Monday, February 27, 2006

Monday Night is Crime Night

Monday night used to be LOST night and that interminable series from Steven Spielberg which was called....erm...whatever - aliens and genetic experiments and people with blood coming out of their eyes and all that tosh.

Anyway, now Mondays are crime nights. And I have just wasted my evening gawping at three of the specimens on offer.

And what were these crime-busting bonanzas...? Well, first we had one of the myriad CSIs...erm, the one in New York with Gary Sinese and a story about a skeleton found in a cellar which turns out to be not the person we are led to expect but someone else who somehow finds out that Gary and his crew are onto him and so starts trying to destroy the evidence that he isn't the skeleton and that he is in fact still alive, then came Criminal Investigation, I think it's called, with a story about a shy bloke with a job in a chocolate makers' shop who had started doing indescribably horrible things to young girls he had met in bars and sleazy clubs and finally just now a pile of criminal codswallop called Crossing Jordan with no less than two story lines neither of which seemed to make any sense to me and which were both left kind of hanging when the programme time was up as if the film crew had just got up and clocked off at some point in the middle of the episode and then gone for a pizza.

What strikes me though about these new modern-day, streetwise crime series is that these days the criminal experts, forensic specialists, cranky lab geniuses or whatever, apart from all looking as if they have all just stepped out of the ultimate stylist's studio, all have incredibly sad or complicated or traumatic childhoods/marriages/sibling relationships.

Gary's "wife" was killed in the Twin Towers attack, the slightly neurotic Criminal Investigation bloke looks like a definite case of traumatic childhood and this week's Crossing Jordan revealed a long lost brother who actually wasn't and whom she didn't know about but who murdered his mother and her mother...or something...(even Sophocles wouldn't have touched that storyline!)

We are supposed to empathise with them when they investigate a crime which reminds them of their tragic pasts...and bear with them when they wander off - on taxpayers' money - for a long misty-eyed gaze at a gravestone or the classic 'faded photograph' or stop off as Gary did last week apparently at Ground Zero. It's called the 'subplot'....yawn....

But no, bugger all that...let's get back to Perry Mason and Gideon's Way...Burke's Law...and Efrem Zimbalist Junior (couldn't the parents just have called the kid Fred?) in The FBI or what'shisname with the quiff in Hawaii 5-0; not the slightest hint of a difficult past life there...hardly a hint of human personality at all come to think of it.

I'll say one thing though...these new series can be as bad as they like but they still won't ever come even close to rivalling Columbo for being my number one criminal pile of poop. Sorry Peter Falk fans but that has to be the most mind-rottingly boring crime series in forensic history...and that includes the speeches of Cicero.

Anyhow, my Monday night was definitely stolen from under my nose by these smooth criminal catchers...and noone is going to investigate that crime.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Unsinniger Donnerstag

It's unsinniger Donnerstag today down here in Southern Germany - 'nonsensical Thursday'. This signifies the start of the Carnival Weekend which culminates in a champagne drinking, doughnut eating orgy on Tuesday...Faschings Dienstag - Shrove Tuesday.

Today it is the custom that women can cut the end off men's ties - I will leave you to ponder on the symbolism - and just suggest that this harks back to the Dionysian fertility practices of the Ancient Greeks which also heralded the start of spring and the rising of the sap.

However, I must go off to teach...with an open-necked shirt...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Still Pinkering...

As always my progress with Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works" is slow. This is because on the one hand, I normally only get to read before nodding off at night and then subsequently in the night when I wake up and can't get back to sleep and on the other because there is so much to ponder upon in the book.

We (Steven Pinker and I) are just exploring the evolution of human intelligence right now - back at the dawn of hominid awareness..."four habits which may have formed the base camp for the ascent of human knowledge": stereoscopic vision which includes a sense of three dimensional space; living in social groups and the pressures of rivalry plus the incentives of knowledge sharing; bipedalism and the consequent freeing up of the hands for manipulative use and finally hunting and gathering as a driving force behind the development of intelligence.

Well, as usual when I start to think about stuff like that it makes me wonder, "how the hell would I have fitted into a Stone-Age society? What in the name of goodness would I have contributed?"

Not much call for English teachers or translators at that time, I don't think - nor for writers really - 3 million years before writing was invented.
How about musicians then? Well, maybe I would have "invented" the guitar back then...wrapping sheep's guts around a mammoth's tusk...or maybe taken the ribcage of a wildebeest and invented the xylophone - or rather...erm....not xylophone cos that's from wood...osteophone...and then plonked out a few Stone-Age singalong hits. Come to think of it I might have invented rock and roll...

Monday, February 13, 2006

We Love Buzzy...

