Saturday, 20 October 2012

Talent and Trauma

In the Huffington Post

What trauma and angst the poor, young KK must have endured; for an older man to be looking at her in a "pervy" way.  After all, anyone male - heterosexual or bisexual, who has ever looked at a young woman with an attractive face or figure,  must surely be branded as being perverted and disgusting.  Every man who has appreciated a woman for looking attractive is now automatically to be dubbed a sex fiend, for any woman can surely not, nay, MUST not to be looked on as attractive, sensual, and beautiful. 

I am only hope that the payment which Ms. K was paid by a British glossy magazine of such fine quality (much akin to the ones who published the photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge enjoying private moments with her husband) for the story of such harrowing abuse to have been looked at by this arch fiend in a "pervy way" will pay for the treatment she will clearly require to have had to deal with such humiliation and indignation at such a young and vulnerable age.  Such talent, such star quality, and such celebrity as Ms. K is recognized as possessing in the Fame Game surely does not deserve to have endured such a vile miscreant and his conduct especially when she is of such national importance.   Not that she could possibly be seen as relishing in dragging the name of a dead man who made many millions for charity through the mud, nor heaven forbid, perhaps using the opportunity to make a tawdry penny when her own star quality is so dim as to be almost indistinguishable.  No, of course not.  But the trauma goes deeper.  Savile also "had that look about him".  Her powers of perception stagger disbelief.  Clearly Ms. K in her youth had ability to identify criminals, especially ones so guilty of such heinous crimes as those perpetrated by the late Jimmy Savile.  Perhaps she might be better placed as an "expert witness" rather than being the once, oh so talented chanteuse she once was, whose albums and hit singles are known and appreciated by many throughout the United Kingdom and beyond.  Perhaps Ms. K and her astute, perceptive nature could be used to pinpoint such terrible criminals, including terrorists, and murderers.

A pathetic attempt to re-ignite celebrity status?!  Who on Earth could think such a thing?!  One can but hope that Girls Aloud, having newly reformed, shall be appearing on stage in a variety of fetching abayas, hijabs, burkas and veils, just in case anyone in their expansive audiences should think of looking at them 'in a pervy way'. 

καιρός

Of late, there has been rather a lot of escaping into the past for me.  By my own admission this has been, at times, rather tumultuous in nature and despite the occasional outburst of tears, it has been rather calming and soothing as well. This escapism has ranged from watching a film - My Week With Marilyn - which despite my initial reservations over watching Kenneth Branagh, an actor I find most awfully over-rated, playing a rather credible Lawrence Olivier to an excellent performance by Michelle Williams who captured some of the magic that was Marilyn Monroe, from the ridiculously ephemeral turn by Emma Watson (she of that irritating franchise that is Harry Potter) to both Judi Dench and Eddie Redmayne; fine actors who evoked the period in which they were cast.  A film which I must confess I did not expect to enjoy but found myself doing so.

Another foray has been into my own past.  Thinking and pondering over things and I readily admit, this has been the cause of much of my tears over the last couple of days.  Perhaps, as usual, too much soul searching and over analysis on my part - unable to change things yet somehow seeking to understand, digest and move forward. This isn't always easy; especially when so much of the present is undone, stressed, seemingly angst ridden and confused. My life is undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts, a change if you will.  Some of those in my life are aware of this, some are oblivious and others still remain ignorant; not wishing to know, understand, or perhaps even just turning a blind eye to all the proceedings that are going on.  I have been reflecting somewhat upon past mistakes, errors of judgment and misfortunes, as well as my own stupidity and gradually - I hope, somehow, I am turning my back on such events and their outcomes which have seemingly impinged upon my life.  In short, although at times I feel close to the edge of a metaphysical, metaphorical abyss; I don't want to fall in, and have a nervous breakdown before the age of forty.

So, this afternoon, I went to the Dulwich Picture Gallery.  Slightly outside of my usual "comfort zone" if you will, in terms of both the art and period I know and understand.  Having been dubbed both a "Renaissance man" and a "mediaevalist" in recent times (both compliments glad received); I chose to spend an afternoon in the company of artists such as Poussin, Gainsborough and Rubens.   This might seem to those who know me best as being rather a daunting undertaking, and certainly rather alien to my being to say the least.  In terms of art, despite the occasional and rather daring foray into more modern works such as Uglow, Modigliani or Klimt, I rarely step beyond the late sixteenth century.  Yet earlier, I found myself transfixed unexpectedly by the glory of some of the works which I was witness to, and despite the crowds around me - found myself largely able to shut the majority of the other spectators out and concentrate upon the glorious spectacles in their gilt frames in front of me.  For me, it was like discovering the glory and beauty of a whole new world, and something which rather ridiculously I had overlooked.  For those who have long since dismissed art they do not understand, I say to them, open your eyes and look, and your ears and listen.  For indeed, there is beauty all around.  Not to say that I am going to start listening to rap, hiphop, or dance music - nor appreciate graffiti (or 'street artists') and start to sing its praises but maybe, just maybe as I approach my forties next year, I find myself being more accepting, appreciative and open minded; lifting the blinkers and enlarging my scope and panorama.  Even at times when I feel that I am so set in my ways, I enjoy to be pleasantly surprised and discover something new.


Le Triomphe de David - by Nicolas Poussin -  in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.


At present, this seems to be a time of καιρός, hence the heading.  Rhetorically speaking, kairos is
a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.  I am not there yet, yet I feel that moment beckons and is close at hand.  I can only hope that I do not miss it, and the opportunity does not bypass me (once again?).

Friday, 28 September 2012

What lies beyond our memory's confines.

