Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Antikythera Mechanism

Sounds like a Robert Ludlum thriller, is actually this. Am I right to be extremely excited in a sort of Atlantean way?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Henry Treese

Well, not really Henry Treese. There's a poem by Henry Treese which, I think, starts 'Like the fey goose-girl in the haunted wood', and which I would have liked to quote here, because it goes with the picture. But it's not in the library here, and it's vanishingly unlikely to be in the bookshops in town. It is, if you're interested, included in Edward Germain's Penguin anthology Surrealist Poetry in English. Which is out of print. But, if you have access to a university library (or my bedroom), then you can find it and have someone read you the poem while looking at this picture, which will provide an advanced multi-media experience for those of you who have nothing better to do. It's quite a good poem, by the way.


I think this is what they call the global market-place.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Breaking News

O.J. Simpson book reconsidered. So that's alright then.


Does this word exist? Anyhow, very little colour in Iceland at the moment.

A Damned Lie

Swans' feathers are not as white as snow.

Would the crook-necked bird I saw serpenting across the surface of the harbour earlier today have been a cormorant? In which case, why the white neck? Sadly, this is the best photo I could get.
Maybe I'll by a pack of frozen prawns and squid and feed them from the shore, enticing them close to me with the promise of crustacea and cephalopoda. A crazy plan, but it might just...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Amazing Developments

Sorry for the slight delay: the internet's been down in my room for a few days, so I've only been able to use the absolute emergency, fifteen minutes a pop, internet in the library. Which left little time for frivolity. Or even talking about the weather.

Well, Friday was nice. Little wind, a brisk -10ºC.

And then when it got dark it got warmer and blusterous.

And now it's all like this.

Which is fun as far as snowmen and snowballs are concerned, but I move at approximately 50% of my preferred walking speed.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

For Your Information

It's freezing really quite hard. When I went to the outdoor swimming pool yesterday, the air temperature was -6ºC. My hair froze. This is a note to my brothers not to forget their swimming trunks when they come to visit me. Nor their Arctic exploration gear.

O.J. Simpson

O.J. Simpson is publishing a book. It is a 'hypothetical memoir' called If I Did It, Here's How it Happened. In it, as you might be able to guess, Mr Simpson describes how he would have murdered his wife if this were a crime he had committed. It's said to be very realistic. Two things: First, Humbert Humbert's diary being found by his second wife, Lolita's mother.

'You are ruining my life and yours,' I said quietly. 'Let us be civilised people. It is all your hallucination. You are crazy, Charlotte. The notes you found were fragments of a novel. Your name and hers were put in by mere chance. Just because they came handy. Think it over. I shall bring you a drink.'

Secondly, how far can this go? Can I write a book called If I Were Being Libellous, Here's Some Offensive Speculation and expect to get away with it?

I don't know if this post is inspired by the fact that it rhymes with the previous one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

William Empson

Note on Local Flora

There is a tree native in Turkestan,
Or further east towards the Tree of Heaven,
Whose cold hard cones, not being wards to time,
Will leave their mother only for good cause;
Will ripen only in a forest fire;
Wait, to be fathered as was Bacchus once,
Through men's long lives, that image of time's end.
I knew the Phoenix was a vegetable.
So Semele desired her deity
As this in Kew thirsts for the Red Dawn.

The Tin Men

'Take your department, Rowe. Now, you're producing a programme which will permit all the bingo games in the country to be run simultaneously from one central computer. Well, that's obvious. It had to come. There's nothing very revolutionary about putting such a purely mechanical process of randomising and correlating out to a computer.'
'No, no.'
'Then you'll start producing a programme for automating the football results. Again, it had to come. Professional football is becoming increasingly uneconomical, but the pools industry has to carry on somehow. It doesn't take even the stupidest wee businessman long to see that paying twenty-two men to do nothing but make a random choice between win, lose, and draw is economic madness. Once you've done football it won't take people long to see that you can replace all the racecourses in the country with one quite simple and inexpensive computer. And of course cricket. When takings at the gate have fallen low enough to cure any tendency to sentiment, people will notice that a computer is a far more suitable tool than a cricket team for producing a complex score sheet from the variables of ground moisture, light, surface wear on ball, fallibility of wicket-keeper, and so on. In fact all the complex mass of statistics produced by the sports industry can without exception be produced not only more economically by computer, but also with more significant patterns and more amazing freaks. I take it that the main object of organised sports and games is to produce a profusion of statistics?'
'Oh, yes,' said Rowe. 'So far as I know.'
'No one has ever suggested any other reason, have they?'
'I don't think so.'
'No, of course not. But one needs to get these fundamental considerations straight before one builds on them. Anyway, if that is so, I think we can assume that a computer is a more efficient statistic-producing machine than any possible combination of horses, dogs, or muscular young men.'

I copy this, of course, while waiting for England to kick off against Holland.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

Monday, November 06, 2006

More Modern Art

There's an exhibition of "American Art in the Third Millennium" at the Modern Art Museum at the moment - it's a bit repetitive and naïve in a way I don't like. For example, there's one exhibit with photos of Tom Cruise and a Palestinian suicide bomber next to each other - what do we think? Suicide is as dangerous as celebrity? No, it isn't. America and the "Orient" are opposed, with America trivial and "The Orient" serious? Again, not so simple. The artist just cut two striking pictures from the newspaper? In which case, I'm in the wrong career. But here's a few pictures of some of the exhibits. This isn't to endorse them.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's all gone a bit Hitchcock...

Marian is out here for a week, which is lovely (of course, it's only Day 2 of the visit, but I'm willing to stick my neck out). It has also, I assume completely coincidentally, decided to blow a hurricane. Last night we were kept up by the wind howling through the cracks in my previously impermeable window, and we woke up this morning to horizontal rain and the noise of flags tearing themselves free from their flagpoles. So, naturally, we decided to go and feed the ducks: they're having a tough enough time of it without having their rations withdrawn simply because a spot of drizzle. All was going well until we attracted the attention of the large flock of seagulls at the other end of the Tjörn.

Assyrians and wolves on the fold had nothing on it. Except the number of purple and gold seagulls one sees is probably limited. But it soon became an all-out war between the swimmers and the flyers, with the seagulls (unable to get video footage of this) dropping down to pick bread off the waters, and occasionally off the backs of the ducks and swans, when the bread didn't fly quite where we wanted it to go. Of course, the swimmers had their secret weapon

which was probably the most impressive thing I saw today, even if I have not a clue what it is. Battle finished once we ran out of ammunition.