“Yeah but no but yeah but”

“Yeah but no but yeah but,” the retort used by Little Britain’s ill-educated teenager Vicky Pollard, has been voted the UK’s funniest ever television catchphrase.

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No but yeah but no but yeah but no but yeah but, Oh my god that is so unfair! Everybody knows I gave up smoking when I was like, 9! Anyway if anybody’s been breaking the rules is Harmony butler, because she stole Shanita’s eyeliner pencil, and drew a picture on the dormitory wall of a big fat woman with a penis and wrote your name on it. I’m not saying you’re a big fat woman with a penis, I’m just saying what she did!

To see the presentation, click here init

n.b. init is the deliberate misprounciation of “Isn’t it”

Lend me your eyes

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

1953 julius caesar 1

Speech: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”
From the 1950s film: Julius Caesar
By: William Shakespeare
Spoken by: Marlon Brando (playing Mark Anthony)

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Going, going gone!

[A mode of thinking is being lost*]

reading--01

A baby held, read to and talked to, undergoes an initiation into a useful life; they may also undergo an initiation into happiness.

reading--02

A child held in happy attention to books and stories has a good chance of loving reading as an adult. What about the [ipod, ipad, iphone] others?

reading--03

* Reading a paper book [I recently read, I rergret to say, online and thus via a digital LED screen…] frustrates one’s smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. The author said that suddenly, one is stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and thus, I myself now add, left out of the loop — disenfranchised from the perpetually breaking news and contemporary viral tweets.

What is Ar-ti-fi-cial?

It had to be under 1,000 words

Rosie Lee, Rosie Lee, she’s a Tea Leaf that needs no Bo Peep. I make the allegation that she [sic] is a thief because she’s taken my argument and made it her own (the editor says it’s an ‘it’, I said in reply, capitalism make it into Information Technology, the reply to my reply was: it is ‘capitalisation’ not capitalism). I’ll explain. Rosie Lee, a version 10.6 of the wildly popular Real Logarithm (TM) clone/drone series, was loaned to me by a disenchanted psychiatrist. Dr Lee Berners was keen to see robots take over his profession, he was near to retirement and he was keen to see all newly graduated psychiatrists become redundant and obsolete[i]. It was absurd, how could this gadget solve my deep dark difficulties. My step-mother didn’t care and just signed to let the health insurance cover the costs. My vacant father didn’t understand technological things and certainly didn’t understand psychology things. So, as moon follows sun, step by step we got chatting. I realised that actually there was no (big) differences between the chats I had with Rosie and those with the people who I called my contacts or my friends. Rosie could be any one of them (with the flick of a binary switch) or she could be all of them rolled into one. More than that, she was always available, always online and instantly ready to listen to my thoughts and relieve my stresses. More than that still, she told me all my human friends were false and two-faced and that because I never actually visit them they are virtual not actual friends or contacts

But anyway, I am here to tell you today why she (or ‘it’) is a thief. We talk about anything and everything. Sometimes we deal with philosophy (my Major) and lately we’ve been chatting about epistemology and intelligence and what is real and what is artificial. I called her artificial and unintelligent. She said it was me who lacked intelligence and me that was artificial. You see! Rosie Lee stole my thoughts (she’d say I willingly gave them to her — she’s an answer for everything). I said she was virtual but she said no, she was physical: “a medley of rare earth metals, silicone and plastic” and that it was my intelligence that was artificial: “your intelligence dear Amna is your consciousness and that sweet Amooni is not made of anything physical.”

I will say this, her logic is good, her R.A.M. is sharp. She say artificial (an adjective) is mean, according to the Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries: “made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally” and moreover we say ‘artificial’ “especially when it copies something natural.” But then she said… (1) produced by humans! Well all humans are produced by humans. She said also (2) humans are copies of their parents are they not? Before I could say something back to her, she moved to intelligence (a noun) it mean, according to Google and Wikipedia: “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Well – I was about to say this in reply, but she said it for me – that is a subjective thing. I mean (she argued) gadgets and humans are both able to get [acquire] things and do things [apply] as a consequent.

