Monday, 31 January 2011

No passion in the world is equal to...

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.
- a H G Wells quote currently on the home page of the Guardian style guide.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

three books

Clearing a couple of books off my 'read books' pile. Neither of these have page numbers marked in them for quotations to note (I've got quite a backlog of those, that's what the pile's about really), and I read them so long ago that I don't remember now what I wanted to note down about them, which is a shame as I surely did want to otherwise I wouldn't have put them there, but I did enjoy them both - Man Plus by Frederik Pohl and A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle. The latter I especially enjoyed, a children's book genuinely suitable for adults too.

The Unexpected Guest by Agatha Christie I read one day this week, a novelisation of a play of hers, in which the too-obvious solution turned out to be the solution, not great.

john b taylor on ezekiel

Quotes from the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (IVP, 1969; 2009 reprint) on Ezekiel by John B Taylor.

On Ezekiel 20:6 (p156):
The first stage of Israel's history is marked by God's promise of a 'land flowing with milk and honey', a consciously extravagant description of a blessing of superlative worth (cf Jer 3:19). The only stipulation made was the rejection of the 'idols of Egypt' (7), a command which was totally ignored (8). There is no indication in the Pentateuch of the religious life of the Israelites in Egypt, but it is safe to assume that they were not very successful in maintaining this religious purity, if later history is anything to go by, and we can imagine the long and difficult task Moses had to educate his people to accept the Yahweh-revelation which had been made to him at the burning bush. The demand of the first of the Ten Commandments implies that Israel had to move out of a stage of the acceptance of other gods into an exclusive worship of Yahweh.

On Ezekiel 36:1-38 (p221):
.... The order of leader, land and people is an interesting indication both of the recognition of the importance of national leadership in Israel, and also of the inseparable relationship between a people and the physical contours of the land where they dwelt. The first point we readily recognise today, but the second is much less easy for us to appreciate. It does not necessarily imply a belief in localised deities, though the Old Testament did have a high regard for the locations of sanctuaries where God appeared to their forefathers .... But it is to be set alongside such facts as the place of Canaan, the promised land, in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, and the selection of Jerusalem or Mount Zion as the place where the Lord was thought particularly to dwell and where his worship was to be carried on. To those who feel that this is altogether too materialistic a concept of God and too constricting for the God of the whole earth, the enlightened Israelite would probably answer that it is no more unreasonable than that the God of all time should declare one day in seven as his own and that the God of all nature should claim a tenth of its produce for himself. Authority over the whole is witnessed to by the surrender of the part. So the Hebrews regarded the actual land where they lived, the mountains, the valleys, the plains and the rivers, as a kind of God's acre in the world, and its welfare was intimately bound up with the welfare of God's people who lived in it.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

people will do *what* in the future?

Nice cartoon on the Internet Evangelism Day website, 25 May 2010.

Spaceman in a 1940s/50s office with four suited men. Them first, then him:
- So you're saying people will 'Tweet' what they're eating for *breakfast*?
- And 'upload' pictures of their breakfasts to a 'facebook'?
- And other people will look at the breakfasts and make comments?
- No offense, future man, but is everyone in your time retarded?
- Sorry to burst your bubble, dudes, but you asked. Yes, that's the future.

How novels came to terms with the internet

We spend hours on the web, but you wouldn't know that from reading contemporary fiction. Novelists have gone to great lengths – setting stories in the past or in remote places – to avoid dealing with the internet. Is this finally changing, asks Laura Miller
- Guardian, 15 January.

Interesting, though long, article. Puts me in mind of the observation that many thrillers and horror movies of days gone by would have been without thrill, without horror and over in five minutes if mobile phones existed.

Monday, 24 January 2011

husband tests bullet proof glass with his wife

husband tests bullet proof glass with his wife
- striking b&w documentary clip on YouTube (poster says it's from the Thirties)

Friday, 21 January 2011

private eye christmas cartoons

From the 24 December issue:

TV-series-style Batman and Robin sit under Christmas tree with presents. Batman has just opened his present from Robin, two large words saying 'Sock!'. Batman says, "Socks again, Robin!? I wanted KERPOWS!"

