Saturday, 24 September 2022

8x8 (10. 162)

herbst: vintage Eastern Bloc matchboxes welcoming Fall  

ฮฑฯฮฝฮฌฮบฮน: comedian Shari Lewis delivers One Minute Mythologies—via r/Obscure Media  

wie ist dein name, mann: adapting Hamilton in German for the Hamburg stage—possibly a bit rough for those who committed the original lyrics to heart but Lin-Manuel Miranda is deeply involved 

tl;dr: an AI powered tool that provides a summary of long videos—via Web Curios  

wolf hall: RIP historical fiction author Hilary Mantel  

not in my backyard: good luck getting anything built in Sim Nimby (see also)—again from Web Curios

voting integrity: Russian soldiers in occupied regions of Ukraine undertake door-to-door balloting in the referenda to ensure citizens choose wisely  

kirie: celebrating the onset of autumn with more of the Japanese art of leave carving

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

the moonwalk (10. 005)

To commemorate the lunar landing on this day in 1969, head barman at the Hotel Savoy’s American Bar Joe Gilmore created a champagne cocktail that ought to be revived, equal parts Grand Marnier and grapefruit juice with a dash of rosewater and topped with champagne. During Gilmore’s long tenure, spanning from when he came in as a trainee at the swanky London establishment in 1940 until his retirement in 1976, he invented many more cocktails for royalty, politicians and other celebrities—including the My Fair Lady to celebrate Julie Andrews’ opening night in the musical (equal parts gin, lemon juice, orange juice and sirop de fraise with a dash of egg white, shaken and strained) and the Link Up for the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975 (Southern Comfort and vodka, tempered with lime juice). More to explore at the links above.

Monday, 11 July 2022

band shell

Situated in a natural amphitheare in a shaded canyon just below the Hollywood Hills—a popular picnicking spot called “Daisy Dell” that also saw a number of outdoor performances and pageants, the Hollywood Bowl was officially opened on this day in 1922 with a concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Alfred Hertz, playing the overture from Richard Wagner’s Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen (after the Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel of the same name—the author best known for his coinage of stock phrases like “the great unwashed masses,” “dweller on the threshold” and the opening “it was a dark and stormy night”), movements from Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, a selection of Hungarian Dances from Brahms, a suite from Peer Gynt and the overture from William Tell—regular theme tune fare from the perspective of this centenary. The distinctive arched proscenium—later remodelled due to acoustic problems—was first added in 1926.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

rockoper


Opening on this day in 1979 at the Volkstheater of Rostock, the collaboration between composer Horst Krรผger and author Waldtraut Lewin and featuring the musical talents of local amateur band Badister, Rosa Laub, was the first East German rock opera and played consistently from its premiere on to sold out houses. With book by Lewin, the show tells the story of young adult Karel, new in town, and waiting for his first love is attended by good luck and equipped with a blue motorbike called “Usambara” that can fly—whom eventually meets the titular flower-seller of his dreams.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

to each his dulcinea

Revived on Broadway for the first of four times on this day in 1972 with Richard Kiley in the role of Miguel de Cervantes and alter-ego Don Quixote, the 1965 musical by Dale Wasserman (devolved from his 1959 non-singing DuPont Show of the Month teleplay), Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion (replacing W H Auden as lyricist as his words were considered too arch) is a nest, play-within-a-play performed by the imprisoned poet and errant knight and fellow inmates awaiting their hearing before the Spanish Inquisition. A cinematic version was produced this year as well—with the main part going to Peter O’Toole. Tossed in a dungeon along with Sancho Panza, Cervante’s manservant, the other prisoners are eager to take the contents of the trunk that they brought were allowed to bring with them—to which Cervantes suggests that in his defence, he be allowed to perform a play. The room consents and Cervantes is told he can keep his property if his acting and story are judged up to muster and introduces Don Quixote and his adventures, producing make-up and costumes from his trunk for himself and supporting cast.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

good wine needs no bush

A shared image of a Japanese supermarket’s libations section seems at first to illicit a mangled, machined translation or poor command of English whereas this example is no case of Engrish to be  ridiculed but rather a pretty apt quotation from William Shakespeare in, recursively, the epilogue to As you Like It. With the term bush denoting the sprigs of a grapevine that symbolised a vintner’s shingle, the phrase meant that quality speaks for itself and does not need to be advertised—with the reference all but lost to English-speakers: delivered by Rosalind, “If it be true, that good wine needs no bush, ’tis true, that a good play needes no Epilogue.” The French equivalent, still in common-parlance, is ร  bon vin point d’enseigne or the German—not beating around the bush—gute Ware lobt sich selbst.

