Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dreams of Ordinary Men

I like this poem; if one can see the relationship between snake and kookaburra in terms of their dynamics of predation/prey, so too can one see the relationship between spider and fly (spider a totem of mine, fly an "animal of the road" that just won't go away!). It reminds me of my hubby Bjorn Erik, also, because, of all Blake's poems, he liked The Fly from Songs of Experience best

the song Dreams of Ordinary Men by the 80's NZ band Dragon.

There is an essence in the water

There is a spirit in the sky
There is a spider drawing webs
To crucify a fly

The fly is drawing nearer
Just as if he knew
How we all must fit the pattern
How the pattern must fit you

Everybody say amen
These are the dreams of ordinary men
This is the world that we'll be living in
Out of the dreams of ordinary men

I mistook all your intentions
But you never did deceive
I have a helpless fascination
For the web you wove for me

We had nightly public beatings
But we slept in private hells
And I feel no guilt or vengeance
We just couldn't help ourselves

So what's the answer I have to find
To change my world like I change my mind
And change my life
If I could only change my dreams

Sometimes, these lyrics make so much more sense when written out as poems, than when you try to listen to them on Rage!

And, by a strange synchronicity, just after this, I just happen to read, in A. S. Byatt's A Whistling Woman: "He also felt an energetic ironic contempt for church life, in which all children were said to be, were, cosmic battlefields, and yet one who heard and saw the horrible forces on the other side of the pane, pain, membrane, brain, that separated him from their full impact, could only be hustled away into a hospital ward, where madmen hummed, and caught at imaginary flies, and hid under their beds, and made missiles of their food" (my emphasis added, in the last lot of italics!).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Elliot Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity

I have just discovered my third great Australian novel (after Tim Winton's Dirt Music and Gregory Roberts' Shantaram, arguably the "War and Peace" of our times!): Elliot Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity. And he, too, like the second of these three, comes from Victoria, and not only Victoria, but disturbingly close to home, the inner south-east suburbs of Melbourne, so when he talks about these streets and stuff, I know to what he refers! He writes as I would write, if I could. He writes about things I would like to write about, both global and intensely personal. Like Peter Hoeg, Hendrik Ibsen and Gustave Flaubert ("Madame Bovary, c'est moi!"), although a man, he can describe also the inner subjectivity of women as if one of them. And, yes, he has created characters everyone can relate to, even if the characters themselves vacillate between seeing themselves as Hamlet, or the guy in Kafka's The Trial. Interesting, that he once practised as a barrister himself (hence his intimate acquaintance with the inner workings of the law and court procedure); the law itself also qualifies as a 'literary' career, according to old CES employment posters. He describes people all along the socioeconomic and demagraphic continuum with the uncanny and richly 19thC eye of a Dickens, with Dickens' sense of outrage at social inequities, especially those brought out by the apocalypse of 'globalisation' and so-called 'economic rationalism'. I found it strange that he has no apparent links to psychology or psychiatry himself, but perhaps his own acuity prevents him holding out much hope for the efficacy of any glib 'talking cure' for the things that really trouble us. I heard he got nominated for the Miles Franklin award. I hope he gets it. No one deserves it more!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The true 'braininess' of animals

I just read something really interesting in Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker, which I thought I would share with you; it concerns the 'encephalization quotient' or EQ, as worked out and used by Harry Jerison, according to Dawkins, a "leading authority on brain history".

He calculates the EQ in a rather complicated way, so as to eliminate the relative factors of brain and body weight, which suggests the amount of brain 'computing power' left over, after removing the amount of brain required for routine body maintenance; e.g. a whale has a huge body mass, and therefore a huge brain, but this does not mean that all of its brain gets used for computing or thinking, because most of the brain gets taken up just routinely maintaining the body!

Humans have an EQ of 7 according to this measure.
Monkeys are well above average, and apes (including ourselves) even higher.
Squirrels have an EQ of about 1.5, somewhat above...
Rats have an EQ of O.8, slightly below the average for all mammals.
Hippos have an EQ of O.3 (but this may not necessarily mean that humans are 23 times as clever as hippos!).

