Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Echoes from the past

While looking up something else recently, I ran across the excellent British Pathé film collection, more specifically a filmed edition of the BBC radio show, 'The Brains Trust'. The show started in 1941 and was based on the concept 'get a bunch of smart people together and make them spontaneously answer random questions from the public'.

This version, from 1945, was the first episode that was filmed. It's pretty fascinating.

Part 1:

THE B.B.C. BRAINS TRUST ANSWERING "ANY QUESTIONS?" Reel 1



For the rest of it: Part 2, Part 3.

There are a few rather slow moments in these videos, I'll admit (this is clearly an age before intellectuals learned to play to the camera, but I find this makes them all the more charming).

As a general comment, I think that most of the participants come across rather well, except for C.E.M. Joad, who seems a bit of a reactionary loudmouth. (His answer to the question about 'what makes a happy marriage' in part one might be partly explained by his own experiences in this area.) Both Jennie Lee (a key figure in the foundation of one of my present employers, the Open University, among other achievements) and Julian Huxley do, at least in my view, especially well.

Other interesting things I then ran across while hanging around the Pathé site were:

1. A fascinating documentary about women's emancipation in Britain, probably from the early 1970s (judging by the reference at the end to Arthur Marwick -- also of the Open University -- as academic consultant). It's terribly old-fashioned in terms of its voice-over (not that this is a bad thing...); however, the images are fascinating.

EMANCIPATION OF WOMEN



Part 2.

2. A 1961 documentary entitled 'Beat School' about Burgess Hill school, at which students were allowed to do...well, essentially what they wanted to. Including -- gasp -- smoking and listening to records. Smoking, after all, 'calms the nerves'.

BEAT SCHOOL



Enjoy!

Random association re: G8

I couldn't help myself. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are in Deauville.

Together. Again.

This calls for an appropriate soundtrack.



But what will Carla say?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Apocalypse delayed

And a good thing, too. But for all those disappointed unraptured brethren (and sisters) out there, here's an image that looks mildly apocalyptic to me:


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

That little souvenir of a terrible year

I'm going through a bit of musical nostalgia recently, which I may be inflicting on you all in the coming days.

This, for instance, came on my mp3 player today: can it really be (slightly over) twenty years old? I saw them on the tour for this album when I was in college.

Which means I'm...old.

Or oldish at least.

Still: beautiful song.



The Sundays, 'Here's Where the Story Ends', Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, 1990

On being selective

George Orwell, about 70 years ago, describing the actions of himself and his wife after their building was (in the end only slightly)damaged by a bomb:

We slipped on some clothes, grabbed up a few things and went out, at this time imagining that the house might be seriously on fire and it might be impossible to get back. At such times one takes what one feels to be important, and I noticed afterwards that what I had taken was not my typewriter or any documents but my firearms and a haversack containing food, etc., which was always kept ready.

Priorities, priorities....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Flower Show

Of course I didn't really need this, especially as I'm not even a sucker for gadgets.

And I do realise that purchasing bright plastic objects with a seriosly limited halflife gives the lie to my whole sanctimonious talk about sustainability.

But it is cute in the way all miniatures are cute.

And since the quality of a camera does not improve my photographing skills (for I am a wobbler and really only good at creating blurs), I thought that I might as well embrace my lack of talent and resort to taking pictures with a memory stick without viewfinder, which merely requires me to point in a very general way, press the button and see what happens.

So, see what happened:







Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When words hit the road

I steered the Jensen into the slow lane of the M4, and began to read the route signs welcoming me to the outer London suburbs. Ashford, Staines, Hillingdon - impossible destinations that featured only on the mental maps of desperate marketing men. Beyond Heathrow lay the empires of consumerism, and the mystery that obsessed me until the day I walked out of my agency for the last time. How to rouse a dormant people who had everything, who had bought the dreams that money can buy and knew they had found a bargain? (J.G. Ballard, Kingdom Come 1)

If you've ever wondered (as I did in my girlish naivety) whether a "Jensen" is a real existing car and not another technological chimera from Ballard's eutopic suburbias, today's Spiegel has a whole photo series of the "Jensen Interceptor III."

Just enjoy the pictures and don't read the text (and don't - DON'T - think about fuel efficiency). According to the comments (I only ever read the comments, really), it's full of unforgiveable mistakes about the intricate inspirational conduits of international auto design.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ah, love

Along with being Europe Day, today is my parents' 63rd wedding anniversary.

They're no longer around to celebrate it.

But I am.

Here, the happy couple in 1960, about a decade before I appeared on the scene.


And since yesterday was Mother's Day, here's a bonus photo from the archives, taken sometime in the early 1960s when my mother had just gotten her driver's license.


She looks pretty pleased with herself. As she should, having passed her exam in a country that drives, from her perspective, on the wrong side of the road. (She was British before becoming American, you see).

Of course, it may also have something to do with that awesome car she's leaning against....

Something: still better than nothing

Today, thanks to Francis for the reminder, is Europe Day.


