Sunday, 13 October 2019


Installing a new MacOS is a fairly low-key affair. The installation takes about 25 minutes and everything just works. The user interface is generally unaffected and often a few things run subjectively faster.

That's what happened with the latest update to 10.15/Catalina a few days ago. It all works, although there was something of a pause before the mail system had re-indexed itself with a new database.

There's a few subtleties under the hood with the new release, although the much vaunted Sidecar won't work with my particular combination of kit. They've built the iPad/iMac integration for post 2016 machines apparently because the HEVC compressed video stream came along in a later intel chipset than my venerable iMac.

<gossip>Is it a taster of what will happen when, in 3 years, Apple ditch intel quad for ARM 10-way processors or go fusion?


The whole operating system is now 64 bit too, which means a few ancient Apps have had to be pensioned off. Farewell TextWrangler, you served me well, but now I'll have to use your replacement BBEdit.

And Scrivener, although V3 from the App Store doesn't work with Catalina, but the version from Literature and Latte works fine. Thank you, Apple, for providing me with the refund.

Then there's a few new security alerts. Grant the relevant permissions or see the application stumble.

Aside from that, there's very little downside to report, although I suppose I keep my system fairly up-to-date. And I've just had the SpamSieve and Chronosync 'free' updates come through, so it's slick, speedy 64 bits all the way.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

El Camino

I didn’t realise that El Camino was only released on Friday. It just came up as a recommendation on Netflix, so I clicked yes to watch it.

Rather than a road movie, it’s more like a Vince Gilligan penned extra double episode of Breaking Bad. From the end of the series (i.e. it knows everything), but with some mid-series story-telling in it.

I was surprised how instantly the Breaking Bad style production values and universe kicked in, such that a new story didn’t need to explain anything to this long-haul viewer.

Give or take a flashback, It picks up after the incident at the hut, from the Breaking Bad Series Finale. Like Killing Eve Pt 2, it's about 30 seconds later.

I’ve enjoyed Better Call Saul in the interim, although this Jess Pinkman special episode took off in another direction.

I always thought that Albuquerque played a unique part in the TV show, with the dramatic desert scenes providing almost another character to mix into the plot.

This time the storyline gave me Death Valley and Zabriskie Point flashbacks, plus alongside the action scenes we get some Jesse reflection. And there’s a number of well-known characters included. Even enough for a Hollywood Ending.

The trailer is pretty good too. It doesn’t give away the story or any plot points.

A little secret. I watched BB last episode again afterwards. I notice that Netflix automatically scheduled El Camino as the next Episode.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Ce n'est pas un tunnel

Prorogued again, plus a tunnel negotiation and lambasting anonymous tweets from Downing Street.

"The rats have it. The rats have it."

cornered rats

It's schoolboy games now. When a bully Invents new rules to help his side win. “Extension”- define it. “defer” - define that too. might as well define “legal”, for that matter.

Then we get the trite backup singers like Gove and Leadsom trotting out the same contradictory lines. Nauseating.

This time the Crime Minister is saying he won’t break the law. Maybe not, but he is trying to think of a way around it. The briefings from Downing Street have sunk to gutter level and the public are being treated with disdain by mendacious hypocrites.

I suppose cheating could comprise writing a legally compliant letter asking for an extension to Article 50, but then writing a second one which says ‘I was only joking.’

yes, it's Brexit Bingo time.

Or, it could be something to do with the legal position being about a No Deal exit, and claiming that that ‘legality’ beats the Benn Act. Mister Bombastic Mister trump-tastic.

Boris is struggling to find somewhere to point blame. Instead he is cornered, but we know what rats do in this circumstance.


Thursday, 10 October 2019

Composed, Rosa Postlethwaite #exeter

Along to The Phoenix to see Composed, Rosa Postlethwaite’s compressed deconstruction of a night at the theatre.

A witty and increasingly edgy one-person show, it even had the audience fretting about the content on the way into the theatre: “How loud is the scream?”/“Can I borrow the ear protectors?”

Rosa uses familiar first hand experiences of set pieces from a night at the theatre, comedy club, awards ceremony or an audience-based live TV show.

There’s the pre-show mood-music (Frank, of course), the Welcome, a list of Sponsors, various linking pieces (the act's not ready..., here come the dancers…)

But with Rosa’s portrayal of the spokesperson for the institution we see the relationship with the audience begin to fray.

