2018: here we go…

I’m pleased to see this new year started like a car with a flat battery, requiring an early morning jump-start, begrudgingly supplied by two burly, hungover blokes in bubble jackets drawn over their PJs. I can tell when a bad year is before us: it always begins with a bang and a rush. A bad omen.

I don’t normally go in for resolutions. I’ll make only the one; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; if it is broke, don’t start it. Therefore the old year should roll seamlessly into the new. But just for fun…

I’ll keep up with art classes. I have to do these to ensure I do any art at all. I’m a tad lazy. This term I’ve enrolled on to the Life class once more, after a gap of four terms. I’m afraid I’ll be rusty but I will post my efforts, along with my thoughts.

For the previous four terms, I did Relief Printmaking, mainly linocuts, with a very inspiring tutor. She mentioned how a couple of her students on a similar course made their own presses based on an hydraulic bottle jack. This, I hope, will be my next personal project, building it mostly from scrap and recycled wood. I’ll probably have to buy the jack and the fixings.

Contemplating the press project reminded me I had sketched plans to make a zoetrope last year. It didn’t happen. I’ve been fascinated by zoetropes, and their ilk, ever since childhood when a good collection of them were on hand at the London Science Museum. They could be made to work by the public, first by crank wheels and later by a button switch connected to an electric motor. I was disappointed to find there weren’t any to be seen on a recent visit. Time moves on, interests change.

I’m considering a new bike before the Spring. I need to decide which kind. I’ve long had an all terrain bike which is fun and handy for nipping down the road. It’s an old Raleigh with a steel frame and heavy. The problem is its brakes are stuffed, and so are the rims.

Three years ago, I treated myself to a road bike, an entry level Cannondale. As I usually do more road riding than off-road, I get more miles out of it. What I didn’t realise was how scary is it racing downhill with rim brakes – and there’s no getting away from hills where I live. So, really, I ought to be considering upgrading the bike to a model with disc brakes, to give me more confidence.

There’s also a further consideration around a touring bike as an old mate has hinted at a cycling week in France. I quite fancy the idea of a road trip ever since reading Edward Thomas’ book, In Search Of Spring.

I’ve just four longish walks in my Jarrod’s Cotswold Walks book. I’ve had this since 2006 and decided to tackle them in order, 28 walks in all, and each year’s end, I’ve been disappointed at how few I’ve managed to fit in. I aim, as I have done the past three years, to complete all the walks before the end of Autumn.

Reading is another long term love which I find harder to fit in than I once did. I’m an avid reader of books but struggle to read much more than one a month, or twelve in a year. I didn’t set a personal challenge last year; the year before I read only books by women authors in an attempt to address my bias towards male authors. This year I’ll try to read more recently published books to address my bias towards classics and modern classics. I may not last the year on this one.

That’s enough. This has turned out to be a little like Miliband’s Ed Stone, a stunt by the unsuccessful UK Labour Party election campaign in 2015. I hope it isn’t like it but hey-ho if it turns out to be.

Remember, all great years rarely got started before February.

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I’ve posted before how I’m in the habit of picking films to watch on Youtube. It’s free but it’s not at all easy. Finding good ones is usually down to luck and the idiosyncratic character of niche channel subscribers. But finding a good one has its rewards as it’s rarely a mainstream film rather than something off the beaten track, something you might normally overlook if the choice was broader or if you had to pay.

The one downside is when you’ve hit pay dirt and found a certain film which carries along other similar recommendations, it only lasts a short while before you’re back to digging a little harder amongst the dross and bad copies to find more gems.

Also, I have an good interest in worldwide cinema which, for me, means having subtitles. Being an international platform, Youtube content isn’t guaranteed to have English captions, something which often brings disappointment. However, not to be deterred, I have watched some entertaining foreign language films recently.

La Moustache. French, 2005

This has to be one of the most challenging, surreal, mind twisting films I’ve ever watched.

