Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

It's all getting a bit much

I accept that this blog is getting a little dull as I shamelessly pad it with links, youtube videos and suchlike. But I am really quite stupidly busy at the moment. Started back at college on Monday and straight in there with a bit of CPR and tomorrow, it's ethics and logicandmetaphysics. No wonder I have caught another cold.

I'm also very busy making friends on something called Facebook. God what a marvellous way to waste time that is. But don't you just want to know the status of your friends minute by minute. And then there's the desperate search for more friends so you don't look like a complete saddo.

Next up, second life I guess. Apprarently CILIP the august professional body to which I subscribe have started having their meetings there. I wonder if librarians are allowed to do it in work time.

Friday, 14 September 2007

the pace of economic change

I've tried to sell this marvelous marketing image to a well-known purveyor of edible sandwiches but they seem curiously uninterested.

Webcam of the day:

Rarely in the course of human endeavour has anyone come up with a more worthwhile and fascinating use of internet technology -- many a happy hour can now be whiled away at work watching a 44lb truckle of cheddar maturing in a Somerset dairy.

Philip Crawford, chairman of West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers said:

"Some might say this is the most boring website of 2007, but our cheese is worth waiting for so it's better than watching paint dry - just"

Thursday, 13 September 2007

The Sick Society

I'm sick. No, really I'm sick, I've got a throat so swollen I can eat only porridge with some well cooked apple and I can only talk in whispers. It is probably laryngitis, glandular fever, foot and mouth, or all four. And it's certainly not a mere, common cold as of course, in this country we are expected to take lemsip superstrenghth and put in an 18 hour day if all we have is a cold.

So when I call my manager this morning, to do the phoning-in-sick bit, self-consciously dropping the tone of my voice to a low croak, I have to make sure not to use the "C"-word. Which is crazy really because since I'm now working through an agency, they are not paying me to spend the day at home in my jim-jams. And in fact it would be much more of a case of my short-changing them, if I crawled into work, infected all the permanent staff and only to give them 60-per cent performance. Readers would be directed to the wrong books, whole classes of children would be uninspired as I lack-lusterly showed them round on their first visit to a library, teenage hooligans would snigger as I sniffled my usually blood-curdling threats, admonishing them to desist from shouting, fighting and swearing.

And yet why do I feel guilty? This seems to be a psychological rather than ethical question. I can't help but feel a kind of shame that I'm writing this rather than lying in bed with a hot water bottle, ice-pack and thermometer between my blue-tinged lips. A berating voice in my head pronounces, "if you're well enough to be on your computer, your well enough to go to work." And I guess it's OK to read a novel, but if I start studying a difficult book for my philosophy degree course, is that tantamount to fraud. Would the same apply to watching a DVD of an early Bergman film as opposed to a daytime soap I wonder.

I guess the guilt has a social and economic purpose much like the ritual humiliation imposed on anyone who has the audacity to claim unemployment benefits. It makes sure that you can't enjoy your (however brief) period of leisure so much that you begin to think you might just get used to it. On the other hand, just as this treatment of the unemployed ensures that their self-esteem drops to a level when it's hard for them to find work, the prohibition on accepting the need for blameless rest and recuperation ensures that we take far longer to recover from illness.

Monday, 10 September 2007

The Singing Librarian

If like me, you've woken up feeling like death this morning, this clip of the mighty Andrew might cheer you up somewhat. Well, it did me.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

It takes two to know one

Well, half way through the tango workshop at Thomas More Hall this afternoon, I was thinking about sneaking out and going home. As we reached that stage, yes that stage where they actually expect you to string a series of movements together and remember them next time, I realized that I had gone way past the boundaries of my natural competence. I just couldn't make any sense of it and exhortations to imagine a box, or a figure of eight fell on deaf ears and reticent feet. However, by the final dance, I felt like I'd made some progress and claire even congratulated me a bit. It really does make a difference who you're partner is though. One of the women was so nervous I could feel her shaking while others (everyone was a first-timer) were completely natural, gave me helpful hints and didn't appear to mind as I steered them into other couples, tables, plate glass windows, etc.