In his book, "How the Mind Works", Steven Pinker describes an episode of "The Twilight Zone". In it an astronaut, James Corry, has been condemned to spend 50 years' solitary confinement on a barren asteroid 9 million miles from Earth. The captain of a supply ship takes pity on him and leaves him a robot which looks and acts like a woman. After some initial hesitation the exiled astronaut falls deeply in love with the robot. A year later news comes that Corry has been pardoned and a ship has come to get him. He wants to take the robot with him but she/it is too heavy. Corry refuses to go without her/it so the commander of the rescue ship takes out a gun and shoots the robot in the face exposing a tangle of wires. He tells Corry, "all you are leaving behind is your loneliness..."

So I was thinking, could you fall in love with a robot? Or could you even build up some kind of relationship with a mere machine?

My initial thought was, "nah, course not!"

But then I got a call from the mechanic that my camping bus was repaired and ready to pick up. So I shouted to the family, "I'm just off to pick up Buzzy!"

Yes...the bus has a name, Buzzy... actually his full name (yeah...he is a 'he') is Buzzy Beau Jolly due to his maroon colouring ...

You can ask the kids; Buzzy is an honorary member of the family. When I took him to the mechanic they all said, "ah, poor Buzzy!"

When I had a folding roof fitted to him I had to leave the garage - I couldn't bear to watch them cut his roof open! I think the guys who worked there thought I was totally loopy.

Then there is my laptop who (yeah, 'who' not 'which') also has a name ... "Lappy". At the computer shop round the corner where I was buying a new memory card for him, I confessed to the bloke in there that he had a name.

He looked at me as you would look at someone who told you they were just visiting Earth for a week from their home on Mars. "Just machines to me, they are...", he said.

Buzzy is now 18. He has been with us on, indeed taken us on holidays to Greece, England, Sardinia, Portugal and when he can no longer manage the long trips and his carburettor finally stops carburetting and he has to make that last long lonely trip to the scrapyard in the sky there will be tears shed in the Neutron family...

Does anyone else out there have names and feeling for what should just be contraptions?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Loony Toons...Errrr...What's Up, Mo?

I have a slight problem getting my head around what is going on in the Middle East at the moment. They are burning embassies and flags and demanding apologies from the European Community because a newspaper printed some cartoons...erm, sorry?

I mean how many of these demonstrators have even seen the cartoons? I have had a hard enough job digging up a site on the web where I could have a look - here you go....have a visit and scroll down a bit you will get to some of the cartoons in question:

As I have already pointed out in my post about the "Happy Holiday Season" time just before Christmas (ooops, I said Christmas...ooooops..I said it again...) I believe in tolerance for other peoples' views (as long as we can agree to avoid blind fanaticism).

You believe what you believe and I will believe what I probs, and if you want to celebrate my public holidays then go ahead...and I might just celebrate yours.

You have a taboo? You don't eat meat on Friday...ok, don't eat it! You don't eat pork? Fine, think of all those happy pigs...

I have a couple of taboos too. One of them is not murdering people who disagree with me...fair enough...isn't it?

I know, or at least I believe and fervently hope that the vast majority of people, Christians, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Atheists and whatever else there might be really would just like to live in peace with each other.

But right now maybe the peaceful followers of Islam could do with getting up and condemming these intolerant lunatics in their own midst before they blame the West, the North or the South and maybe they should just take a few steps back and look at themselves...or is that also a taboo?

The Latest Weather

This is to follow on from my last post...the winter has returned and round the corner it looks like this:
I think this happens to me every year; we have the "winter" and then at the end of January maybe it goes a little milder and I think, "ahhh, spring..." and then usually the next morning I throw open the curtains and...Winter Wonderland again!!

This goes on until April at least...spring flirting with my senses, driving me crazy!!

Visions of Munich

It occurred to me yesterday that a lot of the photos I have put in this blog have been of places I have visited or maybe want to visit but that I have never posted a photo of here...where I live...Munich!

It is often the way though; you live in a place and forget that it is also somewhere where visitors come to see things, look around museums, admire the architecture etc etc.
When I lived in
London we never went to see St Paul's for example...we just didn't have time for that; and when I lived in Greece I hardly went to any of the tourist attractions.
It is only since I have left both places that I have been to visit and done the sights.

Or maybe I am just incorrigibly lazy??!! Hmm...could be...

Anyway here are a couple of views of where I live:

On a different subject, my intention to review a book from my bookshelves every Friday bit the dust extremely quickly! However...I HAVE to recommend the book I am reading (again) at the moment:

'How The Mind Works' by Steven Pinker.

Brilliant book.

And just to end on here is a Beano-style joke William and I made up;

'Where do WeightWatchers have their main office?'

'In Hungary!'

Boom boom