so i mentioned ayn rand’s the fountainhead to an architect friend. of course he’d read it. just how many works of fiction on architecture could there be? well, at least 40:
Martin Chuzzlewit Charles Dickens 1844
A Laodicean: Or the Castle of the De Stancys Thomas Hardy 1881
Unleavened Bread Robert Grant 1900
The Man of Property John Galsworthy 1906
The Gray Cloth Paul Scheerbart 1914
The Roll Call Arnold Bennett 1918
So Big Edna Ferber 1924
The Honeywood File: An Adventure in Building H.B. Creswell 1929
The Honeywood Settlement H.B. Creswell 1930
Jago v. Swillerton and Toomer H.B. Creswell 1931 The Fountainhead Ayn Rand 1943
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Eric Hodgins 1947
A Burnt-Out Case Graham Greene 1960
Les Choses de la Vie (Intersection) Paul Guimard 1967
Ragtime E.L. Doctorow 1975
The Architect B.M. Boyce 1977
The City Builder George Konrad 1977
Monticello Fault Archibald Rogers 1979
The Architect Meyer Levin 1981
Once More the Sun Vivian Lord 1982
Tempest Paul Mazursky 1982
Hawksmoor Peter Ackroyd 1986
Paradise Donald Barthelme 1987
Building Dreams Justine Valenti 1988
The Belly of an Architect (screenplay) Peter Greenaway 1988
Another Present Era Elaine Perry 1990
Debt of Dishonor (originally published as Take No Farewell) Robert Goddard 1991
Outer Banks Anne Rivers Siddons 1991
City of the Mind Penelope Lively 1992
Underworld Peter Conrad 1992
Outside the Dog Museum Jonathan Carroll 1992
Arcadia Jim Crace 1992
Fearless Rafael Yglesias 1993
Decider Dick Francis 1993
Goldmine: London W.I. Philip Daniels 1993
The Big Score Michael Killian 1993
The Horses of the Night Michael Cadnum 1993
Commitment Julie Ellis 1994
As Max Saw It Louis Begley 1994
Karma Mitchell Smith 1994
The Seventh Sacrament James Bradberry 1994
Salt Dancers Ursula Hegi 1995
The Architect’s Other Hat Bernice Speight 1995
Second Shadow Amee and David Thurlo 1995
The Inhabited Woman Gioconda Belli 1995
Summer Edith Wharton 1995
Tidings of Great Joy Sandra Brown 1997
Secrecy Belva Plain 1997
Murder In Perspective Keith Miles 1997
One Fine Day (Novelization) H.B. Gilmour 1997
Ice on the Bridge Erich Wolfgang Skwara 1997
Delirium Douglas Cooper 1998
Saint’s Rest Keith Miles 1999
Trial By Fire Frank Simon 1999
The Witch Finder Loren D. Estleman 1999
Love’s Design Jillian Dagg 2000
A Bullet in an Architect’s Head Uta-Maria Heim 2000
The Cloud Sketcher Richard Rayner 2000
Before I Say Good-Bye Mary Higgins Clark 2000
Ampersand Limited Vince Grnua 2000
A Finer End Deborah Crombie 2001
Idee Fize Mark Jacoby 2001
The Color of Midnight John H. Brasher 2001
The Annex Russel James 2002
Dead Woman’s Voice Laurence Hutner 2002
Bermuda Grass Keith Miles 2002
Island of Dreams Katherine Stone 2002
Innocent Cities Jack Hodges 2002
The Gold Swan James Thayer 2002
i like ayn rand a lot. uncomfortably good. heavily recommended.
i thought, as i read it, that the fountainhead must have been based/inspired by frank lloyd wright. there’s a house that roark builds that’s just gotta be fallingwater (picture).
as i remember, the house suffers badly from time (it’s falling apart). perhaps keating would have been the right choice after all.
i saw this, via metafilter, and thought of a story i wrote. the bbc wouldn’t take it because of mcdonald’s litigious nature. i pointed out that it wasn’t anti-mcDs, or indeed anything else. they asked me to change the name to something else and get rid of the references to a real company:
the golden arch
“Define it then.” Says Naz. “Go on, what is it? I mean, how would you know if a deaf, dumb, and blind man was enlightened?”
“You could just tell.” Answers Saffie.
“Bollocks,” says Naz, “ you can’t just tell? He has to do something.”
