Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Day after the Night Before

Last night we went Ten Pin Bowling. League bowling. We played against a really good team. Fortunately for us, the handicap system levelled the odds and we beat them. They were very gracious and sporting in defeat. I only fowled twice. I've been trying not to fowl at all. Must be my long legs, or maybe my shoes are too long! It never used to happen. My wife played well. She scored higher than me, although I have a lower handicap than her. When she is on form she is REALLY on form. One night she scored 200. I've never managed to top that. She had her name up in the high scorers list over the reception desk. That was in the previous bowling alley we used to play in. Its now condemned - due for demolition some time soon! I used to play there in the 1960's - happy days.

The fun of last night had its knock on affect today. I'm feeling really tired and I've got a pain in the right knee. Must be the pressure on that leg at the moment of launching the 16lb bowling ball. The upshot is we're not going to the gym tonight, staying in to watch the new series of "The Apprentice" instead.

I felt the urge to write tonight, but I'm not feeling that inspired. This entry is more cathartic I suppose. I've had a busy day at work and had to work a bit later to tie up loose ends as I'm having a day out tomorrow. Hopefully, something deep and insightful might come to me. Anyway, today's entry is more in the spirit of a blog - on line diary, although I never used to write a diary in this style. I did a page a day noting down in intricate detail my daily comings and goings. In the end, it got too much, or I got too lazy - not sure which. I've got an idea to talk about dreams and false memories. Then there's reincarnation - now THAT'S interesting - and a bit weird. Time to go.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Creative photographers are always on the look out for a visual factor which imbibes the "wow" factor in their images. I am no different in this respect. The photograph pictured is one I took recently at - yes, you've guessed it - Wells -Next- the -Sea in Norfolk (before the recent high tide and storm). To my mind, the dramatic sky and soft evening post sunset lighting does seem to embue it with something of the wow factor. I don't know; I like it anyway!

I am, in my own way, quite passionate about the pictures I take. I like to try and give each one that little extra something that makes it stand out from the crowd. There is a world of difference between taking a snap shot and taking a photograph. A snap shot is quite simply taking a quick look through the viewfinder at Mabel and Fred, saying "smile" and pressing the button with the camera set on full auto. Apologies to Mabel and Fred - no offence intended. I am not saying there is no value in snap shotting, before any offended snap shotter gets the wrong idea. The snap shots of today are bread and butter to the future historian trying to build up a picture in the 23rd century of what life was like for Mabel and Fred in the 21st. However, real photography for me, goes beyond the snapshot. You are constantly looking for images which make some kind of statement, have depth, make one ponder them for that bit longer, make you want to frame them, publish them in your Blog, see them published in a book - or whatever. I think by now, if I'm not boring you too much, what I am trying to say is that in real photography you are trying to capture something of the soul of the landscape, building, person......etc.

Photography is very subjective, and personal. While the technical side is objective the picturing side is not. The technical side is about focal length, shutter speed, hyperfocal distance, aperture, relative aperture, inverse square law, and a whole lot more besides. The picturing side is a different matter completely. Technical savvy in photography is a great help in getting a properly exposed and in-focus image. However, the actual picturing bit springs from the inner being of the photographer himself. It is an expression of that which is meaningful to him, never mind anyone else. It speaks to the inner being, suggestive of a depth of reality beyond the casual perception. It is a quest which never ends and is never truly satisfied. Occasionally, you might produce the odd shot which makes you go "wow", but the emotion is fickle. The truly dedicated photographer is never satisfied for long and very quickly back on the hunt.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Let the Music Play.

