Extracts from the Rough Guide to the Sirius system, 5th static, 08/08/2444

Embarkation on Sirius One is a rough and tumble affair. This venerable spaceport has retained its grimy, industrious atmosphere and the weary traveller is likely to get jostled and disoriented. Keep your nerve however and you will soon work out what’s going on. It’s a small planet with a lot of traffic passing through. Accommodation ranges from pods to rooms in ‘Houses’. Houses exist that cater to all the major species and cultures, and usually include with shared kitchens, washroom and workshop facilities.
Sirius One, ‘the Crossing’ as it’s sometimes still called, was the first colonised planet in the system. The pioneers found a lifeless rock with enough of a radiation-temperate climate to make exploitation of its minerals realistic, and a well placed staging post in the system.
Today a busy spaceport, the slightly run down feel is attributed, by supporters of Sirius’ dominion movement, to decades of neglect by Earth Central. Their opponents counter that Sirius One could never survive as a private or indie concern, at least not for many decades to come. The indie sector is making some inroads however, with the new ‘Strontium Service’ retro-fitters and augmentation services being rare examples of collaboration between the rival Androzani networks, and about half the accommodation is privately owned.

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Ó hÉighnigh?

Since I mentioned my University days on Tuesday, I thought of a fragment of that time, on Seamus Heaney, who would have turned 80 last week, might be worth airing . Attempting to discuss the way he brings ‘modern Irish problems into relationship with images from the past’, or something, this is the first part of what I came up with. I couldn’t bear to let this go, however, with all the undergraduate prose intact, so I’ve improved the grammar a bit. You’ll have to look up the references yourself, but you can find the Wikipedia page on the book in question.

Seamus Heaney’s Bog Oak1 came into the world at a crucial point in Heaney’s career and in Irish history. An early poem from Wintering Out, Heaney’s first collection since the beginning of the Troubles, and also Heaney’s first since moving south, to the Republic, away from Ulster. It looks back to the past for images for a new poetry and also I think back to Ulster in an attempt, as Ronald Tamplin suggests2, to glimpse a new reality of Irish identity, a reading supported by Heaney’s oft-quoted view of poetry as “divination…as restoration of culture to itself”3.

The reference to Edmund Spenser appears to set the poem in sixteenth century Munster, but that the poem concerns Ulster 1969 is clear: the final word ‘carrion’ guides such a reading4. The description of the oak in the first stanza then becomes somewhat loaded: for instance, ‘split’ takes on obvious connotations. ‘Carrion’ is excellent, evoking not just death but horror, waste and decay. Heaney gazes homeward: loss and separation, mourning and sorrow.

A subtle manipulation of time through precise language seems to occur. The oak, ‘toughened survivor from Ireland’s past’5; carries the longevity of trees, great symbols; so as Heaney traces the oak, , ‘long seasoned’, backwards through time and space, he turns to the past to try and discover poetry suitable – ‘adequate’ as he put it- to the present Troubles. The images he finds there are mostly inadequate- the wisdom of the dead seems ‘hopeless’ and these old fashioned representations of Ireland, rural carters and creel fillers, seem irrelevant.

In the third stanza Heaney is outdoors now (‘a blow down of smoke/ struggles over the half door’) and as he looks back along the cart track, attempting to trace the oak all the way back to its roots.  But, ‘mizzling rain’ obscures his view just as time itself obscures our view of the past. Time meaning a changing culture which always constructs the past. The final three stanzas are full of these romanticised images of the past:

lead back to no
‘oak groves’, no
cutters of mistletoe
in the green clearings.

To make the point Heaney specifies that these images are not there. It is precisely these kinds of representations that are false and perhaps dangerous, an argument redolent of Brian Friel’s Making History6. Heaney does discern a classic Romantic image – the sensitive male poet, ‘dreaming sunlight’, the phrase accurately and concisely invoking the false image of the poet constructed in the popular imagination unwittingly by the likes of Spenser, Wordsworth, (perhaps) Oscar Wilde, and the mass media.

Seamus Heaney as a young manInterestingly, at this point Heaney’s time-travelling stops in suspension then reverses into a forward direction by way of ‘encroached’,’creep’ and ‘towards’ (lines 24,25 and 28); now Heaney is looking forward to the future of Ireland. But why Edmund Spenser? Well, the reality of Spenser is very different from the image Heaney presents. Spenser’s non-literary career was as an agent of the Crown in Ireland as Lord Deputy. He also wrote a ‘View of the Present State of Ireland’, which, according to Garry Waller…

argues for a vigorous programme of final conquest and subjugation of Ireland and the Irish, [and attacks] the ‘Old’ English preference for a degree of accommodation

Beyond that I don’t recall much about it other than people seemed to like it.

Nuer scales

The work of E.E Evans-Pritchard, the now somewhat old-fashioned, but utterly meticulous and detailed anthropologist, and I, have crossed but once. As an undergraduate I studied the first of his books from his fieldwork with the Nuer, a people of the Nile Valley

What follows are fragments of notes I took at the time.
Continue reading “Nuer scales”

Notes on ‘Phenomonology, Hermeneutics, Reception Theory’ from Eagleton’s ‘Literary Theory’

Edmund Husserl:

Phenomenology ‘back to the things themselves’ seeks to explore ‘human consciousness’ believing that through this we can study universal aspects of ‘phenomena’. Phenomena only exist as parts of consciousness, but phenomenology attempts to study their universal essence. Borne of the post WW1 crisis it attempts to revive the human mind as the ‘centre and origin of all meaning’ (Seldon 1985).

Eagleton claims this is not far from the contemporary attempts of Leavis to return to the concrete.

