spam poetry

Posted by jerry on January 23rd, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Writing

Spam becomes art at the hands of poets! An article in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of days ago caught my interest. It seems that poets have been cutting and splicing bits of spam to provide sometimes surreal impressionistic pieces that in a raw way describe an aspect of contemporary society’s obssession with greed lust and aggression. Sometimes with a political edge, and loaded with irony – these pieces usefully hold up a mirror to some of the baser aspects of our culture. The article questions whether these poems will stand as literature in 75 years time. My question is whether any writing taken out of context would really stand – ie read in context, these poems would reveal quite a lot about contemporary culture and a certain kind of mercantilism. Like adverts, these are highly metaphorical and evocative writings.

cheers
Jerry

British Library: Virtual exhibitions

Posted by jerry on January 20th, 2004 — Posted in History, Journal, Writing

This morning, my partner Sharon pointed me to a new site from the British Library devoted to virtual exhibitions. The site has some lovely use of flash – tastefully restrained – which livens up the presentation enormously.

I particularly enjoyed the `literary landscapes’ section which marries literary figures with maps and images providing a context for their writing. Having visited Loch Katrine in Scotland (and taken the steam boat ride along its length), I liked the section on Sir Walter Scott despite his highly romanticised view of scotland portrayed in his writings, and the accompanying hand-coloured engraving by FJ Sargent from 1811. The web version has handy navigation icons and a zoom function – which works well on the high resolution images. There are maps too, providing a rich backdrop to a number of Scott’s novels.

Also included are Chaucer’s Kent, Wordsworth’s Lake District, Thomas Hardy’s Dorset, Jane Austen’s Bath (the place, not the ablution), and Defoe’s Moll Flanders.

I had a good poke (okay click) around in the Durham exhibition too – I loved the section on Jarrow Priory.

There is also a great ‘about Collect Britain’ page which talks about the digitisation project and the designers.

All in all a good site, well designed and informative – well worth a visit!

Cheers
Jerry

Canberra bushfires – one year on

Posted by jerry on January 18th, 2004 — Posted in Journal

Today (Sunday 18 Jan – in Australia it is anyhow!) is the anniversary – one year to the day since the Canberra bushfires came through our suburb. We were lucky in only losing the garage and front garden and fences – superficial stuff really, but the reminders are there with our neighbour’s house still untouched after a year – the back end still charred. It has taken a year for the insurance to settle with them and they have only recently taken the painful decision to sell up and leave the suburb after 30-odd years. We were in the process of buying our place when the fires came through so the house were were buying was empty, and our old place was packed up in boxes. We fought the fires at the old place – embers falling like a snow blizzard – the darkness like night fall and the sound (the unforgettable sound!) of gale-fanned flames on an enormous scale and roofs clattering like pine boards dropped onto cement and the power poles glowing like candles.

But there are some amazing positives. We now know everyone in the street – I have lived for years in other houses never even knowing the name of our next door neighbour, but here everyone has come together as a community. And the whole district is like in perpetual Spring as new houses are coming into bloom, springing up out of the bare blocks. Winter was Winter – the blocks had been cleared (mostly) of debris and there was a collective hiatus or holding of the breath. I guess this was when those who were rebuilding were getting their house plans drawn up and going through the Council approval processes. Then Spring came and by the start of Spring in October the first sets of foundations were being poured. By mid summer (December) the frames were up and piles of bricks sprouted on pallets, transforming themselves at remarkable speed into walls and windows and then the tiles appeared for the roof and gradually these too took shape. Around ten percent of the sestroyed houses have been rebuilt to the point where the owners have moved in – many racing the last few details to get in by Christmas.

