Friday, December 18, 2009

Rapid Transit

It was late that day when idle travel took us,
Wearily through the crowds which scattered,
Silently before us, all seeming deaf and blind,
Visible as if existing just a second later.

And the train pulled out, a tired drag ahead,
Through the mess of fussy yards and waste ground,
The city's dust and mire swept away and seen,
By only travellers, high on that scrubby bank.

Then the suburbs fell away and that second,
Caught us; instantly in countryside, we stirred,
And raised ourselves against the grimy window,
Rain-marked with the dunes wind-blown from Africa.

In my head, I idly plugged our speed into Lorentz,
And came up presently, with tiny shifts in time,
That made real and clear our imminent arrival,
Ahead of other copies of ourselves in space.

Non-stop, through the ethered land, our magic train,
Shrank distances, obeyed the laws of physics,
And set us down, to weave dreamily across the rails,
Up the steps, our tickets uncollected at the barrier,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rage Against Cubase/Pro-Tools/Voice Correction etc.

I am sick at admitting this but I quite like The Climb, the new X-Factor single but only the version by Mylie Cyrus. Joe's version is little more than Karaoke and all this means that I have a leaning towards buying Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine, from off that album with the self-immolating monk on the cover. For some reason RATM passed me by, probably because despite liking a lot of left-field stuff, they were just too heavy and WASPY for me. There is not much meat to the song either - it is just Rage and lots of it, rage which I like to think I still possess in a sort of moderated way, with control rods and intelligent targeting. I would give anything to see Simon Cowell's grip on pop in this country lessened together with its resultant blandification of modern music. As Cowell himself says, having a Christmas Number One is not going to make much difference to his life. However, for him to call the campaign for RATM to be Number One "cynical" is just quite funny. In the words of Liberace .... ho hum.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Anything Outright Barbarous in this?

Word of Mouth yesterday was dedicated entirely to a discussion of Orwell's rules for the use of English with the apparent agreement of the panellists that the rules were really useful except when they weren't.

Now following just one of the rules the above sentence would have been "Word of Mouth was dedicated to Orwell's rules of English usage with the panellists agreeing that the rules were good excpet when they weren't." Now is this better? This decision to both agree and disagree with the six simple rules was clearly the only possible outcome. It of course all depends on what you are writing. As David Aaronovitch said some of the rules are "unpoetical" in that they remove everything but the utilitarian components of language. While this was ideal for Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Orwell's analysis of everything from widespread political systems to the intensely-observed minutiae of nature notes, it almost forbids any magic realism and much other writing. However, this does not forbid one from holding up Orwell as amongst the finest writers who have ever existed. The rules force clarity upon the text - they imbue any piece of writing with authority. Now could the rules be programmed easily? I suspect that the grammar checker on MS word already has some of this built in. In the days when I had it turned on, it did seem to have an obsession with active/passive voicing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Elvis Has Some New Dancing Shoes

Well the attic has been rifled for various decs and the tree is up. No tinsel this year and it still looks wonderful. Have I ever told you I hate tinsel? Well I don't hate the look of it - it's a bit like cobwebs - they look alright from a distance but the thought of touching them makes me shiver. If you want to get me to leave you alone - should I be mugging you say - then just wave some tinsel on a stick at me and I will be away to a corner gibbering waiting for the nice boys in blue to take me away to a place of safety.

As usual, Christmas has arrived suddenly, without warning. Last week it was boiling hot and now all the office boys are warning us of snow. Bring it on - I love snow as much as I hate tinsel. It wipes out all the darkness - levels us all even. So there we are - really important things going on in the world and I am talking about tinsel and snow. I did want to rant about something today but I have taken the deep breath and counted to 10 and now it's all gone away.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Aren't You a Little Short for a Radio Play?

I am currently obsessed with defragmentation. The disk on this machine is as clean as a whistle, a sea of blue and white and no red. Well, the paging file won't go to less than two fragments but you can't have everything and I suppose it does help that there is more than 52% free - that pesky version of Visual Studio!

At the moment I have a strange sense of what I think is pre-millennial tension which is odd bearing in mind the long way we have to go until the next one. Is it perhaps just the normal paranoia that everyone gets? That is all. Message ends.

Monday, December 07, 2009

In the Very Last Month of Two Thousand and Nine

... which will probably be remembered for not a long time.

To important things. Well maybe not actually. carol Ann Duffy has written a complex poem called The Twelve Days of Christmas 2009 which I am afraid has too much variation to really work. It would have been better in a regular form but then again her reply should be "Who's Poet Laureate?" A good opening regarding war in the same spirit as her WW1 poem for Harry Patch and Henry Allingham but then it just becomes a list of Duffy's own frustrations with the world and while I agree with more of them than not, it seems scrappy and undirected. It would have been better to decide on one for each month of the year to come with maybe a "Judas Poem" for this month by way of introduction. In fact maybe that's an idea for me. See if I can do something with the same themes.

There has of course been comment from the usual suspects regarding the apparent hero-worship of Barack Obama -

This goose laid Barack Obama.

I'm not sure that this line is entirely laudatory and may actually be a warning against such idolatry. Whatever it is, it is definitely Nursery Rhyme material.

And now the really exciting bit - for the first time in my life I have beaten a computer at Chess. I'm not sure how it happened and it was with my last non-pawn piece but whatever the scatter gun strategy I am happy. On to level 2.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Faffing About in Hyperspace

It's all got a bit fragmented around here recently - lots of high-definition things, none of which take any length of time.

I've just noticed that the last circle in the image above appears to extend out of the plane of the screen by about a millimetre. Now I know that this is simply an illusion created by the interference of pixels and the frequency of the AC flashes of the lights but for a second I was wondering if the two-dimensional representation of multi-dimensional objects had somehow left an impression of those dimensions. Rudy Rucker's book talked about Flatland having a minuscule third dimension to facilitate the existence and movements of the inhabitants. Unfortunately this picture resembles The Millennium Dome.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Who Ate the Postman?