It begins quiet normal, mundane even; a middle-class, possibly professional couple are getting ready to visit friends for dinner. The man is shaving whilst taking a bath, and the woman is coming in and out, while dressing. They’re happily conversing like any normal couple. Nearing the end of his shave, he calls out to ask whether he ought to shave off his moustache, the implication being he’s had it a long time. Unconcerned and slightly disinterested, his partner replies she might not know him without one. So, for mischief, he shaves it off and for the rest of the time they’re getting ready, he hides the deed from her.

She doesn’t notice and still doesn’t despite his prompts. Then during dinner when even the friends don’t seem to notice, he becomes offended and then thinks they must be double pranking him. When they continue to deny the existence of a moustache, he begins to get anxiety about his identity, slowly, by stages, going off the rails.

The thing is while he’s having a breakdown, the drama is ambiguous. It’s not clear whether what we see is really happening or whether we are seeing a POV reality of a mentally stressed man. The whole thing arrives at an end without a clear conclusion. What just happened? It’s the kind of film I like.

Written and directed by Emmanuel Carrère and stars Vincent Lindon and Emmanuelle Devos as the couple.

Die Wand. German, 2012

Die Wand, in English, The Wall, unusually for this male dominated medium, it casts a woman as the lone hero, in this fantasy survival drama. She’s holidaying with an older couple in the Alps. When the couple head off to the village, she stays in the house. When they don’t return, she decides to walk along the quiet road between the hills. Suddenly, inexplicably, she literally walks into an invisible barrier; she can’t get past it. Turning back, she eventually discovers she is surrounded by this wall. In desperation, she drives her car down the road at the wall but only wrecks the car, the wall remains.

Thereafter, the plot continues with her living out her life, surviving as a kind of Alpine Robinson Crusoe, keeping a journal, as Crusoe did, in the holiday house with a found milk cow and a stray dog. It’s a tough and intriguing drama.

It’s been some time since I watched this and it’s getting hazy enough for a worthwhile second viewing.

Directed by Julian Pölsler and stars Martina Gedeck as the woman. Pölsler also wrote the screenplay, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Marlen Haushofer.


A record of watchable full-length films I discovered on Youtube can be found here,

B-tube @ Pinterest

It’s an ongoing list. Unfortunately, some have since been struck off or taken down, such is the way of the internet. It will be evident by following the link. It’s possible they have been reinstated elsewhere. All have something worthwhile about them. I haven’t posted any duff ones, at least in my honest opinion. Happy hunting.

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1331. I opened my iPad at 29 minutes to 2, a purely random time, and as you know, the first thing you see when opening iPads is its digital clock. Maybe it was the palindromic nature of 13:31 which caught my imagination first and made me think it looked like a date (though it didn’t ring a bell). So, did anything happen in 1331?

The town of Cividale del Friuli, tight in the upper calf region, just below the back of the knee of the boot of modern Italy, was under siege (the first recorded case of using cannon), The Genkō War began in Japan, some shogunate tussle, apparently, probably involving armies of silk clad samurai, and someone called Ibn Battuta visited a place known as Kilwa.

In my home country, not much to report. Edward III was on the throne, 19 years and looking forward to a long reign. Meanwhile, The Butchers’ Guild were granted the rights to regulate the meat trade in the City of London. A relatively quiet year for the English, then.

Of course, something must have gone on. Supposing I had come into the world during 1331. Chances are I wouldn’t be writing. Nor reading. Being a child of the working classes, education wouldn’t have been a priority.

My mother, on leaving school, went into the rag trade so maybe she would’ve done something similar, sewing tabards or wimples. My father was a welder, a technology not known to the 14th Century. He may possibly have been a blacksmith. Had he been, it’s likely I would have followed him into that trade, instead of going to grammar school and gaining some easy social mobility in the process. Instead I would have been complacent in my ignorance of the world, shunning all learning other than how to strike a hammer, how to calm a stallion needing a shoe, how to read the colour of heated steel, at what point to quench it decisively to make a keen blade.

Yet the dreams of an internal time traveller are fantasies. Times arrow flies one way and as Alan Bennett’s History Boys, put it, “history is one fucking thing after another”. There’s no working back. No reliable trail of breadcrumbs to follow. My Dad became a welder because he had been taught metalwork in state school. Who knows what his father did? He wasn’t around when my Dad was small. I heard he ran a small hotel.

