Friday on my Mind 126: Rosie/Blue Eyes/Breakfast on Pluto

Another set of unlikely hits was achieved by traditional busker Don Partridge, who played his instruments not only with his hands and mouth but also his elbows, legs – and knees for all I know. More of a one-man band than a busker he was apparently known as King of the Street-singers.

I don’t think this Rosie is a live version, but rather the record dubbed over some video.

Don Partridge: Rosie

Don Partridge: Blue Eyes

More topically here he is playing – live – Breakfast on Pluto, a song which I find reached no 26 but had hitherto vanished from my memory. I’m not sure I can find it there even now I’ve heard it again. (Again?)

Don Partridge: Breakfast on Pluto

Interzone Reviews

 The Three-Body Problem cover
 The Dark Forest cover

You may have noticed on my “currently reading” sidebar a few days ago the cover of The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. This was the book which only made it onto the final ballot for this year’s Hugo Award for best novel as a result of Puppygate yet won the award – a first for Chinese Science Fiction.

Shortly to appear on that sidebar is the sequel to that novel, The Dark Forest, also for review in Interzone – a combined review over the two books. (I see that cover has the translator’s name as Joel Martinson. In the text it’s spelled Martinsen.)

These are the first two books in a trilogy properly known as Remembrance of Earth’s Past but popularly known in China as The Three-Body Problem.

My copy of Interzone 260 with its review of Gene Wolfe’s A Borrowed Man came through the letter box a week or so ago.

Pluto (and Charon) in Motion

From You Tube (via Astronomy Picture of the Day 6/10/15) this shows the (minor) planet and its moon orbiting their common centre of gravity before flying past and giving a view of Pluto -and its atmosphere – backlit by the sun.

Irregularity. Edited by Jared Shurin.

Jurassic London, 2014, 303 p. Reviewed for Interzone 256, Jan-Feb 2015.

 Irregularity cover

Irregularity is an anthology of short stories inspired by the history of Science from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries (the back cover invokes the Age of Reason) and intended to coincide with an exhibition, Ships, Clocks and Stars, The Quest for Longitude, at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
To emphasise the “olde” feel the book is printed in a reconstruction of a seventeenth century typeface – though we are spared that italic-f-shape once used for the letter “s”. It has an unusual dedication, “To failure,” plus five internal illustrations adapted from paintings in the Museum’s collection.

The Prologue, Irregularity by Nick Harkaway, which sets the tone, has a woman bequeathed a library in which she finds a book which bears a cover described as similar (to all intents and purposes identical) to the one we are reading, not only relating her life story up to that point but also seeming to tell her future.
In the Afterword, Richard Dunn and Sophie Waring broadly define Science as the search for nature’s laws in order to codify them and ask what happens when things don’t fit. (Answering that last question is actually the most important scientific endeavour.) Irregularity’s contents are about just such attempts to understand the world.

As a coda, positioned after the afterword and which could easily be missed by a less than careful reader, an “email” to the editor comments on the impossibility of a book that loops back on itself.
The authors have interpreted their remit widely, the stories ranging from Science Fiction through Fantasy to Horror. Some could fall under the rubric of steampunk or alternative history. The literary antecedents being what they are it is perhaps not surprising that the majority lean towards the form of journal or diary extracts and epistolary accounts.

And so we have the inevitable pastiche of Samuel Pepys, M Suddain’s The Darkness, set in a steampunk 17th century with radio, telemessages and air defence antenna arrays, where the French are experimenting with Darke Materials, Restoration London has Tunnelcars and Skycars and a Black Fire of nothingness has begun to eat the city.

Of course, encountering well-known names is one of the pleasures of an anthology like this and there are plenty more to conjure with. Two for the price of one in Adam Roberts’s The Assassination of Isaac Newton by the Coward Robert Boyle, a piece of Robertsian playfulness in which Boyle has had access to modern physics (even discoursing with Brian May, whom Boyle says Newton resembles) and wishes to preserve the more human cosmogony which Newton’s work will displace. Chock full of allusion – including an extended riff on the “operatic” section of Bohemian Rhapsody – this story might just possibly be too knowing for its own good. Charles Darwin appears in Claire North’s The Voyage of the Basset where we follow him on his second sea voyage, utilising his knowledge of the lycaenidae to ensure nothing can mar the glory of Queen Victoria’s coronation. Ada Lovelace helps produce steam-driven animatronic dinosaurs in Simon Guerrier’s An Experiment in the Formulae of Thought, while Fairchild’s Folly by Tiffani Angus muses on the possible classification of love within a taxonomy via the epistolary relationship between Carl Linnaeus and Thomas Fairchild, who crossed a sweet william with a carnation to produce a sterile plant dubbed Fairchild’s mule. In Kim Curran’s A Woman out of Time unnamed creatures relate how they prevented Émilie du Chatelet from disseminating modern Physics too early. A Game Proposition by Rose Biggin has four women get together once every month to play a game which decides the fate of ships, incidentally giving William Dampier the knowledge to compile his atlas of the trade winds.

