Tuesday, 11 May 2021

when cats are maddened by the midnight dance

Based on a poetry anthology by T.S. Eliot, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered at the New London Theatre on this day in 1981. The two act narrative portrays one night in the lives of the members of a tribe of semi-feral felines cast their “Jellicle choice” and decide which cat—sort of echoing the 1976 cinematic adaptation of Logan’s Run—would ascend to the Heavyside Layer and be reincarnated. As the first mega-musical blockbuster, Cats introduced the strategy and template for productions to follow and arguable raise the bar for entry for less well financed endeavours.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

another one rides the bus

Hosted by news anchor and television personality Tom Snyder, the late night programme The Tomorrow Show, airing on NBC from 1973 to 1982, had several prominent guests including John Lennon, Ken Kesey, The Grateful Dead, Ayn Rand and Charles Manson—giving national exposure and their first televised performance to U2 and Weird Al Yankovic, who appeared on this day in 1981. The network often used the show to plug holes in late night scheduling, including conducting an impromptu ninety minute interview with Jerry Lewis in October of 1975 to cover over technical delays until Snyder could interrupt the conversation to introduce the “Not Ready for Primetime Players”—later to be recognised as the first cast of Saturday Night Live.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

rawhide and stagecoach

Outside of the Washington Hilton on this day in 1981, Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr., severely injuring the US president, the Press Secretary, a police officer and secret security agent in the attack. Diagnosed with erotomania and later acquitted by reason of insanity, Hinckley was obsessed with actor Jodie Foster and stalked her around the country, going as far as enrolling at Yale University where Foster was a student. His advances rebuffed, Hinckley reasoned that the fame or infamy of killing a public figure of that stature would make Foster interested in him. Nine days prior, Reagan had held a fundraising event in Ford’s Theatre, gesturing towards the presidential box where Abraham Lincoln had been watching My American Cousin the night he was shot and recalling “a curious sensation” that even with the Secret Service protection (his codename and the codename for the limousine above) that it was “probably still possible for someone with enough determination” to get close enough to shoot a president. No formal succession order was invoked as vice president George H. W. Bush was rushing back from Texas and erroneously Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that he was in control, whereas according to Amendment XXV the next individuals in line were the Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Strom Thurmond, coming before him.

Monday, 18 January 2021


Observed on the Monday nearest, US federal holiday in honour of the civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. recognises his birth on the fifteenth of the month in 1929 (murdered in 1968), we had never realised that Stevie Wonder’s song “Happy Birthday” (a far better tune to sing than the traditional birthday party chant even after copyright prohibition lapsed—with even the opening lyrics taking on new dimensions, see also, with this knowledge and embarrassment that this tribute escaped our attention) released as a single from his Hotter than July album in April of 1981 was composed as a campaign to make King’s birthday a nation holiday for America. The song’s popularity compelled Ronald Reagan by November of 1983 to sign the holiday into existence with the first holiday held in 1986 and universally observed (on the state level) by 1993.

Monday, 16 November 2020

say after me

Ever grateful for the reminder that A-ha is a Norwegian group and for any excuse to listen to their songs, we appreciated this hearing early track, draft that contains quite a few signature elements of what we know as “Take on Me”—including the central synth bridge—debuting on Magne Furuholmen and Pรฅl Waaktaar’s earlier band’s second album recorded and scheduled for release in 1981 though postponed by the group’s breakup and subsequent reconstitution until August 2018. The song was originally called “Miss Eerie” and was their demonstration piece intended to show off their vocal and electronic virtuosity.