Phenomenological lit crit influenced the Geneva school Poulet, Starokinski, Rousset). The text is a ‘pure embodiemnt of the author’s consciousness’, has deep structures found in recurrent themes etc. and these reveal how the writer “‘lived’ his world”.

Criticism: non-evaluative, complete objectivity. The point is to ‘enter’ the world of the literary work and this to experience the author’s consciousness. For phenomenologists, language is an expression of the text’s inner meanings. Meaning is centred on a ‘transcendental subject’ – the author.

Martin Heidegger breaks with Husserl, reflects on the ‘irreducible Dasein (givenness) of human existence’.

consciousness is constituted by ‘being-in-the-world’ as much as consciousness contitutes the world.

Language pre-exists the individual subject (cf. Structualism)

Central to Heidegger then is not any individual subject but Being. Man is subservient to Being.

Thinking is always situated in an historical. However, for Heidegger history is not social, external, but inward and personal.

Heidegger – ‘hermeneutic of Being’. His philosophy is referred to as ‘hermeneutic phenomenology’, concentrating on an historical interpretation.

Hans-Georg Gadamer applied this to lit crit. Meaning depends on the historical situation of the interpreter. Interpretation of a literary work is a dialogue between past and present.

Understanding is productive. The present is only understandable through the past. linking together in a continuum called ‘tradition’ (cf Eliot)

Understanding is a ‘fusion of past and present’. We make a journey into the past, but only understand it by taking the present with us.

 

 

 

“That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law. ” – English Bill of Rights, 1689

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” US Constitution, 2nd amendment, 1791

Your homework this week is to compare and contrast these statements from English and American statute.

A Very Brief Introduction to Ecology

This is a transcript of an information sheet I have knocking around. No idea where I got it from.

Ecology
from the Greek Oikos meaning ‘home’+ology meaning ‘study of’
Quick definition
the study of the distribution and abundance of organisms in their environment
Ecology as a science
employs the scientific method to establish principles and theories about the living world.
Sources of evididence
field observations and measurement; field manipulations and experiment; laboratory and microcosm experiments; computer simulations and models;historoc data;genetic data;commercial and official data

Levels of organisation

AutoEcology
the ecology of individual species in their environment
Population Ecology
processes determining growth, decline, fluctuation of stability in populations (groups of same species individuals)
Community Ecology
study of groups of organisms living together.
Ecosystem Ecology
study of groups of organisms and the non-biological environment in which they live
Related disciplines
evolutionary biology; conservation biology, restoration ecology; economics

Key Concepts

Individuals Populations Communities & Ecosystems
Niche Growth rate
Carrying capacity
Succession
zonation
Facilitation
Cometition
Density dependence Community assembly
Biodiversity
Mutualism Metapopulation
Predation/herbivory
Disturbance
Species area relationship

Books

Popular science

  • E.O. Wilson The Diversity of Life
  • Paul Colinvaux: Why big fierce animals are rare – a little dated now but a good general accessible intro to ecological principles
  • David Quamman: Song of the Dodo – highly recommended journalistic account of the biology, biologists and travels associated with conservation science
  • Richard Dawkins: The Ancestors Tale

Academic

  • M. Begon etal (1996) Ecology: Individals, Populations and Communities
  • C.J. Krebs (2001) Ecology: the experimental analysis of distribution and abundance
  • ibid (1999) Ecological Methodology
  • W.J Sutherland Ecological Census Techniques: a handbook

Web resources

Tree of life

Conservation Evidence

JNCC UK Biodiversity Action Plan [this links seems to be broken]

Naturenet

 

The Fannish World of Arthur C Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke with quote
Arthur C. Clarke with quote (Photo credit: bryankennedy)

Notes from reading Odyssey: The Authorized Biography of Arthur C Clarke, by Neil McAleer.

In my ongoing attempt to digitise interesting bits of information recorded on paper and kept by me, before finally sending them on their way, the following text has been transcribed from notes made some time in the late 1990s. I was researching the history of fandom, for my undergraduate dissertation, and took particular interest in “sf professional’s” involvement with fandom, and in the ways fandom and the sf subculture might have influenced life outside itself, while grasping towards a ‘neo-tribal’ (after Maffesoli) interpretation of how and why fandoms form.

Despite a 1950s prudishness with the words fanzine and fandom (enclosing these terms in quotes) the book informs on Clarke’s involvement in fandom. The told story fits the standard pattern; entry via the letter columns of the early prozines, but after Clarke meets friends by chance who are into sf. From couple to neo-tribe, from normal social intercourse to the symbolic perdurability of the ‘scene’ – the BIS and Terra Novae.

Clarke therefore seems constructed by fandom.

Fandom as a pathfinder for capitalism may be suggested by p.83. In the US for the first time, Clarke has cocktails with Clifton Fadiman in the Plaza Hotel (ref: Clarke [ed] 1959 ‘Introduction’, Across the Sea of Stars). Fadiman writes:

Clarke is…otherwordly. He spoke of space satellites…interplanetary cruises as other men would discuss the market or the weather. As he explained how, within a decade, three space stations…would make possible (indeed one fears inevitable) simultaneous world-wide broadcasting, our right-hand neighbor (a V-P of CBS) went into a kind of catalepsy…

To understand a mind like Clarke’s we must realise that during the last 50…especially the last 25 years a new mental species has emerged among us. They are the men who in a real sense live in the future…for whom the present is merely a convienient springboard.

pp89-90
At the first televised political party convention [nationally? – seems to have been the 1952 Republican Convention http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1146322] Chairman Joe Martin talks of space travel in opening address. Clarke commented: “Maybe one of the elves or gnomes had got Martin’s special ear in a smoke-filled room”. (ref to the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s St Chowder and Marching Society, where Clarke had just been).