Archives » 2011 » July

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 11b. Dumbarton Again

Dumbarton Co-op Building

I don’t know how I missed this before, I suppose I was so used to it I never looked properly. The picture is a stitch of two to get it all in. I took them after the game against the Shire last Sunday. We took a turn along the High Street and I gazed up at the Co-Op building and noticed its date; DECS 1938. This building was where the linen, drapery, furniture and clothing depts were. It had those pneumatic pipes for sending your cash off to the central office where all the money was dealt with. The food department was (and still is) a bit further along the High Street. Strangely, there the money was handled at the till by the assistants.

Dumbarton Co-operative Elephant

(For anyone who doesn’t know, DECS stands for Dumbarton Equitable Co-Operative Society and the elephant is on Dumbarton’s town crest.)

I’ve got one more photo of the Co-Op on flickr.

I can still remember my mother’s Co-Op dividend number…..

Surface Detail by Iain M Banks

Orbit, 2010, 627p.

I had a horrible notion from the title that we might be treated to the adventures of a landing party in the Star Trek sense – a surface detail – but thankfully Banks eschews that angle, instead the metaphor is literalised.

As a mark of her indenture, the Sichultian, Lededje Y’Breq, is an Intagliate; tattooed – not just inked but imprinted so thoroughly that the marking carries right on down to the cellular level. On the latest of her escape bids she bites the tip of her master’s nose off and, enraged, he kills her. But without either’s knowledge she has been implanted with a Culture neural lace and her consciousness is translated thousands of light-years to a Culture ship where she is revented into a new body. One part of the novel follows Lededje as she is transported back across the galaxy to confront her erstwhile master, Joiler Veppers, who is also given a narrative strand of his own. Other viewpoint characters are Yime Nsokyi, a member of the Culture organisation known as Quietus, Vatueil, who has a series of military adventures in a virtual war between the supporters and antagonists of the afterlives known as Hells, and Prin and Chay, who enter a Hell to gain evidence to campaign against its use.

The last three of these narratives are mostly set within virtual environments – though Prin does escape his Hell and bears witness against it in the Real. I hesitate to call this business of the Hells nonsense but it makes these strands inherently problematic. At first they appear gratuitous, there merely to provide a dose of mayhem and gore. Yes, entities within virtualities may suffer – even in the case of Hells continuing beyond “death” there as the torment never ceases since they are reincarnated instantly – but if they are not real characters why should we invest our sympathy in them; why should we care? (Agreed, none of the characters in a novel are really real, but having them as explicitly virtual does stretch the bounds of suspension of disbelief and of empathy too far, to my mind. If there are no lessons for the real world – and how can there be? The environments described are not real within the narrative – why, exactly, are we reading? Consider the unsatisfactory nature of a story which is revealed to be all a dream. Isn’t a simulation only an upgraded class of dream?)

A further niggle is that there might actually be two books here. There are certainly two main plots which are linked through Joiler Veppers. Continuity suffers as a result. Neither story arc builds up enough momentum before dissipating. Either might have made a more compact 300 pager instead of this one’s 600 pages – which, though, does have lovely end papers in a fractal design.

Banks, however, ties all the threads together plus throws in the usual space battles and grand set pieces along the way. However, a certain lightness of touch at times, a casual irreverence, suggests he might actually be sending up this whole Space Opera lark.

Minor quibbles. Lead cannot be amphoteric though its oxide(s) may. The density of an element is not related to its atomic number. Contrary to what Banks states, gold will sink in mercury rather than float, whereas lead will float, not sink – this would be the case no matter what planet you are on. We also have proofreading errors such as (three times) pixilation – the act of becoming confused or drunk – for pixelation – image blurring – though the latter is employed once; and there is a miniscule.

There is more than enough in Surface Detail though, I would have thought, to satisfy the adherents of Space Opera. And apart from the virtual Hells I was entertained, in particular by the Lededje sequences.

Reelin’ In The Years 11: Layla

I include this not for Clapton’s guitar licks. Those are not what I like most about this track. The best bit is when it becomes less frenetic, slows down and moves into the piano dominated second part.

Derek And The Dominos: Layla

More Seals

We took a walk to Kinghorn a few days ago and came back along the seashore.

