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Winter's bite

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 6 May 2015, 02:48

Somewhere Summer crossed into Autumn.

And then I felt Winter's bite.

A tooth fell out.

 

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On my plate

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On my plate

A rainbow salad.

Four seasons in one.

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Ordeal by Molten Lead

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 5 May 2015, 19:12

In the middle ages - it is said - there was such a thing as trial by ordeal.

Simply put (in the law of Athelstan, ruler of England 924 to 927)

1. You are accused of a crime

2. You need to prove you are innocent

3. You plunge one hand in boiling water and retrieve a stone from the bottom of the vessel.

There's a tariff. 1 accuser = up to the wrist. 3 accusers = up to the elbow.

If your burns started to heal after three days then you are judged innocent.

Ironically, Athelstan means "noble stone".

If this was ever really applied then I can't conceal my contempt for such a way of thinking.  How could anyone even begin to believe (or perhaps just cynically suggest to others) that such a process would reveal truth?

In the modern age a physicist reinvented this idea of ordeal, but he was not on trial. The accusation went the other way now. Science and truth were attacking irrationality and fear. The accuser - Jearl Walker - plunged his hand into not just boiling water but molten lead, to support rational thought.

Jearl Walker wrote a column in Scientific American for many years. I always read it eagerly. I remember well, after perhaps 30 years, his description of how he thought the laws of physics would let him plunge a hand into molten lead without injury.

He said something like (from half a life-time's recollection) "I checked my calculations one final time, and they were correct. I felt a little fear, but trusted science, went ahead - and science was right was right, as I thought it would be."

A test of faith.

Jearl Walker is alive and well. You can see his demonstration of faith repeated here. Do watch.

Remember to spit on your finger before you test your iron!

If you travel back in time to 10th century England and are subjected to trial by ordeal, spitting on you hands won't work of course. I'm not sure what would.

 

 

 

 

 

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Proof of Spring

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I went out in Spring sun

Came back in Spring rain. 

Both equally enjoyable.

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Slowly slowly

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I'm not quite prepared.

So Snail you're the one I trust

To carry my cheque up the mountain.

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Seed catalog haiku

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OK I give up. What kind of planet is this?

Please please send rain.

Or at least the seed catalogue.

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Sitting pigeon

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 28 Apr 2015, 04:28

Last night I accidentally discovered "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch (reflecting on existence)."

I fell in love with the film at once. It's like a series of haiku - snapshots that try to capture the experience of being.

Haiku originated from an earlier tradition of collaborative poetic composition. One of the collaborators would produce a short opening verse - the Hokku - and the others would contribute stanzas one after another to build up a longer poem.

Later the Hokku evolved into a free-standing poetic form, roughly the Haiku as we know it today, but poets still often wrote a sequence of linked Haiku, classically as a travel diary.

"A Pigeon" is a series of loosely connect episodes, some quite fantastic, most deliberately banal, but all inviting us to consider who we are, who others are, and how we relate to one another. Each moves us in one way or another. Yet the situations are all absurd to a greater or lesser degree, which is perhaps true of real life. Many are surreal, and some monstrous.

Foregrounds are simple and actors deadpan, but each scene, like a poem, is ambiguous. It shows us a deeper background we hadn't noticed at first and often adds glimpses of an indifferent external world, sometimes seen through a window.

I've always been obsessed with the way all our small everyday experiences can join together to give us a sense of self and identity. Like Haiku, this film gives an emotional interpretation to this feeling of mine. You might say that all feelings are emotional but I don't think that's exactly correct.

 

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Flowers My Mother Taught Me

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 27 Apr 2015, 02:29

The Marsh Marigold is another spring flower familiar from childhood.

The ones in the photo grow in the stream just across the road from my house, near a little brick bridge which you can see in the photograph.

The flower-name is in the great Oxford English Dictionary. Its earliest known occurrence is from 1578:

The small Celandyne, and the Braue Bassinet, or Marsh Marigold, do grow in moyst medowes.

(Lyte's translation from the original Dutch of Dodoens' Niewe Herball.)

 

 

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I wandered lonely as a celandine

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One of my interests is wild flowers. Here a picture I took of celandines outside the front of my house. The celandine is one of my favorite flowers and there are hosts of them where I live.

Not a lot of people know that Wordsworth wrote a poem "The Lesser Celandine" about this flower. Personally I think it's rather dull and I can see why it's less well known than Wordsworth's other flower poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", alias "Daffodils".

