Sunday, September 30, 2012


If April is the cruellest month, then October, half a year apart, must be the kindest. As Keats might have said, it is a season of fellow moodfulness; it is the time towards the day of the dead, when the year also dies. (That, I got from Susan Cooper.)

October is kind, it wraps us in blankets of the fallen. It tells us that it will get cold, but it remains warmer than winter. Where the fall comes in the North, all green is red, and all is well red.

And I recall many times with people I used to know, and some are gone, and some have nowhere left to go.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Elementary People 006: Carbon

Carbon atoms are born free, but everywhere, they are in chains — without which life would not exist. Carbon is the most important child of stellar fusion, the biggest landmark on the way to the dusty death of stars, from hydrogen to fusion-stable iron.

Carbon is the greatest social networker among the elements. Small and attractive, it forms strong bonds with co-workers. It is also more able to form attachments in different directions than most such atoms. Combining these two traits leads to a plethora of strong attachments, parts of networks that endure.

And carbon is relatively inert, tough, neutral. Whether a girl's best friend or not, carbon is reliable in its many forms, immune to caustic retort or acidic corrosion, only vulnerable to high-temperature flaming in the presence of oxygen and other oxidants.

Carbon is the spine of the CHON-SP group, those stalwarts of biological chemistry. Without carbon, they wouldn't know where to hang out; and without carbon, there'd be nothing to do once they got there.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Context and Jeremiah 29

I have a fire in me, said Jeremiah. And that fire is that I have to say things I do not want to say because it is my job to do so.

Here is a much-loved section of the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, much quoted at weddings and such, and almost always out of context. You will see why in a while. But for now, read Jeremiah 29:11-13.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Jeremiah's letter to his people actually begins like this, in Jeremiah 29:4-10.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place."

In other words, you should be exiled for 70 years first, and accept your exile. Bring up two whole generations in an alien land, and treat that land as your own. Then only will you be able to receive the blessings. And if you don't accept your exile... well, here's the part after the first quote; in Jeremiah 29:15-19.
You may say, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” but this is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your countrymen who did not go with you into exile— yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like poor figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth and an object of cursing and horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the Lord.

In other words, if you are not an exile, then you're in serious trouble if you're hoping for the blessing.

And here ends the lesson about not taking nice quotes out of context and indiscriminately telling people they will be blessed without telling them the conditions of the specific blessing.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012


There are a lot of books out there these days that tell us we are only meat, meat with pretensions about what it is. The self-developed complexity of the meat supposedly (nay, definitely) informs the meat about the meat's environment.

Somehow though, this meat is tired of being meat. This meat feels that one day it should succumb to the laws of entropy and of caterpillarism, and die that it should be reborn elsewise.

In short, this tired meat wants to go home.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Zero

Where all coordinates are zero, there is the origin. If in the beginning, all things are zero, nothing can happen. And if nothing can happen, all remains zero.

But if something can happen, it is the splitting of zero into equal negatives and positives. It is this quantum fluctuation that the natural rationalist must have faith in, or nothing has happened, nothing happens, nothing will happen.

It is more believable, some say, that something happened with such extreme fluctuation that a universe was created. And the proof, some claim, is that the universe exists.

But this is proof of nothing. The universe exists, but we cannot know how and why by any natural means, because this is the nature of universes. We have no statistical probabilities, no learning lessons to use inductively or deductively in order to 'know' how universes are formed.

Maybe we were all born yesterday. Maybe quantum fluctuation is that cool, the fluctuation between nothing and everything. And just perhaps, some people might think that to call it quantum fluctuation, a phenomenon without mind nor directivity, is better than to think of God, a person with altogether too much mind and directivity.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Utilitarianism is Self-Defeating

I was going to write a long polemic. Then I realised it's best explained this way: utilitarianism seeks to privilege something of greater value over something of less value, despite the intrinsic nature of the things themselves. It has no intrinsic mechanism for determining such value. Therefore, it is an incomplete thing. And an incomplete thing has less value than a complete thing. So utilitarianism cannot be privileged.

