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Move Towards The Darkness

Thursday 28th January, and it's our sunshine allowance! The tail of the last almost unprecedented US NE blizzard passed over us yesterday, in rain and wind, we don't get the next wave until the weekend.

Unhappy, Darling?

I used to think the Addams family was invented, by the US popular classes, to express their bemusement at the customs and behaviour of their Old Rich. Living in crumbling mansions; dressing strangely, keeping odd hours; some oozy and monstrous bad case of their hereditary disease probably squelching around in a locked room . . . But maybe (esp given the actual dates: this iconic cartoon is from the New Yorker, 1942) it's just Culture, generally. The weird habit of caring about global issues, and having ideas, making connections and thinking that they matter (doesn't sound like my country's moneyed classes). . . Anyway, I always loved the joke (although I admit I prefer the stylish movie image, featuring Angelica Houston and Raul Julia on the sofa; in the middle of a midnight graveyard. I'm not immune to our society's mad craving for more, more more of whatever it is I like). Because yes, oh yes, completely: I know I'm generally very unhappy, darlings (and not a drop of wealth-DNA!).

Not many sunlit hours in my counting of the world. Always the doom and gloom. I apologise, but I can't change my nature, and in my defense, people like me have their own odd sort of fun. For instance, look at this little catalogue:

You want to know where schizophrenia probably comes from? You should read Band of Gypsys, written in 2003/4; in which a hallucinating Fiorinda (at a conference with the Evil Greenest Government Ever) gives a surprisingly cogent description about how her disease develops. You can read it there, or you can read it here, on al-jazeera today:

You want to know how viruses have suddenly emerged as possibly the vital mediator in "evolutionary" change, for all of life on earth? You can read it in Life (written from 1998-2000), when Clare Gresely expounds her theory of Continuous Creation, and the living troposphere. Or you can read it here, in last week's New Scientist

Information space? Look it up. Why do I "anthropomorphize" self-aware artificial intelligence? Let's say: this is no longer Asimov. Consciousness is consciousness. We have nothing to make it with; except our own selves. Of course we'll read them as human, if they're self-aware; if we ever admit it's happened.The question of what happens, when you reach the point where there's "somebody home" is a very disquieting issue, on the frontline.

Astonishing! Black Holes can turn into White Holes! Spewing out information, instead of devouring it! New Scientist the week before last, and also The Memory of Whiteness, Kim Stanley Robinson's neglected masterpiece (written circa 1983). Astonishing! A Black Hole could have a whole other universe trapped inside it! Escape Plans, 1986. (I think maybe Stan Robinson and I read the same series of Stephen Hawking articles)

I have also noticed that the multiverse is sneakily repositioning itself. We now have a situation where the "whole multiverse" is a thing, rather than the bizarre, endless multiplicity envisaged by Hugh Everett in his "many worlds" interpretation. Interesting! And its building blocks are units of information.

I could go on.

What does all this prove? That I'm one of the undiscovered brilliant polymaths? Luminary of a secret band of mind-gods? Well, of course I wouldn't tell you, but that's irrelevant anyway. What it tells you is that I pay attention. All the time, and whether I like what I see or not. It means you should probably listen to me when I tell you that Carbon Capture Storage is a bust. That there is no way shale gas can be a bridging fuel. That the troubles of our overcrowded planet are too staggeringly complex for any technological fix, and the hard way, from the bottom up, is the only way. That the Paris deal is just a big lie & you should quite probably listen* to the big men from BP and Shell, if you want to know the seriously scary degrees of warming that are now inevitable. That are now, like there is no way back

The only way you can save the world, should you accept that mission, & this is the truth I'm telling you, is to use less energy. Start now. Pretend there's a global war on. Because there is, & I'm not talking about the Caliphate, or even the refugee crisis (see above, "staggeringly complex"). Pretend you have to give things up. Because you do.

Don't be afraid to be scared. Move towards the darkness.
You'll like it here, I know you will.


The World At War (How did you guess?)

We watched episode 24 last night. The one about the Bomb, & how the decision was made. Hard watching, but then so was episode 23, featuring Okinawa and Iwo Jima. There are no happy endings to this story; which is as it should be.

But the one you should be watching this week is Episode 20:

Dear Elizabeth de Boer . . .

Who killed Robin Cleve Dufresnes?

You wrote to me on a post from last summer (A Rock And A Hard Place) asking me to divulge my proposed solution to the murder mystery in Donna Tartt's The Little Friend. Sorry! Email coming up, I forgot that you'd have to have provided an address, to post the comment. I have found it now. To anyone else who wants to know, just ask me. My answer has to be private, or otherwise it would be spoilers, even though this deduction of mine is pure speculation, of course.

& that's all I have time for. I have to get a haircut.

* I just noticed all the "probably" and "could be's" in this pep-talk. Oh no. I hate it when scientists do that. I try to blame it on their timidity, and those trolling "hockeystick" scammers putting such a scare on them. But I'm afraid it's (probably) endemic.

