Perplexing Purple

We have three sets of cones (or colour sensors) in our retinas, each of which is sensitive to a different part of the colour spectrum; the brain then constructs the rest of the spectrum by extrapolating from the relative strength of these three. In the case of purple, which occurs when the red and blue sensors but not the green ones are triggered, the brain creates a colour to fill the gap. If your brain were more objective, rather than showing you purple, it would display a patch of flickering grey with the words “system error” on it. — Rory Sutherland in Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense (2019), section 6.2

World Wide Watchmen

I prefer to self-issue books in a library. It’s quicker and more convenient. And you feel okay about borrowing books suggestive of sordid and socially unacceptable tastes. For example, who would want to hand a copy of Watch You Bleed to a live librarian?

Well, I wouldn’t mind. I find it amusing to be mistaken for a Guns’n’Roses fan, just as I find it amusing to be mistaken for a Guardian-reader. But there are limits, so I’m grateful for self-issue when I borrow, say, a biography of Martin Amis or that book about The Simpsons. The trouble is, nowadays we have to be more dubious about self-issue than we used to be. It’s all on computer and it isn’t just librarians who might be scanning the record of books you borrow. No, you also have to ask yourself: What will the NSA, GCHQ and MOSSAD think?

With this in mind, I’d like to put it clearly on record: I got that book out last year for research purposes only. Nothing more. I am not – repeat not – a fan of Iron Maiden. The same applies to that other book this year. I got it out for research purposes only, I swear. Inter alia, I had a hypothesis to confirm. I am not – repeat not – a fan of his.

Front cover of Iron Maiden: On Board Flight 666

And was the hypothesis confirmed? Yes, thanks for asking, it was.

As for Big Numbers, Moore asserted: “It is the most advanced comic work I’ve ever done in terms of the storytelling.” — Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore, Lance Parkin, pg. 266 (Aurum 2013)

Elsewhere other-posted:


Ear Will An Thee

(This is a guest-review by Norman Foreman, B.A.)

Yr Wylan Ddu, Simon Whitechapel (Papyrocentric Press, ?)

If, like me, you froth at the mouth and roll on the floor biting the carpet when you hear the phrase “Pre-order now”, then relief is at hand. You might have thought that “pre-ordering now” was as logical as “ordering pre-now”. You were wrong. Here is a book that really can be pre-ordered now, because it doesn’t exist yet. If it ever does exist, it will cease to be pre-orderable now. In the meantime, you’re pre-ordering it whether you know it or not. In fact, the less you know, the more you’re pre-ordering it. All life-forms in the Universe, actual and otherwise, are pre-ordering it at this very moment, from the humblest virus to the mightiest hive-mind.

Front cover of yr wylan ddu by slow exploding gulls

Yr Wylan Ddu (2003) by Slow Exploding Gulls

There’s no escape, in other words. And no more review, you might think, given that the book doesn’t exist yet. True, but I can review the title. It’s Welsh, it means “The Black Gull”, and it’s pronounced something like “Ear Will An Thee”. It was also originally the title of an album in 2003 by the Exeter electronistas Slow Exploding Gulls. Whether S.E.G. will object to the appropriation remains to be seen. If they do, it can be pointed out that Dirgelwch Yr Wylan Ddu, or Secret of the Black Gull, was the title of a children’s book by Idwal Jones (1890-1964) published in 1978.

Front cover of Dirgelwch Yr Wylan Ddu by Idwal Jones

Idwal Jones’ Secret of the Black Gull (1978)

There is nothing corresponding to “of” in the original title of that book, but then Welsh grammar doesn’t work like that. Yr Wylan Ddu contains some good examples of how it does work. It’s an active, almost clockwork or organic, phrase compared to its static English equivalent. In isolation, the Welsh words for “the”, “black” and “gull” would be y, du, and gwylan, pronounced something like “ee”, “dee” and “goo-ill-an” in southern Welsh. But put them together and they mutate in more ways than one: Yr Wylan Ddu (adjectives generally follow the noun in Welsh). The similarity between gwylan and “gull” isn’t a coincidence: the English word is borrowed from Celtic.

However, it is unlikely that Yr Wylan Ddu will actually be written in Welsh or any other Celtic language. First, Whitechapel doubtless feels that this would reduce his already small audience. Second, he doesn’t speak Welsh. Or write it. So the book will probably follow past trends and be written in English. It’s also safe to predict that it will refer to at least one black gull. So: pre-order now. And please carry on doing so until further notice.