Monday, October 31, 2016

Peter Hammill's "(No More) The Sub-Mariner"

(No More) The Sub-Mariner (1974)

"In my youth, I played at trains: now all steam is gone.
In my dreams, brief shelter from the rain,
I try to catch the fireglow...
With Dinky Toys, I thought that I was Stirling,
With cricket bat, I saw myself as Peter May;
Now, with all these images returning,
I wonder who I am today?

As a child, I refought the war
With plastic planes and imagination:
I sank Tirpitz, blew up the Mohne dam, all these and more,
I was the saviour of the Nation!
Oh! To be the captain of a ship of war!
The pilot of a Tempest or a York!
To hold my trench against the Panzer Korps
Instead of simply being one who talks
And reminisces of his fantasies,
As though life was nothing but to lose...
These only antecede the knowledge that, eventually,
He must choose.

It's a hallmark of adulthood
That our options diminish
As our faculties for choice increase,
Till we choose everything and nothing,
Too late, at the finish.

In my youth, I held belief: my faith and thought were strong.
But now I'm stripped of every leaf,
And it robs me of the sight of right and wrong.
Oh! To be the son of Che Guevara!
One unit in the serried ranks of black!
A Papist or an Orangeman, a eunuch...
Then doubt would never cast the dagger in my back.
Oh! To be King John or Douglas Bader,
Humphrey Bogart or Victor Mature!
Which one is false and easy,
Which one harder?
Of that,
Of this,
Of me
I'm really not too sure."

Listen to:
Peter Hammill - (No More) The Sub-Mariner

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The grains of sand on Van Gogh's painting

Recently, a painting of Vincent Van Gogh was recovered in Naples among others stolen in December 2002. The painting is called "View of the Sea at Scheveningen". It was painted by Vincent van Gogh on location in 1882, at a beach resort near the Hague. 

While living in the Hague, Van Gogh made regular trips to Scheveningen, a nearby fishing village. He had begun to experiment with oil paint, and he set up his easel close to the beach and worked directly on his canvas in the windblown sand. He fought against the raging elements while applying thick and expressive colours and rough brushstrokes to evoke them. The rough sea, the dark menacing sky and the gusting wind progressively stopped hindering him and started to embed themselves in the painting. Flying sand stuck to the wet paint and became part of it. The grains of sand can still be seen in some of the paint layers today.

It is those grains of sand, stuck on that canvas in 1882 that attest that, even by that early time (he had just started to paint one year ago), Van Gogh had succeeded in finding the holy grail of painting. To transpose a living scene on canvas, not as a picture, but as a direct experience that can be relived from then on to eternity. It's as if nature itself had lend a hand to perfect this painting, opening up its secrets to the eyes of this man on that desolate beach. As soon as Van Gogh put the finishing touches to this painting, he managed to get a glimpse of William Blake's auguries of innocence and saw a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower. He held infinity in the palm of his hand and eternity in an hour...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Lament Of The Syrian Refugee

A Syrian refugee has finally arrived on a Greek island after a long and tortuous journey. Spontaneously, he breaks into a lament for the uprooting of the Syrian people and the perilous sea journey away from the fatherland. The improvised verses, drenched in tears and bitter truth, are flowing. It's an emotionally charged moment of sadness for the thousands of refugee lives lost in the waters of the Mediterranean sea. Europe and the world can continue to ignore the plight of the Syrian people but at the high cost of losing our own humanity. This is the lament of the Syrian refugee:  

"Oh sea, give us love
Look what happened to us
Don't send your waves against us
We are Syrians
I swear our story is a sad one
Oh, you won't believe, our tears could even drown you
We cried so much
We welcomed all the people with kindness and love
But when we fell, they betrayed us
Nobody cried for us
Oh today, all the world has abandoned us
Oh sea, stop the waves
There are children in the boats, our memories,
Our lives are in these boats
I swear, our tears could fill all the seas of the world
Our children have lost their innocence in your waves
And these waves have killed our children
Oh sea, let your waves have pity on us
And take care of us like a mother
Oh how dark was our Syrian destiny
Let us have peace, for this is all we want
And now... We will continue our way to find peace. It's all we want."