I write this from the Albert Hall where fiddler Joshua Bell plays Ravel's Tzigane. The word, "haunting" comes to mind. I immediately cast it out. What does it mean? That it could be good background music for a horror flick? If I was watching it on telly, I would be able to tell you that his face is beaded with sweat, his entire frame tensed against the anguish of the music. But I can't, and as Bělohlávek brings in the orchestra I realize, that one of the red-coated stewards is giving me a dirty look and it's time to hide away my laptop before I get thrown out. Still, as Kaarina would say... bloody marvelous.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

pelican postscript

Just to say...they finally did get the signaled pedestrian crossing up and running by last Saturday. By Monday it was down again and today they seem to have fixed the fault. I have been sent detailed missives by council officers explaining the difficulty of implementing such a scheme. And, I'm sure they're right.

But one can't help but think: every time we read in the tabloids about "health and safety" gone mad, there are manifold cases of situations where children are put at risk because the bureaucratic problems of coordinating disparate agencies can not be resolved by a species that put on its members on it's closest orbiting satellite.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

Great News. Nothing has been discovered. Lots of it.

An astronomer at Minnesota University has discovered a region of emptiness that dwarfs all others. Inside the nothing is, well nothing: no stars, no planets, no moons, not even a black hole. Nothing. Zilch. A complete and utter void.

One way of getting your head around the size is to imagine a scale model of the Universe with the Earth modeled the size of a grain of sand. This empty region would then be the size of our solar system. And what's perhaps more alarming is that these regions of nothing might be increasing. Due to the accelerating rate by which the universe is expanding, the structure of space is now beginning to resemble a huge Emmental.

Kaarina cleverly quipped that it was rather like the global economy, expanding and expanding while leaving huge gaps (for the poor to live in) until the whole thing implodes under its own weight.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Life, an apology

A very nice man from Southwark Council leaves a message on my voicemail asking me to call me back. When I do I find that he is just as concerned as I am, it seems, to get the crossing back up and running but, of course, things are not so simple. The work has been slowed down by the rain and yes, it's Transport for London who have to turn the traffic signals on. So the poor man is stuck with one of those problems familiar to anyone who has ever done any work that involves the carpet-layers coming after the plasters coming in after the electricians...

Which leaves me feeling still very angry with, with, with...who do I get angry with? It seems that perhaps I expect too much of the world and that life is never going to meet up to my exacting standards. Should I lower them, or just find something else to moan about?

Monday, 20 August 2007

Road Safety for Dummies

So it's the middle of the summer holidays and hundreds of children are roaming the streets with or without their parents. Not the best time you might think to take up a zebra crossing from outside the Forest Hill Road entrance to Peckham Rye Park. And then leave it for a few days before putting in the pelican crossing that is going to replace it.

Well it might force those obese kids we keep hearing about to get fit by sprinting across one of the busiest roads in the borough. I don't know, maybe this is a radical attempt to deal with the shortage of school places (sorry that's a really bad joke I know but isn't the sickest thing of all, the complete contempt for the safety of pedestrians?)

I phoned up the council to ask them what they are playing at but of course you can only now speak to a privately-run call centre where after holding for 15 minutes they tell you that they can't put you through but are going to "put it on the system". When I asked if anyone would get back to me, she told me, "I don't think they do that". After pleading with her, and asking to speak to her supervisor (there was none present) she did put me through to the contractor's voicemail. Not at all surprisingly, no one called back.

Footnote: in fairness to LB Southwark, this road could be the responsibility of Transport for London. But then, how frustrating is it that when I call the council, I am not permitted to speak to anyone who could give me this helpful information?

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Going for a song

It's one of the few perks of working in a public library that you can borrow CDs for free which gives you a chance to listen to stuff you wouldn't normally. Or, even that you've never hear of. Right now, I am enjoying a compilation of that wonderful singer, Mr Sam Cooke but the biggest discovery of the week is a certain lady of Jazz, Lorez Alexandria.

There's not much info about her on the web. The Album I've borrowed was recorded in 1964 and she has a beautifully, controlled voice, mellow and meaningful, taking on standards such as Satin Doll and Over the Rainbow . Amazingly enough there is no Wikipedia article for her but from the Verve Label site is that she had her roots in Gospel Music, disappeared between 1965 and 1974 but then returned to singing up until the mid 1990's. She died of a stroke in 2001. The quality of her voice is up there with Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, I'm amazed she's not better known.

