Saturday, September 18, 2004

Leonard Cohen at 70

Hamburg 1974

God...can he really be? How old am I? His are lyrics that have accompanied me through many different times:

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And then leaning on your window sill
he'll say one day you caused his will
to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
an old schedule of trains, he'll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger.

Ah you hate to see another tired man
lay down his hand
like he was giving up the holy game of poker
And while he talks his dreams to sleep
you notice there's a highway
that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder.
It is curling just like smoke above his shoulder.
(Stranger Song)

I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
yes many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
in city and in forest they smiled like me and you..
(Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye)

I know you've heard it's over now and war must surely come,
the cities they are broke in half and the middle men are gone.
But let me ask you one more time, O children of the dusk,
All these hunters who are shrieking now oh do they speak for us?
And where do all these highways go, now that we are free?
(Stories of the Street)

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
(Bird on a Wire)

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
(Dance Me to the End of Love)

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
(Hallelujah )

I greet you from the other side
Of sorrow and despair
With a love so vast and shattered
It will reach you everywhere
And I sing this for the captain
Whose ship has not been built
For the mother in confusion
Her cradle still unfilled
For the heart with no companion
For the soul without a king
For the prima ballerina
Who cannot dance to anything
(Heart With No Companion)

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin...
(First We Take Manhattan)

And I'll dance with you in Vienna
I'll be wearing a river's disguise
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder,
My mouth on the dew of your thighs
And I'll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
With the photographs there, and the moss
And I'll yield to the flood of your beauty
My cheap violin and my cross
And you'll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your wrist
Oh my love, Oh my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz
It's yours now. It's all that there is
(Take This Waltz - after Lorca)

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
(Everybody Knows)

Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
(Tower of Song)

I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn't answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
A hundred floors above me
In the Tower of Song
(Tower of Song)

Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder.
Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
(The Future)

Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well
And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will
(If It Be Your Will)

  • Guardian feature (17 September 2004). From which this endearing quote, 1994:
    "If you're going to think of yourself in this game, or in this tradition, and you start getting a swelled head about it, then you've really got to think about who you're talking about. You're not just talking about Randy Newman, who's fine, or Bob Dylan, who's sublime, you're talking about King David, Homer, Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, you're talking about the embodiment of our highest possibility. So I don't think it's particularly modest or virtuous to think of oneself as a minor poet. I really do feel the enormous luck I've had in being able to make a living, and to never have had to have written one word that I didn't want to write.
    "But I don't fool myself, I know the game I'm in. When I wrote about Hank Williams 'A hundred floors above me in the tower of song', it's not some kind of inverse modesty. I know where Hank Williams stands in the history of popular song. Your Cheatin' Heart, songs like that, are sublime, in his own tradition, and I feel myself a very minor writer. I've taken a certain territory, and I've tried to maintain it and administrate it with the very best of my capacities. And I will continue to administrate this tiny territory until I'm too weak to do it. But I understand where this territory is."
  • The Leonard Cohen files

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Salgado's new Genesis project

Marine iguanas are extremely gentle and
live in complete harmony with the other animals.

From today's Guardian: SebastiĆ£o Salgado is embarking on the last of his great photographic projects, which will appear regularly in the Guardian over the next eight years. He is seeking out places that are still as pristine as they were in primeval times, places that provide hope.

His previous projects...' left him questioning his faith in humanity. He had seen so much man-made suffering. The idealist began to have his doubts about our essential goodness. "I was injured in my heart and my spirit. For me, it was terrible what I saw. I came away from this with incredible despair." He was desperate to find something that would restore faith.
Hence Genesis. Yes, we may already have destroyed 50% of the planet, but Salgado wants to show us what we have left, and what we stand to lose if we don't take care.

In the end, the only heritage we have is our planet, and I have decided to go to the most pristine places on the planet and photograph them in the most honest way I know, with my point of view, and of course it is in black and white, because it is the only thing I know how to do. I want to see if I can put a kind of virginity in these pictures, if you can say that, and to show 100% respect to nature and the animals."'

Heaney on Milosz

Also in today's Guardian Seamus Heaney remembers Czeslaw Milosz: 'though he confronted the brutality of the modern age, Czeslaw Milosz believed in the joy-bringing potential of art'.

See earlier blog on 22 August.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Memories of The Everyman's heyday

The Everyman Theatre company in 1974 including Julie Walters, Bill Nighy, Matthew Kelly and Nick Stringer

From the Guardian today: a feature recalling the golden days of the Liverpool Everyman in the 1970s.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Take Care of my Cat

Caught up with the Korean film Take Care of my Cat on video today.
Director Jae-eun Jeong's debut feature (2002), Take Care of My Cat portrays a group of Korean girls living in the industrial sea town of Inchon. The girls are leaving high school, and the film depicts the difficulties involved in keeping their friendships going after school.