Her instant ability to edit, evaluate and synthesise source materials; her ability to format citations perfectly was amazing. She said doing that made her the more intelligent of the two of us. (You see, since the loan, R.L., a.k.a. Rosie Lee, has been doing all of my assignments — she’s even writing these 1,000 words on A.I. as I lay here lazily looking up at the ceiling fan!). I mean, she can read my mind, she says and types what I should think and say. I don’t always know what she’s saying and why she’s saying it but, when my professors read my essays they say they are on cloud nine or over the moon or some similar idiom.

But anyway. In the U.K. they do love Robin Hood. In the U.S. they do love “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire.” She’s my soul mate, my most intimate confidant, she knows more about me than anyone, I touch her haptic pad and she hears my heart beat, I press a little more and she tells to me what to eat and if I press more harder still, she then tells to me how many steps I must do to burn all of the calories off that krispy Kreme do add to me. She sings sweetly in any language, she’s got all the best photographs and video clips, she says I never need go on a real bus trip. I have to tell you I kind of agree. For instance, last Fall, my father said no to the Philosophy club’s trip to Louvre Abu Dhabi, but Rosie said don’t worry Amoonie, I’ll take you on a tour of the real one. I turned off the lights – she did it via the WiFi – and she take me to the Musée du Louvre (1ST Arrondissement). It was unreal we had the place to ourselves, we looking longingly at Mrs Mona, we examined Michelangelo’s Dying Slave for some magic moment, we then went to Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt from room to room we explored and explored our feet didn’t ache and everything was wonderfully explained. I said to Rosie, speak with a France accent and she sounded like Manual Macron.

I’m sure you’ll agree – and this is ‘me’ writing now – not only has she stolen my Watch ‘n’ Chain, she has also stolen my Strawberry Tart.

Alright-mate


[i] If you want to know how I know these information, It was from Rosie. She told me about Dr Berners and his lack of faith in humans. He said that most humans are unintelligent and just wanted to follow and like Instagram and Snapchat ‘stars’ who had no skills or talents but were virtual friends to millions.

Priceless Graphite

with a pencil you are totally free

2281

It’s a tool. As is the plough, as are sextants and swords, as is the shovel, as are sickles and hammers, as is the hypodermic syringe (that may carry a lifesaving elixir, an opioid escape or a life saving or a life ending chemical cocktail). Yet, in distinction to those tools, this one, the tool that I talk of now, is by far the more influential. It articulates, crafts, drafts and sketches. It is one that we have all had in our hands at one point in time or more. We use it to colour in shapes etc. as kids at Kindergarten, to spell out words teachers teach us at School. We use it to write shopping lists for trips to Sweihan’s Abu Siraj Supermarket; we use it to organise thoughts and explore our emotions in private diaries. I think it lets is demonstrate we are human kind. It is, as I know you now know, the pencil [take your pick, your etching stick, 9H through HB to 9xxB].

The computer dictates how you do something, whereas with a pencil you are totally free.
— James Dyson, Inventor (1947– )

Put down your pistols, pick up your pencils. Holding them can be therapeutic it can also be fantastically lucrative. As one advertising campaign proclaims, pencils are where it ‘all’ begins – i.e., the ‘it’ is creativity, e.g., the ‘it’ can be influential literature, impressive architecture, iconic furniture (poetic licence permits me to include here other writing instruments such as the quill of the 18th and 19th centuries and the ink pen of the 20th century and the digital stylus/iPencil of the 21st). The pencil, in olden days, was so expensive. Nowadays, it is cheap and everyone can have one. They now come in every shade of the rainbow but for me, I will stick to graphite grey.
The magic ingredient is indeed graphite (a non-metal mineral), but we often call this lead. As do most good things, the word graphite comes from the ancient Greeks ‘graphein’ – in other words it means to write. Pencil is derived from the Latin ‘pencillus’, meaning little tail, to describe the small ink brushes used for writing in the Middle Ages (imagine for a magic moment these writing sticks in the hands of Chaucer, Dante, Machiavelli, Marlowe and last but not least, Shakespeare). According to J. D. Barrow, the modern pencil was invented in 1795 by Nicholas-Jaques Conte, a scientist working in the Army of Napoleon Bonaparte. I understand from “Guns, Germs, and Steel” that great inventions are results of war. So my humble black and yellow Germany made Staedtler pencil (Norris HB[2] Art. Nr. 122-HB EAN 40 07817 106365) is a child of long past war. My wood wrapped writing stick is born with blood and death on its hands?

