Update: Lane Ashfeldt's take on judging this year's competition: The Willesden Prize, Stories and Tunnels _______ This is the...
Sunday, July 31, 2005
I'm only referring here to the indoctrination of the cult members, their organisation and behaviour. The politics underlying the formation of the cult are more complex and are well-known. A lot of people agree on some of the politics, and are angry about the injustices, but very few are minded as a result to kill themselves and massacre the general public.
Equally when people talked about a clash of cultures or clash of civilisations, we were at a loss to know how to answer. Was it something observed, which simply had to be accepted? We hadn't the language to respond. That is why it seems helpful to me that the Spanish prime minister should call for an alliance of civilisations to combat terrorism. Even if it's embraced by the most guilty, as a sort of cop-out, I think it's a useful idea, a useful phrase, a worthwhile aim. It sounds very simple now, but until the language was adduced it was as if we were to some extent in a state of suspense and danger, a question was left hanging.
When the Spanish prime minister contemplated the problem, perhaps his thoughts constituted a search for the words, and his words are a gift to us, a gift of understanding conveyed in words. Not new words, but a classification of something unclassified, with a rightness, a sort of solution to a puzzle. The quest for understanding of something being a puzzle, and the words of explanation being the solution. It might be a solution instinctively known, and embodied in the behaviour of "right-thinking" people, but until the words were formulated there was a hunger, a need, an uncertainty. From uncertainty, fear and anger and then violence are born.
What is the sense of rightness, of solution that I feel on hearing these words? One person's solution may ring true to some people, but false to others. For me I think it's the extent to which the solutions, the new words, give hope and reassurance, and also propose a goal or direction to pursue that leads towards peace and security, away from war and the threat of destruction.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Speaking of Rachel Seiffert (see below)... Not to mention Ian Rankin, William Boyd, Zadie Smith, Grace Paley, many more and the exceptional Irish novelist and short story writer John McGahern, a hero of mine. I've got my tickets.
Charleston was a secluded retreat for the Bloomsbury literary set, very close to the middle of nowhere, which is no bad place at all. As well as a beautiful house, lived in, but open for viewing at set times, with sequestred pond, statues, tea room- it is also a working farm. You can actually stand and watch till the cows come home, heavy, ungainly like primeval creatures migrating, one lame one straggling last behind the herd.
There is a huge barn where the readings take place, an unusual, uneven environment, with eerie sounds of wind and trees by night and the occasional bird twittering and flitting far above in the rafters. One smart bird interrupted Yann Martel. I think the birds are critics there. It works.
I'm going to try and enter the short story slam again this year. My piece from last year is still online, I think, somewhere here. Small Wonder runs from September 15th to 18th. Don't wear your brothel creepers.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Iran executes 2 gay teenagers
The Iranian clerics should be dumped in the rubbish bin of history, to stew for eternity in shame, infamy and contempt. They are maniacs, destroying this world to satisfy their own bloodlust and bigotry. All those despicable old ratbags should be run out of town.
The same disgusting oafs who try to subjugate men, want to enslave women and treat them as chattels, like "precious jewels" - like property. They've even brainwashed them to forget their right to freedom. No man should be under the heel of any superstitious, irrational tyranny. And no person, woman or man, should be the property of any other. That such unregenerate, blind old fools should enslave and subjugate their people is beyond endurance.
To hell with them, strike for freedom! Down with them! Fight you women, fight you men who yearn for freedom, smash the clerical regime to smithereens! Let it be a hateful memory to fade quickly in the light of a new, humane, non-religious, free and fair society. To hell with all religion and clerics, may they vanish from the earth.
E. L. Voynich
*Will this breach the proposed new law against Incitement to Religious Hatred? Ed
Monday, July 25, 2005
Could Jean Charles de Menezes have been shot because he ran to catch a train arriving in the station? He was late for his appointment in Kilburn, ran to catch the train, and as he reached the doors, was felled by detectives and shot. If there were any challenges*, he might not have been aware that they were for him, for example.
Somebody on Radio 4 just asked the question, why was he allowed to make a bus journey if they thought he was a suicide bomber? That's another puzzle. You can visualise the police not thinking of killing him till he started to run -- to catch a train?
*There are reports that the secret new Kratos guidelines police are operating under forbid any warnings to suspected suicide bombers. They are to be shot without warning. You can draw your own conclusions. Ed.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
*Mona's book 'Instant Solutions to All Problems' will be published next year. Note: No connection with Ayatollah Khomeini's book 'Solutions to All Problems' is intended. If you want to know whether it's lawful to have sex with your auntie by accident following an earthquake which causes you to fall through the ceiling into her bed, the Ayatollah's book is still the first place to look.
Problem: Split a photon, each half always maintains the opposite spin to the other even when the spin on one is changed and the other half is far away but its spin changes instantaneously too. Any communication between the two halves would have to travel at faster than the speed of light, which is impossible.
Could it be that part of the split photon exists only in one dimension, a dimension which we cannot cut. We can take a two-dimensional drawing, cut it in half and move the two halves around, thus changing the relationship of lines in the two halves. But we cannot cut an unknown dimension, and move two halves of an entity into a different relationship with each other. In other words some property of the photon is not involved with three-dimensional space, does not partake of it, existing only in the one dimension which we cannot cut and thus the two halves are still locked together in that dimension, and the communication between them is along that dimension and so remains instantaneous. The parts we see in our dimensions are tied together by a string in another dimension, which we cannot cut and which is involved with the spin of the parts we can see.
