Thursday, 30 August 2012

Telstar by the Tornados

Telstar - the satellite (thanks to Wikipedia)

I was 3 when Telstar came out, so I probably don't remember it when it was actually a hit record. But I heard it often enough as a small boy that it formed part of my experience of growing up.  It was always my favourite.  It was just so space age.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

I predict not so much a riot as a small war

When it comes to arguments over the ownership of small islands, I think most Britons can legitimately claim some kind of special perspective.  Particularly if you are old enough to remember the Falklands War, it is easy to imagine how a group of islands can overnight be transformed from somewhere you have never heard of to a vital national obsession  if someone else lays a claim to them in a violent way.

Read more at the new home of the history books review blog

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pussy Riot - the background

Pussy Riot (Thanks to Wikipedia for the image)

Pussy Riot are the only Russian punk group I have heard of.  I think I am in good company on that, as they seem to be a lot more interested in getting publicity for their political protests than their art. On the whole I don't approve of either religion or authoritarian tendencies in nominally democratic governments.  So I am sympathetic in a general sort of way to what Pussy Riot seem to be doing.  On the other hand, religious people are entitled to hold whatever beliefs they have and to practice those beliefs.  And those rights ought to include not having a punk band set up without permission in a cathedral.  So I am not sure that Pussy Riot have got their tactics quite right.

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Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Second World War by Antony Beevor

I had reservations when I heard that Antony Beevor had turned his hand to writing a history of the whole of the Second World War. I love his accounts of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin. But it wasn't obvious to me that the same formula would work.  Usually he gives enough background to understand what was at stake and then looks at how individuals caught up in these big events coped with them.  Would this work on a larger scale?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Nymphs and their Ways - Covent Garden's Acis and Galatea by Handel

I still find it slightly astonishing that entire operas can be posted on YouTube.  But there they are, and as far as I can tell they are there with the blessing of the producers.  If they objected YouTube would have taken them down straight away.  I suppose the advertising revenue that they generate is a bonus, though I can't imagine it amounts to very much.  Still the economics of opera has never made any more sense than the plots. But it does mean that what used to be the ultimate in elitist entertainment is now available for anyone. In the comfort of their own home.  Or you can even watch opera on your phone while wandering about.  I wonder if this ready supply will entice people who might not otherwise have considered it to give it a go?  I'd like to think so.

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Thursday, 2 August 2012

Herman the German - A long forgotten English Hero

One of the fifteen decisive battles of history identified by Edward Creasy was the battle in the Teutoburg Forest where the Roman General Varus lost three legions almost to a man to a huge ambush by the German tribesmen.  We have a pretty good account of the engagement from Tacitus and Creasy writes it up superbly to make it into a great piece of writing.  It is hard to dispute that this is indeed a decisive battle since it prevented the Romans from establishing a frontier much further east which would have made the empire much deeper and would have reduced the length of the frontier that needed to be defended considerably.  Had they succeeded the empire might well have lasted a lot longer.

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