Saturday, November 21, 2009
12.40-1.30—Ceremony of Installation of the President. Commentary from St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle, and from the G.P.O., Dublin.
5.30—Kathleen Burke's Trio in Light Music, and Peter Moran (baritone).
Trio—Merrie England (German) (Chapell).
Peter Moran—Ireland, I love you Acushla Machree; My Fairest Child; Because (d'Hardelot).
Trio—Elfin Reigin [etc.]
Peter Moran—The stars that light my garden (Russell); Beautiful Isle of somewhere (Fearis).
You can see the rest of the schedule by clicking on the image. It returns to the installation of Douglas Hyde from 9.10 pm to 9.30 pm with a "Commentary from the state reception in St. Patrick's Hall" and closes with the national anthem at 11 pm.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
1. Summertime Blues - Eddie Cochran
You don't have to be tall.
2. Eloise - Paul and Barry Ryan
You don't have to be cool.
3. My Perfect Cousin - The Undertones
You don't have to be intelligent.
4. Itchycoo Park - The Small Faces
You don't have to be able to dance.
5. Anthem - Leonard Cohen
You don't have to be perfect.
6. Angel Flyin' Too Close to the Ground - Willie Nelson and Shelby Lynne
You don't have to be with someone.
7. For My Lover - Tracy Chapman
You don't have to be sane.
8. The Harder they Come - Jimmy Cliff
You don't have to be rich.
9. I Dreamed A Dream - Susan Boyle
You don't have to be young and beautiful.
10. Baby I Need Your Lovin' - The Four Tops
You don't have to ask.
Friday, October 23, 2009
the helplessness in fugue between fleetwood's late drumbeat, mcveigh's unrequited bass drive and christine's prismatic love
Fleetwood is an archetypal English character and John McVeigh is a hero for carrying the torch for Christine through it all, even when she sucks up to that abominably cheesy guitar virtuoso interloper. It's a "blues Abba" with Mick, John, Christine and Stevie. I love the way John clutches Christine at about 1:04 into this. You have to realise he's carried a torch for her forever and she's in with the glib mother's boy guitarist interloper whose name I've happily forgotten. She's the biggest eejit for that but she's also mother earth and all the rest.
John McVeigh's explanation of the pull of their music is that the bass leads the way and Mick Fleetwood's drumbeat follows a couple of microseconds (or whatever) behind, which gives it that distinctive flavour (drum usually sets/is on the beat) and empathy with a love scene in the court of a jester king (Fleetwood). (I don't know if I'm making any sense.)
2011: I should add I know nothing about them really, the above is just the way I imagine things might be.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Friday, October 02, 2009
I'm curious which Paul Auster work was the one mentioned as plagiarised. I imagine that could have turned into an expensive legal problem, easily capable of bankrupting a small magazine, by the way. I have a vague sense of deja-vu (ironically?) about Auster and plagiarism allegations - don't know why.
There is no copyright on ideas, nor should there be, nor could there be. Die gedanken sind frei. But that is a different matter to a squalid ripoff between two erstwhile friends who are both writers. If somebody who's not a writer said to me why not write a story about a piano tuner in Ballygobackwards, I think it's perfectly in order to do so and show them the result. However, if the writer said he or she were writing it, I would have to be a right numpty to take it on myself to write the same thing, would I not? No?
Shakespeare reused old stories as the plots for his plays and that's fine. It wouldn't have been so fine to use a then contemporary writer's storylines though. It's almost the norm for books to be based on other "templates", if only as obscure as Homer's Odyssey for Joyce's Ulysses. However, courts have drawn the line at such things as a sequel to Gone With The Wind from the maid's point of view, called "The Wind Done Gone". In a more recent case J. D. Salinger blocked the publication of a lightly veiled "sequel" by some other writer to Catcher In The Rye, in which Holden Caulfield is portrayed aged 60.
I attended a talk by Bernard Cornwell in which he stated that all a writer had to do find commercial success, which was all he wanted, was to take a successful template, change all the names and settings somewhat and send it out and that that's what he had done by transforming the Hornblower novels into his Sharpe series.
His other "big idea" (from an agent) was that publishers wanted a series, and the example he gave was that if you wrote a book "How to look after your pet dog", one copy could be sold to every pet shop and that was the end of you. So - again templating - his suggestion was write a book called "How to look after your Alsation", then an endless series of almost identical ones called "How to look after your Labradoodle" (etc.)
So back to where I started, I'm with Charlie and not Cornwell.
Sympathies to Vanessa.
