November 29, 2008

God's bad days

Is God happy with the poisoned cat dying alone in convulsions behind the billboard? Is God happy that life is cruel and that only the fittest survive? The fittest for what? Oh no, far from it. If God were omnipotent and omniscient in any literal sense, he wouldn’t have bothered to make the universe at all. There is no success where there is no possibility of failure, no art without the resistance of the medium. Is it blasphemy to suggest that God has his bad days when nothing goes right, and that God’s days are very, very long?

--Henry Clarendon IV, in Raymond Chandler, Playback.

November 26, 2008

1s 6d per board

[Kitchener] drove 160,000 of [the Boers'] wives and children into the fifty concentration camps established along lines pioneered by Roberts but not, apparently, in imitation of those created in Cuba by General "Butcher" Weyler. Here 28,000 inmates, mostly children, succumbed to disease and malnutrition caused by conditions almost as bad as in the separate camps set up for Africans, where the mortality rate was probably even higher.... [W]hen British officers wore out the dance floor at the Bloemfontain Residency they sold the old floorboards for 1s 6d each to incarcerated Boer women to make coffins for their children.

--Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: 1781-1997.

November 25, 2008

It would never happen in the Commons

[T]he Whig magnate Lord Hartington, whose vigour was all the more impressive since he had raised somnolence to a political art, yawning during his maiden speech and later dreaming that he was addressing his peers, only to wake up and find that it was true.

-- Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: 1781-1997.

... This would seem to be Spencer Cavendish, who became the eighth Duke of Devonshire in 1891.

Decline and outsourcing

Britain had invested heavily in traditional industries while rivals inevitably made the most of new techniques and inventions. Germany's chemical industry pulled so far ahead, for example, that in 1914 the British Army discovered that all the khaki dye for its uniforms came from Stuttgart.

-- Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: 1781-1997.

... Alas, mauve was not substituted.