Saturday 3 November 2007

This week in the humanities....

In line with my first post about the humanities, what have I been up to:

Art history: I got a pamphlet from the Jubilee Centre about a Christian view of art appreciation, particularly abstract art. One of their illustrations was Rothko's "Black on maroon".

Music: Within Temptation, Nightwish, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the new Eagles album “Long Road out of Eden” - they've apparently really annoyed Bush by coming out against the Iraq war.

Religion: at Castle Drogo, there was a model of the Thiepval memorial (both are by Lutyens) which got me thinking about the way we memorialise our dead, especially those who are supposed to have died “for” something. Our young men - the youngest at the Somme was 14 - were sent to die in thousands to preserver the way of life represented by Castle Drogo. And the threat to this way of life was the Germans, who were preserving a precisely similar way of life in the valleys of Germany.

Philosophy: had a week off philosophy ;-)

History – quite a lot of bits and pieces – Morwellham Quay in Devon, where they try to recreate what it was like in its heyday. Went on the rail journey through the mine. The most horrible bit was the guide's description of arsenic mining. Arsenic sublimates – as it's heated it turns directly from a solid into a gas so people heated the rock in big furnaces and the gas billowed up into a brickwork maze, where as it cooled it solidified. Every couple of weeks they put the furnaces out, waited for the whole lot to cool down, and then sent people into the tunnels to hack the arsenic off the walls. All without any protective clothing of course. As the guide said, “And this is what they call the good old days”.

Literature – Mission Song by John le Carre, Don De Lillo's Cosmopolis, John Updike's Terrorist. It was a good week for reading in between all the walking. I think I liked Mission Song best.

History of science – learned a fair bit at Morwellham Quay.

Classical studies – I found myself reflecting on the design and use of stadia while watching Spurs play Blackpool. (Undistinguished but a win.) It was the design for entrance and egress that got me thinking this week – particularly the way they had organised the ticket collection – there were a lot of late buyers like me and we were advised to turn up early. I didn't manage it so I was a bit worried when I turned up with twenty minutes to go and found a queue about 200 yards long. I got my ticket within five minutes. Impressive.

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