Friday, June 28, 2002

What happened if you were actually in Finisterre at the time?

And now ... The Shipping Forecast

AT 1130 ON FRIDAY 28th JUNE 2002

Fitzroy used to be Finisterre but Spain (I Think) had another zone called this so they renamed the British zone after the Captain of the Beagle which seems a bit ironic because he was the first proper weather forecaster and no-one took him seriously so he committed suicide. Oh well! Galileo was right as well. Who is actually crazy? (Oh those hypothetical question mark blues).

Anyway, the shipping forecast is really calming at least to me if not the waters around this fair isle. Kate Bush actually uses a recording of the shipping forecast in the background as she sings "I'd tune into some friendly voices. Talking 'bout stupid things" in the song And Dream of Sheep. Rick Stein uses it in the title music to his seafood cookery program and I am sure there are many more. I am not usually listening to the radio when the Shipping Forecast is on but if you have not heard it then do give it a listen.

While browsing the website of Radio 4 I came across this proof that my side of a (slight|) arguement with my father regarding the fact the Derek Cooper who now presents the food program, used to do voice-overs for Tomorrow's World in the days when they had jazz as the theme music. The internet strikes again. My first major success on having a mystery solved on the internet was the line "Just like Arbogast on the top two stairs" from the song The New Millionaires by Latin Quarter (A brilliant and very sad album - I was thrown out of the CD club here at work because I bought that and a Clannad Album in succession and the rest of the members said that it was music to commit suicide to). Arbogast, as I am sure you film buffs will know is Detective Milton Arbogast from Psycho and the line refers to him at the top of the stairs in the Bates Motel. It took me years to find this out and it bugged me for all that time. Latin Quarter, by the way, seem to have vanished. The only website I could find is no longer available.

Here is the proof and the source of my relief :-

At the motel, we see Norman walking along the portico carrying his sheets. He disappears into the shadows just as Arbogast's car pulls in. Arbogast parks and walks to the office. He goes inside and calls out to Bates but gets no response. He walks into the parlor in back. The stuffed owl and raven hover overhead. There is a safe with its door ajar, but no contents of note. He looks around some more, then goes outside and eyes the house, a dark monolith with a light in an upstairs room.

He walks up the brick steps that cling to the hill and approaches the front door. It is unlocked. He removes his hat as he enters quietly. The door makes an uncomfortable sound when it closes behind him, disturbing the dead silence. He hesitates, looking about, then proceeds slowly upstairs. As he climbs, above him a narrow stream of light pours onto the hall carpet, from a slowly opening door. The camera places us high above the landing, looking down, as Arbogast reaches the top step. A woman rushes out of the room and stabs him in the head. He is knocked off balance and stumbles back down the stairs in a semi-upright, almost comic, backwards trot. We are drawn down with him, focused on his startled, bleeding face. The woman follows him down and kneels beside his sprawled body. Her knife rises into close view, then disappears again and again, as it is plunged down to where the detective lies--tastefully out of camera range. He lets out one last, loud groan.


Just another interesting link - Martin Balsam who played Arbogast also played him in the spoof film Il Silenzio dei prosciutti. Strike Three!

Todays entry is turning into an episode of Connections and would you believe it there is a page called "The James Burke Connection". One day I will make up a complete entry in this style and you will have to see if you can guess which it is.

A final unresolved connection :-

What links Psycho to Reservoir Dogs?

Take your shoes off and throw them in the lake

Other things to write about which I have thought about while typing this entry but which need to be taken offline :-

"The Rudiments of Wisdom" by Tim Hunkin in the Observer.
The Shipping Forecast

Jan Morris, the travel writer is my cousin several times removed etc. I stumbled over this article by her about the first ascent of Mount Everest. She was on Desert Island Discs the other day and I have to say she was the most interesting guest for a long time. I read her autobiography - Conundrum - first I think, when it was serialised in the Sunday Times. (I was about eight and can still remember the shock of us actually getting The Sunday Times rather than The Observer - It must have been my Mother who decided on buying The Observer but I think my Dad still got it for years after she died). I was obviously far too young to understand all the psychological stuff in the book but I like to think it made me aware of how difficult life for some people is. Her fictional Travel book Last Letters from Hav is also very good. If you were not told beforehand, you would not know that the place does not exist. I suspect there is some reality in it just like in Passengers the album of ostensibly ficticious sound tracks by U2 and Brian Eno. I ( and I am sure you) know that at least one of the films mentioned - Ghost in the Shell - exists. The track - . Corpse (These Chains Are Way Too Long) [From Gibigiane] has a wonderful write up in the sleeve notes - vis

From the Original Soundtracks 1 sleeve...

Gianniccolo's last film "Gibigiane" is also his most tautly argued. At just over ninety minutes long it is certainly not the huge canvas he used so devastatingly in 'Mirages' (1984, 4 hrs, 20 mins) or 'Il Vento' (1987, 5 hrs, 9 mins), but is in its comparatively modest way just as satisfying. Its title is the word used in Venicefor the quixotic shards of light reflected onto walls from canals, and features only those images in a series of 10 minute sequences which are leaved over one another by means of slow dissolves. The film opens at real speed, but each sequence is about 15% slower than the one preceding it, so that the last ten minute section is less than one eighth real speed. The original film was silent, but a lengthy section from it with this music was used as the title sequence to an Italian TV detective series ('Il Pendolo') set in Venice.

I took this from this site which has a list of all the tracks with the sleeve notes and whether or not the reviewer believes or knows the film to be real. Anyway I loved the images that the sleeve notes for Gibigiane put in my head. A sort of cool Italian version of Bergerac crossed with the detective work from Hannibal. Sublime. We are Travelling now at nine times the speed of sound.

"Traders" is a short film about the bizarre goings on in a large but very anonymous Merchant Bank in London. It goes beyond the cliche of the braces and striped shirts to expose a dangerous and compelling side to the world of international futures trading. If you have ever wondered how the world manages to survive based on the ludicrous premises of spending money on things which you will never actually see or even understand, then this film is for you. It is directed by Anthony Dryden and is his first film after leaving the up-coming Rissington film group. The soundtrack is by John Tudor and incorporates elements of his best selling album - The Burning World.

From Cuspixo films - Autumn 2002.

As goes The Rudiments of Wisdom - I need to do nothing other than point you to the website which, as you can see, I have already done. The Rudiments of Wisdom was a cartoon encyclopaedia in The Observer and was my favourite bit. I was reminded of it by seeing a poster by Tim Hunkin. It is nice to see it continuing on the Web as I thought he had stopped doing it years ago. A large part of my childhood has just flashed before me. Isn't the net wonderful? (The world needs a new punctuation symbol - the hypothetical question mark and it is of course down to me to design it).

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Fragmentations and Acrostics

I don't write enough about the same things. There are too many tangents - at least as many as there are on the average circle and that is quite a lot. I cannot write prose, only poetry and some of you may disagree with that. It may be that I feel I don't have enough time to write anything and so I try to get in everything I have thought of as possible Blog entries. And now for something completely different. I found out how to make text scroll smoothly across the page yesterday and to test how long the text could be I used the poem "Walkie-Talkie" which I have mentioned before. (I am still on poetry so does this count as consistency?). I want to know whether I could link to the program I have created so I have just emailed Ralph Hoyte who wrote it, to ask him.

How do you turn from a poet into a writer of prose? There is a fine distinction anyway but do you suddenly just find that you want to write lots more? I wanted to write a whole story in poetry like The Golden Gate but I was not up to it; it rhymed and not in a good way either so I have gone away from the idea of any of my poems being anything other than descriptive. Narrative poems are all very well but after a while, it is a bit like being beaten over the head with a brick. (The Golden gate is an exception and manages to keep the feel of a short poem while still driving a story forward - Of course it is very "Californian" but being set there that is sort of OK). Having said all this it takes enough time to write any poems at the moment. I used to to just write them with no filter at all and now I try and do all the corrections as I go along. They seem to be more polished but they lack spirit. My notebooks were full of crossings out done as I re-read the poems ages later. Like I said yesterday you, as the author of a poem, can think it is wonderful one day and awful the next. I had a grand idea for a group of poems called "U-Boat Poetry" which I started with this effort :-

October 2001

U-Boat Poem

Every Metal wall has doors to paradise where English men may
Never find the pleasures which we seek
In this, our steel black forest home:
Grave errors may they propagate in seven oceans while
My love lives lost in all my letters.
All my desire flies and isolates itself,
Falling into me and this our ship;
And is at last released to sweet Atlantic air from this
Last numbered female of her noble class,
Left to molten cores and to Iceland
Singing once again, the Destroyer of us all.
(A detour here to foil the school of code.)

