Philip Stott at Envirospin Watch gets rather carried away by his desire to put down a report from the environmental charity Plantlife International. He seizes on the fact that the BBC report is illustrated with a picture of a poppy, to denounce the whole report as nonsense because poppies are common.
This is of course good knockabout stuff, but sails perilously close to the poor reporting of science he spends so much time decrying. The report is of course not about poppies but as the BBC report clearly says about the plant group which includes poppies.
(Incidently the BBC report is now illustrated with a picture of a Corncockle and the caption 'Few corncockles are now seen in the wild')
I think Prof Stott has let his desire for a good story get in the way of his scientific judgement - something that may be understandable in a journalist, but should not happen with someone who is basing their case on their own scientific credentials.
Of course, there are some less-adaptive field plants that do need protection, but let's not talk general PC poppycock.
For more information about the decline of the English meadow see this report
One of the worst-affected counties is Worcestershire, where 75% of unimproved meadowland was lost or damaged between 1975 and 2000.
In Derbyshire, 51% of meadows were damaged between 1983 and 2000. In the 10 years from 1989, Shropshire lost 49% of its meadows.
Species dependent on the grasslands, the report says, include marsh fritillary and chalkhill blue butterflies, and wild flowers like the meadow clary and the Deptford pink.
I think I know where the poppycock blooms and it isn't on the Plantlife website - or even in this case at the BBC.
It was after eleven by the time I was done. I stopped off in an all-night diner on the fifteenth floor before heading home, a windowless box of a place where the coffee smelt of the yeast it was made of and the ham in my sandwich bore the taint of soy. But it was only a minor annoyance and quickly out of my mind. For as I opened the door to my apartment there was a snick and an explosion, and something slammed into the door-frame by my head. I ducked and yelled. Outside the window a figure dangling from a rope ladder drifted away, a gun in hand.
Surprised at my calm, I called the Metropolitan Protective Corporation.
'Are you a subscriber sir?' their operator asked.
'Yes, dammit. For six years. Get a man over here! Get a squad over here.'
'One moment, Mr Courtenay. . . .Mr Mitchell Courtenay? Copysmith, star class?'
'No,' I said bitterly. 'Target is my profession. Will you kindly get a man over here before the character who just took a shot at me comes back?'
'Excuse me, Mr Courtenay,' said the sweet, unruffled voice. 'Did you say you were not a copysmith, star class?'
I ground my teeth. 'I'm star class,' I admitted.
'Thank you, sir. I have your record before me, sir. I am sorry, sir but your account is in arrears. We do not accept star class accounts at the general rate because of the risk of industrial feuds, sir.' She named a figure that made each separate hair on my head stand on end.
This post about Samuel Mockbee seems to confirm the impression I gained of this man. There is a book about him in the 'Making Places' typlist that I heartily recommend. A true genius.
I've always wondered what it would be like to be a spear carrier in somebody else's story. A spear carrier is someone who stands in the hall when Caesar passes, comes to attention and thumps his spear. A spear carrier is the anonymous character cut down by the hero as he advances to save the menaced heroine. A spear carrier is a character put in a story to be used like a piece of disposable tissue. In a story, spear carriers never suddenly assert themselves by throwing their spears aside and saying "I resign, I don't want to be used." They are there to be used, either for atmosphere or as minor obstacles in the path of the hero. The trouble is that each of us his own hero, existing in a world of spear carriers. We take no joy in being used and discarded.
Wednesday was dark and wet like winter. Driech funeral in Bathgate Kirk for my pal Andy - heart attack aged 58. He was a West Lothian boy 'made good' - successful builders business - kids through Fettes. We only ever met up in Spain - where he and Bella built a house. If we were over at the same time we'd go for a meal - drink and talk 'til all hours - we enjoyed each other's patter. He played guitar - fancied himself as Willie Nelson.
