November 28th, 2012 § 3 comments

Here is today’s picture – weather still not looking too good…

Playing chess in ‘The Seventh Seal’ – Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot

A hard day trying to think about the advantages/disadvantages of something called ‘New Public Management’ or NPM (don’t ask why); making public services leaner, managed more like the private sector, more target-driven – you know the stuff. Seems like a no-brainer. There are no advantages unless you’re a hatchet-faced Thatcherite or an IMF hack. You lose your job, you lose your services, you’re on the street. They’ve smashed the union and replaced all the managers with accountants. And yet academics make a living from  debating its virtues? They’d be better off trying to apply postmodern ethics to global warming. Oh dear, there I go again.

Anyway. A respite from math and global cap; here’s a little-known fact (to me). Look at your pack of A4 paper, it says 210 mm by 297 mm. Why? I assumed until last year that the answer was about the golden section or 1.618…; and probably many of the students I’ve taught did too, I tended to go on about it and they all bought it. But no. (And for that matter the chessgame in the picture probably has a ratio of long side to short side equal the ‘Academy ratio’ of 1.37, Wiki tells me.) The point about A4 is, in a nutshell, that if you fold it down the middle, you get A5 – and that A5 is exactly the same shape.

This is not true for all rectangles! (obviously, think of a square if you don’t believe me). If the long side is a and the short side is b, what you want is that the ratio a:b is equal to  b: (a/2). Work it out, and both need to be √2, the square root of 2 or 1.414… Which is near enough to 297/210.

But why this size? I owe this one to Felix Pirani (His Wiki entry seems to be in German, but he’s the omniscient author of ‘Introducing the Universe’ and ‘Abigail at the Beach’ etc.). A4 is A3 folded, and so on; the length of A3 is √2 times that of A4. So there’s something called ‘A0′. Its length is four times that of A4. And its area is a square metre. (Wow!) This makes its length and breadth a bit messy to calculate  - 1189 by 841 mm, but that is the explanation. I remember when we didn’t have A4 here – some Weberian bureaucrat probably imposed it on us, since it started in Germany in the 1920s. But, as they say, it means you can find out how much paper you have by weighing it, if that’s what you fancy.

Today’s poem: I’ve had to type it out by hand, as such things – contemporary and intelligent – don’t get posted where I can cut-and-paste them (as you may have guessed, it’s my usual method). Probably because of IP law which I’m infringing. Apologies to Jorie Graham  - I suppose I could withdraw it if thought necessary. But I seriously like it enough to take a chance:

Steering Wheel

In the rear-view window i saw the veil of leaves

suctioned up by a change in current

and how they stayed up, for the allotted time,

in absolute fidelity to the force behind,

magenta, hovering, a thing that happens,

slowly upswirling along the driveway

I was preparing to back the car out of -

and three young pine trees at the end of that view

as if aghast with bristling stillness -

and the soft red updraft without hesitation

aswirl in their prickly enclosing midst -

and on the radio I bent to press on,

a section with rising strings plugging in,

crisp with distinctions, of the earlier order.
Oh but I haven’t gotten it right.

You couldn’t say tbat it was matter.

I couldn’t say that it was sadness.

Then a hat from someone down the block

blown off, rolling – tossing – across the empty macadam,

an open mouth with no face round it,

O and O and O and O -

“we have to regain the moral pleasure

of experiencing the distance between subject and object”,

- me now slowly backing up

the dusty driveway into the law

composed of updraft, downdraft, weight of these dried

midwinter leaves,

light figured-in too, I’m sure, the weight of light,

and angle of vision, dust, gravity, solitude,

and the part of the law which is the world’s waiting,

and the part of the law which is my waiting,

and then the part which is my impatience – now, now? -


though there are, there really are

things in the world, you must believe me.

(From ‘Materialism’, 1993)

Finally, to keep up the highbrow tone: I promised Xenakis a few days ago, and here’s a beautiful version of Kottos by Rohan de Saram. I was looking for a lunchtime concert (as we idle pensioners do) one day in central London and found an unexpected hard-line avant-garde one at the Sally Army in Oxford Street, also good for a cheap lunch. And heard Kottos for the first time, a revelation.

§ 3 Responses to DAY 7"

  • Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    • admin says:

      Hi. Could it be your browser? (as people say when they’re trying to evade the issue). Three other people have accessed without complaining and no one else has complained. Statistically that’s a very small sample size. Let’s see what comes up. A single spark may start a prairie fire.

  • James734 says:

    Ha ha! I have found out how to leave comments on this page! Pictures work fine for me and I’m using iPhone, think admins right could be your browser dude :)

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