March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
There are many faces in Cairo’s Christian cemeteries. After entering a small one in Mar Girgis (‘St. George’) the first I saw were those of three young men playing backgammon at the gate. They returned my greeting without looking up. Most of the tombs were large, free-standing structures with a family name. Here are the Nassifs.
They were ornamented with icons, real and fake flowers, statues with exposed hearts.
Names and dates on gravestones do little for my imagination. If I am to conjure some idea of who the deceased might have been I need at least a phrase about their life, or manner of death, to start me off, preferably something not entirely platitudinous. It is nice to know that they ‘were deeply loved’ or ‘granted mercy’ or ‘taken into angels’ care’; but it is far better to see their face. This has been an option amongst Egypt’s Copts for a very long time:
In that small cemetery, there were plenty of modern equivalents. Here is one of the Nassif’s:
There were also scholars and great beauties.
At the rear of the cemetery, there was a long mausoleum that took up most of its back wall.
Inside were marble graves stacked from floor to ceiling, most of them originally from Europe. There were the Bernadis from Parma:
Here are the Kuhns, she originally from South Africa, he from Lindau, Bavaria.
There was also a candidate for one of the worst things it can say on your gravestone.
However, there was one exception.
This gentleman was still wearing his socks and shoes.
February 1, 2012 § Leave a comment
November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
Found in the same photo album as #8. Relation unknown. Reason for inclusion: the remarkable pallor of the girl in the most probably fake ‘YvesSaintLaurent’ sweater, which doesn’t seem as dramatic at low res, but is, I assure you, worth clicking on the photos in order to truly appreciate its deathly quality.
April 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
3 pictures from a photo album with a paisley cover. The sea is probably the Mediterranean, the country Greece, judging by other less-interesting pictures in the album. There’s something very appealing about the woman’s evident happiness in the third picture, that makes her seem younger than in the other two, where she seems alternately calm and defiant. As ever, one struggles to understand how/why these pictures (and the album in which they were contained) ended up being thrown away, given that they seem to depict what was probably a good holiday. In the absence of any method of finding out, one can only wish her well.
January 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
I rarely remember my dreams. But I am assured that they still happen. Or at least the same patterns of electrical activity that correlate with waking reports of a dream. Though this is fine for my brain, it leaves me feeling a bit cheated. Thankfully I own a copy of The World Doesn’t End by Charles Simic, which has many fine short pieces I can recite and pass off as my own whenever the conversation during the party/train ride/hostage situation turns the sad corner to ‘Dreams’. This is one of my current mainstays, which you may of course feel free to appropriate, should you also suffer from the same deficit, and are at a different party or bank to myself.
My thumb is embarking on a great adventure.
“Don’t go, please,” say the fingers. They try to hold
him down. Here comes a black limousine with a
veiled woman in the back seat, but no one at the
wheel. When it stops, she takes a pair of gold
scissors out of her purse and snips the thumb off.
We are off to Chicago with her using the bloody
stump of my thumb to paint her lips.
December 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
Richard Hughes was a journalist who spent most of his life as a correspondent in Asia for The Times, The Economist, and the Far Eastern Economic Review. During World War 2 he was thought by some to be a spy, and possibly a double agent. Given these suspicions, it is unsurprising that he ended up being fictionalised twice: Ian Fleming based the character of Dikko Henderson in You Only Live Twice on him; in John Le Carre’s The Honourable Schoolboy he appears as Craw. This is his from book Foreign Devil, a memoir. I quote this because a) it suggests how relations (not to say manners) have worsened in the city known as ‘beautiful pastureland’ and b) I have a weakness for this kind of prose.
It happened in ‘The Street of the Grey-Eyed Men’ during the tranquil noontime traffic ‘rush’. The inexpert Chinese driver of a bus loudly tooted his horn and frightened a nervous, highstepping white mare, ridden by a tough Kazakh tribesman. The horse reared, neighing, and fell. The horseman skillfully sprang clear, raised and soothed the mare, handed the reins with a bow to the chairman of a council of dignified nomads seated in converse in the gutter, walked calmly over to the halted bus, and, with deliberation but no visible anger, fetched the apologetic driver a fearful backhand clout over the nose. He then remounted, saluted his quietly approving audience in the gutter, and rode off. The Chinese driver wiped his nose, bowed first to the seated gallery, arose, turned and bowed next to the amused but friendly passengers, and drove off, without tooting.
December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
Some propaganda posters from North Korea, more of which can be found here.
November 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
Whilst reading Javier Marias’s Poison, Shadow and Farewell, I came across this poem from Stevenson, written near the end of his life, whilst far from Edinburgh. This is the first stanza of To My Old Familiars.
After a day of ‘missile rain’ and ‘belching winter wind’ (such as was today) one could be forgiven for wanting to not only forget, but also to flee. Is there anyone who lives here that doesn’t curse the weather?
November 26, 2009 § Leave a comment
November 19, 2009 § 1 Comment
I wish the bird in this photo were part of some shamanic ritual, or failing that, an art piece by a hermit who lives on the coast of Novia Scotia. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It, and the other photos below, were taken by Chris Jordan a month ago on Midway Atoll.
These photographs of albatross chicks were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.
To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.
There’s something about these pictures, and also Lu Guang’s, which troubles me, and not just because they starkly demonstrate the degree to which we have devastated our environment. What I find equally upsetting is how beautiful they are- as if even pollution now has its own aesthetic. Even as we push species into extinction, and ecosystems into radical change, we are making art from these actions. The fault, of course, is not in the photographers, but in those who provide subjects for them.
June 24, 2009 § Leave a comment
This week Kodak announced that they would no longer be manufacturing Kodachrome film. Even someone like myself who has little interest in taking photos (though always interest in looking at them), feels a degree of sadnes at this news, which is all the more acute on looking at Margaret Strickland’s pictures, taken by her grandfather during the Korean war, and in Valdosta, Georgia (which I found via the excellent new Oxford American art blog).
It is, of course, quite typical, that the one picture of hers that I was able to paste in is the least colour saturated. You’ll need to go the immense trouble of clicking to see what I mean.
June 5, 2009 § Leave a comment
May 21, 2009 § Leave a comment
Woman and half cat found in a paperback edition of Other Men’s Flowers.
May 10, 2009 § Leave a comment
3 pages of humility, then a moment of wordly ambition. Found in the pages of a book on ducks.
April 23, 2009 § Leave a comment
This is the front cover of a Christmas card found in a paperback copy of Huysmans’ Against Nature. It is in all likelihood from Christmas 1963. Inside, once, the pleasantries are disposed of, the writer bemoans the state of the nation.
The analysis continues on the reverse:
Whilst the thought of the US ‘falling back to the level of some South American republics or the Congo’ must have been chilling for Pat, one hopes she was comforted by the excellent work of the CIA in makng sure that other people’s elected leaders met broadly similar fates.
April 22, 2009 § Leave a comment
My work at a charity bookshop (that cannot be named) mainly involves selling books I don’t care for to people who ask me questions like, ‘So, do you read much?’
My other main duty is going through bags of donations, finding what can be sold, then disposing of the chaff (all of which gets recycled). For the next few posts I’ll be sharing some of the things that have slipped from the pages. Today’s involves the photo above, that came from a 1982 Blue Peter annual. Though obviously some kind of photo collage, it is all the more impressive for being pre-Photoshop, as attested to by the inscription on the reverse.