The Pastelogram

There are many reasons to like Marianne Moore:
1) Her poetry – particularly her “love of intricately shaped animals”.
2) Her uniform. Not enough modern writers realise that without a tricorn hat and cape in the poetry world you are nothing. “She liked the shape of such hats, she said, because they concealed the defects of her head, which, she added, resembled that of a hop toad.”
3) The fact that when the Ford Motor Company hired her to think of names for their new model, she threw herself into the task with great enthusiasm: the Anticipator! Dearborn Diamanté! Turcotinga! The Intelligent Whale! Utopian Turtletop! I’d drive any of them. Mongoose Civique! Inexplicably the fools went with the Ford Edsel instead.

Fashion for Cosmonauts

I love these pictures of the Soyuz descent module landing in a field in Kazakhstan on its return from the ISS (via goodmachine). And particularly for the chance to get a close-up look at space fashion.
Badges! Blue plug-in nodules! White canvas boots with toggles!
Even better are the ceremonial return-from-space outfits they wear. I hope the reason Tracy Caldwell Dyson doesn’t get a special hat is that she’s a Nasa astronaut rather than because she’s female.
Here they are back in normal clothes – although as you see Ms Dyson now carries a flower at all times as lady astronauts must when on planet Earth.


Defence cuts? Don’t worry – as usual, GK Chesterton has the answer:
“I for one will confess that the only thing on earth I am frightfully afraid of is a little girl… If the Prussians were invading England, and I were holding a solitary outpost, the best thing they could do would be to send a regiment of Prussian girls of 12, from which I should fly, screaming.”
It’s a good point: who here can honestly say they could stand firm in the face of an army of 12-year-old girls, all staring contemptuously, giggling and whispering to each other? Osama bin Laden himself would feel hot around the neck and find he had important business elsewhere.

Annie Taylor, Queen of the Mist

The sad story of Annie Taylor, aka Queen of the Mist, featured in a recent episode of Radiolab. She was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on October 24, 1901, an incredible feat that should have won her fame and fortune – but unfortunately the public found that a 63-year-old woman, who emerged from her barrel proclaiming “Nobody ought ever to do that again”, didn’t quite fit with their image of a daredevil.
A widow who had fallen on hard times, poor Annie went to Niagara in desperation, in a last-ditch attempt to gain financial security. Instead she had to sit beside her barrel trying to sell her signature to an oblivious public, and finally died in poverty.
Whereas the second – guess what, male – person to go over Niagara Falls, Bobby Leach, made a career from lectures and tours boasting about his stunt. (Until he died by slipping on an orange peel, that is.)
This is an obvious WRONG that must be righted. I suggest that this should be Annie Taylor Day, to celebrate a brave and shockingly unappreciated woman, who was also sensible enough to point out that it was actually a really bad idea that should not be copied.

The TV Uniform

Perhaps, like me, you often find yourself unable to concentrate on the TV because you are so distracted by the presenter’s clothes. The other day I couldn’t take in a word of a programme about the Domesday book, thanks to the historian’s badly pre-distressed jeans. And I don’t believe a news broadcast has ever been listened to properly: viewers are too busy wondering why female newsreaders like to dress as if they’re on Star Trek.
I suggest we put a stop to all this with The TV Uniform, which must be worn by all presenters of non-fiction programmes. It could be as above, a loose, practical unisex jumpsuit of some description. Failing that, a pair of jumbo cords and a really boxy shirt would probably do the trick. Finally, an end to the chorus of ‘What on earth is that JACKET?’ that rings out across the land every time there’s a weather forecast.

E’reway inway ethay Oneymay

Of all the many strange things in ‘Gold Diggers of 1933′, this has to be the strangest. Neon violins: fine. Incongruously downbeat ending with soldiers covered in wounds: OK. But this? “Say! You know this opening number? What would really put this across would be if Ginger Rogers starts to sing We’re In The Money in pig Latin. And she sorta looms up and her face gets really big and threatening? It’ll slay ‘em!”

At work, typing


Really enjoying poking around the British Library’s UK Sound Map, where people all over the country can upload sounds from where they live. The most fascinating are the real local ones that capture an atmosphere, like the haunting Coryton oil refinery siren at Canvey Island, or the ‘Time and Tide bell’ on the Isle of Lewis, or ‘Dunrossness Croft House Shetland speaker’. Or ‘A lonely office’ near Peterborough, with just the sad sounds of a solitary chair squeaking and occasional pen scribble.

(On the other hand, can I tentatively suggest that people recording their own young children in their kitchen isn’t as interesting as they think it is? And I’d say they have enough trains…)


The Monkey’s Bath

I found this book, Animal Sketches by C Lloyd Morgan, in a Norfolk bookshop. It’s written for children, although Morgan seems to be a respected psychologist. It has some interesting info, eg spiders prefer the colour red and are distressed by the smell of peppermint; oysters have moustaches as well as beards. But as usual I’m looking at the pictures (by W. Monkhouse Rowe):
Who knew larks had such deadly-looking feet? Some of the illustrations are pleasantly strange:

Holiday tips

On holiday in Suffolk? Lovely! Don’t forget to look out if you’re in the Beccles area, where on this day every year three ratcatchers playing musical instruments are supposed to reappear from the maw of hell. One for the album.

Here Lies Hephzibah

Back from deepest Cornwall, which among other things has incredibly elegant gravestones:
As well as some pretty crazy stained glass:
PS Apologies to anyone who’s tried to comment recently: I had to turn them off while I was away due to a flood of robot opinions. I’ll put them back on now but might have to switch them off again if the same thing happens…