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Thu, May. 10th, 2007, 04:51 pm
Whitby (WgW) & After

The North Yorkshire coast from Bridlington to Whitby was the landscape of my childhood so it has a special significance for me, though the only real connection now is the Gothic weekend...

It's been a week now, & if left much longer it'll be too late, so here is my comment on Whitby.
Along with the usual highlights particular mention should be made of picnicking by the sea, Sunday night in Laughtons (despite the apparent danger of a permanent shift in hearing... did the fire alarm really go off? I honestly didn't hear it. Also it was probably on this night that I caught the cold which caused much nuisance last week. However well worth it anyway), & of course the weather. It was interesting to see a sample from the London Sluts again... some of them even remembered me! Only a pity we missed the beach party on Monday night, but alas other matters called.
As for the live music, i must be frank & say on the whole this didn't seem so impressive: the problem may well be the acoustics of the venue which aren't very flattering to anyone's sound. I got the feeling that unless you knew the bands songs well already you'd have had no idea what you were listening to.
Also the headline band seem to have a difficulty with spelling: finding the songs initially unrecognisable for a while I was seriously wondering whether there were in fact two bands with similar names, one with an umlaut the other without. However I now realise that the apparently different spellings are just due to the willfull ignorance of the band which, along with gratuitously inflated ego, seem to be de rigueur in this genre.
Actually the best music I heard all weekend was something on Teenage Skater Boy (a.k.a. the delectable Corchen)'s hard drive.
This leaves open the question of whether it might be better not to bother with a band ticket in future since the main point of the weekend is to renew old acquaintance & discover new friends.
On the other hand one wouldn't want the weekend to fizzle out due to lack of support for the official event, so will probably get tickets again next time around.
(Hopefully next time around will be that, & won't be after a delay of a couple of years, either.)
As always managed to spend far more than originally planned: but if one thinks of such before going one might never go... & that would be a mistake.

Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007, 10:51 am

Whitby! Whitby!

Wed, Apr. 18th, 2007, 03:12 pm

Yes, the first sunflower seedling has poked its head out from its soily bed.
In time I hope to have a complete mini garden on the balcony.

Wed, Apr. 18th, 2007, 01:50 pm
On looking into John Keats for the second time

Bought Keat's complete works yesterday, & for the second time in my life began to experience his work, and to properly appreciate it, I think, for the first time.
Keats was the set poet when I was at school, but one cannot be lead to poetry: it was a struggle. Somewhere I still have a recording of The Eve of St Agnes, a miscarriaged attempt to try & learn the work, my own awkward voice failing to give life to words I couldn't grasp.
I finally found my own way to poetry about a year after those exams, in the form of another Romantic poet, Shelly. Curiously the path that took me there was reading Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, & the consequent appetite to learn more of her circle. & from there I learned of the other Romantics* & their contemporaries & then their successors & antecedents. Though the Romantics, along with Blake, retain a special place in my heart & mind, I have not read Keats in all these years, put off I suppose by the trouble he caused before I was ready for him. What a difference half a short lifetime of subliminal learning can make! For what once was clouded & dull is now clear & bright, beautiful & true.

There was a new path which lead me back to that old country: Simmon's Hyperion (thanks to S.R.M. for introducing me to it)- many SF writers fill their books with literary allusions, but this one takes the practice to new heights, & so I had to follow the path back to the original source.

Footnote: I found the folder containing some of my earliest attempts at poetic creative writing** a few weeks ago; when re-reading The Eve of St Agnes today it suddenly occurred that the verse structure I'd used back then was very similar, even though I was definitely not thinking of Keats at the time (in fact I remember it as an attempt to imitate the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spencer): perhaps, despite everything, Keats had hidden away in my subconscious- a mark of the effectiveness of his art.

*the word "romantic" has a somewhat unfortunate connotation here in the early 21st century; but I'm using the word in its original sense.

** those attempts being crude, pretentious, clumsy, shallow, and best kept out of the light of day. So no change there then. Perhaps there is some comfort in the thought that there is poetry in the mere attempt.

Mon, Apr. 2nd, 2007, 12:35 pm
and another one..

