March 2006 - Moving to WordPress
At last, I'm moving on from homemade blogging
software. The new site should be more efficient. But WordPress is a rather
large and complicated program and I have to learn it from scratch. So
the move could still take some time. Watch this space.
March 2006 - Billie Holiday, DECEMBER 1957
Holiday - Fine And Mellow
Video sent by alternativa
Lady Day with Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan,
Vic Dickenson, Roy Eldridge..
13th March 2006 - Octavio Paz
From his 1990 nobel acceptance speech
The feeling of separation is bound up with the oldest and vaguest
of my memories: the first cry, the first scare. Like every child I
built emotional bridges in the imagination to link me to the world
and to other people. I lived in a town on the outskirts of Mexico
City, in an old dilapidated house that had a jungle-like garden and
a great room full of books. First games and first lessons. The garden
soon became the centre of my world; the library, an enchanted cave.
I used to read and play with my cousins and schoolmates. There was
a fig tree, temple of vegetation, four pine trees, three ash trees,
a nightshade, a pomegranate tree, wild grass and prickly plants that
produced purple grazes. Adobe walls. Time was elastic; space was a
spinning wheel. All time, past or future, real or imaginary, was pure
presence. Space transformed itself ceaselessly. The beyond was here,
all was here: a valley, a mountain, a distant country, the neighbours'
patio. Books with pictures, especially history books, eagerly leafed
through, supplied images of deserts and jungles, palaces and hovels,
warriors and princesses, beggars and kings. We were shipwrecked with
Sindbad and with Robinson, we fought with d'Artagnan, we took Valencia
with the Cid. How I would have liked to stay forever on the Isle of
Calypso! In summer the green branches of the fig tree would sway like
the sails of a caravel or a pirate ship. High up on the mast, swept
by the wind, I could make out islands and continents, lands that vanished
as soon as they became tangible. The world was limitless yet it was
always within reach; time was a pliable substance that weaved an unbroken
When was the spell broken? Gradually rather than suddenly. It is hard
to accept being betrayed by a friend, deceived by the woman we love,
or that the idea of freedom is the mask of a tyrant. What we call
"finding out" is a slow and tricky process because we ourselves
are the accomplices of our errors and deceptions. Nevertheless, I
can remember fairly clearly an incident that was the first sign, although
it was quickly forgotten. I must have been about six when one of my
cousins who was a little older showed me a North American magazine
with a photograph of soldiers marching along a huge avenue, probably
in New York. "They've returned from the war" she said. This
handful of words disturbed me, as if they foreshadowed the end of
the world or the Second Coming of Christ. I vaguely knew that somewhere
far away a war had ended a few years earlier and that the soldiers
were marching to celebrate their victory. For me, that war had taken
place in another time, not here and now. The photo refuted me. I felt
literally dislodged from the present.
From that moment time began to fracture more and more. And there was
a plurality of spaces. The experience repeated itself more and more
frequently. Any piece of news, a harmless phrase, the headline in
a newspaper: everything proved the outside world's existence and my
own unreality. I felt that the world was splitting and that I did
not inhabit the present. My present was disintegrating: real time
was somewhere else. My time, the time of the garden, the fig tree,
the games with friends, the drowsiness among the plants at three in
the afternoon under the sun, a fig torn open (black and red like a
live coal but one that is sweet and fresh): this was a fictitious
time. In spite of what my senses told me, the time from over there,
belonging to the others, was the real one, the time of the real present.
I accepted the inevitable: I became an adult. That was how my expulsion
from the present began.
12th March 2006 - Oscar Wilde meets
We were at the West Yorkshire Playhouse
in Leeds last night to see an adaptation of Hedda Gabler by Mike
Poulton. After Poulton's work on Schiller's Don Carlos, we were
expecting something rather special, but the whole thing was a mistake.
