Monday, 27 June 2005


It's quite commonplace now for established magazines to let their cover pic obscure some of their title and subtitle. SFX, a sci-fi/fantasy magazine usually filed among the film mags in WHSmith's, fairly consistently cuts into the F, so that it could equally be an E that's being partially obscured. In terms of catching the eye, I have to say it works.

terrorism religious and secular

Richad Dawkins, recommending Sam Harris's The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, urges us to read the book and 'wake up' to the dangers of religion as a cause of terrorism. Before Dawkins continues to flog his anti-religion hobby horse, perhaps he should wake up and read some history. The greatest 'terrorists' in the last century were Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, all of whom were against any form of religion and slaughtered far more people than any 'religious' terrorist I can think of.
- Kate Potter, Oxford; letter in Guardian Review, Saturday 25 June 2005.

the excuse for wars

He had taken to the faith [GSD] at an early age and tried all sorts of religions before settling for the GSD.
'GSD?' murmured Mycroft. 'What in heaven's name is that?'
'Global Standard Deity,' answered Polly. 'It's a mixture of all the religions. I think it's meant to stop religious wars.'
Mycroft grunted again.
'Religion isn't the cause of wars, it's the excuse.'
- Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair; NEL, 2001; p104.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

punk swastika

'... the punk appropriation of the swastika, aestheticising the symbol but jettisoning its history, or, perhaps worse, revelling in its power to shock, while ignoring why it could.' - Gary Lachman puts it nicely in a review of two books about disco in the Guardian Review of Saturday 11 June 2005.

In a previous life, Gary Lachman was Gary Valentine, in Blondie for their first album, writer of (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear on their second (Plastic Letters - probably my favourite, though the critics don't seem to like it).

stay at home dads

80% of dads would rather stay at home and raise children, says The Independent. 'The vast majority of new fathers want to combine careers with caring for their child, according to a study, which reveals a dramatic shift in male perceptions of fatherhood. The study marks a stark contrast to a similar EOC survey 20 years ago, when more than half of the fathers questioned saw their roles strictly as breadwinners. Nearly nine out of 10 men felt as confident as their partner when changing nappies, feeding the baby and taking charge of childcare duties. The results of the survey show the extent to which attitudes towards fatherhood have changed in two decades. More than 50 per cent of men in the previous survey believed the mother's place was in the home. Twenty years on, that figure has shrunk to just 20 per cent.'

Sunday, 12 June 2005

sarcastic quotation marks

The classical record shop at the Royal Festival Hall, which you'd imagine should know better, has a section of its shelving headed thus: '"Great" Special Offers'. Since they're not really that cheap (to a meanie like me, anyway), perhaps some sarcastic underling is putting one over on their boss.

attending in prayer

The immediate person thinks and imagines that when he prays, the important thing, the thing he must concentrate upon, is that *God should hear what HE is praying for*. And yet in the true, eternal sense it is just the reverse: the true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when *the person praying* continues to pray until he is *the one who hears*, who hears what God wills. The immediate person, therefore, uses many words and, therefore, makes demands in his prayer; the true man of prayer only *attends*.
- Kierkegaard’s Journals, p97

covenant witnesses

The witnesses, however, are solemnly named, and this shows that what is in dispute is no light or trivial matter. Micah is told to initiate proceedings ‘before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say’. Mention of the mountains and the hills reflects another feature of ancient covenant-making procedure. Witnesses were invoked at the making of the covenant, and in pagan cultures these were normally gods and goddesses. In Israel that was not an option, so heaven and earth are frequently called upon to play the same role (Deut 4:26; 32:1; Isa 1:2). If they could speak, they would testify to the undertakings given by both parties.
- John L Mackay on Micah 6:1-8, in his commentary on Jonah-Zephaniah; CFP, 1998; p115.