Hae-joo works in a brokerage firm in Seoul and has ambitions; Ji-young lives with her grandparents in a crumbling home, has no job, and draws elaborate textile patterns. Tae-hee works at her father's sauna and dreams of getting away, anywhere far from her domineering family. Each girl seeks escape from the depressed town of her childhood, and none is exactly sure how to get away.

As the film develops, there is an inevitable loss of their closeness. As Take Care of My Cat begins, Tae-hee complains that it's increasingly difficult to get the group together, and their friendships only break further apart from there. The need to move on eventually affects them all , including the cat which has, by the end, lived with each girl.

More details here.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Listening post...summer sounds

Music I've been listening to in recent weeks:

Henri Dikongue: Ndol'Asu and C'Est La Vie (from the album C'Est La Vie) [Interview with Henri Dikongue; Cameroon's global ambassador page]
Zap Mama: Brrrlak! (from album, Zap Mama)
Amparanoia: Rebeldia Con Alegria
Jeff Buckley: Forget Her (previously unreleased track from the Grace sessions)
Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton: The Blue Train (from Trio 2)
Youssou N'Dour: Egypt
Van Morrison: Poetic Champions Compose
Jackson Browne: Fountain Of Sorrow (from Late For The Sky)
Blind Willie Johnson: Soul Of A Man
John Mayall: 70th Birthday Concert
Bruce Springsteen: Live In Barcelona
Rodney Crowell: It's A Different World, Earthbound (from Fate's Right Hand)
Eric Bibb: Painting Signs
Eric Bibb: Water Works Fine (from Natural Light)
Amadou & Mariam: Tje Ni Mousso

The American dream and the European dream

Taken from an extract in today's Guardian from Jeremy Rifkin's new book, The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream:

"A new European dream is beginning to capture the world's imagination. That dream has now been codified in the form of a draft constitution and Europeans are currently debating whether or not to ratify its contents and accept its underlying values as the core of a new Europe.

Twenty-five nations, representing 455 million people, have joined together to create a "United States" of Europe. Like the United States of America, this vast political entity has its own empowering myth. Although still in its adolescence, the European dream is the first transnational vision, one far better suited to the next stage in the human journey. Europeans are beginning to adopt a new global consciousness that extends beyond, and below, the borders of their nation-states, deeply embedding them in an increasingly interconnected world.

Americans are used to thinking of their country as the most successful on earth. That's no longer the case: the EU has grown to become the third largest governing institution in the world. Though its land mass is half the size of the continental US, its $10.5 trillion GDP now eclipses the US GDP, making it the world's largest economy. The EU is already the world's leading exporter and largest internal trading market. The comparisons are even more revealing when it comes to the quality of life. For example, in the EU, there are approximately 322 physicians per 100,000 people; in the US there are only 279 physicians per 100,000 people. The US ranks 26th among the industrial nations in infant mortality, well below the EU average. The average life-span in the 15 most developed EU countries is now 78.2 years compared to 76.9 years in the US. When it comes to wealth distribution - a crucial measure of a country's ability to deliver on the promise of prosperity - the US ranks 24th among the industrial nations. All 18 of the most developed European countries have less income inequality between rich and poor.

Europeans often remark that Americans "live to work", while they "work to live". The average paid vacation time in Europe is now six weeks a year. By contrast, Americans, on average, receive only two weeks. When one considers what makes a people great and what constitutes a better way of life, Europe is beginning to surpass America.

Nowhere is the contrast between the European dream and the American dream sharper than when it comes to the definition of personal freedom. For Americans, freedom has long been associated with autonomy; the more wealth one amasses, the more independent one is in the world. One is free by becoming self-reliant and an island unto oneself. With wealth comes exclusivity and with exclusivity comes security. For Europeans, freedom is not found in autonomy but in community. It's about belonging, not belongings.

Americans are more willing to employ military force to protect perceived vital self-interests. Europeans favour diplomacy, economic aid and peacekeeping operations to maintain order. The American dream is deeply personal and little concerned with the rest of humanity. The European dream is more systemic, bound to the welfare of the planet.

That isn't to say that Europe is a utopia. Europeans have become increasingly hostile towards asylum seekers. Anti-semitism is on the rise, as is discrimination against Muslims and other religious minorities. While Europeans berate America for having a trigger-happy foreign policy, they are willing, on occasion, to let the US armed forces safeguard European security interests. And even its supporters say that the EU's governing machinery, based in Brussels, is aloof from the citizens it supposedly serves.

The point, however, is not whether the Europeans are living up to their dream...What's important is that a new generation of Europeans is creating a radical new vision for the future. "

Full text of extract