Archive for May, 2018

I know you can still hear me, the voice was saying. Remember. You must remember everything. Remember what we agreed.

What does remember mean?

All our work here, the voice was still talking, softly, close by, somewhere, all your own research with The Earth Council. You must remember everything. Remem…..

Dark.

Peter, love… Oh, my love… don’t leave me…. You must let… go….

Has he gone?

My love. Rebecca. Ah, Rebecca.
And for a moment he stirred, struggled towards her voice. But the effort was too much.

Dark.

There was a slowly increasing crushing sensation. He jerked awake, panicky. His body was crushing him.
Remember. Leap for the light.
He remembered, but this sensation was not on the list. No one knew about this. Crushing inward. He held on, as they had agreed, held on, and held on. He was panicking now. The crushing grew to a frenzy of noise; it was like a screeching, as though his whole body was screaming out.
He held on, held on, until it reached top pitch… then let go.
He was flung out. Into the light, the light streaming in.
It was overwhelming.
From crushing, to release. From frenzy, to peace. From  noise, to silence.
Overwhelming.

And coming towards him, out of the light, he saw old comrades, his parents, his infant son. None had aged, all were just as he remembered them. All did… exactly as he expected them to do. He’d dreamed this, so many times. And now here they were… doing… just exactly what he… dreamed.
Through their bodies the light was still bright. He looked towards it, looked closely. And looking took him there.

He was bodiless.
All was so familiar; more familiar than his living state.
He was memory, and knowledge. He was awareness.
And before him was the world of spirit. With all its endless rebirths.
Knowledge, though, that was of a different nature to what he knew: the research, dissertations, theories he was to remember. Knowledge was the body’s own.
And he’d left that. His body was gone now, and he felt its essential knowledge fading.

He felt the power of life now, undiminished, no longer filtered through his senses, through the switchback structure of his brain, his mind, and the world.
This and that, this and that, always this play of the world and its effects on him.
But the real knowledge was fading.

The aim of their higher research at the Earth Council was to focus the minds’ energy back into the earth, to replenish it, heal it. That had been their life’s work.
But the world of spirit was not like that. The world of spirit was all about rebirths.
And all the previous births, lives, now came to mind, to instant recall, were no longer caught up in the thick webs of the body.
But each life, he saw it now in the fading knowledge, was a stumbling, fumbling, inching towards learning.  Many times he had not made it all. His last one… his last one….
The only brightness in it was Rebecca.
He felt a strengthening, the knowledge pulsed again a moment. She was the life and the light in all that clumsiness. And he had leapt away, and was now lost here, without her.
Lost, and back on the rebirth treadmill.
She had been his chance. To stay with her, to return his life energy to the earth properly. To die in his body, and return all he owed back to earth.
In the dark grave.

At last. An end to the treadmill.

That light – was his body tearing open, before it?
Is that what had happened there? Or was that the serene glow they had tried to tell each other it was? An evening pathway leading to peace?
A ragged intrusion, or a blossoming? And the screaming out, wasn’t it more a kind of sigh, as his cells released their energy?
Oh, language, language lies so easily.
Each new life, rebirth, was not as they had tried to make it, a building on previous experience, attainments – no, each life was always from point zero again.
Older hands at this rebirthing had dragged bits with them into next lives, memories lingering, as they rushed into it all over again.
There are always these anomalies, and they have no particular meaning or use to anyone.
The memories that lingered were never the ones with any importance, those were taken up, absorbed,  into one’s deeper self. Into the body. The ones that still fluttered about were wisps of no interest.

 

And the facilitators had now noticed him. They were coming over.
He had done this himself in previous leaps, gently coaxing the bewildered back into births.
Less trouble, that way: a wandering lifeforce  – always in the way of the flow.

But that is not how the earth is healed!
He saw it in that pulse of knowledge that memory of Rebecca had released in his fading body.
We heal it, by returning everything to it.
He looked around, sensed the great busyness.
If we’d all gone back into the earth, the dark of the grave, then, rather than depleting the earth, denying it the life energies we take into the light…. We’ve denuded the earth; we’re constantly weakening it, leaving it unreplenished. And all to feed our own sense of self, with all these lives.

That is the problem with that crucifixion. The death in the sky, that life into spirit. That leap was out, and away.

She has been five years buried in my illness with me, and now released.
I took her away from her friends, and her family; now she can find them again.
I gave her a marriage of sadness and the loss of our only child.
All that blame and recrimination; now she can let it go.

