True to Life Exhibition at Modern Two, Edinburgh

A couple of weeks age we revisited the True to Life Exhibition at Modern Two, (Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art,) Edinburgh.

I’ve left this a bit late as the exhibition is only on for a few more days now. Its full title is True to Life, British Realist Painting in the 1920s and 1930s.

I found this to be much more enjoyable than the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition recently finished at the Scottish National Gallery (see also here.)

The first picture in True to Life, though, David Jagger’s “Conscientious Objector”, would not have looked out of place at that Beyond Caravaggio exhibition. It exploits light in much the same way as those did. This is apparently a self-portrait:-

Conscientious Objector by David Jagger

“By the Hills” by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst features on the True to Life Exhibition catalogue cover though for me it’s a bit too sharply delineated. The artist was said to have used lipstick to paint the lips here:-

By the Hills by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst

Another such too sharp picture was Meredith Frampton’s “A Game of Patience”:-

A Game of Patience by Meredith Frampton

As with the David Jagger painting above Edward Baird’s “Dan Cross” also looks as if it could leap off the canvas. I feel as if I know this person:-

Dan Cross by Edward Baird

Keith Henderson’s The Harbour Crowd is another fine example of the capture of light. As I recall this painting was one of the exhibits in the Palace of Arts at the Empire Exhibition, Scotland, 1938. There was a black and white reproduction in the relevant souvenir booklet.

The Harbour Crowd by Keith Henderson

Some of the paintings in “True to Life” stretched the definition of realist somewhat.

Though it does contain figures (including the artist) “The Deluge” by Winifred Knights seemed to me to be at least influenced by Vorticism:-

The Deluge by Winifred Knights

Nora Russell by John Downton captures the impatient aspect of the early adolescent schoolgirl very well. I get the impression she didn’t really want to be painted:-

Nora Russell by John Downton

Jerry Pournelle

I seem to have missed the passing of SF writer Jerry Pournelle. This may have been because I was out of the country and not on the internet at the time.

He was apparently the first author to have used a word processor to write a subsequently published piece of fiction.

Apart from an anthology he edited and one novel the works of his in my SF collection were written in collaboration with Larry Niven.

In general I found his military SF and right wing politics not to my taste, but if I recall correctly one of his novels echoed the beginning of Robert Graves’s I Claudius (I cannot at the moment check the book concerned as it is in the garage – to where most of my paperbacks were consigned after our house move) but he was a prominent figure in the genre.

Jerry Eugene Pournelle: 7/8/1933 – 8/9/2017. So it goes.

Poppy Watch 2017

It was one month and one day before Armistice Day this year (ie on October 10th) when I saw my first paper poppies beside a shop’s till. If you were to wear them for all that time they would have surely have deteriorated beyond use.

On Friday 20th Oct I saw one in the wild (as it were.) A young girl at the entrance to Kirkcaldy Library had just “dropped her flower.” She didn’t seem to know what it represented.

At least the politicians haven’t – quite – got round to it yet. Unless I’ve missed them.

My first sighting on TV this year was on Saturday night (21st Oct) and it was sported by an Italian! That is just bizarre. OK they were our allies in the Great War but in (most of) World War 2 we were enemies – even if their soldiers’ hearts weren’t really in it. (The Italian in question was Chelsea’s manager Antonio Conte. This just goes to show the unpleasant overtones of coercion associated with poppy wearing by public figures these days.)

Tonight came the first “normal” TV appearance – on the BBC’s Countryfile. Three weeks before Remembrance Day. And how long before it was the piece filmed?

I will make my contribution to the Earl Haig Fund as usual this year but reserve my right not to wear the poppy. I’ll say it again. The servicemen it commemorates died for my right not to be forced to wear one.

Furebergfossen, Mauranger Fjord, Norway

The Furebergfossen is a waterfall in Mauranger Fjord, Norway.

The captain of the MV Black Watch made a great play of taking us as close as possible. Just as well as it was quite misty.

From distance:-

Furebergfossen

Closer view:-

Furebergfossen Closer View

This one better shows up the fjordside road which crosses the waterfall’s outlet into the fjord. A bus had made a special stop:-

Furebergfossen Again

I rotated the camera during the making of this video. Unfortunately my video processing programme only allows me to flip the whole thing and not parts of it. Click on picture to get to video:-

Furebergfossen Video

Morton 1-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Cappielow Park, 21/10/17.

