I could never get to grips with John le Carre’s 1974 novel ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, so when the new film came to town I took myself off to see it. I expect most of you are at least aware of the plot whereby a former Cold War spy who is hired to seek out the identity of a Soviet mole hidden within the upper ranks of MI6 – the Secret Intelligence Service responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence.
|Millennium Bridge, London looking north
to St Paul's Cathedral and the City
I still couldn't quite work it out! But what did stand out was how well acted it is, and as one journalist noted ... “it is a wonderfully stylist visual evocation of a vanished England ... drenched in Scandinavian melancholy and Philip Larkin gloom”.
I would agree having had a father who wore a bowler hat, marched with an umbrella during the era of pea soupers (thick fogs!) in London, while I worked with an ex Russian organisation exporting capital plant and machinery to Eastern Europe ... I was transported back ...
|Nelson's Column during the
Great Smog of 1952
... to those monochrome times ... full of antiquated predigital pieces of equipment ... the telex machine tick-tackering away – I loved sending telexes – very therapeutic – then the wait for the lightbulb and the clickety-clack of ticker tape coming the other way.
I went to Prague in about 1975, then on to Brno, where we exhibited our wares at an East European Fair ... I was followed everywhere, we weren’t allowed to talk to Czech locals etc etc .. on top of that I couldn’t read any of the signs ...
|Wenceslas Square, Prague
... Prague was covered in plastic .. it was dowdy, dusty and miserable: interesting ... that when import agents (not the spy sort) visited us in the UK, they always travelled in at least pairs. Very sad – but that was life. ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ is atmospheric to say the least.
To tie in with this I read Brain Pickings Maria Popova’s revealing account of Steve Jobs’ life – that she experienced from the ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ Bulgaria in the 1980s ... I’d like to print it here – but it’s too long – it epitomises what ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ expresses in the book and shows in the film ... here is some of it:
|Vitosha mountain massif in the National Park,
as see from Sofia
In the 1990s, Maria’s mother joined the only official dealer for Apple in Bulgaria ... when Maria says they got their first Mac at home she was handed a portal for curiosity and exploration that helped her lean into knowledge in a way that has since become the fundamental driving force of her intellectual life.
Please read the rest of her post “From Jules Verne to the Iron Curtain, or why ‘bondi blue’ is the defining colour of my curiosity” .. here’s another section:
Finally (now in the US), one fine day in 2004, I bit the bullet and walked into the campus bookstore, which had an official Apple section. I was working three jobs at the time, to pay my way through college, so I ended up eating canned tuna and store-brand oatmeal for a couple of months to offset the expense, but I did walk out with a brand new iBook G4.
|Plovdiv - Roman theatre: the oldest city in
Europe (Bulgaria), and the 6th oldest
in the world
It was like I had undergone a personal Renaissance. I started taking Francis to all my classes and, often, classes I wasn’t actually enrolled in — curious lectures across various departments, from criminology to nutrition to design history, that I would drop in on.
I never thought much of my secret hobby, until I heard Steve Jobs’ now-iconic 2005 Stanford graduation address. In it, he recounts the power of a serendipitous visit to a calligraphy class he wasn’t enrolled in, which went on to shape his landmark contributions to design and graphic interfaces.
At the end Maria ties her post up:
This is the true legacy of Steve Jobs. He didn’t just transform technology, design, and entertainment — he transformed our expectations about technology, design, and entertainment. He not only made us eager to line up for the bananas of our time, but also made us willing to step into the Nautilus library of fascination and never want to leave.
Rolling hills of Kralicky Sneznik, Czech Rep
Nikita Khrushchev was at a United Nations Plenary Meeting and got very rattled by the Filipino Delegate accusing the Soviet Union of swallowing up Eastern Europe depriving the population of “the free exercise of their civil and political rights”.
Apparently he banged his table so hard that his watch fell off .... then to compensate he bent down took his shoe off and used that as his banging instrument instead ... after all the kerfuffle ... the United Nations head to finalise the session then bashed his gavel so hard on his desk – the head fell off – all in that bastion of quiet diplomacy.
|A typical Hetzel cover
for a Jules Verne book
(for more see Wiki)
Thank you, Steve, for shaping my childhood, my curiosity, and my creative and intellectual destiny. May you rest in peace 20,000 leagues under the sea. (Maria Popova)
|Nautilus hemishell showing
the camerae in a
One last item that deserves to be read: Spies – criminals ... blurring the line once again adapting legitimate methods to their own dark deals:
Big Think: From Crowdsourcing to Crime –sourcing: The Rise of Distributed Criminality by Marc Goodman.... this is a very aware-making article on other ways criminals are using “The Cloud” and getting unsuspecting members of the public to co-operate with their new illegal methods and activities ... it is 7 pages long, but even read or scanned – it is interesting – and it’s here if we need to come back to refer to it.
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