What’s a hermit doing on Facebook?

Morandi craggy islander

The news of Italian retired teacher, Mauro Morandi, 81, being evicted from the Isle of Budelli, off the coast of Sardinia, where he has lived as its sole inhabitant for the last 32 years, comes in a week when I have been thinking of the isolated experiences of Tom Neale on Suwarrow, in the Cook’s, in the late 50s. Neale wrote of a gap of fourteen months between seeing, and speaking to, one human being and the next. Of course, in the late 50s, the internet was a long way off but he also had no radio.

How necessary is a remote and uninhabited island for one’s sense of solitude? Is that kind of liberty more within the mind than the environment?

Imagine living in a busy city – maybe you’re in one in reality – just switching off the world wide web would increase your sense of isolation a hundredfold.

But I guess the extreme isolation helps but there’s a dangerous fine line between enjoying solitude and experiencing loneliness.

Morandi posted of his threatened eviction on his Facebook page. He had many followers, it says. He didn’t relish a relocation up north (Italy?) playing cards or bowls. Playing the odd game of cards or bowls seems a quaint and quiet pastime compared to Facebook.

It explains he initially set sail from Italy to Polynesia some three decades or more ago; and didn’t get much beyond Sardinia – which to my schoolboy’s knowledge of Mediterranean geography is a bit like sailing from Portsmouth for Australia and settling on the Isle of Wight.

This tells me you don’t have to go too far – or as far as you might think – to find contentment.

Let’s wish him good fortune in his new life wherever he finds it.

Italian hermit – CNN

Quietness

“Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.”

I saw this quote – more of a soundbite, I suppose, as it has been extracted from its fuller context – attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Does it suggest anything about da Vinci: was he quietly spoken, or perhaps he was too often shouted down?

It rang a bell: I don’t like to hear shouty men. They seem over sure of themselves. Cocksure. Like a strutting cockerel. Cock-a-doodle-do!

I made a mental list of shouty men in the public domain and media. You might like to add to it or start one of your own. There’s no end of choice.

I found this other soundbite from Bertrand Russell,

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

It may have been in a movie or TV show but I seem to remember a Buddhist master instructing his novice and telling him, “A wise man walks with head bowed.”

Internet Regained: Fargo 3

McGregor

By lunchtime Monday, the web service had been restored. Full marks to the engineer with his little meter box and fibre optic joinery stuff.

The first thing I did that evening was begin Fargo series 3. I’ve yet to see the movie on which the series is based but so far it looks like a case of diminishing returns. I quite enjoyed series 1 with Billy Bob Thornton doing his weirdo freelancing hitman thing. Even Martin Freeman’s hammy and exaggerated portrayal of put-upon nerdy Lester wasn’t too off putting. It was a strong narrative and a good cast.

Series 2 was one of those “prequel” schticks. In my view, this tends to be a fail. Why do we need the backstory after the main event? It happens to much; in movies mainly.

Ted Danson starred in this one, reminiscent of the bald eagle from the Muppet Show, and the Hank’s boy – a veritable chip off the old block. I suppose sharing the same title, Fargo, there would be similarities in character portrayals and overall style, but I saw it as a watered down version of the first.

For two episodes of series 3, I had been distracted by the way these Americans interchange their “o” and “a”- “I’ll coll the caps an ya”; “you wont same hat caffee?” “where’s the porking lat?” – and the facial familiarity of one of the main players – the parking lot entrepreneur. Where have I seen him before?

Of course, I recognised Thewlis, the villain, straightaway. “From America”, he says when asked where he’s from, but they left him with his regional English accent; sounding peculiarly odd-fish but possibly an effectively clever move by the makers. But that other guy?!

Up it comes in the credits: Ewan McGregor… of course it is! Now you say it! It’s the black, curly-permed hairdo they’ve given him which had me fooled, looking like the younger brother of Bob Ross. I feel I have underestimated the McGregor; he’s not a bad actor.

(my definition of a good actor is one I don’t immediately recognise)

The Weekend We Lost The Web (and turned to the telly)

I broke our broadband on Friday; the service provider only works weekdays – and I don’t blame them – so for two evenings we turned to the telly for entertainment.

It’s amazing how memory works; we remembered exactly what to do. You hold a slim, black device with buttons on the top; you point this in the general direction of the telly and repeatedly press a button while saying, “there’s absolutely nothing on”.