Ibsen's script is given the title Hedda Gabler because he wanted to show
that Hedda is much more her father's daughter than she is her husband's
wife. The playwrite presents us with a woman striving to exist in freedom
and responsibility without succumbing to the compromises demanded by bourgeois
society. In short, it is a dark, serious and subtle play, which is not
to say that Ibsen doesn't make use, from time to time, of a savage humour.
But this production, inexplicably, is played almost entirely for laughs
and manages to undermine Hedda, rob the play of its power and strip it
down to meaningless melodrama.
The advance publicity describes the production as 'an accessible and fresh
new version,' so we should have known better.
March 2006 - He strikes again
Rarely is the question
asked: Is our children learning?
George W. Bush
A Hundred White Daffodils
A parcel from Graywolf Press in Saint Paul,
Minnesota today. A copy of A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane
Kenyon, with essays, interviews, the Akhmatova translations, newspaper
columns, and one poem. A taster, from The Moment of Peonies:
This year the plants exceed every expectation. Suddenly they've come
into their full adult beauty, not strapping, but statuesque - the beauty
of women, as Chekhov says, 'with plump shoulders' and with long hair held
precariously in place by a few stout pins. They are white, voluminous,
and here and there display flecks of raspberry red on the edges of their
fleshy, heavily scented petals.
These are not Protestant-work-ethic flowers. They loll about in gorgeousness;
they live for art; they believe in excess. They are not quite decent,
to tell the truth. Neighbours and strangers slow their cars to gawk.
6th March 2006 - The Academy Awards
I was going to write about the Oscar's
today, but the results were pitiful.
4th March 2006 - Syriana
I saw Syriana, the directorial
debut of Stephen Gaghan, this afternoon. Gagham wrote the screenplay for
Traffic and turned down the adaptation of The Da Vinci Code.
Clooney is always watchable and there were a couple of other notable performances,
but overall the film was too ambitious for its own good. Many scenes were
over my head and when it was finished I was still left with too many questions.
then there was this. But God will judge him.
2nd March 2006 - Goodnight, and Good
Last night we saw the stylish George Clooney
film, Goodnight, and Good Luck. together with original archive
footage from the Joseph McCarthy era and brilliant musical interludes
from Dianne Reeves and her band. The film focusses on broadcast journalist
Edward R. Murrow as he squares up to McCarthy's House Committee on
Un-American Activities. Clooney has bypassed the stereotypical Hollywood
film and given us an intelligent, cogent, and fair-minded picture of these
events while at the same time not allowing us to forget that we are living
through similar processes in the present time.
1st March 2006 - New look, 2005
catch-up news today. One of British designer, John Galliano's, creations
for Dior from his 2005 Paris show:
I wanted to blow the cobwebs away, he said. For more photographs
see the Telegraph
of a guy trying to pretend he's not one of the crowd.
February 2006 - Great Blogs, new to me
My favourite blogs at the moment are Grumpy
Old Bookman and Reader
of Depressing Books. Original, distinctive voices which might,
at any moment, say something interesting. Go check them out.
February 2006 - Annie Ryan; RIP
There is a memorial service in Hull today
for Annie Ryan, who died and was cremated in France last week. I won't
be able to make the service but Annie has been in my thoughts over the
last twenty-four hours and I want to put down a couple of words about
my memories of her. We met at the College of Commerce in Hull too long
ago to remember. Most of us were part of the advance guard of our generation
by then, already into beige and pastel colours, drawing for ourselves
a carefully concealed straight-jacket of acquired middle-class taste.
When Annie arrived on the scene she looked for all the world like the
cake at my seventh birthday party, complete with multi-coloured smarties
I realised there wasn't much time and I could easily be relegated to the
back of the queue, so at the first morning break I carefully steered her
to a corner table of the college canteen and told her, 'Annie, when you
walked into the room this morning every hormone in my body stood on end.'
She shook her head, her blond curls dancing in the shaft of sunlight coming
through the window.
She said, 'Go fuck yourself.'
I could see it would take some time before we would come to any arrangement.
And I could see that it wouldn't all be on my terms.
