Not waving but drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

A hauntingly simple short poem by Stevie Smith, whom I admire greatly. I find the last two lines suddenly overcome me; please tell me what you make of it. I first came across her work casually browsing in the library. Therefore libraries are good.

The Advertiser’s Secret

After many years of analysing tv programmes and advertisement scheduling, I am in a position to make this startling announcement: Advertisers (damn their scaly hides!) deliberately and calculatingly target their market groups via tv viewing preferences!!

That is why, I’ve managed to uncover, Michael Parkinson comes on advertising life insurance in between Countdown.
And why alcopops and pregnancy tests are sold during Eastenders.

Et voila! Another case cracked!

And here’s an example of a slimy Advertiser carefully choosing their words to say the opposite of what they mean.

A Personal Injury law firm starts with “Here in the UK we have some of the finest healthcare in the world” because they know its risky to diss the NHS that everyone is still proud of.
But they continue (and I paraphrase).. “However, if you have had a bad experience, let us help you sue the fuck out of the system”.

Ride of my Life!!

I watched a great programme on BBC 4 Thursday night. Presented and written by the author Rob Penn (he claims to be one; I haven’t found anything written by him after a quick search), it was called ‘Ride of my life: The story of the bicycle’ and in it Rob travels round the world buying hand-made parts to build his new dream bike and tells the history of the bike along the way. It was a very enthusiastic and joyful programme.

Some interesting facts were thrown out that I wasn’t aware of:-

• The Madonna del Ghisallo was made Patron Saint of cycling by some Pope and there’s a shrine near Lake Como, Italy, which serves as a museum for cycle racing greats and their bikes.

• In Italy, cyclists wear racing team colours like we wear football colours. It’s important to dress well, and the term ‘Bella in Sella’ meaning ‘looking good in the saddle’ is used to describe the look.

• One of the Italian cyclists accompanying Rob mentioned how employees on € 1500 a month bought bikes worth € 5000. And changed them every couple of years.

• Portsmouth, Oregon is the most cycle-friendly city in the U.S of A. The Oregon State Govt. has spent around $100 million over 10 years in making it so, and it looks fab.

• Mountain bikes were invented in Fairfax, California by the hippies doing downhill racing in the mountains. The original trail they used is called ‘Repack Ride’ because by the time you reached the bottom the ball bearings in the hub brake would be so hot all the grease would bubble out, and the hub had to be re-packed.

• 19/20 bicycles sold in America now are MTBs.

• The population of cyclists in London doubled from 2000 – 2007.

British Stranger

Just read a story on the BBC web about a 16-month-old kid in Florida, U.S.A. who fell from a balcony and was caught by a British lady. Great deed, well done,..
A couple of comments:-

> If I’d just saved a baby, I still wouldn’t want it mentioned in the papers if it meant they were also going to say it happened poolside at “Econo Lodge hotel”

> Who names their kid “Jah-Nea”?

> The headlines from a few news agencies. The first four run with ‘Brit’; note how CBS differs from the others:

Daily Express – ‘Briton saves hotel plunge toddler’
3 hrs ago

Reuters UK – ‘British tourist saves toddler in four-storey fall’
8 hrs ago

Telegraph – ‘Briton catches toddler who fell from fourth-floor balcony’
9 hrs ago

MSNBC – ‘British tourist saves baby in 4-story Fla. fall’
9 hrs ago

CBS News – ‘Toddler falls from balcony, caught by stranger’
16 hrs ago

Licherchure (aka Literature)

..a bit happy with meself, after having read some of the best books of me life in such a short span.

Peter Hoeg: Mrs. Smilla’s feeling for snow. Indescribably unique. I loved the anti-heroine that was Smilla, her talents, attributes, and the toughness!.. definitely a fan.

Graham Greene: The end of the affair. My first Greene, some references I might’ve missed, but all the more poignant (and dare I say “timeless”) because of that.

Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up bird chronicle. Seemed like a hefty task to begin with, but the simple poetry of the narrative keeps you hoooked. I never had so many random strangers talking to me about a book/author they loved.

Greg Egan: Oceanic, Crystal Nights. And Science fiction used to have a ‘margin of uncertainity’; the difference between what could happen and what might actually happen. This fucker just blew that up.

People are sheep

Let me explain.

If you’ve ever walked between Piccadilly Train station and Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, you’ll have noticed that the lines on the pavement outside the station follow the curves of the building front.

This means that, although the shortest route from the station exit as you round Greggs is a straight line to the pedestrian crossing of Ducie Street, 99.999% of the people going to and from the station walk a longer route following the curved path of the pavement lines, even when in a rush.

Once you notice this, it seems like ridiculous behaviour. But it happens all the same!

The lines on the pavement seem to subconciously channel the flow of people. I wonder if there are any other deliberate or accidental designs in town planning that influence us.

Prof. Brian Cox (aka The Science Sexpot)

The ‘Wunders’ of the Universe is on again tonight. Saw the Prof. on Sunday morning telly, I agree with him that academics deserve recognition (and nurses, social workers, firemen, etc.). I also really like Jon Culshaw’s impression of him. And why was Total Wipeout presenter Amanda Byram squirming and blushing when the Prof spoke to her? 🙂

Just had a look on his facebook page, (which I have “liked”) and noticed that the postings on his wall show his fans fall into the following main categories.

1) Women (usually of a ‘certain age’) fawning over him.

“I wouldnt mind learning about particle physics off you, haha”

2) People trying to sound clever by asking questions about “The Universe, duh” that just highlight their lack of understanding of some basic tenets of physics. (I know there are supposed to be no stupid questions, but we know better).

“Hi Brian, was just wondering how come earthquakes tend to always be in the same parts of the world, especially the type of earthquakes we’ve seen in Japan yesterday. Are earthquakes seen as a weakness or simply where the earth is most active or alive meaning not particularly a weakness at all? I’m assuming parts of the UK thousands of years ago had active earthquakes as around Cornwall we have massive rocks sticking out of the ground. One such rock is called Roche Rock”

3) An intersection of the sets 1) and 2) containing both of the above.

“brian u was awesome on question is what is happening in inter stellar space beyond are universe..does it ever end or is it infinate…”

4) People with some personal agenda who think their comments are actually being read by anyone except the sad people (temporarily including myself) who cruise this page.

“i have a son who is studying astro physics at york university he is just finishing his 3rd year in june he wants to do work experience can you recomend anywhere at the moment hes applied to serbia to do a month there and he hopes to canada to a masters degree then somewhere to do his phd”

5) Genuine scientists and science-lovers.

It’s encouraging to see that a large cross-section of society is getting interested in science.
It’s disheartening to see that a large cross-section of society knows fuck-all about science and spells atrociously: ‘our’ spelt as ‘are’, ‘infinite’ as ‘infinate’, and ‘symmetrical’ as ‘semetricle’! (I won’t even begin on the poor abused apostrophe).


p.s. reference quotes taken from Prof. Brian Cox’s facebook page.

My Life in Books

It wouldn’t seem like an idea that would get the nod from a TV producer nowadays: a programme with people just sitting and talking about books. No special effects, no loud shouting, no insane plot lines. Just two notable people coming on each week and talking about the five books that they feel influenced their life the most. But of course, this is the BBC; maker of the best programmes in the world. see My Life in Books

Anne ‘Weakest Link’ Robinson plays the host, walking the two guests through the books that were significant to them at various stages in their lives; childhood, puberty, adulthood; joy, sorrow, hardship. Guests included Alastair Campbell, Peter and Dan Snow, Robert Harris, P.D. James, Sue Perkins, Sarah Millican, Larry Lamb…

Some really great books cropped up, books that I’ve enjoyed and love as well i.e. Richmal Crompton’s Just William series, Robinson Crusoe, The Count of Monte Christo, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Hungry Caterpillar…

As a bibliophile myself, it was beautiful and moving to see people really cherishing their books; author Robert Harris had his ‘Just William’ from when he was 7, with his name and address on the flyleaf. And he’s almost 54 now!

It obviously led me to think what books I would choose, so I’ll randomly write the first books that come to mind, and then maybe rank them.

Frank Herbert’s Dune (The series), Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, David Attenborough’s My Life on Air, J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father, Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Steph Swainston’s Castle books, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated, Martin Amis’ The Rachel Papers, Richmal Crompton’s Just William (The series), Herge’s Tintin, Goscinny & Uderzo’s Asterix and Obelix, Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun also Rises, Iain (M) Banks (all), Charles Bukowski’s Factotum, Irvine Welsh (all), G.D.Roberts’ Shantaram, ……..(to be continued).

Sea Fever

Monday eve, heading off to swim again. I Googled for a poem about water but didn’t like any. Here’s one by John Masefield that I remembered. It fits the bill:-

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

– John Masefield

It flows beautifully.

2001: A Space Apology

… to a generation of acheivers that went before us;

Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, Gagarin, Tereshkova, Armstrong.

Sputnik, Vostok, Gemini, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz.

We, the current crop of Earth-bound no-gooders, are ashamed of the lack of progress since. As I watch this superb film, it is the year 2011, 10 years later than Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke predicted that humankind would be breaking free from its terrestrial shackles.

And yet we still do not have:

    > Pan-Am flights to the moon.
    > $1.70 videocalls to Earth.
    > Manned Jupiter missions.
    > BBC 12.

Although a healthy 60’s-era American-Soviet mistrust still remains.

(and I’m happy about the ESA / NASA satellites taking solar pictures from opposite angles. Nasa SOHO page )