30 September 2011

Sublimely Ridiculous

This week's selection of things which attracted my attention and which you may have missed ...

Can the human body combust spontaneously? Most of us think not, unless you're an Irish Coroner.

Fake degree? Check. Fake Rolex? Check. Fake girlfriend? What? You want fake girlfriend? OK, then see here and here.

Bored with your current home? Fancy your own Lord of the Rings film set? Then build your own Hobbit home. Must admit it looks comfy, but where's the bathroom?

Now you've mastered being an architect here's just the thing for your design studio ... Use your Amazon Kindle as an Etch-a-Sketch. Sadly available only in the US.

And finally the big news of the week: Wasabi fire alarm scoops Ig Nobel prize! Yes, it's that time of year when the Ig Nobel awards are announced. If you've missed out on them before they are serious scientific prizes which honour achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think". Full reports here and here.

Enjoy your weekend!

29 September 2011

Quotes of the Week

Well there's just one good quote this week ...

I have a very proper present for your Lordship. I know your love of antiquities makes you a little superstitious. I have an elderstick, that was cut in the minute that the sun entered Taurus. Such a planetary cutting of it gives virtue to stop bleeding to which you know you are subject. If you desire to know more of the time and manner of cutting it, you must consult Aubrey's Miscellanies. You may meet with it without doubt amongst your father's collection of mad books.
[Dr William Stratford writing to Edward Harley (son of the Earl of Oxford), 28 June 1711, quoted in Anthony Powell, John Aubrey and His Friends]

28 September 2011

Fact of the Week : Kissing

Two-thirds of us tilt our heads to the right when we kiss, and it's not correlated with handedness.

[Reported in, inter alia, Sheril Kirshenbaum, The Science of Kissing]

27 September 2011

26 September 2011

Word of the Week : Chimera

1. A fabled fire-breathing monster of Greek mythology, with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail, killed by Bellerophon.
2. A grotesque monster, formed of the parts of various animals.
3. An unreal creature of the imagination, a mere wild fancy; an unfounded conception.
4. An organism (commonly a plant) in which tissues of genetically different constitution co-exist as a result of grafting, mutation, or some other process.
5. A horrible and fear-inspiring phantasm, a bogy.
6. Any fish of the family Chimæridæ.

Listography : Celebrity Beer

I've not taken part in Kate's weekly Listography for the last couple of weeks largely because I've struggled to be motivated by the themes. Well that's life. But I thought that I should try to make an effort again this week. And as often that's proven to be harder than I expected as Kate is asking us to nominate five celebrities we would like to go for a beer with.

Surely that can't be difficult? Well yes, because first one has to decide what "celebrity" means. The mind goes to TV persons, footballers, WAGS, pop singers and actors. Well if that's what it means count me out because almost to a woman (are only of them actually men?) they bore me rigid — if I've even noticed them to start with. And then there is the question as to whether they have to be alive, or if dead celebrities count?

Therefore I decided that "celebrity" was whatever I wanted it to mean and I could include anyone I liked as long as they had a public persona and were alive. So here are five, who at the final reckoning may or may not be the top five. Who knows?

Alice Roberts. I've mentioned Alice any number of times before here because she's just all-round brilliant: qualified medic, teaches anatomy, anthropologist, archaeologist, author, broadcaster and an excellent artist. I also think she's hot! One of the people I would love to sit in the pub with and just talk the evening away.

Professor Mick Aston. The original lead archaeologist with the stripy jumpers on Channel 4's Time Team. He's another who I would love to just be able to chat with over beer, partly because I imagine a fascinating conversation but also because of his interest in the development of English churches and monasticism.

Dalai Lama. Another old friend of these lists — and not just because I am more attracted to Buddhism (albeit Zen) than any other philosophy. How can one not want to talk with one of the world's most important spiritual leaders. But not just that, he seems to have a slightly wicked sense of humour!

Tony Benn. Yes, the British Labour Party politician, former Cabinet Minister and campaigner, now well into his eighties. I'd want to have a drink with him not for his politics (I disagree with much, but not all, of what he believes in) but because he is such a respected parliamentarian and constitutional historian with great insight into the workings of both history and state.