Next April, Saffie and Naz will have been together for ten years. Everyone knew they were made for each other. They’d lived together for eight of those years, with only one six month interval, during which Naz went to find himself somewhere in the Hindu Kush. The fact that he had really found himself in the sweaty arms of an Australian back-packer named Sandy was never made known to Saffie. Still, thought Naz, she’d have forgiven him anyway. Saffie, of course, had never strayed. That time in Bali with the black South African hadn’t counted, not really. Her Catholic upbringing allowed her to view that as being something quite different, no penetration was involved after all. No, the two of them were an item; they belonged together, to each other.
Arriving in Katmandu after a short flight from Bangkok, Saffie felt a release she had not expected. The turmoil she had felt in her brain, Naz, England, that whole insecurity thing, was in front of her, in the narrow streets and mayhem. You had to let it wash over you, not let your own shit get in the way, no time for it, no space. Saffie had a purpose here; no idle sightseeing travelers’ trail this. A mission, something she believed in, something important. Saffie was happy, she smiled, very happy.
James heard the flurry of activity around him and knew the cabin crew was clearing up for the final time before landing. His shallow meal tray was whisked away, hardly touched, with a polite nod. He arched his back, stretched his neck, and flexed his fingers, tried to get the blood flowing again. He looked out of the window: Nepal. He could murder a BigMac and fries.
He wondered whether the boys from Illinois had ever come out here. He guessed that someone must have. He supposed that someone from Illinois had to have been to every restaurant. But no any one individual had done it, he was pretty sure of that. There were now over 25,000 of them in 117 countries. Not bad for what was once a west coast hamburger stand.
California 1955. Dick and Mac McDonald ran this hamburger stand in San Bernadino. One day they are approached by this guy, Ray Kroc. He had exclusive distribution rights to a milkshake mixer. He noticed that one customer; a solitary hamburger stand was running eight of these mixers. He wondered if there was something in this, some secret or mode of operation that he could use or pass on to his customers to promote the sale of more mixers. This was post war America, times were good. Ray worked hard and he wanted to be rich.
Ray traveled to California and took a look at Dick and Mac’s stand. Straight away he was impressed. They talked for a while about franchising the operation, Ray spying an eight mixer sale to each new branch. When the boys questioned who would open up these new places, Ray suggested himself. The boys had the name, but Ray was the true father of The Golden Arch.
The first real McDonalds opened 15 April 1955 at 400 Lee Street, Des Plaines, Illinois. The first day’s takings was $366.12. Today it turns over $40 billion dollars a year.
James knew it all, he was an aficionado. He’d been to that first restaurant. Now rebuilt to the original blueprints as a museum for the McDonalds Corporation. It was walking around the exhibits; mannequins styling the original white shirts, dark trousers, aprons and paper hats; that James discovered the McDonalds folklore. It was detailed and well researched. It fed James’ interest and kept raising new questions in his mind. Here was one whole strand of social history. It was micro-history that grew macro. The world was McDonalds, was Coca-Cola, was Microsoft and Disney. It was here and it was global. Best of all it was tangible, you could see it. Every McDonalds was an embassy for the future of mankind. And you could eat there.
It wasn’t just Big Business with a capital “B”, 85% of the restaurants are franchised, most of them to locals. This was a social phenomenon. This was big. James found himself after a while, traveling all over. He started in the States then moved further afield. He went to Beijing to see the largest restaurant, then the smallest, then the newest. He went to openings all over. A new McDonalds opens every seven hours. In ’94 in Kuwait City 15,000 people queued for a burger. The line of cars for the drive thru was 7 miles long. Spectacular. James was spellbound by it. Each time he asked for fries he knew that, wherever in the world he was, they had all been placed in oil heated to precisely 168 degrees Celsius and left there for exactly 2.55 minutes. James knew that his experience was mirrored in 40 million other souls all around the world, each and every day. He developed a real love for the golden arch, the red and yellow, the silver stars on the uniforms of its employees. One in fifteen Americans knew those stars, had, at some time or other, worked for McDonalds. A million, worldwide still did. This was huge.
The last time Saffie had been to Katmandu was with Naz. That’s how it would have been this time, except for that fight. Most people argue about money or jealousy, sex even. Saffie liked to think they had reached a more evolved state in which those baser elements of life had found a plane on which both Naz and herself were content to let them rest. No, what they argued about was philosophy, meta-philosophy. Neither of them was content to label themselves but they were pretty sure that whatever label outsiders would place on one, they would place on the other. And then came Croydon.
