|AAAGH! Steampunk Mrs Tinkle|
Thursday 17 April 1662
2 hours ago
|AAAGH! Steampunk Mrs Tinkle|
“In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries you could travel from Holland to China in a year or two, the time it has taken Voyager to travel from Earth to Jupiter.*
* Or, to make a different comparison, a fertilized egg takes as long to wander from the Fallopian tubes and implant itself in the uterus as Apollo 11 took to journey to the Moon; and as long to develop into a full-term infant as Viking took on its trip to Mars. The normal human lifetime is longer than Voyager will take to venture beyond the orbit of Pluto.”
Carl Sagan, Cosmos, p. 159.Like James Burke, Sagan is good at making a connection between two apparently disparate things to create a sense of wonder. But I like how the last sentence of the following footnote so lightly declines to impose or invent a reason:
“The sixth century B.C. was a time of remarkable intellectual and spiritual ferment across the planet. Not only was it the time of Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras and others in Ionia, but also the time of the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho who caused Africa to be circumnavigated, of Zoroaster in Persia, Confucius and Lao-tse in China, the Jewish prophets in Israel, Egypt and Babylon, and Gautama Buddha in India. It is hard to think these activities altogether unrelated.”
Ibid., p. 206.And, again like Burke, Sagan is good at accounting for chance and circumstance in the slow, steady progress of science through the ages. He uses a Tlingit (Native American) account of meeting the French explorer Count of La Pérouse when he “discovered” Alaska in the 1780s to discuss what first contact with an alien culture might be like. But, explaining that La Pérouse and all but one of his crew died in the South Pacific in 1788, Sagan notes:
“When La Pérouse was mustering the ship's company in France, there were many bright and eager young men who applied but were turned down. One of them was a Corsican artillery officer named Napoleon Bonaparte. It was an interesting branch point in the history of the world. If La Pérouse had accepted Bonaparte, the Rosetta stone might never have been found, Champollion might never have decrypted Egyptian hieroglyphics, and in many more important respects our recent history might have changed significantly.”
Ibid. p 334.Three short asides, additional to the main narrative, and you could base a science-fiction novel on each of them. Yet the thing that's stayed with me most since I finished the book earlier this week is his reference to the 1975 paper “Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence” by James W Prescott:
“The neuropsychologist James W. Prescott has performed a startling cross-cultural statistical analysis of 400 preindustrial societies and found that cultures that lavish physical affection on infants tend to be disinclined to violence ... Prescott believes that cultures with a predisposition for violence are composed of individuals who have been deprived – during at least one or two critical stages in life, infancy and adolescence – of the pleasures of the body. Where physical affection is encouraged, theft, organized religion and invidious displays of wealth are inconspicuous; where infants are physically punished, there tends to be slavery, frequent killing, torturing and mutilation of enemies, a devotion to the inferiority of women, and a belief in one or more supernatural beings who intervene in daily life.”
Ibid., p. 360.I'm fascinated by this, but can't help wondering if that conclusion isn't too much what we'd like to believe to be true. There's something chilling, too, in the lightness with which he seems to suggest that organised religion is a symptom of childhood neglect.
|AAAGH! A Silent in the Library|
|Goodbye to all that|
“It's all true – absolutely. Otherwise Ian Fleming would not have risked his professional reputation in acting as my co-author and persuading his publishers to bring out our book. He has also kindly obtained clearance for certain minor breaches of the Official Secrets Act that were necessary to my story.”
Ian Fleming, preface to The Spy Who Loved Me.Perhaps this attempt at realism explains the rather mundane plot. After the outlandish fantasies of the last few Bond books, this feels rather pedestrian. Vivienne is taking care of the Dreamy Pines Motor Court in the north of New York State while the owners are away – but the owners are really planning to burn the place down and claim the insurance, blaming the dead Vivienne for the “accident”.
“All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful. That and the coinciding of nerves completely relaxed after the removal of tension and danger, the warmth of gratitude, and a woman's natural feeling for her hero. I had no regrets and no shame. There might be many consequences for me – not least that I might now be dissatisfied with other men. But whatever my troubles were, he would never hear of them. I would not pursue him and try to repeat what there had been between us. I would stay away from him and leave him to go his own road where there would be other women, countless other women, who would probably give him as much physical pleasure as he had had with me. I wouldn't care, or at least I told myself that I wouldn't care, because none of them would ever own him – own any larger piece him that I now did. And for all my life I would be grateful to him, for everything. And I would remember him for ever as my image of a man.”