And now it is awful to say it but I get a bit stumped for my fifth nomination. There are so many people one could choose: Astronomer Patrick Moore, chefs Brian Turner and Rick Stein, BBC Weather Presenter Laura Tobin (a cheeky little pixie if ever I saw one!), authors Terry Pratchett and AN Wilson, historian Simon Schama, comedian Rory Bremner ... But I think for my final choice I'll pick ...

Dick Strawbridge. Yes, him of the giant moustache. He's another broadcaster, engineer, ecologist, ex-army Colonel and an absolute all-round nutter! I first noticed him presenting the BBC series "Crafty Tricks of War" in which he built — and usually blew up — all manner of nefarious military devices.

Well now, that's a strange set of bedfellows if ever there was one. But in tell you what, I bet they'd all get on well together over some beer, after all in their own ways they're all completely out to lunch on a variety of ancient bicycles!

25 September 2011

Where does it all come from?

Our local auction houses seem to have had a quiet time recently, presumably because of summer holidays, but one has a bumper sale coming up this week. It contains the usual curiously described and strangely juxtaposed tat amongst a selection of rather nice (if boring) old silverware, fish knives etc. Here's a selection that caught my eye. As so often the sting is in the tail with many of these.

Two portraits of young women, said to be Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, each bearing signature Stephen Ward and dated (19)62, framed as a pair.
[Framed as a pair they were indeed!]

A silver 'toy' cherub on a bench, another by an incomplete easel, another playing patience at a separate table, London import marks ... and an indistinctly marked cherub on a pig.

A collection of Golliwog china.
[Thought you weren't supposed to say Golliwog these days?]

An impressive pair of Indian part-silver anklets, hinged and with pin fastening, each chased with a lion amongst foliage. circa 1900

Six early bike and street lamps.

A Pedigree doll with opening eyes
[I hope it's registered with the Kennel Club]

A quantity of early vales.

A varied and interesting lot to include 1960′s wallpaper sample books, sewing items including wool, thread, buttons, buckles, embroidery items, fabric, ladies’ clothes, bags, umbrellas, purses, cane, etc.
[The contents of the back of someone's wardrobe?]

A wooden double stoned doll’s house with metal windows and 'tiled' roof ...
[One spliff not enough, eh?]

Miscellaneous small items including three green glass eye baths and one blue example, brassware, ceramics, etc., and a Billy Bunter book.

A lion mask bras doorknocker.
[Brings a whole new concept to the meaning of "knockers"]

A stuffed pheasant and a similar owl.
[You know you always wanted one!]

A pair of ibex horns on a wooden mound.
[Just to complete the medieval great hall]

An interesting lot including a quantity of university graduation robes with makers’ names, including Ryder & Amies, Cambridge (red and black); also a carton of related objects including sashes, ermine trimmed capes, mortar boards, velvet berets, etc.
[Bought your degree? Complete the set with some cast-off robes]

And no, I really don't make these up!

23 September 2011

It's Been a Busy Week!

There seems to have been a lot going on this week which drew my attention but which I didn't get to write about here. So here's a summary (in no particular order) ...

First an interesting item on how belief can kill. It's a curious phenomenon but even so I can't bring myself to read the book. See The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills.

Much more interesting and useful is a long article on the National Geographic site about the workings of Teenage Brains and how this should be seen as a sensible evolutionary trait. It might also help all of us understand and relate with teenagers. It certainly seems to explain quite a lot.

Next an investigative journalism piece about the Fukishima Disaster and especially the long-term effects on the Japanese population. The suggestion is that the effects of stress etc. will be far more significant than the actual radiation doses (I guess excluding the immediately affected workers). For my money the article still doesn't delve deep enough — but the journo writing it probably couldn't get access to do so.

Law and Lawyers has written several pieces about the worrying machinations of the Metropolitan Police in attempting to get The Guardian to reveal some of its sources. First they were going to use the Official Secrets Act, then PACE 1984. For now though it seems the dogs of war remain caged.

Also this week Obiterj at Law and Lawyers has pointed out that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 comes into force. This means the next General Election will be on 7 May 2015 — unless both Houses of Parliament decide otherwise by a two-thirds majority.

Which for a scientist somewhat pales into insignificance beside the apparent result from a team at CERN that they have detected neutrinos doing the impossible and travelling faster than light. But hold on guys, they don't quite relieve it either and they're asking the scientific community for help to test their results. Good scientific commentary by Adrian Cho at Wired and Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy.

Finally back to earth. There's been lots of twittering in the dovecotes about female orgasm, how it relates to evolutionary pressures and to male orgasm. Also some good demonstrations on how to demolish a (supposedly) scientific study. The best of the critiques I've seen is from Scicurious. Maybe you girls should just be allowed to enjoy it?

Have an orgasmic weekend!

22 September 2011

We Live in Peaceful Times

What do you mean, you don't agree? According to Michael Shermer in his article The Decline of Violence in the October 2011 issue of Scientific American, there is very much less violence now, per head of population, than there was in times of old.
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes​ ... argued in his 1651 book, Leviathan, that ... acts of violence would be commonplace without a strong state to enforce the rule of law. But aren’t they? What about 9/11 and 7/7, Auschwitz and Rwanda ... What about all the murders, rapes and child molestation cases we hear about so often? Can anyone seriously argue that violence is in decline?
Take homicide. Using old court and county records in England, scholars calculate that rates have plummeted by a factor of 10, 50 and, in some cases, 100—for example, from 110 homicides per 100,000 people per year in 14th-century Oxford to fewer than one homicide per 100,000 in mid-20th-century London. Similar patterns have been documented in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
As for wars, prehistoric peoples were far more murderous than states in percentages of the population killed in combat, [Harvard University social scientist Steven] Pinker told me: “On average, nonstate societies kill around 15 percent of their people in wars, whereas today’s states kill a few hundredths of a percent.”
I have no reason to doubt either Shermer or Pinker, but, yes, I was surprised too.

[38/52] The Old Warrior Sleeps

[38/52] The Old Warrior Sleeps

Week 38 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

H the Cat dozing on my desk after a hard night down the rat mines (in his dreams). He's rising 13 (we don't know exactly), not as agile as he once was and is beginning to feel his age. Much like the rest of us!

Quotes of the Week

Oooo ... have we got a thought-provoking bunch this week!

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
[William James]

Life is short, smile while you still have teeth!
[Thoughts of Angel]

A shepherd in William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale wishes "there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting."
[David Dobbs at National Geographic]

[Natural] Selection is hell on dysfunctional traits. If adolescence is essentially a collection of them – angst, idiocy, and haste; impulsiveness, selfishness, and reckless bumbling – then how did those traits survive selection?
[David Dobbs at National Geographic]

If there was a God, why on earth would he want us to 'believe' and/or 'have faith'? Given that he (she or it) is omnipotent, and can therefore by definition do anything that he wants, why doesn't he just make us have faith/belief hard-wired into our brains? Also, can anybody think of reasons why he would care if we have faith or if we just merrily go on ignoring him? I'm genuinely puzzled by this.
[Keith J at cix:enquire_within/54discussion]

For what are we if we are not words made flesh, or flesh expressing our meaning in words? We are memories, thoughts, feelings, ideas, pain, anguish, love, amusement, boredom, hopes and dreams. We are all these things in a sheath of skin, making our way into the unknown, and if we cannot capture it, think about it, reflect on it and own it, what do we have?

I visualize the ego as a little guy in a gray flannel suit and tight necktie. His job is to get you safely through your waking day, to make sure that you pay your electric bill and don't offend the boss. He keeps up a constant chatter, telling you to do this or that, and insisting that you pay attention to what's happening in the world around you. He takes occasional coffee breaks, like when you've driven down a familiar road, and realize when you arrive home that you have no memory of the trip. The ego has taken time out, figuring you can get home on automatic pilot. He's grateful when you finally retire for the night. He's got you in a safe place – your bedroom – where nothing is likely to happen to you. He pops up again in the morning, when you "wake down" from your wider experiences in the sleep state. He's the character who makes you look at the clock ("time" only exists in its usual sense when the ego is on the job) and nags you into getting out of bed and on your way to work. Jealous of the time you spend in your right brain, he likes to insist he's been around all the time. He hates to admit that his job isn't all there is to your experience, so he makes sure you forget your dreams. He's especially good at pretending he's never off the job. "I wasn't asleep, or not paying attention. I was just resting my eyes. I heard everything you said," he insists indignantly when you catch him at one of his coffee breaks, such as when you are wool-gathering, sleeping, or under hypnosis.
[Helen Wambach, Reliving Past Lives]

21 September 2011

Fact of the Week

The magnitude 9 earthquake that struck Japan on 11 March was one of the five most powerful shocks recorded; so powerful that it lowered the coastline by a metre and nudged Japan two metres closer to the United States.

[Jonathan Watts, "Fukushima disaster: it's not over yet", Guardian, 9 September 2011, online here]

20 September 2011

Characters Wot I Invented

We probably all do it. I certainly do. Invent fictional (and often humorous) characters that is. Characters we'd like to have inhabit our stories. So here's a challenge ... Tell us five of your fictional and humorous characters (and if possible a little about them). Here are some of mine.

Ii Ng. He's a young Japanese fashion designer.

Armin Plaastar. Young Dutch Ski Instructor. He was never quite good enough to compete in the top downhill races as he specialises in skiing on shallow slopes.

Berrick Salome. Top drawer antiques dealer somewhere in the Home Counties, probably Berkshire or Buckinghamshire.

Sir Chiltern Waternut. Retired diplomat. Specialist in Arab affairs. Always wears a tweed jacket and pince-nez.

Gaysha Bottle. 6-year-old, East End, trainee tart. Sister of Chardonnay-Madonna Bottle (age 10).

Of course there are lots more possibilities and even categories: companies, places, popular music combos, products and even books.

So, without giving away the plot of your next novel, how about you tell us a few of yours? In fact let's make this a meme so I can tag: Katy, Noreen, Jilly, Antonia, Tim.

Cartoon of the Week

19 September 2011

Word of the Week

Comprehensible to or suited to the public.
Current among the outside public; popular, ordinary.
Pertaining to the outside.

Compare with Esoteric.
Designed for, or appropriate to, an inner circle of advanced or privileged disciples.
Communicated to, or intelligible by, the initiated exclusively.
Pertaining to a select circle; private, confidential.

18 September 2011

Colour Test

Apparently 1 in 255 women and 1 in 12 men have some form of colour sight deficiency. Well yes, we know that red-green colour blindness is a largely male inherited trait. But of course it's more complicated than that.

Thanks to Ed Yong over at Discover Blogs I've just found this rather strange, and quite tricky colour acuity test. It's not a test for colour blindness as such but more about how well you differentiate colours.

Try it. It'll take about 5 minutes.

Oh and I scored 7, which seems pretty good (0 is best; 100 is worst).

There's a lot more on colour vision and colour blindness on Wikipedia.

16 September 2011

Pet Hates

Pet hates. Things which always irritate or annoy you, wherever, however and regardless of how well intentioned. We all have them! Here are a few of mine ...

What will the neighbours think? I don't give a flying wombat what the neighbours think. If they don't like what I do then too bad. I'm unlikely to be doing anything illegal. And if they think what I'm doing is immoral then it's they who have the problem because I'm very unlikely to think it's immoral.

Net curtains. See above. I have nothing to hide and nothing much worth nicking. I like light. Nay, I need the light to counter my SAD. And I like to be able to look out of the window. So we have no net curtains at home, neither do we normally draw the curtains after dark. And the first thing I do in an hotel room is to work out how to open the net curtains (and if possible open the window) and let in the light. Why do I want to live in a cave?
Muzak. I detest background music: in shops, pubs, lifts — anywhere, even at home. It is pollution — like busy wallpaper — which just clogs up brain-space to no useful effect. If I want to talk to someone I don't want to have to shout over muzak to make myself heard. And if I don't want to talk I want quiet to allow my brain to think and concentrate or just free-cycle and relax. If I want to listen to music I'll listen to what I choose, when I choose.

Unnecessary formality. Formality, like etiquette, is bogus and unnecessary; designed only to catch out the unwary. Certainly be polite and respectful — with everyone, according to the circumstances. But poncy dressing up and grovelling obsequiousness are not necessary. Why is it so necessary to bow and scrape to royals? Why do we require "gentlemen" (ladies are never mentioned!) to wear a suit in their club or if visiting a Duke or an Earl? They're human like the rest of us. Isn't it better to be normal and friendly and relaxed and treat such people as humans? None of which prevents us displaying manners and respect where it is due. If we could all just relax and be ourselves I'm sure the wheels would turn a lot more easily and need a lot less "oil".

Being expected to take part. Why am I expected to go to things I don't want to or dislike? This is something which was particularly prevalent at work: the annual dinner/dance; the Christmas booze-up; the annual golf match; whatever. Oh but you have to go; it's expected. Who expects, no-one ever says. And if I don't want to go, I'm buggered if I'm going — and no, I don't have to tell you why I find it so objectionable; just I don't want to go should be enough and should be respected. And the more you "expect" the less I want to go. Over the years I put more than one manager's nose out of joint by refusing to go to work social events. If my colleagues and I want to socialise, we will; we can organise it for ourselves.

Lying. Particularly prevalent amongst politicians, adverts, religious — most of whom I'm sure deep down know they're lying. But it also seems to be a trait of a number of cultures, especially (but not always, and not only) those of the Middle East and Asia: so often they seem to just be telling you what they think you want to hear. People don't know, so they make it up. They imagine you won't like the truth so they tell you something untrue (usually to try to sell you something), which I detest even more than a true answer which I happens not to be the one I'd like. Tell me the truth; I'm big enough and old enough to be able to handle it. Doing anything else does you no credit and makes me less likely to endear you to me (and if you're selling something it's likely illegal).

People who don't understand the word "no". The first rule of selling anything is to understand when the client is saying "no", respect it and withdraw gracefully. If I say "no" and you persist then (a) you annoy me and (b) you make me even less likely to buy from you in the future. How much you think I'm mistaken in my decision/belief is irrelevant; I've said "no" and I mean what I say. If you persist isn't this essentially attempted rape: rape of the mind?

Thinking about it the preceding few paragraphs boil down to a couple of other things I wrote on my list: thoughtlessness and bad manners which in turn lead to bad service. All of which can be easily avoided through one of my basic tenets: treat others as you would like them to treat you.

But in doing this you need to stay alert. Do not assume I think the same way you do. My morals may be different. My common sense will be different. My world view is almost certainly not yours. And none of those is any less valid, nor less deserving of respect, than yours.

Lastly, I'll mention something which really gets my goat, sheep, pigs and the rest of the farmyard up in arms. People who don't think. It is often said (and I believe there is some scientific evidence for this) that 5% of people can think and do; 5% of people actually are unable to think; but the other 90% can think but don't bother. I do not expect everyone to have the intellect of an Einstein, Stephen Hawking or Bertrand Russell — such would be totally unrealistic. But I do expect people to use what intelligence they do have to the best of their ability. Try. Try hard. Try to understand the implications of your actions; your thoughts. Try to understand why I say/believe what I do. Try to understand why other people make the (often apparently stupid) decisions they do. It'll make you more use to society. And you might just find it more interesting too.

What gets up your nose?

I've Been Amazoned!

My photobook is now available through Amazon. And that means you can also buy direct from me at a slight discount compared with buying from Blurb.

Quotes of the Week

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.
[Richard Francis Burton]

Children in the dark cause accidents … accidents in the dark cause children.
[Thoughts of Angel]

Menstruating women give off harmful fumes that will “poison the eyes of children lying in their cradles by a glance.”
[13th century De Secretis Mulierum quoted by Kate Clancey at Context & Variation]

Children conceived by menstruating women “tend to have epilepsy and leprosy because menstrual matter is extremely venemous [sic].
[13th century De Secretis Mulierum quoted by Kate Clancey at Context & Variation]

If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it.
[Pierre Gallois]

15 September 2011

[37/52] Richard Meades

Week 37 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

As Noreen has reported on her weblog, yesterday we went to Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire in search of some of her ancestors — and just to walk the streets they walked. The Meades line was an unexpected find for Noreen, both in that they come from somewhere way away from Lowestoft but also because they are a family of stonemasons.

Richard Meades

This is the gravestone of Noreen's great-great-great-great-grandfather, Richard Meades, in the churchyard at Chipping Norton. He was the stonemason responsible for the work to rebuild the church tower in the 1820s. It is Richard's stone, William MeEades who eventualy moved to Lowestoft.

Chipping Norton (or "Chippy" as the locals know it) itself is a delightful small Cotswold town built out of the local golden stone and on the side of quite a wicked hill — hardly surprising as it is supposedly the highest town on Oxfordshire. And the fact that it is on the side of hill has resulted in something quite unusual: the parish church (St Mary's) is in fact lower down the hill than most of the rest of the old town — the main street is at about the same level as the top of the church tower.

More photos of Chipping Norton over on my Flickr photostream.

Fact of the Week

You can't comb a hairy ball smoothly. Or to state it more correctly in topology: any smooth vector field on a sphere has a singular point.
[from Ian Stewart, Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures]

13 September 2011

Cartoon of the Week

You may need to click on the image for a larger (readable) version ...

12 September 2011

Word of the Week


(noun) A roundabout process or method; a twist, turn; circumlocution.

[A humorous formation from circum- + bend, with the ending of a Latin ablative plural. The first quoted use given by the OED is by Dryden is 1681.]

09 September 2011

Listography - Things I did this Summer

I've been somewhat lacking in the last few weeks in keeping up with Kate's Listography. The spirit has been willing but there just haven't been enough hours in the day. Why? Well see my previous post, and consider that I've been working a minimum of 6 hours a day, 7 days a week, for at least 6 weeks on Society/conference business.

But better late than never here's my response to Kate's Listography from last week. These are some of the things I did this summer ...

Organised and ran an international literary conference. I think I hardly need say more.

Completed and released my photo book – a month earlier than planned. I don't expect it to make me tons of money. I did it because I wanted to; it was fun; it was for me.

Wrote an academic paper and submitted it for publication. Not because I had to for work or anything, but just for the sheer hell of it!

Drank afternoon tea with an Earl. Yes, a real Earl. No names, no telling. Just a pleasant cup of tea and a chat, tête-a-tete, while he signed some books.

Ate too much fish and chips – several times. Well who wouldn't?

Glamorous? No. Mostly damned hard work!

Well that was some weekend!

I'm exhausted! I'm still trying to recover from last weekend. And here we are with the next weekend upon us!

We spent four days last weekend running what is turning into a major literary conference: the Biennial Anthony Powell Conference, organised by the Anthony Powell Society of which I am Hon. Secretary. So that means I'm the one who does all the work and carries the can.

This is the sixth conference we have run, and the fifth for which I have been the lead organiser (the exception was 2009 in Washington, DC where I still did a lot of the work). All of them have been different and each has been stunning in its own way.

But for me this one surpassed all the others. 100 delegates. 15 papers of different types plus three keynotes over two days of plenary sessions at the Naval & Military Club in London's St James's Square. A reception with charity auction which raised almost £1000 – which was at least twice what I had expected (the money goes to pay for a plaque in London to commemorate Powell). A coach tour of London followed by Sunday lunch. Then on Monday a few of us spent the day in Eton, still looking at Powell connections. All with a fantastic, friendly set of people.

Four long and tiring days. But wonderfully exhilarating days despite the odd gripes (well you can't please everyone all the time). This is some of what the delegates said:
This is my fifth conference this summer and has been far and away the best
Superb organization and time-keeping
Congratulations on a really splendid conference
Brilliant venue
Themes very well thought out, complementing each other
The setting was perfect
Excellent venue and organisation coupled with lots of friendly and interesting people
Great work all round; congratulations
Reminded me how much I enjoy Powell’s writings
Did we make a profit? Don't know yet as I haven't got all the bills in, but we'll not be far off at least breaking even (which is all we aim to do).

And I didn't have time to take a single photo! But here I am (in blue shirt), in the sumptuous surroundings of the Naval & Military Club, playing at being auctioneer (photo by Graham & Dorothy Davie).

Now I wonder if I can get enough lie-ins before doing it all again in 2013?

