Odd And Curious Images

Here are another load of odd and intriguing (and mostly inexplicable) images that might be used to spark off a creative writing class in a school, or simply to give your imagination a challenge – What on earth are they all about????

I shan’t attempt to put any sort of title or comment by these images, but simply bung them here and leave it up to you to make of them what you can….  So let your mind go free and see what you can make using these images.

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The Chickening – The Silliest Film Ever

There is nothing useful I can say about this film, except that it is wonderful, silly, superb and thoroughly worth watching – all 5 minutes of it.

As will be obvious from the first moment,it is a spoof on The Shining, which is a very different order of film.

This one is crude, rude, but very funny, and superbly inventive, and I simply had to share it with you.

If you want to find out more about the guys who made this film, why they felt the need to make it, the thought processes they went through and similar interesting points, then you can do no better than to head on to HERE to find out all of the above.

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Do let us know what you thought of this strange little film please……

Didgeridoo – Impressive And Versatile Instrument

In recent years I have become more and more aware of the music of the Didgeridoo – probably a result of having moved to live here in Australia – but whatever the reason is, I have listened to more and more music being played on this most extraordinary of instruments, and been deeply moved by all of it.

What on earth is a Didgeridoo?

In essence it consists of nothing more complex than a long tube of wood.   No valves, holes, slides or any other way of changing the length or character of the thing.  And what the musician does is essentially simply grunt into it and it produces the most extraordinary sounds.   To give you a much more details account of the instrument and its uses and history, here is a link to good old Wikipedia which tells you everything you ever wanted to know about a Didgeridoo, but never dared ask!!   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didgeridoo

Xavier Rudd – A contemporary Didgeridoo player

To start giving you an idea of what a Didgeridoo sounds like and is capable of, I thought I would start with a young Australian musician, who uses the Didgeridoo in his music, though he distorts the sounds digitally and uses several Didgeridoos at the same time, so his music is not really typical of the music that the aborigines play on their Didgeridoos.  but nonetheless is interesting as a different approach to this instrument, which possibly is the oldest wind instrument in the world.

And this is what he did with it…  See what you think.

To put it all in perspective, here is a piece of original Aboriginal Didgeridoo music.   This is the extraordinary sound that they make with this simple wooden tube.   Astounding isn’t it?

If you imagine this sound in the proper context of an aboriginal gathering, it all makes sense, and it shows a remarkable sensitivity on a musical level.   Love it!

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More Truly Odd Videos From Deep In Youtube

Once again I have taken my life in my hands, ensured that there is a rescue plan, and headed down into the darker depths of Youtube to see what weird and odd videos I might find lurking down there for my (and your) pleasure.  And did I ever find some strange ones too!!!!

Once one gets past the first level of automatic offerings from Youtube, one begins to come across extremely odd and frequently inexplicable videos, such as this one.  What on earth did he think of as he made this video?   The mind boggles.

Do you see what I mean?  This guy sat down and created this video, took trouble to get the images he wanted, and spliced them all together behind a long shot of his face.   Not a photo of his face, but him looking into the camera for the entire 1.33 minutes that his video lasts….   Odd I think you will agree.   And all those more or less apocalyptic images behind him.  Are they meant to tell you something about him or…….

Anyhow, lets just accept the fact that it is strange and move on…

To this one, even weirder in another way.. a relatively long, very well made video that seems utterly pointless, and to have nothing resembling a plot… except this girl drawing in the air with an enormous pencil… with a face!

To be honest, I can’t think of anything to say about this one.  I enjoyed it and found it extremely compelling, but haven’t a clue what its maker was trying to tell me.   Sort of like peaceful music as a background to looking at the night sky…  Saying nothing, but being good for the soul nonetheless.

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Polyphony – The Basis Of Real Music

I thought I would have a look at polyphony this morning, as I have stumbled across no end of videos of people singing polyphonically, and to be honest, I didn’t really know what it meant.

Well, specifically, this is what polyphony actually means:-

polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice which is called monophony, and in difference from musical texture with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords which is called homophony. 

So, now we know, and for those of us who refer to learn from experiencing things, here is a rather neat little video that illustrates the principles rather well I thought.

or if you prefer it in words, well here you go……

And as a last bit of theory, here is a rather neat little webpage from the BBC:-


OK, so now we have seen and heard a load of theoretical stuff about polyphony, so now the interesting bit is where is it used?

This is why I started in on this discussion, since I kept coming across polyphony all over the place as I was wandering around the web looking for music of various sorts and origins.  From the middle ages through pygmy tribes in Africa to Estonia and the Balkans, the whole world uses it, in all manner of different ways.   Paradoxically, by and large Anglo-Saxons whenever they get together and sing (such as in pubs or football matches, seem to avoid polyphony like the plague and stick firmly to singing in unison (monophony).. boring.

So to start with a rather beautiful example of polyphony, here we have some Caucasian cossacks……  Such peaceful sounds.   Bliss to listen to with your eyes closed.

As you will have noticed, they also seem to go in for a sort of yodelling sound, this type of polyphonic singing is beautifully demonstrated by this bunch of pygmy women (who also in passing, demonstrate a serious need for dentists).

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Dark And Disturbing Animations

This time I have selected some very dark animations for your pleasure.   One thing that all these animations have in common is that they deal with the more unpleasant or worrisome aspects of our lives.   No cheerful mice or penguins doing the Charleston to be found in this lot.

The first one, created by Jonny Lawrence which is called Mothlight deals with a young boy trying to get to sleep, and in the words of Jonny, it is basically a study in light and shade.

Whilst it is a very short film, and nothing nasty happens, it still manages to create an atmosphere that is spooky and laden with the idea that something horrible is about to happen. Quite clever to manage that in a film that only lasts 1 minute and 20 seconds.

Anyhow, here it is, watch it and see what you feel about it.

Next on the list is a very odd film called The Passenger, which was made by Chris Jones.  I am not sure quite what to make of this one – it is truly strange, the story line is equally odd.  The drawing style seems to be a pretty standard sort of computer rendered animation, and if it wasn’t for the setting ( a dark and gloomy street) one would expect it to be a cheerful little film about a character walking home whilst reading a book – which is exactly what is happening, but then it takes a turn for the worse, and starts to be downright Gothic and alarming….  I shan’t spoil it for you by describing it further, but I would simply say it is very well worth passing some seven minutes in the company of the very odd hero of this little film….  Enjoy it!

And now for a truly weird film, a sort of Cyber Punk (ish) film, which on the surface is about a machine, a sort of robot, wanting to become human, and failing….  On the technical level, this is a truly remarkable film, and one that its maker – Andrew Huang – has every reason to be very proud of.

And on the level of its story, he has succeeded very well also.   The motivation of his robot, and its struggles to become human are horribly easy to see and identify with, and its ultimate failure is depressing…

A complex and intriguing film I think you will find, so click away and see what you think of it.

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Djelem Djelem – A Couple Of Haunting Gypsy Songs

Occasionally I spend a happy and enjoyable hour or so simply following links on Youtube, with no idea of where I might end up, nor what jewels I shall stumble upon as I wander along.

So this time I was looking for a particular video of a sort of musical duel between a Jewish Kletzmer band and a Russian peasant one, and on the way to that video I came across a number of other simply beautiful pieces of music that I want to share with you guys.   So brace yourself and get ready to click away on the links below and enjoy what I have found for you.

The first is a song called Djelem Djelem, which appears to be a sort of general title in the Balkans and gypsy world for a piece of music that is especially beautiful, but I am not really sure about that – If you know, do tell me.

Other than that, I know nothing about this piece, except that it is very beautiful to listen to…. Soulful to the Nth degree I think you will agree.

Nice eh?

And here is another version of Djelem Djelem, this time sung with wonderful passion by the almost completely spherical Macedonian singer Esma Redzepova.   A superb, passionate rendition it is too!!!

In passing, I would like to draw your attention to the Wikipedia entry for her, it seems that she has had a very interesting life, done no end of good things for the Roma People (she is actually a genuine gypsy in fact) and among other extraordinary things she has done, is she and her husband fostered some 47 kids!  Anyhow, if you follow this link, you will discover what a remarkable woman she is.

And next, we have Parno Graszt ~ Káde shukár….  That is all I know about this one, I think that Kade Shukar is the title and Parno is the name of the group.. but it could well be the other way round… Who know?  Or cares?   In any event, it is a superb piece of spirited music…. impossible to keep still while listening to it.   Love it!!!

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Superb Animations – And One Sad One

Here are three very different animations for your pleasure.  The first one, which is called “The Egyptian Pyramids” gives a very different view of what exactly those odd constructions are actually all about, and in passing demonstrates that the loathing I acquired for camels whilst riding a Bactrian version in the Taclamacan desert a few years ago, was perfectly correct. Horrible creatures.

So, here for your viewing pleasure is one very entertaining cartoon.

Next I have a very odd animation called  “Dji: Death Sails”, which rather defies description, but demonstrates the power of determination rather well, also the benefits of strong drink.  All I can do with this one is to bung it up here and let you enjoy it for yourselves without going into a deep and profound analysis of the meaning of life, how death fits into our cultural awareness and so on….

Here is what the maker of this video has to say about it…..

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The Rhythm Project – All Rhythm Stems From Movement

I have just stumbled upon a fascinating video, as one does on Youtube, all about how the rhythms of daily work in tribal Africa is based on rhythm, and how that is then translated into music and dance.

We see village women working at the normal daily tasks in such communities, and their men also, all demonstrating the obvious benefits of working rhythmically.   We also see several of their musical instruments being created, in the case of a sort of drum, we see the tree it is made from being felled (rhythmically) and then the entire process of hollowing it out, stretching the skin and so on….  All done in a sensible rhythmical manner.

Beautiful people by the way.

We then see how all of his translates into music and dance – amazingly.

All in all a fascinating short video with a very important message – we need to recognise the importance of rhythm and movement in our lives, and should ensure that we do not stray too far from these important basic human needs.

So, here is the video for you to watch, a good way to pass about 10 minutes of your day I feel.  Enjoy it, and take the message onboard please.

Please ignore the “Copyright Protected” message at the start of the video, not sure why it is there as they want as many people as possible to see their video, so watch it with a calm mind.

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Let me know what you feel about this video and its message, I am intrigued to know if you guys found it as important and enjoyable as I did.

How To Survive In A French Village

When we got to Fontenoy le Chateau ( a small village in the low Vosges) in 1997, we knew absolutely no one, and to be honest we had moments of wondering what on earth we were doing, coming to a small community in a country we really only knew from holidays (and in my case, a rather large number of relatives clustered in Paris and around Lyons).  We did more or less speak French, and had gone to a lot of trouble to try and find out about banking, bureaucrats and other “official” things.  But simply living, making friends and becoming part of the community, well that was quite a different set of problems.

 A short video to give you an idea what Fontenoy looks like

After we had been there for a few months, I became aware of the existence in the village of what in France are called “Associations”, which are groups of people who have got together, formed a club of sorts in order to pursue some common aim.  These Associations have a legal existence and are all properly registered in the head office of the Departement, which in the case of Fontenoy meant Epinal, a nearby city of some 100 000 souls.

Anyhow, I thought that by joining one or more of these Associations, I might be able to sort of break into the village community and become part of the daily life there, and almost more importantly, make some friends.

In the event, I achieved all those aims and much, much more, and ended up being a very central part of the life and soul of Fontenoy along with a fair number of other highly active (both physically and organizationally) local citizens.

