What’s Inside


A-E  F-L  M-O  P-S  T-Z  All

Africa, slowly from the sky – An American photographer’s pictures taken from a motorised paraglider.
Aguaxima – The best encyclopaedia definition ever.
Airports – A poem about how airports should really be named
Angelic Landings – I don’t think anyone else has organised a gymnastics competition for angels. See some of the top contenders in action. Don’t forget to enlarge the pictures so as to be able to give your own scores.
Approximating Breakfast – The need for audio-guides to hotel breakfast layouts and to people as well.
Read more…

Two glimpses of Icarus


This painting is Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. You will probably need to click on the picture to enlarge it in order to see Icarus clearly. If you were visiting the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels in a bit of a hurry and didn’t know the painting’s title, you might even walk by without even noticing that Icarus is in the painting at all. This, according to two very great poets who wrote about this painting, is the whole point.

The human mind has a few very unuseful questions it seems to be tugged back to by some kind of primeval mental gravity whenever it can’t think of anything better. One of them is Whose is it? – which has probably caused more trouble than any other question we are capable of framing. Not  far behind is Which do you prefer? We love splitting into teams, especially if we can reduce ourselves to just two of them which are bitterly opposed over something totally unsubstantial, as in the case of the Blues and Greens in Byzantium,  Catholics and Protestants or the Big Enders and Little Enders who Gulliver ran into.

So while I will try very briefly to  make a comparison between the approaches taken by W.H. Auden and William Carlos Williams to this painting, I want to stress out of hand that, although they get there by different routes, they are in my opinion both as good as one can get. Read more…

Disparitions Mystérieuses des Civilisations Méso-Américaines

(Listen to the poem here)



Après le repas à Oaxtepec

le patron du restaurant

nous dit d’un air de satisfaction agaçant

que toute sa viande

vient du Texas.

Je trouve que ce n’est pas normal

de manger tellement hormonal.

Au Mexique on trouve

partout des traces

olmèques, toltèques,

aztèques, mixtèques,

mais qu’en est-il

des Bixtèques?


Phillip Hill 2008



(After the meal in Oaxtepec/the owner of the restaurant/tells us with an/ irritating manner/that all his meat/is from Texas./I find that all this hormonality/is somewhat an abnormality./In Mexico everywhere/one finds traces of/Olmecs, Toltecs,/Aztecs, Mixtecs,/but whatever happened to/your Beefxstecs?)



(This poem is included in my book The Observation Car which is available from

Looking at the water

Point your camera at a reflection in a canal or a river, flip the image around and see what a liquid world looks like. Trees try to float up into the sky, lamp-posts become Chaplinesque, railings grope around corners, fish pass by windows and houses breathe in and out.

The Sting in Heine’s Tail

Here’s a literal translation of a very short poem by Heinrich Heine followed by the German original. The first two verses are predictable enough but …

I don’t believe in Heaven,
of which the little priest speaks;
I only believe in your eyes,
they are my heavenly light.

I don’t believe in the Lord God,
of whom the little priest speaks;
I only believe in your heart,
I have no other god.

I don’t believe in the Evil One,
in Hell and the torments of Hell;
I only believe in your eyes,
and in your evil heart Read more…

Zen and the Art of Taxation

Various shapes of “tax” to meditate on

Zen Buddhism has a number of koans, the most famous of which is “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Reflect long enough upon riddles like these and you may reach enlightenment, it is suggested.

I would think that the same effect could be attained by meditating on section 509 (a) of the US Tax Code, which reads:

For purposes of paragraph (3), an organization described in paragraph (2) shall be deemed to include an organization described in section 501(c)(4), (5), or (6) which would be described in paragraph (2) if it were an organization described in section 501(c)(3).

If this is the kind of thing they have to think about it is surprising that more tax consultants aren’t Zen monks. Read more…


(Listen to the poem here)

tope.gifThe sticker on the window tells us YAUTEPEC

although the rope-haired lad

who is jutting from

the bus’s door into the foaming crowd,

much like a figurehead in stormy seas,

is shouting, “Yaute, Yaute,

Yaute, Yaute.” Read more…

Countdown to Ig Night


An armadillo having an impact on archeology

Forget your Emmies, your Tonies, your Grammies. Your Hammies, your Spammies, your Phishies, your Phonies. September is the month of the best awards of all. I’m talking about he Ig Nobel Prizes. I think they are even more interesting than the Nobels themselves. Read more…

If Beethoven had been Mozart

Wolfwig Beethart (1770-1806), famous for his 3rd Symphony

Like many people who love Mozart’s music I have often wondered what he would have given us if he had not died before he was 36. Even if he had lived just one more year, there is no telling what he might have produced, given that his last three symphonies – 39,40 and 41 – were composed in the space of three months.

And, since none of us has Mozart’s genius, it is completely impossible to know what he would have gone on to do ten or twenty years later if his life had been of a normal length.

One way of getting some idea of the scope of what he might have produced, I think, is to look at someone equivalent, Beethoven say, and see what they would not have composed if they had died at 36. Read more…

Recipe no. 1 – Sweet and sour rememboree

(A poem with instructions on how to cook memories)

(Listen to the poem here)



Start with the and.
Select a photograph of someone you have
lost or crossed,
shared days then parted ways with
and watch it softly
(think of a gaze on tip-toes),
five minutes for each side,
first at the picture, then
at the picture gone,
turning slowly, clockwise,
like time itself
until you have
a good emulsion in your mind.

Read more…

More bitter still

Listen to this (Dinah Washington- This Bitter Earth as she sang it in 1960 )for thirty seconds or so.

Now listen to a few bars of Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”.

Now hear how Max Richter combined them. I think you will listen all the way to the end.