Judge saying to snowman in dock, 'It is alleged that you did pose as a clergyman in order to carry out sham marriage ceremonies...'

Couple at door listening to carollers in snow, wife saying, 'I do love the traditional Christmas songs'. The carollers are singing, 'You scumbag! You maggot! You cheap lousy faggot!'

Lady with wooden spoon looking at a shelf-ful of ingredients. The ingredients - brandy, peel, raisins, suet, sugar, spices, apple - say 'Oh no! She's going to make mincemeat of us!'

Saturday, 15 January 2011

book progress

A few months ago I got rid of all the Grantas I'd been accumulating, except the two I was reading, the London one I've read and is now on the London shelves, and the Film one which I will read. I'm too easily enslaved by a list, and I didn't have enough real interest in reading most of them in their own right.

Similarly last week I disposed of all my Arden Shakespeares except Hamlet, of course, and Macbeth. With the best will in the world I wouldn't get through them all. Again I'd been collecting them, with a list, and had most of them.

My aim is to have no double shelving. My current reading shelf by my bedside has almost hit single-shelfdom. (The shelf below it, which acts as a 'new arrivals' bookshelf and is where most of my purchases go in the first instance, has overflowed its double shelving so some redistribution, and reading, is required - though clearing it by starting to read them obviously has implications for the current reading shelf above.)

I can get away with a row of CDs in front of a row of books, since you can still the books behind, but DVDs and videos you can't get away with, and they've been the growth area in double shelving in recent years.

gazza agonistes; 'tell him he's ray wilson'

Just finished last night Granta 45, the title article being Gazza Agonistes, by Ian Hamilton, which was subsequently published by itself, possibly expanded.

One extract from the Gascoigne article (for it is about Paul Gascoigne) worth noting is a story on p110 about Tony Dorigo, in a World Cup qualifier against San Marino in I think 1993, which I've heard applied to various players, but this implies this is a true instance (if not necessarily the first or only instance):

'In fact, Gascoigne was by no means the feeblest England man on view. Nobody played well and the full backs, Dixon and Dorigo, probably had most to answer for .... At one point, after Dorigo had been grounded with concussion, the England trainer told Graham Taylor: "Tony's hurt - he doesn't know who he is." To which Taylor is supposed to have replied: "Tell him he's Ray Wilson."'

the gum thief, and wallace and gromit in hampstead

I nearly gave up on The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland, but I whizzed through the remainder in the end instead. I still find it very hard to leave a book unfinished, even if I'm not enjoying it. Despite the many other books there are to read. I didn't find the characters or the story very interesting, though hopefully I'm not losing my ability to be interested in stories about people whose lives are different from my own experience. I don't think so, though; I just wasn't engaged with them. The book within the book, which one of the characters was writing, was a similarly unengaging story which was essentially Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, though surprisingly no reference was made to this similarity.

The only thing worth quoting was this, and not in a good way, but because it reflects a quite wrong view of British people and culture (of course British writers write similarly peculiar things about North America), p175 in my 2008 Bloomsbury edition:

[from young North American woman's letter home from London] It's *great* here, Roger, art and beauty and music and stuff everywhere - I feel like Gloria, which is scary - except every time I look at the price on anything I faint. How can these people afford to live in their own country? We got here a week ago and are staying in this hostel in a place called Hampstead, which is where Wallace and Gromit would live if they were here: nice little stone houses, and behind every door I can clearly sense the presence of various kinds of exotic cheddars.

private eye cartoon reading

Man at desk on phone. Sign on wall behind him says 'Charm School - Technical Support Dept.'. Man saying, 'Have you tried turning it off and on again...?'
- Private Eye, 10 December

Friday, 14 January 2011

christmas activities

Over the Christmas holidays we also went to see Wicked (29th), to Whipsnade Zoo (30th), to the Florence Nightingale Museum, and to Jack and the Beanstalk at the Hackney Empire (3rd).

