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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Testy Basque Separatists

Freedom for the Basque country or the bread, tomato and cheese based snack gets it

Testy Basque separatists: brusque ETA (as opposed to their bitter rival 'mannerly ETA' breakaway faction).

Bruschetta, pronounced 'Brusque ETA'.

Not 'Brooshetta'.

Remember that Italian striker who scored against Ireland in Italia '90, Toto Schillaci? 'Skee-lahtchee', not 'Shee-lahtchee'.

Brusque ETA.

(Can I go now?)

Nihil in Intellectu

Beckett fact no. 47.

Many posts ago I squawked my admiration for N'kisi the parrot, an African grey with a vocabluary of almost a thousand words. I also trumpeted (not squawked) a possible real-life brothel-haunting original of the parrot in Mercier and Camier.

But there's more. 'A parrot, that's what they're up against, a parrot', says the Unnamable.

In Malone Dies someone called Jackson attempts to teach a pink and grey parrot to quote Locke. It manages Nihil in intellectu, 'but the celebrated restriction [quod prius non fuerit in sensu] was too much for it', leading to ruffled feathers all round.

And then in Molloy there's Sophie Lousse's parrot, with its 'Fuck the son of a bitch' catchphrase, alternating with 'Putain de merde!' That's the English-Molloy parrot; in French he says Putain de conasse de merde de chiaison, alternating with Fuck!

Yes I know the creature above is a macaw. Don't be pedantic.

The joke about avian flu and Fernando Morientes (lethal on the continent but looking fairly harmless over here) can wait for another day, or could do if I hadn't just succumbed and told it anyway.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Iguanas and Aubergines

Iguanas and Aubergines, a new BBC drama by Stephen Poliakoff

1997... dear old 1997... such a feeling of... togetherness... something just wonderful yet... disconcerting... for some reason couldn't... move my face... Sebastian... wonder whatever... happened to him... we were... inseparable... before the... incident... saw him one day... Oxford Street... shouting at a dog... shouting and shouting... simply ghastly... yet try as I might still couldn't... move my face... suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to... cuddle an iguana... it was as though we had a... connection... such innocent times... back then... just wish I could... move my face... now look at me... wonderful job... big house... but feel so... empty... iguana loves me... Sebastian... dog... move my face... iguana...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Wicker Man

Paganism or Christianity?

Paganism: pros
Drunken public rutting
Gyrating naked Britt Ekland
Not very demanding-looking paganism-is-basically-the-answer-to-everything school curriculum
Animal costumes

Paganism: cons
Recorder music
Naked outdoor ante-natal classes apparently obligatory
Difficulties of enjoying quiet pint in only island pub while obese bearded locals frolic with Britt Ekland
Apple-growing obsession at the expense of ability to deliver minimally acceptable cooked food

Christianity: pros
Use of flying boat
Impressive command of King James Bible, though reference to dying 'unshriven' would appear to suggest Hebridean Catholicism (Barra? South Uist?)

Christianity: cons
The whole being burned alive thing
Urination on head by goat during above, as happened to Edward Woodward

Further Real-life footnotes
Britt Ekland's part dubbed
Britt Ekland's parts dubbed too: was pregnant at the time, body double used for gyrating naked rear shots

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Bleedin Rapid

Is this Portsmouth away strip bleedin rapid or wha? Let's all go back to Anto's and get a few Buds in.

Holy Spirit intervenes in Love Ulster parade fiasco: 'Lads, I'm gay.'

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Bunch of Irishmen (although they don't know they are) marching in their capital (although they don't know it is) a provocation too far; in defence of the sacred nationalist site of O'Connell Street we will trash the sacred nationalist site of O'Connell Street, says other bunch of Irishmen.

Explosion Reported

An explosion has been reported on Dublin's northside of Loyalist tat, crimes against fashion, pensioners describing themselves as 'apprentice boys', laughable tattoos and Rangers shirts. Even the customers at Michael Guiney's have been hospitalised for shock. A memorial to fashion victims everywhere will be unveiled on Talbot Street next week by President McAleese.

