Sunday, November 30, 2008

Small Moves Ellie



Spot the difference. I read about the second painting being sold in Edinburgh but I was sure that the picture was in The Lady Lever Gallery and I was right. There are two pictures which seem to differ only in the number of sheep - the branches of the trees and every other piece of detail seem to be identical between the two pictures. I wouldn't be able to say that the colour varies because of course that is fluid depending on whatever process has been used to digitise the image. I suppose that a tiny difference in an image can make a huge difference. I found this image on flickr the other day.



Click on the image and roll your mouse over the rock between the two trees. I agreed with the statement completely.

Reading .....



I've just looked back through this blog and it appears that I only read Paradise News two years ago. I don't remember it at being that recent but I've just finished it again which must make that about the fifth time I've read it. Must be a good book. Go and read it. This gets lumped together with that odd feeling you get when you discover that someone celebrity you thought was dead is still alive (or vice versa). 


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Toeing The Line


Just by luck we saw the spectacular sight of the International Space Station as it passed over us last night with the recently-undocked space shuttle preceding it. I've never seen anything orbital that bright before. At first I thought it was one plane chasing another or even one towing a glider but it was quite clearly satellites of some sort so I checked the website and found the overpass time.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cross Hatching



New Age Rubbish or Cure For All Ills? This is about Heavy Water being some sort or miracle drug to help us zap dangerous free radicals. Remember when the only time you heard about Heavy Water was in The Heroes of Telemark? I thought that the whole thing about isotopes was that they varied only by the number of neutrons they had. As the electrons depend on the number of protons how does the number of neutrons affect the chemical interaction with the body? Isotopes only have meaning if you take into account radioactivity and we don't want that floating around do we - surely that is the source not cure for free radicals. But then again free radicals are the result of unpaired electrons so what do I know? I suppose my chemistry and physics is a little rusty but the whole thing smacks of a con. Still nothing is definite in this universe or even in mine.

Nice to have The Big Bang Theory back - far and away the best sitcom on TV even if several people have compared me to Sheldon without the cleverness. I'm not obsessive.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not the Aphex Twin Humming an Evil Tune.

I was not expecting to put a link to an Obituary so long after the event as it were but here is that of Richey Edwards. I was still getting the NME when he carved 4 real in his arm and became a hero to much misguided youth. He of course meant a lot at first even if it was just in terms of lyrics rather than musical ability but I suspect his real legacy is the grace and skill that has, since his disappearance, flowed into The Manics, making them a serious if not altogether successful band. There is of course the SP link, not that I pay enough attention to the lyrics to spot that.

I was too old to be a real fan - you needed to be young and angry - just still at school or just starting college with a view towards changing the world with your own wit and energy. At the time I was on the cusp of looking at Richey's stunt with the razor blade as either a cool way to publicise your commitment or a stupid example to impressionable (or maybe professional) Girls in Black (GIBs). Truisms abound in my mind at the moment and none deserve being set down here as they are all too obvious. Select your own best ones and focus on them for a few minutes while remembering Richey. But also remember that he was was cool AND stupid. That's one of your parents talking.

Is it me or does the feeling one is supposed to associate with Fin de si├Ęcle, at large at the moment - a sort of collective nervousness due to the unprecedented events in the world at present? Just me then.

Daughter is starting Shakespeare at school. Written on the tiles in plastic bath letters last night was this phrase - Deal or No Deal - That is the Question. I can't actually watch Noel Edmunds - his ability to string out an entire programme from what is basically a 2 mark maths question annoys me intensely but then again at this Grumpy Old Man stage of my life so much else annoys me as well. Again, my mind is full of examples but you will have to guess at the scope of this list. I do however like this time of year even if my belief that exposing the back of my knees in the coldest weather helps to stave of depression is completely false.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brian's Other Brother Albert

Inside, the heat made sleep a restless period. I rolled over trying to get a colder potion of the pillow against my head but none of it ever seemed to cool down, leaving me a sweaty, straggly mass against the damp bedclothes.

