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Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy is my favourite Leonard Cohen song - and there are plenty of others competing with it. Listen to it here
A notorious perfectionist: Leonard Cohen Photo: Clara Molden
I think the test of a good song is when virtually any cover version of it has some (and sometimes much) merit.
Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt recorded it here
Although I couldn't find it on You Tube there is great version by Dion if you happen to have Spotify. There is, of course, a great difference between lyrics and poetry but Leonard Cohen's lyrics can often be read as poetry:
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone. 
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on. 
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song. 
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long. 
Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control. 
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul. 
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned: 
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned. 

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them. 
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem. 
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn 
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem. 

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. 
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon. 
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night: 
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right, 
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

The story, according to Leonard Cohen, is that he let a couple of girl hitch-hikers use his double-bed in a motel on a cold winter's night in Canada and, while they slept, he wrote the song in one go. He said that was the only time he wrote in that way.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Gun Deaths

Photo: Fall River Outfitters
Gun deaths in US 2011: 12,996

Gun deaths in UK 2011: 58

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Painting of the Month (36) Jan '13: Masque Blanc from Gabon

White Mask from Gabon, Africa
African art is extremely diverse and can hardly be described in a few sentences but this white mask made in Gabon (date uncertain, probably 19th century) is something specific to that country. There is a strong ritualistic tradition of mask-making there where they are used for many ceremonial occasions such as births, deaths and marriages.
This white mask is typical of those made by the Punu people of southern Gabon. It is made of wood (although they are often made of 'precious' metals such as copper). It is covered in pigment derived from white clay and the face, especially the half-closed eyes, is meant to evoke a meditative female serenity. The mask, however, would generally be worn by a male dancer in a ceremony. 
The influence of African art on major European art is often overlooked but look at this detail from a painting by Pablo Picasso!
Nude by Pablo Picasso 1907

Saturday, 5 January 2013

London Monopoly (16): Fenchurch Street Station

My journey around the board of the London version of Monopoly has reached Fenchurch Street Station.
Photo by 'Buildings Fan' on Flickr
With only four platforms on two levels Fenchurch Street railway station is probably the smallest of London's many rail termini. The current building dates from 1854 and was constructed on the site of the original station, the first to be built in the City of London.
It is really only a commuter station serving the southern part of the county of Essex to the east of London and north of the Thames which divides London in half. The fa├žade which is original is quite elegant and is 'listed'. Inside the station is quite modern and bears no resemblance to the original structure. 
Fenchurch Street in 1905.
Photo Copyright: The John Alsop Collection
It is thought that there was originally a Roman fort on this site which was built to protect London following the revolt led by the female warrior Boudicca in AD 60. Many Roman artefacts have been found in the area including gold coins and mosaics. In 2008 a cellar was discovered dating from that time! Sometimes it seems to me that even the most unlikely places have an interesting history if ones digs down a bit, both literally and metaphorically.
Roman Mosaic found beneath Fenchurch Street while it was being built
The first Railway Book Stall was opened in Fenchurch Street station
Next in this series: Leicester Square