The light in her hair, though; I will never forget that.
This is what I should remember. These things are what matter; what I should remember.

And the facilitators guided him away from the body he continued to hover within, from the wife who wept.

What does… memember… mean…?

 

 

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Nothing has excited me as much as this in quite some time.
OK, it’s only a book. Relax.

Contemporary Stained Glass, by Andrew Moor. Published by Mitchell Beazley, 1989.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Contemporary-Stained-Glass-Andrew-Moor/dp/1857324374/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1526148225&sr=1-1&keywords=contemporary+stained+glass

Note the date of publication: 1989. So it is not new; it is probably not ‘contemporary’ any more. And this hits one gripe that I have: there is a present-day-only directive to a lot of attitudes. There probably always has always been – that is, after all, how things get done, by concentrating on the immediate. In culture, though, no – and this book is proof to me: there is work here from the 1950s that is really outstanding.
Note the current price. This is such a shame – the book is a lovely work, and remains so.

Why so old – 1989? A bit of back story.
It was shortly after this date I went through a period of the worst-jobs-I–have-ever-had. One of those was working in a warehouse – but it was a book warehouse, of remaindered and damaged in production books. It was horrible. Being able to bring money in, helped, of course. And then I had access to these books. I got so desperate at times that these books became my lifeline: I accumulated them wildly. This was one.

I got down to properly looking at the book only recently. It took my breath away. The reproductions are outstanding – full colour photographs of not only publically accessible works, but also works from private collections, private houses.

Take Germany.
Straight after the War, there was little perishable art left intact. Stained glass was mostly ecclesiastical, and churches suffered from bombing, and the destruction of war.
The 1950s was a period of reconstruction – speed was of the essence. West Germany needed artists and crafts people. Stained glass took off, it bridged art and crafts. What was possible in the field was unrestricted. The book comments that although German stained glass work was extensive, not all was particularly good.
But the good was stupendous.

Take for instance, the work of Ludwig Schaffrath:

also
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/519884350711103076
His design for the Aachen bank, 1986, for four arched windows is outstanding.

Then go and explore –
Johannes Schreiter:
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nikolagrozdanov/johannes-schreiter/

Jochem Poensgen:
http://www.jochempoensgen.de/category/neue-projekte/

First of all stained glass need not be full-colour. Minimalist design and palates were experimented with, as here: a rectilinear, two-tone work.

The medium is glass.
But glass can be Antique Glass – that is:
Plain
Seedy
Streaky
Reamy (danziger/water glass)
Flashed (simple opak, opalescent or opal)

It can be machine rolled glass:
Cathedral glass (tinted, and clear)
Clear patterned (ribbed)
American opalescent (Tiffany)
It can be Bevelled, or Cast glass.

Plain glass was created from a relatively new technique. This was the cheapest to make, and is what constitutes large shop and apartment windows.
The book gives examples of each of these.

It then goes on to describe the techniques used in presenting the glass: use of black iron-oxide and borax paint that is fired to produce stains. Or with designs scraped in it.

Etching, capable of great subtlety of effect, is an old technique, but also time consuming.

Flashing is a relatively new technique using high temperatures, but produces a stained effect that is capable of fine tones.

The use of leading developed a form of its own in the works of Johannes Schreiver, above.

From an historical angle, we saw a boom in stained glass use and development in domestic use of glass in Victorian England.
One particular innovator was Frank Lloyd Wright, in America. His use of, again, domestic stained glass was a very promising avenue. It did not turn off to a highway, unfortunately.
PreWar in Europe, the Dutch De Stijl and German Bauhaus groups explored stained glass use.

Not all stained glass need be full colour, as I commented above. One design approach has been the use of black and white (ie plain, clear glass), with touches of colour. We can see an example in the Jochem Poensgen, above. Other approaches to use of the medium involve rectilinear designs, use of pattern, use of ‘float glass.’
Naturally the artists mix their techniques, to great effect. Figurative techniques lead to use of glass as a canvas for paint and stain techniques.

Narcissus Quagliata continues to produce wonderful work. Take, for example, this commissioned work:

COMMISSIONED WORKS

http://www.narcissusquagliata.com/

The motif in the top right panel, was made for him by Venetian glass makers, and proved very intricate, and expensive.

