Monday 29 November 2010

Da turns his back, on a man in a cap.

Today's weather...

Andrew Wyeth - Not Plowed (1985)

Winter Landscape

The three men coming down the winter hill
In brown, with tall poles and a pack of hounds
At heel, through the arrangement of the trees,
Past the five figures at the burning straw,
Returning cold and silent to their town,

Returning to the drifted snow, the rink
Lively with children, to the older men,
The long companions they can never reach,
The blue light, men with ladders, by the church
The sledge and shadow in the twilit street,

Are not aware that in the sandy time
To come, the evil waste of history
Outstretched, they will be seen upon the brow
Of that same hill: when all their company
Will have been irrecoverably lost,

These men, this particular three in brown
Witnessed by birds will keep the scene and say
By their configuration with the trees,
The small bridge, the red houses and the fire,
What place, what time, what morning occasion

Sent them into the wood, a pack of hounds
At heel and the tall poles upon their shoulders,
Thence to return as now we see them and
Ankle-deep in snow down the winter hill
Descend, while three birds watch and the fourth flies.




Leslie Nielsen RIP

With Anne Francis in Forbidden Planet (1956)

Leslie Nielsen, star of The Naked Gun, dies aged 84
Comic actor was best known for spoofing his matinee idol looks and authority figure roles in Airplane! and The Naked Gun films

Monday 29 November 2010

Comic actor Leslie Nielsen, star of a string of madcap spoof movies including Airplane! and The Naked Gun, died of complications from pneumonia in Florida on Sunday, his spokesman said. He was 84.

Nielsen is probably best known for playing the bumbling cop Lieutenant Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun franchise, but enjoyed a movie and television career spanning more than 60 years.

The spokesman said Nielsen died in a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends at 5.34 pm EST.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, the son of a Canadian mounted policeman, Nielsen served stints as an aerial gunner in the air force and as a radio disc jockey before studying acting in Toronto and then in New York City.

He got his first big break in 1950 with a Studio One television appearance, and went to Hollywood in 1954 to star in the film The Vagabond King.

For the first 30 years of his career, he built his reputation playing authority figures such as the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship in The Poseidon Adventure. But later generations got to know the actor primarily for his deadpan performances in comedies such as 1980's Airplane! and the Naked Gun trilogy, which ran from 1988 to 1994.

As Dr Rumack in Airplane!, Nielsen won fans among the younger generation for inane non sequiturs delivered with a straight face. "Can you fly this plane, and land it?" he asks a passenger. "Surely, you can't be serious," comes the answer. "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley," Rumack replies.

The Naked Gun franchise had its origins in the short-lived 1982 TV show Police Squad. After it was cancelled, creators Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker – who had previously worked with Nielsen on Airplane! – turned it into a feature packed with slapstick action and double-entendres.

Drebin beat up the Ayatollah Khomeini and scrubbed the birthmark from Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev's head. The cast was rounded out by George Kennedy as Drebin's partner, and OJ Simpson as their hapless colleague.

In the 1991 sequel, Naked Gun 2-1/2: The Smell of Fear, the villain played by Robert Goulet tells an unannounced Drebin he did not see his name on the guest list. "Nothing to be embarrassed about. I sometimes go by my maiden name," Drebin replies.

The final film, 1994's The Naked Gun 33-1/3: The Final Insult saw Drebin try to avert a disaster during the Academy Awards and go undercover in a penitentiary. An inmate asks where his prison number is. "It's unlisted," Drebin says. That film marked Anna Nicole Smith's first big role.

Nielsen also appeared in the 1996 spy spoof Spy Hard as Agent WD-40, and in 1998's Wrongfully Accused, a parody of The Fugitive. More recent acting roles included playing a buffoonish president in the 2003 Hollywood parody Scary Movie 3 and its 2006 sequel. In the latter film's most memorable sequence, his character unwittingly addressed gagging diplomats at the United Nations while naked.

But Nielsen also had a serious side. During the 1990s, he took to the stage in Darrow, a one-man drama about legendary US lawyer Clarence Darrow.