By the way I read hundreds of stories every year for a competition and I still haven't a clue what to write when faced with a blank page and haven't written anything for ages. It would never enter my head to bother what anyone else wanted to write. As for making money out of writing - there's more to be made washing windscreens at the traffic lights.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I'll be there supporting this with Willesden Green Writers' Group, on Friday at 8 pm, reading a bit of one of my stories that touches on immigration. It's a self-contained part of "The End", which is the first story in All Those Endearing Young Charms. (And yes - before you ask - the last story is called "The Beginning").
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
we know before we think. it has been proven experimentally anyway, but just (er) think about it. there is no need for the time-consuming thought. all can be at light speed as long as we don't think. this is the reason for beginner's luck, for example. as soon as they interpose the delayed and faulty thought, having "learned" how to play, players lose their beginner's luck. it is a one-time only gift. usually.
whatever you think you thought, you already thought before you thought you thought. how can it be otherwise. if i can stop thinking i can fly at light speed through where thought plods and get outside the earth's gravitation (so to speak, and speaking is even more redundant, especially on the internet where we are all trees falling in forests with nobody around except other trees who are falling themselves and so do not make good listeners.
(anyway listening is pointless as well. you cannot listen to what you have not already heard. listening is a form of thinking and so should be eliminated. (but elimination of thought and listening is pointless, because nature eliminates them by making them pointless and redundant, in other words they are self-eliminating. therefore to try and eliminate them is itself further redundancy piled on the initial redundancy. (whether you think or not is immaterial. (so you thought? so what? i thought and that was a nanosecond i'll never see again.
(but seeing - now that's a waste of pixels (which are themselves dismal ineffectual redundant representations of entities that preexisted the pixels (entities like trees that do not waste their time thinking (feverish thinking (a disease of the mind (before thought was the same animal, the bald ape (adam and eve, like laurel and hardy, "two heads without a single thought".
it's just a hop across a slippery stepping stone to genesis and adam and eve eating from the tree of knowledge, which is where all our troubles supposedly originated, otherwise we'd have been coasting along on beginners' luck, millions (billions) of us fololoping around in pristine ignorance, always landing the rolled up scroll in the waste paper bin first time and having comprehended the universe just by or at the same time as opening our eyes.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Saturday, August 01, 2009
President Cory Aquino's historic speech before the U.S. Congress, part 1. Part 2. Part 3
I still have my People Power teeshirt from when I was there in 1987/8 during the runup to a referendum on the new constitution. I loved her, I don't know why - everything about the Philippines makes me want to cry. She was quite a gifted orator. I always remember her earlier presidential campaign speech when she said something like, "My opponents say I am not a good candidate. They say I'm just an inexperienced woman. It's true I have no experience. I have no experience of graft! I have no experience of corruption! ..." (Can anyone find that on YouTube?)
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Next consider how the solitary and the gregarious regard other people. I'm interested in the concept of "caring what other people say". Thinking about permutations of this attribute between the two types I suggest that being gregarious and caring what people say is good and that being solitary and not caring what people say is also good, though I'm not going to try and justify that here.
That leaves us with two other categories: the solitary who care what people say, whose condition I suggest is somewhat tragic, pitiable if you like and the gregarious who don't care what people say, whose condition I suggest is despicable. The latter are what I call the gregarious indifferent. Their condition is despicable because they foist themselves on others, intrude, trample, disport themselves generally without any concern for what others say.
This condition of gregarious indifference is what is so objectionable about alcoholics. You will note the one-sided conversations, the drunken midnight phone call that's all "me me me", demanding interaction and repetitive but utterly indifferent and unreceptive to any response. The purblind, gregarious indifferent are to be avoided like the plague.
Anticipating the objection that one can care about people but not care what they say: I'm not suggesting that caring what people say is the same as caring about other people but it's a bit more than just "being a good listener". I think caring what people say is at least part of the way down the road to caring about other people in general (whatever that entails).
My conclusion is either to care what people say and be gregarious or, if you prefer to be solitary for the time being, not to care what anybody says. Do not fall into the opposite situations, namely being solitary and caring what people say - which is tragic - or being gregarious and not caring what people say - which is despicable.
May 2011: Re-reading this I'm thinking either everyone should care what people say, or possibly nobody should care what anybody says and so the whole thing collapses. It's all tendentious, I think. I could have made it much simpler: I just don't like drunks who want to talk but not to listen.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
In my analogy (below somewhere) I described DNA as like measurements and specifications such as colour and fabric for a suit, which is then made by a tailor. It is the tailor who knows how to make the suit, he or she initiates the processing and guides it by using techniques that are not described at all in the specifications for the suit. What I am saying is that you can take the material (a bolt of cloth, say) and the pattern and place them in the world and they will sit there forever and decay, fall to bits and no suit will appear. That is unless somebody or some thing - it could be a machine - takes the material, follows the pattern and after a time equivalent to gestation of a creature - outputs the finished garment.