Looks like today is the 25th anniversary of the begining of the Falklands war, not that either side officially declared war at the time..
It's strange that modern governments like to pretend they are not at war when they really are - i suppose it started with US making war in SE asia in the 60s & 70s... supposedly the US has constitutional restrictions on how and who it is that can actually declare war- so it becomes convenient for legal reasons to avoid any formal admission that a state of war exists in that particular country. However the practice occurs elsewhere & in places where no such legal "problems" exist- such as the UK- so one supposes that the practice has political advantages for those who seek after power regardless of the democracy we struggled centuries to achieve. (In the special case of the UK it may well also have something to do with that tendency to sycophantically imitate our American masters in all things.)
Nor is it just the big bullies on the block who engage in this practice: an example being Iran which for the best part of 30 years has been waging a secret war against Israel, the US and pretty much anyone it takes a dislike to besides*.
Then again the whole question of declaring war may be missing the point- as someone once observed, the war is continuous, though occasionally peace breaks out.
Though I'm thinking even these occasional outbreaks are basically illusory, warfare is the method of gaining and extending power for those individuals who lust after it, & so as long as there is heirarchical society there will be war.

(*Far be it for me to provide grist to the mill of those in the west who are plotting the forthcoming attack on Iran: another wrong will not make anything right. Never the less the facts of culpability are plain to see in this example.)

Sat, Mar. 31st, 2007, 12:32 pm

We finally got to see 300 last night (following the debacle last week- see a film on it's opening night without booking tickets? I think not..)
I'm not familiar with the comic book the film was directly based on, but I do know the history of the Persian invasions of Europe, & in terms of the actual sequence of events the film did seem pretty accurate: 300 Spartans lead a small number of allies & successfully held off the vast Persian army for several days at Thermopylae, before they were betrayed, attacked from both sides & almost entirely wiped out. However the action halted the Persian advance, allowing for a complete victory over the invaders a year later.
The long term consequences for Europe & ultimately the world are staggering: had the Persians won then there would most likely have never been any distinctive "western" civilisation at all, that means there would probably never have been any systematic scienctific knowledge, & certainly there would never have been such a thing as democracy- the world would be just superstitious absolute rulers forever, or until some natural catastrophe finally wiped out the human race.
One incident in the film which did seem pretty unlikely was the direct meeting between Leonidas & the Persian emperor Xerxes- such was the arrogance of those self proclaimed gods that they would surely never have met with a mere provincial king under any circumstances - however the meeting & direct confrontation between the two characters was important for artistic reasons, & so one can forgive this licence. It certainly allowed for a good use of the notorious "laconic" humour of the Spartans.
Another aspect of artistic licence prominent in the film was the lack of body armour among the Greek soldiery, especially the Spartans themselves: historically they wore armour on chest & legs in addition to the helmet & shield* which were depicted in the film. However leaving the armour off, besides emphasising the importance of the shield in Spartan tactics, allowed a good display of musculature, a paean to the Greek ideal of beauty, which is not inappropriate, & makes a sharp contrast to the degeneracy of their Persian opponents. In fact if anything the depiction of the Persians is far more ahistorical.
That being said there are some things in the film which are inaccurate for reaons which are difficult to understand: for example, while frequent reference is made to the importance of phalanx discipline in the spartan way of battle, & despite the fact that this was the key to their prowess in battle, when the film actually comes to show the Spartans in combat they are instead fighting as individuals against their enemies.
There are also some troubling aspects to the script, speeches which appear to have no function except to engender some sort of contemporary resonance in the modern (American?) film goer. There are scenes which take place in some sort of council chamber, but as far as i could tell, though there were democratic elements to Spartan government, the models for this council & the kind of political shenanigans which take place there, are entirely those of the USA, not ancient Greece. In fact the whole of Spartan society is glossed over in a way which is apparently intended to make it more palatable to a modern audience. Sparta was, like all ancient societies, a slave based economy, but the Spartans were exceptionally brutal, actively culling the slave population every year. Also Sparta did not have one king, Leonidas, but two- in modern times we have come to use the terms "monarch" and "king" as synonyms, but in ancient times they certainly were not. Sparta was a diarchy, a state with 2 reigning royal houses.
Another thing which was not alluded to in the film, unless through the implied homo-eroticism of the near nudity of the spartans, was the fact that Greek soldiers were encouraged to form homosexual relationships with each other (this is in stark contrast to the gay-bashing mentality of modern soldiers).
The Spartans did consider themselves to be the defenders of Greece, but when they talked of defending liberty (if they ever did) they were referring to the liberty of Greece from foreign powers. The concept of personal liberties simply did not exist in ancient Sparta, indeed a Spartan citizen was taught from birth that they belonged to the state. It could well be that Sparta was the original fascist state**- & so may well be a strange choice of example if the intention of the film makers was to create some sort of vehicle for justifying certain modern ideologies.
Ancient Greece was politically diverse, & included pretty much every type of state which now exists in the world, & quite a few which no longer do- but the Spartans, with all their warts, had what it took to save it all, & for that they should be remembered.
While I did enjoy the film while watching it, I remain rather troubled by it on several levels. It seems to be yet another example of the triumph of style over content, everything subsumed to the look of the film at the expense of seeking to convey deeper meanings. Was there not once a time when film directors would seek to challenge their audience, rather than pandering to their prejudice, as this one ultimately does? Would it not have been more interesting to portray Sparta in a realistic way, including all the strangeness by our standards, making no concessions to the expectations an imaginary audience might have, & crediting them with the intelligence to draw their own conclusions about the story? The historical style of ancient Greeks was striking enough & not well known to modern people, so even the "look" of this film is redundant.