The counterargument is: but what if such a mechanism cannot be found? Well, then utilitarianism is worse — it is lunacy. How could you premise a course of thinking or action on something you believe (at least for the purposes of your argument) cannot be found?

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Monday, September 24, 2012


The human brain is said somewhat hyperbolically to be 'infinitely plastic'. By 'plastic' of course, the hyperbolists refer to the capacity of the human primary neural network, that slapdash wetware complex known as the brain, to continually reinvent itself.

The brain repurposes, represents, reformats, reconfigures over time. The person we are each day is dependent on this; indeed, we are never ever quite the same self despite the sense of continuity of self that we assert.

There is an important point here. The only way we know how we change is to do something to fix a baseline of previous experience. We need to do a 'calibration curve' for the changing brain. And that requires us to journal, to blog, to self-record. That's why I'm writing all this.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012


I teach, and in the past, this was thirty or forty students in a room, with all of us going on a guided tour of some side street in the map of the word, mappa mundi. Of late, it has been a class of adults, or of colleagues, or a very small class of four or fewer young people.

And then came the suggestion — why not five or more, why not ten? Why not start a small school with small classes? Why not make it worth their while for students to learn something, in the odd and frankly rather peculiar ways of teaching you are renowned for?

Something in me cracked. I hope it wasn't a joke.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Small is Bountiful

The smaller the group, the bigger its exposure. That is why people say there is safety in numbers. But safety is not always a virtue; it is a state in which the individual is not in danger of enduring or suffering some phenomenon X.

This is where it's important to identify X. If X is responsibility, then a large group enables people to avoid individual responsibility by distributing it into the collective. That's where 'everybody does it' and other famous excuses for reprehensible behaviour come in.

Conversely, the larger the group, the less nimble it is. That is why you increase the rate of chemical reaction or the flexibility of a business by breaking a large bloc down into smaller units. The activity of a catalyst is much enhanced by distributing it more evenly in smaller particles.

When I look at social phenomena like mobs and megachurches, I think a lot about this. It is all too easy for those embedded in a large body to be insulated from the reactive environment; it is all too easy for those at the edge to have no connection or communication with those at the centre.

The human mind is meant to be part of a network, with strong connections to very few other nodes and weaker connections to a few others. When the group is too large, the human mind turns in on itself to consolidate its 'picture' of the network.

This gives us a natural size for group effectiveness — it's the number of people-concepts that typical members can hold in their own individual brains at any one time, because that's how humans interact, by simulating other humans and their reactions (the 'What Would X Do?' idea). That's the basis of empathy.

So yes, small is better, unless you want to diminish individual responsibility, or hide something, or make a large bunch of people who don't really know or feel for each other. That's your call.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Redefining Murder

The current definition of murder is anthropocentric across all jurisdictions. You can kill any other animal and it wouldn't be murder. Human laws, for human interests.

But the growing body of research on cetacean brains, for one, shows that these brains are as complex as human brains but in a different way. While the human brain is somewhat more layered, cetacean brains are less layered but with more 'vertical' connections through layers. They are clearly intelligent, perhaps more so as a class than any other kind of mammal, when we consider only mammalian intelligence.

Farther afield, we come across the anomalous cases of corvid intelligence — ravens for example — where birds show strong evidence of forward planning, co-opting other animals as partners in an enterprise, and facial recognition with emotional response. And as we metaphorically walk out even farther from home, we meet the cephalopoda; an octopus keeps two-thirds of its neurons in its arms, shows strong evidence of structured memory and observational learning, and comes from the only class of invertebrates which uses tools — in 1986, the octopus became an honorary vertebrate according to UK law, and enjoys the same protections as vertebrates as far as animal rights are concerned.

