Lost Books – Software by Rudy Rucker

“I think you should kill him and eat his brain,” Mr. Frostee said quickly.

That’s not the answer to every problem in interpersonal relations,” Cobb said, hopping out.

― Rudy Rucker, Software

Lost books. These are the ones that got away. Usually I have a good memory for things I have read, but occasionally I find that while I remember a story, or even a fragment, I can no longer recall the author or the title. These are my lost books, but fortunately with the wonders of the Internet they are not lost forever.

In the case in point I was prompted by the book I am currently reading, The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov, to recall something I read a long time ago. The Naked Sun has many of same themes as the Asimov classic, I Robot, including the positronic brain and the Three Laws of Robotics. Thinking about this stuff brought to mind a novel I had read when I was at University which dealt with some related ideas but I couldn’t remember either the author or the name of the book. Eventually I managed to dredge up part of quote, something about killing someone and eating his brain. A bit of selective googling and I had it.

When I was studying Psychology I took a course on artificial intelligence, the point being that if you want to understand something, i.e. Intelligence, then thinking about how you could recreate it really helps. This was in 1989 and most of the stuff we take for granted now, the Internet, smart phones, etc., belonged firmly in the realms of Science Fiction. A friend of mine leant me his copy of Software by Rudy Rucker with the recommendation that I read it as part of the course. “This guy’s an actual computer scientist” he said. “He knows his stuff”

I thought it was great. I had read Neuromancer some time previously and Software felt like it was right in the same vein. These days you would say they’re both part of the Cyberpunk genre, but I never heard the word until much later. It’s a strange but compelling read, full of dead beat characters and dark humour. 
Anyway I read it, liked it, and gave it back. Never found out it was part of a trilogy until this week when I started looking for it again. Now I’ve found it I intend to read it again and then the rest of the trilogy.
Looking back at that period of time I realise that I had just started my first serious attempt at writing a book, a time travelling dystopian SF novel. I never finished it and it would be twenty three years before I tried writing again. 


The Illuminati and other conspiracy theories – Angels and Demons book review.

There seems to be something in human nature that generates conspiracy theories. We seem to be very uncomfortable with the randomness of life, always looking for ways to impose order and to take a little control. Most individuals have irrational things they do in order to retain the feeling that they are in control of their life. Conspiracy theories seem to be an extreme expression of this: if the terrible thing that’s happening is actually the result of a secret plot by the Illuminati, Priory of Sion, Catholic Church, Masons, or The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, then

a) we might be able to stop them and, possibly more importantly,

b) we’ve got someone to blame!

If you do a quick google of “Illuminati” the articles on first page will tell you how the European refugee crisis is a illuminati plot to destroy the European white race (btw there is no white race, there is no more genetic variation between a white man and a black man as there is between any two randomly chosen white men, substitute any colour you want). You can also find out how Lady Gaga is actually a CIA/Illuminati stooge designed to corrupt the minds of a generation as part of mass experiments in mind control. Some of the comments beneath these articles are great. Under a title “The Priory of Sion is Real” I found this comic gem:

imageI generally think these conspiracy theories are nonsense, but at the same time they are very entertaining, which brings me to Angels and Demons.


Bernini – The ecstasy of Saint Theresa

I’ve read three Dan Brown books: The DaVinci Code, The Lost Symbol and, Angels and Demons. All three are very similar, same lead character, lots of decoding mysterious clues to follow a trail, psychopathic killer stalking the night and the whole book takes place in a short period of time, less than 24 hours in the case of Angels and Demons. Brown’s writing style has been heavily criticised but I have to say I didn’t find it a problem, the books are thrillers, they are very fast paced and that’s how I tend to read them. What they lack in prose they make up in action, even if it is all a bit far fetched. You have to make a conscious effort to suspend disbelief, which some people have found difficult because Brown puts statements at the front saying that basically it’s all true. I just read that, think “yeah,right” and get on with it. They are the sort of book that are great for going on holiday, but you probably wouldn’t study them as a work of art.

Angels and Demons, about an illuminati plot to destroy the Vatican, is the first of the series and I actually think it’s the best. It helps that it is set in Rome which I visited a couple of years ago and I’ve visited some of the places where the action is set, but also the story just felt a bit neater to me. Without giving away too much of the plot, many of the clues are to do with Renaissance art work, such as Bernini’s sculpture above, and again that tallies with my own interest in art. If you are looking for a thriller that rattles on at a good pace then I recommend it.

By the way, The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes is real, my grandad was a member.

Book Review – The Wrong Boy


I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now…        (Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, The Smiths)

Raymond Marks is the wrong boy. He didn’t start that way, once he was just an ordinary boy with an ordinary life but a bizarre series of events sends his life in a very unordinary direction. Now he is trying to get to Grimsby, where he doesn’t want to go, to start a job he doesn’t want to do, working for his “Uncle Bastard Jason” who he doesn’t like. The book is Raymond’s story, told in a series of letters written to his idol, Morrisey, lead singer of The Smiths.