Expedition to Pirbright

Saturday 16th January, a clear bright winter's day for the delayed Jones, Gwilliam and Sinclair-Jones Seasonal Outing: an expedition to the wilds of Surrey; daring Ministry of Defence scary yellow notices, and the proximity of the scary Pirbright Institute, on tracks potentially littered with things that would blow up in our faces, in search of that "well-travelled Victorian journalist" Henry Morton Stanley. Especially thrilling to me when we found him (or his memorial, in Pirbright churchyard) since I hadn't spotted the dry wit of our guide to byways of the Kent and Surrey borders, and had no idea we were looking for the Dr Livingstone I presume Stanley. So here he is, presented in triumph by the successful explorers, except by the way Mr Guidebook, that's not an obelisk, that's a menhir. What a harsh and eventful life! How fitting he's buried with the UK's National Rifle Association alumni lying all around him! Shame about the vicious brutality; well attested, and judged out of order even by the "African Explorer Hardnut Hero" standards of the day. Bula Matari, the Congolese called him, breaker of rocks, and they were the rocks that got broken.

My Fracking Round-up

. . . There's so much to say; and so little. What's the use in asking you to write letters, when the planning officers no longer have their power to say no? What's the point in going over the arguments? Well, no point at all, but I believe I will mention how disgusted I was at Amber Rudd's performance on South East Today last week. She says fracked shale gas start-ups will give us control over the price of our fuel; will create new jobs; will give us fuel security. She knows (good grief, she's the Energy Secretary) that these are outright untruths. But there it is. Just lie, that's our rulers' motto* Fool most of the people, most of the time, and you're home clear, so why worry? The blithe and rugged determination of this government: still dead set on its lets get fracking drive, what can I call that but obvious, blatant corruption and cronyism? No other explanation stands up. Given the state of the industry (BHP Hilton writes down $6billion of shale assets)
Given the climate-change floods . . . "We live in a warmed world. All our weather is affected by climate change" (New Scientist)
Given inconveniences like the defection of even the frackers themselves.
Not to mention the promises in Paris. No, we won't mention the Paris deal*.
Many thanks to Caroline Lucas, and Chris Matheson, for questions asked in Parliament this week
&Many thanks (I suppose) to Kevin Hollinrake MP, Ryedale, for his tasteful resignation.

More details on drill or drop. Me, I'm taking myself to the public meeting about the Horse Hill well tests, in Oxted on February 6th. See you there, if you come from round here.


Prime Minister's Question Time,

On the tv in my gym last week. Harriet Harman maliciously needling Our Dave, over that targeted drone strike. Could the Prime Minister possibly provide us with his protocols, something in writing; before next time? With the proper security clearances, of course. So parliament knows when this long distance, without trial or charge, execution thing is legal, and when it isn't? Nope, he couldn't. Okay, next: could he at least clarify just a little. What would be crossing a line? If there was, say, a small child involved, out there in Syria? Would the Prime Minister then order the small child's head to be blown off? No use, he just can't get his head around it at all. The question is too complicated, too long and bewildering, sorry (mops brow, mugs helpless overload): he's getting hopelessly confused. But he's clear on one point. I reserve the right, says Our Dave, to act without consulting parliament.

Hm. There's a word for people like that, and it isn't Prime Minister.

Anyway, how very Churchillian. But all I'm thinking is, how dearly all leaders love a war. & why wouldn't they, because that's all they're really good for, isn't it? Dux bellorum. Everything else is too complicated, conflicting, confusing: impossible for one man to handle. For running a country, decently, in peacetime, you need a government. That's why we haven't got one.

Those Romans, they knew what they were doing; for a while.

The World At War

We're getting there. We're through D-day (What the hell went wrong on Omaha? Just awful. I know a story about that, but the uneven distribution of Hobart's Funnies didn't get a mention from Olivier. Episode 18, Holland in the Occupation last night. Possibly the grimmest yet. The Greater Germany; a collaboration path that really did not work out well. The moment when you realise what's been done to you, what they've turned you into, and already there's no way back . . . One man, telling the story of how he encountered a chained-up consignment of Jews, on a railway platform in Amsterdam. This was 1944, he knew they were on their way to be gassed. It was early morning, he was alone with the prisoners and their guards. He's crying, on the tv screen. "If I'd had my pistol, I could have shot three of the guards," he says. "But what about the fourth? And if I got all four, then what? They are chained, I'm alone, what can I do next?" He went away . . . & joined the resistance, and blew up stuff with plastic explosive provided by US air drops, which made him feel better. But the gas chambers were already lit, and they kept on burning, and the tears of shame and pity are still ready to fall. You can't undo what you've let happen. You can never make it better.
Salutory. Horribly up to date. Right on the money


When The Floods Came
, Clare Morrall. Haven't liked her last two books much. But I think she's back on form

War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy. (Just become my new classic read, bumping the King James Bible on the grounds that getting the Ring to the Fire took me no time at all) Hey, this is a soap opera. This is very nice, but it's purely a soap opera. No, really.

Oh, it is a soap opera! Well, I'm not watching it. That would be unpatriotic, when I don't watch Eastenders. The print version will do me fine.

