Sunday, July 19, 2015

Globe Much Ado in Fulham Palace

Cast of Much Ado in Fulham Palace Garden
To the Walled Garden of Fulham Palace to see the Globe touring company of Much Ado About Nothing. This is a tour like my friend Janie's and after the Minack (Sept 16-20) it will tour South America.

The cast of eight led to some interesting doublings (Hero/Conrade and Leonato/Ursula) but it was a joyful and inspiring production of what is probably my favourite play.

Christopher Harper was a very impressive Benedick who caught the character excellently, and Robert Pickavance also shone as Leonato. Joanne Howarth was excellent as Margaret, Borachio and Friar Francis. The music composed by John Barber (a pupil of Birtwhistle's) was designed to be played and sung by the company - including a trombone and trumpet!

Don't have time to blog more but catch it if you can!

Celebrating VE and VJ days 70 years on.

Two Veterans from WW2
On Friday we went to an event at our local church celebrating the end of World War 2. It was enjoyable and moving, drawing on local resources.

We had songs from the era, excepts from classic Churchill speeches (brilliantly read by Edmund Dehn) and historical narration.

The most moving were two short items from members of our congregation who were actually involved in D-Day. John Goode who landed at D+2 and his friend Bill who had been mate in a Landing Craft from the Africa coast. He recalled that the anchor line which they had been paying out to haul them off the beach snapped and they eventually had to be pushed off by the Army.

We also had reminiscences from Jenkin Thomas who had been a small boy in a Welsh Village where they had held bonfires on VE Day and VJ Day burning Hitler and Hirohito in effigy on the two occasions. Many years later as a Diplomat in Japan he had been presented to Hirohito and took his hand - though no words were spoken.

A woman also read some of the reminiscences of her late father who had been a PoW in the notorious Japanese PoW camp involved in building the railway in Malaysia immortalised in the Bridge over the River Kwai. He had been digging latrines when the news reached the camp of the Japanese surrender and his guard came up to him. "You number 1 now me number 10, I will dig that latrine". They asked the sadistic Camp Commander to keep his guards in place but they all fled. A Para officer walked in to their astonishment saying that he had been keeping an eye on them for a few weeks.  Later her father had found the Camp Commander who had disguised himself as a Private and handed him over to he authorities - he was hanged.

We also had at our table the son of Captain Richard T (Dick) White who won the DSO and 2 Bars, on destroyers in the N Atlantic, Baltic, Med and then Japan. He was Captain of HMS Cossack which was (according to his son) the picket boat for the Missouri and so was used to ferry admirals to the surrender.  He also walked in the ruins of Hiroshima 3 weeks after the bombing - but lived to be 85. Later in life he was Commandant of the Royal Naval College and commanded an Aircraft Carrier.

It is wonderful that we still have veterans with us who are able to give their memories. This will probably not be so for the 80th anniversary.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Play that Goes Wrong and Psalm 10

Play that goes wrong poster
Apologies for posting my Psalm 9 twice!  Last night we went to The Play that Goes Wrong which was very funny - though not, of course, as good as Noises Off.

However it is a great evening and also very admirable in that the Company was formed by LAMDA graduates and the play was written by the 3 male stars. They started in Fringe, then went to the West End and won an Olivier Award. Heartening stuff! Nothing in the poster actually happens on the stage but it gives a good idea of the general sense. And the stage effects are remarkable: it must have developed a lot since the Fringe productions since many of the physical gags would be impossible there.

As (partial) compensation for double-posting Psalm 9 let me give you the sequel which is of course Psalm 10 - in fact they make one Acrostic Poem.

Psalm 10
1  LORD, tell us why do you stand so far distant?
    Let us know why you're hidden in hard times?
2 Letting the wicked in pride hound the poor—
    Let them be caught in the schemes they’ve devised.
3 Mean people boast the desires of their hearts,
    Men fixed on gain curse and turn from the LORD.
4 “Never will God seek it out” say the wicked;
    “No God exists” is the base of their thoughts.
5 Now their ways prosper, they veil your high judgements;
    Nothing they fear as they scoff at their foes.
6 “Never” They think in their hearts, “shall we tumble
    nor meet adversity throughout our days.”
7 Oppression, and cursing, deceit fill their mouths
    obscene the iniquity under their tongues.
8 Obscured in their hideouts they lurk in the villages;
    obliquely in hiding  they murder the innocent.
Prying in stealth they keep watch for the helpless;
9     privily lurk like a lion in its covert;
Poor ones their quarry, they hide there to seize them;
    Pounce on poor - drag them off in their net.
10 Quietly they stoop, they crouch,
    Quite helpless the poor ones fall down by their might.
11 Right in their heart they think, “God has forgotten,
    really his face is hid, he will not see it.”
12 Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
    Remember the poor and the people oppressed.
13 So why do the wicked renounce and spurn God,
    Say in their hearts, “You will not make us pay”?
14 Seeing you note all the trouble and grief,
    so you may take it all into your hands;
Surely the helpless commit themselves to you;
    surely you have been the help of the orphan.
15 Shatter the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
    Seek out their wickedness till it is gone.
16 The LORD is the king, yes forever and ever;
    The heathens shall perish from all of his land.
17 The LORD hears the hopes and laments of the meek;
    their heart you will strengthen, inclining your ear
18 To do justice for orphans and for the oppressed,
   That mere mortals on earth may strike terror no more.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Depending on too few technologies

