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This lady

Dora Saint wrote novels about English life under the pen name Miss Read. Most of her books are about one of two fictional villages, Fairacre or Thrush Green. There are a bunch of them, too — twenty about Fairacre, fourteen about Thrush Green and a smattering on other subjects. None was a bestseller, but she had a loyal readership and put out about a book a year well into her eighties. She died in April last year, ten days short of her 99th birthday.

I read her first book, Village School, over the weekend. It’s one of the Fairacre ones. It was slow, gentle, subtly funny and only a very tiny bit sharp. I liked it. I’m not sure whether to tackle the whole series — I’m at the point in life where I’m painfully aware I won’t live long enough to read all the good books, and twenty is a big ask — but then I catch myself wondering what happened next.

It was her publisher’s idea to release the books under the name of her main character and narrator, the head teacher Miss Read. The village school is what we would call a one-room schoolhouse, with all the local children between the ages of five and ten, taught in two groups by two teachers. Thirty or so at a time. The school has no running water and buckets for latrines. Coke stoves for heat.

Thing is, it was set in 1955. And I gather, little village schools like this persisted into…well, I guess in more remote places, into today. I would like to think they all have toilets now.

Oh, what the heck. I’ve just bought the second one. I would like her publisher to note (I’m looking at you, Orion Book Group) that if they’d offered the Kindle edition for a sensible price (say 99p) they’d have gotten my money like a shot. I prefer reading off my Kindle. As it is, the used trade got my pittance and the publisher can go jump. I’m not paying £5 for a download when I can get something nice in the mail for under £2.

August 12, 2013 — 10:12 pm
Comments: 17

Don’t forget…

Photo nicked from this EarthSky.org schedule of 2013 meteor showers. Photographer: Jason Gunders, Queensland, Australia.

This weekend, the Perseid meteor showers peak. The best days should be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday after midnight.

The Perseids are everyone’s favorite, because they’re a very good shower and they happen in August. So, no freezing your ass off to see the purty shootin’ stars.

Of course, even the very best meteor showers, you can stare at the sky a long time before you see one. It’s not like a roman candle, for goodness sakes, so take plenty of patience-enhancing alcohol along!

Good weekend, everybody!

August 9, 2013 — 10:28 pm
Comments: 30

Head chicken

So, this happens. Every night.

I had hoped to integrate the little girls into the flock not long from now, but Maggie’s still quite unwell. She’s got some leg movement back, but not much. Still, she’s eating. She takes an interest in her surroundings. I just can’t give up on her yet.

So, long story short, the little girls come inside for the night again. They sleep in one of those big plastic cat carriers. And Coco is a little restless, shut up in a box, and apt to steamroll over Maggie in an unhelpful way, so I let her out for a while until everybody settles down.

In case you can’t quite make it out, that’s the top of my head. With headphones. She loves the headphones.

August 8, 2013 — 10:08 pm
Comments: 29

Oh. That was, ummm…Huh.

So I finished playing Bioshock Infinite. A few remarks on style, which I think I can make without absolute spoilers.

It’s set in the year 1912, alternate universe version. This is an interesting choice. Not too many shoot-’em-up video games are played to the tune of a barbershop quartet singing ragtime (“God Only Knows” – Columbia’s Gayest Quartet!). Fun Fact: I once collected 78 records; I own at least two of the tunes they played for ambient music.

And then there’s…well, the picture. I was floored by the game’s casual use of this kind of racist imagery. Lots of it. I thought there were some ideas society couldn’t revisit even in jest.

And the thing is, while racism is a running theme and it’s certainly not portrayed as a good thing, it’s also not the shown as the worst thing ever in the whole history of the world. Which, I dunno…I thought we’d collectively decided racism is the worst thing ever in the whole history of the world. It wasn’t the most important aspect of the whole game, either, which I assumed it would have to be the moment I hit the first Racially Ugly Incident.

I was so sure of this, in fact, I paused the game, scooted off to a gaming forum and asked “is the whole damn game like this?” I got answers like, “oh, it was so over the top, I didn’t take it seriously.” Hm. I thought over the top racism was the worst kind.

The game developer clearly knew this story element wasn’t going to be a big deal, and it wasn’t. Tectonic plates must have shifted somewhere.

August 7, 2013 — 10:38 pm
Comments: 28


That there is a solid lump of lard and wet wipes the size of a city bus. It has been hindering the proper operation of the sewers of Kingston, Surrey. The things they fish out of London’s drains.

That’s a frame from the sewer cam. Now stop and realize there’s some poor bastard whose job is to sit and watch Sewer TV all day long.

August 6, 2013 — 10:29 pm
Comments: 27

Return of the Swan fambly

We’ve seen a lone swan in the field several times this year, so we assumed there wasn’t a swan family. But lookee here what I spotted in the back field this afternoon.