Saffie’s friend Sue had introduced her to Dave, an ex-general builder and decorator. He, according to Sue was enlightened. No idle claim this, apparently it had been confirmed by some yogi guy in an ashram in southern India. Saffie had taken Naz to see him. They had just gotten over the thirty-minute wait to see him when Dave opened his mouth and out came a South-London-general-builder-and-decorator patois. Naz just pissed himself laughing. Saffie had turned to him in dismay, only for Naz to add to it all by shouting “loadsa-answers, loadsa-answers”. She couldn’t forgive him for that, no way.
Saffie had no idea whether things would have cooled off by the time she returned, right now she didn’t care. She had more important things to worry about. It was time to get angry. She’d bought it all with her, a three-inch thick stack of pamphlets and cuttings, a whole transcript of the key witness statements from the McLibel case, the lot. She sifted through it all, picking out bits at random.
Everyone knew that McDonalds was bad. From deforestation, to make way for more grazing land, to it’s anti-union exploitative labour practices; from targeting the young to it’s never-ending profit-seeking. It was a multi-national. Which was, after all, just another word for evil. Even if the libel case found most of these charges to be poorly founded it was just the system acting to protect one of its own. Yes everyone knew McDonalds was bad. The simple truth was that places were just nicer without one. And now, tomorrow, the newest restaurant was to open, in Katmandu, Nepal for Christ’s sake! Too far this time, too bloody far. Saffie, and maybe thousands of others, were not going to let that happen.
James left his hotel and headed for Durbar Square. He had been told that today was a festival day, but not a large one. In fact there were over four hundred festivals in Nepal. If they closed up shop for each one, then nothing would get done. He made his way, passed a group of kids playing soccer in the street, to a nearby café. It was pretty crowded. He took off his glasses and placed them in the pocket of his faded green shirt.
Saffie loved Katmandu and she was here again. Without Naz she actually felt free. As she walked, she expressed to herself the hope that she’d run into some like-minded people, people she could talk to. She would lose herself in some conversation, nothing too heavy, just something in the right direction. She entered the café, pausing at the tables outside, before choosing to escape the afternoon sun just inside the door. There were no tables free, but there was a couple of free chairs around one table.
James looked up and had one of those moments. One minute he was just taking in the movements of the square, the next he witnessed the bright sun projecting a halo around a face, which spoke. He was so overwhelmed with the vision that he couldn’t make out the words. It was a beauty that he had seldom seen, wisps of golden hair blended in with the bright sun, as if the figure before him was emerging from it, rather than from the street.
“OK if I sit here?” she smiled.
“Err, sure, sure, help yourself.”
James didn’t want to say anything, lest he mess this up. He knew this was something special, really special.
Saffie pulled the wicker chair from under the table and took off her knitted woolen shoulder bag. She took out a wedge of papers and sat down. The guy before her was watching, not in any way which displeased her, just watching as if he didn’t know what else to do.
“What are you thinking?” Saffie asked.
James did not even contemplate lying. “You’re beautiful, an angel, a fiery angel.”
Saffie was not taken aback, not shocked, offended, or displeased. She was in Katmandu and this was the sort of thing that was supposed to happen. She smiled the smile of the angel that he thought she was. James was filled by it, given energy by it. He felt loved.
The two of them sat back. Somehow there was little distance between them, as if their initial exchange had cleared whatever barriers social niceties would have demanded. This was not England. This was Nepal; somehow things were just easier away from normal life. Saffie quickly learnt that James had never been here before and had, in fact, probably been on the same flight in. Consequently Saffie felt it her duty to a fellow traveler to pass on some tips and information.
“Yeah, this place is amazing, I mean, really incredible. Out there in the corner of the square is a palace, not that you’d recognise it as one. In it is a living goddess called the Kurmina. She is chosen as a baby and lives there as the living embodiment of the Hindi goddess Durga. Every day she looks out for a few minutes so that people can see that they are watched over by the gods.”
James is pleased. Saffie appears to like him; at least she is talking to him.
“Really” he says, “and she never leaves?”
“No, well occasionally she is paraded outside, on feast days I think, but generally she just lives up there.”
