Tuesday, 27 November 2007

All about Italy

This animation (5 mins) amused me.

Unsuitable role model

Eartha Kitt wants to be evil:

Was Blake barmy?

Arguably it's irrelevant.

Cyber sickoes

How do visitors find your site? Often it's via a search engine. And proper grown-up bloggers and webmasters seem to have a way of finding out exactly which search requests lured their punters in.

Do you envy them, or would you rather not know? Make up your mind at Disturbing Search Requests.

No sooner had I linked to this site than it disappeared. There's an archived version here which should give you an idea of it, though I note this ominous message from the webmaster threatening to shut down the site "about four months from now" unless traffic improves, which could easily have been written in July. Don't tell me I'm the last person ever to link to it…

And I should have mentioned that Betty and Geoff have their own personal version, Search Me.

Shervish of Thankshgiving

Charles Moore's memorial address for Bill Deedes, always an appealing subject.

Love Put Me Out Of My Head

A star at thirteen, dead at twenty-five, Frankie Lymon possessed a fine voice and barrels of impudent charm, exemplified in his close-ups here:

Monday, 26 November 2007

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Good news indeed

Heartfelt congratulations to Peter of Naked Blog on learning this week that he doesn't have colorectal cancer.

Peter is one of the blogosphere's grizzled veterans, repeatedly shortlisted for a lifetime achievement award.

For more than ten years he's been writing an online journal in reverse chronological order, mixing details of his day-to-day life with reminiscence, opinion and humour.

In other words, he was blogging before blogging was invented.

He goes back even further than John Bailey of Journal of a Writing Man, which started in 1998.

Gawd bless yer, Yer Royal Peter-ness!

Top-hole plonk

How World War One changed the language.

men who look like old lesbians

They've come for you.


And they have the same problem with their template that I have with mine: the "Older Posts" link doesn't do its job correctly. Use the month-by-month links on the sidebar if you don't want to miss anything.

Lindsay Anderson's last splutter

He made This Sporting Life, If…, O Lucky Man!, Britannia Hospital, The Whales of August, and finally, in 1993, this curious self-portrait, Is That All There Is?. It's presented here in six instalments of about nine minutes each (apart from the sixth, a mere six minutes):

If Anderson himself leaves you cold, you may still be interested in the final part, which shows a gathering on a Thames riverboat, scattering the ashes of Jill Bennett and Rachel Roberts.

Our Man in Tashkent

Craig Murray is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan whose preoccupation with human rights proved inconvenient to the War on Terror, and who was duly hung out to dry by the Foreign Office.

His blog is often a vigorous corrective to the official line. Of recent postings, I particularly liked this take on Britain's alleged "2000 potential terrorists".

Whatever happened to Zsa Zsa Gabor?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

The Perplexing Eclipse of Sir Granville Bantock

No, not sure I've heard any of his music either.

Best and worst Eighties videos

A contest Andrew Sullivan's running this week.

There are three categories, with ten candidates apiece. You can vote for the best pop video of the decade, and for the worst, and also - a fine twist - for the best/worst.

"You get to vote for one in each category, but you can vote an indefinite number of times. We've provided links for every video up for voting."

So go for it, my pretties. Re-live those glorious heady years when the whole universe seemed composed of cheese - but what fabulous cheese!

Thora Hird's History of Britain

Serious revisionism:

How to get an honorary degree

An unorthodox approach.

Who's the painter?

This brooding townscape with oppressive sky above is the work of Victor Hugo, creator of Les Miserables, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc., etc.

It comes from a revelatory exhibition of visual art by ninety-seven famous authors - Yeats, Huxley, D H Lawrence, Hesse, Lorca, Sylvia Plath, Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Derek Walcott, Hunter S Thompson, Douglas Coupland, all the lads.

This write-up catches the flavour. The show's over but you can still buy the book (UK price £25).

Laughing at silence

I recommend Paul Merton's Silent Clowns, currently being shown on BBC2.

The first hour-long programme was about Buster Keaton and left me agog for more of him.

This week it's Chaplin (never been a fan, but perhaps Merton can convert me) and next week specifically the silent work of Laurel and Hardy.

The series concludes with Harold Lloyd (above).

A troubling fact thrown up by the show: there are no known copies of nearly 80% of the silent films ever made. But Merton draws heavily on the work of present-day restorers who're bringing nearly-lost movies back from the brink.

Irritating footnote: here in Scotland the series began last week and is shown on Wednesdays, but I get the impression that in England it's screened on Saturdays, four days ahead of us. If so, readers in England have already missed the Chaplin programme. Sorry, chaps.

Paul Merton's Silent Clowns, BBC2 Scotland, early Wednesday evenings.

