Thursday, 30 April 2015

Why I'm Not Seeing As Many Films As I Used To

Even five years ago I used to see at least one movie a week and often two. Hollywood blockbusters; American indie movies and Dogwoof documentaries; French and Japanese art movies. However, now I think about it, I prefer my films to be set in a city, to be about independent and emotionally-uninvolved people, and to have that indefinable aura of cool. Hence Quo Vadis Baby, Hinterland, Electricity, Polisse and for thatr matter, the Denzel vehicle The Enforcer ((check)). Family dramas, especially if set in poor countries, horrors, invincible psychos, Northern Ireland, creep movies (Harry, He's Here To Help) and anything "gritty" involving the English underclass... thanks, I'll take a pass. I usually see the Oscar Worthies as well.

Anyway, now I barely see one a month. Weeks can go by and nothing takes my fancy. As I write, the last film I saw was John Wick. Before that was Appropriate Behaviour. The last one I thought was wonderful was Hinterland. But then I’m a sucker for imaginative and creative cinematography.

Some of this is simply that I’ve seen several thousand films, and a lot of movies are re-makes I don’t need, or want, to see. Some is that there are a lot of Marvel movies, and I have a limited appetite for superheros and large-scale CGI. I have, as I write, also burned through about thirteen episodes of Elementary S2. This is because it is a well-written series with good stories, photography, acting and Lucy Liu. For some time now, some of the best acting, stories, scripts, photography and set design has been on television, in the top-end series, some of which have per-episode budgets that would fund the entire British film industry for a year. I don’t need to go to the cinema to see good visual story-telling.

What’s happened to all those French and Japanese movies? Why do the Curzon’s, Everyman’s and the ICA all show the same films? Are they all owned by the same company? The ICA can't be, by definition, but they can all be staffed by the same generation of cool kids. It is a truth little recognised that when your life is less than ideal, you don't like movies about people whose lives are better than yours, unless it's fantasy or costume drama. Given the low standard of living of the current generation of cool kids, none of whom can afford an un-shared roof over theiir heads, they are going to be choosing, and even making, films about very poor people living in very hard circumstances. Hence the popularity of films set in favelas, Russian wastelands and countries with a lot of very poor soil, like Iran. For further proof, see the comments about the films playing at the Curzon Soho recently.

To make my points, let’s take a look at what was playing at the Curzon cinemas the week I first drafted this.

A LITTLE CHAOS (12A): Versailles gardens were the dream of Louis XIV (Alan Rickman), but were realised by landscape architect André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts). Charged by the king to design the most opulent gardens in history, the ordered Le Nôtre takes a chance on Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslett), a talented but chaotic gardener. Though their temperaments initially clash, arguments soon give way to something else in this lovely, sumptuously realised period drama, the second film directed by Alan Rickman. Verdict: NO. JUST NO. I don’t like costume dramas, and this lacks any historical veracity in the story. It sounds horribly self-indulgent. And I’m supposed to care about how Kate Winslet creates chaos doing gardens? Really?

HOME FROM HOME: CHRONICLE OF A VISION (15): Edgar Reitz (director of the Heimat Trilogy) continues his visionary journey through German history with a domestic drama and love story set against the backdrop of a forgotten tragedy. In the mid-19th century, hundreds of thousands of Europeans emigrated to faraway South America. It was a desperate bid to escape the famine, poverty and despotism that ruled at home. Verdict: PASS. Domestic drama and love story. Also Germany.

CHILD 44 (15): Tom Rob Smith's novel was inspired by the real-life case of serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, but moved the action back a couple of decades to the dark days of Stalin's Russia. Daniel Espinosa's faithful adaptation stars Tom Hardy as a disgraced army officer who takes it upon himself to hunt down the killer after a friend's child is one of his victims. The result is a top-notch thriller, capturing the spirit of Stalin's regime and featuring an impressive international cast. Verdict: MAYBE. I would have seen this as a matter of course ten years ago. Kinda not in the mood mostly for something this dark now.

FORCE MAJEURE (15): A model Swedish family - handsome businessman Tomas, his wife Ebba and their two beautiful children - are on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. The sun is shining and the slopes are spectacular, but during lunch at a mountainside restaurant an avalanche suddenly bears down on the happy diners. With people fleeing in all directions and his wife and children in a state of panic, Tomas makes a decision that will shake his marriage to its core and leave him struggling to reclaim his role as family patriarch. Verdict: NO. Family drama, I bet based on subtle mis-understandings. I can hear the words “How could you?” already. Sometimes I wonder if any of the people who write these stories have ever been involved in a serious incident. People in real life do not behave in a “dramatic” manner. But I could be wrong.