Last met with Andy in Marbella two years ago. Our favourite piano bar - after midnight - drinks expensive but good measures - good live music. Simone, a black French woman is resident - sings classic blues - occasionally celebs drop in - do a spot. That night Simone says, "Ladies and Gentlemen I want you to give a big welcome to Mr Barry White." We assume its an impersonator - but unmistakable voice - it's the Maestro himself. I'm sitting five yards from him - nearly wet myself. He does three numbers - the last one is, 'Let the music play - I want to dance the night away'. Barry died within the year - kidney failure - aged 58. He must have known that night - very emotional - he really enjoyed performing. Afterwards I realised I'd shed a tear - Andy had too.
In Wednesday's rain I remembered that evening - our encounter with a living legend. I also remembered a proverb, "When the game is over the pawn and the King go into the same box.' Adios amigo.
The squares, the austere streets, the low buildings, the unwalled workyards, were charged with vitality and activity. As Shevek walked he was constantly aware of other people walking, working, talking, faces passing, voices calling, gossiping, singing, people alive, people doing things, people afoot. Workshops and factories fronted on squares or on their open yards, and their doors were open. He passed a glassworks, the workman dipping up a great molten blob as casually as a cook serves soup. Next to it was a busy yard, where stonefoam was cast for construction; the gang foreman, a big woman in a smock white with dust, was supervising the pouring of a cast with a loud and splendid flow of language. After that came a small wire factory, a district laundry, a luthier’s where musical instruments were made and repaired, the district small-goods distributory, a theatre, a tile works. The activity going on in each place was fascinating and mostly out in full view. Children were around, some involved in the work with the adults, some underfoot making mudpies, some busy with games in the street, one sitting perched up on the roof of the learning centre with her nose deep in a book. The wiremaker had decorated the shopfront with patterns of vines worked in painted wire, cheerful and ornate. The blast of steam from the wide-open doors of the laundry was overwhelming. No doors were locked, few shut. There were no disguises and no advertisements. It was all there, all the work, all the life of the city, open to the eye and to the hand.
The Dispossessed, Ursula LeGuin
I came on this quote in the process of putting together a list of works of fiction set in libertarian societies. When I read the passage however, what it brought to mind was not libertarianism, but ‘A Pattern Language’. I could see the patterns that had been used to build this town so beautifully described on the pages and I realised, rather belatedly I know, that Alexander’s book is also a libertarian manifesto.
I’m still trying to reconcile my love of ‘A Pattern Language’ with this view, given my almost visceral antipathy to so much of what is touted, on the web at least, as libertarianism. I think the answer probably lies in Alexander’s concern for people. His focus, expressed in ‘A Pattern Language’ and in books like ‘The Production of Houses’ is not on some abstract and grandiose theory, but on the small nuggets of everyday life. His philosophy is so humane and so far removed from the fantasists and fanatics you can find in places like this and this, that it represents almost a different world – and in the hands of Le Guin that world is made real.
Anyone who has read this blog from the beginning may be wondering why libertarian issues have come to the fore so much recently. Equally if you have read from the beginning you will know that my interests veer all over the place. Even so I would argue that there is a coherent set of ideas, but one that isn’t entirely obvious yet - even to me. I think however it is getting clearer, helped along by Le Guin.
In a splendidly waspish post, Oliver Kamm takes apart the latest attempt at updating the language of the Authorised Version.
I have no interest whatsoever in any form of religion, but I share his judgement about the language of the Authorised Version. If the appalling and limp travesty he quotes is typical of the whole they should be pulped immediately and whoever employed the translator set to read the Authorised Version aloud for the rest of their days.
If a modern language version must be produced - and I suppose that is up to the Anglican Church - let it have at least some literary value.
"That’s my boy! You’re doing fine!"
...makes me want to vomit! And, as Oliver says:
If the Church treats its own inheritance with such contempt, it should be prepared for similar feelings from those of us outside it when it pronounces on temporal matters.