Now far be it from me to encourage any pilfering of intellectual property but it may not have escaped my readers that, with the advent of digital music, it is quite simple to transfer tracks from borrowed CD's onto your computer or MP3 player. And if you haven't ventured into your public library lately, you might be pleasantly surprised by the selection on offer. Libraries in Southwark and Lewisham are both doing two for one offers at the moment. In Lewisham this means you can have four albums worth of tracks for a pound -- compare that to $0.99 a track via iTunes.

And they also have Books!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Eschewing Obfuscation

I just thought I should share with you what must surely count as some of the most unintelligible writing, ever put into print. The source, a planning guidance document produced by my local council; the meaning, well your guess is as good as mine.

The need for infrastructure and community facilities across the borough to support the increase in demand which arises out of development is such that it is very important the planning obligations policies are observed in such a way as to maximise the potential for developments to contribute towards infrastructure and community facilities needed to support the development.

A packet of salmiakki to the best English translation (in rhyming couplets).

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The decline of the West

Today, a first. Hearing a language which I had never heard before and I would guess few people will ever hear.

An elderly gentleman was enquiring after an out of print book he was trying to get hold of. He let slip that his name day was 24th June. By which, knowing that Juhannes, when the Finns celebrate Midsummer is that very day, I deduced that he was called John. And telling him this, and mentioning the way that this is celebrated with fires (kokkot) in the aforementioned country he informed me that in his ancestral city, the feast was celebrated with ten days of bonfires. And he challenged me to guess where this country was.

His first clue was that a number of his countrymen where massacred in Lewisham in the fifteenth century. Then as I took a stab at Ireland, he told me that no, Irish was in another subgroup of the Celtic languages. I then tried Welsh (closer) and Breton (closer) still until I said, you're not Cornish are you?

He then spoke to me in the most beautiful, ancient language which now has, he believes 300 speakers. Cornish or Kernowak almost died out, partly he thinks as a result of the Bible never being translated into the language - his fellow countrymen held out against the protestant venacular service, supporting the keeping of the high Latin mass.

Links about Cornish:

Cornish Language

Cornwall County Council
Cornish - Wikipedia
Agan Tavas - Support group for Cornish Language users

His city was Penzance by the way which apparently, like "John" means "holy head".

Friday, 3 August 2007

Kosmic meanderings

As the last sandal of time is squeezed into the suitcase of eternity, I just have another couple of minutes to say goodbye to the land of snow, salmiakki and Koskenkorva. (And indeed Salmiakki Koskenkorva)

Last night, after a drink or three at Strindberg and Palasi, we ended up at my favourite restaurant in the whole wide world, namely Kosmos . What I had set my heart on was Baltic herring and mash potatoes but because of the recent stroms, the fishing fleet has been unable to put out to sea but no matter. I enjoyed some delicious kuha (pike perch) in a sauce of crayfish tails. After a Bushmills in Helsinki, we staggered home.

Woke up this morning from a strange dream involving a football match between Brazil and Italy. Italy won. And whether it was something about the dream or about going back to London, I felt a desperate sadness which hung about for an hour or two.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

The world's smallest blogpost

We've got to leave the flat in a minute to meet some friends for a drink, so I've just got time to say that...

OK, I'm coming! the sun comes out in Helsinki, and you head out in the hope of finding a seat in a bar with a north by north-west facing terrassi, it feels just like going to get ice-cream at the beach when we were children.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A Little Bit of Luxury

Not that I've stayed in that many, but this hotel could be the best I've ever stayed in. And here's a tip for tourists. If you come to Finland in the "holy month" of July, business hotels actually reduce their rates rather than put them up. Reason being, they're half empty as no one in Finland does any business in the one month of the year where there is really no chance of snow, sub-zero temperatures, 24 hour darkness etc.

So for less than a hundred euros we are enjoying a room the size of a five-aside football pitch, with stylish contemporary bathroom fittings and three arm chairs (the third presumably in case a friend drops by in the night).

I have to confess to a weakness for posh hotel rooms. Well, any hotel rooms really. There's something about the feel of starched white sheets against the skin. Or could it be the promiscuous entertaining of hundreds of stangers who have come before me and will come after? The lure of the cable channels and the temptations of the minibar -- we only took one beer (for the sauna) but we could have drunk it dry if we'd felt like playing at rock stars on tour.

