Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving thanks

Giving thanks, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

Well, after going through the snaps of Thanksgiving dinner that I took last night, I can't think of a better one to go at the head of a little blog post about it than this one.

It's not that I chose to apply an old-fashioned cross-process for the heck of it. There is something very lasting about the way that a tired host and a good friend sit down contented after a mammoth meal on a warm traditional occasion. So lasting that it can span decades, back to the days when you had to wait for your paper memories to come back from the lab, the colours all changed and random and wonderful and smudged like the colours of your memories themselves.

It was a lovely meal, a lovely night, lovely people. And the cheese and honey afterwards weren't bad either.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In honour of CERN

Large Hadron Collider, originally uploaded by chippa.

Well, over one year later, the 'Big Bang Machine' or Large Hadron Collider underneath Switzerland and France has been repaired after its rather expensive hiccup, and was restarted last night. Two proton beams have been injected into the collider so far and have been spun around at buttock-clenchingly flabbergasting speeds, and nothing's exploded yet.

More pictures here. The video below is a timelapse of the construction of just one ickle part of the thing.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Roni Horn, a new... exploration

I should point out that if you click this link, you will see an article about an artist I have written about before. With her boobs out.

I suppose she felt like celebrating the latest incarnation of her retrospective.

I would say 'that is all' here, but as always with Roni Horn, that's not all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn day

Autumn day - mushrooms, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

The Guardian says today should really be a bank holiday, so it's good fortune that I decided before the weekend that today would be a day off.

So after reading the article and smiling at my freedom, I had a cup of hot coffee and headed out into the very autumnal local woodland for some photography, which you can see more of if you click the photo and explore the rest of the set.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Multicoloured Belfast City Hall

Yes, I know this is blurry and horrible, but our City Hall has been given, from what I can tell, just a new electrical system, a café, and a lick of paint.

Anyway, the really striking thing about it is that they've taken to making it look like a rainbow at night. The colours shift and merge into one another. It's a striking effect and very welcome as we head into darker nights...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keith Jarrett - Testament

Keith Jarrett - Testament, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

It is NOT natural to sit at a piano, bring no material, clear your mind completely of musical ideas, and play something that is of lasting value and brand new (not to mention that these are live concerts, and the audience's role was of utmost chemical importance: they could change the potential and shape of the music easier than the difference of pianos or hall sound). I then did a series of solo concerts in Japan in the spring of 2008 that seemed to hit a technical high-note in the history of my solo events. I wasn't sure what could possibly happen next after these concerts.

Then my wife left me (this was the third time in four years). I quickly scrambled to stay alive (music had been my life for 60 years) by setting up a Carnegie Hall Concert (a leaflet inserted into the program for my 25th Anniversary trio concert there in October 2008 advertised a solo concert in late January 2009), but before I did that concert, Steve Cloud managed to quickly come up with two solo concerts in Europe: Paris and London. I had not played solo in London for, I believe, 18 years. These were the first solo events since my wife had left. I was in an incredibly vulnerable emotional state, but I admit to wondering whether this might not be a "good" thing for the music. It truly didn't matter; I had to do them. - Keith Jarrett

When disasters have befallen me, I have not had the (difficult) good fortune of being able to set up a concert in Carnegie Hall to blow the blues away. And in the two concerts recorded on these three CDs, Keith Jarrett certainly does blow his blues away - or if not entirely away, there's a lot more here besides The Blues, or Gospel, or the lush, tearjerking tunes that nestle into the corners of your mind for months on end.

The first concert, on CD1, is from the Salle Pleyel, Paris, recorded on the day before Thanksgiving in 2008. The second concert, spanning CDs 2 and 3, is from the Royal Festival Hall, London, recorded on the following Monday. It's sometimes tempting to feel, when you remember what you were doing on the date a recording was made, that you have somehow influenced the music - in my case, that a warm Thanksgiving table, very special people, new experiences and a sense of quiet acceleration at the start of winter have leaked into these CDs as if by magic - but of course, that's wrong. We all influence music anew each time we listen to it, and if there is anything fresh and bracing about Jarrett's creations here, there is also plenty that is warm and slow and like a summer night. This is music that will last until next spring - and next century.