I think it was the historian, David Starkey, who defended the traditional teaching of history, of significant dates, monarchs and politicians, laws, wars, victories and executions. No doubt he’s right but it doesn’t stir the imagination of us ordinary folk as much as how folk like us might have survived those times.

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I enjoy cooking. It’s an extension of my love and appreciation of food, and a certain mindfulness of my health and what I eat. It began for me when I took it upon myself to cook my folks a paella recipe from my Mum’s Corden Bleu Cookery Course magazine collection. Talk about jumping in the deep end. I don’t know what it was like really, but they were appreciative. I must have been twelve or thirteen.

Although I had been cooking at that time in the Boy Scouts at camp. Over a camp fire and mostly involved boiling tinned beans, tinned vegetables, and potatoes, and frying sausages and eggs. The regular apogee of our culinary tasks was to bake a cake, in an old biscuit tin oven covered with earth. Needless to say, results were random and variable. I think I owe a great debt to my time as a scout.

Anyway, the point of this is should I blog about my cooking? I’m of two minds on this but yesterday I had a go at a Bobotie which turned out well, and so, while the oven’s still hot…

The Bobotie.

We ate our first Bobotie earlier this year. We were at a charity quiz evening and a South African friend had cooked a huge Bobotie for everyone to have at half-time. (Someone else had prepared a veggie alternative but I can’t remember what it was.)

Some say the Bobotie is South Africa’s national dish. It is a red meat dish, spicy, fruity, slightly sweet and its peculiarity is it’s topped with what is essentially an egg custard before baking in the oven. One good thing is that, after looking over about twelve recipes and videos, apart from the meat, custard and bread, the choice of ingredients varies as many times as there are cooks. So this was my take on the dish, it’s for two people,

The “Curry” Paste

Firstly, prepare the curry paste (some use shop bought Madras powder or paste, so you get an idea). I went the home blend route, using a pestle and mortar.

First grind up the hard ones; a pinch of caraway seeds, a pinch of coriander seeds, 2 dried juniper berries, the seeds from 3 cardamom pods.

Next grind in the medium ones, chopped; 1 medium red chilli, 2 peeled garlic cloves, 1 tsp grated ginger, some fresh coriander stalks

Finally mix in the powdered ones, a good heaped teaspoon each of; cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and a little sea salt and ground black pepper.

If it seems too dry, as mine did, add a little vegetable oil (rape seed, olive etc.) Then give it a good smell: you should get the character of the spiciness right away.

The Spicy, Fruity, Nutty Meat

Next cut the crusts off a slice of bread (I used sourdough), place it in a bowl and cover the bread with a half cup of milk, breaking the slice a little to get it all under. Leave to soak. Preheat the oven to 160 C.

Next, finely dice a large onion. Heat a large pan and melt 25g of butter, then cook the onion until soft and slightly coloured. Add your spice paste and mix in and cook through for a few minutes.

Add 250g of minced beef, breaking it down into the smallest pieces as it cooks. When it’s browned, drain and squeeze the bread slice and add the bread to the mix, breaking it up into crumbs as it cooks. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add 3-4 teaspoons of sweet chutney (I used Mango chutney), and all the fruit, nuts and carrot. Mix and cook for another 5 minutes on a lower heat.

The Baking (with Egg Custard Topping)

Transfer the mix to an oven proof dish and pat in down firm and evenly. Beat an egg and add half cup of milk (you can use the milk the bread was soaked in), whisk into a custard and carefully pour over the meat mixture. Decorate with a couple of bayleaves and pop it in the pre-heated oven, 160 C, for about 30 minutes. The topping should be slightly set and coloured.

As you see, I served it with some fragrant boiled basmati rice, simply cooked with one whole clove and three pierced cardamom pods. Also a chopped cherry tomato, radish and onion (scallion) salad (or salsa). Bon Appetite.

Ingredients for two people.

