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Churchill, The Little Chef and Freemasons

Visiting a local Cheshire Masonic lodge for a charity event witnessed a Little Chef as the symbol of the Freemasons

I’ve been recently to a provincial Masonic Lodge in Cheshire, on behalf of a non-Masonic charity. Among the stands in the room there was one that listed ‘Famous Masons’. Quite a few biographies have been taken from an American database, including the one of Winston Churchill. At a certain point, when reading his profile, I thought my research into Tudor history began to bring the most unexpected fruit. I was reading on the sheet that Churchill had been initiated in ‘1591’. Fortunately for me, ‘1591’ was, of course, a typo.

That typo came as quite a surprise, since I never scan these kinds of profiles for the purpose of finding errors in them. So, I carefully let one of the members know, and he promised to try and do something about it. However, the story he told next confirmed to me that most people (including me, perhaps) would never notice that ‘1591’ thing.

The map of Cheshire on the Lodge’s stand was an extremely zoomed version of a nice colourful table mat from the Little Chef, the classic chain of road cafes. It was chosen simply because of its colour and slightly moderated, just to distinguish the names of the places where provincial masonic halls were located. What could not be moderated, were the black signs designating the locations of Little Chefs on the Cheshire roadways. The signs were, predictably, in the form of a chef.

In five years nobody has asked what that black symbol meant‘, the Mason told me.

They probably think it is a Freemason‘, I replied.

I never knew a man could laugh so loudly…

This is not just Little Chef; this is a Freemason (Image courtesy: minfin.com.ua)

Family Friendly Film Festival – 2006

The first ever Family Friendly Film Festival in Manchester brought children and adults together to celebrate the lure of the Big Screen

Another family event that took place across Greater Manchester during the Late Summer Bank Holiday Weekend was the first ever Family Friendly Film Festival. In the words of its co-ordinator, Leah Byrne, the idea has been in the air for some time, and was finally brought to life – and to children and their parents – between 25th and 28th August, 2006. The event was taking place at such venues, as the Chinese Arts Centre, the Cornerhouse, the Green Room, the Manchester Museum, the Zion Arts Centre, and even Princes Park in Irlam in Salford. The festival was supported by Manchester City Council, Salford Council, Manchester Kids, the Workers’ Film Association, Robert Hamilton and Cosgrove Hall, Arts About Manchester, and Arts Council England.
Spirited Away (dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) is one of the FFFF’s headliners. (image courtesy of danbooru.donmai.us)

Acknowledging the Children

The tagline for the festival was

“life is just as complex for kids as adults, so why should children’s films be superficial and formulaic?”

Instead of the Disney films there was an amazing selection of cartoons, shorts and features from all over the world. The festival premiered Eve & the Fire Horse (dir. Julia Kwan, Canada, 2005, 92 mins), which scooped quite a few awards, including the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

Other films at the Festival included the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, the Oscar-nominated Belleville Rendezvous, as well as some undying British classics, like The Wind in the Willows after the novel by Kenneth Graham. Three films by Eva Saks were also screened, Colorforms, Getting My Goat, and Confection. Confection, in particular, tells the story of a girl who learns empathy from a pastry – definitely a film to watch with a family!

Some other distinguished films were The Fan and the Flower, Chika’s Bird, Lucia, La Grande Migration, to name but a few. Open A Door series (2003) were also shown, an award-winning international exchange of 5-mins silent films. The series is aimed at the young viewers, illustrating the differences and similarities between the world’s cultures. Episodes come from Cuba, USA, Great Britain, Taiwan, Iran, Mexico, and South Africa. Whose Children Are These? (2004) looks at how the 9/11 has affected the lives of three Muslim teenagers. In Leah’s words, the aim of the Festival organisers was to bring such films to Manchester’s youngest viewers that would tell them about the bigger world and children that live in other countries.

