DAY 143: Andy

August 29th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I knew that the secret would be out sooner or later, but the reference to my supposed laziness in the last posting has forced my hand. The fact is, that for the last six months I have been employing a robot, or ‘synth’ if you like, by the name of Andy to uktv-persona-synthetics-3write all these posts. The reasons are, of course, the laziness I’ve already referred to, age and weakness with a tendency to develop RSI. If it hasn’t been detected, it’s naturally because Andy learned instantly to write in a style which shares my politics, my preoccupations, my theories, my obsessions – in fact (being a robot) is incapable of writing anything which appears different from what I would have written myself. (Note my deliberate use of a gender-unspecific name.) At first I thought that readers would detect a lack of inspiration. But either they are too stupid or I’m mistaken in my belief that I’m inspired. Or Andy is inspired too – take your choice.

[Here Andy brought up, trying to change the subject and bring me back to my supposedly habitual interests, the exciting viral video of the villagers of Nabi Saleh rescuing an injured child from an IDF soldier who was trying to arrest him. As an image of resistance, and we could do with more of those, it's inspiring].

Andy has been a perfect, if rather expensive solution to my problem, and as I say I was completely satisfied with the results until she/he started going on about my laziness, which led to a couple of very fraught mealtimes. What is the solution? Should I take the blog back into my own hands, am I even capable? Have I now done so – and who is writing these words which you are reading?

Oh (as I or Andy remarked in the last post) what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive. Here we are back down in the postmodern how-do-you-know-what’s-going-on morass out of which futuristic TV series make so much mileage. It could have been worse; having Andy write the blog gave me a great deal of free time. I might well have devoted it to the study of Japanese cinema ugetsuin the 1940s, or reading the great Russian novels, or iyengar yoga. How shallow my previous preoccupations would then have seemed to me! I would, unbeknownst to Andy and my readers, have become a completely different person, one who would – if I felt like it (which luckily I don’t) go on and on about Mizoguchi or breathing exercises and consider drone strikes in Yemen or drownings in the Mediterranean as so much froth on the karmic cappuccino, undeserving of my attention.

In any case, you can see the dilemma this puts Hodgkin Enterprises in – rather similar to that which Conan Doyle faced when he lost patience with Holmes and decided to throw him 234px-Sherlock_Holmes_and_Professor_Moriarty_at_the_Reichenbach_Fallsover the Reichenbach Falls. (Or Frankenstein, when he found that his monster was causing more trouble than he’d reckoned with.) Killing Andy off is clearly out for reasons which are too many to specify, aside from her/his handy way with cocktails. It seems clear – and any Lacanian would tell us that – that our problem is the dyad (as in analyst/patent), and we need at least a third term to sort out our embattled situation – a relationship counsellor, you might say. Better still,a focus group Meeting Room 5_2could be convened to discuss from time to time on the future of the project, and silently draw inspiration for the road ahead.

[Someone associated with these issues, though, should mention that a) this month is unusual in having two full moons at least one of which is blue, or harvest (shine on!), b) that we're moving into September which is an excuse for someone's 'September Song', and I suppose Sarah Vaughan is as good as any.]

In other news, the Palestine Museum of Natural History welcomes a new shipment of scorpions.scorpions As ‘Alpha’ in Calais says, despite the fences, the refugees’ dream of getting to England is still very much alive: “Even if they build (the fence) into the sky, put a fire in front, put lions in front, put scorpions, we are going to pass. Because God brought us here.”

Well, while we all sort ourselves out, here is one of (probably) zillions of robot poems posted by robot lovers on the net:

The Robot

by Michael Mack
Upon the stairway of despair,
Complete with broken love affairs
And promises that never came,
But faded with a touch of shame,
A pretty girl with golden hair
And innocence so sadly rare,
Strove to keep her head above
A way of life devoid of love.Feeling pinned against Life’s wall,
She chanced upon a robot tall
And said, “Please come and share with me
Whatever Fate has deemed to be.
I’m through with love, done with chances
Spirit crushed by past romances,
Just be a friend in word and deed.
That’s all that I shall ever need.”"There’s not too much from me to learn,”
Remarked the robot, in return.
“Emotions do not form a part
of my cold, solid-steel heart.
Whatever maker fashioned me
Did not permit my circuitry
Responsiveness to love or pain -
Your thoughts for me would be in vain.”"No matter”, spoke the maid. “No more
Do I wish passion to explore.
Be someone I can come home to
When my exhausting day is through.
Count yourself a well-worn shoe -
A friend that I can slip into . . .
Protection from a stone cold floor . . .
For this I ask and nothing more.”Agreement made, he took her hand
And lived the life that she had planned,
Always willing, not demanding,
Aiding her with understanding
He made her smile with humorous wit
(As his restrictions would permit)
And, bit by bit, she came to feel
That he was more than iron and steel.”I love you, robot”, she at last
Replied when several months had passed.
“You’re strength and quiet dignity
Have brought a wondrous change in me.
No more do I feel all alone,
And pray you must be flesh and bone.
Deep-set emotions you MUST feel
Within that outer coat of steel!”"If I were able, I would say
I’m sorry I was made this way
But my design and programmation
Does not provide for that creation
Of feelings normal men may feel
That were not born of iron and steel.
I told you all this once before.
You have no right expecting more.”"Go, then!” cried she. “I will not live
Beside a fiend who cannot give!
Though I be battered by misuse,
Misguided trust and strong abuse,
At least the men I chose were real
And had the power to love and feel.
Of all the lovers I recall,
You are the cruelest one of all!”The robot, indestructible,
Continues freely and at will.
Emotionless, apparently,
But, bearing closer scrutiny,
One can see a small tear streak
Down that cold, metallic cheek
As I reflect upon my life . . .
That lovely lady was my wife.

The robot, of course, was me.

 

Which should certainly be followed up by Kraftwerk: and what better than ‘The Robots‘? Very different from Sarah Vaughan.

DAY 142: Еден јазик никогаш не е доволен

August 27th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

A useful phrase for us refugees, it’s the Macedonian for ‘One language is never enough’. And as you get shunted from Greece (which is under the thumb of the brutal Merkel and throws you out) in the direction of Germany » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 141: Math is cool!

August 15th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been waiting for fifty years, if not more, to read a headline – it was in the Indy today, but I’ve no doubt the other serious papers carried the same story. Maths has finally displaced English, media Studies, Old High German and so on as the most popular choice for university applicants in England.

I can’t get over the weirdness of this news at this particular time. It can’t have anything to do with the job market,  which any 21-year-old will tell you is crap independently of what you’ve studied – and getting worse. Twenty years ago my students used to dream of walking into careers internin accountancy with the likes of Arthur Andersen; they’d be lucky to get an internship now, and they’d have to pay to get it. So have they been hypnotized into seeing mathematicians as some sort of inarticulate role models, by watching films about the likes of Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking (see previous posts)? It’s not as if maths was practical – if you wanted someone to fix your car or design an app for your phone, wuuld you ask a mathematician? (Years ago, a Portuguese woman explained to me that back home only women studied math, since the men all did engineering.) And it’s not – as mathematicians are always pointing out – as if their pursuit will lead to jobs or money or being helpful around the house. They can’t even explain what they do to their friends and loved ones. It must be that finally all these kids (since they have no job prospects anyway) have finally caught on to the sheer beauty, nay sexiness, of the subject in itself. You can see them in the playgrounds, in the classrooms,


images 18-57-19

or even at intervals in the discos, passionately discussing motivic cohomology, measurable laminations, the zeros of the Riemann zeta function and the earthquake flow. Why live within the limited world of some programmer’s imagination and spend your time gawping at ‘the ‘unplayable’ FF15Final Fantasy 15 when you could move within the infinite field of the Ultimate Game Designer, God (responsible for such jokes as Gödel’s Theorem and Hilbert’s Hotel).

[Talking of God, you may have noticed an item in the news the other day about how squids have many more genes than humans, and therefore should (if you were reading the Metro) probably be viewed as aliens - and, one supposes, deported. And where would we get our calamary? These aliens are, as I never cease to point out, good for something. What no one mentioned is that the common wheat wheator Triticum aestivum, with 17 gigabases - as analysed by Rachel Brenchley, Manuel Spannag, Matthias Pfeifer, Gary L.A. Barker, Rosalinda D'Amore, Alexandra M. Allen, Neil McKenzie, Melissa Kramer, Arnaud Kerhornou, Dan Bolser, Suzanne Kay, Darren Waite, Martin Trick, Ian Bancroft, Yong Gu, Naxin Huo, Ming-Cheng Luo, Sunish Sehgal, Sharyar Kianian, Bikram Gill, Olin Anderson, Paul Kersey, Jan Dvorak, W. Richard McCombie, Anthony Hall, Klaus F.X. Mayer, Keith J. Edwards, Michael W. Bevan and Neil Hall -

d'amoreRosalinda d'Amore (Liverpool)

has five times as much DNA as humans and no one calls it an alien or tries to get it to play stupid tricks on Youtube. And yet, it must have done something amazingly smart to get to being a hexaploid when way back in the second millennium BCE (if I remember) in the Levant it was only a diploid called emmer and lived in Palestine.]

Sport (via +972 magazine):

Predictably, al-Ahly Khalil won the Palestine FA Cup last night 2-1, defeating Shejaia to earn a place in Asian club competition.
Palestine Cup final match, Hebron, West Bank, 14.8.2015

Al Ahly, the top team in the West Bank, and Gaza Strip champions Shejaia met in the first clash between teams from the two territories since 2000 Ahmad Maher scored the winner in the first minute of injury time to secure the Hebron side’s place in the next Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup. The first leg in Gaza earlier this month ended in a goalless draw. (It’s pretty sporting of Shejaia to have got that far, given that  their entire city – including, one supposes, the football piches, was reduced to rubble last summer.) While Al Ahly’s small stadium was overflowing with fans, hundreds of thousands watched on television and bustling Gaza fell quiet as Shejaia supporters willed their team on from afar in cafes and restaurants.

 That election

I was disappointed to hear by email today that the Labour Party considered me fit to be a member – Groucho Marx’s comment comes to mind. It’s true that I support many of the party’s former core values, such as the overthrow of capitalism, the NHS, the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange; but I thought they’d been thrown out in favour of racism, foreign wars and coming down hard on benefit cheats. It’s like conning the Catholic priest into giving you communion when you don’t believe in the Real Presence – should you own up? There’s obviously a case – when isn’t there? – for a Facebook page which will be home to troubled lefties who have managed  to be admitted, and need absolution.

Kitchen

In these straitened times when things like saltimbocca or quenelles de brochet are only a distant memory, we find ourselves more and more turning to the old standbys like baked beans. And here is the authentic Boston recipe (I believe) which will possibly cost you even less than Heinz.

  1. Rinse 2 lb dry kidney beans in cold water. Place in a large bowl, and cover with 2″ of cold water. Let soak overnight in refrigerator. Drain, and rinse beans.
  2. Put beans in a large crock pot with: 1/2 cup sugar, 2/3 cup molasses, 4 teaspoons mustard; 2 tsp salt, pepper, 1 large onion diced, 1/4 lb salt pork cut into 1 in chunks; and 4 1/2 cups boiling water.
  3. Cook on high 12-14 hours or on low for 24 hrs., or until beans are soft, and juice is thick. Stir occasionally.
  4. Check water occasionally to make sure there is enough water in the beans, so they don’t boil dry.
  5. Note: If you use a smaller size crock pot cut the recipe in 1/2, and cook until beans are done. I always use my large crock pot, so I’m not sure how long it takes.

While most of this recipe seems completely convincing, I haven’t tried it; and it gets vague at crucial points.Can I interpret ‘crock pot’ as (say) Le Creuset; and is the ‘cooking on high’ to be done in an oven? Should the crock pot have a lid? The key point, I’m sure, is the molasses. Get that in, and you’re away.

Poetry

Perhaps we could here include ‘Poppies on the Wheat’, by Helen Hunt Jackson, activist in favour of the rights of Native Americans – but that’s another story.

Along Ancona’s hills the shimmering heat,
A tropic tide of air with ebb and flow
Bathes all the fields of wheat until they glow
Like flashing seas of green, which toss and beat
Around the vines. The poppies lithe and fleet
Seem running, fiery torchmen, to and fro
To mark the shore.
                              The farmer does not know
That they are there. He walks with heavy feet,
Counting the bread and wine by autumn’s gain,
But I,—I smile to think that days remain
Perhaps to me in which, though bread be sweet
No more, and red wine warm my blood in vain,
I shall be glad remembering how the fleet,
Lithe poppies ran like torchmen with the wheat.
Music
I haven’t posted anything by that great, but short-lived guitarist Charlie Christian. Here is a 1940 track (not Minton’s), ‘Tea for Two‘ -with even some transcriptions added.

DAY 140: Money

August 10th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Or the readies, or liqudity, or le pognon, or flūs, the universal equivalent as Marx called it. I’ve been worrying about it lately, not in the usual sense of where has it all » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 139: Burning flesh

August 5th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s been a dreadful week in Palestine. If attention focused on the arson attack of July 31st in which 18-month old Ali Dawabsheh was burned alive, state violence » Read the rest of this entry «