THE SALVATION (15): The European western, once a staple of 1960s and 1970s cinema, has been missing from the screen for some time, so it's great to welcome this thrilling, atmospheric film from one of the great original Dogme 95 directors, Kristian Levring (The King is Alive). Mads Mikkelsen is on spectacular form as a farmer who kills his family's murderer and finds himself battling a tyrannical gang, its psychotic leader and his enforcer, played by a gleeful malevolence by Eric Cantona. Verdict: MAYBE: Again, it’s a tad dark for me right now. I’ve seen enough psychotic revenge stories.

DARK HORSE: THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF DREAM ALLIANCE (PG): An inspirational true story of a group of friends from a working men's club who decide to take on the elite 'sport of kings' and breed themselves a racehorse. Verdict: NO. JUST NO. “Inspirational”. “Working Men’s Club”.

COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK (15): The lead singer of Nirvana and reluctant posterboy of a generation gets his first ever fully authorised documentary feature, blending Kurt Cobain’s personal archive of art, written word, music and never-before-seen home movies, with animation and revelatory interviews from his family and closest confidantes. Following Kurt from his earliest years in Aberdeen, WA, through the height of his fame, it creates an intense and powerful cinematic insight into an artist who craved the spotlight even as he rejected the trappings of fame. Verdict: MAYBE. A couple of years ago I would have watched this. I thought Gus van Sant’s movie Last Days was haunting.

GLASSLAND (15): In a desperate bid to save his mother from addiction, and unite his broken family, a young taxi on the fringes of the criminal underworld is forced to take a job which will see him pushed further into its underbelly. But will John be prepared to act when the time comes - knowing that whatever he decides to do his and his family's lives will be changed forever? Verdict: NO. JUST NO. English underclass drama with a futile story. Anyone who tries to save someone from addiction is onto a losing fight. So either this film is unrealistic or has some silly denoument.

GENTE DE BIEN (12A): Eric lives with his handyman father in a poor district of Bogota. A client takes pity on them and invites the two to spend time in her county villa over the Christman holidays. Tensions rise during their stay and Eric witnesses the disparity between rich and poor for the first time. Bryan Santamaria (Eric) is outstanding as our guide through both worlds in Franco Lolli's sensitive drama. Verdict: NO: It’s a film about the economic and class differences in Bogota and the story has an implausible premise (“a cleint takes pity on them” indeed!). Fake drama and political posturing.

WOMAN IN GOLD (12A): The latest film by Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) features an impressive all-star cast led by Helen Mirren. It tells the story of Maria Altmann (Mirren), a Holocaust survivor who fought the Austrian government to retrieve Gustav Klimt's painting of her aunt, 'Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I', which was confiscated from her family by the Nazis. It was a battle that took her, along with her lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), all the way to the US supreme court. PASS: I’m supposed to care about a rich woman getting back one of the most valuable paintings in the world? This relates to my life how? Exactly?

WHILE WE'RE YOUNG (15): Noah Baumbach's follow up to Frances Ha is an exploration of aging, ambition and success stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle-aged couple whose career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) enters their lives. Verdict: MAYBE. But only because Amanda Seyfried. And because Frances Ha was a neat little film.

JAUJA (15): Viggo Mortensen continues to balance his career between high-profile films and more intimate dramas, of which Jauja is an excellent example. In this metaphysical road movie set against the intoxicating landscape of Patagonia, Mortensen plays a desparate man searching for his young daughter, who eloped with her lover in the lack of night. With a jaw-drapping final act, it channels Herzog and Jarmusch's Dead Man whilst offering up breathtaking visuals. Verdict: PASS. But ten years ago, I would have seen this as a matter of course.

WILD TALES (15): Inequality, injustice and the demands of the world we live in cause stress and depression for many people. Most face them on bended knee - but some of them explode. This is a film about those people. Comprising six stories of apocalyptic revenge, Wild Tales is a blackly comic series of vignettes on what it means to lose control. By turns shocking, hilarious, violent and preposterous this exhilarating thrill-ride produced by Pedro Almodóvar is one that you're never going to forget. Verdict: It’s always a cause for concern when they promote a film on the basis of the producer’s name. I saw the trailer, and it looked interesting.

