Monday, 30 November 2020


The 1956 sponsored projector-reel short having fallen into obscurity until lambasted as an MST3K episode (previously) interstitial, airing first on this date in 1991 was meant to be shown during class assemblies to encourage budding musicians and was commission by the C.G. Conn company that manufactured and marketed a range of brass instruments.

The eponymous title character is short of an androgynous pixie that embodies the sense of fun in music with an additional biography in their 1957 circular Baton that was issued to American public school music programme teachers—“Mister B Natural is the spirit of music in everyone… a sort of LepreCONN who is always no more than an inch anyway from the fingertips of anyone. Mister B has a code, however, that prohibits him from showing himself for anyone unless he reaches out and calls for the spirit of music.” A withdrawn and reticent pre-teen named Buzz summons Mister B, whom through a range of magic, music and dance convinces him to take up the trumpet. Bruce “Buzz” Podewell (his own nickname, also appearing on Watch Mister Wizard and would have perhaps been familiar to the target audience) went on to become a professor of theatre and dance and taught for four decades at Tulane University in New Orleans. Mister B Natural was the last role of long time (“Knew your father I did”) Broadway and television personality Betty Luster.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

the great bed of ware

Via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump, we are directed to one unusual artefact of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection in the monumental and for the time of its acquisition in 1931 for a princely sum of four thousand pounds budget-breaking piece of furniture.

Originally housed in the White Hart Inn in the town as sort of a tourists’ draw for the stopping off point a day’s journey outside of London to points north, the massive four-poster bed—at three metres wide big enough to accommodate four couples—and was built by carpenter Jonas Fosbrooke in the last decade of the sixteenth century with Renaissance style marquetry and ornament inspired by Hans Vredeman de Vries—and to add to its history and provenance, couples have carved their names or initials in the headboard to mark their stay and is mentioned by name in Twelfth Night (circa 1601) and works by Ben Jonson and Charles Dickens.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

the mousetrap

The murder mystery stage play by Agatha Christie debuted on this day in 1952 in London’s West End and ran continually until 16 March 2020, temporarily sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work first presented as a radio drama as a birthday present for Queen Mary in 1947 under the title Three Blind Mice. The author had requested, due to its twist ending that theatre audiences are asked not to divulge—that the short story not be published, nor adapted as a film, until it was off the West End, a wish that has been respected all these years.

Monday, 23 November 2020


First historically documented in a competition to find the best tragedy (ฯ„ฯฮฑฮณแฟณฮดฮฏฮฑ, literally goat song, suggesting that that was the top prize)—that is stagecraft with an actor portraying a character rather than themselves singly and distinct from the chorus, on this day in 534 BC performer and playwright, according to Aristotle, Thespis is credited in Western traditions with the invention of acting, performing short dithyrambs—that is, stories about gods and heroes with choric refrains, ฮดฮนฮธฯฯฮฑฮผฮฒฮฟฯ‚ or hymns to Dionysus and a way to frame enthusiastic speech—playing all the roles himself and differentiating each part by donning a different mask (persona). 

Building on his successful showing at the contest, Thespis then went on, according to Horace, to invent theatrical touring, transporting his masks and costumes in a horse-drawn carriage, Thespis’ wagon (ฮ†ฯฮผฮฑ ฮ˜ฮญฯƒฯ€ฮนฮดฮฟฯ‚, Carro di Tespi) being a popular theme for the visual arts.

Sunday, 15 November 2020


ginger-reveal party: photographer Kieran Dodds has spent years capturing images from red heads all over the world  

nacelle: a handy camper turned a surplus jet engine into a deluxe caravan trailer 

thursday afternoon: the video paintings of Brian Eno—see previously 

lawn and order: perhaps Spain ought to get out of the art restoration business and other items of note from Hyperallergic’s weekly digest 

we’ll let the supreme courtyard marriot decide the outcome of the vote: apropos the entry above, more roundups and rundowns from the week from Super Punch  

julia’s name is going to be julia gulia: a team of volunteer correspondents answer missives left to Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers  

matita: a treasury of vintage Italian pencils 

macroscopic: a pairing of recent posts from the always excellent Nag on the Lake celebrate capturing images of the tiny at extremely close range

Sunday, 25 October 2020

ss. crispin and crispinian

Twin brothers from a wealthy third century patrician family, they fled to the provinces to escape persecution for their Christian faith, eventually settling in Soissons (capital of the Belgic tribe of the Suessiones)—evangelising to the native population by day and funding their mission and aiding the poor by making shoes at night.