"I didn't want to go ahead and be pegged for doing only comedy, although comedy is burgeoning," he told Reuters in a 1996 interview. "I'd like to see how far I can stretch and keep on doing 'dumb and stupid' (comedy) and drama and if possible be accepted at both. There's a line with an audience you can't always cross over. Sometimes, they only want to see you being funny."

Sunday 28 November 2010

Sean O'Brien on Larkin and the City

Philip Larkin and the City
Larkin tries the sadness of the city on for size, and seems to find it rather exciting – if nothing is happening there is nevertheless certainly a lot of it

Sean O'Brien
November 24, 2010

Philip Larkin is sometimes associated with departures, with poems enviously speculating on other lives decisively lived, as in “Poetry of Departures”:

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying, Elemental move.

We know, of course, that there will be qualifications to follow. There may be the temptation to shout “stuff your pension” but, as Eccles remarked, “Everyone has to be somewhere”. And Larkin is also the poet of arrivals. The most famous examples are “Here” (where he ignores Hull’s reputation as a terminus and doesn’t actually stop until the sea stops him) and the visionary ending of “The Whitsun Weddings”, in which the fleeting grandeur of the approach to London by train is a magnificent exception to the rule of disappointment.

Whether going or coming, the anticipation is everything. To be there is to ask, like Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?”. In the poem “Arrival” (1950), “Morning, a glass door, flashes / Gold names off the new city”, but this momentary charge of excitement, to which we sense the speaker immediately rendering himself immune, is simply an overture to the re-establishment – by an old man of twenty-eight – of his “style of dying” in the new place. The image of futurity, we learn throughout the poems, is deceptive: in the nature of things and in the nature of our habit of mortgaging the present to the future, we shall never get there, wherever “there” is. In any case, trailed by the “black-sailed unfamiliar” in “Next, Please”, we have already arrived in the only sense that matters, for we are who we are and the passage of time may clarify but not fundamentally alter what Larkin later called the “bestial visor” endured in the morning mirror.

Yet now and then there is instead a moment of promise to offset these grim assurances, for example in the relatively late poem “How Distant” (1965):

How distant, the departure of young men
Down valleys, or watching
The green shore past the salt-white cordage
Rising and falling,

Cattlemen, or carpenters, or keen
Simply to get away
From married villages before morning,
Melodeons play

On tiny decks past fraying cliffs of water
Or late at night
Sweet under the differently-swung stars,
When the chance sight

Of a girl doing her laundry in the steerage
Ramifies endlessly.
This is being young,
Assumption of the startled century

Like new store clothes,
The huge decisions printed out by feet
Inventing where they tread,
The random windows conjuring a street.

The impulse to foreclose is in abeyance here: this is what the imagination should seize on, the poem implies, the thing that Seamus Heaney describes as “the tang of possibility”. Keep an eye on those windows. (Also: that girl in steerage is perhaps an ancestor of the girls who “collect their separates” from the dry cleaners in “The Building”.) We remember, of course, that Larkin’s poem is called “How Distant” – that is to say, distant from the Larkin-persona’s sense of what is personally possible (which is hard to separate from what is desirable or sought); but also occurring at the kind of distance that gives art the opportunity to name, and implicitly praise, the momentary possibility before the conditions shift to familiarity and set solid. The very remoteness of the poem’s departures are part of their virtue. Those who cannot live – a position in which Larkin’s speakers often find themselves – can nonetheless imagine, and by this means they can propose a form of aesthetic disinterestedness. A simple event “ramifies endlessly”.

For Larkin, it appears the actual city both provokes and threatens this sense of possibility. Only that rare city which is both unvisited and intimately known – the Crescent City of New Orleans in “For Sidney Bechet” – exists perfectly, because it is a work of the sympathetic imagination, its hedonistic generosity of spirit lying beyond the reach of time and decay. To Bechet Larkin declares: “My Crescent City / Is where your speech alone is understood, / And greeted as the natural noise of good”.