DIOR AND I (12A): Frédéric Tcheng's documentary is behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons' first haute couture collection as the new artistic director of Christian Dior fashion house. Melding the everyday, pressure- filled components of fashion with mysterious echoes from the iconic brand's past, the film is also a colourful homage to the seamstresses who serve Simons' vision. Verdict: PASS. Seen enough fashion-world documentaries now, thanks.

CINDERELLA (U): In the age of revisionism and reboots, it's heartening that Kenneth Branagh has recognised the innate beauty of the story of Cinderella, one of the best-known fairtales. Verdict: NO. JUST NO.

HOME (U): When Earth is taken over by the overly-confident Boov, an alien race in search of a new place to call home, all humans are promptly relocated, while all Boov get busy reorganising the planet. But when one resourceful girl, Tip, (Rihanna) manages to avoid capture, she finds herself the accidental accomplice of a banished Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons). The two fugitives realise there's a lot more at stake than intergalactic relations as they embark on the road trip of a lifetime. Verdict: NO. JUST NO.

You may love some of these. I’m not saying the films aren’t worth you watching. I’m explaining why I’m not hugely motivated to see them. I don’t read a lot of contemporary novels either. I don’t think this is about “contemporary”. I think this is about the stories today’s film-makers are telling.

So let me tell you about the Year I Didn't Buy A Shirt. It was a long time ago. I looked in the menswear windows and nothing caught my eye. I began to think there was something wrong with me. That I needed to change what I thought was worth wearing. However, the money did not leave my wallet. About half-way through the next year, I bought some more stuff for my wardrobe. My tastes hadn't changed, and still haven't. But they were selling stuff I wanted to buy. It happens. This lot of cool kids will get jobs somewhere else in the Arty sector, or even maybe just proper jobs, and the next lot will come in and choose something else.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Europe's Boat People

The Economist’s cover story this week is titled “Europe’s Boat People: A Moral and Political Disgrace”. The Economist thinks, as do I, it is awful that several hundred refugees from war-torn Arab countries have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. The Economist thinks, as I do not, that those refugees and all who follow should be welcomed with open arms, and that the 500 million rich people in Europe can easily afford to feed and house them for as long as it takes their homelands to become safe again. The Economist points out that no matter where you are, the boat people won’t stop coming, and the most hostile policy towards keeping them off a country’s shore, which is Australia’s, costs £2bn a year.

Actually, the most hostile policy costs a lot less. That would be sinking the boats and leaving the refugees to drown. But nobody is going to do that.

Under Article 14 of the UN UDHR, "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution… [but] this right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

It’s hard to see how I have a right to seek and enjoy in another country asylum from persecution, unless at least one other country is under an obligation to provide me with asylum. Article 14 is unique in the Declaration: all the others lay obligations on the State in which the citizen is currently residing. Article 14 lays obligations on States towards people who are not citizens of those States, and have never paid taxes nor made contributions to the economy, culture or society of those States. It’s not actually clear that, in this world, Article 14 would make it out of the starting gate.

Article 14 talks about “persecution”, and the in the context of the Declaration that persecutor must be a State. Not another tribe, ganglord, drug dealer, preacher, village, evil relative or neighbour. So States are not obliged by Article 14 to take in people fleeing from tribal warfare, or religious warfare, unless one side has the backing of the State. Nor are States obliged to take in people whose lives are being made awful by overt gang lords or covert gangsters dressed in religious ideology. Most of the violence that people are fleeing is perpetrated by gangs-by-other-names, most of which are funded by blackmail, extortion, drug-running and supply, theft of oil, diamonds and other resources, and mis-appropriation of Western aid money. This is no different - one circumstance excepted - from the medieval times in Europe when Swiss mercenaries would prosecute what were actually economic wars for miscellaneous princes (of all ranks).

What the victims of such violence are supposed to do is fight back. That’s what they did in the medieval times, when the Swiss mercenaries had swords and daggers, and the peasants had pitchforks. Today the bad guys have Kalashnikovs and the good guys still have pitchforks. Nobody is going to stay and fight when they will be slaughtered from twenty yards away. I don’t have an answer for that, but I am pretty sure that letting every good guy into the banliues isn’t the answer.

