Saturday, 9 August 2008


Venice was very emotional for various reasons this year, but we found good weather until yesterday's storm and spent most of the very hot days at the beach, reading and drawing (and swimming and sunbathing, of course). I only took my camera out at night, when it was cooler (not much).

In the house I found a trunk of my grandad's paintings, watercolours and oil, but so many, hundreds. Still lifes, portraits, scenes from the opera and cafes. I was hoping to find some of the paper he used, but didn't. He used a very thin paper, I don't think it was particularly good or expensive, but it laid so wonderfully flat, while mine tends to buckle even when I stretch it. I'd love to know how he did that. I didn't bring any of his paintings back with me, but I will next time, and I'll write a little bit more about him. Here he is (the guy standing) in a very surreal picture my mum took in the 1950s.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


I fell in love with kaleidoscopes when I went to Jerome, Arizona, where there's the most amazing kaleidoscope shop. Today I was playing around with images and decided to turn some into kaleidoscopes, and I thought of doing some "kaleidoscope magic", choosing images of things I would like. Here's my Ferrari:

And here is a beautiful mansion in Encinitas, where I would like to live:

Perhaps my subconscious mind picks up on these suggestions and turns my dreams into reality.

I hope it works for you too!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Making Time

I have just finished reading Making Time by Steve Taylor (on My Shelfari) - Why time seems to pass at different speeds and how to control it. After a few pages in which I could relate to what he was describing - the internal chatter and other stuff about how time can expand in states of maximum concentration, but it shortens in states of absorption - he lost me completely. Not that I could not follow what he was saying, I just simply have a different experience on the matter. For me a day can be long while living it and short looking back. And it is not due to the amount of experiences and exposure to the new, but to change. Time feels longer for me when the before and after an experience are different, i.e. after I have changed in some respect. But then again I've never suffered at the thought of time passing too fast, for me it passes too slow. Taylor says that in states of mindfulness, i.e., living and experiencing and concentrating on the present, time seems longer or we might transcend it altogether. He says that children live in the now. But so do I, I am aware of the clouds and the trees and buildings, sounds, all of that, micro and macro worlds to discover. I'm surprised to hear that other people don't. It's sad. But in the now there always seems to be something bugging me, I might be thirsty or tired or cold or carrying a heavy bag. So the future is still a better place. If I need more time I think of reincarnation. What a shame that we don't seem to learn from one life to the next. What a shame that what we identify with the I (or ego in the sense of the I) is our personality, which is what we shall leave behind. Time has not passed fast for me, but I still don't know how I got here.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The White Cliffs of Serendipity

This was Dover a few hours ago, seen from the cliffs. On a good day, and actually on bad days too, you see a lot of elderly couples, usually wearing funny hats and some white items of clothing, sitting there looking at the harbour. And if you don't believe me, look at this:

These being two different sets of couples! One of the things I like about going to my caravan near Dover is that there are a couple of places that leave books out in baskets, either for free or for a donation, so I end up getting stuff I wouldn't normally read, like Super Cannes by J.G. Ballard and a Seventies travel book by Ethel Mannin: An Italian Journey. I randomly opened it and the Gritti Palace just stared at me - being the place where Hemingway used to stay when in Venice. Last night we went to an Indian restaurant by the sea with fuchsia lights and golden pictures and I remembered a book my parents had, that was quite seminal in its own way, Kitsch; the world of bad taste by Gillo Dorfles, so I've decided to order it from America. I might scan some pictures for my posts when it arrives. I highly recommend it, if you are a connoisseur of bad taste.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Canary Wharf

Another day of photography with a group of photographers, this time in Canary Wharf. Turner would have loved the sky today:

I am not too keen on architecture, so I was trying to find an angle, some kind of story to tell: I thought this building looked more like some crazy mental asylum from the 50s than an expensive office block. When I was a teenager I developed the belief that I was allergic to poplar, as if its pollen had some kind of lysergic effect on me. Doesn't seem to work anymore (sadly).

So here the twilight zone theme continues with this giant menacing clock, you can imagine it to start spinning backwards.
If it does I might find that I'm still fourteen soundly asleep under a poplar tree.

Happy nightmares

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Hemingway in Venice

I started reading Across the River and Into the Trees. My grandfather bought it when it first came out, in 1950, it's a green cloth, no dj looking thing that I kept on my bedside table in Venice for a year and another year on the shelf here. The original dj that I don't have, was designed by his young lover Adriana, friend of some of my mum's friends. She also committed suicide, but much later on. I always wanted to read this book and see if I recognise some of the characters and read what Venice was like through Hemingway's eyes. My attempts to go to the Harry's Bar and drink a Bellini have failed up to now due to the tiny size and overcrowding of the place. I also don't like those golden grated windows, I found them scary as a child.