Which are the cities named or clearly present in Larkin’s poems? They include Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Chicago, Coventry, Dublin, Leeds, London, New Orleans, New York, “numerous cathedral cities”, Oxford, Sheffield, Stoke, Tel Aviv and Hull. And the most ubiquitous of these is Hull, where Larkin lived much of his life in a condition of public secrecy. “Coventry . . . I was born here”, he declares in “I Remember, I Remember”, a poem which closes: “Nothing, like something, happens anywhere”. It would seem that in coming to Hull Larkin had in a sense sent himself to Coventry.

Larkin was a city dweller who like many other English people felt a strong attachment to the countryside, staying often at Monica Jones’s cottage in Northumberland and writing the fine “Show Saturday” about the annual show at Bellingham, and the rather less fine “Going, Going”. The countryside for Larkin somehow is England. A sonnet dated October 1944, “Climbing the hill within the deafening wind”, finds an authentic (strangely submissive) life among the stormy elements (and the stormy poetic marriage of Housman and Yeats on show in this poem). He asks in the sestet:

How to recall such music, when the street
Darkens? Among the rain and stone places
I find only an ancient sadness falling,
Only hurrying and troubled faces,
The walking of girls’ vulnerable feet,
The heart in its own endless silence kneeling.

Larkin is trying the sadness of the city on for size, and seems to find it rather exciting – if nothing is happening there is nevertheless certainly a lot of it – but he also accurately prophesies the emphatic solitude of his depictions of the city, and hints at the recurrent sense in his work of something over before it has begun. Perhaps where the country makes sense, with a ritual frame of the seasons and the place of human mortality inside it, the city is as inescapable as mortality, while denying the consolations of natural authenticity.

This is hardly an original position but it may help to account for what seems to be the comparative rarity of panoramic cityscapes in Larkin’s poems. For much of the time he is on the inside of the city, “pent” there, among its stones, beneath “the roofs of what has nearly been” (“Disintegration”). In “Who called love conquering”, by three o’clock “the dire cloak of dark / Stiffens the town”, not quite coherently. The view is usually partial and particular, as with “the brisk brief / Worry of wheels along the street outside / Where bridal London bows the other way” in “Deceptions”. And in the slightly neglected and slightly Jules Laforgue-like “Autumn” written in 1953, we find this:

a London court one is never sure of finding

But none the less exists, at the back of the fog,
Bare earth, a lamp, scrapers. Then it will be time
To seek there that ill-favoured, curious house,
Bar up the door, mantle the fat flame,

And sit once more alone with sprawling papers,
Bitten-up letters, boxes of photographs,
And the case of butterflies so rich it looks
As if all summer settled there and died.

We have hardly arrived before it’s all over, bar the fine Symbolist effects and the rather Balzacian scene of cloistered neglect: life is not so much elsewhere as nowhere, or confined to memory in the form of papers, letters, photographs, a case of butterflies. It is as if the much later “shit in the shuttered château” in “The Life with a Hole in It” had been deprived of all his advantages. There is, for example, no one to envy him, for this autumnal city has a population of one.

What, though, does Larkin make of Hull, where, with great distinction, he ended up? Those of us attached to the place have long grown weary of the place’s reputation. It is, as Douglas Dunn put it in “Backwaters”, one of the “silent places, dilapidated cities / Obscure to the nation, their names spoken of / In the capital with distinct pejorative overtones”. Larkin seems at times to have managed the “distinct pejorative overtones” while actually in situ. Hull, he wrote to Robert Conquest in 1955, “is a frightful dump”. To another correspondent he explained that same year that the people are “uglier and noisier and vulgarer than the Irish”. (Here he conflates Hullensians with the English, which is really fair to neither.) He complains of the smell of fish, and his most positive comment is underlined: “oh yes well, it’s very nice and flat for cycling”. In 1958, though, he is explaining: “Actually, I just ignore it . . . the first thing I ask of any environment is that it should be ignorable”.

