Dan Sandman

Archive for February, 2016|Monthly archive page

09: Coriolanus by William Shakespeare

In Books, Fiction, Plays on 26/02/2016 at 12:00 pm

Coriolanus by William ShakespeareTen years is a good amount of time for you to decide that you want to gain a masters qualification. Now you are a fully realised adult with a different view of the world. The thousands of pounds you are paying for your course is coming out of your own pocket. Every hour of your reading is an hour well spent on an interesting subject. Books contain hidden codes that unlock the doors of time for you. Fiction works alongside history in a way which informs and enlightens you. Shakespeare’s plays are the turntable of your learning, turning you towards everything that follows and came before.

Excellent. Now you’re ready to read. First point of call: library; second: café.

Take print out of your tutor’s questions. Write ‘2. [3] Enter seven or eight CITIZENS’. Pen quotes. Start writing. Read critical essays in bed. Start editing. Press restart.

‘You must draw evidence for your argument from the text.’

SICINIUS To th’ Capitol, come. / We will be there before the stream o’ th’ people; / And this shall seem, as partly ’tis, their own, / Which we have goaded onward.

‘You need to show how your argument relates to wider reading.’

Now when this was ended, the flatterers of the people began to stir up sedition again, without any new occasion, or just matter of complaint (pp.17).

[Dan then goes on to write a significant part of his essay, drawing mostly on his recent close readings of the play ‘Coriolanus’ by William Shakespeare and ‘The Life of Caius Marcius Coriolanus’ by Plutarch (trans. by Thomas North). Sadly for regular readers of Dan’s book reviews (written throughout the years 2013, 2014 & 2015), this work has temporarily taken precedence over his book reviewing. If you wish to comment on this sudden change of creative direction, please write to the virtual address provided by your internet browser. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused by the disruption to your usual service, and are offering a free complimentary CD of Dan’s first album ‘In Technicolour’ (2007) as way of apology. Terms & conditions may apply or may not apply, depending on which way the wind will blow.]


08: Coriolanus by Plutarch

In Biography, Books, History, Non-Fiction on 19/02/2016 at 12:00 pm

Coriolanus by PlutarchFulltime postgraduate education has stopped me reading for enjoyment. Now I study books, reference journals and visit research libraries. When I do read for pleasure, it has become harder to sustain interest. A chapter of Conrad before bed maybe, or perhaps a book review in the paper. There was a time when I could get through a whole Dostoyevsky in a week (as long term readers of this blog will have followed).

The main reason is that time is precious. If you have a busy rota of guitar students and assignment deadlines (which I now do), these must take priority.

Studying serious literature at a higher level takes away some its enjoyment. Instead of being fuel for a healthy imagination, these courses teach us that books are discourses on British imperialism or assertions of an entire peoples’ individual human rights. No longer is it possible to simply enjoy where a story takes you, everything must be thought about on an analytical level. The book reviewer part of me, who used to write what he actually thought about books, is currently being educated to become a serious book critic.

So understandably, I don’t have as much inclination to read for pleasure outside of my coursework. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

Now I have a tutor who reads my essays in some considerable depth, marking them so that I can improve my work as I progress. In our tutorials, our course books have opened up intelligent conversations on a whole variety of topics. We are no longer floundering about where to go with our writing, now our work has a clear and assessable direction to travel towards. To the delight of this guitar teacher from Primrose Hill in north London, the English masters course at the Open University has focussed my reading so that every hour of every day can be potentially filled with something either educational, creative or enjoyable.

Such as my regular Friday morning writing on here, followed by a trip in search of a Plutarch translation from the 1570s by Thomas North.

07: Paradise Lost by John Milton

In Autobiography, Books, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry on 12/02/2016 at 12:00 pm

Paradise Lost by John MiltonThis picture was taken in August last year. I had started reading Milton on my summer walks around Primrose Hill and Regents Park. In the previous summer of 2014, my father and I would sit on park benches discussing life. At there best, but not always, these conversations were philosophical father and son talks, about the meaning of the universe. I miss my father’s intelligence and wit.

One day, on a rainy afternoon in the park, we had a run in with the police. As usual, I had been pushing my father in his wheelchair.

‘The doctor says I must do my daily exercises.’ He would say.

After some experimentation, we had found the ideal walking spot. Our routine was to park the wheelchair near an old oak tree each day, making sure to put the brakes on so it wouldn’t run away by itself. We would then walk arm-in-arm to a discreet location for players of the French sport pétanque (similar to bowls); a secluded garden cut off by several hedgerows, where we would follow a pot-holed grey path to a rusty old black gate. This place was particularly peaceful, partly because nobody in England plays pétanque.

Now, the routine was to walk with my father and then return to the oak tree, as soon as he had sat down inside the secluded garden. I would then go back to manoeuvre the wheelchair so that it was parked by the black gate. Once our routine was completed, we would then be free to philosophise upon the park bench.

On that rainy afternoon, a police car happened to be patrolling the park, clearly looking for any suspicious behaviour. Winding down his window, an officer of the law poked his head out.

‘Is that yours?’ No excuse me please or do you mind if I ask you. ‘Where are you going with that wheelchair?’ He questioned, the power of law enforcement enhancing his investigative discourse.

‘Over there.’ I helpfully replied, pointing to where my father sat secluded by the hedgerows. ‘There’s an old man in there, it’s his wheelchair.’

The young officer took out his notepad and wrote something down, looking at me questioningly as he did so. As I pushed the chair through the rain, the driver slowly pursued me, making sure to get a visual so he could verify my claimed innocence. From the officers’ perspective, I really was a potential wheelchair thief.

My father and I, of course, found this all very funny.

‘My son the criminal!’ He joked.

‘Maybe there’s a murderer loose on Primrose Hill.’ I said sardonically.

Just at that very moment, the car cruelled by again. We both looked and laughed together.

‘We must tell your mother.’

‘We will.’

‘It’s raining. Let’s go home.’

06: Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman

In Books, Non-Fiction, Science on 05/02/2016 at 12:00 pm

Post OfficeThis morning I was greeted by a brand new arrangement of newspapers, household goods and confectionary. The post office has been completely refurbished.

Along the Regents Park Road, a customer walks in for his daily newspaper. Standing with pride, Sanjay directs said customer to where his paper is now located. I can see from his smile that Sanjay is enjoying himself, rightfully taking pleasure from these renewed surroundings.

Is Sanjay really made up of miniscule atoms? Is a force we call gravity actually acting upon this newspaper? Why is it less windy this morning than is was last week? Does my smartphone indeed converse with satellites orbiting the earth? How does my voice travel from my mouth to behind the shop counter?

For the curious of mind, physics provides explanations to the above phenomenon. It encourages us to think rationally, giving us workable tools for explaining the universe.

Yesterday evening, I was teaching a pupil how to play bass guitar to a song by The Rolling Stones. During the lesson, an unpleasant noise emanated from the pupil’s 10 watt guitar amplifier. Because I have been reading about electromagnetism this week, I was able to offer a basic scientific explanation for the interference. Through as series of experiments, we were able to discover several methods for decreasing buzz in noisy amps.

The three most effective methods for fixing the problem were as follows: firstly, try changing the guitar lead; secondly, fiddle with the jack; and lastly, using your body to complete an electromagnetic circuit, place your hand on the strings.

Only when all else fails, apply force.