Their enterprise drew the attention of Gaulish governor (a Vicarius—a vicar, that is a deputy of Rome) Rixius Varus, who is said to have martyred with zeal hundreds of Christians under Emperor Diocletian before eventually repenting, converting and becoming a victim of the machine himself, who devised cruel, elaborate tortures for the brothers using their own cobbler’s implement before tying millstones around their necks and tossing them into the River Aisne. The pair survived to Varus’ acute frustration, at this juncture the Emperor intervening and putting them to death by beheading on this day in the year 286. Crispin and Crispinian’s patronage includes shoemakers, saddlers, tanners and lace workers. A number of battles fall coincidentally on their feast day, symbolism and significance applied retroactively, though sometimes noted by contemporaries—with the most famous being the 1415 Battle of Agincourt (cemented in popular imagination by Shakespeare’s Henry V “Band of Brothers” speech)—others being the Siege of Lisbon (1147), the Battle of Balaclava (1854), the Second Battle of el Alamein and the Battle of Henderson Field at Guadalcanal (1942).

Sunday, 11 October 2020

studio 8h

For the decade leading up to the show’s debut on this evening in 1975, NBC had ran reruns under the title Best of Carson of the Tonight Show on the weekends to round out the evening’s programming until host Johnny Carson told network executives that he would prefer being taken out of the Saturday or Sunday schedule and save the curated segments for during the week to afford himself time off.

In order to fill the time slot, producers approached Lorne Michaels and developed the idea of a variety show featuring comedy sketches, political satire and musical and celebrity guests. Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, Michael Coe, Chevy Chase and Michael O’Donoghue were the premier comedy troupe of the show originally billed as NBC’s Saturday Night as rival network ABC aired a short-lived, awkward Saturday Night Live with sports-caster Howard Cosell—very much out of his element with this concept—and co-starring Bill Murray, who’d later join the cast of NBC’s revue to replace Chase after he left the show. The initial concept was to have a rotation of permanent hosts in Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor and George Carlin but soon changed the model to guest hosts once Pryor’s act was censored. The pilot episode also established the Weekend Update news segment and the first of the show’s recurring characters—Killer Bees.

Friday, 9 October 2020

opรฉra populaire

It is theatre season, and on this day in 1986, the Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Stilgoe, Charles Hart stage musical adaptation of the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux (primarily a writer of detective fiction of equal stature and influence to Arthur Conon Doyle) that relates the narrative of disfigured musical genius haunting the maze of passageways beneath the opera house of Paris and becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano had its opening night at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. One of the longest-running productions of all time, it has been performed by troupes all over the world. 


Thursday, 8 October 2020

les mis

Formally opening at London’s Barbican Centre on this evening in 1985 after a week of preview performances to mixed critical reception, the stage musical collaboration of Victor Hugo’s Les Misรฉrables from Claude-Michel Schรถnberg, Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel—translated by Herbert Kretzmer is one of the West End’s and the world’s longest-running performance—in good company with Cats (previously) which coincidentally saw its Broadway premiere on the same day three years prior. Following the storyline of Hugo’s 1862 novel, informed and inspired by the Artful Dodger and company of street urchins’ song and dance routine in Oliver! (Twist), doggedly determined police inspector Javert (relatedly) pursues Jean Valjean for breaking parole (sentenced and having served nineteen years hard-labour for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s staving baby) and are carried away with a cast of characters to a Paris on the brink of revolt and revolution. 

Saturday, 19 September 2020

rip rbg

As consequential and inopportune her death is and one hopes that her “most fervent” wish will be respected, one also hopes that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s departure (1933 – 2020) and vacancy in the US Supreme Court does not eclipse her life and career as a champion for justice, equality and access. One of my favourite details of her biography was her early desire to become an opera singer—before having any aspirations at law—and the eventual pop culture icon’s supernumery stage roles (extras—usually non-speaking parts but was once appointed to the judgeship in decide the case in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, bring justice for Shylock) and her regular attendance at shows in Washington, DC.

Despite pronounced ideological differences, Ginsburg considered fellow justice (at the Supreme Court and previously at the US Court of Appeals) Antonin Scalia (1936 – 2016, see also that succession crisis with this vacancy likely to be the encore) and often went to the opera together, twice appearing together in the Richard Strauss comedy of manners Ariadne auf Naxos—an instance of unexpected collegiality that inspired its own opera buffa in 2015. The string of lace jabots illustrated is from the excellent SCOTUS Blog (their obituary linked up top) and was Ginburg’s signature accessory and was said to wear particular one’s depending on her mood and what sort of opinion—dissenting or majority—she was issuing. Let’s all wear black and gold and uphold her legacy and hard-won victories.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

do a turn or return the twenty-five

Courtesy of our faithful chronicler, we learn that on this day—along with many others of good and great report—in 1970 Mungo Jerry (yes, named after the character from Cats) had their seminal summertime hit when the song topped the charts in the UK.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

unman, wittering and zigo

Released under the title Compaรฑeros del Crimen to theatre audiences in Uruguay in 1972 the cinematic adaptation of the 1958 radio drama by Giles Cooper portrays a newly arrived substitute teacher hired on to complete the semester at a boys’ finishing school who comes to suspect that his predecessor was murdered by the students—though his fears are dismissed as paranoia initially. Often portrayed as a stage piece in public schools in the UK, it is also part of the curriculum for English standard coursework for one’s GCSEs. The resonant quotation from the venerable headmaster goes, “Authority is a necessary evil and every bit as evil as it is necessary.”

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

turkey lurkey

Catching up on some post-Thanksgiving podcast listening, we were delighted to learn of the existence of priceless collaboration between Susan J Vitucci and Henry Krieger in their silly and engaging operetta Love’s Fowl that recounts the continuing adventures of Henny Penny, also known as Chicken Little or by her stage diva name, La Pulcina Piccola—but through the filter of opera buffa, with an impressive, classically informed score and libretto sung in Italian, featured in a poultry-themed left-overs episode of This American Life.
Our hero has graduated from her initial hysterical though determined mission (despite leaping to the wrong conclusion, her perseverance is what saved her life whereas her companions all dawdled and became Foxy Loxy’s meal—those without scruples always ready and willing to take advantage of panic and confusion) to warn the King that the sky is falling to face some of the more vexing but equally universal challenges of fairy stories and folklore (the familiar, initial trope is classified as Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 20c but together, we run the entire gamut), a cumulative story like the original premise it begins with, repetitious in some way but always advancing, including swashing-buckling on the high seas, statecraft and romantic liaisons.

a lerner and loewe production

With a strong cast including Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet, Richard Burton and Roddy McDowall though opening-night critical reception was mixed, Camelot premiered on Broadway at the Majestic on this day in 1960—running ultimately for over eight hundred performances in the course of three years before going on tour, netting several awards and a cinematic adaptation (also boosting a strong suite of actors).  It’s a little strange to think in hindsight that the Kennedy White House was accorded those airs and refinement of chivalry and idealism because the stage play and cast recording were so well inculcated in popular culture and not the other way around. I wonder where else this phenomena, this transference takes hold. At the end of the second and final act, with infidelity leading to betrayal and bloodshed and the Round Table broken, King Arthur encounters a young stowaway called Tom of Warwick (Robin Stewart, Mike Abbott on ITV’s Bless this House) whom he knights, hoping that this field promotion will ensure that his legend and the Matter of Britain are carried forward for future generations.

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.

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.

Monday, 12 November 2018

requiescat in pace: douglas rain

NPR reports that accomplished Shakespearian actor Douglas Rain passed away, aged ninety in Ontario, with an illustrious career with many hundreds of credits to his name, both on stage and on television, working alongside countless veteran actors—but perhaps the role that Rain will be remembered and appreciated in the widest sense for is that of voicing the Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer that controlled the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft on its voyage to Jupiter in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Arthur C Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (previously here, here, here and here). Rain’s calm and measured tones became something menacing and unforgettable, to have lost agency and the ability to countermand a machine. In 2010, HAL is rebooted and Rain reprises his role, this time alongside his twin, SAL 9000, voiced by Candice Bergen.

Monday, 31 October 2016

reprise or i know what my people are thinking tonight

The doggedly diligent campaign reporters of Nation Public Radio’s Politics Podcast have been working virtually non-stop during this entire physically and emotional taxing election cycle in America, serving up a refreshingly thoughtful and reflective reporting on the election despite the usual common discourse and the pace of change. Now they’re working even harder with daily broadcasts, but recently to bridge the weekend presented a really interesting episode from this summer that I’d missed before—before all these dread realities began to coalesce and was not a regular listener. Encore examines the role of music—specifically musical theatre in the shaping of campaigns and presidencies.
I knew that FDR with “Happy Days are Here Again” (Chasing Rainbows, 1930) and Truman with “I’m just Wild about Harry” (Shuffle Along, 1921—for addressing social justice questions) had capitalized on popular, feel-good songs of their day—just like other rallying standards, but I didn’t realise that the Kennedy White House did not become characterised as Camelot organically but rather became known as such because the Lerner and Loewe Broadway production about to be adapted to film was so popular. Musical numbers might not have the same purchase on cultural currency as they did in decades past—at least not one that’s immediately recognisable—having been replaced by other power-ballads, but it’s interesting how the discussion touches on one candidate’s invoking of songs from The Phantom of the Opera as part of his regular playlist (plus some number with those damn dancing cats, whereas perhaps “Tomorrow belongs to Me” from Cabaret may work better) because of his connection to New York and the Great White Way, and the other who backed away from her rather accidental though intended as flattering comparison to Eva Perรณn.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

