2008 — 17 May: Saturday

It's 00:12 and I'm delighted to report that yesterday's DVD "Feast of Love" is a delightful and thoughtful riff on "A midsummer night's dream" as well as being every bit as good as "Playing by heart" as ensemble casts go. Excellent film. Almost as tasty, indeed, as the latest crockpot, the rest of which is even now cooling prior to being popped into the fridge.

Still waiting for that predicted thunderous downpour. Doubtless it will wait until I'm asleep. Which will be soon, but not until I've done the dishes. No sign so far — at 01:35 — so up the stairs to Bedfordshire.

Good news "On the Waterfront"... dept

Not the Marlon Brando film, nor the unmaterialised overnight downpour. This morning's snailmail (although waking me as the letterbox slammed shut in its full-on finger trapping1 mode) left two identical envelopes quivering on the door mat from those delightful folk at my water supplier. My bleary-eyed initial foreboding ("Oh, now what? Two water bills?") turned to a minor-league whoop as I learned that my monthly bill is going to plummet from £62-43 to £14-40 for the next four months. ("Good God!" says Christa.) It will then adjust again after an actual meter reading for the rest of the year. I don't doubt there will be a degree of hysteresis until the ripples die down, as it were. Or if I construct a swimming pool in the basement.2 But of such high spots does a pensioner's Life consist. Or "every little helps" as dear dead Dad was wont to remark. Before he died (almost exactly 33 years ago).

I've already celebrated with a cuppa and loud music. Heck, I may even get dressed! It's cool enough, and grey enough, to necessitate such things. Perhaps even a tad of healthy breakfast cardboard concrete? I know how to live, you know. Maybe not quite as described here:

Malebots and fembots will, possibly after they've done the dishes, ironed our Second Life avatars' shirts and waxed our hover cars, attend to our sexual needs with magic fingers. They will be fingers that never tire, fingers that can flick through databases of sexual pleasures beyond human imaginings. Your orgasms will be superlative, your living room freshly vacuumed. There will be, Levy argues in the last words of this book, "great sex on tap for everyone, 24/7". I'm so confused about the future Levy envisages that I'm not even sure that this is a metaphor. Maybe sex will come through taps, and maybe I'll like it. Unless, of course, it's metered.

Stuart Jeffries reviewing "Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships" by David Levy (yes, the chess player) in The Guardian

I see the Guardian maintains its predilection for lousy puns in its headings, too.

Four out of five ain't too bad... dept.

What do the films 2001: a space odyssey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Alien, Gattaca, and both variants of Solaris have in common? According to Michael Marshall, they all get the "science" right. (Well, apart from the numerous errors mentioned here in the case of 2001.) There's interesting browsing here, and here, too by the way. I have yet to see the earlier version of "Solaris", and have yet to bring myself to finish watching "Eternal Sunshine". We started watching it together but baled out.

This film gets things so wrong that NASA apparently uses it as management training fodder. I remember Christa and I dismissed it as noisy rubbish when we took Junior to see it in the cinema.

It's the rich what gets the pleasure... dept.

Actually not (if you wade through the over-simplistic and somewhat repetitive article here) but I was highly amused after publishing yesterday's picture of Big Bro's little NZ pad to learn a new acronym (JAFA) courtesy of far-flung Brack:

... most of the smart money does live in Auckland — come to think of it most New Zealanders live in Auckland. There is a saying in the rest of New Zealand when an Aucklander migrates south with his or her loot — "jafa" — modelled on RTFM but "Just Another Aucklander". Prices round here for small blocks and the comforts of life like wineries have gone through the roof; we blame the Jafas, Americans, and Koreans.


Raising my endorphin levels; thanks, Ian.

Junior has also done his bit to raise them by calling me as he wanders through London (at 11:45 or so) even if I was "occupied" at the time. There's something inherently undignified at diving for the phone (to beat the cutting-in of the Ansaphone mechanism) with one's trousers at half-mast. I'd been vaguely contemplating a classy phrase such as "in the cloacal temple" but thought just maybe I'd better "Google" it first. 23,000 hits, and this gem of research in Michigan (carried out under Dubya's Presidency, by the way) among them:

We examined the effects of repeated sampling on the characteristics of Tree Swallow semen by manually expressing semen from 15 males immediately after capture (T0) and then hourly for 4 h (T1—T4). The semen characteristics of individual males varied in response to repeated sampling.

Various, in Repeated sampling affects Tree Swallow semen characteristics

For some reason, I'm reminded of the remarks of "Gerald" the captured ape in that old Not the 9 o'clock news sketch. "Wild? I was livid!" Back to political reality with a nice item on hypocrisy here. ("Modern democratic politics sometimes seems to have been reduced to a game of hunt the hypocrite.") That, in turn, triggers recall of the remark by White House Chief of Staff "Leo" in The West Wing: "I lied to you, Ainsley. I'm a politician; it's what I do."


Gill was kind enough to say I was a good photographer. Why can't I take pictures as good as this one?

I'm reading New Statesman again

It costs me £120 a year, so it's silly not to... (Mind you, in the late 1990s my major delight in it was the wonderful "Diary" column3 written by Sean French. He's long since departed to write lucratively best-selling thrillers with partner Nicci Gerrard.) Anyway, there's a full-page ad about the "Daily Mirror" polling its readers on GDA4 food labelling, as pushed by the FDF:

Would this be the Quatermass?


As I slowly approach what I suppose I can regard as the twilight of my adolescent stage, I understand more clearly why Christa would, from time to time, reward herself after a nasty job with, say, a single square of chocolate.5 This widowerhood lark is, as I've remarked, an ongoing learning opportunity. Today, I learned that a pack of mashed carrot and parsnip constitutes a step too far along the vegetable spectrum for my taste. But a small cube of Aztec food soon took the taste away. Gosh, it's very quiet (at 16:36) — could there be a footie match going on somewhere?

Malcolm Gladwell (he of the "tipping point") has a fascinating article in the current New Yorker. Towards the end, there's an astonishing section about metastatic cancer cells. Too late for Christa, of course, but enormously hopeful nonetheless.

Gathering of the clan... dept.

This must have been in 1984 or thereabouts, over in Meisenheim on the back patio. Christa's brother Georg is sitting between me and her. Her brother Karl is standing on the far right. Peter and his five cousins are ranged along the back, standing (I believe) on what was a part of the old city wall. (Mutti and Vati's house was on a prime piece of real estate, directly opposite the ancient cathedral.) That's what comes of marrying the factory-owner's daughter, I guess!

Gathering of the Beckers, in about 1984



1  Very like Arkwright's till in Open All Hours for readers of a certain bent.
2  The house we had in Harpenden between 1963 and 1970 adjoined the one built for himself by the same builder. It had exactly such a thing, though by then neither occupant ever used it, which rather blew my adolescent mind.
3  A typical extract, in which he dealt with the preliminary traumae of moving house in his column of 20 November 1998: "Obviously it is strange to have people looking around your bedroom and bathroom with an obscure expression of disdain, but this is made up for by the strange perverse pleasure of looking round other people's houses... One couple had artistic erotic etchings in their bedroom (which is presumably off-limits to normal visitors) and I inspected them closely while pretending to examine the walls for cracks or signs of movement or whatever it is one is supposed to be looking out for."
4  Guideline Daily Amount — an acronym not explicitly spelled out on the printed page, oddly.
5  And I have also discovered a number of her household caches.