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.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

mmxxi

As this calendar draws to a close and we look forward to 2022, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the things and events that took place in 2021. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

 january: In the US state of Georgia’s run-off election, Democrat candidates prevail and thus switch the Senate’s controlling majority. The joint session of Congress to certify the votes of the Electoral College in favour of the Biden-Harris ticket is interrupted by a violent insurrection on the Capitol incited by Donald

Trump, yet the proceedings are resumed undeterred. For his gross incompetence and treasonous actions, the US House of Representatives impeaches Trump for a second time. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated president and vice-president of the United States of America in a socially-distanced ceremony held on the same portico where the violent coup attempt occured two weeks prior. Across Russia, thousands protest the arrest and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.  English filmmaker Michael Apted (*1941), entertainer Siegfried Fischbacher (*1939, see also last May) and baseball players Tommy Lasorda (*1927) and Hank Aaron (*1941), actress Cloris Leachman (*1926) as well as accomplished star of stage and screen Cicely Tyson (*1924) pass away.  

february: A military uprising in Myanmar wrests power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.  Actor Hal Holbrook (*1925) and veteran become fund-raiser who raised millions for the National Health

Service Sir Captain Thomas Moore (*1920) himself succumbed to COVID-19.   French screen-writer and director Jean-Claude Carriรจre (*1931) passed away, and so veteran actor Christopher Plummer (*1929). The US Senate again convenes as jury to vote on whether to acquit or prosecute Donald Trump’s impeachment.  Larry Flynt (*1942), publisher, pornographer and self-styled anti-censorship champion, passed away, as did jazz virtuoso and twenty-three-time Grammy Award winner Chick Corea (*1941).  The US Senate votes not to acquit Donald Trump a second time after his second impeachment.  A polar vortex brings severe winter storms to Texas and Mexico, leaving millions without heat and electricity has the power grid is overwhelmed.  Talk radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh (*1951)  dies after a year-long struggle with lung cancer.  Poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti passes away, aged 101. Martian probe Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet to begin a search for signs of past life. The US rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement.  

march: Oprah Winfrey interviews the estranged, self-exiled Sussexes about Meghan Markle’s treatment

by the Royal Family, causing consternation and many to question the institution of the monarchyPhantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster (*1929) passed away aged ninety-one.  A container ship gets lodged in the Suez Canal, hindering global trade and could potentially be stuck for weeks.  Legislators in the American state of Georgia pass selectively restrictive laws to disenfranchise Black voters.   Children’s book author Beverly Cleary (*1916) writer of the Ramona Quimby series passed away, aged 104.  The usurping military forces in Myanmar gun down dozens of pro-democracy protesters.  Islamic rebels besiege the city of Palma in Mozambique.  Undercover operative whose missteps brought the Watergate scandal to the press and public, G. Gordon Liddy (*1930) died, aged 90, as did author Larry McMurtry (*1936) who penned Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment.

april: Prince Phillip passes away, aged 99.  As tensions escalate between Russia and NATO with a troop

build-up along the border with Ukraine, US President Joe Biden proposes to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to normalise relations and restore diplomatic ties.  The police officer who murdered George Floyd is found guilty on all charges.  Walter Mondale (*1928), former vice president under Jimmy Carter, and presidential candidate with running-mate Geraldine Ferraro passed away, aged ninety-three.  Astronaut Michael Collins (*1930) who orbited the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the lunar surface passed away, aged ninety.

may: Accomplished actor Olympia Dukakis (*1931) passed away, aged eighty-nine.  Architect Helmut Jahn (*1940) behind the Messeturm in Frankfurt and the Post tower in Bonn died in a bicycle accident.  Dozens of rebel priests across German defy the Catholic church and offer benedictions to same-sex couple.  Israel airstrikes in Gaza escalate.  Actor, author, televangelist and TV’s Captain Merrill Stubing Gavin MacLeod (*1931) after suffering a long bout of ill-health.  

