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Archive for the month “January, 2013”

On Holiday



A new hobby for 2013, with similarities to orienteering, just updated for use with digital technology. Rather similar to old fashioned letterboxing [A small pot containing a stamp and visitors’ book is hidden  and a clue is written to lead others to its position. The finder takes a copy of the stamp, as well as leaving their own personal print in the visitors’ book]. The main difference is that whilst traditional letterboxing seems to be mostly conducted in rural settings, geocaching is also perfectly suited to an urban environment.


International Geocaching Logo

Doing some research on the pastime opened up other related new areas of fun. Munzee hunting. Benchmarking. Trigpointing. And the fascinating Degree Confluence Project, whose goal is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location.

The interest by man of what are completely abstract notions of the world always astounds me; as I am always astounded by the ideas.


So the sign of a good dinner party is that everyone goes home having enjoyed the evening. How this is achieved is always a tricky one though; tasty food helps, interesting/stimulating conversation too, and having a good laugh. But too polite an evening, following strict convention, is a drag. So perhaps my list, composed of nearly all dead heroes of mine, fails to include that fly in the ointment/fire-starter/loose canon element?

The problem is that choosing some left of field character is always somewhat random. Someone that seems the life and soul of the party in one situation, given a different set of people to bounce off of, often fails to ignite anything. So Adolf Hitler rather than rant and rave might drone on about his vegetarianism, Charlie Sheen rather than playing the court jester might be on a dry week,  Marilyn Monroe rather than playing the sex bomb might go on about how misunderstood she feels, Al Capone about how his mummy didn’t love him – you get the picture.


The Last Supper, Philippe de Champaigne, 1648

Certainly an interesting dinner party is featured in Peter Greenaway’s 1989 film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover [the uncensored cut anyway]. The vibrant colours remind one of great biblical paintings of the Last Supper.

Icy Dead People

pearls before swine

There is something about three panel cartoon strips that seem to lend themselves admirably to ‘philosophical’ type meditations. Panel 1: the set-up. Panel 2: the response. Panel 3: the reflection. Whether the protagonists are sitting at a bar, on a hill top, desert island, roadside, behind a lemonade stall, back porch [think: Peanuts, Andy Capp, ]. Something especially about 3 panels with almost unmoving character and scenery [like a spot the difference competition] triggers a Zen-like calm.

The above Pearl before Swine example found yesterday in London’s Metro made me think of that parlour game Fantasy Dinner Party Guests. Who would you choose? A more difficult question than first appears. No doubt many these days would choose the latest celebrity/nonebrity.

From Debrett’s ‘Hosting a Dinner Party’ etiquette:

… make sure that couples are separated and – if possible – genders alternate. Sit those with similar interests together and balance loudmouths by sitting them at opposite ends of the table. As host it is your duty to ensure conversation flows throughout the meal. Steer it away from topics that you know will be awkward for any of your guests …

The last suggestion kind of robs the whole proceeding of its bite? Whilst one should steer clear of potential dinner table assassination [Professor Plum in the Dining Room with the fish knife], polite conversation does not an interesting evening make.

My dinner guests? American mathematics and science writer Martin Gardner [1914 – 2010], Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter Remedios Varo Uranga [1908 – 1963], English novelist James Graham Ballard [1930 – 2009], Serbian artist Marina Abramović [1946 – ], American fantasy writer Ray Douglas Bradbury [1920 – 2012],  American author Anaïs Nin [1903 – 1977], Belgian comic book writer and artist Georges Prosper Remi [1907 – 1983), Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher [1898 – 1972).

The Airtight Garage

Seemingly, original screenplays are now few and far between [for mainstream Hollywood flics anyway]. Personally I’ve never been that concerned with whether a movie is from an already extant source or not; just whether it is a ‘good’ story well executed or not. If the source material is something well known to you then that can present problems, especially literary sources; as the material has to be condensed for film in a way that is usually unsatisfying [all of the depth gets lost]. Hence the ‘read the book or see the film first’ dilemma.

The one thing that does really grate though is the poor/easy choices made by most major film studios. Film making by formula might be a good idea for a money man [who needs to recoup his investment] but is death to creativity. For example, way back when, we had Superman on the big screen, then Batman. Both proved to be box office gold and have spawned numerous sequels. So Mr movie exec cottons on to comic books/graphic novels as a viable source for screenplays. A succession of adaptations/based on/inspired by/re-imaginings of these stories follow; some more successful than others. But the bottom line is still $£. With the effect that the more well known characters/stories get a I, II, III, IV etc [Supeman, Spiderman, Hulk, Xmen etc] whilst the hidden gems remain … hidden.

One such source [that has had at least a passing attempt at moviefication nearly 20 years ago] is the 1976 Moebius classic The Airtight Garage. Unfortunately even if this project ever eventually gets off the ground its extremely influential creator will never see the result.

Jean Henri Gaston Giraud aka Moebius RIP May 8, 1938 – March 10, 2012.

