Still, time will tell. Or perhaps it won't.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Monday, February 27, 2012
I forgot to mention how much I liked Diamond's word kleptocracy, used to describe those elites who convince us of their absolute necessity to our well-being such that they cream off the surpluses societies produce. I must say though, that I really don't mind if they're obviously worth it - e.g., Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, et al.
And on a completely different note, a quick glance through Sid Smith's magisterial if toxic tome on all things Crimson rendered the info that Robert Fripp's solo on the studio cut of The Night Watch was a first take! It seems that John Wetton on a first hearing didn't regard it as anything special until the Frippster told him to listen again, really listen. And then he got it. Now that kind of talent is priceless.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
In truth, January was not so bad in this regard. I even managed to adhere to my private Learn Malay campaign with a reasonable degree of success. Alas, not so since then - in fact since 31 January to be precise. But since I've hacked out a little breathing space this weekend I'm aiming to resume said campaign in the next hour or so.
The only real reading I managed in Hong Kong, by the way, in case you're wondering, centred on The New York Review of Books and even then I completed only a couple of articles, which made all the recommending of interesting books that went on seem oddly superfluous. At times like that I feel like a kind of charlatan.
Let's hope March gives a little more room for real life to be lived, eh?
Saturday, February 25, 2012
The solo is by no means Fripp's most striking, original or incandescent - there's a very long line of candidates fulfiling various of these qualities, with the one on the studio version of The Sailor's Tale extraordinarily managing all three - but it is surely the most beguiling solo he ever got down on vinyl. Somehow it contrives to blend into the musical canvas all about it such that it's easy to forget it is a solo. You can almost not notice it, except as something fascinating taking place within the textures on offer, but when you do give it your undivided attention you realise how peculiar it is in terms of the oddly jagged nature of its timing against the pulse of the song. I read somewhere that it sounds as if whatever was originally recorded has been played backward and, yes, that's a fair description of the initial impression you get.
It's obvious that when the band played The Night Watch live that Fripp wasn't interested in reproducing the studio version of the solo. I listened to versions from Glasgow 1973, Mainz 1974 and Pennsylvania 1974 and enjoyed the great performances of the song, and just how brilliant our guitarist's full parts in each piece were, but at no point did he get close to the spell-binding quality of what he achieved in the studio.
And that leads me to the thought that it's quite striking how often a musician who's known for his absorption in live music has delivered definitive material in the dry studio context - a testament to the discipline he so values.
Friday, February 24, 2012
We'll be taking them to the airport later and are now contemplating the logistical puzzle inherent in figuring out how to get Rob's surf board, I kid you not, into our little car.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Great faces everywhere. Real ones, I mean. Raddled. Ordinary. Nice sense of period and place.
Wonderfully paced, with a genuine sense of unease in several scenes that gets under the skin. Somehow more down-to-earth than the cerebral BBC version.
Leaves you wanting to be a spy as you know you have the necessary capacity for ruthless deception.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
And then today I suddenly remembered another such young lady, from more than thirty years ago now, on another course - one that proved very useful to me in a number of ways - who had struck me then as equally capable, and rightly so. But she died many years ago, and as far as I understand it, that wonderful youthful promise had somehow gone well before she left us.
I can see her now, in my mind's eye, more vividly than I can recall the rather striking girl who so impressed me over the last three days. And I am baffled at what went wrong for her. Sometimes we lose it, whatever small grace we have been granted - a grant not to take for granted. So I ended up this evening saying a sad prayer for the girl who died, and one for the girl who has so much to live for, and one for eveyone in that room that fate might treat them kindly.
None of this is anything of ours.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Which leads me to realise, we can never hear enough stories - never know enough. I've always known that, but not quite so feelingly as when listening to Ms Adichie.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
The problem is, though, that unlike in Beijing where the hotels compensate for the low temperatures by being stiflingly warm, the hotels here, or at least the one we're in, seem to think they are in Singapore and don't have any obvious form of heating. So there's quite a chill in the air and the only way around it is to take to bed, which is where I'm going; so goodnight.
Friday, February 17, 2012
And it wasn't because I was bored, let me assure you.