I had to retune seven Freeview TVs last night - one of which was so recalcitrant that it asked you to select the channel numbers for all 90 stations. At least three of them had the same chip inside so despite having widely-differing outer casings and makes, they all showed exactly the same menus. The problem here (and I am sure I explained this last time we had to re tune all those weeks ago) is that the new Welsh Multiplexers for Freeview are as strong as the English ones and because they have lower channel numbers, get in first on the list of stations, so we get BBC one and two from Wales with BBC one and two from the Granada region up in the 800s. It is useful that the manual tune allows you to enter the individual channel numbers for each multiplexer, thus avoiding the multiple channel issues. Pity the digital text does not work as well as it used to do. Still, everyone is sort-of happy. Kids had no problems with the 70s channels which is obviously the most important thing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Five Miles Out

Surveying the outlying woodland, Jason Q. felt secure, like feeling secure under blankets on a dark night, quite happy that he was safe but intellectually aware that should anyone desperately want to try and get through to the house, this mass of tall, elegant trees would do nothing to stop them. This feeling perhaps confirmed his general ease with life, the fact of his distance from the really troubling bits of the world, the insulation of rural communal spirit. Nothing of the nightly news ever got through here and, he thought, none of this utopia had been created by anyone with a bunker, a regiment's-worth of armament and enough tinned food to last until the "invaders left after we give them a good kicking." In his head Jay heard his neighbour's voice saying this, the rabid rantings of a man angry with himself yet blaming it all on others. Confronted with an angry red-clad soldier rampaging through the lower field, Mr. Blether would run a mile rather than put a bullet in him. Humans of every political colour are different from critters; you can't wipe out people like you do with the critters. Mr. Blether was a pussycat.

Jay could see Mr. Blether at his vegetable patch, operating more slowly than he remembered him doing all those years ago when they first met, but still with the same strange jerky movements that the other locals put down to shell-shock. Jay could not imagine Mr. Blether in the army, at least not in any fighting part of it; the old man's armoury was his voice, still loud and strong, though the meaning now, was lost, just random ranting and proof of the nationalism long-ago forgotten by most of the people round here. Mr Blether was like a ghost, visible to some, heard by all and tolerated by most. It was strange that despite the remoteness of the area, the politics leaned towards the centre so Mr Blether called almost everyone "liberal" by way of insult and was not wrong.

The day was dreamy, early still but building up to a heavy mass of air pressing down on everyone. The children in the school would not concentrate and the teacher would get angry but find no energy for discipline and so again lessons would decamp outside, and less and less would be taught and less and less would be learned until the school day fizzled out in a less-than-enthusiastic reading from a favourite book, the children lying back, hands over their eyes against the sun, somewhere between sleep and dreaming, with the buzzy voice of the teacher skimming their brains. Jay remembered these days and wished he was back there.

A plane flew high above them, silent at this distance, half-way to space possibly, its trail only just visible against the hazy-blue sky, competing with the lazy paths of insects dodging the swallows below. So many layers of flight, the bees in the flowers below his head, the various unidentified etymology just out of reach, the swallows, the gulls further up and then the random sketches made by the airliners five miles out. A crescent moon was just visible, completing the logarithmic scale of things, a graph getting ever steeper as we travel to the stars. All of this was just there; it had no meaning, none of it would matter in a few minutes when he went inside for juice and cookies. All around the trees protected this little group of houses, the sky was the window to everything outside, and everything outside was just what could be seen, a happy sky of blue and aircraft, of birds and insects, floating silently. The cold war ended.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Here be Data Dragons!

Big article in the Guardian about the Dark Matter that apparently constitutes the majority of data on the Internet. It all made me think how close we are to this strange world as we type - all people at any machine - just a few clicks away from shady and dangerous things so out of the comfort zone of our normal experience. I couldn't help feeling that it was all a bit of conspiracy theory though of course in certain countries being anonymous is not just convenient; it is absolutely necessary to avoid being arrested/tortured/executed for having views differing from the Government in ways far less than mine differ from this Government. The question is if this allows anonymity for dissidents then it also allows it for everyone else, good or bad. Of course this simply reflects the make-up of the real world - debating the constitution of a user-group on the Internet, trying to decide what restrictions to place on them is exactly analogous to the whole population of the world - the question is one of Government. What system of Government is right for the whole world? You cannot decide until culture is homogenised, until we all look roughly the same, until our values merge. Bearing in mind that even if we could work out some sort of psychological/sociological equation to reconcile the views of just two people, I am sure that extending that to three would be impossible, like The Three Body Problem. Imagine trying to reach a compromise that involves 7 billion people.

Oh dear. I like to think of myself as an internationalist (maybe with a small i) but this suggests I'm all for nationalistic boundaries. Maybe I should emphasise Small is Beautiful. We had this book - I still see it in the bookcase when I visit. I can't say I read it but i did look at the pictures. I did read Papanek which I hope absolves me of any responsibility for the unstructured opinions in the first paragraph.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

/ˈlɪnʌks/ (/ˈlɪnʊks/) /ˈsəks/

Book Log - The Rachel papers - popped 22/11/2009
An Impartial History of Britain by John O'Farrell - pushed 22/11/2009

Dear oh dear - more pushing but then again same amount of popping which makes it all square. The Rachel Papers was excellently written, heavily fruity and ultimately pointless other than for the delight in language that it contained. So in best vicar-speak - life's a bit like that isn't it. I suppose you could describe the book as the work of a literary courtesan - all teasing but departing before the logical conclusion. However, the idea that it is autobiographical just makes you realise that any books which follow are just more windows on a life which will one day end without complete fulfillment. And on that dreary thought we move on to a funny history book which still gets its fact right - a sort of Horrible History for grown-ups. While we're here, a link to JoF's website.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Cloudy Panorama

This starts with the word random - really random things start this and we are off into the far-off kingdoms, the lands and times that times and lands forgot, Jurassic plains, flowerless plants to the horizon, and broken time lines from before life existed, showing us glimpses of how we came to be like light through a fence around a construction site we speed by on the motorway. This is the time of Americanisms used for the sake of it, to sound cool, for no outlay, just to be with girls we like back in the days when girls we liked liked us back - sometimes.

Now it's all trying to keep the anxieties back, Canute-like on the edge of the ocean of worry, pouring in from the exotic, the distant, colourful, hot lands we imagine must exist but for which we have no proof because we have never been there. Maybe some of us have, recalling dreamlike walks through screaming heat, the sweat trailing down to earth inside our clothes, making us seem simultaneously dirty and cool, dirty, pretty and young in the worlds we inhabited then. And they might as well be different universes, for there is no method of crossing to them these days. We are stuck here in the present, without the technology or the imagination to return to those days. The memories are just a cloudy panorama, a vista seen through the self-cleaning glass on stainless concrete buildings, places of no soul, of no raised voices and no oceans.

