The items gathered here include objects found in the course of my archival researches, other people’s texts and observations (if not exactly ‘links’), and various exhibits connected to my own areas of interest.
Image: ‘The Shop. Friendship brooches 30p. Plain stones 5p. Painted stones 10p. Bottle tops 5p.’ Shingle Street, Suffolk, 2004.
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Shortly after midnight on April 7, 2005, a young blond-haired man wearing a dark suit and white shirt was found wandering, dripping wet and distressed near a beach at Minster on the Isle of Sheppey in North Kent…
James Vernon’s thoughts on the future of the humanities in British universities.
Alan Sugar and his dreadful would-be apprentices aside, is it likely nowadays that the British media would support a serious inquiry into the all-devouring creed we have come to know as ‘management’?
My requirements from word-processing software are pretty simple. I still reckon that the most amenable I’ve ever used was the ‘Word’ for Macs programme that I had on a Macintosh SE way back in the Dark Ages. I remember feeling impressed that it had been worth anybody’s time to come up with an invention that seemed so perfectly suited to the requirements of writers, students, and other characteristically unmoneyed types. Having transferred to PCs at a time when Apple seemed to be going nowhere (between the first Powerbooks and the G2s as I recall), I’ve since reconciled myself to ‘Word’ as it comes bundled up in Microsoft Office. I have done this despite the fact that my software nowadays seems to think, quite wrongly, that it knows who I am. Increasingly, it is convinced that I should be writing business letters, or corporate reports in which ‘bullet-points’ and tables feature prominently…
I’ve been reading a lot about China recently, which is how I came upon a characteristically rambling volume by Osbert Sitwell, entitled Escape with Me! An Oriental Sketch-Book. He opens this account of his pre-war travels in Cambodia and China by remembering how, as a child, he used to visit his paternal grandmother in her ‘large, honey-coloured’ mansion in Surrey…
‘I know the Muse of History is a sycophantish partisan; a pretentious, often ignorant humbug. She dotes on Satan, cloaking in exemplary denunciations what psychiatry might call a sadistic taste for works of his which only dirty the memory and spread retaliative infection to the feelings…’ Vernon Lee, writing at the end of 1918.
Baldridge (1899-1977) was an American artist whose illustrations appeared in The Stars and Stripes, the official paper of the American Expeditionary Force, during the last year of the First World War. This drawing, which anticipates the rise of what is now called ‘Battlefield Tourism’, is reproduced from Baldridge’s fine autobiography, Time and Chance (1947) – a book that, after so many years of George Bush Junior, should be attributed to the ‘other’ America, from which we look forward to hearing more…
This is the long-forgotten article in which the iron curtain was first taken from the theatre and converted into a political metaphor. It was published in the London-based Suffragist magazine Jus Suffragii, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1 January 1915, p. 218. I count it among the key writings of the First World War. It can also be read – against Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and other latter-day polemicists – as an example of how secular-minded and even atheist writers may engage religious subjects without merely resorting to furious denial. An account of Vernon Lee and her article’s sources, context and influence is given in my book Iron Curtain: from stage to Cold War.
‘It has to be remembered that throughout this war our men are moving in a more or less easterly direction…’
Solomon J. Solomon was a prominent Anglo-Jewish artist and portrait painter who went on to pioneer various schemes of camouflage in the First World War. It was in this letter to the editor of The Times, published on 27 January, 1915, that he first indicated the contribution that artists might make to a war in which traditional methods of concealment had been invalidated by the coming of aerial photography. Here applied to the question of military uniform, his novel recommendations are indebted to the idea of ‘countershading’ developed by the American artist Abbott H. Thayer in the earlier study, Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (1909). Solomon’s letter is followed by another, written by an ‘artist and big-game shot’ who signed himself ‘W.W.’, and printed two days later. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘camouflage’ did not enter English usage until 1917.
A Nazi propaganda film made in Terezin (Theresienstadt), a fortress and town in the Czech Republic where the Nazis concentrated Jewish prisoners before transporting them to Auschwitz. The director, Kurt Gerrin, was himself a prisoner. Like the rest of the cast, he was taken to Auschwitz and murdered shortly after these scenes were shot in 1944.