Posts from 14th November 2004

Nov 04

There’s a weird gag in ‘Bridget Jones 2’…

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There’s a weird gag in ‘Bridget Jones 2’: two people sitting next each other on a plane to Thailand both get out ‘The Beach’ as holiday reading. Now, the book, published in 2000, is set in about 1997, so the joke makes sense. But the film is set in the now, so it doesn’t. And the best gag in the book, Bridge’s interview with Colin Firth, doesn’t appear for boringly ‘obvious’ reasons. Quite clearly the really clever thing would have been to have her interview Matthew McFadden. Despite expectations, though: much better than the first film.

Sloppy Science: the athletics edition

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Sloppy Science: the athletics edition

The September 30 issue of Nature featured a brief communication with a study comparing men’s and women’s sprinting. The authors concluded that by the 2156 Olympics, the winner of the women’s 100 m dash will win with a faster time than the winner of the men’s 100 m dash. They did this by plotting the winning time of the 100 m men’s and women’s gold medallist for each Olympics, assuming that the times for each would continue to decrease linearly. From this analysis, they saw that the times for women are decreasing at a rate faster than those for men, and therefore, assuming that the linear progression will continue, the women will “catch” the men in 2156, winning in a time of just under 8.1 (!!!) seconds.

It seems as though the authors were being only semi-serious with this study, which is good because there’s no way one can take these results seriously. First of all, they chose just one data point for each year, which is hardly an accurate indication of the improvements of sprinters over time. Therefore, the standard deviation in their results is massive, resulting in a 700 year error in their result, i.e. women could overtake men as early as 2064 or as late as 2788. A more precise study, such as this one uses data from the top ten times for every year, rather than one (and not necessarilty the best) time for every four years. For both sexes, the deviations from linearity are clear. These authors did similar studies for shot put and high jump, and found similar progressions.

By taking a proper sample size, anomolies such as FloJo’s sub-10.50 s run in 1988 (which may have been drug-aided) don’t skew the results. I also found it a bit surprising that the significant deviation from linearity began in the early 1980’s for both women and men. It would appear that the advances in medicine and training has benefited both sexes equally despite the imbalance of funding and prominence between the two for all but the last 20-30 years or so.

Camille Claudel

The Brown Wedge2 comments • 2,881 views

Camille Claudel

I seem to be engaged in a series of appreciations of undervalued artists from a century or so back here (see Bartholdi and af Klint pieces below). I’ll stop after this one, but I do want to mention someone who I think was a great sculptor, and is largely unknown – she doesn’t get an entry in my Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists or The Oxford Companion to Art. Indeed, the latter doesn’t even mention her among the list of Rodin’s assistants – she was his student and lover.

Obviously this explains her neglect. Her style is something like his, and I wouldn’t claim that she was his equal as an artist – but there aren’t many other Nineteenth Century sculptors I like better. Her bust of Rodin is a magnificent work, but it’s her disturbing and undoubtedly disturbed* figures that I find hugely compelling and fascinating, like the one shown here, from 1893.

* she died in an asylum; I’m not trying to valorise this, as that’s a tendency I firmly oppose, that inclination to make mental illness glamorous, so long as it’s an artist. I don’t accept that there is something more essentially tortured in an artist’s life than anyone else’s.

ex memoria

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ex memoria

They weren’t all elderly and they weren’t all white, but the number of shoppers wearing poppies in Tesco in omnicultural Hackney, as the Armistice Service Parade wheeled out of St-John-at-Hackney into the Narrow Way, definitely counts as few. You couldn’t help feeling that, to many of those on the same streets on the same day, this Parade was as private an affair – as little to do with them, anyway – as the Free Kurdistan march tends to seem, whenever that is, the last remaining massed Stalinists so proud in their little Uncle Joe tribute ‘taches. Two tot-sized twins in excellent sky-blue wellingtons seemed to be present, with their mum and dad, to Watch the Parade Pass and Wave Flags – one in a nice little poppy-themed frock, the other bolshily not; neither actually HAD flags, mind you, and both had their hands over their ears at the noise the Marching Band was making. I also overheard a young black mother (wearing her poppy on her green khaki parka) explain to her five-year-old that this was to remember people who died in the First and Second World Wars. Almost rveryone else seemed to be in a parallel world, watching briefly before getting with their own lives, their own business.

The Marching Band-members were children also – 12-16 or thereabouts – playing tunes that presumably mean as little to them as they mean so much to the veterans marching behind them. Standing and watching them myself, for a while, I wondered what those marching felt about how their reception must have changed down the years: the possibility of an East End vivid with multicultural tolerance is surely what World War Two was “about” (including, far down the line of urgency but hardly irrelevant, the abolition of Sunday as a day of rest and reverence); but the concomitant of this tolerance is a whole bunch of amiable bored indifference, and that must be a bit hard to take when it was your closest young friends that died for it all those years ago. Point to any world-historical troublespot – from Northern Ireland to the Balkans to the Middle East to…. – and one can see the perils in choosing never to forget the fallen: but this is an all-too-easy thing to think or say for someone who as it happens knows NO ONE – and in fact is closely RELATED to no one – who fell in any significant British conflict in living memory. My mother’s mother’s two younger brothers were gassed in the trenches – they survived and both went on to be GPs in Scotland, but they also both died long before I was born. And that’s the closest to directly “memorial” that any of this comes to me. I didn’t come out in order to watch and remember and reflect – I came out to shop, of course – but I’m glad I did. I know that one zone’s ease with itself has probably been bought at the expense of some hotspot elsewhere staying all too miserably heated, but i do like how things turned out, in omnicultural Hackney anyway…