This is a canopy, a bower, a shaded vessel
For scientific capture of these winds,
The lives of Saints read saintly, perfumed
In their pious metric beat.
And I could die today with all this pattern
Pressed into me, a souvenir of breakers.
The cool, fermenting flowers climb their walls
In garden time, the pulse of Gnomon,
Great English goddess of tranquillity;
A sea of grass for stately voyages of childhood
In the safe and steady sunny harbour.

You may recognise the second section as I think I blogged it ages ago. I really disliked the first part right after I wrote it but the other bit I think is really good but that is probably because of the associations it has. All is full of love and - My God! It's full of stars. ( said with a breathy and incredulous voice). Down with the filter. Filter nothing except that which really deserves it.

National Public Radio

© Andy Burnham

Time to scan in some of my own pictures of Callanish.

I have just listened to "Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea" for about the fifth time in three days. I used to get a record and play it out within days but that doesn't seem to happen often these days because I don't have the time. I've had this record for ages but it has been hidden at the bottom of the CD box since the move. I often wanted to drag it out but it's only recently that I managed to get at the box itself. How can anyone so young have a voice like that? I suppose if you grow up listening to Captain Beefheart and being generally hippyish then it is a possibility but there is something deeply English about PJ Harvey.

I have started to listen to more CDs here because there has been a ban on the use of Streaming Video/Audio because of the World Cup. (Not that it was officially broadcast over the Internet but that is a fact among many which escapes the men in charge). As a result I have been good and stopped listening to WGUC, a classical station from Cincinnati. I was fed up with our own Classic FM which is full of advertising more suited to a Rock station and had been dumbing down for years. The station idents removed all "white space" so that every sentence overlapped the previous one to the point where they were obviously using this as a trademark. "Look what we can do with all our fancy boxes". Radio 3 from the BBC is very good especially early in the morning but during the day it gets a bit heavy. Sometime I listen to WPRB from Princeton with Marvin Rosen who is excellent (he reminds me of Ian McDonald who was the British Government spokesman during the Falklands War and spoke in a terribly slow and deliberate manner to make sure that the press got exactly what he said). But the best of the Classical stations is WGUC. Listen to it and save me talking it up here. I became a member by pledgng $40 and they seemed really happy. I had heard someone from Oxford become a member but they meant Oxford just up the road from Cincinnati so I think I may be their most distant member. Their web-site is down at the moment.

There is so much to do, so much to see and record and not enough words in my head or minutes in the day. How do we live inside these minds without exploding? I curse Aphasia. What if I forgot every Noun? There is so much to see and record and not enough ..... in my .... or ....... in the .... And then when we do have time to do all these we just collapse and turn into vegetables in front of the TV. I don't think my daughter would sit still for an hour but we need to allocate an hour for reading each day of the weekend. I know I read a lot but it's always just before I go to sleep.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters / Seymour: an Introduction
Alan Turing : The Enigma
George Orwell : a Life

and many more. You too can finish these books if you retire or win the lottery. I think I need a specification for my life but as I work in computers I have no idea what a specification actually looks like as I have NEVER SEEN ONE. Well I do write them occasionally but here Specs are things to be changed and then ignored.

I have no immediate colleagues here today; they have gone on holiday. Well at least I can trek further and get decaff coffee instead of the dissolved uppers which passes for real coffee. I still have plenty of time before work proper starts and all this stuff to write about.

Stone Circles! I want to write about Stone Circles. They don't move. They just are! The whole reason for their existence eludes us and therefore they are interesting. If they were just houses, The National Trust would start selling "Authentic Bronze Age Facial Scrub". Come to think of it they probably do already. This is noise and not much else. It is as much as I can take for one early morning.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Shadows in the City

It is mid-afternoon. The shadows are long and the buildings prove it passively. There is no-one about on the boulevard and the birds are singing of their happiness at being left alone. No afternoons are ever like this any more; all times of day seem to have the same level of activity, traffic etc. My dad still has a book which I read many times when I was little. It was a collection of cartoons by Osbert Lancaster, mostly of his comic family headed by Lady Maudie Littlehampton, which were originally published in the Daily Express. There were some other "stand-alone" cartoons as well which were probably more subtle digs at the more ludicrous side of 50s and 60s living than the Jack-Hammer humour of the Cartoons by Carl Giles. In the middle of the books were some wonderful pictures of afternoons around the world and they have always stuck with me as quite relaxing. For example, the Manhattan afternoon had a street of typical skyscapers interspersed with older, shorter buildings. The Shadows were all long and there were no people about at all. In contrast, the English afternoon depicted a rainy but genteel Sea-side promenade. I seem to remember there being poems connected to each picture and the English one mentioned some scandal about a minor Royal and the suicide of a lady's maid underneath the pier. The afternoons I remember from the school vacations when I was under ten, seem to bear out this lack of activity. I must of course be recalling all the Summer holidays because it was always sunny. We would listen to the comedy show on Radio 4 which was always broadcast around lunchtime (They still do at weekends). This was usually The Men From the Ministry which I seem to think was based on the Ministry guys who tried to keep St Trinian's school in check. After lunch we would trail around the neighbourhood which involved a lot of exploring of stream beds and ponds and railways. It is a wonder that none of us were injured. There is a picture my dad took of my brother, a friend of ours and me somewhere on the Malvern Hills on just such an exploring day. We look very serious but that is of course normal for children having their picture taken while pretending to be soldiers or explorers. This is beginning to sound very "Swallows and Amazons".

I used to walk around this city on Sunday Afternoons, just looking at the buildings and taking photographs. It felt empty towards the end, I am not sure why. Maybe I was just lonely and all the pretending was missing. That is probably why I started writing poetry. You can make up your own world and that is what a lot of my poetry is, just stories. Having said that, I do put in a lot about myself or what I wish to be. This is the latest one. I have been working on it for ages though only actually a few minutes of "contact" with it.

March 2002

In the Flax Fields

I could break this memory, this child of glass
that I have held forever in this field.
There is no Queen of England loved her country more
than this bright thing, this watermark, this language
flowing from the atmosphere to dusty earth.
At this age, I know nothing of the musics
which later make me cry.

The waltz-time of self-reference
betrays nothing but the hiding-place of lovers.
In the breezy day they see no-one else,
just eyes and faces, close and full of nothing
but their early love and bright detachment.

A walk through blank and empty air
is all that we require to fix ourselves.
The high ideas of lives we see through windows.

It is unfinished and I think the title needs changing as it is pinched from a very early poem about the girls across the road from me. Actually this has choked me up a little for reasons I don't feel able to put down here. Yesterday when I looked at this poem, it seemed forced and empty but now with all the associations of the other poem it has turned into something quite powerful, for me at least. I need to find my last complete poetry notebook and drag some of those fragments out. I used to have a lot of time on my hands for this sort of thing. Now all I manage is the Blog and that it because I get to spend lunchtimes at it. I started writing serious poetry after reading The Wasteland which I thought was brilliant without actually understanding any of it. I liked The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock more and then I got into Sylvia Plath. I am afriad that's all the heroes we have time for this week.

Go here for a Nice Picture.

A moment of Peace

As I typed the above title, PJ Harvey sang "This world all gone to war" (from "one Line" - Track 4 on Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea) which quite succinctly sums up what I wanted to talk about. I saw a film called A Canterbury Tale which was about the events which led four people to Canterbury during WWII. The whole film has a magical child-like quality but there is a small section which actually seems out of place. The day after that start of the story, the main character visits what I think is a Carter's workshop. It is a sunny summer day and all is quiet except for the sounds of a small country village. It's as if the war does not matter. It is still happening but the outcome is defined at least for the people at this location. The film was made in either Summer 1943 or Summer 1944 so it was not clear then how the war would actually end. It is sad to note that this way of life has been brought to an end, not by a dark enemy but by the gradual take over of the world by people who's only objective is to make money. I don't agree with blind faith in the past; there was a war on, there were various nasty diseases and there was real hardship. I suppose that the only way that everyone will get to have a decent standard of living will be through technology but we seem to overturn the past through bad behaviour. There are many social arguments for and against which I don't want to go into now. Overall we have to advance, get to that stars even but at what cost? We CAN do all this without destroying the environment. (See this article) - we can generate electricity with wind power off-shore. Who owns all the patents?

