Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ante hoc

Our problem is not misdiagnosing causality, but being too influenced by the inertia of prior tradition: not a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy but on the contrary, an ante hoc ergo propter hoc one.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Fold to Infinity

If Deleuze's Le pli: Leibniz et la baroque (1991) made no reference at all to fractals, I could understand it as an attempt to limit the concept of 'the fold' to a Leibnizian, Baroque context and idiom. If he referred throughout to fractals I could understand it better: because surely fractals most perfectly emobody the fold to infinity ('the Baroque trait twists and turns its folds, pushing them to infinity, fold over fold, one upon the other. The Baroque fold unfurls all the way to infinity' [3]). The puzzling thing is that Deleuze does neither: he mentions Mandlebrot once ('Mandlebrot's fractal dimension as a fractional or irrational number, a nondimension; an interdimension' 17) and not again. Which in turn makes me wonder: does the fact that this books makes me think of fractals mean that I just haven't understood this book?

Friday, 29 October 2010

On the literal interpretation of the Bible

One thing is clear: that Christians who undertake a literal interpretation of the Bible (claiming that the cosmos was made in six days, for instance; or that Joshus made the sun stand still at noon) are more than in error. They are blasphemous. I don't doubt their blasphemy is unconscious, and therefore forgiveable. But they are inconsistent to their own beliefs.

Christians must believe that God is Truth, or they could hardly call themselves Christians. Indeed, any Christian will believe that Truth is the cornerstone of their faith. To believe that there is only one mode of truth, a narrowly literalist A-maps-to-B correspondance understanding of Truth, is therefore to believe that God Himself is narrowly literalist and bound by correspondance; is to foist your own finite, limited, human understanding of 'truth' onto the God you worship. Because, of course, God's truth is much more than narrowly literalist. The Bible does not describe a pedant God. God's truth is surely much grander and wider, much more metaphorical and wide-ranging, than this. Neither Shakespeare's greatest poetry nor Beethoven's symphonies are true in the narrow pedantic literalist sense; yet they are truer in ways closer to God's truth than any timid legalistic faux-precision.

So: by insisting upon a pedantically literalist interpretation of the Bible, you are attempting to confine God upon the procrustean bed of your own mental limitations. Don't.

Thursday, 28 October 2010


There are 8760 hours in a year, which is quite a cool descending number. But wait: that's a regular 365-day year. What about the extra quarter day that adds the leap-year's 29th Feb every four years? But it's not quite a a whole quarter day. Could it be that the average length of a year in hours is 8765 hours, 43 minutes and 21 seconds?

Could it? Could it?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Round numbers

The idiom of 'round numbers' is a strange one. In what sense is 100 (say) a nice round number ...? Surely it's characterised, rather, by an unusual flatness? The gorgeous snailshell curl of an irrational number, always progressing in an ever-tightening neverending spiral, converging on the perfect iteration, is a much better fit for the 'round number'. π, the roundest number of all!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


A: My thought can reach the moon, though I cannot. So is my thought stronger than I.

B: You can go to places that surprise your thought; and the only moon your thought can reach is its own imaginary thought-made moon. So are you stronger than your thought.

Monday, 25 October 2010


As far as I can see, the point of kenosis is not just to empty oneself of one's will, but to do so in order to be filled with the pure inerrant will of God. Of course it's also possible to imagine a secular kenosis, where the individual will is emptied to be filled with the will of the Volk or the Leader; or even to be empty simply to empty, as a meditative exercise. But in this latter case, aren't we talking of emptying oneself as a prelude to filling oneself with oneself? Letting the mind lie fallow of itself, say. Jesus. Bollocks to that.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Ice age? Ice youth, more like.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Admiral poem

I am Admiral of all I survey:
The handkerchief sails;
The coat-tail wakes.

The waves twang and snap, and
wind rubs their black tips white.

The guns weep cannonballs
and the smoke grows horizontally,
crunky, fractal as cauliflower.

