DAY 82: Grinding Angles

March 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments

You never stop learning.Until last week, I hadn’t heard of an angle-grinder – I thought of angles as things with degrees, which were obtuse or acute (like students, I hear you saying), and of grinding as something which you did to cumin, flour or the faces of the poor. Even less had it occurred to me that there was a tool called an angle-grinder Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 09.28.19which was the instrument of choice for demolishing someone’s hard drive.

I have in the past dropped the old Apple on the pavement, assumed that all was lost, and been reassured by some cool dude at the Apple Genius Bar that I’d only caused ‘cosmetic damage’. Indeed, it (the Apple, that is) still worked, and works, although it’s not as pretty as it was. And if I’d wanted to damage it? Now and then you see images of stressed-out execs throwing the computer out of the twelfth-storey window. Is that enough – is a sledge-hammer? How do you make sure there’s no ghost left in the machine?

Kop van een man

Head of a man (Van Gogh, 1885, nothing to do with the subject, but I’m just back from Amsterdam)

Well, I guess you know the story – indeed have seen the video by now; at least if you read the lefty papers I do - GuardianLRB,… An unfortunate editor called Rusbridger owned a computer where he had stored the files of information from Edward Snowden. As reported on Snowden’s website, ‘in a deserted basement of the Guardian’s King’s Cross offices, a senior editor (why not Mr Rusbridger himself, one wonders? Too expensive?) and a Guardian computer expert used angle grinders and other household tools to pulverise the hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files had been stored. The video explains roughly why they took these rather extreme steps – mainly to stop the information from falling into the hands of ‘the enemy’, i.e. GCHQ.  As they worked, they were watched intently by technicians from the Government Communications Headquarters who took notes and photographs, but who left empty-handed.’ But might not the technicians have been so damned clever that they could have worked out the data the Guardian were trying to hide from them by looking at, or smelling the hard drives? ‘Ian’ in particular revealed himself to be a highly qualified mathematician – but more of that another time.

Publication news (not really)

I’m trying to get another version of my outline text together, and have received some encouraging emails about it. So I might post it, but don’t count on it – some more exciting task might come my way.

At the movies

I’m second to none in my admiration of Steve McQueen’s recent Oscar-winning Twelve Years a Slave (although I was confused initially, since when I last met McQueen he was driving fast cars in San Francisco)Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 14.13.20in Bullitt (1968). However, I do feel that the idea that a movie gains by being ‘based on a true story’ seems in danger of taking over the City of Dreams – recent viewings of The Railway Man and Philomena (oh and The King’s Speech) confirm that. I would remind the moguls of the Academy of many of the greatest movies of all time whose resemblance to a true story is remote, to say the least: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Alien, The Wizard of Oz, The Shining, A Fish Called Wanda, The Seventh Seal, Grease,… I don’t really need to go on. Could it be that the Imaginary is in danger of being eclipsed by the Real? (Oh here we go, back to the pseudo-Lacanian claptrap. Leave it alone for once.)

Current Affairs

I’ve received about sixteen emails clarifying the situation in Ukraine, and the revolution (or fascist putsch) there – here‘s a sample. Anxious readers have been asking me for advice. Fortunately, having studied the history of the Crimea when I was a tot, I know the answer: Someone has Blundered. All round my local estate I see Crimeans (the latest round of asylum-seekers) in their balaclavas, probably planning to invade, as the Russian detachments did in 1914, ‘with snow on their boots’.

I seem to have wandered away from GCHQ or GNVQ or whatever; and NSA and their misdeeds. They’ll be back. Meanwhile, here’s the rest of that poem about the Crimea.

The Charge of the Light Brigade: Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.


“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.


Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!
Here I thought it safer to get out of the Crimean sphere of influence altogether (there are some very dodgy videos of festivals which this blog tends to avoid in case they get blocked). So here is a brief extract of Turki shamanistic Sufi trance music – if you believe the self-description.

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