Unfortunately, no more data on particular species available, but if anyone would care to research these, it might prove really interesting! ;-))

Here's your Daily Poem from the Poetry Chaikhana --

The monkey is reaching
By Hakuin(1686 - 1768)
English version by Norman Waddell

The monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him
He'll never give up.
If he'd let go the branch and
Disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine
With dazzling pureness.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Harry Potter glossary, dramatis personae and trivia (work in progress)

There must exist others like me, out there, who, when reading or re-reading the Potter books, occasionally get lost and Confounded by the plethora of characters, creatures and specialised magical terminology, and I can only wish J. K. Rowling herself had bothered to supply such a list at the back of her books, especially as they got longer and more complicated! I present it here, folks, for all your Harry Potter trivia needs, a humble tribute to the works themselves:

Aberforth and Ariana = Albus Dumbledore's siblings
Abraxas Malfoy = Draco's grandfather, died of
"Accio..." = to get something
"Aguamenti" = fill with water
Alastor Moody = better known as "Mad Eye"
Albert Runcorn = used by Harry as a disguise in the Ministry of Magic
"Alohomora" = open sesame (except when bewitched)
Amortentia = the most powerful love-potion in the
"Anapneos" = unchoking spell
Apolline dela Cour = Fleur's maman
Arabella Figg = Harry's Squib neighbour
Aragog = head of the Acromantula
Arkie Alderton = "a well-known broomstick designer", at least according to his half-blood son, whom this did not save from the Dementors.
Auntie Muriel Weasley = 107 years old, famed for
her goblin tiara; loves Rita Skeeter and friendly
with Bathilda Bagshot, i.e. an old gossip
"Avada Kedavra" = death-curse, with which Snape
killed Dumbledore
Bathilda Bagshot = historian, author of A History of Magic; once lived in Godric's Hollow, Gryffindor, where the Dumbledores had lived, and James and Lily Potter lay buried
Burrow, The = Weasley residence, hard by the
village of Ottery St Catchpole
Charity Burbage = Muggle Studies teacher at
Carrow, Alecto = took over her position on Snape's "appointment" as headmaster
Carrow, Amycus = her brother, took over position of Defence against the Dark Arts professor
"Confringo!" = to cause an explosion
Crookshanks = Hermione's ginger cat
Crumple-horned Snorkacks = what Xenophilius and
Luna go searching for on holiday
Dean Thomas = not sure if he really had a Muggle parent; member of Gryffindor.
"Descendo" = to make something come down
Dittany = a cure for Splinching
Egbert the Egregious, Emeric the Evil = previous owners of the Elder Wand; Godelot died in a cellar when his son Hereward took it from him; Loxias took it from Barnabus Deverill, becoming an owner in the line of Arcus and Livius
Elphias Doge = member of the Order of the Phoenix,
writer of Dumbledore's obituary; nicknamed "Dogbreath" at school
Enid Smeek = a nosy neighbour who lived on the outskirts of Godric's Hollow
"Episkey" = mends broken nose
Ernie Prang = driver of Knight Bus, after Stan
"Expelliarmus!" = to get rid of something
Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix
Felix felicis = liquid luck
Fenrir Greyback = the Death-Eating werewolf
Firenze = a centaur
Flourish and Botts = bookstore in Diagon Alley
Fred and George Weasley = invented Peruvian Instant
Darkness powder
Gabrielle dela Cour = Fleur's petite soeur
Gellert Grindelwald = carved his sign, a triangular
eye, into the wall of Durmstrang (Viktor Krum)
"Geminio" = duplicate
Gernumbli gardensi = correct name of garden gnomes,
according to Xenophilius Lovegood; contact may
impart an unexpected urge to sing opera or declaim
in Mermish