Friday, 22 October 2010


It's not that the barbarians are at the gates -- in a symbolic sense, barbarians are our gates.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Generated by Charles Gaggage's remarkable difference machine.

For was it not young Robbie Coltraine who said 'to bebopaloobopawapboom, or not to bebopaloobopawapboom. That is the question.'

I went into a Lidl once. Ironically it was quite big.

The Bangles' original version of their global hit 'Walk Like An Egyptian' was the less savoury 'Wank Like An Egyptian'.

People talk about 'the tyranny of the School gates.' Not much of a tyranny, though, is it: compared with, say, Caligula.

A + d + a + (n + n). That about sums me up.

Is there enough moisturiser in this pot to do the whole of my leg? How deep is the lotion? How high is the thigh?

Eating a tiny piece of fish with James Bond! Just brilliant! A quantum of Sole -- ace!

I like to transform birds into ocean-going vessels. I follow the lead of the world bestselling book, *To Keel A Mockingbird.

You have to hand it to J K Rowling: it takes guts to make your terrifying super-villain half-human, half-vole.

Shropshire! Placid, calm, pastoral ... unlike its neighbouring county, where everyone seems so angry: Stropshire.

Terror of the deep! -- Hideous Bloodsucking Marine Bivalves! -- THE CLAM-PIRE!

Did you see that skeleton at the Commonwealth Games? Man, he was performing out of his skin!

The irony was that when the tramp actually got up *onto* the trampolene, the authorities had him removed!

Ding dong dell, pussy's in the well. Who put her in? That bloody Leslie Philips -- I heard him do his catchphrase as he pushed her. The swine.

Quite like the thought of going hang-gliding. Certainly more so than Electricchair-gliding or Firingsquad-gliding.

I've been walking around with my head stuck through a full-sized harp. I heard that the girls are going crazy for a harp dressed man.

My pal, Timothy Thepresent, is simply unique. There really is no Tim like Thepresent.

I've got so many enormous sheets of peanut brittle to eat! I suppose I'd better get cracking.

21st novel of middle-class Scottish family on holiday in Swiss Alps: We Ski Galore.

Mario Vargas Llosa wins 2010 Nobel Prize in literature. He's the world's second most famous Mario, the first if you exclude video games. Has now changed his name by deed poll to Mario Vargas Wwinner.

My bike suspension may need looking at. As I cycled in this morning it was making noises like the between-scenes bass fills in Seinfeld.

Taking photographs of herring in little waistcoats and kilts is laughably easy. It's shooting fish in apparrel.

I've had my main entrance chubb lock moved right to the bottom of the door. I prefer things low key.

Call me pedantic, but I don't see how we can continue to call Sunday Sunday after the Sun has set.

I'm thinking of performing a theatrical monologue about Vegetables at next year's Edinburgh Fringe: the Veg-in-a-monologue. It should be a hit with anybody who has a vegetable. And that's most people.

What ever happened to that Pigbag Papa got? It must be quite old now.

She moves, she moves. She bangs, she bangs. She may have fireworks in her backpack, actually.

Steve 'Jane' Austen: six million dollar manners.

If we're talking about writing, it's: 'show, don't tell.' If it's the proposed Terry Venables striptease, it's: 'Tel, don't show.'

You've seen, at doctors, those wallcharts breaking down the chemical constituents of urine? That's the Peeriodic Table.

This Adie Aitchdee individual seems like bad news for kids. Somebody should lock him up or something.

Do you remember in the 1980s, when the Thin White Duke briefly fronted Bow Wow Wow and they were renamed Bowwowwowie?

Ikea sold me a wardrobe in seven dimensions. You couldn't make it up!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Voice of the Century

This phrase was much-repeated in the obituaries of Joan Sutherland. And, undeniably, her voice was a splendid and beautiful thing -- but calling it 'the voice of the century' is exactly wrong. Hers was the voice out of the previous century -- as if, on the strength of the excellence of Landor's Latin verse we called him 'the poet of his age'. I've been idly contemplating the most plausible candidates for 'voice of the (20th) century', and I'd say I've narrowed it down to: Ella Fitzgerald; Elvis Presley; John Lydon. Not sure there are any other candidates.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


The call came to abandon the Earth. By ones and twos, by scores and hundreds, individual and families and communities launched into space in their various civilian craft to muster in Laplace 2. The Noös armada would enter Solar Space in less than a day, and although the Fleet was preparing a last stand to defend the home planet there was no hope in any of the admirals’ hearts. ‘We must not be unrealistic,’ said Admiral Marie Laplace de Chardin. ‘Either we should muster our ships in a battle formation in Earth orbit, or else we should flee before the superior firepower of the Noös and accompany the civilian exodus.’

‘Cowardice,’ grunted Admiral Zen Sang. He was a traditionalist. He would genuinely have preferred death to dishonour.

‘I too want to fight,’ said Admiral Paterson. ‘If you could obtain for me only half a dozen of those Noö-built furnace-cannons with which to do so….’

‘Clearly they outgun us,’ agreed Admiral Laplace. ‘Clearly their craft can outmanoeuvre ours. We could not defeat them; the most we could do is inflict percentage damage upon some of their attack cruisers. But I doing so we would be annihilated.’

‘We are soldiers,’ said Admiral Zen, fiercely.

‘There is another way,’ said Admiral Laplace. ‘We could accompany the civilian exodus not as an escort, but as a spearhead. Set co-ordinates on the Impstar System with our laser-cannon primed.’

‘Impstar. Why there?’ queried Admiral Pavel.

‘To colonise it.’

‘I’m not sure of the wisdom of this,’ said Admiral Paterson, ‘The Impstarers may be primitive by our standards—but they are fierce nevertheless. Those scales of theirs can withstand more punishment than our more permeable skin. Their craft though cumbersome, and though only armed with projectile-launchers, are still not to be trifled with.’

‘We would defeat them!’ insisted Zen.

‘Of course we would,’ agreed Laplace. ‘We would suffer some casualties, but would eventually annihilate their fleet. That would leave the way open to cleanse their two habitable worlds and make way for our displaced populations.’

‘Impstar Prime,’ said Pavel, meditatively. ‘I have seen documentaries … it is not as beautiful as Earth, but it is fertile and warm.’

‘However,’ said Zen, with a certain distaste, ‘to exterminate an entire population …’

‘An alien population,’ Paterson reminded them.

The military men were silent for a little while.

‘There is another way,’ said Admiral Laplace. ‘We announce to the Impstars that we are coming. We tell them that our plans require us to destroy them utterly within three days. Not to enslave them, but to wipe them out. They will weigh the options, and leave—abandon their worlds and fly elsewhere. They will do this because the alternative is suicide.’

‘Fly elsewhere,’ mused Pavel. ‘To where, I wonder?’

‘That is not our concern,’ said Laplace. ‘There are many other systems…’

‘… all already inhabited …’ put in Paterson.

‘…yes,’ said Laplace, becoming a little angry. ‘All inhabited. But they will surely find amongst the cosmos a system at an inferior level of technical development into which they can move. Some system with only chemical rockets, perhaps; or a system as yet incapable of sustained spaceflight of any kind. That is not our concern. Our concern is our people. We must prepare for our necessary invasion. We must frame a warning message.’ She stood, and the rest of the Admirals also came to their feet.

‘A warning message,’ suggested Pavel, ‘such as the one the Noös broadcast to us two days ago?’


‘I wonder,’ Pavel mused ‘who it is that is displacing the Noös? They must be frighteningly advanced, if they can outgun so terrifying a race.’

‘We do not know for certain,’ growled Zen, ‘that the Noös are being displaced. Perhaps they are merely belligerent.’

‘Perhaps,’ conceded Pavel. ‘But I do not think so.’