Wicked was greatly enjoyed by everyone else we know who's seen it, but I wasn't that taken with it. It was very well performed, and was a bit of a spectacle, but the music wasn't very interesting (though some of the rhymes were rather good). The plot, while not as predictable as it appeared it was going to be at the start, made its points a bit heavy-handedly at times. It was certainly very well received by the audience. I'm certainly not averse to musicals, but I generally find the big musicals disappointing. Elphaba was played at our, matinee, performance by Nikki Davis-Jones, who was referred to in the programme as 'Standby', which seems to be a step above the understudy, and I can't imagine the main woman would have been any better. Linda Dearman as Glinda was also very good. The main man got a big hand because he won Joseph in the TV competition a few years ago; fair dos, he was perfectly fine.

Whipsnade Zoo we enjoyed a lot; it was icy and misty, and almost empty, some of the animals we didn't see but most of them we did. I expect we'd go back. Most of the year you park in car parks outside and travel around the park by foot and constantly-running coaches, but in the winter you drive in and drive around yourself from car park to car park. Actually things were surprisingly close together, and you could walk around if you had to or wanted to. The mist, which we drove through to and from, and which shrouded the views, was very atmospheric. Probably my favourite things were the wolves, though the tigers were striking in their bulk. Also interesting to learn that the hippo pool wasn't muddy but just full of their poo, and that they mark their territory thus, spraying and swishing extravagantly always, and certainly immediately after any change to clean water. The smell of the enclosure was very strong but not unpleasant (to me - Bethan had to leave it); it reminded me very much of granny's barn when I was wee when she still had a cow.

The Florence Nightingale Museum had been thoroughly overhauled since I was there years ago, and it was pretty good; the only thing that didn't work very well was that the way to listen to the audio content was with a stethoscope you were given when you arrived and pressed against the listening points, which was a good idea, but they were too tight and painful to use and they weren't loud enough.

The Hackney Empire panto was good, but perhaps not the best we've seen there. Hard to tell if this is just because of overfamiliarity because we've been to quite a few there now. Clive Rowe looms large and is very good, but this time felt more like he was carrying it by himself, especially the humour. We had seats in one of the cheaper band, but were right in the first and second rows, at the end but the view was fine. In fact exactly equivalent to our seats at Wicked, which were front row right end day seats, which were queued for (not by me) for quite some time that morning.

In Jack and Wicked we noticed the move from having rice crispie mics on your cheek to having them in the centre of your forehead. I'm not sure if that's any less disconcerting.

brian epstein impersonates an officer

[Brian Epstein had to do National Service] Private Epstein was of course not destined for glory in the British army. Legendarily, they arrested him one night for 'impersonating an officer', though he had merely returned to Regents Park barracks in his immaculately correct evening clothes. Unlike most public schoolboys, he was never made an officer cadet; instead they sent him to a string of psychiatrists and, within a year, kicked him out completely.
- from a Paul du Noyer article on Brian Epstein in the December 2010 issue of Word

random and pseudorandom

Marcus said at the end that the programme itself had been random which suited the subject perfectly. Tom and I thought it had been quite carefully structured! Tim Gowers mentioned that a colleague of his, Frank Kelly, at Cambridge had been contacted by BT because, having spent millions on trying to reroute messages from exchanges, they were stumped and thought – what a realisation! – that they ought to talk to a leading man in the field at Cambridge. He told them what to do in about ten sentences and the problem was solved.
- from Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time Newsletter - Random and Pseudorandom - 13/01/2011

are we too obsessed with facebook?

Are We Too Obsessed With Facebook? Facebook profiles are like belly buttons: Everybody’s got one. Perhaps that statement’s still a bit of an exaggeration, but by the numbers, we (that is, Internet users around the globe) are becoming more obsessed with Facebook by the day. One out of every 13 Earthlings and three out of four Americans is on Facebook, and one out of 26 signs into Facebook on a daily basis. We could rattle off stats like that until the cows come home, but instead, we’d like to show you this fascinating infographic from SocialHype and OnlineSchools.org.
- Interesting infographic via Mashable (12 January).

