Archives » 2012 » October

Writers’ Bloc Hits the Airwaves

If you want a taster for the Writers’ Bloc performance due at the Bongo Club, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, tomorrow night (31/10/12) then check out this link to BBC Radio Scotland’s Book Café which I’m told features some extracts from the show.

I’ve been working late tonight so haven’t yet had time to listen myself …

But then of course I intend to be at the show (even though I’m not reading anything.)

York Art Deco 4.

Marks & Spencer and Halifax, Parliament Street and the Pavement, York.

Marks & Spencer, York

The M&S has two entrances, one in Parliament Street, York, the other to the right here on The Pavement. The corner is occupied by the Halifax (a branch of HBoS)

Strong verticals on the Halifax building and also note the narrow windows on the right just beside the green fronted M&S.

This is the view from The Pavement. Good strong verticals, subtle pastel outlining.

Marks & Spencer, York, from The Pavement

This is a building on Picadilly, York, which houses Argos and Ladbrokes among others. The lower stonework has good detailing.

Art Deco Building, Picadilly, York

This side is more deco as regards the windows, especially th elong narrower one on the lower right.

Art Deco, Picadilly, York

Writers’ Bloc Performance Reminder

Don’t forget the evening of literary necromancy on Wednesday (31st October) brought to you by Writers’ Bloc.

I append the following warning from the venue’s website.

Not suitable for those of a nervous disposition. A daring, dangerous and diabolical show for Halloween.

Doors open at the Bongo Club, Edinburgh at 7 pm. Entry £4 with concessions at £3.

York Art Deco 3.

This is Fraser & Hart on the corner of Spurriergate and Market Street, York. A great example of taking advatage of a corner site.

Fraser & Hart, Spurriergate, York
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There’s some nice coloured glazing above the street level windows.

Window Detail, Fraser & Hart, York

The detail on the columns and upper windows is very pleasing.

Fraser & Hart, York, Upper Windows

Further along Spurriergate is the building which now houses Next. The street isn’t wide enough to get it into one shot from the front even with my new camera’s wide angle lens.

Next shop in Spurriergate, York

The balcony fits easily though. Nice banding in the stonework. The lower windows are fine but the upper ones look terrible in comparison.

Detail on Next Shop in York

Dumbarton 3-4 Airdrie United

SFL Div 1, The Rock, 27/10/12.

That’s it.

There has been no “new” manager bounce. We’re doomed.

It was excruciating watching this on the videoprinter on Sportscene which I came in on just as we went ahead 3-2.

This was the game we really had to win if we were to have any hope of avoiding relegation. Failure to do so means we have in the last two minutes of both of the relevant games lost five points to the two teams directly above us – after being two goals up in both. Those two teams being the ones we ought to have had most hope of plundering points from ourselves.

I suppose it’s only natural that players will tend to try to protect what they have in situations like that, especially in our precarious position, but it so often backfires.

In retrospect, we have been relegated early before. In August the last time we were in Div 1 in fact. I remember an article in “The Absolute Game” saying a funny thing happened at half time in our first match (at Greenock, against Morton.) “We got relegated.”

This season it came in August again – at the very scene of our play-off final triumph a mere few months earlier – when we collapsed to a 4-1 defeat against today’s opponents in the opening league game.

The main reason for our plight is that we cannot defend. This was always likely to be a problem given that we finished last season on a goal difference of precisely zero. The players brought in over the close season haven’t improved that any. The midfield can’t seem to protect them either. And the attackers don’t get enough of the ball.

At this rate we may be in danger of not beating East Stirlingshire, a team two Divisions below us, in the Cup next week.

History may be about to repeat itself. Confidence will surely take too many knocks between now and May and carry over into Div 2 next season with the prospect of relegation twice in a row looming again. (With the season after that finishing complete bottom of the pile?)

York Art Deco 2.

This is the facade of the Premier Inn, York, like the Reel Cinema located in The Mount, close to Micklegate Bar.

Premier Inn, York

The glazing is modern but isn’t out of keeping with the deco style. The tower and clock face are wonderful. You can see through the central window that they use that room for linen storage.

Premier Inn  Clock Tower

Reelin’ In The Years 56: Devil Woman

Cliff Richard?

Well, apart from the fact he was my sister-in-law’s favourite singer in his bland time during the 60s, why not?

He made a number of harder edged singles in the later 1970s – not to mention Carrie, which came out in 1980.

He does do that annoying thing with his hands in this video, though.

Cliff Richard: Devil Woman

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Tor, 2004, 333p.

 Stories of Your Life and Others cover

Chiang has won a slew of awards in the SF field but his output is small and restricted to stories short of novel length. His short story Exhalation won the BSFA Award in 2010. This is his only collection so far published.

