Sunday, 31 January 2010

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Diversify Your Reading

Following up from a previous post on diversifying my reading, I've also been recommended this site which collects together 'blog reviews of books by authors underrepresented in English-language publishing today.' It looks like a really good site so I thought I'd pass on the recommendation.

Another thing to recommend is a new exhibit starting at the Imperial War Museum North soon. It runs from 6th Feb to 13th June. It's called Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin. It looks really interesting.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Deforestation of Madagascar

Can anybody who reads this please follow this link to a very important article about deforestation in Madagascar. The governmental instability caused by a coup that occurred about a year ago has allowed logging take place at an unprecedented rate. Recently the new head of government (Rajoelina, who took the country by force in the coup) has legalised the export of rosewood - very old trees which form the backbone of the little remaining primary rainforest.
If you read the article and feel that you want to do something, there's a link at the end to Climate Ark, who will e-mail a protest letter from you to 79 recipients who are all implicated in the deforestation of Madagascar. You can personalise the letter if you want to, or just send a well written stock one they've created for you. It goes to 'President' Rajoelina as well as all the relevant embassies, the UN, the financiers, the protectors of the parks and so on.
It's only five minutes and it's really important.
Catcher was one of the first books I ever loved. Sadness today.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Travel by books

The Rejectionist is still crusading to bring to light the racist actions of major publishers. As part of their most recent post on the issue they put in several links to sites promoting books by and about people of colour. For some reason though, a lot of the links were aimed at YA readers so I asked for something similar that's meant for adults. One of the comments led to a really great blog - the author's 2009 wrap-up post made a map of the world and all the countries in it that she'd visited through books that year.
It's so easy to read in a very narrow vein, you want to read books similar to other ones you like and you're friends with people who have common tastes. But I'm going to be doing some more travelling by books this year and try to read outside of my norm.

Excellent photoblog

This photoblog is so incredibly mixed, I love it - it's a total view into the creator's life. It has some absolutely amazing photos. I've been hearting like crazy.


I really wish this video was sarcastic, but I'm pretty sure it's meant seriously. If the word 'iPad' was replaced all the way though with the words 'world peace', then maybe their reactions would be appropriate....though possibly not even then.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Giving away Intimacy

Go here, quickly, for Jenn Ashworth is giving away copies of her novel, A Kind of Intimacy. Hurry on down to her blog and get your own lovely free copy. I'd go too but I already have a copy (of course), and mine is signed in purple, scented ink...maybe if you ask nicely she'll do the same for you.


I've just been perusing Alphadictionary's 100 most beautiful words in English. It's a lovely list, just nice to sit and read the words aloud. What's interesting about it though, is that from just a very brief scan through I can see a couple of French words and one Italian word, and one that drops almost directly from the Greek.

That's not a bad thing at all, it's probably what makes the language so very beautiful - all those different sounds each with their own incredibly precise connotations. I'm working my way through the Paris Review Interview books at the moment (I now have volumes 1 to 4, joy of joys), and one of the recurring themes is the beauty of the English language and how wonderful a language it is to write in. Chinua Achebe was discussing his writing, and he said that he writes very particular things in his own Igbo dialect, but for most things he uses English. There are particular feelings and emotions that his particular Igbo dialect can convey, and things it can't.

What I found most difficult when learning Malagasy was its simplicity. That sounds ridiculous, but I did actually find it very hard to express myself in a language with so few words. I kept feeling as though something was missing. There's no verb 'to be', there are no plurals, and there are just genuinely very few words. The word lava means tall as well as long. Ambony and ambany are the words for up and down, but they also mean things like high and low, and top and bottom. Tsara is beautiful as well as good, ratsy is bad as well as sinful and evil. The hardest thing is that verb tense is denoted by the first letter of the verb, therefore nandeha, mandeha, and handeha are the past, present and future forms of the verb 'to go'. Verbs are learned in the present tense, but I'd try to remember a verb and all I'd know was that it started with an 'm'.

Malagasy is most closely related to a group of languages spoken in Borneo, and it has some influence from Bantu languages and Arabic, but that was a very long time ago. The most recent changes in Malagasy have been in the past couple of hundred years, with some slightly altered English and French words, but really it's stayed the same for an extensive period.

I really liked learning Malagasy, and it has a huge number of interesting compound words that made me think about the meanings of words (my favourite being masoandro, the sun, which literally translates as day-eye), but I couldn't live forever without the complexities and subtleties of English. I love words, their sounds, the shapes they make as you roll them around in your mouth, and the way they fall beautifully onto pages. Mellifluous most of all.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Black Passport

Thankyou Steve Alvarez for the link to this video. It's possibly the best book trailer in the entire world, up there as one of the best videos I've seen on the web. It's for Stanley Greene's new book Black Passport. I have to warn that it's pretty brutal and contains scenes of nudity and violence, but on the upside it's absolutely breathtaking. It's like being strapped into a chair and forced to see what the world's really like. The video is so well done that I just want to make everybody watch it, and I will look them in the eye afterwards and we will all know that we know.

PS crochet

PS for anyone like me who has always wanted but failed to crochet, Meet me at Mikes has a series of posts about how to crochet. There are so far 10 parts of the series, taking you right through from the very start to making a granny square.
This will be the very next craft thing I try, the posts look really good and I've wanted to crochet for ages. It's apparently easy, but my feeble previous attempts have all looked like a ball of yarn that's been attacked by a cat.
Try, try and try again.

Spanish flour

These are two more photos of the abandoned flour mill near Granada. The light wasn't right...a little too bright. It would have been better coming on to sunset - longer shafts of deeper light would have been beautiful. But still, the angles of the (whatever that is that's left behind) are wonderful. The buckling of the floor, the tumbling down of the ceiling beams - the place had an incredibly inspiring feeling....and also quite scary to walk around.

More awesome parents

In reponse to the beautiful girl's link to this, I give you mom style icons.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

No Wonder

This is a plug for the absolutely amazing play 'No Wonder'. Everybody should have seen it by now, but if you're unfortunate enough to have missed out, it's on at the Library Theatre this coming week (more info). It's written by Claire Urwin, it's on for just three days, get in there:

Tuesday 26th January @ 7pm
Wednesday 27th January @ 9pm
Thursday 28th January @ 7pm

0161 236 7110

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Balancing on branches

No photos for a while, so here's one from the very first day of the snow this year.
The room was full of that bright white light that the snow seems to emanate and I knew from the moment I opened my eyes that there would be snow outside. Before any wind stirred up the day, there were lines of snow balancing carefully on the branches. It was so beautiful.
Because the beautiful girl doesn't allow comments, I'm posting here my appreciation of her link by re-linking to it: My Parents Were Awesome. There's something about the photographs, the way that you know that while now the people in them have grown-up children, back then, in the image, they are people of infinite potential. They are young and sweet and funny, they are naive in the best way. The pictures are so wonderful that I've hearted many, there's just such a genuine quality and energy in them. Love love love.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Dress-up for grown-ups....lazy grown-ups

Follow this link at your peril. It's like having a doll, but cooler and way easier....and maybe more grown-up.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Bad Science and Good Photos

I read the original article in the Metro about the bad science in Ben Goldacre's latest post, the response he's blogged about is hilarious and requires no scientific knowledge to appreciate. Recommended.

Also, head over to Burn magazine for a new photo essay by Adrián Arias called Harvest of Man. It's really beautiful and interesting, and like most of the photos I've been falling for recently, it's in black and white. I think black and white can be a dangerous thing, it can often make scenes look mawkish. But it also shows off light effects much more starkly and to greater effect, as can be seen in this photo essay.

This morning I've been reading Doomed Love at the Taco Stand by Hunter S Thompson, as recommended by the wonderful blog of Max Dunbar.

Fifty Crows

Crows are everywhere with me today - I was reading the Ted Hughes Paris Review interview and he was discussing what a powerfully impressive bird it is and how it's central to many mythologies. The later, I came across a really interesting website dedicated to social change photography, it's called Fifty Crows. It has a really interesting and varied blog as well, which I'd highly recommend.

The website's not got very obvious navigation. You have to click on the photographers tab at the top and then click on the years on the left to bring out the photographer's names in little drop-down tabs.

I have to give a warning about this site though, lots of the images are difficult to look at (the Stephanie Sinclair ones especially so I found) - that's their objective, to be confrontational about socially important issues. Don't look at the site if you're feeling a bit fragile, save it until you're in the right mood to deal with it, and then try to fully take in what it shows you.

Edit: Another interesting photo-link, info on the Bang-Bang Club. See here for info on Kevin Carter, a member of the club, who killed himself because he was haunted by the things he saw while working as a photojournalist.

Friday, 15 January 2010

In spite of this

I really dislike the Guardian, but everyone else I work with seems to love it and it's in the staff room every day. I read it in spite of myself - if you put words in front of me, I will read them. Mostly, I just get enraged by the boring rubbish spewed by Charlie Brooker and Hadley Freeman, but yesterday I actually read a really interesting article.
It was written by Deborah Orr, and though it starts out very poorly, it does have several points in it that made me think. I'm posting it here as a recommendation. Link to article.

(Also, further on in the G2 yesterday was a recipe for Marmalade, which I quite fancy making this year...possibly my favourite issue of the G2 ever.)

The best thing Ive read today is a bit from The Shock of The New by Robert Hughes. It's one of my favourite books in the house, my dad's had it as long as I remember. The book is a heavy A4-ish hardback and I have pulled it off the shelf a million times to look at the pictures and read snippets. Here is the bit I read today (it's referring to this):

"The other naif whom Surrealism especially admired was not a painter but a builder who, in the obscurity of his own country garden, created what was perhaps the most elaborate, beautiful, and mysterious "unofficial" work of art made by any nineteenth-century artist. He was Ferdinand Cheval, a postman or facteur in the village of Hauterives, about forty miles from Lyon. The Facteur Cheval (as he is usually called) had done nothing remarkable for forty-three years of his life. But one day in 1879, on his delivery round, he picked up a pebble. It was a piece of the local greyish-white molasse or tufa, gnarled and lumpy, about four inches long - his "stone of escape", as he later called it. He put it in his pocket and, from then on, began first to collect more odd-looking stones, then tiles, oyster-shells, bits of glass, wire, iron, and other junk. Back in his garden, he began to lay foundations and build walls. He was, by his own account, bored with "walking forever in the same decor"....He began to take a wheelbarrow on his rounds, collecting more and more of the bizarre stones of the region, rock-collecting by night, building in the morning and evening, delivering letters by day, and sleeping very little. This routine went of for a third of a century."