250g minced or ground meat (beef or lamb)
1 large onion, diced small
25g butter
1 slice bread
1/2 cup milk
4 tsp sweet fruit chutney
1 small grated carrot (or apple)
8 dried organic apricots, chopped
8 whole almonds, chopped
1 tbs raisins
1 large egg
2 bayleaves

1 rounded tablespoon approx. of curry paste (see above) or equivalent curry powder.

Prep. time about 20 minutes (allow more for first time)

Oven baking time, 30 minutes. Fan oven, 160 C (no higher else the custard may split)

Notes and afterthoughts; grated apple seems the popular choice in recipes but we didn’t have one so hence the carrot, which was okay but next time I’ll make sure I have an apple.

The almonds don’t feature in most recipes but our friend suggested them and they worked really well, providing occasional delightful crunchiness and nuttiness. They’re staying in.

I used a fresh chilli which while offers more fruitiness, which I like, sometimes doesn’t provide enough punch. Though this dish isn’t supposed to be full on curry hotness, maybe a little more chilli might be required.

It’s a relatively simple dish to prepare, I think I’ll enjoy cooking it regularly. It is like comfort food.

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Popcorn resurrected.

I see from my Pinterest pins that I’ve clocked up nearly 200 films since May, when I opened the account. All these had been found, randomly, on YouTube. A number of the earlier ones have been removed, which is a shame. They may be available later, or elsewhere, I don’t know. Anyway, here’s four from my more recent viewings,

Stalingrad: Dogs, Do You Want To Live Forever? (1959 German)

Well, I didn’t think Germany made films about the Third Reich as early as the 50s, – too soon? – but here is one. Neither hype nor sentimentality here though, and don’t be put off by the title; it may sound like something Tarantino would dream up, but it is actually a paraphrase of an historic quote made by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.

It’s a story of ordinary soldiering which probably happens in any war anywhere in history. A battle not just against enemy onslaughts, but in securing the basic necessities of life in dire conditions, whilst maintaining sufficient faith in your side’s cause.

An idealistic young lieutenant, Wisse, is assign as intelligence officer for the 6th Army, a unit of allied Romanians on the Eastern front of the German push into Russia. On arrival, he acknowledges that the situation isn’t good, the Russian army is stronger than reports told and on top of this, his immediate superior, Major Linkmann, chooses not to see their true plight and is stubbornly intransigent in his beliefs in the superiority of the Germans.

As the title suggests, it all culminates in the battle for Stalingrad, a messy, chaotic and forlorn affair, and, as history tells, it didn’t end well for the Germans.

Inadequate People (2011 Russian)

This fairly recent Russian film is a nice find. The central character, Vitaly, is deeply troubled by an incident in his past. His psychoanalyst encourages him to begin afresh in Moscow. There, he begins a new job working under a sexually harassing female boss. In his new apartment block, he finds his neighbours are a single mother and teenage daughter, and in the latter he sees an affinity with his own recent outlooks on life.

In true Russian spirit, though maybe that’s just stereotypical, the subject is a dark and pessimistic one, mental vulnerability. However, all the noir-realism of the story is blended wonderfully with dry, often sarcastic, wit in the film’s dialogue, in particular the lines given to Vitaly and his teenage spar, Kristina.

And with some of the more bizarre antics of the psychoanalyst and the boss, this must be Russian comedy. I really wished I understood Russian! Still, the subs are well written.

The Naked Island (1960 Japanese)

No subtitles required for this: the peculiarity of this film is that it contains no dialogue whatsoever, even though it’s the story of two working parents and their devotion to their two young sons. Instead, we watch their coming and goings; the parents always at toil, the sons at play, accompanied by the incidental sounds around them; the sea, the boats, the birds, and the occasion visceral expression of joy or pain.

The family make a tough hand-to-mouth living as sole farmers on a small island off the Japanese coast. Filmed in black and white this gives it an even greater sense of remoteness, though most of the story looks to take place in the heat. I found it captivating, and then is tragedy, disillusionment – if that is possible – and reconciliation with life. A beautifully shot film.

Le Mari de La Coiffeuse (1990 French)

I think the French take lighthearted romantic drama seriously. This is a great example of the kind, comic, mostly, ever so slightly absurd, and slightly sorrowful in the end.

