Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Amazing Art of Cartoonist Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson is one of the greatest cartoonists of our time. This short video presentation celebrates the work of this extraordinary artist whose wit, sharp eye for detail and in depth understanding of children's and adults' behavior in the world we live in, will never cease to amaze and entertain us.  

The Art of Richard Thompson from GVI on Vimeo.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Damascene Collar of the Dove by Mahmoud Darwish

In Damascus - في دمشق from Waref Abu Quba on Vimeo.

Waref Abu Quba has managed in this short, 4 minute film, to reflect beautifully, in weathered celluloid, some of the verses of this eternal poem by Mahmoud Darwish about Damascus. There is certainly a nostalgia in these poetic glimpses of the city of Damascus. The city that was the jewel of the east. And it is with a fair amount of fear and sadness that at the end of this short film we see two fighter jet planes passing above the blue sky of the city. They take with them, in a way, the cobblestones, the narrow side streets, the voices of the oud and the busy market, the doves that fly behind the silk fence. But they can never take away the essence of this city because it has been forever captured in the verses of this poem and the hearts and minds of its people.       

The Damascene Collar of the Dove
By Mahmoud Darwish
(Translated in English by Fady Joudah)

In Damascus,
the doves fly
behind the silk fence
two . . .
by two . . .

In Damascus:
I see all of my language
written with a woman’s needle 
on a grain of wheat,
refined by the partridge of the Mesopotamian rivers

In Damascus:
the names of the Arabian horses have been embroidered,
since Jahili times
and through judgment day,
or after,
. . . with gold threads

In Damascus:
the sky walks
barefoot on the old roads,
So what’s the poet’s use 
of revelation
and meter
and rhyme?

In Damascus:
the stranger sleeps
on his shadow standing
like a minaret in eternity’s bed
not longing for a land
or anyone . . .

In Damascus:
the present tense continues
its Umayyad chores:
we walk to our tomorrow certain
of the sun in our yesterday.
Eternity and we
inhabit this place!

In Damascus:
the dialogue goes on
between the violin and the oud
about the question of existence
and about the endings:
whenever a woman kills a passing lover
she attains the Lotus Tree of Heaven!

In Damascus:
Youssef tears up, 
with the flute,
his ribs
Not for a reason,
other than that 
his heart wasn’t with him

In Damascus:
speech returns to its origin,
poetry isn’t poetry
and prose isn’t prose
And you say: I won’t leave you
so take me to you
and take me with you!

In Damascus:
a gazelle sleeps
besides a woman
in a bed of dew
then the woman takes off her dress
and covers Barada with it!

In Damascus:
a bird picks
at what is left of wheat
in my palm
and leaves for me a single grain
to show me my tomorrow

In Damascus:
The jasmine dallies with me:
Don’t go far
and follow my tracks
Then the garden becomes jealous:
Don’t come near
the blood of night in my moon

In Damascus:
I keep my lighthearted dream company
and laughing on the almond blossom:
Be realistic
that I may blossom again
around her name’s water
And be realistic
that I may pass in her dream!

In Damascus:
I introduce myself
to itself:
Right here, beneath two almond eyes
we fly together as twins
and postpone our mutual past

In Damascus:
speech softens
and I hear the sound of blood
in the marble veins:
Snatch me away from my son
(she, the prisoner, says to me) 
or petrify with me!

In Damascus:
I count my ribs
and return my heart to its trot
Perhaps the one who granted me entry
to her shadow
has killed me,
and I didn’t notice . . .

In Damascus:
the stranger gives her howdah back
to the caravan:
I won’t return to my tent
I won’t hang my guitar,
after this evening,
on the family’s fig tree . . .

In Damascus:
poems become diaphanous
They’re neither sensual
nor intellectual
they are what echo says
to echo . . .

In Damascus:
the cloud dries up by afternoon,
then digs a well
for the summer of lovers in the Qysoon valley,
and the flute completes its habit
of longing to what is present in it, 
then cries in vain

In Damascus:
I write in a woman’s journal:
All what’s in you
of narcissus
desires you
and no fence, around you, protects you
from your night’s excess allure

In Damascus:
I see how the Damascus night diminishes
slowly, slowly
And how our goddesses increase
by one!

In Damascus:
the traveler sings to himself:
I return from Syria
neither alive
nor dead
but as clouds
that ease the butterfly’s burden
from my fugitive soul


“The Collar of the Dove” is a famous manuscript on beauty and the art of love, written in the 11th century by Ibn Hazm, a renowned Andalusian Muslim scholar.

Barada is a small river that runs through Damascus, and Qysoon valley is one of the city’s suburbs.

Oud is a stringed instrument resembling the lute.

The Lotus Tree of Heaven, Sidrat al-Montaha (the highest degree of attainment) is a fantastic tree that arises form the Seventh Heaven and reaches God’s throne.

Youssef: son of Jacob.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Harmonica of Junior Wells

On the album cover of Junior Wells' "Hoodoo Man Blues", the great bluesman recalls how he got his first harmonica, back in 1948. The instrument that would make him famous as one of the best blues instrumentalists of all time.

This is what he said:

 "I went to this pawnshop downtown and the man had a harmonica priced at $2.00. I got a job on a soda truck... played hookey (*) from school ... worked all week and on Saturday the man gave me a dollar and a half. A dollar and a half! For a whole week of work. I went to the pawnshop and the man said the price was two dollars. I told him I had to have that harp. He walked away from the counter -- left the harp there. So I laid my dollar-and-a-half on the counter and picked up the harp. When my trial came up, the judge asked my why I did it. I told him I had to have that harp. The judge asked me to play it and when I did he gave the man the 50 cents and hollered "Case dismissed!" 

There was only one condition for Junior Wells' court case dismissal. He would have to send a copy of his first album to the Judge. 

(*) "Playing hookey": Skipping school or work.

Listen to:
Junior Wells - Help the Poor (Live in Hambourg 1975)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"I White" vs "I Black"

Stephan Zweig in his "Schachnovelle" (or "Chess Story" or "The Royal Game" as it has been translated in english) tells the story of an Austrian lawyer captured by the Nazis and subjected to a torture depriving him of all stimuli. He manages to maintain his sanity only through the theft of a book of past masters' chess games which he plays endlessly, voraciously learning each one until they overwhelm his imagination to such an extent that he becomes consumed by chess. He starts playing chess against himself, splitting his personality into an "I White" and "I Black" chess player in an effort to ward off insanity.

Bobby Fischer, the great American Chess player also played chess against himself when he was a child. "Eventually, I would checkmate the other guy", he joked later in life. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Impasse" - A short film by Bram Schouw

Without words, we're left to consider whether love and attraction can break through the impasse of human intolerance. 

IMPASSE, is the second short film of Dutch filmmaker Bram Schouw. It had its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2008 and was selected at renowned film festivals in New York, Sarajevo and Paris. Impasse got a Special Mention at the International Amsterdam Film Festival and won the NFTVM VERS AWARD for young Dutch filmmakers. As part of the feature film STORIES ON HUMAN RIGHTS, composed out of 22 short films by directors as Hany Abu-Assad, Marina Abramovic and Sergei Bodrov, IMPASSE still travels around cinemas worldwide.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Black Maps" - A poem by Mark Strand

Black Maps

Not the attendance of stones,
nor the applauding wind,
shall let you know
you have arrived,

nor the sea that celebrates
only departures,
nor the mountains,
nor the dying cities.

Nothing will tell you
where you are.
Each moment is a place
you’ve never been.

You can walk
believing you cast
a light around you.
But how will you know?

The present is always dark.
Its maps are black,
rising from nothing,

in their slow ascent
into themselves,
their own voyage,
its emptiness,
the bleak temperate
necessity of its completion.
As they rise into being
they are like breath.