Admittedly, the old continent is at the moment a bit tied up in unpleasant matters such as wrangling over how much bailing out Greece is going to cost or whether the borders should (temporarily, they say) go up again


So, perhaps a good time to recall something I posted a bit more than a year ago: a quote from Tony Judt.


To their own surprise and occasional consternation, Europeans have begun to do this: to create a bond between human beings that transcends older boundaries and to make out of these new institutional forms something that really is a community. They don't always do it very well, and there is still considerable nostalgia in certain quarters for those old frontiers. But something is better than nothing; and nothing is just what we shall be left with if the fragile international accords, treaties, agencies, laws and institutions that we have erected since 1945 are allowed to rot and decline -- or, worse, are deliberately brought low. As things now stand, boundary breaking and community making are something that Europeans are doing better than anyone else.

Well...'better'...um...maybe not at the moment, but one can always hope for improvement. 

Happy Europe Day!

The fluffy husband and the firebomb

Just coincidentally, following my last post which included a clip from Werner Herzog's Antarctica documentary, I ran across an interesting interview with Herzog about his most recent film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (via A&L Daily).

Discussion turns, almost inevitably, to Klaus Kinski:

In the documentary that Herzog made about Kinski after his death, My Best Fiend, he alludes in passing to one other time when he sincerely entertained murderous thoughts toward his leading man, when he planned to firebomb Kinski's house until deterred by Kinski's dog. I'd like to know more.

"We had plans to kill each other, strangely enough, at exactly the same time," Herzog begins, a little hesitantly. "But you have to see it as these beautiful plots, like in a detective story, and those were mostly plots, I would say, in sheer fantasy. But at some moment it got closer than just a pure fantasy."

What were you going to do?

[pause] "Well, as I said, I plotted to kill him."

Did you actually have the firebomb?

[long pause] "I can't answer that. I only can answer that he had this very vigilant shepherd dog, and the presence of the shepherd dog dissuaded me."

Herzog insists, though, that he's mellowed since then:

"But let me say one more thing. Those were the times decades back. In a way I have matured. And I'm a very fluffy...at least a fluffy husband. You have to ask my wife."

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Filmic wanderings

It's funny how the internet leads you places. Just today, for example, while looking up something quite different I ran across two very interesting videos.

The first, an excerpt from Werner Herzog's Antarctica documentary Encounters at the End of the World:



The second, the trailer from the upcoming Terrence Malik Film, The Tree of Life, which looks excellent:

Friday, May 06, 2011

Set your sights on good fortune

I'm a bit of a sucker for songs with firearm metaphors.

Good thing John Darnielle writes so many of them.


The Mountain Goats: 'For Charles Bronson'.

Save the date

Perhaps wanting to get their apocalypse in before the Mayan one due next year, a band of Christians is apparently seeking to let the world know of their conviction that the world will end in a couple of weeks.

More specifically 21 May.

At around 6 p.m.

Their RV Caravan of Doom pulled into Washington, DC this week to spread the word about the predictions of Harold Camping, who, it seems, already predicted (in 1992) that the world would end in 1994.

A nice detail from the Washington Post article:

...by lunchtime Thursday, about 50 area residents joined up with the caravan to support his message. Among them was Gary Vollmer, who took a leave of absence from the Department of Homeland Security to spread the word. He’s supposed to go back on May 23. “But I’m not going back,” he said. “I’ll be gone on the 21st.”

Still, not all of them seem quite so certain:

Another man was so perturbed by the May 21 message that he brought over a woman he found on the street who needed money. He asked whether the Camping followers would give her some cash, because there was no need for them to keep money with the world ending. They did not.

Oh, and as to that 6 p.m. timing, don't worry about figuring it out in relation to your own time-zone, as God has worked out this apocalypse to be as convenient as possible:

The end will come sometime around 6 p.m. on May 21 — not 6 p.m. California time or New York time or Hong Kong time. The world will end at 6 p.m. only when it is 6 p.m. locally, Camping said, citing his calculations. “People will see this coming to them from around the world,” he said. “It will follow the sun around.”

Cool.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A job well done

I really have no informed content to add to the debate about the headshot-heard-round-the world.

I'm also aware of all the ambiguities in the War on Terror, and I'm certainly not one to go a whoopin' and a hollerin' through the streets.

Still, it is, to my mind, an unreserved good that the world is now one mass-murdering terrorist mastermind poorer.

And I wanted to congratulate those who made it work like such clockwork, from the Commander-in-Chief on down to the units on the ground.

This article from the New York Times offers a pretty good run-down of this remarkable story.

Well done.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Interesting

 To quote Walter Sobchack, 'I did not know that':

All told, Obama-era choices account for about $1.7 trillion in new debt, according to a separate Washington Post analysis of CBO data over the past decade. Bush-era policies, meanwhile, account for more than $7 trillion and are a major contributor to the trillion-dollar annual budget deficits that are dominating the political debate.

Of course, once we're in a world where the word 'only' and the phrase '$1.7 trillion in new debt' can be brought into close relationship with one another, I admit that I'm a bit out of my depth, counting-wise.

Still, I can see the difference between 1.7 and 7.

Food for thought in considering the current debate.

Like this.