Thursday, August 30, 2012

a bbc radio essay by sarah bakewell about montaigne

and a link to her website

and a brief summary of her career in her own words ...

‘I studied philosophy at the University of Essex. I became enthralled by the work of Martin Heidegger and started a PhD on him, but the spell wore off as quickly as it had been cast, and I dropped out to move to London and work in a tea-bag factory.

‘My job was to catch boxes of tea-bags spat at me by a machine, flip them on their sides, and push them in groups of six to the next person on the line. It was only for the first two hours that machine spat faster than I could flip, but they were the most memorable two hours of my life.

‘After this, I worked in bookshops for several years, did a postgraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence, and wrote fiction in my spare time, before landing a job at the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine. There, I spent ten fascinating years as a cataloguer and curator of early printed books. It was while cataloguing that collection that I came across the tales that started me off as a non-fiction writer: odd medical cases, and a mysterious, angry pamphlet by a “Mrs Stewart”, which became the seed of my book The Smart.

‘Since 2002, my main job has been writing. I also teach writing courses in both fiction and non-fiction, curate occasional exhibitions, and catalogue old books for the National Trust.’

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

yes ! of course montaigne had studied erasmus !

i found out by copying the file containing the whole of montaigne's essays from project gutenberg

transferring it in to microsoft word

and then doing a simple word-search for "Erasmus"

just as well ... because the first reference the computer discovered, in the blink of an eye, was on page 949

the bishop says the right thing about mister blair ...

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel laureate and icon of the anti-apartheid struggle, has withdrawn from a seminar in South Africa in protest at the presence of Tony Blair and the former prime minister's support for the 2003 Iraq war.
"The archbishop is of the view that Mr Blair's decision to support the United States' military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible," said Roger Friedman, a spokesman for the cleric, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1984.
"Morality and leadership are indivisible. In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair," he added.
Blair's office said he was "sorry" that Tutu had decided to pull out of theDiscovery Invest Leadership Summit, which is due to take place in Johannesburg on Thursday, adding in a statement that the two were not due to be sharing a platform at the event.
"As far as Iraq is concerned they have always disagreed about removing Saddam by force – such disagreement is part of a healthy democracy," it said.
"As for the morality of that decision we have recently had both the memorial of the Halabja massacre, where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam's use of chemical weapons; and that of the Iran-Iraq war, where casualties numbered up to a million, including many killed by chemical weapons.
"So these decisions are never easy morally or politically."
The seminar's website says that other speakers at the event will include the chess grandmaster and Russian opposition figure Garry Kasparov, and the former Tesco chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy.
Muslim groups in South Africa had called for Blair to be arrested for war crimes when he arrived in South Africa.
Mustafa Darsot, a member of the South African Muslim Network executive committee, told the Mail & Guardian newspaper: "Mr Blair is complicit in the murder of thousands of people in Iraq and should be tried for war crimes."
Supporters pointed to the website, which describes itself as a site that "offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen's arrest of the former British prime minister".
Such protests have become an increasingly common feature of Blair's life since he left office.
In June, a speech by him in Hong Kong on faith and globalisation was interrupted by an activist seeking to make a citizen's arrest.
In May, his testimony to the Leveson inquiry into the media was interrupted by an activist who shouted that the former prime minister should be arrested for war crimes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

faint echoes of ancient laughter

I really don’t know, because I’m not a professional scholar, if Montaigne, who was born in 1533, had access to the writings of Erasmus, who died in 1536. 

Erasmus' contempt for the Papacy, despite his lifelong adherence to Roman Catholicism, meant that his writings became suspect of heresies & were supressed for some time.  Yet I can’t help feeling that Erasmus’ ghost inhabits, but doesn’t possess, the mind of Montaigne.  Each had a joyously voracious approach to reading the ancient classics, & each seems to have a delightfully sweet-tempered disregard for the pompous certainties of those same ancient authors.   For the time being, until I know better, I shall choose to regard Michel as the heir of Desiderius, & I’m deeply grateful that he chose to squander much of that inheritance on us.