There are many reasons for me personally to like this book. It is set in the 80s, in the north of England and the main character is a teenage boy obsessed with music. Pretty much me really. Plus there is a fair bit of psychology, particularly if you are interested in how you define abnormality and the pitfalls of diagnosis. And I really did like it. It’s very funny, has moments that are heartbreakingly sad, and is full of wonderful characters. Written by Willy Russell, who wrote “Our Day Out”, the book captures a time and place beautifully and is full of the weirdness of everyday life.

my favourite moment is when Raymond sings “Shoplifters of the world unite” to a convention of Grimsby small business owners. It doesn’t go down well!

How do you know it’s a poem?

Sitting at a barbeque, at the weekend, a guest turned to me and said “I hear you’re a poet.” A conversation ensued which led to me showing her the Inside the Mind of Davy D blog. After a short while browsing on her phone, she turned to me and whispered, “That’s not poetry, it’s just […]

via What is Poetry? — Inside the Mind of Davy D

Just read this really thought provoking post on the ‘Inside the Mind of Davy D’ blog, which I strongly recommend by the way. The question is, how do you know it’s a poem?

of course there are some obvious clues: it rimes, it has verses, it has rythym, it’s in a book of poetry, but none of these are necessary, their absence does not mean the thing is not a poem.

the thing is, defining stuff can be very tricky. There was once a Psychology conference in the subject of intelligence, which brought together all the leading psychologists in this field. After two days they still couldn’t agree on a definition of Intelligence.

and you get this problem in art, music, writing, poetry…the list goes on. One of the best lectures I ever heard on this was one of Grayson Perry’s 2013 Reith Lectures called “Beating the Bounds” (available on the BBC radio 4 website  Here ) in which he examined the boundary between what is and what is not Art. He talked a lot about the Artist being someone who notices something and then draws someone’s attention to it. So an everyday object such as a bicycle is not in itself art, but if an artist notices something about the bicycle (shape, colour, texture, etc.) and then does something to draw attention to it (photographs it, paints it, or even just displays it in a gallery) then that is art.

writing is the same, whether poetry or prose. Something occurs to the writer, prompted by something seen, or heard or read, or even a thought or a dream, or the taste of a loved one’s earlobe, whatever. The writer responds, and the final result of that response is a piece of writing.

so to answer the question, if a writer goes through this process and produces what they consider to be a poem, then it is a poem, and they are a poet.

i’m now struggling to get thoughts about earlobes out of my head.

The Power of Three

via Three Trees — method two madness

I reblogged this from the site above because I liked the picture, but it made me think “Why is three so powerful?”

That picture wouldn’t work as well with two trees or with four. In fact it’s a good example of what artists call the rule of thirds, divide a picture up into threes lengthways and by height and place your objects of interest at the points of intersection and you tend to get a good picture. Not sure why but it just makes it more interesting, it’s not the only Method of composition but it’s easy and it works.

But it works in stories too: three wishes, three kings, three witches, three billy goats gruff, and even in Harry Potter you have Harry, Ron and Hermione. Again it’s not the only set up, detective stories in particular seem to work in twos possibly following the Holmes and Watson archetype,  but three seems to work well.

And if you go a step further and start thinking about structure, then you can see that many books are in three parts, and often chapters can be divided into three parts as well. Once you start looking for it you can see it everywhere.

I think I need to do some research and find out why. In the meantime, can you think of any more examples of the power of three?


The Habit of Happiness

I have recently finished reading The slight edge by Jeff Olson. One of the things he talks about is the link between happiness and success, so I thought I would share the 5 happy habits as recommended by Shawn Achor (his Ted talk is attached below). Being happy has many benefits and there appear to be […]

via The 5 happy habits #psychology #happiness —  I read this really interesting post on the blog thewritingchimp.com so I thought I would share it. The 5 happy habits it talks about are:

Write down 3 things that made you happy in the last 24 hours.
Spend 2 minutes writing about one positive experience you had in the last 24 hours.
Exercise for 10 minutes a day.
Practice meditation for 2 minutes a day.
Perform an act of kindness without expecting anything in return.

I am generally a happy person so I went down this list to see if I do any of them. The list says that doing just one will make you happier, so here goes:

1 – I would never do this. I’m just not organised enough and I would spend an inordinate amount of time trying to work out which were the three best things and in what order. Which there is no need to do, it’s just the way I think.

2 – I could do this but I don’t have enough time to write as it is without putting an extra job on there as well.

3 – I got to this one and relaxed, because this is one thing I do, because I have a dog and I walk her at least twice a day. I’ve definitely been happier since I got a dog. I thought it was the unconditional love, but maybe it’s just the exercise.

4 – Meditate? Really?

5 – Kind of. Random acts of kindness make the world a better place and I think Karma works, not as some sort of mystical force or anything but a kind of illustration of quantum interconnectedness. Or as The Beatles put it: All You Need is Love.

Watch ‘My Name Is Earl’


Draw Me a Picture of Nature — Discover

Sociologist Jessica Mikels-Carrasco focuses on the environmental sociology of children. Here, she asks a group of kindergarten and elementary-aged children to draw a picture of nature.

via Draw Me a Picture of Nature — Discover

I found this post very interesting. We talk a lot about ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ but what do we mean when we say these things? A group of childrguve us their view.