Ten Things - September

Number 9 in my monthly series of "Ten Things" for 2011. Each month I list one thing from each of ten categories which will remain the same for each month of 2011. So at the end of the year you have ten lists of twelve things about me.
  1. Something I Like: Photography
  2. Something I Won't Do: Take any more exams
  3. Something I Want To Do: Get Rid of my Depression
  4. A Blog I Like: The Loom
  5. A Book I Like: Florence Greenberg, Jewish Cookery
  6. Some Music I Like: Pink Floyd, Learning to Fly
  7. A Food I Like: Chips
  8. A Food or Drink I Dislike: Marron Glacé
  9. A Word I Like: Verisimilitude
  10. A Quote I Like: Pro bono publico, nil bloody panico. [Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles]

08 September 2011

Quotes of the Week

Not a lot in the way of quotes this week, although those that follow are relatively chunky, as we've spent 4 days over the weekend running an international literary conference (more of which anon, I hope).

I believe Tony Blair is an out-and-out rascal, terminally untrustworthy and close to being unhinged. I said from the start that there was something wrong in his head, and each passing year convinces me more strongly that this man is a pathological confidence-trickster. To the extent that he ever believes what he says, he is delusional. To the extent that he does not, he is an actor whose first invention – himself – has been his only interesting role.
[Matthew Parris, The Times, March 2006; quoted in Oliver James, Affluenza]

Tea Pigs uses only whole leaf teas, whole herbs, whole berries and whole flowers. No dust in sight. Served in biodegradable tea temples.

I am really sorry to see my countrymen trouble themselves about politics. If men were wise, the most arbitrary princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the freest government is compelled to be a tyranny. Princes appear to me to be fools. Houses of Commons and Houses of Lords appear to me to be fools; they seem to me to be something else besides human life.
[William Blake, Politicians and Politics]

So there you are ... politics diluted with tea. What could be more British?!

07 September 2011

[36/52] W8 Postbox

[36/52] W8 Postbox by kcm76
[36/52] W8 Postbox, a photo by kcm76 on Flickr.

Week 36 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

Hexagonal Victorian postbox in Pembroke Gardens, London, W8.

I love Victorian postboxes. They are always so ornate and much better designed than the modern ones.

Translated into 1960s colour using PaintShopPro.

Fact of the Week

The average time a porn film is watched in a hotel room is 12 minutes.

Quote: Consistency

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.

[Bernard Berenson]

Available Now: Zen Mischief Photographs

[Fanfare of trumpets!]

It's here! The first spin-off from this blog, my new photo book, is available at last. Yes, it's been a well kept secret and been in gestation for quite some months, but eventually it's here.

Here's (some of) what I say in the Introduction:
I am fairly sure I took my first photographs with my father's Kodak Box Brownie although I don't know how old I was. But I do have a series of old 620 roll film images of my parents and I on holiday at a nudist club when I would have been around 9 or 10; and as the series contains one of my parents but not me, it seems reasonable to assume I took it. And I know had my first cheap camera by the time I was about 12.

I've been taking photographs on and off ever since. And that's now 50 years ... But this book is not really designed as a celebration of my 50 years taking photographs. It is intended only as a collection of images I like from the last few years ...

I do not pretend that these are world-beating images. Nor would I claim to be an especially good photographer. I've had no formal photographic training, but learnt the basics at my father's knee and by going to camera club with him as a teenager. It was more difficult then: we didn't have cameras which did everything for us; exposures had to be calculated; every shot cost us real money to develop and print; and you had to wait days or even weeks to see your successes and failures. Like the rest of modern life photography is now cheap and instant.

My approach to photography has always been to take what I see; what interests, intrigues or amuses me. It is about trying to see things and make them into a picture ...
Available now on Blurb. Not yet on Amazon, but it should be eventually.

Keith C Marshall
Zen Mischief Photographs: Images from a Space-Time Warp
McTigger Books, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9570017-0-1
RRP £37.50

06 September 2011

Cartoon of the Week

Word of the Week

Zariba or Zareba.

In the Sudan and adjacent parts of Africa, a fence or enclosure, usually constructed of thorn-bushes, for defence against the attacks of enemies or wild beasts.
A fenced or fortified camp.
A formation of troops for defence against attack.