Friday, April 27, 2012

The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

- Wallace Stevens, (1879-1955)

A Poverty Of Contemplative Thought ?

"Over the last 100 years or so the loss of the religious as a reputable discourse in common life has led to a poverty of language, and thus to a poverty of contemplative thought and feeling about what we are, and what we need. We need some inner stuff, scaffolding to help us get around our inner space, something to help us map, explore and even settle those places where we are still primitive." - Jane Davis in the essay The Reading Revolutiuon in Vintage Books' Stop What You're Doing And Read This, London, 2011.

The Reader Organisation

The Rameseum of El-Kurneh

Francis Frith: The Rameseum of El-Kurneh, Thebes, albumen silver print from glass negative, 379×477 mm, 1857 (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Anonymous Gifts, by exchange, 2005, Accession ID: 2005.100.633)

No real reason for this, I was just doing a search exercise on how to use art databases.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Defining Islam

"Defining Islam is far from a simple matter. Using Western categories that may be alien to Muslim perceptions, we may state from the start that Islam may be both a religious faith and a political ideology; it is also, in some contexts, a mark of personal and group identity. These three definitions neither exclude nor include each other." - Malise Ruthwen, A Very Short Introduction To Islam, Oxford University Press, 1997.

Literally - actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy

"He's literally left Ben Haim for dead there." - football pundit and buffoon Jamie Redknapp witnesses an on-pitch murder during a Liverpool - Chelsea match.

Ben Haim - not dead, just slightly gormless looking.

The Petty Officer of Fucking About

""TODAY THE God Of Fuck is merely the Petty Officer Of Fucking About; the Local Ombudsman Of Mildly Irritating Behaviour. He's locked in his suitably grand room at a Park Lane hotel with plenty of absinthe and 'a young lady friend'. A wide-eyed reporter from a London free title eventually comes down the stairs declaring him to be "leathered"; saying that the lanky industro-goth was striding round his room with the girl tossed over his shoulder chatting bare nonsense."

- Journalist John Doran reaches the end of his tether while waiting for Marilyn Manson to turn up for a scheduled interview, 2009.

What Do These Objects Tell You About The Owner ??

  • hiking boots
  • laptop
  • wine rack
  • bookshelf
  • i-pod dock
  • Le Crueset pans
  • Yorkshire Cricket sweater
  • Ford Zetec
  • oak coffee table
  • electric razor
What does this list suggest about the person who owns them ?

Does it tell you anything about their gender, age, beliefs, socio-economic grouping ?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hot Acting Babes...Shanola Hampton

I was watching Criminal Minds last night when this gorgeous young woman made an appearance as Derek Morgan's cousin Cindi.  More please, she's lovely.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

100 Greatest Horror Movie Quotes of All Time

A Fellow Student Writes...

Some blogs written by fellow OU students...

A World Of Music

Mixing and Matching

Write Till Your Fingers Bleed


Starship Teapot

The Singing Driver


Fractured Funny

Ben Dawkins

The Fables Movie

I came across this list on the net and got all over excited. A Fables movie ! With a quite stellar cast ! Oh hang on though, it's got Charlie Sheen in it, that can't be a good thing.

Reading on through the list I was wondering how the producers had managed to pack all these stars into one film, and then it dawned on me, this is just fanfic isn't it ?  Apparently there was due to be a Fables TV series but right now that project looks dead in the water.

I suppose the problem is that comics with complex plots and large casts don't translate easily to the large or small screen, just look at the hideous nightmare that Hellblazer became when reincarnated as Constantine in the cinema.  Of course it didn't help that they cast the world's worst actor in the lead role, but the plot was also a load of rubbish.

Fables has numerous high profile characters, many of whom take prominent roles at different times in the story arcs, and the main story arc of The Adversary wouldn't easily cram into one movie, a trilogy perhaps ?

I wouldn't think that a series of films would be unworkable, provided a director with a feeling for the original comics was put in place.  With so many of the characters being instantly recognisable to a western audience it should be a reasonably easy sell as well.  Casting old Mazza Manson as Mr. Dark though ? I know he looks like him but do you seriously need a cast member who is almost as weird as the character he is portraying ?

"Local libraries are gateways - not only to other libraries but to other lives" Zadie Smith in Vintage Books' praise of prose Stop What You're Doing And Read This.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Changing The Guard

It's that time of year again when we'e taking on new staff in anticipation of a busy summer season.  It looks like we will be changing the entire part time brigade this summer. Fred will be leaving for a full time job, while Laura, Ellie, Maddie and Rachel will all be heading off to university.