At the quantum level we hit the boundary of our dimensions, the wall between existence and non-existence, the limit of what we can investigate with our three dimensions. Timespace is the dimension of existence, the more something exists the longer it is in timespace. To have no timespace is not to exist at all. To look for something with no timespace is for it to disappear, to see it at the smallest timespace possible is to watch it come into existence, but particle or wave, is there another dimension that allows our dimensions to come into existence? The question of existence is not why, not when, not how, but what. What is it? What does existence consist of?
Must everything be made of something, something else, can nothing be made of itself? When everything we know about is inventoried, listed, exploded into a kit of parts, and there is nothing else however tiny to see through any microscope, and nothing else however huge to see through any telescope, and everything has been written down, we will still have the question "What?" What is it made of? An element may be said to be made of atoms of something and atoms may be made of something else but at the end of the list, what is the last something made of?
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*Note: Our science correspondent changed his name by deed poll to Professor Kronk. He was formerly Helmut Kronk. Ed
Nobody whether native or foreign should receive any benefits from the British state unless they swear an oath on whatever they believe in - Bible, Koran, whatever - that they will not perpetrate or incite others to perpetrate violence against the people of this country, or against any fixture or entity belonging to this country, whether at home or abroad, if such violence entails injury to people of any nationality in the vicinity of such entity.
This oath should be applied retrospectively to such people living on benefits as the various poisonous so-called sheikhs who condone such attacks, so that they publicly swear on the Koran to denounce, and renounce the attackers, and to support the right of people in this country to freedom from such attacks. The penalty for failure to take the oath should be removal of all state benefits, public housing and in the case of foreign nationals, deportation to their own country, any other country willing to take them, or failing all else, Antartica.*
(Name and address supplied)
*Exile to Antartica doesn't sound very practical. Why don't we give them a rowing boat each, a pair of oars, a bucket and a fishing rod, and set them adrift in international waters? That seems fair. Ed
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
*One tiny thing, Mr Pratt, you might like to check the spelling on that form. I don't think "Paided by" sounds right. Feargal?
Monday, July 18, 2005
Currently reading from "Field Studies" by Rachel Seiffert, including the beautiful, yes and haunting as they nearly always say, award winning story, "The Crossing". I wish I could write like Rachel Seiffert. Her story reminded me a little of something by Platonov. It's marvellous, though I was a disappointed to hear at the end that it had been "abridged by" somebody. That explains why it flew by so quickly. Ironic, considering the story is about crossing a river near a bombed out bridge.
I heard some high up on Radio 4 say they would include some new short stories as well as classics, and that they would be open to submissions though she also referred to the BBC Writers Room for further guidance. I hope that's not just another BBC "show willing" exercise / distraction.
A martyr is somebody who is killed for his or her beliefs, not somebody who kills himself or herself. A martyr is someone who is killed, not someone who kills. Idiots who blow themselves up in a crowd of civilians are as far from martyrdom as they can ever get. They are stupid, inhumane people who live and die in ignorance, duped and killed by their own dispatchers.
Rev. I. Draper
Saturday, July 16, 2005
If you draw a straight line from St Mary Magdelen's church spire to St Andrew's church spire and extend it, the fire is somewhere along that line, which is virtually due north. It looks like it might be in Cricklewood. The one on Thursday (see below) was due west.
Update: Monday 20th
It's still smouldering, though steam not smoke is its output now. I believe it was that mountain of wooden pallets that grows near Staples Corner, which I believe is hauled away weekly. The fire disrupted traffic nearby. Ed.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Friday, July 08, 2005
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
with Kelly Peck*
Here's how to pick a watermelon, cantaloupe or other melon.
Please realize "maturity" is different than "ripeness."
Maturity is the state of full development. Physical growth stops.
Ripeness, for comparison, means ready to eat.
For instance, commercial growers pick tomatoes when they are mature. Those tomatoes will not grow bigger, no matter how long they stay on the vine. However, they are inedible: green, unripe, but if allowed to stay on the vine, would ripen. They are picked, treated to ripen and then shipped off to markets. Got it?
Melons have tell-tale signs of maturity, and of ripeness.
Maturity: First, look at the melon. Are the sides concave or convex? If concave, hollow, with hourglass figure, that melon was not mature. If convex, full, or fat, it is mature. Another test is, check the stem end. Best if the stem has fallen away entirely, or withered on its own. If it's been cut, suspect it of being immature.
Ripeness: Check the spot on the rind that isn't green. If white, it isn't ripe. A yellow color reveals a degree of ripeness.
For cantaloupes and other non-water-melons, check the blossom end. A ripe melon should be soft and smell good.
'Thumping" a watermelon has a science. Imagine there are fibers in the watermelon flesh similar to your vocal cords. If those fibers are short, the melon "pings" as a sign it's not ripe. A ripe watermelon has a longer fiber and a deeper tone, "thunk."
*Kelly Peck is the "chief
Monday, July 04, 2005
"[...] the Hubble Space Telescope [...] took three images, presented [in] an animation here. It shows the inner cloud of dust and gas surrounding the comet's nucleus increasing by 200 kilometres (about 120 miles) in size." (New Scientist)
Some mosquito that turned out to be. It only requires a small effort to affect the course of an object significantly at a great distance. Maybe they hit it with a nuclear weapon, secretly, to test possible defences against asteroids?
Well, I suppose you think they went to the moon - haven't you seen that excellent documentary, Capricorn One?
By the way, I've just remembered I pushed the QE2 a half metre from its dock just for fun one day, with the tip of my little finger.*
*Note: Are you sure you didn't imagine that after being hit on the head by that guanabana / soursop / guyabano? Ed.
Friday, July 01, 2005
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*Well done, Simon - a feat comparable with recreating the library of Alexandria. Reading those ancient documents makes me realise that I've forgotten more than I ever knew. Ed