The book gives us glimpses of work produced in America, Canada, UK, New Zealand, for commissions all around the world.

http://www.lindalichtman.net/portfolio.html#slide-1

Image02

 

http://sashazhitneva.com/?page_id=71

 

Stained glass enhances an inner environment. What about the outer prospect?
Anyone viewing a wonderful stained glass window from the outside is usually very disappointed.
Ludwig Schaffrath took this on, and produced work that has both inner and outer effectiveness. Their effects are necessarily altered by the source of light, and by the demands of technique. The outer effect cannot reproduce the inner effect, and so each view point has its own viability.

The development and exploration of the uses of stained glass continues. Glass screens were developed, and backlit panels.
As always, art vies fruitfully with decorative function.

We see above examples of high art, of decoration, of functional, and of exploratory works.

Initially published in 1925, the book gained dramatic chiaroscuro from the Wall Street Crash.
A book about the new meteoric metropolis of New York, teetering on the edge of success – and collapse.

A modernist classic. This and others of the period influenced writing throughout Europe.
It’s the style: the blurb calls them filmic jump-cuts, which means the narrative consists of episodes, rather than linear stories. We jump from character to character, situation to situation, but within a clearly demarked radius of people.

This works for me – the book is a blend of fact and fiction. But to write of the tragedies of factual lives within a fictional framework, I find steps over the line somewhat . The suspension of disbelief so necessary for a good story; the distancing of an imagined depiction, gain our willingness to trust the author, to take on the book, to go with it. But to present faction – where are we, then?
John dos Passos gets around that with this style, this technique: there is no dwelling on catastrophe, we see it, feel it, oh yes, but we are not mired in it. Because it is part of the whole fabric.

And so, when we read the tragic interludes of Bud, aged 25, coming in from some upcountry farm, to lose himself here, we allow his story.
Bud could not find a job, no matter what he did. He asked an old guy, Any Jobs? The man replied, I’m 65, and worked since I was 5. I’ve never had a job.

Here we begin to glimpse it: how to survive in a city, especially one like this. You have to hustle. Day on day. Hustle.
If you’re like me, and never learned this, or learned it and hated its face, you’d go back home. Except Bud couldn’t.

Then there’s Ed Slatcher, accountant, whose wife died young, and left just him and his young daughter. He had the chance, a big sure-thing laid at his feet: this was it, the chance everyone gets to break it big. But he didn’t chose it; he stayed on as an accountant, even though he could see how fraudulent his clients were.
And here we see it again: Wall Street, waiting to happen.
If he’d gone for it, got the break, could they have got out before the Crash? It wasn’t in his character to either take the chance, or to get out.

John dos Passos was of Portugese heritage; he was far enough outside to see all sides to the city.
Where books of the same period dealt with the top ranks: The Great Gatsby, say, John dos Passos gives us the others as well, the French sailors jumping ship because this was the new metropolis. And so they wait tables, and dream.
In Europe, they said, you live well, but the pay is bad; here, the pay is good, but the life bad.
And so, between the two, what do you do? Like Congo, do you try both, continually? No, Congo stays – becomes successful, through bootlegging: rich.

This brings us to the language: the author gives us the accents, tones, the macro-languages of immigrants and older natives.

I was wondering about this: one book influenced by this was Alfred Doblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.
How would you translate the Germanised English of Mr Zucher, into German? ‘A man vat is ambeetious must take chances. Ambeetions is vat I came here from Frankfort mit at the age of twelf years….

The point is, John dos Passos does not ridicule their speech, their poverty, their weaknesses, he gives us people we can recognise to a great extent.

I was reading Willa Cartha shortly before this, written about ten years previously (maybe the same time as this one, then?) and based in the gothic South, the characters are like caricatures, comic creations by comparison.
If we read Joseph Mitchell’s writing from the 1930s onwards, they work together, open up the period. Joe Gould’s Secret references the old bohemians of Greenwich Village.
Manhattan Transfer was their period – and we see into the actor’s world from the footlights, the back stage. It’s sordid, amoral even, but it’s full of life and energy.

Where G R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire is structured on character per chapter, Manhattan Transfer’s chapters illustrate an aspect of hustle/survival/life in N/Y. Each chapter continues several character stories, not necessarily sequentially on the same time frame. We move from character to character, setting to setting, almost seamlessly: the narrative voice carries and combines the movements, the currents, the flow.
The proliferation of characters, whose stars rise and fall, does bear close parallel at times.

Oh, and one of the earlier characters in the book is described as wearing a baseball cap, back to front.
1925.