Rosa’s performance tiptoes along the edge of acceptability, whilst she builds an inner rage at some of the situations she finds.

Maintaining an outward composure, look closer at her eyes, her expressions or her sometimes flailing arms and there is another angrier story being presented.

Rosa presents the impersonal dynamic of slots for hosting the show, against the backdrop of power of the institutional voice. She’ll reference the audience too, starting carefully, but then unravelling until she clearly crosses a culturally significant line.

Composed may be examining the micro-aggressions of a self-anointed institutional voice, but viewed wide, it is all too pertinent today in the political setting of rowdy politicians with their faux muted mood music as they hide behind the privilege and power of their organisations.

Rosa’s Master of Ceremonies provides hard challenge to many of the situations it represents, presenting a sharp new voice questioning both rituals and behaviours.

A cracking show.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Olafur Eliasson

I arrived at the Tate, but immediately noticed that the flags were celebrating a different show. Olafur Eliasson.

I'd seen his work once before, when he took over the whole of the Turbine Hall for The Weather Project, a kind of sun machine.

The installations gave him international acclaim and he is nowadays known for interests in perception, colour, movement, and the interaction of people and their environments.

He's expanded to a studio of 100 people and engages the broader public sphere through works spanning the fields of sculpture, painting, photography, film, and installation.

I soon found myself immersed in his work. Whether it's a spotlit spray (Beauty), which catches the light to form fleeting rainbows, or an altogether larger set of spotlights casting defocused sheens across a wall, we can see that he has a playful touch to the work on display.

I also remember another piece, where he took some harvested pieces from a break-away Greenland glacier and placed them one chilly winter on the area outside the Tate Modern. Ice Watch to me echoed the Joseph Beuys theme from 7000 concrete trees.

That's where some of the newer works start to engage more. Beuys would place his concrete slabs and say that a living tree had to be planted for each one removed. That's getting inside the art work, which Eliasson's earlier work didn't attempt. He seems to show and tell rather than to get the observer to internalise. Like painting a river green to show its flows and eddies.

His latest 'idea wall' project recreates something from his studio and comes closer to making one really think about his themes. Around the theme of Climate it poses more questions.

As a snippet example, we get his ideas of rear view and forward facing time. Moving away from or towards? Always an interesting question.

And then there's his fog filled corridor to explore. It's a real pea-souper. There's monofilament lighting too, which flattens and sepia-tints any exploration. I had London smog flash-backs, but without the soot smell. And the long length of corridor makes it more necessary to be comfortable being by oneself.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

manipulation at the last ditch

The caped master of darkness continues to hold Boris in his spell. Crash land the Brexit negotiation and blame the EU. An obvious grubby tactic to try to regain some support by blaming the others.

The Crime Minister simply has to remain square-jawed, augmented with as many lies as necessary to paint the picture. It will appeal to the anti-EU brigade in any case. I'm a little astonished that he can run so many parallel deceits. Astroturfing, The Red Bus, The American friend, Crosby leverage, Facebook manipulation, leaked anonymous briefings, pro bono lobby friends and the list goes on.

The shadowy Doominic doesn't care and will feed his habit.

Dark smiles whilst he wrecks the Tories and systematically destroys the UK constitution.

All have big squalid Xs in the box now. Not what was intended by 'take back control' or 'strong and stable'.

Monday, 7 October 2019

spend it

I keep seeing Tory politicians on the telly like Nigel Evans quoting that the EU is costing around £1bn per month.

Still wrong. That's the figure before the EU rebates. It's astonishing how widespread the coverage of misinformation has become.

It's actually about £8.5bn per year.

That's a little bit less than the amount that UK gives to foreign aid and about 1% of the Government's annual budget. It doesn't even show in the public spending pie charts.

No wonder hardly anyone cared about it before the Referendum. Let's face it, the Conservatives have added about £1 Trillion to the UK deficit since they came to power (see

I've just taken a peek at the latest UK Government paper on Customs and Excise. It's here

and it illustrates that the admin burden on UK<>EU trade is £15 billion, plus a few training bits and pieces.

So £15 bn new cost plays against £8.5 bn old cost, or worst exaggerated case £13bn. We'll still be paying more once we've left. Unless that Government Paper updated 7 October is wrong?