“Fuck” says James, “sounds bad, lonely I mean.”
Saffie likes this; this is her kind of thing. “Maybe” she says, “who are we to judge another culture? Cultural relativism it’s called. Can’t judge, just try to understand. Anyway, she isn’t there for life, just until she bleeds for the first time, then they choose a new girl. I think she just goes back home, although I did hear that men pretty well steer clear of her after that, I mean, you don’t want to fuck with a goddess do you?”
He smiled a secret smile that Saffie caught sight of. Saffie heard the word ‘fuck’ repeat itself in her head and saw that smile. “Oops”, she thought.
The travel alarm awoke James at five-thirty. He’d been asleep less than two hours. It was all he could do to keep in mind the business of the day. His brain kept replaying over and over the image of Saffie, arms stretched out above her head, eyes closed, and him a few inches away. Last night, he decided, was the best night of his life.
Saffie had been mildly disappointed that James had left when he did, but not with the night itself. Incredibly she felt no guilt. Naz could screw himself, she thought. In James she had found a gentle soul. He gave her time and space. He never pressured her, nor chided her, just cared. She could picture his face now, his large blue eyes hovering above her, taking her in, just as she had taken him. She shivered involuntarily. This feels right, she thought, really right. He was even here for the same reason as her. At some point in the evening he had said that he needed to get up for the opening. She smiled to herself. She hadn’t mentioned that she too would be there. She would surprise him. As she unfurled her ‘McDonalds Murders’ banner, she thought of the two of them together, last night, today, maybe even tomorrow.
Durba Square, 8AM. The white cloth that, for the past few days, has covered the latest encroachment of western civilisation, is removed. Some dignitary or other gives a clipped speech. A ribbon is cut. The two hundred people in the queue at the double doors surge forward. James, first there, loses a few places. He is happy. He has already taken a roll of film, more material than usual. He is perhaps happier than he has ever been. He knows he will see Saffie again. He wonders if, perhaps, they will travel the world together in future. This morning, he has even heard a rumour from a McDonalds employee that a new restaurant is due to open in Bhutan sometime soon. He thinks he could mention this to Saffie, perhaps she hasn’t been there yet.
Saffie is stoic in the face of the poor turnout on the demo. She and four others stand powerless in the face of the duped locals. Hundreds of beautiful brown faces display a new, learnt, kind of greed. She looks around and sees that Katmandu has changed in that moment. She knows she can never come here again.
However, the trip has not been wasted. There was James after all, although he was missing right now. He had said he would be here, but . ..
And there was James. For a moment Saffie was elated; at seeing him, at the fact that he was right in there. How stupid I’ve been, she thought. That’s the way to do it, no pissing around on a picket line. Direct action, get in there and . . . Get in there and what? She watches, hardly blinks, she hopes that whatever James is up to isn’t going to land him in jail or get himself hurt. She rushes to the window and peers in. There he is at the counter. He’s smiling. This must be it.
James turns around, large fries and a coke in hand. He sees Saffie pressed against the window. He begins to wave. Then he sees that she is crying, sobbing. He can’t quite fathom it. Then he catches the half-hidden words on the banner, now dropped to the ground. He understands now. He understands so completely that he can’t move. He is fixed, rooted. Fixed, rooted and utterly alone.
Saffie lays in the dust. McDonalds destroys, it has even destroyed last night. She can’t move, doesn’t want to move. It is bigger than she ever imagined. McDonalds destroys tomorrow.
The golden arch gleams in the sun, almost blinding the eyes of a young girl sitting in a small room almost directly opposite. Not just any young girl, for she is the living goddess. She thinks, she cannot but think. She thinks that the golden ‘M’ must hold some significance. A knock at her door momentarily necessitates her turning away. She is handed something in a paper wrapper. She resumes her vigil. She watches as a woman slumps down in the dust, her head propped against the sparkling new glass.