Family Friendly Film Making

But children and their parents were not just watching films together – they could also dabble into filmmaking, providing they booked a place in a workshop. Several kinds of workshops were going during this year’s Festival, supported by the Workers’ Film Association. A workshop at the Greenroom was for teenagers between 10 and 15 yrs old, who were invited to create their own short films, using professional digital video camcorders and I-Mac work stations. Two workshops were held at the Zion Arts Centre in Hulme, a session of puppet animation for 5-10 year olds, and a Manga-themed animation workshop for 10-15 year olds. And a workshop at Princes Park in Irlam, Salford, was dedicated to wildlife animation and invited family members of all ages.

I went to the puppet animation workshop on Saturday, 26 August, at the Zion Arts Centre. In a large well-lit room children and their parents were sitting at the tables, absorbed in the task of making figurines of plasticine. The multi-aged and multicultural groups showed formidable team-working skills, especially when it finally came to shooting. The room periodically filled with bursts of laughter, especially when things were not going smoothly. At one point all props (plasticine pines) collapsed at the set of one of the features. At another set two plasticine “actresses” fell face down from their carton board bench. In spite of this, the filmings progressed well, the credits appeared, the “actors” bowed, and then the groups went on to edit their films.

The scripts, composed by children themselves, were anything but simple. One group’s film was about a squirrel visiting another squirrel and bringing a bag of hazelnuts. When opened, the bag contained a mouse, who was eating away the nuts! Another group made a film about two female friends who had to handle an uneasy task of sharing money between themselves. Yet another group’s film (by The Quincy Blake Production) was about two aliens fighting and then befriending on the Sun. In the words of Quincy Blake (a boy of about 7), he enjoyed making his movie. And in the words of one of the mothers, attending such workshop was not just enlightening, but also made her feel like going back to her childhood.

Where Adults Get to Be Kids

I must admit I felt I went back in time, too, despite the fact that I didn’t participate in preparing the sets or props, or in the actual filming and subsequent editing. Simply the glee and the spirit of team-working have filled the ground, so it was almost impossible not to immerse oneself in this wonderful atmosphere.

The first Family Friendly Film Festival will definitely not be the last, although it did take a lot of time, pain and money to obtain clearances for screenings, especially of such films as the multi-winning Spirited AwayBelleville Rendezvous, and Eve and the Fire Horse. However, with the obvious success of this year’s Festival the plans will be growing bigger for the next year, and Leah Byrne has told The LOOK that the BBC is already looking into taking part with a workshop on score-writing. So, watch out for the Family Friendly Film Festival next year (www.familyfriendly.org.uk), and in the meantime check out this year’s list, and try and catch the films you haven’t yet seen!

The List of the Family Friendly Film Festival

Holes (dir. Andrew Davis, USA, 2003, 117 mins)
Raju & I (dir. Gayatri Rao, India, 2003, 30 mins)
Whose Children Are These? (dir. Theresa Thanjann, USA, 2004, 27 mins)
Getting My Goat (dir. Eva Saks, USA, 2005, 2 mins)
Colorforms (dir. Eva Saks, USA, 2003, 8 mins)
Maya – the Indian Princess (dir. Kavita Ramchandran, USA, 2005, 3 mins)
Happy Holy Maya (dir. Kavita Ramchandran, USA, 2005, 2 mins)
Dial ‘M’ for Monster (dir. Kevin Nikkel, Canada, 2003, 1 min.)
Open a Door (Cuba, USA, Great Britain, Taiwain, Iran, Mexico, South Africa, 2003, 7×5 mins)
Welcome to My Life (dir. Elizabeth Ito, USA, 2004, 5 mins)
Circuit Marine (dir. Favez Isabelle, France, Canada, 2003, 7 mins 50)
The Wind in the Willows (dirs. Mark Hall and Chris Taylor, UK, 1983, 79 mins)
Eve & the Fire Horse (dir. Julia Kwan, Canada, 2005, 92 mins)
La Grande Migration (dir. Youri Tcherenkov, France, 1995, 7 mins 54)
Let’s Play (dirs. Francois Lecauchois, Cassandre Hornez, France, 2003, 26 mins)
Confection (dir. Eva Saks, USA, 2003, 5 mins)
Lucia (dir. Felix Goennert, Germany, 2004, 8 mins 30)
Chika’s Bird (dir. Adam Mars, Canada, 2003, 15 mins)
The Fan and the Flower (dir. Bill Plympton, USA, 2005, 7 mins 10)
Spirited Away (dir. Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 2001, 125 mins)
Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto! (dir. Tony Collingwood, UK, 2005, 2×4 mins 30)
Bark, George! (dir. Gene Deitch, USA, 2003, 6 mins)
Eddy and the Bear (dir. Tony Collingwood, UK, 2003, 9 mins 30)
The Pipsqueak Prince (dir. Zoia Trofimova, France, 2002, 7 mins)
Animal Stories (dir. Tony Collingwood, UK, 2001, 2x 5 mins)
Gorden the Garden Gnome – The Veggie Pet (dir. Tony Collingwood, UK, 2005, 11 mins)
A Fortune in Frozen Dim Sum (dir. Ling Chiu, 2004, Canada, 13 mins)
Belleville Rendezvous (dir. Sylvain Chomet, France/Canada/Belgium, 2003, 80 mins).