Governments have a duty to protect the borders of their countries and the interests of their current citizens. This precedes all the other duties. Western governments must therefore ask if it is in the interests of their current citizens that a steady stream of refugees should take up residence in their countries. This is why The Economist talked about "500 million wealthy europeans”, so as to make it seem like a minor inconvenience. But in fact, there may be 500 million Europeans, only about 150 million of them work, and many of the younger ones work for salaries which make it impossible for them to afford a roof of their own over their heads, at least in the UK. These “wealthy” people are living in economies with huge current-account deficits, and national debts so large that were interest rates ever to rise to 5% again, their Governments would have severe problems paying their interest charges. The simple truth is that Europe cannot afford to train and employ all of those current citizens who want or are capable of working. Most European countries now have large underclasses of people who do not speak the native language and belong to cultures which do not encourage education even for the men. Bluntly, Europe is full, and has been for a long time. Governments who let in more refugees who will be sheltered and fed from already-overstretched taxes are simply failing in their prime duty.

Why does The Economist takes the view that it does? I’m guessing it’s pretty much moral posturing. Or youthful idealism. Or white middle-class self-hate. Or all of the above and more. Such posturing prevents a serious discussion of what the West needs to do, and focussing on the few who are prepared to break laws and pay gangsters to put them on unsafe boats, simply distracts us from the real issue, which is what the “international community” does to stop the current round of tribal and gang wars, and then police those countries to prevent more. If indeed, in a world where ten-year old boys take up Kalashnikovs, such policing would be even possible.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Photography Workflow (Again) - Part 2

My current archive is, to my surprise, over 10,000 files for 9.57GB. I would guess at most 1,000 of them are worth keeping. From my quick experiment with Photos, importing those to it will create around 1GB of thumbnails. I have 74GB free on my Air - what am I worrying about?

So why don’t I do this?

It looks like Photos will let me create a System Photos Library where I want. (The trick is Option-Click on Icon.) So assume we create one on the NAS…
Copy Air Uploads directory to W-Archive and Archive (because both are going to be categorised by year-month later)
Where there are Picasa and W-Archive directories in common, replace the W-Archive with the Picasa directories on the Air
Delete the Air photo directories (but keep Picasa for now)
Re-group Archive and W-Archive by Month and Year (maybe a python script, maybe manually with IrfanView)
Import the W-Archive into Photos on Air - because the System Photo Library is on the NAS, it won’t clutter my Air SSD drive.
Use Photos to prune the W-Archive
Look for good photos maybe for editing in Lightroom
Print, frame and hang the things
Put them on a Flikr / Instagram account

When loading new photos:
Use Image Capture to put into an Uploads directory on NAS
Use Photos to upload pictures to the W-Archive (so we’re uploading twice. Remember not to delete the camera on the first pass!)
Run the python script to assign uploaded photos to year-month in Archive
Clear the Uploads directory.

Sis tells me she spends 4-5 hours a week sorting through and editing her weekly haul of photographs. At the moment, a week or more can go by without me taking so much as a snapshot. I will need to spend about the same amount of time working on the archive, and I started to do so, but my heart wasn’t in it. Good tools make tasks like this feel like less of a chore.

But in the end this is all just housekeeping. The old-school film guys were right: the point is to take, display and enjoy photographs. I’m not doing any of that, and what I should be asking and answering is “why not”? Doubtless I will have a bunch of overly-introspective meanderings about that in the near future.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Photography Workflow (Again) - Part 1

Upgrading to Yosemite SP2, or whatever they call it, brought Photos to my Air. That made me take another look at how I organise my photo collection. I had a crack at that last autumn, but lost the motivation to carry on.

What did the old-school photographers do? The famous guys who shot actual film? Turns out that what they really did was shoot reels and reels of it, and then tossed them undeveloped into a draw. Even when they developed the reel, it was likely dumped into a box and forgotten. Seems that for many of the big name pioneers, photography was compulsive, and that it’s taking the shots that matters, rather than cataloguing, displaying and archiving them. All those undeveloped reels are then a sad story of what happens when we dedicate our lives to something, and the market moves on, leaving us behind.

And then they were, after all, professionals, and if no-one was buying, then why waste money on the work? The costs of printing, and the time it took to make a good print, meant that the professionals mostly left the reels as negatives, maybe made contact sheets, and rarely made actual prints. The point was to take photographs and then sell them, not to make family albums and scrapbooks.

That’s not the point for ordinary folk. Ordinary Folk want to use their photographs to show off what a great life they have share their experiences with their friends. Millions of gallons of oil are burned annually to cool data centres dedicated to storing and delivering photographs of cats, weddings and three girls striking silly poses inside a nightclub. Ordinary Folk want to walk look through their albums, or scroll through their Photos, to walk down Memory Lane.