Love O'Connell Street

Love O'Connell Street North-South exchange passes off violently; loyalist front organisation/Republican Sinn Fein reach agreement on key issue of wrecking the gaff, need for all-Ireland mindless rioting; Republicans succeed where southern Unionists have failed since 1921, spontaneously reintegrate north-inner city into south Armagh; Old Firm derby scheduled for Mountjoy Square next Sunday; 'Is that an Ann Summers over there?'

Doomed, Doomed

Beckett fact no. 46.

'We have even piano tuners up our sleeve', says the Unnamable, 'they strike A and hear G.'

Possibly he means the Galls, father and son, who come to 'choon the piano' in Watt.

A concert pitch A above middle C these days weighs in at 440 Hz. It hasn't always been that way: some eighteenth-century English organs were pitched as much as four semitones lower, but pitch (pitches?) began to rise through the nineteenth century, giving a much brighter

When the infant Murphy sang not 'the proper A of International Concert Pitch, with 435 double variations per second, but the double flat of this' it still had to rise the final 5 Hz agreed on at an international conference in 1939.

His rattle will make amends, as Beckett says.

The piano is doomed, Gall the younger says in Watt.

'The piano-tuner also, said the elder.

The pianist also, said the younger.'

Doomed, doomed, we're all doomed.


Le Mallard Imaginaire

French avian flu suspect diagnosed hypochondriac.

(With thanks to Guardian letters page)

Friday, February 24, 2006

fleuves et océans

Beckett fact no. 45.

Beckett outside the house he bought in Ussy in 1953, the 'hole in the Marne mud' as he described it to Alan Schneider.

A neighbour once accidentally ran over Beckett's bicycle with his 2cv. The bicycle (I shall not call you bike) came in handy for trips to the next village along for the paper, as a refusal by the locals in Ussy-sur-Marne to sell him the land adjoining his house meant he preferred not to use the shops there.

Not many of Beckett's friends got to see where he did most of his writing in later years, but one frequent visitor was Henry Hayden, as described in Christian Bartillat's little book Deux amis, Beckett et Hayden.

And in the mirlitonnades, this salute:

fleuves et océans
l'ont laissé pour vivant
au ru de Courtablon
près la Mare-Chaudron

Wanted Bright Boy

I wish to apply for the post of my life, as advertised nowhere, salary nothing. I am the vacancy the position requires. This constitutes my reference for the candidate, who is known to me in a personal capacity. In the interests of fairness I write with eyes averted, stealing a glance through my fingers. My long career behind him, he is ideally placed to have been to the university of your choosing and still excite fond disgust from his contemporaries, to have hated rugby at school and have spent his formative years copiously wetting himself. For being born me, to go no further than birth, the candidate shows willingness, aptitude and experience. He cordially and by way of getting to know you encourages the committee to back the hell off and leave me alone, whoever you think you are. If successful I would approach the job in a spirit of jaded euphoria. Already our working relationship could not be closer. My (his) past is where I see (saw), Marjorie Dawe, my future. I think of this as my final appointment, and am free to start immediately on completion of a lifetime’s notice in my current position, which is to say now, I mean never, I mean I regret to inform you that on this occasion, thank you, that, thank you, I regret to inform you that it is with great pleasure I accept your kind offer.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lamest. Conspiracy. Theories. Ever.

Thomas Pynchon is really Thomas Pynchon, only with better teeth.

KFC prevented by law from calling itself 'Kentucky Fried Chicken'; delicious 100 per cent chicken-based product in fact from Alabama.

1969 moon landing footage shot on Neptune, not moon.

Israeli government run by bunch of Jews.

Oswald actually aiming for Zapruder.

Asian man warned me about going to Bradford last week, described it as 'total dump'.

Very boring and quite possibly meaningless sounds have been encoded into the heavy metal records I've been listening to backwards lately.

Shape-changing brain-eating lizards are secretly running this country, and I for one think they're doing a bloody good job.

'Doncaster' 'exists'.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hoovering Aqua Tinted Cappuccinos

Spellcheck Knows Best, Or, English Literature Like What It Ought to Have Been Writ:

Despite initial awkwardness, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy fall in love after getting aqua tinted.