Tentatively the Kurmina unfolds the wrapper and brings the exotic smelling parcel to her mouth. She bites hard. According to her aid, it is called a McChicken sandwich. Her mouth fills with saliva, her taste buds furiously working on the hitherto unknown. She wonders if the woman by the window has been similarly overcome.
from somewhere a week or so ago came the name ayn rand. i’d never heard of her. if i had any pride ,i would exhibit it over the breadth of my knowledge in such matters. this was a gap.
i love gaps.
i looked her up, of course. there was her magnus opus, atlas shrugged. lauded and deprecated, selling by the truck-load. her last work of fiction. but i ordered”the fountainhead, the book that made her name.
it reminds me of herman hesse, a lot. i’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing. but she’s smarter than him. all i can say is that 200 pages through i like it. i read it whenever possible, outside my normal times, which is a good sign.
i love gaps.
i’ve spoken about ayn rand to a few people. it seems that she is passe. old school. best not be seen with. apparently in the college days of one american friend there were two groups, the randians and the vonnegutians. the randians were the reagan voters.
talking of vonnegut, and not a million miles away from ayn rand, i saw today this page of vonnegut’s rules for writing. number eight:
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Instead of being killed by bacterial invaders as previously thought, Ms Ainsworth’s studies reveal that the cells within the coral activate programmed cell death, or PCD - a cellular process which acts like a self-destruct mechanism.
james lovelock would love this story.(incidentally the “Gaia theory” term was coined not by him but by William Golding). interesting that this article continues to refer to the “disease”. i guess using the word properly, rather than its generally understood sense.
of course it’s global warming that is given the blame.
“I think the smoking gun is climate change. We have had a series of hot summers recently in which corals in the shallows become bleached and literally ‘worn out’. This leads to mechanisms that allow the coral to retract tissues that are no longer functioning due to this stress,” says Professor Hoegh-Guldberg. “This is somewhat similar to Eucalyptus trees dropping branches when they run short of water.”
“We need to pinpoint what is happening in the cellular process [of this disease], what is switching it on and switching it off. We need to look at the genes and pathways involved,” Ms Ainsworth said.
“Are the corals in control of their own programmed cells death - or is it simply out of control?”
The findings of this and other research into coral diseases may help to develop better warning systems to help minimise their impact on our reefs.
look forward to the genetic modification of coral in order that we may continue to admire the barrier reef, rather like the conservation work on an old building.
in the story of the modified mosquitos i liked the fact that the eyes were going to be changed to green or red. perhaps we can make coral orange?
there’s a review show that i watch on the beeb, newsnight review. it’s one of two or three serious arts programmes left on uk television. on radio there are probably three or four more. i watched on sky plus with its integrated dvr. it has transformed tv for me. there are no times to be concerned with. adverts are a three second fast view.
when the programme is finished (nothing to report) the “live” tv it landed on was bbc 2 comic relief. this national day of fundraising for charity. it started for africa, then there were yelps of uk needs. now all sorts of stuff is covered. it is “charity” itself. watch, even better . . . do something stupid, get sponsored for “charity”, for good, for harry and saint george.
i saw perhaps 15 minutes. this is what i saw:
michael palin on a special report from the sudan. DAFUR. repeated. and i’m thinking, what? you give money and then what? the UN, the “global community” has failed but your precious few quid is going to sort it all out? but no, it gets better. Your money could buy
lawyers, pschologists, counsellors.
This is a matter of life and death.
the segment ends and another begins. And as we think of these sudanese refugees traipsing across the desert in search of safety, the programme cuts to the proclaimers’
“i would walk five hundred miles, and i would walk five hundred more . . .”
and the proclaimers sing, backed by two comic characters, the celebrity audience goes wild, dancing, mouthing the words, and all in that special “celebrity” way, the hint of a wink, the well-worn smile, the knowledge that someone, god, is watching. no one looks bored, indifferent, yawns or looks tired. and there is the odd credible person, a plausible actor, a scientist. what is going on?
i’m scratching my head just as the credits come up. this has been written (peter kay). cut back to comic relief studio. more celebs cheering unscripted. i give up.
incidentally, i discovered once that, in britain, there had been one day on which no one had committed suicide. what, i wondered, was so special about that day. i googled the date. ranked number one was comic relief day. if that isn’t enough to make you top yourself i don’t know what is.
Just now Jake and I are spread across a blanket on the grass. We’ve got a bottle of wine going and Jake’s drawing on something through a cigarette holder and is smiling and smiling. You know, I think we’ve really got something here. I cast my eye about and there’s nothing that displeases me.
I don’t know how many years the two of us have been tweaking this and that just to get the yard sorted out. It’s important to get the yard looking good. It’s like an extra room for the apartment isn’t it?