Recently, I have been discussing all sorts of everything with a close friend and we came to discussing a lost Holbein that came up for sale a few years ago in London.  The work, a painting of Thomas Wyatt the Younger, has proved contentious over the years with various scholars over the years arguing over the veracity of the picture.  Certainly, Sir Roy Strong, the leading art historian of Tudor and Jacobean portraiture considered it to be a Holbein, however, Dr. Susan Foister of the National Gallery has declined to pass comment upon the picture.  To me, a mere enthusiast with admittedly no training nor qualification in the history of art, but only saddled with an enthusiasm for mediaeval culture, literature, art and architecture have read the Weiss catalogue in which the portrait is illustrated. With this, and having read various works on Holbein, I cast my own thoughts and opinions. I too, in my humble opinion, believe this painting to be a true Holbein.  The reasons vary from my understanding of Holbein's work to an understanding of his style, technique and some of the more complex reasonings presented by professional art historians as to it's veracity.  Certainly it is atypical of his work in terms of construct, but Holbein was, in many ways, avant garde without always conforming to strict confining regimen of his day.  Surely it should be a matter of celebration to have re-discovered a work by one of the greatest artists in the 16th century in England rather than condemn it to obscurity.

Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger - a lost Holbein (?)

Currently I am reading The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly, who has captured my interest and indulged my fascination in lost works by telling his history of literature and poetry through a series of chapters named after a relevant author contemporary to the period which he is discussing.  Equally so, it will be hard for even the most hardened bibliophile to not feel his or her eyes becoming moist at the tremendous sense of loss we have endured throughout history.  Furthermore, how much of the basis of our understanding of our times, both ancient and more recent, are based upon guesswork, assumption, speculation and possibly the element of hope that exists deep within our souls - part of that very essence which makes us human.  The ecstatic sense of discovery, when a lost work of those who came and went before is rediscovered; and how, through that rediscovery, whether read or realised or even recognised, by the many or the very few, can reach out and touch our lives.  This can be in relation to a lost painting, such as one of the beauty of the Holbein above, or a lost poem by Pindar which was found torn up in the scrap heaps in Oxyrhynchus.  Such discoveries should enthrall as much as inspire us, for they are glimpses into our past which (sadly) can never be revisited in both body and soul -  only through speculation, imagination, reconstruction and an endeavour at understanding can they be, albeit tentatively, recreated.

The Thirty-Nine Steps

September 27th, 2012

I don't normally post a photograph of myself despite talking about my thoughts, ideas, impressions, opinions and dreams, but here is an exception.  Yesterday I celebrated the last birthday of my thirties before turning XL years this time next year, so I thought I would share an up to date photograph.  So here I am, on my 39th birthday, taken a stone's throw from the British Museum for those curious to see the individual behind the random ramblings that crop up on this blog at sporadic and erratic intervals here at Sermons of the Refuter, and on Echoes from the Gnosis.


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dreamscape

My mind is troubled.  Perhaps too much reflection in my rather mercurial brain at present. Finding myself engaging in much self questioning and self doubt, and this has been manifesting itself in not quite dreams, not quite nightmares, more akin to what the medieval world would have described as visions, yet mercifully these visions happen when asleep, at supposed rest, yet in this state my Unconscious is clearly emphasising how troubled my spirit is at the moment.

Below are two dream sequences from two different films.  Although the imagery is very different in each, and very different from the images in my head - both at night when I sleep, soundly but troubled at times, and during the day, there are parallels between them all.

As Poe extolled:-
 
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream? 



Sunday, 2 September 2012

Mini-Sagas

The Daily Telegraph, together with the writer Brian Aldiss, came up with the concept of the mini-saga in the 1980s.  The newspaper held various mini-saga writing competitions, none of which I entered, but I recall that one of these wonderful little compositions used to be read out on BBC Radio 4 each morning as part of the Today programme. Equally, I recall at school having to write one or two of these as part of my English classes.  For those uninitiated, a mini-saga is quite simply a short piece of writing, which contains exactly fifty words, and a title of up to fifteen words.  They can rhyme but not be poetic in nature, be amusing, be profound, be silly, be serious or be educational or be otherwise.  The only rule is the word count, half the size of a drabble, and without the confines of being a fictional narrative.

Feeling creative (and hopefully on the road to inspiration), I have tried to doodle some mini-sages of late.

*****
Strange Shadows in Empty Rooms.

Walking down the hall, whilst passing a rotund, little man, I see a skinny wretch, gangly with Modigliani-like features. Nearby a pear-shaped fellow; his neighbour apparently with no head, just legs. All familiar looking, yet unworldly, strange, grotesque.

Upon leaving this nightmare world, a sign outside reads:

“Hall of Mirrors”.

*****
Signs and Symbols

Signs and symbols, souls and shadows, archetypes and egos.  Anima and animus, Buddhism, Gnosticism, alchemy and the puer aeternus.  Unconscious / Subconscious.

A series of repressed memories mingled with lucid dreams and a quest to understand and eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

All in Jung's head, now in mine.

Transference.

*****

The Line of Beauty.

"What is Beauty, and what is Truth?" I think she was trying to say.

My mind conjured up images of enchanted splendour; from that of  Botticelli's Venus rising, to Hogarth's ogee of curving arcs.

Looking in the mirror, she turned again to enquire

"Does my bum look big in this?!"

***** 

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

Despite the various forays I have been making down Memory Lane, it somehow feels like, rather than opening old wounds (for much of what I have recalled has long since past) but rather like discovering old scars beneath fresh bruises.  I cannot deny who I am but sometimes it feels like that past was in a different or previous life to the one which, at times I struggle through, now.  Despite now being in my thirties (some would say 'late thirties' - eek), my life still seem to be, more often than not, in a state of flux and turmoil.  Twenty years ago I was at college; a rather morose, moody individual with terrible eczema on his feet  that made it difficult to walk, who would listen to R.E.M., and was reading André Gide's La porte étroite and Albert Camus' L'etranger and La peste (a vile book which no troubled teenager should be inflicted with, being SO depressing).  Ten years ago, I was more confident, yet on anti-depressants and travelling around Europe and the United States interviewing film directors and actors, actresses and technicians for a mixed bag in terms of quality European low budget horror movies dating from the 70's and 80's as well as for an abandoned book project on an Italian film director, Lucio Fulci.  I was mainly listening to Blur, The Dead Can Dance and Tibetan horns and Georgian table songs.  In terms of reading I was reading Dennis Wheatley, Italian film writers Antonio Bruschini (RIP) and Antonio Tentori, and about all sorts of esoteric matters.