Gratuitous photograph - cropped in Picasa
I’m not a professional and I’m not Ordinary Folk either. I’m not keen on Memory Lane, and my life is utterly boring. My photos aren’t about my life, but about what I see, so I guess that makes me an amateur photographer. That is, my attitude to photos is the same as a professional’s, but I don’t make money out of it. I’d like to find the better images I take, print them and hang them around my house. Maybe I’d put them on Flickr or Instagram. Some appear in this blog. I had hundreds of prints of film photographs I took back when I was using an OM-10 and one day went through them, kept the best and discarded the rest.

What I want to do is work on digital photographs. On my Mac Air. At the moment, the archive is on a 2TB Western Digital NAS, and Macs…. really suck at handling NAS. My Air won’t even automatically re-connect to one when coming out of standby or sleep mode, something Windows does automatically. Mac laptops are designed as stand-alone machines for use in cafes. Sure I can see the archive using cover flow in Finder and then inspect the picture in more detail, but that's not the experience I think I want. What I really want is Irfan View for Mac, but that’s not going to happen. Irfan View creates what amounts to a huge contact sheet, but without all the overhead of the usual photo-management packages.

The bigger photo-management packages use databases to handle thumbprints and editing actions, and to remember where the package put the original files and where it created any working copies. If users are allowed to move files around willy-nilly the management packages will lose track of them, pushing holes in all those albums and themes, and breaking links between a picture and the editing actions. Clearly the guys who designed Picasa and Photos don’t like the idea of having source files on a NAS device, and maybe for that reason. This can make these packages space-hogs.

At which point, I thought it might be a good idea to find out how large my archive is. And that, with its consequences, will be revealed in the second part of this post.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Cheryl's Birthday

So this went viral this week.

I hate these things. But I buckled down (at work!) and did it in 15 minutes. It helped to draw the dates as a matrix: months on the top, dates down the side.

The press spin is that 15 year-old kids in Singapore are smarter than almost everyone in the Western world. The excellence of Singaporean secondary education is a common trope of the western press, closely followed by the superiority of Chinese, Japanese and Korean secondary education.

Of course this is nonsense. For one thing, this superannuated grey-haired Anglo did it in about fifteen minutes. (I usually do the “Can you answer these GCSE questions” quizzes and I always ace them in a very short time though not after a couple of mis-steps along the way. The day I can’t ace them is the day I will apply for a job in product development.) For another, the exam board itself stated that this question was to help identify the better students.

And for another, this isn’t a serious question. It’s a trick. It’s the kind of trick question that a certain kind of epistemologist likes to use to discuss abstruse issues, and it’s the epistemological analogue of the trolley problem.

What makes a problem a mere trick instead of an interesting problem? An interesting problem gives rise to some theory to solve it: anything from an algorithm to a 400-page mathematical paper full of abstruse theorems. A trick is solved by a non-transferrable, non-generalisable argument. Remember all those integrals you had to solve at school? You had to play guess-the-substitution that would turn them into simple ones. Finding substitutions is a a trick. Integration by parts is a method, even if it does involve some trial-and-error.

Tricks give people the wrong idea about what a subject is about. The maths A-level syllabus used to be strong on tricks, whereas real mathematics is mostly about geometric insight to suggest theorems, and algebraic slog to prove them. Not finding a transformation or algebraic manipulation that magically makes the answer appear. Ask a serious chess-player whether they do chess puzzles: most of them don’t.

But the general public likes tricks. It likes to think that maths, or chess, or anything else that requires lots of reading, understanding, and actual insight, not to mention lots of trial and error, is really about seeing-something-that-makes-it-easy. Because that makes it magic, and the general public don’t mind not being able to do magic. Magic is, after all, just tricks. But if it’s hard work, and guessing and learning from mistakes, and adapting techniques you read about in some other contexts (that means reading, right?), then we’re looking at choices of how they spent as an adolescent, and now spend as an adult, their time and energy.

And guess what? Most people made choices that means they can’t solve a problem that bright 15-year olds in Singapore can solve.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Peeled Potatoes

First thing in the morning, outside the pub. That's where all those rostis come from.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

18 Rules About Scientific Theories and Other Claims By Scientists

Rule 1: Any scientific theory that resembles a Biblical myth, or any creation myth from any other culture or religion, can be rejected without further examination.

Rule 2: Anyone who claims that scientific theories have immediate consequences for social, moral or political policy has to remain silent until they have read Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature and understood why they are wrong.