It begins with a small town small boy who develops an innocent sexual infatuation with the local barber, a bosomy middle-aged woman. His feelings become so deep that he tells his family his ambition in life is to one day be the husband of a lady barber, much to the chagrin of his father.

He eventually gets his wish, in middle-age, and gets it in spades! The couple are as happy as pigs in clover. However, happiness can overwhelm those with fragile temperaments and be its own worse enemy. Or so this story would have you believe.

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those albums

Taste by Taste

The legendary Jimi Hendrix when asked in interviews, what does it feel like being the best guitarist in the world?, would say he didn’t know, the interviewer would have to ask Rory Gallagher.

I found this out quite recently though by watching Youtube. When I bought this, only my fourth or maybe fifth album purchase, Rory Gallagher was just a name to me, his current solo album, Deuce, was talked about at school. I found it in a box of secondhand records in my local record shop, its orange and black screen print style cover art caught my attention. Taste? Never heard of them. The reverse side listed the songs and the three band members. The guitarist was Rory Gallagher, it was a snip and I took it home.

It was okay but, truth be told, it wasn’t played that much: I had other favourites and I was beginning to collect albums fast, buying records, new or secondhand, and borrowing those of friends and putting them on tapes. We have to move the story on a couple of decades before I rediscovered it and found a deeper appreciation for it.

By that time, we’re big into CDs and I have a good player and a fair collection of albums across different genres. My records (vinyl if you like, though we never called them that), remained in boxes, under the stairs, all but forgotten. Then a recession hit, jobs were lost and I went on the dole. A few years before this, we’d moved into an old cottage which had a stone shed in the garden. As our cottage was heated by two wood stoves, I spent whole days in the shed chopping wood. Soon I remembered I still had my old record deck, my first amp and a couple of old speakers so I rigged them up in the shed, in an old wardrobe there to protect them from dust, and I dug out my old records. Taste by Taste became my favourite rediscovery during those months, it was punchy (plenty of upfront bass and wild drumming), punky (Gallagher’s raw sounding guitar style) and bluesy in a kind of rock and roll way. Best of all, I could hear it above the noise of the chop saw.

After five months things returned to normal: steady work, no time to chop wood, and back to the sofa and CDs. In my first week back at work, I went out and bought a CD edition of the album but it was up against stronger competition. Its context, chopping wood in a freezing cold shed, was gone. So, is it any good today?

It’s well produced. The opening chord, electric, as hard as nails, made my heart leap. The bass and drums are as I remembered, out front. Gallagher’s guitar cuts as raw as ever. If there’s one weak link in the chain, for me it’s his voice. It’s not an exemplary rock singer’s voice, nor does it possess much soulfulness. It’s a mild Irish voice.

The album could be divided into three styles: the fast and furious, punky numbers, the country-blues rock numbers, and Hail. I don’t know but to me Hail sticks out like a sore thumb, it seems incongruous, a solo performance, lyrically odd, possibly an impromptu filler. I mean, it’s not awful, it just doesn’t sit well with the other numbers. But it does suit his voice.

As do the bluesier ones, Catfish, Leaving Blues, Sugar Mama and I’m Moving On, although there is some straining in places, overall they suit his voice. Incidentally, he didn’t write any of those four, they’re all arrangements of old standards and a country song. As for the faster numbers, if it wasn’t for Richard McCracken and John Wilson, bass and drums respectively, pushing them along nicely, maybe nothing could be said about them. An interesting listen, a bit of nostalgia gratified, and back in the box it goes.

Blister On The Moon
Leaving Blues
Sugar Mama
Born On The Wrong Side Of Time
Dual Carriageway Pain
Same Old Story
I’m Moving On

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This blog hasn’t had much attention in the last couple of years but I thought it would be a pity to let it go. Early this year I began another blog which is more about me, however I hadn’t noticed the setting is “Private” until a week ago. No wonder traffic stats were low. Fortunately it gives me an option to transfer some art related posts from there across to this blog by way of giving this one a second life.

However, I’ll have to suspend the popcorn thread as I stopped the subscription to LoveFilm some time ago. Though not intentionally to preserve the thread, I have continued watching full length films by YouTube, and have saved these on a new Pinterest account under “B-tube”, so named because most of them are old and rare films. This, I have found, doesn’t make them bad and though I haven’t rated them in any way, only the order in which I’ve seen them, they are all worthwhile in some way – a few that were not, I didn’t bother to save, or really watch to their end.

Finding watchable films on YouTube isn’t straightforward though it is free. Like the proverbial London buses, none come and then three appear at once. And sometimes, due to copyright infringement mostly, they can disappear as quickly. There are times when I think I’ve reached the end yet a little patience and perseverance reveals another small batch of gems. Then it can be a bit addictive.

Maybe later I’ll post about some of the more notable ones from the collection, as I recall them.

B-tube @ Pinterest

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Qu Leilei @ Ashmolean

The Ashmolean, Oxford, isn’t my favourite gallery after today. Their display lighting is abysmal. For the first five minutes I thought there was something on my glasses. I gave them a good wipe with the little bit of cloth they put in the case but it didn’t make any discernible difference. Gloom prevailed like a permanent twilight.

Maybe the exhibits would be better lit. They were but the lights were all wrong, hideous reflections and uneven illuminance everywhere. And the space in gallery room 11, China was just inadequate for displaying the larger works of contemporary artist Qu Leilei.

What a beautiful artist he is though. I was, as they say, blown away by the life drawings. This is what I’m into and these are some of the most touching I’ve seen. The nudes range from small, simple line sketches in black ink with some colouring and some medium sized brush and ink sketches in the Chinese line style.

Then there are several huge, life size and double life size nudes in brush and ink using a more painterly style, layering dilutions of ink to build up tone and form, from light to deep shadows, the background to the figures being an intense and rich blackness.

Qu is also known for his large format studies of hands in brush and ink. There are two pieces on show here, The Future Remains In Our Own Hands, depicting a child’s hand cradled in an adult’s, and Friendship, two pairs of clasped hands, those of the artist’s wife and those of his friend, Michael Sullivan. Sullivan is also the subject of a portrait painted in the same technique (included in the brief slide show below).

The remainder of the show comprises landscape ink sketches, mixed media work, calligraphy and some pieces seemingly of a political nature as comments on Chinese militarism. In spite of the poor lighting and inadequacy of the room for displaying wall-hung art, I think this exhibition would be a joy to anyone involved in life studies, and in particular working with ink. He’s set a high bar to aspire to.

Slideshow comprises in order,
Kneeling Girl | ink on paper, 2001
Portrait of Michael Sullivan | ink on paper, 2012
Standing Nude | ink on paper, 2016
The Future Remains In Our Own Hands | ink on paper, 2014
Friendship | ink on paper, 2012
Reclining Nude (Danae) | ink on paper, 2016
Qu Leilei in his studio (photo)

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those albums

Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan

Walter Becker’s death recently had me thinking about old albums.

Some people can hang on to their musical tastes over decades. I see these grey old blokes in the crowd at Status Quo gigs in their tour t-shirts, ecstatically jumping up and down; have they not listened to anything else in those years in between youth and old age? How in love with music are they?

Since Youtube, and more lately Spotify, I’m often searching for an old song I once liked only to be dismayed how bad it sounds to me now. Really I’m talking about “rock music”, the music of my youth, guitar bands, basically, usually fronted by some screaming white vocalist. I also used to listen to “soul” but that still sounds good, so it’s just my taste for rock music that’s gone. These are just odd songs revisited; I couldn’t bring myself to listen to a whole album.

So, Walter Becker’s death had me wondering if those albums I used to love still had something to say. Naturally, I’d start with Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic, a masterpiece in its day and one which I thought of as a perfect album – an album without highs and lows, one with a kind of mood theme, and produced without an ounce of fat (no fillers).

I first heard the opening song, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number at school in “Christmas Entertainments” (this was a comedy sketch and music show put on every year by the entertainments society or stage club or theatre incorporated or whatever they were called). I think the band was called Double Diamond, which was the name of a crap beer, the kind that was anathema to the campaign for real ale. If I’m right, then I’m sure the lead guitarist was a teacher and the other four members were pupils (one of which has made a successful career as a professional pop musician).