Ian Fleming, The Spy Who Loved Me, p. 154.So the title is a lie. Bond doesn't love her but uses her – as all the other men in her life have, or have tried to – and drives off the next morning, leaving her a note rather than saying goodbye. A more accurate title might be “The Man Who Made Love To Me”. True, he squares things with the police so she won't be in trouble and can collect reward money, but that's surely the least he could do.
|AAAGH! from Doctor Who Adventures #267 - the very hungry Master|
|Me, Josie Long and Joe Lidster in the TARDIS.|
|The photo Joe took.|
|"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning..."|
|"What are you young people doing in my TARDIS?"|
|Whacky Lidster, thumbs aloft.|
|Our "Radio Times" shot.|
|Gillane and James, who made our wish come true. Plus my knee.|
|I look really bald in this one.|
“It wasn’t real poverty. We never starved, but we had a poor diet, which stunted my growth, and made me susceptible to illness. We never went barefoot – but we wore ill-fitting boots and shoes. It was a kind of genteel poverty. I was never allowed to bring my friends home to play because they would see that we couldn't afford a servant, not even the humblest skivvy, and word would get around the neighbourhood. My parents scrimped and saved so they could send me to the cheapest kind of private school, and avoid the shame of a board school, where I might have had better-trained teachers.”It’s a revealing portrait of a lower middle-class existence, all too aware of and aspiring towards a better social standing. But the real skill is in how this description echoes later. Without making a direct link to this earlier passage, Lodge describes Wells – as an established author – wooing the socialist Fabian Society with his essay, The Misery of Boots (1908). There, he uses a working man's ill-fitting boots – the pain and discomfort caused, the effect on the man's posture – to show how poverty defines a person's outlook and ambition, going on to deplore the preventable misery of social injustice and call for the end of private property.
David Lodge, A Man of Parts, p. 45.
“I imagined an international Encyclopaedia Organisation that would store and continuously update every item of verifiable human knowledge on microfilm and make it universally available – a world wide web of information.”
Ibid., p. 485.That’s not really a web so much as a centrally controlled giant library. And that word “verifiable” doesn’t exactly describe much of the internet as we know it. I’m wary, anyway, of a writer's worth being judged by how much he guessed correctly. Wells also dreamt up a time-travelling bicycle and invaders from Mars, and those novels are no poorer because they did not happen in reality.
“I was outwardly successful – ‘the most famous writer in the world’ – but inwardly dissatisfied. The praise I got was not the kind I wanted or from people I wanted to get it from. It made me arrogant and irritable – I was aware of that, but I couldn’t control myself at times.”
Ibid., p. 499.But I think the most telling statement is Lodge's own, before the novel begins:
“Nearly everything that happens in this narrative is based on factual sources – 'based on' in the elastic sense that includes 'inferable from' and 'consistent with'. All the characters are portrayals of real people, and the relationships between them were as described in these pages. Quotations from their books and other publications, speeches, and (with very few exceptions) letters, are their own words. But I have used a novelist's licence in representing what they thought, felt and said to each other, and I have imagined many circumstantial details which history omitted to record.”
David Lodge, preface to A Man of Parts.There's something deceptive about these words. It's as if what these people thought, felt and said is just a slight embroidery on the solid, historical facts. But invented motives don't just frame what happened, they shape our whole perception of the man and his world. This is not simply a literary biography but a novel with Wells a character of Lodge's own invention, thinking and feeling what Lodge wants him to feel.
|AAAGH! at the beach|
|Doctor Who and the Grontlesnurt Horror by me|
“The 48 hours begins from when all teams have their brief (around Noon on April 14th) and all the creative work must take part in that time period. The only pre-production permissible is the organising of cast and crew (the Team), securing equipment and scouting for possible locations.”
Rule 12 of the 48 hour film challenge rulesTom (the director, @guerrierthomas) and I had talked about the 48-hour challenge before, but started to get serious on 28 March, when Tom emailed to ask if I was free the weekend of 14-16 April. I was, so that was that: we’d do it.
|Pre-planning in Starbucks|
Title: Revealing Diary
Line: I should probably leave around Noon to be safe… Can you make that happen
Prop: “Sketch: We see a character write a list of 6 words, the first word beginning with R (does not need to be a name or real word) – they then do a small doodle by the last word”
Optional: Man in coma explores mind as environmentOnce we got the text message, I had to act quickly, deciding the rough outline and what roles the actors would play. Our costume supervisor Becky Duncan was only available that morning, so once she had a rough brief from me, she quickly took Ciara and Laura up the street to go shopping in Primark. I sat typing the script at my laptop while Tom and the crew discussed how they’d shoot my story. We agreed that Simon A would provide us with a fake book and a trick mirror.
|The set of Late Wake Up|
|Shooting the green room scenes|
|We drown our sorrows at 7 am|