This is our lot, the sea of worry, the desire for routine in our obsessive corridors of chaos. We will have no closure of the stacks, popped and pushed outside the rules until there is no track of anything. And here is the struggle to get past the wish to finish, the cliche of the ending without ending, the giving up of everything. And I'll go off and listen to some loud music, some rock and roll made by someone just trying to be as cool as me but succeeding. I volunteer as the accused, the call to arms, to be the tester of new methods of trail in the green shade of the trees around the courtroom complex. Out on the lawn, the classes lie in rapture to their teachers, eyes not rolling but fixed and pointed at the beautiful faces of these clever men and women. And here in the depths of this prose I decide on the best way to say things, the subtle ways to make prose become poetry and in the collapse of the wave equations, everything that is not verse becomes just words with no hooks, a river of meaning and no-meaning without form and void.

Speak forever in verse, stream poetry into the air, out into the universe for ever. Post this and it travels to servers in far continents - maybe up to the geo-synchronous satellites and back down to sunny streets in California. But in this hop and hoopla, it leaks from the paths, the straight lines up and down, fizzing off and out of this locality - all the protons subject to Special and General Theories age not in their journey, time shrunk to nothing so that they retain meaning from big-bang to heat-death, throughout the steady state and the breathless tales of human history, tales that are no more than dots in the scale of all time.

All these stories of passion, the mundanity of obsession, streams of numbers, train serials, aircraft serials, bus serials, details of the strangest collections, the poems and letters of love and lust, the proclamations of desire, the descent into the darker avenues of half the Internet, all streaking away out in a 3d wave front that takes this information to anyone who might be looking for it. And this is no sentence but maybe it is poetry, and in this poetry lies hidden other meanings, random patterns so that in a pornographic picture beamed from soulless warehouses in yellowing concrete estates we find a profession of love, a random rearrangement of the empty wilderness of one life into the depth of being at one with another. We love everybody, dream of everything beautiful and everyone happy, a stream of smiling faces brought happy into this world and leaving it contented with what happens in between.

But in all this we know that time goes not one way but two, a continuous traffic in both directions, and though we know this we cannot sense it, like we know how to calculate in more than three dimensions, we cannot see any more than three. And so we end limited in a limitless world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why Can't We Be Cheese and Onion Beetles?

It is nice to see that Mrs Trellis has got her own website though I have to say that so much ISIHAC humour in one place does place a strain on whichever part of the mind that Jonathan Miller identified as the centre of humour (and in the process analysed all laughs into oblivion).

I have to admit the following PUSH on the book stack.

Reading log - PUSHED The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis - Saturday 14th November - so Doctor Alice is having to wait though I am whistling through it and I am sure, missing some of the subtleties in amongst all that teenage lust and intellectualism. Will I be shouted at for saying that Charles Highway can be rather like Adrian Mole? Of course not! Adrian Mole is just like Charles Highway. Now of course the question is how autobiographical is The Rachel Papers? I think I managed to get through the whole of Experience (probably because of the obvious grief for his missing cousin - a victim of Fred West) and it seems that Charles Highway and Martin Amis are pretty much the same person at a particular point in time. Wiki pretty much confirms this but what do I know? I should be able to POP by the weekend at the current rate.

This reminds me that I might just be able to get a 90% accurate list of all the books I have not finished. Unfortunately I suspect that the bookmarks have been removed so I won't be able to go back and retrieve them which means a lack of closure but then again life is not that smooth corridor. I will die with the book stack ragged and unpopped, my lifetime list of coffee cups like Toilets' coffee spoons - measuring a stuttering regime of back-and-forth, no sense and no reason other than to be happy and to minimise the negatives.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ten feet of steel combination, made in Liverpool. Magnificent workmanship

(The small one - second from left - third if you include Uranus itself)

We are much taken with Miranda, the epitome of Radio Comedy made into a TV show. It reminds me both of seventies sitcoms and the peak of radio comedy from the mid 90s. Asides to camera, general play-acting from the whole cast as the credits role (only half of them - you cannot fully get past the BBC guidelines which allow the continuity announcer to break the mood by talking over the end-title music), and the tribute to Dad's Army with the "You Have Been Watching ...." caption. Our review is almost continuous giggles punctuated with roll-on-the-floor guffaws. Set-dressers have gone a bit mad but you can't have everything.

And introducing professional segue of the week in the form of Peter Davison, one of The Doctors along with David Tennant who surpassed himself on Satur...... - er ..... sorry ... Sunday, with The Waters of Mars, showing him Time-Lording over us with the realisation that he thinks he can play God. As with all Doctor Who specials, I start off thinking how naff it all is and then being smacked about the head with the energy and inventiveness of it all. Who exactly are the people who complain about the clunkiness of the scripts? It is after all a kid's show, though after Sunday, I'm not so sure. Punched the air at the Liverpool line. Damn you all!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pluto and Dido

Believe it or not, this is where I have mostly been this week. But more on that later.

Hoping to go and see Bright Star at FACT this weekend though everything seems to be a bit hectic at the moment so that may not happen.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Pavlov's Geek

Every time Sarah-Jane Smith's phone rings my hand goes to my pocket because the ring is the same as my "Bontempi" phone. Talking of The SJA, I do so like the snarky dialogue between K9 and Mr Smith - how do you make it clear that two robots don't like each other?

And now the yearly Goose Report from North Liverpool. I've just seen and heard what I estimated as around 2000 geese flying North, probably to Martin Mere.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Suffering From Long Exposure

Hot off the SD card from a few minutes ago. The rain held off for long enough to go outside and waste hundreds of matches that seem to have got damp since the last power cuts. Happy time was had by all though I warned about the possible side-effects of sparklers which apparently cause users to grow extra heads and legs.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Logicomix - Completed 5/11/2009

The Incredible Human Journey - Started 6/11/2009

Logicomix is finished - even the notes section which did get a bit heavy. Of course my suspicion that Russell would come out explicitly in favour of declaring war on Germany in 1939 was wrong - he simply appealed for the audience at the lecture to use logic to come to their own conclusions, which gives the impression that the lesson is that logic cannot be applied to real life. Listening to some of the conversations here, I have come to the conclusion that Project Management is an acceptance of the failure of logic to be applied to the modern business world; that everything needs smoothing along a rocky path, strewn with illogic and, worse still, deliberate obstacles placed in the road by people with agendas that might not gel entirely with yours. It has taken me n years to realise this, overcoming my autism in the process. I am now swimming gently downstream instead of trying to power fruitlessly towards the source of the river.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wintry Hill ...

