Falkirk 2-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Falkirk Stadium, 28/8/15.

Well it seems that even watching on television I’m a jinx. After fifteen minutes it was like the bad old days were back again. Our defence looked as porous as it has for seasons now. whether this was due to the changes at the back to accommodate new signing Fraser Wright (I don’t think Scott Taggart deserved to be dropped at right back but Stevie Aitken made Darren Barr captain so presumably now has to play him) I don’t know but we didn’t look organised there to begin with.

Their first had a bit of luck what with the ricochet off Kevin Cawley and the boy hit it well. The second may have been a great strike but where was the tackling?

At least we then made more of a fist of it than in the Queen of the South game. Inevitably our goal came from a set piece. When Grant Buchanan nodded back Willie Gibson’s corner Darren Barr simply wanted it more than the defender.

Second half we seemed to have quite a lot of the ball but only forced Danny Rogers into one save from which Garry Fleming couldn’t quite hit the rebound hard enough. We might have equalised when Grant Gallagher got himself through but was pulled up for a far from obvious foul. The ref gave us a decision in somewhat similar circumstances (a bit further out from goal though) a few minutes later so that may have evened out.

There were more positives from this than from the previous game but we can’t go on giving teams two goals of a start, though.

Reelin’ In the Years 107: Rikki Don’t Lose That Number

Steely Dan’s second UK hit – but it only achieved the heights of no. 58. Though their singles got a lot of airplay I suppose they were more of an albums band this side of the pond.

Steely Dan: Rikki Don’t Lose That Number

Dumbarton War Memorial

The Memorial is unusually situated some way out of the town centre, in Levengrove Park, on the banks of the River Clyde near its confluence with the River Leven, with a great view of Dumbarton Rock.

This is the view looking from the Park towards the Clyde. It’s the front of the Memorial which as a whole is surrounded by a metal fence and features a bronze angel. Note the Elephant and Castle crest of Dumbarton on the gate:-

Dumbarton War Memorial, View Towards River Clyde

Reverse of the Memorial – the view towards the Park, again with Dumbarton crest on the fence:-

Dumbarton War Memorial

Again looking into Levengrove Park but from an angle:-

Dumbarton War Memorial from Side

The names of the First World War dead are on each side, above in the original engraving; Second World War ones added below, on two sides only. This is the east side of the Memorial:-

Dumbarton War Memorial Names

The west side:-

Dumbarton War Memorial Details

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 35: Helensburgh

Typically Art Deco former Woolworths building in Helensburgh, Scotland. Now a Wilkies:-

Former Woolworths Helensburgh

Shroud by John Banville

Picador, 2002, 416 p. (Borrowed from a threatened library.)

 Shroud cover

Axel Vander, an elderly academic on the east coast of the US, one-eyed and gammy-legged due to an unfortunate incident many years before, is contacted by a young woman who says she knows the secret of his past. They both travel to neutral ground, Turin, to meet. She is Catherine Cleave, called Cass. Somewhat precipitately, a sexual relationship begins between them. Though predominantly Vander’s story, even before their first encounter the narrative switches between their two viewpoints, his in first person, Cass’s in third.

His secret is that in the dark times of the early 1940s “Vander” (we never learn his “real” name) took on the identity of a childhood friend after that friend died and identity became something potentially dangerous. As a result, “Mendacity is second, no, is first nature to me. All my life I have lied …. to escape, to be loved, for placement and power. I lied to lie.”

Cass isn’t a simple blackmailer though quite why she seeks Vander out, or becomes his lover, remains obscure. And in the end it avails her nothing. She hears voices, as she suffers from Mandelbaum’s syndrome, a complex condition encompassing depression and delusion. She knows all about the Turin Shroud, which she wants them to visit together. (“He said he knew about fakes.”) Is there just a touch of the “too knowing” about this? Did Banville choose Turin for his setting only because of the Shroud – an obvious metaphor for the identity “Vander” has been wearing for most of a lifetime?

But Vander also compares himself to Harlequin, an inexplicable creature with no relationship with other human beings, and says, “I am an old leopard, my spots go all the way through.” His excuse for taking up with Cass is, “She was my last chance to be me,” asking rhetorically, “Is not love the mirror of burnished gold in which we contemplate our shining selves?” Then again, “There is not a sincere bone in the entire body of my text.”

When he professes to love Cass and tells Kristina Kovacs, his fellow academic and former one night stand, that he is willing to let her go, she replies, “Oh Axel, only someone incapable of love could love so selflessly.” A tale of contradictions, then, and of deceptions, revealed and unrevealed.

Be warned that Banville is fond of the obscure word or two. I hadn’t previously come across apocatastasis (restoration to the original or primordial condition) and pococurantish (demonstrating a tendency toward indifference.)

Pedant’s corner:- “the glass is clear” (The bottle banks have this wrong. Except when it is frosted, all glass is clear – even coloured glass: Banville meant colourless.)

Two More Glasgow War Memorials

These are in the grounds of the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow; near the Cameronians Memorial.

First the West of Scotland Branch of the Normandy Veterans Association Memorial:-

West of Scotland Normandy Landings Memorial

Nearby is the City of Glasgow Squadron Auxiliary Air Force Memorial. (One of the squadron’s Spitfires is on display in the Museum):-

City of Glasgow Squadron War Mem

2015 Hugo Awards

Old news now I suppose. The results are here.