And now...

Well now I am a civil servant cum writer.  No longer on the anti depressants yet not always coping especially well with life and all it chucks at me, like a child throwing mudpies at a moving target.  Quietly confident in certain areas of life, yet still rather shy.   Listening to the Tallis Scholars, Tori Amos, Bat for Lashes and Sister Marie Keyrouz.  I also do still listen to Blur, to The Dead Can Dance, Tibetan Horn and R.E.M. and more besides.  My scope of reading has magnified in terms of fact and fiction, and I read both in English and in French regularly.  Lots of history, Jungian psychology, mediaeval texts (most recently the mystery plays) and nouvelle generation fiction. 

When reading these three brief descriptions of me; it seems, from an outside view, that this person is a somewhat fickle beast, in some ways there are constants, and in others each decade has made the previous incarnation a long and distant memory and that I am still trying to form myself and my identity.  I suppose this concept of who I am would mainly arise from still having a vast lack of stability in my life, be it in the form of relationship, base, passion or consistant interest.  In certain ways, I suppose, that I want to disown my previous 'incarnation' and with the blind faith and hope that this mercurial temporment that seems to invade my being will at long last find equilibrium, stability, peace.  Ten years ago I was described in an article in the Guardian as being a 'film historian'; these days I rarely watch a DVD a month.  I see people around me who would appear to have more constants in their lives - Mike with his love for black t-shirts, horror movies and death metal bands (like Slayer and Celtic Frost), Fred with his endless passion for cinema, etc.  I suppose that I turned my back on film for many years and it was only when I met the likes of Adam and Amicus (their real names, not Jungian pseudonyms) that I started talking about these movies and the people I had met once again.  Yet, I suppose, in a certain way, I do not really desire connection with being the man who worked (jointly or otherwise) on those extras.  Mike now basks in the limelight and the glory of those days although at the time it was redominantly me who did the detective work or spoke to agents (and spoke the languages) and contacted the people.  At first, reading of Mike's subsequent life in this field used to make me feel annoyed, bitter, for all the pundits which he was recieving but ultimately I was happy for him  He is surrounded by his friends (people I generally do not feel I could truy connect with - unable as I am to enjoy death metal, wear black t-shirts, find tattoos attractive and 'awesome', and appreciative of nonsensical, sanguine horror films). 

Each time I keep hoping that someone will see me anew, and not for who I was.  Yet who I was is who I am, no matter how many masks I wear or how much change I seek to make.  I just hope that people liked and better still, loved, me for who I was then and will still want me now.  Despite the different facets I have in my everchanging, ever evolving personality.  Maybe one day, when truly happy, when there is a syzygy of the anima, the animus - within my soul will I be truly happy.  I feel I miss that connection for I have only tapped into it upon occasion.  I feel I have it when things are new, fresh, yet invariably, but not always, does it turn to disappointment, disillusionment yet I still grin and bear it.

Like minded souls apply here please.

So where am I now?  The answer is that I simply do not know.  I feel a life with rather too many regrets, and with elements of uncertainty ahead and a need for stability.  Equally so however, I see some one who enjoys learning, growing and is continually inspired.  Hopefully who also appreciates and loves beauty, talent, and is valued by those who are true friends.  Sometimes, despite the crowding up of my mind with facts, it feels like a somewhat vapid existance, bereft of emotion, connection, and true happiness.  An inner longing, a need to be appreciated, valued, understood and to be able to share that spark, as well as those passions, enthusiasms, interests on a regular basis rather than occsional flashes in the pan that lift life above the truly mundane. 

Here's hoping...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A decade ago...

I was in California.  All rather surreal in it's own way.  My first (and thus far, last) ever trip to the Sunshine state.  During this time, Mike and I covered three of the major cities (by freeway, trawling along for hours at 55 mph) listening to 'Moods' (though mostly I remember "The Return to Innocence" by Enigma), and to the soundtrack to 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' whilst mooching down the 5 highway, in a large Pontiac like affair.  The company we worked for had refused to pay for an airfare from Los Angeles and San Francisco, or San Francisco and San Diego so we had to drive to both these cities and back again, In the end Mike and I covered a wide scope of Californ I.A. in a relatively short period of time, and managed to interview a large quota of people who ended up on various DVDs.

During this time we interviewed two porn stars, one gay and one straight, viz. Jeff Stryker and Robert Kerman (aka. Robert Bolla), both of who had made attempts to appear in "legitimate" movies during the 80s in Italy and had been cast in the lead of a zombie film and cannibal movie respectively.  We met two real estate agents, who had both once been actors but now worked as real estate agents in Los Angeles:  John Steiner (who appeared in so much) and Adrienne LaRussa, a delightful New Yorker of Sicilian decent who appeared as the eponymous heroine in one of Lucio Fulci's best films, the pseudo-biographical 'Beatrice Cenci.'  Both told fantastic stories of their adventures in the Italian film industry.  We also met three people who are sadly not with us any more.  First of all there was David Hess, who for most horror fans needs no introduction as he appeared as one of the most infamous "bad guys" on screen, as Krug in Wes Craven's (future director of A Nightmare on Elm Street) Last House on the Left.  Mike and I spent a weekend in San Francisco, and managed to spend pretty much an entire weekend with David and his family, which was enlightening and great fun.  David was a cultured, interesting fellow and could wax lyrical about life and his experiences as well as archaeology and music, which showed him to be a truly fascinating person once you scratched beneath the surface.  He will be greatly missed.  We also met Candice Daly, a very pretty blonde somewhat washed up soap opera actress who had appeared alongside Jeff Stryker in the aforementioned zombie flick.  And finally we met the great Carlo Rambaldi.  Rambaldi and I conversed in Italian which was rather surreal as Mike and I were in Los Angeles and my mind was attuned to thinking in English and suddenly I was thrown into speaking Italian again.  Nonetheless, Rambaldi was an absolute delight, talking about his career, sharing his props and discussing his experiences on the various films he worked on.  Mike soared into new fits of ecstasy when he got to see the model of the alien used in Alien.  We also learned the idea behind the face of ET, got to handle some of the bats from the film "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin" which was why we were meeting Rambaldi, and saw the slightly moth eaten alien from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