And as for that minx Sarah Bakewell … revisiting her book, “How To Live, A life of Montaigne in one question & twenty attempts at an answer”, is to re-visit a dear friend whose sweetness of conversation rings in the memory like celestial music echoing among the not too distant stars on a warm summer night … so I’m moving her up, provisionally, to joint-top place in my pantheon of favourite lady writers, alongside of Diana Holman-Hunt, just for the time being.  I shall expect to find them taking tea together on the terrace, just as soon as I get to heaven.

After all, what do I know ?

paul simon chips in with some eloquent support for obama ...

erasmus ... a little light reading ...

i was always rarther fond of the way durer had drawn and engraved erasmus' hands, even though i knew nothing of the man he portrayed

,,, and then, last term, melvyn bragg's epic tutorial saga got around to illuminating the subject in a lively discussion ...

... and knowing that holbein had portrayed both erasmus ...

( twice ) ...

... no, thrice !!! ...

... and erasmus' friend sir thomas more ...

... and having only just cleared the reading backlog by finishing with peter hennessey's "never again", at long last ...

... it seemed like a very good time to download erasmus' "praise of folly" from project gutenberg ...

... and to start editing it in word, my favourite way of studying closely written and densely printed texts ...

... and so, for the next week or two ... DO NOT DISTURB !!!

dear diary ...

... nearly pensionable ... but only half-way through the big squeeze

more gardening tips ... intercontinental technological transfer picked up at the end of the night shift from my friend rufus who was researching malaysian technology for his family in cameroon

Friday, August 24, 2012

super symmetrical silliness acapella

vernacular architecture: classics of the southern style at horsted keynes

a public shelter besides conveniences for ladies and gentlemen in the pretty village of horsted keynes

it is hoped that the simple WC sign post at the right of the picture can be replaced using lottery funding

a larger multi-lingual version with pictograms is urgently needed

Thursday, August 23, 2012


before seven, emerging from a road through a very dark wood to the east of withyham, i find a field of golden straw, the stubble and bales raked in early golden sunlight, and on the very last bale and closest to the roadside there sits a big old rough coated buzzard watching for field mice ... but of course he flies away as soon as i back my truck through the gate

as i wait at a t-junction just across the road from a garden centre at jarvis brook, a heron circles down in a thrice diminishing spiral to feast in their pond before they open their gate to the day's first customers

travelling home on the top of a double decker bus along the north side of clapham common, i see a very pale skinned girl in a bikini sprawled in such a deep and inelegant slumber out in the middle of a football pitch that about fifty jet black rooks are marching about the pitch and her in a stark contrast of energy and purpose

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

my workmate paul ... undaunted by the increasing size of his territory whilst loading up enough work for two ordinary drivers

i recently lent him a dvd of "hue and cry" which he'd never seen, filmed in the streets and bombsites of post-war london where he grew up ... you can't begin to imagine his delight

Monday, August 20, 2012

a certain somebody is blushing too much to speak, having placed two similar plugs in the wrong sockets ... however, thanks to the incredibly patient courtenay at the call centre, we are back on line ... but i'll continue blushing almost as much as this morning's sunrise in crawley

local difficulties

we are trying to change ISP ... from BT, churlish and unhelpful in all previous encounters, to another

net result = cut off from the world with what seems like a dead line

so watch this space with patience ... and skepticism

Monday, August 13, 2012

wish fulfilment in the modern world

Having barely passed an A level in English with a spectacularly low mark about 45 years ago, I am predictably confusable about usages and semantics.  So what you mean may be obvious, but not to me.

This morning I was overtaken by a white van belonging to a logistics company.  On the back door of the van it said the company offered “warehousing fulfilment”.

I was slightly startled because I couldn’t remember having ever used the word fulfilment in conversation unless it was the second part of the clause “wish fulfilment”.