Some seals were basking on one of the rocks near to the shore. It’s probably a favourite spot. It looks like the same rock where we spotted seals before; though they’re not always there. We pdo that walk quite frequently and it’s only the second time we’ve seen seals.

Seals 1

Seals 2

Pluto’s Moons

This was Astronomy Picture of the Day on 22/7/11.

The two photos, taken five days apart less than a month ago, show the four moons of Pluto; Charon, Nix, Hydra and P4 – so young it’s not yet been named – obviously in orbit around the main planetoid.

Four moons. Not bad for an object that was downgraded from planet status only recently.

Earth only has the one. (Cruithne isn’t properly a moon of Earth.)

Not Friday On My Mind 13: I Can’t Control Myself

As a gimmick goes, stripy jackets wasn’t very cool, was it?

The Troggs: I Can’t Control Myself

Dumbarton 3-2 East Stirlingshire

Challenge Cup,* The Rock, 24/7/11

And so it begins again. It seems like only yesterday last season finished.

Same old, same old, though; but for one thing. We won in the Chalenge Cup. Our record in this competition is worse than dire. (I don’t think that page has yet been updated to take account of this season’s results.)

We fielded a lot of players whom I didn’t recognise – I was too late to hear the announcements. First half was nothing to write about beyond Kieran Brannan blazing over after a good move down the left.

Up two-nil and cruising in the second half and looking like we could take the Shire to the cleaners, then we lose a goal out of nowhere (but maybe because Nugent got injured.) A substitution and a sending off later and it was 2-2 and things looked gloomy. We then contrived to miss a barrowlaod of chances before Pat Walker pulled it out of the fire really late.

As to the new guys, Brian Prunty isn’t a big striker but took his goal well, Scott Agnew ran like Wesley Schneijder (unfortunately there any resemblance ended) and Martin McBride misplaced too many passes. New centre half Alan Lithgow looked solid enough and even made an upfield foray in open play – which Ben Gordon never did. Jamie Lyden and Kevin Nicoll were okay at full back (Lyden’s sending off notwithstanding.) The defence in general though needs to tighten up.

Kieran Brannan looked good, but he was up against Chissie, breezing past him as if he wasn’t there.

A good team is going to thump us; especially as we lack height – a perennial complaint.

It was nice to see the Shire back in their traditional black and white hoops and that Chissie has got himself a gig for this season.

* I know it’s got a sponsor’s name but I’m not going to use it.

Women Science Fiction/Fantasy writers of the 1980s

Another one via Ian Sales.

Again, those I’ve heard of are italicised, bold I’ve read at least one work by, and struckthrough I own an example of.

Marcia J. Bennett
Mary Brown
Lois McMaster Bujold
Emma Bull
Pat Cadigan
Isobelle Carmody
Brenda W. Clough
Kara Dalkey
Pamela Dean
Susan Dexter
Carole Nelson Douglas
Debra Doyle
Claudia J. Edwards
Doris Egan
Ru Emerson
C.S. Friedman
Anne Gay
Sheila Gilluly
Carolyn Ives Gilman
Lisa Goldstein
Nicola Griffith
Karen Haber
Barbara Hambly

Dorothy Heydt (AKA Katherine Blake)
P.C. Hodgell
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Tanya Huff
Kij Johnson
Janet Kagan
Patricia Kennealy-Morrison
Katharine Kerr
Peg Kerr
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
Rosemary Kirstein
Ellen Kushner
Mercedes Lackey

Sharon Lee
Megan Lindholm*
R.A. MacAvoy

Laurie J. Marks
Maureen McHugh
Dee Morrison Meaney
Elizabeth Moon
Paula Helm Murray
Rebecca Ore
Tamora Pierce
Alis Rasmussen (AKA Kate Elliott)
Melanie Rawn
Mickey Zucker Reichert

Jennifer Roberson
Michaela Roessner
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Melissa Scott
Eluki Bes Shahar (AKA Rosemary Edghill)
Nisi Shawl
Delia Sherman
Josepha Sherman
Sherwood Smith
Melinda Snodgrass
Midori Snyder
Sara Stamey
Caroline Stevermer
Martha Soukup
Judith Tarr
Sheri S. Tepper
Prof. Mary Turzillo
Paula Volsky

Deborah Wheeler (Deborah J. Ross)
Freda Warrington
K.D. Wentworth
Janny Wurts
Patricia Wrede

*Megan Lindholm had one story published in the 1970s.

