Saturday, July 25, 2009


A few days ago a friend of ours, who's very senior in one of the publishing firms, came over for a barbecue with her kids. I asked her whether she was a bit concerned about the new e-reading gadgets that Amazon and Sony are marketing. They're like ipods but for books, and I reasoned that people might pirate literature just like they do music. Well she said, DRM - Digital Rights Management - is under development for that.

And quite radical this DRM is because the other week Amazon magically made some books disappear from their clients readers, before apologising and putting them back. You don't really own a book you buy for one of these things. The company does and can change it, or make it go away at will.

As it happened one of the titles was Orwell's 1984 which I'm re reading (on paper) at the moment. In Winston's world all the books have been burnt. And the hero spends his time rewriting history. How Big Brother would have loved the new e-books! And may yet, I suppose.

Choose the Moon

Can it really be forty years since the Americans made the ultimate statement about tourism and went to the moon? It wasn't being there so much as getting there that we celebrated last week.

I'm caught up by the techy geeky romance of the whole lunatic enterprise. Some years back I made the trip of a lifetime to the States and sat in a Command module simulator in NASA's Huntsville museum (above). That's where they developed rockets by the way - they developed Cape Canaveral later, I think. My apologies for the shorts and the cheesy grin.

There are lots of webby offerings which I've been surfing in my downtime but I reckon the best is the JFK library super site: We Choose the Moon. Fabulous.

Swine Flu

Much sweating, real and virtual, about swine flu which is sweeping newsrooms and parts of the nation. Despite claims that up to sixty thousand people could die, and the tragic deaths already associated with the virus, I can't help but be sceptical. Part of this attitude is stupid bravado. I've had flu many times, goes my reasoning, so bring it on. Let's test the mettle of this so called dread phage against the antibodies already residing in the Hendosystem.

And I have problems with the advance publicity for this thing. I spent half the nineties thinking I was doomed to die of Mad Cow Disease because I'd had a dodgy sausage or two. And another part of it stems from watching Newsnight the other day when Simon Jenkins suggested we were being driven into hysteria by a self interested health care system.

I don't dread the virus so much as the time it'll take out of one of the nicest stretches of the year. Who can bothered being ill when the weather's so clement? There's nothing we can do save send our 'flu friend' for the tamiflu. Which according to one GP blogger doesn't work anyway.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Art, anyone?

To the National Gallery with Han to see a gentle exhibition of landscapes by nineteenth century French painters: 'Corot to Monet'. They always have these exhibitions in the basement of the Sainsbury wing which gets a bit warm and has odd subdued lighting, but I enjoyed the quiet pastoral paintings of people standing in wide fields under big skies. My favourite was a series by Boudin, who appears to have liked a particular beach in Normandy (above).

Nothing revolutionary about these paintings, but then you go around a corner and see how they gave rise to Impressionism which was very Rock and Roll in those days.

Then it was off for Dim Sum in Chinatown passing the now famous plinth in Trafalgar Square. On it was mounted a man in blue lycra cycling a stationary bike. A crowd of schoolchildren had gathered, shouting up at him excitedly. Art or Bollocks?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Origin Of Species

From DownHouse120709

To Kent to see Down House, the home of Charles Darwin for forty years after he returned from his epic voyage in the Beagle. Lovingly restored by English Heritage you can now see the pokey study where Darwin sat with his dog Polly and wrote the work which tore down Victorian beliefs about the world and man's place within it.

Darwin emerges from the exhibition as a family man - ten children - with an obsessive eye for detail, spending eight years just classifying barnacles. The house is much bigger than I thought it would be and there's lots you don't see, which makes you wonder what you're missing. The gardens are lovely though, not fussy, just well tended.

The trip was the idea of Graham who runs our book club. We were there to discuss 'This Thing of Darkness' which is a superb book by Harry Thompson all about the Beagles' voyage, and about its captain, Robert Fitzroy. Recommended.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Moving With Difficulty

From Birthday040709

I share my birthday with American Independence Day so we had a party at Hendo Towers this weekend, which Ms T imbued with bunting, her best barbecue cooking and an American theme with the help of her US friends at Chowhound. A good time was seemingly had by all (see pictures) infact we spent the whole weekend BBQing as to the manner born.

We were lucky with the weather; not too hot but lovely anyway. We moan about our summer, but we're having a nice one this year. I think people got sick of the heat last week though and welcomed the cooler stuff this weekend.

I am 45 now, the foothills of old age. This was brought home to me when my back went after my swim and I spent the rest of the day crawling around in extreme pain. I'm eating painkillers like they're sweeties. Wondering what the problem is I rang the doctor shortly after nine this morning but a voice told me to ring back when they were less busy. I called back a bit later to be told by the receptionist that 'all the appointments were gone'. Could I book one? No, all those kind of appointments were gone too. But if I rang back tomorrow there might be one.
How much are we paying these people again?