Tuesday 28 March 2023

Book review: The Green Odyssey

1676493340961-c3a12f10-613b-4d23-8c2e-5b757a6e803a_The Green Odyssey by Philip José Farmer was, according to wiki, Farmer's first book-length publication. I "know" Farmer mostly through the Riverworld series, which I enjoyed countless years ago, and a vaguely-remembered... The Stone God Awakens; oh, and of course some of the The Maker of Universes stuff.

Anyway, it is all good clean fun - unlike, apparently, some of his other stuff - in what someone better educated might call a picaresque fashion.

It is perhaps notable for having a rather implausible-looking cover that turns out to be quite well related to the actual story.

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Book review: Star King

1678820679730-1b31d3fb-7a5d-4d7c-a736-06b0c4d7bcac_ This is early Jack Vance. Goodreads as usual gives you a range of opinions. I say it is fluff; Vance hasn't really found his voice but is turning out pulp. I would give it only a few stars; this isn't vintage stuff; it is going back to Oxfam. "Twice winner of the Hugo award" but not for this - for The Dragon Masters and, somewhat surprisingly, The Last Castle.

The story is a kinda detective story, and kinda scene-setting for the series; indeed this is kinda the same scene - various planets, and Old Earth - that most of his scifi is based on. Various implausibilities in the plot need not detain us. On the detective front, I kinda wanted PA to turn out to be the villain, but no such luck

There are some not-so-subtle jokes in the names-of-authors of the various in-universe quotes: one Frerb Hankbert, on p 64; and Jan Holberk Vaenz heads chapter 6. I kept feeling that "Pallis Atwrode" ought to be an anagram; "allowed rapist" fits but is a bit meh; ditto one for Attel Malagate.

Sunday 5 March 2023

Cezanne: a trip to London

PXL_20230305_103709769 At Miriam's initiative, we had tickets to the Cezanne exhibition at the Tate. At my suggestion we stayed over Saturday night to have a more relaxed time.

I went down somewhat earlier, to the BM, and then down to Hammersmith to watch WeHoRR; met M at the hotel; we had an evening meal and so to bed. Next morning b'fast and a walk to th Tate via the nearby St Paul's. Pix here. Then M, somewhat tired, home; me back to BM, then Foyle's, then home.

Overall: a good thing to do. We should do similar more often.

Of the Cezannes

My picture I include somewhat maliciously, as it is anomalous in his work: about the only one with strong colours. Most of the rest give out a pale pastelish aura. In general, I have no great objections to his work, but I don't particularly like it. I find more interest in detail; see perhaps the pix from the BM.

There is a room full of still life; apparently, he spent quite some time re-painting much the same scene with apples. That seems a bit odd, and indeed the exhibition itself doesn't seem quite sure why he did this. Lack of inspiration? Any old stuff would sell? Who knows. My pet theory is that he didn't know how his art worked, and was trying to find out. You don't know how language works; one way to investigate is to try to talk about the same thing, with slight variations. He didn't know quite how, once he'd finished a painting, he'd decided to do it. So he did it again. Anyway, here's one; click for more.


Somewhat curiously, I now find that I like my photo better than I liked the real thing. The original is perhaps 5' across.

Another suggestion: sometime, it looks like he is trying to paint "what is really there" rather than painting what has been processed through his brain: so, painting areas of colour, rather than delineated steps that his mind has abstracted from the stream of incoming photons. The trouble is that though this may be intellectually interesting, mostly to him, it doesn't - IMO - make for good pictures. Unlike, sometimes, Klimt.

One more point: he was trying to do new things. That is always much harder than it seems, once those things are done. So he gets points for that, and it increases the intellectual pleasure of looking at the pix. Incidentally, it is interesting that he kept the same ginger jar, and the same cheap table, all through his career.

Of the BM

I like the BM. Here is a thing I like in it.


The Assyrian stuff may be my favourites. I like gazing at these weird muscular beasts and men, unfathomably alien across the gulf of three thousand years. What were they thinking? I will never know. But I feel that they cared deeply about what they were making.

Of the WeHoRR

I went down to Hammersmith somewhat against my will - for one thing it is a two-hour walk so I didn't, instead I took the tube. Hammersmith bridge is semi-closed for repairs: no road traffic. Absurdly, they restrict pedestrian numbers, with officious idiots with an unenviable job whose pointlessness makes them unhappy. But that only kicked in around boat 180. Pix are on Flickr. Chesterton were number 98 (why were they that high?) and looked decent.

Although grey and cold it was worth doing: after the interest of the first, say, thirty fast crews there was a sprinkling of crews I knew (us; Tabs; Nines; Champs) or had some interest in (SEH; other Oxford or Cambridge colleges).

After, I walked back - finding Jonathon Pilgrim on the bank, waiting for his Izzy in Tabs F or G - for quite a way, since it turns out there is a vast desert in tube stations around there, until you get to Sloane Square.

Of London

It was a cold grey weekend and didn't encourage being outside. But here is a picture from around the Tate towards the City.


It looks kinda vaguely weirdly futuristic; a strange mash-up; as though an alien spaceship had landed in an old city.

Of St Paul's

A disappointment, frankly. The outside is quite plain, and the building itself unprepossessing, apart from the dome. Viewed from a distance this is fine; from closer, it is perhaps unbalanced. But I was looking forwards to the inside... but you're only allowed into the first quarter. There is, as far as I can see, no explanation of this posted inside. The website, now I look, implies that you can visit... except on Sundays. They also forbid photography, perhaps also only on Sundays. Well, maybe I'll got back some other day some other time.

Of the hotel: Club Quarters

It was OK; perhaps even decent. But I think I should have spent a little more. So it was decent; I am not complaining; well above my usual Iffley Tree Hotel standard. But... the windows didn't quite properly close, so letting in some traffic noise (although also the bells of St Paul's, of which we had a side-view; it was very close); the walls were a little thin; and the breakfast, whilst acceptable, was uninspired. Our evening meal at the semi-attached Cote Brasserie was also decent.  Maybe try the Leornardo next time, if in that area.