Well, I’d have taken this before the game. A point away from home especially against a team above us in the league is never a bad thing. Plus we had a few out with injury.

But we could have done without Inverness Caley Thistle beating Dundee Utd…

Interzone 270, May-Jun 2017

TTA Press

Interzone 270 cover

The Editorial apologises for housekeeping issues not entirely within the magazine’s control, Jonathan McCalmont’s column argues for a recognition that the SF and Fantasy community still has a lot to do to welcome and encourage, writers and readers of black or other “minority” (my quotation marks) background, instead of discouraging them as at present, Nina Allan1 reflects on her experience as a shadow Clarke Award judge and concludes that it is difficult to argue for SF as any longer being distinct from wider literature; a novel is good or it isn’t regardless of its origin or intent. Book Zone contains Paul Kincaid’s* review of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2140, reviews of the latest novels from Clare North2 and Cory Doctorow plus the collaboration between Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster as well as collections by Ellen Klages and regular Interzone contributor Malcolm Devlin (who is also interviewed) along with my review of Karen Hurley’s The Stars are Legion.
(*Kincaid mentions austerity as being needed to pay for the bank bailout after the 2008 financial crisis. It wasn’t. The economy was beginning to recover by the time of the 2010 election. Austerity was a choice made by the incoming government for ideological, political, reasons. The bailout merely provided the excuse for its imposition. And the measures killed the recovery stone dead.)
As to the fiction:-
In Rushford Recapitulation by Christopher Mark Rose3 women in Rushford, New York, start giving birth to technological artefacts, bringing a rush of visitors, protesters, pregnant mothers. The technology becomes less advanced as time goes by.
Like You, I am a System4 by Nathan Hillstrom features an intelligence of silicon and electric current coming to consciousness and taking over its environment. Then it interferes in the wider world.
Dirty Code5 by Wayne Simmons is set in what appears to be a simulation. The protagonist keeps waking up with a new face and is in the employ of someone who wants him to get rid of those passing on the titular dirty code by infecting others via activities in strip clubs and the like.
Encyphered by Jonathan L Howard is the life story of a man obsessed with cyphers, determined to keep his secrets (after all, we all have them) to himself till the day after his death. It is also a potted history of cryptography and cryptanalysis and contains the wonderful observation, “In those halcyon days before successive austerities and unimaginative governments, the library was a mighty thing indeed.” I’m struggling to see it as either SF or fantasy though.
In The New Man6 by Malcolm Devlin a man killed in an accident in the warehouse of the cloning company where he works is, to make them look good, revived in one of their bodies. His new body is the basic model though. The warehouse seems absurdly low-tech for a company making such a modern product.
Evangeline and the Forbidden Lighthouse7 by Emily B Cattaneo is a tale of childhood friendship, messages in bottles, roads not taken, the regrets of adulthood and that tantalising, inaccessible, forbidden lighthouse. All this in only eight pages.
In Memories of Fish8 by Shauna O’Meara virtual tourism enabled by drone footage is the big online attraction. A young woman at the viewed end takes a drone on a journey through areas the local authorities don’t want seen. While the story’s target is compassion fatigue it strays close to perpetuating the idea that dreadful living conditions in traditionally poor countries cannot be ameliorated. Since the viewer’s country had suffered extreme drought the story might have had more punch if the situations of viewer and viewed had been reversed.

Pedant’s corner:- 1focussed (focused.) 2involunatary (involuntary,) and a sentence with four verbs whose subject is team, the first verb is singular (tick) but the remainder plural. 3written in USian; “far ahead or behind schedule” (far ahead of or behind schedule,) “Rushford’s human inhabitants where healthy and normal” (were healthy,) blunderbuss (blunderbusses,) “Inca kuipu” (quipu.) 4written in USian; ”none of you pick your own nodes” (picks.) 5written in USian despite the author being Northern Irish. 6over emphatic (over-emphatic makes more sense,) fit (fitted,) “the both of us” (no “the”; just “both of us”.) 7Written in USian. 8”that this where she lives” (that this is,) “the olfactory interpreter’s best attempt at recreating a stench that is probably far worse in person” (in person is for, well, a person; not a smell; “in reality” fits better here.)

