Kubla Khan – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I’ve written a couple of times here previously about what’s been described as the Xanadu Effect. Edward Tenner, author of the paper entitled “The Xanadu Effect“, has this to say about his view of the origins of the word Xanadu:

Xanadu, you may recall, was the palatial centerpiece of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, the brilliantly unfair film biography of William Randolph Hearst. Welles borrowed the name (if not the caves of ice) from Coleridge and modeled the place after Hearst’s own grand folly, La Cuesta Encantada, or “The Enchanted Hill,” a neo-Hispanic latifundium overlooking San Simeon Bay in central California.

It became famous as Hearst Castle. (Its owner preferred to call it a “ranch.”) On its 24,000 acres were a 354,000-gallon swimming pool, a private zoo and four main buildings with a total of 165 rooms. Along with other such extravagances, the estate helped send Hearst into trusteeship late in life. The cavernous halls of Welles’ gloomy cinematic Xanadu seemed to filmgoers – as the real, happier building must have appeared to many Hearst Corp. public investors – the very image of the pride that goes before a fall.

I’ll come back to the Orson Welles / Citizen Kane / William Randolph Hearst angle, but for the moment, this is the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Kubla Khan

Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ’mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves. 
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
     A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw;
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.


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The Xanadu Effect – Bookmarked Links

Here below I’m presenting The Xanadu Effect – Bookmarked Links. Over the last couple of years, I’ve gathered a series of interesting articles as a result of my research into The Xanadu Effect.

The Xanadu Effect - Bookmarked LinksBack in October last year, I linked to a podcast from the excellent 99% Invisible, Episode 53 – The Xanadu Effect. The original paper introducing the Xanadu Effect, by Edward Tenner back in 2001 is available read in full, linked from this webpage.

To recap, the Xanadu Effect looks at the the perils of building really big. In his paper, Tenner considers what architectural monuments say about their owners. Recounting how in 1999, NASDAQ launched a $37 million HQ building on Times Square in New York, only for months later to see the NASDAQ trading index collapse, Tenner states:

Taken literally, the idea that a building might sink a market seems nonsense. But giant structures, from the pyramids to the NASDAQ’s latest effort, clearly are linked to the fortunes of the organizations that envision them. The only uncertainty is how. Think of this mysterious relationship as the Xanadu Effect.

Listed below, related to The Xanadu Effect – are the bookmarked links I’ve collected on the topic over the past number of years.

Continue Reading →

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James Ellroy – Newstalk – Talking Books Podcast

James Ellroy on Newstalk Talking Books PodcastMy first exposure to James Ellroy was actually through a free copy of “The Black Dahlia” provided with the GQ magazine back in the late 1990’s, or maybe early 2000’s.

Published originally in 1987, The Black Dahlia is the first in what became known as The L.A. Quartet. If you’re familiar with the movie L.A. Confidential, then you’re familiar with the work of Ellroy. That was the third book in the L.A. Quartet.

The podcast linked below, from Talking Books on Newstalk, is very interesting. It may not make you immediately interested in reading Ellroy – it does come across as very heavy going in some of their discussions, but I would definitely recommend picking up some of his books – maybe start with the L.A. Quartet.


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House of Cards Intro, Dublin Style

This is a really striking video showing Dublin city in the style of the intro sequence for the amazing Netflix series, House of Cards. I think it shows Dublin in a fantastic light. All that’s missing is a shot of an underground train station.

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Kilcar, Co. Donegal by Drone

Some amazing views from the air of the sea around Kilcar, Co. Donegal. The sea area shown is where I do my sea fishing during the summer. Fantastic area – love the place. Though, these days, it’s rare that we experience the sea so calm.

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