Sunday, 6 October 2019

tomorrow never knows

Driving back along the M4 today I plucked Abbey Road from the library and listened to it all the way through. I had that flashback to when it was released and Kenny Everett played the whole thing on his BBC Radio 1 weekend show. I remember, because I reel-to-reel taped it.

It opens with Come Together and blasts through some epic numbers, with a touch of whimsy mixed in.

48 minutes, total.

If "Quit whilst you are ahead." was ever a thing then the Beatles did it with this album, where some of the classic tracks come across as sparkling and easy.

Then there's the medley, which my iTunes library has slightly interrupted - grrr- and The End, which really should be thought of as the last Beatles moment, what with Let it Be being really the offcuts from the one gargantuan Abbey Road session.

Does it stand up to modern listening? Number One in the Charts in 2019? Yes it should be, although I expect there are quite a few birthday presents and nostalgia purchases in amongst the big data.

Listening in the car it still sounds fresh. Maybe the drums and crash cymbals would get some sorting out in a modern mix, but far be it from me to criticise George Martin's production technique. And they were 26-29 years old when they made this.

Back to Kenny Everett, my early jingle mixing guru.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

ancient of days

I accidentally went to the wrong Tate for the Blake exhibition. More of that another day. So here I was - eventually - in the Tate Britain, entering the mythical gods and dark world of the William Blake exhibition, where God judges Adam.

We get Blake's portrayal of otherworlds, gods and science, as well as his own invented mythology.

I guess he’d have been a heavy metal album cover designer in more modern times. But no, this is 1795 and the years beyond. Different rooms showed his ever increasing size of canvas, from tiny matchbox-sized sketches through to wall coverings and even a few digital exhibits to show the well-meaning scale he’d envisage but could not recreate.

His mental models show the scale of his thinking. Deities, sometimes free, sometimes imprisoned. The spectre of a demon hovering over many scenes. Serpents writhe, kings are terrified, the Pope visits Hell. There's the ghost of a flea, where Blake considered all fleas were troubled souls out seeking blood. Notice the bucket.

Blake learnt to draw at the Royal Academy, but was disdainful of the lessons he received.

Apparently, in those days there was much light touch tuition and artists were expected to fend for themselves. Blake lived around Soho and was the son of a shopkeeper.

He learnt the trade of printmaking and there are some epic bank-note quality engravings in one of the rooms. The nature of his trade meant that he would have been familiar with many artists and their styles, being responsible for making the engraved copies used in the print shop.

Then we see his little book, Songs of Innocence and Experience, complete with its handwritten embedded text. He’d make do with the limits of the printing technology available, which could not print pictures and text together.

Onwards, through Dante's circles and towards commissioned works, including a whole bundle to a single sponsor. Add back Blake's words which coalesce with an altogether powerful presence. Here's Jerusalem.

There’s allegories to decode with chained monarchs rolling the sun, scaly beasts and angels. Newton appears directly and indirectly in the collection, and Edwardo Paolozzi echoed Blake's Newton in the sculpture in the grounds of the British Library.

Friday, 4 October 2019

compulsive distortion sham

Curious to note that the area around Westminster has been slightly light of MPs over the last few days. It is as if some of the MPs decided that they didn’t need to be there, what with the Conservative Conference being held in Manchester and all.

There’s another noteworthy occurrence too, which is that the roads around Parliament seem to be getting ever more barricaded. The routine traffic flow around the side of Parliament has been suspended and even the pedestrian access to the front has been limited.

Maybe It’s a way to stultify access to what is really happening? Boris has lied about the deal progress and positioned a laughable ‘tunnel of negotiations’ during which time there would be silent running..

I could understand if this was any normal type of negotiation, but as the so-called Prime Minister continues to bluster and mislead everyone about the status of the negotiations, the agreements reached, the bribes offered to Ireland and the status of reception of the terms by the EU, then it should be clear to all that the whole process is a sham.

Boris has presented an unacceptable mild rework of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement as the basis of the latest deal. He knows it won’t be accepted by the UK Parliament, the Northern Ireland politicians nor by the EU.

For Boris, it is all about cultivating blame now. The slimy Gove was my original candidate for Boris and Cummings to select, but Boris has gone all in with a bigger game to blame the whole of the EU.

Of course he is gambling with our chips, which I find kind of insulting.

Dominic is laughing into his sleeve as he sees the entire UK Governmental system implode. He didn't have much time for the blundering tories at the start of this process, how ironic that he is now helping their fall.

Worse than that is the catastrophe that UK could find itself in on 1st November.

