Sunday, 17 September 2023

heaven, sir—and hell, too—it’s the same place, you see (11. 005)

Punctuated with highly humorous dialogue yet dealing with serious subjects of class, spirituality and redemption, the premier play of of Sutton Vane (who turned to acting and writing as therapy after his experiences in the trenches during World War I left him shell-shocked) opened on this day in 1923 and was an instant success, resounding for audiences and critics alike. The stage piece relates the story of a group of seven passengers who are the sole compliment of a huge ocean liner with no crew save for a steward who attends them and who eventually helps them reconcile to the fact their destination is the afterlife and prepare them for judgment by the Examiner. Immediately moved to a larger venue due to its popularity and optioned by Broadway pre-production, adapted as a cinematic release three times and saw numerous revivals—including a season directed by Otto Preminger and starring Vincent Price, despite their difference, the passengers slowly realise that their lives were intertwined and alternately aid and antagonise one another under the watch of the Charon-like barman. The full radio play in three acts is below:


one year ago: the debut of M*A*S*H* (1972), assorted links to revisit, Emperor Norton I plus a consequential forgery

two years ago: The Persuaders!rewilding one’s attention plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: Hildegard von Bingen, tour guides, words with only plural forms, the musical stylings of Ady Zehnpfennig, the illustrations of Rex Whistler plus the microscopic world announced

four years ago: The Handmaid’s Tale, previously unreleased pictures of David Bowie, spoon-hanging plus more language hapaxes

five years ago: the space shuttle Enterprise (1976)

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

all mod cons (10. 985)

Lead single from the band’s fifth studio album, The Jam enjoyed yet another number one on UK charts beginning on this day in 1980 (one of eighteen consecutive songs to rise to this distinction for the mod revival group) with “Start!” Though opening with a riff very similar to the Beatles’ Tax Man and echo Revolver-era psychedelia, the arrangement and tone of the song takes an immediate departure, combining influences of the 60s and a 70s lament and protest. Never released as singles domestically, Sound Affects also includes the tracks “That’s Entertainment” and “Who is the Five o'clock Hero?,” which are regarded as two of the most popular and defining of the decade.


one year ago:  Boris Johnson says ta-ta for now plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, Jimi Hendrix’ last performance (1970), St Petersburg gets its original name back (1991) plus some special Roman dice

three years ago: Trump finally makes the cover of Time magazine plus a visit to Germany’s Little Switzerland

four years ago: links worth the revisit plus day-old bread in Iceland

five years ago: assorted links, lodestars plus more Supermarination

Saturday, 2 September 2023

team badger (10. 979)

Launched on this day in 2003 on and looping indefinitely ever since, the flash animation meme by Jonti Picking (also known as Mr Weebl) was a benchmark of the on-line cognoscenti before virality could be otherwise gauged and consists of badgers performing calisthenics (with a snake and a mushroom) to a beat inspired by Whigfield’s Saturday Night with the placeholder lyrics making the final cut. Several different versions were produced over the years, including a zombie and an Advent special—as well as a tenth anniversary appeal to stop badger culling referencing Flash Gordon with the help of Brian May and Brian Blessed and a twentieth anniversary retrospective. More to explore from Miss Cellania at the link above.

Friday, 1 September 2023

limes regis (10. 976)

We are treated to a field-trip, courtesy of Strange Company, along an ancient footpath called the Ridgeway that clings to chalk cliffs of Berkshire Downs along the Salisbury Plain down to the Thames at the Goring Gap, the narrow river valley between Reading and Oxfordshire, the Ridgeway—described as the oldest trail in Britain and in use for over five-thousand years, the high ground a preferable trade route since travellers could spot potential highwaymen and marauders. Tour highlights include several ruined castles and forts and megalithic monuments.

