Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Dog's Life

We have a dog owned by our local vicar who leaves the poor creature outside his vicarage every time he leaves. This anti-dog behaviour ensures that the whole neighbourhood knows that he is not at home; the dog yaps in groups of five barks, takes a breath and repeats the barking; continuously, until the vicar returns. It's not the dog I blame but the deriliction of the owner.

A dog, like a child, is for life.

A very close friend once owned a bull terrier that was highly intelligent. The dog, in the days of buses that had platforms and no doors, would jump onto a bus whilst at a bus stop; travel the desired distance and then jump off at 'his' stop. All this was done single handedly, or should I say, pawedly.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Twinkle, twinkle . . .

Scintillate, scintillate, gobule vivific
Fain would I fathom thy nature specific.
Loftily pois├ęd in ether capracious
Strongly resembling some gem carbonacious.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dogs Do

Whilst I can appreciate that dogs on a tennis court maybe a distraction for all kinds of reasons I do find it difficult to picture a blind person accompanied by their guide dog standing there listening to this tennis game.

In an adjacent area to this there is a small fenced off dog-free zone where folk can sit and eat and drink. More often than not I see dogs enter here from the vast expanse of grass and numerous trees beyond. It is here that the dogs piss and crap before leaving. Either the dogs can't read or they are being wilfully malicious.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Arts

The best Drama/Theatre is that which engages the participant to a level so that it feels real; emotions are engaged fully. Catharthsis, in the
Sophoclean sense, is achieved as the house lights come up at the end or the session ends or the film credits roll.

The essay 'This is not a game' is a perfect description of how modern technology can involve game players in a false reality that is greater than any addiction to a television soap. It is a kind of drama that engages the participants totally.

Are there any dangers in the merging of reality with fictional drama?
Docu-dramas can lead to a completely false account of factual historical events; rewriting history to the extent that popular belief relies upon the fictionlised version to inform, to the exclusion of all others, including those which may indeed be nearer to the truth.

High level computer gaming seems to lay the players more open to believing in conspiracy theories than would otherwise be the case in more traditional games. Those activities described by McConical in her very carefully developed essay would lend credence to this view.

If a person lying asleep in a bed has a dream, what is more real, the dream or the reality, that they are in a bed, asleep? The dream, of course.
But dreams are, by definition, not real.
So, something that is unreal (a dream) can appear to have a greater reality than reality (lying in a bed asleep) itself.

Hence ‘The Arts’ are a way using imagination and dreaming whilst awake, of experimenting with alternative futures by invoking the, ‘what if?’ factor.

This is what I found most appealing about the teaching of drama ~ the world with all its complexities and contradictions, was the raw material from which a drama could be forged.

Conjuring, at its best, does the same thing. ‘What if I could destroy something and make it whole again?’ ‘What if I could fly without any visible means?’ Magic of this kind taps into a dream-like world where anything is possible.

Theatre touches upon human experience, places characters together in a context and watches the sparks fly. In the best writing and performing the audience are led to discover something about the human condition that they may not have previously considered or are led into a view that may not have previously been entertained. In great comedy writing they can be led to see the absurdity of life and to laugh at it.

Both conjuring and theatre also benefit from taking place with live interaction between the participants. The members of the audience, to a greater or lesser extent, are aware of one another. Even in a cinema this is the case.

I remember being slightly alarmed as I watched someone’s head being stove in with a viscious spiked glove in a scene from Norman Jewison’s ‘Rollerball’. It was view of the future in which a spectator sport was taken to a height of violence, as yet not attained in our current sporting activities. The spectators in the film were herded like animals behind high wire fences from where they bayed, screamed and yelled like demented, out-of-control, fans at the violent game in front of them. In the darkened cinema the live audience reacted in much the same way as the acting spectators, to this murderous violence. As in the conclusion of ‘Animal Farm’ I looked from screen to live audience and back again, finding it hard to distinguish the difference.

The Arts, it seems to me, can be a tool of tremendous power, moving the witnesses to strong reaction. Only the most accomplished creator of the art form can control what that reaction may be.

