alan little’s weblog archive for june 2006

cornwell’s arthur

27th June 2006 permanent link

If my involuntary laptop-less blogging break goes on much longer, I’ll have spent so much on books I could have bought another laptop anyway. I’ve been getting some pretty intensive reading in, one of the pleasant surprises of which was Bernard Cornwell’s King Arthur trilogy The Winter King, Enemy of God & Excalibur.

I’d previously read most of Cornwell’s Sharpe novels (*) set in the Napoleonic Wars, and a couple about the Hundred Years War, and enjoyed them. He is very strong on well researched historical detail and colour, especially vivid and detailed smell-the-sweat-and-blood battle scenes; the plots and characters have tended towards the corny and melodramatic but fun.

Until now. These ones have all the historical detail and colour, as good as current research on the post-Roman period can make it, complete with very scary accounts of what it must have been like to be a Briton with a horde of stinking, screaming Saxons charging towards you – but in general the writing, the character development, the intensity and seriousness of the plot are in a completely different league from everything else I’ve read by him. Dare I say Literature? Cornwell thinks so himself too, apparently: “Of all the books I have written these are my favourites”, he says on the back of The Winter King.

Highly recommended.

One of the reviewers says “the best modern retelling of the Arthur legend”. Wait a minute though: T.H. White’s The Once And Future King is magnificent too, albeit completely different.

(*) as originally strongly recommended to me by my mother and sister on account of Sean Bean(**) playing Sharpe in the TV series.

(**) who would have made a much better Aragorn than Viggo Mortensen

photo rules

27th June 2006 permanent link

Mike Johnston has a couple of very funny satirical pieces: internet-forum-style critiques of classic photographs by famous great photographers.

I think he thought he was making it up, until he found this real life example of some folks recommending that a picture by Henri Cartier-Bresson should be deleted from flickr.

Hmm. Perhaps the foks on flickr are taking the piss too. Even if they’re not, they’re entitled to their opinion. Not every photograph H C-B ever took is an immortal masterpiece, and anybody is entitled to their own opinion even about the ones that most people think are. No artist’s work is entitled to unthinking reverence from everybody. I personally happen to think the picture in question is pretty damn fine though.

Mike’s The Online Photographer is, incidentally, easily the best talking-about-photography blog on the web today.

related entries: Photography


1st June 2006 permanent link

Big news in the small pond of the Ashtanga Yoga web at the moment is that somebody has posted extracts of a film made in 1938 of famous yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar and his teacher Sri T. Krishnamacharya on youtube.

This film is a fascinating historical yoga document showing two of the last century’s greatest yoga masters in their prime. It’s well worth any serious yoga student’s time. Its quite well known and widely available from Iyengar Yoga centres all over the world. And, I suppose, if these clips make more people aware of it so that they go out and buy and watch the whole thing, that will be good. I do find myself wondering, though, whether I’m the only person who’s concerned about the asteya aspect.

Asteya is one of the yamas. Yamas, often translated as “observances”, are the first of the eight “limbs” of classical yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras. They concern basic precepts for how a yogi should live a morally acceptable life. Asteya is yama number three, and is usually translated into English as “non-stealing”. I take that to imply a broad interpretation of “not stealing”, possibly closely related to the Buddhist concept of Right Livelihood. So I take it to cover things like making an honest attempt to ensure my clients and employers get value for money. And not posting other peoples’ copyright material on the internet.

The guy who posted the clips is of the opinion that “the film is so old that any claim to copyright has expired”. I doubt if he knows what he’s talking about. I admit my legally-purchased copy of the video doesn’t carry any kind of copyright statement, and I Am Not A Copyright Lawyer – but from what I’ve read I understand that copyright at least for written materials is a number of years after the death of the author. I don’t know if that’s the same for film or if BKS Iyengar would count as the “author”, but if he does, he isn’t even slightly dead. Even if the content itself isn’t copyright, I’m pretty sure the particular physical manifestation of it in the form of the VHS videos sold by various Iyengar Yoga Institutes worldwide would be – so unless the guy on youtube either has the permission of the video’s publisher, or (unlikely) is using the original film reels with their currrent owner’s permission, I would be quite surprised if he’s as clean as he thinks he is.

It’s not like the video is difficult to get hold of once you know it exists. American (NTSC) and European (PAL) versions are available at the Iyengar Yoga Institutes in San Francisco and Maida Vale, London. Five of the top ten links for a google search on “1938 Iyengar video” are online shops where you can buy it in the States, England and Australia (San Francisco and Maida Vale are links nos. 2 & 4)

(How do I square my concern about this particular copyright grey area, with the fact that I am a regular user of legal-only-in-Russia music download service By not claiming to be completely consistent or in any way perfect, that’s how)

UPDATE: my comment on this issue on ashtanga news kicked off an interesting discussion on whether, and under what country’s law, footage filmed in India in 1938 may or may not still be copyright. I do remember reading something about by whom and it what circumstances this film was made; I think it was in Elizabeth Kadetsky’s First There Is a Mountain: A Yoga Romance, but as I don't have the book I can’t check.

related entries: Yoga

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