Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Beggars' Banquet - Bunuel's Viridiana

An exquisite film in rather archaic style that squeezes every last drop of absurdity from the phial of good intentions. Winner of the Palme d'Or in 1961 it was banned from Spain until after Franco's death. 
Of the film Bunuel said "I didn’t deliberately set out to be blasphemous, but then Pope John XXIII is a better judge of such things than I am.”

In his essay Viridiana: The Human Comedy, Michael Wood writes:
But the blasphemy is not against Christ and the Father. It is against the belief in progress — or at least the conventional sense of it — whether in the form of Jorge’s plans for improving the estate or of Viridiana’s project for improving the beggars’ lives. The beggars are not evil or the dark side of virtue. They are the unruliness of life itself, a reminder that pleasure and curiosity and appetite can always turn to destruction and violence. This is not an argument against pleasure and curiosity and appetite, or an appeal for law and order. It is a picture of a society that doesn’t understand its own needs. Buñuel’s skepticism and his sense of outrage concern the smallness of our vision of progress, our narrow attempts to achieve it through rational or moralistic planning, and our anxious disregard of the disruptive forces without which no society would be human.

The destruction of the feast to a soundtrack of Handel's Messiah is divine.

Monday, 16 December 2013

The 'fake' says it all

From: Slavoj Zizek in The Guardian, 16.12.13

"There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation," he said. "I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry. It's the situation I found myself in." 

Jantjie's performance was not meaningless – precisely because it delivered no particular meaning (the gestures were meaningless), it directly rendered meaning as such – the pretence of meaning. 

And was this also not the truth about the whole of the Mandela memorial ceremony? All the crocodile tears of the dignitaries were a self-congratulatory exercise, and Jangtjie translated them into what they effectively were: nonsense. What the world leaders were celebrating was the successful postponement of the true crisis which will explode when poor, black South Africans effectively become a collective political agent. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Bison 1886

Forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and

Alice in flames 1903

Cecil Milton Hepworth's Alice in Wonderland, made in 1903.

110 years of corruption.

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.

Music from The Devil's Stare by Fabio Nappodano.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Heap of Broken Images

A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Walter Benjamin, Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History
I always go back to old wars and talk to old soldiers. I go back to Northern Ireland, to Bosnia, to Serbia, to Algeria and southern Lebanon and Kuwait, to post-invasion Baghdad. I am trying I suppose, to make sense of what I have witnessed, to place it in a context that did not exist for me when I was trying to stay alive, to talk to those with whom - however briefly - I shared these nightmares. I am looking, I think, for the kaleidoscope to stop turning, to see the loose flakes of memory reflected in some final, irremediable pattern. So that is what it was about! Sometimes as I write ... I hear the pieces of glass moving in the kaleidoscope, like the sound of the hard drive in my laptop... searching for applications and programs, ticking towards a conclusion, a clear screen with an undisputed memory.
John Pilger, The Great War for Civilisation


Wednesday, 27 March 2013


 The growing rhythym of the rotor blades has a comforting effect, the gathering din slowly dampening the sound of the war. The crash of the artillery becomes a dull thimp, the wind shears away from the blades, the first nudge off the ground and the sudden rise above the sand and it is the most normal thing in the world. We are immortal. Our helicopter moves round, faces east, then west then east again and then turns at 180 degrees to the ground, levels off and streaks between the artillery. And as we pass through the gun line - our door remains wide open because of the heat - there is a crack-crack-crack of sound and long pink tulips of fire grow out of the gun muzzles, a barrage as beautiful as it is awesome.. One of these big flowers moves ineorably past the starboard side of our chopper and for a moment I think I feel its heat. It hangs for a moment in the air, this magnificent blossom, until we overtake it and a line of palms curls beneath us and then the Shatt al-Arab, so close that the skids of the chopper are only a foot off the water.


I sit up and squint out of the pilots window. I can see a smudge on the horizon, a black rime across the paleness of the river and a series of broken needles that stand out on the far shoreline. The water is travelling below us at more than a hundred miles an hour. We are the fastest water-skiers in the world, the rotors biting through the heat, sweeping across this great expanse of river; we are safe in our coccoon, angels who can never fall from heaven, who can only marvel and try to remember that we are only human. We fly through the smoke of two burning oil tanks and then Labelle bangs me on the foot with his fist and points to a mountain of mud and filth that the helicopter is now circling and onto which it gingerly, almost carelessly sets down. 'Go, go, go!' the pilot shouts and we jump out into the great wet mass of shell-churned liquid clay that tears of our shoes when we try to move and which sucks at our feet and prevents us even moving clear of the blades when the chopper whups back into the air and leaves us in a noisy kind of silence, Labelle and I trying to hold our trousers up, the mullah's robes caked with muck and then, as the chopper turns fly-like in the sky, we feel the ground shaking...

'War against war' And The Fast Train To Paradise,
from The Great War For Civilisation by John Pilger

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


One morning in late autumn, while the grass is still strewn with last night’s tears, or perhaps in March as the grey afternoon freezes to a close, we will hear the click of the lock in the door as Abraham leaves for the final time.
And the radio will still be on, soft and black, churning its hurly-burly into the empty air and a shallow light may drift across the table. The doors will ease themselves on their hinges and the walls settle a little further into the clay and we will rise slowly, unconscious of the geometry in our knees, hearing only the words stitched firmly to our lips and approach the quiet drawer. And with fingers weak as wax we will slide it open stiffly to discover that the knife is no longer there.
In the unquiet depths the phantom slides from action to unction its myriad fibres trembling in the blackness unseen. The phosphor glow that warms its lightless eyes slips past, irrelevant, towards a further darkness in which to prey. Infinitely brief, its cellular perfection grapples with the saline dust calling all to prayer and the final transformation.
And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth. And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years; and he begat sons and daughters. And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

All the lights and radios

Sometimes it seems to me that even my physical sensibilities have coagulated and stiffened within me like resin. In contrast to years gone by, when I observed the world with wide-open, astonished eys, and walked along every street alert, like a young man on a parapet, I can now push through the liveliest crowd with total indifference and rub against hot female bodies without the slightest emotion, even though the girls may try to seduce me with the bareness of their knees and their oiled, intricately coiffed hair. Through half-open eyes I see with satisfaction that once again a gust of the cosmic gale has blown the crowd into the air, all the way up to the treetops, sucked the human bodies into a huge whirlpool, twisted their lips open in terror, mingled the children's rosy cheeks with the hairy chests of men, entwined the clenched fists with strips of women's dresses, thrown snow-white thighs on top, like foam, with hats and fragments of heads tangled in hair-like seaweed peeping from below. And I see that this wierd snarl, this gigantic stew concocted out of the human crowd, flows along the street, down the gutter, and seeps into space with a loud gurgle, like water into a sewer...

When, after a day of scorching heat, of dust and petrol fumes, a refreshing dusk falls at last, transforming the tubercular ruins into a deceptively innocent stage set fading against a darkening sky, I walk under the newly erected street lights back to my apartment which smells of fresh paint and which I bought from an agent for an exorbitant sum, not registered with any rent commission. I settle down by the window, rest my head on my palms and, lulled by the sound of the dishes which my wife is washing in the kitchen alcove, I stare at the windows of the house across the way, where the lights and the radios are being turned off one by one.

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Tadeusz Borowski 1959

The crash

The wreckage lay there for seven months before it was removed. Of the pilot who came to grief that afternoon in late July nothing remained save a single glove, swamped in the ditch that smelled only of rotting canvas and the nests of mice.