After fleeing the Turkeys, the assassins [in The White Devil] reappear dressed as cappuccinos.

The ghost of Hamlet's father hoovers in the background.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cement Mixer

If The Flintstones taught us anything, you may remember Homer Simpson announcing, it's that pelicans can be used as cement mixers.

Victor Schrager has spent seven years photographing people with birds in their hands for his does-what-it-says-on-the-tin volume, Bird Hand Book. This snap of a pelican I like for its bizarre hybrid qualities.

No cement in sight though.

David Icke

The great thing about David Icke and all his lunatic conspiracy theories about lizards is that anyone reading them might think, The world is run by a bunch of giant lizards – it's some kind of code – he means Jews, right? Except no he doesn’t – he really thinks we’re being controlled by a bunch of ENORMOUS FUCKING LIZARDS.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Remember the scene from Man on the Moon where Andy Kaufman gets his own network special, and insists on a segment where the picture jumps all over the place, and then when the suits watch the tape one of them gets up to hit the TV and everyone goes nuts when Andy says it's meant to be like that?

Well, is a bit similar. It's full of colourful text that looks like a laptop throwing up, and lots of links leading nowhere in particular, if not to some sort of message about the way we chew up and process information these days. We're fucking with your mind, it's saying, and don't you just love it.

Some extracts, minus the cathode-tube-meets-J.H. Prynne effects:

aND rhytmically hammering nail of visual knowledge into undeveloped cranïïs, by exposing to imægery beyond comprehension, with imploding cohesiveness of anti-climactic multilayers, developing unique experience, simulating n-dimentional field in the context of the one1-dimentional cortex, randomly supressing or stimulation urge to operate "back" button either by applying pointy-ing device with certain level of clickability, or leveraging knowledge of implicit k-level vocabulary which+++++

dËË++generÂtion zeite uses pronÖÖgraphic and intro-cranial intrinsic layout principles to describe a page in n-dimensions in non-linear Barnach field.+++++++++dÊÊ-gÉnÉ+++ration+++ zeite+D+zéigners scientifically randomize position and relationships of all elements on the page, totally releasing control of any form of layout, whatsoever ..... dee-generation zÉites metaphorize consistent thematical overuse of rejected visual tokens to disgust and repel, thus creating a near-death experience for zÜrfers by+++++


You wants jiggy jiggy yes please?

Eastern European Cities Which Aren't Yet, But Should Be, English-Language Words Pt. 24

Székesfehérvár, n. Unconvincing attempt at sexual fervour by a Hungarian prostitute with very poor English and a bad stammer.


Welcome in Plovdiv

Eastern European Cities Which Aren't Yet, But Should Be, English-Language Words Pt. 17

Plovdiv, n. Person who makes a point of buying the first round of drinks of the evening, in the knowledge that more people are coming along later and thus hoping to pick up three or four unearned beers. E.g. 'You never bought him a drink, you skanky plovdiv.'

Saturday, February 18, 2006

De Nobis Ipsis Silemus

Beckett fact no. 44.

In 1755 a massive earthquake destroyed Lisbon.

His belief in providence greatly shaken, Voltaire wrote his Poème sur le Désastre de Lisbon.

Philosophers describe the belief that thought exists independently of external circumstances as the 'Lisbon Earthquake Error'.

In his Murphy notebook, Beckett quotes extensively from Fielding's Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.

The earthquake gave Kant too a lot to think about, as captured in an image from Beckett's French poem ainsi a-t-on beau: sur Lisbonne fumante Kant froidement penché.

He clung on doggedly enough to the principle of disinterested judgement to write 'De nobis ipsis silemus' ('on ourselves we are silent', i.e. I leave myself out of the account) in the introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason twenty-six years later, and which the Unnamable quotes with despairing sarcasm. But when Watt talks about 'Lisbon's great day' I'm sensing the despairing sarcasm has just about routed the disinterestedness.

Friday, February 17, 2006

How to Jump Out a Window Then Jump Back In Again

Chinese performance artist Li Wei enjoys some extreme sightseeing.