Thought (or maybe instruction) for the day - Don't Catch Sharks.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

The City Sunset Over Me

I was thinking that this blog is like having the back off my mind (as I was saying about the Peggy Salinger book). Not all of it of course. The fact that this is instantly public acts as a sort of filter but depending on what any particular blog is about, it should really be free and un-restrained. I know that some of the entries in other blogs are completely off the wall and there is no real chance of understanding any more than the basic idea behind them. However, I think blogging should be like poetry in that you can recognise a great poem even if you do not really understand it all. Something about The Passionate Eye has also seeped into my mind. I get an almost overwhelming feeling of the complexity of the world and the thoughts of all that you could record in a medium such as this. It's like the fast bit in Koyaanisqatsi. The track called The Grid which backs the speeded up film of US Cities in the film. It suggests that there is too much going on, too much to take in and no time to experience all that the fast pace of living suggests you should take in which after all is what Koyaanisqatsi is all about.

The track which precedes The Grid on the album is called Pruit Igoe which refers to the Pruitt Igoe building in St. Louis, Missouri. (The spelling is different on the album) which was a famous failure as public Housing and was deservedly blown up in 1972. The architect - Minoru Yamasaki was also the architect for the World Trade Centre though he didn't live to see that one of his buildings destroyed. I like buildings, I like bridges (my dad designed them for the local authority) but I am not sure about the need for them all the time. There is no consistency in building code at least in this country. London has the worst mish-mash of skyline you could imagine. All of the classic buildings have been over-shadowed by characterless concrete facades which have been put up with no thought for their surroundings. Building upwards has been discredited as proved by the number of tower-blocks brought down in this city over the last few years. The last one was on a quiet sunny Sunday morning a few months ago which was filmed for yet another morbid and almost pornographic examination of why the WTC collapsed. I SAW THE WTC COLLAPSE ON THE DAY AND THERE IS NO WAY I WILL FORGET IT SO STOP SHOWING IT.

I have had to stop and listen to the Hildegard von Bingen album to calm down. I mentioned a few days ago that I couldn't remember the exact track. Well, the album is A Feather on the Breath of God and the track is Columba aspexit. I can't find the exact album so you will have to do your own searching for the track as I have chilled out and just for the moment I don't really care about anything. Any religion at this location is seemingly related to football. The Quarterback is toast, not God and he plays for either the Ordinals or the Cardinals or maybe he is a footballer rather than a baseball player. Anyway, I bet he has never heard of Marmite. Michael Stipe has I am sure.

A Crab Canon of sorts

I love Marmite. I always have. It seems to fit with the idea of complexity in the world because of the interesting way it is produced. We used to drive along the road by all the breweries in Burton on Trent where the Brewer's waste for Marmite used to come from. Now it comes from all over the country and because this waste is so variable, Marmite is blended and they have a panel of employees who decide on the proportions in the blends. I heard one of these blenders saying how, although he tastes Marmite all day for a living, he still eats it at home for his own enjoyment. This fits with the view that you either love Marmite or hate it. I Love marmite.

If you put a spoonful of Marmite on a plate and pat it with the flat of the spoon, it will eventually go white because it oxidises. Sadly I know this to be true because I have tried it and not in a school chemistry lesson either. Proof is at hand courtesy of John Peel. And here is the h2g2 entry for Marmite and its antipodean cousin Vegemite.

Marmite is great.

I am a very fast machine but I am not short

I am not in Stereo either but these pictures are.

I've just been skimming the Chinese Propaganda posters on Stefan Landsberger's site and listening to The Chairman Dances and specifically "Short Ride in a Fast Machine". Synchronicity! Try it if you can.

My wife says that she was disappointed that the link for "The Art of war" by Sun Tzu was simply the book page on Amazon so here is a link to a better site.

The Art of War

Now I want you to read all of it.


(From - Propaganda of the PRC - for more go here.)

Soundtrack - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea - PJ Harvey

I read someone's review of Peggy Salinger's autobiography the other day. The writer criticised the book because he could not take it seriously factually after he decided that Peggy Salinger's account of her mother's experience of the sinking of the Benareswas inaccurate. Peggy Salinger's mother was nine at the time and on the way to a strange country. It would be strange if there was no distortion to the story over the years. A reviewer with no soul. Another criticism was that the process of sorting out the events was out in the open, as if the back was off and all the workings were visible. Maybe it's me but I like the honesty which that implies. Most polished autobiographies are probably a lot less accurate as they are designed to remove all the 'uncool' bits. I don't mean the negative things; plenty of events can be negative and still make the reader either more sympathetic or admiring because of the adversity overcome or the honesty. Peggy Salinger just writes with no filter and for me that makes it more believable. I got the impression from the reviews that she was going to make out that her father was horrible to her. I haven't finished the book yet (she is fifteen) but my overall impression is of a changeable curmudgeon but not a monster. He even reminds me of my dad in a lot of ways and though I had bad things happen to me when I was a kid, and yes at times I hated my father, looking back he was better than most dads. I never get the impression that Peggy Salinger was doing a "hatchet job" on her father. I would consider the book as an honest account of what JD Salinger was really like as opposed to the distant figure suggested by the cult that has sprung up around the author of "Catcher in the Rye". I am nearly finished reading it. Next book - Alan Turing: the Enigma .

I have also just got The Passionate Eye - the collected writing of Suzanne Vega. A lot of it consists of the words to her songs but often interspersed with early poems which show the development of her writing. There are also a few prose pieces including one I remember her telling between songs when I saw her live during her tour of 1990 for the Days of Open Hand album. I have found as I get older that fewer and fewer pieces of music give me that real tingle but just reading the words of the songs from her first album gave me the same feeling I had on first hearing them. To open an album by an unknown with a spoken song (Cracking) was very brave of the record company. Oh and some of the poems she wrote in the mid seventies are almost like raps.

Monday, June 24, 2002

Station Y

When I was at college, I shared digs with guys from the Brunel Tech in Bristol who were studying Marine Radio. At the time, they still had to use Morse and this was a large part of their work; sending and receiving. It was all very well sending as they quite liked that but receiving was difficult because they had to recognise "words" made up of five random letters. The sender hated doing this as he had to try and keep the speed consistent. They used to use tapes and it was seeing the man who runs "Station Y" at Bletchley Park using a tape to test a visitor who purported to know morse, that reminded me that I had actually written a program to "play" the Morse for random groups of five letters at any desired speed. This was probably the first time I had ever written something that was used practically. Since then it has been in the back of my mind to write a program which could actually recognise Morse code. Maybe I should learn it first as the only thing I can transmit is "SOS" oh and "SMS" because the ring tone on lots of mobile phones when they receive a text message is the Morse code for "SMS". At first I thought this was a pager linked to one of our systems and that they had programmed "SOS" wrong. I think I have heard dash-dot-dot-dash on a record by David Sylvian. Excuse me while I look that up. ......... It's the letter X - rather appropriate. Thinking back I suspect that the whole bit of Morse code on this record was QSX - The Q-Signal for "Will you listen on .....". And of course, Mike Oldfield played "**** Off RB" in Morse on Amarok (RB being his old boss at Virgin Records).

