2008 — 14 Feb: St Valentine's day

It's 00:58, and I've just finished watching a stunningly good film — The Prestige — that I bought1 on DVD way back in happier times. It's based on the 1995 novel by Christopher Priest and I think Christa would have been fascinated by it. I realise I'm somewhat late to the party on this one but for six months or so last year I had, to put it mildly, other priorities. Still, it's nice to see it at #89 in the IMDB top 250 titles. (I'd put it higher, personally, but then I've long had a soft spot for Tesla! And to have him played by David Bowie...)

Curiously, one of the plot points is remarkably similar to a crucial element of the superb Way Station by Clifford Simak, and it also features (both as technical advisor and performer) the strangely wonderful Ricky Jay (author of Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women and Jay's Journal of Anomalies). Magic!


It was Thomas Mann who said (or wrote!) "A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people". Bear that in mind as we learn some opinions about "Bad books about writing":

Bad books about writing are seductive, stupid, condescending, ignorant, expensive, and plentiful enough to make anybody sink into despair. Especially if anybody reads a few of them in a row as anybody prepares for her nonfiction creative writing course... Some bad books about writing offer about as much illumination as you'd get from a used match.
Many of them have titles like The Artist's Diary of Hidden Potential for Writing From The Secret Heart of Your Inner Home or The Journaling Notebook for Divining Maps of Creative Inspiration From the Wellspring of Personal Memoir Narrative. Most recently, a genre best identified as the If That Slob of An Author Makes Big Bucks, So Can You! school of writing instruction is also taking up a lot of room on the shelves.

Gina Barreca writing in the Chronicle Review

Write on, sister! Time for shuteye.

Bleary-eyed return...

... from what, my erudite word puzzle chum reminded me, is described by the Bard as "the honey-heavy dew of slumber" which, for a change, largely eluded me for the last few hours. You don't have to sleep well every night, I guess.

I thought I'd lost my NPR satellite feed last night. I restored it in time (this morning) to hear the tail-end of a discussion about (I gather) an article in the March issue of The Atlantic, answering the age-old question,2 asked by single women 30 and up: "Is it better to be alone, or to settle?" You can fan the flames here. (Look for the heading "Ladies, Bring on the Blogitude (Gents, Too, I Guess)".) This is not the first examination of the topic in that magazine:

Bachelorhood is a normal condition up to a certain period in a man's life, and after that it is abnormal. He who elects to remain unmarried elects to become queer... And the greatest need is the book which shall instruct the bachelor how to make glad the desert regions of his solitary existence, how to fill the vacuities with which his life is perforated.

Leon H Vincent, writing in 1898 in The Atlantic

My, isn't it queer how language changes over the years! I love those "vacuities".

I wouldn't presume to be in a position to answer3 the question about solitude versus settling but, somehow, meandering further afield through the blogosphere, I ultimately landed on an amusing description of the current Archbishop of Canterbury Sharia Law saga written up in the style of Chaucer (how authentically is a question that Christa could have answered for me). You can find that here.

Well, the first cuppa (and fruit juice) are downed and brekkie now (09:42) beckons.

The Periodic Table of Rejected Elements

This took me straight back to college "Rag" magazines. (Yes, I was guilty of the occasional contribution, but nothing as fine as this.) Wonderful!

Next toy?

The RM miniBook, though it seems to be restricted to educational purchases at the moment. But then, life is an ongoing education, isn't it?

RM miniBook

Drat! PCWorld has it in stock, and very dinky it is too. Just (14:30) got back4 from there. It runs the Open Office suite under Linux, inter alia, and the screen is perfectly adequate. Looks like a usable PDA on steroids or a laptop that's been squeezed. Nice market niche, I suspect.

800 MHz Intel Celeron M
512 MB RAM
Asus Linux
2 GB flash hard drive
7" widescreen display
Wireless enabled
0.92 Kg
2.8 Hours battery life
stereo speakers

As I say, drat!

Wot? No coffee cake?!

Shock horror. Drove out to Hillier's for the ol' cake and tea this afternoon and had to settle for a four-stick Kit Kat. "They" (ie da management) have told "them" (ie the workers) to start making the things instead of buying them in. An equally retired lady tipped me the wink: so I expect I'll be transferring my allegiance to Poppies until their cake supply runs out. A chap has certain standards to maintain. Actually, while in Hillier's I also saw a chap who was the spitting image of a former first-line manager5 of mine.

My readers never fail to delight me. TomG has obviously noted both my reference to George Steiner and my liking for a good Spoonerism. He's just managed to combine the two by pointing out that the current issue of Private Eye (which he feared I might have given up in light of my stopping my [once-beloved] Guardian) features in its "diary" George Steiner and My Unbitten Rooks. "Unfortunately", adds Tom, "the spoof diary is as impenetrable as the real thing". Excellent. Now, who's going to identify the six birds in a row, for me, please? (We saw four geese on a narrow country lane as we wended our way back from the Kit Kat stop. You never have the camera ready when you really need it, do you?)

No sooner asked, than answered. It seems they are Brent geese. Thanks, Peter!

As captured by Big Bro

On 23rd July 2006, a mere twelve days after she'd had her stitches out following her initial surgery for her second cancer, and just after we'd traded in the BMW Mini Cooper S for a much more frugal Toyota Aygo, Big Bro showed up for a flying visit. Not yet being retired, (or, possibly, under pollen attack) I was (I see) wearing my habitual scowl. Christa, as usual, sported her habitual smile:

July 2006



1  To be more precise, that Mr Postie delivered on that date.
2  Entirely appropriate for Valentine's Day, I'm sure.
3  I asked Christa to marry me because I simply couldn't envisage going through the rest of my life without her. This was not an issue I could deal with intellectually as I really couldn't understand then what was happening to me. I'm not sure I'm any better equipped, 34 years later, of course. Having met her, and become entirely enchanted ("besotted" is the word my friend Carol used some years later) all I knew, and all that seemed to matter, was the simple fact that I didn't want to lose her. (She'd intended to return to Germany after a year's teaching at Royal Holloway so she could do her post-grad certificate in education and settle into the German education system; not that she particularly wanted to be a teacher, but it was a good, steady, well-paid Civil Servant post.) Our falling in love was a very quick process, at times joyful, and at times like the worst, ongoing, stomach-churning, miserable dose of 'flu we'd ever had, in which the only thing worse than being together was not being together!
4  I could also have been observed drooling over a Freecom network media player with component output and an Iomega with a SCART output but no LAN connection.
5  I won't name him, but I still chortle slightly to recall that three of my colleagues all declined the opportunity to work for him after he'd driven me from the department I was working in.