2017/06/23

A cure for sleeplessness and other things...

These days, in Northern Italy, when it is too hot and muggy to sleep I simply get up. But in the other three seasons I have a method for getting back to sleep which sometimes work...

I've been learning poems by heart, started off by this book:



...and trying to remember the poems as I lie awake in the middle of the night can sometimes get me back to oblivion. Sleep is important, so I say to myself that I can only get the "reward" of getting up once I've recited, in my mind, all the poems I know. Often I don't get to the end of the list before I'm back in the land of Nod.

Actually I do not know any of the poems in that book, I've ended up choosing my own. It has taken me two years to learn 10 poems. Almost all of them have both rhyme and rhythm, much modern poetry seems self indulgent, deliberately obscure and without any artistic discipline.

So here's my choice, not in any particular order.
  1. Tiger by William Blake.
  2. The Peasant Poet by John Clare.
  3. Ozymandias by Percy Shelley.
  4. Lift Not The Painted Veil by Percy Shelley.
  5. She Walks In Beauty Like The Night by Lord Byron. 
  6. The Eagle by Lord Tennyson.
  7. And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas.
  8. The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayam. (the first three verses)
  9. Xanadu by Samuel Coleridge (the first 20 lines or so)
  10. Our revels now are over, Shakespeare.
Apart from the joy and mystery within these poems, knowing them has two other advantages:
  1. I can check if my memory is still working.
  2. While waiting for something (the end of a train journey, a plane departure,...) I can recite them to myself. (This is much more mentally active than, for example, reading stuff from the Internet (apart from this blog of course).)
I will learn more poems, Emily Dicksinson will be next I think.

I learned the Shelley poems from a book my Mum got from her parents, Christmas 1936: 


2017/06/02

You lived without reason and you died without reason.


Monsignor Negri (Vescoco of Ferrara) of has said of the victims  (VICTIMS) of the Manchester bomb attack that they:

"...lived without reason and they died without reason..."

So this Catholic priest, who did not know either the families of the victims or the victims themselves, is ready to judge them. He says that they were products of a consumer society. Presumably he thinks that since they went to a concert to enjoy themselves they were sinners. Presumably, according to him, they should have been at home or in church praying. He also says this is a war of religion. I bet he'd know what to do with a few nuclear bombs, look at those clenched fists:

(photo by di Barbara Andolfi)


So in addition to the full evil of attacks on children by Islamic terrorists we have Catholic priests who blame the victims. 

Isn't religion great?

2017/05/31

If a tree falls in a forest, and there is nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?

"If a tree falls in a forest, and there is nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Of course it fucking does you plonker.

If you define sound as wavelike movement of air within a certain range of frequencies, then of course the movement exists whether there is an observer or not.

(You could define sound as perception of audio waves by a human being, and in that case the sound does not exist if nobody is there to percieve the air movement. But the philosophers I heard talking about this did not do that simple thing of defining what they meant by sound. They just played with words. A History Of Ideas is a BBC Radio podcast)

2017/05/18

The temptation not to waste food.

There I was, slightly full, a bit overweight, and in front of me a quarter of a luvvverrly pizza. It was practically screaming: "Eat Me!" Nobody else in the restaurant wanted it. It would be a waste not to eat it.


But when we ordered too much food we'd already wasted it. If I ate that bit of pizza I would be contributing to my own over-weight , the fuel consumption of my car, the fuel consumption of any planes or trains I took, and the average health of the nation would go down.



Once too much food has been prepared, and if it cannot be saved for later, the waste has already happened. It is an excuse for me to say "I hate waste!" and then add to my own belly fat. I have to throw the food away, that is the less wasteful option. (Unless of course I am undernourished. But I'm not.)



2017/04/22

Raymond Tallis: A "philosopher" who is either ignorant or in bad faith.

I was listening to the BBC Start The Week podcast a few weeks ago. It was called "Dissecting Death", and was about approaches to death. Halfway through this bloke, introduced as a "philospher", Raymond Tallis came on. I've heard him waffle on other programs before. He just published a 700 page (yes seven hundred page) book about time and lamentation.



