Wednesday 31 December 2008

your moon in bella luna and (love dog)

Lonely little love dog that.
No one knows the name of.
I know why you cry out.
Desperate and devout.

Timid little teether.
Your eyes set on the ether.
Your moon in bella luna and.
Howling hallelujah ...

Nameless you above me.
Come lay me low and love me.
This lonely little love dog.
That no one knows the name of.

Curse me out in free verse.
Wrap me up and reverse this.
Patience is a virtue.
Until it's silence burns you.

And something slow.
Has started in me as.
Shameless as an ocean.
Mirrored in devotion.

Something slow.
Has sparked up in me.
As dog cries for a master.
Sparks are whirling faster ...

Lonely little love dog.
That no one knows the ways of.
Where the land is low is.
Where the bones'll show through.

Lonely little love dog.

That no one knows the days of.
Where the land is low is.
Where the water flows to.
And holds you.

'Love Dog', tv on the radio / tunde adebimpe, dear science (2008)

For tv on the radio's myspace site, see here

Photos: Bantham, Devon, 31 December 2008

for sue

Tuesday 30 December 2008

being prey

'The form of the monster ... was forever before my eyes, and I raved incessantly concerning him'
(Mary Shelley, Frankenstein).

'Large predators like lions and crocodiles present an important test for us. An ecosystem’s ability to support large predators is a mark of its ecological integrity. Crocodiles and other creatures that can take human life also present a test of our acceptance of our ecological identity. When they’re allowed to live freely, these creatures indicate our preparedness to coexist with the otherness of the earth, and to recognize ourselves in mutual, ecological terms, as part of the food chain, eaten as well as eater' (Val Plumwood, 'Being Prey', 2000).

Carnivorous creatures are in the news in Australia over the holiday period. A stray alligator - an escaped pet? - wanders into a camp site in New South Wales (30 December) and is restrained with a volleyball net. A group of kayakers are circled and nudged by a great white off Sydney (28 December); one of them is knocked off his kayak but scrambles to safety. A 51 year old man is taken by a great white off Rockingham, south of Perth in Western Australia (27 December).

Sharks in particular tended to catch my somewhat paranoid imagination during my 14 years in Australia (and they still do, pathetically). Friends regaled me with terrible tales of narrow escapes and crunched surfboards and lost limbs; with more than a wink-wink ooo-er hint of 'get-a-life-Daveo', they liked to feed my wide-eyed fafucksake Englishness, within which a hedgehog is about as scary as it gets; and it was fed. In the end, I was always a little wary swimming and body surfing, much as I loved it; encounters with the sea were invariably coloured with a certain frisson. And while watching the surfers at Margaret River in W.A. or at Bell's Beach in Victoria, I often found myself scanning the water's surface for a shadowy presence. Although I saw countless darkly ominous 'shapes' (usually clumps of seaweed pulsing in the currents), I never really saw a shark.

I have a weird file of cuttings about sharks and other rather extreme human/animal encounters. Many of them from Australia: crocodile attacks; snake and shark incidents; even a kangaroo and a feral camel assault. Images of sharks hunting in swarming shoals of sardines, rolling and morphing in waves, like starlings. And a clipping about a fisherman who fell off the back of commercial boat in the sea off Queensland, the other crew members only noticing his absence when they arrived back at Townsville. Prolonged searches, but no sign of him. A few days later the same boat returned to the processing plant with the day's catch, including a huge cod; when they cut it open, they found the missing man's head in its stomach.

Stuff about Antoine Yates, who kept a fully grown Bengal tiger ('Ming') in his Harlem apartment for a couple of years until 2003, until suspicions were triggered when he went to hospital with enormous 'pit bull' bites in his thigh. An image of Damien Hurst's 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' (1992), the glass-cased tiger shark floating in formaldehyde in the shark-infested waters of the Saatchi collection; and a print-out of a New York Times article about Hirst's replacement of the decaying original shark with a 25-30 year old female caught specifically for Hirst off Queensland in 2006.