I won't spend time giving a 'proper review', except to say that these concerts aren't as raw and fragmented as the earlier album 'Radiance', nor are they quite as coherent and complete as the Carnegie Hall Concert. They do, however, keep Jarrett pecking at fresh material in short episodes, the results are always satisfying, there is always something old behind them, and those tearjerkers are there too. Obviously, you should really buy the CDs as soon as possible, but first, read Jarrett's liner-notes at Amazon, and have a preview listen there - but a better listen at the ECM Player.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tower house

Christ Church Greyfriars , originally uploaded by EZTD.

If you fancy living in a church tower thanks to the Blitz, it'll only cost you four and a half million pounds. But it's well worth it - you get a prime location in central London and a garden in the shell of the bombed-out church. The photos look wonderful. I don't know how long they'll be up, mind you. Via Londonist.


No - it's not cold here today. Just ever so slightly chilly first thing in the morning. So far, at least, Autumn here has been kind. 'Frozen' alludes to the title of this photo gallery from the New York Times. I know a lady in Belfast who keeps a house very much like this one...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Open spaces

The painting above was finished not last year, but nearly 100 years ago. It's by an Italian artist called Russolo, and it's called The Revolt. Russolo was a Futurist, and the Futurists were fierce, angry artists who wanted to smash the prescriptive, ordered ways of thinking of the past and speed towards a modern future that was more fast, free and easy than the slow, bogged-down past.

During my recent holiday in London, I did a lot of walking. I did some photography, some of it while walking, other bits while sitting down or ambling aimlessly. While sitting down, I was usually also reading or thinking. And whereas earlier this year I was thinking about light and dark and surface and depth as things in themselves and what their properties might be, this time I'm thinking more about movement through dark and light, and movement across surfaces. And what the dark and the the light and the surface contain, and mean.

Moving across the earth, whether you walk down your road, or whether you take a tube-train in London and pop up above the ground again, or whether you fly, has lately become very... directed. We start our journeys from a particular patch of ground given some significance and a name. We move from that point to another point, and to do that, we usually walk along a road, or a path, or we follow a map, or we sit within a form of transport that will impose our route upon us. We are as directed in our movements as actors upon a stage or as plants upon a pergola.

Richard Long is an artist who is interested in those paths and roads and the surface of the earth and how we move across it. He is interested in prising greater freedom of movement from apparently regimented ways of moving. For example, one of his works comprises a higgledy-piggledy series of worm-like lines, moving freely across a white surface - the lines are actually an unmarked map of the paths and roads which 'allow' our movement over a particular area of the English countryside.

Another work, which looks much more limitational, is a straight line drawn across a map from one random point to another. There is no path - the idea is simply to treat the surfaces of the earth along the line - the random sequence of mud - stone - paved road - grass - pebbles - dry leaves - more grass - mud - heathland - outcrop - crag - as free land to be travelled upon and over without paths in mind, without routes to follow. The straight line ruled across the map suddenly opens out in the imagination and becomes the pathless way without rules of any kind. And his gallery installations - the ground on the wall in the form of mud, lines of mud splashes looking as delicate as the shoots of bamboo or reeds on a Japanese print - simply draw further attention to the freedom of the surface.

Which is why, wandering aimlessly around the gallery, I was surprised when a Tate gallery attendant told me I couldn't take a photo of a group of stones. And which is also why, wandering wide-eyed around Tate Modern's Futurism exhibition, I was surprised at how directed a future the free-thinking, museum-smashing, free-thinking, velocity-loving, car-driving Futurists seemed to be speeding so headlong and blindly towards.

It's not that their love of the machine is alien to me. I love aeroplanes and fast trains and slow, clunky underground ones, with their shadows and sounds and flashes of light and colour just as much as they did. But it's all so samey for fierce, free-thinking people, isn't it? And all those people in the painting above, rushing forwards as one, so fast that they seem to be breaking the sound-barrier... couldn't they see the threat to freedom lurking in a mechanised future?

Or was it that nobody could have seen that, and now that we're in the present day with its planes, trains, automobiles and timetables, it takes an artist like Richard Long to nudge us out of the airport, away from the coded motorways and across the open fields?

(And another couple of things. One: there's no way my camera could have captured all that - stop your silly snapshot policies, art galleries. Two: Roni Horn's art, which I blogged about before, suddenly seems more 'Free-Futurist' than ever.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Well, I'm back from a holiday London - apologies for the silence, which I know has persisted for longer than I have been in London. There are good reasons for it, the most prosaic of which are work and being tired and not having had a creative thought worthy of a follow-through for a while. I may blog about some things later.