Monday, 21 August 2023

i can listen to you—it keeps me stable for nights (10. 956)

Courtesy of our faithful chronicler, we learn that the foundational New Wave track by Gary Numan, launching his career as a solo artist after disbanding Tubeway Army, the lead single from his debut album, The Pleasure Principle, was released on this day in 1979. Although genre-defining first and foremost, the song is a bit transcend and bigger than its era—particularly in the postamble with rather epic harmonisation of a second synthesiser, a Minimoog and a Polymoog. The lyrics were inspired by an escalated road rage incident that Numan escaped by driving over the kerb and on to the sidewalk, the autonomy and splendid isolation responsible for both inciting and diffusing situations like this. In cars.


one year ago: medieval chess gaming conventions, assorted links to revisit plus the third album from Oasis (1997)

two years ago: visiting all the rudest toponyms in the UK plus The Baltics are Waking Up! (1991)

three years ago: only one saint per jurisdiction, please (1970), Comrade Gulliver, the history of paper ballots, the Hundred-Horse Chestnut Tree protected (1745) plus vintage Japanese meal wrappers

four years ago: GAP founded (1969), more links to enjoy plus face-swapping for 2001

five years ago: medieval alewives, a gigantic inner-bellum seaplane plus real-time tube maps

Saturday, 19 August 2023

8x8 (10. 951)

egress: the oldest door in Britain, a side-entrance to Westminister Abbey—via Strange Company  

hold on to my fur: another collaboration with the Kiffness—this time with a talkative orange cat from China  

isokon estate: Lawn Road Flats housed those displaced by WWII and its share of espionage  

i want to believe: vintage UFO photos taken by Eduard Albert “Billy” Meier in Switzerland in the mid-70s made iconic when featured on the X-Files up for auction—via Things Magazine 

meow-practise: a limited-run series in the tradition of American day-time soap opera classics like General Hospital and All My Children but with a feline twist   

countdown: both Russia and India have Moon missions next week with the goal of being the first to reach the lunar south pole—via Super Punch  

no dark sarcasm in the classroom: impressively, researchers recreate Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” by analysing listeners’ brain scans but we wonder—like in the above duet—there isn’t an element of backmasking and suggestion—via Kottke  

ingress: the oldest known cat door at Exeter Cathedra


one year ago: the daguerrotype process is gifted to the world (1839) 

two years ago: the Ninety-Five Theses as an email, the Treaty of Rawalpindi (1919) plus the Lithuanian sun goddess

three years ago: the launch of Sputnik 2 (1960) plus the album cover art of Milton Glaser

four years ago: more Brexit omnishambles plus the Pan-European Picnic of 1989

five years ago: assorted links to revisit

Wednesday, 26 July 2023

you could have an aeroplane flying if you bring your blue sky back (10. 906)

Via our faithful chronicler, we learn that on this day in 1986 Peter Gabriel’s lead single from his fifth studio album So (“In Your Eyes,” “Big Time”) topped the US charts and peaked at number four in the UK, displacing the hit by his former bandmates of Genesis’ as number one. The dance-rock funk fusion was nominated for three Grammy awards and other accolades, including for its artfully crafted music video featuring stop motion animation and modelling clay figures. The backing vocalists are P P Arnold, Chyna Whyne and Dee Lewis. The introductory and closing solo is a synthesised Japanese bamboo flute called a shakuhachi (ๅฐบๅ…ซ)—which was a “preset” instrument in many electronic keyboards of the era.


one year ago: exploring the Inner Hebrides and the Isle of Skye

two years ago:  the history of Home Office, Jesus’ grandmother, the linoleum patterns of Hazel Dell Brown plus “book-drunk

three years ago: Esperanto Day, the end of segregation in the US armed forces (1948) plus assorted links to revisit

four years ago: the medals for the Tokyo Games will be reclaimed from e-waste, hairball headdresses plus a cute, retired shipping mascot

five years ago: assorted links worth revisiting, a look back at 1988 plus lone trees in fields

Friday, 21 July 2023

7x7 (10. 897)

equity: UK’s actors’ union in solidarity with American counterparts in protest

spatula city—where your thirteenth spatula is free: the Weird Al Yankovic (previously) tribute to public-access television premiered this day in 1989—via our faithful chronicler 

litli-hrรบtur: Icelandic volcano watch  

magical mystery tour: revisiting the ‘lost’ Ashram of the Beatles in the Himalayan foothills

american songbook: Tony Bennett, crooner, Nazi hunter, civil rights champion, RIP—via Super Punch

barbie once commanded the stage with the rockers—now, the last thing she wanted to do was talk: channelling Ernest Hemingway on his birthday to narrate modern happenings  

watership down: disturbing film adaptation given a PG rating after forty-five years of indelible nightmares


one year ago: a concert to commemorate the Fall of the Berlin Wall plus more adventures in Scotland

two years ago: the experimental nuclear cruise ship NS Savanna, the Scopes Monkey Trial plus Sweden’s Bohus Fortress

three years ago: more on The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World plus some scream therapy in Iceland

four years ago: Japan’s broadcast daily constitutional

Thursday, 20 July 2023

hrรณlfr (10. 896)

