Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Riding the Third Avenue El

Jeremiah's Vanishing New York links to Cynephile, where there's great footage of a 1953 film by D.A.Pennebaker - Daybreak Express. Soundtrack by Ellington. Bliss.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good for the Commuter's Soul

"To behold the day-break!
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous
The air tastes good to my palate.

Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols,
silently rising, freshly exuding,
Scooting obliquely high and low."

Good for the soul, but hard to get back onto another, by now more crowded, F train. Wouldn't it be better just to skip the job for the day, and do some Whitmanesque loafing?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ronny's Girls

Only noticed this yesterday, above the doorway of Warehouse Outlet, but it has been there for a while. Maybe uncovered as the place breathes its last? Mildly curious.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Wilding

I've just finished The Wilding, Maria McCann's second book. It is set later in the seventeenth century than As Meat Loves Salt, and is a much more closely confined story. A young, rather naive, travelling cider maker becomes curious about secrets in his family's past, and, as he presses the harvest crop in neighbouring villages, makes shocking discoveries. There's an element of melodrama about McCann's work, but she writes so vividly, and has such a sure historical touch (without any fake archaism) that you absorb it without too much protest. As in her earlier novel, McCann is able to manipulate an almost intolerable sense of anxiety and claustrophobia. But how quickly you turn the pages! As Meat Loves Salt is probably the more original of her works, but this one, steeped in the sweet, heady draughts of fermenting fruit, is a delicious read. Be warned: the front cover is dreadful and suggests a really cheesy romantic read. I kept it well hidden when reading the book in public.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Land Girl, Britain, 1941

This picture is from an exhibition on The Ministry of Food, at the Imperial War Museum, in London. The exhibition marks the 70th anniversary of food rationing in London. In the late 70's, I had a couple of pairs of jodphurs like these, that I bought at jumble (thrift) sales, and I thought they were pretty cool. I wore them with pre-ubiquitous Hunter boots (green), or a pair of Italian riding boots, the most expensive footwear I have ever purchased. Of course I didn't ride, but I liked the look...
The War Museum, in Lambeth, is well worth a visit, especially if you have small boys in tow. As an added bonus, right opposite the Museum you can see the former home of Captain Bligh (yes, of Bounty fame) now turned into a guesthouse! How about the Captain's Cabin, with ensuite toilet?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Alice in Wonderland, 1903

The British Film Institute has just released a 1903 film of Alice in Wonderland onto youtube. The Guardian has a piece on it, and here's the film itself. I especially like the tea party, as the March Hare & the Mad Hatter try to cram the dormouse into the teapot.

Monday, March 1, 2010

As Meat Loves Salt - Maria McCann

This book is set in seventeenth century England, during the Civil War. The protagonist is on the run from service at a country estate, and becomes conscripted into Cromwell's New Army. Trouble accompanies him wherever he goes. The book is dark, claustrophobic, stinking, violent, paranoid, and passionate. It is also addictive. Our hero is a sociopath, whose jealousy and paranoia make him quite unlovable. His actions are appalling, and his inability to read human behavior is disastrous in consequence. And yet, we root for him. We want him to become a better man and we celebrate his earnest desire to reform himself, even though we know he's doomed. Travelling through the novel with such a disturbed guide makes for a skin-crawling experience. We dislike ourselves as we inhabit his world view, and we want him to be loved, and transformed. Somehow this book manages to be both repulsive and enthralling. We're not in Jean Plaidy territory here.