(The list has been compiled after the Festival’s brochure).

The previous event: Bomber Command Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North.

She Came in with a Tray of Tea Cups… on Her Head

The story arrived today to all of us who are subscribers to the BBC Newsnight and Panorama newsletters. While the Health Minister was interviewed in one of the BBC’s newsrooms, a lady walked past her in the background, carrying a tray full of teas on her head. Peter Barron, the editor of Newsnight, tells us that the lady in question is Nana Amoatin, originally from Ghana, and she’s been getting the teas in like this for years. As she put it, ‘anyone can do it’.

Indeed, I tried to do this is my childhood, when I was myself fascinated with this practice of carrying things on the head. I wouldn’t dare try to carry anything like tea cups, so I limited myself down to books, and I think I managed to make a few steps with a couple of thick volumes on my crown. I also think I began to lose balance, so I stopped, since books were even more precious to me, than tea cups. Either way I didn’t learn to carry things on my head then, but I’m thinking I might need to learn now. Quite frankly, it would help.

The Last Year Snow Was Falling

This post is dedicated to the Russian animator and cartoonist, Igor Kovalyov, who’s just received yet another award at the International Animation Festival in Hiroshima, Japan. The cartoon is called ‘Milk’ (‘Milch’ across the web) and has already been distinguished at the festivals in Ottawa in 2005 and at the Animafest in Zagreb in 2006.

Igor has got a website, www.igorkovalyov.com, that enlists the main works since he’s begun to shoot his features. Imdb.com (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0468335/) obviously provides ratings for those works, of which I’ve seen ‘Andrei Svislotskiy’ (1992) and ‘Hen, His Wife’ (1990).

BUT – Igor has also worked as an art director on production of the two VERY popular Russian cartoons, ‘A Plasticine Crow’ (1981) and ‘The Last Year Snow Was Falling’ (1983). I didn’t manage to find any decent stills from ‘Crow’, but I found a few from ‘Snow’.

‘The Last Year Snow Was Falling’ is about a Man, who lives in the village and was sent by his wife to the woods to find a New Year tree. The film is highly rated because it is, simply put, hilarious. Cinematography, given the fact that this is a plasticine movie, also adds to its appeal, and in short, this has been one of the favourite Russian cartoons for years. And I never realised I was only three when it was released.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this film is little known outside Russia, as its humour sometimes is rooted in the peculiarities of Russian grammar or pronunciation, which would be impossible to communicate in another language. Nevertheless, I translated a few phrases, and see if you can make sense.

For example, who is queueing up here to be a tzar? Nobody? I’ll be the first then!
Кто тут, к примеру, в цари крайний? Никого?! Так я первый буду!..

Who wants a hare, freshly caught?
Кому заяц свежепойманный?