The Hugo Awards are, or at least have been, arguably the most prestigious in Science Fiction.

This year is notable for “No Award” coming first in five of the categories: thus equalling the total of “No Award” for all previous winners in the entire history of the Hugos. This would therefore be an odd phenomenon.

The explanation, for those who are unaware of the stushie, is that two groups of fans calling themselves Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies tried to game the system by creating lists of recommendations in the various categories and asking those of like mind to nominate these and vote for them in the final ballot. All of which is perfectly within the rules.

The beef of the puppies appears to be (I summarise) that they think the Hugos have in recent years been taken over by political correctness with people of colour, other minorities and women being (in their view) disproportionately represented on award lists. One faction of the puppies ascribes this as due to the actions of what they call “Social Justice Warriors.”

Another viewpoint is that since they failed to win in previous years the Puppies are just bad losers.

An overview of the controversy is here.

The Puppies claim that the stories which have been winning have been unreadable. This is certainly not true of last year’s novel winner Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I have this year’s novel winner The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Cixin Liu sitting on my bed-side cabinet awaiting reading for review in Interzone. I understand that had another nominee, put on the Puppies’ list without the author’s agreement, not withdrawn from the contest The Three-Body Problem would not have made it to the final ballot. This looks ironic given the Puppies’ view of minorities. (In Hugo terms a Chinese author is definitely a member of a minority.)

To counter the Puppy strategy some people had advocated voting “No Award” in every category in this year’s ballot. Quickly scanning the results it seems to me that the voters have taken their responsibilities seriously. The nuclear option of blanket “No Award” has been eschewed. Instead “No Award” seems to have been used in the sense for which it was intended; that if the voters considered no nominee merited the award they placed “No Award” first, otherwise they placed it after nominations considered worthy.

It may be, though, that the Hugo Awards are now damaged beyond repair.

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 16: University of Glasgow

I don’t know precisely which building this is. It’s near the Physics (or is it still Natural Philosophy?) Building. I caught a glimpse of it on the path up from the Western Infirmary to the University but I couldn’t see a way round to its other side. Maybe next time I’m in the west end.

Art Deco Building, Univ of Glasgow

Dumbarton 0-2 Queen of the South

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 22/8/15.

OK. I admit it. It’s me. I’m the jinx.*

The three games we’ve won this season I’ve not been at. The three we haven’t won, I have. (Though this was the first time I’ve seen us beaten over 90 minutes.) And Queen of the South also kept their record of never having lost a goal at the Rock.

Queens were also more than a cut above either Queen’s Park or East Fife. They never looked in danger of losing said goal. I’ve just looked at the stats and they pretty much confirmed my impression. We only threatened with a Willie Gibson free-kick which the keeper pushed round the post.

Their first goal came when Mark Docherty got done by their wide man. The cross wasn’t cut out, came right across the goal and former Son Ian Russell did what he always does against us.

The second goal killed it (but to be fair, the first one had.) We switched off at a corner kick, allowing it to be played short and a cross to come in. Keeper Mark Brown was left exposed to try to contest the ball with their forward. Brown missed, the forward didn’t.

After that it was only a case of would they increase their lead? We never looked like reducing it. Debutant loanee Scott Brown came on but didn’t have much time to influence things, plus had a few wayward passes. Maybe when he’s had time to integrate with the squad. Midfielder Jon Routledge was given Sonstrust MOM. I couldn’t disagree. But he and Kevin Cawley were the only bright sparks. Garry Fleming just doesn’t look like a centre forward. He and strike partner Steven Craig never got into the game. From what I’ve seen of us so far this season it seems we’re going to struggle to score goals apart from set pieces. We got precious few set pieces today.

The main reason I went today was to try to buy a home top from the club shop. The queue before kick-off was so long I’d have missed some of the game. There was a steward blocking access at half time. At full time there was a sign up saying the shop was shut. I came home with no new top.

*I’m thinking of giving the game at Falkirk on Friday a miss. But it’s on BBC Alba. Will watching it on the TV make a difference?

PS:- I’m sad to see from the club website that three season stalwart Andy Graham has left “by mutual consent.” I think it’s fair to say new boss Stevie Aitken didn’t fancy him as first choice centre half. Sons fans will have fond memories of Andy. In particular his performance at Pittodrie in the cup quarter-final in season 2013-4 was immense.

Art Deco in Asmara

The Guardian this week published several pieces about the African country of Eritrea, which is ruled by a repressive regime.

The Guardian briefing about the country is here.

Two of these articles were, however, illustrated by photographs of Art Deco buildings – a relic of Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) of which Eritrea was then a part.

I couldn’t find all of the photos from the print editions on the Guardian website but the main piece on the Art Deco buildings is here.

The Fiat Building in Eritrea’s capital Asmara is simply stunning:-

Fiat Building Asmara

This is the Cinema Impero in Asmara:-

Cinema Impero Asmara

And here is a café interior:-

Cafe in Asmara

The photographs shown here are credited in the Guardian to Natasha Stallard/Brownbrook.

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