I need pictures don't I? The entries have been rather straight for some time now.
Station X

I visited my Aunt this weekend and she took me over to Bletchley Park, the code breaking station from WWII. We didn't realise until we got there that they were holding a military weekend and it was rather spooky to be dropped off at the gate to be met by 1940s guards with Tommy guns. If you take the guided tour you are led into the library in the main building just as if you were being briefed about your work on the site. As we walked around we were disracted by small groups of soldiers in the uniforms of all nationalities (It was especially weird to see the group of German soldiers who had established a command post on the main drive and were standing unflinchingly manning their machine guns). Here and there were groups of people in 1940's civilian dress which really made the whole experience quite spooky. However, if you moved over to the main cryptological displays, the grass was occupied by every military group you could imagine from Norman knights via Native Americans to WWI cavalry. At 15:30 hours (I should keep the military theme going) an air-raid siren sounded which even for me was quite spooky. My Aunt who was in London during the war admitted that it was quite scary. We were lucky. It was one of ours or rather three of ours. We were overflown by the aircraft of the Battle of Britain flight all I assume with Merlin engines which gives any flypast a really gutsy feel. They came back twice and then the All-clear sounded. As they vanished behind the trees that surrounded the park, I felt rather strange, as if 60 years had just melted away. I almost expected Commander Denniston and Alan Turing to saunter across the grass deep in discussion.

Anyway, with all that excitement it's easy to forget that the main part of Bletchley Park is the Cryptology Trail which tells the story of how the Enigma and other codes were broken. I actually got my grubby fingers on a real Enigma machine, which is rather surprising in the light of the theft (and return) of a machine from the site. An unexpected bonus at the end was a room full of all sorts of computers from the last 40 years. Every machine I have ever worked on was there and that still only covered about 2% of the stuff there. And just think if Bletchley Park had had even a ZX81 60 years ago, they would have had a huge advantage over the Germans. If you think about how the Enigma machine actually works it is not that complicated; it's just that the function is simple in one direction but complicated in the other. The coding for a program to emulate the Enigma is simple - very simple compared to some of the stuff that I work on here. Indeed, there is this simulation of the Enigma on the web though it seems to use all numbers rather than actual letters which is a might confusing. Next to real Enigma which you are allowed to use at Bletchley, there is an exact simulation on a PC. It is correct down to the electrical symbol on the front. It still doesn't give you the thrill that you get from having your hands on the actual keys of the real thing. Enigma machines work not only as functional equipment but as visually and physically attractive objects as well. The British had machines which were functionally exactly the same as the Enigma but were built with available components.These were used to decrypt messages once the settings had been worked out using the Bombes. They don't look anywhere near as interesting as the genuine article. How about that Sun Tzu? The Art of War indeed. The Enigma machines could be happily displayed alongside all those various art in boxes like "After the Freud Museum". I think I want a photo of an Enigma machine for my found objects cupboard.

I have just had a thought. In the room where they describe the different Enigma machines they should play Elgar.

Thursday, June 20, 2002


(The link here is to the Hardback version but if you do decide to buy it, get the paperback)

This is so full of experimental forms that it becomes un-experimental (bearing in mind that David Lodge always tries to be "experimental"). One of his characters actually writes a book which he describes as so conventional amongst a slew of contemporay experimental fiction, that it could almost be described as experimental due to its rarity. The writing in this book is, where it is in the third person and therefore simply describing events, purely that. David Lodge has tried to remove all trace of any style which he might possess. It could be written by a machine (cf "nineteen-eighty-four"). However, despite this un-emotional approach (I once thought it could be described as a dearth of adjectives), the subject matter - cognitive science - is very interesting. There are images described in the book which are very vivid. Each of David Lodge's books has at least one character from previous books so that the entire fictional world is maintained. There is, however, no crossover of these links so the trail from the first book to the last is simply one-dimensional. As each individual books is often very complex, it is strange to see the simplicity of these links. Maybe there are other links which I don't pick up on. After all, Mr Lodge is an academic of much higher intellect than me.

By the way "Godel, Escher, Bach" is apparently now described as "The book that can't be described in adjectives".

The best, most off-the wall, Childrens' History book in the History of Childrens books on History.

My dad has a copy of "A Child's History Of The World" by VM Hillyer (Virgil no less) which I read many times over when I was younger. It doesn't start like other books of Complete History for Children. They usually begin with the Roman Invasions of Britain. This is an American book from the 1920s I think and it is still used in many US elementary schools today. It has been revised.
Spaces in my head

I keep trying to think of something - it doesn't matter what - and yet I get the impression that there is a space in my head where something important should be. This is not a general decay of memory, more like a specific removal of something. A bit like the "ring-fenced" section of Zaphod Beeblebrox's brain which he had burnt out himself obviously including the memory of having done it. When I first started work, the guy I replaced created a program which emulated the login to the computer system we worked on, sent the login password to him and then deleted the program from the machine so there was no evidence to what had happened. He told me straight away, probably boasting more than warning me of the dangers which is what he claimed he was doing. Back to the spaces in my head. It's like a dark, almost black cloud which swirls and suggests some movement of objects in there. Maybe its just what the brain comes back with when it has nothing to report. Don't some people suggest that dreams are nothing more than higher brain functions trying to turn reports from lower brain functions into something understandable? Its like when you look at something distant and you think there is a human figure or face when in actual fact it's just a rock or a bush. The brain is always on the look out for figures and, more importantly, faces. Perhaps, I have thought about too many things and my mind is trying to revert to some some of karmic base state. Like the mantra you have to chant. You have to choose a word that means nothing but have you ever tried to think of a word which produces absolutely no meaning in your mind. It is impossible. Every fragment of every word is used in some other word and there is always this link. Think of how many times you have seen or heard text in a language of which you have no knowledge. Many of the sounds suggest things simply because they sound like words in your own Mother Tongue. (In fact many of the words probably have a common root - even Sanskrit has words common to English at a very low level). Challenge for the day - think of a made-up word with no brain associations whatsoever.

What is an Axolotl? If you don't know what one is, (and no going off to Merriam-Webster), what do you think it is?

Ok! Now go here to find out. I like axolotls a lotl.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

A tale of two Winstons

I has a TV evening last night. As well as "Rough Science", we also watched the final part of Simon Schama's "History of Britain". It compared Winston Churchill and George Orwell; the hero of "Nineteen-Eighty-Four" was Winston Smith hence the title. I don't know if George Orwell pointedly chose Winston as the name though Simon Schama seemed to suggest it. I would suspect that the program divided most of those who watched it, into two groups, one identifying with Orwell and one with Churchill. From previous entries, I am sure you can work out in which group I was. Schama, and he pointed this out himself was always identifying with Orwell but the tone of the program seemed to compare and reconcile the two. I can't really explain why, but Orwell is just so much more interesting by virtue of the complexity contained in his writings (albeit concealed behind very sharp and direct language).

I was trying to think of a word other than "hero" to describe Winston Smith. He's definitely not an anti-hero. Maybe "un-hero" would be good and this of course sounds like "Newspeak". "Double-Plus Un-Hero" - "Double Plus Un-Person". These of course would not exist in Newspeak because by using the word Un-Person you would be acknowledging the existence in the first place. Un-Person could only ever be a concept word which existed solely in the brain and as the final purpose of Newspeak is to remove "Un-Good-Think" it would not be in the dictionaries. Maybe there is a Double-Think explanation for why it could exist but then again giving two opposite meanings to the same word is like having all the population under your control fighting the same war just to keep them occupied. (cf "The Attack of the Clones" - all combatants are ultimately in the control of one person.)

Farewell Bobbi Harlow.
Hello there in Guam

Send me a description ( of what it is like there. I am afraid all my colleagues and I can think of is Coral, Airstrips and lots of seabirds.
Whatever happened to Lola Granola?

I was awake for hours last night and I can't remember any of the many things I though about to record here. I think I eventually wandered off into some dream about Bloom County rather than finish the Poem that is floating round my head. I even tried to write some of it down yesterday but it's as if it won't come out until it is "cooked". Half-Baked more like.

I watched "Rough Science" yesterday. The website for this programme is unavailable so a brief resume of the idea is required. Five eminent ( and "elderly" by Arthur C Clarke's definition) scientists of various disciplines, are marooned (In the sense of being accompanied by a TV presenter, cameraman, sound-recordist, Producer, Runner and with access to a five-star hotel) on the tropical island of Carriacou in the Caribbean and asked to devise various items of technology using just locally available resources. These resources include an abandoned prison and lots and lots of plants. Yesterday's tasks were to create a Compass (Easy even for me), a flag using locally produced dyes ( not very interesting apart from the fact that they had to use their own Urine as a mordant to make the Dye take better) and a Camera with film. The Camera they produced easily using a lens made of the bottom of a broken bottle which produced a suprisingly clear image on the paper screen. What was really impressive was the creation of a working film using Iodine extracted from the Ash created by burning seaweed and the Silver in an old bracelet. The Potassium Iodide extracted from the seaweed was used as an electrolyte while the silver was used as one electrode with Graphite from a pencil as the other. The electricity was produced using a ten-cell battery, the details of which I missed. The resulting Silver Iodide solution was then soaked into paper. They made an acceptable image of a key by placing it on the paper under bright sunlight. The Silver Iodide darkened except where the key covered it up. The film did not work in the Camera but as far as I was concerned the fact that they got light-sensitive paper was enough criteria for success. Adam Hart-Davis did something with Light sensitive paper using a leaf to create the image. Yet another thing to add to the "would-like-to-do" pile.