Friday, 9 October 2020

the watcher in the woods

After a significant delay following its debut showing in New York City (with some major revisions needed after a poor reception by audiences) until it was picked up by Walt Disney Studios for distribution and general release more than a year later, the supernatural thriller was shown in cinemas across the US first on this day in 1981.
Targeting a young adult demographic and starring Bette Davis and David McCallum, it tells the story of an American family that move into a Buckinghamshire estate, whom are received warmly by the owner of the manor whose has since downsized and resides in the guest cottage—only the proprietoress comments how much the teenage daughter Jan looks so much like her own Karen who disappeared without a trace in the surrounding woods thirty years before. Settling in with the occasion blindfolded apparition haunting the many mirrors and eerie blue lights coming from the forest, the mother adopts a puppy to keep her company—inexplicably naming it Nerak. Catching a glimpse of the dog’s name inverted, Jan realises that it’s Karen spelled backwards. Growing emboldened by curiosity, Jan ventures further into the woods, accompanied by Nerak and encounters a hermit, who relates the story of a coven and how Karen, decades ago, was convinced to take part in a sรฉance and was spirited away, entranced, when lighting struck the chapel tower during a lunar eclipse.   All tropes covered.  Here’s a preview below with the full movie here.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

the stars align

On this day in 2012, the space probe Voyager I became the first manmade object to leave the Solar System and enter interstellar space. Twenty-three years earlier—to the day—its companion Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Neptune—then, because of Pluto’s eccentric, elongated orbit, the outer most planet.
On the same day in 1981, it had its closest brush with Saturn.  All these events coincided with the first demonstration of the telescope in Venice in 1609, pitched as a terrestrial telescope or spyglass, having later realised their potential for use in astronomy, publishing his initial observations in a brief called Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger) on 13 March of 1610, including an account of the Medicean or Cosmica’s Stars that appeared to orbit Jupiter.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

model 5150

Sharing the anniversary of its release along with many other events of great pith and substance including the sage 1869 proclamation of Emperor Norton I of the United States and Protector of Mรฉxico that dissolved and abolished political parties under penalty of imprisonment, as our faithful chronicler records, the first IBM Personal Computer (PC) was presented to the public on this day in 1981—its open source architecture (see also) and off-the-shelf elements attracted third-parties to create software and peripherals that were otherwise PC-compatible, thus creating a market and speeding adoption of office and home computing.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

wedding of the century

Witnessed by thirty-five hundred guests, throngs of over two million Londoners lining the streets to watch the procession and a television audience of upwards of three-quarters of a billion people, the royal matrimonial ceremony of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer with all its ornate trappings and circumstance was held on this day at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. The couple separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996 after fifteen years of wedlock.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

belau rekid

Though human settlement on the group of islands extends back millennia, Palau (see previously) is a young republic, observing annually its founding on this day since 1981 with Constitution Day, the referendum voting for independence for this former US territory after most Pacific islands fell under the administration of America as Trust Territories, having previously been a Spanish colony governed from the Philippines, administered as German New Guinea, then becoming part of the Japanese-ruled League of Nations’ South Seas Mandate, choosing not to join Micronesia, an association compromised of recently decolonised neighbours. Modelled in part of the US constitution, Palau’s uniquely prohibits all atomic applications, be it for warfare as a testing-site or for energy-generation as a dumping-ground for nuclear waste—as well as specifically banning biological and chemical weapons.

Thursday, 5 March 2020


Launched in the United Kingdom on this day in 1981, Sinclair Research’s innovative, intuitive and inexpensive (kits for self-assembly consisting of a slim and compact keyboard and an external cassette recorder for memory retailed for a mere £49,95) micro-computer was one of the first to be successfully mass-marketed and introduced the public to the idea of having a home computer, outside the bailiwick of business executives and hobbyists. Aside from the tape player, there were no moving parts and plugged into a television set as a display.
Despite perceived technical shortcomings—like the impractically low amount of memory, the unit truly prized open a path to better computer literacy, coding (see previously) and importantly the measure of confidence to see broader applications. Clones and variants soon proliferated—I remember using a Radio Shack derivative in a beige casing and flipping the VHF/UHF switch and felt I was entering programming mode, and the community of enthusiasts the ZX81 fostered was self-perpetuating, the early-adopters creating, sourcing software and hardware compatible with the computer. Founder and business executive Clive Marles Sinclair (*1940) amassed a fortune with this pioneering success and was given a knighthood for it in 1983. Later projects launched by Sinclair have focused on personal transportation and solving the last-mile problem with inventions like his folding bicycle that commuters can easily take on trains, the A-Bike debuting in 2006.

