Monday, November 15, 2004

"Not every truth is the better for showing its face undisguised; and often silence is the wisest thing for a man to heed" - Pindar

Here is a rather good Titian [Cain and Abel for the infidels] we found in a church. How the Old Testament should be: frightning.titian

I have read a few popular books recently, which is unusual for me. First up was Dan Brown's "The Davinci Code," which is to literature as Gilbert and Sullivan are to music. Next up was the "the Girl with the Pearl Earring" by somebody. It tried earnestlt to be good, but had all the hallmarks of somebody who had endlessly studied "write your own novel" handbooks. Oh, and I read a book Susie has called "PS I love you," which compared with the others has the relative merit of only aspiring to be the literary Hollyoaks, an ambition which it largely fulfills. And I read Bill Bryson's "History of Everything" or whatever it is called, but i don't like Bill Bryson anyway, and I have spent enough years with people who know a lot about Astrophysics, Biology and Paleoanthropology to know that most of it was pre-digested to the point of being useless anyway.

Spending Remembrance Sunday in Italy was remarkable only because they forgot. But then Venice's big hero is Francesco Morosini, whose grave inscription says (in Latin): "Here lies the bones of Francesco Morosini, Venetian emperor of the Peloponnesos." He is remembered for being the bloke who, with startling accuracy for the 17th century, fired a bloody big bomb into the Parthenon.

It did make me think, though, that the misplaced aspect of the Greek's whining about the Parthenon marbles is that were it not for the British/French/German Neoclassical Romantic movement, those stones would still lie where Morosini left them. Had the ancient world not be constructed as a cultural icon before the formation of a conciousness of modern Greek nationalism, it is unlikely it would ever have been appropriated as a pre-existing nationalist template. The comparison with the approach to the past of other areas with an equal heritage (eg Iraq and Afganistan) is enough to illustrate this.

Imagine a country where how and what you ate and drank was controlled by the government. Where visitors were taken on carefully managed tours, to shield them from public opinion. Where local authorities were competant to decide how people should dress in public. Where the government shamelessly manipulated the results of public votes.

Yesterday's Sunday Times carried the following stories:

1. Smoking is to banned in all restaurants and 80% of the floor area(!) of all pubs; Walkers crisps and others are to be banned from advertising on TV.

2. Dubya is to visit the UK before the next election. Will we see a repeat of last time when his tour was micromanaged to mask the existance of (massive) dissent. British citizens were not allowed to speak freely.

3. Local authorities have been given the power to ban people from wearing "hoodies", not because they can lead to "harder" fashion crimes like the mullet and the shellsuit, but because they are, it would seem, the germ from which sprouts anti-social behaviour. How perfectly, quaintly, Victorian.

4. Labour are looking for ways to not lose the referendum on the EU constitution. They have hit on the idea of allowing EU citizens living in Britain to vote. What majestic logic.

Anyway, it is not all bad. After all, the PM has supported the idea that some schools should be allowed to teach a creationist biology curriculum, on the basis that: " In the end, a more diverse school system will deliver better results for our children." Burk.


At 4:55 PM, Blogger Tom said...

The Da Vinci Code is big news here. You can buy the ordinary edition (still in hardback after about 18 months), a deluxe illustrated edition in large format, plus books called things like What is the Truth of the Da Vinci Code? written by either annoyed Divinity Professors or conspiracy-theory nutcases (depending on whether they are pro- or anti-)

In other news, a court case is currently ongoing in Georgia to get the state to remove the stickers from science textbooks that say that evolution is only a theory. Maybe the religious right could all move to Britain and everyone would be happy. Except the British. But who cares about Old Europe, right?

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Jim said...

I don't know if you have read the DaVinci code. It begins at a brisk pace, which never relents, in a style similar to James Patterson, but peppered with pseudo philosophical interjections. The linearity of the main plot mean the pace becomes monotonous: the interjections fail to make the narrative drive any more episodic, which for a book of this length would be helpful. For a book which has such quasi highbrow aspirations, the attention to detail is shocking. One passage describing a car journey has "it was less than half a mile now" followed a few pages of fast driving later by "it was less than a mile now"! The discussion of Da Vinci's "Last Supper", which is central to the plot, is unconvincing. The main claim is that the figure sat on Christ's right (our left) is not St John, as conventionally thought, but Mary Magdalene. If so, is the figure between John/Mary and St Peter Judas? If it is, which other disciple is not depicted, and why? If not, who is this shady figure, and where is Judas, who must be present for the books interpretation of teh Bible passage referred to? Moreover, in a "surprising" revelation, we are "shocked" to discover the painting depicts not one cup (the Holy Grail) but thirteen. If I can see 13 cups in that painting, the Pope is a Muslim. I can find about six or seven.

If a book is going to succeed in a "clever" plot dependant on genuine art, it needs to be more convincing than this.

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