The end of the yard was difficult. We always wanted a fabulous view, and we’ve got that now. There’s a rush of lavender in the meadow, lilac trees beyond, and hills rising to mountains that, in the mornings, show purple through the wisps of cloud. There’s a track snaking down through the hills and into the meadow. It comes a hundred yards from the fence we put up and goes off to the right. That fence has been a hundred colours over the years. We tried everything. It’s the lilacs and the purples, nothing goes with that, trust me. You can’t reflect those colours in any way. Contrasts slice up the scene and take away from its power. Still you had to have a fence, how else would you know what’s yours? In the end we hit upon this grey, it’s almost like it isn’t there until you look for it.
Occasionally we see movement along the path. Not so often as to make us uncomfortable. We wouldn’t want to be constantly anticipating or anything like that, we like it as it is. There never seems to be a pattern to it and sometimes days go by and nothing happens. At others we can see as many as five or six movements in the space of a few hours.
Just now Jake called my attention to something three or four hundred yards out. We made out a young girl standing behind a tree. She appeared to be watching us, occasionally looking down and fingering the hem of her dress. For a long while we watched each other. Jake and I didn’t speak until she turned her back and drifted away.
We often go over these things. Jake is keen on getting a meaning out of every little thing. Why a girl? Why the dress? Did I notice the white flowers embroidered on the hem. She kept fingering it didn’t she? Nothing, as far as Jake is concerned, is there by chance. Did I notice her smiling? I didn’t. Why would she smile?
I don’t know what the neighbours see. They never say.
Against the house, the yard is laid in roman tiles. We have a mosaic in white of a chariot racing over the sun. There are three steps down to the lawn, where Jake is still figuring, and I next to him. It’s open and simple and we like the grass. Next door you can see that they’ve paved their whole plot. They have a small pool and a table and chairs. But I like to feel something alive beneath me.
They’re nice people. Good neighbours don’t bother you unduly, and they don’t. Some people don’t like neighbours at all. I don’t understand that. Jake wouldn’t be so bothered, but I like to see people around. It makes me feel part of something. I like the odd word through the fence, a good morning or evening, a bit of news from elsewhere. Just to see someone else regularly. It’s not as if you don’t have a choice is it?
We’ve had several sets of neighbours in the past, good and bad. I don’t think you ever quite know why something went wrong. We’ve got on for years with people and they’ve left, sometimes without saying goodbye. On occasion we’ve been the ones to oust them. They’ve got to be people acceptable to both of us, and that’s not always easy. Then there are the whims. Jake wanted to be next door to a Chinese family once. That never happened. But others did. We’ve had gay couples, families, the flirty and the prim. You can try to match with whatever criteria you like, but there are simply no guarantees. Sometimes I wonder what they asked for in order to come up with us.
We spend most of our time out here. Sometimes in the evening you can catch the deer grazing on the hills. And there are the surprises. Like the little girl. Jake says it’s about innocence. The flowers on the dress, the long hair, the fingering of the hem. I just know how it makes me feel.
Jake takes life hard. In a minute we’ll have sex. Here. The mountains are clear now. I think I can even see a bird up there, maybe an eagle. After sex we’ll share a smoke. Then I’ll leave him out here. He likes some time alone. I’ll call a girlfriend or go off to bed. Jake will sit for a while, then turn it all off.
I’ve tried a few times to understand what he gets from it. When he first started doing it I stayed. But not now. It made me cold. It’s a chill that seems to be in the bones. I can’t help thinking about it when he slips into bed next to me. He carries it with him. He makes sure I’ve gone, then off it all goes. One flick of a switch and gone are the neighbours, the mountains, the light, leaving dark grey walls on each side. I can’t get over that feeling, of grass with no sky, of the loss of depth. Yet Jake will sit twelve feet away from a bare wall with no sounds except his breathing. God knows what the neighbours think when we just disappear. They must have got used to it, or maybe appreciate the extra privacy in the evening.
No there is nothing in this view that displeases me, nothing at all. But nothing does displease me. If only Jake didn’t like it so.
i want to know how quickly his wikipedia entry was changed. i want to know if someone’s first thought on hearing he was dead was to edit wikipedia.
btw his wikipedia page contains this:
This article is about a recently deceased person.
