A very late spring in England!
Nature continues its course, of course.
The month began with ‘Bird Song Day’: time to get up at 03.00 in order to listen to the Dawn chorus. I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise preceded by fine bird song:
Basically, bird song has two messages: comes and have sex with me; get away from my territory. Life is simpler in the natural world; basically, humans have the same messages but disguise them with all sorts of cultural coverings. In terms of birds, the female chooses the male with the loudest song, so they are singing for all they are worth. If you listen carefully, there is a cuckoo on the background here. Makes me think of that famous piece of music by Delius – On hearing the first cuckoo in spring!
Trees in the forest also produced that lovely spring green that only lasts for a while:
Soon after, however, the clouds arrived and pretty much did not leave for the month – it turned out to be the wettest May on record!! Stormy winds even blew over hear pots near my house.
All this drove me indoors. Some more cooking experiments. A creamy, asparagus dish since that plant is now in season.
With the lockdown, some of the restaurants have tried ‘cook at home’ boxes. I ordered one to see how that would go. Quite nice, but a good example of the skills of culinary photography. Mine and their version:
Struck down by wind and rain, I also had recourse to my collection of DVDs. The basic rule is that I do not like any film after around 1974 (there are a few exceptions!!). So, one wet and windy weekend found me viewing a couple of Stanley Kubrick classics: Dr Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The first of these is a funny farce about what happens when an American General goes mad and orders the American nuclear bomb stock on the Soviet Union with no chance of recall. A brilliant account of the absurdity of the situation: like the general being obsessed with ‘precious bodily fluids’ and fluoride (Quite an interesting early version of ‘conspiracy theories’).
Peter Sellers plays four parts: one being the US President. Apparently, he improvised much of the script. A classic line, when another American General is scrapping with the Soviet ambassador, is, ‘Gentlemen, I will not have fighting in the war room’. Interesting, also, to see this film in terms of the creative process: it started out being completely different and evolved according to creative insight and necessity. Each of Kubrick’s films is unique and very different. They are all brilliant in their own way: only one – Paths of Glory – I find impossible to watch – one of the saddest films I have ever seen.
I remember when 2001 came out and, then, it seemed perfectly possible that we would be living like that at the end of the century – when of course, it is nothing like it. A very enigmatic film with a single strand running through it – much debated and misunderstood – like, what is the black monolith? Of course, Kubrick said things to send people off-course and even demanded his archive notes and outtake filming be destroyed so as not to give the game away. Actually, the key ideas are obvious. Firstly, the black monolith gives the man-apes consciousness by invoking ‘the other’ – this carries across the film. Secondly, the first thing the man-apes do with nascent intelligence is kill another. This is true of HAL as well: the onboard computer who terminates the lives of all the astronauts in suspended animation. Why? The stress of cognitive dissonance when he has to lie makes him paranoid; so, he makes a ‘rational’ decision, which is not rational – just like human beings. In this, he is ‘right’ that the computer’s mistake was due to ‘human error’ – just not one seen as such. Finally, the scene in ‘the hotel’. The key concept here is we are what we observe; we are where are attention is. In the film this is demonstrated in time and space. The broken glass is an ‘accident’ – or ‘shock’ – a sure way to get us to take notice (conscious energy). The final scene is ‘cosmic consciousness’, of course. Again, interesting to see how the film started out being something completely different, and the creativity that arose in making it the masterpiece it is came from taking out as much as adding – and paying attention to the unexpected!!
A new Eileen Agar exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. When Read and Penrose knocked on her studio door and asked her to join the 1936 first surrealist exhibition in London, she declared ‘I am not a surrealist’. They replied, ‘well, you are now!’, and she did exhibit, although she thereafter struggled to distance herself from that movement. True, her work is more than that – and endlessly inventive and interesting. It made me think about Ithell Colquhoun who I have been researching, but fared much less well – dying poor, ill and in obscurity.
IC has been appropriated by two constituencies in contemporary times: the feminist surrealists (‘recovering’ female voices) and the whole earth goddess/ esoteric groups. For me, ‘by overstating her achievement, they understand it’. Still, Agar became and remained well known and successful through her life.
Bookwise, I have been enjoying Carlo Rovelli’s account of quantum mechanics – Helgoland:
Also, the biography of the French post-modernist Jacques Derrida:
Of course, postmodernism is and always was ‘reactionary and dangerous’. A indulgent approach to using philosophy to destroy philosophy by using philosophy; thus, wanting the benefits of being both in and outside of the field by denying its socio-structural conditions of the production of the conditions of its provenance abnd production.
Music-wise, some lovely singing from Moniker Kaur who offers a range of songs from the Sikh community. As I say, some beautiful singing, although I do not always get, these days, the need to give everything a dreamy, digital wash. Would much prefer traditional instruments. It’s like I never feel enthusiastic about ‘fusion’ music – individual traditions are much too rich to be ‘watered down’ and diluted by another one, in my view.
And, then, something completely different: Godspeed you! Black Emperor. I originally bought a CD of their music on the basis of their name alone; figuring that anyone with the pretension to come up with such a title must be interesting (other favourite band titles are: Half-Man Half-Biscuit, Throbbing Gristle, and Gaye Bykers of Acid. So, so they were/ are in a full-throttle proggy sort of way. Perhaps such posture cannot be maintained and the new CD – AND STATES END – is good whilst perhaps not reaching the apogee of their style. Highly enjoyable, though.