVD included opening credits from the US version and two scenes as a bonus material to show the differences. In 2013 UK company Second Run released a DVD of the original Czech version with English subtitles in a same transfer.The film was selected for screening as part of the Cannes Classics section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Which is how my lamo mate found out about it, bought the DVD and played the film to my sorry ass. 

North Utsire

Duchenne's Photographic Facial Experiments (1862)

Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (de Boulogne) (1806-1875) revived & developed Galvani's work in electrophysiology. This extraordinary range of activities was achieved “against the background of a troubled personal life and an often indifferent medical and scientific establishment.” His book Mecanisme de la physionomie Humaine was published in 1862. Duchenne said of his principal model, that he was an "old toothless man, with a thin face, whose features, without being absolutely ugly, approached ordinary triviality."

North Utsire

Wishbone Ash- Pilgrimage (1971)

Good album for a wintry day. Pilgrimage is the second studio album by the rock band Wishbone Ash. The album focuses more on folk and acoustic music as opposed to the blues rock sound that dominated the first album. The album also contains an instrumental jazz workout ("Vas Dis") which (apart from sounding a bit too much like Vas deferens for my comfort) reminds me a bit of early Gong, and a four-part harmony vocal track in the spirit of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young ("Valediction"). The album sold well, reaching no.14 in the UK charts, but the band would reach their creative and commercial peak with their next studio release, Argus.

1. Vas Dis 00:00
2. Pilgrim 04:45
3. Jail Bait 13:19
4. Alone 18:05
5. Lullaby 20:29
6. Valediction 23:33
7. Where Were You Tomorrow (Live) 29:53
8. Jail Bait (Live) 40:19

At the time, Wishbone Ash comprised of band members:
Bass, Vocals – Martin Turner
Drums – Steve Upton
Engineer – Martin Birch
Guitar, Vocals – Andy Powell, Ted Turner

Producer – Derek Lawrence
Engineer – Martin Birch

Recorded at the De Lane Lea Studios, London in May, 1971
"Where Were You Tomorrow" recorded live at De Montfort Hall, Leicester on June 14, 1971

Released September 1971 by Decca/MCA.

North Utsire

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Winter In America: Gil Scott Heron (1974)

Couldn't go this month without at least an oblique mention of the US election. To quote the text from the Winter In America LP sleeve:

"At the end of 360 degrees, Winter is a metaphor: a term not only used to describe the season of ice, but the period of our lives through which we are travelling. In our hearts we feel that spring is just around the corner: a spring of brotherhood and united spirits among people of color. Everyone is moving, searching. There is a restlessness within our souls that keeps us questioning, discovering and struggling against a system that will not allow us space and time for fresh expression. Western iceman have attempted to distort time. Extra months on the calendar and daylight saved what was Eastern Standard. We approach winter the most depressing period in the history of this industrial empire, with threats of oil shortages and energy crises. But we, as Black people, have been a source of endless energy, endless beauty and endless determination. I have many things to tell you about tomorrow’s love and light. We will see you in Spring."

Mam Tor to Lose Hill

Went for a solitary Derbyshire walk in October. We had an Indian Summer style month in the UK with ample sunshine. Plenty of chance for reticent walkers to get a last one in before the cold weather.

Spinach, Carrot & Kolonji Salad

This is a great salad, highly nutritious, quick to prepare and very delicious. I bastardised this recipe from one which required watercress and dandelion greens. You can of course do this, or add in something like sorrel, pea shoots or microgreens. Anything green that moves (or doesn’t) is fair game!

Carrot, grated
Spinach, bag of, washed & shredded (3-4 large handfuls)
10 Dates, cut into small pieces

Prepare the vegetables opposite & mix in a large salad bowl thoroughly.
1 cup fresh orange juice

Add the orange juice to the salad & mix.

3 Tbsp Coconut oil
1 tsp Kolonji (onion, or black) seed

Heat the oil on a medium heat.
Add the kolinji, let it fry gently until aromatic.
Add to the salad and stir

For best results, this salad should be eaten whilst the drizzle is still warm, but it fares quite well if it is stored in the refrigerator for the next day. The coconut oil solidifies and along with the kolonji and dates, makes a nice frosted coconut type effect. In such circumstances I put it on top of warm food (such as roasted vegetables) and let the coconut oil gently melt, which makes the salad texturally interesting. 

One step forward, one step back...

My final cartoon from The Book of Zen: Freedom of the Mind (Asiapac Comic Series) by Chih Chung Tsai (Illustrator), Koh Kok Kiang (Translator)

By North Utsire

The Singularity