Monday, 31 October 2011

Dog of the Day

Here she is, sniffing the air:

Quotation of the day

Since we are on libraries:

A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people - people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.

E.B. White.

Love this book cover. All book covers should really feature a typewriter and an indeterminate dog and a slightly quizzical look.

Most shocking thing of the day

Of course there are more shocking things, but there is something peculiarly saddening and startling and mad about a library being supposedly improved by the removal of books. If you feel strong enough, you can read about it here:

Lovely photograph of Trinity College library sadly uncredited.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Dog of the day

Love that slightly narrow-eyed what's going on kind of face.

Poem of the day

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
—through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.

William Carlos Williams.

Voyage to Pagany

Joke of the day

    Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Don't eat pork. I'm sorry, what was that last one? Don't eat pork. God has spoken. Is that the word of God or is that pigs trying to outsmart everybody?

    Jon Stewart.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Dog of the day

Quote of the day

Since we are on an Irish theme, today's quote is from Seamus Heaney:

Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained.

Photograph sadly uncredited. But I do like a snap of a poet in a hat.

Man of the day

Michael D Higgins, no doubt. I've written about him on my other blog, but he gets a double mention, because it makes me so happy he will be the new Irish President.

Nice little piece in The Guardian here.

Picture of the day

Unknown women, walking down an unknown street, by an unknown photographer, some time, I would guess, in the early 1930s.

I love them because they all look so jolly. I love them because they are chic as chic, but they are still wearing sensible flat shoes.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Dog of the Day

Quote of the day

If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. 


Film of the day

Sometimes I go back to old favourites and wonder what I saw in them. I feel rather stupid for loving them so in the first place, and slink away in shame. Some, though, are like fine wines, and one returns to them with surprised delight.

Last night I watched The Russia House, which I have not see for years. I remember loving it because it has all the things I enjoy: old school British secret service, a bit of Russian romanticism, dead drops and double crosses. And it turns out it is really very good indeed. It's sharp and funny and dry and wry. I discovered it is written by Tom Stoppard, so that explains that. And there is the edgy atmosphere of the end of the Cold War and the beginnings of glasnost, which is historically fascinating. Not quite Moscow Rules, but not far off. It has Sean Connery being louche and James Fox being clever and a young Michael Kitchen doing that kind of acting that I adore,where a mere twitch of an eyebrow says more than twenty speeches.

You can find it here, if you are interested.

Oh, also, it's a film for grown-ups, and I find there are not that many of those about, these days.

Photograph uncredited.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Dog of the Day

I agree with Larry

Sometimes, when I wander about on the internet, I find the most curious things. I hope this is real. There is no provenance for it. But, whoever he is, Larry is quite right:

Poem of the day

To friends at home, the lone, the admired, the lost
The gracious old, the lovely young, to May
The fair, December the beloved,
These from my blue horizon and green isles,
These from this pinnacle of distances I,
The unforgetful, dedicate.

R.L. Stevenson.

With a picture of the view over the hills, looking south, in the afternoon sunshine:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Dog of the day

Here she is:

Dissent of the Day

It's always fun when a television show comes along and Divides the Nation. When the first series of Downton Abbey arrived, there seemed to be just sheer gratitude. The lighting, the frocks, the acting. It was such a glorious treat after rehashed cop shows and things which always ended in the morgue. Maggie Smith's eyebrows were enough to justify the entrance fee alone.

Then, with the second series, tiny moments of dissent crept in. I suspect this always happens when characters in a drama have become beloved: the viewers have strong ideas of where the storylines should go; the scriptwriters do not always agree. It's like a genteel family argument. This week, I suddenly realised the point of those endless ad breaks: it is so my cousin can ring up and say things like, 'Oh no, not lovely Lord Grantham and that saucy chambermaid'. We then had a happy discussion about how much we like the Earl of Grantham's pyjamas. (Anything to take one's mind off the collapse of the Euro, quite frankly.)

Anyway, there is quite a funny piece on the whole mare's nest here.

Poet of the Day

Robert Lowell:

Caged in fiction’s iron bars,
I give this voice to you
with tragic diction to rebuke the stars —
it isn’t you, and yet it’s you. 

From Stars.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Dog of the Day

Odd couple of the day

Roald Dahl and Ernest Hemingway:

From the always marvellous How to be a Retronaut.