Even when I’m tight, I’m doing so with all sincerity.
А хотя бы я и жадничаю, зато от чистого сердца.

And a couple of still, as I promised

Exercises in Loneliness – I: Directors and Writers

The first post in the series titled Exercises in Loneliness that gave the start to a book under the same name compares the directos’ and the writer’s views

Exercises in Loneliness – 1

I remember speaking to one film director who deplored the fact that he had to write an article about his film. In his words, he’d be happy to talk about it for as long as he could, but writing was weighing him down. As the person who, instead of a silver spoon, was probably born with a pen, I obviously asked what he didn’t like about writing. His answer was that writing was ‘a lonely experience’.exercises-in-loneliness

Of course, as I’m writing this at an ungodly hour I have to admit that, physically, writing is the lonely experience. But mentally it can be quite stimulating and even scandalous, if one considers the works of Marquis de Sade, some of which he wrote in prison, and some – in asylum.

Back in 2006 being alone felt exhilarating. I craved independence, and I had got my hands full. Not that I didn’t want to share work or success, but I was determined to succeed alone, first and foremost. Unconsciously, perhaps, I was drawing inspiration from the famous New York, New York song, paraphrasing it as «if I can make it on my own, I can make it with someone else».

As I was to find out, we can all do things on our own but they often take awfully more time than if we did them in a company of like-minded people. Having gradually revisited my attitude to loneliness, I nonetheless kept my opinion of writing. It is not a lonely experience, for when I write I imagine the whole world that I inhabit both as an actor and a creator. My company is my characters, and even when I compose an academic essay or an article about a community leisure centre I am still surrounded by facts, figures and personalities. This is a thrilling experience, although I realise it may be more interesting, complex and fulfilling to operate a set of living people than the world that only exists in your head and maybe used to exist for real a good few centuries ago.

The longer you are alone, however, and the more you cherish your solitary state, the more you become insensitive to the outer world. Such scenario is not inevitable but loneliness becomes a habit, it blinds you, and it might take a bigger or lesser catastrophe to shake you out of this routine. You turn into Tony Camonte from Scarface, obsessed with power your solitude grants you and fully oblivious to the woes of others.

Other posts in the series Exercises in Loneliness.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut studies the 20th century children’s crusade in the context of World War Two and Dresden Raid

In 2000 I was going through a ‘love affair’ with the works of Kurt Vonnegut. When I went on a research trip to St. Petersburg I finally  bought his Slaughterhouse-Five, the novel that alluded to Vonnegut’s imprisonment and survival in the Dresden raid.
Speaking of the raid of Dresden: I know exactly that until the year 2000 I had huge inhibitions writing about war. Russian literary accounts of the Great Patriotic War were by and large realistic, based on the personal experience of their authors. I had no personal experience, except for reading those accounts, viewing wartime photos, watching films (very touching) and listening to the story of my grandma’s evacuation, so I felt kind of trapped.

Slaughterhouse-Five and the Fluidity of Time

So I bought Slaughterhouse-Five. The rest, as usual, is history: I was researching in the day, and as soon as I’d get to my spartan hotel room and had a cup of soup I’d be reading the book. I’m aware that the way I’m speaking of this book makes it sound like it was un-realistic, if compared to Russian literature about war. This is obviously not true. What is true, however, was that on my then memory Vonnegut was the first author who reached out to my experience. The subtitle of his novel – The Children’s Crusade – and the fact that his characters were more or less of the same age as me simply forced me to put myself in their place and to read the book, as if it was my story.

What I quite love about Slaughterhouse-Five is its Tralfamadorian dogma of everything taking place simultaneously, namely the past, the present and the future existing together at once. I don’t share it, but I do appreciate its connection to the subtitle, and how the subtitle can give a focus to the novel.