How to Jump Out a Window Without Actually Moving

Armando Iannucci writes in today's Guardian about Buster Keaton:,,1711408,00.html


moon that emptied that post office and grocer's,
moon old kettle of rain and idiolect,
the moon the sump of the aproned pluvial towns,
cut moon as half a hailstone in the hair.

(Peter Didsbury, 'The Hailstone')

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Up and Away

Beckett fact no. 43.

'Looking up at the blue sky and then at your mother's face you break the silence asking her if it is in reality much more distant than it appears [...] For some reason you could never fathom this question must have angered her exceedingly. For she shook off your little hand and made you a cutting retort you have never forgotten.' (Company)

'A small boy, stretching out his hands and looking up at the blue sky, asked his mother how such a thing was possible. Fuck off, she said.' (The End)

'The sky is further away than you think, is it not, mama? [...] She replied, to me her son, It is precisely as far away as it appears to be.' (Malone Dies)

And not forgetting the planes and flying angels of Beckett's translation of 'Zone':

Enoch Elijah Apollonius of Tyana hover
Host-elevating priests ascending endlessly
The aeroplane alights at last with outstretched pinions
Then the sky is filled with swallows in their millions

The infant Beckett's curiosity about the sky, if such it was, may have been an early foretaste of his desire to become a pilot, as expressed in a 1936 letter to Thomas MacGreevy: ‘I hope I am not too old to take it up seriously nor too stupid about machines to qualify as a commercial pilot. I do not feel like spending the rest of my life writing books that no one will read. It was not as though I wanted to write them.’

Which segues nicely into the story of Beckett taking his seat on an Air France flight just as a Captain Godot or Godeau welcomed passengers on board. Cue stiff drink. At least he'd turned up though.

Pale for Weariness

Beckett fact no. 42.

'That was the source of Waiting for Godot, you know', Beckett told Ruby Cohn in Berlin of Caspar David Friedrich's Man and Woman Observing the Moon. Yes I know it's a man and a woman rather than two men, but there's also an earlier, more twilighty version of the painting called Two Men Contemplating the Moon. Except that one's in New York.

'Pale for weariness', Estragon says of the moon, remembering Shelley.

The Unnamable mentions 'murmuring Shelley' 'under the elms'.

'How difficult it is to speak of the moon and not lose one's head, the witless moon. It must be her arse she shows us always', Molloy thinks to himself during his stay at Sophie Lousse's.

And finally, he may have thought the world was mud (cf. the epigraph to Proust), but Leopardi didn't mind the moon so much. Here's A.S. Kline's translation of A la luna:

O lovely moon, now I’m reminded
how almost a year since, full of anguish,
I climbed this hill to gaze at you again,
and you hung there, over that wood, as now,
clarifying all things. Filled with mistiness,
trembling, that’s how your face seemed to me,
with all those tears that welled in my eyes, so
troubled was my life, and is, and does not change,
O moon, my delight. And yet it does help me,
to record my sadness and tell it, year by year.
Oh how sweetly it hurts, when we are young,
when hope has such a long journey to run,
and memory is so short,
this remembrance of things past, even if it
is sad, and the pain lasts!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

van Velde

Bram van Velde (1895-1981), Untitled

'the first to admit that to be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail, that failure is his world and the shrink from it desertion, art and craft, good housekeeping, living.'


Georges Masson (1896-1987), Woman from Martinique

'Here is an artist who seems literally skewered on the dilemma of expression.'

Tal Coat

Beckett fact no. 41.

An image each for the three painters Beckett discusses with Georges Duthuit in their Transition dialogues.

Tal Coat (1905-1985), Traverse d'un plateau II

'Total objects, complete with missing parts, instead of partial object.'

Demented Literalist

Muddy Waters sings:
Good morning little schoolgirl
Good morning little schoolgirl
Can I go home?
Can I go home with you?
Tell your momma and your father
I once was a schoolboy too

Demented literalist answers:
Hey folks, I've allowed a blues-singing pensioner to come home with me after he explained that he went to school too, which I'm guessing makes it all right for him to stand around on street corners propositioning people a quarter his age. Perhaps he can help me with my geography homework.

