Wulf's Webden

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Tuesday 23 August 2016
by Wulf

Terminal Piping

New Scientist has a story about deadly bagpipes. The title conjures up all sorts of humorous ideas but it turns out to be no laughing matter; the environment inside wind instruments has been identified as a breeding ground for lots of nasty microorganisms if allowed to stay warm and moist.

I think basses, guitars and the like are safer in that respect; they still build up gunk and not keeping the strings clean means they will quickly go dead but at least that doesn’t transfer to the player in the same way. Mind you, I’ll be extra cautious next time I’m playing with air-powered instruments – as a bassist, fortunately I normally get to sit behind them!

Monday 22 August 2016
by Wulf

Reasons to Celebrate with Humility

There is a lot of celebration going on in the UK at the moment about ‘our’ Olympic success but I wonder if we should season our jubilation with a few dashes of humility?

We are talking about a tiny handful of people who have won medals compared to the overall population so ‘our’ seems a bit of a stretch; it would be fairer to remember that each of those winners has reached their podium spot in part because of their native ability refined by determined training and in large part because of the supporting networks around them – sporting clubs and supportive friends and family. When we celebrate, we should remember that those who should share the glory is still a tiny handful compared to the population but a much larger group than just the bemedaled individuals.

We should remember those who poured out their all and didn’t win. Maybe some of them didn’t work quite as hard but, when success can be defined by a tiny fraction of a second, tiny disturbances could make a difference and you only need to compete against three people who do better than you to ‘fail’. Just to get a place at the Olympics signifies that someone is exceptionally skillful so we should be careful against unconscious cruelty against those who didn’t come back with gongs.

Finally, will our future selves thank us for too much hubris? This was Britain’s most successful Olympic outing in a long time, if you measure it on wins. It was better even than when we hosted the event last time. That is a lot of pressure built up for the next one in Tokyo. Britain is drinking deeply of victory but perhaps now is time to give some thought to the hangover!?

Sunday 21 August 2016
by Wulf

Reverberant Church

St Clement’s is getting decorated over the next few weeks and so yesterday a work party finished off the preparatory tidy up, including removing some notice boards and loose furnishings. This morning I was struck by what an audible difference it made to the sound in the church, which had much more of a ring.

Not great for amplified music but fantastic for me, getting an opportunity to preach this morning on John 11. ‘Wake up, Lazarus’ I boomed as I strode down the aisle to begin my talk and boom I did. Glorious!

Saturday 20 August 2016
by Wulf

Mind and Body by Lucas Carpenter

Book cover

Mind and Body

Mind and Body is a series of short stories by Lucas Carpenter, a Professor of English at Oxford College, Emory University and an expert on subjects such as the poet, John Gould Fletcher. Here he writes fiction in the form of a series of short stories, largely based around appearances of a central character called Paul Rutledge. Indeed, I wonder if all the stories orbit around this central protagonist, with the earlier ones describing episodes in the lives of his forebears?

I would characterise all the stories as sharing one virtue and one flaw. The virtue is the writing. Without showing off, all of the stories are well-written, enticing to read without feeling dumbed down to mere pablum. However the flaw could also be characterised as a feature of the writing; all of them end inconclusively. The stories each have a beginning, a middle and… oh, here’s the next story. While Rutledge features in most of them, he is not always at the centre and even his own stories lack clear conclusions.

Possibly this is a deliberate conceit but, even if there is a second volume in the works, I would have been grateful if at least the final story landed gracefully rather than crashing to an end as if the author realised he had churned out enough words to meet his targets. Fascinating stories but lacking – and deserving – proper endings so only a muted acclamation from this corner.