DAY 48 – Buy!

June 24th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Well, you heard it here first, readers (did you?); Mohammed Assaf, the golden-voiced fence-jumping singer from Gaza

Assafhas won ‘Arab Idol’. (sorry about lengthy ad in the Guardian’s video.) We’re all celebrating down here; shocked to find that Spotify seems not to know of Assaf,though there’s plenty on Youtube. Getting out the Taybeh, dancing the dabka.

So what’s this in the heading about shopping? I just discovered (via the bibliography to a book by Ruth Parkin-Gounelas, which contained an article by Mandy Merck, which – do I have to go on?) that it’s now official that blogs influence purchases more than social media. I can’t think of any time I’ve been heavily influenced by either, but you can see that this opened up the dizzying prospect of influencing my dozens of readers to buy something – what?

HarrodsNot my book, which would be too obvious, and if they (readers) don’t have it already, why are they reading this? Not sofas, or televisions (you can pick them up at the next riot), or second homes in Croatia.  I think, I hope, I have already promoted the benefits of Zaytoun olive oil – in London, you can get it at Friend’s house in Euston Road; and even Istak Iranian pomegranate-flavoured beer. Alison Bechdel‘s lesbian comic strips? Goats for African villages? Perhaps I should be more modest about my influence; e.g. don’t buy £5 watches from the little stall at the Nag’s Head – they don’t work, where £10 watches do, sort of. Watch this space, or its friends.

More from Lou Reed

Having given the Velvet Underground star space in my last posting (via a Farsi translation), I was pleased to find him surfacing in a Guardian interview, shocked at Edward Snowden’s revelations. You’d think he’d be, like the rest of us, sufficiently paranoid to find them simply proof of what we knew all along. And he’s looking just as wrecked as you’d hope an Andy Warhol associate would be by now.

loureedBranching out (no new para heading to indicate a refusal of formalist restrictions), I have been told that the blog should include subjects it has hitherto avoided; recipes, horoscopes, gardening tips,… Indeed, as a mathematician, I should be an ace at casting horoscopes; but I know – like you, readers, but unlike the readers of the Metro – that a horoscope based on your sun sign alone is worthless, and readers can hardly expect me to cast their complete nativity without a) complete information on their hour and place of birth and b) some intervention by PayPal.

As for recipes,… There are too many other sources available. Here’s Holly Warah’s one for mujaddara; do leave out the carrots, which are quite inauthentic and only there, as she says, for colour. (Which is unnecessary, you might as well add beetroot or red cabbage.) Otherwise, how could I do better? I’ll tell you how my grandmother taught me to cook bacon and eggs. But not today. And do supply your own recipes, and advice for shopping, and getting round London or Warsaw or Katowice (this for my Polish readers – I know you’re there, I’ve been watching the number of ‘.pl’ addresses building up among my followers, ludzie. Is it because of my soft spot for Conrad, Chopin, Wajda, Cybulski, Szymborska? ). Anyway, send stuff in; let’s get interactive, and forget that every character we type is being fed into a giant reader at GCHQ and scanned for terrorism and narcotics.

Come to think of it , the Poles (to return to them, hopefully for the last time) have been decidedly overexposed in these pages. Why so little on the Greeks, the Italians – who have tended, as usual, to be mainly represented by ‘art’. And what about the Rumanians – no mention even though they publish a magazine which is sold at Archway under the alluring title of ‘Diaspora’? – I expect Homi Bhabha is a regular contributor. So many nations, so little time.


I have, indeed, been searching for a chance to make any useful statement in a situation where (as once in former Yugoslavia) the best solution seemed to be to condemn everyone. Desperately late, I caught up with Jonathan Steele’s account of a small local peace initiative. It was back in February, and I can’t find any evidence that it still exists. I’d welcome an update.

So. Searching, naturally, for Rumanian poets, I find Mariana Codrut, posed against a blackboard seemingly covered in equations;

250px-Mariana4another discovery. For years she’s been writing a much more interesting and creative blog than mine, from which I take this brief poem:


noiembrie 7, 2012 de marianacodrut

revoluţia a eliberat

un sex analfabet.

i-a pus ghiozdanul în spate

şi l-a trimis la şcoala vieţii.


singur, singur, singur

It would obviously be wrong to run the poem (which more or less speaks for itself) through Google Translate to see if I agree with it. Is that the point – to promote censorship? No, my pages are open to the world’s revolutionary analfabetic sex poets. If other poets, of whatever languages, want to comment, let them do so.