Remember in Britain – before we were called the UK – when we had three channels and you could find a film, a play, a sit-com, a comedy sketch show, or a documentary to watch? How did they do that?

And you’d go to bed – early, because they all closed down at half past eleven – feeling thoroughly entertained and informed. And I think those two words were in the TV charter; if not a guarantee then at least a firm promise.

We watched Gogglebox. If you don’t know Gogglebox, it’s a collection of “ordinary members of the public” filmed in their home, watching and commenting on the same programmes. The big advantage for the rest of us watching Gogglebox must be that we don’t have to watch the programmes they’re watching. They’ll be the worst of programmes which always elicit the best comments. Or if they’re not too bad, you’ll get to watch the highlights, which elicit the best reactions. And that’s all you need.

But the best and ironic thing about Gogglebox is when the “ordinary members” go off script and get up to things which have nothing to do with watching the programmes.

I don’t know how much the “ordinaries” get paid but the whole thing confirms the ridiculousness of what might be termed “The Gary Lineker Factor”. This is where the BBC insist they have to pay a celebrity near to, or in excess of, a million pounds per annum for evermore, out of taxpayers money.

But Gogglebox clearly shows there are no shortage of “ordinaries” who are willing to go in front of camera and do an adequate job.

Mind you, if that’s how The One Show’s Alex Jones was recruited, I’ll eat my words.

Sky blues

I have to remonstrate with myself in the middle of weeding the fruit patch. I need to take breaks more often than I want to. I’m far from my twenties now, and since then have clocked up forty odd years doing desk work.

Now that I’m master of my own time, more of that time is spent doing physical things: as well as tending the gardens, there’s the diy – building jobs, woodworking, decorating, and ordinary maintenance chores such as cleaning the windows, cleaning the gutters and drains, and generally cleaning! To say little of running 5 kilometres or more, every third day.

So, I strike the fork into the dug soil, and taking up my mug of tea I sit down on the wooden sleeper border edging the vegetable plot to contemplate the day.

It is sunny. Between the high hedge and power lines which run across the back of our garden, the sky is a beautiful uninterrupted blue. I think of Yuri Gagarin. Someone must. He was the first human to leave the Earth without having to die.

27 years old and seen the world

Briefly, from his point of view, he saw how thin the blue film enveloping our planet was from outer space; how fragile it looked before petering out into the overwhelming and utterly vast vacuum of black space. Like clingfilm covering a cantaloupe melon.

Through religion first, and then in more modern times science fiction, we have learnt to delude ourselves and avoid thinking of our world-home as being anything short of firm and secure. Even the true sciences deal with a robust mechanism, holding it all together: the climate may change but it will still exist in some form. Will it be blue; bluer, or paler? Will anyone be around to tell?

People all over often wonder whether there is life on other planets; it’s a wonder to me how there’s life on this one.

It begins with a movie…

I was in the mood last night to watch a movie. Mary Magdalene is currently on All4 on-demand so I chose this; but it is one of these films were the director thought it was okay for the actors to mumble their lines during softly spoken moments. I find this irritating so I gave up on it after thirty minutes and switched to an old movie – Fear No More – which I found on Youtube. Even though this was a bit of a B-movie, and one of the principal actors had a distinct accent which suggested English wasn’t his first language, there was no lack of clarity in the dialogues.

Scientific Jesus – 5’ 5” in stockinged feet

This morning, my curiosity of Mary Magdalene had the better of me and I googled it to see how it had been received by critics. Across the board, it averaged 45-50% which is about right, though most criticism was concerned with its dullness, or “toothless” portrayals of the gospel narratives.

Reading further accounts of Mary herself, I hadn’t realised how important a figure she was in the Jesus story – the apostles’ apostle. Her name is written more times in scripture than those of most of his disciples. Later patriarchal christianity turned against her, conflating her character with that of another Mary, a fallen woman, a possible prostitute. This myth still carries weight in some quarters.

Contrary to her portrayal in the movie – as a simple working fisherwoman, seen on the beach, mending holes in nets – some accounts say she was likely a wealthy woman and had supported Jesus in his mission.