self-sufficient in garlic

For the last five years or so we have been growing enough garlic to keep us all year. In our own way we are re-creating the past. I’m sure that a hundred years ago Point was self-sufficient in garlic - no one grew it and no one ate it.
- the gardening column in The Rudhach, May 2005

better than mandela

Martha herself compared her situation to that of Nelson Mandela, which might sound a tiny bit prideful, but it didn’t stop her fans taking it up and extending, slightly - in fact, she was better than Mandela. ‘She’s created lots and lots of things that have been good for working people,’ said a man who lived near [the prison]. ‘I really don’t know what Mandela did, to be honest with you.’
- in article re Martha Stewart (US domestic lifestyle guru imprisoned for fraud/deception) in Saturday Guardian guide, 11 June 2005. Better than Mandela? Not even as good as Martha and the Vandellas.

brain tumour

One night in 20001 he dreamed that he had a brain tumour, and the dream was so unusual in its atmosphere and clarity that he went to the doctor. It turned out that he did have a brain tumour.
- in article re Mark Ruffalo in Saturday Guardian magazine, 11 June 2005

ian rankin

An interesting profile of Ian Rankin from the Saturday Guardian Review of 28 May 2005.

It says the first Rebus crime novel wasn't intended as the first of a series, which is what I thought as I read it, as it used up so much of his back story.

It also said, 'As a PhD student at Edinburgh University in the mid-80s - "up to my oxters in deconstruction and semiotics" - Rankin set out to write a modern-day Scottish gothic novel featuring a policeman and his alter ego. The book self-consciously drew on the tradition of RL Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Its title, Knots And Crosses, and the name of the policeman, Rebus, a type of picture puzzle, made clear his ludic intent. But while the book was received well enough, Rankin was perplexed that people thought it was a crime novel and disappointed that no-one seemed to get his "smart-ass PhD student" jokes.'
- I've read both those other books and didn't spot the allusions; I got it back out of the library, along with the second one to read, to skim through but still didn't particularly see them.

It also said, 'Rankin's first book owed a debt to Kelman in that the Edinburgh student publishing house, Polygon, brought out Kelman's first book of stories, which did well enough to fund Rankin's 1986 debut The Flood, which is being re-issued for the first time this year. Rankin has said how impressed he was by Kelman's use of Scottish vernacular and how he enthusiastically showed Kelman's stories to his father. "But he said he couldn't read it because it wasn't in English. Now my dad is from the same working-class linguistic community as Kelman writes about. If he couldn't read it, but half of Hampstead was lapping it up, that to me was a huge failure and I decided then not to write phonetically."'

Friday, 3 June 2005


We ourselves, or at least the pious among us, are often quick to see the hand of the Great Predestinator in the events of our own daily lives. But here, as elsewhere, we merely prove how odd we are, though the Scots are by no means the oddest. One great but forgotten Scot, John Witherspoon, the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence, had one of his American neighbours rush into his house one day in a state of breathless excitement. His carriage had turned somersaults, but he had escaped unscathed: 'Wasn't it a wonderful providence!'
'Hoot, man,' said Dr Witherspoon, 'that's naething of a providence compared to what I can tell of. I've driven doon that same road for years and years, and my horse has never run off wi' me.'
Like the Free Church minister who once visited a hospital patient who had broken his leg in a road accident. 'You were lucky,' said the minister, 'that you broke nothing but your leg.' 'It's you that were lucky, minister,' said the aggrieved and aching patient, 'you didn't even break your leg.'
- Donald Macleod, West Highland Free Press, 20 May 2005.

Thursday, 2 June 2005

shakespearean actors

An interesting article from the Saturday Guardian Review of 21 May 2005: 'Olivier and Gielgud set the template for portraying Shakespeare's heroes. But their performances would baffle us today, says Michael Pennington.'

blessings in disguise

'Maybe it's a blessing in disguise.' 'If it is, it's very heavily disguised.' We heard this exchange (the retort was worded slightly differently) in two separate programmes last night - first in a documentary about Churchill last night (Clemmie and Winston, after his 1945 election defeat, I think), then later in Blackadder The Third.

chairman miaow

David Baddiel had a cat which he called Chairman Miaow.

autism and aspergers

Just watched a C4 documentary about a school not far from here for children with autism and aspergers, which was much more worthwhile than reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.