Sunday, 15 November 2015
Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Saturday, 7 November 2015
My efforts to restrict the size of my bedside book pile have been defeated by the possession of a Kobo, into which I load anything that looks interesting. Thus it was that this morning after breakfast in bed I read the following mysterious passage from a hand book for theatre and cinema electricians, published in America in about 1914:
‘Numerous cases are on record of persons being killed by 110 volts under favorable circumstances; as, for instance, while in the bath receiving a shock from a so-called vibrator.’
Thursday, 5 November 2015
Readers will have their own opinions on this subject; I won’t tell you mine. I will however show you a series of little maps. The one at the left shows the area as it was in 1947, the one at the right as it was in 2010; there are two in between at various intervals. The areas in red are those under Palestinian control, those in white under Israeli control.
Wednesday, 4 November 2015
If you ask people to hum or whistle John Philip Sousa’s ‘Liberty Bell’, most shrug and claim ignorance. Asked to hum or whistle the ‘Monty Python’ theme (Sousa’s ‘Liberty Bell’), the same people will get it right.
So: with what shows, films, whatever do you associate the following pieces of music?
1) The Harmonicats doing ‘Peg o’ my Heart’.
2) ‘Rockin’ in Rhythm’ by the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
3) Tarrega’s Waltz ‘Maria’.
4) Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto.
5) Khatchaturian’s incidental music to ‘Spartacus’.
6) Sibelius’s ‘At the Castle Gate’.
Since you people out there show the sullen indifference of a class of English twelve-year-olds, I won’t even bother to ask you to send in answers, though I may, if you’re good, tell you them later.
This is a Sousaphone. (The brass instrument in front; the other one is a tenor banjo.)
Sunday, 1 November 2015
‘Ichabod’ was originally a name, but got its later meaning following certain unfortunate events. Similarly the Greek word Εφιάλτης — ‘Efialtis’ —, which now means ‘Nightmare’, was once someone’s name; the name in fact of the person who showed the invading Persians the secret mountain path that enabled them to circumvent the narrow strip of land between sea and mountain at Thermopylae, which was being defended to the death. Of course, no Greek since then has had the name. Efialtis himself was killed by the Persians; no-one loves a real traitor, which is why those like Snowden, or a certain Englishman who sought refuge for a while in this island, were branded traitors by their governments. Those who ‘Betray their country’ for ethical reasons are of course, far from betraying it, making, at great personal sacrifice, a last desperate attempt to save its honour. And as E. M. Forster said, if he had to choose between betraying his country and betraying his friend, he hoped he would have the courage to betray his country.
Certain names, then, become too sullied ever to use again as names. My German and Austrian friends tell me that no-one — except perhaps the unfortunate sons of Neo-Nazis — ever gets christened ‘Adolf’ any more, and I imagine many English parents, in choosing names for their daughters, now consider ‘Margaret’ quite out of the question.
A picture? Oh, how about this: it is from the recent edition of Cavafy’s selected poems, with David Connolly’s English translations, published by ‘Aiora’. Both David and the publisher are friends of mine, and will, I hope, forgive my infringement of copyright.