The aforementioned "pile"

- Small scale windmill generating power for my daughter as she has taken the big generating windmills at the docks to heart - "My Windmills"
- Light-sensitive "photographs"
- Long poem
- Self-performing version of "In C"
- Tidy up the Fractal Zoom
- More electronic collage like the Constructivist Flag.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Recording little bits of your brain

I have been worried that my entries here have become bitty. Each night just before I get to sleep, something occurs to me which I think should be blogged and I try to remember it. Of course, by next morning I have forgotten it all. I need some way of recording these thoughts. When I was younger and single, I used to write down key words for dreams as soon as I could after I woke up. I wrote these words in the dark and it was often a struggle to decipher the scrawl which resulted. I suppose I could do that now but ideally I would like something which is the reverse of the book to end all boredom. Part of that was the ability to detect brain state and feed it with the apporpriate stimulus to satisfy it at that moment. Obviously there is no such device around yet but I do remember some experiments which allowed the detection of the brain activity corresponding to input stimuli. It was only bars or checker-board patterns but the electrical activity was plainly visible. My brother once asked me to write a program to turn brain activity into graphics and sound to allow feedback loops. He said he was trying to get hold of an old EEG though I was skeptical that he would manage to get any output from it. I don't think he ever actually got hold of one but some years later I read an article in the Amateur Scientist section of Scientific American which detailed just such a device. Of course, you would only ever get a really blunt overview of a brain state but even within that range, you would probably be able to detect a mood given some reference data. How long will it be before you can think words onto a screen? How difficult would that be? Bearing in mind that even normal audible human speech is far removed from standard grammatical written communication, what would thoughts be like? I know you can use speech recognition programs and it is relatively easy to structure your speech so that this works but thoughts wander and I suspect that unless you were very disciplined, you would end up with something like Ulysses.

None of this helps me with my problem. I could boast, like Fermat, that I have something mind-blowing or just really interesting. Anyway, every idea I ever had is in this head somewhere. This writing is just fragments of it. Of course, there may be the odd football match which I have deleted and purged. Does the human brain ever get rid of anything? Recent theory states that only a tiny percentage of the experience we have is genuine input to our senses and that most of what we remember is actually interpolation by our brain, that in actual fact we are actually living very much inside our own heads. The everyday sensory input round us is actually a tiny part of or experience. We all have our own world. This links with the Quantum reality. Maybe we have to re-train our experience of a place if we have been absent from it for some time and each time we do this, our senses actually pick up a quite different view. This new view will then grate slightly with the latent memory of the place as defined before. I have run out of ideas here but one last related thing here. read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and of course anything by Susan Greenfield.

I was going to talk about something specific here but something related directly to it has just happened which is enough to make me specifically NOT mention it. Will you never know what it is? Is there enough information here and in previous entries to allow a guess as to what it was going to be? I often think about how much evidence certain events leave behind. Are we not getting to the point where almost everything Newtonian can be re-constructed? Can, say, my presence in a room at a particular time (within a minute) be determined long after the event itself? How much of the world can be reconstructed? There was a companion book to the BBC program Tomorrow's World about 20 years ago which printed letters from people asking things of scientists. Amongst all the normal stuff such as accurate weather prediction and four-legged chickens, there was one which suggested that, as no energy is ever really destroyed, it should be possible to back-track from the current state and find out about peoples' conversations long ago. They were especially interested in what Henry V actually said before Agincourt. The accompanying cartoon answered the question with "Good Luck Lads - wish I was coming with you."

A link of the day for you :-

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

I am not sure about the use of the word "nonsense".

Monday, June 17, 2002

Battle Orders

We saw Starwars Episode II at the weekend. I am sure you can guess the verdict; jaw-dropping effects and cringeworthy dialogue. A colleauge has just pointed out some of Yoda's stilted words - "To the forward command post take me now". Maybe it was the heat of battle but this reminded me of a couple of lines in Henry IV Part 1. vis :-

I will do so.
My Lord of Westmoreland, lead him to his tent.

Come, my lord, I'll lead you to your tent.

So, criticise George Lucas if you like but there is a precedent.

This makes me sound like a Shakespeare nut but the turth is I only know Henry IV Part 1 and a Midsummer Night's Dream in any details as I did those for school and it was lucky that the latter was for the exam as I enjoyed it far more. I have seen a lot of the other plays right through and enjoyed them but these are the only two I know in any detail. I went to see Macbeth at Stratford when I was about 8. My Mum took me and my dad told me not to say that any of it was "trick photography". The ironic thing about this is that some of the play did involve some stage equivalent of trick photography; the scenry was shifted under cover of the shadows of a great party which was quite breath-taking.

I have just had an idea. In common with lots of people I remember many individual lines of various Shakespeare plays. Maybe we should get a random group of people, list all the lines they know from any Shakespeare (Including the sonnets I suppose)and then use all of those lines to create a new (probably very short) play. I suspect something akin to this has already been proposed as some sort of Dadaist project.

There is more I want to write about Starwars. Is the droid factory scene a nod towards "Modern Times" where Charlie Chaplin falls into the machinery at the Factory where he works? Remember where he goes around the wheels trying to tighten any nuts he can find. I am probably reading too much into this. My mind has siezed up despite drinking lots of water which is supposed to help with concentration AND pigging out on Smoked Salmon yesterday. Maybe it is just that I am bored with the actual work I am doing. I don't actually see the point of even completing it but complete it I must. Everyone else here is watching football (Soccer) again. There is a chorous of mobile phones going off so loads of things I hate are all concentrated into one place.

A book to end boredom.
Encarta comes close but after a while there only so many US Colleges you can read about. The Web is good in concept but so much of it it simply dross (Is this self-reference again?). The Hitch-Hikers guide is close but does not really exist. What you need is a book which displays exactly the image and text which will satisfy your brain at the one particular moment you are reading it. Maybe this will reduce our attention span. Maybe you could switch it off except when you think you need it. Text and Images and music and smells all produced in one place - dropped directly into your senses until you don't know where you are.

I have a poem circulating - the product of my boredom and a walk we took on Friday night. Nothing is written down yet but it will be posted when it is if still exists then. It is a poem with no words except a few fragments and only a very sketchy plan. Does it exist as a poem yet or is it just a slightly more organised bit of my memory? What is the sum total of everything I have ever produced? Not all of the information I will ever know exists yet a bit like my "proto-poem". Oh well! Love and Life; Love and Life.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Great Driving Moments

I have been meaning to talk about Great Driving Moments for ages. I remember Jon Savage who wrote England's Dreaming talking about them during some TV programme the subject of which escapes me. I think he was driving some big open-top car around Manchester and talking about how the music matched the various locations, down by Palatine Road or over the flyover. The programme might have been the South-Bank show about New Order (New Order Story?) or just some random thing about Manchester which he does so well. Great films with the words just filling in the gaps when there no music a bit like a "Big Audio Dynamite" album.

Twice in the last few weeks I have hit exactly the same stretch of road as I was driving home when the track starting on the car radio is something excellent. The first track was by Hildegard von Bingen, and I will have to dig out the CD to tell you what the actual track was. Driving is always stressful and plainchant/polyphony always helps. Unfortunately, I can't remember the other peice of music.