Approaching With Caution

Microsoft 10. The screams of rage and groans of agony from downstairs have ceased, Peter is now convinced he was one of the unlucky few, or no, in fact it was all his own fault that M10 destroyed his profile those times, & wiped his machine once, & all that. But he has a funny glazed look in his eye now, when he tells me everything is fine, and there's no need to worry, you can turn off all the spyware . . . No, actually. I have an update. Not approaching at all.

Farewell To A Year Without Flowers

I think i've never known such a dark festive season, but one early morning, I think it was the 6th January, the sun came out, sending sickles of coloured light-shadow from the Chinese Lantern across the ceiling (the lantern which traditionally hangs across the way from the mistletoe bough; glimpsed to the left of the picture); and I made them dance to Ginger's delight, by giving the lantern a poke.

But did not make a video.

And so farewell to a year without flowers . . . I don't know why, but I didn't bring in any flowers this last year, not after the pine sprigs on New Year's Day. It wasn't planned, but it began to seem like a statement and then I thought: might as well make it one. This year I plan to fight the gloom; if the flowers will let me. No sign of an accelerated Spring here as yet. Snowdrops lagging, native daffodils and pussy willow about where I'd expect them to be, in a normally mild winter & Roger Hall, my only surviving camellia, has just one bud showing colour.

New moon tonight, and the next new moon we'll be moving on to a Year of the Monkey.


Festive Reading

Forlorn Sunset Michael Sadleir

I read Fanny By Gaslight years ago, picked it up at a Jumble Sale: Victoriana docu-fiction about (f) prostitution, written in the forties, when Central London was still as Dickens left it; in parts. The far less famous Forlorn Sunset was a charity shop find (I'm a great fan of the British Heart Foundation's bookshelves) it's a darker and more forthright version of the same story, a sensual, spirited little girl, "ruined" as the saying goes, and ruined is absolutely right, by skilled child-prostitute groomers; and what becomes of her. Nothing much good, you can bet. Once a forlorn curiosity tale, I suppose. Very contemporary feel, nowadays, P.S Michel Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White) may also be a "Sadlier" fan.

The Sculptor's Daughter. Tove Jansson, tr Kinglsey Hart, intro by Ali Smith.

Christmas present. Brilliant. I absolutely loved it.

The Shepherd's Life James Rebanks

A memoir. By the dirt beneath our nails, we horny-handed Herdwick Sheep farmers are better men! In fact we're the only REAL men! The rest of you, especially if you visit Cumbria with a volume of Wainright in your turquoise cagoule pocket, are not fit to wipe our proud bottoms! Okay, well, Rebanks does comes over as a callow, arrogant s*d & his righteous contempt for, well, everyone, really, wears a bit thin, esp when you take in his actual career arc (failed at secondary school; belatedly realised he'd like some qualifications, stormed Oxford, currently combines small traditional farm with a globe-trotting career in the international heritage site business). But, on the other hand, in his favour he's a W H Hudson fan (the title is a tip of the hat to A Shepherd's Life); & it's a delightful book about sheep, & hill-farming & he's a fine nature writer.

On the other other hand, I bet his wife sometimes wakes up in the night and finds herself staring at the ceiling, musing on her choices. MY GOD, why did I go and marry Ted Hughes? What was I thinking!

Festive Watching

The Tale Of Princess Kaguya Isao Takahata (Christmas present, of course) Very, very pretty; a bit insubstantial.

The World At War Jeremy Isaacs et al

Before Christmas, the broad top shelves of the Dead Media Wall held stacks of video tapes, some of them dating back to the Seventies. They suffered their last winnowing in December, and two bin-liners-full made their melancholy journey to Sheepcote (tip) just yesterday. The favoured, remnant tapes, including Vanya on 42nd Street, and Peter Brook's Mahabharata, are now taking their last slipping and sliding trip through the way back machine. (Tampopo, for some reason, has survived in mint condition). We started watching The World At War again on tape, the very same set I used when I was researching White Queen. Had to give up before we even got to Stalingrad, it was too stop and start. We're watching on Youtube now. Harrowing. Unsurpassed, Unsurpassable; like (as I said in those White Queen days) knowing exactly what Achilles really said to Agamemnon about the sacrifice at Aulis. We watched the Chindits, last night.

Good grief. I see (on Amazon) people are paying actual money for the original tapes. Well, get in touch if you're interested. But hurry . . . Sheepcote is waiting.

Fortitude (Sky Atlantic!)

Aka "Twin Tusks" Preposterous. Watchable. No zombies yet, but I can't help noticing that Christopher Eccleston's* corpse remains curiously intact, in the cold storage drawer, as for some reason it's impossible to chopper-in (no pun intended!) a pathologist, or ship him over to a lab on the mainland. Although, deep in the depths of this Arctic winter, the sea all around is very modishly unfrozen. And the only doctor on this tiny island with the massive police force has, of course, been eviscerated with a table fork by her daughter, the rather tactless fat girl weird Marcus with the food fetish was trying to kill with chicken soup.

*Yes, I can remember the name of the fictional character. But I don't see why I should.

Next time, Christmas Truce over: the bad news . . .