Boris is playing from a busted flush, and, despite what he says, might be prepared to break the law or use cheap trickery to get his way.

Meanwhile, Guy Verhofstadt is proposing the EU grant a unilateral extension to stop UK from crashing out.

#cheat #pantsonfire #humbug #liar

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

becoming ordinary

I joined a dystopian book club some time ago and we’ve read about a dozen or so books and discussed them in various pubs. I decided to branch out alone this time and read Atwood’s The Testaments, which is supposed to be a kind of Handmaid’s Tale II.

It’s a book that has five stars sprinkled all over it, so I was expecting great things. It seems to be a novel that the publishing industry has pinned hopes on, with a massive display in the local bookstore, a fast pass to the Booker, and freebie copies of it appearing on all the favourite news channels.

I was therefore somewhat surprised that I just couldn’t get along with this story. There’s a serious baddie (the stone-cold enforcing puppetmaster Aunt Lydia – a survivor who will do anything to stay in the regime) and two teenagers (chalk and cheese, Daisy and Agnes) who provide the main action and viewpoints and we get a kind of escape plot mixed with some gritty scenes as the unifiormed establishment rumbles along doing its bad things.

Maybe I’ve become hardened to the scenario portrayed?

The convent-like situation of Ardua Hall, with its strange rituals and humiliations, coupled with a power to do anything to anyone, made the story ruthless and unremitting. Oh yes, and the dodge of plenty of conveniently placed hidden cameras.

Maybe the scenes are too reminiscent of modern-day news channels?

Perhaps it’s about the type of questions being asked?

“Was I exchanging my caring and pliable woman’s nature for an imperfect copy of a sharp-edged and ruthless man’s nature? I didn’t want that, but how to avoid it if I aspired to be an Aunt?” (p. 328) and so it dragged me along over bumpy dialogue, sometimes discovering handy facts about a character, just when they would become useful to that character’s actions.

There’s the societal splits, horrible men usually missing in action with titles like “Commander”, women like The Aunts, Pearl Girls, Marthas, Econowives.

There’s some low-key humour as well, although it gets a little lost in amongst the grimness of the general setting. “Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while still alive. Already I am petrified.”

It occurred to me that another novel I’d read had played with the themes, no doubt in response to the Handmaid’s Tale. It inadvertently tipped me off about some of the reveals later in the story.

Then there’s the little quotes which are a vital part of the novel’s press releases. “As they say, history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” (p. 407) but these are quite well embedded, and often highlighted by other Kindle readers.

(non spoiler I think): At one point a character is put into the Thank Tank, a kind of police isolation cell. She observes that her mind goes soggy in the absence of others. Existence is relative to other people, she was a one person who risked becoming a no person.

She thinks:

“Whatever my resolve might be: after some days I lost track of that plotline. The plotline of my resolve.”

Is this post-modernist writing by Atwood, or a note that slipped through the sub-edit?

We could get some internalisation, instead we get the cell clanging open and light flooding in. And soon enough we are in an air-conditioned hotel (albeit with a mushy brain). Just time for a shower or two.

That seemed to be the challenge with this story telling.

The two disguised teen characters traverse this normalised puritanical totalitarianism with its street lynchings and institutionalised abuse.

The state of Gilead might be a hill of testimony, so perhaps these ordinary witnesses to events rely on someone else to interpret their words?

There’s a horrific regime in place, a manipulator in chief and a couple of escaping resistance fighters. We get a (deliberate?) clash of literary style influenced by Cromwellian times, with a kind of youth fiction escape story, involving trucks and a Lebanese flagged fishing trawler run by the tan-skinned and bearded Captain Misimengo. Fish fingers, anyone?

I paraphrase: “It’s okay though, he rubbed his fingers together, which I knew meant money (…to bribe the coastguard…)”

Luckily Cap’n had been tipped off by a minor character named Shiver me timbers.

So I’ve hauled myself through this book, including comments off along the lines of “If you’re not enjoying it then perhaps you should read something else.”

Margaret Atwood has written something that targets the same evil empire as a novel she wrote 35 years earlier.

Today's ordinariness with which the Handmaid's outfit becomes a Halloween costume, before being protested out of the stores.

The Offred, Ofglen and Serena Joy wine collection.

I paused at the start of these reflections to wonder whether I’ve become hardened to the portrayals. Now, I wonder whether we all have?