But on top of all these delights, a dream came true last night when we found we were the only people in the restaurant, or at least the small bit that we were in, and we could at least pretend that we had arranged a private room for our romantic triste. The food incidentally was excellent. I had lake trout with a chanterelle sauce and for the starter, I even enjoyed the beetroot, the one vegetable I generally avoid. Washed down with a bottle of 2004 Chianti a bit of a compromise choice as Kaarina was grabbing the chance to eat steak.

So now, as my beloved sleeps it off, I sit reading Newsweek in the tastefully furnished lobby, contemporary but not sombre, with mustard yellows and warm reds replacing the standard cold greys of so many so called boutique hotels. And no doubt breakfast will be copious piles of bread and cheese and cucumber and maybe some herring...but I must stop as the thought of it, is making my stomach rumble so loud as to wake any other guests still sleeping.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

If you can stand the heat...

I write this from the wonderful and much-better-than-it-sounds Hotel Krapi

Sometimes people say to me, "what should one do when visiting Finland." I look at them with a a wise and knowing expression and I tell them that there are in fact precisely two things you should do when you are in Finland. Yesterday I did both of them.

The first and best thing that you should enjoy on any visit to this country, in fact the greatest contribution that the Finnish people have made to the world (and this includes Salmiaki) is of course Sauna. Now, I'm not talking about an electric sauna hear as mildly pleasant as it might be. It has to be heated by a wood-burning stove. And preferably within running naked distance from the sea or a lake. Smoke-saunas are in a league of their own but being British, anything that involves real flames does it for me.

Last night we went with Kaarina's cousin Petri to his minimöki on Lammassaari or "Sheep Island" which is strangely enough not an island and is right in the middle of Helsinki. You walk some distance accross what was once perhaps sea and is now a swamp (or suo) on a raised wooden path (I think we call these "duckboards" in English". Then you come to a charming community of tiny, but perfectly formed, red cottages. No running water, electricity and shared compost toilets.

And after our salmontrout barbeque, Petri and I, leaving Kaarina to read comics, walked through the rain to the communal sauna. Two gentleman, rather the worse for drink were just leaving and in fact left their saussages cooking on the stones. But we had a marvellous sauna...Petri does like it hot and poured ladle after ladle of water on the stones until I could take no more and ran through the falling rain into the murky sea.

Above the door was a sign which roughly translated, read...

When the organs* of the sauna play
One forgets all one´s worries and sorrows

And how very true this is. There is no anxiety, no nagging niggle that can´t be sweated out and washed away after an hour spent with good company in the sauna.

The second thing which I had done earlier is to experience the attentions of a Finnish massage therapists. Don´t expect a flakey aromatherpy dusting down, if you've got an aching muscle, prepared to have it punished a bit. But these people really know their stuff and you come out feeling like you´ve just slept for a week. In fact yesterday afternoon, I did actually sleep through most of it. A pity really because, to me, being kneaded by an expert is possibly the most relaxing and pleasurable thing I know.

(* As in church organs. Stop sniggering at the back.)

Monday, 30 July 2007

Richard Long, eat your heart out

I kind of like the fuzzy definition on this photo created by use of a cheap mobile phone camera -- I could almost have got away with telling you that this is a photo of an oil painting.

But it's not. It is a piece of land art created at the Island. The sticks of course represent the paradoxical juxtaposition of the Finnish love of nature with the upward and onward march of innovation and technology (think Benecol, Nokia). However what actually matters is not the solid surfaces but the voidity of the empty space, a pyramid or cone of nothingness, the heart of non-being. Later I placed a feather at the apex of the structure, which, encapsulating the transience of successive economic and political systems, blew away in the wind, the winds of change. Loose change.

Change that is as a good as a rest. And you'll be glad to hear that I'm going to give it one.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Island Life

Just slipped into Uusikaupunki library for a 15 minute slot. We're out on the island where Kaarina's family have their kesamöki (summer-cottage). Weather variable but it's so, so, so wonderful to be there. Just to sit on the seat outside the sauna, sipping Sandells beer after a cool dip to rinse away twelvemonths city grime sweated out by steaming my body 100 degree heat feels like all is well with the world. Like coming home.