There's a copy of a long article about the increase in shark attacks off Australia in 2000-1, in which a South Australian diver Geoff Grocke describes how a fellow diver was 'played with' for over an hour by a great white: 'It held him down, lay on top of him, dragged him along the bottom, knocked him around like crazy. He punched it as hard as he could, but it was like it was laughing at him. It knocked his mask off ... he felt around and put it back on. When he could see, there was this head about half-a-metre away, just looking at him. He crawled from rock to rock trying to escape, but it just kept after him. He told us he was hysterical, howling and screaming into his mask. In the end, it just got sick of him and swam off. He wasn't the same after that; he gave up diving for a while, and now he won't even talk about it' (Frank Robson, 'The fatal shores', The Age magazine, Australia, 3 February 2001. Hilariously, The Age's colour supplement is called 'Good Weekend').

Then there are all sorts of loosely related bits and pieces, including a cutting of AC Grayling on 'Loss': 'To take life in armfuls, to embrace and accept it, to leap into it with energy and relish, is of course to invite trouble of all the familiar kinds. But the cost of avoiding trouble is a terrible one: it is the cost of having trodden the planet for humanity's brief allotment of less than 1,000 months, without really having lived' (Guardian, 4 August 2001).

Pride of place goes to an astonishing, wise text called 'Being Prey' by the late environmentalist and ecofeminist Val Plumwood, sent on to me years ago by Adrian Heathfield (download it here). I recommend it for a little Christmas reading, for it is a text in which all sorts of assumptions are turned on their heads in bewildering and humbling ways.

The file's most recent addition, from October this year, is an image of a young Irish surfer riding a wave off the coast of Perth with a 500 lb great white lurking in the green wall of the wave alongside him, as if it's surfing too, like a dolphin. (Or is it a bleached log, an innocuous bit of flotsam drifting around the Indian Ocean? In truth, it's hard to tell from the image). The surfer had been unaware of the shark's presence until he was shown the photograph later. The caption above the image, inevitably sensationalist: 'White Terror: Surfer shares wave with killer shark' (Guardian, 4 October 2008).

'Watson and the Shark' (1778), by John Singleton Copley: National Gallery of Art, Washington. Brook Watson was 14 years old when a shark in Havana harbour took his right foot. Years later, as Alderman of London, he commissioned this painting; he also put a shark in his coat of arms. (Source: Thomas B. Allen, Shark Attacks, New York, Lyons Press, 2001).

To access an edited online version of Frank Robson's 'The fatal shores' (
from the Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Feb 2001), see here

Friday 26 December 2008

Monday 15 December 2008

horse milk

for the noo

photos © David Williams
for ... 'unusual' horse & cat milk products, see here

Tuesday 2 December 2008


'Jump, for God's sake,
Jump like your life depends on it'
(Sandra Beasley, Theories of Falling, 2008).

A few days ago, I left work around 6.30 in the evening to walk to the bus - about a mile through the darkness. Heavy cloud, no moon, and by the time I reached the entrance to the Dartington garden I could barely see anything. No torch, dammit. I knew there were granite steps a few feet ahead of me, just above the Buddha statue, so I triggered my phone to try to light my way. Faffing about with the settings, I failed to find anything approximating the effect of a torch; instead, effectively I blinded myself temporarily. Seeing absolutely nothing at all now, I warily felt my way forward into the pitch black with my feet, and found the lip of the top step; I edged down step by step until I reached level ground. Then set off at a brisk pace into the night along the path I knew to be ahead of me. But I'd forgotten the stairs were divided into two flights by a small landing, and that there were still 7 steps to go. So I stepped into mid-air and dived into nothingness. For a split second I felt like some anoraky version of Yves Klein. Quite calm, just very wide-eyed, wide awake. Deceleration, expansion of a moment, then sudden rush back into the materiality of the present. With both arms outstretched I landed half on the path, the right side of my body sliding through the muddy earth of the empty flower bed right in front of the Buddha. My body was soft, relaxed, and my hands took much of the impact, so I didn't really hurt myself. I stood up quickly, checked my computer was still in my rucksack, brushed some muddy smears off my coat and trousers, slowed my heart with a couple of big breaths, then looked round for the Buddha. I couldn't see a thing but I knew he was right there, feet away, knew he'd seen me fly and fall and crash. I figured he'd have found it mildly amusing, and I smiled before turning away and setting off again towards the bus. I felt a bit of a plonker, but was somewhat impressed by my 51-year-old body's 'intelligence', the speed and effortlessness with which 'my' instinctive emergency responses kicked in. Nothing heroic in this, they simply took over and cushioned me from my-self. Clever.