I have just read a piece - Why the United States of America used the bomb against the Empire of Japan. I don't want to go into the rightness/wrongness of this but the bit that struck me was the mention of the upping of the estimate for the number of hospital beds required. I get an image of every available low white building in the South Seas being taken over as a hospital. The US WWII hospital is a very common image in films. I bet the reality was a little less inviting. You don't get the fever, the delriousness or the pain. Mark Helprin captured the atmosphere in Refiner's Fire though that was the Israeli/Arab War in 1967. Mark Helprin deserves a whole section. Magic Realism! Read Winter's Tale and live in a dream. I always thought that the style of this book meant that the writer didn't have to worry too much about historical accuracy but I suspect now that the opposite is true. In Winter's Tale, there is a section about the engineer who built the Golden Gate and other bridges. I can't remember the engineer's name but I never doubted the validity of the descriptions even though I really knew that the bridges ascribed to him were actually built by two different people.

A Constructivist Flag

All of the photos on this flag are either mine or definitely out of copyright.

Thursday, June 13, 2002


Another day - another round of people watching teams of people play a game in a far off country and with no connection between the watchers, the team or the country. You might as well watch the ants picking up sugar trails. Actually, Richard Feynman did once watch ants and experimented with little sugar trails to change their pathways. I work for a telecom company and there was some theory of transmission which used ants and their trails as an analogy. Feynman's biography - Genius is worth a read but his own books - Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman and What do you care what other People Think? are the business. This man really did not care about how he looked to other people; he just cared about the rest of the world and the importance of truth and understanding, not only between people but of the Universe as a whole. I think he once suggested that as a photon travels at the speed of light and that for an object at that speed, time shrinks to nothing, could all the light in the universe actually be just ONE photon travelling everywhere. I suspect I have over-simplified that and that he may have been trying to make a point rather than suggest that this was really true. It does, however, sum up a complete understanding of the Universe. Tuva or Bust is also fun if only because I already knew about it from reading sleeve notes about throat singing. I was listening to a record by Marta Sebestyn the other day and was suprised to notice some throat singing on it. She is from Hungary which is quite a way from central Asia but I don't know if there is a tradition of Throat singing there.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Remember the Owls of Athens

Sorry! I have been drawn into everything and this is the last thing I was looking at. I am afraid it is nothing really cool but an episode of Bagpuss. Well mayber bagpuss is quite cool. My Aunt went to school with Oliver Postgate who created Bagpuss, The Clangers and all the other stop-motion stuff. His Biography, Seeing Things, is really good and I think my Aunt gets a mention in it.
Automatic In C

I have another idea for something I will never get around to doing. Some years ago I created the first few bars of "Six Marimbas" by Steve Reich. I only had the first few bars from a book about minimalist music. However, Six Marimbas uses the relative volume of each of the six instruments to create a variation even when the bars are simply repeating. I repeated those few bars on the Sequencer and then simply rode the faders on the mixer so that all the various interplays showed up. I could make it last for ages and still keep coming up with interesting counterpoint. Yesterday I listened to a version of "In C" by Terry Riley. I don't have the keyboards anymore but the Midi instruments on my PC are quite good and I have programmatic access to them. I want to create a self-performing version of In-C with dynamic mixing of the instruments. All I need now is the 53 bars. In that split second, I have found it along with the performing instructions. Go here if you want to look at it but you will need Acrobat. Very interesting. I always thought that the order you played the bars in was random but everybody plays them all in sequence and should not get too far out of step with everybody else. How do I program that? Actually, I suppose it could not be any other way. How would you know how to finish?

Of course I could try and program 4'33'' or something by La Monte Young but it won't be this one :-

Piano Piece for David Tudor #1

Bring a bale of hay and a bucket of water onto the stage for the piano to eat
and drink. The performer may then feed the piano or leave it to eat by itself.
If the former, the piece is over after the piano has been fed. If the latter,
it is over after the piano eats or decides not to.

La Monte Young
October 1960

Back to more traditional music. Ryan Adams (Thats RYAN) has a song called SYLVIA PLATH which is quite fun. I have just stumbled across a site called Everything which seems to be an updateable list of well er ... everything a la Hitch Hikers Guide (The BBC have a version of this - H2G2 - now)

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

The Plinth

I will fill up the free 15 mb web space eventually. Here are the latest bits and bytes.

This is on the beach at Sanur in Bali

This is in the lower gallery of the Tate, Liverpool soon after it opened. Paul Wood, who was on a placement year with us is looking to the right behind the leftmost pillar while his oppo Simone is staring at me from behind the pillar. You can see Carl Andre's Equivalent VIII (The notorious bricks) on the floor in the middle. It was soon after this that a small boy ran across it and dislodged a corner brick. His father remonstrated saying "'ere! Thats a masterpiece and you've just gone an' ruined it." eliciting sniggers from every visitor and a guilty but wry smile from the curator. Happy days. A few weeks later, the whole of this space was filled with curtains of hessian hanging from the ceiling. You were allowed to go right inside and just wander about until you got bored or asthma (I think that is syllepsis but I could be wrong or a human being though I think Stephen Fry has defined the Syllepsis into the ground. See Merriam-Webster if you can be bothered - I Can't).

How many Radios do you have?

I was trying to find out if Alistair Cooke's voice was the sample on "In Yer Face" by 808 State when I stumbled across this article about radio. If you have not yet gone digital as regards your television (and even if you have in my experience) you will know the feeling of despair you get when you flip through the channels and there is NOTHING ON (thank you Bruce). You find yourself either watching dross or flipping and not getting connected to anything. Try it with the radio. I find it is very likely that you will start listening to something interesting within seconds of starting to sweep the dial. If you have shortwave, then even the foreign language stuff can be quite drawing. My wife and I used to listen to the Scottish language broadcasts when we were on the Isle of Lewis and even the extended talky bits were fun. Of course it does help if the language is nice and soft anyway. Gaelic (Irish and Scottish) seems to have all the rough bits taken off. I once listened to a broadcast in Bali which seemed to be of a comedy double act (as all my co-listeners were falling about at the dialogue). I think it was probably the Denpasar answer to Morecambe and Wise. Eventually I was laughing along with them even though I couldn't understand a word. The inflections were just funny in themselves and of course the laughter around me was infectious. It was a bit like Vic Reeves Big Night Out; you laughed but didn;t know why.

What about Visual Ambience? There has just been a flash of light in this Office. I don't know what is actually was; probably something reflected from outside. It is actually quite sunny outside but with the present angle of the sun, it is rather gloomy in here even with all the lights on. I am listening to Excel by 808 State which doesn't actually seem to fit with the light here. It's pleasant enough though and of course it has Bjork on it. It was this album which mad me buy Debut and of course all the other since.

This is turning into something akin to the very boring bits in the middle of The Journals of Sylvia Plath where she writes long descriptions of such things as the pipes around the sink in the hotel room she happens to be in. I don't know why the paperback version of her journals have a picture of her smiling while the Hardback has that inscruitable portrait of her at University. She seems to be so many different people; each photograph has a completely different feel. I suppose it is because of the fact that we are only seeing her at widely separated intervals and in the gaps, she changes (Quantum Theory anyone). It is still more marked in her case bearing in mind she was young when she died. Laurie Lee looked the same right through the biography about him which I read. The end of this was a bit embarrassing as I finished it early one morning at work before start time and just as he died, my boss came up behind me to ask a question and caught me trying to brush tears away. I said I had a headache. It didn't get me any sympathy. I read Sylvia Plath for my head but Laurie Lee for my heart. I grew up in countryside quite close to where he lived as a child and though I may have hated the isolation at times, I do miss the laid back atmosphere. I didn;t have the hardship which he had of course but the countryside is nice.

I have found a message board about 808 State where someone says that they think that the "In Yer Face" intro sounds like Alistair Cooke. Here it is.

"There are new forces in the world. A conflict between the generations. A powerful feeling that the American system is failing to deal with the real threats to life: the bomb, the pollution of air and water, the population explosion, the mountains of slums, and crime."

I have also found this text here but it doesn't mention 808 State and doesn't mention any source.

Anyway - here is something from Alistair Cooke which does deserve quoting -

America's Day Of Terror
The Surreal World Cup

I have broken my promise not not talk about it.