So my question: What is it that takes the pattern of DNA and the material and not only makes it but like Pinocchio's carpenter brings it to life? And a possible answer, or rather another metaphor for it, is that Life is an operating system. In this view DNA is object class definition language, living things are object instances and Life is an operating system that implements our constructors, provides our operating environment and eventually disposes of us and recycles our material.
I foresee the objection that this is a tautology and that we have arrived at nothing more than the laws of nature, which are already described. However, the laws of nature may be described separately, as somewhat isolated phenomena, or phenomena whose interactions are investigated and catalogued as a series of fragments, whereas I suggest we are functions of a large system called Life which, in summary, drives us and all creatures, and without which we would just be piles of inanimate materials. Materials, as far as we know, do not get up and write A la Recherche du Temps Perdu or indeed anything at all, they rather tend to chaos (entropy) when left alone.
I am looking for something scientific, which will explain how DNA is translated into a finished product, to put it that way, and when the answer is known we will not be in any different position as regards "the meaning of life" - we still will not know, because behind every new mechanism lies another mechanism that must enable it. "All of our knowledge only brings us closer to our ignorance" (Eliot).
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Maybe that's all there is to it: self-reproducing robots. There was a TV debate about religion (Christianity 2000 with Melvyn Bragg) where somebody in the audience argued against clerics on the panel that people were just like robots, to which the panellist replied well do you think that you are a robot and the speaker in the audience asserted that he (the speaker) was indeed a robot. It was very strange to hear somebody state in that way, "I am a robot" - almost as if it made that person into a robot by self proclamation, as if one could be or not be a robot by choice. There was a sense that that person had alienated himself from the entire audience and panel and got into a very weird situation.
But back to "What is life?" I think we can agree that a rock is not alive. If so, I guess we can also agree that a jar of acid is not alive. What if it's a jar of amino acid (some organic molecules)? We're told that DNA is made up of codes for a set of amino acids. When talking about robots and self-reproducing robots and acting purposefully for self-sustenance and continuation, what hasn't been discussed here yet is energy and motivation. We have material, sure, and we have "a scenario" (things act, reproduce, interact) but what is it that tells them how to behave, what to do and when: what starts them on a path and what guides their behaviour? (Turning straight to motivation and skipping the question of energy which is obviously just another mechanism, equivalent to the components of the robot.)
If we are agreeing that a jar of acid is not alive, is equivalent to a rock, and if we take it that DNA is code for a number of amino acids, then we are looking at a plan for items that are not in themselves inherently alive. We know that this pattern (DNA) is in living creatures ("duh") and we observe meiosis and all the events that cause half of one creature's DNA to combine with half of another creature's (for example - leaving cloning aside for the time being). We have, very obviously, the energy to power these processes. We have chemicals, patterns for chemicals and components, we can observe behaviour and formation of quasi-live spermatazoa (a form of life with a half-set of DNA, that looks and moves like plankton, say, but is humanoid?) but there is absolutely no explanation offered as to why these components proceed through very long processes (9 months in the human) of almost unimaginable complexity with clear purpose to create structures and creatures with inbuilt instincts, behaviours of their own and a big ETC.
What part of the weaver bird's DNA comprises the design of its nest and the talent and ability to create that nest from available materials in a timely way to provide a home for more little weaver birds? Hello, you've told us so far about amino acids.
Darwin deals with some of this in his section on instinct, in the chapter on objections to his theory. He didn't know about DNA, so he just assumed there was some mechanism in which behaviour could be inherited and gradually modified. His paragon of instinctive behaviour was bees constructing a honeycomb, which comprises a mathematically complex structure of interconnected hexagonal (?) cells. He broke it down to each bee digging out some of the wax and neighbouring bees doing the same till a thin line remained between the holes being dug by each of the neighbouring bees. The evolutionary principle kicked in because the honeycomb structure is the form that can contain the most honey with the least wax, and so bees that tended to make that shape thrived more than ones that didn't. Plus there are different types of bees that have less perfect combs, sort of transitional ones in isolated places etc. But even knowing about DNA and epigenetics, it's still hard to see how behaviour could be encoded.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I know that the scientific take on this extends from microbes that live in rocks to other dubious and many obvious examples and there are borderline entities as well as concepts for cloudy technology-based entities that could be considered to have life. I'm not referring to borderline or artificial concepts, what I'm thinking about is the main ubiquitous animal life that "we know very well".
What makes a cell divide repeatedly and eventually fill out a model that becomes a creature and what makes these creatures spark (almost literally, electrical impulses spark the heartbeat) or grow and reproduce? Surely there isn't enough coding potential in DNA to model even a cell itself, let alone all the organs and dynamic behaviour, instincts built in, and the brain itself etc etc.
There are more lines in a not-particularly-complicated computer program [the machine code] than there are in the human genome. So where is the real pattern for life? We can put a pile of amino acids in a saucer but they won't get up and write À la recherche du temps perdu. Estimates vary from 25,000 to 80,000 effective genes in the human genome, and currently thought to be at the lower end of that range (ref: here). There are more parts in the body than there are elements in the genome! [Can't find an anatomical dictionary count, but an online medical dictionary boasts 82,000 entries, including 63,000 definitions.] Imagine what it would need to program any one part of the body, never mind the brain, for example. You couldn't program even a wonky robot with that number of instructions, let alone a system to build a wonky robot (which, some might jokingly argue, is what we have).
Ok, let's make a hypothesis that DNA is only a list of variations, similar to the measurements and colour list for bespoke suit, say. The tailor knows how to make that variation of a suit, so that you get a distinctive looking suit, perhaps floridly exotic-looking, large or small sizes in each component etc. But that list of measurements, colours, even drawings, is nowhere near able of itself - the pattern - to make itself. It is only a pattern or design. Even placed together with the material needed, nothing will happen. In practice we go into a tailors, get measured, select a colour, fabric and style, have it all written down and we go away and come back and the thing has been made to the specification. So that is the hypothesis, that DNA is a set of variations to something that will be made.
Maybe you might say that a car is very complicated, but the design for a car can be 100% encoded, in such a way that a robot and a computer could make the whole thing from the design and out of a factory would come a car ready to drive. We know that a human being is far more complicated than a car, so what I ask is this: can you encode the design even for a car using nothing but the coding ability of DNA and no more than the amount of DNA, with its number of genes, in a single human cell? If you find that it is impossible to encode the structure of a car using the coding potential of the four-letter DNA sequences, albeit in an analogous, mathematical estimation only, then how could it possibly encode a human being?
This is a challenge: Prove that the design for a car could be encoded using the number of units of 4-letter permutations that human DNA contains.
I want to speculate about the implications, should this challenge not be achievable, i.e. should it be the case that DNA is inadequate to encode a complete model of a human being. Let's simplify and say a complete model of a worm, imporantly this model is not just a physical model of the structure of a worm, it has to include all the behaviour, instincts, mobility, regeneratability, reproduction etc.
If (IF) DNA is inadaquate it follows that there must be something else that causes human beings and other life forms to fill out their "models" and "behave" characteristically (instincts etc.) This is not to say that it is something mystical, though it might as well be - because in effect everything we not only cannot understand but deem incapable of comprehension is mystical, almost by definition.
To be continued.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
* Not the book, which I vividly remember too, and about which much could be said. If you really think about it, it's funny what the radio station was calling itself. I think they thought it was something horticultural.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
That's what my heart needs - Otis Redding (1963)
This sort of record, of which there were so many in the US, obviates most of "the British invasion", I think. Much as I loved John Lennon's singing and I think he said that he was copying, or at least trying to emulate Arthur Alexander (another US singer), Otis Redding just goes into "another gear". From the first phrase in this recording, which sounds almost folksy, the sheer mastery of both the singing and the accompaniment, makes most of the British/Merseybeat/The Animals etc records seem laboured and fussy by comparison. Just take the drumming, for example, the perfect explosion of the high hat (isn't that what that cymbal type sound is?) which is like a firework going off in the distance, and the mellifluous guitar picking, all going to show that it's not just hitting the notes it's how you play them...
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Very well then, in Shakespeare's words, "Since the fate of man rests still uncertain, let's reason with the worst that may befall." If we don't really care about our imminent annihilation, why do we bother about comparative trivialities? Why should we reduce our consumption of water, say, to such a tightly restricted level that the population and housing can be increased to the maximum, and eventually result in our skintight usage of water becoming stretched and breaking, so that any small disruption causes us to be dying of thirst? Is it not far better to encourage people to use plenty of water, so that when there are disruptions there still may be just enough to go round, rather than encouraging everyone to skimp so much that there is just enough to go round when there is no disruption?
And why do we waste our time separating things for supposed recycling, at great additional energy cost to us, to the recyclers and through the recycling process and the possible extra cost consequent on lower quality recycled items, not to mention the fact that a lot of the time it's not recycled at all after all our wasted energy, when at the same time a huge catastrophe is making its way towards us, about which we have not one idea, not one contingency plan and not the least compunction because really deep down we know it's all a charade and we're all doomed and everybody just lasts for a few blinks anyway.
Oh ffs - eat, drink and be merry!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
We are in thrall to amoral, ruthless commercialism and laziness. It's time for a new austerity, a return to self-sufficiency and to shut down the globalist nonsense for good and all. Everybody is not a friend, this globalism is a sort of second wave hippie economics. I wouldn't have the EU trade with any other part of the world that has lesser human and worker rights. Let's take the hit financially - it's all a house of cards anyway - and bet on self-reliance. We can only win - could not possibly do any worse, when questions of dignity and honour are more important than a surfeit of consumption. This is the way to promote justice and human rights, by not entertaining any business approaches unless they are from countries we can verify compliant with our own minimum wages, working conditions and human rights. No deals with any country that implements the death penalty, including the USA and Russia.
People like Gordon Brown who at one time probably had hippie sensibilities (me too) have now sublimated that crock of ineffectual banality into the realm of world economics. It's like "Free Love!" this "Free Trade!" - "Let it all hang out" - well unfortunately we just had our Manson moment, and it's all fallen out with a splurge of fetid monetary ouns and bilge.
Everything that labour activists and trade unions fought for "in the day" has been sold out, in order that overseas robber barons can setup new industrial dormitories and hock new souls to their company stores, or buy peasants' children into bonded labour. We buy produce made by state prison slave labourers who send goods to Europe with "Help we are slaves - tell the world" written on the back in Chinese (I have seen this), or from children bussed out of schools to break their young backs in cotton fields. We still have not switched to electric cars, so tyrannical sheikhs and mullahs continue to use our oil money to hold their people in servitude.
Mobile execution chambers roll around China (ref. this week) while in this part of the world we are ingenuous and kind enough to still circulate mobile libraries and health screening equipment. We donate our own organs, support and run charities, while they harvest organs for sale from executed prisoners and make relatives pay for the bullet to the back of the head that killed their sons or daughters, fathers or mothers in a field - and won't even allow relatives to reclaim the body. We worry about how to support our population as people live longer, while they have decreed that there shall never again be any such thing as a brother or a sister, an aunt or an uncle, a niece or a nephew (the one child policy).
Close the damn drawbridge. We can do 1,000% better on our own, and let them reform and come crawling back - if they're able. We have sent out the message that what we eradicated here is now, for mercenary reasons, acceptable vicariously through these other vicious, despicable regimes. It is not acceptable, we are just victims of lazy and unprincipled governance, the cupidity of the over-ambitious, and the insensibility of dullards.
Bring industry home. Bring the troops home. Let us support and strengthen national and European defences till we are 100% independent of Russia, China, OPEC and the United States. Let's get a grip and stop selling our hard won rights and laws down the river.
Monday, February 09, 2009
On the way to a business meeting in Stockport, the taxi stopped in traffic. We were near the entrance to the local graveyard. The traffic on the other side had been blocked and there were people with cameras. I said, "There must be an important funeral today." The driver said, "I think it's that lad that was killed in Afghanistan." I looked through the back window of the taxi and saw soldiers in dress uniform lining the entrance to the cemetery. Motorcycle police approached and the video cameraman got in the middle of the road to film the approaching hearse, which was still out of sight. I feel like taking some pictures. Then I think there are enough people taking pictures. The hearse came by, just an ordinary civilian hearse. I took off my hat. The coffin was draped in the union jack and along the side, written in flowers, "Danny".
Friday, January 30, 2009
As for the future, some have speculated that by looking into space and determining what lies there, man is narrowing the future, reducing it to what we can see receding or approaching. If we'd never made telescopes, infinite futures might have remained, but as it is we are reducing all to narrow doom.
Somebody said "The unexamined life is not worth living" but one could equally well say that the unlived life is not worth examining and by implication that the examined life is not worth living. The examined life may be nothing more than an internal conversation about living, something like talking about jazz - which somebody said was like dancing about architecture. But there are philosophers who are paid to noodle on about such things and the best of luck to them, may they noodle forever.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I was one of the readers at the first Costa Short Story Café event. The highlight was Helen Simpson reading a very funny story called "I'm going to have to let you go". There was a good turnout, standing room only. A pleasant hour. (Link: Fiction Espresso)