Some information, such as the circumstances of the person’s death and surrounding events, may change rapidly as more facts become known.
i wonder how many of these “standard” messages wikipedia utilises.
i’m not such a big fan of his, though he has his moments. i thought about him when i was looking at the hype over metaweb’s “freebase”. he said something like:
it is in complete freedom that the masses refuse meaning
i hesitate to say it, but i don’t even know what meaning, er, means. when it comes to meaning i go with cs peirce, that it is something collective, that can be measured only by its effects. i’d take useful over meaning.
i read this and thought of a story i once wrote. and here it is:
This is Love
Each morning I awake to the soft singing of Shirley. Each morning she surprises me with something different. She has a million tunes. She runs my shower, temperature perfect. I dry myself on a warm towel whilst Shirley tells me the news of the day. She knows I don’t want to be bothered about the dispossessed, the hungry or the sick at this time of day, so it’s mostly gossip, intrigue and titillation. Just how I like it. Shirley tells me that it’s cold outside. It rained earlier and the roads are wet. Best take my thick jacket. Best take care.
Shirley wants to know if I have got a minute to discuss something before I go. It seems she has been talking to a new friend of hers, Roger. His mistress, they both agree, is the perfect girl for me.
I promise to talk when I get back. Shirley reminds me that tonight I had asked for lamb, but that didn’t I prefer something a little lighter? I had been eating a little heavily of late. I think that, yes, something lighter would be good.
I come home around four and it’s starting to get dark already. Shirley opens the garage doors for me at my approach. I’ve bought some orange carnations today. Shirley thinks they look lovely in the kitchen. She says that, because I had only a sandwich for lunch, then perhaps lamb wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Apparently the girl lives just a few streets away. Her name is Mandy. She works in Public Relations. She has auburn hair and a not unattractive mole on her left cheek. She enjoys shopping and good conversation. Shirley says that her temperament is just right. I ask what she means. Shirley tells me to trust her, she knows. Shirley’s friend agrees that Mandy is just right. Perhaps a call tonight? Just as I would want it, Shirley says, Mandy is an old fashioned girl and it would be only proper that I take the initiative. “Later.” I say.
Right now I feel like a good comedy. Shirley knows just what I mean, she always does. She puts on an old episode of “Mr Sheeny”, the one where Maurice ends up eating Chet’s pet chinchilla. Suitably cheered, I decide to go ahead and call Mandy.
“Hi Mandy.” I say. “It seems you and I are quite well matched. I must say you look as attractive as I was lead to believe. But would you mind if I shared just one concern? You see, I’m a happy person, never too down, if you know what I mean. Don’t much like to be brought down either, if you follow my drift. You wouldn’t be liable to do that would you?”
Mandy doesn’t think that she would. Mandy says that Roger has noted little in the way of mood-swings in he-doesn’t-know-how-long. Mandy doesn’t have any questions at the moment. She is happy for limited access to take place. I nod. We agree to speak tomorrow. So, tonight is to be the night of limited access. I go to bed with not a little trepidation.
Whilst I sleep I know that Shirley and Roger are together.
In the morning, over breakfast, Shirley tells me that Mandy is really quite well looked after. No unappealing habits to speak of. Immaculate educational and vocational record, prominent in all her corporation’s performance statistics. Though she does have a cat.
Shirley insists that she knows I have no allergy to cats, though I confess to being squeamish about a live creature running about the place. Shirley thinks I’ll get to like it.
The roads really were quite bad yesterday and Shirley has called me a cab. She really is thoughtful.
Today I bought blue dahlias. Shirley thinks they look delightful on the coffee-table. With dinner I have half a bottle of Algerian wine. Shirley tells me that it’s the recommended Merlot for this year. I tell her that it is good and that I’d like it again whenever Shirley thought it best.
Shirley and Roger think that it’s best Mandy and I talk now. Mandy says she has no objections to full access. She confesses to being quite excited by the prospect. I agree.
That night Shirley and Roger spend all night together.
I awake to the sounds of birds singing and sun streaming in from the windows. I know that things have gone well between them. I stretch and yawn, alone in a bed made for two. Shirley tells me I have some time due me, and that I am to relax. Today is a very special day.
I have sausages for breakfast and begin the crossword. Shirley says I should finish it in half an hour or so, but there’s no hurry. She’s right of course. As I mark in the last clue on the grid, ‘prominent river of Ipswich in Suffolk’, “o-r-w-e-l-l.”, I am not a little chuffed with myself to note that it’s taken me less than twenty minutes. Shirley says that it’s because of my rest this morning. I have been working hard recently.