Hemingway's studio in Key West. I keep this picture on the wall
behind the computer. There's a cat sitting on the left chair (take my word for it, this is a very low res pic). It's one of the 60 cats (most of them with 6 toes) that live in his house today.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

In the woods

Yesterday we went out in the woods with my photography group. There was a wood cabin with many pictures stuck on the walls and dusty skylights with cobwebs and butterfly stickers.

There were also trees (being a wood),

a lonesome guitarist and runners.

Later in the pub I wanted to get a photo of me looking like a black and white poet, but didn't quite happen.

Later still we sat in the garden with an oil light, "drinking and (never) thinking of tomorrow".

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The underground movement

It's been a couple of gruelling days of work with a full immersion in the Sixties, what London was like then, bookshops, events. The movement. I have always been fascinated by avant-gardes, experimenting, the creative poet who is always photographed in black and white in a cloud of cigarette smoke. It's in the Beat generation poets that I first found my desire to travel, be creative, but most of all to "belong". That's when I learned concepts like "us" and "you", "you" obviously being not quite as good as "us". "Us", obviously never existed, but it felt like it did, and then it would all dissolve, long nights talking, painting, getting drunk together, and surreal dawns, going back to too much light to sustain that dream. The "leftovers" of that world today seem a bit sad to me, I met a few, the spark was gone, they were made of a buzz that once gone, left empty shells. No interest in the new. It's been a strange journey for me going through all those names, Ferlinghetti, Corso, Trocchi, Mitchell. But inspiring too. I'll read them again, reaching for a much wider concept of "us".

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Freedom, fractals and the internet part 2

And in fact, I agree, it is an uncomfortable discovery of our limitations. Faced by the infinite or potential infinite, we feel overwhelmed. Freedom of choice is also overwhelming, because it can be a freedom of making mistakes, and the more open to choice our lives are, the more there's a need for a changed perspective, for a playful desire for exploration, and a faith of some sort, whereby every choice can be equally good because it reveals an equally good world - provided that our core values remain intact. Continuing with the analogy with fractals, here is an attractor:

I won't try to define it, and I prefer to quote the wikipedia definition: "An attractor is a set to which a dynamical system evolves after a long enough time. That is, points that get close enough to the attractor remain close even if slightly disturbed." So, in a way, in our analogy, anything that is near that core which has formed in us through time, will stay and everything else will be an ephemeral contribution. But not, perhaps, a waste of time or a distracting noise.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Freedom, fractals and the internet part 1

After spending a few hours yesterday updating my blog, discovering shelfari, etc. I felt a particular type of nausea that I get from the internet. Everywhere you go, an entire new world opens in front of you, with profiles to upload, people, pictures, texts, and all these tools to - well, to organize the infinite. It made me think of fractals, as in fractals you zoom in and in, into new worlds. And, unlike matryoshkas, they are not smaller and smaller. So here is an example, let's start from the classical Mandelbrot set: you've all seen this.

Now we zoom in:

We can continue to do so, changing filters, as you would change glasses, or light or perspective, and new worlds appear, which are, well, very different - although the patterns are still there, in their infinite transformations:

The classical Mandelbrot set reveals within itself... a carnival day. We could be in Venice, New Orleans, Rio:

Walking around on this carnival day, escaping the crowds, and searching even deeper, we find an enchanted garden. It was already contained within the carnival, but we could not see it:

This discovery, this exploring of the infinite, though, gives me pleasure and a sense of peace and belonging. So why does the internet's infinity give me pain? I have some ideas on that for my next posting. Meanwhile, I'd like to hear your opinion.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Graham Green

Actually, I want to talk about Paul Hogarth. I stumbled across him looking for pen and ink techniques and bought his book called Creative Ink Drawings. I became so fascinated by his work, that I ended up buying his autobiography, Drawing on Life, and the other books on drawing techniques. He was born in 1917 and died in 2001, getting better and better throughout his life. His books on drawing techniques, though, are quite old and they describe markers as a brand new thing! He used Faber Markettes, which are now unavailable. Other unavailable art supplies include a Faber 702 pencil that looks stunning. You can still find Pierre Noir pencils, so I bought one. They are so soft, you feel like eating them (not advisable). He was the official illustrator for Graham Greene - at last, we got there - which made me want to read him again. I got two of his books from the library and lost them on the bus.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Sir John Soane

I hadn't been to the Soane's Museum in over 10 years, but it was just as I remembered it. Sir John Soane was born in 1753, the son of a bricklayer, and died after a long and distinguished career, in 1837. He designed so many famous buildings, among which the Bank of England. He was an avid collector of antiquities, as you can see from the picture above. Among the most unusual items there is the sarcophagus of Setis I, made of opal, now turned yellow, with a dense inscription which was not as yet deciphered at the time. The discovery of this wonderful sarcophagus was made by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, known as the great Belzoni. I must add a picture:
Belzoni was a 6' 7" tall explorer/strongman, a very bizarre character indeed. I'd love to read his book about archeological discoveries.

Here's my take on Soane's house: