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Oct 16

HAUNTOGRAPHY: Casting the Runes

FT4 comments • 293 views

Exhumed again, the ‘hauntography’ series, exploring the stories of M.R.James one by one! Read the original story, or read more about the series.

black_easter“All magic — I repeat, ALL magic, with no exceptions whatsoever — depends on the control of demons. By demons, I mean specifically fallen angels. No lesser class can do a thing for you. Now, I know one such whose earthly form includes a long tongue. You may find the notion comic.”
“Not exactly.”
“Let that pass for now. In any event, this is also a great Prince and President, whose apparition would cost me three days of work and two weeks of subsequent exhaustion. Shall I call him to lick stamps for me?”
— James Blish, Black Easter or Faust Aleph-Null (pub.Faber & Faber 1968, p.25-26 Penguin Edn, 1972)

A man discovers that recent deeds have created for him a fierce and a bitter enemy. Sinister events unfold and it becomes clear a fatal spell has been cast. If it is not lifted, the man will die, rather horribly. In the event, friends are able to help, forestalling the danger and defeating the terrible foe. Victory is theirs — but at cost of their best opinions of themselves. No longer can they quite self-describe as decent, rational, civilised, ‘modern’. They have become what they fought.

More Ghost Stories, the collection containing M.R.James’s ‘Casting the Runes’ was published in 1911; Life’s Handicap, the collection containing Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Mark of the Beast’, was published in 1891. The short summary in the paragraph above accurately describes both stories.

Jul 16


FT2 comments • 115 views

UPDATE: the book is funded, so thanks everyone that helped. It is due for delivery in a little over a year. I will keep people up to speed on developments via the kickstarter page, which has a blog.

EXACTLY two hours left as I post, and it suddenly seems extremely doable so nothing cryptic for once :)

Gorgeous cover and illustrations by SAVAGE PENCIL, discussions and essays by Val Wilmer, Richard Williams, Mark Williams, David Toop, Tony Stewart, Bob Stanley, Charles Shaar Murray, Jon Savage, Cynthia Rose, Edwin Pouncey, Penny Reel, Liz Naylor, Mark Pringle, Tony Palmer, Paul Morley, John (aka Jonh) Ingham, Barney Hoskyns, Jonathon Green, Beverly Glick (aka Betty Page), Simon Frith and Nigel Fountain, and others (including me!!)


Jun 16

ROCKWRITE UK UPDATE: the kickstarter for the book of the conference IS NOW LIVE

FTPost a comment • 111 views

So last May, as some FT readers will recall, I ran a conference at Birkbeck about the politics of UK music-writing from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, its roots and discontents, its early evolution and its latent potential, as I put it here back then. The plan all along was to gather extracts of the (extremely interesting) panels into a book, add in some essays from participants (and others) and publish it.

To that end, I present the kickstarter for A HIDDEN LANDSCAPE ONCE A WEEK: how UK music-writing became a space for unruly curiosity, in the words of those who made it happen, an anthology companion to the conference featuring conversations and essays that unearth the many surprising worlds explored by the UK music-press from the 1960s-80s. Click through for further details, little explanatory films and so on.


Contributors (panelists and essayists) will include:
Val Wilmer, Richard Williams, Mark Williams, David Toop, Tony Stewart, Bob Stanley, Charles Shaar Murray, Jon Savage, Cynthia Rose, Edwin Pouncey, Penny Reel, Liz Naylor, Mark Pringle, Tony Palmer, Paul Morley, John (aka Jonh) Ingham, Barney Hoskyns, Jonathon Green, Beverly Glick (aka Betty Page), Simon Frith and Nigel Fountain. The illustrations will be by the legendary SAVAGE PENCIL (see left for cover mock-up).

I think this is a strong and interesting project, giving voice to people in this history who’ve been lost from view as well as better-known names, exploring ideals and describing day-to-day practicalities — so click through, read, pledge if you like what you see, and (above all) pass it on to friends who you think will be interested.

Dec 15

hullo clouds hullo sky — but answer came there none

FT3 comments • 310 views

lyndon1Some time during my father’s last summer, I sat with him in his garden. It was late afternoon: the sun, bright and warm but no longer overhead, was hitting the tree-tops at an angle which etched every leaf sharply against its own shadow. You felt if you gazed clear-mindedly you could see and even remember every one of the thousands of leaves visible. I asked him how old the trees were — the copper beech, the oak across the road, the tall fir near my sister’s old bedroom which we always feared would topple in the wrong big wind and smash into the house.

Dec 15

Note on vanishing comments

FT2 comments • 97 views

Our spam filter is being weird — it is basically holding EVERYTHING “pending moderation” (which I think means we have to go through it manually). I’ve just gone back over this evening and rescued everything I spotted (that’s about an hour’s work), but I’m afraid it’s easy to miss stuff in the torrent of weird garbage (tellytubbies p0rn, bots that ask you to write their essays from them, golfing spam and so on) so apologies if I missed yours.

