26 April, 2008

This Bread I Break

Multiple things are swallowing up all my time. Also our internet connection has been cut off - something to do with a controversial matter also known as "not paying bills". Oh well.

I have had time to read some Dylan Thomas though. Also latterly some Yeats. In both cases, when they're good, they sound great. Unfortunately, when they're impenetrable, I feel a headache coming on. Anyway:

This bread I break was once the oat,
The wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day, or wind by night
Laid the crops low, broke the grape's joy.

Once in this wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind;
Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.

This flesh you break, this blood you let
Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape
Born of sensual root and sap;
My wine you drink, my bread you snap.

Dylan Thomas, 1933.

Thomas is a fascinating character and a great poet, but unfortunately I find I can only seldom enjoy reading his poetry, and then only because I've given myself plenty of time to work up to it - unlike Auden, who I felt more able to dip in and out of.

Regardless, another that I think I should like to return to.

13 April, 2008

Gare Du Midi

Tough to choose one, I've really rather enjoyed my research into Auden as well, although his work seems odd, sometimes seemingly direct and straightforward, sometimes hard to fathom.

A nondescript express in from the South,
Crowds round the ticket barrier, A face
To welcome which the mayor has not contrived
Bugles or braid: Something about the face
Distracts the stray look with alarm and pity.
Snow is falling. Clutching a little case,
He walks out briskly to infect a city
Whose terrible future may have just arrived.

WH Auden, 1938

What immediately appeals to me about this one (apart from the short length that characterises all my choices!) is the meaning one could choose to read into it. A 21st century reader could be forgiven for imagining a terrorist with a vial of lethal pathogen. At the time it was written, that "little case" could be all the more hostile for containing instead an ideology, whether one that's downright evil, or simply an alien sense of bureaucracy.

I'd like to know more about Auden's concerns around that time but that's really where I ran out of research time for the week. Later, later.

Auden's whole body of work is excellent though, really. I've thoroughly enjoyed picking my way through a variety of sentiments and structures. "Gare Du Midi" is a favourite alongside "Here War is Simple like a Monument," "In Memory of W.B. Yeats," and "In Praise in Limestone." I don't think I can do such a man of words justice with my own, but I would heartily recommend the collection I have, at the least. It's collected together by John Fuller.

By this time next week I hope I'll have had time to read some of Dylan Thomas' poetry.

11 April, 2008

Second Hand News

Lately I've become a bit obsessed with Google Trends. It sort of combines two fascinations of mine; how huge swathes of traffic move online, and the uncanny way statistics can document history. Of course, they've only been recording search frequencies from 2004, so it's very recent history, but regardless, it can indicate the rise of youtube or give an idea of how the democratic presidential nomination race has emerged so far.

Maybe more fascinating though, is the short-term chart, for the day's "hottest" search terms. This can unearth some really intriguing stories that maybe won't fully break into the mainstream media and won't be going round for more than a couple of days.

Example: at time of writing, the top search term is "dick cheney sunglasses." Seemingly nonsensical, but of course "Trends" grants you links to news stories, that you might make sense of these weird surges.

And sure enough, enlightenment, here, here, here, and hundreds of others besides I don't doubt.

The story: a press photo of Dick Cheney appears to show a nudey lady reflected in his sunglasses. How embarassing. For the sake of it, here's the photo:

Google trends: positively half hours of intrigue.

07 April, 2008

The Bard

So, Shakespeare this week. Fella wrote 154 sonnets, but I was a bit pushed for time this week, so I stuck with one, and I decided to make it a crowd-pleaser;
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is His gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's 18th sonnet is probably his most well-known, by first line alone. It's pretty pleasing to learn verse that itself promises it will last "so long as men can breathe," almost making myself complicit to Shakespeare's promise of immortality to his subject.

Reading Shakespeare's poetry more widely was hard to start with; the immediate appeal of this one is its familiarity, which allowed me to get straight in there. But I found some others that I really liked, and I shall be returning to Shakespeare (I've long felt I should know more about his plays, besides). If only for his place and reputation as the foundation of english literature as we know it.

"Shakespeare's Sonnets" was an invaluable source.

This week I'm hoping to dip more frequently into WH Auden, who's already a bit of a favourite.

05 April, 2008

Sold Out

Lately listening to a lot of Sleater Kinney, Hüsker Dü, Get Hustle, Quicksand, A//Political, Rites of Spring, My Dad is Dead, Black Flag, By the End of Tonight. Guess what mood I'm in.

Looking forward to a few Nottingham gigs upcoming. I'll put some anticipated ones up here, for my own reference as much as anything. No way I can go to all of these, no way it's an all-encompassing list either.

First off, Damn You! have some quality ones (big groan at the student trait of only thinking in terms):

18/04/08 Ted Leo & The Pharmacists @ The Maze
22/04/08 Carla Bozulich's Evangelista @ The Maze
24/04/08 Magik Markers (+ Gnomes of Zurich support! Could be quality) @ Rose of England
13/05/08 Pissed Jeans @ The Maze

Bodega Social:

21/04/08 Buttonhead
22/04/08 Ulrich Schnauss (Uh-oh clash)
06/05/08 Health
20/05/08 A Place To Bury Strangers
09/06/08 Why? + SJ Esau (Birthday treat for me)

Rescue Rooms put on 65daysofstatic on 10/05/08 could be pretty good.

Also on 16/04/08 Mantile has Broken Sleep and also the amazingly-named Milf Wolf, at The Chameleon. Sounds noisy and delicious.

Dot to Dot festival is on 24/05/08 and will be a big fun weekend. To be honest the lineup looked pretty weak but The Most Serene Republic may have rescued it for me.

Have I missed anything? Is there anything I should have down here? Please let me know.