Following his uncertain defeat on this day in 911 in the Siege of Chartres, the Viking leader Rollo entered into negotiations with Frankish king Charles III, called the Simple (Carolus Simplex) and despite his loss in battle, as a result of the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, discussed in person between the two figures was granted the Duchy of Normandy, having rejected the offer of Flanders as uncultivable, and the king’s daughter Princess Gisela in exchange for Rollo’s oath of fealty and conversion to Christianity—plus protection from general Viking brigandry as well as agreeing to halt his own raids—see also. As the first duke of the realm, his immediate heirs, William Longsword (Guillaume Longue-ร‰pรฉe) and Richard I, Sans-Peur established Normandy as a formidable principality and his great-great-great grandson, one William the Conquerer, went on to found the Angevin and Plantagenet dynasties.


one year ago: a special cocktail to celebrate the lunar landing plus visiting Aberdeenshire

two years ago: more adventures in Sweden

three years ago: St Wilgefortis

four years ago: the abstract art of Fritz Glarner, Viking I on Mars (1976),  Operation Valkyrie (1944) plus the Apollo landing (1969)

five years ago: more on the American gun cult, Radio Free Europe, a poorly executed extinction bell that’s somehow apt, a remixed School House Rock! for turbulent times plus on in-fixes and tmesis

Wednesday, 19 July 2023

walkflatter, wheel glutter, whim driver (10. 894)

Far removed from butcher, baker, candlestick-maker and seeming like a list that could have generated by an AI, we enjoyed perusing this register of job titles declared in the Census of 1881, the a snapshot of every household in the United Kingdom on the night of Sunday, 3 April of that year, the fifth decennial but the first to include details (mostly without context) on members of homes, compiled a few years later in The Companion to the Almanac; or Year-Book of General Information for 1885, sub-chapter The Occupations of the English People. Some of the more unusual professional entries are Sad-iron maker, Butt Woman, Peas Maker, Off-Beater, Dirt Refiner, Blabber and All-Rounder. Respondents of note include Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill and one William Neal without portfolio as he was considered “too idle.”

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

bands won’t play no more (10. 873)

On this day in 1981, the Coventry ska, tone-two group The Specials had their second and final top charting hit with the non-album single “Ghost Town,” addressing urban blight, unemployment and austerity. The song coincided with the England Riots and unrest of that summer over police powers, inner-city deprivation and racial tension and with the band’s own internal strife which saw their split up almost immediately afterwards.

Thursday, 6 July 2023

when in the country (10. 863)

We quite enjoyed this 1963 animated British public information short advising urban visitors on how to deport themselves whilst visiting more rural environments. All of these lessons still apply and day-trippers would still do well to follow the country code and be more mindful of the impact of one’s traipsing about.


one year ago: a 1979 East German rock opera plus a missive beamed to the stars (2003)

two years ago:  more on artist Sophie Taeuber Arp, David Bowie on Top of the Pops (1979), a visit to Mellrichstadt, more woodland flowers plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: “time immemorial” refers to a specific era plus touring the Mosel valley

four years ago: torch lilies, more on communication in the plant world plus more on Soviet bootleg records

six years ago: the intrusive r, reported plunder at the Museum of the Bible plus a trip to St Goar on his Feast Day


Tuesday, 4 July 2023

johnny come lately (10. 857)

