Culture, Nature, and liberal issues

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William James: Vital modern thinker

I enjoy and admire William James very much, though of his books I have only read Pragmatism more or less properly, and that several years ago. Recently, I came across WJ's essay, "Why is life worth living?" and found it firmly concerned with the issue dearest to me: what ought and can an individual contribute to human consciousness? Reading WJ more widely (if secondhand), it is thrilling to find that he beautifully bridges the 19th, 20th and 21 centuries. Read more...

Published

04 September 2022

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Mind & body, On books

Childhood resilience: 1800-2022

I am interested in the fashions which blow through children's fiction and, a related matter, child-rearing mantras. This is a matter of the stories we tell children, and the stories we tell about them. They are as interesting for their consistency through our recent centuries as they are for their differences. Read more...

Published

04 September 2022

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Mind & body, On books, On TV & Radio

“Vole” magazine (1977-81), green pioneer

Vole magazine was a pioneer of a species of “greenery” between 1977 and 1981. It was the creature of Richard Boston though I edited it very briefly toward the end. I have a complete collection of the magazine and aim to find the right archive for it. I am not content with my Vole recollections which appear below. I have always felt I let the magazine down. I hope I am not doing so now. Any corrections or improvements to this account will be very welcome. Read more...

Published

30 August 2022

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Mind & body

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

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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

Filed in

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

Filed in

Mind & body, On art, On books
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