Friday, 25 April 2008

MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark ...

... all the sweet green icing flowing down ---
Someone left the cake out in the rain ---
I don't think that I can take it,
Because it took so long to bake it,
And I'll never have that recipe agaaaaaaain ....


Yes, I know it should be MacArthur Park, but who am I to argue with the original Richard Harris recording? All seven-and-a-half minutes of it?

The song is forty years old this month*. It is cheeseball, overblown, sentimental, and preposterous: and still, there's a part of me that loves it. Harris was not exactly the best singer in the world, but he was an excellent performer, and this recording is a great performance. If the song is an epic: go epic.

UPDATE (28th May): It appears that Chris Noth, a.k.a. Big a.k.a. Mike Logan, is a big fan of Harris' recording.

* [I've had trouble establishing a date for the album, A Tramp Shining, looking around in the web. April 1968 is the best I've managed, based on this website on the Dunhill label.]

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Pentagon's hidden hand

If you are interested in the media response to (and responsibility for) the progress of the war in Iraq, may I recommend an article in today's New York Times, "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand". It's the more devastating for being sober in its tone.

The standard of investigative journalism in this paper --- supported by the exemplary American Freedom of Information regime --- is excellent. It's in signal contrast to the partisanship of papers in (say) the UK, and the self-importance and shallowness of papers in my own country.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

One year on

This blog is a year old: I wish the occasion were a happier one. By the way of a good-news story, though, let me point you to an effort to remember students and faculty through relief work in poor parts of Virginia.

The following posts have been popular:

All together now! (30-Jul-07)
Blinded by the light (05-Jan-08)
Easter for grownups (27-Mar-08)
The end of the affair (01-Jul-07)
Four reactions to an apology (17-Feb-08)
A German beer trail (22-May-07)
Kermode on Vermes on the Resurrection (23-Mar-08)
The love that dare not speak its name (25-Jun-07)
Midgley on rights and social ethics (14-Sep-07)
Miserere mei, Deus (18-Nov-07)
Of giants and crockery (17-Oct-07)
Perks? (19-Apr-07)
Pheasant Plucking (24-Jun-07)
She is a very bad girl (12-Jul-07)
sushi and sashimi (23-Dec-07)
Talk is cheap (24-Oct-07)
Tambourines and elephants (16-Dec-07)
Tangled up in (quantum) blue (05-Oct-07)

Let me also put in a shameless plug for Silver on the Tree (30-Mar-08) and Europa Rising (08-May-07)

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

If seeing is believing ...

If seeing is believing, then we better be damn careful about what we show people, including ourselves – because, regardless of what it is – we are likely to uncritically believe it.
It's sentiment I endorse, but I'd be a bit suspicious of it coming from me, or from someone likewise conservative. In fact the author is Errol Morris, writing in his blog at the New York Times. As a documentary film-maker who himself uses dramatic re-enactment as a tool, I'd say he can speak with some authority on this question.

The article is a little long, but well worth reading: on re-enactment generally, and on some fascinating individual cases. And (somewhat off-topic), if you haven't seen Morris' documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara, then truly, you must.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The NYT deep-sixes Ice Nine

In recent days my friends --- including several physicists --- have been tormenting me with the news about the court case in Hawaii attempting to stop the turn-on of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. I would like to think that I have a sense of humour about my work, but I do not have a sense of humour about relentless focus on the spectacular (as opposed to the central, or the important); nor do I have much time for the current conviction that crackpots and obsessives, for some mysterious reason, deserve to be given cultural space.


I was pleased to see an editorial in the New York Times today, dismissing the concern while having fun with it at the same time. I may not have a sense of humour in this matter, but at least I can appreciate it in other people.

[I have previously posted on the LHC, and on the ATLAS experiment, which I am joining this year.]