Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Villanelle of Spring Bells

I hope you don't mind but I copied this definition of villanelle form from 'Wikipedia' because I found a brilliant thought provoking villanelle by Keith Douglas, that almost reminds me of the last posting and I found another picture of the Aberdeen skyline that fits quite well.

The villanelle has no established meter, although most nineteenth-century villanelles had eight or six syllables per line and most twentieth-century villanelles have ten syllables per line. The essence of the form is its distinctive pattern of rhyme and repetition, with only two rhyme-sounds ("a" and "b") and two alternating refrains that resolve into a concluding couplet. The following is the schematic representation of a villanelle in its fixed modern form: Line one (A1) and Line three (A2) are rhymed refrains.

Refrain 1 (a)
Line 2 (b)
Refrain 2 (a)

Line 3 (a)
Line 4 (b)
Refrain 1 (a)

Line 5 (a)
Line 6 (b)
Refrain 2 (a)

Line 7 (a)
Line 8 (b)
Refrain 1 (a)

Line 9 (a)
Line 10 (b)
Refrain 2 (a)

Line 11 (a)
Line 12 (b)
Refrain 1 (a)
Refrain 2 (a)

Villanelle of Spring Bells

Bells in the town alight with spring

converse, with a concordance of new airs

make clear the fresh and ancient sound they sing.

People emerge from winter to hear them ring,

children glitter with mischief and the blind man hears

bells in the town alight with spring.

Even he on his eyes feels the caressing

finger of Persephone, and her voice escaped from tears

make clear the fresh and ancient sound they sing.

Bird feels the enchantment of his wing

and in ten fine notes dispels twenty cares.

Bells in the town alight with spring

warble the praise of Time, for he can bring

this season: chimes the merry heaven bears

make clear the fresh and ancient sound they sing.

All evil men intent on evil thing

falter, for in their cold unready ears

bells in the town alight with spring

make clear the fresh and ancient sound they sing.


Keith Douglas

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Some old love song

Blue Evening by Ray Eberly

Blue evening comes at the close of day
Blue evening, spent in the same old way.
My future looks as dark as the sky above me
There must be someone here in this world who loves me.
A sweet love song, would be so grand to know
But my love songs are all from the radio
Another dawn is waiting for me, another day and then
Another blue evening again.

This is an old Glen Miller classic. I'm reading 'The Midnight Bell' by Patrick Hamilton at the moment
and I had this on the record player and it was perfect. If you can find it - listen to it.
I haven't had song lyrics on the blog, maybe this might even be the first
but then I am in a very sad romantic mood tonight.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Breaking the Spell of Dennett

I finished reading ‘Breaking the Spell’ by Daniel Dennett last February and I wasn’t really too keen on mentioning it here. The main reason is that his book makes me feel ashamed to be identified as a scientist. Dennett has tried to write this book against religion and I can’t help feeling that his attempt was crude, ignorant, even laughable in its bad arguments and bad writing.

The first half of the book he tries to make a very precarious argument to show that religion will soon be disproved by scientific studies in hypnotism. Interesting but so far fetched and ridiculous that it sickened me. The second half was a general attack on religion. I was reminded of this when reading ‘The image of God in Man’ by David Cairns. He describes Freud’s attack on religion as follows:

“But there are certain evils which society cannot hold at bay; it can never defend man wholly from death and the elements. Therefore men undertook the task of humanizing nature; they created the gods. The gods are personal, we can come to terms with them, we can try to exorcize them, bribe them, appease them.”

This is almost exactly the same argument that Dennett uses in the last 150 pages of his book. It is so exact that I think he might have well have said – ‘read Freud, he will prove to you there is no religion’.

However, it gets worse. At the same time as this Dennett then resorts to something that I have never experienced before in so-called science – ridicule! At one point he explains how he thinks that Roman Catholics should submit the wine from Mass for scientific analysis to see if they can find the DNA of Jesus. I was shocked reading this, Dennett claims he did extensive research for this book that he interviewed 500 people.

I suspect this book was written incredibly quickly, possibly an afterthought. The writing is very bad, it is sloppy and awkward and gives the impression that he didn’t even stop to review his writing and make basic corrections.

It is true that we have a terrible problem at the moment with fundamentalist Christians and Muslims. We need to find some way to make them think about what they believe and to make them reconsider the idea of using violence to achieve their aims. This is not the book to do this. I suspect this book may even be counter-productive and turn people more strongly against science. Something which Dennett will ultimately regret.

Finally I am sickened by the media that review this book saying how well written it is and how he makes such a strong argument. This is anything but the truth. This is lazy journalists writing out the opinion of some other reviewer and it is book review based on page length rather than substance. This is something I have ranted about before and it is not something that you will find here. I can assure you that I read the book before I comment on it.

