Archive for July, 2018


Posted: July 29, 2018 in Chat

“Burning incense could cause cancer according to a scientific study conducted by researchers from Taiwan, who found high levels of carcinogens in the smoke of incense burned in Buddhist temples.”                Associated Press (2 Aug 2001)  

There was a brief investigation into this: I remember someone taking air-sample readings in, I think it was this Buddhist temple. The results were dangerously high, higher than a city centre road junction reading taken recently before-hand.

Incense smoke is, after all, made of particles of burnt and partly burnt substances, in effect a pollutant.

In a letter from 1994 Ted Hughes was explaining his and Tony Buzan’s efforts to popularise memory techniques. They had approached three of the main Preparatory Schools in England about their ideas. This had been an enduring  area of Ted Hughes’ many interests; he was offering inducements to Freida and Nicholas, his children, back in 1971, in a letter from his Persian adventure with Peter Brook.
Tony Buzan was also an associate/friend of the Kate Bush family circle about the same time.

The 1994 Ted Hughes letter states:

Over the years, wherever I’ve suggested it to teachers, or given a little demonstration in class… the teacher’s reaction has always been the same: ‘but if they learned everything so fast, what would we do with the empty time?’

This is an obviously supercilious response; one of exasperation by the teachers, of course. Here were two non-education professionals intruding upon their own roles as educators and trying to teach them their job. The simplistic comment is very much in line with the ‘English way’ of inverted targeting. I am rather surprised Ted Hughes and Tony Buzan were not aware of the toes they stood upon, or the reasons for the responses they received.

In his introduction to the By Heart anthology, of 1997, Ted Hughes discusses mnemonic systems, based on the classic memory systems that Frances Yates outlined in her Art of Memory. Tony Buzan’s work explored the cognitive aspects of memory systems, mind-mapping techniques in particular.

The memory and mind-mapping techniques they were intent on promoting, became educational business shortly after this. I remember putting our son forward to take a course in the techniques as an adjunct of higher school learning. He found them very usable and useful.


There is something that unnerves, I find, about the mind-map. To me it appears chaotic, disordered, and un-navigable. A mind-map, is, though, the individual’s own system: the linkages and general layout are from the person’s requirements. How easy it is to read  someone else’s system, is a question that becomes further confounded by unlicensed use and promotion.

And does this go some way to answering the question of whether one person’s map could have meaning to another person? A matter of degree, of course: there are always universal elements in everything.
– The question I am circling here, somewhat, is whether one person needs a background in the specifics and structured arguments of the techniques in order to gain from someone else’s map.
If that is so, then does any argument that such techniques are structured on the way the mind works not hold up?   That it is an imposed system, like any other.
Or is this further proof that we are all unique and individual?
Is it a more successful system, than any previous ones? Or is it valued purely for its newness?

There was an exhibition of a wall-size banner by Grayson Perry, in Sheffield Art Gallery last year, that we made a point of visiting. I did find the layout of the comments, messages that it contained, dismayingly chaotic, and could not detect any order to them. The mind-map structure of the exhibit did not occur to me until recently. Could this be the system layout he used?

The local Well Dressing displays opened on June 30th, this year. The displays were available to view until Sunday July 7th.
What would they commemorating, I wondered? What is so special about this date?

The opening ceremony – which I missed, and I have no excuses – unveiled the first display:

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Of course, 1918 to 2018, 100 years from the end of the Great War – the War To End All Wars, remember that?
And it so happens that this day, June 30th, 2018, is UK Armed Forces Day:

Anything else special about this time 100 years ago? I was so pleased when I saw this side panel (Mount Hall is a local Nursing Home):

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I had a closer look at how the glorious lower panel of the main display was made: all overlapping flower petals, flower heads, and leaves, on a bed of damp clay.


This next display down the road, besides a by now hidden stream, commemorates the Royal Air Force, from WW1 biplanes, to the Spitfires of WW2:


There is quite a walk to this next display. The village/town is a linear settlement. The displays are arranged so that there are two at the end nearest the main town of the area, two in the central part, and two in the older end of the town.