The famous Monitor film from 1964, shot in and around Hull, in which Larkin discusses his work with John Betjeman, seems to show him more sympathetic to the place, but it is perhaps less useful to seek consistency in Larkin’s view of it than to note Hull's usefulness to him. A letter to Monica Jones in January 1966 in the run-up to the North Hull by-election records a Sunday outing: “I took my walk yesterday along the Avenues – between 4 & 5, dusk, dirty snow, Victorian houses, silence, lighted interiors. Fascinating! Jessel posters predominated, then Millward. Lots of television watchers”. The complete run of Larkin, from a possible version of Laforgue’s “petite promenade”, via the lost, remembered interiors of “The Old Fools” and on into the “political” Larkin of “Homage to a Government” is here in condensed form. (To his probable dismay, Labour’s Kevin McNamara held the marginal seat, which may have encouraged Harold Wilson to call a general election in hopes of an increased majority.) By 1967, he reflects: “Sometimes I think I shall never leave Hull – I am growing defeatist . . . . I am not even turning into a regional poet, with his clay pipe and acknowledged corner in the snug of the Cat and Fuddle. Just an anonymous figure, whom people will dimly remember seeing when the evening paper says ‘Hull Man Dies’”. Clearly Larkin is enjoying the opportunity to complain while mocking the self-pity to which he was always prone. It would be unfair to expect fairness or consistency in letters written to amuse their recipients and let off steam while at the same time constructing the curmudgeonly persona with which Larkin has posthumously lumbered himself, but the letters do suggest that what is missing from the poems’ treatment of the city reflects the self-absorption that had long been necessary to his work. The late Frank Redpath, another fine Hull poet, once called Larkin a political ignoramus across the dinner table, and Larkin’s letters suggest that he was not far short of the mark. The twenty-year-old Larkin’s comments, back in 1942, on the Beveridge Report, are both provocative and inane. To Norman Iles, he wrote: “I am not being particularly sarcastic, but I suppose it [the report] marks a necessary step towards an insect-state”. Warming to a wider theme, he continues: “if, as people claim, the earth’s resources can be distributed to give everybody a 2-hour day & free beer & sex & cinemas I assume no one will want to live a life of honest toil”.

There is something paradoxical about the man who wrote this making his permanent home in a conspicuously working-class city which experienced a good deal of the poverty Beveridge had attempted to address, and making his living in an institution whose post-war expansion had much in common with Beveridge’s reforming spirit. It is not surprising that the population – and that of England in general – rarely features as more than occasional glimpsed figures, more category than person – “black-stockinged nurses”, “characters deep in the litter-bins”, “hare-eyed clerks”, the “unspeakable wives” of the dwellers up lanes, “girls in parodies of fashion”. Yet, for all his impedimenta of class prejudice and increasingly reactionary sentiment, Larkin is able to express a direct if helpless sympathy with the loss and suffering of others, though he seems to have had no active imaginative conception of contemporary society. In this regard, he was Margaret Thatcher before she was, though it seems unlikely that she would have understood the melancholy of the solitude he both sought and suffered.

As to the Second World War, we may sense a necessary, understandable and by no means unique self-protection in Larkin’s focusing his letters of the period as far as possible on jokes and peacetime interests and his literary vocation, but it is hard to avoid the inference that at least some of the time the war was primarily an enormous inconvenience rather than the conflict of stark moral opposites later generations have been taught to imagine and by which many have been inspired. It may be partly for this reason that the extremely heavy bomb damage suffered by the city of Hull, reputedly the worst outside London, doesn’t seem to register in the poems. In “Here”, Larkin’s most extended description of the city, the ubiquitous and unmissable bomb sites, still on view when the poem was written, go completely unmentioned. Larkin, like many people who lived through the war, may of course have been sick of thinking about it and reticent in talking about it, but his great poem “MCMXIV” responds with striking power to the more remote outbreak of the First World War. This, Larkin implies, marks the death of England, a death which was in turn to leave many who were born too late to serve burdened with guilt at not being there to attend it. In Larkin’s case, it is as if a life passage goes missing. His weak eyesight rendered him unfit for service in his own generation’s war, and his work as a librarian, taken on to serve the war effort, eventually delivered him to a city which soon became emblematic of his own premature middle age.