Between saunas, have been eating, reading (Aristotle, Mika Walteri's The Egyptian Stenibeck's Tortilla Flat) and even sleeping. It never stops.

Brought a new jar of Marmite with me which as everybody knows creates (when eaten) a body odour which repels mosquitos. However, there´s little need as the cool, windy weather seems to have reduced their numbers. Still, can´t be too careful.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Responding to feedback

As we enter this new era of interactivity in a competitive customer focused environment, we are now missioning to ensure that our visitors enjoy an enhanced blog-reading experience.

For example,

* You said you wanted more pictures of trains...

* You said you wanted less PHILOSOPH

and so we've cut it by 10 per cent.

* You said you wanted 8 interesting tag facts about East of Dulwich -- hey, look we're working on it. Milton Keynes wasn't built in a day, you know. And we still have to carry out a thorough risk assessment, impact assessment, public consultation...

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Smells like teen spirit

It's good to be back in Helsinki. Today was a perfect day, azure sky with a little nip in the air to keep you from feeling too hot. Only problem is there is something else in the air which is not at all pleasant. While England is beset by flash-flooding, Helsinki is struck by a disaster of a different sort, a rather unpleasant smell. It seems to be mainly located on the main thoroughfare going by the name of Esplanadi but we also noticed it in the little park opposite the flat we're staying in. It's a kind of acrid smell like a mixture of drains and dirty socks left under a student's bed for three terms.

But, its source remains a mystery. Rumours abound. Some say it has something to do with all the major works that have lately taken place. Perhaps they have dug up some centuries old burial ground. Others claim that there is some form of freak insect manifestation in the trees, what a friend of Kaarina's charmingly termed "fleas".

But fleas aside, this is still a lovely city to pass a few days in July. Emptied out as its inhabitants head to the islands, lakes and forests to their "kesämökki" or summercottage, those that remain, to water the plants and feed the cats presumably have an air of cheerful relaxedness. And what could be better than enjoying a Finlandia Vodka and Cranberry Juice or a white wine spritzer at a bar by the water's edge?

Helsinki sunshine
khaki green water sprinkled
with flashes of light.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Welcome, Bienvenue, Tervetuloa!

If you've followed me here from the former bl@g site East of Dulwich, well I admire your tenacity. If you scroll back (or should that be down) you'll find that there's a whole load of stuff you've missed.

But here I am at waterlogged Heathrow Terminal 1 waiting for a delayed flight to the fair city of Helsinki. The picture shows the crates put out to catch the water dripping throught the ceiling.

For those who have followed me from the early days (Hello Mum!), this will be a kind of nostalgic return to the former glory of the blog I kept during my three month sojourn back in 2004...when most people thought that a blog was a form of footwear, or the Yorkshire pronunciation of "black".

If you’re heading to an airport this weekend, pack a thick book (although you can buy them there from a limited selection at W H Smith). You’ll be standing in queues and doing lots of waiting around, well even more than usual. Kaarina suggested on the way over that in the fast moving society that we’ve grown so used to, this kind of delay and inconvenience is really going to make Climate Change hurt the rich North as well as the poor South. But I think that the need to maintain economic confidence, not to mention the degree of optimism that marketing people have to foster in order to expand sales, will always ensure that the Planet’s better-offs will find a way to ignore reality.

If consumption is causing climate chaos, the only thing to do to numb the pain is…consume more!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

It's all piling up on me

There is no friend so faithful as insomnia. Insomnia will stay up with you in the wee small hours, quietly counseling you that all is not well with the world, warning you of all the dangers and perils in the days to come, and reminding you of all the embarrassing and clumsy words you spoke in the days gone by. Insomnia never lets you down, whenever you really need a good night's sleep, the day before an important interview for example, insomnia will be there for you.

So last night, insomnia and I explored together the injustice of a particularly annoying dispute I have with a certain bureaucracy, helped me to consider a whole range of problems that I might experience with my new job, and even opened up to me whole avenue of insoluble worry: worrying about insomnia itself.

Fortunately, today, I have no work to go to, and no urgent studying to perform. I have a "To Do" list as long as, well, as long as my middle finger -- but the writing's quite small, honest. One of the most venerable items on said list is "file away papers". Now I have to admit -- and this may be strange coming from a librarian, that I don't do filing. Throughout my career, I've generally applied a variation of a slash and burn method. Every time the pile gets over about four foot, I change job. Then I either pile it all into a bin bag and take it home on the last day or, shamefully, leave it as a welcome gift to my successor.