We also got to meet Deran Serafian, now a successful director, and the delectable Beatrice Ring and to record a really excellent and fun audio commentary for a rather dire film called Zombie 3 which they had made in 1987 in the Philippines.  Sadly, the DVD, when finally released, was issued in two versions and the one with the audio commentary (in indistinguishable packaging from the one without) is the more difficult one to find.  But it was a wonderful afternoon spent in San Diego, and after that Beatrice and I struck up a friendship which has lasted to this day.  It was also during this time that I spoke to Margaret Lee for the very first time after exchanging email correspondence over a year, however we were not to meet on that occasion.

This wonderful adventure however was a mixed blessing.  When I departed from London, I had less than £5 left on my overdraft as the company I was working for had not paid Mike nor I in a couple of months and so, not unsurprisingly, my resources had run dry.  After a couple of days nagging the morons in New York, they finally transferred the money which we were owed from June and July into our accounts.  It was literally like squeezing blood from a stone at the best of times.  As an afterthought to this, when Mike and I asked for our money for August, once again much humming and ha-ing took place in New York, which was truly ridiculous.  The money from June and July was owed to us (and given that we had been to France in July), it seemed ridiculous that there should be such an issue with the money for August.  But, nonetheless, John was unsure whether we had worked hard enough in August to justify another payment, even though we had interviewed the lead actors for four different films in the space of eight or so days, and had an exclusive interview with Carlo Rambaldi (!!).  John's avaricious nature truly showed itself during that time, concluding with staying in a truly grotty motel "Motel 6" next to LAX airport which had a loo that boomed for twenty minutes every time someone flushed it and a leaking ceiling.

Finally, it was a time that was rather heartfelt and emotional for me.  Three weeks before I went, my father had been complaining of not being able to swallow terribly well.  On one of those mornings in Los Angeles, at 6am (owing to the time difference between California and Europe) I telephoned home for news.  My father had been diagnosed with cancer, and they had found a cancer the size of an orange inside him.  After hearing my news, and although Mike suggested we take the trip easy, I was determined that we should meet lots of people in that time. My way of dealing with this awful news was to tell everyone I/we met this in passing, to which, most everyone was very friendly, supportive, empathetic, sympathetic and understanding. 

In the end, after much treatment, my father underwent the operation the following year and to his credit, he is still alive and with us.  This might seem a somewhat bleak coda to end a reminiscence of my journey to California but it should not be seen as such.  It is to emphasize hope, for my father survived cancer, and cancer of the oesophagus as well, and is still very much with us.

'Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be Blest'
 (Alexander Pope)



Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Many Faces of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

Expressive individual, wasn't she ?!?






For those unaware, H.P. Blavatsky, Madame Blavatsky or simply, Blavatsky, was one of the more intriguing figures who surfaced in the nineteenth century.  To many her name remains unknown yet she had an influence on various creative minds and thinkers in the day.  Pious and divine matter was starting to be explained, through scientific means and no longer relegated to being dismissed as heresy.  This age of enlightenment started in the eighteenth century, populated with discoveries and theories by the likes of Newton and Ashmole; the invention of the steam engine and an Industrial revolution had swept across Europe; there was reasoning by the likes of Kant and Rousseau; and by 1850 there were two new planets in our Solar System.  After centuries of veneration of the sacred and the profane, and suppression of scientific reasoning by the Church in the name of faith; scientific reason was starting to take its foothold  once again through logic and discovery.  Religion was still important in people's lives, although to condemn its ideas and doctrines was no longer punishable by death.  For those who 'thought', and extolled unorthodox ideas which contradicted the Bible, excommunication posed no threat nor fear.  the western mind was re-opened;  However, out of this time where the significance and fear inspired through religion and devotion was on the wane; soon thereafter, a new form of superstition would surface in the Victorian mind with the birth of spiritualism, including a belief in ghosts to haunt rather than to forewarn and guide.  This period was to encourage an opening of the mind to Eastern ideas, and inspired the birth of Theosophy.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, her teachings and her ideology ('The Secret Doctrine') which fall under the collective aegis of Theosophy, have long had champions as well as detractors.  Blavatsky herself was born of noble blood in 1831 in southern Russia, the daughter of a Russian colonel and an established novelist.  Her biographies were to claim she was exceptional, but unusual child, possessing psychic powers and an inquisitive nature, the young Helena Petrovna Gan, apparently possessed psychic and spiritual abilities. Following her short-lived marriage at a young age to Nikifor Blavatsky, vice chancellor of Erevan, the young Helena Blavatsky abandoned her husband and left Russia and decided to travel, discovering Turkey, Greece and Egypt.

After encountering a guru figure or 'Teacher' in London, Blavatsky was to travel further afield and into India, Tibet, and later across the ocean to South America.  Following this exposure to different cultures, beliefs and ideas and under the guidance of the Mahatma Morya, she and two others set up the Theosophical Society.  Blavatsky defined Theosophy as being "the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims upon civilization."  She later was to write the findings of her years of research in The Secret Doctrine, as well as other works such as The Key to Theosophy, and Isis Unveiled.  Theosophy itself was to attract various followers (as well as skeptics) over the years.  Among the more celebrated of its believers were "AE" Russell, Leo Tolstoy, and George Mead (both of whom were acquainted and knew Blavatsky), and Rudolf Steiner.

