Wednesday, 27 August 2014

the spy who loved another spy

Woo hoo, I am going on holiday. I have finished a decent draft of this year's Christmas show; I have done a draftier draft of Bond episode 2 for Tall Tales on 24 Sept; I have watched the rains, the rains, the endless gloomy rains of August.

I have also learnt that, in his later life, Lord Salisbury took to riding a tricycle for his health. He beavered around the grounds of Hatfield House in a purple velvet poncho. A footman would jump off the back of his tricycle to push him up hills and remount for the downhills. This, and there will be plenty more to follow, I guess, from The War That Ended Peace, by Margaret MacMillan.

For the Dazzle sequel, I went back into the twenties, and reminded myself that I'd downplayed the craziness, if anything. My new favourite is Gerald Tyrwhitt, Lord Berners. He wrote a very hard-to-get-hold-of book called The Girls of Radcliff Hall, satirising his homosexual circle through the medium of a boarding school parody with what might be the greatest title in all literature. The Telegraph obituary says:

... "distinguished" is not quite the right word for Berners. Distinguished men do not normally drive around their estate wearing a pig's-head mask to frighten the locals.

Nor do they place advertisements in The Times announcing that they wish to dispose of two elephants - and, when rung up by a diary column, pretend to be their own manservant and explain that one of the elephants has been sold to Harold Nicolson (who took the joke badly).

Enough for now. I'm out of here.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

archbishops

I read Death Comes to the Archbishop and The Table of Less Valued Knights last week. They are very different, excellent books.

Some excellent sportswriting in Grantland this week. Brian Phillips takes on the hideous Ray Rice mess (Rice and his wife walked into an elevator; he dragged her out, seemingly unconscious; she apologised for causing trouble; he got a tiny little wrist slap from the league authorities). Phillips - well, you should read the whole thing for the sensitive way it tries to understand the knots people have got themselves into over this. It's an exercise in genuine empathy: Internet comments defending Rice and the NFL are — well, many of them are genuinely and chillingly misogynistic, but I think more of them are primarily concerned with protecting football from mainstream cultural norms: Don’t take this away too. Men who post smug explanations of league suspension policy may be secret domestic-violence enthusiasts, but more likely they’re simply trying to keep any trace of sensitivity from softening their cartoon war game. What they’re talking about isn’t precisely what they’re talking about. They don’t support the problem; they just don’t want to think about it. They refuse to be collaterally enlightened.

That last sentence is brilliant.

Michael Weinreb, in a very different piece which has its core a similar attempt to get at just what it is we love about sports, even when so much of it is easy to criticise, writes: at heart, the reason we prefer college football to the pros is that we are sentimental nostalgists, wishing we could retreat back to the time when we felt like maybe we had the potential to be great, too. He's totally convincing, and he knows it has to change because it's built on a system of (racial) peonage.

Back to Elizabeth Gilbert - being a fan is loving something more than it deserves. That's such an excellent insight.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

tabs

I know almost precisely nothing about Eat, Pray, Love and the description of it doesn't appeal. I listened to Mike Pesca interview Elizabeth Gilbert, its author, last week. I really, really liked her (and her new novel does sound up my street, she will be delighted to learn). She was wise and gracious about being a one-hit wonder, whatever the hell that means, and fandom (loving something more than it objectively deserves). It's here.

Some French dude wrote a book in ten minutes and can't stop selling copies. I also really like him. Sample quote: “It is no effort,” he smiles, his blue eyes flashing. “Words come out of me like water from a tap. I write largely on my mobile phone as I move about and queue in the supermarket. I’ve written on chewing gum wrappers and even on my shirt.” 

I think Alexa Meade's photos of people who look like paintings are fun. I don't know whether they are a bit hokey when you see them for real, and I am not sure I want one, and the web is no place to make judgements, but I am, to no purpose, a fan.

Monday, 4 August 2014

peter o'toole

I didn't know that Peter O'Toole loved cricket so much. He played with Omar Sharif while filming Lawrence of Arabia and, aged 50, qualified as a coach so he could teach his new son properly. He coached kids at Cricklewood and Brondesbury Cricket Clubs.

I already liked him.