Sunday, February 26, 2006

Big Bang. Simon Singh.

One real advantage of owning a book is that you can read it at your own pace. I’ve been slowly reading through Singh’s wonderful book for a few months, until I reached the debate between Fred Hoyle’s ‘Steady State’ theory and the Big Bang theory (the latter ironically enough named by Hoyle who thought ‘Big Bang’ was a put down) and suddenly found myself riveted to the book as I lay in bed with my worst cold in years (an occupational hazard, I guess, of being a teacher.) Singh’s not only explains the science of the big bang, he’s a great storyteller who lets you see the personalities behind modern cosmology. There are also illustrated notes at the end of each chapter that recount the major discoveries made and the reasons for abandoning a cherished theory (such as the earth-centred model of the universe) for a new model. There are some quite humorous moments in the book—such the physicist’s Gamov’s doggerel verse about cosmological theory:

Twinkle, twinkle quasi-star
Biggest puzzle from afar
How unlike the other ones
Brighter than a billion suns.
Twinkle, twinkle quasi-star
How I wonder what you are.

George Gamow, "Quasar" 1964.

Singh has stated that he’s not planning to write another book and why I can appreciate that he probably wants to get on and live his life I’m disappointed that there’s no more to come.

There's more information about Simon Singh at his website.

Image from Westminister Books.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Open Mike

The poetry reading went well. During the open mike session I read an early poem 'At the Zoo' (as well as an impromptu recitation from memory, during a break as I was warming up the mike, of Caedmon's Hymn) and especially enjoyed Mark Pirie's reading of a poem from his latest collection. Sam Sampson read well and I think most enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere of the venue--good wheat beer on tap as well!

You can read two of Mark's poems ('Art' and 'Fetish') over at


Behold the man
Who paints the skymesh black

He is our only captive.

Dressed in a blue monkey suit
I walk above the surface of the world

Dropping black paint
on the cockatoo cage floor--

black stars in a white, white sky.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Simon Sampson

{ Simon Sampson }

The Southern Cross Garden, Bar and Restaurant 35 Able Smith Street

Monday 20th of February 06

Starts at 7:30 pm Open Mic for all

Proudly Sponsored by
The Southern Cross Garden Bar and Restaurant

See you there!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Coraline. Neil Gaiman

Scary as

Coraline begins with a quote from C.K. Chesterton: "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell you that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." In this remarkably poetic and economically written novella, little Coraline passes through a door in her house into a macabre mirror-world created and ruled by a frightening copy of her mother who has dark buttons for eyes and loves black beetles for her tiffins. This is the scariest childrens' novel since Alan Gardner’s scared the beejeezus out of me with The Owl Service. The dragon is other mother seems to know Coraline better than her own mother does. Like the Gardner, Gaiman writes a kind of ‘feral’ fantasy; not all the knots are tied and not everything quite makes sense. There’s a wildness about Coraline and some marvelous episodes and charcaters—the English eccentrics and retired thespians Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are a delight. In Terry Pratchett words 'It is a masterpiece.’ The powerful cover design and photography by Yeti Mccaldin remind me once again that we need a SF award for best cover design.

Coraline won the Nebula award in 2003 for best novella.

Wellington readers--don't forget the open mike session at 7.30PM on Monday at the Southern Cross!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tender is the launch

Wellington poet Lynn Davidson will be launching Tender, her second book of poems, at the Southern Cross on Wednesday 15 February at 5.30PM.

You can read her poem 'Door County fish boil' at Turbine.

I’m hoping to be there. With the start of the new school year, I’m mad busy and I’ll probably have to miss The Poetry CafĂ© open mike over at Selby’s in Porirua on Monday 13 February, although I will be going to the first NZ Poetry Society reading, featuring an open mike session at the Southern Cross tavern on Monday February 20.

I can't decide whether to set the blog in Verdana 'normal size' or Verdana 'small.' You're reading Verdana normal now--I set the last post in Verdana small.
Photo from the NZ Book Council.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Terminal Experiment. Robert J Sawyer.

Sawyer’s novel is a fast-paced science fiction thriller. Dr. Hobson invents a brain scanner that detects the departure of the soul from the body at the time of death. Hobson and his friend Sarkar—an expert in Artificial Intelligence—make a total scan of Hobson’s brain and create three self-aware virtual computer simulations of Hobson who consider themselves alive even though they live disembodied lives within a computer. Then one of the simulations escapes onto the net and commits a murder. But which simulation is it?

The notion that you could make a brain scan that allows you to download your consciousness into a computer is a difficult one to accept. As I’ve got older, I’ve become more convinced that I’m very materially embodied—even if I could be downloaded into a computer, or even if some spark of my energy continued after death, such existences would be different from my own life as my own life is this very body. But am I right? Without bogging down the novel with technical details, Sawyer does make brain scans and a virtual life after death seem plausible while establishing an interesting mystery story with fully rounded characters.

The novel won the Nebula award in 1995.

I'm just getting ready to have a feast of poetry books. Last night, I enjoyed reading Tim Jones' poems, especially Love scene with Monks. I'll pop back to Tim's page later.

Image from Epinions.