What the Fouquet ?!


Staggered and flabbergasted here.  Just discovered this truly diabolical mini biopic of dire proportions on YouTube whist engaged in a vain attempt to undertake some research on an exhibition I sadly never was able to see, yet have the catalogue for, simply named "Imagining the Past in France".  Another foray and attempted flee into the Mediaeval/Renaissance world for me in a vain attempt to escape from some of the torments of the 21st century.

Back to the clip.  What on God's Earth is this?!  It has the appearance of being a trailer of sorts, featuring some truly dreadful acting and the worst usage of blue screen as yet confined to digital celluloid.  This mess hangs together in a series of disjointed, mini-vignettes with contrived, appalling dialogue and a strange cacophony of accents at play (including one who decides that we should be sounding French here, and decides to emulate Poirot in one particular scene).  And, all the more apparent, NO-ONE HERE CAN ACT !!!  The best part in this whole shoddy exercise is the inclusion of reproductions of the paintings and for which, I suppose one should be grateful that there was no attempt made by an in-house artist to re-create Fouquet's masterful works of beauty.  Watching it, almost makes The Tudors have a historical feel, and at least the latter looks splendidly opulant (despite countless historical inaccuracies and failings), whereas this is simply tawdry and cheap.  Awful, awful, AWFUL !!  If this 'historical rendition' of events was in any way, shape or form nearing a mirror of the Middle Ages, then bring on Baldassare Castiglione and the Renaissance!  Whoever directed this deserves the same fate as Hugh the younger Despenser.
The Fate of Hugh Despenser
Maybe I am being a little harsh in tone, but such punishment would certainly be in keeping and in period, and I am sure that Froissart would most heartily approve of such methods. To digress, on a tangential point, I am seeking inspiration today, so I have chucked a couple of books into the book bag (Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow and the aforementioned catalogue) and heading out. Am recently and freshly washed, scented but unshaved, with my mop of hair tied back, ready to leave, in an endevour to locate a secluded spot, surrounded by greenery if possible, and without the presence of too many people.  To note, I don't feel antisocial, I just seek the right sort of company, or none at all.  After being described yesterday as "a truly benign presence" (Thank you Mark!!); my spirit, if not my inspiration feels elevated...  Out I go, beneath a half clouded over, half cerulean blue sky, so I can read, reflect, and ruminate.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Sixteen Years Later


And definitely worth the wait!  Beautiful, captivating, enchanting...

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Fouquet and Dürer

Although on not quite the same level of admiration I place on Holbein and his works, here are two other artists I appreciate and respect for the beauty of their work.

Jean Fouquet


and Albrecht Durer

Such wonderful escapism on a rather subdued day such as this.

Destruction





For those who have crossed my path and to whom I have promised things yet not delivered upon those promises, I am truly sorry, you know who you are...

One of my traits I am guilty of, and painfully aware of my own culpability (yet do not know how to undo) is a desire to please people, friends or simply those who cross my path, and make rash, foolish promises that I cannot always live up to.  I keep telling myself to stop making such promises as, ultimately, I fear that I will just let people down and in the ultimately, they will end up abandoning me.  I have no wish for this to happen, as I have been told that I am a good person; that I am likable, personable and that I am enjoyable company.  Yet, despite such favorable attributes, at this point in my life, not many true enriching and loyal friends are to be found in my life for me to share such qualities with.  And I do not know how to change the dynamic of this status quo. Where does one meet such people to enjoy such an existence with?

Amongst the attributes I used to believe I had was and is an ability "to communicate at all levels".  I feel no longer in possession of this quality for the simple reason being that I have lost patience, confidence, and faith in myself, rather than in people. It is too easy to blame others for one's failings, where ultimately the blame rests upon your own shoulders.  This has been down to my missing opportunities, and making rash and foolish errors of judgment.  Such traits would appear to be a permanent stain on my being, my soul.  It feels rather like I am sleepwalking through life, damaged, stained, much like Lady Macbeth "What, will these hands ne'er be clean. . . All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand".  Despite my best efforts to start afresh, again and again - at this point in my life it appears that the sins of the fathers are finally catching up with me.

Does not Dionysius make it sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms? (Cicero)

If this is true, I'm screwed...

I have made many a faux-pas in trusting and counting on the people whose paths I have crossed, in some instances the friendships I have made, and the paths I chose to follow.  Recent events have included my trusting someone who ultimately stole from me, and this damaged my self worth beyond words.  Other unfortunate mistakes have been my inability to not express feelings, good and bad, when perhaps I should have done and instead played the diplomatic card.   This article you are reading, dear readers, is not written to wallow in self pity but as an apologia to those I have disappointed and let down, whether on a small scale or one of a more grand scale. I never mean to break my word, my promises, but I feel I will invariably disappoint.  This will result in my losing you as a friend for I shall never live up to what I perceive to be your lofty expectations of me.

For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be in careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17: 8-9)

However, I do not want to continue to walk life's path like some sort of Via Dolorosa, feeling a profound sense of regret at every turn.  My wish is to feel strong enough to express my yearnings, my true feelings and my desires.  Yet, owing to this inner turmoil, I feel regret, I feel remorse, I feel lonely.  I find myself meandering along this path with a sense of inner disillusionment with an unkempt mop of hair to hide behind, wandering with worn down shoes, an empty belly, a fractured heart and a soul that yearns to cry out how it feels.  I feel the need to exorcise the demons and purge the disappointment that lingers in my heart.  I am too scared to express my thoughts vocally, in an obvious manner, for fear that there will be no response to my plea.  And if I do express them, that no one will open their eyes to see, their ears to listen; and by extension open their arms to embrace, support and encourage, me.  Those true friends out there will not run from reading these words, my cry in the dark, but listen and understand.  You are needed... so much!

