Friday, 22 March 2013

Poem of the Week

Spike Milligan

Spring is sprung
The grass is ris
I wonders where the birdies is?

They say the birds is on the wing.
But that's absurd
I always thought the wing was on the bird.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Big Bang Visitor Experience Theory

I suppose it's true to say that over the last two years I've become a little addicted to The Big Bang Theory.  I've become a fan.

At its simplest, part of the attraction arises from the fact that most of the leads are physics or engineering geeks.  Or uber geeks. Sheldon et al have huge IQs and problematic social skills.  And you can't help loving them.

It is great that the main characters are interested in string theory, anisotropic universes and astronautics.  They love tech, and they are also into Stars Wars and Trek, Dr Who, comics, costumes and conventions. And they are surrounded by a bunch of other clever scientist people (and Penny).

Of course, as well as all the nerdy stuff, the other half of the show is admittedly more traditional - it's about relationships and love and stuff, and just how metrosexual is Raj? But it does all seem to fit together; we like watching these gawky individuals navigate a world full of other people.  The main characters are outlandish, at various places on the spectrum (of clever-idiocy, if nothing else), but likeable.

But mostly I think I like it because physics is in some way at its heart.

However, thinking about the show recently I realised that it has a significant weakness, and an obvious one.  The gang are keen on costumes and media SF, but they don't appear to read fiction.  They don't talk about Pterry, or China or Iain or Robert A.  When they argue over Star Trek or Babylon 5 they don't say a word about the writers.  Never a mention of The City on the Edge of Forever.  They appear to hold no opinion about Dean R Koontz. 

This may be partly because they still have an audience to connect to - there have to be points of contact which aren't too obscure.  Which is why they talk about Batman and the Flash rather than Rorschach or Dr Manhattan.   But the chief reason is more obvious. 

It's because it's on the telly.

Some time back, a fashion started amongst museums and galleries and their ilk to become more open to the public.  To let us 'behind the scenes' to see what they did with our money, and why they ought to be cherished. 

This resulted in lots of new buildings being designed and built to allow this to happen, and the signature element of many of these new ventures was the glass wall.  Physically transparent, it served as the thinnest possible membrane between the public and the behind-the-scenes experts who researched, conserved and curated the displays.  The Darwin Centre is an obvious example in London, but there are many others.

London Zoo caught this fever too.  I recall going to the newly Biodiversity Centre a few years ago, just after it opened.  An attractive, multi-level triangular building towards the southern corner of the site.  And yes, there were these huge glass walls opening on the keepers' offices, so we could see what they did at work.

I only once, ever, saw anyone doing anything in those rooms.

He was reading a book.

Doubtless a worthy and interesting book, about ants or cephalopods or the care and feeding of giraffes, but it didn't make a compelling visual feast.  There was no crowd of happy visitors clustered around the glass wall, watching him turn the pages.

It just wasn't good telly.

And that, I suspect, is ultimately why Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj don't read SF, don't ever compare notes on the Culture or Discworld or Lundun.  Visually, it just ain't got it.  That is why they'll buy a George Pal Time Machine at auction, but never discuss Wells' original novella.

Having all four of them dress as the Flash is just so much funnier.  But that don't make it true.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Rye and Epsom

So I left a romantically-foggy Rye today and travelled to a wet and drizzly Epsom.