While in contrast, here are Georges Enescu and Dinu Lipatti playing the first movement of Enescu’s sonata. Rough justice for the Rumanian diaspora.

DAY 47: God, DNA and the Supreme Court

June 19th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been rather slow, given my obsession with DNA and the state’s use of biometrics, in catching up with the crucial dereliction by the Supreme Court in Maryland v. King, decided earlier this month. » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 46

June 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Some concern that Prism whistleblower Edward Snowden is in Hong Kong and may face an extradition demand from the U. S. Government . It seems that fear of political persecution is getting increasingly weak as a way of claiming refugee status under the 1951 Convention – the cases I recall mainly involved gays (afraid of homophobia), Methodists (in Iran, afraid of Methophobia), or Somalis (just afraid). So who will decide, between little Hong Kong, huge China and Uncle Sam? I find myself recalling those old pillars of the HK judiciary – in Jane Gardam’s recently completed fictional trilogy –



Old Filth (‘Failed in London, Try Hong Kong’) Feathers, and his adulterous opposite number Veneering. It’s a pity neither is still on the colony’s bench to pass the death sentence for an obviously capital offence. ‘Lawyers, I suppose, were children once,’ says Gardam wryly; although we of the psychoanalytic faith know that they remain children into old age, acting out their infantile traumas in neurotic courtroom savagery.

And talking of recent fiction, which I suppose we were, brings me to an article on the ever fascinating subject of RFID tags, those smart little chips which encode information about you and broadcast it all over. Think Oyster cards, which log where you’ve been and when; or Nectar cards, which will – well, here’s a story of their doings:

‘On the morning of his 60th birthday, the first birthday card which Mick Dillon opened was from his local Sainsburys store. It congratulated him on reaching this ripe old age and invited him back into the store to collect a free bottle of his favourite Shiraz. Anybody who has ever used a ‘Nectar’ card will therefore understand exactly what we are talking about. Mick Dillon was being biopolitically ‘secured’ as a customer.’ (Article by the said Dillon on biopolitics, Foucault, RFID tags et al. in Rev. Intl. Stud. 2008. Find it for yourself.)

Anyway, to end this digression, I learned from an article by my colleague Katherine Hayles – the link is to the abstract, but maybe you’re clever enough to get the text: a) that RFID tags are a central plot mechanism in the penultimate of the six nested sections in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, ‘An Orison of Sonmi-451’. (You remember it now, no? It’s the one where the workers are Fabricants and the rulers are Corpocracy.) b) that the title Cloud Atlas was taken by Mitchell from a piano composition by Toshi Ichiyanagi, well-known Japanese composer who was Yoko Ono’s first husband. You should be able to win any trivia competition with those cards in your deck. The better RFID encodings (harder to hack) are based on elliptic curves, I’m told – designed by people who used to be involved in solving Fermat’s Last Theorem. Now it’s done, they’re reduced to working as a sort of theoretical security guard.

Moving on to music, poetry and nepotism: one Sam Hodgkin sent me an Iranian-style poem the other day. Did he have it in Farsi, I asked; he said no, but he had translated Lou Reed’s ‘Who Loves the Sun’ into Farsi, and then back into English. The result is truly impressive:



عاشقِ خرشید کیست

گل اگر پرورد چیست

کارِ شمس این هیچ نیست

چون دلم را سوختی

باد را کی عاشق است

کی نصیمش کرده مست

باد را فکرم ببست

چون دلم را سوختی

کی ز باران شاد شد

گر چمن ایجاد شد

آب هم بر باد شد

چون دلم را سوختی

Who is in love with the sun?

What does it matter if it nurtures roses?

The sun’s business? This is nothing,

Since you scorched my heart.


Who is in love with the wind?

Whom has its zephyr intoxicated?

My thought is closed to the wind,

Since you scorched my heart.


Who is gladdened by the wind?

Even if a meadow’s been created,

The (rain)water’s been borne off by the wind,

Since you scorched my heart.

