This night four years ago found us in a very special place, a retreat more accustomed to housing guests of the nation than folk like us. We took full advantage and went for a crepuscular walk once we were locked into the estate. We had the freedom of an entire domain until dawn.[Read more…] about Freedoms from Information
We all depend on movements for effect and those effects drive society. A learned friend introduced me to the term ‘kinetic elite’ that describes highly mobile business and political leaders and I guess global geoscience advisors too. I knew that US military still use ‘kinetic operations’ to describe their overseas interventions. With hindsight, perhaps both concepts were aligned when I was jogging around rocky Algerian deserts on fiery summer evenings deep in the Sahara. We’d wait until the temperature dropped to 44 C, then run an outbound 5 km before sunset to avoid dehydration and ensure the return 5 km could complete before total darkness, avoiding the reportable health or safety incidents used as adjunct measures of our job performance. We were among trails used as caravan routes for millennia, ‘kinetic smuggling’ routes perhaps. I was accompanied by security advisor MdS who joked that he was born into the ‘mobility’. I’ll call him MdS because he was a veteran of the Marathon des Sables as well as special kinetic operations. Discreet when not downright secretive, he had mind-bending stories he considered safe to relate to while away a slow evening jog with me.
‘Can you imagine …?’ is how she often starts … I wrote this a month ago not imagining that government had already restarted their harassment of Nurcan Baysal for ‘inciting hatred and enmity among the public’.[Read more…] about Kinetics
It’s amazing what you get done in the bath. That was my takeaway from the movie Trumbo, based on the true story of a blacklisted script writer accused of using movie scripts as communist propaganda. And I latched onto the fact that he wrote in the bath! Maybe that’s because baths and saunas, like walking, are activities that bring me great clarity of thought: a transient clarity borne of an intense but narrow focus. Wabi sabi?
When Catherine Dunne was honoured with the 2018 Irish PEN Award for Contribution to Irish Literature, I was lucky enough to be in attendance. A round-table chat about the books we were reading that year brought me to the realisation that, sitting among so many novelists, I had read no fiction in the previous twelve months. I’d unexpectedly retired from a career in geoscience and possessing a past and a present, I was looking for a future. Determinism was parked and I was imagining multiple probabilistic outcomes while trying to make the right choices. My bedside bookshelves were decorated, if not vertabrated, with spine words like Harari, Sapiens, Syed, Black Box Thinking, Taleb, Antifragile, Frankopan, The New Silk Roads, O’Connell, To Be A Machine, Rosling Factfulness and walking here, there and anywhere.[Read more…] about World Book Day
There’s an ad that’s been on our fence for over 10 years. We brought it home as a souvenir from a week on the Côte d’Azur in the fishing port of Villfranche-sur-mer, a place widely known because of the Cocteau Chapel or U2’s video Electrical Storm or the retired-Bond movie Never Say Never Again. A great place to spend a few days even if we’re not Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
The ad is in metal and enamel, a touristy replica of the famous fin de siècle poster for Absinthe Blanqui. A fully clothed red-headed woman is adorned in green ribbons with an upper arm wrapped with a serpent. Or at least she was. The green devil dress and every other colour has drained away, a metaphor for the absinthe itself dripping through sugar cubes.[Read more…] about Absinthe
The London Review of Books are selectively dropping their firewall each pandemic day. They say ‘Diverted Traffic is a new LRB newsletter, featuring a different piece from the archive each day – chosen for its compulsive, immersive and escapist qualities, and also for a complete absence of references to plague, pandemics or quarantine.’
It was there that I recently read about pigs. No matter your view on swine, I think there’s very a very relatable quote from John Miles in 1834 retold by James Buchan in ‘My Hogs ‘ in 2001: “‘A couple of flitches’ – i.e. sides – ‘of bacon are worth fifty thousand Methodist sermons and religious tracts. The sight of them on the rack tends more to keep a man from poaching and stealing than whole volumes of penal statutes, though assisted by the terrors of the hulks and the gibbet.’“[Read more…] about Pigs
The advent of sound and in movies presented Hollywood with a problem. Many of its most famous actors had voices and accents unsuited to the talkies. The change in technology made them redundant.
In an effort to present uplifting news, TV stations are broadcasting messages of support from celebrities. I’m struck by how awkward their messages appear. Is this because celebrity is about aspiration rather than leadership? Like the great stars of the silent screen with bad voices that Hollywood never produced, the voices of many celebrities seem redundant. Sports millionaires for example. Sports are suspended and now the sports personalities are effectively wealth insulated rather than inconveniently health isolated. Not that you’d glean this from their messages presented as if they were just like you and me. They continue to broadcast like the celebrities they were only a month ago, competing for your attention like self-appointed social media influencers.[Read more…] about Celebrity changes