Alan Parsons’ Projection


© NASA/JPL-Caltech                   Located about 700 light-years from Earth, eye-like Helix nebula is a planetary nebula, or the remains of a Sun-like star. When these stars run out of their internal fuel supply, their outer layers puff up to create the nebula. The nebula is heated by the hot core of the dead star, called a white dwarf, which is not visible in this image but is located in the middle of the “eye.”                                                                          Our Sun will blossom into a planetary nebula when it dies: in about 5 billion years. Joie

Who knows if the scintillatingly piratical Alan Parsons had knowledge of deep space in mind when he penned Eye in the Sky and gave it the Fortnums-toned green album sleeve? The song became an anthem before raves were even a thing.

The image above, projecting itself onto a celestial telescope, is captured a mere 700 light years from us (you’ll recall 1 light year represents a distance of 5.6 trillion miles: we don’t know how many noughts that is).

Looking at the Earth, the only life-sustaining (as-we-comprehend-it), beautiful blue ball hanging in the whole space of the Universe*, it doesn’t seem much of a stretch that this faded star sees more clearly the galactic sized mess we’ve made of matters. Apart from Antarctica, I don’t suppose there’s any continent free of turmoil but living through Britain’s atrophy is a salutory lesson in the effervescence of hubris.         * true at the time of writing

In Eye in the Sky’s final stanza comes  “…. I can read your mind, I am the maker of rules, Dealing with fools, I can cheat you blind …”

So: prophetic as well as groovy skiing down black runs.

This post began merely to share wonder of the Heavens: the political point which appears inexorably to have risen is purely co-incidental.

Gorillas missed their calling?


Ndakazi & Ndezi                Twin, 12yr old Congolese female orphan Gorillas

The longer I gaze at this image, taken in April by their keeper, Mathieu Shamavu at Virunga National Park in the DRC, the more I tremble inside.

These pages are forever banging on about the dignity of animals, their intelligence, their de anima: but this?

This is different.

(Aristotle’s work Of the Soul (de anima) pertains to biopsychology, thus seems irresistible to acknowledge that Animal psychology is a thing.)

What is going on here? Are these adolescent females mimicking him; or stretching: or thinking ‘what the hell is he doing with that box?’; or saying to each other ‘Ooh, pucker up: a Selfie’. Whatever it is, there is thought behind it.

Mebbie by virtue of language, sentience – the capacity to reason – has been linked to sensory perception – taste, touch, smell and so on. Amid the scientific community, it is seemingly presumed that if unable to speak the Queen’s English (or all other national equivalents) an animal lacks the neurological network that transports signals of pain to the brain. This appears to justify inflicting annihilating misery on creatures with impunity. (Best not get me started on that one.)

So what are we saying here? Do you know, I’m not entirely sure. What seems important to highlight is that humans are one species of creature, gorillas another. The characteristics, biochemistry and physicality we share are largely self-evident. If two species of living creatures share functions essential to sustaining life, it’s not an extrapolation too far to posit all living creatures possess such corporeal operation. Pain is not a function of reason but a consequence of neurological pathways. If you step on a cats foot, the scratches up your leg will tell you it felt it. So, if we’ve the developed intellect to be kinder to all animals, why aren’t we?

Twelve year olds, of whatever species, appear happy to copy grown-ups. What else might we learn were they enabled to observe & experiment? Call it gorilla tactics.

Geoffrey: not his real name


© BBC                                                                             [and this isn’t even Geoffrey]

Hooting with laughter since the weekend when there came on the radio an item on the excellent time-keeping skills of hedgehogs. The devil of it is I can’t find it to give you a link. If you know and could point me in its direction, please do @MBMaterials

What tickled me was the interviewee, an earnest and humane individual who was creeping around in the dark with the reporter to demonstrate the regular habits of the hedgehog, when asked what he called the prickly leedle fellow, whispered “Geoffrey: it’s not his real name”.

Tipping point


©                   Melting Antarctica: solves the avalanche problem, huh

As we’ve known for a while in virtue of the campaigning group, 38 Degrees is the angle at which snowflakes come together to form an avalanche. In short, E pluribus unum.

At around One o’clock on this hot, snowball-chance-in-Hell afternoon, Mrs May left the chamber of the House of Commons to a standing ovation on her way to tender her resignation to HM The Queen.

Tomorrow, assuming the Queen’s agreeable, is Mr Johnson’s first full day as Prime Minister. The weather in London is forecast to be 38° centigrade.