They went about their business; reported to the flight decks of their various space destroyers, calculated their orbits about Earth. When I say ‘Earth’ of course I am translating their term into our tongue. Their Earth was not our planet, not yours and mine; just as they were not ‘Admirals’ and their names were not Earth names. This is the nature of translation. None of the speakers in this exchange were human beings. Humanity was not so highly placed in the cosmic technological hierarchy as were these peoples. We, alas, are somewhere lower. Indeed I find myself wondering where, exactly, are we placed in the domino-sequence of disaster, destruction and exile of which these individuals are a part. I find myself wondering where we would go, or whether we could, when the chain of cause-and-effect reaches our system.

Monday, 18 October 2010


Herder's Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit ('Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man' 1841) asserts that 'Immer verjüngt in neuen Gestalten, blüht der Genius der Humanität': The genius of humanity blooms in continually renovated Gestalt. Gestalt, the dictionary tells me, is: 'form, shape, figure, character, person, frame, build.' But of those seven items, only one ('frame') really fits Herder's apothegm; and that's not really the one he meant.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Flock in Flight Poem

The flock, in flight,
makes the air below them heavier
than the air above.

All day, all night,
Their muscles churn air airier
and thick as love.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

No, no.

Throw, thrown. Grow, grown. No, known. Which is to say: as we move from the present perspective on now to the present perspective of then, the seed of knowledge is negation.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Noah returns to Ararat

When I was last here this was the only land.
Before ocean shrank here was no valley of
any shadow of death; no valley of
any kind, no tanglement, the only love
that strictly-in-the-family-love.
And life was smaller then. And small
is easier to adore. And that is all. And—

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Cosmic Morse

Iterating itself across the galactic page: blackhole, blackhole, blackhole; comettail, comettail, comettail; blackhole, blackhole, blackhole ...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Architectural Tsunami (Earthquake Poem)

Alarmingly the buildings rear
a stone tsunami, higher, higher:
We who walk the city ways,
know deep-down that every wave,
however long it hangs in air,
will one day come crashing hard
upon the unresisting tar.
Hurry, now, along the street!
Before the tower and pavement meet.
Move your panic stricken feet!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Mac Flecknoe

I think people have underestimated the scatological aspect of Dryden's Mac Flecknoe; or, A satyr upon the True-Blew-Protestant Poet, T.S. (1682) and its attack upon Thomas Shadwell. In part this pivots upon very simple thing: the habit in modern editions of replacing Dryden's original 'Sh----' with Shadwell's full name. To read:
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through and make a lucid interval;
But Shadwell's genuine night admits no ray,
His rising fogs prevail upon the day:
--is to read a witty jibe at the expense of a person. To read:
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through and make a lucid interval;
But Sh-----'s genuine night admits no ray,
His rising fogs prevail upon the day:
--is to remind the reader that letters in a word are as often omitted for reason of propriety as anonymity. This latter, in other words, encourages us to read the poem as being about 'Shitter' (conceivably: as about 'Shatwell'; but perhaps that would be a touch too refined), or in places simply as about 'Shit'. So 'Shitter's 'rising fogs' become noisome faecal gases, whilst
Here Flecknoe, as a place to fame well known,
Ambitiously design'd his Shitter's throne.
--invokes the toilet, still called 'the throne' in some parts of England. Or:
Much Heywood, Shirley, Ogleby there lay,
But loads of Shadwell almost chok'd the way.
--which suggests publishers' remainders, as opposed to
Much Heywood, Shirley, Ogleby there lay,
But loads of Shitte almost chok'd the way.
--which makes more pertinent reference to ordure.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sensibility and Sentimentality

The difference between Sensibility and Sentimentality is that the former grounds its affect in the empatheticmotion towards the other, where the former grounds it in a sense of self-satisfaction that the subject.s own feeking

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Atheists and Adiabolists

There are those who believe in the literal existence of both God and the Devil, of course. And of course there are atheists who are also adiabolists. There are even some who, motivated by a committment to a God of perfect Love, believe in God but not in the Devil. What I'm interested in is whether there are any people who believe in the Devil but not God? Given the enormous diversity of peoples' beliefs, I'd be surprised if there weren't; but how would such a belief-system pan out?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Leda and Swanage