A Dring is a small variety of Armadillo with purple toes and a prediliction for old Albanian Movies. You may confuse it with the Lesser Spotted Drinx which is also an Armadillo but IT likes Azebijanian Movies and so is a quite different animal. Micheal Owen is being cloned 10 times but they are Genetically Modifying David Seaman so that his mustache will catch wide balls during penalties.
Trying to write down music with words

Yesterday I was struck by how a song I was listening to fitted with what I am writing. ("The terror time" fitting with genetically engineered Armageddon). It happens a lot. remember I mentioned how some music fits with whatever it is played over. If you listen to something while writing blog entries, the things you mention are coloured by the music. This music should be played loud and not on any old tin boxes no matter what they are fitted with. I used to work at a Building Society in Bristol (which is in the WEST of England which might tell you the name of the company) during my placement year at college and one of my colleagues was an intellectual guy called Gareth who had read Philosophy and Divinity at Oxford University. He was heavily into Cricket, Sacred Music, Mathematics, Philosophy (naturally) and many other things. At this time my cultural life revolved around Starwars and Mike Oldfield. Gareth showed me "Godel, Escher, Bach" and that was it. I bought my own copy and it slotted into my Systems Analysis courses brilliantly. I felt a real oik reading books related to my course which were not on the reading list but I suspect that you would not be reading this if it were not for Gareth and his books. I wish I could get in touch with him again. I can't even remember his Surname which is terrible. Email me on if by some chance you are reading this. In GEB, there are many comparisons of Text, Mathematics and Music. Gareth pointed all this out but I think I misunderstood because I simply listed favourite peices of music and tried to put plots to them (or more often selected music to put to stories I had made up. All the stories sound naff now but I likes them at the time and they kept me sane. I had one called "The Crystal Tear" about Rock Music and Minimalism and Love and 101 other things which started with "The Cocteau Twins" went via Stewart Copeland and The Penguin Cafe Orchestra and ended up with Chick Corea (Nefertiti I think). Get the picture? Want to read it? No! I didn't think so.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Too much sky

There is just too much sky. I was walking out to the car yesterday across the office car-park. The sky was particularly impressive with a greate variation in the cloud cover and it struck me that it is impossible to capture that sort of sky with any camera. I had to move my head from one quarter of the horizon to another just to take in all the variation. I was thinking the same thing the other day while waiting in a queue at lights. An articulated lorry pulled up alongside someway in time to the classical music on the radio. I though about how you would capture the image on moving film but it struck me that the whole experience needed to be captured to provide the same experience that I had. You would need a full eyeball emulator, super hi-fi microphones, vibration recorders and aroma detectors. Not yet possible. Alternatively, you could create a "brain-experience detector which simply sampled brain state and then replayed it. I think this has been used in some science-fiction. This reminds me of one of the more unlikely attempts to uncover the identity of Jack the Ripper. Someone suggested that the trauma of the killing would have imprinted the image of the murderer on the retina of the victims. I don't think that any attempt to prove this surgically was carried out. I also seem to recall something about an idea for a "brain-state recorder" which would record all our experiences and therefore allow us to replay events to prove situations for legal purposes. I suspect that most of the failures of our memories are actually to do with failures of our senses or the transfer of the sensory input into memory. We actually do "remember" things that are in our memory but in actual fact the memory is not what actually happened. (Compare with what I said yesterday about the "truth" of the internet and other sources).

I asked my nearly 4 year old daughter who Tony Blair was. She replied "Prime Minister" in a way which suggested that anyone who didn't know ought to. I continued with the questioning and asked who the Chancellor was and she said "Tony Brown". I am wondering how much of the news she is picking up. I would hate to think of her education being furthered by the ramblings of Andrew Marr et al. Having said that, I get the feeling these days that the junk they spout on ALL news channels is below my daughter already. We have a presenter who transferred from "Newsround" to "News 24" and now she is on the more adult programme, I feel more patronised. Maybe this is just psychological and that in actual fact she is the same as she always was - that is worse isn't it.

Maybe my daughter thinks that all politicians are called Tony. It's certainly beginning to seem like that anyway. Cloning has been banned unless you are a Government Minister. Could you just clone a brain and stick it in different bodies. Then you could have a cabinet of like minded people. Isn't that what politics is all about, convincing everybody that your way of thinking is the best one? At least we know that Tony and Gordon are not clones of one another.

This leads me to something which I worry about almost continuously on the fringes of my mind. Our Government seems to suggest that GM produce is totally safe ( I suspect that their spin on this would be that they haven't actually explicitly stated that it is safe but that they have an open mind). What about the "butterfly effect"? Genetics, even its basic application, has recessive Genes and things which sometimes don't show up in descendants for many generations. Mendel's Peas were used to demonstrate this recessiveness (In two generations I have to admit). Could we not introduce something which seems harmless in current crops but which will cause havoc later on. Even if there is no inherited pattern which causes direct problems, the fact that the overall characteristics of such organisms will be different (They have to be or there is no point in modifying them), that the whole balance of the local ecosystem will be upset in ways which we cannot forsee. See this article to see where the first real problems may occur. I hope you can tell from the general tone of this journal, that I am by no means a Luddite. I do feel that things as broad ranging in their consequences as GM should be examined very carefully and tested over many years rather than blindly introduced mainly for profit.

I am angry that there is even work being done on trying to patent things related to food. The fact that Rice Tec can even think about trying patenting anything related to something which is a basic foodstuff is Immoral and almost Criminal. I know that they say that the patents do not prevent anyone from growing the rice but the fact that in one of the articles I saw a comment saying that it was "a wake-up-call" for India to put in place its own registration procedures belies this view. Why the hell should they create their own registration process? I know they spend millions of dollars on building Nuclear Weapons while people starve (which is immoral as well) but for a Company to use patents to make money on a BASIC foodstuff is just evil. Support BAG. We can grow enough food for everybody many times over WITHOUT any GM etc.

All this, along with the pile of stuff I have found about rice, has made me depressed. Nothing can be said to be "True" any more. There is so much printed and published stuff that we can't decide on truth. Maybe nothing is true and the world I see through the TV, papers and the Internet is just a filtered picture of what reality is. I can;t possibly know anymore than an infinitesimal fraction of what is real. I could live on a spaceship in interstellar space and still not know all things about my world. I suspect that this lack of definite reality is something which has been going on for all time. History is written by the winning side. Technology is written by the Gurus.

Read the words of The Terror Time. It fits with the nightmare end of GM though I know its really about Travellers.

"Diami un seme e pulirò la vita dalla superficie della terra"

("Give me one seed and I will wipe the life from the Surface of the Earth")

Andreous De Exiginati

Obturator di Firenze - 1479
Reaping Dreams or making connections

Sountrack - June Tabor - On Air

You think of John Peel as broadcasting all Punk and New Wave but this is one of the things he was playing during the 70s. Two of the tracks are produced by Tony Wilson which I assume is Anthony H. Wilson of Joy Division etc. I used to work in a small electronics shop in the early eighties and the owner used to play a lot of electronic folk and what he termed "rebel songs". I think he thought it was daring to play songs which might just be republican marching songs. I think he probably confused the Provos with the other lot. Anyway, the stuff that actually filtered through to me was The Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention etc. I used to stand in the window at quiet times listening to the records and trying to play along to them on the Moog synthesizer they had in the shop. (My brother actually bought the moog and I don't know where it is now. In pieces I suspect. I know he is one of the few people who read this so maybe he would like to email me at with the answer.)

Too much to write about. There are pictures all around me and they all create sounds in my head without giving me anything definite to record.

I am currently reading Dreamcatcher - a memoir by Margaret A. Salinger (Yes - his daughter). It is almost as if the author (Peggy Salinger) is trying to catch the dreams which link her and her own real family to the lives of the characters in her father's books. (The Glass and Caulfield Families). I don't remember it in any of the stories I have read up to now, but she mentions a story (maybe only published in a magazine) where Holden Caulfield's brother hears that Holden is missing in action. You read the end of Catcher in the Rye and there is a feeling of optimism - then you hear this and Whats the point? Is Holden JD Salinger's brother or Salinger himself? Salinger was in some horrific places during the war and never refers to them except maybe by a pointed refusal to write about them (The hiatus in the middle or For Esme with love and Squalor when he jumps from the civilization of the tea shop in Southern England to the squalor of immediately post-war Europe). Peggy Salinger writes flowingly about both her Father's real life and the stories so if you are not careful you miss whether she is refrerring to reality or fiction. Maybe it doesn't actually matter. Fiction and Reality are just one thing with different cause and effect.
Whatever the situation, the book is well written and as one reviewer said, maybe there is a Gene for writing.