After a few dozes, I eventually went off but was woken by a sudden and devastating cry of what I thought must have been pain. It was not from inside the house, but right outside my bedroom. I went to the window and peered out. The moon had risen and the whole common was visible in the silver light, like a scene from a film through a heat-sensitive camera. It all seemed still and I scanned the view, trying to work out where the sound issued from. It came again, no fade-in - just an immediate scream which I was sure was human. It was in the bushes about twenty feet from the house, and continued without variation as if being produced by some sort of tone generator. And then it stopped dead, cut off and echoeless, swallowed completely by the acres of night stretching away to the distance. The first scream did not frighten me, my mind thick from sticky sleep made no judgement of the danger I should attach to such a sound and I went to the window merely to ascertain the source. However, that second ululation, with its sudden commencement and just as abrupt ending seemed ghostly and I thought must surely have been attached to something if not evil then at least a threat to me and the rest of the household. The standard reaction of fear overtook me in the silence, the magnification of my own heartbeat, the rasp of my breath and the attempt to slow it all in an attempt to help determine the source and threat of that horrible sound. And it came again, not closer or further away but from the same place, a person it must be I decided, someone in what I gathered must be mental pain by the lack of any disturbance in the bushes to betray an assault by one human on another. But this time it lasted longer. I began to imagine that it was increasing its duration based on some mathematical formula, a calculation by way of some sort of hellish music. And then the silence came again,

I fell back from the window, myself in anguish only somewhat less than I imagined in the poor soul in my garden. I had to make decisions. Should I call out to inform the tortured wretch that I was here or maybe risk my own sanity and venture out to try and give aid? And then I realised that whoever it was might have their own nefarious reasons for being in my garden, to steal or to overcome me and the other occupants to make off with our possessions. The worst possible outcome to any intervention I might effect presented itself in my mind and I circled the possible solution in a fug, with no possible chance of decision.

I might have been there till morning, letting the dawn bring clarity and resolution but the fourth terrible outcry brought me out of this woeful state and I resolved to dress and venture outside. I located my clothes and pulling them on in the haphazard fashion of one compelled to compose his vestments in the dark, for such I was, I opened the door to my bedroom and, avoiding the creaky boards that plague all such houses as ancient as ours, I made my way to the front door. Standing behind it, I looked around in the dim light provided by the moon through the door light for some weapon and immediately found an umbrella standing in the elephant's foot by the hall table. I picked it up and brandishing it like a rifle I opened the door and stepped out. The click of the latch coincided with another screaming lament from the bushes, but this time the angle of proximity gave it a different quality; the sound was clearer, I heard tiny variations, that before were lost to me by virtue of the thickness of the house walls. This new and subtle information reversed my categorisation of the sound's owner as human - it was like nothing I had heard before.

The word "banshee" came unbidden into my mind and I feared at that instant that this creature was the herald of my own death. I shook the notion away for I am a scientist, not a man given to belief in the supernatural and yet felt riven with fear at what I might confront in the bushes that in summer daylight seem so pretty and welcoming to this house. I stole myself with the thought of being a rational man and walked slowly out holding the umbrella ludicrously before me, trying to work out how to address what ever lay in wait. I was a few feet away from the door when I perceived a shaking in the shrubs in front of me. And then the sound came again, gurgling and reminiscent of one affected by influenza, an annoying cough somewhere in the back of the higher-pitch that had woken me. Again, my resolution failed me and I hung on the cusp of flight, the rational man at odds with the homunculus of self-preservation that nagged at my ear. I shook him off and continued again occupying my mind with how to speak to this monster. It was silent again and the bushes were still.

The tip of the umbrella touched the outermost leaves and the creature within sensed I was there - it did not scream again - I just sensed a fellow animal, not unearthly but not within my understanding either. I could tell it had a heart like mine and that it beat in mode of flight or fight like mine and that it breathed shallow and afraid like me. I moved further, trying to find a window through the bushes to see without having to crouch and put myself at a defensive disadvantage. It flew at me, a bristling, hissing mass of pure white, the white of the moon above, a fox, pure white, an albino, as frightened of me as I was of it. Within a second it was away across the grass of the garden and out onto the scrub of the common, flowing like mercury down a slope and was gone.

