Sadly, I missed the preview of this epic documentary film which its director, Phil Strongman, described as the “Apocalyse Now version”. However, he assured me another showing was imminent! Obviously, negotiations are afoot and in the meantime I’m sharing with you the trailer…
Earlier in the week I braved the rain and headed off to Rough Trade East for the second launch of Holloway – a lovely little hardback volume that unites the words of Robert Macfarlane and Dan Richards with the evocative monochrome drawings of Stanley Donwood. I’d pre-ordered the book online as it was hot off the press that day and felt a little tinge of excitement as I skirted Hawksmoor’s Christchurch Spitalfields and headed for Drays Walk. A buzz on a book. Odd.
Upon entering the shop one was greeted by Stanley’s ‘Emerald Holloway’ – an expansive 4 x 2 metres piece constructed in several panels. Apparently, you could buy it but you had to take it way yourself. At the counter I found Caught By The River‘s Jeff Barrett enthusing to Andrew Weatherall about Jessica Pratt, Thee Oh Sees and musing on Count Ossie’s version of ‘Way Back Home’. To my delight, Rob Gallagher also appeared and we both agreed that his and Demus’ Suffolk rooted William Adamson recording seemed nicely in tune with this event and the Caught By The River ethos.
Stanley Donwood along with Cefmor Tallboy had set up in the back corner of the shop and were encouraging the curious to print their own commemorative poster on a proofing press… which I did and felt rightly chuffed with the result. In fact, as I pulled the roller over the block the final clunk punctuated the opening words from Dan Richards who proceeded to pay his respects to the late Roger Deakin, the writer, environmentalist film-maker, broadcaster and swimmer to whom the book is dedicated. Dan explained how the initial letterpress limited edition (270 copies) of the book had inspired Faber to take it on board and then read aloud a piece he’d penned for The Quietus.
Holloway – the book – recounts a journey that followed on from Robert Macfarlane and Roger Deakin’s initial foray into south Dorset. It was in September in 2011 that Robert, Stanley and Dan traveled to same spot in search of a holloway.
“The three of them stood looking out into the void, gazing in the approximate direction of the valleys of the holloways. But there was nothing there, only wraiths, only shadows. They descended from the hill fort, feeling their way, each yard of country having to be uncovered, and all the while followed, haunted by silence.
Towards the close of the day they perhaps found the hollow way which they had been looking for. The everyday had gone, and night was falling swiftly. Things began to happen secretly around them, and the past conspired with the present, and those that had found the holloway before them were part of that present.”
Another link in the chain that connects us to Holloway is Geoffrey Household’s classic 1939 thriller Rogue Male. It was this book that initially led to Deakin and Macfarlane to visit Dorset in search of the hide that the book’s nameless hero hews out of a Dorset holloway. And on this night, it was down to Andrew Weatherall, who looked like a well inked, fedora wearing, 21st century William Morris, to read the passage from the book where the main character does just that. I’ve since learned that in 1976 Rogue Male was a made into film starring Peter O’toole and was recently serialised on the radio. It’s now on the reading list.
In between readings were were transported out of the East end and into the Dorset countryside with field recordings made at dawn and dusk. Birdsong and gunshots! The readings culminated with a fascinating piece from the Caught By The River’s An Antidote To Indifference compendium read by its author, Malcolm Anderson. He’d grown up in south Dorset and while he had never heard the term “holloways” he was still in thrall of these hidden highways – the history and the mystery.
Outside it continued to rain and the slippery cobbled streets etched with the footfall of previous generations sparked thoughts of inner city “holloways” – well worn but now forgotten pathways once frequented by “dissolute, loose, and insolent people harboured in such and the like noisome and disorderly houses, as namely poor cottages, and habitations of beggars and people without trade, stables, inns, alehouses, taverns, garden-houses converted to dwellings, ordinaries, dicing houses, bowling alleys, and brothel houses.”
Here’s a very handsome hardback of Rogue Male with a Stanley Donwood dust-jacket. There are only 500 of them. It’s £12.99 – https://www.mrbsemporium.com/
You can check: Stanley Donwood here – http://www.slowlydownward.com/
ALSO don’t sleep on the William Adamson LP (Brownswood Recordings). William Adamson live in session 4th June (click on image!)
Just posted the first of a what’s planned to be a series of deep jazz “mixtapes” for our Stereophonic-Supply.co set up. Having been diggin’ for tunes to play at the FREEDOM! session at Charlie Wright’s Int. Bar in Hoxton (4th Sunday of every month) it felt good to fling down some of these wonderful tunes as a mixcloud thang!
