Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Book Review - Autumn

5. Autumn, Ali Smith.

A fairly young woman visits very old Mr Gluck in the Home. He probably hasn’t got long. Or has he? He's got a long time to think about. The book consists of brief chapters of shifting planes of memory overlapping each other, gradually forming a whole picture. There are images of spiritually infused pasts, abstract hints of an anxious future and also snaps of a mundane present context, with Elisabeth the slightly grumpy part time lecturer going to and from the care home, pausing occasionally to Deal With Her Mother. Elisabeth quite likes her mum, but hasn't had much to do with her lately.

The big relationship is the unlikely one between Elisabeth and Daniel, her former neighbour: between her curiosity and his generosity, a mutually rewarding one. The key section seemed assured and real, the lead up and down less so. There are plenty of calmly brilliant sentences and nice character observations of the minor players. There are about half a dozen Lists. Yawn. There are tacking-ins of Brexit-induced fears and other social commentary. A micro-biography of Pauline Boty could well have been critical to Elisabeth’s perspective, but equally she (brightly burning forgotten pop art heroine) could have been an ardent project of the author who felt that she had to be given a stage, and coincidentally chose this book.

The whole thing deemed to be a bit too obviously message-ey which made me sneer a bit. However it's perhaps a question of Time. Dickens, Ovid and others (all referenced in various ways in the text) don’t induce that reaction, although they preach a lot too. It’s pretty brief, so maybe that’s also my problem: I don’t mind a bit of practical philosophy or even a sermon, but the licence to deliver those to me is more than 250 pages. I'm possibly waiting for all four of these Seasons to come together at one time, instead of a single segment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Phone spam from 020 3936 number - London calling?

Urrgh, I'm being being systematically plagued (i.e. ~hourly) by nuisance calls from 020 3936 xxxx to my mobile (i.e. cell phone). The calls are complete rubbish, either "is Christine there?" or just background noise. Sent one of them a Get Lost Leave Me Alone message yesterday, only to find (coincidence? don't think so) a random link from "Money Wizards" or some such in my text (SMS) inbox today inviting me to urgently watch THIS video (+some dodgy looking URL) that would change my life, make lots of money or save the world. Forgot which exactly, it's deleted now.
According to a the 3 minutes of research I just did, 020 3936 is an STD (i.e. area) code you can buy to make it look as if your "service" comes from a nice proper office in London, as opposed to a crappy boiler-room setup in Spamistan.

-- placed here to give something for other spam victims to reflect on, should they be minded to search on this STD code. Hope they find it helpful. /M

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Slaughterhouse 5 - discussion questions for Book Groups

S5 discussion q's

who is Kilgore Trout?

"so it goes", a religious incantation to accompany death. Perhaps a reflex to avoid horror. Is this how religious ritual gets going?  Who's doing the avoiding in this case? KV, the reader, society?

Is the whole book a jazzed up therapy act for KV? You can see how the pieces are all like fragmented memories and recollections, probably whiskey-driven late at night. Is it literature (in the sense of being a deliberate work made of text) or is is something like a mental patient's artwork, astounding and healing yet not quite art? Do you even buy the OR in the last sentence? We could replace with AND, and then talk about why it's both healing and artful. 

Trafalmadorians see all of time in a deep, holistic, mode. Does a sense of deep time mean that nothing is anybody's fault? "The moments are just structured that way, and things are as they are. We never worry about such things". 

Nothing, well how about some things? So, turning the dial down a bit, is morality a function of timescale? A evil act this afternoon (killing a person) could turn out to be the right thing to do in a year. A year's atrocity (bombing cities) defensible over a century. What evil would we tolerate to improve life over a millennium?

Are there moral decisions that are independent of the passage of time? Questions involving the verb To BE rather than those including To DO?

Does Buddhism, say, differ from Christianity on moral issues because of its time structure? Cyclic/holistic rather than Linear/atomic. 

Would you like to be a Trafalmadorian specimen?  Advantages: No job, plenty to eat, can prance around naked, have sex with other excellent specimens, make small talk with the keepers. Or would you wish to get back to your real life?

They were rather obtrusive, had obvious spaceships, got involved with their captives, made worrying remarks about causality, and so forth. Perhaps they were just learning their craft. How do you know that you aren't already in the hands of the rather more competent Crypto-Trafalmadorians?  If so, what sort of real life could you wish to get back to?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dapdune scribbles

Ah, canals! These days more of a set of linear leisure centres than a type of transportation.  Back in the day though, big loads of heavy stuff were pushed and pulled along by boat for hundreds of years, at least until the railways steamed in. This is why Dapdune Wharf in Guildford is now obsolete, and so in the hands of the National Trust (Britain's de facto Ministry of Teashops, Country Carparks and Quaint Things). This is where we learn that the last commercial load went up to London as recently as 1978, and that it's 19 miles to Weybridge (and the Thames). Also that barges would take 30 tons of gunpowder per load from Surrey's mills. Strange to think of the force of Empire being projected by a docile horse at 3 mph along a leafy towpath. 

I was here with Surrey Scribblers, a Meetup group for artistic dabblers in the County. This time we had 5 scribblers, so a very manageable group. Having convened, we ambled the towpath in a southerly direction. Plan was to have several sketching stops and then pub lunch. I think we managed 2!  