june: G7 leaders meet in Cornwall, in person.  A coalition government in Israel unseats Netanyahu after a

dozen years as prime minister.  The US government establishes Juneteenth as a new federal holiday though new laws to disenfranchise Black voters continues apace in many Republican controlled polities.  The space station Tiangong receives its first crew.  Software and computer security pioneer John McAfee (*1945) found dead in a Spanish jail cell awaiting extradition to the US over charges of tax evasion.  Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was disbarred for peddling the lie that that the election was stolen from his former client.  The US government issues a declassified report to congress regarding unidentified aerial phenomenon.  A twelve storey condominium complex near Miami, Florida collapses with dozens injured and unaccounted for.  

july: Outrage as more mass-graves of indigenous pupils found at historic Canadian residential schools.  Hundreds perish from record heatwaves and wildfires along the Pacific coast of North America.  Angela Merkel makes her last official visit to the United Kingdom, addressing the Houses of Parliament, the last

foreign leader to do so since Bill Clinton in 1997.   Richard Donner (*1930), film director behind The Goonies, Superman and the Lethal Weapon franchise passed away.  England plans to fully reopen with no COVID-19 restrictions late in the month despite a resurgence in cases and the rapidly spreading Delta variant.  Jovenel Moรฏse, the Haitian president, was assassinated.  Continual and torrential rains exacerbated by the climate emergency caused severe flooding in western Germany and the Henan region in China.  The Special Committee on the January 6th Capitol Insurrection heard opening testimony from law enforcement on the scene of the terror attack.  Inventor and infomercial pitchman Ron Popeil (*1935) passed away.

august: The UN Panel on Climate Change issues a stark, bleak forecast for the planet’s future as a suitable place for life as we know it.  Wildfires rage throughout the Mediterranean, Siberia and the North American west coast.  As coalition forces depart, the resurgent Taliban takes several regional capitals in weeks with Kabul poised to soon collapse as authorities flee and embassies are evacuated.  A massive earthquake strikes Haiti.  Tragically, most Afghani government officials flee the country and the capital falls as the Taliban retakes power and restores the emirate after nearly two decades of warfare.  US army installations in Germany assist with Operation Allied Refuge (OAR) as thousands of Afghans are airlifted from the country.  Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (*1941) passes away. 
Just days ahead of the deadline imposed to complete evacuation missions out of the Hamid Karzai international airport, an Islamic State affiliate and sworn enemy of the Taliban for being too Westernised, lax, undisciplined detonated twin suicide bombs outside the gates, killing dozens.  Veteran actor and advocate Ed Asner (*1929) passed away as did Jamaican musical giant Lee “Scratch” Perry (*1936).  On the sixteenth anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, a destructive storm called Ida makes landfall.  The Taliban celebrates with fireworks and firing rifles in the air the departure of the last US flight from the Kabul airport, declaring victory.

september: The legislature of the state of Texas passes a tranche of new laws curtailing voting access, restricting teaching of America’s racist past and present, mandating the national anthem at sporting events, permitting universal carry laws for firearms and doing away with licensure or training requirements and

essentially banning abortion by placing a bounty on abettors and deputising neighbours to litigate the ban against neighbours.  New Wave actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (*1933), whose roles defined the genre and called the French counterpart of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, passed away.  El Salvador becomes first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.  “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” singer Marรญa Mendiola (*1952) of Baccara passed away in Madrid.  An effort to recall and replace Democrat governor of California fails and Gavin Newsome retains his place, though the balloting and counter-campaigns cost taxpayers of the state in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars.  The first commercial, all-amateur space tourism mission safely splashes down after three days in orbit.  Entrepreneur, inventor and computing pioneer behind the ZX Spectrum, Clive Sinclair passed away, aged 81 (*1940).  Justin Trudeau’s party retains power following national elections.  After three years under house arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to America on charges of espionage and circumventing sanctions against Iran, business executive Meng Wangzhou, daughter of the head of Chinese communications giant Huawei, is released. 