Though now mostly resigned to obscurity save in a fossilised reference on diplomas from Yale as “We must consult Brother Jonathan,” before the advent of Uncle Sam with the War of 1812, New Englanders first and by extension the whole of America had the unabashedly boorish, hayseed of a personification in a caricature—though likely conflated with earlier Puritan Roundheads by Royalists during the English civil war—of Jonathan Trumbull, colonial governor of Connecticut, the only one to publicly side with the Revolutionaries and supply materiel during their petition for independence, General George Washington supposedly deferring above when asked if the war could be won. Like Yankee Doodle Dandy, also a British invention and a term of derision, Americans sought to reclaim the honour, transmogrifying him to into a malleable national symbol that stood for not only their resourcefulness and lack of pretensions but also manifest destiny, nativism (see also) and bigotry, adopted as the mascot of the Know-Nothing Party. Uncle Sam, with the trappings of Brother Jonathan though presented as less strident and ostensibly less of an opponent to a federal government through his identification with Abraham Lincoln, did eventually gainsay his primogenitor, dressed in the same spangled and untailored garb—and with the same problematic populist propaganda. Although the other aspects are mostly forgotten, Uncle Same, representing the US government, was the final addition to the triune, tripartite personification of Columbia, the idea of nationhood, and Brother Jonathan, the people—with rather glaring exceptions.

contrafactum (10. 855)

Lyrics written by Andover, Massachusetts seminarian Samuel Francis Smith to the melody of the British royal anthem, God Save the King, the above adaptation reworking the tune from a symbol and trapping of monarchy to a statement about American democracy, “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” was first performed for Independence Day celebrations in 1831 and became one of the two de facto national anthems (along side the patriotic number “Hail Columbia”—the march of the vice-president) until the adoption of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” exactly a century later. The implementation of the tune and musical salute (which also exists in Latin, peace-time and Republican—God save the Guillotine—versions) for another national song, however, was not new and contrafacta arrangements were used, usually connected with royal ceremony, and still used in Liechtenstein (Oben am jungen Rhein), Norway (Kongesangen) and Switzerland (Rufst du, mein Vaterland, until 1961 when replaced the National Hymne) formerly used in the kingdoms of Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria and imperial Russia.


one year ago: nebulas were known as guest stars

two years ago: Occupied Austria (1945) plus flowers in the woods

three years ago: American Top 40 (1970), Nixon’s Honor America Day (1970) plus more on spelling conventions

four years ago: Annual Reminder (1969) plus the Sky Disc of Nebra discovered (1999)

five years ago: more adventures on Lake Garda

Friday, 23 June 2023

8x8 (10. 828)

never change: a gallery of US high school annuals from the 70s and 80s—via Web Curios 

oceangate: executive piloting the submersible tourist vessel on its fateful descent has a familial connect to those who went down with the Titanic—more here  

mechanical turk: many of the human tasked to train AI are recursively outsourcing their work to AIs—see more, see also

reform club: the advent and eventual demise of Bellamy’s Refreshment Rooms that catered to Parliament’s schedule—see also—via Strange Company  

rocket lab: a visit to Norton Space Props, a junkyard full of salvage and surplus items from the Space Race 

scene together: the 70s craze of his and hers matching fashions—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

atoms for peace: a tour of the nuclear-powered cruise ship, the NS Savanna—see previously  

katakana: the vintage signage of shops and restaurants in Japan captured as digital fonts—also via Web Curios


one year ago: My Sharona (1979), Logan’s Run (1976) plus the Sterling Area (1931)

two years ago: sustenance from CO2 plus St John’s Eve

three years ago: assorted links to revisit, satisdiction plus another most favoured word, acnestis

Thursday, 22 June 2023

mind the gap (10. 826)

Our intrepid mass-transit correspondent has an in-person dispatch on the new Public Transport Safety campaign from Transport for London (TfL) with their updated series of posters (see also) for Underground platforms, stations and bus berths. The designs are visually striking and a turn from the usual verbose caution warning. What’s your favourite or what other safety niche needs redressing on the metro? Naturally not ‘See it. Say it. Sorted’—that’s no one favourite. Much more from Diamond Geezer at the link up top.


one year ago: assorted links to visit plus The Man of La Mancha (1965) 

two years ago: your daily demon: Sallos, the Elcar, Gallileo found guilty of heresy (1633) plus bricked over windows 

three years ago: Heritage Minutes, the Chinese term for mansplaining plus an alleged COVID-detecting dog

four years ago: the Cuyohuga river aflame (1969), leading to the establishment of the US Environmental Protection Agency

Friday, 16 June 2023

omrlp (10. 810)

