babel blog

Reading Sneakily
September 9, 2008, 8:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In a similar vein (but slightly higher class) to the old facebook favourite ‘safe for work porn’, allow me to present ‘safe for work literature’. If you can’t get through the day without a fix of DBC Pierre or Jonathan Swift this is the site for you. Classic works of fiction are presented in a pseudo-windows format which makes it look as though you’re hard at work on that all important presentation, when in fact you’re escaping into some of the best English-language literature around. Fucken genius.


A Bach Christmas
September 4, 2008, 9:34 pm
Filed under: alphabet, music

OK it’s not quite Christmas but it is quite cold here in Manchester. However, my dad came to visit and insisted on playing JS Bach as loud as possible on my freecycle-acquired Wharfdales and I remembered this fantastic series that the Beeb had on radio 3 at christmas 2005. It was called A Bach Christmas and they played the entire complete works of Bach over the weeks leading to Christmas. And, yes I know ‘entire complete’ is tautologous but I wanted to emphasise just how impressed I was that they really did air the whole of JSB’s prodigious output. Not only this, but some inspired mind created the Bach Alphabet – everything from Art of fuge to Zimmerman’s coffee house, it was Quiddity heaven. The entry for Q is quotations, here’s a couple of my favourites:

A village organist on finding Bach playing his organ: ‘This can only be the devil or Bach himself‘.

Douglas Adams: ‘I don’t think a greater genius has walked the earth. Of the 3 great composers Mozart tells us what it’s like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it’s like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it’s like to be the universe.’

Bach didn’t write for guitar (my preferred instrument) however he wrote for Lute and many adaptations have been made. Here is some footage of one of my favourite Spanish guitarists, Narciso Yepes, playing Bach on his famous 10 string guitar. The quality of the sound is quite poor but you must be forgiving as this recording is from 1979 and is therefore extremely old (indeed as old as my good self!)

And now I have indulged myself by showing a Yepes video, I cannot resist posting this footage of Segovia. Video footage of Segovia is rare and frequently removed from youtube by the copyrighters – enjoy it while it lasts! In fact listening to this makes me think Segovia is the better guitarist – he makes it sound too easy!

Subterranean Temple
August 31, 2008, 6:02 pm
Filed under: photography, Uncategorized
The Dread Portal

The Dread Portal

“Through me the road to the city of desolation; Through me the road to sorrows diuturnal; Through me the road among the lost creation

… Lay down all hope, you that go in by me …”

Dante, tr. D. L. Sayers


The Sons of Light

The Sons of Light


“And thence came forth to look once more upon the stars”


I found these excellent photographs of familiar locations at Tourista de Mancunia’s Flickr

A And All Alephs
August 30, 2008, 11:46 pm
Filed under: story

This is part 1 of a story I wrote

The initial letters are the monogram of Albrecht Dürer, who has his own myspace these days!



am lay stretched out sideways on the grass, thinking. Eyes scrunched shut, head to one side. His slightly protuberant tongue connected to his shoulder via a delicate string of saliva that sparkled in the sunlight. Hearing footsteps, he hurriedly wiped his mouth and adjusted his features into what he hoped was a more intelligent expression – eyes open and looking wistfully into the middle distance, lips held gently together.

-What are you doing?


-Thinking! Eve’s tone could not have been more skeptical, -Thinking what?

Adam sighed, and the serene expression on his face changed into one of anxiety. He wasn’t much good at concealing emotions the way she did. He glanced at the container full of black, many legged creatures that lay on the grass beside him.

-It’s not easy you know. There’s millions of the little buggers. I think I’ve named about half of the creatures in this box here but they scurry about so much that I can never remember who’s who. Of course, they never remember either – they don’t seem to care.

Eve looked into the box, her nose wrinkling.

-Have you noticed that the more legs a creature has, the less intelligent it seems to be? I’ve been talking to one of those long, slithery creatures (he says you haven’t named him yet), he has no legs at all and he’s a lot brighter than you.

She said this last word – you – rather viciously for she perceived that Adam was not listening. His attention had returned to the box. He was trying to take out the creatures one by one, setting each one free as he gave it a name. It wasn’t working. Every time he tried to pick one up scores of others would swarm onto the back of his hairy hands, laughing and shouting gibberish, obliging him to shake his hand furiously and scatter them to the ground regardless of whether or not they had received their name. Eve touched him gently on the arm,

-Adam, weren’t you listening at all to the creator? she said softly. He completely missed the harmonics of irritation in her voice.