This original video was uploaded for the first time by journalist Dimitris Alikakos


Το Τραγούδι Του Σύριου Πρόσφυγα

Μια συγκλονιστική καταγραφή που ανέβασε στο λογαριασμό του στο facebook ο δημοσιογράφος Δημήτρης Αλικάκος. Ένας Σύρος πρόσφυγας μόλις έχει φθάσει στα ελληνικά παράλια και ξεκινάει ένα συγκλονιστικό τραγούδι – θρήνο για τον ξεριζωμό και το δύσκολο ταξίδι της προσφυγιάς από την Συρία. Από ότι φαίνεται οι στίχοι είναι αυτοσχεδιασμός πάνω σε παραδοσιακή συριακή μελωδία. Είναι βιωματικοί στίχοι, τέτοιοι που δεν μπορούν να σε αφήσουν εύκολα σε ησυχία. Οι στίχοι λένε:
Αχ θάλασσα δώσε μας αγάπη.
Κοίτα τι μας συνέβη.
Μην στέλνεις τα κύματά σου εναντίον μας.
Είμαστε Σύριοι,
στ' ορκίζομαι η ιστορία μας είναι λυπητερή.
Αχ δεν θα το πιστέψεις, τα δάκρυά μας θα μπορούσαν και σένα να πνίξουν..
Τόσο πολύ κλάψαμε.
Δεχτήκαμε όλους τους ανθρώπους με ευγένεια και αγάπη.
Αλλά όταν πέσαμε μας πρόδωσαν,
κανείς δεν έκλαψε για μας.
Αχ, σήμερα όλος ο κόσμος μας εγκατέλειψε.
Αχ θάλασσα σταμάτα τα κύματα.
Υπάρχουν παιδιά στις βάρκες που είναι οι αναμνήσεις μας.
Είναι οι ζωές μας σε αυτές τις βάρκες
Στ' ορκίζομαι τα δάκρυά μας θα μπορούσαν
να καλύψουν τις θάλασσες όλου του κόσμου.
Τα παιδιά μας έχασαν την παιδικότητα στα κύματά σου.
Και αυτά τα κύματα σκότωσαν τα παιδιά μας.
Αχ θάλασσα άσε τα κύματά σου να μας λυπηθούν
και φρόντισε μας σαν μητέρα.
Αχ για εμάς τους Σύριους η μοίρα είναι βαριά.
Αφήστε μας να έχουμε ειρήνη. Μόνο αυτό θέλουμε
Και τώρα… Θα πορευτούμε για να βρούμε ειρήνη. Μόνο αυτό θέλουμε

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Remembering Luxembourg's most well-known homeless man: Adalbert Boros

The following article was published in the Luxemburger Wort on 20/05/2016:

" The obituary of Adalbert Boros may be long forgotten by some: it was published in the "Luxemburger Wort" on Tuesday, April 26, 2013. Located on page 58 at the bottom left of the newspaper, the text was written by the Servior care facility "Am Schleesschen" of Echternach, where Adalbert spent his final days.

But for those who remember him, Adalbert would have celebrated his 85th birthday this past May 18.

Adalbert wasn't originally from Luxembourg. He wasn't a great politician, a famous artist or even an officer of a large company--but his death saddened many, as was evident by the outpouring of sympathy on Facebook.

A day after the obituary was printed, no less than 620 people shared the photo of the funeral announcement on the social media network--and that's not even including all the comments users left.

An engineer before ending up in the streets

Adalbert was homeless, or a "Strummert", as they say in Luxembourgish. And he was probably the most well-known of all the "Strummerten" in Luxembourg.

He was a real personality, a man who was intelligent and cultivated, but one day he decided to become an outsider in society.

Adalbert, also called Albert, was born in Hungary on May 18, 1931. In 1955, at the age of 24, he arrived in Luxembourg, his engineering degree under his belt.

He helped build the  Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge--better known as the Red Bridge--a project which was the result of an international competition launched by the Luxembourg government in 1957 and commissioned in October 1966. Adalbert also worked as an engineer at the dam on the Esch-sur-Sûre lake, which was inaugurated in 1957.

No one can say exactly when Albert found himself living on the streets. His new home was the Luxembourg City train station, where he slept and spent most of his time. It was only towards the end of his life that he took refuge at the Ulysses centre, where he could find warmth at night.

A great teacher for students

It was students that helped contribute to his fame. Given his knowledge of mathematics, Adalbert soon became a sort of relief for students, as Gilles Klein explained: "Many of us asked him for help. As for me, I paid him 50 Luxembourg francs, and he helped me with my homework in mathematics or geometry.

"Others gave him cigarettes. We would get settled inside the station or on a bench in front of the station. He never wanted to go to a cafe, but he took the necessary time to explain everything."

