Thursday 31 January 2008

The first trainspotter

A teenage boy in 1825.

Ask The Dunces

Pig-ignorant quiz contestants.

Farewell, Miles Kington

Michael Bywater does the honours in The Independent; Stanley Reynolds offers a more Punch-related obit in The Guardian; and the final paragraphs of the Times obituary give more details of the private man.


Leslie Sarony's deathless meisterwerk "I Lift Up My Finger (and I Say 'Tweet Tweet')" finds its perfect visual accompaniment: three minutes of Jeeves and Wooster, with Hugh Laurie as Bertie:

The vocalist may be Stanley Lupino, but then again he may not. Awfully tricky to tell, sometimes, isn't it? Have to ask Jeeves - he's bound to know, what with all that fish he eats, what?

Wicca meets Vicar

Eva McIntyre shares her thoughts on Joanna Pearson's Wicca and the Christian Heritage.

Flash bang

Low energy bulbs, soon to be unavoidable, might give you a migraine attack or make your skin rash worse. And as for what they do to Bryan Forbes

Mixed metaphors of the month

Professor Stephen Bainbridge has the grace to be self-conscious about his opening line:
Before we all decide to roll over and play dead as the John McCain train leaves the station (boy those are some mixed metaphors)
but then, God help us, he comes out with this, without batting an eyelid:
It produced a foreign policy quagmire that eviscerated any opportunity to advance the conservative agenda at home, as I've complained in more detail elsewhere.
You gotta watch those quagmires. They'll slit you up a treat.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Freewheeling in the twilight

Another ad that gets to me (in a good way):

Gordon's worst nightmare

William Hague on the prospect of Tony Blair as President of Europe (3 minutes):

Embattled authors

Susan Hill sticks up for Duncan Fallowell.

Strawberry Hill Forever

A warm handshake to English Heritage for coughing up £100K towards the restoration of Strawberry Hill House, the early Gothic Revival mini-castle created for himself by Horace Walpole, aesthete, man of letters and not-very-important politician.

Christopher Hitchens on Hillary Clinton

He's against.


Tuesday 29 January 2008

Holst was wrong

This is what Jupiter sounds like:

Further details here. More space sound recordings here.

Tea with the Taliban

The Irishwoman who became a tribal chief in Baluchistan dies at ninety.

Bush's favourite painting

Some say he's misunderstood it.

Monday 28 January 2008

"If you existed, I'd divorce you"

Five minutes of masterly marital back-and-forth from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?:


In this array of full-screen interactive 360-degree panoramas of notable places, I enjoyed New Year 2008 on Westminster Bridge (with soundtrack) but what really got me going was the newly restored Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, where you can not only turn round but fly up and inspect the ceiling. How did they devise such a lousy treaty in such a gorgeous room?

Technical note

Before reaching each panorama I was pestered by a dialogue box blithering on about MIME types and the Quick Time plugin, whatever they may be. Clicked "No" each time and came to no harm. May you be as fortunate. (No liability, etc.)

La belle et le bĂȘte

Would that every cabaret act had as witty a website as Kit and the Widow.

Pathological individualism

From buses to blogs, civility is crumbling, laments Madeleine Bunting.

Sunday 27 January 2008

Bette Davis, pop star?

Please, no:

Making muscle obsolete

Four minutes of trick photography from 1910. Furniture, unaided, moves itself into a new home:

Wake-up call

"Staying awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading" is an essay by Ursula K Le Guin in the February Harper's Magazine. We non-subscribers can't read it online, but these extracts appealed to me, and there's more about it here.

Photo © 2003 by Joyce Scrivner

Lion hug

The right relationship between the species:

A Scottish firebrand

Neil Ascherson (in 1999) remembers Naomi Mitchison, prolific author, controversialist, honorary mother of an African tribe:
She was wise, having lived through much personal turmoil, and brave: somebody who lived out her feminism in days when love and freedom could carry grim penalties… If intelligent people shouted long and loud enough at governments, she believed, truth would prevail. She often did prevail.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Sick at heart

Douglas Hurd on Iraq.

Bravo, ancient voyeur

The resplendently named We Made Out In A Tree And This Old Guy Sat And Watched Us is about "unusual quotes, strange statements, bad writing and other oddities of the language." A pleasant site to dip into.

