February Challenge -28: Knowledge

‘To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.’ Henry David Thoreau

I think I can safely say that I enjoy learning: I’m still learning new things on the guitar: after over 40 years of playing, and I learn something new every day in terms of my scribbling, writing and drawing. What staggers me though is some people’s attitude towards learning.

I’ve heard people say things like: ‘I don’t understand computers.’ when they actually mean that they have never even been in the vicinity of a computer. I usually say: ‘Well if you’ve never tried to use them and learn about them, how could you?’ whilst I’m actually thinking: ‘Did you think you could learn about computers by osmosis ? Picking up information and knowledge from the ether!!

Another tack is when people who don’t know about something: pretend that they do. Now clearly if you are a professional whatever, you would be expected to have knowledge of certain things. I’m not talking about those situations: I’m talking about people who will make things up rather than simply saying: ‘I don’t know’.  Though I’m a good guitar player, I would not pretend to know everything about guitars, guitar players and guitar music: that would be absurd. However I have heard people who are unable to admit to not knowing something. What is so wrong with not knowing something? Not knowing something is an opportunity to learn surely?

Finally we have my favorite(!): people who whilst not knowing anything about a subject, will dismiss it: it’s the ‘knowledge’ version of Guiness – – in the seventies, market research, found that a large proportion of people, would say they didn’t like Guiness EVEN IF THEY HAD NEVER TASTED IT!

I’ve heard people say, for example: ‘I don’t like science fiction novels.

I ask: ‘Have you ever read any?

‘No,’ they reply – not even realising the absurdity of their statement.

I try a different tack: ‘So what about H.G.Wells?’

They respond: ‘Oh, yes . .  but that’s not science fiction.‘ What is it, then?

Logic is noteworthy by its total absence.

Ah well that’s a good moan to get me started on a productive week!!



February Challenge – 26: On a dark and stormy night

On a dark and stormy night . . .

. . . it wasn’t actually that stormy, but it was dark and it was absolutely freezing. The reason was the Tramontana – a wind that comes from the North . Its name comes from the latin: trānsmontānus – literally ‘from beyond the mountains’ or ‘across the mountains’ – in this case, the alps in the North of Italy.

It’s the sort of wind that feels like it could cut you in half . . . very neatly . . . like a razor-blade of gigantic proportions. So there was only one answer. The stufa – a wood burning stove. I had spent an hour in the morning, with Emilio who with his Ape (see note below), had brought nearly five quintale of logs up to the house, with which we built a log wall.  He built them into a wall, really: I simply unloaded the Ape  as whatever way I placed a log, he inevitably judged it to be wrong and either placed it in a different position, or carefully rotated it through 90 degrees or even more annoyingly through 180 degrees thus underlining the fact that I was so inept, I don’t even know which end of a piece of wood should be closest to the wall! How useless am I, eh! (Incidentally, a quintale is for some reason 100 kgs. don’t ask me why… it just is . .)

Above you can see the results of our efforts under the glorious blue sky . . but don’t be fooled . it was freezing cold: witness Archie’s careful positioning once the ‘stufa’ had been lit.

During the course of the winter, my wife often enquires: ‘What’s that funny smell? ‘

I calmly reply: ‘Don’t worry, darling, the cats on fire  . . . again . . . ‘

So on that dark and freezing night, I sat in the wonderful warmth of burning wood and watched old films, a glass of wine to hand, with the cat smouldering gently at my feet. Domestic bliss!

PS no cats were harmed in the making of this post.


No hominoids or non-human primates were  involved in the  transportation of wood or in the building of the log wall. APE refers to a three wheeled vehicle in common use in rural Italy: Ape means bee- it is made by Piaggio who also make the Vespa- meaning wasp.

Felix does her bit . . .

Felix, the latest addition to the household, seen here doing her bit to promote the RAM site! Cute or what? She’s just moved in having discovered the cat-flap . . . . . and Archie who is normally dreadfully territorial plays happily with her, and they sleep together on the settee . . .

February Challenge – 25: Quotes

‘Never work’ Guy Debord

I love quotations: Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Shaw, Dickens; all the usual suspects, but what I really love is the wacky stuff, and Guy Debord is a particular favourite.

Debord was a French Marxist theorist, writer, and a founding member of  Situationist International.  Some consider his book Society of the Spectacle (1967) to have been instrumental in the Paris uprising in 1968. And he was a drinker. He defined Psychogeography  as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” Another definition is “a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities…just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.” Heavy duty, philosophy? Well, yes and no. “This apparently serious term ‘psychogeography,'” writes Debord biographer Vincent Kaufman, “comprises an art of conversation and drunkenness, and everything leads us to believe that Debord excelled at both.” One of the ‘playful, inventive strategies’ involved taking a city map and taking a route from A to B simply following the directions on the map: second left, first right etc….. the absurdist element was that the map was not of the city in which the journey would take place. Therefore Debord and his colleagues/drinking buddies would, for example,  carry out a journey in central Paris using a street map of Berlin: a journey which involved a large number of re-fuelling stops – a sort of Philosophy  Crawl – sounds like fun! In his own words: ‘I have written much less than most people who write, but I have drunk more than most people who drink’

Of course it was not only Debord, who enjoyed intoxication. Julian Trevelyan, British surrealist and fan of psychtropic drugs wrote:  ‘On mescalin, I have fallen in love with a sausage-roll’

And, with or without stimulants, Jean-Paul Sartre said, enigmatically, ‘Jazz is like a banana, it has to be consumed on the spot.

They’re all such great lines. I’d be happy to go down in history, having said one great phrase, such as,  um . . . er . . . . . ah well, there’s time yet . . . . .