Albert was not, however, very talkative when it came to his own life. Klein recounts: "When I asked him the question to know why he lived in the streets, he dodged the issue and told me it was better that I concentrate on my homework. It was at the end of the late 1970s. Once I asked him how long he had been living this way. He told me around 10 years. He already had a long beard and was getting old."

Some say it was because he would not have supported the fact that people committed suicide from the bridge that he had moved on and dropped everything. What is certain is that he did not like to be reminded of his past.

An anecdote comes from Marcel Noe, in charge of the Am Schleeschen care facility where Adalbert had lived in the last years leading up to his death, who describes an event that took place on August 1, 2006: "I wanted to please him by hanging a picture of the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge in his room. It took me by great surprise when he vehemently struggled against this initiative...we understood that he preferred not to be reminded too much of his past."

His last years in Echternach

Marcel Noe continued: "At first, we thought it was difficult to bring in someone from the street, but it was nothing. Albert liked to be alone. He regularly went to mass. He had his rituals, he was precise and didn't like us to change anything, even the seating plan. He was very suspicious of others, and you had to already know him to get into contact with him. That said, he had a big heart and cared for others when he felt they needed it."

Many people probably thought he was dead prior to seeing the announcement in the "Luxemburger Wort".

"We had a lot of telephone calls when the announcement appeared in the paper. I knew he was someone famous, but it always surprised me even more because he didn't have any family. This is also why we insisted that a funeral mass take place in his honour," Noe said.

Noe accompanied Adalbert the last days before his death, during which time Albert said he hadn't been feeling well. "Yet he didn't want to be hospitalised," Noe said. "He just said he was going to die. He fell asleep peacefully.""

An excerpt from Ian McEwan's article on "Faith in Fiction"

"... I have a memory of myself as a child, caressing a detail in a novel. Recalling the moment is another way of restoring faith in fiction. The experience was hypnotic, with lifelong consequences, for it showed me how the worlds of fact and fiction can interpenetrate. I was 13 years old, alone in the school library, spellbound by LP Hartley's The Go-Between. Its hero, Leo, from a poor background, spends the summer of 1900 holidaying with a school friend whose family owns a grand country house. The focus, of course, is Leo's role as a messenger in an illicit love affair. But what drew me was the July heatwave, and the little boy's fascination with the greenhouse thermometer and whether it would reach a hundred degrees. That week's copy of the satirical magazine, Punch arrives at the house and, inside, a drawing shows "Mr Punch under an umbrella, mopping his brow, while Dog Toby, with his tongue hanging out, wilted behind him."

My memory is of putting the book aside and, in an inspired move, crossing the library to where the ancient bound copies of Punch were shelved, lifting down the volume for 1900 and turning to July. And there they were, the overheated dog, the umbrella and Mr Punch pressing a handkerchief to his forehead! It was true. I was captivated, elated by the power of something both imagined and real. And briefly, I felt an unfamiliar sadness, nostalgia for a world I was excluded from. For a moment, I had been Leo, seeing what he saw, then it was 1962 again and I was at boarding school, with no lovers to run between, no heatwave and only this small remnant in a yellowing magazine..."

Excerpt from an Ian McEwan article in the Guardian on 16/02/2013. The article can be found here:
Ian McEwan/Guardian

Listen to:
The Go-Betweens - Surfing Magazines

Friday, April 29, 2016

"Vida Matrimonial" - A short story by Alejandro Bentivoglio

"Married Life"

"On the train I met a blonde girl who told me I was the man of her dreams. At first I believed her, but then I saw the ticket inspector approaching and I realized she didn't have a train ticket. As any other gentleman would have done, I paid for it without a second thought. During the rest of the journey we didn’t exchange one word. As soon as we got off the train, at the end of the line, I asked her for a divorce."

Taken from Alejandro Bentivoglio's book "Dakota/Memorias de una Muñeca Inflable" Translated by Douglas 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Zaepert" - Luxembourg artists claim another building before demolition

Following from the success of their previous intervention, 'Quartier 3', in Esch Sur Alzette (see post 2015 Ephemeral-art-before-demolition) the Luxembourg artist collective created by Daisy Wagner, Jeff Keiser, Sergio Sardelli and Théid Johanns, hosts a new intervention/exhibition with no less than 40 artists participating.

This time it's the former slaughterhouse in the 'Zaepert' district, rue Joseph Kieffer in Esch/Alzette. Before the building is demolished, the artists have occupied, shared and transformed  the 'Zaepert' space of 640 m2 into a free art gallery. The exhibition will end on the 08/05/2016 when the former slaughterhouse will be demolished. Here is what you can expect, but only for a little time: