Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Bear up and steer right onward

"To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable." - John Milton

The reason for my absence is a rather mundane one: I have broken my glasses. The reserve pair are OK for distance, but not so good for close up; using the computer has to be rationed, and this blog is frankly not much of a priority. I may be gone for some time.

Let me leave you for now with a couple of photos whose quality has definitely not been improved by my not being able to see very well. The Tour de Yorkshire has been through Otley, twice in fact. This is a little bit of the women's race and a lot of the back of the younger Miss Epictetus' head: 

And this is the first of this year's English asparagus to reach the Casa Epictetus, served on buckwheat pancakes with anchovy, garlic and chilli breadcrumbs. For the record I overdid the chilli:

Alors, mes amis, à bientôt.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018


So, yet another plea for me not to bother writing about wargaming. It's beginning to seem as if my poorly taken photographs of badly painted plastic figures have failed to elevate me to the ranks of the hobby aristocracy. However, it also looks like actual wargaming is back on the menu in the legendary wargames room of James 'Olicanalad' Roach, who according to one of the comments on his blog a couple of years ago is 'a wargaming demi-god'. I suppose it gives the rest of us something to aim at. Anyway, prior to that let's have some more random, but - according to Google - fascinating, stuff:

Starting with the blog itself, something else I noticed when looking at the stats was that the post with lowest number of hits in the whole five years or so was this recent one, which notwithstanding the title is actually a report on a wargame. Self-evidently I don't have terribly high standards, but even so I thought that post was OK; perhaps wargaming really does put people off.

The rat is back. Or possibly one of his mates, or a distant cousin, or a friend of a friend. Beyond freaking out the cleaners it hasn't done any positive harm yet, but poison seems disappointingly ineffective so all other options, short of getting a cat, are being considered.

I have been for a reiki session, and have to say that whilst my chakras remain much as they ever were it was extremely relaxing; positively enjoyable in fact. I'm not sure I'd pay for it, but for free it was excellent value for money. It came about because a friend is studying to become a reiki master (as an aside there doesn't seem to be any other level of practitioner; I rather assumed with it being Japanese that one would ascend many differently coloured intermediate levels first) and was casting about for volunteers to practice on. Sadly the prospect of more free sessions in the future is slim because the rapprochement  between myself and Coral Laroc - for it was she - didn't last long and we are once again estranged (I didn't send her a birthday card, mistakenly assuming she would prefer the immediacy of a text).

I know you like to keep up with what I'm listening to as I write the blog. This time it's been the Grateful Dead's concert at the Swing Auditorium, San Bernadino, February 26th 1977, but I can't believe that any of you have the amount of free time necessary to join me in that so instead Joan Jett will sing a song especially for our newly discovered French readers:

Tuesday, 1 May 2018


Happy May Day comrades. Another month has passed I see, with absolutely zippo achieved wargaming wise. There haven't even been many games played; the last action was my ultimately futile dash across the bridge for the village in the game specially designed to show off James' new pontoon train. And that, dear readers, is why I've had to pad out the blog with all sorts of other irrelevant stuff, as I shall now proceed to do again.

I have been to a number of things which have not yet made there way into these pages. Musically, many of the acts I had both seen and written about before (e.g. Feast of Fiddlesthe Jar Familythe Ale Marys) but Eric Bibb was new to me. He was rather good as befits a multi award winning artiste, although my abiding memory is actually of his drummer who was simply excellent. I wasn't entirely surprised to find that he had played in Nina Simone's band for many years.

In terms of theatre I think I mentioned in passing a trip to see 'Journey's End', a fine play very well performed. As a commentary on both the reality and the futility of the Great War it is head and shoulders above the lame 'Birdsong' which I saw a few weeks ago; but of course R.C. Sherriff was actually there. I also saw 'If I Say Jump', an amusing and entertaining though completely unbelievable piece about a vicar and a handgun. Speaking of the theatre I continue to research Salomé in the hope of understanding why I don't appear to like it. One fact that I gleaned from the opera programme is that the original German premiere of Wilde's play was as a double bill with 'The Importance of Being Earnest'; a juxtaposition which even allowing for the renowned cultural difference in sense of humour seems a tad odd.

Now to really scrape the barrel, I'm going to blog about the blog itself. The lack of walking reports has been commented on, the implication apparently being that I am a fair weather walker who is hiding from the cold and rain. That is in a very real sense a fair cop, but, as it happens, on top of that I have a problem with one of my toes; the big one on the right foot to be precise. Although minor in itself it is precluding me from walking long distances. Sadly, there will be a hiatus in the popular photographic series 'bridges of the Yorkshire dales'; apologies for that.