SINGING DRAGON have emerged as the leading UK publisher of books related to internal cultivation and Chinese martial arts. Here’s an overview of four recent books that explore different dimensions of this rich and flourishing culture.
Following hard on the heels of Lindsay Wei’s Valley Spirit, a poignant and reflective journal that took us on a journey of discovery to White Horse Mountain on the westerly edge of Wudang comes another book from a similar “seeker”.
Robert Sheaffer‘s Ten Methods of The Heavenly Dragon begins in the pouring rain in Taipei and the chance discovery of a tea house which proves to be a major catalyst in changing his life. It provides him with an intimate insight into Taipei daily life while opening up a minefield of potential cultural misunderstandings. It’s also delivers a fortuitous introduction to the Adept Shun Yuan of the Heavenly Dragon sect.
His encounter with Shun Yuan opens up a brand new set of challenges which confront his ingrained western world view. Shun Yuan is a mysterious person, not least of all because is he is also a Westerner. Unfortunately, we are given no information as to how he came to be an adept of an esoteric Buddhist order laced with Taoist practices. Interestingly, my own research points to the Heavenly Dragon sect being an ancient martial arts society initiated by the Jade Emperor dedicated to maintaining the “Mandates of Heaven”, which usually means that they end up fighting supernatural creatures like ghosts and vampires who have violated Heaven’s Mandate by remaining on Earth after death.
While there are no such celestial encounters in this book Shun Yuan is clearly capable of extraordinary feats. We are simply left to follow our often bemused narrator as he attempts to decipher Shun Yuan’s life lessons while devoting himself to the practice of meditation, qi gong, baguazhang and push hands.
lf you are looking for a deeper insight into esoteric Buddhism or the practices outlined above you may be disappointed with Ten Methods of The Heavenly Dragon. However, I happily consumed Robert Sheaffer’s personal journey and the Ten Lessons he underwent at the hands of Sun Yuan.
If you are looking for a book that delves deeper into the relationship between student and teacher in the martial arts you need to snap up Alex Kozma‘s excellent Warrior Guards The Mountain. I’ve been fortunate to do the odd training session and workshop with Alex and can testify as to his skills in xing yi quan and baguazhang. Over the years he has published several self-penned books documenting his own experiences with various teachers. Having read The Inner Path Of The Warrior, Beyond The Mysterious Gate and Ziranmen I was keen to see what this weighty new tome promised
“Long fascinated with the mystical and energetic aspects of the martial arts, I set out on a journey to study with the masters of these traditions.” says Alex. “From the Taoist arts of bagua , taiji and hsing i… to the Tibetan spiritual fighting arts… to the magical practices of Indonesian pentjak silat… along the way I saw many amazing things and witnessed strange skills. Some of these things I have written about in this book, along with the life stories and training skills of the various masters. The more I practice and teach these arts , the more I see that they are about far more than just fighting… they are a way of facing and working with the deepest aspects of who we are . And that is the way of the esoteric warrior.”
Warrior Guard the Mountain is a serious book of which Alex can be most proud. It builds on the content of the previous books and it takes the reader onto a whole new level. Decades of practice with teachers and friends are distilled into the book’s 350 pages and page after page we are treated to a flow of historical knowledge combined deep and personal insights into the actual practice of various martial arts. Alex takes us on a genuine journey to China, Japan and south east Asia. He delivers concise in-depth interviews with his long-time friend/mentor Dr Serge Augier (Ziranmen), He Jinghan (Baguaquan), Cheong Cheng Leong (Pheonix Eye Fist), Paul Witrod (Chow Gar Southern Mantis + The Vedic Warriors), John Evans Sensei (Fudo-Ryo), Steve Benitez (Silat + Ziranmen) amongst others. The experience of the two women included – Lindsay Wei (Wudang) and Laarni Benitez (Silat) – are a welcome inclusion, as is the chapter Gordon Tso, a Hong Kong banker and with a real passion for martial arts.
Above: A young He Jinghan practices Qing Gong (Lightness skills). Deep!
Regardless of what discipline one might favour in one’s own life, each of these practitioners provides plenty of food for thought. I know that will return to this book again and again. Highly recommended.