The people who invented Google hadn’t even been born, so I don’t know how easy it was to track the song down then. I may have been told it was Steely Dan’s by someone in the know, or I may have heard the original on the radio sometime after. Then it was a matter of hot-footing it to the record shop and seeing which album it was on. I bought Pretzel Logic on the strength of that one song.

How to describe the album? It was unusual compared to most rock albums of the time that I don’t know if it is rock by rights. The songs seem more intellectual than most though the lyrics are somewhat obscure. I’ve heard them described as musical short-stories, each song, compact by that day’s standards, features its own protagonist, often if not entirely in the noir genre of storytelling: shady characters, down-and-outs, dealers, misfits and crooks. It’s distanced further from standard rock fare by its hints of jazz influences – Charlie Parker, Horace Silver and, of course, Duke Ellington’s East St. Louis Toodle-oo. There’s also occasional funkiness and use of horns.

It had to be at least twenty years since I last listened to Pretzel Logic from beginning to end. I think it remains a good album; timeless, as they say. And to me it’s still one of my “perfect albums”, consistently good without highs or lows.

Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number
Night By Night
Any Major Dude Will Tell You
East St. Louis Toodle-oo
Parker’s Band
Through With Buzz
Pretzel Logic
With A Gun
Charlie Freak
Monkey In My Soul

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Finding Out & Angus McBride

On Finding Out.

I found out this week that scientists – always that universal collective of scientists, as if they all live in one big laboratory – discovered our brain simultaneously constructs two memories, one short term and one long term, in separate parts of the brain. They don’t say whether these are identical memories of an event, and I’m not sure whether one is more or less detailed than the other. Anyway, I believe they experimented with mice and extrapolated to human brains.

Presumably, short term memories get erased? And are long term memories less reliable; maybe they get revised, embellished, refined, as life brings new experiences and knowledge?

My grandad bought me the weekly magazine Finding Out “The modern magazine for young people everywhere”. Characteristically this is something he always did for me, and, I think, for himself. After Finding Out, we collected Knowledge, Everyman, and a monthly publication on Birds of the world. Eventually Mum, in characteristical form, would decide unilaterally to chuck them all away just to clear space. You don’t know what you got til it’s gone, as Joni Mitchell sang. Initial anger and disappointment gives way to a sense of my own stupidity in taking things too much for granted.

Finding Out had a broad scope but mainly covered knowledge of a transient nature, namely science, technology, and history; it is probably mostly out of date now. It would be great to browse through a few editions though, simply for nostalgia and curiosity.

There are several things in this magazine which stayed with me: the implausible artists’ impressions of the skylines of other planets (like some interplanetary holiday brochure); the origins of common surnames; the hazardous chemistry experiments (like manufacturing lead oxide by burning roof flashing with a parrafin blow-lamp); legendary beasts; and the signature illustrations (no photographs) which characterised the publication.

Angus McBride was one prominent illustrator on the magazine. His series of “beasts” had made a lasting impression on me (though I wasn’t aware of who the artist was until today). The back page of each edition was dedicated to one beast, a full page detailed illustration accompanied with a description of the beast and its cultural placement. I loved these artistic illustrations and was fascinated by the mythology.

I don’t remember how it came about but I spoke to my primary teacher about these and she suggested I bring them in for subjects for an art lesson. After a little discussion, each of us chose a beast to paint that afternoon. I chose the Maero and my artistic rival – whose name, I think, was Justin – chose the Hippocampi (featuring Neptune). He found the sea waves difficult and ended up attempting what I now realise to be a sort of impressionist representation of their movement, and becoming slightly overworked. The impromptu classroom jury was unaminous and cruel, and he lost his crown on that occasion, something I quietly revelled in. But profoundly I knew he was the better artist for trying and experimenting. I know he left the school before the rest of us did; no doubt his family moved around. I wonder what became of him, whether unlike me, he persued art further and possibly took it up professionally.

Here are some of those McBride beasts I remember clearly and fondly,

Finding Out wiki
Angus McBride (1931-2007)
Full list of beasts with illustrations

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