Anyway. Yesterday, something happened which was rather mystifying, somewhat eye-opening, and a source of confusion even today. I don't simply mean the act of travel, although it is like that also. I mean what happened when I was sitting, a little worn-out, before the closed door of the departure gate, minutes before the security girls appeared to check our passports and shoo us to the plane.

I had settled down for what I thought would be no more than a few minutes. A few minutes passed. My eyes misted over with memories of London. Little things about my surroundings brought me back - the gradual sparse arrivals in the little lounge, the out-of-place guy standing on the left, the.... out of place guy standing on the left who had been looking around him, the only person standing... and who then looked straight at me as if he had intended to all along, and then smiled right at me and shyly and firmly walked over and knelt down on the floor in front of me.

He reached into his pocket. "A trick." The eyes. The smile. Maybe Italian? Maybe Eastern European with a tan...? A pile of coins. Two little containers of metal. His smile. His eyes directly on mine. The coins go into one container. He puts it into my hand and closes his hands around mine, ever so gently, still smiling at me. And I am expecting slight of hand, flicking between his eyes and his hands, no movement. Just his smile. Everything else stops. London is forgotten. I haven't felt this way in a year. His smile says he meant this. He must have meant this.

He could physically yank the damn thing from my hand and I still wouldn't notice, so it is hardly a trick. But the coins in my hand have disappeared from the container. Of course they haven't, I think. It's a trick. But the childish amazement comes back and I clap and grin and smile at him and he laughs quietly too, and leans towards me, and brushes me with his hair, and touches me and said "...see you..." and touches me again and walks right out of the gate and down the long corridor back to the main airport and never looks back.

I sit there, dumb, and think: he's not on my flight. This gate is miles from the others and everywhere else too. He meant this! Should I run back?

So then, of course, all the closeted-in-public gay and bi guys on the flight had noticed this and had to sit near me on the plane. And flirt, in silent Northern-Irish ways. But that wasn't the point.

Who *was* he?

If you're reading this, I was in the yellow t-shirt, and I think you have beautiful eyes, and I know those coins were fake. Totally.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Hanging off, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

Boy 'tried to eat toy sandwiches'
Teenager 'beat toddler to death'
Man climbs 200ft wheel attraction
Teacher raped by boy wins damages
Taxi driver rapes male passenger

The above headlines are all real. Who'd have thought it?

I was sitting in a bar facing the Belfast Eye (the 200ft wheel attraction) when there was a minor commotion at the windows, and my friend John said "What's going on?", and we proceeded to figure out what was wrong.

A guy said "There's a guy on the top of the wheel!". We drank more. He didn't come down. We went outside. A very drunk guy didn't drink more. He was carried to a bench next to an improvised police cordon below the wheel. Then the police went away. The guy on top of the wheel still didn't budge.

The drunk guy, helpless, was hugged and posed beside for photos by grinning Belfast delinquents, as if he was a Guantanamo detainee about to be happy-slapped. Other Belfast teenagers looked on, silent and horrified. A guy who tried to help was called a dick. The guy on top of the wheel didn't budge.

And then, a couple of hours later, the guy on the wheel came down, and the world went back to normal.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gin and tonic

Gin and tonic, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

In honour of the first properly summery day Belfast has had this year. Warm air, no wind, gentle sounds of traffic and birdsong in the background... and very, very cold Gordon's and tonic water. Perfect.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Singing ringing tree

The singing ringing tree 1, originally uploaded by felixspencer2.

This is one of a series of hilltop sculptures, collectively titled Panopticons, in Lancashire, England. The others are Atom, Colourfields, and Halo. They are based on the cohesive idea of the panopticon, a type of building which would allow an observer inside in a single place to observe all rooms.

The concept of panopticons as buildings was originally applied to prison design (dreamt up by the now stuffed Jeremy Bentham). How fortunate that it has been conquered by such lightness.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cave Hill Rescue

Cave Hill Rescue, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

My feet hurt. Giles was out of breath. So we stepped to the side of the steep path, through the soft, springy mixture of soil and dry leaves and wild garlic.

The helicopter, which had been hovering over this area since we had set out from Giles's front door, made it troublesome to hear sounds at a distance, and it soon emerged that the woman who appeared to sit in the gentle valley below the path was yelling for our attention. She had fallen from far above; she needed help; she had called for the helicopter; could we help?