a man for all seasons

The British Library, as the Guardian reports, will be digitising the only known surviving script written by William Shakespeare in his own hand. The piece, on the subject of Sir Thomas More, Catholic martyr, who managed to rise to the rank of Lord Chancellor in the court of Henry XIII. Focused on More’s divided allegiance by the king’s schism with the pope in Rome and witness to the persecution of the Huguenots who had sheltered in London—having fled violence of France who considered them heretical, the play was not authored by the Bard himself, but rather re-worked by a committee of playwrights in hopes of bringing this anonymous work finally to the stage.
Though feeling audiences were ready for a less than favourable portrayal of king and country, the play remained unscreened for fear it would incite a riot, much like those limned in the manuscript. The lines that Shakespeare form powerful soliloquy for the protagonist, which speak to current tensions over the refugee crisis:

You’ll put down strangers,
 Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam [by a leash]
To slip him like a hound. Alas, alas!
Say now the King
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adhere to England:
Why, you must needs be strangers.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

curtain-call and cat-walk

Sometimes a reminder is far better than a discovery.

Dangerous Minds admonishes us how David Bowie, fresh from the release of his album “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” toured with the theatre company performing The Elephant Man, playing the principal role. Fellow-actors and the audience attested that he played the part perfectly, without make-up or prosthetics. Other artists, reportedly, only craved the Elephant Man’s bones. The mobarazzi by fans was really to much to bear at times, and David Bowie took measures to protect himself. During the production’s run on Broadway, several luminaries caught the show, including Yoko Ono and John Lennon—who was killed by a crazed fan shortly afterward. This tragic act must have surely turned Bowie away from the stage, given the grasping he’d already experienced despite his talent. Be sure to check out the link for more details and a performance.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

dramaturgy or meme-base

An aspiring thespian and student of Aristotle named Theophrastus devised a list of archetypal and stock-characters. While it may not be predictive of every aspect of human nature—as their ought to be as well a generic Misogynist, the Fan-Boy and the Xenophobe—and alternately, many positive qualities that probably are not very exciting are absent, it seems to be pretty complete, same-otherwise, and you could certainly apply the same template to a lot of modern means of expression, though the Greek makes the caricatures sound especially harsh:

The Insincere One (Eironeia, irony) The Flatterer (Kolakeia, the shit-sayer) The Garrulous One (Adoleschia, the Sophomoric One)

The Boor (Agroikia, the Skeptic) The Complacent One (Areskeia, the Inactive One) The One without Moral Feeling (Aponoia, the Psychopath)
The Talkative One (Lalia, Chatty-Cathy) The Fabricator (Logopoiia, the Wordsmith) The Shamelessly Greedy One (Anaischuntia, shunning society)

The Pennypincher (Mikrologia, Scrooge)
The Offensive One (Bdeluria, who sides towards delusion)
The Hapless One (Akairia, the Unlucky One)

The Officious Man (Periergia, just like a Boss)
The Absent-Minded One (Anaisthesia, the Selective One)
The Unsociable One (Authadeia, the Loner)

The Superstitious One (Deisidaimonia, the staunch conventionalist)
The Faultfinder (Mempsimoiria, the vulnernable one with something to prove)
The Suspicious One (Apistia, the conspiracy theorist)
The Repulsive One (Duschereia, poor hygiene)
The Unpleasant One (Aedia, the jaded, the scapegoat)
The One with Petty Ambition (Mikrophilotimia, the vain)
The Stingy One (Aneleutheria, the ungrateful child)
The Show-Off (Alazoneia, the dare-devil)
The Arrogant One (Huperephania, the by-stander)

The Coward (Deilia, the nostalgic soul)
The Oligarchical One (Oligarchia, the Untouchable)
The Late Learner (Opsimathia)
The Slanderer (Kakologia)
The Lover of Bad Company (Philoponeria)
The Basely Covetous Man (Aischrokerdeia)