fails to recharge my phone.
Mother still seems weak & ill. Finish her copy of an early-60s
Encyclopaedia of Ancient and Medieval History' in
English. Packed with detail, it traverses the centuries
at breakneck pace. Full of fantastic forgotten princes with names
like Rollo, and towns with names like Merv. Very Eurocentric,
despite the effort to be universal, with China and India often
getting a paragraph each at the end of a twelve-page chapter
about Europe & the Near East. Refreshing to see
Hungary gets five paragraphs in the whole book, about the same
as sub-Saharan Africa. Within Europe a strong Francocentric bias.
Understandable in a way if France had 15 million people at the
time of the
Years' War and England 3 or 4 million. In a
couple of places a historical character appears with no introduction.
The general editor was Marcel Dunan. A rambling two-page
introduction from an elderly-sounding Arnold Toynbee stresses seven or
eight times how important world peace is.
Finish mother's copy of
Planets Within', by Thomas Moore, a slightly bland book about
an interesting-sounding Florentine Platonist of the 1480s and 1490s,
Ficino. Going into the past by way of
Moore proposes we reread Ficino, a protege of Cosimo de Medici,
as a psychologist of the soul who used
astrological signs as archetypes. Ficino apparently inspired
Robert Fludd, and
Sandro Botticelli, so he sounds
a bit more than a psychologist to me, but Moore knows best. Rather
too many typos, and a sentence near the end that says the opposite
of what Moore means by missing a word. Would have liked more quotes
from Ficino and more details about the
by Alexei Sossinsky, a nice short book, introducing some of the simple
topics in knot theory for beginners. Sossinksky explains well, and makes
the chapters almost independent. Then, having bought the huge, waffly
to get the free DVD they were giving away, watched the DVD on
laptop. Not quite sure why I watched
Man' by Robin Hardy, a cult
film in more than one sense. A
beware-of-the-inbreeds movie about a police officer
[Edward Woodward] who arrives on a remote Scottish island to
investigate a report of a missing child, only to find that
worship of the old pagan gods is alive and well on Summerisle. It is
definitely a seventies film - eccentric laird Christopher Lee sports a
yellow polo-necked sweater at the film's climax. The overall plot -
everyone is in on an immensely cruel joke at the expense of one man -
makes this one of those films where you must watch the horrible end
inexorably approaching. Much of the plotting is clunky -
didactic close-ups on details like the superstitious painted
eye on the rowing boat, the Druid-looking name of the tavern, odd
sweeties in the corner shop, all repeatedly remind us where we are
heading. Much of the acting has the cheerfully hammy quality of 60s
and 70s television drama, and Lee seems to undergo a rapid costume
and make-up change as festivities culminate. On the other hand, the
film powerfully speaks to anyone who has ever felt the creeping
weirdness in madrigals and morris men. Deft use of folk music creates
a chilling atmosphere of rustic loopiness. And the climax is so
appalling and played with such flair that I was quite shaken afterwards.
I'd like to know what Christians think of the film. Afterwards, I retire
to bed to finish library copy of Julian Barnes'
Pedant in the Kitchen',
hoping to blot out a vivid, repeating memory of
Woodward screaming to Jesus for help while being dragged towards the
fertility effigy of the title. Only partly successful, despite Barnes'
amiably cross tone. His book is about cookbooks and their flaws, and has
lots of adorable painted illustrations deliberately reminiscent of prewar
Read a Hebden Bridge Library book by
Don Cupitt called
Ethics'. Rather good, perhaps even important. Cupitt is
often accused of just asserting, rather
than arguing, his cases, and this is also true here, but he is still
persuasive in an enjoyably rhetorical way. He describes "solar"
living as a kind of giving out of energy,
and a denial of the West's old contrast between the interior & exterior.
Not so much detail of what this might mean for the narrower sense of ethics,
Cupitt gives a special mention to the cover photograph for this short,
effervescent book. Apparently the artist
Bucklow makes his
portraits out of thousands of images of the sun using pinhole photography.
looks at faulty thermostat. Says the electrician
who installed the boiler clock might have miswired it. Later meet Ed
food for mother. Unsuccessful visit to Leeds
to find something detailed about both of
Read mother's copy of Susan Greenfield's
Private Life of the Brain'. Another one of those books summing up
recent research and theories about the brain. Greenfield does not duck
the question of consciousness, attacking the AI simulation-is-enough view,
and she also puts emotions at the centre of her approach, very sensibly,
criticising compartmentalisng views of which bit of a brain does what.
Despite the wise intentions, a little surprising to find her misquoting
philosophers of mind, explaining Searle's Chinese Room as a translation
program, for example, which it isn't. Greenfield has some interesting
ideas, for example that phobias are the opposite of fear, but overall a
little unsatisfactory somehow.
Finish Hebden Library book
Dutch', even virtuously
noting down some handy vocab before handing back in.