PS

I would like to know what happened to Ed Slatcher – his daughter Ellen/Helena became a huge and popular stage actor, then editor. Her work was hugely successful; she was a New York beauty – but inside she never found what it was she needed.

There is no mention of organised crime – the Crime Wave that’s flagged up consists of isolated individuals.
Likewise, no mention of The Gangs of New York. Jimmy, as crime reporter, would know about those.

THE DETAILS cont

Had he been asleep? Something had changed. He looked around and there stood Mr Frederickson, section engineer.

‘What on earth…?’ Chris began. Frederickson in his shabby clothes: jumper and trousers a size too big – either that, or he had a lost a whole size recently. How was that possible? And how could he get away with dressing so shabby in the ultra-regulated offices of the Block? He must have friends on the inside. That was the only answer.

‘Have to disconnect the phone. Orders.’

‘How did you get in here?’

‘My little secret,’ he smirked.

‘I don’t suppose you feel like sharing it? For a…’ he rummaged in his pockets. Frederickson was already shaking his head. He walked to the phone and… yanked it from the wall.

‘Very skilled, your job.’

‘At times. Actually, it can be very skilled. And here is the interesting part: I am come to offer you a deal.’

‘Oh yes?’ warily.

‘Yes.’ confidently. ‘A way out of here.’

‘…for..?’

‘OK, let’s say, someone wants to meet you. You say hello, and, well, take it from there.’

‘Tell me more.’ Chris said. ‘No promises, mind.’

‘It’s in the details.’ said Frederickson.

‘There are the details that matter, and the details that don’t. The details that matter you can’t change, they’re always the same, evidence, provable in a court of law. But the details that don’t matter… ah, there we have it. They are the key.’

‘With a little manipulation it can all be altered. The room is still a room… take this one,’ he said, ‘as a for-instance, ok? This room holds you locked in. Door, window, ceiling, floor, wall, skirting… you get me? A little attention to the details that don’t matter, and, well, it’s still a room, but it can be a Waiting Room, or better still an Ante-Room, or Entrance Room. And the window a window of opportunity: the window-cleaner’s cradle, see, an elevator!’

‘How… er… how do I, does one, get to the elevator?’ he attempted a disinterested face.

‘One simply walks and takes it.’

‘But the window ledge…’

‘… is a corridor. A narrow one, with only one wall, but still a corridor.’

Got it. Chris thought. All in the mind. Like bladder control. All in the mind. ‘Ok,’ he said ‘… let’s give it a go.’

‘No, no, no. It’s an IS, not a maybe. Open that window when I say and… there you are. It’s not what you see, but what Is. But only when I say.’

‘It either is there or it’s not? I open the window and it is, or… not?’

‘No. Open the window When I Say. And Then it is.’

‘So,’ Frederickson said, ‘are we ready?’

Chris dashed to the window and hand on latch, turned. Frederickson was already stood right behind him. Chris nearly went through the window, glass and all.
‘No! No! No! Look, I’LL say. Ok? Aaand… open the window… NOW.’
Chris swung it wide, and…
‘Oooh, yes. Just look at that! Look. Look.’ he was tugging Frederickson’s sleeve.

‘Not such a big deal.’ So they stepped out into the narrow corridor, and…

‘Still a long way down, isn’t it.’ Chris said.

Frederickson paused, looked. Did he turn a little pale? ‘Yes; yes it is, isn’t it. Erm – perhaps a little recap. Inside. OK?’

They returned to the room. He walked Chris away from the window. Chris kept his elbows in; didn’t want any more of that business. Frederickson stood looking at the wall. Grey painted plasterboard. Was that a sheen of sweat on his face?

‘Ahem,’ clearing his throat, Frederickson seemed to be addressing the wall. ‘See this wall,’ he said, ‘It’s always a wall, yes? But what if it was a wall of fog, say? Yes?’

‘Right colour,’

‘Yes. So. Fog then. We can handle that one. Together then, and… step forward…Now!’ They did. And it was. Choking, blinding fog.

Chris heard him somewhere; it sounded like he was having trouble.

‘This wiring,’ he was muttering. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed. Definitely a Health and Safety issue. All this damned wiring.’

 

Excerpts from my 3-part urban fantasy novel, QUEEN OF THE CITY.
Amazon Kindle, now.https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CQSVNV5/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1524942001&sr=1-1&keywords=queen+of+the+city