... or When Technology Works Too Well

We are currently in the chaotic times between two major shake-ups of the digital TV signal in this area, meaning we are retuning almost daily it seems. However, now analogue BBC2 has been switched off, the signals from several transmitters seems to have been boosted to such an extent that our rinky-dinky little boxes are showing three channels for every one we had before and indeed showing the programmes on them as well. However, this means that unless we want to watch programmes from Wales (or heaven forbid the hinterland that is The Wirral though I'm not sure they have their own regional programming yet) I have to go through the channel lists pressing many coloured buttons to get rid of the channels we don't want. However, a bit of browsing has shown me that I can just find the UHF channels of the Multiplexers (ors?) that come from our main transmitter (mistyped as TramSitter in an IM earlier today) and tune each of these in individually. I think there is possibly a software download to my PVR which will do this automatically but as I blew the USB port on it months ago I have to resort to standard methods. Sad and lonely am I!

However, in other wireless developments we now have TWO PCs wireless enabled in the house after I was given a free USB wireless stick. Still - Sad and lonely am I!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Big Bang Boom

More on the enigmatic Siegfried "Mad Jack" Sassoon in this article in the Guardian. It is of course a good thing that Sassoon's papers look likely to stay in the country but I don't often get excited about such archives. They must only cause excitement in hard-core scholars of the person concerned. I suppose I might like scouring Ted Hughes' papers for signs of the lost Sylvia Plath journal but that would be literary groupyism (nice word - I shall use it again). Sassoon and Owen were indeed the real thing when it came to war poetry. Moving as some of the stuff by other poets was, Sassoon and Owen's words both celebrate the bravery and recognise the stupidity of the war they fought in.

This links nicely with Logicomix which uses the device of a lecture given at an American University by Bertrand Russell (a pacifist who had been jailed during WWI for his campaigning against the war) on the day Britain declared war on Germany in 1939 to describe his life story. Russell was claimed as their own by US isolationists who said that America should stay out of the war. However, and I have yet to read the final section, I think he actually came out in favour of the declaration which must have caused a riot. Final report hopefully tomorrow.

I'm not sure what the next book will be - I'm not sure whether to class Logicomix as light relief or heavy learning so it's not clear whether I need a palate-cleanser or a weighty tome. Comment me up!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Incompleteness Theor....

I hadn't actually read the section of Logicomix which contained the picture I posted as the heading for yesterday's entry and so did not realise that it was the moment that Russell discovered the self-containing set paradox - Does the set of sets which do not contain themselves contain itself? The answer being the simultaneously rather glib and profound - If it does it doesn't and if it doesn't is does! A lovely bit of self-reference. Actually I was going to write "deeply, profoundly" but that would be what I hope is a tautology.

My hypnagogic dreams for last night involved quite a lot about the Incompleteness Theorem. Principia Mathematica is Russell and Whitehead's attempt to define logic completely; it contains 362 pages that prove that 1+1 =2 and yet Kurt Godel proved that proof would always require something outside the proof meaning that mathematics will always be reliant on something else - see God Over Djinn etc. Of course this applies to the whole universe. Not that any of us will ever be able to define all knowledge but I have the nagging feeling that no matter what we try to do to extend our knowledge, something will always be out of our reach - an analogy to the "something outside the system" that Godel realised. This suggests that there is an infinity of extras outside any defined system. Is the whole Universe like this - is there always going to be an infinity of knowledge outside what we already know? If we assume there is a finite number of particles in the Universe, then there must be a finite amount of information in it - realising of course that a large finite number used as the basis for combinations to describe information results in a much greater number; however it is still finite. Then of course extending the system might apply to whatever there is outside the Universe that we have access to, though this seems to knock over whatever is considered the current First Cause. All this has given me a headache which seems well within the system and therefore probably on page 2 or 3 of PM so I think it is time to go off and think of something slightly simpler.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Turtles All The Way Down

Well this is the first time I have actually got hold of a version of Windows in the same month it came out and very impressive it is. I have to admit that somewhere I think there is still an application I wrote still running under Windows 3.1 so to be on Windows 7 this early is a big thing at deWeyden towers. It starts up in seconds, displays myriad wireless networks belonging to the neighbours and connects automatically giving for wire-free working (darn those pesky power cables) and looks and feels like the future. I know that Apple people have been used to this sort of shiny, happy interface for a long time (and on such dinky devices) but let me revel in this quantum leap. Youngest was most happy to find out that all his Thomas games would run on the new machine though I was disappointed to discover that my disk of Stephen Hawking reading all of A Brief History of Time does not have the requisite number of bits to run at all and so we must just imagine that gravelly computer voice as we read the words on boring old paper.

I only tried the Stephen Hawking program because it opens with Bertrand Russell making a speech in the style of Monty Python as part of a dialogue with a lady who believed that the universe was "turtles all the way down" and indeed there is a Turtle pictured in Logicomix where it supports four Elephants who in turn hold up the Earth on their backs. Logicomix also has a beautifully measured scene of Russell seeking out Cantor who has gone mad as Guass predicted of anyone who stared directly at infinity. Cantor of course found that there was more than one type of infinity and so maybe his madness was compounded by this - infinity squared anyone - we've not got past infinity-plus-one in our house. Youngest uses infinity-out-of-ten to describe how happy he is which is technically infinity so all hunky-dory here then.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Swine Flu notwithstanding, I have finally finished Annie's Box - the official date is last night - 31st October 2009 and the next book is that illustrated above - Logicomix - a Graphic Novel of the life and work of Bertrand Russell and various other big thinkers of the 20th Century. This is a beautifully drawn work stuffed with the elements that made Godel, Escher, Bach such a great book. The fact that the writers and artists exist in their own work is part of this but then again anything written in the first person is just so and therefore far more common that some post-modernists would like you to think.

Friday, October 23, 2009

See Emily Play

Emily Howell does not exist. She is a computer program which from the video attached to this article at The Times, is quite competent. I cannot agree with Mark Lawson in the Guardian who will one day be caught out by something created by computer. Music is defined by numbers - some of it requires high quantising but the bottom line is that there are limited number of notes and a limited number of ways you can put them together. Computer-generated music can and will be indistinguishable. Any other approach is just pompous and snobbish.