I stood in relief for a few seconds, a manic smile on my face, and then a wave of contentment flew over me. I had heard stories in the village of black foxes - evil omens only one step down from banshees as portents. But in the same breath some oldsters talked of the albino fox - one that has lasted for centuries since the first reports when Kings fought for their thrones. I laughed and screamed in joy at having seen something so rare and it was at this merriment that the rest of the house stirred, the window above the porch opened and a shadow stared out in a stance of fear until my presence was ascertained. I promised that nothing was amiss, that I would be in shortly and wasn't it a wonderful night to be outside.

Of course I know that the white fox is an explainable phenomenon, a passing on of characteristics through generations and in this one witnessing, my science has verified those hundreds of years of fable. If you had asked me yesterday in the tavern if I believed in such a tale I would have laughed and talked you down with gentle respect and bought you a beer. Tomorrow, I will be with you in your belief.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Expostulation Squared



The reviews of Einstein and Eddington have not been universally good but I liked it. As with any docu-drama trying to convey complex science there has to be some clunky explanatory dialogue though in this one it extended to names as well - "Max! Max Planck!" - and of course I had to deal with the screaming issues that result from every drama these days having to be squeezed into at least half the time that would have been given to it 20 years ago. However, it was accurate enough to keep me interested and dramatic enough for my wife. Daughter was allowed to watch it the next day after we'd made sure that Einstein and Elsa didn't get too carried away in the cupboard in the University. Attention rapt for the full 90 minutes unlike The Empire Strikes Back later in the day which only sparked interest at the bit where Darth Vader reveals he is Luke's father- sorry for spoiling that for you if you didn't know. And as a bonus Jim Broadbent nearly got decapitated by Uranus - boom boom! And of course as any fule kno, Eddington's experiment that confirmed relativity was later found to have an inaccuracy greater than the effect that he was looking for. However, relativity is correct and your Sky+ proves it - I think.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Missing Link


In 1988 I came back from America and even before I got home I had bought Watermark just because I liked the cover. I'd not heard of Enya though I had heard some of her music which was used as the soundtrack to a documentary about The Celts. And I loved it, all of it from the slow and layered choral stuff to the almost-danceable things like Watermark and Cursum Perficio. I was actually listening to it when I saw that Orinoco Flow was number one. It seemed to come out of nowhere. After the next album I began to think that if you had one album, you had them all and so I stopped buying them. 

However, supermarket impulse pricing made us buy Enya's latest album - And Winter Came and while some of it is the stuff we all love to put on occasionally to release us from the strings and arrows of modern life, there is a trilogy of great songs starting with the Christmassy White is the Winter Night - a standard evocation of light-through-windows/children singing - a cliche done well and permitted. Second is an icy rendition of O come, O come, Emmanuel. It starts in English but is interrupted by a sudden Chord of voices, almost a rebuke - you silly mononymous person - let's have some Latin - and there it is, beautiful and pure. However, the real gem is the current single Trains and Winter Rains, which as well as having a simple and compulsive rhythm, has an economic use of words to evoke a beautiful cityscape. It reminds me of The Whitsun Weddings or maybe a less-complex version of some of Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. The rest of the album isn't bad either.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cargoes



I have to mention the Time Team special about the World War I dugout between Ypres and Passchendaele. Time Team programmes always seem a bit whimsical due to the length of time that passes between things being buried and them being dug up but this one of course was a little more respectful. There were no comedy regional accents and there was a real sense of connection to the men who actually dug the thing 90+ years ago. Time Team does not often get the chance to show their discoveries to the relatives of those involved in the construction of sites; it is nice to see a time line.

I was thinking that maybe a picture of Tony Robinson from a comedy show would be a little disrespectful but he did actually look quite cool in Blackadder 4 and the show did of course make serious points for men still living. This has made me think further about using individuals to represent generations which links back to my rant about arbitrary times being marked as special.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Radical Corpuscle

Freight and Cargo, that's all we are, winter ballast for the systems we inhabit. Two extremes are that we were created for the Universe or that the Universe was created for us. The truth of course is at the neutral apex on which these two cosmological views are balanced. We think we are stamped with destinations but we do not understand the words or even the script that these instructions are written in - and so we spend our spare energy after eating and shelter, on putting meaning to them, the addresses of our future. Sometimes we think we have it all decoded, bringing the meaning we have found out into the open for everyone else to see and also believe. And humans die when they do not agree on the answer. And really the beauty of it all is in the search, the hard structures, the soft electromagnetics we pump out to keep ourselves in touch, the deep knowledge we need to understand the universe from edge to shining edge, through all its curves built in with gravity and undiscovered particles.