Thursday, 19 September 2019


Though only producing four albums and disbanding after ten concerts together, we appreciated the introduction to the short-lived musical collaboration courtesy of Dangerous Minds to the Swiss Neue Welle group Grauzone (grey area) with their standout 1981 single Eisbรคr, their biggest hit charting at number twelve in Germany and number six in Austria.
Drummer and bassist Macro Repetto joined up with vocalist and led guitar Martin Eicher backed up by Eicher’s guitarist brother, Stephen (whom later went on to forge an accomplished solo career as a chanteur), and saxophonist Claudine Chirac and had their first gig at a club in Bern in the spring of 1980, their musical stylings were instantly recognised as something resonant that spoke to the mood of the times. Their songs were remastered in 2010, the accompanying video produced for that release. Much more to explore at the link above.

Monday, 5 August 2019


Having first organised in 1968 as a trade association before representing the interests of members as a fully-fledged labour union and lobby, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers‘ Association was effectively disbanded on this day in 1981 when then president Ronald Reagan declared their strike, called two days prior, illegal as a “peril to national safety” and ordered the federal workforce back on the job, breaking the strike by firing over twelve-thousand employees.  Faced with a lifetime ban (later eased by degrees, relaxed first to allow them civil service jobs, just not their old positions back) on government employment and disempowered to pursue the working conditions that the industry needed, Reagan‘s firings—catching many off guard, the unions have backed his candidacy over Jimmy Carter‘s re-election over sore dealings with the Federal Aviation Administration thinking relations would improve—marking the beginning of the decline of organised labour in the US, lockouts, sickouts and strike actions having dropped precipitously over the decades.

Friday, 19 July 2019


I think we are all this film review of the upcoming “live,” demented deep-dreaming nightmare adaptation of the musical Cats. So many questions that dare not seek answers.
The 1981 piece is based on a collection of epistolary poetry that T. S. Eliot (previously) composed to entertain his godchildren in the 1930s—presenting a sociological tract on a tribe of felines and their nomination of one of their members to ascend into a paradisaical afterlife and be reincarnated, and the new production, starring an ensemble cast of screen and stage luminaries projected onto cat-sized avatars, is seemingly riding the coattails of attempting to revive old properties with live-actors aided by digital graphics, dispensing the need for imagination and suspension of disbelief, illustrative of what happens when creative outlets are not constrained by a budget and no one has the courage of conviction to say when a project is going in the wrong direction.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

i am the operator with my pocket calculator

Via Open Culture, we are reminded that when the pioneering electronic band Kraftwerk (previously here, here, here, here and here) released their eighth studio album in May of 1981, Computerwelt / Computer World, which presciently dealt with themes of the rise of computers in society at a time when they were hardly ubiquitous, they recorded several different language versions of the single Taschenrechner / Pocket Calculator—also Mini Calculateur, Mini Calcolatore and Dentaku (้›ปๅ“)—and even commissioned a custom synthesizer from Casio as a promotional give away. Sheet music was included with the album to instruct fans how to recreating the melodies, and not just for the new material but their early synthpop hits as well. Much more to explore at the links above.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

rocky horus

Via Messy Nessy Chic, we are treated to the 1981 production from Egyptian director Mohammed Shebl, who had several horror credits to his name, called Fangs (al’Anyab, ุงู„ุฃู†ูŠุงุจ)—an homage to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The plot, with ample musical interludes, is faithful to the original up through the first act (plenty of glam vampires but nothing too transgressive to sneak past the censors) and certainly demonstrates a degree of craft and talent that separates it from other knock-offs, like the nearly unwatchable “Turkish Star Wars.”