Tower of Babylon is set in ancient Babylon where a group of miners is called in to ascend the eponymous tower and mine into the vault surrounding the world. The tower is so high it takes them four months to reach the top before they can begin the task. The cosmology of this Earth seems at first to be Ptolemaic – they pass the moon and the sun on the way up (not to mention stars) but in the end is even weirder.

In Understand a brain-damaged man has been given a drug called Hormone K to take him out of a coma. Tests reveal his memory and brain-processing power to be enhanced. This is reminiscent of “Flowers For Algernon” but Chiang takes the story arc in a different direction.

Division by Zero has a mathematician discover a proof that threatens to undermine the reality of maths. The story is structured in numbered sections 1, 1a, 1b, 2, 2a, 2b, etc in which the first in each subsection is always a description of a theorem from the history of maths.

Story of Your Life. A linguist is employed to understand the language(s) of heptapodal aliens newly arrived to Earth. Their written and spoken languages differ radically as their worldview turns out to be non-sequential. The turning point in her discovery comes through the use of diagrams (reproduced in the text) showing the refraction of light. The story’s narration – as if to the linguist’s daughter – reflects non-sequentiality, employing usages such as “you will say” and “your father is about to.” This story is an example of the type of speculative narrative which can only be achieved through the medium of Science Fiction.

Seventy Two Letters is a kind of steampunk story (but not quite) set in a Victorian type society where sexual reproduction is different from in our world (both sperm and eggs contain homunculi which have to merge before a fœtus can form) and automata can be activated by sliding names into slots. It turns out that naming – or at least its encoding – is very important in this universe. The story draws on a wide variety of fields for its inspiration and is admirably worked out. But the characters are wooden.

The Evolution of Human Science. In a world featuring metahumans utilising digital neurotransfer the story is couched as a scientific report commenting on the differences and similarities between ordinary and meta-humans. Diverting but no more.

Hell is the Absence of God. Angels manifest themselves on Earth, each visitation accompanied by devastation of some sort. Hell is visible through brief transparent openings and there is visible evidence of souls ascending to Heaven when people die. Neil Fisk’s wife dies as a result of a visitation. He spends the rest of the story trying to love God.

Liking What You See: A Documentary. The narrative is couched as transcripts of interviews and video clips from a documentary about the use of calliagnosia, a procedure whereby its recipients no longer react to the beauty (or ugliness) of people’s appearance.

Chiang’s stories are always well delineated, thoughtful, thought provoking and frequently impressive. Intellectual even. They do however have a tendency to be told rather than unfolded. There is a dryness to the delivery, a distancing. Readers looking for engagement may be disappointed.

York Art Deco 1.

We took a day trip into York when we were down south. The city was littered with Art Deco.

This cinema was on the road in from the Park and Ride. We walked back out so that I could take the photographs. (It’s not that far outside the old walls, just beyond Micklegate Bar actually, and we passed a second hand bookshop on the way which consumed some time.)

It used to be the Odeon but seems to be named the Reel cinema now.

Former Odeon Cinema, The  Mount, York

The new camera has a wide angle lens and seems to give tall or long buildings a tilted or curved look.

Former Odeon Cinema, York, Frontage

This is from the left hand side, lovely sweeping curve here. The windows, here, above the door and on the right hand side have been replaced by modern ones but reasonably in keeping with what the originals must have looked like.

Former Odeon Cinema, York from left

It’s similar in style but not detail to the Odeon in Chester.

There’s something about the brick, though. It could be so much more. Wouldn’t this building look really fantastic rendered in concrete and painted white with pastel highlights?

A Case of Scapegoating?

I see BBC Director General George Entwistle has been “grilled” by MPs over the Jimmy Savile allegations.

While Savile’s activities ought to be investigated and the truth brought to light I suspect that similar failings of oversight to those the BBC is being charged with would have been present in any large organisation during the times concerned. The mechanisms were not in place then and neither was the awareness.

Granted, the presence of teenage girls at the average Top of the Pops recording was likely to be higher than at other places. These girls (possibly some boys too) were moreover likely to be starry-eyed, but the same would also have been true backstage at any rock gig; and probably still is.

So why the focus on the BBC? It was not only there that Savile is alleged to have acted predatorily or carried out abuse.

I look forward to MPs smilarly “grilling” the bosses at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Leeds General, Broadmoor and at the various children’s homes he was given privileged access to – all of whom arguably had a greater duty of care to those on or in their premises than had the BBC – and for that questioning to be given similar prominence in news reports.

It is sickening to realise that Savile’s volunteering to “help” at these hospitals and homes and also his charity work may have been undertaken – most likely was – precisely as a means of gaining access to vulnerable people.

This affair should not be a stick with which to beat the BBC but a way to ensure that victims of predatory sexual behaviour and of abuse can be encouraged to come forward – and be listened to when they do and for those in charge of vulnerable individuals to be much more careful about to whom they grant access to their in their care.

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