What is it, then, to willingly (and intentionally, and deliberately) terminate the life of a crow, an octopus, or dolphin? It is the termination of a thinking, emotion-bearing, mind-using organism. These creatures had hopes, fears, ambitions — until they were killed. It is nothing less than murder, but it is not murder yet — for humans still define murder in terms of human-termination.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meditation on a Good Cup

Sometimes it is tiring to fight constantly against the world, to remind myself that it isn't about money or fame, but about considering myself and others with fair regard, and with sober judgement. I sip my coffee, grown and nurtured in the great old continent by the poor of that land. I realise that I have so much more than they, and so little daily awareness of what I owe.

At the bottom of my cup is a slight residue of the ground. When I wash my cup, it is a libation to the memory of those people. It is literally the least I can do. And that too saddens me as it is done.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Church Militant

For some reason, a church militant scares people. And so it should; the whole of human history is filled with the militancy of all kinds of human groups and cultures — any militant body is designed as an organisation that wins fights.

But why is a church militant different from a state militant, or a civis militant, or a polis militant? Could it be that people actually think that churches should be peaceful and non-militant? The way doves are supposedly emblems of peace? Even the Buddhists have a history of warfare.

The words of the Church's head are these:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household
You can find these words in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. In the equivalent readings in Luke's gospel, he says:
I have come to cast fire upon the Earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division...

And so endeth this part of an ancient lesson.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Over the last few days, I've been engaged in a very interesting conversation with various Sons of the Wyvern. The whole point is: how do we define Wyvernhood?

To elaborate, does it necessarily mean that spending life at a Citadel of the Wyverns from Year One to Year Twelve makes you more of a Wyvern than one who was only there for Years Eleven and Twelve? And if you were there for the first ten years and then became a Gryphon or some other creature, could you still claim Wyvernhood as an alumnus?

To me, there are practical as well as metapractical answers to these questions. Here are a couple.

First, the fact is that for many years, there weren't enough spaces for all the Wyverns — and many of those who wanted to, and possibly deserved to, continue being Wyverns were excluded.

Second, some non-Wyverns (and some who came from beyond and entered Year Eleven) turned out to have more Wyvernhood in them than some fellow-travellers who were there all along and showed no loyalty thereafter.

There are many other answers to many other related questions. But the crux is this: the idea of Wyvernhood is an imaginary, and there are almost infinitely many conceptualisations of that imaginary. By the nature of such things, any conceptualisation will exclude some people, excepting all-inclusive ones which don't add anything useful to the conversation.

So who is a Wyvern? He who was Sir Wolff laughed when I told him about it all. Nonchalantly, he pointed at the Sword of Oldham — he keeps it in a corner behind the door — and said, "Do you think that blade makes me more of a Wyvern than the many others who have never seen it and yet swear by it?"

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Monday, September 17, 2012


I have become inhabited; I live where I am, in this aging frame whose defects and furnishings have become first nature to me. The way I move, unconsciously adapting each moment to the biases of unbalanced muscle and bone, this is habitual, this is natural.

The scientists tell us that this is not true at the beginning in some ways. When you are newly birthed, the frame is developing, its control and sensory systems adapting to the world around it. The physics of the eye is such that light enters and is refracted into an inverted image by the lens — babies see everything upside down, and that is why they seem so uncoordinated and fall over a lot. And then the brain restructures to match the tactile environment, and we forget ever having seen things the other way.

It is the same with many other things — we begin with simple loves, of quiet, or of food, or human voices; we are acclimatized by other influences, acclimatized to other things or people, and develop more complex loves. Perhaps among us, at any time or in any place, are those with the rare ability to turn this complexity into words, or wine, or paint, or clay, or dance; then art is made.

I am in habit, and each moment I segue towards new ones. I am a multitude, although not a legion. I am a swarm of mes, each me shading imperceptibly through time and space to another me. I am a storm of selves, layer upon layer stacked until I am unsure if one is (I am) many selves, or many shelves.