Friday on my Mind 159: William Chalker’s Time Machine

The Idle Race wasn’t the only Birmingham group to like (Here We Go Round) the Lemon Tree. The band that recorded the song here liked that earlier one so much they took their name from (part of) its title.

The somewhat psychedelic – not to say SF tinged – William Chalker’s Time Machine was written by Ace Kefford, who had just left The Move, and produced by Andy Fairweather-Low (of Amen Corner and solo fame) and Trevor Burton of …. The Move.

It didn’t bother the charts.

The Lemon Tree: William Chalker’s Time Machine

A Short, Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson

Bantam, 1996, 185 p.

A Short, Sharp Shock cover

A man comes to in a sea, pounded by raging surf. He tries to stop himself drowning and eventually makes it to shore along with a woman he calls the swimmer. Apart from vague stirrings he cannot remember his previous existence. The world he and she find themselves on is an odd one, mostly sea, with one long line of mountains, the spine, round its equator. There are strange humanoid inhabitants, some with trees growing out of their shoulders, others with faces where their eyes should be, still more use shells as their homes, shifting from one to the next like crabs.

The main bulk of the book is taken up with a journey along the spine to escape the brutal spine kings. Along the way the man loses touch with the woman several times before regaining contact, and hears the lores and formation stories of the various peoples he encounters. In part this is reminiscent of the journey across Mars in (as I recall) the second of Robinson’s Mars trilogy which seemed to me when I read it to be there solely to show off his research but here has more of a justification. (I noted Paul Kincaid commenting on this Robinson trait of journey describing in his review of New York 2140 in Interzone 270.)

There is one break in the spine of this strange world, traversable by a causeway at low tide, guided by the latest in a long line of custodians called Birsay. (At this point I wondered if Robinson has been to Orkney.) In the book this gap in the mountain range is called the brough. Brough actually means island but we can forgive the author this slight misuse. The trip over takes two tides with a dangerous stop in the middle where kelp bladders tied to anchors in the rock allow travellers to avoid being swept away by the currents of the rising tide. Our intrepid travellers of course have to hit it on a bad day.

The book is preoccupied with mirrors. One of the things our traveller, who has decided to call himself Thel, is told is that, “Through mirrors we see things right way round at last,” and he muses on the possibility of a landscape in reverse. On helping a group of tree-people escape from the spine kings one of them delays to rescue a mirror. Some time later Thel is pushed through the mirror into an altered spined world before finding his way back.

This is not major Robinson. The story is not much more than a novella and each chapter starts on an odd numbered page so there is sometimes a complete blank page between them. The book is further bulked out by its last 14 pages containing a “preview” of Robinson’s Blue Mars. This is an off-putting practice I hope publishers have now discontinued.

Pedant’s corner:- “the north side grew less steep, laying out until the peninsula was wider than ever” (lying out,) “some laying over the ridge” (lying,) “cursing one another under their breath” (breaths,) sunk (sank,) “ate the muscles” (mussels, I think,) miniscule (minuscule,) “and bid him eat” (bade,) “all was not peaceful” (not all was peaceful.)

Beautiful Celestial Jewel

Check out this gem from Astronomy Picture of the Day, 12/10/17. It’s a picture of barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 apparently in visible light (as opposed to infra-red or UV or radio images.) I haven’t reproduced it here as it’s not the usual copyright.

But it’s a lovely scene just the same.

Moving Water, Flåm, Norway

The fjords in Norway are festooned with waterfalls. This one in Aurlandsfjord was the first thing I saw when I looked out the porthole on the morning we arrived to visit Flåm. I dubbed it “our” waterfall. Click on picture to get to video:-

"Our" Waterfall, Aurlandsfjord

This moving sculpture was on the dockside at Flåm. Again click on it:-

Moving Sculpture, Flåm, Norway

This is the Bokkefossen, the waterfall we didn’t manage to climb up to, in a photo taken from the road:-

Bokkefossen, Flåm, Norway

Earlier I’d shot a video:-

Bokkefossen, Flåm, Norway

A later photo, taken on way back to Flåm, showing the waterfall’s higher portions:-

Bokkefossen, Flåm, Norway

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