Archive for August, 2004

comment spam policy

Saturday, August 28th, 2004

Some little slimeball has been spattering the site with these. I thought I might try something different to instant nuking, the usual response. Since comment spams are designed to give Googlejuice to the products advertised, I have simply edited them so that the URL points to a notoriously repulsive picture, and changed the comment name too.


Friday, August 27th, 2004

Various silly heretics claim to be unable to see the point of the Dead. I suggest a visit to the Ratdog site, where Bob Weir’s spinoff band are releasing live download CDs for a very reasonable $12.50 a concert, which is about 3 CDs. Start with this one or maybe some other one. It’s something halfway between jazz and folk music, and I love every minute.

Austrian cuisine

Friday, August 27th, 2004

For the first proper meal after ten days in Austria, we ate a curry. It was lamb, not pork, but what seemed really odd was that it came without whipped cream on top.

Sympathy for Dracula

Thursday, August 26th, 2004

Returning to England makes me understand what the Count felt every morning: I have been feeding, flying and wandering in my proper estate; now I must climb back into a coffin fulled with clay, sand and flints and tug the lid back over to rest in suffocating darkness until I am freed. Oh boo baa bap, here comes the sun.

dudes and dudesses

Sunday, August 15th, 2004

Farewell for a fortnight or so. I’m going to Austria; and leave you with the thought that the first recorded use of “Dudess” in in the OED comes from 1885; but it is predated by the term “dudine”. And people say there’s no such ting as progress.


Friday, August 13th, 2004

Among English intellectuals today, nostalgia for the Habsburgs is the touchstone of an anti-American mind. (brought about by finishing John Gray)

Spinach and exercise

Friday, August 13th, 2004

is clearly doing Barlow good. there’s a lovely quote here:

TV, has a much smaller share of viewers than at any time in the past, but those viewers get all their information there. They get turned into a very uniform belief block. TV in America created the most coherent reality distortion field that I’ve ever seen. Therein is the problem: People who vote watch TV, and they are hallucinating like a sonofabitch. Basically, what we have in this country is government by hallucinating mob.

Not that there’s anything wrong with setlists selected by a hallucinating mob, of course…

you cannot hope

Wednesday, August 11th, 2004

.. to bribe or twist,
thank God, the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.

Or so I have always thought. However, I got rung this morning by the Daily Express, owned by Britain’s most famous pornographer, Richard Desmond. At one stage, there was quite a gang of ex-Indie people there, and I used to write a lot for them. The nice woman on the features desk wanted a piece denouncing human cloning. I can’t do that, I said: I’m under contract with the Guardian, and I can’t even suggest anyone who could, since everyone I know is in favour of therapeutic cloning. Oh, she said. But you wrote a piece denouncing cloning for us once. Well, yes. That was about the crazed Italian doctor. I don’t believe in growing babies that way. Embryos are different.

I don’t think she knew what I was talking about.

very fine drawing

Wednesday, August 11th, 2004

Went to the private view last night of Jonny Boatfield’s show in a converted church in Cambridge. The subjects, inmates of an old peoples’ home, are depressing; but the pictures are very fine indeed, and well worth seeing.

Had he been slightly more efficient, I’d have scanned in more pictures here.

A Labour of Love

Monday, August 9th, 2004

An Angler’s Etymology by the Irishman J.R. Harris, is one of the classic books for a fly fisherman; “Classic” in this context, as in others, means “I’ve never read it”. It concentrates on Ephemeroptera, which are the prettiest trout food, though less important than the sedges, Trichoptera and midges, Chironomidae. My copy of the book has all the colour plates reproduced in black and white, which reduces still further its usefulness.

But then you come across a passage like this, which bring back the golden age of obsessive naturalists.

Then purchase a copy of Mr. Kimmins’ Keys to the British Species of Ephemeroptera with Keys to the Genera of the Nymphs, which is published by the Freshwater Biological Association, Wray Castle, Ambleside, Westmorland, and costs only 2 6d.
This is an excellent publication and it contains drawings of the genitalia of the male spinners of all British and Irish species of the Ephemeroptera. It also has illustrations of the wings, and, where necessary, other parts of several of the species. All of the species can be identified by the genitalia, although descriptions of additional features may make identifications more certain.

Every species of ephemeroptera may be distinguished by its genitalia. There are two penes, sometimes fused into one; claspers, and large, curved, pseudo-penes called styli, whose purpose escapes me.

That these differ between species suggests vast Darwinian perspectives. It’s really extraoridinarily difficult to tell the difference between some similar species of tiny ephemoperoptera unless you have a microscope. It’s much quicker, for another fly, to try to mate with them. Since different species tend to share the same environment, I think this bizarre genital elobrations must have evolved primarily as a means of species differentiation. They are the ephemeropteran equivalents of theology.

Whatever their motives, they have been astonishingly successful. Because the winged and sexually active stage of a mayfly’s life, as a spinner, lasts only a day, we think of them as fragile and short-lived insects. But they can live for a week in the preceding stage, as winged, asexual duns; and before then, some live underwater for two or three years as nymphs. This four-stage lifestyle is unique among insects. It is also very old. The Mayflies have been around for 500,000 years. They are extremely fragile. Yet the brief wisps of life you sometimes see hatching are older than the river that they float on.