As I have done for a few years now I advertised on Facebook, which got a dozen responses plus one person reported me to the Facebook cops for friend requesting them.  I whittled out four of the initial twelve before interview, including nearly all the boys who really need to learn that as informal as Facebook is, when you are talking to a prospective employer calling him "mate" and "pal" is not the way to go.

This week then I have conducted eight interviews and now I'm in a real quandary. Sometimes the interviews throw up a one or two outstanding candidates who obviously stand head and shoulders above the rest of the group.  Last year I thought Maddy fitted this description and she has proved to be a charming addition to the team.  This year I would happily employ 7 from the 8 interviewees, it is going to be really tough to winnow the field down to the two we want to take on at this time.

Also this year at interview I asked some slightly oddball questions in order to make the candidates chat a bit, getting them to explain the LBW rule in cricket was fun, Having them sell their favourite band to me was even more so and provided some eloquent and spirited defences of an assortment of acts from Coldplay to N-Dubz.

I also asked that if a deity could grant you a personal superpower and then change one thing about the world what would they choose.  This brought some lovely responses along the lines of eradicating poverty and halting all wars, and then some unintentional hilarity when one person said they'd like to have all the countries closer together.  That's nice, I thought, bringing down boundaries and making us all better neighbours.  Not for that reason though said the candidate, it's just that Australia is such an awfully long way away and if it was closer it would be cheaper to travel to.

One candidate giggled, perhaps through nerves, all the way though the interview, but her laugh was so infectious she had me laughing with her by the end. Another almost reduced me to tears with a heartfelt deity request that was so unexpected honest that it stopped me in my tracks for a moment.

I have high hopes ten for this year's intake.  Two young people will be offered a job today, and most of the rest will be given first choice if they are still available later in the summer.  I know it won't be any consolation for those that don't get a place, but if I had enough employment to offer, I'd take them all on.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The headline ? It's a hashtag, which isn't the price marker on a small bag of herbs sold by that dodgy bloke out the back of the Slug & Lettuce, but a way of finding similarly themed tweets.  If you are a Twitterer that is.

Anyway, the racist dunderheads from the EDL have tried to use the #creepingsharia hashtag to get their supporters to report incidences of Sharia law and build up a body of evidence to prove their frankly ridiculous claim that Sharia law is being implemented in the UK.  As almost everyone who is opposed to the EDL is brighter than the average skinhead, this tactic has rapidly been hijacked and subverted by Twitter users.

"Chelsea are playing Barcelona tonight. Barcelona is an anagram of ARAB CLONE"

"If you look really carefully, a packet of iced gems looks like lots & lots of little Mosques" @lacatchat

"When I realised that my favourite superhero, Batman, is wearing a niqab" @mpacuk

"Croissants are shaped like the Islamic crescent moon." @RuwaydaMustafah

"Alcohol is not available at my children's primary school" @KeithKahnHarris

"Muslamic bloke walked past on tiptoes" @knownasbowman

Monday, April 09, 2012

Counting Sheep

Yana Bumpit
Tyana bumpit
Tethera Bumpit
Methera Bumpit

Sheep dipping in a dammed stream at Burton Bradstock (Chesil Beach) Dorset

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Alive Inside

The Great Paris Cat Massacre

The penultimate assignment for OU AA100 is to write a reflective piece about your study skills and learning experiences on the course.  This seems a fairly easy essay to write, especially for those of us who had to do a similar piece on the preceding course.  When considering my strengths I had noted that I have a very broad range of interests and very much enjoy reading and writing.  On the weaknesses side I put that partly because of my broad range of interests I have a tendency to get sidetracked when doing research for essays.

A case in point was yesterday when I was supposedly reading up on the history of rail infrastructure and the improvement of pay for the working classes in the rise of Blackpool as a leisure destination.  Everything was going well, I was poring through various scholarly historical journals and then...

Le Monde Illustre, April 1871. During the Siege of Paris (Franco-Prussian War) market stalls did a thriving business in cat, dog and rat meat.

The next article in the journal History Today was titled The Great Paris Cat Massacre. Who wouldn't want to read that ? Blackpool and the social history of Lancashire mill workers was forgotten as I read the exploits of two Paris apprentices, who, angered that their employers looked after their vast array of felines better than they did their humans, eventually held a trial for said cats, accused and found them guilty of witchcraft and then beat them all to death with clubs. It was rather gruesome, especially if you are fond of cats, but also blackly hilarious.

Oh kittens, in our hours of ease
Uncertain toys and full of fleas,
When pain and anguish hang o’er men,
We turn you into sausage then.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Book Review: Reality Hunger - David Shields 2*

The cover lines for Reality Hunger read "Is the novel dead ? Can You copyright reality ? Is art theft ?". All good and interesting questions which I was hoping Shields was going to demonstrate his arguments in a clear and informative fashion.

Instead, he has chosen to 'illustrate' his points, or mostly point singular - how much he detests the narrative novel form - by constructing his book from hundreds of quotes, each presented without reference or context apart from appearing under headings such as reality, mimesis, genre and persona.  What at sight of the cover looked to be an engaging and thought provoking read soon turns into a tedious grind of wading through hundreds of short texts supposedly linked to the chapter heading Shields has dreamed up but often having only the most tenuous of connections.

Perhaps I should construct the review along similar lines to the book by giving you two of the quotes...

359 - "Nonlinear. Discontinuous. Collage-like. An assemblage. As is already more than self-evident."

362 - "Nothing is going to happen in this book."

Monday, April 02, 2012

Big Wages Ensures Best Performance

This is the argument that the sort of people who receive huge salaries and bonuses keep telling us, that they can only attract the best and most able candidates for a job if they are free to pay what they determine that the job is worth. So for the last couple of decades banks and financial institutions have been mostly free to pay their top executives what they will, and it has been a huge amount.

By their own reckoning then, the financiers and merchant bankers must have been able to employ the very best, the absolute cream of the crop, the finest and most astute minds available to the business fraternity. And yet the economy is a staggering shambles lurching from one financial disaster to the next.  How can they continually claim that their salary and bonus scheme argument holds water ? Or is it just the case that if we've got a bowl of rose scented water filled with gold flakes, then it doesn't matter if the rest of you are getting pissed on ?

Trickle Down Dries Up

Trickle down economics, I think that is just another way of saying "We're already quite rich and we'd like to keep it."

If you paid me £210,000 a year as opposed to what I get now then some of that money would trickle down and out into the general economy.  I would dine out more, I would go on more holidays and visit more galleries, museums and other places of interest. I might buy a newer car and other toys, a tablet computer, a new camera, whatever the new 'shiny thing make people happy' consumer item comes on the market. So yes indeed, some other people would see the benefit of my enormous wage.

If however you paid me £30,000 and paid another 6 people £30,000 each, then another 6 people and their families would be doing quite well.  I would think that a higher percentage of that £210,000 would be put into the general economy as seven people spending money are likely to consume more than one wealthy person.

Trickle down economics is therefore largely rubbish. What people need is jobs and a regular wage.

45 Days

Coming soon : 45 Days - The Neil Warnock Story. The gripping tale of a football manager who took over a struggling mid-table Leeds United side and only 45 days later propelled them to struggling mid-table status.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The God Delusion

I was going to attempt some 'witty' corruption of the title such as The Dawkins Delusion before realising that has probably been done a thousand times before.

I thought I would read The God Delusion before embarking on the World Religions module in September.  Acquaint yourself with the opposing view and all that.  I was, and still am, quite prepared to approach Dawkins' work with an open and fair mind and to see what the man has to say about belief and religion.

This later edition of the book opens with a series of reasons for why you cannot argue with Dawkins' conclusions.  This does strike me as a little defensive, but it is handy for getting your point across to the sort of reader who picks up a famous book but then finds they cannot actually read it al the way through.  This way they can pick up a handful of easy quotes and spurious conclusions from the introduction and then enter into pub and dinner debate as if they had read and considered the book in its entirety.

Dawkins' does write some appalling rubbish very early on.  Included in his list of things that only occurred because of religion he mentions the Troubles in NI/Ireland, well I would tend to the argument that the IRA (and other) campaigns were largely carried out because the IRA saw themselves as freedom fighters seeking to oust an invading army from their homeland and that as such religion played a very minor role. He also claims that the Gunpowder Plot could not have happened without religion, yet there have been numerous coups and assassinations (including the murder of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval) which have as their prime motivators politics, power, revenge or money.

"Atheism nearly always indicates...a healthy mind."

"Atheists tend to think independently and will not conform to authority."  Both quotes from The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

I presume Dawkins' will provide well substantiated research results later in the book to support these statements.  Taken as they are though, I can see no reason why either atheism or theism should create either a healthy mind or an unhealthy one.  The authority statement is similarly woolly and requires substantiating evidence.  In comments posted on the blog in response to earlier articles I have posted on religion writers have made the point that concerns of morality, welfare, honesty, politics and life goals are common to atheists and are not the sole province of theists. This would seem to indicate some commonality of thinking and it does rather seem as if Dawkins' is trying to apply his own traits to a larger section of the community.

I am only a short way into the book though, so perhaps all will be made clearer later on.

6000 Posts

Yes it's true, there appears to be no end to this drivel.  I have now made 6000 posts on the blog since 2002, and although I have rather slowed down of late, the blog still isn't dead.