Quotation of the day

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless -it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

C.S. Lewis.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Dog of the Day

We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults.  Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.  George Eliot

Journalism of the Day

In today's Observer online, I found easily the best piece of journalism I have read for months. (I want to say: the best piece currently posted on the internet, but that would be silly, hyperbolic, and empirically incorrect, since there is no way I can have read the whole internet.)

It is about Equatorial Guinea. I am profoundly ashamed to say that, until I read this, I knew nothing of Equatorial Guinea. I should. I think everyone should. I don't want to do that awful righteous finger-waggy, more in sorrow than in anger thing to which we liberals are occasionally prone, if we have not had enough iron in our diet, but I do think some things should be known.

The piece is beautifully written, without fanfare or showboat. It is clean, and direct, and does not editorialise too much. It is everything that longform journalism should be. It is also profoundly shocking.

Journalism has taken a bit of battering lately, with the telephone hacking scandal and all. I hold the slightly unfashionable view that it may be an honourable profession, when it is done right. (I admit I am partial; some of my best friends are, or have been, journalists.) This piece proves why good journalism still matters.

I take all my hats off to Ian Birrell, who wrote it. You can find it here.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Dog of the Day

Here she is, in moody black and white, with her noble profile:

Listen of the Day

The BBC are running a wonderful Raymond Chandler season on Radio Four. Toby Stephens is tremendous as Philip Marlowe. For those of you who can get the iPlayer, it is here.

Memory of the day

Is the nervous tension produced by the return of the National Hunt season. Each year I forget. Sometimes I wonder why I watch it. I get ridiculously attached to horses I have never met, and practically have to watch the races from behind the sofa, like a child watching Dr Who.

Today, I hoped that the glorious Master Minded might come out and give us a display of mastery at Aintree. He started off giving an exhibition round, then got a little careless, ran out of puff, and was easily beaten by Albertas Run. Still, for at least a circuit, it was a keen pleasure to watch two old pros showing off their stuff.

I shall remain true to Master Minded. He will show us something special later in the season.

In the meantime, here he is, at his lovely best:

Wonderful photograph sadly uncredited.

PS. For those of you who, like me, are of a pedantic bent, there really is no apostrophe in Albertas Run. I feel there should be, but never mind. 

Oversight of the day


Friday, 21 October 2011

Slightly unexpected quote of the day

'If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.'
Alphonse de Lamartine.

I love this because it is so random and whimsical. It is also rather unlikely, coming from Lamartine, who was a serious politician and man of letters, and something of an idealist. Even idealists have to have the occasional day off, and talk as if they are in a Nancy Mitford novel. 

Portrait by Henri Decaisne.

Perhaps this is what he was thinking of:

The Dolmabahce Palace, taken, slightly incongruously, from The Four Seasons website, where they have rather nice pictures of their very grand Istanbul hotel, which they encourage one to share. 

You can buy anything on the internet

Sometimes, I have absolutely no idea how I end up where I end up on the internet. I go to look up something serious and germane. Before I know it, I have found an envelope addressed by the Duke of Wellington. Amazingly, this is actually for sale, from a fellow who has been collecting autographs since 1961. It's not the kind of thing I yearn to own, but I do find it fascinating to see the Duke's illegible writing, and his very seal.

The poor postman who had to decipher that.

If you have a spare hundred and ninety-five quid, you can find the object here.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Fossil of the day

A fish fossil, from the museum of Orkney.

It's so lovely, I can hardly believe it is real.

And since we are on Orkney, here is a picture of her girl guides, from 1917:

Don't they look splendid?

And a useful PS: I have never been to Orkney, but one thing I do know is that you should never, ever refer to it as 'The Orkneys'. People really mind about this. Same for Shetland, too.

Slideshow of the day

I am starting to think this should become a regular feature. One of the joys of the newspapers and magazines going online is that they have space to feature a wonderful variety of photographs that otherwise would hardly be seen. The Guardian does a particularly good series called 24 Hours in Pictures. Click here to see a marvellous set.

This one is my favourite:

Photograph by Paula Bronstein.

Odd journalism of the day

Because I gave up tribalism for Lent and it stuck, I read all shades of political opinion, from The Telegraph to The Guardian, New Statesman to Spectator. So, today, I was having a look at Daniel Hannan. He is, as far as I can tell, a devoted Libertarian. He was getting cross (Libertarians always accuse the Left of being grumpy, but seem quite livid themselves) about people sneering at The Tea Party. Then he wrote this odd sentence:

'Despite having been told in no uncertain terms what to think, most Americans remain stubbornly of the view that the Tea Party's central contention is moderate.'
This is odd because it is not true. The latest poll I can find, from late September, has Americans' view of The Tea Party at 28% favourable, and 53% unfavourable. I suppose one might imagine that the good citizens could decide that a contention is moderate, and not like it anyway, but it seems unlikely. 