Founded on this day in 1982 as an alternative, satirisation of British politics and the party system to offer an outlet for protest voters, the recognised and sanctioned candidacy founded by horror-rock performer David Sutch—known better as Screaming Lord Sutch—the Official Monster Raving Loony grew out of a trialled political movement (also established by Sutch two decades earlier) called the National Teenage Party, at a time when the age of majority was twenty-one and younger adults were denied the franchise against a backdrop of scandal that questioned the maturity level and seriously strained the credulity of leaders, having decided to return to the UK after living in the States, being held-up at gunpoint and shot during a mugging and inspired to re-enter domestic politics, standing in the following by-election in the constituency of Bermondsey of South London. Fielded serially until 1999, the party leadership was shared between co-founder, publican and first candidate Howling Laud Hope and his feline companion Catmando and campaigned on platforms including abolishing income-tax as a holdover from the Napoleonic Wars, passports for pets (adopted), expanded opening hours for pubs (adopted), votes for sixteen-year-olds (adopted in Scotland and Wales for certain ballots), minting a ninety-nine pence coin, and a roving Parliament to bring it outside its bubble. Though having not yet passed the threshold of five-percent in a general election, the party has won in contests in Devon, becoming councillors and mayors, out performing others such as UKIP, taking an ostensibly neutral stand on Brexit and advising voters “to vote as they see fit.” Unaffiliated originally yet subsequently allied, Lord Buckethead famously ran against Margaret Thatcher in 1987, returning in 2017 to compete with Theresa May as MP for Maidenhead and in 2019’s General Election, against Boris Johnson as OMLRP’s candidate.

Thursday, 15 June 2023

runnymede (10. 807)

On this day, the anniversary of King John putting his seal to the Magna Carta in 1215, BBC Reel invites us to explore another feature among the ensemble of monuments in the watery meadow in Surrey which represents the only territory of the US in the UK—the British memorial for American president John F Kennedy, dedicated in 1965, two years after the tragic assassination, by Queen Elizabeth II and Jacqueline Kennedy. Sensing the affinity between this spot and the ideal of democracy set forth in the US Constitution, the tablet and landscaped park with a mediative ascent of fifty steps representing the states was designed by architect Geoffrey Jellicoe. Learn more at the links above. 


one year ago: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (1972), the monkey puzzle tree plus Happy Bloomsday

two years ago: Durgan script, the mysterious notebook of Jean Fick, a visual chronology of the New York Times, the Rashomon Effect plus another MST3K classic, Pod People

three years ago: trends in house numbers, the first woman in space (1963), renaming US military bases plus Happy Captain Picard Day


Friday, 9 June 2023

pocket borough (10. 797)

Faced with a raft of sanctions from the House of Commons and possible suspension for scores of violations against his government‘s own Covid socialization protocols (much like the rank hypocrisy of Trump’s attack on leaks and Hilary Clinton’s private server) for multiple raucous and boozy gatherings, lockdown antics and “Wine Time Fridays,” the outcome of a lengthy investigation into Partygate and his role in the behaviour in flaunting isolation rules, former Prime Minister and sitting MP for the constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip Boris Johnson abruptly announced that he will leave Parliament with immediate effect, spurring a byelection in his former suburban London district. Releasing a bitter and recriminating resignation letter which could carry in itself further charges of contempt for its inveighing further attacks against the Privilege Committee, which concluded that he misled Parliament and the people, Johnson accused elements of his own Conservative Party of trying to undermine and reverse the Brexit Referendum and generally of propagating a witch-hunt to force him out.  Timing his leaving just after an honours list was approved by the current Prime Minister (successor once removed), Johnson, highly critical of the direction and split in the Tory party, again floated the idea of an eventual return to politics.

Saturday, 3 June 2023

benedict arnold (10. 784)

Investigating charges that some school textbooks widely in use in classrooms were stoking anti-American sentiment, a commission working from New York City adjudged on this day in 1923 eight titles of being guilty of perpetuating the propaganda for suggesting that the Revolutionary War was unnecessary and questioning which side was at fault, some one hundred fifty years on. The head of the commission ordered a biblioclasm and that the editors be labelled un-American. While the fact-finding group charged with this culling owed that statements critical of American patriots might be accurate and worth of investigation, the assessment was overly sophisticated and dangerous for impressionable young readers, ruling that only textbooks that contained no suggestion of “derogation or in disparagement of the achievements of American heroes” were suitable for the classroom. During World War I, curricula were revised to tone down the nationalism and emphasise affinity and kinship with overseas allies, particularly for the British and this torrent of censorship interbellum was partially in response to those previous changes.