THEMES: as I learnt to tag and categorise my work I gradually noticed themes emerging from within the clouds – pressures and ‘bursts which I hadn’t fully noticed before – and what a refreshing view they gave. So I have set myself the task of ‘swelling’ the themes – walking through them and getting myself bracingly wet. Totally refreshing – especially when I realised I could also, legitimately, birdsong my ‘tops’ in comics tv music books. What a view – I may never come back down. I am working on compiling pages that cluster around tags or categories; each theme heading is a link to that page, or each theme page appears in the drop-menu at the top of this page – if it ain’t linked, or if it doesn’t appear up-top, it has not yet been created. In which case you can find the categories and tags of the site at the bottom of each page to get a stream …
20th century: I have lived in the 20th century, I was born in the 20th century, I found myself in the 20th century, I have found myself in the 20th century before I was born, I found myself in the build-up to the 20th century, I have been excited by the 20th century possibilities of being, I hate what the 20th century has become. In Europe, in America. Recently. I have a feeling I was around somewhere sometime during the Axial Age but some tragedy messed that all up. Another chance now, but I hope I can hold the tragedy off.
Batman: without design or purpose Batman haunted the fibre and breath of my emergent childhood. He was the thrill of possible action and the immobility of grim tragedy, both rolled up in the same moment. I saw the shows on a neighbour’s tv, I read the b&w reprint books in trance, I placed the hues of blue in the jigsaw puzzles, I wore the costume to explore the possibility. Then I found the comics – imported, second hand, scattered numbers. A whole literature, a whole syntax, a whole lineage. A whole history deepened like a pocket – everything could be ‘read’ through history. I grew new emotion through Infantino’s skies and lines, I spoke discernment through Adam’s hands and brow, I smelt the docks of O’Neill’s scenes, I tipped the opportunities of Sprang’s angles.
breeze: breezes are opportunities – much more so than gusts or wind – because they are mostly not there. And then they are here. And when they are there they will sometimes turn. And because they creep up on you, they often take you with them. For a turn. Without you fully noticing. And all of a sudden you are travelling a completely different road, noticing completely new things which were there all the time. But, wha’…?
childhood: eight years in a Vague trying reluctantly to put words and necessity to a world of things which I suspected didn’t mean the former and didn’t have the latter. Snapshots and breaths and the discovery of colours. My personal childhood ended when my Dad left.
colour: respective colours are huge huge spaceships which press into this world here and there where it is thin. The world is at its thinnest when you are looking at something other than what you are seeing – that’s where the colour is: wHHmph!
comics: four-colour envelopes of possible texture carefully filed into a thick life of bookshelves; wait for the KAZAMmmmmmmmmPOW!; oh, the opportunity! In no particular order – as they were found in neat little stacks along the back wall of Bonus Books – a cascade of whole worlds within which to turn the page and smell the print:
- the cape which wrapped the contemplation, the hand which made the point, of Adam’s Batman
- RG’s landings and stair-carpet world of Tintin
- when gods walked the earth and tried milkshakes and love of Kirby’s Thor
- when Ditko’s Dr Strange talked with Eternity from within the Sanctum Sanctorum on the street in Greenwich Village
- when Colan’s Daredevil swung past Brownstone windows
- the deepest secrets in every alley of Romita’s Spider Man
- when Sprang’s Batman tipped worlds and balconies at 23.5˚
- Buscema’s Avengers in the Corporate World
- Kirby’s gods over the street in the Fantastic Four
- when Trimpe’s Hulk lifted a shard of cliff to prove his point
- the purple and green skies of Infantino’s Batman
- Iron Man with the vest that holds his heart as he fought the corporate enemy within
- Gerber’s Howard wise and cracking in a preposterous world not of his own making
- Graham’s Black Panther perched on the edge of a grand piano in a clearing in the jungle
- the sun through the venetian blinds of Kaluta’s Shadow
- Gerber on the floorboards writing the Man-Thing
- Starlin’s universe-in-the-letters-let-alone-the-words Captain Marvel
- the Spectre – justice of the victim leviathon-huge
- machinery as visceral as a body, humans as push-button as machines in Steranko’s SHIELD
But, of course, please also see: dh-na dh-na dh-na dh-na dh-na dh-na dh-na dh-na Batman
divorce: what happens when a mile-long whale swims past and just catches you with its fin
Eglinton Hill: the rooms and landings and stairwells, the cupboards, cellars and pediments of a gestation; 1963-1971
film: Koyaanisqatsi, the Godfather, All the President’s Men, Angels in America, Wings of Desire, Pleasantville, 2001: a Space Odyssey, the Rain People, Cabaret, Amelie, Lenny, 3 Days of the Condor, Blow-Up, the Man Who Wasn’t There, Harold and Maude, the Truman Show, the Candidate, What Dreams May Come, Brazil, the Lives of Others, les Quatre Cent Coups, Taxi Driver, Being There, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Barefoot in the Park, Gandhi, Gosford Park, JFK, Kansas City, Rocky, Brewster McCloud, le Mari de la Coiffeuse, Once Upon a Time in America, Jeremiah Johnson, Barbarella, Mulholland Drive, Girl with Green Eyes, Hope and Glory, the Way We Were, the Good Shepherd, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The mise-en-scene ists: Francis Ford Coppola, Sydney Pollack, Godfrey Reggio, Oliver Stone, Terry Gilliam, Coen brothers, Mike Nichols, Robert Altman, David Lynch, Francois Truffaut, Hal Ashby, Lasse Halstrom, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, M Night Shyamalan, Wim Wenders
Genesta Road: the peeling paper and clay garden from which adolescence … crept; 1971-1979
Have: the painful world in which we grow. The opposite of ‘be’ is ‘Have’
London: the urban architecture of a childhood; the traffic of an adolescence …
mum: of all motherhood, a particular mother; Jean Marguerete Redford, born September 14th 1933, south London, married, two boys, divorced nisi 1969, worked in shipping offices in London and Barking for almost thirty years, brought up her boys, cared for her mother, paid off her mortgage, died March 26th, 1999. She was young and silly, her life made her serious. But she smiled and laughed infectiously between anxiety. And she never wavered, even when she doubted, even through injustice, even when she died.
music: the world between the beat, the wait and the first note; the skylines and pavements, the meadows and woodland hills. The adrenalin of a breeze; the shift of a key; the holding of an exclamation.