Those aren’t six headless swans, they’re six enthusiastically grooming swans. Though the bird at the far left is a little too enthusiastic, judging from the cloud of white feathers on the ground.

Short post, but Monday night is Garbage Night and Bath Night, so we’re pretty excited around here.

August 5, 2013 — 10:23 pm
Comments: 27

Comes the harvest…

And today we harvested the currants. Red currants, black currants, white currants and green currants (the latter are any currants which are not fully ripe). Y’all will have to forgive me this evening; I’ve got about six pounds of the suckers to clean and sort. And find room for in the freezer. Before I can drink.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

August 2, 2013 — 9:55 pm
Comments: 22

Lookit that face…

Just lookit those faces. The seated man with the umbrella and goggles (lookit his face!) is an anti-fracking protester, who has chained himself to…something. The standing man (just lookit his face!) is waiting for a saw (being handed to him, bottom right) to cut the silly young man loose.

This is the sleepy village of Balcombe in West Sussex. They aren’t even trying to frack there. Not yet, anyway. The oil company wants to dig an exploratory hole six inches wide to see what the situation is.

That was enough to bring the hippie circus to town. Protestors have also glued themselves together on site, and blocked access with an antique fire engine. Because, England.

It’s almost as if lefties hate cheap energy…

August 1, 2013 — 10:38 pm
Comments: 22

Annnnnd…it’s too late

There was an art auction this morning in California of sketches and animation cels from a lot of cartoon greats. So we’ve missed it. Sorry. BUT the catalogue is online and if you like that sort of thing, it’s just the sort of thing you’ll like.

I like that sort of thing very much, so let me direct your attention to some specifics.

■Page 4. My hero, Winsor McKay, and a frame from his 1914 cartoon Gertie the Dinosaur. Expected to fetch $3,000-5,000.

■Beginning page 5. Betty Boop sketches in pencil ($400-$600) and other Fleischer Studios.

■Popeye, beginning page 8.

■Beginning page 9, ladies and gentlemen, the Sixties: Mister Magoo, Beany and Cecil, Chilly Willy, Tom Slick, Super Chicken, Pink Panther. A cel from Yellow Submarine and one from Fritz the Cat.

■Beginning page 17: Peanuts. (Not a fan, me).

■Warner Brothers, Loony Tunes, starting page 22.

■Page 37. Production stills from The Grinch ($1,000-$1,500).

■Hanna-Barbera’s crap starts page 40.

■Page 95 is interesting. Artist Bill Mack bought the “Hollywood” sign in 2007 (the original was taken down and put into storage in 1978) and did paint upon it a very good homage to Steamboat Willy, Disney’s landmark Mickey Mouse cartoon. He managed to keep much of the grunge from the original weathered sign material. $20,000 – $40,000.

And from there on, it’s Disney, in more or less chronological order, to the end (total of over 250 pages and almost a thousand objects). The drawing at the top of the post (p. 136 $400-$600) was by Disney’s best caricature artist (no points for guessing the subject). His name was Thornton Hee, so of course he signed himself T. Hee.

Of course he did.

July 31, 2013 — 10:31 pm
Comments: 29

Reality trumps Photoshop, again

Now, I know I keep telling you people that I will never, ever tire of dick jokes, but I honestly do not know what to say about Anthony Weiner. All the good puns are taken. All the bad puns are taken, too. It’s not that I’m not enjoying the whole scandal, it’s just so much of it doesn’t add up. So, no comments. Questions:

What the hell is it with Huma Abedin? Why do people treat her like a superstar? (Slate’s Dave Weigel doesn’t get it, either). Okay, okay…slender, big dark eyes. But also: horseface.

Michele Bachmann wasn’t crazy — Huma has all kinds of Islamic-supremacist cred. So how did she get a top State Department clearance? And why did John McCain go nuts on Bachmann for being concerned? (And, just generally, what the hell is it with our ruling classes loving on the Muslim Brotherhood?).

And how did she end up marrying a liberal leftist Jew? I mean, even as a cynical careerist ploy, it doesn’t make complete sense.

And why speak out on his behalf now? After the first betrayal…okay, I guess. Maybe. But knowing he continued to send snapshots of his pee pee to strange women, even after it lost him his Congressional gig? Shoot, he won’t even say if he’s still doing it. Now is the time to step forward and vouch for him?

By the way, if his chubby temptress is to be believed, dude has a seriously dedicated masturbation regime.

If the Clintons are worried about Huma, why not pick up a phone? Why play this out in the news media for us all to enjoy? Especially if the Clintons are mad that they’re being compared to the Weiners.

That’s the best bit, isn’t it? That Hillary’s second try for the presidency is being splattered by a cheesy, ugly, low-rent cheatin’ husband, stand-by-your man, trailer park dick scandal.

No, wait — the best bit is, I didn’t Photoshop that picture at all.

July 30, 2013 — 8:18 pm
Comments: 41