Jesus in the film is played by Joaquin Phoenix, so its Jesus looks a lot like Johnny Cash; in his hippy period, no doubt. He looked a lot older than his early thirties too, I thought. (Released in 2018, Phoenix would have been 43.) But it was the unkempt long hair and beard which was the problem. Had wardrobe not kept abreast of the news?

Not much is written about his appearance in the gospels but the prophecy of Isaiah has him as a disfigured man people would turn their face against. Of course, Christianity – a simple faith for simple minds to understand – wouldn’t understand that and so over the centuries, Jesus has been depicted not as an especially unhandsome dude, but looking a bit like you, or me.

Joaquin’s sun-blocked, ageing hippy Jesus

It’s quite a surprise – though not shocking – to see how science portrays the man based on all available evidence and assessments: a shortish, thick set man, dark olive skinned, and with short hair and a trimmed beard. Far from turning away from the sight of him, you’d probably not notice him at all in a crowd. If he was a wanted man, the authorities would need for someone who knew him to point him out amongst the rest. Hmm.

Here is a post in Medium about the visual depiction of Jesus which provided some material for this post.

I like the comments Medium readers leave; this one, I thought, was particularly funny,


“Respectfully, it should be pointed out that Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God. If we accept this premise, wouldn’t he have looked something like his father?”


It reminds me of a story my Mum tells us of a nativity play at some junior school in the 60s. The kids all had parts to play, the more confident and reliable ones play the parts with the most lines to memorise.

A boy – playing the principal shepherd, I think – was much more confident than his memory was reliable. Looking into the manger, he forgot his given line and no amount of off-stage whispered prompting from teacher could bring them to mind. So he improvised and said, in the clearest voice, what he must have heard adults say to new parents many a time,

“Ooh! Doesn’t he look like his father!”

He brought the house down.

Chick Lit

To be honest, I don’t know what Chick Lit is; but that’s a poultry excuse!

As “Amazon Prime” subscribers – my wife’s idea – I get a monthly invite to download one of eight new ebooks – their “editor’s choices” – for free (well, included in the subscription cost, to be fair).

Almost without fail, these titles will be authored by women. Although disproportionately represented, I don’t have a problem with that. What does bother me is the subjects of these chosen novels – they all seem depressingly similar.

Even though a download of one would cost me no more other than a bit of storage space on my device or in the cloud, it’s pointless. I’m just not interested enough in the dreary synopses to want to try one out.

I’ve looked to see if there’s a setting I can change, or some means of feedback, but I can find none.

wives, mothers, girlfriends, widows, and aunt tamsin cobley and all.

Wall #8

I find myself in the mood to compile another of these wall thingies from my Youtube viewings. Unfortunately, the barrel is almost drained of the better content and I could be rightly accused of scraping its bottom noisily, and for that I apologise. Nevertheless, my mood hadn’t diminished enough after some consolidation so here’s a wall,


Following hot and spicy on the heels of my last post on the dangers of Alabama Yoga turning schoolchildren onto Hinduism, this olde worlde cinema advert showed up. For the love of a good curry… washed down with the traditional pint of Indian draught brown ale (say, what?)

It will be nostalgically familiar to any Brit who remembers the flicks before the multiplexes took over. The ad seemed to be a stock film shown regardless in which town’s cinema it featured; only the address card at the end was bespoke and matched the location – “less than 100 yards from this cinema!


A young Bob Mortimer stars in this old telly ad for the new thing that was telephone banking. I remember the long queues in banks: I was paid weekly by cheque as a freelancer and had to traipse to the bank to deposit it, every Thursday lunchtime, along with the rest of hoi polloi.

Since opting for online banking, I’ve rarely set foot in a bank. The last time I did, I had to step aside for the tumbleweed. How times change…


But the thing which caught my attention in the ad was the tune playing in the background. It took me a while but I eventually recognised it as The Theme from Gurney Slade.

So I discovered this ditty was by Max Harris & His Group (I wonder if this was ironic or that they simply couldn’t come up with a name for the combo and thought The Max Harris Band was too cliché).


I wholeheartedly recommend The Strange World of Gurney Slade and would have liked to include a link to the series here. I caught the whole show on Youtube some years back but, disappointingly, it seems to have been taken down. Bad luck!