When the new millenium was ushered in and there was much rejoicing and celebrating, I hoped we were heading into a more enlightened age where technological, scientific, and civilized advances went hand in hand. However, I felt rather depressed at the same time because I knew deep down in my heart that the "civilized " bit was something of a vain hope. My depression hit a new low in 2001 with the Twin Towers atrocity, and the sight of people in Pakistan and elsewhere dancing in the streets and celebrating at the death of all those people repulsed me more than I can say. Going by what has happened since the dawning of this new age of enlightenment, we seem to be heading into a new Dark Age of general ignorance where people increasingly seem to apply very little reason, logic or objectivity to their thinking - becoming captive to "faiths" (in my vocabulary faith = ignorant unreason), and this seems to be all that is needed to trigger and justify mass murder. We have a leader across the Atlantic who has faith in a god who seemingly gives him permission to invade another country which did not in any way pose a threat to us, while the real black- hats were re-grouping in Afghanistan and the badlands of Pakistan. They are now happily taking over villages, terrorising the women, throwing out anything good and cutting off the heads of people who step the slightest bit out of line. Meanwhile in Africa, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are happily going about their business bringing war, torture, disease, destitution, destruction, famine and just about every other evil imaginable to its bewildered inhabitants. All our efforts to heal this tortured continent seem futile against the overwhelming enormity of the task and abject lack of quality of much of the African leadership. I could easily go on ad-infinitum, but I won't because there is only so much my depression levels can take before I start getting angry. I don't want to get you too depressed either - thats if you are still reading this. Anyway, I am feeling physically very relaxed at the moment having been to the gym this evening. At least the little bubble of the planet in which I experience my existance is full of peace and calm at the moment. I suppose if everybody in the world did one small thing to expand their own bubble of calm, we might be somewhere towards the solution. Bob Dylan is playing out of his Blonde on Blonde album as I write. The music is calming to the soul, well mine at least! I love music. The beauty of music is that its effects are immediate. Its not like taking a headache pill and and waiting half an hour for the pain to go away. The shivers come immediately down the spine, the tears start flowing spontaineously, the joy bursts forth and my soul is marinaded in the sheer beauty of the melodies and cadencies soaking through to my being. Maybe what we need to solve the problems of the world is for everyone to sit down together and tune in to some good music. I speak as a fool of course! I'm so happy, I almost feel like making another cup of tea! In fact I think I will.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Future present

I don't know how many of you good people out there have read any of Geoff Dyer's books. Dyer is extolled by the Daily Telegraph as "Quite possibly the best living writer in Britain".
This may well be a true statement, but if it is, it is lost on most bookshops I visit. I find it very hard to find his books. I search the shelves at the far side of the "D"s only to find an "E" where Dyer should be. Yes - I know I could order his books off the net - but that's not the point! I love the thrill of the chase, and just simply pressing a few buttons on my computer and exposing my bank details (very risque) just doesn't float my boat.

Anyway, why do I like Dyer? Well if you have read any of Dyer's books you will know why I like Dyer, and if you haven't read any of Dyer's books then read one of Dyer's books and then you will know why I like Dyer. If it is still lost on you, its no good me trying to explain it - you are obviously a lost cause!

In "Yoga for People Who Can't be Bothered to Do It", Dyer talks about an ancient ruined town he visited as a child with his parents - well, his mother at least. He had a yearning to go back, and eventually did, and the journey is recounted in his book. The place is Leptis Magna in Libya. Apart from being a very funny writer, he is also very deep at times - and profound. On visiting Leptis Magna, he talks about the common view that ruins and ruined places take us to the past. We are led to think about the people who built these places, their lifestyles, and the tragedies and pitfalls of time which led to the once-splendid building, village, town, city becoming the ruin we find today. However, Dyer doesn't see it like that. He stands that view on its head. The ruins do not point just to the past, but they equally point to the future. Ultimately, ruin and decay is where all our civilization is headed. That is what the passage of time does. Whenever I stand in front of a mirror, I see a ruin of my former self! I am a two legged ruin!

I love visiting old ruins. The one pictured here is Slains Castle near Peterhead in Scotland where I visited last November. Slains has an atmosphere all of its own. It is particularly attractive for me, because I find it very photogenic in a Gothic sort of way. Also, you don't have to pay to visit it because it is a genuine ruin - its not "preserved" by any society, so you can just jaunt along the track and explore its exposed stones and hidden places. A reason why it might not be in the possession of some such society is its position: it is perched at the top of a sheer high cliff with jagged rocks below waiting to rip your flesh and crack your bones. Explore at your peril. The castle has a dark ambiance about it. This was not lost on the writer Bram Stoker who stayed there before it became a ruin - I don't suppose he was in the habit of waiting for places to become ruins before staying in them........ Anyway, what the hell was I saying?? Oh yes - Stoker found in Slains the inspiration for Dracula Castle in his book "Dracula".

Whilst it is true that I do not believe in ghosts, or any other supernatural entities for that matter, I can nevertheless understand why people think they see, hear or feel ghosts in such places. Its as if the stones have a kind of an imprint in them, an echo if you like, of past events within and around them. Just sitting, or standing quietly in amongst ruins, you get a sense of timelessness, and a sense of the passing ages cocking a snoot at our perceived superiority made manifest in stone. But now, those stones are falling, and their cutters and builders have long since returned to dust, as will we also, and our great buildings of today which command so much awe and wonder, go the way of Leptis Magna.