Dennett makes the claim at the start of his book that perhaps for religious people his book is too dangerous and that they should stop reading! This is laughable, he should have said that if you are a scientist you should stop because it will insult your intelligence and it will make you think that you can write a bad book and get away with it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Grapes of Wrath

When I was going to Peru one of the things I didn't mention in my previous post is the security agent saw 'Grapes of Wrath' in my bag and smiled and said 'I read that when I was 17, it had a profound effect on me - it changed my life.' I wondering about this because at that point I was struggling with it.

I finished Steinbeck's classic 'Grapes of Wrath' in Peru and I haven't written anything about it so far but it was a wonderful book and I didn't really want to write more about Steinbeck but it all came back to me last night. You can tell a good book when suddenly a month after you finish you start to think about the characters and what they would have done.

'Grapes of Wrath' is described by some as a horrifying, cold, cruel read. I must admit it did shock me and it took me a while to really get used to the style of writing but this achieved the idea of grabbing me and taking me back. I couldn't read this book like an ordinary book, I had to read it at night, in silence. The story is about a family in the Depression in the Mid-west who are forced out of their home and they travel to California. One of the most profound aspects of the book is that every character was equal in importance, everyone was different but you don't find yourself drawn to one particular person and even when bad things are done, you find it hard to be prejudiced. I was privileged to be reading 'Log from the Sea of Cortez' at the same time and this gave me an insight into the philosophy of Steinbeck and I think a better understanding of what he was trying to say.

Steinbeck was fascinated by his friend Ed Ricketts and his idea of non-teleological thinking. This is quite complex but to express it quickly, an illustration is to say that the Depression era was caused by factors beyond our understanding. It is not a matter of simply saying, 'anyone who is unemployed get a pickaxe and work', for one thing as described in 'Grapes of Wrath' there was only enough money for about 70% of the workforce to work. If anyone else wanted to work the money had to be shared among them and when the wages are reduced for more people to work it defies the purpose of work because a family can't live on a dollar or less a day. It is not a matter of finding a quick solution, it is a matter of gaining a deep understanding of what something is before you try to look for solutions and causes.

Last night I was helping my Mum and Dad to install a new dishwasher and fridgefreezer. We had a number of problems but we all worked together and I started to think about Ma and Da and Rosasharn, and that time when Ma exploded and threatened them all with an iron bar and how noble an environment it really was, how they tried and worked their hardest but even though things didn't really work out they kept going. This is a little like Steinbecks idea of consciousness as a 'tragic accident', that we just have to keep going and try to be good, even though the characteristics we hate of aggression, and selfishness, are the ways of succeeding in business and goodness and honesty will more than often fail you in business. His approach to consciousness is almost opposite to that of Teilhard but I am not sure if he would have entirely disagreed with him. I intend to study this relationship further in the future. Steinbeck was a mystic too but just what type is something I am not entirely sure about.

The characters are still quite close to me and I still feel affectionate for them. The true sign of a good book, perhaps it will change my life.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Things Present

What can I say tonight? Northern Ireland 3 - Spain 2 !!

I was reading this superb poem by Ted Hughes (from 'Lupercal') and I was trying to think about what it means, the hope, the honour of a tramp, the utter exhaltation of the moment and the dreams. I'm not sure if this poem can express all my feelings at the moment, but consider it a modest toast to our great country, ranked 72 in the world who have just beaten mighty Spain ranked 7 in the world -

Northern Ireland 3

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I must admit that last Saturday night I was watching 'Who wants to be a millionaire?' and one of the questions was 'What is the shortest book of the Old Testament?'. It surprised me that I wasn't entirely sure and that I knew nothing about Obadiah at all.

Obadiah has one chapter of 21 verses. I read it in 'The Message'. This short prophecy goes back to Jacob and Esau. When they split up the descendants of Esau went to live in Edom. Israel was where the descendants of Jacob went to live. When Israel was taken into exile Edom watched and did nothing. For this God decided to punish them.

Obadiah lived in Edom, he was an Edomite. According to the Talmud he was the man who rescued the prophets by hiding them in caves from Jezebel. He was chosen to deliver a harsh judgement against the Edomites. It is an incredible rant about their destruction, except for the last verse when he describes how the land will be cleared and that the Kingdom will become a shining light. This one small positive aspect reminded me how even in the darkest anger there is always a beacon of hope.

"The remnant of the saved in Mount Zion
will go into the mountains of Esau
and rule justly and fairly,
a rule that honors God's Kingdom."

Thus ends today's sermon.