So, despite such inner conflict, from me, there will be no talking of love for fear of rebuttal, no expressing and sharing knowledge for fear of being mocked, despite this intrinsic need to overcome this sense of loneliness and to be loved once again...

To conclude, in the words of Swinburne:-

But half a man's days--and his days were nights,
What hearts were ours who loved him, should we pray
That night would yield him back to darkling day,
Sweet death that soothes, to life that spoils and smites?
For now, perchance, life lovelier than the light's
That shed no comfort on his weary way
Shows him what none may dream to see or say
Ere yet the soul may scale those topless heights
Where death lies dead, and triumph. Haply there
Already may his kindling eyesight find
Faces of friends--no face than his more fair--
And first among them found of all his kind
Milton, with crowns from Eden on his hair,
And eyes that meet a brother's now not blind.

Grey Matter

Why was he gazing upwards from the steps of the porch, hearing their shrill twofold cry, watching their flight? For an augury of good or evil? A phrase of Cornelius Agrippa flew through his mind and then there flew hither and thither shapeless thoughts from Swedenborg on the correspondence of birds to things of the intellect and of how the creatures of the air have their knowledge and know their times and seasons because they, unlike man, are in the order of their life and have not perverted that order by reason.

And for ages men had gazed upward as he was gazing at birds in flight. The colonnade above him made him think vaguely of an ancient temple and the ashplant on which he leaned wearily of the curved stick of an augur. A sense of fear of the unknown moved in the heart of his weariness, a fear of symbols and portents, of the hawklike man whose name he bore soaring out of his captivity on osierwoven wings, of Thoth, the god of writers, writing with a reed upon a tablet and bearing on his narrow ibis head the cusped moon. 

He smiled as he thought of the god's image for it made him think of a bottlenosed judge in a wig, putting commas into a document which he held at arm's length, and he knew that he would not have remembered the god's name but that it was like an Irish oath. It was folly. 

Thus speaks Stephen Dedalus, protagonist of Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.  It reflects and encapsulates my train of thought, my broken stream of consciousness most evenings after a long day.  It's the weekend and although my mind is buzzing and active, it still feels somehow somnambulant after thoughts, events, etc which have filled it over the five days previous.  I feel the same in the evenings, after a seven to eight hours (excluding travel time) stint in the office.  I confess to feeling terribly frustrated at myself, for I am able to research and write whilst stuck behind my government regulation type desk and uncomfortable chair, and I feel more alive as I am interacting with people once again (a welcome release from my habitual hermit like existence), yet I am unable to put electronic pen to paper and write for my other blog on a historical, artistic or otherwise subject on something factual that inspires and fascinates me.

Equally so, over the last few months, my focus has taken me to reading (mostly) fiction during my early morning and mid afternoon journeys to and from work, over and above reading fact/history and expanding my knowledge.  Instead I have been reading light-hearted fare in the shape of works such as Paul Torday’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and worse still, smut for middle aged housewives in the shape of Fifty Shades of Grey.   

I am an avid book reader.  Once in my modest (viz. small) home, there is no escaping from the rampant bibliomania that is at play.  For those who are bibliophobes or environmentalists who prefer to see books recycled or to be read off screens, be they the glorious iPad, the fiddly Kindle, or otherwise be warned.  For inscribed above my door should be the words "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" for those of you of that ilk.  Yes, books are omnipresent and prevalent, here and there, everywhere.  The one time considerable library of DVDs I possess has been packed away as I simply was not watching them and, for the most part, have not retained my interest.  The same is true for the (dwindling and diminishing) collection of movie posters (not the books on the subject however).  This chapter of my life seems to be closed but certainly not locked, as I am still willingly verbose and happy to discuss the subject, if indeed I know or can remember.  However, it is the passion for books that has remained since my youth, and long may it last! 

Generally, wherever possible, my books find themselves arranged into some sort of order (a work in progress).  That's not to say that they are arranged in some sort of improv Dewey system, nor in alphabetical order by author (admittedly one part of the fiction is), or by publisher or dimensions of the books, there is a structure to how I arrange my books, which admittedly causes considerable consternation (admittedly mingled with pleasure) whenever there is or are new additions to be made to it.  The subject matter of the non fiction books tends to follow a number of fairly consistent themes and reflect my differing interests over the course of my life thus far, and although my enthusiasms may have changed over time, I still find myself dipping back into those interests of yesterday no matter how long ago and remote they might seem.  In brief, the factual books tend to be centered around art (mostly Renaissance, both Northern and Italian); architecture (From Romanesque to Art Deco and Modern); archaeology (predominantly Ancient Egypt); history (mostly mediaeval European); psychology (Jung, Freud, et alia); religion (mostly Gnosticism, Buddhism, heresy and Early Christianity); esoterica and magic. 

The English language fiction tends to be arranged alphabetically by author and the French language by author and, to an extent, by theme.  The French language fiction used to be more prolific than the English, partly owing to a desire on my part to improve my French, partly due to finances (French paperbacks were infinitely cheaper than their English language counterparts) and partly due to various writers I sort to read generally being unavailable in English at the time.  Although I find myself reading more factually centric books, I do read fiction.  Despite my interests and passions being somewhat outré by some people's standards, I do enjoy reading popular fiction as well to keep abreast of modern 'cultcher' has to offer and not to entirely dwell in my own existence.  The same is true of my music, I do not solely immerse myself in choral music and chant, contrary to popular belief; I will equally be found listening to contemporary popular music as much as to throwbacks from the 50's, 60's, onwards - from Ella Fitzgerald to Adele, from Tori Amos to Annie Lennox, etc, etc.  Another wonderful medium which my world could not do without - music! 