Muddy Waters sings:
I can make love to you woman
in five minutes' time

Demented literalist answers:
Do you mean you've got things to do for the next five minutes, like flossing or brushing your hair, after which you're free to give me a seeing to? Or that it'll all be over in five minutes? Can't you be a bit more specific?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

One Dead in Further Cartoon Clash

The Silk of the Seas and the Arctic Flowers

The last drop of petrol always like the last drop of pee, shaken out and going to waste. King Billy on his steed, over the gents’: our great deliverer; stirrupless Caesar of the all-night disco bar and two-for-one offer on the alcopops. It was here I felt the call of the river, the need to look on its vicious majesty and be comforted once more. So I drove, I found the station playing the one pop song in the world able to save us and drove. Look at that sun in your eyes: take it and break it and leave it in fragments spilling the daylight into the earth. On the traffic island lives a white-tailed rabbit who will marry the owl and the pussycat and wave them off to sea, to a fly-past from the Airfix factory down the road and corks popped at the cod liver oil place beyond that. You want hard, I’ll give you hard; want letters home about bed bugs and scurvy, that’s what you’ll have; want can’t be bothered meet me out here after closing time in a party hat and fake nose. This afternoon the sky has decided to take the Zeebrugge ferry and won’t be returning, dragging the waders and ducks behind it. That’s another half-dozen off my twitcher’s list: see them once, I tell myself, then let them get the hell out, it’s not like I want them hanging around, cluttering up the place, and off they go, wheeling and screaming. A half hour of this and I’ve sunk up to my binoculars in this quagmire, and are you trying to pull me out or offering to come down with me, you’ll have to shout louder than that if this is going to make any sense. Or bundle me into the boot, release the bawdy handbrake’s grip and leave me to smother in the mudbanks’ glutinous kiss. So here we are then, here I stand and gaze on the river and know I am right, Midnight and Fugly the Fort Paull owls whispering one in each ear, telling me so. Take my hand and close the boot with me from inside: here in the dark, the warm, the wet, never more certain all our lives, of what I don’t know, I’ve no idea, but something, something, certain, certain.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Your Death

Apologising for his messy pellet injuries to Harry Whittington, Dick Cheney has promised that your death, YOU reading this, YOUR death will be quick and painless, he'll be shooting straight when he COMES FOR YOU, when he shoots YOU.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Man Shoots Man

Dick Cheney has accidentally shot and wounded a quail on his weekend bag-a-random-human hunt. Justice Scalia is unhurt, though disappointed that Hillary Clinton managed to escape in the ensuing kerfuffle.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Podgy midfield clogger releases hopeful shot from twenty-five yards straight into the stand, stands holding head in hands, camera tries to show him but someone is in the way, camera tries to move but the obstacle moves too, camera lingers for a few seconds more, gives up.

That is a pfarfle.

Judge Then of My Astonishment When One Fine Morning

If that episode made no sense it’s because I was lip-synching to your mixed tape on my way to the dump, because I’m putting everything on my credit cards now – my credit card bills for a start, these stolen moments, these black bags full of the life I’ve thrown out.

The Republic of Precisely Nowhere, its dismal fireworks and half-hearted anthem: it’s no way to run a country, and yet I do, hauling any old handkerchief up the flagpole and saluting, tears in my eyes.

When the tape gets to the end it switches over, that’s understood. I tap on the wheel and whistle along.

So if I appear unable to concentrate it’ll be because I’m trying too hard.

There is scarcely a journey I have not taken in search of the ideal point of departure. Correct me unless I’m wrong: is this it? Only you will know, all-generous one, and only you will refuse to say.

The Hordes of the Old Plunderer

The gloriously barmy Raymound Roussel explaining in How I Wrote Certain of My Books, well, how he wrote certain of his books: 'I chose two similar words. For example billiards and pilliards (looters). Then I added to them words similar but taken in two different directions, and I obtained two almost identical sentences thus. The two sentences found, it was a question of writing a tale which could start with the first and finish by the second. Amplifying the process then, I sought new words reporting to the word billiards, always to take them in a different direction than that which was presented first of all, and that provided me each time with a creation, moreover. The process evolved/moved and I was led to take an unspecified sentence, whose images I drew by dislocating it [...] For example, Les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux billard/The white letters on the cushions of the old billiard table… must somehow reach the phrase, …les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux pillard/letters [written by] a white man about the hordes of the old plunderer.'

What an absymal translation that it, by the way. It's the only one I could find, and I had to tidy it up no end. But you get the idea.

Raymond Roussel once sailed to India, came on deck to have a look, decided he'd seen enough and ordered the captain to sail for home.

Among the inventions shown off by Canterel in Roussel's novel Locus Solus: an aerial pile driver which is constructing a mosaic of teeth, a huge glass diamond filled with water in which can be found floating a dancing girl, a hairless cat, and the preserved head of Danton, and a series of eight tableaux vivants performed by eight corpses injected with 'resurrectine', a fluid that animates a recently dead body and makes it reenact the most important incidents in its life.


Beckett fact no. 40.

Ten Dante references in Beckett.

1) 'Tel Bocca dans la glace' in the 1974 poem hors crâne seul dedans.
2) Malacoda the farting devil, in the elegy for Beckett's father of that name.
3) The end of the Inferno-echoing Text for Nothing 9: 'pass out, and see the beauty of the skies, and see that stars again'.
4) Dante: attacker of 'world's Portadownians' and manufacturer of caps to 'fit the collective noodle of the monodialectical arcadians whose fury is precipitated by a failure to discover "innoce-free" in the concise Oxford Dictionary' ('Dante ... Bruno . Vico .. Joyce').
5) The soothsayers from Inferno XX mentioned by Dan Rooney in All That Fall, their faces turned 'arsy-versy' that their tears might water their backsides.
6) 'There all sigh I was, I was': the animator's memory of the Purgatorio in Rough for Radio II.
7) Qui vive la pietà quand'è ben morta: an Infernal pun remembered by Belacqua (Purgatorio IV) in 'Dante and the Lobster'.
8) 'And on to hell out of there when was that... that last time straight off the ferry': crossing the river Styx in That Time. Or according to Keir Elam, at least, that's what it is.
9) 'The spots were Cain and his truss of thorns, dispossessed [...] seared with the first stigma of God's pity, that an outcast might not die quickly': 'Dante and the Lobster' again.
10) Winnie's 'sweet old style', remembering Dante's dolce stil nuovo.

Friday, February 10, 2006


In The Trouble with Being Born, Emil Cioran recounts the tale of an acquaintance writing a memoir of his childhood in a Romanian village. The writer assures a neighbour that he won't be left out of the book, to which the old peasant replies: 'I know I'm a worthless man, but I didn't think I had fallen so low as to be talked about in a book.'

The Fatal Leaning Towards Expressiveness

I inherit from my father my terrible teeth, from my mother my backache, and claim as my own my abominable temper. I boast on my mother’s side direct descent from Patrick Sarsfield, and on my father’s collateral ancestry with Lester Piggott. I was always such a well-behaved boy, shining at spelling: ‘e-s-c-h-s-c-h-o-l-t-z-i-a’. I stood on the grassy ridge (a sleeping giant) in Merrion Park across the way from the hospital, willing on my brother’s arrival and repeating the performance three, five years later; they have never ceased to be grateful. At the top of the hill was the new supermarket, at the bottom the school where we prayed for the cameras during the papal visit. On the school bus I gorged on the chocolates intended for Brother Horgan on the last day of term, or rather I ate the ones on top and gave him the rest, my leavings. One long-suffering goldfish aside, imaginatively christened Jaws, my childhood was petless. We kissed goodbye to our girlfriends at the last summer project disco, then saw them again the following year, as was the custom of the time. Among our terms for the pupils at the special needs school over the wall were ‘bennies’ and ‘spas’; among our terms for the local convent was the ‘Virgin Megastore’, or was that later, after the time I’m describing, I wouldn’t bet on it. Disconsolately we stood in the GAA field on our school trip to Wexford, bearded by a resident camán-wielding savage. Apparently our being from Wicklow qualified us as ‘Jackeens’: not a nice thing to be, in that part of the world. The big thick ignorant oaf.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Buster Keaton

Beckett fact no. 39.