Cheval inscribed this on the palace:


Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

This video (found thanks to a link on the wonderful Rejectionist) is absolutely amazing. It looks imposingly long, but is wonderful in its entirety. It's got the quality of a wonderfully inspiring article, but with the added bonus of Adichie's passionate delivery:

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story | Video on

Thursday, 14 January 2010

In awe of Alvarez

As always, I'm in awe of Steve Alvarez, who posted this image on his blog today. It's so claustrophobic but enticing, it really sucks me into that place in myself that feels trapped and lost.

Also, I've been looking at Margaret Bourke-White today, who just has every image you could have hoped to capture. She took photos of the most historically important moments of her era, she was incredible. Read a little about her here. (See here for a little more of something relevant, though not altogether flattering re her book about the Great Depression.)

My most significant quote of the day:
"Sometimes a novel can come pretty consecutively and it's rather like a journey in that you get going and the plot, such as it is, unfolds and you follow your nose. You have to decide between identical-seeming dirt roads, both of which look completely hopeless, but you nevertheless have to choose which one to follow." Martin Amis, Paris Review 146, 1998 (read in the Paris Review Interviews vol 3)

That is exactly how I feel about my writing at the moment.

I think it's interesting that so much of myself is focused on the external at the moment - I like it, maybe it's because I like to think it's growing me.

Here's a photograph of my own to compensate:

It's from the disused flour factory near Granada. The focus is off and the light isn't right - it would have been so much better at sunset, but it was just a cloudy wintry day. Still an amazing setting.

(PS I want to read the new book by Lady Antonia Fraser. I came across some letters from her when I was archiving Elaine Feinstein's stuff, she seemed like a very generous and gracious person.)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

One photo of summer, so that we don't forget

I'm going to try and alternate photography and other posts. Here's an old photograph from a wedding this summer. This tent was hidden in the corner of a lovely large garden, it was right by a little wildflower meadow. I could live there.

Burroughs stuff

Look here for Peter Ross's photos of some of Burroughs's stuff. The pictures are really interesting - Ross has isolated a few disparate and surprising things that belonged to Burroughs. I think the first shot is my favourite.
The table series on Ross's website is also really interesting.

These days I feel tired most of the time. I try so hard to energise myself and force myself to be proactive. I'm working to find things that inspire me, but it would be so much easier to fold up my books and papers and put them away as childish things. All my thoughts are taken up with that - with the worry that I am merely wasting time. I feel I ought to grow up and do something sensible......should I?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Snow (naturally)

Read the Paris Review Interviews!!

I have finally bought myself The Paris Review Interviews vol 3. Someone recommended it to me a month or two ago...I think perhaps Geoff Ryman, and I wanted to get it then. I bought two copies - one for me and one for the beautiful girl. I have been working my way through it, skipping around to interviews that seemed most interesting or necessary. It's very helpful while writing.

There are 4 volumes and I have just ordered all of the others - NEW! That's how good it is. 4 new books within a month is unheard of for me, and so it must be clear how good these interviews are.

Some of them can be read here. I shall probably quote some later, but for now, I will just push them on anyone who comes across this.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Discovering things

This looks wonderful (recommended by Stephen Alvarez), it's a social networking site for Spanish and Latin American photographers. There's such a distinctively 'other' feeling about all the photos, they're very clearly in their own world. There are so many breathtaking shots on there that I would never have come across otherwise.

I'm listening to CC right now and AD's voice and all of the beautiful pictures of this world make me feel in love with everyone and everything.

Also, thankyou to the beautiful girl for introducing me to this, it has come along at exactly the right time.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Photos I took in Spain

All of the above photos were taken at the Alhambra in Grenada on 22nd December.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Much more important


I found this

Via this

Both are wonderful, but the first one surprised and amazed me.
ps I want this.
I read this for a long time and remembered how good a blog could be.

I have nothing in particular to write about at the moment, but the beautiful girl has inspired me to write something.

Soon I will:

- Submit to this.

- Finish my novel's revised synopsis (too too much to think about right now).

- Come back to my blogs with things to say.

- Submit to this.

- Make some more felt.

- Read something with intensity, it's been a couple of weeks since I finished a book.

- Get things under control in my department at work.

- Sort out my photographs and get some on here of the old flour mill we went to near Grenada.

- Work on doubting myself less.

- Do this. It sounds bad in theory, but is something I'd like to try. (Found via LitList)