J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien
Mariner Books, August 2015
A thousand years on, the sharpness of Beowulf‘s images still strikes us. Longships cruise amid icy spray. A king stares with fear amid the riches of his hall. Then comes the fiend Grendel stalking across the moors. Tolkien’s translation weds to these visions the rhythm and grandeur of language that rumbles even as it exults, which rolls like the swells of the sea. Continue reading
Nature breaks even on the feet. The real money comes from the replacement toes.
Who hasn’t sauntered barefoot past a chair and bent his or her little toe sideways against its leg? Dividing my age by the number of breaks, I discover that I’ve broken one toe, on average, every eight years of my life. By the time I get to forty, it’ll have proved cheaper to replace the whole foot.
These show flat versions of a surface G. J. Siegle studied. Different values of two constants, c, k, generate the different ribbons: each ribbon comprises those points of a Cartesian plane whose coordinates equal <cos(cu)(cos(v) + u), sin(ku)(cos(v) + u)> for some ordered pair of angles, <u, v>. Continue reading
This shows the trails of some specks of colour as they emerge from two moving bodies. The bodies start with a relative velocity not parallel to their displacement and fall towards each other with constant magnitude of acceleration. Meanwhile, each body emits specks of colour in the direction opposite to its acceleration. All the specks of colour move at the same speed and fade as they move. Continue reading
ALONZO CHURCH RED HOUSE
I wrote this for piano, panpipes, cor anglais and a contrabass balalaika. I also put in a whole lot of clanging, jangling things, which Sibelius calls bongos, congas, castanets, timpani, a tam-tam and a drum kit.
Throughout, the primary accent falls on the twentieth demisemiquaver of each measure. Continue reading
This shows flecks of colour left behind by several projectiles as they move.
A planet with four moons revolves around a point near the centre of the picture. As they move, the planet and moons shed projectiles in the direction of their acceleration. Before vanishing, each projectile flies a short distance, leaving behind darker and darker flecks of colour as it goes. Continue reading
WHAT IFS? OF AMERICAN HISTORY
Cowley, Robert (Berkley, September 2004, ISBN 9780425198186)
My contribution to the genre:
1050: Fifty years after Leif Ericsson’s discovery of North America, Norse colonists build a permanent settlement on the island of Newfoundland. Continue reading
Current Affairs: With Pope Gregory V dying, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III seals the Sacred Palace. As Christendom awaits the end of the world, rival Cardinals plot their ascendency to the papacy.
Divergence Point: 974 A.D.: A Christian prophet in Rome introduces toothbrushes, proper sanitation and a form of the underarm deodorant. Continue reading
SAY THIS, NOT THAT: A FOOLPROOF GUIDE TO EFFECTIVE INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION
Alasko, Carl (Tarcher, January 2014, ISBN 9781585429325)
The usual advice on what they call ‘effective communication’ says that you should think of yourself as a guide. Working through ideas he or she already understands, you hope to guide the other party to where he or she can see your meaning for him or herself.
No doubt it works when you go to buy vegetables from your grocer. There, you and the grocer have the same goal. Continue reading
CARVING WOODEN SANTAS, ELVES & GNOMES
Oar, Ross (Woodcarving Illustrated Books; Fox Chapel Publishing, September 2008, ISBN 9781565233836)
Several Christmases ago, I caught Karen home from work watching a home improvement programme that showed you how to build a procession of plywood reindeer for your lawn. You sawed the antlers and the reindeer out as separate pieces and then nailed the former on to the latter.
Imagine yourself sawing out plywood reindeer in your garage on a Sunday afternoon. What a sense of purposelessness must assail you. You had dreams once. How did it come to this?
PATTERN GENERATION FOR COMPUTATIONAL ART
Holos, Stefan (Abrazol Publishing, November 2013, ISBN 9781887187183)
This shows the trails of some motes of colour as they emerge from satellites orbiting the members of a binary star.
Each star has sixty satellites. The colour of the motes that a satellite discharges depends on the distance separating that satellite from the star it orbits. Satellites nearest the first star discharge red motes, those further out orange ones, and so on outwards, varying through the spectrum in smooth stages to yellow at the outermost satellites. Satellites nearest the second star discharge azure motes, those further out green ones, and again so on outwards, varying through the spectrum in smooth stages to yellow at the outermost satellites. Continue reading
MUGGING AS A SOCIAL PROBLEM
Pratt, Michael (Routledge, November 1980, ISBN 9780710005649)
While waiting in a queue last year, I saw a baby mug another baby for a foam football.
The mark clung to the football for comfort as it wandered around the floor. The mugger rushed up, pushed it over and scooped the football off the ground before running away in that wobbling stagger that looks like the baby has tumbled over with each step and just caught itself each time.