RIP Terry Pratchett

“No-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away – until the clock he would up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.” – ‘Reaper Man’

They say you should never meet your heroes. Many years ago, I met one of mine, and he was lovely. Terry Pratchett’s wonderful books have been a part of my life for more than twenty-five years, read and re-read with genuine pleasure. The world was a brighter place with him in it. I only met him the once, but he was every bit as friendly and kind to his fans as you might expect. My signed copy of Witches Abroad is one of my most treasured books.

When he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, we all knew it would happen some time – but the announcement of his death at the age of 66 today just seems so brutally unfair and far, far too soon. Like so many fans, the world over, I shall miss him terribly. I shall miss the delight of reading a new Discworld novel, that razor-sharp sense of humour, that fascination with humanity in all its forms, and, of course, all those dreadful puns. He will be missed beyond measure.

Oook (said sadly).

The Return of the Diagram Prize…

It’s that time of the year again – the Diagram Prize is back. For readers unfamiliar with my slight obsession over this rather strange literary award, it is an annual prize given, rather wonderfully, to the book with the oddest title of the year. It began in 1978 when Trevor Bounford and Bruce Robertson of The Diagram Group were bored at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and has run ever since (apart from 1987 and 1991, when odd book titles were sadly thin on the ground).

Now administered by The Bookseller, previous seriously odd winners have included Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (1978), Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop (2012) and the utterly fabulous Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003) (I still want to know if that’s a big book of horse stories for lesbians, or a big book of stories about lesbian horses). Can this year’s shortlist better those?

Here are this year’s odd contenders:

Divorcing a Real Witch: For Pagans and the People That Used to Love Them by Diana Rajchel
Nature’s Nether Regions by Menno Schilthuizen
The Ugly Wife is Treasured at Home by Melissa Margaret Schneider
Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte
Where do Camels Belong? by Ken Thompson
Advanced Pavement Research: Selected, Peer Reviewed Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Concrete Pavements Design, Construction, and Rehabilitation, December 2-3, 2013, Shanghai, China edited by Bo Tian
The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones by Sandra Tsing-Loh

To find out more about each of these very odd titles, visit We Love This Book.

If you’d like to take part and vote for your favourite, you can make your choice here.

You’ve got until 00:01 on Saturday 21st March to decide which of these titles is the oddest of them all – the winner will be announced on Friday 27th March. I’ll update you with details of the winning entry as soon as I can!

UPDATE 31/03/15: And the winner is… Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte. Not the title I expected to win, but there you go! Lots more info here.

Quote of the Day: On the flexibility of the English language

You might not think it, but even things associated with the seemingly monolithic structure that is academia are subject to change. For example, I’ve recently been writing an essay on the twentieth century transformation of the nature of historical sources and the ways in which they can be used; a series of changes which have had a profound impact on the subject and are still ongoing.

And it’s not just the language we use to describe such cultural concepts that is transforming. The language we use on a day-to-day basis is changing and mutating too. While reading an article on the necessity (or otherwise) of some traditional grammar rules on The Independent’s website, I came across this quote from the journalist and author Oliver Kamm:

The English language is not static, nor are its boundaries clear. Nor is it a language tied to the British Isles. English is a river. Its content is always changing and it has many tributaries. Its characteristics include impermanence. Indeed, there can be no single definition of the English language.

Historians frequently go on about their beloved concepts of continuity and change – indeed, the one, ever continuing, fundamentally important aspect of British culture, landscape and language that tends to be overlooked or even sometimes sneered at is its non-static nature. Kamm’s words bring this innate movement and flexibility into sharp relief, reflecting the ever-changing nature of the English language.

Every generation brings new words, new phrases, new ways of using the language to the table, and this has been going on for centuries – just look, for instance, at the enormous impact of William Shakespeare’s creative vocabulary, or the beautifully influential language used by the original editors of the King James Bible. These innovations may take some time to work their way into common usage, but English is a compulsively, inherently magpie language that pinches things from a huge variety of cultures and dialects worldwide; absorbing them into a new and textured whole.

Albums of the Year 2014

These are not the ‘best’ albums of 2014, because that is nigh on impossible to judge objectively – and everyone’s taste is different. Instead, this is a list (arranged alphabetically rather than in any specific order or rank) of the albums that I particularly enjoyed or was particularly struck by over the last year. I’ve ignored all the magazine/blog/website ‘best of’ lists and gone for the albums I actually like, not the ones that are considered especially hip or cool (because, let’s face it, I’m neither of those things!). Feel free to let me know what you think….

Antemasque – Antemasque

Aphex Twin – Syro

Behemoth – The Satanist

Earth – Primitive & Deadly

Electric Wizard – Time To Die

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Goat – Commune

Hookworms – The Hum

Inspiral Carpets – Inspiral Carpets

Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey – Going Back Home

Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed

King Creosote – From Scotland With Love

Johnny Marr – Playland

Mogwai – Rave Tapes

Thurston Moore – The Best Day

Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin

Grant Nicholas – Yorktown Heights

Pharmakon – Bestial Burden

Royal Blood – Royal Blood

St. Vincent – St. Vincent

The Juan McLean – In A Dream

The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

Wo Fat – The Conjuring

Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Other interesting things released in 2014 that are also worth a mention:

Pantera – Far Beyond Bootleg: Live From Donington 1994

Pixies – Doolittle 25

Soundgarden – Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path

Teeth of the Sea – A Field in England: Re-Imagined [EP]

January Update

Urgh. So, it’s January. And I must, again, apologise for my quietness on the blogging front, although I am sure that many of my readers will understand how things go when ill health rears its ugly head. Anyway, I do have some new odds and ends coming your way over the coming weeks, including, of course, more historical meanderings and the kind of general randomness that tends to happen round here rather a lot.

