Sunday, September 16, 2007

War Stories: Battle of Britain Remembered

My brief transit through the UK has reminded me that it's the anniversary of one of the most critical battles of World War II. The Battle of Britain was fought in the skies over the South of England throughtout the summer and autumn of 1940. The peak of the battle is generally regarded as ocurring on September 15th -a day in which nearly 300 German aircraft were shot down by the RAF's frighteningly minimal squadrons of Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. The Luftwaffe's losses were unsustainable and the following day their attacks virtually ceased. Operation Sealion, Hitler's plans for the invasion of Britain, were postponed indefinitely. Here's a few photos lest we forget that turbulent time 67 years ago:
Spitfires Scramble
A Spitfire squadron scrambles
Bomber  over Surrey Docks
Heinkel bomber over the Surrey Docks, London
tower bridge blitz
London burning
Vapour trails over StPauls
Vapour trails over St. Paul's Cathedral
Crashed Heinkel
Heinkel bomber crash landed at Findon, West Sussex.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible

Did I mention that from today I'm off to the Ionian Islands (via London) for a couple of weeks? I did? Fancy that. Anyway in the unlikely event that I'll find myself in a wireless broadband zone, normal blogging will be resumed on or after October 1.

Go Zorba José...


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stairway to Heaven

zeppelin reunion
Unfortunately Mad Dog will not be here.

Damn! On that day I'll be Over the Hills and Far Away. Here, specifically. Clearly a Communications Breakdown.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On This Day: Famous Birthdays

Today the following have birthdays:

1575 - Henry Hudson, English explorer (d. 1611)

1818 - Richard Gatling, American weapons inventor (d. 1903)

1883 - Gus Cannon, American blues singer and jug band leader (d. 1979)

1888 - Maurice Chevalier, French singer and actor (d. 1972)

1913 - Jesse Owens, American athlete, Hitler’s nemesis (d. 1980)

1914 - Desmond Llewelyn, Welsh actor (“Q” in James Bond films) (d. 1999)

1921 - Stanisław Lem, Polish science fiction writer (d. 2006)

1931 - Sir Ian Holm, English actor, genius

1943 - Maria Muldaur, American jazz singer

1944 - Barry White, American singer, inexplicable cult icon (d. 2003)

1951 - Bertie Ahern, Irish politician

1957 - Rachel Ward, Anglo-Australian actress

1972 - Jason Statham, English actor, Olympic diver, Cockney wide boy

1980 - Yao Ming, Chinese basketball player, giant, Apple pitch man

???? - Mad Dog, Eccentric, blogger, geriatric

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ode to a Grecian Urn*

Parthenon, Athens, 1972. Photo taken by Mad Dog in the days when it was permitted to climb all over this priceless site.

"What's a Grecian Urn?"

"They say Prince Philip makes about £359,000 a year from the Civil List"

Drum roll and cymbal crash

Don't expect any sense out of me over the next few days as thoughts of my impending vacation seem to have addled my brain (in an insouciant kind of way).

* With apologies to John Keats.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Newlyweds 1947_1
Parents "Going Away", September 1947.

This weekend would have been my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately their earthly togetherness was only to be just over three decades. In the 28 years of the marriage that I witnessed, I never heard an argument or angry word. And I took this blessed and wonderful relationship for granted. As they say, it was a hard act to follow...!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Frivolity

The last 5 seconds (be patient) of this clip have got to be the funniest thing I've seen in years.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Farewell, Maestro

Luciano Pavarotti, 1935-2007

Well its "addio" to unlucky Luciano Pavarotti who sang his last aria yesterday after a losing the battle with pancreatic cancer. While he was known for his classic operatic deliveries and performances with fellow tenors, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo he was also happy with cross-cultural mixes and appeared with all kinds of popular music celebrities including James Brown, Queen (yay!) and the Spice Girls (yes, really). Goodbye, Maestro, we'll miss you sorely.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Reading Material

James Joyce
Mad Dog is having a rematch with James Joyce in the next month.

Ohara has asked me what I'm going to read on my imminent Grecian vacation. This is a good question. One of the delights in my adult years has been selecting a number of books to consume on holiday. My life being what it is these days, this is the only time I get to do any serious reading. So here's my selection:

1) Ulysses
James Joyce
Joyce, you bastard, you won't defeat me this time.

2) Journal of a Plague Year
Daniel Defoe
What else for a microbiologist?

3) Cracking the Emperor's Codes
Michael Smith
I love this nerdy, military code cracking stuff.

4) McCarthy's Bar
Pete McCarthy
Apparently hilarious Irish travelogue -I'm intensely curious about my parents' country.

5) Blindness
José Saramago
I've got to have one serious offering from a Nobel Laureate.

6) The 4 Hour Work Week
Timothy Ferriss
Retirement planning of sorts; shameless NY Times best seller pulp filler.

So that's my top six. A mix of fiction and non-fiction, humour and gravity, intellectually challenging (not difficult these days) and lightweight as well as another epic battle with Ulysses (what better place than Greece for this?). And absolutely no bloody Dan Brown or JK Rowling.

PS Yesterday a friend loaned me Issai Chozanshi's classic The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts. I'll try to sneak that one in too.


Damn! A week's gone by without a post. I've even got few drafts ready to upload but haven't been able to summon the energy. The past few months have been physically and emotionally exhausting and I'm absolutely knackered. A lot has been going on at work (good but demanding), there's been a pile of legal/administrative stuff to do at the end of the Big Personal Project (tedious and a bit ugly) and just about every electro-mechanical device I own has failed (expensive and irritating). In addition my lovely fluffy cat has twice burst her stitches following recovery from a nasty operation. I feel like I'm walking around wearing lead diver's boots while at the same time waving the white flag. Never mind, in two weeks I'll be here:

Kassiopi 1972
Corfu, Greece. Photo taken by Mad Dog, 1972.

No email and no phone for 14 days. Just a lot of books to read and a gentle existence. I can't wait...