Rest in peace, Annie.
February 2006 - Quotations about time
Industrious races find it very troublesome to endure leisure: it was
a masterpiece of English instinct to make the Sabbath so holy and so boring
that the English began unconsciously to lust again for their work- and
week-day. Nietzsche Beyond Good & Evil
An endless, dreary sunday afternoon, an afternoon swallowing down
whole years, its every hour a year. By turns walked despairingly down
empty streets and lay quietly on the couch. Occasionally astonished by
the leaden, meaningless clouds almost uninterruptedly drifting by. ‘You
are reserved for a great Monday!’ Fine, but Sunday will never end.
February 2006 - Changed Blog URL
The address of this blog has changed to: http://www.johnbakersblog.co.uk
The old address will work for a while but sooner or later it will be phased
out in favour of the new one.
February 2006 - Reading books
is claimed that Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was the last person
to have read every book printed in English. This is probably not true,
but Coleridge was in with a chance, he might have come close.
This in spite of his lifetime addiction to opium.
February 2006 - Brokeback Willie Nelson
did you think all those saddles and boots was about?
Country singer, Willie Nelson, has released a recording of a song written
in 1981 by Lubbock-born singer-songwriter Ned Sublette: Cowboys Are
Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other. One couplet in the song reads:
When you talk to a cowboy don't treat him like he was a sister/Don't
mess with the lady that's sleepin' in each cowboy's head. There are
plans to release a video of the song which will be available on iTunes.
But it aint there yet.
Postscript: It is here.
February 2006 - Tiananmen Square Images
If you search from Google's UK or USA site you get images like the
one on the right.
If you search from Google's Chinese site you get images like the
one on the left.
Is Google an organisation we can trust?
Scott King - RIP
When James Earl Ray killed her husband in Memphis in 1968, just prior
to a planned march, Mrs. King organized the funeral, then went to Memphis
and finished the march.
One of the ways you bring about change is, you must change yourself
so that you're prepared to lead people in the direction they should go.
If your emotions are as bad as those you're fighting, even if your cause
is just, you disqualify yourself from being effective.
Coretta Scott King: 1927-2006
February 2006 - Solvitur Ambulando
Found an interesting blog by Jill
Walker in Bergen. One of her posts was about writers' block,
which reminded me of this quote from Colin Dexter:
I think that you've got to be prepared to write a load of nonsense
to start with and then you can tart it up. The business of getting going,
getting started, is enormously important, and this can be physical. Solvitur
Ambulando as the Romans used to say, which means the solution comes
February 2006 - Two Poems
By Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Jane Kenyon
Everything promised him to me:
the fading amber edge of the sky,
and the sweet dreams of Christmas,
and the wind at Easter, loud with bells,
and the red shoots
of the grapevine,
and waterfalls in the park,
and two large dragonflies
on the rusty iron fencepost.
And I could only believe
that he would be mine
as I walked along the high slopes,
the path of burning stones.
Like a white stone in a deep well
one memory lies inside me.
I cannot and will not fight against it:
it is joy and it is pain.
It seems to me that
anyone who looks into my eyes will notice it immediately,
becoming sadder and more pensive
than someone listening to a melancholy tale.
I remember how the
gods turned people
into things, not killing their consciousness.
And now, to keep those glorious sorrows alive,
you have turned into my memory of you.
From A Hundred
White Daffodils, work by Jane Kenyon, published by Graywolf Press.
February 2006 - Safeguards collapsed
In March 1987, private investigator Daniel
Morgan was brutally axed to death in the car park of a south London pub.
At an inquest in April 1988, allegations were made under oath that Daniel’s
murder was arranged and covered up with the help of serving Metropolitan
Police officers. In the weeks before his murder, Daniel had repeatedly
expressed concerns about corrupt police officers in south London. Four
police inquiries have failed to resolve this case. No one has ever stood
trial for Daniel’s murder.
Daniel Morgan’s brother Alastair describes the case:
For us, all of the constitutional safeguards have collapsed like dominoes.