The Children’s Crusade

The chidren’s crusade per se is a disputed historical fact. If chronicles are to be trusted, in the 13th c. multitudes of children from Western Europe assembled for the journey to the Holy Land, but on their way either perished or were sold into slavery. This is an irrational act, and in addition to telling us how strange were the Middle Ages, it also brings into question the validity of war (Second World War in our case). Regardless of whether or not this children’s crusade had actually taken place, it belongs to the medieval period. And in medieval painting, as we know, one and same picture (~a depiction of a saint’s life) very often told the story of an event in the past, in the present and in the future. The view is obviously very similar to how Tralfamadorians saw life. So, this is the first, ‘historical’, interpretation of the subtitle that gives a focus to the novel, as well.

Homo Ludens

The second, ‘psychological’ interpretation connects the subtitle to the children’s attitude to death (basically as something that is not real) and to the possibility of living through all things at once. Consider the games where in the space of a small room children build a ship, a castle and a battlefield; and also the games where events are shuffled, skipped or repeated, depending on the game’s scenario and rules. If we speak of children playing war, everyone always remains alive (otherwise no players would be left).

The two themes in the ‘psychological’ interpretation are explored in Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens (The Playing Man), published- incidentally – in 1938. In children’s games, everything that is happening is not happening ‘for real’, and whoever is killed will rise again. Billy Pilgrim’s journeys through time in Slaughterhouse-Five resemble this childish indiscrimination between the real and the imaginary. But when this inability (or unwillingness?) to underpin oneself in the boundaries of physical world reappears in an adult, the question rises: did these adults ever begin to see the difference between the real and the non-real?

The children’s crusade therefore becomes ever more emblematic, as it not only symbolises the selling of children to war and the irrationality of war, but also underlines this infant disbelief in the tragic nature of things as the form of fatalism that stems from a convinction in the unlimitedness of time, space and, ultimately, a human life. Children are therefore not simply those who are young, but those who take life for granted and play by the rules of fate, denying free will.

Bomber Command at the Imperial War Museum North

The Bomber Command exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North details the complex history of the celebrated British military forces.

Before the programme covering the activities in Greater Manchester during the Bank Holiday weekend goes out on September 1 (the back-to-school day in Russia, incidentally), this is a report of some impressions, starting with the Bomber Command exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North.

The story of Bomber Command at the IWM North

Some of the activities at the Imperial War Museum North were linked to a new exhibition, called Against The Odds: The Story of Bomber Command in the Second World War (27 May 2006 – 7 January 2007). It traces the history of the mentioned part of the British Army in the Second World War, its Lancaster bombers, pilots and operations. The curators did not turn a blind eye to some difficult questions, e.g. whether or not some of the well-known operations were justified. The organisers have spent about a year working on this exhibition, which uses mostly the Imperial War Museum North archives.
The assembly of a Wellington Bomber (Image courtesy: https://www.culture24.org.uk/)

The proverbial ‘against the odds’ can be applied to almost everything in the story of 1939-45 War, so of course it was interesting to know, exactly how it refers to the story of Bomber Command. In the words of David Hopkins, Special Exhibition Manager, Bomber Command as a military force had “against the odds” risen from a poorly equipped group at the outbreak of war to a vast and respected organisation by 1945. From the start it was a pivotal agent in the British and the Allies’ war effort, but its story was not always smooth or glorious, as the exhibition well illustrates.

Glory and Gore

Several displays are dedicated to personal experiences of soldiers, some of whom had never returned from the duty. One of the stands exhibits the log book, goggles, papers and medals of Leonard Cheshire, including the Victoria Cross that Cheshire, as the Master Bomber, had received for his outstanding gallantry. Other displays cover technical issues, such as the construction and operation of the Lancaster bombers. The very last sections cover major operations, presenting their outcome through the archival photos and films. The general sense, though, is that however important was an operation, one can’t help looking at it through the prism of the number of casualties and the images of the ruins of historic cities. The well-known Dams Raid in 1943 resulted not only in the destruction of the water dams on the rivers Eder, Mohne and Sorpe, but also in the death or captivity of many soldiers. And the infamous raid of Dresden, which still stands out as a senseless operation with devastating effect, has somewhat overshadowed the glory of both Bomber Command and the Allied Forces in general.