*I noticed that each Spartan shield had a stylised "lambda" symbol- L for Leonidas, i suppose, though the way the shields were designed suggested to me that the prop makers actually had no idea what it actually was. I don't know of any historical evidence that the 300 actually had "^" on their shields, but I do remember seeing a drama-documentary on the battle of Thermopylae some years ago- an attempt to make a serious re-enactment of the battle- & in that film the Greek side all had Lambda painted on their shields, presumably so that the audience could more easily tell one side from the other. Makes me wonder if the "research" done for this film consisted of no more than watching any old films they could find on the subject & just randomly collating & imitating details which caught their eye.

**I have often wondered whether the whole of Western history can be characterised as the conflict between the "fascist" Spartans & their rivals the "democratic" Athenians.

[I really must remember to post these journal entries when i actually write them- its actually 16th April & I've only just got round to posting- come to think of it I was a little distracted by some personal turmoil a few weeks back, no doubt this contributed to the delay. Oh well, the date at the top is correct- I don't suppose anyone will notice anyway.]

Fri, Mar. 23rd, 2007, 10:41 pm
Spring clean

Time to clear away some of the deadwood.

I no longer support that charity, for complex reasons I won't go into here, so it had to go.

Otherwise just need to generally tidy up the journal; perhaps i shall use it more frequently in future- though really my main presence in the i-sphere will have to be elsewhere.
It seems that here I have been unable to speak either of my work or from the heart- & that leaves only the narrowest of countries, not enough for true expression.

Meanwhile, on the trivial front: it seems BT reconnected the broadband while I was away, but i've had little chance to make use of it what with all the things that need doing just now; also the Doctor has finally referred me to a specialist, though it'll still be a couple of months before I can be seen- I supposed i've lived with this problem for some time now, never the less it seems an annoyingly unnecessary delay.

Tue, Mar. 20th, 2007, 09:49 am
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday war
Now you've made it to four,
just what are we fighting for?
Well here's to many more;
Happy Birthday war.

Thu, Mar. 1st, 2007, 03:37 pm

No internet at home for another week... agggh. Oh well I guess Azeroth will have to survive without my assistance for a while.
Lots of work to do this weekend in any case.
Really must sort out this live journal thing when I'm finally reconnected. Really this one hasn't worked out, maybe it's time to revive my web page. We'll see.

Tue, Feb. 27th, 2007, 12:30 pm

I wonder why it is that there are some people in this world who think that telling partial truths with the intent to deceive is somehow not the same thing as telling lies?
In fact the practice is worse, since it enables the perpetrator to tell a secondary lie, that he or she is somehow being honest.

There is an ultimate futility to all lies, because no matter who you deceive or confuse, the world cares not one jot for false words- no planets with alter their courses, no atoms will change their state no matter how elaborate the deception. So ineffable reality will always break through in the end.
This is an inescapable truth that venal politicians, false prophets and heartless lovers should remember.
For while the world cannot be gained through words, love and liberty can be lost through lies.

And for myself, I cannot claim to have been untainted by falsehood (who can?); but where I have erred in the past it was, i hope, only from true motives applied to false means; such is my defense- as is the belief that it is possible to learn from past mistakes.

As for whoever deceives with the intention of exploiting another, or to harm another for its own sake, such a person is beyond comprehension.

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