From now until the edge of matter and space is the thrill of understanding.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Measured Out in Coffee Spoons



The great IT God spits out a USB stick containing the prophesies of TWAIN

There was a power failure here at the office yesterday - about a year after the previous one. I got locked in the office last time after the security doors failed safe - with safe using the non-dictionary definition of "being unable to escape from somewhere with the potential for being very dangerous indeed." Last time it took an hour to bring the network back and as yesterday's failure happened half way through the afternoon, I decided to leave so as to avoid captivity and because I did not expect to be able to do any work at all. It all came back after forty minutes I'm told. I suppose I should feel guilty but I don't.

I am distracted by the story that a school caused "outrage" (those are tabloid quotes) because it moved the silence for the remembrance of The Armistice to 12:30 so as not to disrupt lessons saying that 12:30 was a more appropriate time. Now my knee-jerk reaction was to agree - it can't be very difficult to get everyone to stop what they are doing at the same time - especially at school - you have bells to coordinate everything anyway. After thinking about it for a while however, I changed my mind as I struggle to get excited about arbitrary milestones. In fact I begin to wonder if a specific two minutes for remembrance is actually just a sop to keep the realities of what happened out of mind for the rest of the year. I do not know if the time of 11:00 am was chosen for the purity of 11/11/11 - we are told it was to give time for the news of the ceasefire to reach the distant troops. After the realisation that many troops died after the Armistice was signed but before it came into effect, I cannot help asking why the order was not just given as "with immediate effect". Blind faith in these markers is just silly. A shrug is my general response to those occasional days when someone writes breathlessly about how this is the last time this century that we will see some particular accident of numbers in the date. And now we see the gathering buzz about the end of the Mayan Calendar and how that means the world is going to end. We even have a film about it. Watch the new-agers go berserk. The bottom line is that 2012 is the Mayans' Millennium bug - they just chose an arbitrary length for their calendar and couldn't see any reasons to extend it. Anyway, the Mayan civilization disappeared years ago - if it hadn't, I'm sure that there would have been extensive project-management meetings to decide on a solution.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bathos and Pathos Make Five



Listening to I Often Dream of Trains by Robyn Hitchcock.

No more war today. Take that whichever way you want. Hello to Julie, Steve and Yoda by the way.

Christmas is not fast approaching - it is approaching at the same speed it always does - one second per second. OK - sometimes it seems to be approaching faster and what I am really getting at is the use of stock phrases (like that one). Anyway who should we go to for the real deal. Eric Arthur up there - click him for what is really important. I might sound dodgy now I suppose but it sounds great as well.

My Favourite Buildings

My favourite buildings are all in other countries.
Every one of them, a brick palace with glass to the sky,
reflecting the far-away plains,
down with the sun to the scurrying population.

And each one is alone in the millions and billions,
a single mind in each that interacts with no one,
never touching, never scoping out a plan
for days and nights in the depths of these invaded towns.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Skirting Delville Wood



Skirting Delville Wood in the early morning and a small war in bigger wars takes breath from thousands, walking hand-in-mind together towards a future they know they might not reach. And they never ask themselves or each other for what. And exactly for what? We should take our cue from them and never ask. It happened and it is done. We cannot go back and ask questions about it other than what can we do to stop petty belligerences getting that far again. Revolutions are the answer for some, skirting the wood by firing squad and no stealth, the heroes you watched stolen and designed out of their true existence and then years later you find they were thugs, murderers in extremis, no heroes to me. Some ignore the inevitable and pretend the bad things happen to other people and for a while they do, until the smoke drifts out of the trees and over their green and pleasant land. And then they are all dragged in, standing up and refusing to fight for all they believe in - peace - religion - pure and devout cowardice - the yellow streak that we all have brought out by gun metal and marching. There is the old lie and we stole it back.

Skirting Delville Wood and on to Germany. That's the way boys! Show 'em what we came for and what we mean to take back. The wife and kids back home deserve this and we can show 'em. On to Germany boys!