Since there's a Buster Keaton festival on at the National Film Theatre in London at the moment here are some of Beckett's thoughts on working with him on Film, as reported to Kevin Brownlow in an interview for an ITV documentary on Keaton:

'Buster Keaton was inaccessible. He had a poker mind as well as a poker face. I doubt if he ever read the text - I don't think he approved of it or liked it. But he agreed to do it and he was very competent. He was not our first choice. Alan Schneider wanted Zero Mostel and I wanted Jack McGowran, but neither were available. It was Schneider's idea to use Keaton, who was available. Of course, I had seen his silent films and enjoyed them - don't suppose I could remember them now. He had a young woman with him - his wife, who had picked him up from his alcoholism. We met him at a hotel. I tried to engage him in conversation, but it was no good. He was absent. He didn't even offer us a drink. Not because he was being unfriendly, but because it never occured to him.

'One of the first things we did was to find the location - driving all over New York, looking for the wall - which we eventually found at the (Fulton Street) Fush Market - near Brooklyn Bridge. It was a building site - the wall was demolished shortly after that. The heat was terrible - while I was staggering in the humidity, Keaton was galloping up and down and doing whatever we asked of him. He had great endurance, he was very tough and, yes, reliable. And when you saw that face at the end - oh!' He smiled. 'At last.'

I asked if Keaton ever enquired what the film was about? Beckett laughed. 'No. He wasn't interested. ''Did you ever tell him?' 'I never did, no. I had very little to do with him. He sat in his dressing room, playing cards - patience or something, until he was needed. The only time he came alive was when he described what happened when they were making films in the old days. That was very enjoyable. I remember him saying that they started with a beginning and an end and improvised the rest as they went along.'

'Were you pleased with the way he moved - did he give you more than you expected? 'His movement was excellent - covering up the mirror, putting out the animals - all that was very well done. To cover the mirror, he took his big coat off and he asked me what he was wearing underneath. I hadn't thought of that. I said "the same coat" He liked that. The only gag he approved of was the scene where he tries to get rid of the animals - he put out the cat and the dog comes back and he puts out the dog and the cat comes back - that was really the only scene he enjoyed doing.'

{End quotation}

The young Keaton, I read in a festival-related article, once had his right index finger shredded by a clothes wringer, then his head gashed open by a falling brick, and then on retreating to his bedroom was sucked out the window by a passing tornado and dumped in a field. As reprised by Keaton in the 'When Tornadoes Strike' section of Film, which so sadly failed to make the final cut.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Wit and Wisden

Beckett fact no. 38.

Despite cricket nut Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize, Beckett remains the only Stockholm laureate to have found his way into the cricketer's bible Wisden. As a member of the Portora first eleven the schoolboy Beckett was praised as ‘an attractive batsman’, ‘a very good medium-pace bowler with a sharp break-back’ and ‘a brilliant field who brings off one-hand catches in fine style’. While at Trinity he notched up that Wisden appearance for matches against Northamptonshire, scoring 313 runs in his first season.

In later life Beckett liked taking in test games at Lords on visits to London.

And there the file on Beckett and cricket might have closed but for Roy Clements’ little pamphlet The Alternative Wisden on Samuel Barclay Beckett. Endgame has often been read as taking place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but Clements knows better: it is in fact a coded description of the 1937 test between England and South Africa, abandoned after rain delayed play for ten days. Hamm is English captain Walter Hammond, Nagg and Nell are the umpires, and Clov is the batting glove, or sub-collector of club members’ subscriptions (there’s a tortuous explanation for that one I won’t inflict on you here).

Estragon and Vladimir are a bowler and batsman, or perhaps two bowlers.

The Unnamable is Beckett’s no-ball.