It was a 60s comedy show made for Anthony Newley and, arguably, as comedy was ahead of its time. Being ahead of its time probably did for it: it comprised only six episodes and in the latter ones, it turns in on itself debating its own existence. Philosophical surrealist comedy. Who else was doing this in the early 60s?


I watched the 60 minute documentary on the history of Slade, the black country glam-rock band. They tried to gain popularity in the States but the Americans found them too exuberant; the country was suffering from an epidemic of pessimism and problems of pathological introspection. Apparently. Unfortunately, it was too early in pop history to send them Radiohead.

You can see the doc on Youtube if you hurry, but here I’ve just included a clip from BBC’s Top of the Pops, 1973, were the guys entertain us with one of their no. 1 six hit singles, Cum On Feel The Noize.

It’s surprisingly well covered this song; even Oasis had a go, but no one sings it like Noddy did.


I’ve noticed a lot of these telly parodies coming up on the recommendation page at Youtube. It seems to be the work of one channel and the target audience is the one who’ll appreciate the Taste of India cinema ad. Millennials will be bemused. Gen Z..well, er, no… Still, anyone can appreciate the made-up names in the phoney chart rundown.

Where did they find those clips of those totally uncool bands? Is “uncool” uncool now? What will we parody in another generation’s time? Does anyone care?

No Fooling

You have to be on your guard when reading the news on April 1st. So, I did a bit of back-checking and apparently this is a real thing!

Alabama has banned yoga by law – for the past 28 years. The reason seems to be a real fear that yoga turns ordinary American citizens into Hindus. I don’t think that would be such a bad thing, if it were plausible.

It makes the news because some enlightened folk have seen the benefit of practicing asanas and seemed to have avoided turning Hindu purely by chance. Like the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, the reported risk of side-affects have probably been over-emphasised. In reality, there is only a 1 in 2,500,000 chance of spontaneously turning Hindu whilst practicing Adho Mukha Shvanasana over any ten year period.

namaste.

The Un-American Dream (version #23 Alabama, 2021)

Is Abstract Art Dead?

…and other casual ponders this week.

Is Abstract Art Dead?

Garden Leaves, 1955 | Patrick Heron

I’ve been recommended a Youtube channel of art tutorial videos. It’s one of my interests. The first one I saw was on composition and I inferred from what the tutor said offhand that “representational” art is the thing now – in opposition to “abstract” art.

Abstract art has had a good innings though, hasn’t it? A bit like rock music.

I once worked with a guy who said he had an art exhibition coming up. I was more than intrigued as we were all professional engineers. Keen to see his paintings, he showed me a picture of a painting another colleague had bought from him. It was an abstract; swirls of rainbow colours melding into one another. The colleague who bought it had actually commissioned it specifically for his living room; he didn’t say it went with the colour scheme and soft furnishings but you couldn’t help reading between those lines.

Though there’s not a lot wrong in abstract painting, I thought engineers lent more towards draughtsmanship in their art appreciation.


Centre aligned verse

‘O, ragged ‘edges…’

What is that about? Before blogging poetry, the only centre aligned verse I saw, or expected to see, was the doggerel or sentimental rhyme inside a greetings card. Imagine, a person possessing some poetical bent is actually employed to compose such things. Can there be a less esteemed occupation? Are there school leavers who, when interviewed by a careers tutor, express a desire to follow a path in birthday card verse writing?

I’m reminded of the scene in Cemetery Junction, when Ricky Gervais’ character tells his MIL he’s is in work: as a window cleaner!

“That’s not work,” she says, “that’s begging!”

Sorry, I digress. What is centre alignment supposed to communicate to the reader, that the poet needs them to know?

Ragged Margins

On each side we see
the ragged margins
the hedge cutter has left
this way, this morning;
his mind on higher things.

Mobile Block Editor = Better Sanity

Many WP bloggers still don’t like the New Block Editor. I didn’t get this – other than the general conservative view that the “old, tried and trusted” is like a comfort pillow. Or an opiate.

Then I looked at it on the laptop and found out the problem: it’s way over-egged for a blogger’s use.

I was in ignorance of all this having used a tablet all this time. The mobile app is a pared down version and I suspect specifically designed for the blogger.

It still needs a few workarounds but I found even the “Classic” editor needed some of those too; nothing’s perfect and there is no one-size-fits-all. What you don’t see won’t worry you. Make it easy on yourself and do it on a mobile app.