Friday, 10 June 2022

meditate in my direction

Reaching number one on UK and US singles charts on this day in 1978, the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John duet from Grease (released as the second single, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was the lead, from the original movie soundtrack) was written specifically for Sandy Olsson and was not in the stage version and not universally admired among the production team as not fitting with the rest of the score. The number from the Warren Casey lyric was to be “All Choked Up,” an Elvis pastiche with Sandy being a bit more forward with T-Bird leader Danny Zuko.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

he’s had a little to drink—i don’t know what her excuse is

Adapted from the 1959 eponymous Broadway play from Lorraine Hansberry and starring Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, Diana Sands and introducing Louis Gossett Junior, A Raisin in the Sun had its cinematic release on this day in 1961. Following the Younger family who are seeking a better livelihood and future for themselves outside of the city, they receive a windfall insurance cheque after the loss of the patriarch, each with designs on how to best invest that money. Claudia McNeil in the role of Lena was nominated for a Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Actress and awarded a BAFTA, with the film winning in two other categories plus the Cannes Palme d’Or.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

a show with everything but yul brenner

After previews and the critically-acclaimed release of a concept album, the musical collaboration by ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjรถrn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice had its premiere in London’s West End on this day in 1986, depicting geopolitical tensions of the Cold War through the lens of a tournament between two grandmasters of the game, loosely based on the game careers of Bobby Fischer (Murray Head) and Anatoly Karpov (Tommy Kรถrberg) whose stakes were reflective of the sentiment of the era and the Reagan, Thatcher Doctrine of the mid-80s. Songs include of course “One Night in Bangkok.” Full-length bootleg recording of the original cast below.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

strange drama of a captive sweetheart

Based on the 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton of the same name, the psychological thriller by George Cukor starring Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Charles Boyer and introducing Angela Lansbury has its theatrical premiere on this day in 1944. To avoid confusion with a previous adaptation from four years prior, it was released as The Murder in Thorton Square for the UK box office, while the 1940 film was titled Angel Street in America. While departing from the stage piece significantly, the plot remains true to the essential premise of a husband undermining his wife’s grasp on reality in order to cover up his own crime spree, gradually isolating her from society and accusing her of kleptomaniacal tendencies. The title has been denominalised (that is—verbed) by popular psychology to describe the manipulation of Bergman’s character, persuaded that when she noticed the lamps dimming and flickering (as Boyer had brought up the lights on the sealed off upper storeys) it was all in her imagination. Though uncredited, the role of the butler was played by actor and entertainer and Hollywood that-guy Arthur Blake who was a respected female impersonator whose act included Zazu Pitts, Tallulah Bankhead, Carmen Miranda and Betty Davis among other celebrities and was even invited to the White House by FDR to do his impersonation of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, much to her delight.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

8x8

trebizond: explore this detailed map of Eurasia in the year 1444—via the always interesting Nag on the Lake  

gotham nocture: a Batman gothic opera  in pre-production

arrowdreams: an anthology of Canadian speculative histories—via Strange Company  

passion project: former store worker curating every last Gap in-store playlist  

out of black ponds, water lilies: an Easter Sunday poem from Better Living through Beowulf  

crisis on infinite earths: Marvel’s inspired splintered dimensions and alternate timelines  

neoliberal pieties: the organised religion of social media is vulnerable to same corruptions and is no substitute for a public good  

latent diffusion: an AI generates maps (plus other artifice) from a text-prompt, via Maps Mania

Saturday, 9 April 2022

jacob and sons

Originally recorded as a children’s pop cantata in 1968 at Cole Court School for Boys and workshopped some more before becoming a full-fledged fixture in the repertoire of musical theatre, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborated with the group The Mixed Bag to produce The Joseph Consortium in 1971, a cross between rock opera and psychedelic kids show (previsioning another parallel composition) that was a retelling of the biblical figure and patriarch of the Book of Genesis, Joseph.  Any dream will do.

Monday, 28 March 2022

for my military knowledge, though i’m plucky and adventury has only been brought down to the beginning of the century

Caveats against drawing parallels respected, we quite enjoyed this lyrical military assessment of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a month on, which not only highlights how the aggressor is doing a reverse of what they did to Napoleon—as expounded by history and Tolstoy, but as one commentator finds, the rank inexperience and hubris of the Gilbert and Sullivan character (see previously). Here’s a couple of stanzas for an excerpt:

I am the very model of a Russian Major General

My standing in the battlefield is growing quite untenable

My forces, though equipped and given orders unequivocal

Did not expect the fight to be remotely this reciprocal

I used to have a tank brigade but now I have lost several

My fresh assaults are faltering with battle plans extemporal

I can’t recover vehicles but farmers in a tractor can

It’s all becoming rather reminiscent of Afghanistan

Sunday, 27 March 2022

rolling stock

Retelling the story of the “Little Engine that Could” with love-interest and with due inspirational credit given to Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Richard Stilgoe musical spectacle with all principals and dancers portraying locomotives on roller skates had its debut on the West End in the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Following a year-long run on Broadway, the show came to the industrial city of Bochum in 1988, and hosted in a custom-built theatre (designed like a skating rink) has become the most attended musical in Germany, still running and seen by over seventeen million. Much more, including the original cast recording of the musical numbers and various performance highlights at the link above.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

what’s that smell in this room? didn’t you notice it, brick? didn’t you notice the powerful and obnoxious odour of mendacity in this room?