The first inquiry misled the Coroner’s court. The outside inquiry
secretly changed its remit and misled the Police Complaints Authority.
The third inquiry was conducted behind our backs and the fourth was doomed
from the start. Government ministers have also been grossly misled. I
believe that the future probity of the Met rests on a public inquiry into
my brother’s murder.
For more on this, goto: http://www.justice4daniel.org/
February 2006 - Husband of the year
Some photographs from the International
Husband of the Year Awards:
Third place: Albania
Second place: Serbia
And the winner is: Ireland
to Geoff Gritten for bringing these to my attention.
February 2006 - Cartoons
of The Prophet
There is much talk about the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad which
were published in a Danish newspaper and subsequently in other publications
throughout Europe, and on the Internet. The publication has caused demonstrations
throughout the Muslim world as many people have found the cartoons offensive.
This is not surprising. One of the main tasks of a cartoon is to provoke
and offend. In the interests of free-speech I would like to assert my
right to reproduce those cartoons on this blog and at the same time decide
not to do so because of the present political and cultural context.
February 2006 - Orhan Pamuk
A Turkish court has dropped
charges against the novelist Orhan Pamuk, who was accused of insulting
the Turkish republic for writing about the genocide of Armenians in 1915.
This has been a taboo subject, and, officially, never happened, according
to the Turkish government. This means that Pamuk will not now go to jail,
as was originally thought.
Yesterday evening we saw
Clogs and The Books at The Shed in Hovingham. These
two cult groups are currently touring the UK. Go see them if you get a
chance. Don't let them get away.
January 2006 - Chinese New Year
We were at the Museum Gardens in York for
the Chinese New Year celebrations. Organisation was totally absent. They'd
built a raised stage at the top of a rise (think about it). The
was hovering around zero and lots of little kids were crying with the
cold. After waiting for forty minutes the entertainments began but nobody
could see what was happening and many people had already gone home.
Pity, could have been a nice experience for everyone.
January 2006 - Arctic
I spent a couple of hours with the Arctic Monkeys cd tonight.
Dunno why I waited so long. All kinds of influences pushing each other
around for elbow-room. There's
Hendrix in there, together with The Clash and The Jam, the Small Faces
and the Kinks. As if that wasn't enough, by the time you get around to
playing it through for the second or third time there are strains of Elvis
Costello, Steve Earl, the early Saw Doctors and the late Ian Dury. This
is a not-to-be-missed experience. Go out and buy it now. Four musicians
really getting it on and enjoying every moment. Very Sheffield.
PS. Later, in near silence, only the chugging of the computer as I rip
the cd to my hardisc, I have to reflect that the Arctic Monkeys
aren't as influenced by their contemporaries, like Coldplay or Franz Ferdinand,
as they are by Marie Lloyd, Gracie Fields, Wilfred Pickles and Michael
January 2006 - Google
Google has joined Yahoo in deciding to co-operate with the Chinese government
to prevent public access to a wide range of sensitive materials. The search-engine
will remove search-results from pornography to religious material to political
dissent. Chinese citizens seeking access to Web sites containing content
related to Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama,
the Tiananmen Square incident, opposition political parties, or a variety
of anti-Communist movements will frequently find themselves blocked. The
BBC news site is inaccessible.
Julian Pain, internet spokesman for campaign group Reporters Without
Borders, said Google's decision to "collaborate" with the
Chinese government was "a real shame".
Last year, Yahoo was accused of supplying data to China that was used
as evidence to jail a Chinese journalist for 10 years.
January 2006 - Poet
I was at the Poet to Poet event at the Friargate Theatre in York.
Impressive evening with Yang Lian and Polly Clark.
Yang Lian grew up in Beijing. He co-founded the influential literary magazine
Jintian (Today - now published in exile in Scandinavia). His
work was banned in China in 1983, and he has lived in exile since 1989,
after organising a memorial service for the dead of Tiananmen while in
New Zealand. He has now settled in London.