And Happy Days is his anti-cricket play, featuring at its centre a symbol of a golfball on the tee.

Don't Tell Me!

Beckett fact no. 37.

In Waiting for Godot Estragon tries to tell Vladimir his dream and Vladimir refuses to listen, eventually shouting 'DON'T TELL ME!'

One possible source for this is a passage from Mrs Piozzi's Anecdotes of Dr Johnson copied out twice by Beckett in the notebooks for his abortive Human Wishes. Dr Johnson urges Mrs Thrale to make her ten-year-old son to confess his dreams, since for his part 'the first corruption that entered my heart was communicated in a dream'. Mrs Thrale asks 'What was it, Sir' and Johnson replies "'Do not ask me" [...] with much violence, & walked away in apparent agitation.'

Beckett to Joseph Hone in 1937: 'He must have had the vision of positive annihilation. Of how many can as much be said.'

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Answer this one fast. Instantaneously, even.

You visit the button shop and buy two buttons at a total cost of £1.10. One is one pound dearer than the other. How much is the cheaper button? Answer and click the comments box. (Thanks to Finbarr for this one.)

Scot, not Sot

Ten facts about Scotus Eriugena.

1) Once told Charles the Bald that the difference between a scottus (i.e. an Irishman) and a sottus (a drunk) was 'the table'.
2) Translated and wrote a commentary on the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.
3) Was condemned at the Council of Langres (859AD) as an author of Pultes Scotorum ('Irish porridge').
4) In his masterwork, Periphyseon, argues that anything which 'through the excellence of its nature' transcends our faculties inhabits a state of non-existence; as a form of 'nothingness through excellence' God is said 'not to be'.
5) God is 'nihil per excellentiam' where mere matter is 'nihil per privationem', a comparable but vastly inferior form of non-existence, in the Augustinian tradition whereby matter considered in itself has no existence independently of God.
6) All things return to their source, and all creation is finally absorbed back into God; hell is the condition of beings that cannot let go of their earthly existence.
7) Appears to collapse the difference between God and creation in a panthestic fashion that prefigures Spinoza.
8) Looked like he meant business on the old Irish five-pound note.
9) Was not Duns Scotus. That's a different Scotus entirely.
10) And was almost certainly not stabbed to death by Oxford students' quills for being a pantheistical heretic, though it makes a nice story.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Syrian Legoland embassy in flames; withdraw your lifesize Starwars figures and their endless hours of fun for all the family from Iraq now or else, say protesters.


Among the most charming if oddly neglected of world religions is stickmanism.Stickmanists believe in yet at the same time find it deeply shameful to believe in the stickman that gives their faith its name. They are required by their faith to promulgate images of stickman, despite the fact that these images are against everything they believe in as good stickmanists. Consequently they spend their lives in a state of profound embarrassment and confusion. They are an inspiration to us all.

Friday, February 03, 2006

That They May Be Damned

Ss Gregory and Augustine (who I always thought was black?!) admire the 'After' panel of a hair loss reversal ad on the back of Which Saint? magazine

Beckett fact no. 36.

Do women have souls?, Jacques Moran asks himself. Yes, he decides, 'that they may be damned.'

Moran's theologically well-stocked mind is perhaps remembering a discussion at the Council of Macon in 585AD at which this point was debated and, not without resistance, the wise fathers conceded that women have souls after all.

Except that never happened! It's a myth, put about by two Reformation pamphleteers called Valentius Acidalius and Johannes Leyser.

Seizing on the ambiguous meaning of the Latin homo (a human being but also a young male), they attempted to find Biblical sanction for the absence of souls in the female of the species. The best they could do was a description of the Council of Macon in St Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks in which a bishop questions whether woman can be included under the term 'man'. The other bishops told him it could and that was the end of it.

Of the great 'Belgians don't have souls' scandal of 1998, when John Paul II got very drunk and posted that headline on the Vatican website before collapsing into bed, remembering nothing in the morning, by which time shares in Belgian chocolate had gone into freefall -- of the great 'Belgians don't have souls' scandal, let's say no more. Get over it, Belgium. It's time to move on.