And if they are studied at all
it is only to find,
too late, what you thought
were concerns of yours

do not exist.
Your house is not marked
on any of them,
nor are your friends,

waiting for you to appear,
nor are your enemies,
listing your faults.
Only you are there,

saying hello
to what you will be,
and the black grass
is holding up the black stars.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bry Webb' s second solo album "Free Will"

Constantines' frontman Bry Webb, has released his second solo album last month. It's called "Free Will". The album was recorded at Toronto's 6 Nassau Recording Studio, with Webb producing alongside Jeff McMurrich (Constantines, Jennifer Castle, Owen Pallett). It finds Webb backed by his band the Providers, which includes Nathan Lawr of Minotaurs on drums, Anna Ruddick of Ladies of the Canyon on bass, Aaron Goldstein of Lee Harvey Osmond on pedal steel, and Rich Burnett on guitar and lap steel. Guests include Jennifer Castle, Will Kidman of Constantines and others.

According to the record company Idée Fixe Records, this is a record about responsibility, love, work, desire, art and above all, will. Webb possesses a beautiful voice and this record contains some fine and subtle song making. In "Fletcher", Bry Webb states "What I need I carry with me" and it's in this sparse and organic way that this record has been recorded. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Canoe" A poem by Keith Douglas

Probably no other poem conveys the feeling of forthcoming loss, in this subtle, beautiful and immobile way, as this poem written by Keith Douglas in the summer of 1940. In Oxford, where Douglas was studying, the harrowing sounds of the drums of impending war were starting to pound on the hearts and minds of the students. They all knew that their lives would soon be changed forever. Douglas presumably wrote this poem while idling near the Thames on a beautiful summer day. He tries with all of his senses to capture this magical, shared moment which, he is very well aware, may never return. But memory can elevate a fleeting moment's experience into something almost sacred, reproducing it into eternity. And this moment will live on, even when the voice is silenced, even when what remains is but a shadow or a shade. Keith Douglas was killed, at the age of 24 on the 09/06/1944, four years after the writing of this, alas, eerily prophetic poem. But the beauty and the poise of these words, scribbled on a sheet of paper, will always evoke that precious stillness of a moment locked in a cycle of eternal return.  

Canoe by Keith Douglas (1940)

Well, I am thinking this may be my last
summer, but cannot lose even a part
of pleasure in the old-fashioned art
of idleness. I cannot stand aghast

at whatever doom hovers in the background:
while grass and buildings and the somnolent river,
who know they are allowed to last forever,
exchange between them the whole subdued sound

of this hot time. What sudden fearful fate
can deter my shade wandering next year
from a return? Whistle and I will hear
and come again another evening, when this boat

travels with you alone toward Iffley:
as you lie looking up for thunder again,
this cool touch does not betoken rain;
it is my spirit that kisses your mouth lightly.


Monday, March 31, 2014

The Young Watchmaker and the Center of the Universe


He must have been at the age of five or six. He could remember vividly the first time he actually, consciously, saw this strange “thing”. It was a shiny, round shaped object at the end of a gold chain which fitted nicely in the palm of his father’s hand. His father would take it out from time to time, press a secret little button which would flip the cover. He would look at it and instantly pronounce “The Time”. Then it would quickly disappear in the pocket of his waistcoat. It was certainly a magical object. After all, it gave its owner the authority to know and to tell “The Time". And everybody knew that everything you did had to be understood in terms of time. Late for school, not enough time for that, too early for this, it was all a question of time. And time and again he thought that he should get to the bottom of this, find this object and examine it carefully. By now he knew that this object was called “the watch”. And in his young mind this “watch” became an obsession and took mythical proportions. 

Evidently, it had eyes because watch meant also "to see”. That made sense to him because time seemed to be everywhere. Nothing could escape time. You could not hide from time. Time would find you and when it did, you realised that time knew all along where you were because it had not stopped. It had seen you. The un-blinking eye of "the watch” was terrifying and fascinating at the same time. 

And then one day, he found an old watch lying in a drawer, among dusty papers and old envelopes. He decided to open it up, to operate. He had to see what made this un-blinking eye work. What was the force that moved the hands of time transforming caterpillar into butterfly, seconds into minutes, hours into days, days into months and years. 
With a fairly blunt breadknife, he prised open the back of the watch and saw for the first time “the center of the universe inside”.

Douglas (2011)