So now my next opportunity to view the thing will be, I assume, on the way back next Tuesday. I hope I'll be reasonably awake the next time around.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Mind you, my system has been known to fail with spectacular effects. I remember a flight from Manchester to Singapore many, many years ago, just after Christmas, when I was certain I would spend at least three-quarters of the journey sound asleep in my carefully selected window seat where no one would disturb me. I didn't count on being asked by a young married couple to switch to the seat next to the aisle so they could occupy the two inner seats of the three adjacent to the window - and then finding myself asked to move by them no fewer than eight times (yes, I counted) in the course of the flight, apologetically waking me each time, so the young lady could use the toilet.
With good fortune I may find myself next to someone reasonably civilised with a functioning bladder on the morrow. But I'm not counting on it.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Fortunately the Missus is gearing up on my behalf, something, I hasten to add, I don't take for granted, but take for grateful.
Best moment of the day: exchange of suspiciously teenager-ish cards in the early morn. Something worth getting up for.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
I suppose though I'm using the term solo in an extremely loose way here. Really I'm thinking of the whole guitar part, but with particular emphasis on the early segment around 1'25'' in when McLaughlin stops simply doubling the gorgeous violin line and starts developing increasingly, improbably faster and faster lines, until the whole shebang explodes around 2'30'' into a new descending melody for unison guitar and violin and the heart sings.
The first time I heard the track I loved the ensemble playing and the sort of soft rock segments - the closest the guys ever came to AOR - but couldn't quite grasp McLaughlin's playing. It sounded sort of wrong somehow, especially in the early part of the track, as if he were trying to blend in, but failing, the guitar line sounding slightly out in terms of the general timing. Although I was familiar with the sustain being used from Robert Fripp's playing with Crimson, which is why I suppose I keep talking about guitar lines rather than notes, I'd never encountered anything quite this spiky on music that otherwise seemed designed to be accessible. Listening now it just seems so utterly right I can't grasp why my teenage ears couldn't quite get round it all, initially at least.
Of course when McLaughlin plays fast it's astonishing in itself, but what I love about his playing is the way in which the speed is always there for a reason, is at the service of a greater cause. The sensation of sheer over-abundant joy that is created in the first half of Dawn that speed, the sense of something genuinely dawning, as it were, is extraordinary. Awesome in the real sense of that word.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
(In a few months I'll look back on today's post as either the start of something big (well, for us anyway) or evidence of distinctly delusional - or should that be deluded? - tendencies, and more than a few of them.)
Monday, February 6, 2012
Anyway in my ruminations upon the guitar solo as a sort of sub-genre of rock music it occurred to me that I could genuinely identify five that seemed to me to be quite wonderful - in fact, five that nail me to the wall each time I hear them - and worth chewing the mental cud over. As someone who likes lists the fact I'd picked out a round five seemed of some small, very small, significance, and I felt obliged, sort of, to make note of them. So here are the guitarists in question - in no particular order of merit, as they say: John McLaughlin, Robert Fripp, Jeff Beck, Richard Thompson, and Bill Frisell.
There are no prizes for guessing the particular solos I have in mind - because you wouldn't stand a chance. But assuming I can find the energy from somewhere I might just enlighten the general public in the next few days, or so. In the meantime I've just bunged on the one by Johnnie Mac, so this is no time to do anything other than listen and luxuriate.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
I'm not quite sure what it is grips me about the genre. Certainly not solving the cases. I never do. But I never want to. It's the mystery that I like, I think.
Thinking back to Dennis Potter's superb The Singing Detective, I suppose we're all detectives trying to make sense of the final mystery of it all, and happy to accept any answers along the way. Which reminds me - whatever happened to Mr P's Pennies From Heaven? They don't seem to repeat this stuff. I suppose it must be on DVD somewhere, along with The Singing Detective. Gosh, to think you used to be able to watch such wonderful series like that on a weekly basis. Now those were the days I could find myself glued to the old goggle box.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Friday, February 3, 2012
Shakespeare, as actor, discovered what all good, or even just competent actors discover - that you genuinely start to feel the feelings you are enacting. Which led him to an oddly disconcerting corollary. Your feelings may never be something quite genuine but always have a sense of enactment about them. So all the world becomes a stage.
United for the Premiership by a comfortable margin. The noisy neighbours to choke.
(I'm working on pure intuition here, guys.)
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
I'm often puzzled by how some people really can't stand not knowing with absolute certainty. The grey areas are the places in which I seem to see most clearly.