Monday, 10 January 2011

staying alive in the wall

A rather good mash-up of Staying Alive and Another Brick In The Wall, from Wax Audio.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

christmas at the geffrye museum

About.com's London travel editor's article on Christmas at the Geffrye Museum, where they decorate each of the period rooms in a way that reflects the way they celebrated Christmas. The article has photos of each with accompanying text from the information boards in the rooms.

what we can learn from victorian 'hypocrisy'

What we can learn from Victorian 'hypocrisy': Charles Moore Reviews 'Sinful Sex and the Demon Drink' (BBC2).
- Charles Moore's review of one of Ian Hislop's series 'The age of the do-gooders' (which we have recorded but not watched yet), in the Daily Telegraph, 19 December. An interesting article (and series, I'm sure - Ian Hislop's documentaries are usually very good), but the most striking thing about it is the assertion, 'The fact is that a significant number of good teachers have paedophilic tendencies.' Very odd.

Opening paras: 'It is strange that the editor of Private Eye should have become one of the most morally subtle presenters on television, but true. Ian Hislop is not one of those boring people who, as they get older, go from one extreme to the other. He has not suddenly converted from a drunken, scoffing, dissolute youth to a starchy middle-aged puritanism. He remains satirical and funny. But he is clearly interested in the moral impulse in society, and does not dismiss it as mere hypocrisy.
'Hislop's approach was particularly valuable in this, the last of his series of three programmes, The Age of the Do-Gooders, because it is in relation to sex and drink that we get our easiest laughs at the expense of the Victorians. What humbugs they all were, we say complacently. Boldly, and in the spirit of genuine inquiry so often absent from television history, Hislop decided to take them seriously.'

Final para: 'I began by saying that Hislop displayed moral subtlety in these programmes. This was most apparent in his treatment of the Christian motives of almost all his subjects. He made them clear, without bashing the point. From their Christianity came a deep belief in the goodness and the sinfulness of every human being, and the importance of the victory of the one over the other. Their faith also made them believe in change, both in human society and in the human heart. What Hislop was saying, gently, is that we feel the lack of their faith today.'

Saturday, 8 January 2011

supersonics split

The band I enjoyed most live last year, The Supersonics from India, have split up, I learn from two stories here and here on an Indian indie music site. Interestingly, the singer/songwriter/leadguitarist is doing a course in sound engineering in Glasgow, so maybe he'll pursue his musical career here.

a middle earth name constructor dictionary

Douglas sent me a photo of part of a document he'd found recently in his loft which I'd written and given to him, which brought back some memories. I said this in reply:

I remember creating a name-part dictionary using The Complete Guide To Middle Earth, I think. I then found out what some of our names meant - me, you, ?Ally, ?Chris, ?Malcolm - and then working out Middle Earth translations; I remember passing options on, and that photo suggests I gave quite a lot of options. I'm pretty sure you had Vornin already, though; I suspect I hadn't realised this was how you had come up with it before I did this.

When I think of this the image that comes to mind is of some of us sitting in the back of Ally's kitchen watching telly; I can't have been doing it there, so maybe I handed them out there, or we talked about it there. My memory of what we watched on that telly is The Young Ones, but that's not necessarily the same memory.

I also have a memory that I was doing it when I should have been revising for exams. If your date of November 81 is correct then it would have been O grade prelims.

My handwriting was neater then, thanks to not trying to join up the letters.

The things we did before the internet. I regularly think of this 'dictionary' I made, and other listy things, and the hours I would put in gathering, collating, writing down information, things that an equivalent (1981-1967) fourteen-year-old boy would today find online in a second. I can't bring myself to Google it yet, but doubtless there are several hundred such Middle Earth language resources online now, many of which will have translation facilities.

