Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Letter of the Day

There is a lovely and fascinating blog which I follow called Letters of Note. Yesterday, it put up a letter which has had more responses than any other in the blog's history. It is being tweeted and re-tweeted, linked to and passed on all over the internet. When you read it, you will see why. You can find it here.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Victory of the day

The lovely Big Buck's, powering up the hill to win the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham. Read about it here.

And a touching back story here.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Dog of the day

Oh, the nobility:

Picture of the day

This is where we all live. It is the latest picture of the earth from the wizards at NASA.

This astounding image was not just achieved by flying up into space and taking a snapshot. It was a long, composite process, very well described here. Despite my awe at the cleverness of NASA and their brilliant use of technology, what I mostly think when I look at this photograph is: oh, how beautiful that planet is.

Perspective of the day

I talk a lot about the perspective police. These are the armed operatives who break down your door when you are getting a bit grumpy and moany and remind you of your manifold blessings; the ones who force you at gunpoint to see the wider picture. These metaphorical cops might sound a bit trigger-happy, but they really do it for me. Sometimes one needs a bit of a jolt to open one's eyes.

This morning, on Holocaust Memorial Day, I read this short letter, which is perspective of the most profound and humbling kind.

Wonderful picture of Anita Lasker, second from left, with her friends and family. She survived Auschwitz and Belsen. She played the cello in the women's orchestra at Auschwitz, which saved her life. You can read more about her extraordinary story here.

Photograph, uncredited, found via the Imperial War Museum website.

Oh, and since credit where credit is due is an important part of blog etiquette, thanks to @martinbright, who guided me to the piece via Twitter.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Apology of the day

Is from me, for neglecting this blog. I got behind for 48 hours, and have been unable to catch up. Here is a picture of the dog with her stick, by way of penance.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Bad sentence of the day

Everyone says that Alex Salmond is a political genius. He is so much better at politics than anyone else, goes the consensus. I can't see it, myself. I find his manner bumptious, his tone often patronising, and his words unilluminating. But I know this is one of those things where everyone else is right and I am wrong.

However, I will claim that he cannot write a decent sentence. I have just read the vital premise of the big speech he is about to give on the future of Scotland. This is the fulcrum, the motherlode, the beating heart of his argument. And this is how he expresses it:

"An independent Scotland can be a beacon for progressive opinion south of the border and further afield, addressing policy challenges in ways that reflect the universal values of fairness and are capable of being considered, adapted and implemented according to the circumstances and wishes within the other jurisdictions of these islands and beyond."

This is just awful. How do you address a policy challenge in ways that reflect the universal values of fairness? What even is the universal value of fairness? Fairness is fairness; it does not contain universal values; it is a intrinsic thing.

I don't know much, but I know a bad sentence when I see one. If I had a blue pencil, I would write; TOO LONG. If you can't break it up, at least use a couple of semi-colons, for sheer breath. In my cross blue pencil I would write: BE SPECIFIC. I would put all this in capital letters because I would be so grumpy, and the rotten prose would be making my eyes hurt.

I would say: adapted and implemented just sounds like you are holding a meeting of middle managers. I would scribble: what does 'the other jurisdictions of these islands and beyond' even mean? I would scrawl: why use ten words where one would do?

What's wrong with saying:

An independent Scotland shall be a beacon of fairness. It shall be a haven of progressive thought.

Or something. Just don't bloody address policy challenges.

I know Alex Salmond probably does not write his own speeches. But he reads them. If he is willing to commit such bland, predictable, horrid hurt on the English language, then I am going to judge him for it.


Eilean Donan castle, photographer unknown.

Political journalism of the day

There is a really interesting piece by Ian Dunt on the Politics.co.uk site, regarding the possibility or even desirability of achieving balance in political news. There is tremendous stuff about false equivalence and other idiocies. You can find it here.

                               Photograph by Getty Images, from The Evening Standard, 1968.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dog of the day

Doing her panther impression:

Headline of the day

'UK did spy on Russia with a rock, confirms ex-Blair aide.'

From The Guardian website.

The video is also unintentionally funny, in a Fisher Price kind of way. Link here.

April Snow in Red Square

Moscow by Joel Aron.

One tiny pedantic point. Should it be Blair ex-aide? Because he is no longer an aide, rather than no longer a Blair? But The Guardian style guide on Twitter is so good, I hardly dare cavil. And I am uncertain which of the two would be more correct.

Most fascinating political blog of the day

This is about more than mere politics. It is about tribalism and knees jerking and self-delusion and many other animals. It is really worth a read, even if you are not a politics geek, like I am.