-Of course I was listening. That’s why I’m out here doing my job, naming things.

She tried increasing the volume

-You’re not supposed to be naming each and every one of them! “Each according to their kind”, remember! You need to work out a sensible taxonomy based on common features and take the nomenclature from there!

Adam blew the remaining creatures from his hand and shifted slightly away from her. He had already begun to suspect that Eve was more different from him than than he would have thought possible. Nomenclature? Taxonomy? He was not confident that he even knew what the words meant. In the days before Eve arrived things had been different. He and the creator had communicated infrequently and largely by means of telepathy – each able to place a fully formed thought into the other’s mind without the impedance of language. Eve, however, had taken a dim view of telepathy. It was, she argued silently, too nebulous, too full of ambiguities. She had depths in her mind she want to map more precisely and thoughts that required more than just thinking. The creator had indulged her (unwisely in Adam’s opinion) and allowed her to choose a language to be spoken throughout Paradise. Continue reading

Algeciras Border Crossing
August 25, 2008, 2:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have it on good authority that the beaches in Algeciras are made of cocaine. No wonder there are so many people trying to get there. Those in need of some instruction or inspiration for their border hopping activities might like to watch this little film to see how an arcade videogame can be used as a training exercise …

Estrecho Adventure

Estrecho Adventure

You follow Abdul on his adventures crossing the ocean from Morocco, stealing vegetables to survive, getting arrested, fighting and eventually winning Spanish citizenship.


I now have to spoil the the end of the film because when I first found this it was in an online exhibition of videoart which is now unavailable 😦 At the end of the screenshots is a film clip of Moroccan schoolboys playing the videogame avidly – which is when I realised it was piss-take and not really a video game at all! I was a bit disappointed (I wanted to play!) but mostly amused. Conversely, when I heard about the Super Columbine Massacre RPG I thought it had to be a joke, but as it turns out, it’s a fully functional RPG,  which you can download for free and simulate your own high-school shoot out. Most amusing.

Boundary Conditions
August 16, 2008, 10:00 pm
Filed under: architecture, photography

Just occasionally I find a book where I’d rather look at the pictures than read the text. Happily, this is probably the intent with Verb, an architectural publication which is described by its publishers as a boogazine. This weird colliding and coalescence of the words book and magazine can be effectively translated as a book that’s relatively light on content but has fantastic photography to make up for it. The edition that caught my eye was the one entitled Crisis. Crisis explores the way growing urbanisation presents unique architectural challenges as population growth and movement expands far more quickly than the systems in place to deal with it can adapt. Teddy Cruz, an architect working in the borderlands of San Diego/Tijuana, has a particularly interesting perspective, arguing that that the top-down imposition of USA-style suburban housing onto the rapidly expanding and merging immigrant communities in SD, can only have an alienating effect. He favours a much more reciprocal style of architectural development fusing the informality and vibrancy of Tijuana style shanty towns with good infrastructure and robust design. There’s an article about this guy in the New York Times entitled Shantytowns as New Suburban Ideal, this title might be slightly misleading: it sounds as though there’s something glamorous about living with your family in space that’s probably smaller, and definitely less well equipped, than your average garden shed here in the UK. Don’t let it deter you, it’s worth a read and if you do get to read any of Cruz’s own articles I think you’ll agree that he’s got a pretty good idea of the realities of life in shit housing and restrictions that accompany poverty. It’s just that he has the sense to see that there’s so much more to the way people live than can be determined simply by how much money they possess. Anyway I have plagiarised one of his pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Teddy Cruz - Tijuana

Teddy Cruz - Tijuana

Cantillated Dictionary Extract
August 10, 2008, 11:21 pm
Filed under: alphabet, text

Cantillation is the chanting or singing of liturgical texts. It’s usually found within Jewish or Christian religious traditions, however this sung dictionary extract I found on youtube shows that singing text works quite well for secular literature too!

There is a story from the mystical Hebrew tradition Kabbalah, that god created the world from language. Here language is not just seen as a vehicle for conveying god’s thoughts, but also as the fabric of the universe:

language is the very stuff of creation, and grammar the way in which it is formed

Sefer Yetzirah

If you’re fond of mixing your mysticisms, you can go to the Kabbalah yoga website where there’s an applet which will transliterate your name into Hebrew and thence into a series of yoga postures.