While we are on the subject of practice I also enjoyed Richard Bertschinger’s lively little book Everyday Qigong Practice. This long time practitioner/teacher (over 25 years) has constructed a simple but excellent guide to basic daily practice that anyone can embark on. If there’s no teacher’s in your locality or you simply wish to try out early Morning Meditation, An Eight Sectioned Brocade, Three Circles Posture (Standing Post), Ten Aggrievement Exercises or The Three Lowerings in the seclusion of your own home, this is a good a good place to get started. That said, it does require discipline if you wish to get results. As the man says of The Three Circles posture : “A hundred days of this and you should be flying!”
Finally, a short mention of CS Tang’s The Mysterious Power Of Xing Yi Quan which has just been published by Singing Dragon. I reviewed this book when it came out on Alex Kozma’s Line Of Intent imprint and heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the art “Form/Intention Boxing – Xing Yi Quan. Check my earlier review here: http://ancienttofuture.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/exploring-the-mysterious-power-of-xingyiquan-by-sifu-c-s-tang/
PS… If you missed the review of Lindsay Wei’ book check this: http://ancienttofuture.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/the-valley-spirit-lindsay-weis-story-of-daoist-cultivation/ + I’m just going through Mike Patterson’s self-published book on Xing Yi Quan… more on that in the near future… right now, got go the park and practice taiji… all this thinking and typing – need to release the tension.
Just a short note to give a headz-up to Swifty and the I-self’s latest venture – http://www.stereophonic-supply.co. Building on what we were doing with Straight No Chaser magazine the initial aim of this project is to go digging in the visual archives of artists who we’ve worked with or would love to work with and then come up with several pieces (for sale!) that would accompany an interview and a “Mixtape” put together by the artist.
First up comes the legend that is Ian Wright – a brilliant and innovative illustrator. I’ve known Ian since NME days while Swift shared a studio with him during The Face era when Neville Brody was based in East Road. Wrighty is a serious music fan… check his dub-wise roots reggae “Mixtape” for proof… I’m almost scared of doing a follow up of my own! The bar has been set!
We thoroughly enjoyed a trip to the coast to interview Dr. Bob Jones – a DJ whom deserves an honorary PHD in black music. Check out the vid of him on the front row of a mid-Sixties Hendix gig and then savour his “MOD-ern Mixtape” of Sixties gems. Expect Bob’s ‘Sound Of The Drum’ family tree to drop SOON!
Add to the stereophonic-supply mix Swifty’s hand printed tees, his Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls “jazz classics” and our Word Sound & Power graffix and we have lift off.
Touch down today on http://www.stereophonic-supply.co/ and expect a regular supply of news on this tip. Any feedback is good feedback and don’t forget to tell your friends.
TUNE IN! http://www.stereophonic-supply.co/
FOLLOWING HARD ON THE HEELS of the media coup that was Margaret Thatcher’s funeral Peter Kennard and Cat Phillips present their latest collaboration – BLUE MURDER – which takes on Tory leader, David Cameron’s smooth and line-less visage (do I scent a hint of Botox?) as their blank canvas.
I’ve been familiar with Peter’s work since the Eighties when he contributed to the NME. His anti cold war remix of Constable’s ‘Haywain’ was a classic and it’s hardly surprising that Banksy doffs his cap to the art of this man. Both Peter and Cat were part of Banksy’s posse of art activists who went to Gaza to confront the dreaded Israeli wall and in recent times they have been engaged in the odd large scale collaborations .
As Thatcher’s spawn, the Old Etonians on the Tory front bench – along with Boris Johnson and his brother! – are clearly on a mission to destroy the welfare state and in response KENNNARDPHILLIPS rip into Cameron’s face to reveal a Britain that is reeling from lack of growth, chronic unemployment and cutbacks – a hunched lonely figures trudges down a bleak street, a scrawled sign screams “Elec off” while a bailiffs notice has you wondering about the plight of those cast out onto the street. It’s an emotive exhibition – both these artists are angry and I can’t wait for large scale images like these to appear and haunt towns and inner city neighbourhoods across the UK.
By printing on newsprint and incorporating statistical data from the Financial Times Peter and Cat root the Tory leader in the brutal world of Capital and then, while using raw materials like charcoal and indian ink, they peel back the layers to get under the skin of an ideology which is guaranteed to engender division and conflict.
This show points to the need to nurture a resistance to the Tory onslaught and is a rallying call for other artists and creatives to unite and produce work that aims to expose the physical impact of these rabid free-marketeers on our communities and on a future that John Lydon once defined as, “No Future….”
KENNARDPHILLIPS – BLUE MURDER is on at the Hang-Up Gallery, 56 Stoke Newington High St N16 7PB / CHECK: http://www.hanguppictures.com