The most chilling tale is perhaps Roger Luckhurst’s Circulation, wherein a book-keeper is sent out from London to the island of San Domingue to investigate irregularities in the returns from the plantations there and comes upon the secrets of circulation as discovered by “the wizard Sangatte”.

Elsewhere; in Linnaean era Stockholm a young girl has dreams of the future, inspired by spiders; a maker of maritime clocks, in competition with Harrison for the Longitude prize, uses a variety of gruesome fluids to fine tune his escapement; a taxonomist travels to Southern Africa to seek out unusual beasts and finds the egg of a creature variously called gumma, gauma, gomerah, ghimmra, sjeemera; a found manuscript story with not one, but two introductions, suggests a reason for the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral after London’s Great Fire on a realigned axis; an artist and his apprentice, commissioned to depict an anatomy lesson, witness the subject’s heart beating after death.

The stories work well in their own terms, but in totality are rather relentlessly “olde worlde”.

The following comments did not appear in the review:-
In my edition one of the stories was not in the order given on the Contents page.
Span count 1, sunk 1, as you no doubt you anticipated, off of (x 2,) rolled a dice, court-marshalled, the committee force me to seethe (forced,) at prices that seems almost scandalous, her voice is a echo, baster gang (?) missing “it”(x 2,) two references to “three years” since the Great Fire of London (in diary entries dated 1667,) now used now, can secret a substance, they toppled the lids of those wooden prisons and relased their cargo, I might find pick my way back through the canes back to the house, in sight of one of another, walleyed with lust, inside of, to humour and old man.

Denis Healey

One of the last of the big political beasts of my (relative) youth has now departed.

He held office as Defence Secretary for 6 years but was more famous as a Chancellor of the Exchequer excoriated by the left for his adoption of wage controls in 1976 and immortalised in a song – to the tune of What a Friend We Have in Jesus – about the Callaghan Government which contained the line, “All the bad was done by Healey, all the good by Tony Benn.” But Healey in a deaperate bind. There had been an oil price rise of 400%. Imagine today’s politicians coping with that.

His obituaries on the television skipped over his war record to concentrate on his political career. But one of the most striking things I ever heard about him was that he was the Beachmaster (for the British sector) at the Anzio Landings a job of no small responsibility. He’s worth an obituary for that alone.

Denis Winston Healey: 30/8/1917–3/10/2015. So it goes.

Dumbarton 2-1 Livingston

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 3/10/15.

Three points! And I’m no longer a jinx! I managed to pick up a home strip before the game as well.

We started with a flurry and Fraser Wright (fielded at left back) had a header from a corner just over but then Livi began to dominate and we more or less failed to threaten for the rest of the half. But we won the ball back quickly in midfield after a corner had been cleared and got into the space Livi had left, leading to a lovely Wullie Gibson cross for Kevin Cawley who didn’t miss the header.

Our defence hadn’t learned the lesson of last week though. Only three minutes of a lead and too many of our defenders plus keeper were drawn to the incoming corner. The Livi player’s header back across was to an unmarked man. Mind you he actually had to head it; it didn’t just bounce off him like last week.

I missed the incident which led to Livi’s Miles Hippolyte being sent off as the ball was well away, but it seems he was a silly boy. Curiously after that we were the team who looked more ragged for a while.

The winner came from another broken down set-piece, a throw-in this time. (New signing Steven Saunders has replaced Scott Linton in long throw terms. That improved our performance at throw-ins no end. We’ve got no height up front though. Saunders was decent enough in the right back role.) The ball came back out and sub Jordan Kirkpatrick hooked it back in. Eamonn Brophy took the ball down, swivelled and scored. It’s the first sniff of a proper chance he’s had in the one and a half games I’ve seen him – and he took it. He looked delighted too.