I'm looking now at the mountain of papers from my philosophy course (lecture notes, handouts, academic papers). I go and measure it -- about 37cm all told. Hmmm. I wonder if I could transfer to doing Cultural Studies.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

going back -- in time and place

Strangely there is a place in a public library service for an unfashionable librarian with outdated views (like believing that books are really quite "cool" and computers are a mere adjunct to the magnificence of the tome). An Inner City library, a nice big old-fashioned one with a reference library and "no mobile phones" signs, has kindly dragged me out of retirement to cover some summer vacancies. Starting in two weeks time. So I'll have to dust down my best cardigan (the green one with the leather elbow patches) and polish my bifocals and get ready for the exciting cut and thrust that is 21st century librarianship.

Ah, it's nice to feel wanted.

So I spend this weekend in the country, visiting friends in Devon. On the way down, I notice some young people on the train heading down to Glastonbury festival. What so struck me is how smart they looked in their clean clothes. How times change! When I went to Glastonbury back in the 19XX's, you could buy a ticket at the gate and then get yourself a plate of lentils, a gallon of scrumpy, an eighth of rocky (so hard you could break your teeth on it), a nice strong cup of mushroom tea, and still have change of a ten bob note. I gather that the young people of today pay tens of pounds for the privilege of covering their designer jeans in mud and to watch popular beat comboes performing their latest video recordings. Not for me any more, alas. My idea of a good time is a small glass of Southern Comfort chased down with a hot chocolate and then bed.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The paradox of time (or why everytime you think you've finished one task, another five turn up together)

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water of rl, my agent phones me up to ask me if I'd consider a temporary summer job with a nearby public library service. Well, I couldn't say no really so they put forward my (frankly rather embarrassingly archaic) CV and to my mild surprise, their interviewing me on Friday morning.

I remember the days when student life meant a grant and if you got a summer job at all, it was picking fruit, while living in a cave in Southern Crete. But if this comes off, I'm going to spend the balmy months of June, July, August and September weeding the mills and boon, listening to kids earn their summer reading challenge rewards by reciting the entire story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and saying "shh!" a lot (I wish).

Still I need the money -- paraconsistent logic doesn't pay the rent (or rather it does and it doesn't pay the rent).

Anyway, I feel that I've let down my readers of late and so as soon as I've done a bit of research on the library service in question, cycled over to their new super-dooper libary (so I can tell them just how wonderful it is), and I think we're late spring cleaning this afternoon. When I've done this I will:

** List my own 8 tediouser tag facts (sorry AHH)
** Put a new post on the primary site of East of Dulwich (sorry MRV)
** Find a way of transferring and cleaning up the EOD files (Word 2000, yes seriously) on the MacBook so that I don't have to fire up my poor ailing PC every-time I want to update

(By the way if AHH is reading this I would like one more guess at who GP is but it's a bit of a long-shot...well at least as distant as his philosophical interest is in time (2,329 years by my reckoning.))

Thursday, 14 June 2007

the evening after the morning after

So that's it then. Exams over. No more philsophy until October. What am I going to do with myself (besides find a job and create more and more blogs about blogs about blogs, duplicating and reproducing themselves until they burst the seams of the blogosphere.

I was talking to a friend today about intoxication. Can you be intoxicated by ideas? Some people certainly seem to get drunk on participating in mass movements. Others become addicted to the numbing security of fundamentalism, bedoming dead to the agony of uncertainty by the injection of various forms of organised religion. Charismatic leaders in-spire their followers, injecting them with endorphin-releasing mental substances. And then there's always Spinoza, accused of atheism, yet "intoxicated by God".

I can't say I've ever tried such heady mixes. And yet, there is a buzz I get whether it's sipping a bit of Strawson or downing a full-on shot of something a little stronger, Wittgenstein perhaps... but no, I shouldn't. Not when I might be cycling later on.