Here is what I don't get: Hannan is very intelligent and articulate; he has an argument to make. I don't agree with it, but it is a perfectly respectable view. So why would he rely on a fiction to make it?

There's been a lot of this about lately, most especially the fantasy that the BBC had banned the use of AD and BC. That got huge play in The Mail and The Telegraph, despite endless refutation. My question is: what is wrong with facts?

The original Boston Tea Party. With added hats.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dog of the Day

She's got her ball, she doesn't know about you:

Completely random picture of the day

I stumbled upon this, and loved it so much I had to share. It is a photograph of the West Indies cricket team, from an article about the film Fire in Babylon. The photographer, sadly, remains unknown.

Slideshow of the day

Life has an extraordinary collection of vintage crime scene photographs. Some of them are very gruesome, so be prepared. But more than the grisliness, it is the very banality of a lot of them that strike one. The mild squalor of 10 Rillington Place; the quotidian muddle of William Woodward Jr's unmade bed. The pictures of corpses - the ones shown are mainly mafia hits - have a sort of futility about them, as if asking the question: what was it all for? And the detectives and policemen seem stoical, unsensational, businesslike, in the face of horrors.

You can see them here.

Bodies being removed after the St Valentine's Day massacre. Photographer uncredited.

Discovery of the day

There is an amazing story in the New York Times about a gentleman discovering a treasure of lost photographs taken by Captain Scott, of his doomed Antarctic expedition. I have seen a few pictures of that trip before, and they are always unbearably poignant, because one knows the end of the story.

These new ones carry all that poignancy, but also a great deal of beauty too. And mystery as well: some of them look as abstract and foreign as pictures of the moon. You can read the whole story here, and see all the photographs in their full glory.

This is one of my favourites:

Can never resist a hardy old pony.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Dog of the day

One from the archives, in nostalgic black and white:

Ignorance of the day

I was wandering about the internet, when I came across a reference to Palau. I do not know where that is, I thought. Somewhere near the Philippines?

Only 500 miles off. It is the island nation of Palau, in Oceania. Even more ignorance: I did not know Oceania was a thing. It sounds like something out of Lost. Anyway, Palau, according to the CIA handbook, is two and half times the size of Washington, DC. Its natural resources are forestry, gold, and deep-sea minerals (unspecified). It has a population of just about 21,000. Its capital is called Melekeok, a word I had literally never heard until today.

Now, I am going to go away and work on my geography.

Photographs from City Images, and Panoramio.

Useful reminder of the day

Quotation of the day

'All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.'

Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway in Pamplona in 1925, from the John F. Kennedy library.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Salutary quote of the day

I have never liked to suggest that writing is grinding, let alone brave work. H. L. Mencken used to say that any scribbler who found writing too arduous ought to take a week off to work on an assembly line, where he will discover what work is really like. The old boy, as they say, got that right. To be able to sit home and put words together in what one hopes are charming or otherwise striking sentences is, no matter how much tussle may be involved, lucky work, a privileged job. The only true grit connected with it ought to arrive when, thinking to complain about how hard it is to write, one is smart enough to shut up and silently grit one’s teeth.
Joseph Epstein.
When I am feeling all fagged out at the end of a day, I have to remind myself that I am not working down a coal mine. Writing can make one oddly tired, when one considers it is a job performed whilst sitting down. But still, Epstein is right.

Picture by Matthew Gilson.
Quote from the wonderful Advice to Writers.

Lovely picture of the day

I don't know why I love this so much, but I do:

It is a picture from Sweet Paul Magazine, something of which I had never heard, until I discovered it today through the always lovely Dustjacket Attic. 

Interesting historical photographs of the day

One of my favourite websites on the entire internet is How to be a Retronaut. Today, it has some fascinating pictures of early American settlers.

You can see them all here.

Two of my favourites:

(Pictures originally via Online Browsing.)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Apology of the Day

So sorry I have slightly abandoned this blog, especially as it is just finding its feet. I finished writing my book last night, and it left me good for nothing, so all I can offer by way of expiation is this small piece of beauty.

At least there is something lovely for you to rest your Saturday eyes upon. Normal service will resume very shortly.