Some day, I who write this will be gone and replaced entirely. I know this is true, because the person who wrote the first posts in this blog is not the person who writes this. And yet by legal fiat, they are one and the same.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012


Insolation is the phenomenon by which solar heat is absorbed and retained. And my cat is very good at it. He is a golden cat in the golden sun, and in the evening he is warmth unto my feet when the sun has set.

And what of the sun? Well, I am now insolated in a way — I am the proud owner of a Solar Titanium watch, functional and inexpensive, a daily thing like the sun it is named after. But looking at its name, I was reminded of the solar titans.

Who were they? We know little of them and their mythology, although there are a number of stories. The first solar titan was Hyperion, 'Most High', son of Ouranos and Gaia. His successor was Helios, after whom we named helium — compared to his predecessor he must have seemed a lightweight.

And so I mused. And I remembered the idea of solar titans and the tutelary spirits of the stars. Some day, they will return to our cosmology.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chalcogens, Pnictogens

A pnictogen is an element from Group V of the Periodic Table; a chalcogen is one from Group VI. The etymology fascinates. 'Chalcogen' comes from Greek chalkos, which means 'copper'; 'pnictogen' comes from Greek ta pnikta, which means 'those which are choked'.

Why so odd? Well, to a metallurgist, many of the copper ores are compounds of copper and oxygen or sulfur; copper finds many ways to bond with the chalcogens. Pnictogens include nitrogen and phosphorus — elements which, in their molecular forms, either smother by substitution of oxygen or by combination with oxygen.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

A Notional Song

These are gnomes, truly,
As I thought they would be
Where my dreams outwait me
Where the scattered people go

There are gnomes, Shelly,
As the census tells me
This is where I won't take a loan
For that's how you escape a gnome

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Water Requirements

Most studies will tell you that the human body needs about 2-3 litres (2000-3000 ml) of water a day. Most people read that figure and forget the rest of the material. Your body is amazingly adaptable. It doesn't have to be obviously fluid water — it can be in coffee, vegetables, fruit, fish, meat; overcooked or oil-fried stuff tends to have less water.

In fact, it's actually possible to not drink any 'water' water for days as long as you have a reasonable wet diet. This isn't necessarily a good thing, but just as most herbivores in arid regions can survive on plants and occasional liquid water, so can you.

Some charlatans out there are touting electrolysed water and stuff like that. It makes no difference except that the processes involved tend to filter out some less-useful components in potable water. The fact is, your body specialises in homoeostasis, and it will compensate within reason.

This all adds up to one more reason why we need to be a little bit more forgiving of our diet and lead a balanced (and more fun) lifestyle. Have a nice wet day!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Huge and Ravenous

A long time ago now, I conducted a little literary experiment. The purpose of the experiment was to see if my students were 'awake' to mythological or magic-realist imaginings. The means by which I tried to do this was to post — every day for roughly six months — a short piece in an ongoing narrative, and capture their responses.

The narrative was about two ravens, named after Odin's companions Huginn and Muninn (or Thought and Memory), and described their combined musings in dialogue and short poems. Thought was characterised as an intense bloke, while Memory was always a more reticent lady.

You can find that experiment here. What you do, if you want to try it out, is scroll to the bottom and then read the posts in reverse order. They come in groups of three — a short poem with a numbered title (e.g. 'Two Ravens 001') and two dialogue posts. By the end of the 181 posts, think about what it all means... and above all, have fun!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The natural tendency of both geography and biography is to stream things, to let nature take its course as diverse forces and pressures (forces confined, or spread out over areas) act on fluids. And so it is with human education.

The most effective thing is to let fluids find their level, and then channel them accordingly. The least effective thing is to do co-current heat transfer or to force all fluids to spread evenly in a thin and unnatural film over a thin and unnatural landscape (like some movies I've seen).