Just sayin’.

I, Doll


Barbie’s more interesting cousin

It’s all très Biblical, somehow. I confess to not being completely au fait with ya actual Old Testament but I’m fairly sure Idols are discussed beneath curled lips.

Listening to a piece on the radio about self-portraiture recently, it struck the neurons quite forcibly that in light of the disappearance of a Deity from cultural life, we’ve embraced Self as God: each of us at the centre of our universe demanding everyone else to pay homage … or an entrance fee.

Obviously it’s a phase: it’ll pass. But until then, we’re going to have to endure self-dissections that peel back intellect, dreams, imaginings, compassion usw such as to expose the plastic beneath.

Is this a Good? Is this to be recommended to children for whom the world probably isn’t a thing of wonder as it was for tots a while back. Our culture has chosen to sexualize children inflicting on them self-consciousness. Is that a Good, a kindness?

The palate of solipsistic narcissism from which we colour and texture waking hours will doubtless dull quite soon in virtue of its vacuity. Until then, how is courtesy extended when ‘it’s all about me me me’ or how can understanding be flourished when demanding that others ‘listen to us us us’?

What are your thoughts? she quipped rhetorically.

Rembrandt self-portraiture always seems an exploration of Light and Depth and Humanity, those invisible traceries which echo through life. Two Circles, painted in 1665 doesn’t scream Me Me Me: it murmurs Look, Listen, Marvel.

Carry on keeping calm


Wording by AP Waterfield

Round about now* is the Eightieth anniversary of the Ministry of Information (MOI) stiffening the sinews through national propaganda by sturdy encouragement to Keep calm and Carry on.

Located in the viscera of Senate House, that scintillating zigarat on Malet Street which now is the administrative core of University of London, three morale boosting posters were created in the build-up to World War II (yet subsequently largely unused and those printed were pulped to assist in the paper shortage. The other two were ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution; Will Bring Us Victory’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril; Defend it with all Your Might). *sometime between & 6.vii.39

By virtue of a Humean contiguity of ideas, it struck the grey matter that creators of the Carry On films might have taken their idea from that MOI morale booster.

The poster’s sentiment has dated far better.

The first of the 33 films was Carry On Sergeant, made in 1958. Peter Rogers, director and Norman Hudis, chief writer served in the war and must have been aware of the aphorism: adding Keep Calm before most of the film titles – apart perhaps from Screaming – maintains sense. [Puzzling & relieving how the premise of that franchise of films seems so frantically alien and dated.]

Mary & Stuart Manley, owners of Barter Books at Alnwick have the credit for beaming it once more into public consciousness, having found the ancient poster qua rallying cry in a box. The ripples from deciding to hang it up in their store are still to calm.

Five of the series revolved round military themes

As an aside, it seems Carry on Camping at Glasto this year is unlikely to be blighted by rain with Organizers urging Festival-goers to drink plenty of water and protect heads and skin. Yes: do.

Air and grace


© Cat Morley                                                        Risings above Battersea Park

The other morning afforded a cheerful happenstance of co-incidence: one of those wondrous, inexplicable collision of events involving hot air and gracious floatings.

Owing to a head injury many years ago, I don’t dream: the result of which is that I rise early. When the air’s clear and the birds sing, it is impossible not to go and walk amid nature. But on that morning, that particular morning, some strange force held me back from leaving directly once teeth were brushed.

Around six minutes after closing the front door, the midst of a wild meadow is reached. My path takes me East then almost immediately North. That delay now appears a miraculous gift as had I been even a minute earlier, it would have been too early, thus missing the majestic silent glidings into my frame of view by thirty+ Balloons wafting Eastwards, south of the River.

The Balloon Regatta has billowed annually since 2015, weather permitting, and this year raised funds for Onside Youth Zones, Samaritans and Place2Be.

Yeah: hoo noo? It is such a glorious peach of support for The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, the fund embraced annually by holders of this august office.

On this Solstice Morning, floating in splendid imaginings through redeemed Dawn air, rather than lament the shortening days from here on in, I shall attempt to cartwheel through dew in celebration of nature’s sunny miracle and the universal modality we maieut.

Image: Reuters                                                                That boot was a bizarre spectacle from a distance of around seven miles but the whole effect was a magical and mysterious site for sore eyes.

Launching from Battersea Park at who- knows-what- time, they made it to Elephant and Castle by 05.45 and seemingly wafted East to Greenwich.