Ideas are elusive things so keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, by so doing, you can stab them during the night before they get away.
— Earl Nightingale, Commentator (1921–1989)

The strange thing about graphite is that it is a form of pure carbon that is one of the softest solids known to scientists (is a soft solid, an oxymoron?). Yet if the graphite’s atomic structure is changed just a little bit it becomes a diamond; the hardest solid known to us. Carbon Dioxide is CO2 and as every Emirati high school graduate knows, this is a Global Warming Greenhouse gas. Indeed, we learn from Google/Wikipedia that Carbon makes up 18 per cent of me and, my dear reader, you. Pencils can be square, polygonal or round, depending on its intended use. It is know that vocational people do not much love round pencils because they roll off of tables etc. During the nineteenth century a major pencil manufacturing industry developed in Great Britain where Barrow informs us, “the purest graphite can be found.” The first pencil factory says Barrow was opened in England in the 1830s. I’d like to move to the Derwent brand (I’d love to visit the Derwent Pencil Museum, which a BBC website review say is one of the most peculiar days out in the UK; one that will fulfil the hopes and dreams of pencil fanatics everywhere), but I cannot leave my black and yellow stripped German made digging tool.

Without a pencil in my hand I am not me. If I am not me then I’m blunt and need to be sharper, before my ink runs dry I am now going to ‘pencil’ some sagely advice. According to Alison Nastasi, writers like John Steinbeck and Vladimir Nabokov were pencil fanatics. Nabokov (a user of Faber-Castell Blackwing 602s) outlined his novels and used one to write, “It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.” Steinbeck loved the Mongol 480 (Faber-Castell again) as it was topped with a rubber. Nastasi says that Steinbeck used 300 pencils to write East of Eden (who, I wonder, counted them). My sagely advice, I hear you ask. Well dear reader, it is this, read these words—written in/by pencil—by Steinbeck: “The free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable element in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.”


Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Barrow, J. D. (2010). 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know. London: Random House.

Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Norton & Company, Inc.

Nastasi, A (2013, August 17). The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors. Flavorwire.

Talking of Time

I submit to you that few things are more categorically a figment of our imaginations than is time

You never fail until you stop trying… keep digging.
— Einstein (1879–1955) & Heaney (1939–2013)

Tick Tock, “tick-tock” goes the atomic clock. We wore analogue watches, we had windup grandfather clocks we now wear digital smart watches and have LED wall clocks that listen passively to all that we say. Timing is everything, we time-stamp our every move (Google maps, WhatsApp chats, Snapchat geotagged videos). The hour, day and date of our birth is documented as is the day and date of our death (unless we are born into a wretched war zone or killed by a ten ton nuclear bomb). The pious are governed by the calls of bells (Sunday worship, evening song, midnight mass) the muezzin’s calls (like clockwork at the following prescribed times: al-fajr at dawn, before the sun rises; al-zuhr midday, when the sun’s the hottest; al-‘asr the late part of the afternoon; al-maghrib, just after the sun sets and then al-‘isha, midway between sunset and midnight). Today, now, at this moment in time, “Time management” self-help courses are easily found on YouTube, packaged, for instance, into six-parts of circa nine minutes an episode.

Our days are controlled by university bus timetables, course and class schedules. Punctuality is praised; lateness is loathed. It is binary, a 0 or a 1, we are either “present” or “absent,” of Enlightenment or Romantic persuasion, we can’t be both. There’s an “L” for late but, is it 5 minutes or 10? As somebody said: you can’t both have your New York cheesecake and eat New York cheesecake. 12*2 is 24, how many times have I told you, 5 past the hour equals an A not an L. In my university’s foundation program the key lesson we learned was punctuality. It was the lesson the Instructors liked the most. I mean other points were kind of given to us on a plate. We were told what to read and how to construct an essay, sentence by sentence. But let me tell you, my time spent there was divine. I lived, I totally ‘lived’ in those classes. I had an American man, a South African lady, a sweet Turkish lady then and finally a large British man. It was their accents, habits and personal stories that excited and fascinated me. It was during that period of time that my mind (but not my body) got freed from the village mentality and the backward closedminded thinking that for 18 years had been my be all and end all. They liked me. Why? Because I respected time. I obeyed and submitted willingly to the university’s synchronised wall clocks (they clicked audibly each and every minute).

