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Wednesday, 9 December 2009


After the third time of asking, I am inclined to enact the full joke. If I did so, the full joke would go something like this:

MAZZER: "Sorry to disturb you, but can I just use that computer for three minutes to print off one tiny thing? As soon as I'm done, I'll be gone"

STUDENT : "Well. I dunno....I'm very busy....."

MAZZER : "So it's 'no' then?"

STUDENT : "Well, I got all this stuff to do..."

MAZZER: "Not even just two minutes? Its a real emergency..."

STUDENT; "Well - isnt there another computer free. I'm really busy. Sorry, and all but..."

MAZZER : "OK, no problem. I guess that means a shag is out of the question then?"

Not, I must emphasize that this conversation actually occured. And not that I am not at fault for failing to print off what I need to print off, but it is three minutes to two (or 'of two' if you are Canadian) and Team Antikythera meets at two. I have completely forgotten to print off my contribution ot the group and am searching the library desperate for a computer, one I can hijack just long enough to print a page or two fo A4. Failing utterly to find someone who is willing to eschew Facebook long enough to let me print my pages, I head to the photocopiers and make badly photocopied version of my notes. There's no way Rhian, or Joe is going to accept these, let alone agree to wear the big cardboard boxes on their heads that I have devised as essential elements in my plan to enhance the arguments of two great philosophers.

Yes, its seminar time again, and this time Team Antikythera are the prosecution, fiercely pressing the point that "Genius is a useful concept in understanding Innovation". Unlike our last debate, where, (as my colleague Ed phrased it), we stoutly argued that the Greeks and Romans were NOT technological underachievers but were in fact the first environmentalists - while we in fact felt like we were "defending a murderer" - Team Antikythera, at least for this debate, believes we are on the side of the angels. So much so that we have enlisted the philosophers Schonenbauer and Kant to the same team (which is a bit like having Monbiot and Pilmer join forces, or even more unlikely, Steven Harper and anyone with a brain)and have decided to rid ourselves entirely of the cheap tricks that won us the last debate. We decide to rid ourslves of the cheap tricks that won us the last debate, that is, until I point out that accuracy in debate is one thing, but how did it feel to win last time? We immediately examine the possibilities of wearing large cardboard boxes on our heads, each of a different size and labelled in semi permanent marker "Einstein's brain - enlarged thinking bit" or "Typical Fascist Brain - note smaller cognitive areas" - such devices would undoubtedly make a big visual impact.

The great thing about all of this, is that where the first debate was essentially the product of Joe's hard, solid historiographic work and my cheap debating tactics, in this second debate the team is all onside - solid, determined and goal oriented. Ideas, and laughter, flow. Now it doesnt matter whether we win or lose - the oak tables that my mate JJ dreamt about when we both first started at University have become a reality - idea are discussed, dissected, debated. Cravats are donned and briar stemmed pipes are waved at eachother as facts, philosophies, ideas and opinions are fly round the room like a million Congolese Fruit bats taking off from the roost. Eventually though, one of the team needs to go and sort out a problem with her rented accomodation, so we part, leaving R to find the accomodation officer and discuss whether mice eating her food is a reasonable problem for her to deal with or whether the landlord should invest in a few traps.

I walk home through the perpetual grey English rain, my mood so elevated that there are only minor regrets that it is not minus C and snowing, and find RHB at home in the middle of the day. This is almost a surprise. Almost, because RHB has been ill for a few days now (with one of the minor but extremely inconveniencing "bugs" that - we have convinced ourselves - we never used to get in Canada) but I have become accustomed to the fact that like most boffins, ill or not, RHB would usually be happier at work falsifying data and plotting to usurp the peer review procedure than have a day off work, even when very sick. The fact that she is at home, and under about fourteen duvets and six cats is enough to cause a degree of concern.

I examine the patient closely and am relieved - there is no temperature, only a slight reddening flush of the cheeks (which I have to admit makes her even more attractive) and she has come home not in desperation, but in wisdom, as she feels "a bit better today" but still weak. I toy with the notion of telling her that two nights previoulsy, the sight of her simultaneously vomiting and crying at four am was (in the event of her not actually dying) quite a humourous image(if one discounts the undoubted distress experienced by the vomiter), but decide she's not well enough yet. Instead, I bore her into sleep (the best remedy) with a detailed explanation of Merton's views on genius.

Genius cannot be defined. There's no doubt in my mind that there exists a state, or possibly individuals, who reveal to the world a thing that can be objectively described as truth. Picasso's Guernica, Einstein's work, Darwin's evolution, Shakespeare's plays, Laurel and Hardy's Piano moving sketch and the first person to domesticate cats spring to mind as examples of global genius, but maybe individuals can also generate moments of genius that only apply to their on lives. I look at RHB sleeping (and thankfully just ill and not dead), wholly responsible for my current situation as a student and decide that this idea, while not empirically testable, is also probably true.

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