Thus I first joined an Association with the resounding name of Des Amis du Vieux Fontenoy, which devoted itself chiefly to the restoration of the ruined 11th Century castle that explained  the “Chateau” part of Fontenoy le Chateau’s name.

This restoration mainly consisted of keeping the grass and weeds in and around the very thoroughly ruined castle under control, and organising a student work camp each summer holiday, where students came, lived in one of the remaining sections of the medieval wall that used to surround Fontenoy and slowly carried out a mix of archeology and restoration work on the castle.. But to be honest, this is really a 100 year project as the castle was very big in its hey day, and is pretty conclusively ruined now.  And most of the stones that originally constituted the castle have over the centuries been stolen and used to build the houses in Fontenoy itself.  Including the imposing church too, by the way.

And whilst the more fanatical members of the Association were fully prepared to demolish all those houses and even the church to get the castle’s stones back, there was a certain reluctance on the part of the good citizens of Fontenoy to allow that to happen.  Stalemate thus.

Actually the castle became a ruin not by the jaws of time, but was captured by, of  all  things, a Swedish army that happened to be operating in that area during the 100 years war, and who upon capturing the castle, forced the good burgers of Fontenoy to pretty conclusively demolish the castle.

When I joined this Association, it’s Chairperson was the highly energetic and impressive Veronique Andre, a good soul who became a very good friend over the roughly 10 years we spent in Fontenoy.   Vero, being the sort of person she was, I also found very much in evidence in the several other Associations I joined shortly after becoming active in the Friends of Fontenoy.

In the course of my Fontenoy period, I was a very active member of as above, the Friends of Old Fontenoy, also of Les Amis de L’Ecole, an association who busied themselves chiefly with fund raising for the local primary school in the village through all manner of events, chief being the now famous all over France Feu de St. Jean and making and processing the float for Saint Nicholas on 5th December every year, and last but by no means least, sending that float to the Carnival procession in the nearby town of Bains les Bains where all the local villages and small towns processed through the town on their various floats with bands and all other good things as part of the Catholic Carnival (Mardi Gras).

The creative and organisational driving force in that association in those days was another truly good friend of ours, Jean Pierre Remond, who was a real jack of all trades, could design constructions superbly, understood the mechanics of large constructions, and was a very good organiser of labour and material suppliers too.

Being of a creative bent I also joined the Association called Village de l”Ecrit, which as its name would suggest, busied itself with all manner of literary matters, including giving an annual prize to what their jury considered to be the best book of the year written by a Vosgean writer.   Sort of local equivalent of the Booker Prize really.

This one was lead by an equally energetic soul, the good Michou, who used to be a teacher but was by then retired.  She also became a pretty good friend over the years I worked with her for that Association.  This work consisted mainly of creating an enormous number of plywood “Speech Bubbles” each year on which we carefully painted quotes from all manner of authors, in French (of course) but also in honour of the considerable number of Dutch folk in the area, and who passed through on their holidays, in Dutch and as a sort of small gesture to those Brits, such as Lotty, Roger Oscar et.al who were hanging around, in English.  And occasionally in German too.  Particularly the heavier and darker of the Germanic philosophers.

These we hung up all over the village, so almost every house, shop and public building had at least one of these panels decorating it for the entire summer.   It is indicative of the cohesive nature of such a village that everyone was very happy to have one or more of these panels hanging on their house or fence, and as Michou, Daniel (another village stalwart who became a real friend over the years) and I hung these panels, we had long and enjoyable conversations about the quote that was being hung up.   Like all good villagers all over the world, most people in Fontenoy always had time to stop and chat.

Occasionally this could be mildly irritating to me, as they were perfectly happy to do this when driving their cars through the village going in opposite directions, if they came upon each other, they would cheerfully stop, blocking the road completely and chat amiably away for a quarter hour or more… And no one worried.

People around there lived very long lives by and large.. And I suspect that this very relaxed approach to life had a lot to do with that.  That and the way they always recognised each others existence.   Walking though the town could take time, as one had to greet almost everyone by name, and at least pass a couple of minutes discussing the weather or whatever… I liked this a lot.