Skirting Delville Wood and in the old days we had drums with us as we walked forwards - the bullets flew singly, not like the lead curtains thrown at us these days. Pray one day they get machines to fight each other and we can stand back, smoke a cigarette and laugh with our enemy, beligerence by proxy. Walk the moon with billions at your back and have a cold war. In the old days, a time of battle we have forgotten, no memorial before that eleventh day and soon they will forget that one as well. We forget and never learn but remembrance is stronger in those who were gassed. We don't gas people any more and so we forget. And there are the obscene treaties we make to outlaw tiny variations of all those clever weapons they invent back there in Glendale. Outlaw a cluster bomb here, redefine a hollow point there and that makes you think you are civilised. Someone set out one day to make a bullet that does as much damage as possible as it passes through flesh but degree is only degree; it means no more than a sleek pin that slips into the folds of the fragile human body and makes its way through, cutting and destroying, leaving nothing intact. Call me a child and a child is all I am but a piece of paper that says how you can kill people is a defiance of anyone's god.

Skirting Delville Wood and we all die boys. Fight to the end and if any of you get back to the new country, kiss my girl and tell her that I died happy. And when she asks what I died for, shrug like I shrug if anyone asks me, embarassed at the words duty and for the boss. I fight because they tell me to and who says that is stupid? I'll fight him as well any day you like. And at the sentry points, they lie at rest but awake and alert for the gentle movements out on the field, in the mud, the last shaking and the approaching darkness, an inverse dawn. It's glory boys, it's glorious, a fight to bring tears to eyes at the desperate risks we take just for the hell of it, to feel alive and all the while to welcome death when it happens. And years later who is anyone to tell us we are mad? I could not go back to the quiet of our house, the sun streaming in over the front door, lighting the tiles on the floor and making shadows with the plants on the hall table. Once you have the ecstasy of this place, nothing is enough to make you feel alive anymore. Maybe I am wrong, maybe it will come back to me as this glory fades and we march on.

Skirting Delville Wood and the Sat Nav breaks down, its idea of where it is destroyed by something in the air. We came to find the grave of our great-grandfather, and this seems strange, a sort of fade-out of all the technology until all we have is the white of the headstones stretching into the trees and the brightness of the monument in the distance. We finish on foot. Now we can touch the graves, and feel the connections with ones we never met. Skirting Delville Wood is forgetting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One of Our Project Managers is Missing

Poets of The First World War

Ian Hislop seems to be at home presenting programmes about anything. His hour about the Beeching cuts showed a small boy's enthusiasm mixed with a serious and as far as I could see unbiased view of the subject. Last night he showed the required seriousness to front a programme about the concientious objectors during The First World War. I have to confess beforehand that I am a devout coward but it is impossible for me to say how I would act in the situation either the beginning of the war when militaristic enthusiasm led many men to join up unbidden by Act of Parliament or when standing shaking and sweating in front of the board after the call-up. My distant anxiety about the absolute horror that was the first war, is nothing, a mere shadow of the worst possible thing that could happen to me in this peace time and that is but an echo of the realities that the men had to go through then. Of course we can criticise any number of things about the war and all wars but not today. Today is to realise that men have died and to remember them regardless of how many of them are still alive.

There are rumblings of state funerals for various people at the moment. I know who should have one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spanguage

A huge essay from Mr Fry here, in which he appears to struggle with his character of insufferable pedant when it comes to language. OK, maybe it's a bit more than that but it does seem to ramble a little, while still remaining quite readable. I do hope he apologises to Alan Davies.

I did make a plan to write a poem each day but as it is not the start of the month, it seems wrong to start this today. However, while waiting for something yesterday I did put this in the notebook. Is it a poem? Mr Fry did say to ignore the pedants and mangle the language as you see fit. So here goes.

