Posts from 26th October 2003

26
Oct 03

SCIENCE IS YOUR FRIEND #1

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 340 views

SCIENCE IS YOUR FRIEND #1: A musician I knew a bit – I’d written a little story on him – invited me to his house, somewhere in Essex on the banks of the Thames. He was throwing a barbecue for family and friends, and it was a nice warm day, and I was having a nice time until he asked me, out of nowhere really, to write his official biography. I liked him, and felt a bit awkward just saying no way while I was still a guest in his house, so I carried on chatting with him about this and that, his life and beliefs. We got onto politics: he was very anti-nuclear, and part of his argument was that nuclear reactors are not found in nature. Aha, I said, not strictly true. In Africa there’s a stream which rises from uranium-rich soil, and in the stream (like most streams) there are mats of algae, and the uranium particles deposit in these, and build up into large enough quantities that they reach critical mass and the isotopes decay and bingo! they give off radiation and heat the water up. Anyway, I wasn’t intending to be argumentative, just exact, and I though this was an interesting story and told it with enthusiasm and bingo! never heard from him again.

(I realise on rereading the linked-to passage that I got the story wrong, because I thought these natural reactors still existed: so maybe it was my BAD science which was my friend that day… )

Fish can seem a bit boring

Do You SeePost a comment • 655 views

Fish can seem a bit boring, but then two of my favourite things are swimming and eating. I found myself gazing into a fishtank the other day. I was waiting to go into an interview. The fish were calming but in fact I started thinking about whether or not they were happy. Finding Nemo has really exciting animation and a fantastical story. By the end I loved the little fish and their lives – free but vulnerable to predators in the ocean, or trapped and vulnerable to toothy, over-enthusiastic children in their tank. I didn’t get the job but at least I’d got to see some fish.

Well the return of Inspector Frost was dire

Do You SeePost a comment • 430 views

Well the return of Inspector Frost was dire, despite featuring a demented tango competition dancer dismembering her partners for being not good enough PLUS a scene set in a yard stacked high with thousands of busted fridges which suddenly all fell over like dominoes PLUS Frostie tangled with Denton’s yoot’ in a videogame arcade and got the better of them despite their fiendishly unconvincing use of gangsta argot PLUS his assistant copper was a lesbian to his gruff-but-kindly bafflement. Anyway David Jason was looking a bit old, I thought, and I wondered HOW old and when did I first see him on telly and realised it was THIRTY SIX YEARS AGO!!!

FRANKIE LAINE – “A Woman In Love”

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#51, 19th October 1956

“A Woman In Love” boasts gale force orchestration, as if to prove that the days of the Big Number weren’t over yet. Laine meets it head on – if he was any more hammy he?d have a curly pink tail. “Your EYES! Are the EYES! Of a WUMMAN! In LOVE!” Or one in mortal fear of her life – Laine and Anne Shelton should have teamed up. Or married. The orchestra unleashes a tsunami of swing – Frankie responds by spraying emphases like bullets – the listener cowers and counts the two-and-a-half minutes down.

In case you aren’t watching the Rugby World Cup

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In case you aren’t watching the Rugby World Cup (and fair enough) I thought you would nonetheless like to know that Ireland’s bald and not-cute hooker (equivalent for US readers: there isn’t one) Keith Wood glories in the nickname The Raging Potato. I don’t think I could defend this statement, but I think it’s appropriate. (I’ve also heard ‘The Flying Potato’ which isn’t as good, I think.)

Ain’t Got No Frogs…

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Ain’t Got No Frogs…

There’s a new road safety ad telling you to wear something bright at night. This isn’t terribly interesting in itself, but the jingle is sung to the tune of one of the greatest really obscure records ever: Ain’t Got No Home by Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry. Indeed, I believe it’s the record from which that nickname was derived (though he’s best known for his big hit, (I Don’t Know Why I Love You) But I Do).

The first verse and chorus comprise a lament (in bouncy old New Orleans R&B style) about having no place to call home, featuring the line “I’m a lonely boy”. The second verse changes “boy” to “girl”, and Clarence sings it in a high girlish voice. You might be able to guess what’s coming. The third verse is croaked, and Clarence claims to be “a lonely frog”. It is certainly one of the greatest records ever made, and I commend it to your attention.

Even if you’re a sports fan you may never have heard of Mildred Didrikson-Zaharias

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Even if you’re a sports fan you may never have heard of Mildred Didrikson-Zaharias. Here is why she was the greatest athlete of all time.

She was born in Texas in 1914. At 16 she led her basketball team to three national titles. In the 1932 national athletics team championships the second place team gained 22 points with its 22 athletes. In first place by a full 8 points, and setting three new world records in less than three hours, winning six events, was the team comprising Mildred alone.

She was only allowed to enter three events in the Olympics that year, so she went for one each of the three main athletic types, to show her range. Javelin: world record, gold medal; 80m hurdles: world record, gold medal; high jump: world record and first, but she was denied the gold medal for using the Western Roll technique (the Olympic authorities changed their mind later and awarded her a gold here too).

After an interval playing pro baseball and basketball (and skipping over her reported excellence at tennis, diving, swimming, bowling, lacrosse, skating and billiards) she took up golf. She became the best in the world, naturally, at one point winning 17 tournaments in a row. When she turned pro, she lost only once in seven years.

How many of you had even heard of this woman? Don’t be embarrassed if you haven’t, because Chamber’s Biographical Dictionary doesn’t rate her among the 20,000 people worth covering, and my two sets of encyclopaedias don’t mention her. Her autobiography is no longer in print, even in America. I’m inclined to think that if a man (especially a white American, as she was) had a list of achievements anything like that he’d be as famous as Muhammed Ali, say, and would have been the subject of countless biopics (there was one in 1975, starring Susan Clark and Alex Karras, which is hardly the big time).

Sistrah Becky just suggested TIME AND TIDE must be part of the Brighton Photographic Biennial

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 194 views

(Sistrah Becky just suggested TIME AND TIDE must be part of the Brighton Photographic Biennial, but it doesn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere on the website)

On Brighton sea front, just by the burnt-out wreck of the West Pier

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On Brighton sea front, just by the burnt-out wreck of the West Pier, there’s a photography exhibition. It’s actually ON the front: each picture, in its frame, is attached to the railings of the esplanade as you look out to sea. It’s called TIME AND TIDE, a slightly lame name for a really evocative idea, consisting of a long line of wide-lens photos of every one of the remaining 54 piers in resorts round the coast of England. Each photo is about 6 inches high by four feet long: each a 180′ panoramic shot taken on a sunny day with clouds and semi-empty but not unpeopled beaches, of the pier in question, looking back from waves-edge into the sea-facing section of the town. The pictures are lovely – with the sense of lens-distortion they look like scenes from one of those dreams you always want to remember better than you actually can – and so’s the project and the setting: there was a biting wind as evening fell today, but we stayed poring over them until it was too dark to look at them any longer. There was a wordy blurb with them, complete with credits, but none of us had a notebook to take down the name of the photographer, or where else it might be shown, or for how long, and there doesn’t seem to be a website. It’s a brisk walk from the main, still functional and bustling pier, but it’s definitely worth it.