At the first performances of ‘Waiting for Godot’ audiences booed and left. Was this play an artistic disaster? At the time yes, but now it is acknowledged as a 20th century landmark piece of writing. Perhaps this above all is an argument for an ‘Arts’ education. Something, that sadly, our government policy makers have put quite low down on their list of priorities.

The Greeks had it as a duty that its citizens attend the great dramatic festivals. Now in Britain, we see nothing but cut-backs in public funding and ever decreasing areas of support for new writers and artists.

The radio version of 'The Lord of the Rings' would not have been commissioned and made had it been submitted today as it would be seen as being too expensive.

The BBC once had a sound library that was the envy of the world. Now producers must pay for each loan, whether the track is finally used or not; previously this was simply an available resource. The result is that contributors to programmes end up raiding their own collections to lend, in order to keep the production within budget.

When art is budget-led, wastage is reduced but the quality is also in great danger of suffering.

Fate v Conspiracy

That most people do not relish the idea that life is haphazard, random and unpredictable leads them, I think, to favour a conspiracy theory to explain tragedies that could otherwise possibly happen to anyone. More reassuring it is then to find a motive and a reason for the awful event rather than say it was an accident of fate. In this way comfort can be drawn, and a false sense of security created, that the same devastating event would not happen to the ‘man in the street’ which could be you or me!

Was it a lone mad killer who happened to shoot President Kennedy or a conspiracy?

Was Princess Diana the victim of a fatal car accident or was there a conspiracy to be rid of her?

The list goes on. . .

Thursday, July 06, 2006


If it is true that a picture paints a thousand words then it must be that, for expediency, we use words instead of pictures, in order to communicate.

This picture is entitled: “and the words got in the way”!

Remove the words and what is communicated?

A work of Tenniel that is definitely diminshed by the addition of ‘explanatory’ words. (Click on image to enlarge)

When confronted with such gobbledegook I am reminded of Hamlet's speech:

Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Lord Polonius: What is the matter, my lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Lord Polonius: I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.
(Hamlet II, ii.)

But even the simple clarity of Shakespeare’s verse can be mangled by commentators;

“By doing this Hamlet "[...] breaks the social contract necessary to ordinary human discourse, the contract which mandates that there be, in Roman Jakobson's words, `a certain equivalence between the symbols used by the addressor and those known and interpreted by the addressee' " (Ferguson 249).

It's a pun that Hamlet uses, to wrong foot Polonius.

How often are words used to impress the reader to give the impression, albeit spurious, that the writer has some intellectual superiority?

A fireman I knew who worked at the New London Theatre used to quote: "Taurus excreta cerebrum vincit" (Bullshit baffles brains) and that applies all too often!

Here is a fun web-site that has a generator of such phrases, from management.

The link between knowing something and language, it has been suggested, comes down having the words to express the idea. No language, no concept ~ that’s the theory!

This leaves out intuitive understanding which, by definition, requires no vocabulary.

However, I wouldn’t go as far as this writer

“. . . there may be some things we will never know the course of. [That’s no reason to think they didn’t happen, though, even if we don’t know them. Reality is not constrained by what we can know.]”

Really? I guess that communicating knowledge to others though, still relies upon the use of words, or pictures, or indeed, word pictures.

This post was inspired by reading a randomly found blog by Jane McGongal who in the writing of her thesis between March and July this year posted her The Best Sentence of the Day. Yes, 97 inpenetrable sentences which have elicited enthusiastic comments from others who are impressed with convoluted analysis of ‘Game theory’. It's an intellectual game in itself trying to identify the meaning! I think though, the writer was aware of the ridiculous nature of many of her own quoted sentences ~ hence the blog.

Where has educaton gone wrong when it can start with the teaching of reading and writing and end up with a ‘learned’ thesis that, whilst it impresses those with an inside track to the jargon used, does nothing in furthering communication nor adding to the sum of knowledge that can be accessed by all the others who have also been taught to read and write?