‘You scorched my heart’! Eat your heart out, Lou Reed. Immediately the Velvet Underground takes on an air of Oriental mystery, a nightmare underground rollercoaster through Tehran recalling the taxi ride in Abbas Kiarostiami’s Ten

Ten It only remains, following Goethe’s Hafiz translations, to translate the Farsi into German and set it to music, not by Lou Reed, but by Schubert. Where on the cloud atlas might we not end up?


A late note: I am beginning to get ‘user registrations’ for the site at the rate of 2 per day. Although this hardly qualifies as ‘viral’, we know that a single spark can start a prairie fire. Spread the word, users! (What word?) X

DAY 45

June 9th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s good news, folks! – well, perhaps as usual, only news to me. Trawling for evidence casting doubt on the alleged genetic component   in schizophrenia (well, we radical scientists have to occupy our spare time somehow), I found a much more sensational fact. It seems that those of us who have been abducted by aliens are not significantly more mad than the rest of the population:

alienTo quote the ever reliable Wikipedia: ‘as a group, abduction experients are not different from the general population in term of psychopathology prevalence. Other experts who have argued that abductees’ mental health is no better or worse than average include psychologists John Wilson and Rima Laibow, and psychotherapist David Gotlib.’ On the face of it, this is surprising – you’d expect evidence of (at least) PTSD in  an abductee. One’s statistical training naturally leads to nitpicking questions – how big is the sample? what measure of mental health, among many competing scales, is being used? what is the null hypothesis? And, most importantly, what evidence do we have that the abductees were sane before the aliens got at them? What I suggest – it seems plausible – is that aliens have access to high-level Earth psychotherapeutic techniques and can discharge the abductees in a state mimicking a respectable level of Earth sanity. Stranger things have happened. (What?) So much for Wilson, Laibow and their ilk. For more discussion, register for (or better still, present a paper at) the conference ‘Aliens and Other Objects’ which I’m organizing with Darian Leader on Betelgeuse-A in the summer of 2296.

I’d better not pursue this, or I risk the fate of Ronald Sprinkle of the University of Wyoming, who got involved in research and ‘eventually… came to believe that he had been abducted by aliens in his youth; he was forced from his job in 1989′. An early case of the insecurity of tenure, when the State’s interests are at risk.

Yesterday afternoon searching for the demonstration against the shareholders’ meeting of dreadful G4S who you probably know best as the people who made a complete cockup of security at the Olympic Games. In Israel they’re more efficient – PSC confirms that G4S provides:

  • security systems and other services for Israeli prisons which hold Palestinian political prisoners transferred from occupied Palestine. This is in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.
  • G4S also provides equipment for Israeli prisons and detention facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including children.
  • G4S provides equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied and besieged territory of Gaza.
  • G4S has also signed contracts for equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements.

As the meeting/demo was in a small street near Moorgate station, my bus dropped me miles away at Finsbury Square in time for an ice cream with flake (hot day) and I spent ages searching since a) my phone’s GPS still thought it was in Mariahilfe – how do I teach it different? – and b) there were as usual only about twenty-five at the demo so it wasn’t that visible. Come on, masses, awake! Leave the park, the TV screen, the pub, and make your voices heard in your thousands! I know you’ve clicked a petition against G4S for Avaaz, but that’s not the same.

Film review: While Luhrmann/Di Caprio’s ‘Gatsby’ is a bit of a noisy and confused disaster, in this cinéphile’s opinion, it’s worth taking in for the wonderful cameo performance by Amitabh Bachchan as Wolfsheim. My informants say the casting was ‘to avoid the charge of anti-Semitism’. Such logic defeats me.

For ages, I’ve had Akhmatova’s poem ‘Everything’ on my screen, but I think without uploading it. (Tell me if I have already, O you at GCHQ who are reading my posts day and night and submitting them to Turnitin for plagiarism, of which there’s always plenty.)


Everything’s looted, betrayed and traded,
black death’s wing’s

Everything’s eaten by hunger, unsated,
so why does a light shine


By day, a mysterious wood, near the town,
breathes out cherry, a cherry

By night, on July’s sky, deep, and transparent,
new constellations

are thrown.

And something miraculous will come
 close to the darkness and

something no-one, no-one, has known,
though we’ve longed for it

since we were children.


I’m beginning to feel that, since music is the food of love and we never have enough of it, I should provide two contrasting postings. So here is ‘Sancta Mater’ from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater; and here, by contrast, Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, the original disco hit (am I  right?). Take your pick.

Where am I?

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