The procession of floats through Bains les bains each year was a sort of social high point in the wider area around Fontenoy.  As I said above, all the local villages built some sort of a float for this very important and much loved event in the yearly calender.   I took part in this for most of the roughly 10 years I lived in Fontenoy, dressed in a variety of costumes appropriate to that year’s float.   One of my favourite ones was when I was pulled behind a tractor in a huge double four poster which I was sharing with a splendid old lady, who was notably short of teeth, called Antoinette.   Rural France is remarkably prudish sometimes, and the sight of the two of us happily in that bed pleasantly scandalized the public who stood beside the road as we passed by….  I was teased about my romantic and erotic involvement with Antoinette for many years after that one.  Another very happy memory, and Antoinette was a simply delightful woman to talk to, and as I discovered, to share a bed with….   Even if all we did was talk to each other.

Daniel and Gerard ready for Carnival

Antoinette and I in the famous four poster

 Me lurking beside a Chinese dragon one year

Anyway, by means of my very active involvement in the Associations in Fontenoy, and by being prepared to help anyone who needed a bit of help – going up onto the forest to gather their allocation of winter firewood, helping repair a roof, whatever was needed, I rapidly became accepted as one of them, a real honour I felt.

In the course of all of this, I made some extremely good friends, as Fontenoy seemed to have more than its share of good hearted people in it.  People such as Gerard, who used to own the one garage in the village, and was a rather rotund and red faced but utterly likable and reliable man, all the various active members of the Associations I belonged to.  Also there was Roger (Monk) Llewellyn-Smith and Marion his wife who arrived after us, and who became great and important friends to us, which they still are.. And of course Jean Pierre’s wife, Marianne.  The list of friends we made there is simply too long really to put here, but there were many of them.. and the friendships we made mattered to us, and still do in many cases. Actually while Fontenoy had its less pleasant inhabitants, as everywhere does, the great majority of the people there were actually remarkably pleasant and friendly to us.

When it came time for us to leave France and go off to work in Angola, I was given a surprise farewell party and honour  in the town hall.   How they managed to keep that a secret from me was a minor miracle, as in such a village, the saying that “if you dropped your hammer at the eastern end of the village, people were talking about it at the western end before it had even got to the ground” really did apply.

Anyway, I was sort of tricked into going to the town hall that night by Oscar, who told me that there was a special meeting of the town’s folk to discuss something or other of importance, which I should take part in.  So as he had grabbed me while I was still working, I was in my dirty work clothes when we arrived at the town hall, and I was surprised to see that just about everyone I knew in the village was there, all dressed in their Sunday best.

On entering the hall I was grabbed, pushed out to the front, and the good lady Mayoress – Francoise – started to make a speech aimed at me….  And to announce that I was to be given the Fontenoy Medal – and honour that Fontenoy had instituted to show appreciation to people who had really contributed in a very notable fashion to the community in some way or other…And that apparently was me!

After which a number of friends made speeches extolling my many virtues (in their eyes at least).   I was totally overcome by the entire thing.  Never having been at the receiving end of such public acclaim in my entire life.  I was also doubly honoured by the fact that I was not a native of the village, and not even French for God’s sake, but of all things, an Englishman….!

I am overwhelmed as The Mayoress tells us all how wonderful I am…

Not sure I believe what they are saying about me

An astonished me, with the Fontenoy medal in my hand.  Note that I am leaning on the table. I needed to.

Lotty was working in Geneva at the time, so it was arranged that she would phone during the ceremony to give me her thoughts as well…

That is  a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.   It had real significance to me, as I truly loved Fontenoy, those people who had befriended and helped me while we were there and I was actually very sad to be leaving a place in which we had invested so much work, thought, dreams and hopes.   But, that party at the end was amazing, wonderful and unforgettable.

Continue reading “How To Survive In A French Village”