Ginevra ("Ginnie") Weasley = tried to take (fake) Sword of Gryffindor from Snape's office.
Grawp = Hagrid's half-brother
Gregorovich = Ollivander's wand-making counterpart in Viktor Krum's country
Grimmauld Place (#12) = Harry's old house,
inherited from Sirius Black
Griphook and Gornuk = goblins, known to associate with Ted Tonks.
Gurdyroot = really good for warding off Gulping; purple like beetroot
Plimpies, according to Luna
Harry James Potter, never a good Occlumens, but
inherited the Snitch caught in his first Quidditch
match, and Godric's Sword of Gryffindor from
Hermione Jean Granger, inherited Dumbledore's Tales
of Beedle the Bard
Ignotus Peverill = buried at Godric's Hollow; along with the other two Peverill brothers, Antioch and Cadmus, one of Harry's ancestors
Inferi = (roughly) zombies
Kendra = Dumbledore's mother
Lancelot = a healer at St Mungo's
"Langlock!" = shut up
Libatius Borage = author of Potions textbook
Lily Potter = a dab hand at Potions; Muggle-born
"Lumos" = summons light
Madame Malkin = proprietress of robe shop in Diagon
Mafilda Hopkirk = assistant in the Improper Use of Magic office, whom Hermione used as a disguise
Mary Elizabeth Cattermole = wife of Reg (q.v.) of the Magical Maintenance Department, mother to Maisie, Ellie and Alfred.
"Merlin's beard, trousers, etc." = mild expletives
Mermish = merpeople's language
Nymphadora Tonks = daughter of Bellatrix's sister
Percival Dumbledore = Albus' father
"Petrificus totalus" = freeze!
Phineas Nigellus Black = former headmaster of Slytherin; portrait in Sirius Black's house
Pius Thicknesse = puppet Minister of Magic under You-Know-Who
Polyjuice Potion = to disguise oneself as someone
else, e.g. when Harry disguised himself as
red-haired 'Cousin Barney', a boy from Ottery St
Catchpole, to attend Bill and Fleur's wedding
Professor Minerva McGonagall, head of Gryffindor
Professor Horace Slughorn, head of Slytherin
Professor Pomana Sprout, head of Hufflepuff
Professor Flitwick, head of Ravenclaw
Professor Vector, Arithmancy teacher
"Protego" = Shield charm
Quibbler, The = a rag started by Xenophilius Lovegood, in opposition to the Daily Prophet, and, to his credit, the last issue did not contain a single mention of Crumple-horned Snorkacks!
"Quid agis?" = what goes on?
Reg Cattermole = used by Ron as a disguise in the Ministry of Magic
"Rennervate" = to ressuscitate
"Reparo" = to fix anything
Rita Skeeter = scurrilous tabloid journalist; wrote
a highly unauthorised biography of Dumbledore,
reputed to contain less fact than a Chocolate Frog
Ronald Bilius Weasley = inherited Dumbledore's
Rufus Scrimgeour = Minister of Magic after
Cornelius Fudge (of the lime-green bowler hat)
"Sectumsempra" = against foes, a favorite of Snape
Sopophorus bean = an ingredient in Felix felicis
"Specialis revelio!" = to reveal the secrets of
Ted Tonks = Nymphadora's father
"Tergeo" = washing spell
Tom = landlord of the Leaky Cauldron; do not confuse with Thomas Marvolo Riddle, the real name of He-Whom-You-Must-Not-Name
"Wendell and Monica Wilkins" = the names given by
Hermione to her parents, when she charmed them into emigrating to
Australia and forgetting all about her
William Arthur Weasley = savaged by Fenrir, m.
Fleur Isabelle dela Cour; works for Gringott's bank.
"Wingardium leviosa!" = to levitate something
Wrackspurt = what Luna resembles when dancing; has siphons like ear-trumpets to remove all traces of distraction, and Billywig propellers (wings) to induce an elevated state of mind; orange Dirigible plum also helps one to accept the extraordinary!

And if that does not seem enough to get anyone re-reading at least the last two books, I don't know what will!

P.S. Neither Hello nor Picasa work anymore for uploading pictures, so unfortunately I can no longer supply them!

Friday, January 04, 2008 Posted by Picasa

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