Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Emperor's New Taj

My childhood friend I've known well for her whole life recently presented a BBC programme about Indian history.

Sorry, but the Taj Mahal. It's rubbish. This is not a cheap joke about the local curry house. Yes I do mean the "real" one, the supposedly wonderful marble building in Agra.Some people say that pictures of it do not do it justice. That you need to see it for yourself. I have.

It's dull. It basically just looks pretty much like a big mosque. Not really ugly. But not really "better" in any significant way than the big mosques or other examples of Islamic architecture in Delhi, in Cairo, in Istanbul, in countless other places.  And not half as impressive in my view as Renaissance art or even ancient Greek stonework.

I'm primarily referring to the architectural design and build here.  Of course there is a famous back story to its conception and construction. It's a true tale of obsession and megalomania. Yes that is fascinating. But that only means the mausoleum is a valuable historical "listed building" to be protected and maintained. Of course it should be.  But that doesn't make it "better" than any other ancient constructions, even within within a few miles I recall both Fatepur Sikri and Jantar Mantar being far more  "beautiful" and inspiring. If touristing is your thing then those two are far more worth seeing.

The Taj Mahal. Boring. Expensive.  Overrated.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

12 Albums



1. Bruce Springsteen – Greetings from Asbury Park NJ

2. Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollox

3. Pink Floyd – The Wall

4. Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell

5. Jim Steinman and Pandora’s Box – Original Sin

6. Marillion – B’Sides Themselves

7. Pendragon – The Jewel

8. Queen – A Kind of Magic

9. The Toll – The Price of Progression

10. Manic Street Preachers – Generation Terrorists

11. Radiohead – Pablo Honey

12. Green Day – American Idiot

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Morse

Catching up on Lewis recently. Just reminded of how almost perfect have been the works of Colin Dexter, in particular the world of Detective Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse.
The photography in the TV series is consistently stunning too, though it does give a very narrow view of the town. Of course those streets and squares have very specific and personal memories for me, but even without that link I think I'd love it.
Morse is just the right blend of deeply conservative intellectual and deeply iconoclastic misfit that I think makes an ideal TV detective. The cryptic crosswords are an added delight.
However, one flaw, or at least one limitation, means this will never match my favourite. It is such a shame that the basic plot every time is simply that old chestnut the whodunnit. So the story involves bringing in a series of characters and at the end what a surprise the least likely one did it. Boring.
That is why a certain dishevelled lieutenant from Los Angeles remains number one for me.

Trump

Trump doesn't scare me. Well of course he doesn't physically scare anybody, with that bombastic voice and that ridiculous rug on his head. But it does seem almost obligatory for any European or liberal commentator to say that he is the reincarnation of Hitler and the precursor to unparalleled levels of Fascism.
But sorry folks, he isn't.
Some of what he says is sensible and the painful truth. Sorry again.
Much of what he says does however seem like impractical impossible delusional nonsense. But that simply seems to be the raving of a man who is prepared to say absolutely anything to win the Republican nomination, even if it contradicts everything he has ever said before, and then he will say absolutely anything to try to win the presidency, again contradicting everything before.
If he does get in, I think as soon as he realises that new fences across countless miles of unpatrolled borders and religious checks on every entrant are borderline impossible and more expensive than he could possibly imagine, then of course he'd drop those plans.
He's all about personal greed and megalomania. Unpleasant and painful - but not apocalyptic.
The scary one is Ted Cruz. He is the sort of religious nutcase who would push ahead and bankrupt the country just because it was ideologically right. He is the sort of person who would love to push the red button and bring forth the End of Days.
Now be scared.

back

It has been a long time. On reflection, I think the best practices that I thought should apply to the blogosphere, specifically the brevity, unclutteredness and independence that I thought were missing from that world, well they were being taken up by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This arena looks old already. Yet there are still times when I want to shout to the world. However I don't want to deluge my friends' feeds, I can't compress what I need to say in 140 characters, and I don't have a little picture to summarise it.

So maybe this should restart. It's different this time though. No more insistence on being unique and universal and fully interlinked. Now just the thoughts for the day.

And not even typed or spellchecked. This is being done with one thumb on a little phone screen. But it's live. Watch out world, I'm back.