Identifying with the Past

During the Bank Holiday weekend, on Sunday 27 August, the visitors to the IWM North were given identity cards, which ‘ascribed’ to them the story of one of the pilots of the Bomber Command. I was identified as Geoffrey Pell Dawson, who was born in Manchester in 1923. An architecture student, he was in the forces between May 1942 and September 1946, serving as a Bomb Aimer and achieving the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

The last page of identity card contains some questions for reflections on the experience of the pilots, asking, in particular, how the exhibition had changed the way visitors feel about the events of the Second World War. The comments left in Reflections area give much hope to pacifists, as the majority of them are written (or even scribbled) by children as young as 7, expressing their resentment to war.

Plane Building for All Ages

And on Monday, 28 August, the activities were celebrating cultural diversity presented in the Museum’s collections. Children of all ages and their parents were invited to build a wooden (!) plane, to hear about the animals who took part in the war, and even to play on the computer. I listened to a couple of really nice stories about animals, including the one about two cows who were the mascots of a Scottish division. I also know that children enjoyed assembling the aircraft (with the help of a volunteer Sean, who admitted that the parts of the plane were quite heavy). But then I looked into a Learning Studio East, where computer-based activities were taking place. And there I saw someone’s father being totally immersed in a computer game of some kind. So, family activities at the IWM North were quite literally attracting all generations.

Britannia Rumba and the Caribbean Music

Still in Salford Quays, a short distance from the IWM North, another one Monday’s hot events was the performance of African and Caribbean music, in the same vein of celebrating the cultural diversity. The band in question turned out to be Britannia Rumba, a Manchester-based musical collective, performing what is usually called here ‘world music’, accompanied by a dance group of four girls in lovely green sarongs, tops and visors. The band was playing on the stage outdoors, it was a bit cold, and the wind was quite strong. Nevertheless, the Afro-Caribbean sounds have filled the surroundings completely, and children, parents and even some of the IWM workers were jiving gleefully. Soon after I packed my equipment and went to catch the bus home. I could long hear the drums and guitars, as I was walking away from Salford Quays.

More on Late Summer Bank Holiday 2006: Family Friendly Film Festival.

Dragostea din Tei: from Haiduc to Robin Hood to Outlaw

Dragostea din Tei song has a very interesting example of translating the word “haiduc”. It can be Robin Hood but it can be an outlaw, too.

I always appreciate a good play on words and other peculiarities in translation. We normally find them in “high culture”, but a song Dragostea din Tei by O-Zone band offers its own example. 
First, my examples. It’s been years since I fell under the spell of surrealism. So much so that I ended up using ‘avidadollars’ as my nickname or login on many forums and websites. This doesn’t tell anything about my love for, erm, dollars, but says aplenty about my admiration for both Salvador Dali (whose name was so deftly anagrammed by Andre Breton) and Andre Breton (who anagrammed so deftly the name of Salvador Dali). In fact, if for any reason you had doubts about Breton as genius, ‘avidadollars’ should convince you once and for all.

Anyway, this is as far as my enchantment has led me, and I doubt I go any further. On the other hand, I have recently read about a family who were such ardent supporters of the Chelsea Premier League Football Club that they changed their family name to Chelsea.

‘Ok’, I thought, ‘but I’ve heard something like this before’.

Turned out I was thinking about a Moldovan band O-Zone, who burst onto the European music scene a couple of years ago, dancing away on a plane’s wings (in their clip, at least) to the song ‘Dragostea din Tei’. It is something practically untranslatable, as Wikipedia tells us. The interpretation ranges from ‘Love of the Lime Tree’ through ‘Love among Young People’ to ‘Love at First Sight’. I knew they were singing the name ‘Picasso’ in one of the lines, but I never looked up the lyrics, to be honest. Two years later I finally found myself sufficiently intrigued, and as I don’t know Romanian, I had to go with a German translation. The line in which the Spaniard’s name was mentioned is:

Hallo Du,
Hier bin ich, dein Picasso.
Hello you,
This is me, your Picasso.