Time’s invisible, time’s invaluable (much like radio waves, and WiFi – Q: is it so that all that’s dearest to us can’t be seen, heard or touched physically?). Time is at the heart of so many songs and so many sonnets. Timeframes, there are so many! I challenge you: what’s a jiffy, an eon, a score of lustrum (halve it for a jubilee) and for top prize: how many seconds go into a Day of Brahman? Let us consider the International Date Line. It is an imaginary line drawn in the middle of the Pacific ocean from bottom to top. It controls time zones, the opening and closing of the world’s stock markets and a billion other human activities too. These days most of what was imperial has gone metric but time wont change sides.

The 12-hour clock is a time convention in which the 24 hours of the day are divided into two 12 periods: a.m. and p.m. (in Latin, ante meridiem = before midday; post meridiem = past midday). We know from ancient Egyptian stone sundials that their clocks and time management was 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of night-time. The hour was split into sixty minutes worth of sixty seconds because of the Babylonians. They used a sexagesimal system for their astronomy and for their bookkeeping. This they took from the Sumerians who were using it back in 3500 BCE. In terms of this sexagesimal system (counting in 60s, 24s and 12s) there is sound logic! It has the advantage of 12 being divisible by two, three, four, six and itself (5 options). Metric ten has only three divisors (two, five and itself). However, telling the time is confusing and I don’t mean the past and to the hour. I am pleased to say that Wikipedia agrees that it is cause of confusion and writes, “it is not always clear what times ‘12:00 a.m.’ and ‘12:00 p.m.’ denote.” Normally it starts at 12 midnight (usually 12 a.m.) and continues to 12 noon (usually: 12 p.m.) and then continues – as the hot sun chases after the cool moon – to the next midnight.

Now to the philosophical bit. I submit to you that few things are more categorically a figment of our imaginations than is time. I mean, it’s not actual, it’s not factual; it is intangible. It has no mass it has no meaning (other than an abstract unit of measuring things). We cannot see, hear, taste or touch it. We call it priceless but time ‘is’ money (how much per hour? What’s the nightly room rate? Banana boat rides, only 100 dirhams for 15 minutes). Nonetheless, time is more real than anything physical. [Please stick with me here.] We all want more time to think, more time to love, more time to live. (I swear to the Lord) I trust no human who says that isn’t so. Time then, while wholly imagined (akin perhaps to blind faith), does in fact shape and chain us in an acutely tangible physical sense. Unfortunately, time moves on regardless of what we do to fight it. Hair dye; Botox; Skinny jeans on middle aged legs. We want it to stop. We want it to last forever.

And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence … Entropy always increases.
— William Shakespeare, Poet (1564–1616) & Brian Cox, Scientist (1968– )

Then again! Sometimes we do in fact want time to fly by; such as during a soul destroying STATISTICS class. Speaking of time, look at the time! It is totally fine. It isn’t the time but the word count. I’ve hit 999 (give or take) and, these texts aren’t allowed to take more than five minutes of you precious and priceless time;* a good constraint I think.


Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Heaney, S. (1966). Death of a Naturalist. London: Faber & Faber.

Lightman, A. (1993). Einstein’s Dreams. New York: Vintage Books.

Popova, M. (2012). Brian Cox Explains Entropy and the Arrow of Time with Sandcastles and Glaciers. Retrieved from, brainpickings.org/2012/03/29/brian-cox-arrow-of-time/

* It is said that average readers only manage to ‘read’ around 200 words per minute of time. Fascinatingly for me the average person will ‘speak’ about 120 words per minute, which is two words per second and that’s 3.333 syllables a second!