Polly Clark was brought up in Lancashire, Cumbria and the Borders of Scotland.
She has worked at the Edinburgh zoo and taught English in Hungary. She
has received an Eric Gregory Award for her poetry.
January 2006 - Politicians
They all have it, our modern politicians. You can see it in Tony Blair
or George Bush, but it is there with the smaller fry also, the ones who
stand on their tiptoes reaching for the branches of power. That quality,
if that is what it is, the inward conviction that had they lived in those
days when the world was being created they might have offered some valuable
January 2006 - Blonde
I know this isn't pc, but it is, on the other hand, the best
blonde joke, ever.
Oh, yes, and then there was this:
"It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the commercial
availability of the Audex Jacket Series," said Bruce Hawver,
VP and Director, Companion Products Group, Motorola, Inc. "Whether
you're an amateur (snowboard) rider or professional, this jacket equipped
with Bluetooth wireless technology will change the way you connect - on
and off the slopes."
You want the full story? Go here.
January 2006 - Mental
I know you know, but. . . .
Fluctuations in the mental health of political and military leaders
are rarely questioned by media or health specialists at the time, only
by biographers and historians years later.
from: Psychological aftermath of September 11th. Is there a 9-11 Transition?
by Dai Williams.
January 2006 - Winged
I finished the typescript of Winged with Death this morning.
When I say 'finished' it doesn't mean I've stopped working on it. I'll
continue reading and tweaking but essentially the thing is complete and
I'll begin looking for a publisher. Essentially it's a novel about time
and tango and revolution, and it's about denial and diappearances. Written
in the first person with the main actions taking place in Montevideo in
the seventies and the north of England in the present day, it is as much
concerned with different time periods in the life of an individual as
with different eras.
It is around 93,000 words and is not a crime novel.
January 2006 - Brokeback
Today I read Annie Proulx's novella, Brokeback Mountain. All
fifty-eight pages of it. I know the film version has had great reviews
but I think I'll give it a miss. The book was too good. Muscular prose
so carefully crafted you can almost smell the two cowboys, their horses
and stock, their vehicles and their passion. Must be a landmark fiction,
and film - if it is true to the novel - deconstructing, as it does, the
West that gave us the myths of John Wayne and the Marlboro Man, leaving
in its wake a couple of country gays in a cold and hostile landscape.
January 2006 - Hungarian
Made a version of Hungarian Goulash tonight. Cheap cut of beef
hacked into kid's-fist-size pieces with an equal amount of diced onion.
Good handful of chopped garlic. As much sweet paprika as I dare, then,
on second thoughts, as much again and a little more. Lemon rind, Cretan
oregano and crushed caraway seeds. Covered it with just enough water and
a little chicken stock. A few diced potatoes to help thicken up the sauce
and then left the whole caboodle sweating in a slow oven for maybe four
hours. Added a few mushrooms and miniture red capsicums to make sure it
wasn't anywhere near authentic. Served it with rice, but it would've been
better with noodles. Good, though. Jeez, wonderful.
January 2006 - Publishers
This report in The
Times Online describes what happened when the opening chapters
of two Booker Prize winning novels were submitted as typescripts to twenty
major London publishers and agents. The novels, one of them by Nobel prize-winner
VS Naipaul, were not recognised by any of the recipients. Of the twenty-one
replies, all but one of them were rejections. Read the full text by clicking
on the link.
January 2006 - Pinter's
Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize Acceptance speech is online at: http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/2005/pinter-lecture.html
and is well-worth looking up if you haven't read it. The lecture was pre-recorded
and shown in video and is available here in that original recording, which
lasts approximately 46 minutes. Entitled, Art, Truth and Politics,
the text is also available from the same site in English, Swedish, French
and German. Pinter talks about his plays and the writing process and concludes
with a dispassionate dissection of political language as employed by the
world's power elite. He reminds us of, 'the vast tapestry of lies on which