When people are streamed (at airport gates, by means testing, or in education), it is always a nett gain to society in terms of resources saved, as long as the streaming medium is relatively responsive to changes in the environment. What we shouldn't do is abandon any idea of streaming in the name of that soul-deadening anti-scientific anti-human thing called 'artificial equality'.

And that leads me to banding in school systems. If we no longer have it, is that a good thing? The point is that it is bad to avoid banding. This is because people do it anyway. It is biologically impossible for humans to avoid comparisons.

The better solution is to make ALL the data available and let humans test themselves against the data, making their own sense. Is a school that claims 'green' efficiency really so if it spends $500/head on electricity and water? Is it better to send your children to a school that is religious and cheap or secular and expensive? And what if one masquerades as the other?

What I propose is that far from scrapping banding, ranking and streaming, we should make all the data publicly available while suppressing the names of individuals. Show at least the bulk population data. For every school, release their accounts to the public for reasons of accountability. Let everyone see what schools do, so that people can make conscious pseudo-rational decisions that they can no longer blame on anyone else.

How's that for a different take? *grin*

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Chaogens, Pathogens

Children used to be sequestered, on the inside of stout defensive but selectively permeable walls made by women, to whom all humans owe life and fealty. And beyond the walls, the patrolling T-cell bands of men, not so useful in the home and at the hearth, but energetically and intellectually narrow-band enough to hunt and fight and kill random targets.

But these days, you see the children running wild. The curious psychopathology of our times is that the faster you give them adult freedoms, the better adults they will be. I think that's wrong. I think that the longer a sequestration you enforce, the more time you have to mould them and keep random influences out, the better adults you can make from children.

Yet there they are, running around, transmitting diseases to a vulnerable adult population. There they are, absorbing unuseful memetic material in exchange. And there they are, out of the control and/or responsibility of the adults who spawned them. Ugh. What a time we live in. What a time. What.

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Sunday, September 09, 2012


I've been through the desert,
On a horse, with No-Name.

That's how it ought to be punctuated, for chess players and others who frequently deal with anonymity. It is good to be out of the rain. It is good to forget your name. Having no name makes it easier all round.

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Notional Conservation

The various laws of conservation tell us that the universe is a zero-sum game. It doesn't matter if we can cheat by using anti-universes (-1 + 1 = 0) or multiple universes (-p + p = 0); in the end, it is all nothing. This is the notion of conservation, that things do not in the end make more than there was in the first place.

And so it is with human dialogue and society, with national conversations and debate, with all kinds of mortal conceits. In the end, all that is physical is conserved, and if the physical is all there is, the sum adds up to zero.

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Day 1635 (Day 0002)

If I were counting, it would be Day 1635 after the Event. But I have long stopped counting. It was good to not be counting.

So maybe it is good to call it Day 0002 after the new Event. I am not sure that the new Event is that kind of Event though.

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Morning After

I am no different from what I was. But what I fear is that I will be viewed differently in ways that are unhelpful to some.

I remember my first encounter with Deleuze, and the idea of everything being uniquely and differently on the same level. I also remember the bad pun his contemporary made, about how the 20th century might turn out to be nothing but Deleuzian.

The fragments of my work churn in and out of my head, helped by the remnants of the pasta and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has been a long, strange journey. Along the road, I have been helped by unicorns and gryphonesses, by titans and cyclopes, by a flight of wyverns and a parliament of rooks.

But this is the morning after, and I am about to close the chapter for a while.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Nobody Expects

The spinach inquisition, perhaps? A source of strength and amusement, and yet serious in its issues.

The examiners noted the ambitious nature of the project, the brazen attempt to tackle an extremely large scope, and the excellent and informative presentation by the candidate. They therefore require only two things for completeness: 1) the candidate should change the thesis title to reflect the large scope better; and 2) the candidate should edit the last few paragraphs so as to be less modest about his findings and contributions to new knowledge.

