CHRIS COOPER'S BLOG - infrequent forays into fun, freedom, fysics and filosophy...

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Thursday, February 12, 2004  

A new road-atlas of hell

Wandering in search of Dan Dare trivia, I came across the site of the Professor of Computer Science in the eponymous Department at the University of York. A typical geek, who atypically pumps out a steady stream of mini-reviews of current reading, predominantly SF. The Prof combines this with an impressive number of research papers, too, if January is anything to go by. In the last couple of months, these reviews were posted (links on the page) :

29 Jan 2004 • Wil McCarthy • The Collapsium
25 Jan 2004 • Laurell K. Hamilton • Narcissus in Chains
15 Jan 2004 • John Meaney • To Hold Infinity
05 Jan 2004 • J. D. Robb • Betrayal in Death
27 Dec 2003 • David Weber, Eric Flint • Crown of Slaves
23 Dec 2003 • Mercedes Lackey • Sun in Glory
22 Dec 2003 • Jane M. Lindskold • Smoke and Mirrors
16 Dec 2003 • Diane Duane • A Wizard Alone
16 Dec 2003 • Marjorie Phillips • Annabel and Curlie
11 Dec 2003 • James H. Schmitz • The Hub: Dangerous Territory

There are millions upon millions of SF links on this sprawling site. I satisfied myself that the Prof is sound on Dan Dare:

For me, SF is like poetry. I love it when I read it. I never read it.

There are delights on these pages that can never tempt me. For example:

Filk is the folk music of the science fiction community. Here are a few examples I've culled from Usenet filk news group, that demonstrate the range, from parodies to original songs, from hilarious to deadly serious.

No, please, ...

I have to own up: I'm victim to a stereotypical image of the SF-loving Trekkie computer geek: the bottle-bottom glasses, thin beard, anorak, filthy trainers, ponytail, keyboard surrounded by cokes and pizzas. I know it misses the mark in this case, because the Prof's name is Susan Stepney. But I couldn't find a picture of her anywhere on her site, so I'm stuck with the image for now.

12:11 AM

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Thursday, February 05, 2004  

The only critique of capitalism that I pay much attention to is the Dilbert strip. When you sign up for free daily delivery, don't forget to subscribe to Scott Adams' newsletter, too.

The opening of the latest one:

I'm a vegetarian, which, as you know, means that I can't lift heavy objects without snapping my spine. I'm secure enough to admit that I'm pale, frail, and I love e-mail. (Hey, I think I just designed a t-shirt!) But there's a plus side to my eating habits: I'll live to the age of 200 unless I get trapped under something heavy, like a quilt. And unlike my mammal-eating friends, I don't have to decide what sort of hideous death I want every time I look at a menu.

Scott alerted his compatriots to the arrival of The Office on American TV, so maybe he can take some of the credit for the Golden Globe it won.

1:14 AM

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004  

Out of the Shadows

"How very appropriate," said Brian Micklethwait when I turned up at a soirée of liberty-lovers last Friday, "that your last blog entry should be headed 'Gaps', considering ... "

Considering that it's been seven months since I wrote it.

I was touched that Brian had noticed. I was even more touched today to get an email from Jackie D of Au Currant , who was charming enough at Brian's meeting, but doubly so when she told me she hoped I'd get blogging again. Jackie's looking for a job: she's clearly even more attractive, intelligent and talented than I realized when I met her.

Overwhelmed by this flattering attention, I break my silence. Like stars, let my blog entries be the more dazzling for being separated by light-years of darkness.

The title of the last entry alluded to my son's gap year. He's now at university, reading English at the feet of Lisa Jardine, among others. My daughter gives off music in all directions, having just risen from the county's second youth orchestra to its first to play flute, while also taking singing lessons.

I always tell people the kids get their musical talent from their mother, but I do myself an injustice: after all, I'm sitting at the dining-table typing this with The Very Best of the Shadows as my muse. You don't get the footwork on CD, of course, but sometimes I jump up, put on a pair of huge goggles – my last bifocals but one – and do a little cross-legged dance while playing air guitar.

There's an entire orchestra behind the Shadows on many of these tracks, entirely unacknowledged on the sleeve notes. Gone as if they'd never been: all those shabbily dressed middle-aged men who could read music, but went home on the bus after the session, while the current permutation of Hank, Jet, Bruce, Tony, Brian or John rode home in what were not yet called limos.

But as the sleeve notes explain, Hank Marvin became the first British musician to own a Fender Stratocaster. The men in the session band hadn't done that.

Now somebody will tell me the personnel in those backing bands and prove that they were filled with young talent that was to hit the charts in the 70s. And all I shall learn from this is that a third person has read this blog, at least once.

A brown dwarf is born

Why should anyone be afraid of putting their fingers to the keys, just because they can't imagine what they're going to write? There's no problem about writing: some poser on the radio put it very nicely the other day: "each word calls down the next". Yeah – usually in a desperate attempt to repair the damage done by the previous one.

This entry, for instance: I didn't know it was going to be about the Shadows; but once they were in, the piece wrote itself by its own remorseless logic.

And now I have this little piece of nonsense: a soufflé, a morsel of junk food. I like it well enough, now that I've written it; and oddly enough, I know I will be even more fond of it when I look back on it months from now, with surprise, having completely forgotten it. But if I'd known in advance that this was what I was going to write, I don't think I'd have liked it well enough to have bothered.

But of course, you can never know in advance what you're going to write. You can at best know the gist – not the words. In the case of a squib like this, there isn't even a gist to know.

12:06 AM

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