It is Peter Watt, on Luke Bozier and the state of the Labour Party, and you can read it here.

Funny thing of the day

Here is an excellent clip of Richard Herring, doing a skit about racism and liberalism. Interestingly, some people in the comments section have decided he is being racist himself, which is nuts. He is mildly taking the piss out of liberals, and very cleverly and amusingly pointing out the craziness of racists - 'to a racist, everyone, from Hawaii to The Phillipines, right through Thailand, Vietnam, to Siberia even, is Chinese'. 

You can watch it here.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Dog of the day

Happy face:

Blog of the day

So sorry I have rather neglected this blog in the last few days. I am back, with a post found via Twitter, filled with excellent advice for writers. You can read it here.

Rather lovely photograph of Hemingway, looking very serious and sober and sane, by an unknown photographer.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Heartwarming story of the day

Regular readers will know of my love for Rachel Maddow. On her show, she has an occasional series called Best New Thing in the World. In her latest Best New Thing, she tells an amazingly touching story about the restaurant of  Iraqi exiles Leyla and Ahmad Al-Zubaydi, and a group of American veterans who came to eat there. It is two and half minutes long, and by the end of that two and half  minutes, I guarantee you will feel happier than when you started watching. You can see it here.

There is also a sweet piece about it here.

It does make one think that there really is goodness in the world.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Dog of the Day

With her questing, melting look:

Question of the day

Is asked by Andrew Sullivan over at The Dish, about the reaction to the death of the Iranian scientists. I have been asking it myself all day, but, as always, he puts it more succinctly than I. These are professors, with wives and children and brothers and mothers and sisters and fathers. And someone is blowing them up and shooting them to death. I cannot believe that there is not a better way to prevent Iran going nuclear.

Whatever one thinks of the policy, and whoever is doing it - Mossad, CIA, some deniable rogue operative - I do not think that anyone should call it, as Rick Santorum just has, 'wonderful'. Bear in mind this is a gentleman who believes that life begins at the moment of conception, so that, in his mind, all abortion is murder, and should be prosecuted. Yet shooting a scientist in cold blood in front of his wife is 'wonderful'. Please excuse me whilst my brain explodes.

Sullivan's take is here.

I don't have the heart to show you a picture of Santorum or the dead scientist, but there must be something to look on. Here is a wonderful photograph of an Armenian church in the north-west of Iran, photographer unknown:

Sweet thing of the day

Sometimes I get a bit grumpy about the amount of videos out and about on the internets. I do not have five minutes, I am damn well not pressing play. Do you not know I have work to do? So I move on, muttering under my breath. This one has been on the edge of my consciousness for the last week. I've seen it on all kinds of blogs, and skipped on. Finally, today, I thought I could spare 110 seconds of my life. It's a very gentle, very sweet 110 seconds, called What Books do at Night. I love it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Radio treat of the day


There is a wonderful series about the doomed expedition of Captain Scott currently running on Radio Four. It is a heartbreaking listen, because of course one knows how it ends. But it is beautifully, delicately written, and extremely well read. If you can get the BBC iPlayer, you can find it here

Edward Wilson in along with Captain Robert Scott and the rest of the expedition party

Photograph from the Scott Polar Research Institute

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Dog of the Day

Very serious face:

Actually, she is quite grumpy because I am making her pose for stupid photographs instead of a throwing a stick.

Photograph of the day

I grow slightly obsessed with the wonderful photographs from space, taken by NASA and the European Space Agency. Here is an absolute beauty of the Tian Shan mountains:

Isn't it astonishing? I think it looks like a painting. The Guardian has an excellent slideshow of more photographs here.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Dog of the day

Political commentary of the day

From last week, actually, but I'm just getting round to passing it on. It is an interesting piece by Fraser Nelson in the Speccie, on race and poverty. He takes a measured, empirical view. The comments section, however, has gone a bit nuts.

You can read it here.

Photograph of London in the 1950s sadly uncredited.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Dog of the Day

Here she is, with her serious Sunday face:

Thing I did not know of the day

That this is what Kurdistan looks like:

Ravishing photograph by Kuresh Anbari, via the Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Freak show of the day

Supporters of the Republican candidate Ron Paul have put out an attack ad on his rival, Jon Hunstman. Huntsman was ambassador to China, and speaks perfect Mandarin. This seems to freak out the Paulites. Here, look, the ad is saying: Jon Hunstman speaks Chinese, sometimes to Chinese babies (presumably political candidates should only be nice to American babies), thus he is a MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. Oh, and also Chairman Mao, just in case you were wondering.