The other guests on the program were intelligent informative and interesting:
Mark O'Connell talked about transhumanists, Carla Valentine talked about life and death behind mortuary doors, and Laura Yunbridge spoke about late works of artists. But all Tallis could say was: "Physicists have shrunk time to little 't'. So it can be squared or used as a denominator in an equation. Well you'd never do that to an afternoon..."



Now why did a "philospher" say such stupid things? I can think of only answers:



Answer 1) He is ignorant of how time is still an important and large mystery to scientists. He is ignorant of any physics research/thought into time and space since he left school. At school he maybe he learned those few equations which deal with speed and acceleration. He thinks that since he left school (maybe because he left) all physics research into time stopped. He is a "philosopher". Hasn't heard of Wittgenstein's saying: "Whereof we know knothing thereof we must remain silent"?



Answer 2) He is in bad faith. He knows he is being flippant. He knows that the few equations he remembers from school (or has looked up) have nothing much to do with the real physics mystery of time. He is playing to an arts audience who have trouble adding 41 to 32 (and are proud of the difficulty). Maybe they'll buy his little 700 page book and feel they can grasp the the reality of time that way.



Whichever answer is true, he can't be listened to seriously. If he is ignorant and/or in bad faith, how can we believe whatever else he pronounces on? Shouldn't we expect a bit more rigor in the arguments of a philosopher?

One last, er, idiocy, he said was that it was impossible to live in the moment because the moment is infinitely small. So suddenly he has gone all calculus on us? So he has never experienced the sudden and fleeting pleasure of seeing something in nature which will not repeat itself? The swoop of a bird, or a cloud which transforms itself, second by slow second, into a different abstract shape?



If you want to know about the physics of relativity time and space I can recommend this book:


It shows you, step by step, how the equations come about. To be honest I had to write my own extra explanatory notes to myself to be able to completely understand it, but that was an education in itself. Microstep by microstep I saw the strangeness of time. Real strangeness. And remember your GPS would not work without Einstein's Theory Of Relativity. And there'd be no medical scanners without physicists.

2017/04/02

Who was the marketing genius who got to associate SEAT with crime, death and drug dealing?

Crime dramas on ITV1 are currently sponsored by SEAT. But who was the marketing genius who persuaded SEAT to associate their good looking cars with death, crime, missing persons and drug dealing? Take Vera for example. Just before the start of an episode, and at the end of each commercial break, there is an ad which associates a SEAT car with a crime scene. All the ads are shot at nighttime. Some examples I can remember:
  1. A woman in white walking in the middle of the road picked out by the SEAT's headlights.
  2. A message to a missing mother (really? a missing mother?) on the smartphone (presumably connected to the SEAT's electronics system).
  3. A nasty looking package lying in the dark near a white SEAT car.
  4. A man who drops something as he closes the boot of his SEAT car, probably a clue after his murder in a few minutes time.
Surely they could have come up with something more reassuring. Something which suggests that SEAT cars are solidly reliable and will keep you safe even in the urban night environment. 

Every time I see a SEAT car now I think of murder, death, crime...

--0--

Since I wrote the above the other day I think I have changed my mind. I was thinking about a supermarket logo (Tigros) which annoys me...




...and I've vaguely thought I'd never go to a their shops. Then they open one directly on my route to and from work...and in I pop. 

I don't like the logo because it is aggressive and twee at the same time, with the tiger in one two tone 2D style, while the apple is colourful with a shadow to give a 3D look. But though it annoys me it does not stop me shopping there, which leads me to think that much marketing/logo design/adverts have no effect whatsoever.

So maybe I will have a look at a SEAT car the next time it is time to buy a new car. Hopefully not for years...

Marketing (apparent failures or successes) does not always beat convenience and price.


2017/03/04

Usually the cat doesn't get to sleep in the bedroom

Usually the cat doesn't get to sleep in the bedroom, but one evening he snuck in and arranged himself on my pillow, near my head.

I could hear his purring quite loud. I like gentle sounds when I go to sleep, distant trains, planes, dogs barking, even cars. So I enjoyed listening, in the dark, to his purrs. Then slowly they faded away and all I could hear was him breathing deeply.

I'd heard him fall asleep, it was wonderful feeling.