However, next up will be my long-awaited Albums Of The Year post – although it won’t be in any particular order on this occasion because I gave up trying to do that some time ago. As far as I’m concerned, 2014 was a year of waaaay too many great albums to even think about which one was the ‘best’, and it’s all so subjective anyway (as I am sure you will tell me in the comments and on Twitter!).

Then, since the first indication that 2015 is general election year has already dropped through my door, my occasional Election Propaganda series will be returning with a bang – this time, on Labour’s plans for the NHS. Watch out for more Election Propaganda posts over the coming months as I dissect the partisan rubbish that all the political parties send through the post in the run up to May…

Oh, and after all that ridiculous ‘Blue Monday’ nonsense (ummm… depression doesn’t work like that) earlier in the week, here’s the actual ‘Blue Monday’ for you. I recommend that you crank the volume and dance like no-one’s watching round your living room/office to this work of musical genius:

That’s better.

Keep warm,

claire x

Another Kind Of Mind: 2014 Annual Report

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for Another Kind Of Mind (cheers stats helper monkeys, hope you’ve got the day off today!).

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas on Film: ‘New Year Greeting’ (1949)

We are now approaching the final hours of 2014, so as an added bonus, here’s a last blast of seasonal strangeness from the BFI’s National Archive for you all. The only thing I know about it is that this odd little film was shown in British cinemas in late 1949. I can find no other information about it, although some thought has clearly gone into it, and some of the special effects are really rather fun. Despite this film being more than sixty years old, it must be said that it’s still better than most of the tat British TV broadcasts on New Year’s Eve these days…

On a more personal note, thank you so much to everyone who has read, commented, liked, shared, suggested things, written guest posts and sent me stuff in 2014 – your interest and intellectual contributions keep Another Kind Of Mind (and me) going in more ways than one. I am incredibly lucky to have such a great bunch of readers!

Wishing you all much light, luck and love for 2015 – and a very Happy New Year!

Lost property… again

I’ve written before about the incredibly strange and random things people have been known to leave behind on the London Underground, on planes and in hotel rooms (it still amazes me that someone once checked out of a hotel and drove away without remembering they’d left a full size replica Dalek in their room (no, really). And, incidentally, how do you get a full size replica Dalek in your car anyway?).

Since 1934, items left behind on London’s buses, the tube and in taxis have been taken to the Transport for London Lost Property Office on Baker Street, an Aladdin’s cave of everything from abandoned umbrellas to forgotten mobile phones and beyond. But alongside the everyday things we all occasionally misplace, there’s also some very weird and wonderful things that have been sitting in the TfL Lost Property Office, just waiting to be reunited with their owners…

  • A giant red-nosed reindeer stuffed toy
  • A pair of size 17 trainers, belonging to a basketball player
  • A stuffed puffer fish
  • A gas mask
  • A mannequin head used by trainee hairdressers to practice on
  • A school crossing guard’s ‘lollipop’
  • A gorilla costume, wearing an Hawaiian shirt
  • An assortment of African carvings
  • A life-sized stuffed Spiderman
  • A pair of breast implants
  • A wedding dress

Luckily, about a quarter of the lost property items found on the London transport network will be returned to their owners – but I suspect the giant red-nosed reindeer has metaphorically missed the boat (or possibly sleigh) this year…

Christmas on Film: ‘Santa Claus’ (1898)

No, the date in the title of this post isn’t a typo. This final festive selection from the BFI National Archive really is a rare and unusual late Victorian film short, which uses some extremely clever and – for the time – groundbreaking special effects to show a Christmas Eve visit from Santa Claus to two excited young children. Made by G.A. Smith (1864-1959), an ex-magic lantern operator, hypnotist and one of the pioneers of British cinema, this is, in the words of Michael Brooke at the British Film Institute, “one of the most visually and conceptually sophisticated British films made up to then”. Aside from that, it’s also an endearing and rather sweet encapsulation of the thrill of a childhood Christmas Eve, all distilled into less than a minute and a half…

For more from the BFI National Archive, visit their website or their excellent YouTube channel. You can also find more BFI festive goodies (and numerous other seasonal posts) on Another Kind Of Mind here.

And a very Merry Christmas to one and all!

Christmas on Film: ‘Christmas Under Fire’ (1941)

This seasonal wartime propaganda short was produced for the American market and has since become a minor classic of the genre, also being nominated for the Best Documentary (Short Subject) Oscar in 1942. Written and narrated by the London-based US journalist Quentin Reynolds (1902–1965) (whose distinctively intimate voice can also be heard on the previous year’s now-iconic London Can Take It!, also aimed at American cinemagoers), this film tells the story of Britain during the Christmas of 1940, when the country was quite literally under fire.

Wearing its propaganda colours firmly on its sleeve right from the off (the opening shot tells us this is a ‘Ministry of Information film’), this film knows exactly which buttons to press in order to get an emotional and visceral reaction from the average American viewer. As a result, there are vivid images of the way the war has had an impact on what Reynolds sees as the timeless peace of British life – so there are shots of shelterers in the London Underground, children playing at soldiers, troops watching out for enemy planes or manning guns in British cities and countryside, and bombed-out shopkeepers in what remains of their premises, declaring ‘business as usual’.

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