Archive for January, 2010

“Procrastinating Pleasure” (NYT, 12/29)

Posted in General on January 20, 2010 by jkiparsky

A pretty interesting article from the Times. Yes, it’s two weeks old. I’ve been meaning to get around to reading the Science section, but they just pile up…

The article reminded me of a lovely old story by Robert Bloch, which always creeped me out, much more than his regular old horror stuff. The story was call, I think, “The Hell-Bound Train”, or something very similar. If you find it in a collection that also includes “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”, the two are probably worth the price of the collection.

Piers Brendon: The Decline and Fall of the British Empire

Posted in Books on January 11, 2010 by jkiparsky

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire (Piers Brendon)

A difficult book to pull off, and Brendon doesn’t quite manage it. Beginning with 1776 – the year in which the first volume of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall was published – the British Empire began to recede, and Brendon’s aim is to track it, from colony to colony. However, by tracking colony by colony, he turns a history of the waning of an empire into a series of mini-histories of rising nations, fragmenting his story hopelessly. Each chapter, on its own, is a good introduction to the end of colonial rule in a region, usually with some good thumping examples of British stupidity or racism. It’s unfortunate that Brendon fails to connect them into a history worthy of his title.

The gift of prophecy

Posted in General on January 9, 2010 by jkiparsky

“There are some who complain of a man for doing nothing; there are some, still more mysterious and amazing, who complain of having nothing to do. When actually presented with some beautiful blank hours or days, they will grumble at their blankness. When given the gift of loneliness, which is a gift of liberty, they will cast it away; they will destroy it deliberately with some dreadful game with cards or a little ball.”
-G. K. Chesterton

Who knew that Chesterton, of all people, would have anticipated social networking sites?