You always believe you are clever. You look back and think you always knew everything you know now. We all think we were Seymour Glass, Reading everything we read now before we were seven. I was please to see that Ellen McArthur's favourite book is not some biography of one of her heroes but Swallows and Amazons. It is much easier to be inspired by a children's book but very hard to then admit it. Gifted we ain't. Pretentious we are - all of us. Read and mark well.

Book taste linked to dreams. This seems rather appropriate bearing in mind the story first appeared today.

Friday, June 07, 2002

Notes 001

A Bao A Qu was Virginia Astley's first release and it really is a legendary Animal which searches for perfection. The rest of the previous entry is all true. Hanging upside down on the railings of the bridge was great. It was intoxicating to the extent that I began to think that I could launch myself off into the blue and just fly. I was right over the edge of the bridge and it is pure luck that I didn't end up in the stream or, worse, on the rocks. All this was on Castlemorton Common which some of you might recognise as the scene of a very large "unofficial" rave in 1992. I had left long before that. There are a few good paintings of the common here. Our house once got used as the background to a Morgan car advert not that they asked us first and they did wait until my dad's old beat up Maxi was not out front. They make Morgan cars just down the road from where my dad lives now. You too can own one if you are prepared to wait 3 years.

From Greenpeace
Anger and A Bao A Qu

This is a legendary animal that seeks perfection. It is all of us. There is no reason for it not to be. Where should we search for perfection? We are under the sea but we are still on land. There is Jazz in the air from real live musicians and there is an amber glow where we have drunk too much spirit. Would we be traitors if this was all our life became? I have no idea about that but it sounds interesting. Automatic writing comes from somewhere that is not here. Survival is always possible but lying on the grass looking at the sky is much better. I used to hang upside down on the railings of the little bridge across the stream by our house in the country. I would imagine that the clouds were islands on the sea far below me. I was almost in orbit and I was so happy. The sky was always so blue and the clouds (on good days) looked like atolls. Now they blow up Atolls - Moruroa is falling to pieces and my sky is just the sky again. All those French troops will fall into the sea and there will be no ship to pick them, no secret service agents. They have sunk an island and made it poison for the rest of time. Remember Fernando Pereira? He died at the hands of these people. I don't drink French Wine any more. It is no good and they blew up a ship once remember. Where was I? Back on that bridge, upside down over Polynesia, sailing from Chile to Easter Island, waiting to see those statues. They are so big that I can see them from up here. The eyes seem to follow you round the sky as if they are still alive or even just alive full stop because after all they are just lots of rock and it was always dead not like oil or plastic but very much like most of the planet don't you think? Now where is that perfect animal? No-one is doing anything here. Can you guess why? Suprematist Wallpaper or the death of tiling. I created a constructivist flag last night - constructed it I suppose but the machine fell over just before I saved it so it is a transitory artwork. It was the best thing I have ever done but of course there is no proof. I do not know if I want to carry on with this but that is only a slight feeling and is no pointer to any future direction. I am back on my bridge. There is a whole flotilla of little ships down there. They are taking a whole nation to their islands. They are all very happy. The end.

Random CD Selection

I usually carry out some sort of filtering on the CDs I pick up to play every day but last night I didn't go out to the garage until after dark and just picked up a random handful and it has turned out to be the best selection for a long time. Here is the list in full :-

Various - The Rebirth of Cool Three
King Tubby - Dub Gone Crazy
Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass - Passages
Mike Oldfield - Incantations
Renaissance - A song for all Seasons
Martin Stephenson and the Daintees - Boat to Bolivia
Transvision Vamp - Pop Art ( Yes I was the one who bought it)

No Virginia Astley but the song "Rain" on "Boat to Bolivia" is especially for her and that brought to mind all of her songs. "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure" has been, at times, my favourite album of all time. It sounds twee on first listen but then you become aware of all the found sounds and lo-fi recording which make it genuinely unique. It is the sound-track to a Stanley Spencer picture. Thing birds singing, Squeaky hinges on a gate or maybe a swing, The sound of oars in water, Churchbells, owls and Clocks ticking. You will think that all your adult years have vanished and you are back when nothing mattered but the next five minutes.

"This car belongs to the Pakistani ambassador"

I have a book of Soviet Art which was the Catalogue to an exhibition. Near the front, there are a couple of paintings by Zinaida Yevgeniyevna Serebryakova one of which is a 1922 self-portrait. There was a 1909 self-portrait by her in the paper a few years ago and I forgot to keep it to show the comparison with the 1922 self-portrait. I have the later picture on the partition here and have just searched for the artist again. Here is a page which has both the pictures. Compare and note the before and after revolution affect.
I don't want to make any suggestion that life for ordinary Russians was better or worse before the revolution but this fits with our dour images of Russia under the Soviets.

Go below to compare and contrast

Serebryakova's Room

An addition to the found photographs stuff. Autoportraits by Martin Parr is a collection of photographs of Martin Parr himself taken by professional photographers all around the world. There were a few of the pictures in one of the weekeend supplements and as the reveiewer at Amazon says, it is hard to believe that all the pictures are of the same person.

"Hope in a darkened heart"

Watch the running water come down from a thundery cloud. A bit of a 1980s Martin Stephenson / Virginia Astley day today. How do you feel? With Martin and Virginia you will feel better - even when David Sylvian takes over, you will feel better. Be happy AND on the edge of tears. This is a hazy town but "Rain" (especially for Virginia Astley) will remove all troubles from your life. Between lightnin' and thunder three seconds the gap. Don't time fly? Life just skips on by. Just a foretaste of The Lunchtime Ulysses.

I keep doing it myself but I have noticed that loads of people do it when writing internet stuff and especially blogs. They use semi-colons instead of apostrophes. Mine are purely mistypes but are some of them to do with strange keyboard configurations?

Thursday, June 06, 2002

A Tudor Lunch Hour

I was thinking of a subject for this blog entry as I was walking to the Coffee machine. I have decided to make it a Tudor day which now I come to write it sounds a bit silly but there you go. It could be worse. My colleague Geoffrey has just pointed out the Geographical stupidity of Jade from Big Brother (I know I said I wouldn't mention it). East Angular is where they grow sparry Grass I suppose. Lets ask her about Elizabeth I. The picture of Elizabeth on the front of Richard Starkey's book is wonderful. His book seems to cast aside all the old images of religious infighting in the Royal Family and creates a rich mix of extreme intelligence not only on the part of Elizabeth, but also for her Sister and Step mother. Of course we have to forget about all the burnings of "Heretics" though I get the impression that Elizabeth was a bit more restrained in this respect and I think that she actually only had one person executed at the tower. I don;t know what her record on the common people was. This is for certain just the local opinion of the author and should in no way be taken as fact.

Local wildlife gets cheeky

I have lost my desire for a historical entry. The above picture is one I mocked up for a Christmas Card for my dad when he was considering getting a computer. He is a mad keen birder (NEVER a bird watcher) and I wanted to show him what you could do with the image editing. The bird was actually photographed inside the tropical house at the Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust and I am quite pleased that it matches very well for a first attempt. Without the bird, this is a pretty standard shot of my dad. He goes to the same place every weekend to watch the birds. I think that now he has retired, he also goes every Wednesday as well. He also carries out far more work on his computer than I do basically because he has the time.

Last image posted today

This is called Riley1 in homage to Bridget Riley. It is simply random noise filtered back and forth until the matrix of the filter begins to manifest itself. No artistic talent required at all. I used to do the same with the sequencer. I just pressed random notes very fast (all in the same key - I'm not a fan of achromatic music) and then quantised them to the nearest quarter or eighth note. The result was often quite exciting. Maybe you could get a machine to mix the quantising of sound with that of images. I expect it's already available. In fact, I have a piece of software (I didn't write it) which moves organic forms on the computer screen in time to the music on the CD in the drive. If you look at the above picture on a really good screen, it seems to become 3 dimensional. No! It's not one of those magic eye paintings - you will give yourself a headache if you try to "see" it. It looks like oil paint to me. I will have to try some more.

Tudor Hour is over. Come in James I (VI).