Nice one, even if purely for the purpose of rhyming. This Romanian Picasso was waiting for his Muse to come, but I assume the girl never turned up. Otherwise we would already have a painting of ‘A Girl under the Lime Tree’.

However – a peculiar point – in the very first verse of the song the word ‘haiduc‘ is mentioned. ‘Haiduc‘ is an outlaw, but in Moldovan and Romanian folklore the haiduc only robbed the rich, while protecting the poor. Reminds of Robin Hood, doesn’t it? And this is exactly how the Germans translated it.

I decided to look up the English translation. I found out that the English went for ‘outlaw‘ – so is this how Robin Hood actually regarded, never mind the popular admiration?

So, I wondered how the French dealt with it. Turned out, they decided not to translate the word at all

The Excommunication of Pluto the Planet

The planet Pluto has been relegated from the Big Planets. What this “excommunication” brings to people and astrologers?

Pluto is relegated from the Big Planets (Image credit: yahoo.com)

So, the planet Pluto has been disqualified (relegated) from the Planet Division and will now continue to whirl as a dwarf planet. The story is here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5282440.stm. Apparently, the possibility has been discussed for a while, and now the action was finally taken.

I’m wondering how this is going to impact the work of astrologers. From what I could gather in the past, while surfing through various resources on the web, there is already a contention, as to whether to take into account the positions of asteroids in a horoscope or not (think of Lilith and Selena, first and foremost). With Pluto now being ‘diminished’ to the status of a dwarf planet, it’s interesting how this is going to be taken into account, if at all?

In simple terms, Pluto is associated with dramatic changes, and since the planet was given the name of the Roman god of the Inferno, it rules the 8th house – the so-called house of death – and is linked to the sign of Scorpio. It ‘rules’ crimes, revolutions, terrorism, but also the reproductive forces (cue in a connection between Eros and Tanathos).

Although the astronomers’ decision is purely scientific, it is quite curious in one respect. If one thinks of death, revolutionary events, or even terrorism, they are all of the size and influence of Pluto.  They are small, lurking from beneath the most common occasions, easy to go unnoticed, existing on the fringe of the system (be it solar or social). Yet they are powerful enough to overthrow empires and wage wars, as well as to push people towards the goals they wish to pursue (memento mori, perhaps?) In such context the planet Pluto being relegated appears almost like a manifestation of its usually huge impact, as much as of its marginal status.

J’aime mieux tes levres que mes livres

The beauty of Prevert’s saying J’aime mieux tes levres que mes livres is sadly lost in the English translation… but perhaps Man Ray’s famous Kiss rayograph renders the meaning

J’aime mieux tes levres que mes livres.
I prefer your lips to my books.

This is one of my favourite phrases by Jacques Prevert. Not only is it beautifully romantic, it also presents a nice example of what sometimes is lost in the process of translation.

The play on words is obviously lost, which you can notice, even if you don’t know French. The melody of the phrase is also distorted in English translation. ‘Lips’ and ‘books’ are two short and brisk, muted words, while ‘prefer your’ doesn’t capture the music of ‘jaime mieux’. I have no idea how this phrase was translated into English or other languages, and if a translator managed to recreate any effect of this phrase. I can only imagine it being communicated to some extent in Italian, through ‘labbra’ and ‘libri’, respectively.

Other posts in Jacques Prevert and Archives.

Update 2020: On another note, Man Ray’s famous rayograph The Kiss, produced in 1922, is vaguely related to the theme of Prevert’s saying. Being an artistic enquiry into a photographer’s private life, The Kiss may be seen as reinterpreting the quote the following way: j’aime mieux tes lèvres que mes lumières (I prefer your lips to my light). In both cases, be it a book or lighting, the authors clearly state that Love means more than Art.

Man Ray, The Kiss. Rayograph (1922): another interpretation of loving lips more than the artistic medium
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