If Hull is not really present for its own sake, what work does it do in the poems? “Swerving east”, Larkin writes in “Here”, “Gathers to the surprise of a large town”. Half a century after the opening poem in The Whitsun Weddings was written, Hull remains a surprise to many. When Larkin completed “Here”, on October 8, 1961, Hull was at its most prosperous, confidently expanding its “mortgaged half-built edges” eastwards into the Plain of Holderness. The economic catastrophe that followed the government’s concession of the fishing rights disputed in the Cod War to Iceland in 1976 is not even on the horizon. Larkin’s main interest seems to have been in the city’s provincialism – the “cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling / Where only salesmen and relations come”. With so little presence on its own account in Larkin’s poems, the city becomes instead one of the default settings of his imagination, a set of familiar conditions rather than an urgent novelty. Unlike Auden, an important early influence, Larkin engaged in comparatively little of the kind of Olympian summing-up of cities and nations that prompts poems such as “Macao” or “The Capital”. He also had limited success in striking the public note (see “Going, Going” or “Homage to a Government”), having neither Auden’s authority nor Betjeman’s charm. On the other hand, he does write memorably about institutions such as a church or a hospital, but with a distinct personal inflection, whether he is a presence in the poem (“Church Going”) or the source of a wealth of carefully observed or imagined particulars (“The Building”).

To Larkin, Hull is in a sense nowhere much, a place where there is nothing to prevent nothing from taking place. In this respect it is not hugely different from his native Coventry (the bombing of which he records in a letter, and in a powerful section of his first novel, Jill, from 1946) or from other English cities referred to in passing, such as Stoke in “Mr Bleaney”, and Sheffield (home of the “awful” British Railways pie) in “Dockery and Son”, places which might crop up in the work of “provincial” novelists of the 1950s and 60s such as John Wain, William Cooper, David Storey and Stanley Middleton, who looked beyond London for their settings and subjects. At the close of Jill, the schoolmaster who inspires the protagonist John Kemp to go to Oxford is seen reading a popular novel and sinking into provincial indistinctness, a fate by which Larkin seems in equal measure alarmed and attracted: as he wrote in a poem from 1950, “Wants”, “Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs”. His own seeming (and fairly public) preference for anonymity found an echo in the remoteness of his chosen setting. The young women with their children in the park in “Afternoons”, being pushed “To the side of their own lives”, the “smells of different dinners” or the “wild white face” glimpsed on a stretcher in “Ambulances” could be anywhere, but they aren’t. They fall outside the metropolitan gaze and are disinclined to serve its priorities.

The bareness and rawness he observes bespeak Larkin’s conviction that there is only death (something he took personally), whether approaching slowly or swiftly, wherever he looks. In “The Building” (1972), the new Hull Royal Infirmary, a dramatic sight in the flat landscape of “close-ribbed streets”, is a secular church, “like a great sigh out of the last century”, built, so Larkin suggests, to house and appease despair, to postpone and propitiate death. It is a permanent ritual, replacing the version of Gray’s “Elegy” Larkin might have written in an age of more formal and widespread church attendance. Pace persistent misreadings of the end of “An Arundel Tomb”, “The Building”, the infirmary, is what will survive of us, and we are all approaching it at different speeds. (The actual building has outlived the adjacent district of tall merchants’ houses and small Victorian terraces, now long demolished.) The infirmary had figured on the horizon of an earlier, unsuccessful poem, “How” (1970): “How high they build hospitals! / Lighted cliffs, against dawns / Of days people will die on. / I can see one from here”. “The Building” is so familiar that it is a shock to consider afresh what a bold and substantial set piece it is.

For Larkin, the efforts of the welfare state to fell the five giants named in the Beveridge Report (Want, Ignorance, Disease, Squalor and Idleness) tend only to emphasize the final, unwinnable conflict, and his awareness of this often robs daily life of its savour in advance. In “Aubade”, as each day dawns, he finds that “Unresting death” has come “a whole day nearer”: the city served by postmen “like doctors” might be seen as an unusually dynamic necropolis. In his pessimism Larkin stands firmly in the line of descent from Housman and Hardy, poets for whom no situation was free of grave omens. Society might almost be a complicated distraction from death – a view which tends at bottom to encourage, despite Larkin’s enthusiasm for Margaret Thatcher, a form of apolitical small-“c” conservatism. Reform is not among its preoccupations, for example, given that “nobody actually starves”.

Yet the most interesting and haunting of Larkin’s city poems have a rather different emphasis. The first is the sonnet “Friday Night at the Royal Station Hotel”, written in 1966, in which mortality is, for one night only, moved from centre stage.

Light spreads darkly downwards from the high
Clusters of lights over empty chairs
That face each other, coloured differently.
Through open doors, the dining-room declares
A larger loneliness of knives and glass
And silence laid like carpet. A porter reads
An unsold evening paper. Hours pass,
And all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds,
Leaving full ashtrays in the Conference Room.

In shoeless corridors, the lights burn.
How Isolated, like a fort, it is –
The headed paper, made for writing home
(If home existed) letters of exile: Now Night comes on.
Waves fold behind villages.

Douglas Dunn wrote that urban silence “is not true silence”: in the same way, the solitude of Larkin’s poem requires urban surroundings from which its refined quiet can emerge distinctly. And in the interior itself, as in an Edward Hopper painting, a solitary figure emphasizes a larger human absence – “a porter reads an unsold evening paper” – and “In shoeless corridors, the lights burn”.

Larkin might not have cared for the comparisons, but his phrase has its ancestry in the opening of Proust’s À la Recherche du temps perdu (which he records having begun to read in a letter to Kingsley Amis in 1946, explaining that he is likely to stop but that he enjoys the parts about lesbians). Proust’s early-to-bed narrator compares himself to an invalid in a hotel waiting desperately for dawn; another resemblance is to the enigmatic corridors and mysterious unseen fellow patients in Mann’s The Magic Mountain.

The meantime and the eventless nocturnal hour seem peculiarly modern, like glimpses of an empty core that underlies all activity, when “all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds”. In this melancholy but thrillingly established setting Larkin makes a bold and perhaps influential move, when the imagination, travelling through the hotel, lights on “The headed paper, meant for writing home / (If home existed) letters of exile”. It may be that the “new narrative” poetry of the 1980s written by Andrew Motion and others took a cue from this moment in Larkin’s poem. A further dimension becomes available; an act of imagination within the original act, one that frees Larkin of the obligation to conclude with a moral or philosophical summing-up. Instead: “Now / Night comes on. Waves fold behind villages”.

The very absence of interpretation lends this glimpse of the Plain of Holderness and the sea beyond (with which “Here” also concludes) an unusual excitement as a moment of pure, contemplative consciousness, a sober equivalent to the boozy satisfactions of the “secret, bestial peace!” at the end of “The Card-Players”. The unforced exactitude with which the poem contemplates solitude and silence produces an effect which might best be described as erotic, a rhapsody of facts whose very lack of final meaning carries a powerful charge. From the centre of the city, Larkin has achieved an imaginative location we can recognize as nowhere.

Nowhere is also the destination to which “High Windows” aspires. Written in 1967, this feels like the last word on a subject. One might object that the poem says nothing of the city, but we all know the local address of these high windows:

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

In an earlier era, as I suggested above, Larkin might have been writing a religious poem, but by this point the transcendent dimension exists in the power of imagination to complete its own fulfilment, in an image of absence and extinction: “the deep blue air, that shows / Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless”. Closing the poem on a diminuendo, on a weak off-rhyme with “glass”, this is at once accepting and exultant, sorrowing and erotic – precisely the kind of Frenchified aesthetic complexity against which we might think Larkin had long set his face, had it not so clearly lain within his powers to achieve it so memorably in an upper room overlooking Pearson Park. As Neil Young wrote: “Everybody knows this is nowhere”; but how many people really know what to do with it as Larkin does?

This is an edited version of a public lecture given at the University of Hull as part of the Larkin25 series.

Sean O’Brien’s The Drowned Book, 2007, won the Forward and T. S. Eliot poetry prizes that year. His collection of short stories, The Silent Room, appeared in 2008, and his novel, Afterlife, in 2009. He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.


Friday 26 November 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas Day

A Christmas present from Paul Simon

Brass McConkey Weather...

Winter Coast by Winslow Homer (1890)

Dust of Snow (1923)

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.


Bernard Matthews RIP

Age 80. He was Bootiful, really bootiful!


DYLAN: Change My Way of Thinking.




Let's Begin (Vienna 1981) - Dylan Video

Thursday 25 November 2010

Thanksgiving II

Loudon's at The Sage, Monday 9 May 2011


Sidney Paget

Let it snow...

Martin Lewis, Stoops in the Snow, drypoint and sandpaper ground, 1930

Snow Flakes

I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town,
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down.
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig,
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!


Wednesday 24 November 2010

Tonight's set list

At The Habit, York: -

One More Time
Is It Only The Moonlight?
Silver & Gold
Through My Sails
Words (Between The Lines Of Age)
Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Flurries of snow falling outside the window. Smokers hunched together for warmth by the door. Tried 3 'different' Neil songs just to liven things up - for me anyway.

Forever - a cappella

Have a Little Faith...

Ingrid Pitt RIP

Ingrid Pitt and Madeline Smith (especially for Boys of a certain age!) in Vampire Lovers, 1970

Hammer horror actress Ingrid Pitt dies aged 73

24 November 2010

Hammer horror actress Ingrid Pitt, best known for starring in cult classics such as Countess Dracula, has died at the age of 73.

The Polish-born star died at a hospital in south London after collapsing a few days ago.

She was regarded by many fans as the queen of Hammer horror films.

The star's death comes weeks after film-maker Roy Ward Baker, who directed Pitt in The Vampire Lovers, died at the age of 93.

Pitt's daughter Stephanie Blake told the BBC News website that her mother's death had come as a "huge surprise".

After the actress collapsed recently, doctors had told her was she suffering from heart failure.

"She could be incredibly generous, loving, and she'll be sorely missed," Mrs Blake said.

She added that she wanted her mother to be remembered as the Countess Dracula with the "wonderful teeth and the wonderful bosom".

The Wicker Man director Robin Hardy said he had "very good memories" of the actress.

"She was a very attractive person in every sense. She was a perfectly good actress but a very decent person as well, not that those two things don't often go together. I'm very sorry to hear she's gone," he added.

Official Hammer historian Marcus Hearn paid tribute to the star, calling her a "talented actress and fine writer".

He added: "She was partly responsible for ushering in a bold and brazen era of sexually explicit horror films in the 1970s, but that should not denigrate her abilities as an actress."

A good friend of the actress, Mr Hearn said she was "gloriously uninhibited" and "great fun to be with".

Although she was not the first female star of a Hammer film, Mr Hearn said she had always been "very proud" of becoming the first prominent female protagonist in a Hammer after her role in The Vampire Lovers.

"All fans of Hammer and of British horror are going to miss her terribly," he said.

She began her career with fairly minor roles in several Spanish films in the mid-1960s.

But in 1968 she landed a supporting role in war movie Where Eagles Dare, appearing alongside Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton.

The actress got her breakthrough role two years later in the horror thriller The Vampire Lovers, which was a box office success.

Several Hammer movies followed, firmly establishing her as one of the key women of British horror of the 1970s.

Her other film credits included The Wicker Man (1973), Who Dares Wins (1982), Smiley's People (1982) and Wild Geese II (1985).

Pitt made regular appearances at horror conventions and penned several books about her career in the genre.

FNB Weather Forecast...

Caspar David Friedrich, Winterlandschaft mit Kirchenruine (1808)


Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the famer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and at the gate
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.