Every year one the local schools takes on the task of providing of the displays. This is by Bollington Cross Church of England Primary School – my son’s old school – well, well ( excuse the pun).
And once again I was so pleased to see the Suffragettes honoured.


The Memorial Gardens always have a display to fit in with the purpose of the place: to remember those who died in the fighting of both wars:


Among other aspects of this display I was particularly struck with how the 100 figure had been toned from blood/poppy red through to orange-yellow.

This out-of-the-way well always has a special display, a little out of the expected.
100 years since the death of Wilfred Owen in that last week of the whole horrible conflict. He was arranging a Sambre-Oise canal crossing for his men, when he fell.


I apologise for the lighting of this photograph. I cannot account for it.

The last display is a triptych of Women at War:

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That is tree bark in the background of the women in armaments panel. Many women suffered from exposure to substances they had to handle daily in the armaments factories. The woman’s hair is sheep wool, gathered off wire fences.

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Always a particularly fine display.


In a shop window a board commemorating those born in 1918. And they have provided a varied selection:

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Nelson Mandela
Billy Graham
Ingmar Bergman
Rita Hayworth
Alexander Solzenhitsyn
Betty Ford
Spiro Agnew
Spike Milligan
Leonard Bernstein

This displays went up on Saturday. I was informed that the actually making began on the previous Monday, and took all week.
All the displays, except for the School display, have been designed by a local artist and set designer. She has volunteered her services for the past 6 years, or so.
Nearly a ton of clay is used over all the boards.



On the 7th day of the 7th month, every year, is the Tanabata Festival in Japan.
Why only then?
It is all based a story from early Japan.
This is the story, one of the many connected with the Milky Way in the night sky. In Japan it is known as the River of the Sky –

It is the story of two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who represent, or are represented by, the stars Vega, and Altair.
They are only allowed to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month, every year, at the River of the Sky.
It is a based on poems in the Manyoshu volume, ‘Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves’.  Their story can be traced back, in turn, to an old Chinese tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. The corresponding Chinese festival is the Qixi Festival, of the 7th of the 7th.

The Weaver Girl,  was, of course, a princess, and… was she weaving the pattern of the stars and constellations? Her father grew concerned that in her lonely profession she was not able to meet any young men. He invited the cowherd (who herded the cows of heaven?), to meet her.

The meeting went very well, and in time they fell in love. They were able to marry. On marriage, however, they neglected their duties.
It was thought best for all if they were separated, and were only allowed to meet once a year. On meeting, though, they found themselves on opposite sides of the Sky River. Orihime wept so much and so hard that a flock of magpies took pity, flew down and made her a bridge with their wings.

If it rains on the seventh day of the seventh month, though, the magpies may not be able to come.

These two figures are on opposite sides of the street, reaching out to each other, but unable to meet. How poignant is that!

Tonight he takes his one journey of the year
Over the Heavenly River, passing Yasu Beach –

He, the love-lorn Oxherd longing for his maid,
Whom he can never see but once a year,
Though from the beginning of heaven and earth
They have have stood face to face across the Heavenly River

Tonight, this seventh night of the seventh moon – 

Strangely it thrills my heart.

(excerpted from: Japanese Love Poems, Selections from the Manyoshu. Edited by Evan Bates, Dover Publications Inc., 2005)

People write messages, poems, prayers, and hang them from trees on this day.


Astronomically, on this date, the distance between Vega, part of the Harp constellation, and Altair, The Eagle constellation, is bridged by a group of stars called The Coathanger, more properly Brocchi’s cluster. This arrangement forms a straight line with a few dotted stars above this in the centre.

Is this Hikoboshi’s boat?

The Tango

Posted: July 1, 2018 in Chat
Tags: , ,

The Tango is a passion, a way of life.

Tango was born on the Rio De La Plata delta, when Buenos Aires was a child: holes in pockets, scuffed shoes, a tattered bandanna called Monserrat.

The dance tells a story: In the long struggle between the power of the Rancheros and the centralised State, the wild Pampas fell beneath the hand of man.