I suspect a similarly low strike rate would apply to a list of male SF/F writers from the 80s.

Inverting The Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson

The History of Football Tactics, Orion, 2008, 356p.

This book does exactly what it sets out to, describing the evolution of football tactics from their formless beginnings when everybody on the pitch, apart from the goalkeeper, dribbled towards the opponents’€™ goal with team mates ‘€œbacking up’€ in case the ball was lost, through the invention of passing (or, as it was delightfully phrased, combination play; I like that, let’€™s bring it back) in Scotland, the first real formation of 2-3-5 – one of whose pioneers was my beloved Dumbarton – mentioned on page 23 but not, alas, in the index – in winning their sole Scottish Cup in 1800 and long time ago, 1883 to be precise: its gradual stalemating till the offside law was changed in the 1920s to allow only two defenders between ball and goal line which in turn led to the withdrawal of the centre half into the back line of a 3-2-5 and the ‘€œclassic’€ three defender, two half back, two inside forward, plus centre forward line-up of the W-M or W-W. The later adaptations of this formation (in some cases, as in Great Britain, very much later) via the diagonal, through the deep lying centre forward, 4-2-4, 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2, by which time the pyramid of the book’€™s title had been inverted, leading on to 4-5-1, even 4-6-0, plus the variations of all of these and the pressing game, are given their place and their innovators due recognition.

In particular the histories of football in various countries, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Austria, Hungary, the USSR, the Netherlands, England, even a foray into the Scandinavian experience, and the life histories of the various coaches concerned, are admirably laid out as is the tension between attack and defence, creativity and negativity, craft and effort. Through it all the importance of system is a given. A well-organised and drilled side will always beat a disorganised one, or one following too rigid a previous template, provided the system is understood and adhered to.

The tendency for any innovations to be imitated at first mainly in a defensive sense is noted and in passing the notions of Charles Reep and Charles Hughes of direct football being particularly effective is knocked on the head, even on statistical grounds. In some cases it can be, as can any system, but against good players who can keep possession directness will fall down.

Whether football’s evolution has ended is a moot point but in the modern world with global TV coverage and worldwide scouting it is unlikely any team will be able to spring a truly revolutionary tactical surprise. But then again before that offside law alteration there had been little or no tactical change for around thirty years. In Britain, the W-M then held sway for another forty or so.

But the centre half disappeared as a half back, wingers disappeared, full backs became wing backs, wing halves and inside forwards turned into central defenders or midfielders, who evolved into holding players or playmakers; and the playmaker has all but disappeared. The centre forward may go the same way. (I would say that, arguably, with Barcelona, he already has. Messi is not a centre forward, Villa and Pedro tend not to play up the middle.)

In modern football flexibility within a system is a key ingredient, and fluidity. Modern players at the top level are no longer specialists in the way they were. Everyone is an attacker and defender at the same time. (However some will always remain more gifted and more general than others. At the level I watch football the demarcation of roles is still pronounced. I doubt that will change soon.) Football is actually a game played with space – or denying it – and not really with the ball. But, as Barcelona demonstrate, possession, keeping it and regaining it, certainly helps.

The book has occasional infelicities of the sprung for sprang type and a few typos but for all those interested in football and how it came to be the way it is this is a wonderful, informative and illuminating read. I thank my younger son for lending it to me.

Reelin’ In The Years 10: Underneath The Blanket Go

This is a Gilbert O’Sullivan song.

Don’t laugh. It comes from the time when Gilbert O’Sullivan was good, before his “Clair“ification; when he was quirky and could be irreverent.

Not one of his more well-known early songs like Nothing Rhymed, We Will, Alone Again Naturally nor even Permissive Twit, Underneath The Blanket Go has a reference to the agony aunt Marjorie Proops.

There’s a video on You Tube of Gilbert playing this song live for TV but it’s got gratuitous shots of what in those days were called “dolly birds” so I opted instead for this one showing the single’s cover.

Gilbert O’Sullivan: Underneath The Blanket Go

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