Archive for October 2002
- “I want to live my life so that my nights are full of regrets.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crackup
- “I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets.” – D. H. Lawrence
“Sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.” – Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
Tonight is Halloween, a night which means something to most people around the world, particularly the shopkeepers raking in the cash spent on costumes, confectionery, and pumpkins. As with many things, the Irish claim to have invented it, but this time there is something to the claim. Halloween is a corruption of “All Hallows Eve”, which is the Christianized version of the old Celtic Pagan festival of Samhain.
Fireworks are illegal in Ireland, but there is a booming (!) black market, and many thousands are going up in smoke tonight. I’ve got my scanner on, listening to the police and ambulance dispatches, and it’s pretty predictable.
I’ve been off for a day and a half attending briefings on my employer’s upcoming products, and there are a few interesting things in there. Of course, we won’t actually get our hands on the hardware until well after customers start phoning in with problems, since “in this financial climate” we have to “justify all business expenditure”, and even then the request might just get ignored. We know we need the stuff to provide a reasonable level of support to the customers who buy it, but that isn’t enough, apparently.
I meant to provide a more substantial update but, as Jerry Pournelle likes to say, “this day was eaten by locusts”.
Quiet weekend, though last night I did take a walk along the coast, picked up an early Sunday paper, and had a couple of ciders in a local pub. A bunch of women, all smoking like chimneys, were at a table nearby, and one of them shouted something at me as she was leaving. I didn’t catch all of it, but it was something about reading a paper in the pub. Or maybe she was just jealous that I can actually read.
We’re approaching the release of the next James Bond film, Die Another Day. There’s a documentary on at the moment, narrated by Roger Moore, about real-life intelligence operations in history. I didn’t know that the UK actually had an official assassination squad that operated during the last stages of World War II and afterwards, targeting Nazis and sympathisers who were considered guilty of war crimes (but too low-ranking to make it to Nuremburg) and “converting them to His Majesty’s permanent custody”. The program also documents some of the CIA’s many attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. Interesting.
Also discussed was the assassination of Alfred Herrhausen, the late chairman of Deutsche Bank, by the Red Army Faction (a.k.a. Baader Meinhof Gang) in 1989. They had already publicly targeted Herrhausen, who was then surrounded by a 50-person security detail. They still got him as he was being driven to work one morning, by detonating a satchel full of TNT, attached to a kid’s bike chained to a post next to the road, with help from an infra-red trigger. The bomb had been set up with a heavy copper plate precisely aimed at the side of the armoured car, which didn’t stand a chance. The only casualty that day was Herrhausen himself – a real wake-up call for security organizations worldwide.
The CIA and KGB also worked in chemical and biological weapon development, and we saw some of the fruits of that research this weekend, in “resolving” the hostage crisis at a Moscow theatre. At time of writing the death toll is 118, all but 2 of whom died as a result of an unknown military gas. Heads will roll, figuratively, and perhaps literally too.
Today is the longest day of the year; since the clocks went back at 1am, today is 25 hours long. I’ll need that extra hour of sleep, since tomorrow is a Bank Holiday in Ireland, but I have to work. I could grab a taxi, but I’m going to walk it. It will probably be the last time I walk the coast road, from Blackrock to Sydney Parade, for some time. We’ve had some serious weather this weekend, but the morning is forecast to be clear but windy.
I haven’t had much time to do much of anything since I got back to work. Last night I went out with a bunch of guys from another department, one of whom is heading back to Norway because he was fired. He made the mistake of being caught downloading something slightly dodgy from the ‘Net to his business PC. That started an investigation, and that unearthed some rather more dodgy downloads, including adult material. There are a lot of people doing various slightly iffy things here without complaint, our IT people among them, so it takes something quite serious before this kind of action is taken.
There’s another party tonight, for another guy who’s leaving. He sent a building-wide email this morning about various things, and articulated many of the grievances of the Level 1 (phone support) people here. I’ll drop in for a few minutes, but I’m not quite right after last night…
I’ve just this minute got the go-ahead to move to the new place closer to work, so this weekend will probably be my last full weekend in the old place.
I’m debating whether I should write a combined review of the three Dream Theater concerts I went to last weekend, rather than describe them in this blog. I’ll get back to the topic later. In the meantime, you can find plenty of concert info on the message board starting at dreamtheater.net.
My trip to London went smoothly, with the exception that I picked up a cold which pretty much ruined Tuesday, since I was too tired and aching to do much. I probably picked it up on Saturday, the only day I experienced really crowded Tube conditions, where someone could have breathed on me. I already seem to be shaking it off, so no cause for concern there.
The hotel (Jury’s Inn Croydon) was very nice, if businesslike, no chocolates on the pillows or such. Transport to and from London was less of a problem from Croydon than it was on my previous visits, from Docklands, Wandsworth, or Swiss Cottage. I even tried out the new Tramlink system which links Croydon to Wimbledon and elsewhere. I was sat at the front of the tram, and had a bit of a fright when the tram hit something, smashing into the floor under my foot. The most likely explanation was an animal, probably a dog. The tram didn’t stop, of course.