I wondered, could I now suppose that for some people the idea of “warehousing fulfilment” provokes a nice warm glow ?  I tried to picture the girls in our office experiencing this modern thrill.

Those of you who already speak the specialized language of logistics and of organisation and methods will deride my quaint old-fashioned naivety so I have now tried to understand your point of view.

At home I found a Wikipedia article on order fulfilment that put the new clause in context as a fundamental principle of good business.

The order fulfillment strategy also determines the de-coupling point in the supply chain[3], which describes the point in the system where the "push" (or forecast-driven) and "pull" (or demand-driven see Demand chain management) elements of the supply chain meet. The decoupling point always is an inventory buffer that is needed to cater for the discrepancy between the sales forecast and the actual demand (i.e. the forecast error). It has become increasing necessary to move the de-coupling point in the supply chain to minimize the dependence on forecast and to maximize the reactionary or demand-driven supply chain elements. This initiative in the distribution elements of the supply chain corresponds to the Just-in-time initiatives pioneered by automobile manufacturers in the 1970s.

The order fulfillment strategy has also strong implications on how firms customize their products and deal with product variety [4]. Strategies that can be used to mitigate the impact of product variety include modularity, option bundling, late configuration, and build to order (BTO) strategies—all of which are generally referred as mass customization strategies.

from ...

So, Yes it is obvious, but clearly there has been a need to evolve a new lexicon to fit the situation.

And clearly I'm getting out of my depth and it must be time for my cocoa.  Sweet dreams, y'all !

Saturday, August 11, 2012

this is dev ...

... who was born in bangladesh but has lived in london since 1953 ... we often chat on a bench on clapham common ... he struggles heroically with mortality and despair and the fog of memory ... he is a disciplined exerciser of the body, still, but not the mind ... neither of us think there is a heaven or an afterlife ... i think that the only afterlife is the one we instinctively invent for those that we most love and miss ... dev finds it hard to concentrate nowadays but occasionally he shows the origins of his spiritual roots when he asks that ancient rhetorical question "why are the gods punishing us ?" ... today we failed to agree a viewpoint on the subject of justice ... i am more interested in the due processes of inquiry after the crime and during the trial than in whether the culprit is punished ... the example i used was tony blair, who has yet to stand trial for "blithely unleashing the dogs of war" on innocent civilians ... i don't care if blair lives or dies but i fancifully want him to visit the scenes of his crime and to understand and acknowledge the consequences of his folly ...

... and then we discovered this reminder on our pathway back towards home

Monday, August 6, 2012


In the middle of the night, the humidity relieved by a cooling breeze, a girl in the flimsiest of summer dresses gets off the bus at the same stop and asks if she can use my phone because hers is dead and she has mislaid her boyfriend.  Sweet voiced.  Sweetly perfumed.  She stands too close to me.  Is it my imagination or can I feel the heat rising from her body against my cheek ?  She also gives off  that other scent ... of one who will never know when to stop drinking.

Coming homewards in the afternoon, a very black skinned woman is sitting in the seat across the aisle from mine.  She is tall and muscular and has the up-turned-est nose you ever saw.  She sits erect, head back so that the prominent cheekbone extends in a long horizontal line from the middle of the ear to just below the eye and  you can see her face's every sinew moving beneath the skin. She is knitting, with ferocioius dedication.  Extremely long slender fingers drawing thin scarlet wool from a carrier bag in her lap and row after row of tiny identical stitches forming with unflinching certainty.  My mother used to knit, freestyle, artistically, and so I watch, fascinated now, with both pleasure and pain.

Wearily, I open the door of our empty flat and discover a fat envelope from Spain, addressed in a lively script to Señor Tristan Forward, and I am rejuvenated.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

there was no evidence of human sacrifice when i approached the sacriligious artefact ...

... there was a slight delay ... they had to deflate it after vainly trying to re-join the two halves ... and then there was happiness all around ... and there's a nice new cafe in the newly landscaped park, too ...