This passion for reading has clearly been inherited from my parents.  Both of whom are avid readers.  However, we differ in how we treat our books and, albeit jokingly, come to frequent loggerheads as to how a book should be treated.  Yes, carrying a book will invariably incur some knocks and bumps, and the spine will incur some slight damage from the handling.  However my father seems to put the spines of the books he reads under such duress you can almost hear their cry for help.  To their credit, my parents have books like they are well read and some might say, well loved.  For me, I love my books, but that love is manifested in my looking after them to the best of my ability.  So most of my books look mostly unread, whereas they have been.  I just have looked after them. 

It seems that I have inherited certain aspects of my appreciation of my book reading from my mother.  Although she will deny it, and she has accused me of such (again, in a jokey way), we both have slight Asbergers when it comes to books.  Doubtless this will be denied, but I recall upon her discovery of Philippa Gregory a number of years back, she ordered about five copies of her books in one fell swoop.  Also, in further testimony, there are numerous copies of various books by the likes of Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, and Jo Nesbo on my parent's shelves.  Attempts have been made to indoctrinate me in the joys of these modern crime thrillers readily devoured by both my parents, but after having read a couple of Dennis Lehane novels and a few by Michael Connolly, and although well written, I find that I couldn't read these authors to the same propensity in which they do. 

In a recent conversation on the 'phone, my mother and I had one of our random conversations about all sorts of everything and not very much.  Family news, the countless number of bumble bees in the swimming pool, whether I was watching a cricket/rugby/football match (despite her awareness of my rampant sfairesphobia), and general tittle tattle.  Also, every now and then we get to talking about books and what we have been reading.  (As a quick side note, much though I am set in my ways, I do enjoy reading books and authors that people I love, respect, value suggest to me).  My mother asked if I had heard about the Fifty Shades series of books.  Other than seeing them in branches of Waterstone's, and their distinctive covers, I had no knowledge of them. Also all three of them were and are (at time of writing) at the top of the bestseller list in the UK.  My mother hasn't actually read any of these books, despite their having been recently dubbed "Mummy porn" by the press, yet she seems to know all about them.  It seems odd that these books are all best sellers, yet you never see comparatively few people reading them. However, they seem as prolific in terms of sales as the dire Harry Potter and Twilight series of books.  Anyway, with my curiosity piqued, my mother suggested I should read one of them, if not all, and to advise forthwith whether or not they were any good.



When starting Fifty Shades of Grey, I approached it with an open mind.  Much though I still find it rather unusual to say the least to see grown adults reading books clearly aimed at children, such as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (I read the first and was unimpressed) and the Twilight novels by Stephenie Meyer (no desire to read these), I express no aversion to reading books for which it might seem that the intended audience is meant to be women.  I have read some of what has been dubbed "chick lit", mainly a handful of the historical novels by the aforementioned Philippa Gregory.  I read and thoroughly enjoyed Caitlin Moran's entertaining How to be a Woman which one often finds in the "Gender Studies" or LGBT areas of bookstores.  Admittedly the latter I tend to avoid as it tends to be teaming with older gentleman giving a furtive glance in the direction of anyone under the age of forty who enters that domain, whilst thumbing through the display copies of the various Bel Ami albums on the shelves. 

I know I am not the only man to have read How to Be a Woman; if memory serves, I espied another man reading it under the rain in a bus shelter.  The shelter amusingly was juxtaposition-ed next to a stall set up by the local mosque handing out copies of The Qur'an for those seeking to be converted.  Furthermore, I have read the various books and compilations of articles by "feminist anti-feminist" Camille Paglia (another author who is of the "love her or loath her" ilk), so I like to think that I am sufficiently open minded in my reading.  Reading Fifty Shades of Grey is not going to be on the same par as reading Margery Kempe after all, is it?  In short, no.  The work reads like a slightly kinky Mills and Boon novel at best, and we aren't talking the fevered abstract eroticism of Pauline Réage's seminal yet disturbing masterpiece of SM pornography Histoire d'O.  Réage's anonymous heroine was strong despite her submission, and the reader was invited to use their imagination when conjuring up the epnoymous heroine.  Imagination is not required nor engaged when reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  The writing ability mirrors that of another best selling author, Dan Brown, in that it is simplistic, appealing to a mass audience and well, simply, not very good.

Enough of shlocky women's writing!

So, despite feeling rather weary and brow beaten in the evenings of late, I have been delving into (as opposed to reading) my books on Hermetic thought, various works by Jung and some Freud.  This might not seem out of the usual for me, but I am doing it to escape from the Olympic Games and the ensuing pandemonium that has descended upon the metropolis.  However, despite the predicted adversity and being situated in Whitehall for most of my working week, it has actually been none too bad. The threat of the crowds descending upon the beach volley ball games being played a mere stone’s throw away in Horseguard’s Parade has in fact been rather anti-climactic in nature.  The nightmare has mostly been the seemingly Herculean task of getting down Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square and getting into either the National Gallery (a favourite haunt to escape, especially the mediaeval and Renaissance galleries) or to venture into the nearby Waterstone's, after having picked up some sandwiches and fruit juice/salad in the adjacent Prêt à Manger during my lunch break.

On a quotidian basis the pavements mirror, allegorically speaking, the Augean stables.  I feel cast in the role of the Alpheus or the Peneus, determined, sloshing (yet frequently hindered along the way) through the crowd in vain, fraught attempt to get through and reach my eventual destination.  More often than not, push does truly come to shove, and a journey that would normally take five minutes ends up taking fifteen, and that is with my somewhat abrupt, somewhat uncouth attempts at times, to wade back through a crowd that always seems to be determined to be against me. Perhaps an apt metaphor on life at present!


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Holbein

Holbein has long been one of my favourite artists.  Someone has thoughtfully put his complete paintings (however, it does not include his various sketches and drawings), on Youtube for all to see.  Enjoy!

An article I wrote on the drawings and paintings of Lord and Lady Guildford can be seen here.