When James passed a million hits on his blog he said that his biggest audiences came from the UK and the US almost equally. This prompted me to look at mine and I find that apparently more than half of all the hits (which I can confirm still fall significantly short of a million) have come from France. Bonjour mes amis et bienvenus. While I was at it I also checked on the search terms used to find the blog. 'Gay porn' has sadly disappeared from the top ten, but a notable newcomer is 'fascinating stuff'; having read this far down it will be no surprise at all to you that Google sent them straight here. The most frequent search term directed to the blog is 'Epictetus', and one can only assume that there are an awful lot of disappointed and bemused seekers after enlightenment out there.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Luck Be A Lady Tonight

And so to the theatre. I have been to see 'Guys and Dolls'. It turned out to be one of those shows/films that I would have sworn blind that I had seen before, but the watching of which made clear that I hadn't. It is, as you probably already knew, based on Damon Runyon's short stories of the inter-war New York demi-monde, and as such I was rather surprised by the uncanny resemblance to certain wargamers of my acquaintance.

It wasn't so much the unlikely names of the characters: such as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, the Seldom Seen Kid or Harry the Horse, although one of my first wargaming opponents was, and is, always known as Len the Ink (*). It was more to do with the rolling of dice. The programme contained an explanation of the rules of craps which left me none the wiser except to appreciate that it is clearly more possible to roll the wrong number than it is the right one; if that's not a pithy description of wargaming then I don't know what is. But in particular there was the solution to that problem employed by Big Jule, the Chicago mobster: he has the spots removed from a set of dice, but before it is done he memorises which side was which number so when they are rolled he can tell the other players what the blank faces currently uppermost would have been displaying. Tell me that you don't know a wargamer like that.

Anyway, here's Marlon Brando annoying Frank Sinatra both in and out of character:

* Also several decades ago I shared a house with the Teddy Bear Kid, but that's a digression for another day.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Only Jokanaan, squire

And so to the opera. I have been to see Opera North's concert staging of Salomé, which I found curiously unengaging for all the technical merits of the performances. Last year I saw the original play and didn’t enjoy that much either so I suspect that my issue is with Wilde rather than Strauss. It’s full of the bad (Herod, Herodias), the deranged (Narraboth, John the Baptist) and those who are both (our title character), which all gets rather wearing after a while, even in operatic form.

The narrative arc – spoilt rich girl insists on getting her own way but then gets her comeuppance as well – is familiar enough. Offsetting it with the Baptist’s moral monomania and misogyny ought to provide more drama than it does. Herod seems to be hedging his bets between appeasing his wife’s anger and not doing anything too extreme in case John’s revelations from God are real; modern audiences will probably just be wondering whereabouts on the autistic scale the soi disant prophet sits.

In this production the dance of the seven veils takes place off stage. Just as it became apparent that was how they were going to do it a chap across the aisle got up and left. Sadly, rather than being a dirty old man storming out because he felt short changed by the lack of nudity, he turned out to only have gone to the toilet and shortly returned.  As Opera North – who have no aversion to their sopranos getting their kit off  – shied away from it, let’s have Ken Russell’s version. For the avoidance of doubt, this is not Strauss’s music and nor is it suitable for viewing at work:

The name of the dance isn’t of course mentioned in the bible and originates with Wilde’s 1891 play. I have recently re-read Umberto Eco’s ‘Name of the Rose’, set in the fourteenth century. William of Baskerville refers while in conversation with Adso of Melk to ‘the dance of the seven veils’ performed by Salomé. Given the author’s vast erudition and sense of irony one must assume that this is a deliberate in-joke rather than a mistake.

“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn't ask ourselves what it says but what it means..." - Umberto Eco

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Credit where it's due

"I am so changeable, being everything by turns and nothing long" - Byron

My intention to revisit the Great War didn't last, and I have been playing about with the Roman version of Pony Wars. I first outlined what I was intending to do in this post from over a year ago, so I've got round to it pretty promptly for me. Unsurprisingly however it's not as straightforward as it seemed at the time. I like the arrival of Celts being caused by Roman movement (a direct steal from The Men Who Would Be Kings) and have been working on the assumption that one could then just get rid of the cards completely. However, I have been unable to come up with a satisfactory alternative mechanism for either  the activities of the various Roman civilians on the table or for attacks on them to be triggered. Any suggestions would be welcomed.

The post from last January referenced above would appear to contain something that isn't strictly true - gasps of incredulity from the readership - and which I would like to correct. The person to first suggest the idea of programmable computers wasn't Babbage at all, but rather it was Ada Lovelace. I studied the history of mathematics as part of my first degree and should have been more precise. I am very sorry indeed for having misled you. After all, as her father also wrote, you "should envy no one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom". Perhaps Daniel Mersey's AI opponent in the rules should be known as Countess Lovelace instead of Mr Babbage - it still sounds suitably Victorian.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Proverbs Chapter 22 Verse 1

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches"

This bunch are called 'Young Amphibians' which, while it is better than 'The Standard Lamps', still leaves a lot to be desired as the name of a band if you ask me (*). As it happens the younger Miss Epictetus - newly returned from the Australian outback (**) - is currently walking out with the chap singing and I am therefore pretty much the last person on Earth whose advice will be sought. The song is catchy enough though.

* Before anyone bothers to remind me, I fully acknowledge having been in a band called 'Or Is It?' and if you follow the link above you will see that I have previously suggested that it is precisely that fact which makes me such an expert on crap band names.

** Where she learned useful lessons in how to cope without sanitation which have subsequently proved invaluable when passed on to her aged parent.