I used to think Yeats's 'Leda and the Swan' a great poem (for whatever metric of 'great' I used to think applied): beautifully written -- I still think that -- but also profound and true. Now I'm not so sure. The crux is:
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
The offhand 'shudder' for the male orgasm is (it strikes me now) rather self-regarding: a uniquely male grandiosity, 'it's only a sort of pleasurable tremble for me, but it brings DEATH and FIRE and EPIC AMAZINGNESS INTO THE WORLD!' This, it now seems to me, is a lie; not only in its quasi-adolescent masculine attempt to add meaning and grandeur to the absolutely perfectly commonplace spurting-out of sperm, but in the underlying rationale of the poem: that men make life and life makes epic tragedy. As if women have nothing to do with it! As if the comedic positivity engendered in life doesn't outweigh the destructiveness in the ratio of 9:1, by any objective assessment!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Trover and Replevin

Trover is an action at tort to recover the value of goods unlawfully taken. Replevin is the action to recover the goods themselves. The legal system running through, in proleptic form, the debates over signification and deferral of the late 20th century Theory wars ...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park was written 1812-14. I have a hunch that the title picks up some resonance from Lord Mansfield, who had been Chief Justice 1756-88 and whose name is particularly associated with the high importance of habeus corpus as a bulwark of individual liberty. Constructing a reading of the novel from this point of view would be by way of addressing Said's famous reservations about the novel: for it was this jurist who was, practically speaking, responsible for the abolition of slavery in the British realm.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


Why can't I buy a dictionary of dictionaries? There's surely enough of them to merit such an understaking.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


What the eye sees and cannot stop seeing,
and what it never sees.
What the ear hears, and the tongue tastes.

The heart is shaped like a cloud at sunset
and dark, and heavy, and the rain
it puts out falls to the ground and deeper than that.

Monday, 4 October 2010


Clive Ponting's Green History notes that although hominids are four million years old or so, homo sapiens sapiens has been around for 100,000 years. His subsequent claim that 'hunter-gatherer societies have accounted for ninety-nine percent of human history' looks a little hard to parse. (Perhaps 96% lacks rhetorical bite?). But it's also making a tacit, normative claim: this is what human beings are really about, all this farming-and-living-in-cities malarkey is, in historical times, abberrative. But not so! The moral force of hunting and gathering, as a lifestyle, is the now; but the moral force of farming -- and even more, of the timetabled life of the mechanical city -- is the future; planting seeds for next season, storing food for the winter and the seeds for next year. The turn to farming carries with it its own abnegation of the nowism of hunting. It rewires humanity to look forward (farming and manufacture will have accounted for 99% of homo sapiens sapiens' existence). It is, wary though I am of overusing this rhetorical trick on this blog, science fiction ...

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Becoming again as a child

I watch this, and I think to myself: people do not talk about the negative side of becoming again as a child. 'Unless you return to the bullying in-crowd outcast logic of the school playground, you cannot see the kingdom of God ...'

Saturday, 2 October 2010


The problem with Realism is that it is almost inevitably superficial. But the problem with the metaphorical modes of fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, 'magic realism' and the like, is almost that they are too deep.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Free will

‘When a determinist claims that our free choice is ‘determined’, this does not mean that our free will is somehow ‘constrained’, that we are forced to act against our will—what is ‘determined’ is the very thing that we want to do ‘freely’, that is , without being thwarted by external obstacles.’ Žižek In Defence of Lost Causes [447]

OK; but this doesn't address the question of why it feels constraining. If I choose to make tea rather than coffee, and am then told that actually I had no choice, I was always going to choose to make tea, it feels weirdly (though, I suppose, notionally) violating, as if the cosmos has stuck its imaginary finger into my head and swizzled my volitional dial.