Saturday, January 29, 2011

Money makes the wheels on the world go round

Thanks to a Christmas gift, this has been on the obsessive MP3-Player rotation for the last few weeks:

Just wanted to share.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thoughts on the naked woman in the shower

I wouldn't want to necessarily endorse anything else in this essay from Slavoj Žižek, but I quite liked this passage:

We are often told that privacy is disappearing, that the most intimate secrets are open to public probing. But the reality is the opposite: what is effectively disappearing is public space, with its attendant dignity. Cases abound in our daily lives in which not telling all is the proper thing to do. In Baisers volés, Delphine Seyrig explains to her young lover the difference between politeness and tact: ‘Imagine you inadvertently enter a bathroom where a woman is standing naked under the shower. Politeness requires that you quickly close the door and say, “Pardon, Madame!”, whereas tact would be to quickly close the door and say: “Pardon, Monsieur!”’ It is only in the second case, by pretending not to have seen enough even to make out the sex of the person under the shower, that one displays true tact.

Politics here or there, that's a distinction I feel I can approve of.

Remember my old home, haven't forgotten yet. What happens on the day when I forget?

John Darnielle and "Enoch 18:14".

Very nice.

There are worse ways to end the week.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Your kōan for the week

A student, looking for pointers on preparing for the end-of-course exam, asks:

I understand everything, but what should I know?


The answer, if you're wondering, did not do the question justice and was of a largely practical nature.

Apt Music

Catching this song on the radio today I was struck by how - in the right light and from the right angle - David Byrne sounds a little like Tom Petty. Though not so much in this live version:

David Byrne, "Life is Long"

Dedicated to my bro' and his shite genes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Good morning Britain

Quite good stuff, as is to be expected, from Charlie Brooker today:

"There are millions of people in Alarm Clock Britain," Clegg writes. "People, like Sun readers, who have to get up every morning and work hard to get on in life."

Basically, Alarm Clock Britain consists of people who use alarm clocks. That counts me out, because I wake each morning to the sound of my own despairing screams. Which I guess makes me part of Scream Wake Britain – a demographic Clegg has chosen to ignore.

I find that the point at which politicians start droning on about about the sacrifices of ordinary people who...uh...get up and go to work is essentially the point at which they might as well admit that they really don't have anything useful to contribute to the debate.

To any debate.

It's rather equivalent to defending your policy by saying 'think of the children', i.e., an admission of intellectual bankruptcy.

Although I have to say Nick Clegg has suprised me in at least one way: I never thought I'd find him more embarrassing than David Cameron.

Other than being positively disposed towards Germany, I can't say that Nick has much going for him these days.

And, given that he's in some way tarnishing us Germans by association with his silly pandering to Sun readers, I think he's best start Mentioning the War pretty soon, so as to save us some embarrassment.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Red sky at night...

This picture does only rudimentary justice to the beauty of the sunset currently going on in front of our house.

But even so, I thought it was worth sharing.

Wishing you all a good Wochenende.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bird of the Day

Although, as you might know, there is a great love for the Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) in this here household, we are of course aware that there's plenty of other sweet birds in the skies around Château Pudding. Like for instance Aegithalos caudatus, aka the Long-tailed Tit:


Now just imagine a whole posse of these cute little snowballs (with tails) frolicking in amidst the bare branches of a wild rose bush, like the ones I saw this morning when out running.

Coming home I did a little pre-weekend research and decided that the long-tailed tit was even sweeter than I had imagined. They're not only very sociable animals, who tend to muck about in flocks of around 20 or so individuals. It also seems that they have their collective life sorted out quite splendidly.

For instance, this marvellous species has an admirable albeit complicated sleep ritual (depending on whether it's winter or summer), involving (in the cold months) mutual preening, pseudo courtship rituals and collective cuddling. This is from the German Wikipedia entry (which I can't be asked to translate):

Innerhalb der Winterschwärme wird auch gemeinsam in eng aneinander geschmiegten Schlafgesellschaften geschlafen, was eine größere Widerstandsfähigkeit gegen besonders niedrige Temperaturen ermöglicht. Die Schlafplätze liegen meist in dichtem Gebüsch in 1–10 m Höhe. Der Schlafplatz wird gezielt angeflogen und die Individuen des Schwarms sammeln sich in der Nähe des Schlafzweiges. Dann wird in einer ritualisierten Handlung ähnlich der Balz die Individualdistanz überwunden. Zwei Individuen lassen sich auf dem Schlafzweig nieder und rutschen hin und her. Nach dem Zusammenrücken schauen sie voneinander weg und putzen sich. Dann fliegen weitere Individuen in die Mitte. Die Bildung der Reihe, in der die Ranghöchsten in der Mitte sitzen, erfolgt unter leisem Zwitschern. Bisweilen wird der Vorgang durch noch aggressive Individuen gestört und wird von neuem begonnen. Er dauert daher meist bis zu 30 Minuten. Die Schwänze der aufgereihten Vögel zeigen am Ende in unterschiedliche Richtungen, manchmal wird auch eine Kugel mit nach außen gerichteten Schwänzen gebildet. Am Morgen wird die Versammlung ohne weitere Zeremonie aufgelöst.
As John would say: "Now that's civilisation."

They're also extremely capable architects:


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Political Dyscourse

Well, there we are: for anyone who thought that the recent terrible events in Arizona would lead to some serious soul searching and an improvement in the climate of American political discussion, I would suggest that Sarah Palin's latest thoughtful contribution to the matter pounds a pretty hefty nail in that hope's coffin.

Not that others weren't already busily hammerin' away.

(I was not one of those optimists; however, a load of work -- combined with a general fury and disgust at the whole dreadful thing -- has kept me from commenting, so you'll just have to take my word on it.)

For what it's worth: a couple of comments that I did think worthwhile: MGK and PZ.

Now, I'm going to return to thinking about something that doesn't make me want to throw up.

[UPDATE] This comment from Adam Serwer is also good.

[UPDATE] And this, via Boing Boing too (just surveying, mind):

[UPDATE] And this, at Bouphonia.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Brief aspirational aside

Now added to the list of Things I Want to See Happen: a race horse with the same name as this blog. If other blogs can have one, why can't we?

(C'mon, it would at least be better than 'Yorkshire Knight'...)