Monthly Archives: July 2013

This was a map

Very nice post on medieval maps over on this week, featuring among others the Mappa Mundi placed on show in the cathedral of my home county town of Hereford.

Mappa Mundi, Hereford Cathedral (pic: wikipedia)

I’ve seen it quite a few times and proudly show it to friends when visiting the area although perhaps never really had a proper look at it, probably because you’d need a lot of time to do so. To quote  Simon Garfield (via “There are approximately eleven hundred place-names, figurative drawings and inscriptions, sourced from biblical, classical and Christian texts…In its distillation of geographical, historical and religious knowledge the mappa serves as an itinerary, a gazetteer, a parable, a bestiary and an educational aid.On The Map, S. Garfield, 2012.

Glad to see that the Vatican Museums’ Gallery of Maps is also featured in the post, even though these are more Renaissance than medieval, dating back to 1580-1585 . I visited said museums and indeed the gallery during a 24 hour trip to Rome at the beginning of this month. The forty maps are an astounding cartographical collection which possibly holds no parallels in the known universe. Maps covering most of Italy are featured in the lavish gallery, depicting its regions from Lombardy and the Piedmont in the North, right down to Sicily in the south, which is curiously depicted ‘upside down’, which if you think about is how it would have been “seen” from the Holy See.

map of Sicily in the Gallery of Maps, Vatican Museums (from

Gotta have faith

Just catching up, sort of, with the Guardian’s  How To Believe series, which brings together a series of short blogs on religion and philosophy and all that. The series covers a wide range of topics and characters, from Thomas Aquinas to Kierkegaard, from The Book of Common Prayer to Hobbes’ Leviathan and so on.

Apart from the Wittgenstein series which initially took my eye, Paganism is also being covered rather well by Liz Williams, an interesting character in herself: “Liz Williams is the author of 15 SF/Fantasy novels. She has a doctorate in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge, and runs a witchcraft shop in Glastonbury”. What a gal!

I went through my pagan phase during a rather pre-mature mid-life crisis about 10 years ago, reading up on rituals, beliefs and all things wiccan-magickey. It’s not all hocus-pocus and fairy-tales. Much of modern Christian religion is based on erstwhile pagan rituals and beliefs: early Christians used a lot of already existing Pagan festivals for example as a basis for Christian ones, such as Ostara (Easter) and Candlemas taken from the late January/early February festival of Imbolc.  And with Lammas just around the corner, time to brush up on one’s bread-baking skills!

Royal Mail Lammastide stamp (February 1981)

Tour de Triomphe

It seems to be quite a big year for British sport, what with Andy Murray winning Wimbledon and now African-born Brit Chris Froome winning the Tour de France in Paris yesterday.

I must admit I know very little about cycling as a sport, even though I live on the Continent where it’s always been very popular as the ‘summer alternative’ to the usual football-mania. Anyway well done to Mr. Froome – the French, and others, must be seething!

Just remember duckies

I really don’t want to turn this blog into another music blog, although since said art form does occupy quite a lot of my time, energy and brain-cells then there will be quite a lot of it here too.

Woke up with this ear-worm this morning, probably because I played it yesterday afternoon trying to concentrate on the lyrics and vocals properly for the first time. I’d Rather Be High is from Bowie’s latest album The Next Day and I reckon it’s one of the best tracks on it. Valentine’s Day has been chosen for the next single although I think this would’ve been a better choice, especially given its Beatle-y feeling in the vocal harmonies. It must have been hard to get the drums right.

1913 and all that

Thank you to amazon for bringing to my attention to a new book by German author Florian Illies called “1913: The Year Before The Storm” to be published this week. It’s basically the story of what was going on in the world in that year, obviously before the outbreak of WWI the year after.

I’d never heard of Illies before, although I see he’s quite a prolific young writer. Now all I have to decide is to whether I get the English translation (as above) or have a bash at the original in German, in preparation for my German language exam in October.

Interestingly, the original is called “1913:  Der Sommer des Jahnrhunderts“, ie. “the Summer of the Century”. No mention of a storm brewing!

“1913” will be Radio 4’s Book of the Week from 22nd July … 2013.

Florian Illies

Is there a hippo in the room?

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”

As part of my studies, I’ve started a Philosophy of Language course, part of which deals with Austrian born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who spent a lot of his life in England, philosophising on mathematics, language and other stuff.

Seems a bit of a tough nut to crack at the moment, but I’ll let you know how I get on.

Books I’ve put together so far:

  • Wittgenstein for Beginners, John Heaton
  • Wittgenstein, Philosophy in an Hour [Kindle Edition], Paul Strathern
  • How to Read Wittgenstein, Ray Monk

The BBC/IOT podcast on Wittgenstein (2003) was a tad disappointing as none of the guests seemed to able to explain exactly what our Ludwig was on about, or perhaps I need to listen to it a second time. Anyway another good podcast – an interview with Ray Monk – can be found here.

Still looking for some decent documentary / OU type video material if anyone knows of any.

I owe you

I was in a bit of a dliemma as to what my first music post would be on this new blog, torn between which of my favourite artists was to feature first. So not wishing to offend or pick any one of them out I’ll post this random choice of a rather excellent 1983 tune brought back to my attention via a Pet Shop Boys feature in the guardian this morning.

I.O.U. by Freeez really is the essence of the summer of 1983 – a new kind of electronic dance music which came almost out of nowhere back then. Actually it apparently came from the New York clubs or whatever and the mind of Arthur Baker who would also shape New Order into something new and similar shortly after.  I know nothing else about Freeez, where they came from or what happened to them, although I think I may have bough the cassette of the album featuring I.O.U., and remember it being a bit of a disappointment.

As usual the visuals really date the music – the daft fashions, dancing and hairstyles – but I also love the kids on this video going around on their BMX bikes. That really does epitomise those years – the evolution of the Chopper, the proper beginning of the 80s and a new era opening up.

Enjoy the music anyway.

Call Me

Absoloutely addicted to the very wonderful Retronaut site, and here’s their latest addition – possibly the world’s first payphone, located in San Francisco and photographed in 1899. Fascinating.


caption reads: 228 So. Spring St.. The first telephone line between San Francisco and Los Angeles had just been opened, and long distance calls to the Bay City were being stimulated. The young man, Roy E. Jillson, was messenger boy then and was still an employee of the telephone company in 1934.’

I had to have a look at Google Maps and Street View to see what this place looks like now, but the nearest thing I could find to the quoted address is Spring Street  in San Francisco which seems almost like a narrow alley more than a street linking California Street and Sacramento Street. If any readers can enlighten me further, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Ashes to ashes

Well over in Brit-land (or Eng-land, rather) it’s that time of year again. . time for a big long cricket match against Australia called The Ashes. Having lived on the continent for so long I’ve almost completely lost touch with the sport although as a lad I used to enjoy the playing the  odd game and of course spending warmer summer days indoors watching the balls fly and the wickets fall.

One of the best bits of telly cricket is the music of course, namely Booker T and the MG’s Soul Limbo . Here it is in a nifty little video with  a bit of cricket ‘action’:

The Ashes: England v Australia– live!