We’re still too ponderous in the build-up, but I’ll take the three points.

Next up: Hibs at Easter Road on the 17th. They’ll be looking for revenge for our 2-1 win in August.

Edited to add: Young Donald McCallum troubled them a bit with his pace when he came on and was instrumental in their goalie being booked for fouling him away out on the touchline but he looked awful lightweight against Livi’s tall muscular defnders.

Charon from New Horizons

Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday had a stunning view of Pluto’s moon Charon as taken by the New Horizons probe. The moon looks oddly lop-sided, probably due to the shadowing on its side pointing away from the sun:-


That’s a big fissure running right across its middle.

Friday on my Mind 125: Drink Up Thee Zider

Prior to their big chart success in the mid-70s the Wurzels had been fronted by Adge Cutler – who wielded what seemed to be a cudgel. As Adge Cutler and the Wurzels they had a minor hit in 1967 with his song Drink Up Thee Zider sometimes written as Drink Up Thy Zider.

I’m astounded at how young Adge Cutler looks in this video. I’d remembered him from his television appearances as being much older than the rest of the group. (I was very young then myself of course.)

Sadly Adge died in a car crash in 1974. So it goes.

Adge Cutler and The Wurzels – Drink Up Thee Zider

For a longer piece featuring this clip and showing how cider is produced see here.

The Silver Darlings by Neil M Gunn

faber and faber, 1989, 590 p. First published in 1941. Borrowed from a threatened library.

 The Silver Darlings cover

Set just after the Napoleonic wars, this novel (one of the 100 best Scottish Books) describes the beginnings of the good times when the fishing of herring – the silver darlings of the title – brought a measure of prosperity to the villages between Brora and Wick on the seaboard of the Moray Firth. Many of these families had been cleared from Kildonan to make way for more profitable sheep and would otherwise barely scrape a living by crofting. In particular the novel focuses on Finn, the son of Catrine. The book opens with a scene where Finn’s father Tormad is press-ganged from the sea by a navy cutter. Tormad dies five days later from the blow on the head he received while resisting but this is not confirmed till Finn is a full-grown man. As a result Catrine’s relationship with accomplished fisherman Roddie is not acknowledged – even by themselves – to be what it is until the last few chapters. Incidents in Finn’s life to that point are interwoven with depictions of village life, fishing, sea voyages and the economics of the herring trade. It provided livelihoods not just for fishermen but for the local women as gutters, not to mention sundry curers, coopers, exporters and boatbuilders.

The time was one of religious revival and fervour as hardliners complained, “The Established Church of Scotland … was selling God’s kingdom for the comforts of a manse.” In the person of Sandy Ware we are given an exemplar of these strict killjoys. The austere developments are not altogether welcomed, though. Finn makes a couple of trips to the Western Isles where an old islander complains, “ – there are places in these islands where dancing of any kind is stopped by the new ministers. A terrible blight is coming upon the happiness of the human heart and upon the happiness of the world.”

In common with many Scottish novels the book contains detailed descriptions of landscape and, in this instance, seascapes. The two trips to Stornoway necessitate navigating through the notorious Pentland Firth and various accounts of storms pepper the tale.

On returning from his service in the navy one of Finn’s father’s companions on the boat that was pressed tells him, “Where all is compulsion and enforcement, it’s the bully that rules,” but it isn’t all serious stuff. We hear tell of, “Big John Angus McGrath – an elder in the church, too. Every time he took a dram, he would shake his head and say, ‘Nasty stuff! Nasty stuff!’ To my father’s knowledge he said it for over fifty years,” but the focus is mainly on Finn and the important business of growing up and making a place in the world.

Pedant’s corner:- back and fore (a northern thing, then, x2,) “the eyes in, clined to stare” (the eyes inclined,) “Youlikethatname?” (no spacing,) had entranced (no spacing,) one sharp prog (prod? ) wen (when,) “s even nets” (seven,) Cathechism, Catechism, a missing full stop, (x 4,) an unnecessary line break, couldnot speak (could not,) thier (their,) “We’ll go the Shetlands,” (go to the Shetlands,) Lock Skiport (Loch Skiport appears correctly twice later on the same page!) The spelling gunnels, rather than gunwales, is used throughout.

Water on Mars

I’m a bit late with this as I was away from the computer yesterday but running water on Mars is quite a story.

Astronomy Picture of the Day got to it today as well:-

APOD 30/9/15

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