Engineers: David Bowie, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, Eno, ani difranco, Led Zeppelin, Joe Walsh, Jeff Beck, Paul Simon, Jaco Pastorius, Yes, Radiohead
nan: 1906-1989; born into a family of 8 or 9 surviving brothers and sisters, named Gladys, married Charlie, one daughter (my mum), worked in an electronics factory, widowed early, moved in with her daughter into Eglinton Hill; helped her daughter bring up her boys when her husband failed. She walked right across Woolwich to get meat a ha’penny cheaper, she peeled parsnips and prepared cabbage leaves, she drank tea even when she went to bed and rolled her own ciggies even when she tried to give up; she got on with painting the skirting boards and window frames before we had even finished the decision. Her gift to our worlds was an uncanny combination of unquestioning acceptance and get-on-and-do-it. She was my first kalyanamitra.
passing: the most solid experiences are those which crest and fade the moment they have been noticed and start turning brittle
portraits: people are most fully themselves – people are their most beautiful – when they are not trying to be themselves;
Ramsden Heath: let me introduce you to Michael J Redford who lived at Ramsden Heath from the early 60s until 2007; he was my uncle; he lived so plainly and alive through the hedgerows, eaves and grey skies of his life that he showed me a devastating hope and beauty through the very act of breathing; he served in Kenya, he worked on a farm, he painted and wrote, he ran a picture-framing business, he looked after his Mum, he researched his family genealogy; he died in his house under the night of a landlord who wanted to develop the tied cottage but his landscapes have conjealed into the village like brushes of oil-paint dried proud of the canvas
the Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
La Porte Etroite, Andre Gide
the Plague, Albert Camus
the Roads to Freedom, Jean Paul Sartre
William Carlos Williams poems
Seymour: an Introduction, JD Salinger
Roger McGough poems
Franny & Zooey, JD Salinger
the Way of Zen, Alan Watts
the Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac
the Religious Experience of Mankind, Ninian Smart
the Occult, Colin Wilson
Allen Ginsberg poems
‘scapes: exercises in just experiencing; land’, room’, garden’, music’, speech’; when they are noticed ‘scapes are panoramic mirrors of the mind in all their colour, poise, shift and vista – when they are not noticed then the mind is lost and anxious and working desparately hard to find ground; ‘scapes would be photographs if I had a camera; ‘scapes are found and created at the same time
shikantaza: the ancient ancient practice, as multifarious as life in its application, as simple as stopping in its act; just sitting while sitting is shikantaza (anything more is included) (in sitting), sitting while living is breathing (anything less is finding perpetual corner and edge in a fog); locally, it has been in a constant state of bequeath by the zen traditions; my particular inheritance came through Suzuki Roshi who cracked one of my favourite jokes – the spirit of zen is summed up in two words: not always so
talking to myself: … because no one else will bloody well listen to me; I am sorry: I need to find these lessons in the litter of my attention through a hundred lost journeys and a thousand trips again and again before I even begin to remember to listen before I embark. Maybe you might listen more quickly …
teaching: a modern tragedy; the mean-ness and the ends
trees: the dialectic between earth and sky; a surge from the ground which calms itself as it accommodates the space it finds; they stand noble but petrified when rising from the ground, but when studied before the sky the sky, they are in constant dialogue adjustment and shift
tv: Cheers, Scrubs, Roseanne, the Simpsons, Blackadder, Star Trek, the Waltons, M*A*S*H, Hill Street Blues, the Avengers, Morecambe & Wise, Lost in Space, Dr Who, the Old Grey Whistle Test, Parkinson, the Magic Roundabout, Film 74/75/76, Tom & Jerry, the Saint, Starsky & Hutch, the Monkees, Batman, Dad’s Army, the Prisoner, the Persuaders, the Man from UNCLE
university: READY, STEADY, G - oh; what happens after the whistle blows
window: today windows are the eyes of our soul; the gateway between ‘me’ and the ‘world’; the means through which I see what there is in the world to act on and react to; the filter through which I allow bits of the world into me. And when windows are open they are pure stabs of insight.
writing and being: breathing; there is a marvellous alchemy that takes place when the word is invoked on the [inner or outer] breath, whether it is written or sung ‘makes no difference; the word coagulates the reality like a culture in yogurt (‘in the beginning was the word …’); to be ‘inspired’ – etymologically – is to breathe in the smoke of the offerings to gods; I started writing when JD Salinger offered me a blooming bunch of parentheses, when Steve Englehart included me as integral to the climax of Dr Strange #9 (Aug 1975), when Basho’s frog jumped into the old pond, when Allen Ginsberg showed me what it meant to be angel-headed in utter candour; these eminences showed me that there was an immanence in words which I could explore … which I could be; later (… rather, eventually) I began to sit and found that the being that I sought to am [sic] was the very words I wrote to see sometimes, when it came together (when it stayed on the spot) and I didn’t blow it all by trying too hard to write
years : all sorts of wrappings shapes and colours – and each of them different on the inside as well