Restrain yourself, Rhett

Clark Gable performs "Puttin' On The Ritz":

Murky waters

Jeremiah Duggan was a British Jewish student in Paris. He got involved with a group campaigning against the war in Iraq, not knowing it was a far-right set-up often accused of intimidation and terror tactics. In March 2003 he attended its conference in Wiesbaden, Germany, and was found dead on a road outside the town.

Suicide, said local police. Not so fast, said a British inquest. Something's seriously wrong, say forensic pathologists. For more, visit Justice for Jeremiah.

In happier times

This Daily Mail cartoon - from 1969/70, not 1960 as stated - shows Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his Cabinet (including future PM Jim Callaghan) queuing up to receive instructions from a young Peter Hain.

Jimmy Shand meets gangsta rap

He'd have been 100 next Monday, and listen, he's gigging with 50 Cent:

All modem and no trousers?

Political bloggers ain't what they're cracked up to be, argues Dynamite:
Furious men in the shires ask, "why have the British public not taken to the streets to hang these NuLab traitors?" … The beginning of the answer is that half the country doesn't care, and those angry enough to storm Parliament are middle-aged bloggers who aren't that keen to upset the glasses of scotch resting on their guts.

Eighteen years after Footloose

Kevin Bacon gallantly sends himself up in Will and Grace in 2002 (4 minutes):

Put it away

"Half-Nekkid Thursday" is a tiresome fad that entices bloggers to expose their pallid, flabby, repulsive flesh until the entire blogosphere vomits.

In response, Ben Locker dreamed up Elegantly Dressed Wednesday. Some of his own contributions to this great project are here.

British public "not fit for purpose"

The speech politicians would love to make.

Monday 21 January 2008

Last farewell

Intrigued by this photo on the BBC website, I did some Googling.

More than fifty ships lie wrecked in the Sound of Islay in the Inner Hebrides, and the best known - perhaps because she's been the most visible - seems to be this one, the Fleetwood registered trawler Wyre Majestic.

Built in 1958, she's been lying on the rocks since 1974. But as these pictures show, we're losing her.

Friday 18 January 2008

Two worlds collide

John Le Mesurier tries to become an Australian:

Elder Statesmen

If George W Bush, Dick Cheney and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were all hit by the same truck, Senator Robert C Byrd (born 1917) would automatically become President of the United States.

In this very sound speech last year he came out fighting for his right to continue to serve in Congress even though he's, as it were, old.

More recently, Senator John McCain (71) asserted his credibility as a Presidential candidate by pointing to his hale and hearty mother.

This list of political oldies was compiled by Michael Crick.

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Dear Posterity…

A new cache of Henry James letters.

Seven today

Wikipedia, that is.


Landscapes made from food.

Or how about sea creatures made from plastic bottles?

Sunday 13 January 2008

Seven minutes of melancholy happiness

Chet Baker sings and plays like he means it:

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Watch with Nanny

Reviving the corpse of Fifties children's television (4 mins):

Late extra (1 min):

Monday 7 January 2008

Henry's footsteps

This lovely little site takes you down the River Thames with Victorian photographer Henry Taunt, plus brand new images of the same scenes. (Congratulations on your blue plaque, Henry.)

Mental illness as spectator sport

"We have wandered, by many digital and media paths, into an era of new cruelty that would have horrified us even two decades ago" - Peter Preston on Britney Spears.

Spilled Water EMERGENCY!

Made me laugh:

Jailhouse Rock

Can it ever be right to make a thousand Filipino convicts impersonate zombies? Froog scratches his head over the video evidence.

(Many thanks to Froog for his appreciative review of Webside Gleanings.)

Wednesday 2 January 2008

RIP George MacDonald Fraser

The BBC reports his death aged 82.

Heard him give a talk and answer questions in the Nineties; he seemed a likeable - indeed endearing - soul.

Obituaries: Guardian / Independent / Telegraph / Times

Centenarian twins

They're going to Budapest (from Cornwall) to celebrate.

Tuesday 1 January 2008

That Thing They Do

Hard at work in 1943, the faux-Egyptian sand-dancers Wilson and Keppel:

(The third member of the act, Betty, is presumably backstage, sobbing incredulously.)

Fraudulent automaton

The strange case of the bogus mechanical chess-playing Turk.

Thud, thud

Did you wake up feeling as if numerous nails had been hammered into your head? Watch yourself: it may not be a hangover.