Thetis dipping Achilles in the Styx by Reubens
Courtesy Wikipedia
I don’t think that at present terrorism is an existential risk. I do however think that it is sufficiently serious to warrant reasonable levels of responsible surveillance. Plainly what "reasonable" and "responsible" mean in this context is of course open to debate. But the “argument” that “we need innovation therefore anything that inhibits innovation is forbidden” is manifestly fallacious.

I do however think there are existential risks inherent in allowing informational oligopolies. If a large enough portion of critical infrastructure depends on any one piece of software or company then a single catastrophic failure could wipe out a substantial fraction of humanity. The “winner takes all” economics of the internet is based on failing to recognise and price this externality. If we don’t face up to this we will at best have something like the Global Financial Crisis and at worst have an Existential event.

It’s fairly clear that there need to be at least k different versions of any piece of critical infrastructure with no one version having a market share >y.  It’s not clear what the values of k and y are (and no doubt they will depend on the systems in question and various other factors) but it’s pretty clear that k > 3 and y<(k-1)/k and in far too many areas of technology we are well outside this zone.

This is a natural extension of the Regulators Dilemma work but it is not obvious at all how best to think about it or treat it analytically.

PS I read a book review rubbishing the Sitwells but I do rather admire Edith Sitwell. Her commentaries on poems in The Pleasures of Poetry are deeply insightful. And I have a very soft spot for Facade. Of its kind it is hard to beat this (from Don Pasquito):
Thetis wrote a treatise noting wheat is silver like the sea
Erotis notices that she ...  can .. steal ... the...
wheat king's luggage like Babel
Before the League of Nations grew
So Joe put the luggage and the label
In the pocket of Flo the kangaroo

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Psalm 9: Evil will not triumph

The ruins of Bablyon from Saddam's summer palace
"In their own hidden net has their foot now been caught"
Evil will not triumph! (Courtesy Wikipedia)
Another busy week. Saw Janie in The Seagull again with a distinguished guest from China - who really enjoyed the production and had some of the stars sign her Chinese translation afterwards. Also went to the Conservative Summer Party where Cameron gave a very sombre speech about the generational challenge of Islamist extremism.In this symbolism matters and it is depressing that so many left-leaning individuals are happy to talk about "Islamic State" which gives the murderous thugs of their death cult more credibility amongst their deluded followers.

In the long run they cannot prevail. I continue to work on poetic versions of the Psalms and the consistent message is one of hope - evil will not triumph. this is what I have for Psalm 9. See what you think:

Ah I will thank the LORD with my whole heart;
    All of your wonderful deeds will I tell.
    Always I’m gladly exulting in you;
    Adoring your name I shall sing, O Most High.
Back turned my enemies, when they turned back,
    Before you they stumbled and perished indeed.
    Because my just cause you have justly maintained;
    Bringing right judgement enthroned on your throne.
Destroyed are the wicked, the nations rebuked
    Deleting their names for ever and ever.
    Dispelled into ruin the enemies gone;
    De-rooted their cities, their memory has perished.
Ever enthroned is the LORD, yes  forever,
    Established his throne is for judgement in truth.
    Enduringly judging the world with his righteousness;
    Earth and its nations with equity judged.
For the oppressed ones the LORD is a stronghold,
    Fortress and stronghold in troublesome times.
    For those who know your name will trust in you,
    Forsaking never, LORD, those who seek you.
Gladly sing praise to the LORD, who’s in Zion.
    Go and declare to the peoples his deeds.
    Great blood-avenger, he’s mindful of them;
    God won’t forget the afflicted who cry.
Have pity LORD, I’m afflicted in hatred
    Haul me back even from the gates of death,
   Heartily then shall I sing all your praises,
   Helped and rejoicing in Zion’s fair gates.
Into the pit they have made fall the nations;
    In their own hidden net has their foot now been caught.
    It’s the LORD who has made himself known with his judgement;
    Insnared are the wicked ones in the own work.
Just turn to Sheol, O wicked, depart from here
    Jettison nations forgetful of God!
Kept in God’s mind are the woes of the needy
   Keeping alive all the hope of the poor
   Keep mortals from winning, rise up, O LORD!
   Kneeling let nations be judged before you.
   Kindle your fear in them, O gracious LORD;
   Keep nations knowing they’re just human beings.