My absence has been due to flu which was bad. Not sure if it was of the swine variety and to be honest I'm not sure if I care - I certainly didn't care on Wednesday last week when I just wanted to lie down for a month. All gone now apart from the tiredness which means I'm not particularly bothered about writing any more today.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Post-Dated Pigs

Oh dear! Forgot last night but we do have an excuse in the shape of coughs and sneezes and temperatures of a worrying value. Will this do?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Quarter of Beyond the Fringe Please

To be had in the Oxfam shop in the village today was Jonathan Miller's epic companion to his TV documentary series The Body in Question, the first show of which nearly put my dad under the table with its shock introduction to DIY autopsy. Dr. Miller is of course a member of the fruity-voiced fraternity of the presenters of heavy 13-parters, a man whose resonant tones radiate from any tie-in of their work you might read. At £1.49 this was very good value and I can't quite remember why I didn't request it for Christmas. Perhaps it turned up the same year as The Ascent of Man or Einstein's Universe and so was vetoed under the strict budgetary conditions pertaining in the late 70s. Anyway, in return I have to parcel up a significant number of books to return to various charity shops as we are rapidly approaching book-criticality, the point at which the house folds in on itself and we all end up as characters in some cheap pot boiler.

The children have been glued to Hole in The Wall while I have been writing this and it is such a struggle not to turn round to watch. I suppose you could look at it as z-listers being pushed into water which sounds like fun to me.

Friday, October 09, 2009

They have been dropped.

Link heaven with this article about the music for Children's TV programmes. The music of The Clangers was indeed homely and off-the-wall at the same time - we just didn't notice it at the time. Much of kids' TV these days is backed with unemotional noodling that I suspect comes straight off Cubase or any number of knocked-off applications from a PC to a CD in one easy lesson, stretched to fit the scenes to which it is applied by an automatic process akin to the harmonisers which allow the most tone-deaf of pretty boys and girls to become stars.

And now the breaking news of Barack Obama getting The Nobel Peace Prize. Against all my namby-pamby, wishy-washy leanings I would actually like to see some results before someone gets a prize. This seems a knee-jerk reaction to the euphoria of his election. Still it's better than Kissinger getting it. Funny old world

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Evolved Dissolution

There is a ghost peers round the doorposts here,
A white-shrouded child made real in silver nitrate,
A wraith with sunken teeth, a howl, a cripple’s gait,
Repelling fellow spirits of the mind; she is in fear,
Of the troubled course to paradise she has to run,
Through purgatory, the years of sins that harm,
The child with ignorance of scripture and of psalm,
The putsch against the freedoms that were won.

And we send her to her rest with logic and reality,
End dreams of dark mind with travel to the stars,
An ark in space containing all her father’s thought,
The last of Earth that failed in ships we wrought,
With hard metals, knowledge gained in many wars,
Through history that nurtures ghosts and liquidity.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Yes - I am am Polbathic - Why do You Ask?

I was challenged to play my ring tone the other day and was met with sniggering and references to my "Fisher-Price" phone. I am proud of the fact that my mobile cost me 20 quid and still allows me to call and text everyone I want to. I have my D40 to take photos and that does me for carry-out devices. And though I realise that an iPhone might have a novelty value in excess of some gadgets I have owned in the past, I suspect that it would not be too long before it was in the drawer marked "Pimlicos and other stuff". The chorus of ring tones on a train is now getting to bizarre proportions, a sort of spotted dick in sound, the rumble of the train being the spongy majority and the pinpricks of sound at all points as the raisins. I can't imagine that any large part of the texts and conversations that these herald are at all important. Maybe I'm just jealous that I get about three texts and one call a month on my own phone. With my simple beeps perhaps that is just as well.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The International Plant Absorbing Association

I was alone in the house last night - well son was sleeping upstairs while my wife and daughter went out to see Jacqueline Wilson - and I ended up slumped in front of more of BBC4's Electric Dreams programming, specifically The Life and Death of a Mobile Phone. The programme itself was a bit of a throwaway just like its subject but it did suggest the idea of a documentable network of all the phones in the world - each list of contacts overlapping with other lists in a gigantic super-Venn Diagram. I suppose Facebook already has this ability. Looking forward to Synth Britannia.

And now in my quest to bring pretentious and intellectual themes to the common-place, I thought that the Tory suggestion that the state pension age be raised to 66 from 2006 might end up like a version of Achilles and The Tortoise. Get to 66 and they will push the age up by six months - get there and it will go up by three months and so on. We will all have to work until we keel over into a conveniently dug grave.

Monday, October 05, 2009

We Float

I dreamed I had just started work for Bob Hoskins who was running a large industrial pottery company which seemed to be situated in an estuary in North Wales. The premises were badly in need of refurbishment with discarded equipment all around and with most of the buildings unsafe. I remember asking him about whether he had built the place over some clay deposits but he didn't seem to know anything about the processes his business involved. He fell off one of the buildings and lay dazed while a flood rose up though the water surface seemed to slope. All very strange and with the usual theme of any buildings not having walls or ceilings.

Anyway - in the real world we spent a great afternoon in the park listening to a free talk from The Liverpool Astronomical Society followed by a sort of astronomical treasure hunt round the park grounds. Both children got a great glossy poster and as many flying saucers as they could eat. All this left me feeling far happier than I deserve to be but luckily Charlie Brooker brought me back down to Earth with this article about having too much stuff. Actually we have managed to cut down quite a lot by getting books from the library. I did try to listen to all my music on shuffle once but I only got half way through before giving up.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arthur Megapode's Cheap Show

FACT yesterday for the afternoon showing of Creation. Very Guardian Weekend, coffee, free wifi and settees to consume it all at but we don't want to talk about that do we? The real show was the film and my fears of it being over sentimental were unfounded. The trailer condensed all the embarrassing lines ("You've killed God sir!") into a single minute and so when they came separated by the dreamlike, ghostly tale of Darwin and his daughter, they didn't seem so bad. It demonstrated the randomness of our existence linked (via time lapse of the rotting body of a bird) to the randomness of life on Earth, the unfairness of the death of a good and clever child in the face of the survival of so much ignorance. It was beautifully shot and paced, acted with brilliance and helped by a sound system so perfect that I felt I was there. The only fault was to use Bradford on Avon as a stand-in for Malvern. It was clearly not Malvern but I suppose is more photogenic. Not too much of a distraction except that I grew up there.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Closets and Coffee

Mega-series on Radio 4 - A History of Private Life - a sweeping history of about three hundred years of the normal people at home, stuffed with music and recollections from people like us. It comes on just before my drive home so it is recorded and replayed later in the evening when the house is quiet and seems to suit the rather calming atmosphere. Listen again here.