Adapted from the playwright’s own 1952 short story Three Players of a Summer Game under the stage direction of Elia Kazan, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof a nihilistic play about a cotton tycoon and his relationship with his son and daughter-in-law had its Broadway debut on this day in 1955 and deals with the theme of self-deception.  The three-act play was awarded the Pulitzer Prize that year.  The original production, hosted by the Morosco Theatre, starred Barbara Bel Geddes, Ben Gazzara and Burl Ives as Big Daddy.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

♅ v

Discovered on this day in 1948 by Dutch astronomer Gerard Kuiper (namesake of the circumstellar disc, the Kuiper Belt) at the McDonald Observatory in western Texas, the smallest, innermost icy moon of Uranus was named for Prospero’s daughter Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest following the naming conventions for the other satellites. Orbiting the Sun on its side like its host world, it is prone to extreme and its mantle has one of the most varied and fantastical terrains known with one feature, called Verona Rupes (after the Italian village and setting for a pair of plays and the Latin for cliff), the highest escarpment in the Solar System at twenty kilometers. Due to Miranda’s weak gravity and off-kilter stance, it would take nearly a quarter of an hour to fall from this height to the surface.

Saturday, 29 January 2022

idomeneo

Considered one of the greatest operatic works of all time, the Italian language dramma per musica based on a 1705 stage play by French tragedian Prosper Jolyot de Crรฉbillon about the eponymous King of Crete by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had its premiere as the opener for court carnival season in Mรผnchen on this day in 1781. The piece in three acts with ballet interludes tells the story of the homecoming of the commander-in-chief who led the Cretan navy into the Trojan War, comrade of Ajax and rebuffed suitor of Helen, Idomeneus (แผธฮดฮฟฮผฮตฮฝฮตฯฯ‚—like The Odyssey)—grateful for peaceable relations again after decades of fighting, exercises clemency over prisoners of war brought from Troy, including Priam’s daughter Princess Ilia, though Argonaut Princess Electra is not happy about the potential competition to marry into the dynasty. In contravention to an earlier pledge that would have the king sacrifice his son to the sea on condition of a safe return, Neptune relents and spares the life of the king’s son Prince Idamante, on the promise that he relinquishes his throne to the younger generation, with the new king taking the Trojan princess as his queen. All are happy except Electra—her later parricidical frenzy attributed to this early rejection.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

grover’s corners

First performed on this day at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, the breakthrough stage play in three acts by playwright Thornton Wilder is a metaramic piece piercing the fourth-wall with choral-like narration by the Stage Manager that recounts the everyday events of Anytown, USA from the years 1901 to 1913. Our Town premiered on Broadway that same season and would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and enduring acclaim that has seen many revivals and is a staple of high school and community theatre productions.

Monday, 3 January 2022

das bayerisches restaurant-stรผck

The first of two forty-five minute specials (episode number one filmed the year before) by the Python troupe were first broadcast by ARD on this day in 1972 to audiences in West Germany and the behest of visiting television producer Alfred Biolek, who felt their absurdist brand of humour would translate well, though notably absent from the domestic comedy scene. Present in Munich first for the five hundredth anniversary celebrations of the birth of artist Albrecht Dรผrer and next for the Summer Olympics, this cultural backdrop informed their sketches. Beset with timing, pacing and interpretive problems (the first episode was performed in German and a challenge for the crew—the second instalment airing in mid-December was dubbed) and a lack-lustre initial audience reception, the this pair of German episodes has an enduring charm.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

the same procedure as every year

Having not watched Dinner for One (Der 90. Geburtstag) sketch for the past couple of years, we appreciated the reminder from Nag on the Lake and can confirm it’s been recently on in the background, this 1962 recording broadcast every year in Germany on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day for reasons no one can quite recall. This year in the midst of restrictions on gatherings, virtual parties and celebrations scaled back, with bands playing to empty venues—it seems especially poignant. “But my friends—they’re waiting in the lobby.” There, there, of course they are, Miss Sophie. Do check it out if you’re not familiar—it is timelessly funny.