Here's a nice bit of writing about the 'noblest and most loveable of the great philosophers' from

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Almost there, almost here

So, my first "exam" is tomorrow at six. The others follow on Tuesday and Wednesday at the same time. Then (thank the postulated one Substance) they'll all be over for another year. Obviously, there's not much point in planning to much revision after today...a long session on the day is not going to leave me any energy for an evening in an exam room. Since it is not just my body but also my mind, or as I would prefer, the mind/body, that is going to be present, there is no point in running the race before the off.

So, today I'll be looking at mind and body in Spinoza and Descartes (again) plus trying to get my head round (last chance!) the question of whether perceptual experiences have content. Don't worry (to those who read my blog(s) out of a misplaced sense of duty (although I'm really grateful, honest i am)), I am not going to meander around these fascinating topics online.

But rather, let me leave the last word (until Thursday at least) to one, Monsieur Descartes -- so often maligned by New Age-ers and their ilk, as the originator of all that is evil in the doctrine of mind-body dualism:

Nature also teaches me by these sensations of pain, hunger, thirst and so on that I am not merely present in my body as a sailor is present in a ship, but that I am very closely joined and, as it were, intermingled with it , so that I and the body form a unit. If this were not so , I who am nothing but a thinking thing, would not feel pain when the body was hurt, but would perceive the damage purely by the intellect, just as a sailor perceives by sight if anything in his ship is broken. Similarly, when the body needed food or drink, I should have an explicit understanding of the fact, instead of having confused sensations of hunger and thirst. For the sensations of hunger, thirst, pain and so on are nothing but confused modes of thinking which arise from the union and, as it were, intermingling of the mind with the body.

(Sixth Meditation AT VII 80-1; CSM II 56)

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Wanted: 3 interesting facts about East of Dulwich

I'd never heard the expression until yesterday, when I managed to get myself "tagged" by Antarctic House Husband. What this means apparently is that I now have to list 8 "interesting" facts about myself.

I have never made any secret about the fact that East is a fictional character (as is, of course Mr Brad Eastman, despite his rather pathetic claims to the contrary). I (the character formally know as Mr Eastofeastofeastofdulwich) on the other hand am totally made up, a fabrication, a chimera, an unreliable narrator. This is fortunate. It saves me a great deal of trouble. I don't need to transcend the boundaries of the self for one simple reason. I have none.

But I digress. Mr HH has tagged not me but East of Dulwich and as such it has not taken up too much revision time to come up with 5 false facts about this character (sorry to those of you who like verisimilitude). However, I still have three remaining and in the interests of something called "Web Two Point Zero" I would like to invite you, as the sole "real" reader of the East of Dulwich series to contribute one of them. This is not a competition, as you (you know who you are) are the only contestant.

Here's a sample to get you going:

(1) I [East of Dulwich] was born closer to the end of the First World War than to the end of the War in Iraq (2003 - ).

Please leave your suggestions as comments to this post. Closing date 3am GMT, 13th June 2007. Abnormal competition rules apply

Monday, 4 June 2007

You're my favourite waste of time

Those who know me will know that I am the Master of Procrastination. But even by my own high-standards of time-wasting, I have surpassed myself. It is now one week to go until my first exam and I estimate that I have done approximately 7 hours of revision so far.

OK, these are just internal ones -- they even don't call them "exams" but rather "sessional tests". But all the same, I don't want to sit in that room next Monday thinking, "hmm this looks familiar but I've completely forgotten what 'immediate justification' means."

So having problems getting down to study - what do I do? I find something to do when I should be studying - blogging for example. So which came first? Like the chicken-egg dead heat, what would come out of a photo-finish between the avoidance activity and the mental block. In other words, am I not revising because I'm blogging or am I blogging because I am unable (or unwilling) to settle down to revision.

It doesn't help that the JobCentre closed down my claim for the heinous crime of going to Paris for 48 hours. If I'd gone to Belfast or Shetland - that would have been fine. But leaving Her Majesty's Dominion means that not only do I lose money for all three days when I breathed that filthy Gallic air but I have to complete all my forms, attend initial interviews, all adding up to about 3 hours of time which might have been better spent, er, looking for a job. Or revising. Or, for that matter...blogging.


Jim Pryor on the Regress Argument
Objections to Foundationalism
Ordinary Standards Skepticism

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Missing: one memory

I really can't remember when the local Sikh Gurdwara held a procession and festival in celebration of the anniversary of one of the great gurus.