Dyer was right.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ghostly not

Its quite late now and I'm starting to feel tired. Its been a busy day. On the TV we've watched David Jason as Inspector Frost. Brilliant stuff. We've also seen who the latest wannabe popstar is who has been booted out of American Idle. Now showing is a non-show. I say its a non-show because its about ghosts. As ghosts do not exist, there's not really much to make a show about. People are staying in a supposedly extremely haunted pub over night. Although they report seeing things and hearing things the camera picks up nothing. They pick up nothing because there is nothing to pick up. I'll say it again: ghosts do not exist. It erks me that people actually get paid for producing these programs - about that which does not exist. Its all in the mind you see - all in the mind............

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Open the pod bay doors HAL.

I am very conscious of the fact that if I am not careful, this blog could become the equivalent of an on-line diary, where I am continually spilling the beans about what I've been up to on any particular day. Well, not today - no sirree - I'm not going to tell you about my photography trip to Hunstanton and Wells next the Sea where the weather was wonderful and I took some fantastic photographs. No, you don't want to know about that, though the subject may well creep in on a future occasion. I will, however talk about my favourite film - "2001: A Space Odyssey", and the immeasurable loss to the world in 1999 of its brilliant director, Stanley Kubrick.

As a young lad, I became fascinated by space travel and astronomy following the launch into space in 1961 of the Russian, Yuri Gagarin. I started to read a lot of science fiction books and particularly liked the books of Arthur C Clarke. What I like about Arthur is that his books are what I call "proper" science fiction, rather than fantasy. Star Wars, for example is a fantasy because it is not set in any particular reality where the discoveries and technologies resulting from science are fast forwarded into future outcomes. It's more a "Good versus Evil" comic strip fiction morality tale set in a galaxy far, far away! In this sense, Clarke's books (in the main), follow the "proper" sci-fi pattern, though it could be argued that his early work "Childhood's End" is more of a pseudo-religious fantasy. If any of you have read this book and seen "Independence Day", you might have spotted a slight overlap in their respective plots. If you don't know what I'm on about, I'll leave it to you to find out for yourself - far be it from me to quench the spirit of enquiry! There's also a rather BIG overlap between "Independence Day" and Clarke's final "Odyssey" book, "3001". I won't give the game away on that one either!

Following his success directing some brilliant films, like "Dr Strangelove" and "Paths of Glory", Stanley Kubrick, in the early 1960's set about producing the "Proverbial Science Fiction Film". It was from this that "2001: A Space Odyssey"" was born. The story has its roots in a short story by Arthur C Clarke about an alien artifact planted on the Moon . The story was called "The Sentinel". The basic idea was developed and expanded in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick. What I find really interesting is that Kubrick was well into the making of the film, and still didn't know how to end it! Apparently, he discussed the possible endings with Arthur Clarke over a meal. The final scenes of the film are so mind - blowing, you could be forgiven for thinking Kubrick was on drugs when he filmed it. The film was released to an unsuspecting public in 1968, after 4 years of filming and an expenditure of some £10 million, an enormous budget for the time. The timing of the release could not have been better, with the astronauts of Apollo 8 due to circumnavigate the Moon that December, and the first manned landing on the lunar surface the following year.

2001 set new standards for film making in the 20th Century. No one before Kubrick had managed to produce such realistic and believable, not to mention beautiful, cinematic scenes depicting space flight. It knocked all previous films into a cocked hat, and at a stroke ensured that the cinematic experience of such themes would never be the same again. I liked the film so much, I went and saw it at the cinema no less than 15 times. Some of those viewings were at the "Casino Cinerama" no longer extant, in the West End of London. A copy of the film is now sat proudly, along with a bunch of other Kubrick masterpieces on my DVD rack.

Following 2001, Kubrick went on to direct other brilliant and memorable works, such as "A Clockwork Orange" "The Shining", and "Full Metal Jacket" - all of which, to my mind are classic masterpieces which people will continue to enjoy into the distant future. There is a certain, almost indefinable quality about all of Kubrick's films. He was an absolute perfectionist, who insisted on filming scenes over and over again, until the result was as close to perfection as the actors could achieve. There is also a certain atmosphere - longer than usual lingering shots, pregnant pauses where people say nothing, but rather contemplate. His scenes are never rushed, but always carefully judged to convey the intended impact. In "Barry Lyndon", for example, he only filmed in natural lighting to maintain a complete sense of realism in the atmosphere of each scene. He even had special very wide aperture lenses made up for filming scenes using only candle-light. His style was entirely his own - an almost indefinable atmosphere and quality watermarked into each work.

I was shocked and very saddened when Stanley Kubrick died in his sleep in 1999 shortly after completing filming of "Eyes Wide Shut", a psychological and erotic drama starring Tom Cruise and Nichole Kidman. As film directors go, Kubrick made relatively few films. Even so, the films which he did make, are classics of their genre, and will live on as a testament to this truly great film maker.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Has it ever happened to you that someone comes up to you on the street and they start chatting to you, calling you by your name like they've known you all their lives? The only trouble is you can't remember them from Adam, - but rather than blurt out "who the hell are you???" - you continue the conversation as best you can, pretending you know them like they know you. You hope against hope they don't start cornering you into a conversational area which will reveal your ignorance of them. This seems to happen to me a lot. It may be that I really ought to know who this person is, but old age and creeping senility are conspiring against me. I then spend the next few hours banging my head against the wall trying to remember! I speak figuratively of course! If I really did keep banging my head against the wall, I would either be locked up or dead. Either way, I wouldn't be sat here now writing this. I went to the gym this evening and was immediately confronted by a bloke I did know, but just couldn't remember his first name! Then, on leaving the gym for the changing room, a woman came up to me and said "Steve - fancy meeting you here!" She looked vaguely familiar, and I felt I should have known her - but just couldn't quite place her. Anyway, I stumbled on awkwardly with the conversation, racking my poor brain cell to no avail. Later it occured to me that she might work close to me - probably in the same building. Investigations tomorrow will reveal whether or not I am right. Is this some degenerative thing I suffer from?? Why do so many people seem to know me, but I don't know them? Maybe its all part of some cosmic plot to drive me mad. Oh well, not to worry - tomorrow is another day. Or at least it might be if I can even recognise myself in the mirror!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Married Bliss!!!

Last night I spent an entertaining few hours on the internet, catching up on interesting and entertaining web sites, and having invigorating and intellectually stimulating email conversations with fellow cyber-spacers. Falling into bed, feeling very good with the world, my dear wife drowsily asks "You haven't been doing that bloody blog again have you?"

How wonderful married life is when we can both share so enthusiastically our common interests!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Keep on Running........

Several years ago a friend of mine lent me a book called "On Running" by a guy called Dr. Sheehan. The author is American and didn't start running until late middle age. He became absolutely fanatical about the sport, and also a little weird. For instance, he didn't seem to see the need to shower after a run. As a runner myself, I can tell you that you are absolutely wringing with sweat at the end of a half decent run. Maybe he had a fettish for dried sweat! I can't remember what his stated reasons were for this, so I'd better steer away before I get sued for slander - or libel! Anyway, cutting to the chase - so to speak (geddit??), his main premise was that running is one of the best forms of exercise you can possibly do. Its great for the cardio-vascular system, increases stamina, builds character, strengthens the immune system, keeps the weight off, encourages healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle....etc..etc. I could add that it makes you so sexy that you have to fend off the girls with a stick...but I am still awaiting personal confirmation on that one! My friend who lent me the book, by the way, is knocking on 70's door, and yet still runs the London Marathon, as well as a host of other marathons every year. I saw him this morning at the tail end of the last of our local "Frostbite Friendly League" five mile road races. Like me, he started at the tail end, at the back. However, as soon as the race started and we were "off", he quickly dissappeared up ahead of me finishing the race a long way ahead of me. You see, so long as you can move on two legs, its a long time before its too late to start. In one race I entered a few years back, one guy in his mid 80's took part. It was a 10 kilometer race in the heat of Summer. With dogged persistance, he finished the race - to many a cheer from the watching spectators and fellow runners alike. I was pleased with my own performance this morning, as I've been away from road running for a little while due to a combination of reasons, so this mornings run was a kind of a "relaunch" for me. I have been going to the gym, running on the treadmill and "pumping iron" in the meantime, so I wasn't completely unfit. I also had a banana (which gives slow-release energy) and an energy drink beforehand. I had said I wasn't going to run if it was chucking it down with rain. As we made our way out to the start, it started to chuck it down with rain! Oh well, too late now - and I didn't want to let the team down. The team I speak of, is the Road Running club, of which I have been a member for a good few years. It also doubles as a drinking club, as many of our training runs start and finish at pubs! The camaradarie, friendship and motivation a good club gives you is priceless, and I recommend it to all you budding running wannabees out there. I was very pleased to find that I still had more stamina than I thought, and managed to work my way up through the field - refreshed by the rain - though not as quickly as my older friend. The gym training paid off as I didn't "die" on the up-hill stretches as I had thought I might and it was wonderful to find some energy for a sprint finish to pip another competitor at the post. There's life in the old dog yet.