october:  US president Biden’s agenda is derailed, diminished by moderate voices in his party.  A vaccine for malaria is trialled in Africa.  Amid a growing corruption scandal, Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz

tenders his resignation, though choosing to remain leader of his political party and will retain his seat in parliament.  William Shatner, aged ninety, as a space tourist becomes the oldest human to enter the Earth’s orbit.  Attending an open-advice surgery for his constituents from Leigh-on-Sea, long-time MP David Amess was murdered by an attacker with a knife.  Former US Joint-Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell (*1937) dies from complications arising from COVID-19.  President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, under pressure from elements of his own party, is rather austerely pared back, dropping proposed benefits like universal college tuition and paid family-leave.  Garbage social media network rebrands its parent company as Meta as it prepares to build and embrace its concept of the metaverse.  A military coup in Somali plunges the country into chaos with no signs of peaceful resolution.

november: A powerful storm-flood in western Canada cuts off Vancouver from the rest of British Columbia.  Weaponised refugees massed at the EU frontier by a provoking Belarus at enormous personal

cost are slowly being repatriated to the lands they fled.  After exonerated in a gross miscarriage of justice, Republicans acclaim a teenage, white supremacist murderer as their new hero.  Award winning Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim passes away, aged ninety-one in the same week as Schoolhouse Rock! lyricist Dave Frishberg (*1933).  The COVID-19 Omicron-variant, first detected in South Africa, is causing major concerns as convention cases rage resurgent in Europe, poised to be more widespread and deadly than the same time a year ago.  Inflation and supply-chain issues threaten global economic recovery.  On the anniversary of its independence from the UK in 1966, Barbados becomes the world's newest republic, with Sandra Mason as the island’s president. 

december: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows releases Power Point slide-deck that outlined options for Trump to hold on to the presidency in the chaos of the 6. January insurrection to the commission investigating the attempted coup.  Monkees singer Mike Nesmith (*1942) passes away.  An unseasonal tornado rips through western Kentucky, leaving over a hundred dead.   Gothic novelist Anne Rice (*1941 as Howard Allen Francis O’Brien) passed away.  Tensions continue to mount at the Russo-Ukraine border with Russia putting forward a litany of demands for NATO to avoid invasion.   Journalist and author Joan Didion (*1934) passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.   Borders close and travel-restrictions re-imposed over truly exponential spread of the the Omicron variant; preliminary findings suggest although less lethal, hospitals and other essential services could be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and vulnerable populations still need protection.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu (*1931), anti-apartheid hero and moral-centre, passes away aged ninety.  Sadly veteran blogger Jonco, behind Bits & Pieces, passed away quite suddenly, leaving the blogosverse a dimmer place.  On the last day of the year and just weeks short of planned celebrations for her one-hundredth birthday, beloved talent and treasure with a career spanning over eight decades, Betty White (*1922) passed away.

 



Monday, 27 December 2021

7x7

the year that was: Miss Cellania’s Winterval tradition of annual lists—including arts and entertainment, animals and more  

market volatility: unusual vintage shot glasses track ups and downs of the Dow Jones Industrial Average—via Super Punch 

a sight for sore eyes: a coffee table edition from rock royalty The Residents  

where the wild things are: Maurice Sendak directed a darker version of The Nutcracker ballet, truer to the original narrative and far more captivating  

ultimate rendering: Picasso’s first and last self-portraits—see also—via Messy Nessy Chic 

boop: robot reacts to a poke in the nose

lend me your ears and i’ll sing you a song about a sad, dysfunctional d.c.: US president Joe Biden’s first year in review presented by Politico

Saturday, 18 December 2021

something just broke

Opening to expected and welcome controversy over the taboo subject in general and some vocal members of the theatre-going public dismissing it as inappropriate for a musical, the Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman collaboration Assassins had its debut on this day in 1990 at the Off-Broadway venue the Playwrights’ Horizons. Despite negative initial reception, the revue-style piece that explored the real and imagined lives, motivations and self-justifications of those who tried (attempted and successful) to kill US leaders, presidential victims and tertiary characters associated perpetrators, the show was reprised many times and during a 2004 revival on Broadway and the West End ultimately won five Tony Awards. The cast of characters include John Wilkes Booth, John Hinckley Jr, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, president Gerald Ford’s would-be assassins.