Plus it only seems to holding the last 7,000 attempted comments, which (to give you an idea) only takes us back to 27 November, i.e. five days ago. So I imagine anything posted before then that didn’t display is lost forever (or anyway needs to be reposted).

Normal service will be resumed when we work out why the spam filter is misbehaving.

Nov 15

revisiting spectreville

FT1 comment • 198 views

A READER REPORT on Diamonds Are Forever:
(this rereading follows up on this post)
orok1: Sentence on sentence DaF is indeed well written, though weirdly paced. In fact, there’s no significant action — violent or indeed sexy — until you’re a lot more than halfway in, and it’s almost over by the time it arrives. The lair-destruction is concentrated into just three consecutive chapters (though there’s a certain of aftermath threat — plus a tidy-up coda after the aftermath). Intriguing that the name Spectre turns up so soon (Spectreville is the name of Seraffimo Spang’s pasteboard Old West hobby-set).

2: anyway the strange pacing is because primarily VERY LARGE CHUNKS of the book are given over to description and/or exposition (= felix leiter’s primary role): mini-studies of the diamond trade, of how US horse races are fixed, of how casinos are fixed, of the history of gangsterism in the US. A somewhat deracinated history, to be sure — Bond arrives in the US with a dismissive contempt for US gangster, who are just (in his opinion) “greaseball” hoodlums.

Nov 15

thanks for the “M”-ories

FT15 comments • 431 views

diamondsI read the Bond books aged roughly 10-14, starting with Diamonds are Forever, which was the only one in my parents’ house. This was also the first film I saw — birthday outing, my 11th birthday: three schoolfriends and me plus mum, who lied brazenly to the ticket-taker about our ages (she was an excellent and useful liar). I definitely remember discussing Felix Leiter with Dad. who seemed to enjoy the fact that this was a character who appeared in several books, and had a hook for a hand (also for a foot, presumably, but this wasn’t mentioned). Between them, they helped me source several more: some from Ian, an old work colleague of dad’s based in Devon (our family staying with his family for a working summer, as dad was lecturing at slapton field centre); and another from another family friend, Joan Tate, who i wrote about here a while back. Ian I remember throwing open a great cupboard full of books, stacked three deep on makeshift shelves, a fact I found amazing

May 15

Rockwrite UK: its roots and discontents, its early evolution and its latent potential

FT11 comments • 687 views

ozFT readers who are interested in writing about music and the specifics of its history in the UK, I have organised a treat for you (if you live in or near London, or happen to be visiting in precisely two weeks time = May 15-16 2015). It is THIS: a conference called UNDERGROUND/OVERGROUND: The Changing Politics of UK Music-Writing: 1968-85, and it is happening here: Birkbeck University of London, London WC1E 7HX (see below for details). I’m delighted (and in fact flattered) that a line-up of very interesting names and speakers (also see below) have agreed to sit on panels discussing a variety of things, from who exactly the constituency for the rock papers was in the 70s and early 80s, to how the hell did the countercultural voice get to cross from the underground press of the late 60s into what were at least ostensibly the trade papers of the leisure industry (viz Melody Maker, NME, Sounds, Record Mirror et al); to (finally) what can all this mean for us today, three decades on?

I am extremely excited! And nervous! And worried no one will turn up — or too many people will turn up, or there will be a fight, or everyone will agree with everyone else and it will be boring, or [insert OTHER things that could go wrong] [but don’t tell me what they are!]

Feb 15

KIND OF BLEUGH, or seven better stand-alone ways into jazz in the early age of the long-playing disc (possibly)

FT39 comments • 2,841 views

(Hoisted from comments on Tom’s thread re-exploring LP-listening in the age of the no-longer moored individual song)

So Tom had put Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis on his list, and in response the thread had discussed the mechanics of politics of tokenism: some idea how and why SoS so often ends up as a rock or pop listener’s one trusty jazz LP, and some suggestions as to better candidates. Inevitably, I ended up getting pre-emptively grumpy about Miles’s Kind of Blue, and was called on this. What’s my actual beef with KoB? And, given this beef, where I would I suggest starting? These were my semi-mulled thoughts, tidied up, with extras added, and responses to responses further down…)

Sep 14

KITAN on the KEYS: a bad pianist’s practice diary #4

FT2 comments • 133 views

toypianoso yesterday i had my first piano lesson in 37 years (ie my teacher wasn’t born when i had my last one): i went in VERY butterfly-stomachy — and came out combination buzzed&psyched, bcz it was AWESOME. Here’s why:

i: i like the teacher very much (he also teaches my niece, aged 6).
ii: we concentrated on basically two phrases — less than two lines — of one piece: