Tabloid headline of the year so far:
Boffins create zombie dogs
The story itself is discovered to be something almost medically useful. That’s why I’m saying forget the story; concentrate on that magical headline.
After all, the boffins talk about repairing damaged tissues, suspended animation, no brain damage, saving lives. All the sort of things that boffins want to intimate make them upstanding members of society. In the meantime, they’re in their gothic revival laboratories* itching to put high voltages through dead canines to create zombie dogs.
* I do despair of university vice-chancellors. In the face of struggling science departments across the UK, the clear answer is architectural. New build science departments usually look more or less like top of the range Portakabins. Try vaulting arches instead. Great cavernous laboratories. Faux-wood panelled corridors. Spires! Crypts! Great bubbling systems of glass pipework trailing across the campus. Van Der Graf generators buzzing in every candlelit lecture hall. That’s what the kids want, particularly as the Rowling-reading generation heads towards university. Capes concealing unheard of metal implements. Professorships in Things That Should Not Be. Blood-curdling screams. Zombie dogs should be just the beginning.
I rarely fail to surprise myself with my capability for being stopped in my tracks by trivial obstacles.
Many of you will be familiar with the classic form of the reading in bed problem. One of you wants to read, the other sleep. The solution is one of those teeny tiny lights that clip onto the book. I know this because I’ve been through a battery of them in the last few years.
Buy. Unpack. Fit batteries. Read. And again the next night. And the next.
Some indeterminate number of nights through this process, the batteries run out, or the bulb goes. Or the damn thing just stops working. Go out and buy another one.
This time I bucked the trend. This time I searched around and found the best light I could. Sadly, it goes by the name of ‘Itty Bitty Book Light Volume 2′. I swallowed my pride and ordered it anyway.
It plugs into the mains, or takes batteries. It really is tiny. It can be angled to one side or the other. It has yet to break in any way.
Suddenly, I have an hour or more of additional reading in my evening. That’s up to a book every fortnight, between ten and twenty more books read a year. Just think: I could read everything in my bookpile. I could read everything in the bedroom. I could read every book I’ve got!
It will never happen. Before I stop and think for any duration about how dismal it would be to have read every book I own, I find myself cavilling at my New Best Toy. Why isn’t it rechargable? I want to dump it into a cradle last thing at night, where it will charge up again ready for the next night. I want it to have a screen that can be placed on the left or the right (because if you’re not shielding the light from someone, why are you using a booklight?).
Does anyone know where this iPod of booklights can be found, or are we just going to have to build it ourselves?
That’s Pliny the Elder, whose Naturalis Historia is for some reason extracted on BBC Radio 3’s website. You may have stumbled across it while looking for those generous MP3s of all the Beethoven symphonies the Beeb is currently giving away.
Pliny is tucked away on a programme I’d never heard of before, Between the Ears. Next up, this Saturday, is a 20 minute soundscape of the soon-to-be-demolished Gateshead multi-storey carpark. Phil Daoust on the Guardian’s new arts blog has this on the piece:
Philip Tagney, Felix Carey and Iain Chambers turn out to be gathering sounds for a piece of musique concrète, constructed from naturally occurring noises distorted and manipulated with good old analogue technology. “Doors are an ongoing interest for the three of us,” says Carey, who describes hinge-oilers as “the bane of our lives”. “Slow them down and you get these amazing melodies you just wouldn’t have imagined.”
It could hardly sound more magical (if you’re suspecting sarcasm at this point, you’re wrong). I’m still kicking myself for missing the National Theatre of Brent’s Complete and Utter History of the Mona Lisa the other day on Radio 4 so don’t, for pity’s sake, let me miss two only-on-radio triumphs in a week:
Art-lovers might like to note this is the very first time an historic work of art has actually been re-created on radio exactly as it would have been done at the time. Please note: doing the Mona Lisa at home should not be attempted by listeners unless under expert guidance.
We were there, boys, we were there.
Just in case it doesn’t get any better than this during the Ashes summer, let’s briefly throw our hats (or as on Monday evening at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, cardboard beer trays) in the air and celebrate England thumping the Aussies. A sharp low sun cut across a heaving ground as the cheers rose inexorably and the obliging visitors did everything they could to make a bits & bobs England team look like whipcrack world-beaters.
They’re not, of course, so as it most likely won’t get much better than this…oh, wait. If you, dear reader, are from the west country, it just did.
From the otherwise fabulously pointless Regret the error site comes this beauty, collected from the National Post in Canada:
In a letter to the editor from Andrew Burrowes in Tuesday’s National Post, a quotation from a previous letter-writer, Robert Randall, in Mondays Post, should have read “prejudice against homosexuals … should not be tolerated in this country, even when masquerading as ‘religious freedom.’ ” A word was incorrectly omitted in Tuesday’s Post. The Post regrets the error.
The site almost has no need to point out exactly which word was omitted. At which point we all, like giggling schoolboys, recall the 1631 so-called ‘Adulterer’s Bible’ which spectacularly omitted ‘not’ from the seventh commandment.
While we’re noting things from things, please do brush up your knowledge of scrap-metal dealing in Kazakhstan (particularly this, although you can skip slide 11 if you are of a sensitive nature.
Thank Banksy for that. The fabled Peckham rock is on display at the Outside Institute, on generous loan from the British Museum.
The same Banksy, that is, responsible for these gorgeous pastoral landscapes of this green unpleasant land.
I was reading how the Daily Mail will soon be Britain’s biggest paper with its fiery compound of middle class aspirations (a thinner body, house prices rising, moving abroad) and anxieties (trying to get a thinner body, house prices falling, foreigners moving here). A jaunty sidebar to the article made plain how we have moved from the unremitting optimism of the thirties (epitomised by the Daily Express), through the unionism and welfare statism of the Mirror of the fifties, through smash and grab years of the Sun, to the bleak apocalypticism of the Mail.
I don’t think it’s adequate to raise an eyebrow and tut that, you know, things these days are pretty comfortable for most people in Britain, so whingeing about house building and transport policy as if the country’s about to collapse is a little self-indulgent. I think the point is that the moaning Mail thrives precisely because its readership is very comfortable indeed, and therefore feels that it’s got a great deal to lose.
The newspaper readership of the fifties was still, to a significant extent, looking forward to indoor toilets. For Mirror readers then, things were visibly getting better, hence the solidarity and positive outlook. Today’s Mail readership, by contrast, sounds bored, soft, uncertain and directionless. If you’re not on the rise, they seem to say, you’re heading for a fall.
Coincidentally, I noticed one of those exclamatory weekly magazines on the newstand. I can’t remember if it was Now!, Heat!, Help! or Cobblers!, but it had the most wonderfully expressive coverlines:
Blind? Who cares?
Breast cancer? Who cares?
Games that make kids go psycho
Which last is a promotional offer that surely can’t be beat.