It puts me in mind of a Tom Stoppard play, Arcadia, which is set in two times, present day and ?18th century, and involves mathematicians. One thing I remember from it, which I'm sure is historically accurate, is that there was a mathematician character in the olden days sequence who spent their entire adult life calculating number sequences and such like which would take a second on a computer today.

Do teenage boys do listy things any more, I wonder, or what do they do with the time they save by everything being online? What would I do? I think you would still want that sense of doing your own research and making your own discoveries and tables and maps and charts and lists. Maybe you're the person who puts it online. Do you still do it if scores have done it before you and put it online?

printer

Today we bought a new printer - our old one, a Hewlett Packard, had stopped printing out black; we'd had it quite a few years but hadn't used it that much. We got an Epson SX425W all in one - printer, copier, scanner - which was wireless. We got it at John Lewis, where - as per online research last night - it was reduced from £119.95 to £49.

It came with a set of ink cartridges - black and three colours. A replacement set costs £39. Essentially we were buying a set of ink cartridges with a wireless printer/scanner/copier thrown in for a tenner. All the profit for the printer companies is in the subsequent consumables.

rush

A recent post from Alex on Rush, with a link to this article on the BBC. Some time ago now I worked through their albums on We7 from start to late 80s. When I was in school the two I really liked were 2112 and Moving Pictures, and it turned out still to be the case. I knew I'd still like Moving Pictures, and it's odd to me that the subsequent albums did nothing for me (I'd heard some of them or bits of them before) though it would be hard to put my finger on what was qualitatively different about them. I don't think it was just familiarity, that I"d heard Moving Pictures more often. I was a bit surprised that 2112 stood up so well to my memory of it, actually, and that it did stand out from the others around it to me. I must have heard all the other pre-Moving Pictures albums at school, though not so often certainly, and I don't remember hearing the first three though I probably did and remember a three-disc set they came in. The first couple struck me as very Led Zeppeliny when I listened to them again online. Beyond those two albums I still like The Trees very much. Musical taste's a funny old thing.

People seem to respect them and like the fact that they don't take themselves too seriously. I can't remember if I've linked to this Rush thread on the Word blog before, which has some nice comments and links.

It also struck me on 21st December that this was Rush Day - 2112. A quick Google showed that, of course, I was far from the first person to think of that. Just as on 10 October, when it was 101010, I worked out this was 42 in binary, which made it Douglas Adams Day, and a quick Google confirmed that plenty other people had thought of this also. Never google any idea you have for anything, you will be crushed by your lack of originality and creativity.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

I'm gonna love you too

According to Snopes, the popular stories about how The Crickets got their name aren't true, unsurprisingly, but there is a real, accidental cricket to be heard in the fade out of I'm Gonna Love You Too.

visiting monopoly's london streets

How have Monopoly's London streets changed in the game's 75 years? Armed with a Monopoly board and dice, Michael Hann and historian Jerry White roll their way around the modern capital
- Guardian, 28 December.

A couple of years ago I dotted around London for two days taking photos at the London Monopoly locations for a photo article, which turned out quite well, though it was an emergency last-minute thing to fill in two pages which were unexpectedly empty just before the deadline.

paper on adam and biogenetics

How Does a BioLogos Model Need to Address the Theological Issues Associated with an Adam Who Was Not the Sole Genetic Progenitor of Humankind?
- article on BioLogos.org by Denis Alexander, via Faraday Institute newsletter. I may read rather than skim the article some day. Biologos.org new to me.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

gerry rafferty

A set of articles from the Guardian on Gerry Rafferty's death on Tuesday:
- news item
- obituary
- on Baker Street
- life in pictures

The most interesting fact: he was still earning £80,000 a year from Baker Street alone.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

books balance sheet

Yet again a year has passed in which I have bought more books than I have read. This has been the case ever since I started keeping track several years ago. This is not a sensible or realistic practice.

nina simone's daughter

Nina Simone called her daughter Simone, I learned from the new Radio Times. Nina Simone wasn't even her own real name, which makes calling her daughter Simone Simone seem doubly perverse.