Although the latter is one of the most famous poems in the English language it's never really attracted me. I much prefer Herrick's "To Daffodils"

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
         You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
         Has not attain'd his noon.
                        Stay, stay,
                Until the hasting day
                        Has run
                But to the even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.

 

I think that's a beautiful evocation of the transitory nature of things.

 

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New Moon Haiku

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Stopping on the bridge tonight.

New moon. New thoughts.

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Marie Curie

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 23 Apr 2015, 00:46

Marie Curie. A person of extraordinary intelligence and courage. On the wall of the British Library is inscribed a quote

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.

I've passed it many times, and it always give me a little extra hope, because I am not very brave.

 

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Calendar

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On my calendar

Three boats, 24 houses and 22 ducks.

Why doesn't it hang straight? (It doesn't)

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Bumblebee Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 19 Apr 2015, 03:06

Bumblebee you said it was Spring.

I didn't listen.

Until today.

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What does apathy feel like?

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 17 Apr 2015, 02:40

I'm endlessly fascinated by the relationship between brain function and our sense of self.

Many people who survive a stroke experience apathy. This is usually associated with depression, common amongst stroke survivors. But a minority may have suffered front brain damage that has affected emotional response. The loss may be severe.

In its most profound form, what would this apathy be like? Would it be loss of energy, motivation and interest in everyday life? Would it mean insensitivity to pleasure or pain? The word apathy was made up in the 18th century from the Greek for suffering and meant at first "without suffering", rather than lethargy, which is the way the word is often interpreted today.

It could be closer to the original 18th century sense. Perhaps it is far more than demotivation or joylessness.

Maybe you'd know about emotions intellectually, and even display them, but you'd be acting. Inside there would no emotional experience at all. Not even a gap; just nothing.

 

 

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Why cross the road?

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Snail, how can I save you in this dark?

Conscience draws me back to help.

Prosper on the other side.

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Birdsong

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Birdsong makes us happy. Why?

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Riddle 2

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What form an upper and lower mountain range?

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Riddle

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 10 Apr 2015, 23:23

What can carry a house up a mountain?

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Stream Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 10 Apr 2015, 01:08

Stop! Go back

Listen again to the running stream.

Aren't you glad to hear it?

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The Medium is the Message

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 9 Apr 2015, 01:22

A camera is like a human eye.

The basic plan

light from world --> focus --> image falls on sensors

But photography can work without any focusing. If we put refractors -- glass, resin, minerals and so on -- directly on film and expose it briefly to light, something will be recorded. In that case refractors have replaced the lens and it's them we are photographing.

So, literally, the medium is the message.

This can produce striking results. Visit the website of Alan Jaras for example.

This reminds me of an experiment I tried many years ago. Photographic plates preceded the film which came before digital cameras.

If you are not familiar with plates, they are just like film but on glass not plastic. Plates were the staple of photography until films came along and spoiled it.

Just as (and rightly) some still prefer film to digital, back then plates were still around, because some people preferred them.

What was the experiment? We put a couple of plates up on the roof, in a a plastic bag, and left them there a couple of months. Later, when we remembered, we fetched them down and developed them. In hope of what?

Cosmic rays. Some energetic particle that may have set off from a supernova billions of light years away and billions of years ago, could have arrived on our roof and created a record on our plates.

And one had.

No lens needed. The universe is on your rooftop.

 

 

 

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Roman Frister

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 12 Apr 2015, 02:54

Roman Frister died recently.

He was a concentration camp survivor (then aged 15), later journalist, book author, and founder of a university school of journalism.

Frister's frank and harrowing tale of being in the camp describes a horrible moral dilemma.

Camp inmates had to wear the regulation cap for morning roll call. Anyone bareheaded was instantly shot. One night Frister's cap was stolen.

In the dark of the hut he found a cap that belonged to someone else. Next day he heard that person shot.

Frister lived with this and a half-century on wrote a memoir, whose title The Cap was taken from the incident.

I read the book, some years ago now, but it still haunts me.

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Fishing

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 8 Apr 2015, 02:01

From its rock a cormorant

Watched the fishermen.

Thieves, thieves.

 

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Dinosaur poets TM

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what is/are Poets

Can they die and emerge again

like Dinosaurians

?

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Bullet marks

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So have you seen

Bullet marks on a wall?

And did it make you flinch?

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A memory

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Do you remember in Greece,

we had that wobbly table,

and the waiter brought a melon rind?

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