I’m about to head out the door to the first of three Dream Theater concerts I’ll be attending this weekend. There has been absolutely no publicity here, except for a misspelled entry in the Dublin Event Guide. On TV a few minutes ago: an advertisement for an upcoming Status Quo concert. If you haven’t heard of Status Quo, don’t worry, you aren’t missing much. Suffice to say that the name says it all – the band is a musical cul-de-sac that stopped evolving as soon as it existed. The very antithesis of the progressive band I’m off to hear tonight.
The forecast weather overnight is clear and cold, so I’d better take my warm coat and gloves. I probably won’t have time to type in the morning, so this will be the last entry for a few days, which won’t be uploaded until next Wednesday. I may enter a few lines from the road, though.
I’m finally getting round to watching Some Like It Hot, which I taped from TV about 6 weeks ago. I’m taking the Internet Movie Database Top 250 Films as a provisional guide for the essential films I should see, and I’ve currently seen 121 of the list I have from 2 weeks ago, some so long ago I might be imagining some and missing others. The list keeps changing, so this project will never be complete.
Highlights from Some Like It Hot (#32), while they’re fresh:
- a hearse with a coffin full of bootleg whiskey pulling in to “Mozarella’s Funeral Parlor”;
- “Daphne” (Jack Lemmon) playing the wrong side of the bass, being too busy watching Marilyn Monroe from behind;
- “Do you use a bow, or do you just pluck it?” “Most of the time, I slap it!”
- “If I was a girl…and I am…”
- Tony Curtis and his accent reversing across the harbour to the yacht.
- “Water Polo? Isn’t that terribly dangerous?” “I’ll say, I’ve had two ponies drowned under me.”
- “Real diamonds? They must be worth their weight in gold…”
I find enough to watch on the four Irish terrestrial channels as it is, so I don’t think it’ll be a good idea to get any more channels on cable or satellite.
I am about to move house, for the third time in the (nearly) three years since I moved to Ireland. This gives an idea of what the housing situation is like here. The first time was expected, because I was in temporary accommodation anyway. On the other two occasions, it’s been down to landlords and money. I moved here to Blackrock a year ago after we were asked to vacate the shared house so that the landlords could fix it up a bit and make more money. I discussed the current situation a few days ago. On the other hand, moving has not been as much of a problem as it could have been, and this occasion is following the same pattern as on previous occasions:
- When I realize I need to move, I tell a few people at work, put a few feelers out, nothing drastic;
- A day or two later I’m informed of a spare room in a reasonable place;
- I go and take a look, and it’s acceptable and better-priced than I had expected;
- I move in and have no major problems.
This fits in with a general theme of my stay in Ireland: I have problems with the little things, but the big things – money, accommodation, work – are going surprisingly smoothly. Maybe it’s all relative to my experiences in London, but even then I thought I was lucky. I had my own place in Muswell Hill, with a landlord who neglected to increase the rent for nearly five years, until just before I moved to Ireland. I looked at a place here last Friday evening, and it looks quite acceptable. It’s more expensive, but it is larger, and the savings on transport costs cover half of the increase. I will be able to walk to work, instead of needing to take the train. It’s with the same estate agent as I’m with now, but they’ve had a “regime change” there too, and tomorrow I’ll be talking to a new person to negotiate moving in.
More updates to the quotes database today. I’m once again browsing through one of my favourite books; S,M,L,XL by Rem Koolhaas with Bruce Mau, (1995). It’s a huge portfolio of architectural projects undertaken by the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, a design firm set up by Koolhaas and partners.
The book roughly categorizes OMA’s projects from small to large, hence the title. Only about a quarter of the projects presented here were actually built, but those are no less shocking and effective than the ones which remained on paper. OMA got off the ground with the Netherlands Dance Theatre in Rotterdam, which was built to a very restrictive budget. The project is described in blackly humorous detail. It probably wasn’t funny at the time, especially when an OMA partner was murdered while on holiday in Brazil, but in retrospect it’s amazing the place was built. For example, the supplier of the chairs was paid for 600.6 chairs and donated the other 400.4. There would have been no stage curtain if the sponsors hadn’t stumped up the cash.
At the other extreme, OMA were the master planners behind the rebuilding of huge chunks of Lille to cater for the Channel Tunnel, and Koolhaas designed a huge conference and exhibition centre as part of the project. The book also includes reports on New York and Singapore, home to the kinds of skyscrapers that other cities would refuse to build for theoretical reasons.
Eight years have passed since the book was written, and Koolhaas has gone from strength to strength as a theoretician of Bigness and a constructive critic of current architectural theory and practice. He was awarded the 2000 Pritzker Prize, which is to Architecture as the Pulitzer is to writing or the Nobel is to Science. Quotes:
Through size alone, (Big) buildings enter an amoral domain, beyond good or bad. Their impact is independent of their quality.
Flexibility is not the exhaustive anticipation of all possible changes … flexibility is the creation of margin – excess capacity that enables different and even opposite interpretations and uses.
Where there is nothing, everything is possible. Where there is Architecture, nothing (else) is possible.
It’s the kind of book that, despite containing much critique of architecture as a profession, can still inspire one to become an architect.