Enjoying the Paralympics, what I've seen of them - as with the "boring Olympics" (the TV commentator's term), I'm too busy for telly watching... In the "boring" case, I was having a stupendous time teaching a full-on graduate programme. How're y'all doing, guys?

I managed to watch mainly the judo, in both events. Back in 1973 or 74 (yes, I'm that old), I received the whipping of my life from a blind judoka on the mat - respect! - and astute readers can guess how that influenced me.

Anyway, I'm reminded of something my previous editor told me. When the cover art of Paradox was being circulated in the publishing house, he received a bunch of calls saying: "The guy in the painting looks as if he's only got one arm! How could you possibly have missed that?"

He told them to, well, read the book...

Assumptions, presuppositions, and the framing of perception: here's an example that amused me a while back. I'd read one of Charles Cummings' excellent spy novels, the one set in 1997 in Hong Kong during the hand-over of power, and picked up on Chris Patten's being the only politician to be mentioned favourably in the book. And I remembered that Patten had written a book featuring his predictions of the future, called What Next? Surviving the Twenty-First Century.

Not normally relying on politicians for futurology, I used Wikipedia to remind myself of his background: a former member of the Thatcher cabinet (uh-oh) but known as a liberal internationalist (much better), and of course Chancellor of Oxford University. So I thought I'd give the book a whirl.

I read a couple of chapters, learned some history I didn't know, then decided to look at the pictures. And then...

After stifling my laughter, I showed one of the full-colour photos to Yvonne, but covering up the caption with my fingertip.

The picture was of a street scene in Pakistan, with a few passers-by in front of a large billboard. On it, depicted in the centre, was a fierce-eyed man pulling upon his jacket to reveal the dynamite strapped to his chest; to either side was a bare-headed woman (scarf-less... that'll be a clue, yer lordship) looking aggressive, one with bare hands raised, and the other holding a rifle. The (American) English title read: "Armor of God", while the rest of the poster's text was in Urdu.

Patten's description, which I'd hidden with my finger, read: "A poster in Pakistan glorifying suicide bombers."

When I asked Yvonne what the billboard in the photo depicted, she answered straight away: "It's a Jackie Chan movie, of course."

Yeah... I mean, you can recognize Jackie just from his face, even though it's a painting, not a photo. Perhaps as the last governor of Hong Kong, someone was too busy to watch movies featuring one of the island's most famous inhabitants.

C.P. Snow talked about the divide between two cultures, which I've often referenced, but maybe there are three cultures: humanities, science, and popular... But I can't laugh at Patten too much, because his definition of "celebrities" is "people I've never heard of", and that works for me. And like much of British fandom, one of the few TV programmes I watch when possible is University Challenge, whereas there are other quiz shows whose questions I'd be embarrassed to know the answers to. But that's just me.

The happy flip-side: Yvonne just bought Einstein's Dreams, which I missed when first published. The author, Alan Lightman, is a physicist/novelist/social entrepeneur (it says in Wikipedia), and became the first MIT professor to have an appointment jointly in the sciences and humanities. Nice one.

On the other hand, when people talk about new initiatives that bring the arts and sciences together, fine though they are, I want to grab the nearest SF novel, wave it in the air, and shout: "Yoo-hoo! We've been here all along! Haven't you noticed...?"

Ho hum.

Or as Vonnegut might have said: so it goes.

Per ardua ad astra, mes amis!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home