Daughter is doing her homework at the moment so the only sound in the house is this typing and the rather gusty wind outside. Wife and son are at a party so imagine the noise there. Of to see Creation at FACT this afternoon. Not sure that private life gets any better than this. Work is not so bad either.

BBC 4 has been stuffed with many programmes about death and dying and Richard Wilson's doc about same (inevtitably called "Two Feet in the Grave") was excellent, pitched just right between the normal maudlin take on the subject and a clinical investigation in to the mechanics. In one section he showed photographs of recently-dead people returned in replies to an advert he placed in the paper. It was sad to see that this advert prompted The (Sunday?) Times to condemn the BBC in a bit of shock jornalism. In actual fact, the show was measured and interesting, something you couldn't really say about newspapers thes days.

Friday, October 02, 2009

No Way in Hell Would I Go

It burns! The son of man is here and all around and needs no manual, no list of instructions. We have come from nothing and to nothing we shall return - that is our common ground. Science strives to remove the logical inconsistencies and yet it leaves room for love and hate and all that colours the world for us. You bring me water and the relief it brings me moulds my reaction to you in ways that seem only possible to understand with recourse to strange little ideas that fill the gaps for you. Griefs hurts me, my mind is subject to all the issues of human life - the joy, the passion, the annoyance and all the other petty little things that make us irrational in the face of daily stimuli. My grammar fails me, I will react in unexpected ways because my brain is not a designed machine but an evolved and inefficient mess of energy and matter, brought about as the heuristic best-fit over millions and billions of years. My thoughts are a waterfall of ideas - some rational and some so fantastical that it is a wonder they ever manage to reach the conscious mind. Death is for celebration - time is one way and yet it all exists at once and therefore so do we. There is no one at the wheel - the ship is on the rocks or in the roaring winds of mid ocean - it does not matter for that is the random nature - we are not the pinnacle of design bur are instead are just one species amongst the random nature of the universe. And yet it seems to organised. Your ideas deceive you; they make you think that the ability to write things like this, to contemplate the very nature of writing and thought means that you are the ultimate in design. You are not!

What is the miracle is all of your ability. It is no miracle that an omniscient being can create the universe and the complexity of the human mind - it IS a miracle that the the universe and the complexity of the human mind can arise out of nothing ate the start and billions of years of random movements of molecules. But deep down the complexity is simplicity multiplied - an exponential clumping of particles and chemicals. You just have to believe that if you cannot understand how it works, that it just does. So - yes - you have to have faith but with this faith you can work towards a way of replacing those gaps with understanding and experiment. It might be a sad truth but one day the secrets of the mind will fall to some scientist and then we will be able to explain love and hate, the create our own artificial minds. And if this is in my lifetime, maybe I will be with The New Luddites, bringing violence down on those who wish to use this knowledge for gain and pain. However, we have to recognise that this will happen and to set in place the apparatus to handle the implications, to be able to do what is right for the planet, indeed for the whole cosmos for this depth of understanding of the mind will go hand-in-hand with the theories of matter and the physical creation. The very small and the very large are just different manifestations of the same primitive elements and forces - maybe consciousness is linked in somewhere as the middle component of some scientific trinity.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

McChrystal Reports

I have no theme for the month to come but I have a lot of notes, one of which is Pavlov's Dog, Amazon and the Safety Cup which is to do with the slight salivation that occurs whenever I see a parcel from that Particular online Emporium.

To start with something meaty we have banned books (well attempts to ban them anyway) - one step down from burning books which is then only a few grades under burning people. It is nice the see that Philip Pullman looks on his entry in the top ten as a badge of honour. I'd love to see what Sunday reading is like in the homes of people who think that banning such things is a good thing. I wonder what horrors lie under the beds of some of them. Knee jerks - with the emphasis on jerks. Let's go back to executing people for changing their underwear on a Sunday shall we. (deep breath - rant over). But before I finish on this subject, as far as I know there is only one f*** in The Catcher in the Rye - and it definitely needed to be there - it was the focus for the climax of Holden's crisis. Read the books you complain about people.

Aha - something a lot more measured now - The Art of Dying - Dan Cruickshank on his own death on BBC 4 yesterday - well let's face it many people have died on BBC4 before but only in the "Glasgow Empire" sense. Dan did reign in his usual arm-waving and breathy expostulations (as if humbled by their mention in the obituary he requested from the BBC) and together with this and the silences of a length not seen in any documentary that I remember, we had a measured approach to our own mortality. New things learned - Dan's father was a communist and he has a daughter.

I'm now in terrible limbo - the cursor was after that last full stop for sometime because I was thinking that I should really try and write more per entry if I am to make this a full month. I have many little notes in the book but none of them are worth expanding. You want to see inside my head? You couldn't handle it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bathetics and Juju Space Jazz

Here in the wavering darkness I have left my family asleep, my daughter with a sword by her side, and I walk under the shaded signs of dawn through the roiling clouds, the sediment of all that is bad, through the damp smell of fallen leaves and the mist of pathetic rain to my routine and ready mix.

So pretty normal for this time of year then.

I wasn't so much taken with this review of Creation in the Guardian but the comments were quite funny and pretty much uni-thematic. I especially like :

Have to say I agree with the posters above. Being atheist, or agnostic, does not render you either immoral or amoral, but allows you to be good, decent, honest, kind, true, loving and the rest without having to be reminded of it every Sunday morning by the vicar. In fact, those creationists ought to be thanking their lucky stars that we godless types are by and large very decent human beings. If we weren't, we might have started eating them. Me, I'm content to just shove the occasional one under a bus...

I should now trail out of my own spiel about how I know what is good and bad behaviour but I always worry about straying into moral relativism - that which I am apt to use from both sides of the argument when it suits me which shows me up for the fence-sitter that I am. I'm not sure if I can even sum up what I believe is good behaviour - the danger is that I behave like I do because I always have - that I do what I I was told was right without questioning it though I do like to think I question quite a lot of how we are supposed to behave or what we are supposed to believe. This is forming a queue of warning bells in my head - conspiracy theory loon being the latest of them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comment Me Up

Go on - who lives at Ile-de-France in Paris - I would so like to hear from you.

