Revisionism

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I haven’t got into Malcolm Gladwell’s writing, but I’m really enjoying this podcast, which is quite short and high-level, but has some interesting scenarios. In the two episodes I’ve listened to so far, Gladwell has talked about moral licensing (how making a small concession is used as an excuse to withdraw from wider change), and the point that intelligence failure is inevitable as each agent listens to reports through their own lens.

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These points aren’t new, but his comparison of a Vietnam project spiralling out of control in search of more data with the current war on terror ($1m in 1965, versus 1271 state agencies investigating counter-terrorism in the US today), and of an 1870s artist who nearly became the first female member of the RA with Julia Gillard are interesting.

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My only suspicion is that Gladwell’s eagerness to demonstrate that the “forgotten” situations are still relevant to today skews his summaries of the past. I’d also argue that the past doesn’t need to be relevant to the future in order to legitimise it, and it’s a complex point how far we can learn from the past in any case, but that unaddressed overtone just makes the podcast more thought-provoking.

Heavens to Betsy

 

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Reminded by Beth Bonini’s cheerful Instagram feed of these delightful books (I’ve posted about their companion volumes here and here before), I think I’m getting ready for a re-read.

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Lots of commentators compare these books to Meet Me in St Louis, and as well as the period details (the hairstyles! the dresses! the slang! the excitement over a telephone!), what I love most is the inherent optimism – progress is always good, and friends and family remain stable whilst welcoming new developments – but also the complete acceptance that a job, writing, singing, making your own mind up, are all important to a girl and in no way conflicted with the rest of her being.

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I find it depressing that a modern book wouldn’t show this, or would have to make a big point about it.¬†Written in the 50s about the 1900-1910s, Betsy, Emily and Carney are in fact far more progressive than any characters today.

A little madness

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A little madness in the Spring /
is wholesome even for the King

Emily Dickinson. As ever with ED, there are so many meanings, that I could read a sentence forever. But right now, while weighing up whether I should see the ED biopic A Quiet Passion, I’m just enjoying these madly extravagant coiffures and bonnets.

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From top to bottom: an early Picasso I’ve always liked, The Duchess of Kent, Julia Lady Peel, and a fashion shoot in this month’s Harpers Bazaar.

Last night

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Coming to a venue near you…the London Handel Festival at the Foundling Museum. A good match, as Handel left a score of his Messiah to the Coram foundation and gave charity performances of it in this building.

Sunshine

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I came across this Virginia Woolf quote below, which reminded me of this favourite book, with its invitation to “those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine” to hire an Italian castle for the month of April. Yes please…

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If life has a base that it stands upon, it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying half asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind. It is of hearing the blind draw its little acorn across the floor as the wind blew the blind out. It is of lying and hearing this splash and seeing this light…

Abandoned

Not many people talk now about the villages requistioned and abandoned in the Second World War, but Tyneham is one of them and Ben Pentreath visits it here.

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There’s something so poignant about the photos of these families, and it¬†was a burning issue in the 50s of course. One of my favourite childrens’ authors, Geoffrey Trease, even set one of his Cumbrian novels round it.

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Duo

From the 1920s, Romaine Brooks’ self-portrait of 1923 and an evening coat attributed to Paul Poiret, 1925.

Images from Melissa Huang art and Fripperies and Fobs.