Giles got his phone out and wandered uphill to call mountain rescue. I stayed close to the woman and waved and waved, with big sweeping gestures, at the helicopter, which moved more closely overhead.

Soon Giles was back, with a policeman in tow. And what was her name? Louise, she said. She was very sorry - she had been beaten black and blue since she was six - she needed a light - were we going to arrest her? She had fallen. Honest. Not a one of them cared. Not a one. She was serving her suspended sentence, too, and being good. She couldn't walk. She needed help.

And the policeman and I helped her up, his radio burbled for a while below his tired sunlit face, and he helped her away as the helicopter, above, gradually moved downhill.

We gradually moved uphill towards the summit.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Niigata and light

House of light open sky, originally uploaded by yukito inoue.

Wow. A house of light. Beautiful idea.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Storm - Dark - LIGHT - Storm - Dark

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, originally uploaded by MumbleyJoe.

Lighthouses! Lots of them! Original impetus here, and a big database here, another here, and a mystery here. Just so you know.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Roni Horn

IMG_1679, originally uploaded by Caraes.

Following: a post I made to metafilter, just because.

In the early 1980s, Roni Horn travelled to Iceland and lived alone for a few months in the (supposedly haunted) lighthouse at Dyrhólaey. While there, she made rocky, earthy drawings. They formed the first volume of a currently incomplete, abstract encyclopedia of the country which has now progressed to include beautiful photographs of hot pools, glaciers, lava and rivers. A river's surface has appeared in different guises within a university. She has even made a library of water in a little Icelandic town. However, those currently in or near London can visit an exhibition in Tate Modern.

The stars of Horn's work are water and its surfaces, time, memory - and all the echoes thereof. The overall flavour is of purity and simplicity of form. There are deeply fascinating studies of the surface of the river Thames in London, and fascinatingly deep pieces of cast, annealed optical glass.

As we cannot step into the same river twice, so it is obvious that one beautiful face may not look the same if photographed a few seconds or days later. And just as we are usually very good at recognising anything familiar, time can blur our perception, and there is a chance that it may not be the same thing at all. Pairs of photos and objects explore this strange relationship between surface and substance, whether the photos are of a hot spring or a bird's head.

Horn also achieves beautiful effects by cutting together similar drawings onto a single large surface, further blurring the boundaries between one thing and another. And she is very good at causing you to doubt your perception of single objects. This, for example.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Doubt Box - Roni Horn

Doubt Box - Roni Horn, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

I opened Doubt Box by Roni Horn today. And I am unable to express the first experiences inside it any more precisely than this.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mean time

24 hour clock, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

This clock, at a gate into the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, unusually shows the time on a 24-hour dial. It has ticked its way — without stopping, we hope, as this is the home of Greenwich Mean Time — through many different times, and many happenings in the world have existed somewhere else while these hands have moved forward at their precisely regulated pace.

From last Thursday until early on Monday afternoon, the mechanism measured the time that contained the stay of my friend Adrian and I in Greenwich. I was there for my usual Spring visit, and Adrian was along for the ride and his first visit to London. He was very excited. The hands didn’t speed up one bit.

There was an evening at The Wapping Project — a converted hydraulic power station on the shore of the Thames — where we had cocktails among the slowly-rusting machines, marvelled at skulls lined up in neat rows on the walls of the coal store, and squeezed our way inside a tiny greenhouse outside to hear a young writer with a voice with the consistency of soft bubblegum read wonderfully from his work with a cardboard box over his head.

There was the first true Spring morning of the year for me, a new, exciting light pushing around the blinds, and the air in the garden was warm, and in the sun really gloriously warm, and we got our Winter heads all flustered wondering what to wear to the Japanese Garden later on. There was a dead mouse found behind the cooker by the cats, and retrieved by Willie. There were wonderful friends to catch up with. There was the night when Adrian disappeared.

And, most hauntingly of all, there was the day when he reappeared, and stayed at home all day, and Jonathan and I wandered towards Tate Modern and saw there a captivating exhibition of Roni Horn’s work. It doesn’t matter who she is, so don’t worry about that. What matters, and is foregrounded in her wonderful drawings and photos and glass and sheets of gold, is time. And how you can look at something 2 times, and is it still the same? And how light strikes water over time, and is contemporary water really the same as older waters? Come to think of that, is our memory for water or light or looks any good? And when you have nothing to think about but time and weather, is Iceland the place to be?