The Airtight Garage

The Airtight Garage

Ice Popsicles

So whilst we in the UK experience a little cold snap, I got to thinking about that last great adventure [Earthside anyway] about to start in March 2013. THE COLDEST JOURNEY ON EARTH is going to be attempted by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his team. The mission: to be the first to travel across Antarctica during Winter.

Alaska moon

Moon over Alaska.

I think I first became interested in Polar expeditions after seeing the loose filmic adaptation of  Alistair MacLean’s Ice Station Zebra in the mid 70s. There’s always something compelling about films dealing with these narrative sites [perhaps akin to submarine and locked mystery stories] of ‘contained space’; paradoxical with the poles, as they are contained yet at the same time expansive.

The other film that always comes to mind [an excellent example of isolation in the empty expanse] is John Carpenter’s The Thing.


So at the weekend I got some freebie tickets to the London Art Fair [but was unable to go due to the icy conditions] from a gallery called Millennium  Given the last two days posts this minded me of the excellent [cut off in its prime] TV series written by X-files Chris Carter, that aired from 1996-1999 of the same name, starring [undoubtedly his best work] the always compelling Lance Henriksen.

The series takes place during the years leading up to 2000, and follows the investigations of  freelance forensic profiler and former FBI agent Frank Black (Henriksen), who has the ability to see the world through the eyes of serial killers and murderers. Black works for a mysterious organization known as the Millennium Group who throughout its history has had access to scientific knowledge banned or withheld from the world at large by those in power. The two factions in the group, theologians who believe in an apocalyptic event foretold in the Bible and their secular counterparts share the belief that the world is coming to an end; but each has its own views regarding the source of the apocalypse.

Living at a time when all talk was about Millennium bugs and the like, the series was very gripping. Hard to believe that was already 15 years ago. The opening Credits soundtrack felt very dark and melancholy.

Winter Wonderland

Some of the hardest to capture [before digital technology] film shots one would imagine, are those requiring empty city/street scenes [think: The Omega Man, Vanilla Sky, The Day The Earth Caught Fire, I am Legend, 24 Days Later, etc] unless it is snowing [in a place unused to snow].

East End Road Runners 20 Jan 2013 Sunday 18 mile run.

East End Road Runners [London, England] 20 Jan 2013 Sunday 18 mile run. {Olympic Stadium in background]

 Then you get the place all to yourself [especially if early Sunday morning].

Immanentize the eschaton

So the end of the world came and went – again! Quelle Surprise! Of course it didn’t – there was no ‘end of the world’ on its way – just a belief that it existed. Such thoughts have undoubtedly plagued the minds of man since there was a man; the sun won’t come up again and we’ll be forever in darkness.

The Foundation, 2008

The FoundationRozum, Chamberlain, & Azaceta, 2008

Conspiracy theories and stories about secret societies either trying to bring about or halt the end of the world are always very entertaining. Throw in that other interesting stable of doomsayers, the prophesy, and you have the excellent series [in the vein of The X-Files, but with a 24-like spin] by Rozum, Chamberlain, & Azaceta called The Foundation.

Synopsis: History shows that in the 1500s, Nostradamus’ three volumes of prophesies were best-sellers, making him a rich man. But what the world doesn’t know is he took his vast treasure trove of riches and invested them in creating a foundation to prevent his prophesies from occurring. This secret team still functions today, using Nostradamus’ published and unpublished tomes to predict threats to worldwide security!

One wonders if there are those that will claim some special date with destiny at the end of this month? 31 1 13

one-breath thought

I appreciate that many may feel that my effort yesterday was not in the strict sense of course a Haiku, which in Japan traditionally follows a rhythm of 5-7-5 ‘sound units’ [on] rather than as widely thought in English 5-7-5 ‘syllables. So for example, the word haiku is two syllables in English [high-koo] but three sounds in Japanese [high -a-koo]. Outside Japan, most practiced haiku writers utilise about 10 to 14 syllables to approximate the brevity of a Japanese haiku.

But other than perhaps my use of 5-7-5 ‘metrical beats’ [rather than necessarily either syllables or sound units ie Di-a-monds could be read as three syllables in English whereas I am using one metric beat Diamonds] I believe I am being true to the ‘sort of a meditation’ ideal of the form, and in spirit at least it does attempt to ‘capture a feeling or image’, even if it does not obey all the supposed rules of Haiku it does follow most:

Focuses on nature and uses a kigo (season word) that indicates the season. Composed of two juxtaposed parts, [with one of the parts filling two lines) grammatically independent as well as imagistically distinct. The use of a kireji (cutting word) to create an ‘intuitive realization’ leap between the two parts. It even tries to include some form of metonym; more difficult and often overlooked in English as unlike Japanese, being non-pictorial, these packed-in double meanings are harder to find.

At the very least I imagine the piece to be a jiyuritsu {free form) haiku. Certainly I hope it is an ‘unfinished’ poem requiring reader completion. As the 17th Century poet Matsuo Bashō said, “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of.”


Inspired by the repeat colder weather today, a second effort from a long ago remembered day:

Frost-scattered field-stones rot
Heaven-ladder on a broke-back spine
Used-to-be-mountain scaled

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one-off at the wrist