It’s all a pack of lies…almost. When you read a journal article about research into genetic engineering, super-tough graphene membranes or marvellous developments in jet engine design, it’s worth remembering that there are dozens of failed experiments leading up to the glorious achievement now being described. Carefully edited highlights; we admire the elegant sweeps on the ice as Torville and Dean mesmerised the crowds at the Winter Olympics. We don’t see the endless hours of practice, the falls and bruises and lactic acid burn that takes hours to fade. Some great achievements in technology may have come about because someone mislabelled a jar of solvent; nobody is ever going to include this detail in their peer-reviewed masterpiece.
Well, it’s Easter, so I flung a Cadbury’s Cream Egg into the microwave…after a few seconds it began to melt and bubble obscenely like a hideous avatar of Yog-Sothoth struggling to emerge from the forbidden dimensions. Muttering a solemn incantation and brandishing a crux ansata, I opened the oven door and chased the vile creature as it hurtled round the kitchen. Eventually I speared it with an authentic 1970s Viners Splayd and smothered its flailing tentacles with extra crunchy peanut butter. Yummmmm….Heston Blumenthal meets the Exorcist. The end result was a bit too sweet, so I’ll have another goo tomorrow, this time using smooth not crunchy.
It’s Easter Sunday – the first Sunday after the first Sunday following the Ecclesiastical Full Moon when Pluto (in the seventh house) is trine to the calyx of Osiris. I’m listening to William Mathias’ third symphony and drinking Spanish red. This morning I wrote to John and Mary; tomorrow I return to work (even though ‘tis a Bank Holiday) because some of our tests conclude and the specimens need to be transferred between chambers. I might also end up making a 100-litre batch of 5 percent salt solution by carefully weighing out 4800 grams of purified sodium chloride and tipping it into a precisely graduated 100-litre plastic tub full of deionised water, then stirring it anti-clockwise with a dedicated plastic light-sabre. How odd to think that 22 years ago I was busy writing my PhD thesis and trying to explain the significance of XPS traces and XRD spectra and SEM photographs (back in those days we didn’t have USB transfer cables and digital JPEG archives, just ‘Polaroid’ type peel-away film slides). And now my working days are spent on routine tasks which any half-witted school-leaver could perform.
Last night was bitterly cold and this morning the world was covered with harsh white frost; I didn’t bother leaving the flat until about 5.00 this afternoon, and suddenly realised that the view from my back door has a rather de Chirico aspect. There are two steep brick walls giving a cramped view of the back yard, which has three large steps leading up to a wrought-iron gate beyond which is a sturdy wooden fence, and beyond that is a disused factory with boarded-up windows. It’s a very angular still-life type of scene, with nothing to indicate the time or place; it could be Chicago in 1954 or Deauville in 2008. Anyone looking at a photograph of this scene would suspect that there were dangerous, exciting people lurking just out of sight. Even Andy Warhol would dismiss this particular view as having absolutely no artistic potential.
The stories of H P Lovecraft have never really survived their journey to the big screen, but his ideas have definitely added something unique to supernatural thriller movies. Consider Hellboy, or Mouth of Madness, or The Mist – or the forthcoming action blockbuster Pacific Rim, a sort of Battleship-meets-Cloverfield. We like our films to have a clear moral narrative, with heroes and villains; Howard P wasn’t concerned with explaining the motives of his astral juggernauts, but was happy to let them wreak indifferent, uncaring havoc on a deluded mankind.