Batshit nuts in the head. They might as well go back to the 19th century and start talking about the yellow peril. I've watched this twice now and I feel as if my cranium might explode, it is so strange. Real actual people sat down in a room and thought this was a good idea.

The lovely Rachel Maddow has her take on it here, and widens it out into a fascinating discussion of New Hampshire politics in general.

Further reading here.

Jon Huntsman Manchurian Candidate Ron Paul

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Dog of the day

And talking of glorious, gleaming things....

Pictures of the day

I haven't featured How to be a Retronaut lately, one of my favourite blogs. Today, it has is a wonderful collection of photographs of people at the age of one hundred, by a photographer called Karsten Thormaehlen. There is a glorious, lucent quality to them. You can have a look here.

This is just one of the collection:

Friday, 6 January 2012

Ah, ah, forgot the dog again

No dog yesterday. Shocking state of affairs. Can only apologise. Here she is, the little tinker:

Equine story of the day

This is about the lovely Master Minded, who was injured at Kempton on Boxing Day. He was rather forgotten, in the euphoria over Kauto Star. But he is one of my favourites, and I am glad he is doing well. The piece is interesting in that it reveals a side of racing life that is normally not much known about. It is rather touching too.

You can find it here.

Master Minded

The old beauty, in his pomp. Photograph by John Grossick.

Funniest thing of the day

I'm not much for the whole cute children on the internet thing. Quite often they are in slapstick vein, and I do not like slapstick. Also, sometimes they feel more sad than funny, as they often involve poor little people falling over. This, however, is cerebral. The father in it is hysterical. And the child will clearly grow up to run the world. It is the absolute perfect antidote to a dreary Friday afternoon.

Oh, meant to say: I found this via Twitter. Stupidly, I have forgotten which clever Tweeter it was who first found it, which makes me cross, as I should like to give them credit.

And, if you find those annoying ads popping up, switch them off, because they obscure the subtitles, which are one of the best parts of the joke. Especially the 'gimme the pony' line.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Loss of the Day

The wonderful Eve Arnold, who has died at the age of 99.

Here she is, at work:

She is, of course, famous for taking beautiful and candid and rather moving photographs of Marilyn Monroe. I have reproductions of a couple of them. What I did not know until today is that she also took one of the happiest pictures I have ever seen of our own dear Queen. Here it is:

Horse of the Day

One of the reasons I love Twitter is that it directs me to things I would never otherwise have seen in my entire life. I had never heard, until five minutes ago, of Reckless, who, as @AlexBrownRacing points out on his feed, is a real war horse. She was a small, brave filly, used by the Americans in the Korean War, and the marines loved her so much that they promoted her to Sergeant, gave her a special embroidered rug with her new title, and held a parade. A PARADE. It's too much.

Here is the rather stilted but incredibly touching video about her, to which dear old Twitter directed me:

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Dog of the day

I'm afraid I forgot the dog yesterday. This is a shocking oversight, for which I can only apologise. Here she is, with her noble profile:

Poem of the day

I think we need a bit of a palate-cleanser after the Santorum madness. I thought: yes, a poem, to act as a sorbet.

I love very short, neat poems. Apart from Prufrock and The Wasteland, I am not that keen on the long, winding ones. This may be intellectual idleness on my part. But I love those sharp, snappy verses, from the mordant Dorothy Parker ditties to the wondrous ee cummings musings. Here's a real old friend, which says everything in four lines:

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah! my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light!

By Edna St Vincent Millay.

Lovely old picture of her, with magnolia, photographer unknown.

Political weirdness of the day

Rick Santorum is in the news, because he ran Mitt Romney almost to a dead heat in the Iowa caucus. He has been on the edge of my consciousness for a while, mostly because of his extreme opposition to homosexuality. (He has compared it to incest and polygamy.) I had not quite taken in the fact that if he were president, he would have doctors arrested for performing abortions. The Daily Kos has an excellent polemic on the subject here. It's a two minute read, but a tremendous, bracing one.

I don't have the heart to put a picture of Rick Santorum here. I'm going to give you a picture of penguins instead.

Baby Penguins

Ah, that's better.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Word of the Day

Procellous, meaning stormy, especially of the sea.

I have never, ever heard this word before in my life. I am fairly educated; I write for a living. I am very happy that I know it now.

It is especially appropriate today, as poor old Blighty is being battered and lashed and bashed by storms.

Wonderful photograph of the lighthouse at Newhaven, taken by Glyn Kirk for the AFP.

Quote of the Day

From Lucy Prebble, playwright, on writing:

Feeling intimidated is a good sign. Writing from a place of safety produces stuff that is at best dull and at worst dishonest.