Gerdi Quist & Dennis Strik do a good job of explaining
colloquial Dutch, though in a few places they use a word
not given in that section's wordlist.
Uneventful day. Mother still
appetite and weak.
Finish mother's copy of Richard Causton's
Buddha in Daily Life',
an account of the Japanese style of Buddhism where devotees chant
"nam-myoho-renge-kyo" repeatedly each day. Causton
describes the beliefs of the sect founded by
1200s quite convincingly, giving rather sober accounts of British
people whose lives were immersed in what a Westerner would call sin
and what a Buddhist or Christian Scientist would call error, and how
chanting helped them. The basic idea is that something within you
attracts the good or bad things that happen to you, and the chant
[a Japanese translation of a pithy description of the
allows you to understand this and change it. Oddly American, in that the
practice offers quick results as long as you take complete
blame for whatever situation you are in. This of course relies on
the doctrine of karma from previous lives, probably the
Achilles' Heel of any Buddhism. Accepting that you have helped to
make your own situation worse is realistic and mature. Accepting that
your karma is entirely your own, comes from your previous lives, attaches
to all acts, and that all fates are equally deserved, is just potty.
Causton intelligently concedes that this the hard part for many Westerners
to accept, since it offends the Western notion that newborn children
represent hope & innocence [rather than just another stage in the working
out of previous lifetimes]. Yet Western doubts have a point: the confident
tones of Daishonin gloss over all sorts of unexamined problems such as
determinism. Causton's normally sober tone seems a little more cultish
when he repeatedly refers to Daishonin as the fulfilment of Buddha's
forecast another would refine his teaching after 2000 years. All
the sect's other numbers being quoted with rather pious precision makes
it harder to overlook that Diashonin-minus-Buddha equals seventeen, not
Reread mother's copy of
Fire' by Oliver Taplin after
a decade. Full of nice photos, as a book-of-a-TV-show should
persuasively shows how the influence of ancient
Greece keeps popping up again in West European history, just
when we least expect it. Hence his use of Greek fire as a metaphor - a kind
of Byzantine flamethrower liquid that was said to be able to
even squirt underwater and surface still burning. Part of
trying to show how the ancient is still modern is talking
about the present, which means that much of the book is already
oddly dateable to the 1980s: lots of mentions of
Harrison, and photos of the
Common women protesters
[remember them?] in two different chapters, for example. The
architecture chapter was fascinating, though the emphasis given
to post-modernism now looks exaggerated. Taplin's view
that modernism was a repudiation of classicism is surely wrong.
quote suggests, the International Style struck
most people at the time as a kind of neo-neo-Classicism, a return
to the pure white functional, stripped-down beauty most people
in the 1930s still thought had marked Greek architecture. Back then
the gaudy colours ancient Greek temples were painted were only
just being rediscovered, and are still not widely known, a century later.
Krier gets a lot of mentions.
shifts in fashion among classicists,
and intriguing details including
last Swiss canton to still have
only men voting in the late 1980s [since 1991
women can vote too, even in Appenzell].
Swish woman doctor returns to check mother. I hear back
Hebden-based ISP co-op. Phone
chats with Ed & Bob.
See a film at the slightly self-consciously named
Bridge Picture House.
battre mon coeur s'est arrete'
['The beat that my heart skipped'] is (apparently) a French remake
American gangster film, about a young rough, Thomas, who helps
property developers intimidate tenants but is torn between his
tough, high-earning life and classical piano. Not as embarrassing
as it sounds. All the acting and plotting excellent, with the main
role played powerfully by Romain Duris. Though I don't really buy
into the thesis that Bach redeems the soul, the film skilfully
suggests how the strengths & weaknesses that led Thomas into his father's
world of real estate both help & hinder his performance at the piano.
the cinema is a large, dark-stoned Baptist chapel which takes pains each month to
put up a cringe-making poster on its billboard outside, if possible including an
excruciating pun. The latest is outstanding. A slick yet
primitive square-shaped cartoon man with stubby arms & legs is in tears in front
of a broken computer. The slogan, in brightly-coloured capital letters, reads
"Life just crashed? Send Jesus a Knee-mail. He cares!"
Vandorlo alerts me to
a Harvard site.
Read another of my mother's Colin Watson books:
Man's Meat'. Eerily,
it is now the mid-70s, yet Purbright still has the same
straw-coloured hair, youthful Sergeant Love, and aristocratic,
gardening-obsessed Chief Constable Chubb he had in the late
1950s. Flaxborough as
still charms, though Watson manfully makes the comedy more
explicitly sexual and cynical to move with the times. I
suppose this is what happens
when you invent a fictional world - you have to decide whether
it ages as fast as you do. This book is about industrial
espionage and petfood manufacturing. Though funny, and
with some lovely characters, such as the professional entrapper
and "bearded bee" Mortimer, I had the odd feeling at the close
that not all the plot details quite pulled together.
day. Mother still not eating properly.
Some work at a
Bradford Internet cafe. Mother stable.