The economy is a snake, it twists and turns, at times it devours its own children. In the 1850s it twisted again. Rural workers made their way to the city, they fetched up in Monserrat.

With them came the old dances, music; the milonga was danced on the street of Corrientes. The music of European immigrants trickled through alleyways; the German religious accordion, the Bandaneon, was prominent. Lutheran austerity met Catholic poverty. Pride was in the mastery of its 71 buttons, in elaboration upon a frugal base. The withheld gesture, syncopation: all the arts of drawing from a 4:4 structure the utmost gestures.

The Tango, the Condorelle, the Fandango grew up in the barrio, fostered by uncertainty, fed by hunger, and the bitter herbal tea, Mate, a substitute for coffee. For all the coffee was exported.

As the snake lay glutted in the country’s Golden Age, the Tango grew into its youth: everyone was young again, the future possible. Everyone danced to La Cumparista’s marching tune, tweaked and as polished as patent leather shoes.

Songs added an extra sound. So when a world at war no longer found safe footing, they listened to songs of loss: of pride and confidence, and loss.

The singers held them with a sob in the voice, as the world reeled.

Nothing was the same after that; the snake turned, and columns shook and crumbled. Argentina became a backward look, a lost glory, the plaster falling from the cornice of the fashionable street, never to be replaced.

The long, troubled look into the dark over La Plata at night; only warships churned, some never to return. Later, the Belgrano, sunk like the fortunes of Presidents, before and after.

To remember the songs. Tango is a passion. At times it shows a light across the delta, a boat perhaps, where fishermen can still make a living.

Tango lives on in the wilderness, far from home. It establishes cult centres: Paris, New Orleans, even Helsinki, Tokyo.

Lately the Paris-based performers, dancers, musicians, singers joined in a dance-beat and rhythm, to become ‘The Gotan Project.’

But it always returns home: Buenos Aires, its’ columns and chipped marble, the peeling paint. The passion as strong as ever. Whenever the blood is taxed in its artery, the economy lays its stifling torpid weight on all, bodies can still transport the soul, dance it out into the brag, and the ultimate sacrifice of self, that Tango enacts.

Out of the head of the snake a bird flies, from its body the blood beat and rhythm; its poised draw-back places precisely the footstep of new rhythms.

From SUR (South) 1948, lyrics Homero Manzi:

Ancient San Juan and Boeda street corner, the whole sky,

Pompeya and farther down, the floods


The blacksmith’s corner, mud and pampa,

Our house, our sidewalk, and the ditch

(…) a scent of weeds and alfalfa

That fills the heart all over again.

Or the accumulation of urban details: witnesses: A MEDIA LUZ (In Half Light), 1925. Lyrics by Carlos Cesar Lenzi:

Corrientes three-four-eight

Second floor, elevator.


Inside, cocktail and love.

Loft furnished by Maple:


A telephone that answers,

A phonograph that cries

Old tangos of my flower,

And a porcelain cat.

The mystery of: CHARLMOS (Let’s Chat) 1942. Lyrics: Luis Rubinstein

Belgrano 6-0-1-1?

I would like to speak to Renee (…)

She doesn’t live there?(…) No, don’t hang up (…)

Could I talk with you?

Don’t hang up(…) the afternoon is gloomy.


I know Renee does not exist…

Let’s chat (…)

(…) life is so short (…)


From the same period the highly impressionistic, almost surreal: TINTA ROJA (Red Ink) 1942.

Lyrics: Catulo Castillo

Thick wall,

Red ink (…)

And a blotch

Painted the corner,

And the cop

That in the wide of the night

Placed to the end of the beat

As a clasp (…)

And then suddenly, possibly a future: PRELUDIO PARA EL ANO 3001. (Prelude for the year 3001) Lyrics: Horacio Ferrer, and music by the modern master Astor Piazollo.

I’ll be reborn in Buenos Aires in another June afternoon

With a tremendous desire to love and to live.


And three shoe shiners, three clowns and three

Sorcerers will come, my immortal accomplices (….).

All excerpts of songs are from