Gas and coming up for air, the poetry of safety, the passion stolen from it, like a flame that gutters, sailing over wicks and candles. The doctor in the mind, at fatal wounds, in futile hope of saving men the air bombs ripped in two, their cavities concealed by injury and catastrophic loss of blood. There's rawness in the notes that hides the subtle dregs of meaning and no meaning from the intellect to let it ride and climb in sterilising flames over the smoking, open cemeteries, battlegrounds and coughing, dying infantry. Twisted and burnt, the bones are men and vehicles, rendered the same by weapons meant each for each but catching all. Take a metal weapon in its fiery path across the mud and sprinkle it with soft and loyal bodies. And there's your target, flailing in the marsh, confused and real yet absent from the tales of battle, even this night's write-ups in the pocket books of officers, the futile diaries of the doomed. Ninety years, thirty thousand days and eras pass before I sleep and weep untainted as the staff of companies that failed , decimated, coalesced and were cut-down ten-fold once again, a building tenth of death in the head of us who cannot know, save through some twelfth-hand writing culled from sharp-dressed writers of the field.
Just needs some line breaks and it will be a poem.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Travelling Pies

There is a bridge across the motorway here, always grubby, never been clean since the day the steam cranes left it balanced on the concrete. It seems to attract every local daredevil wishing to tag it with some witticism to further confuse the drivers already distracted by the radio, or their mobile phones, or some honey trying to interest them in some lurve-on-the-road. I've never been sure exactly what the graffiti means but there is a vast range of different styles. Some are obviously hip-hop monikers, taken to extremes of typography and art by being in all colours and shapes, anything but something readable. There may be teenagers or sadder older folks who know that a vertical squiggle outlined in red and crossed by a blue circle means that it comes from Bazza or Gazza or Shazza - but not me. I am too old for all this these days and while I can appreciate some of the art as art, most of it is bravado dressed up as something mysterious. And still I don't think of myself as old - this morning I was confused and thought that the next president was actually younger than me but he isn't. And what does that mean? Nothing at all.

I remember the year that Martin Luther King was shot. I don't remember him actually being shot but I do remember the B52s pouring High Explosive into the jungle and I also remember wondering what the point was, though not with any particular outrage as what it was doing to the poor people on the ground - horror developed over the years, probably reaching its peak when I discovered that the man-in-a-suit responsible for it had actually got a Nobel Peace Prize, something which removes all credibility from the award and seems to me the worldwide extension of double-speak and plausible denial. It is of course the ultimate expression of complexity which still plagues the world. The general solution to stuff that is difficult to understand these days seems to be to introduce some extra level of complication in order to handle the complexities rather than simplifying the equation and addressing things that way - so instead of cancelling out the square terms you multiply both sides by the square of itself - still valid but makes the whole thing far more complicated, and it is all simply for the sake of it or maybe as obfuscation. At a personal level we all want simple lives - we don't want all those forms to fill out, we don't want to have to answer loads of stupid questions that get recorded somewhere deep in a computer system and then never get used again. Huge percentages of the processes that humans are subject to are simply to justify the existence of the people who develop the systems - some of these people even accept this as a fact and laugh in the faces of those who wish to simplify things. (shh - Occam's Razor - yet again).

This was going to be a Random Friday but it seems to have developed a structure and meaning which I was hoping to leave out. Oh well - you'd better have some links then. This page has some Modern Jazz interpretations of Nude by Radiohead and very good they are too - wouldn't seem out of place on a Wiretapper and best of all you can download them for wire-free enjoyment anywhere.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ghosts and Empties

Listening to In Rainbows (it's one of those days)

There is a programme called Apparitions on the BBC next week - it is a gory drama about Exorcism and I feel slightly duty-bound to watch it because some of it was filmed in the house of good friends of ours. However, I'm not sure it is really my thing - I am not expecting the humour of Sea of Souls. Not sure whether duty will win.

A much better prospect is Regeneration based on the book by Pat Barker. It is far more gruesome than Apparitions and the horror is multiplied by it being true (or at least a fictionalised account of truth - See In Cold Blood as well I suppose). I'm not sure how Pat Barker managed to make something so horrifying so unputdownable and in some ways more intense than The Ghost Road in the same series which is actually about warfare and includes the battle in which both Billy Prior, the fictional main character and Wilfred Owen died only days from the end of the war. As I said in another context yesterday, the flickering of battle seems to be in my head at the moment. The silent flashing of distant fireworks on the walls of the house last night added to this. One display sent what must have been over three hundred flares vertically into the sky at 1 second intervals leaving heavy lines of smoke drifting in battlefield formation. More simulation of war than celebration I thought.