Friday, 16 November 2007

All for your benefit

The newly published Telegraph obit of Churchill's secretary has more and better anecdotes than the Times one, so I've altered the link for Nose, meet grindstone.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Dinner for One

…alias The Ninetieth Birthday. In Germany, Norway, Sweden and Austria this eleven-minute sketch is shown on TV every New Year's Eve. The little old lady is May Warden and her butler is Freddie Frinton, the accomplished comic drunk who gave the world the phrase "Good evening, ossifer." Bear with them - the comedy is cumulative:

Neighbourhood Rebel

Kevin Williamson of Rebel Inc fame seems to live in the same small network of streets as myself, and drinks in at least one of the same bars. Yet I've never knowingly clapped eyes on him, so bad am I at recognising faces, or so adept is he at dodging behind wheelie-bins when he sees a loony coming.

His blog The Scottish Patient is a daily dose of fierce opinion and often infectious pleasures, plus tons of snaps of national monuments (e.g. Alasdair Gray in a pub). Read some of his poems here.


Rebuilding a wartime computer the size of a lorry - and pitting it against a modern PC. (Update: Colossus lost.)

Kipling away frenziedly

A properly full-blooded review by Ferdinand Mount of a new and rewarding-sounding book on Uncle Rudyard.

"I'm bog-standard"

Attorney General Baroness Scotland makes me warm to her.

Joys of Spring

Four strangely assorted male dancers go through their routine in the dressing room before the show - without the women they're meant to be dancing with, and with less than total recall of what their moves are supposed to be:

Clunk, click

Reluctant to link to a story about Sir Jimmy Savile getting mugged - even if he does claim he enjoyed it - but couldn't help noticing he lives in Roundhay.

Given that he is at least two hundred years old, can we be certain he isn't the elderly gent preserved for posterity in Roundhay Garden Scene?

The elusive Great American Novel

Best response I've seen to Norman Mailer's death, by John Walsh.

Young Mr Hari adds a necessary indictment.

Going without

Chastity achieved through "indolence, or mere inattention": Froog waves a flag for Asexualismo.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Final Few

Charles Wheeler (born 1923) talks to Britain's surviving World War One servicemen.

Great knees-ups of history, 1843

Once I cried out "oh for the love of Heaven let me go! you are going to dash my brains out against the folding doors! " to which he answered---(you can fancy his tone)---"your brains!! who cares about their brains here? let them go!"

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Salvador Dali on What's My Line?

Not a hoax, not a spoof: the great surrealist takes part in a TV game show (9 minutes). Trouble is, he sees himself as a universal genius, and therefore replies "Yes" to whatever the panellists suggest he may be doing for a living…

RIP Hilda Braid

…who was Peter Vaughan’s charmingly out-of-it and dim-wittedly benign wife in Citizen Smith.

BBC news report

Guardian / Independent / Telegraph / Times

Open some bubbly

Betjeman "would have marvelled" at the restored Saint Pancras station.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Back from the dead

This news story about a mother who mistakenly identified the dead body of a stranger as that of her missing son, only to have the real son turn up alive and well after the funeral, echoes an episode in the life of Ellen Terry.

Bryan Forbes tells us in his entertaining history of the British acting tradition, That Despicable Race, that at one point in the late 1860s the actress disappeared. Separated from her husband G F Watts, she'd got together with the architect Edward Godwin and they were keeping it quiet, not just on account of the social risks but because her allowance from Watts was hers only "so long as she shall live a chaste life".

What she hadn't bargained for was the discovery in the Thames of the corpse of a girl who so much resembled her that Ellen's father identified it as his daughter's.

Fortunately, word of this reached her and she went hurtling back to the family home to find everyone wearing mourning for her. It was, says Forbes, "surely an incident that Dickens would have savoured."

One or two columnists may revive this tale in the Sunday papers, so don't forget, you read it here first.

Leonard Nimoy sings Bilbo Baggins

Let the nightmare commence:


In the wake of Derelict London, another treat for decay'n'desolation fans: Lost America: Night Photography of the Abandoned West.

Ugh, nasty

We have thankfully stopped seeing ethnic minorities as the Not-Us, the Thank-God-We're-Not-Them - and have neatly slotted the white working class into their place.

Johann Hari, defending Jeremy Kyle.

Nose, meet grindstone

Churchill's last surviving wartime personal secretary has died.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Birth of the movies

You thought they started in France with the Lumière brothers in the mid-1890s? So did I.

In fact they began in 1888 in, of all places, Leeds, and here's the evidence: two films shot by Louis Le Prince, each of which runs for two (2) seconds.

This one shows traffic crossing Leeds Bridge:

This one captures four folk milling about in a garden in the Leeds suburb of Roundhay:

Some of the scenes that didn't made it into the final cut:

A sombre postscript

• The lady walking backwards in the garden scene, Sarah Whitley, died ten days later.

• Louis Le Prince himself mysteriously vanished from a train in France in 1890.

• His son Adolphe Le Prince - the young man in the garden scene - was shot dead on Fire Island, New York, in 1902.