Two views of the Universe

Much though I love the images sent back to Earth by the Voyager probes, the Pioneers, and similar NASA probes of the planets and their moons, allowing us mere mortals on Earth to see the splendour of these other worlds, I still have a passion for old astronomical and astrological ideas, maps, and thoughts.  Below is a map of the heavens as envisioned by Robert Fludd.  It is impossible not to be drawn in, and feel that although science has furnished us with many answers, there is still much which remains unanswered.

Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet Et Minoris Metaphysica Atque Technica Historia
Fludd's model for the transformation and spiraling descent of spirit into matter, in his view of the universe as having been constructed in concentric, separate spheres, with the earth still very much in the centre.  Copernicus and Galileo be damned !!

Body and Soul

A recurrent motif that used to regularly feature as part of my dreams resurfaced from the Subconscious and back into the Conscious as I was walking down the street the other day on a pleasant balmy Saturday morning on the way to the bus stop to head into town (a frequent Saturday ritual for me).  Between my late adolescence (troubled years!) and my mid to late twenties, I found myself able, during my dreams to be able to separate my body from my soul.  This imagery and attribute still occasionally features in my dreams, however it is more of a guest appearance to one which I am habitually allowed to revisit.

The Lovecraft-esque inscription in Paura nella città dei morti viventi.

Generally, such an occurrence would take place if I was meant to be in two places at once, or i had made a promise to do one thing but had been made or encouraged to do another.  In order to do both things, I found myself able to divide myself up into two separate entities, both aesthetically identical however one of which was my body and one of which was my soul.  The body side of my ego retained all its human attributes and possessed neither special powers nor any apparent and evident differences which separated ‘me’ from any other person; except I would be bereft of most of my feelings, and was emotionally/physically numb...  I could talk and communicate but I would be subdued, removed.  “A shadow of myself” yet without a shadow, so to speak.   By contrast my soul could fly, and though I could be seen, this side to me was more like a ghost.  I was also more in touch with my feelings within my soul, and it was my soul I would end on my more emotionally charged assignments, seeing loved ones, doing tasks and duties that required feeling rather than simply automated attendance, or just my presence.   At the end of the day, body and soul would rejoin, able to share in experience and memories, and be as one again.

These dreams became less and less frequent; indeed all my dreams followed a similar fate, when my doctor put me on strong medication in an attempt to combat a severe bout of depression that plagued me during this time.  After attempt with two particular types of anti depressant, neither of which worked, my doctor placed me on Venlafaxine.  Initially he started with 75mg a day, then 150mg, and finally I was on 225mg a day to combat the deep melancholic depression that was affecting me in such a pronounced manner.   To their credit the pills certainly worked, I no longer felt such deep Depression, instead I felt a degree of neutral ambiguity to my existence, and to that of the world around me.  However, there were side effects to taking these pills, none of which really seemed to matter as I wandered through this haze like existence; these included a complete loss of sex drive, an extreme change in my metabolism and when sleeping, an infrequency in dreaming therefore my Unconscious never seemed to surface and my thought patterns were limited.

At the time however, the worst side effect was the change in metabolism.  My waist had previously been a mere 29, which admittedly was a complete nightmare for buying jeans and only Armani jeans seemed to suit my then-build and slender frame.  My waist went up and up, and finally I ended up with my waist being somewhere between 34 and 35, with a rather pronounced Akhenaten belly (for the first time ever) and a rather fat arse.  I remember the weekend I saw the light and what had happened to me, in that I was sitting on the common and it was pointed out that I had become rather podgy to say the least.  I must confess I initially dismissed this statement as it was being pointed out by someone who sees an inch of body fat as being overweight.  It was only the following day when going into central London and not being able to fit into a pair of rather nice shorts (and being told I needed size 36) that it dawned on me what had happened to me. 

Venlafaxine

So over a week I weaned myself off these pills.  Upon reflection I should have done it more gradually, but, other than the last night where I had rather vivid dreams once again, and I had the equivalent of ten nights’ sleep, I managed to do it.  I say ten night sleep, because my body clock kept on waking me up every hour, on the hour, and I would awaken, refreshed, ready for the day and then realise it was only 3am, then 4am, etc.  Since those days, I have lost a lot of weight, my waist is back to 30-31 and I have most of my sex drive back.  There have been times when I thought I might be better going back on anti-depressants over the years but I like being in touch with myself, my feelings, and I have no desire to balloon in weight once again and become rather podgy and rotund once more.

However the greatest loss is one that cannot easily be explained.  After this time I felt that at some point or another, somehow, my body had become separated from my soul and somehow the two had never quite become conjoined again and that I had lost some of my soul along the way.  Admittedly a lot has happened since then, not least failed relationships and disillusionment at myself, my path, and to an extent others, so that could have affected things in the subconscious as well.  But somehow I still feel numb, lost, disheartened, and like I have lost some of who I am and that my ka is out there in the void, trying to find its way home.

For now, I feel like the Traveller in Walter de la Mare’s The Listeners. Both in body and in soul, with my soul representative of the Traveller, knocking on the moonlit door, and the seemingly empty house, representative of my body.  The attempts to enter, or at the very least to illicit a response, but though one senses a presence, other than the sound of the bird flying out of the turret, there is nothing.  Nothing other than a sense, a feeling... I first heard this wonderful poem when I was entering my teenage years, and the words have resonated through my mind ever since.   The closing stanza of the poem is as enigmatic as the one with which it opens, leaving it’s reader none the wiser to the Traveller and the reason for his coming to the remote house.  T.S. Eliot, in his poem to Walter de la Mare, added to this sense of mystery in his words below:-

When the nocturnal traveller can arouse
No sleeper by his call; or when by chance
An empty face peers from an empty house;

By whom, and by what means, was this designed?
The whispered incarnation which allows
Free passage to the phantoms of the mind?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Hélène Martin

The same poem was later covered by Etienne Daho (who sang it, when I was at the Olympia in Paris; July 2008) and Raphaël on his live DVD.  Yet this rendition of the poem by Jean Genet as sung by Hélène Martin, remains stark, minimal and effective, even now.