Rule 3: Any explanation of current behaviour in terms of how human beings lived twenty thousand, or any other number of, years ago, can be replaced by a better explanation referring entirely to the current economic and material circumstances and personal goals of the people involved.

Rule 4: Any scientist who claims their theory shows that people do not have freedom of choice certainly doesn’t understand what freedom is, and probably doesn’t understand their own theory.

Rule 5: Any scientist who claims their theory shows that people are not conscious beings certainly doesn’t know what consciousness is, and probably doesn’t understand their own theory.

Rule 6: Any scientist who claims that their theory should be accepted because “everyone agrees” doesn’t understand what science is.

Rule 7: Anybody who refuses to specify the circumstances under which they would change their theories, beliefs or policies can leave the room now. This discussion is for practical grown-ups. (“Until a better one comes along” does not count.)

Rule 8: Any scientific explanation that blames the subject or patient can be rejected without further examination.

Rule 9: Any theory that only explains the past, and cannot predict the future, is a fact-based creation myth, not a scientific theory.

Rule 10: Any study paid for by an organisation should be accepted only if its conclusions are contrary to the interests of that organisation.

Rule 11: Any regularity, correlation or pattern discovered by number-crunching or statistical techniques should be treated as a curiosity until it is explained by some specific technology or institutional rules.

Rule 12: Any finding from a large-scale survey of people will always confuse cause and effect in such a way as to re-inforce the current social prejudices about those people.

Rule 13: Anyone who says “the plural of anecdote is not data” either doesn’t understand what the word “plural” means, or is trying to sell you their research services.

Rule 14: If the statistics say that 20% of the population do something, and you don’t know anyone who does, it’s not 20% of the whole population, it’s 100% of a smaller chunk of the population that nobody wants to identify out loud.

Rule 15: The source academic paper never says what the press release says it said. Unless it’s a sponsored study, when the academic paper says what the press release needed to say.

Rule 16: Anyone who doesn’t understand the various Quantum theories probably doesn’t understand what a Lie Algebra is. Fix that, and Quantum theories will suddenly become simple.

Rule 17: Anyone who says “logic dictates” doesn’t know that logic doesn’t dictate anything. It doesn’t even tell you how to draw conclusions from what you’ve just dictated. It just tells you how not to screw up drawing those conclusions.

Rule 18: Any popularisation of a scientific theory will distort and simplify the most important features of the theory in direct proportion to the intended sales of the book.

Monday, 6 April 2015

February / March 2015 Review

Cold. More cold. And more cold yet. I think I have worn my faithful Tyrwhitt grey houndstooth coat for four months straight now.

I read Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, finished Heidegger’s Poetry, Language and Thought, Nevile Shute’s The Trustee from the Toolroom, Max Tegmark’s Our Mathematical Universe, William Byers’ How Mathematicians Think, Patricia Berman's In Another Light: Danish Painting in the Nineteenth Century, Howard Bloom’s The Lucifer Principle, Ian Fleming’s For Your Eyes Only, and Mark Lawrence's The King of Thorns. I think I read the Fleming when I was about eleven, and it clearly formed many of my opinions about Life, The Universe and Everything. I made a start on John Eliot Gardiner's book on J S Bach, and that's going to be read in several instalments this year.

I watched Inherent Vice, Hinterland, Appropriate Behaviour at the Curzon Soho; went with Sis and Mother to the Sargent exhibition at the NPL; had a Moroccan in Shepherds Market with Sis in February and fish at Kensington Place in March. We liked Kensington Place. On DVD I watched my way through the BBC’s Strangers and Brothers, The Event, and S1 of The Bridge.

I changed my work-outs to include 12-15 sets of 5 pull-ups with pyramiding supports: starting at 57 kgs (I weigh 97 *cough*) and dropping down to 50, 43, 36, 30, then going back up to 57 and back down to 43. Everything else I do is subordinate to that. I’m going to adding in some lat pull-downs, and may try the thing where you jump up to the bar and then let yourself down slowly. I did that once for a few reps: it ached for days afterwards.

Finally I got the beginning and end of my interminable Riemann-Roch essay sorted out, and now only have some stuff about Riemann surfaces to finish it off.

Then at the end of March I left a couple of pairs of trousers on the morning train that I had been intending to take for dry cleaning while I was on a planned six-day Easter break, which is passing with a seating, fever-y, nose-stuffing, cough-retching, sleep-depriving cold.

God hates me.