Culture, Nature, and liberal issues

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Haile Selassie: Exile and autocrat

I recently (May, 2022) spent a wonderful few hours at the villa in Bath, Somerset where Ras Tafari, Emperor Haile Selassie spent 1936-40 in exile from his country, Ethiopia, which had been over-run by Italy's Fascist troops. Selassie has resonated with me since I talked with two of his admirers. I interviewed Bob Marley in July 1980 and read Wilfred Thesiger's A Life of My Choice (1987) and at some point interviewed the grand old man of desert travel and SAS action. It seems that of the two only Thesiger knew the Emperor personally. Here are a few reflections on the Emperor, and his place in history and in Bath. Read more...

Published

20 July 2022

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Mind & body, On art, On books

Shrink a library #3 “Napoleon”, 1927

This morning I reached down my father Paul's Napoleon (1927) by Emil Ludwig, sent to him in Switzerland in 1930 (when he was 18) by his mother nee VMR and VMB (as she was then). Paul wrote her to say how moved he was by the book, which he had been thinking of buying in the French, though deterred by the price. Picking over Ludwig's reputation brought me to connections with my own formative reading. So this post serves two purposes: it's a clue to 1930s taste (my father's) and 1980s taste (mine). Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

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Shrink-a-library

Shrink a library #2 (Filson Young)

This post attempts to put the books of Filson Young (1876-1938) my grandmother's second husband) into some sort of context. FY (as he was widely and familiarly known during his mostly very successful life as a writer) is the subject of a fine biography (available on this site). I aim to get rid of most of his books, because they are available online as full texts or facsimiles. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Filed in

On books, Shrink-a-library

Shrink a library #1 (My parents’)

I am downsizing the collection of books I have inherited from my parents or bought for myself. Easiest to get rid of guiltlessly are those volumes (mostly per-1930) which can be found full-text or facsimile online (mostly at Hathi Trust, Internet Archive or the Gutenberg Project).

This post is a rough survey of my parents' library. I tend to list the hard copy volumes and note whether they are available online. If they are, I will let the hardcopies go to Oxfam, etc. My point is that their books represent a particular family background but more generally, the tastes of their time. Either way, they are a snapshot of a civilisation. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Filed in

On books, Shrink-a-library

Let’s reproduce digitally, online, publicly

We are missing a huge opportunity to cheaply and globally spread pleasure and much else. I am a fan of the digital reproduction of real world artworks, indeed of hardcopy images of every sort, whether 2D or 3D. This piece discusses these issues as applied to maps, paintings, drawings, embroideries, fabrics and - last but by no means least - stained glass windows.  I am drawing attention to our generation's failure to post online digital images at medium or high resolution a far greater abundance of artwork. I am hoping to encourage publishers and owners of medium- and hi-res images, and curators of real world images, to get behind this sort of work. (Elsewhere I look at the 2D and 3D digital facsimile world of Factum Arte.)

I hope these four case studies may make the points. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Filed in

On art, On books

Challenging Meta’s Metaverse

I am distrustful of the idea of Meta’s “Metaverse”. My doubts are an intensified version of the impressions I have of the corporation’s Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. My mistrust of Twitter is as long-running and profound. Meta now looks set to combine the downside of those technologies with those of online virtual reality gaming. I am not a technophobe, having used word processors to write books since the very early 1980s and internet messaging and file sharing since the late 1980s. Besides, here I am loving Wordpress. I am also a devoted fan of online digital imaging, and am trying to advance its cause. Nonetheless, the Metaverse - or "multiverses" - would be a small step for Meta, but a giant leap for mankind. We must address its hazards as well as its merits. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

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Mind & body

Herkenrode Stained Glass book review #2

This is the second part of a passionate (and I hope modest) layman’s tentative review of the book The Stained Glass of Herkenrode Abbey [TSGHA] by Isabelle Lecocq and Yvette Vanden Bemden, published by the British Academy and Oxford University Press, 2022. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

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Mind & body, On art, On books

Herkenrode Stained Glass book review #1

This is the first part of a passionate layman’s ignorant and tentative review of the book The Stained Glass of Herkenrode Abbey by Isabelle Lecocq and Yvette Vanden Bemden, published by the British Academy and Oxford University Press, 2022. This first outing covers some overall impressions of the work, but concentrates on the opening 40-odd pages (out of the tome's 500-odd) which focus on the Belgian abbey; the creation and reputation of its 16th Century stained glass up until the end of the 18th Century The windows' rescue and adventurous passage to England is posted as "Herkenrode Stained Glass book #2". (Their arrival at Lichfield Cathedral, installation in the cathedral, religious symbolism and recent restoration will have to wait whilst I catch my breath and read things up.) Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

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Mind & body, On art, On books

Poem: Denmark Villas, Hove

Hove, in west Sussex, feels to me like an incubator of the future. It's not just that its population is youthful but that so many of the young seem successful. I imagine them to be getting and spending in ways probably not known ten or twenty years ago. This is an springtime upbeat piece, about 1,000 words in all, and takes around ten minutes to read aloud. Read more...

Published

22 April 2022

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Mind & body, RDN's poems

Stanley North: Artist, conservator and ruralist

This posting could be subtitled: "Adventures in ancient and Modern taste". Or: "An illustrated sketch of a controversial paintings conservator, dedicated artist, craftsman and rural revivalist". Stanley Kennedy North (1887-1942) was my grandfather and I am hoping to see his work and role recognised, interrogated and archived. Read more...

Published

14 March 2022

Filed in

Mind & body, On art, On books
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