23 August 2007

O Rare Sam Johnson (with apologies to Ben)

I'm a bit behind on some of the news (what with the whole Karl Rove / Alberto Gonzales thing going on), so today I learned that earlier this month some nutjob took a hammer to Joshua Reynolds's portrait of Dr. Johnson at the National Portrait Gallery (you can read The Guardian's story here, and Peter Stothard of the TLS 'blogs about it here).

The portrait, apparently, can be repaired.

I've no comments to add, no laments to shriek. I'm simply saddened.

Added: I've just discovered a notice about Dr. Johnson's cat, Hodge, here. I didn't realize the man's pet was a celebrity, but there you go.

20 August 2007

A Matter of Character ?

I found a saddening, telling little anecdote about President G W Bush and Karl Rove at The Plank, a 'blog at The New Republic. The tale appears originally in an article titled "The Rove Presidency," by Joshua Green, in September 2007's Atlantic Monthly (subscription only). In the article, Dick Armey, the House Majority Leader when Bush first took office, relates the following:

For all the years he was president," Armey told me, "Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we'd do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn't like each other. He said I was his least-favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president's autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it." Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. "Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, 'It would probably wind up on eBay,'" Armey continued.

So, what do you come away with after reading this? That GWB and KR seem petty, dismissive, and suspicious? Then again, the five seconds it takes to sign a nametag is a mighty waste of valuable commander time, and, anyway, the only reason a kid would appreciate a president's autograph would lay in its profit potential. So cynical.

19 August 2007

Mark Twain on Ms. Austen

Mark Twain didn’t enjoy Jane Austen very much, declaring:

Jane Austen? Why, I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.

[and from a letter:]

I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.