Monday, March 09, 2009


From an msn conversation earlier:

Pete says:
It's not such a biggie, for our peace process, I hope. And everyone's saying it isn't. But all the same - and I don't know whether this is respect or shock or something more - Belfast city centre was noticeably quieter as I walked home today. Less people around.

Words fail me. I heard the news a couple of days ago and the first thought through my mind was - 2 young dead guys. Fucking hell. Second thought - are we THERE? AGAIN?!

Of course, we're not. But we've all leant forward in our chairs, here, a little. We just haven't stood up and gone in search of matches, candles and emergency supplies - or petrol bombs, thankfully.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sneeuw - yuki - neige - hanki - snow

The day it snowed in London, originally uploaded by woobiquity.

During the past two days, a massive weather system has dumped cold air over the United Kingdom, and instead of the more usually snowed-upon North, it has been the South (England and Wales) which has borne the brunt of exceptionally heavy snow — the heaviest in eighteen years. Here in Belfast, we haven’t had any, and if we have over the hills I haven’t seen any evidence of it. Boo hoo.

So I’ve been taking refuge in the flurries of my synapses, so to speak, and have buried myself both in Jonathan’s photos, his descriptions of the cats glued to the window by the magical sight, and a wonderful book called The Snow Tourist.

I haven’t read it all yet — far from it, thankfully — but I have read enough to know that it is rich, magical, and wafts fresh, cold, snow-filled air around as the pages turn in front of your eyes. With stellar little sprinkles of science, and deep accumulations of history, it is overlaid with the scurrying patterns of its author’s curiosity. So do buy a copy before the end of Winter.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No damn pool anymore

Just thought that this should be somewhere easily findable should I ever need to refer to it again. The White House website, which used to provide this Press Pool Report page openly linked, no longer does. For the moment the page is there but all the links to it are gone. At first I was horrified, thinking that either Obama suddenly got secretive or the site was falling down. But no. After a little googling, here is the reason. It is not like that on this side of the pond.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dubya in photos

Here is a rather fascinating, extensively illustrated, rundown - in several senses of the word - of the Bush presidency in images. As usual with all great posts to do with photography, the pics are only half the story.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Moments ago, President Obama (who is shown taking the Oath of Office above) issued the following Proclamation:


- - - - - - -



As I take the sacred oath of the highest office in the land, I am humbled by the responsibility placed upon my shoulders, renewed by the courage and decency of the American people, and fortified by my faith in an awesome God.

We are in the midst of a season of trial. Our Nation is being tested, and our people know great uncertainty. Yet the story of America is one of renewal in the face of adversity, reconciliation in a time of discord, and we know that there is a purpose for everything under heaven.

On this Inauguration Day, we are reminded that we are heirs to over two centuries of American democracy, and that this legacy is not simply a birthright — it is a glorious burden. Now it falls to us to come together as a people to carry it forward once more.

So in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, let us remember that: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

Ahhh. I feel refreshed!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rather whoooaah

Portrait II, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

Last weekend, after going to bed, my left arm went very cold and tingly for no reason I could think of, and I was convinced the end was near. Although it turned out not to be - at least not then - I have felt somewhat like a woozy, lightheaded occupier of my body since, and this self-portrait is as close as I can come to sharing the feeling.

For those who are interested: it was a trapped nerve, most likely in my neck.

It was also a 15-second exposure at ISO 200 and f/22, for those who care not about clicking through to investigate further. I took great care with the shoes, you know.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Almost like a dream

Almost like a dream, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

This was taken on New Year's Eve (actually, scratch that - it was taken on New Year's Day, very very early), but is fitting as a celebration of the festive season in general. Here's to warmth in winter.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Nearly over

Snowflake, originally uploaded by peripathetic.

Well, this is it - the Twelfth Night or last night of Christmas for this year. Tomorrow, it will be time to take the decorations down, but there are still remnants of the season to enjoy, whether they are based on food, presents, or memories, and here in Northern Ireland the weather is getting colder. If it keeps this up we might have the promise of snow!

So I sit here sipping a Franconian style dark lager from London, and listening to a lovely lady drawling out some wonderful jazz, and I feel thankful for each of the past 12 days. Here's to the next lot...