Guildford Rowing Cub was a good one, as the crews sat relatively statically whilst being instructed on technique. After a spell we continued, and were distracted by a tour - it was Heritage Open Day weekend - of the Guildford branch of the Freemasons. Oh OK then. We were shown the Temple, various side rooms, drawings of the Rituals in ages gone by, and regalia, regalia, regalia. Nice braid! Any questions?  Yeah, Why??  I think this interlude bemused, intrigued and appalled us in various proportions. Artists tend to the non-hierarchical, solitary and revolutionary. So I doubt there's much overlap with the worldview of the masons. Though I do need to find a nostalgia-inducing snake belt, as once sold in Woolies (the various Masonic aprons had a undoubtedly symbolic serpent as the clasp). 

Onwards to St Catherine's. Lunch at Ye Olde Shippe Inne. No really, that's its name. Nice pizza.

More drawing at the old priory, and checking out the views to the North and West. 

So that was our circular walk, no it was there and back argh. I'm definitely going back to sketch at the rowing clubhouse and the Wharf, as well as various other spots along the river. Watch this space for further reports, and if not too shabby, uploads. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

Time's Anvil

This was a welcome Christmas gift, in response to my vague request for "Books of all sorts, e.g. travel, technology, science, natural world, art, design, history, language, culture". It was a bit hard to tell what it was exactly, on opening it, but after a few sniffs I got the idea. A very literate and sensitive yet scientific tour of the land. All lands in principle, but with an emphasis on England. The author is/was a professional archeologist (and explains the modern methodology excellently), but he doesn't rest there. He digs around in climateology, biology, technology, industry, religion, poetry and personal history. Sometimes his topics seem obscure (Saints?) but invariably the logic and fascination of the ideas comes through.

It reminded me in scope of what James Burke was trying to achieve in Connections, and also the main thrust of Peter Ackroyd's psychogeographical tours of London. Namely (the connectionist angle) that everything depends on nearly everything else, and secondly the sheer depth of human activity associated with the most seemingly mundane of places.

I found it absolutely fascinating, and have been outwardly unproductive for several days in the course of reading it. Meanwhile, I'm filled with more questions about how we got here, and where we might go next.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Hold still, this won't hurt a bit

Between two successive waves of student cohorts (one out, another coming in) I snatch a day off. Scroll around the map looking for a place containing Interesting Things to Draw, that is also open on Mondays, in a reasonable travel radius.

Up to London then, but then divert from my usual route to London Bridge. Out of the maze into the ancient stable yard of The George for a pint and a pastrami sandwich. Round the corner to the designated attraction. Up the incredibly narrow windy staircase, popping out in what must have been the bell chamber.  Pay, and squeeze through the gift shop, up yet more stairs into the main room, which is an attic spaced stuffed with displays and artefacts, going by the self explanatory name of The Old Operating Theatre

This is museum of medical relics somehow in the ancestry of Guy's and/or St Thomas' Hospital. The collection is well cared for, and there is evidence of an active outreachy pedagogical approach but they've avoided the neat and tidy BBC effect. It's more akin to the old cabinet of curiosities beloved of the Victorians. The biggest category is Miscellaneous, but the two main sub themes are surgery and biologically derived medicine. Bones, skulls, drawings, books, diagrams of the inner parts of Man (and Woman, and Child), models, pills, stills, pots and pans. Tools of unknown gory function: needles, knives, clamps, saws. Forceps, dilators etc for the beginning of life. Unimaginable instruments for the ending of it, before it has even begun. Samples and boxes and tins of drugs. Apparatus for turning herb into potion or pill. Baskets of herbs and seeds and other plant material giving a warm spicy aroma. 

I settle in and sketch a scene of cases and piles of stuff, incidentally containing one flayed model human and a live pair, talking about museum things. 

Switch to close up for an impression of a still of some sort, surrounded by willow twigs (Aspirin). Fail to capture the quality of the twigs, but the roundness of the iron vessels is quite pleasing 
Pot and Still
Take a couple of shots of the Theatre itself, half heartedly.

The drawing wears me out prematurely (beer was the error?). So I stroll back to Waterloo. There are plenty of tourists around, and my eye picks out all the Nikon and Canon straps. Other middle aged blokes favouring lumpy SLRs, younger crowd into these snazzy looking micro things. Plenty of phones, obviously. We manoeuvre along the Southbank, and past, or rather through, Tate Modern (more quick sketches, loads of school trips amongst the weekday tourists) and various other stops such as Gabriel's Wharf. The sun pushes itself into the scene, so the ambience is delightful.  I manage a bit more photography, but I don't get into it somehow) and finally get back to my station before the rush hour starts. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Sketchbook Update

Here are some art-related uploads to Flickr.

Draw: Gesture. Class described previously.

DSC_8190 DSC_8193 DSC_8197

Recent Holborn and ULU drop-in classes.

DSC_8213 DSC_8224 DSC_8200 DSC_8202

There of more of each sort in the respective sets.

These are flagged as Moderate in Flickr, so you'll have to log into your Flickr account and set your Safety preferences accordingly, if you want to see the nudes.

Tutored class : Drawing in the British Museum.
The concept of this one was a more experimental approach to drawing, as you can see. Working from the objects on display, and catching a couple of visitors.

DSC_8205 DSC_8206 DSC_8207 DSC_8208 DSC_8209