Elegant, pretty woman doctor comes to see mother, who is still
ill in bed. Finish mother's copy of
new kind of fool',
a sweet account by a Franciscan from India of his journey to
Italy and Israel in the footsteps of Saint Francis. Author
called Christopher Coelho, I suppose
relation to the Brazilian
novelist. Coelho illustrates the book with his own pen sketches of cottages,
churches and trees around Assissi - there is apparently a longer version
with verse extracts and photography by the author. Potentially extremely
twee, but the tone is so friendly & happy, it's hard not to fall in with
the author's gentle message, which is that the Humble Brother was a cheerful, humorous
saint who cared about individual people and loved nature.
in the Sky' by John Barrow, and found it a bit bewildering 2nd
time round. A sustained attack on
platonism, it is well thought
out and full of interesting ideas, but an editor could have polished up some
of the sentences a bit. Excellent detail on the human struggles in
lives, and left me much clearer on what the finitists and the rest were
up to. The long early section on the anthropology of counting and number words
in different cultures is particularly good, though perhaps not quite bolted on
to the later stuff about
and the crises in logic and maths between the 1880s and the 1930s.
Mother still weak and not eating. Read one of the books I got her for
by Lynn Messina [what a fashion-editor's name
that is]. Amusing and readable. Each chapter is headed by lovely little
pen sketches of tall girls lolling on desks or gossiping by water coolers,
the kind of impossibly leggy mannequin drawings that newspaper fashion
columns used to carry. The novel charts a power struggle inside a glamour-focussed
New York magazine narrated by a demurely decent Jane-Austenish junior
editor. Some funny moments, some sharp descriptions, nothing laid on too thick.
Slips down very easily. A competing product to
Devil Wears Prada', presumably.
While choosing a belated birthday present for my mother, a pile of
Houses' suddenly falls on my toe in a bookshop. Hurts. Shan't
get her that then. Later, I finish the
Atlas of Immunology' by Gerd-Runiger Burmester
and Antonio Pezzutto, a foolish choice to have ever started. Despite
adorable little diagrams on each right-hand page of blobs and arrows
in pastel colours, this was incomprehensible due to the special terms.
Of course, with a glossary running to thirty pages instead of four and
a bit, it could have been quite possible to read normally. They don't
even use most of the fifth page of glossary, leaving it largely blank.
Some lovely words like
and some of the horrid
photographs of scars and deformities that make me glad I never did
Dinner in Bradford with Ed. Later on, manage to get my very simple test program running in
thanks to Nigel's tutorial last week.
continues to elude me. Nigel says that qbasic is a trike,
and Delphi is the bike I really need to learn to ride. Perhaps. Mother still frail.
Read an odd children's book I have been vaguely meaning to read for a long time.
box of delights' by John Masefield must have been already dated by 1935 - it
felt Edwardian rather than interwar. Peculiar. A surprise to find that Masefield ran away
to sea as a boy in the 1890s, spent some of his twenties doing manual labour in New York,
and after returning to England became
Not quite what I'd call a children's classic, but very
entertaining in parts. Unforgettable quote: "You'll have to lend
me some tin, Louisa...I haven't got a tosser to my kick."
[I have no money.] The word 'scobble', as in to
seize or kidnap, totally new to me. Given that I must get round to the Ramon Llull[y]
reader waiting for me back in Budapest, I was startled when Masefield decides on page 167
that his strangely old magical Punch-and-Judy man is in fact
drunk a mediaeval elixir of immortality. The box of delights is his creation too. Touchingly,
the climax of the plot is to return some kidnapped church dignitaries to the cathedral
in time for them to celebrate the service at midnight on Christmas Eve. Whole story very
High Church & Country House. Our hero, Kay, thinks he should be old enough to be
allowed to drive a car, though he seems to be about eleven, has the conveniently missing
parents of true boy's own fiction, and maids and cooks are much in evidence. Even the
local police chiefs are something between indulgent and deferential during his regular
trips to brief the authorities on the ongoing magical beastliness. Almost certainly this
book was left behind by Nick when I was seven - I think it struck me as stuffy & childish
then, which it is. But enjoyable too.
Reread mother's copy of
in the night' by Colin Watson, though remembered none
of the twists in the plot after so many decades, only the explosions. Inspector Purbright
taken out of Flaxborough to a neighbouring town to solve some mystery bombings. I
missed his angelic Sergeant Love. Mother still not
eating what I cook her.
Read mother's copy of
was here' by Colin Watson. No memory of reading it
before. A lovely example of the Flaxborough books, with a wonderful comic duo added in the
form of the suave, pipe-smoking Intelligence chaps up from London, so confident &
persuasively at ease it takes us a while to see how lost they are in Purbright's little
corner of awkward England.
Morning meeting with
consultant. With show of concern he lets me go
home with mother in the early afternoon in a hospital car. While she sleeps
I find and thank the kind neighbours who forced her door and called
the ambulance last week.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com
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