Monday, 13 December 2021

dewey “pigmeat” markham

Passing away this day in 1981 (*1904) and having earned his stage name from a routine in which he declared himself to be “Sweet Papa Pigmeat,” the comedy and singer began his career with travelling musical revues and burlesque shows in the 1920s and 1930s and ultimately began a regular act at the Apollo Theatre.  Among Markham’s repertoire was a courtroom satire, with Marin presiding in a graduation cap and gown to look officious, with his catch-phrase “Here Comes the Judge” set to music and charting in 1968, the song considered to be one of the precursors to the performance style of rapping.  A second turn-of-speech from Markham passed through the then-highly segregated entertainment industry and also onto NBC’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (previously, Hee-Haw’s Justus O’Peace was a direct appropriation for that target audience) with the admonition  to “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.”

Sunday, 12 December 2021

card catalogue

 Via Memo of the Air—much more to explore there—we quite enjoyed this extensive tread celebrating lauded and versatile actor Katherine Matilda Swinton starring in the role as various modernist libraries (see also), such as the Texas Southern University’s Library Learning Centre, the Hyattsville Library in Prince George’s County, Maryland or this wee, little free library. Keep scrolling for more plus replies from institutions around the world.

8x8

an den mond “genuss, lieber mond”: a completist sorts and ranks every composition of Franz Schubert—via the morning news 

chaotic good: mapping the mythological creatures of the Baltic—via ibฤซdem 

the two-thousand year-old man: more appreciation and acclaim for Mel Brooks 

birds aren’t real: a satirical Gen-Z misinformation campaign (see Poe’s Law) turned merchandising opportunity  

location scout: an assortment of movie maps 

parallel path: rubbish corporatespeak that does not avail itself to the level of jargon and technical terms  

combinatorics: base rate fallacies and why false narratives are easy to frame for the ill-numerate  

sexting: “u ๐Ÿ†™” in the style of several male authors

Monday, 29 November 2021

there was no ransom to be paid—no song unsung, no wine untasted

On this day in 2009, the ITV network’s Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle’s debut album climbed to the top of the charts, becoming the best-selling first recording in the history of the UK. Appearing as a contestant on series three, she surprised the audience and jury with an amazing rendition of Fantine’s solo from Les Misรฉrables, subsequently rising to stardom.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

7x7

wordle: a daily acrostic-variant challenge—via Waxy  

double-dog dare: the original overture to what’s become a real snowclone for about to do something foolhardy  

parasitus: a fixture—or at least a trope of Greek and Roman society—was the individual whom could thrive off of the hospitality of others and suffer a little humiliation—via Super Punch 

i prefer the sequel—also sprach zarathrustra: an extensive look at 2001: A Space Odyssey and how some of the most indelible elements were left up to chance—see previously 

you would give everyone salmonella, ella, ella, eh, eh: Weird Al narrates Thanksgiving  

natural habitat: an interactive map lets one explore the range and change of living organisms at their margins  

uncountable case: the partitive declension and a lively debate on less versus fewer

Sunday, 14 November 2021

1. e4 e5

Via ibฤซdem, we are directed towards an exquisite narrative told through a game of guided-chess based on a famous round played between New Orleans native Paul Charles Morphy (*1837 - †1884, a prodigy and called the pride and sorrow of the game for having announced his retirement while still in his prime) and simultaneous exhibition, blindfolded against Karl II, Duke of Brunswick and Comte Isouard de Vauvenarguesat the Italian Opera House of Paris, a parallel playbill as it were for the night’s performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.