I seem to be losing my memory. And although I went down to Barry Road and watched these people joyfully assert their faith, even in punishing rain, I just can't find the record, written in the logbook of my mind as to when this happened.

Please click on the following video reconstruction...

Sikh Festival in Lordship Lane

...if this has jogged your memory, maybe you could help me with mine.

(By the way, if you've seen a lost youth prowling the streets of South London, it's probably mine.)

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Sticky-back plastic revisited

Managed to get on a short HTML course yesterday, that being (and any geeks out there, please correct me if I'm wrong) the fundamental language in which most/all web pages are written. You might use a package like Dreamweaver or Frontpage but these are just virtual machines that write the actual HTML code for you so you don't have to get your hands dirty.

When I viewed the source code of "East of Dulwich" I could see why the thing is such a mess. Trouble is I started the thing as a temporary measure, to fill up my days during a period of "resting" between jobs that now threatens to stretch out to the day I will be able to draw my pension. And I always planned to transfer to a blogging site like this one. Except that I began to get attached to the shoddy look of the site, taking me back to the kind of things they used to make on Blue Peter in the sixties.

The think is that the whole project has turned into a kind of Frankenstein's monster. It started off as a Christmas cracker joke, written in MS Word and uploaded using My Computer (Windows 98 nothing special edition). Now because of lack of planning, I've ended up with a project that I no longer write as a distraction from my busy life. Rather, the bl@g has turned into an author it his own write (sic{k}) -- it is East that writes me. My life is not my own any more. Even the characters which used to obey my imagination have, in the words of the famous creative writing guide adage, taken on a life of their own. And not just one life...I think they've started breeding.

Clearly I need help. If you can spare some time to take over the line management of any of these recalcitrant avatars (Tiina, East, Jorma or any others you care to name) please apply within using the the comment facility.

And if you're short of ideas...I envy you.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Coming clean about blogging

You know I'm really on the point of giving up this giving up blogging business. At least Kaarina doesn't know that this blog exists (yet! - keep it to yourself will you). But the facts remain:

I have not handed in my final essay (on Chomsky's model of language acquisition in kids).

I have not started revising for my exams in less than four weeks time.

Being closer now, to drawing my pension than to claiming my student grant (remember them!) it amazes me how little I've changed in the last quarter century. I still put off doing my homework. I still find the bit where you have to actually start writing your essay the hardest wall to break through. And worst of all, I still use computers as a means of procrastination.

I remember sitting up all night with (I-kid-u-not) a HP computer with no hard drive and a 3x4" screen creating bouncing-ball simulator programmes using an early verion of Basic. Then there were arcade games: Space Panic was my particular vice -- and not only did this waste time but also money. Even when I got good at it. Later in life I became addicted to pacman, tetris and (of this I am deeply ashamed) minesweeper, the soporific of choice for bored office workers with not enough to do.

And now, how did it get to be nearly noon? I've spent the morning reading blogs, commenting on blogs, writing this blog...and I haven't even showered yet. I need help.

So here's a question for the blogosphere. Is blog-writing a form of obsessive compulsive disorder like nail-biting or cleaning and recleaning your flat? Is it more like a drug, numbing the parts of the brain that would otherwise have to face up to whatever we can’t cope with in ourselves or our world. Or, should we try to convince our bosses, tutors, partners and loved ones that such as I have just written is the creative outpourings of a tortured genius.

Somehow, I don’t think it would wash.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

The Truth about East of East of Dulwich

I wanted to come clean about a certain Brad Eastman, a web designer and erstwhile blogger, purporting to live in The Gardens, East Dulwich, London SE22.

Some time last year, when I was at work in a library, a young man, a kind of Brad Pitt look-alike, came in desperately looking for a book about Spinoza, the great enlightenment philosopher. I tried to help him but sometimes you can tell from the start when a customer is not really interested and is simply wasting your time and theirs.

But "Brad" as I shall always think of him inspired me to create a character, a kind of modern-day, urban version of Hesse's Siddhartha. I thought he would start off happily enjoying a hedonistic life but some traumatic experience would send him off on a search for truth and meaning.

So I have to apologize to anyone who has been taken in by this ruse. Should you wish to discuss and explore the issues raised in east of east of dulwich, or for that matter East of Dulwich, please feel free to comment after the normal fashion.