En route to the bus I managed to find every conceivable puddle and mud pool in the darkness; in the end I gave up caring and just splashed my way forward. By the time I reached the bus stop, and the street lights, my shoes and trouser bottoms were drenched. I probably left a trail on the pavement.

When the bus arrived I jumped on board squelching audibly and asked for my ticket. I gave the driver the money, and saw that my hand was caked in mud - and indeed one side of me was a thick brown slick from shoulder down. Impressive. The driver looked at me rather distastefully. While he punched out the ticket, I turned into the bright glare of the bus; everyone was staring at me as though I was a malodorous vagrant who had just stirred from a snooze in a ditch. Suddenly I was visible, and being judged. I smiled, thought bollocks, and sat down for the ride. In my imagination I went back to the Buddha still there in the night, blissfully attentive behind that lichen patina. The things he must have seen over the years from his silent, discreet vantage point.

Infinitely detailed ice patterns on Sue's car yesterday morning, the windows layered in feathery palm-like structures that refract the weak sunlight.

Then last night, the rare conjunction of a crescent moon with Jupiter and Venus in the clear night sky, three of the brightest objects visible from Earth. We see it as we drive home, and stop to watch from the road side. At first, the moon was transformed into the outline of a nippled breast by Venus protruding from its edge; gradually Venus separated from the moon to leave three discreet planetary bodies in drifting relation. From our earth-bound perspective they seem close together, although in reality we look past the moon's edge to planets million of miles away - the moon at 239,000 miles from Earth, Venus at 94 million and Jupiter 540 million. Astronomers suggest a similar conjunction occurred in June of 2 BC, and various religious scholars and astrologers have connected this event to the birth of Christ (the star of Bethlehem). It seems such propitious conjunctions also relate to the 'Chemical Wedding' of Rosicrucian and Alchemical traditions. Mmm. I just thought it was beautiful, hypnotic.

Now, this is a night to walk home through the garden, I thought. You'd be able to dance down those steps and wink at the Buddha. He'd probably wink back, he sometimes does, the Enigmatic Dude with one open hand up and one down.

'The sun glows by day; the moon shines by night; in his armour the warrior glows. In meditation shines the brahman. But all day and all night, shines with radiance the Awakened One' (The Dhammapada).


Fall guy

Nightfall (1971) - Bas Jan Ader
Black and white film, 16 mm, silent
Duration 4'16"

"BJA stands in a garage behind a concrete paving slab. On the floor to his left and right are illuminated light bulbs. The camera records BJA frontally from a fixed position. After approximately one minute BJA picks up the heavy concrete slab and raises it onto his left shoulder. He the shifts the block onto his left palm and holds it like a serving tray. All of this is accomplished with great difficulty due to the weight of the slab. He throws the slab onto the light bulb on his left, smashing and extinguishing it. He remains standing in the middle for a while, picks up the slab again and repeats the entire process on his right-hand side. As the second light bulb is extinguished the scene turns to black" (84).


Bas Jan Ader, in an interview from 1972: "I have always been fascinated by the tragic. That is also contained in the act of falling: the fall is failure. Someone once said to me: I can well imagine that you are so obsessed with the fall; that's because your father was shot. That is obviously a far too anecdotal interpretation. Everything is tragic because people always lose control of processes, of matter, of their feelings. That is a much more universal tragedy ..." (14).


In his master's thesis (1967), Ader proposed to explore the meaning of 'fall' and its complement 'rise'. These two terms were sub-divided into categories:

1. Humpty Dumpty - fall guy - the egg suspended above the sky, and the use of the bicycle before and after its unexplained misfortune.
2. Sue Falls - table your feelings - the congratulatory letter to the Eiffel Tower and the leaning table, about to be sawed through, which contains this letter.
3. Plans for a dangerous journey and Niagara Falls ... (15-16).

Extracts from Rein Wolfs (ed.) Bas Jan Ader: Please Don't Leave Me, Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen / London: Camden Arts Centre, 2006. To see Bas Jan Ader's Nightfall, and some of his other 'fall' films (from the roof of his house, a bicycle into a canal, a tree branch into a stream etc.), see 'Selected Works' here