England expects, and the duty is done; nobody expects, and it is done anyway.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Today I woke up and went off to the old homestead to do some gardening. It was a quiet morning, and even the mosquitoes were doped, lazy, static. The flowers did perk up a bit when I watered them, but everything else wasn't up to much. Or mulch.

I got home and did some busy-work. Tinkered at the margins, mapped out stuff that would make my audience less bored tomorrow. Reframed my ideas, read through my writing, played with the weak ashy bits of my discontent.

I had two three four coffees. One had some chocolate in it. Another one had two kinds of ground mixed in. I had work to do, and yet there was nothing to be done.

Tonight, I am off to a dinner that is not of my own choosing, nor my own desiring. But tomorrow will be a better day. Or at least, there will be snakes to fight and crocodiles to wrestle in the mudpit of academia.

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Monday, September 03, 2012


So we begin. Take a crystal of memory. There is no need to measure it against the feather of Ma'at, for all memories are of things past and carry no burden of their own without the matrix in which they reside.

Place it gently in the alembic wherein you added water of Lethe. There is no need to agitate, for memories instantly dissolve in such waters. That is why the Greeks call truth 'Aletheia' — that which is not forgotten.

You now have the solution for your cares, for if memory is gone, and yet remains in the water — if memory is gone, and cannot be regained — why, then your cares will be as gone, and your sins as colourless as the universal solvent.

But here I sit, and the wine I drink is dark, and it is the colour of molasses, and of blood as it wells from a pricked finger, and of the memory that does not go away. And the taste thereof is slightly bitter, and slightly sweet, and above all... it is scented with the redolence of ancient grapes, growing shrivelled on a hillside one long, long autumn's day in a land that is long, long lost.

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Sunday, September 02, 2012


Today I watched a long-delayed legacy materialise. At the end of it, I could only think that this was what some other franchise lacked. Ah, the constant recurrence of Hamlet in our cinematic experiences, like some subtle watery undertow aimed at poor dead Ophelia!
Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death —
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourne
No traveller returns — puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Gods, mortals, puny or not; playing or not; fantastic or not — I find the rich legacy of old William everywhere, and I realise that I wish the lost treasures of Cathay had been preserved as much.

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Wiping the Backside of Asia

As I sit here in the dark with my vodka and cherry juice, I am thinking of Sir Barry Cunliffe, who in his great archaeological study of European history, Europe Between The Oceans, first demonstrated in magnificent detail that Europe was merely 'the western excrescence of the continent of Asia'. Vodka, of course, is a northern Asian brew — the word means 'small water' or 'distillate'; cherries are a central or west Asian fruit, named by the Greeks κέρασος (kerasos) — maybe they should really be called 'kerries'.

Earlier in the day, I had contemplated the oddness of a statement by a so-called Biblical historian in which he averred that direct contact between Asia and the Mediterranean was doubtful. Well, as my father used to say, one studies history in order to understand one's place in time, and geography in order to do the same for space. Without either, one's dimensions tend to be insufficient.

And so it is here. Europe, the western excrescence of Asia, was the origin of none of the world's major religions. Indeed, all of them come from a narrow belt that starts on the west coast of Asia (which lies along the Mediterranean Sea!) and proceeds westward in the direction of Japan. This too is a surprise for many, who fail to note that Jerusalem (31°47'N, 35°13'E) is only a little south of Tokyo (35°41'N, 139°46'E) and less than a third of the globe away.

How can Asia not have had contact with the Mediterranean when the east coast of the Med is actually Asian? What of the seven churches of Asia, all in Turkish Anatolia and just a bit south of Troy? Such odd thinking is sometimes justified by people saying, "Oh, the normal idea of Asia is something more oriental, you know, east of Suez."

I laugh at that idea. Why Suez was picked is obvious — the city is mostly in NE Africa but has parts in western Asia. Only Russia, of all the 'European' states, is wholly east of Suez. The reason I laugh is that Russians have forever denied that they are actually north Asians — although a good look at the map will tell you this is true.

And so, back to my vodka and cherry juice.

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