Monday, 22 August 2016

Toomas Karmo: Operations Clocks and Sherlock Holmes (Moral Uplift)

Quality assessment: 

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 4/5. Justification: Kmo had time to do a reasonably complete and (within the framework of the version 1.0.1, 1.0.2, .. process) reasonably polished job. 

Revision history:

  • UTC=20160823T0121Z/version 1.1.0: Kmo made a rather subsantial change, adding a quotation from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's enervating description of London in the August heat. - Kmo retained the right to make nonsubsantial tweaks, as here-undocumented versions 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, ... , over the coming 48 hours. 
  • UTC=20160823T0002Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo uploaded base version. He retained the right to make nonsubstantive tweaks, as here-undoumented versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, 1.0.3, ... , over the coming 48 hours.       

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some late points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears.]

On 2016-08-08 or 2016-08-09, I uploaded to this blog a minor article, with screenshot, on the theme of "operations clocks". Depicted in the screehshot was a Battle of Britain operations clock from RAF Uxbridge, north of London, and also my own pair of Debian GNU/Linux operations clocks, for civil time and UTC. The point of my little blogging exercise was to show how computer graphics can supply moral uplift. 

Today I do something similar. 

Here again is the RAF Uxbridge bunker clock, plus my own pair of operations clocks.

I also today go to a little trouble to display a "glass teletype", or Debian GNU/Linux /usr/bin/xterm window, showing study notes from my sporadic efforts to learn about Law. 

In the upper left-hand corner I today show an image I have been using for moral uplift every few weeks or months, from Einstein's Princeton office. 

Today I am chiefly concerned, however, to draw attention to the remaining two images in the desktop screenshot, at the bottom left and at the bottom centre. Both relate to Sherlock Holmes. 

Even the more casual students of Baker Street (I among them) are aware that the definitive ciné incarnation of the immortal fictional detective is no longer Sir Basil Rathbone (1892-1967). Satisfying though that star of British wartime cinema continues to be, pride of place must now instead be accorded to Jeremy Brett (1933-1995). Brett's portrayals of Holmes at Granada Television (in 41 episodes, from 1984 to 1994), unlike Sir Basil Rathbone's, are breathtaking in their fidelity to the original "Canon" texts. Only occasionally are there large divagations from what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote. These divagations must themselves be considered faithful to the author's guiding conception. An instance: the screen version of Cardboard Box supplies details on Christmas at Number 221B, showing Holmes making a most touching gift of a cycling cape to Dr Watson, as he takes Mrs Hudson's advice regarding shops and presents.  (The original is set, instead, in the hottest part of summer: It was a blazing hot day in August. Baker Street was like an oven, and the glare of the sunlight upon the yellow brickwork of the house across the road was painful to the eye. It was hard to believe that these were the same walls which loomed so gloomily through the fogs of winter. Our blinds were half-drawn, and Holmes lay curled upon the sofa, reading and re-reading a letter which he had received by the morning post. For myself, my term of service in India had trained me to stand heat better than cold, and a thermometer at ninety was no hardship. But the morning paper was uninteresting. Parliament had risen. Everybody was out of town, and I yearned for the glades of the New Forest or the shingle of Southsea. A depleted bank account had caused me to postpone my holiday, and as to my companion, neither the country nor the sea presented the slightest attraction to him. He loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of people, with his filaments stretching out and running through them, responsive to every little rumour or suspicion of unsolved crime.

In the bottom-left  image is Jeremy Brett grappling with the sinister Prof. Moriarty, at the brink of the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. The image repays a meditation of the kind more conventionally prompted by Pilgrim's Progress or by biographies of saints. The crusader for justice, the villain, the mortal combat: it is an allegory of the struggle taking place inside each of us, as we confront our own private demons of sensuality, or of depression, or of timidity, or (are you reading this, you would-be subdivision developers at DDO&P?) of avarice. Few better illustrations can exist for those much-quoted words from Arhipelag Gulag: " /.../ the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willling to destroy a piece of his own heart?" 

In the bottom-centre image is a more tranquil thing. Here there is a mockup, in a contemporary London museum, of the fictional 221B Baker Street hearth, in the fictional 221B Baker Street upstairs sitting-room. There is in many of us a Country of the Mind in which Queen Vicky's Golden Jubilee is behind her and her Diamond Jubilee still ahead; where Scotland Yard is, despite its fumbling inefficiencies, incorruptible; where the triumph of Science over Superstition is a given, even in the Adventure of the Devil's Foot; and where a real domestic hearth harbours a real domestic fire. 

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