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" A good traveller has no fixed plans,

and is not intent on arriving "

Lao Tzu

Punk Artist Reveals Druids Implicated in Social Revolution

November 30th, 2010

Image copyright Jamie Reid

I was told recently that editors of the gutter press in the UK are all Oxbridge English Literature graduates. I had always assumed that morons wrote those dreadful punning headlines and trashy articles but apparently not! While I would hate to align myself with these cynical oaves, writing a blog does help me to understand how writing silly headlines has its particular allure. The title of this post, however, sticks to the truth: the artist Jamie Reid, who shot to fame with his iconic punk images of the Queen sporting a safety-pin in her nose, is inspired by Druidry – and one of his latest collections was a set of 365 paintings that he made for each day of the year, grouped  into eight sections to follow the basic mandala of modern Druidry: the Eightfold Year.

Jamie and friends have now built a website to feature these images (some of which Jamie has kindly said we can feature here). A new one appears at midnight every night, together with information about the day. This is how Jamie describes the site: “It’s great news that we’re launching the Eight-fold Year website on October 31st. This will offer a new picture every day of the year. All of these paintings are from a major project worked on over the last few years which has involved paintings on canvas and paper, huge wall hangings and photography. Much of the inspiration comes from study into the seasonal system of festivals and lunar phases that compromise the marking points of the calendar. More intuitive responses to nature from extensive walks through the British Isles and Ireland have also played a major part. The website also has moon phases, seasonal plants, anniversaries and festivals. We’re encouraging visitors to the website to get involved. It’s quite simple at the moment but it will grow as the year proceeds.” Have a scoot over there and take a look:

Image copyright Jamie Reid

Jamie Reid’s Great Uncle was the founder of the Druid Order. This is how Jamie describes him: “George Watson Macgregor Reid, founder of the Universal Bond and primogenitor of the contemporary Druid movement is the subject of this fascinating paper by Dr Adam Stout, delivered as the Fifth Mount Haemus Lecture to the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids in 2005. Proto-union agitator, swami, druid, maven and maverick – GWMR was where the family involvement in indigenous spirituality and social revolution began.”

Jamie’s connection with the music world stretches from his work with the Punk band the Sex Pistols in the 1970s to his involvement with the Afro-Celt Sound System which has a strong influence from modern Druidry in it. Jamie writes: “A realigned Afro Celt Sound System played at the Barbican in London on November 2nd. Unexpectedly they really went to town on the projections using loads of my paintings and graphics. I worked with Afro Celt for years, following a first meeting at the Strongroom Studios in Shoreditch. Look out for further dates when they’re announced, as they are amazing live – and you can see my paintings in a perfect setting!” See

Astonished Art

November 30th, 2010
Engraved portrait of Ralph Waldo Emerson, U.S....

Image via Wikipedia

The snow has arrived in Sussex! And I learnt a new word today: ‘maugre’ which means ‘in spite of’.

The Snowstorm
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Come see the north wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and at the gate
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of snow.

Life is like arriving late for a movie

November 29th, 2010

Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.
Joseph Campbell

Tree Story – Help Make a Film!

November 28th, 2010

In the summer I had lunch with two film-makers in Lewes. Their idea for making a film that celebrates trees and gathers stories about them sounded so worthwhile we agreed to drive straight out to one of my favourite trees – the huge old yew in Wilmington, Sussex, to do some filming.

Now their project is ‘live’ and you can participate. Tree Story will be a feature documentary film by award-winning director Ward Serrill. It will explore the relationship between humans and trees from every conceivable angle. Serrill has gathered a talented and experienced team with credits from National Geographic to Miramax to BBC’s Planet Earth series. And this film will be made differently than any other film: by the public. The TreeStory team is asking people around the world to send them their stories and, if they feel inspired, to give a $5 donation. Their aim – to create a film that will change how we see trees, and ourselves, for good. See I’ll post more news about it soon – but do click on the link and see if you’d like to participate.

So You Thought Blobs Weren’t Beautiful?

November 23rd, 2010

A music video of Ólafur Arnalds who ‘mixes strings and piano with loops and edgy beats crossing-over from classical to pop. In April 2010, Ólafur released a new album entitled “…and they have escaped the weight of darkness”.’

I am Not a Jelly Squirm

November 22nd, 2010

My life is slipping out of control. I am being asked to sign agreements that apply in every galaxy and a chocolate company has been forced to deny any connection with me.

I did a three hour interview on a US radio station called Coast to Coast on Sunday, but first I had to sign a release form – standard procedure, but as with another form I once signed, it carried the heady, amusing and rather megalomanic clause which asked me to grant ‘the right to own, record and use in perpetuity and throughout the Universe my appearance(s)’

If I had been thinking clearly I would have objected, asking that the Pleiades be left out of the contract, but I was distracted by the following email sent by Cadburys:

“Thanks very much for your e-mail. Philip is a Jelly Squirm and its purely coincidence that you share the same name, but thanks for your e-mail its always pleasure to receive nice comments and we appreciate you taking the time to contact us.”

Spotted on the M6 this summer

Spotted on the M6 this summer

They were responding to an email I had sent asking whether they had been referring to the opening discussion in my book A Brief History of Nakedness, in which I explore the different meanings we associate with the two terms – one (nudity) derived from the Norman French, the other derived from the Anglo-Saxon. A friend was astonished to see this large poster appear on motorway service stations soon after the book came out, and the University of Chicago Press pasted it on their blog saying: ‘Have the folks at the Natural Confectionery Company been reading A Brief History of Nakedness by Philip Carr-Gomm? It certainly looks like it from this ad spotted in the United Kingdom.’ All very well, but now Cadbury denies this and embarrassingly if you google my name and click on images, this wretched Jelly Squirm appears! I think I need a Silent Retreat away from all this madness.

The Blue Notebooks of Max Richter

November 21st, 2010

Beautiful music: The Blue Notebooks of Max Richter

Opening with a text from Franz Kafka, read by Tilda Swinton, over a sparse piano melody, the album moves through the heart-wrenching ‘On The Nature Of Daylight’ through to sparse but lyrical piano pieces, hazy swirling atmospherics, avalanche pulse-beats and partially occluded melodies. Other sounds were generated via old guitar pedals and vocoders. The organ music was made for a chapel near Tourtres in South-West France, whilst the environmental sounds are mainly recorded around London.

Peppered across Richter’s music like diary entries (and backed with attendant typewriter clatter) are a number of literary texts or ‘shadow journals’ (from Kafka and Czseslaw Milosz’s ‘Hymn Of The Pearl’). Chosen by Max on instinct, these brief passages muse over time, memory, and the impermanent nature of things.

“ Not only the finest record of the last six months, but one of the most affecting and universal contemporary classical records in recent memory.” – Pitchfork (USA) 8.6/10

“…it’s a modern compositional tour de force of almost overwhelming emotional power…” – Time Out (Critics Choice)

Soft, almost invisible acts of compassion

November 21st, 2010

Quote for the Day

What I’ve come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion, everyday acts of compassion. In South Africa they have a phrase called ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.

Chris Abani Professor at the University of California, Riverside