The Dream of Espresso and the Gorgon

The far-away things are back in my head again - the long walk up the hill to a hidden community, a dream of permanent twilight and plenty but separated from all that we know during the day. I walk alone though I know I can return at any moment, turning round and threading my way back through the maze of half-completed buildings, the follies of misguided regeneration programmes. They block off the roads as if some VIP was due but we know they just do it to annoy us. It's all conspiracy and lies, something designed to stop us getting back home. Some people have stopped by the side of the road; they have found the most beautiful backdrop and it has inspired them to play music, to turn random harmonics into something extraordinary and seemingly not of this planet. Behind them some star - not The Sun - sets while behind me facing them, another rises but the interplanetary dust turns the harsh light of all that fusion to a dusty orange glow that flattens the day and makes all time seem the same. Those light-minutes filter out all the radiation and leave us happy and safe, free of illness and depression, but stuck high above the plains where all the poison has sunk. This is the order of heaven, the benign dictatorship of paradise, run by a committee of gods, brought forth from the minds of all who share the consciousness of theology. There is no dissent - hell, purgatory, limbo or heaven; they are all the same, a filtered compression of all our images of what we want the world to be. No one stands up to be counted or to complain. There is a continuous gentle murmur, the rumbling of people thinking about things and never revealing the conclusions. The music stops, for no one wants to sing and music like this needs the human voice to be complete, not that anyone here can understand this - they just know that something is missing. There are no accidents, no one dies here but still there is pain, the pain of compromise and acceptance of differences. There is no anger or hate, and everyone exists at some median between the extremes of mood.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chris Bonington IS The Elephant Man

I'm going to try an entry for every day next month and a photo as well, one that I have taken. I am thinking of having a theme but I'm not sure I could keep that up as well.

I would have posted a picture of the coffee stain that spread itself over two post-it notes last week. I thought it looked liked Chris Bonington in a woolly hat but everyone else I've shown it to says it is The Elephant Man. As a foreshadowing of the trash that will have to be put up here for the next few weeks, I can't actually think of anything else to write as just doing the thinking for this piece seems to have filled my brain with cotton wool. Oh well!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Made in Cheshire from Girders

A nice list of gadgets from scientists and celebrities in the Guardian today. Some of them are obviously a bit frivolous but the drawings are nice. I'll have to come up with one of my own, though I've been thinking that a really useful one would be a cross between the Total Perspective Vortex and the Point of View gun, the first to make the lunatics realise that the world is slightly bigger than that inhabited by The Little Prince, and the second to help them understand that occasionally someone else does actually have a point. It's all very well coming over all Edward de Bono about things (though not having read this I think I might actually be agreeing with him) but sometimes we just have to accept that the world will never be full of people who think exactly like we do. In fact, the only way to meet someone with exactly the same view as you would be via mater replication and even then, the instant of duplication would be followed by a diverging of opinion. .... pause for thought .... actually thinking about it, a copy of me would probably end up in a huge argument with me. I predict a riot. I am not depressed. I haven't done a Random Friday for sometime now have I. Just writing it seems like a cliche and once mentioned it seems impossible to start one - they just start and end with no preamble or epilogue, said the aardvark! And here is another article from the Guardian about the use of robots to mark essays. The exam board insists that the "robots" have achieved the same results as human markers but without the tiredness etc. I would hope that the algorithm is something a little more sophisticated then the online apps which purport to work out the reading age/minimum level of education required to understand a piece of writing. Now I'm not sure about this because if you use a common measure - The Fog Index - various online apps give the text to here a varying result between 10 and 12. The following nonsense paragraph :

The obscure and alliterative antediluvian mixtures that deviate tenuously from the norms and means of accepted obfuscatory almanacs, are, in the main, a conflagration of adverse reactions to the diasporic, conversational and textural beliefs propagated by the chemical and messianic upheavals granted to more alleviations of sufferings within the current regimen.

.. comes out at 33 which is just silly and makes me wonder how clever these routines actually are. Putting numbers to words simply by counting characters etc, is not going to give any indication of the true worth of any piece of writing. The essay markers must be something several magnitudes higher in order to reach the level of even the rookie human marker. We shall all just be organic jelly to feed the machines soon. Skynet anyone?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bit Whiffy! Still, Much to Learn!

Reading Logs:

Finished And Now on Radio 4 by Simon Elmes
Started Annie's Box by Randal Keynes

So many things today. I forgot to mention this list of various versions of the tube map, along the lines of the masterful Great Bear by Simon Patterson. Some are rude so be warned.

As you can see, I finished And Now on Radio 4 which continuously filled my head with the notable voices of radio greats alive and dead - Brian Redhead, Alistair Cooke, John Peel and of course the current lead voice of Charlotte Green up there. The book jumps between programmes at such a rate that the procession of internal voices was beginning to become a bit spooky.

And now something I have been meaning to mention here for some time, the Classification of Animals by Jorge Luis Borges. It first cropped up in one of Steven Pinker's books but it is far funnier than his academic perspective suggests. I especially like "those that from a long way off look like flies." It just seems that this is the way things work in the real world in defiance of all human attempts to regiment our interactions.

Anyway, my attempt at a similar list. I will leave it to you to decide to what it applies.

1. those which everyone knows will fail.
2. ones that finish costing double the estimate.
3. unclassifiable.
4. those possessing an internal, logical inconsistency.
5. those that don't.
6. ones which start by being drawn on a napkin.
7. any having the word "Norwegian" in the title.
8. ones you may have heard about but which do not really exist.
9. all starting between October and November (not inclusive).
10. those with a budget of infinity.
11. ones where the due date is a "division by zero" error.
12. moist ones.
13. government regulated and therefore perfect.
14. those which when fully defined resemble Scrabble Boards.

There - quite proud of that.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Twenty-Four Hours from Borchester

The Radio 4 book is full of both heavyweight information and lots of snippets of trivia about the best talk radio in the world. Like Nelson Gabriel taking part in an armed raid? And the affairs! Oh the affairs! I should listen more.

The fact that every one's favourite crib for essays ... er ... online encyclopedia ... has a separate article for Nelson Gabriel is quite something. As wiki covers the entire known Universe, it must contain such snippets for the obscure actors in soaps from all round the world. I suppose it must have a bias towards English-Speaking soaps - or even just Western soaps but just the sheer scale of the data within it is, when you think about it rather than just typing and clicking, just mind boggling.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Being More Like Collingwood

Daughter is now known as Emily Strange at school. Not having heard of the name before, I thought it might be some sly insult but after a brief bit of searching, daughter is quite happy to be labelled as such. The picture over there is just like her - scowl and all - so now you know what she looks like. Likes maths and science! She sure does.