In a street of eighteen houses we lost five, and those whose houses were saved are rebuilding their gardens. Our neighbours have commented on how colourful our garden is – truth is we were desperate for any colour other than “charred brown” so we went a bit crazy with flowering shrubs and trees and loads of pansies and petunias of all different colours, and bulbs – tulips and daffodils and the unkillable agapanthus (burnt to the ground they almost all grew back!). And of course the tree – formerly towering over the house at the front is now stacked, milled into boards, ready to be turned into our new dining table – but that’s another story!

So we are having a street party today to mark our survival and to acknowledge how far we have come in one year πŸ™‚ It’s been quite a journey…

Cheers
Jerry

Beowulf and LOTR

Posted by jerry on January 8th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Writing

er… happy new year folks! just surfacing at last πŸ˜‰

And I was reading a new edition of Beowulf – as you do – in this case a new verse translation by Michael Alexander published by Penguin – and found two references to middle earth within the first thousand lines! It’s a great tale – half Tolkien half Star Trek Klingon warrior culture… A classic at the speed of videoclips!

And of course I had to see the new Lord of the Rings on the second day after opening – what a great movie – mobile scars, vanishing cloaks and all πŸ™‚ The trilogy will live like 2001 a Space Odyssey (also drawing on classical references), and the five movies of the Star Wars trilogy, among the great movie experiences of the new Century – of course Tolkien was a fine linguist and Anglo-Saxon scholar – so I was delighted to see the way some of Tolkien’s langage reflects its Anglo-saxon/Old English roots – check out this list:
Tolkien and Beowulf for a good sprinkling…

I particularly liked FrΓ³dan as Frodo – the wise!

And for a taste of Beowulf itself – check out:

Beowulf Project Gutenberg Version

Cheers

Jerry

Favourite PDA – Psion 5MX

Posted by jerry on December 11th, 2003 — Posted in Technology

In all the fuss about tablet PCs and the fact they aren’t selling so well because people actually find keyboards still to be a useful input device I’d have to say that PDAs have moved away from where I want my ideal device to be. You see, I too like a useable keyboard. Not a thumb-board or a pen/stylus thingy. so far, the only PDA I’ve found (and use regularly still) that achieves most of what i want is a Psion 5mx. This machine meets my criteria in most respects:
1. it fits easily into a pocket so I don’t leave it behind, and I have it with me most of the time.

2. it has an integrated keyboard that is big enough to touch type on – on real keys, and I don’t have to assemble the keyboard as a separate component – so it’s always with the PDA.

3. it uses compact flash – same as my digital camera (a canon A-40) so i can take photos and slip the card into the PDA to build the web page while sipping coffee at the coffee shop.

4. it has a decent width screen – so I can see lines of text at their proper length – the way they will appear in print or on a desktop.

5. it has a decent web browser (I use Opera) with which i can preview my web pages as i build them on the fly.

6. yes I have the infra-red travel modem which makes it possible to go online and use web and email – but only if there is a suitable phone socket nearby… anyone ever used a wireless wi-fi card with a psion 5mx?? i’d love to be able to do web work while I’m on the move, say in airports or coffee shops where wifi hot spots are offered

7. Compact flash again – yes it means i can transfer files quickly with macs and PCs quickly and hassle free (no probs with connection software or finding the decreasingly available serial ports on teh PCs (mac doesnt have them any more)

8. Most of the psion software can be saved or converted to desktop standard formats very easily (thank you Neuon!) so I can type and save to Word format or plain text or RTF really easily. the only one I can’t seem to transfer is psion presentation into powerpoint (I use a mac so I can’t use the psiwin converter πŸ™

9. The only two things I ask for a future PDA developer is to have the psion form factor with its pocket (chequebook) size, proper keys and wide screen display, but to build a USB port into it and wifi internet capability – that would make it a perfect PDA. Colour might be nice too, but I can live without it. It look like Psion stopped making the (almost) perfect PDA just when they had reached (almost) perfection. Trouble is – they stopped making these things in 2000 and no-one has filled my particular niche. It was the best computer in a pocket – and has yet to be bettered! Go on – there’s a challenge!