Perhaps, says Shirley, it is time for a change. Perhaps Mandy is just what I need. She bids me sit down on the sofa and take it easy. She’s going to leave me until I call. In the meantime she’s prepared something for me to see. I should take my time, she says. There’s no hurry.
“Until I call?” I ask, to make sure, but Shirley has gone. Before me starts a series of images. A pretty auburn-haired girl walking towards a house in a street not too far from here. Then in the kitchen, reading, painting a water-colour. A long shot of her sleeping, hair pushed to one side revealing a shapely neck. She awakes suddenly and smiles. She walks naked from her bed and enters a shower. Her statistics have thoughtfully been added to the bottom of the screen. Curvaceous and lean, just to my taste. As she exits the shower, wet and glistening, I shout ‘stop’ and the screen pauses. I tilt my head and imagine touching her flesh. Confident that I’m alone, my mind let’s her touch mine.
Shirley asks me how I liked the presentation. “Most encouraging”, I say. We agree that there appears to be no obstacle, no obstacle at all.
Shirley and her friend have come up with a proposal. They think that Mandy and I should have no trouble with it. Mine is the larger house, appreciating at a rate a full four per-cent higher than hers. They’ve mocked up some alterations to the décor which seem appropriate enough. I approve. Mandy approves. Shirley says to leave it all to her and Roger. Shirley is excited. A date is set for three days time.
The next day after work I find the upstairs altered to specifications. The hard lines have been softened, little touches here and there. I spend a little while picking up new objects, her objects. Shirley says she needs some down-time and will come back when I call. She’s good like that. I pick up from my bedside table a new addition, a vase. I run my hand over its belly, peer along the lip. The glaze catches the light, and in that light I see Mandy. My mind allows me to see so much.
On the third day, I leave work. I can barely get myself into the car. I call Shirley. Yes Mandy is there. She is delighted with how things have turned out. She really looks forward to me getting home. Shirley says that I am looking a bit peaky. She says nerves are only to be expected. She tells me it’s all going to be fine. She tells me she is pregnant.
The drive home seems to take hours. I hear my heart beating. I take deep breaths. I draw into the drive. Shirley opens the garage doors. I am introduced to Roger. He seems pleasant enough. He says I should just be who I am, and not to worry, Mandy really liked what she saw of me. And now it is time to say goodbye. To Shirley, too. It will be strange to be without Shirley.
I enter the lounge to find Mandy standing, her back to the window. The light settles about her shoulders. She smiles. I can’t think what to say. We move toward the centre of the room until our hands touch. She looks into my eyes. This is love.
I am first to stir in the morning. There is a gentle light entering through the shutters. It is early. I wonder who I am to share my life with; who will grow to understand my needs, my hopes. It is a total blank. Then I rest my eyes on Mandy, her white cheek and the small island of darkness at its centre. I sit up in bed and await her waking. If I am to find out, so should she. This, of all moments, is one for us both to share.
At last her eyes open, blinking realization. She lifts herself toward me, her nakedness beautifully contained within the sheets. We look at each other and smile. I nod for her to proceed.
“Are you there?” She whispers expectantly.
There are a few seconds silence before a voice, young, masculine, and almost imperceptibly synthesized, responds. “How can I help you?” His first words.
the conservative party in the UK has called for greater use of open source software. they estimate that £600m would be saved annually. mention is made of the close relationship between the labour government and microsoft (big bill making several trips to see big tony over the last few years). I’m always worried when Tory policies start to sound attractive.
earlier this year BECTA (The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency) released a report on the lock-in issues relating to schools in using microsoft software. Microsoft have been dangling cheap deals in front of schools that, in the end, lock them in and prove more costly than they first appear.
from my own experience with school ICT departments, I can tell you that we are educating kids, not in IT, but in using MS products. it’s rather like the tactics employed by McDonalds, only without the clown. for my part i tried to solve the problem by buying the kids a mac and loading linux on the laptop that zac uses for school.
strangely, BECTA subsequently entered into a new deal with MS. A deal that includes a secrecy clause. All that public money and no disclosure.
Mark Taylor (with whom i have done some business in the past), chairman of the OSC said:
“We’d like to congratulate Becta for getting a discount on their season ticket for the Titanic”