What else? Oh yes! I've been meaning to mention something about a colleague's workstation in this office. The desk has an angled laptop stand and a separate, rimless, black keyboard attached over the standard laptop keyboard. The chair is a special one with various extra levers and special counter weighted arm rests which makes the whole area look like a control console from the bridge of The Nostromo. What with our line of work, this is very cool indeed. All of which reminds me - ah yes - the standard blogging phrase of the moment - of last nights design version of The Apprentice - Design For Life with Phillipe Starck - a man who could not be any more French without a beret and onions. The trouble with this show, is that the designers in competition seem unhappy at being in such a position - apart from the standard bad boy of such contests, they all seem to want to work together and given the airy-fairy briefs about helping humanity that Starck gives them , they naturally want to assist each other - so much so that on the rejection of one of the nice guys, the others protested and had his rejection overturned - which was nice.

And now for advance notice of a film. You might guess that this is the one shown shown below and of course you would be right.

The trailer looks a bit sentimental but the film concentrates on Darwin's life rather than his theory. Apparently some of it was filmed in Malvern which will be fun.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Men With Ven

Looks like I got caught mid-sneeze there. Trouble is I probably always look like this when taking a photograph. Never mind.
The notebook is currently full of graphs to explain the functions that my daughter is having to learn as part of year seven maths. Sitting with her trying to drag out stuff from dusty recesses and looking at the shiny, new text books that she has to use, it is clear that things are better explained than they were when I was her age. Not that I think we did anything as advanced. I think I might try and do the homework along with her just to see how it goes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I am lost in the joys of BITS (you will know it only by the little yellow icon down at bottom right when Windows Updates come down) and very interesting it is to. I can't go into any detail about what I want to use it for but I can say that I might try and use c# instead of for this one. Not that it really makes much difference as Microsoft have provided a nice wrapper for the APIs so using it is a breeze - I hope.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wye Aye!

I am so annoyed that I cannot blog my main notebook entry for today. It would be unfair an libellous to report the thoughts that popped into my head this morning. You will never know.

This diagram of public spending has made me think of correspondences in my own life. When I try to clean up my hard drive (as I have just done) it is always the large files I look for first. Trouble is that most of these large files are absolutely necessary (paging and hibernation files for example) and completely ring fenced. There is much ranting amongst the readers of certain newspapers regarding the terrible benefit culture that exists in this country but looking at the Spending by the Work and Pensions department it is the State Pension that costs the most. Now I am sure that there are some extreme libertarians who would knock out the entire W&P department (though obviously such people would delete everything except defence and possibly education) preferring to suggest that everyone should make arrangements for their own retirement/redundancy/other misfortunes). Of course a wet liberal like me might choose other things. The problem is, you cannot remove entire large scale department spending, instead you have to have to painstakingly go through all spending and make small adjustments which add up to the reduction you want. The analogy of course fails when you realise that any amount of public spending will be accompanied by some pain while pernickety deletion of lots of small files only has a cost in terms of the time it takes you to do it.

What I have also spotted about the diagram is the lovely bit of self-reference in that the Treasury "spends" almost as much money as the NHS - most of it covering "the bail out" (which of course I have to bite my tongue to support). Money as usual costs money and as far as I can see is simply a "Red Queen" effect. But then again what do I know?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Call That an Intermission!

The colours are not right at all but this is the best I can do regarding James Cowie's painting called Intermission. Not sure why I like it so much but it might be the reflection of a life so much simpler than ours. I was going to make September a full month with a picture taken by me for every day but I forgot at the start of the month. I will have to remember for October.

Now is the time for the daily outrage. Now the film Creation about Charles Darwin looks a bit overdone to me, not that it will stop me seeing it. However what is really annoying is that it has failed to find a US distributor because it is too controversial. Ho hum! Then again I suppose I didn't see Mel Gibson's passion despite it trying to be as realistic as possible though having seen about 2 minutes of it at my brothers, I do wonder how they decided that an androgynous devil/snake was part of the actual scene. Anyway all this makes me depressed on top of other things so I will try and forget about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I've thought that I ought to make a formal effort to detail the starts and ends of the books I read. At risk of starting on an unending stack of starts without ends, here goes.

Started and Finished Send in the Idiots by Kamran Nazeer

Started And Now on Radio 4 by Simon Elmes

Daughter is quite taken with Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds after hearing a live recording of it on the radio the other day. We were able to find the book to go with it but I think she found it a bit wordy though I was hoping it might provide a gentle introduction to 19th century novels.

However, it did get me thinking about the various solutions to the Martian Invasion as put forward by the various characters. The initial response is the standard fight fire with fire and of course this means the deployment of soldiers who respond to The Martians' first shots. The Martians easily defeat anything that mankind can throw at them and rapidly take over the country. After the destruction of the Ironclad Thunderchild, the narrator encounters the mad curate who is certain that The Martians are devils and aims to exorcise them. Finally, the narrator comes across an artilleryman who he met earlier, who insists that mankind can rebuild secretly under the feet of The Martians but who in the end turns out to be fickle (with a hint of the future dictator about him I thought) and they separate. The downfall of the Martians is brought about by the bacteria of earth, to which the invaders have no immunity - an ending that is inevitable as soon as the first Cylinder is opened to the atmosphere.

Not only did HG Wells get a lot of the science entirely correct, he managed to identify the path of enlightened ignorance as well, something which might well apply to a few modern-day issues. I don't want to suggest that we should sit back and do nothing, relying on the whatever-will-be-will-be solution but the general plans suggested in most cases do not always have the best outcomes. Small moves every time.

Todays article is Charlie Brooker's Column from the guardian. I have rapidly gone off Damien Hirst. I can appreciate that his stuff is art and all that clinical precision appeals to me a lot but the man himself is an oaf. It all makes me want to stick jpegs of all his work over this blog. I know of course that he would not be bothered with me just for that but how much can he possibly lose by allowing a few humorous collages of his stuff when most of that is already lifted from other sources and produced Koons-like by outsourced talents immeasurably superior to his own?

Here he is - pickled in a way I suppose.

This is a piece extracted from a larger work depicting a whole fantasy art gallery. This Pickled Shark and Tracey Emin's bed are at The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool which we visited on Saturday. The newly discovered jewel of this visit for me, is a painting called Intermission by the Scottish artist James Cowie but unfortunately I cannot find the picture anywhere on the web so you will have to make do with something else by him.

A Portrait Group by James Cowie - from The National Gallery.