My wife reserved The Last Fighting Tommy, the biography of Harry Patch at the library, which I picked up yesterday. I tried to find something worthy to read but ended up with I Used To Know That and Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural instead. Still I suppose they are educational in a way and I do deserve some lightness after Mind of its Own.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

99901 + 2012 = Somewhere?

Much as I am cheered by today's result (did you guess I would be?) , there was something making me even happier and that was the thought that given luck and a fair wind for Moose Poop, AK, I would never have to see or hear Ms. Sarah Palin ever again. Unfortunately I seem to have been premature in my Schadenfreude.

I suppose I should try and make some more inciteful political comment but obviously there are many people doing this at the moment and so I will leave it to them. The one thing that keeps coming to me is a flickering shadow of the Armistice and its foreshadowing of the next war. This is of course simply because of the time of year rather than any palmist/crystal ball nonsense - isn't it? Anyway, it was fitting that we watched the Program about Andrew Motion's poem for Harry Patch yesterday. While the poem was great, Motion cannot read it with any passion, though maybe that was deliberate. A flickering shadow was what triggered Harry Patch's memories of the war. Let's hope it has not triggered mine.

BBC4 on BBC3

Debbie Does Doncaster

... in which Deborah Ripley-Adams, Professor of Industrial
Archeology at the University of Newcastle, traces the history of the great buildings of this surprisingly interesting town nestling in the gateway to The Ridings. She is assisted by Hugh Drysdale, Senior Lecturer in Semiotics at the Durham Institute of Post-Structuralism.

(Some plain speaking)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

... and Copies and Copies and Copies and ...

Much to discuss.

The video below (and here) is of Hack Green "Secret" Nuclear Bunker which we have been meaning to visit for some time. We finally got there on Friday. Many of these sort of things fail to impress me because the realism has been removed in the name of heritage (two mutually exclusive concepts as far as I can see) but at Hack Green the very structure of the building makes it difficult to leave it as anything very different from the purpose it was created for. The lower floor especially has been left pretty much as it was in The Cold War - all the various control rooms are as they were, and as you can see the low-level lighting adds much to the ambiance. The children were slightly disappointed that the buttons were almost all no-touchy but the sheer number of genuine flashing lights seemed to make up for that. Entry is via a pretty-realistic NAAFI overshadowed by genuine weapons of mass destruction - do I win the prize for finding them? The rest of the place consists of a tour of either museum-like cabinets of various Cold War and Atomic-related ephemera or the actual rooms of the bunker as you see in the video. Children were pleased to able to test the beds in the ladies dormitory. We emerged blinking into the grey Cheshire afternoon with post-time-travel-stress-disorder. My nephew is responsible for the choice of music on the video. More Photos Here.

Culture Section.

1. Books

Currently reading A Mind of its Own by Cordelia Fine.

However, it was pushed on the stack while I whistled through this :-

Who Writes This Crap? by Luke Wright and Joel Stickley - an attempt to document all the writing that one person reads in a single day (November 1st 2007 I think). It is all parody of course - some of it straight and some of it outrageously not straight. The humour is on the dark side with an ambiguous ending that left me slightly creeped out. However, it is possibly as much of a warning as Nineteen Eighty Four so ... err ... be warned.

2. Films

Random choice from the library DVD racks was Infamous, one of the two recent films about Truman Capote and his investigations that led to In Cold Blood. I did not really know anything about TC beyond that he wrote In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's and spoke like Donald Duck on Helium ( but that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch the film - it did not distract me). Somebody once lent me a copy of In Cold Blood but it had been annotated in great detail by someone obviously much taken with the crime committed and I jettisoned it unread. So watching this film brought to me the great and welcome surprise that Harper Lee was one of the main characters along with the even stranger (to me) fact that Truman Capote was the model for Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Sandra Bullock played Lee in a way that reminded me of Scout as I suppose she should. In fact the entire film had the slow grace of To Kill a Mockingbird but maybe that is just because the idea is in my head. Thank Goodness for Random.

3. Mathematics.

Nice to see that Marcus du Sautoy has been given the Simonyi Professorship of the Public Understanding of Science in the stead of Richard Dawkins. There is a nice article here.