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  • Hill Hill Hill Hill May 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Hill Hill Hill Hill

    Placenames, like history, are as much a product of human incompetence as human genius. Take the phenomenon of pleonastic placenames – an intimidating word signalling the limitations of language and understanding. Rather than explain what is meant it is best to give an example, the Yorkshire placenames of Seamer Water (pictured above). Working backwards, generally […]

    Misplacing Masterpieces at Railway Stations April 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Misplacing Masterpieces at Railway Stations

    Beachcombing heard today that his father – pater Beachcombing – will soon be coming for a visit to the Beachcombing house in Little Snoring – the first time in a couple of years, so a cause of celebration. Beachcombing’s favourite story about his father is that once while travelling by train to his publisher in […]

    A Book about Spitting April 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    A Book about Spitting

                      Jerry Lembcke, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York University Press 1998) Beachcombing was never going to let a book about spitting in history pass him by. And so when he heard that Jerry Lembcke had given over two hundred pages […]

    Stealing Swords in the Congo April 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Stealing Swords in the Congo

      This post is dedicated to Ricardo R. whose father was there in Kinshasa on the day This famous image from the camera of Robert Lebeck is much anthologized as the ‘ African moment’. A gutsy young Congolese has jogged along the limousine of King Baudouin of Belgium and the Belgian Congo as then was. […]

    Immortal Champagne Toast April 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Immortal Champagne Toast

    Beachcombing continues his series of Immortal Meals with a mere liquid lunch, a short champagne party from 29 August 1991 in Whitehall, London. Of course, champagne parties in London are two a penny: but this one was rather unusual as all those in attendance were (i) ostensibly at work and (ii) they were members of […]

    The Football Charge of the Somme April 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Football Charge of the Somme

    Beachcombing found himself thinking about sport and war last night. Polo teams racing at machine guns came flitting into his mind. Then there were the cinematic surfing scenes from Apocalypse Now, Empire thugs walking around ‘taming’ the natives with cricket bats (there was a post-war comic strip), the Central American Soccer War, British bill boards […]

    The Commissar Vanishes April 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Commissar Vanishes

    After yesterday’s post on cinema gimmicks, Beachcombing found himself wondering about why cinema alone of the great arts seems to prosper under totalitarianism. From there he got all excited about Soviet kitsch and spent an hour in his armchair where he got reacquainted with one of his favourite books of the last couple of years: […]

    The Fright Break! April 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Fright Break!

    Beachcombing recently complained about the lack of the bizarre in classical music. Luckily cinema has no such limitations. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a major director prior to the second world war who was not a complete loon. Then there are – may the heavens be praised – the gimmicks: those loveably outrageous […]

    The Underwear of Dictators’ Lovers April 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Underwear of Dictators' Lovers

    Beachcombing is still reeling from his recent medical misfortunes and, to make matters worse, he has to catch a bus in about twenty five minutes. So yet again today he will be brief. But he had to share this brilliant catch sent in by Invisible, an important ally in the fight for the historically bizarre. […]

    Sfiga! April 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Sfiga!

    The last couple of days have been tense for Beachcombing. After seven fabulous, tripping-the-light-fantastic months of having no new symptoms from the illness that was tearing him apart, he was hit – bang – by a ‘change’. Though in itself minor this symptom may be a sign of worse things to come and Beachcombing is, […]

    Review: Shadow Pasts April 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Shadow Pasts

    Beachcombing has only a few minutes today before class begins – a spring cold has meant that he is sleeping double his regulation five or six hours. But he wants to take what little time he has to celebrate William Rubinstein’s Shadow Pasts: ‘Amateur Historians’ and History’s Mysteries (2007), a gem of a book he […]

    Best of Enemies April 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Best of Enemies

    Beachcombing is always going on about how he is looking for historic pictures, especially of the lesser known kind. He was most excited then when a correspondent recently opened up a raw and largely unmined vein: what Beachcombing will call ‘the best of enemies picture’.  Foes brought together after the event… Ok three rules. 1) Photographs […]

    The Death Dealer of Kovno March 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Death Dealer of Kovno

    Call it the month of the massacres: Beachcombing in the past four weeks has gone knee deep in blood ‘that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er’. Even he gets a little queasy thinking about it. There was Queen Victoria drinking blood; then killer ice-cream; followed up by a horrific […]

    Playing Solitaire in Hitler’s Bunker March 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Playing Solitaire in Hitler’s Bunker

      Crisis in the Beachcombing household tonight. Yesterday it was discovered that every member of the family save Beachcombing himself had been stricken with head lice. And so Beachcombing has spent most of the last six hours combing what look like wood ants from his darling wife’s and elder daughter’s fair locks. By way of […]

    Review: Atlas of Remote Islands March 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Atlas of Remote Islands

    Judith Schalansky, Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will (Penguin 2010). St Jerome, long ago, said that books should not be treasures and Beachcombing, is happy to subscribe: he wants cheap functional paperbacks with a lot of glue on the spine. However, every so often someone produces […]

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