Friday, 12 November 2021

he’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease

Lawyer, cycling pioneer, acrobat and aerialist who popularised the gymnastic wear singlet that’s his namesake (see also) and inspired the song “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” Jules Lรฉotard premiered his signature somersault (Salto) routine on three bars high above the audience on this day in 1859 at the Cirque Napolรฉon in Paris. Touring the world and writing vaudeville acts and other theatre pieces (preparing to retire from the riskier portions of his act as he grew older), the life of this Toulouse native was cut short in 1870, after Lรฉotard contracted smallpox or cholera in Spain.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

9x9

the audience effect: fellow blogger and internet caretaker Duck Soup passes a million page-views

ะณั€ะฐั„ะธั‡ะบะธ ะดะธะทะฐั˜ะฝ: celebrating the works of three pioneering Serbian graphic designers and topographers

mountain view: a prop gravesite used for film and television, interred and disinterred thousands of times, in a very real cemetery 

subject matter expert: the street photography of Eric Kogan—via the morning news  

utter rubbish: traumatising photographs of the garbage, sometimes neatly knolled, that humans produce  

the briefing: a definitive guide to COP 26  

greased falcon: a fan-channel dedicated to Star Wars! The Musical (2008)  

time in a bottle: hackers are amassing encrypted data in the hopes that within a few years, quantum computers will be able to unlock it—via Slashdot 

return to comfort town: more on brilliant housing development in Kyiv inspired by building blocks—see previously

Saturday, 30 October 2021

nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

A prolific and popular salon painter in his own time—though figural portraits of classical subjects fell out of fashion until a revival in the 1980s, William-Adolphe Bourguereau of La Rochelle born this day in 1825 (†1905) counts as his most famous work in his 1879 La Naissance de VรฉnusThis painting does not actually depict the birth of the goddess by her transported to Cyprus as a fully mature figure in a sea shell—first gained attention and notoriety after winning the 1850 grand prize in the Prix de Rome, submitting two entries for that year’s competition, triumphant with a rather pedestrian depiction of the rescue of Zenobia, half-drowned, by a group of shepherds. The more evocative alternate submission was the pictured Dante and his guide Virgil (where have you brought me?) in an encounter from Canto XXX of the Divine Comedy in the Circle of the Imposters (Falsifiers—perjurers, counterfeiters, etc.) with an alchemist called Capocchio forever condemned to be gnashed by a Florentine knight named Gianni Schicchi de’ Cavalcanti who forged the will of a wealthy merchant to leave a horse for him, whose punishment seems a little extreme. Aside from being immortalised in the epic and this painting, Giacomo Puccini produced an eponymous light-hearted opera in 1918.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

bennelong point

Occupying the titular headland, known as Tubowgule by the indigenous Gadigal people, the Sydney Opera House on the harbor, originally designed by Jรธrn Utzon, and considered one of the more distinguishing structures and venues of the past century, had its official grand opening on this day in 1973. Under construction since 1959, the formal ceremony was conducted by Queen Elizabeth II before a large crowd with the inaugural orchestral performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy. Of note, the first actual musical number took place in 1960 when baritone Paul Robeson regaled the construction crew from the stage during their lunch break with one of his signature tunes, “Old Man River.”

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

prove to me that you’re divine, change my water into wine—that’s all you need do, then i’ll know it’s all true

Formerly only previewed as a cast recording in limited release over a year prior, the rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber Jesus Christ Superstar was for the first time staged and performed before a live audience in the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway—the famous venue for My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Man of La Mancha which would eventually be consecrated in 1989 as the interdenominational Times Square Church—on this day in 1971. The anachronistic version of the Holy Week narrative, loosely following the books of the gospel and giving an accounting of Jesus and his disciples leading up to his arrest and crucifixion was the longest-running West End musical before being displaced by Cats in 1989. Below is “Superstar,” the penultimate number, with Judas, Soul Sisters and Angels from the 1973 adaptation, filmed on location.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

the wartburg song contest

Melding two separate folktales, the legendary errant knight, poet and minstrel Tannhรคuser and the above titled tale of the Sรคngerkrieg auf Wartburg, the 1845 opera in three acts whose narrative arc plays out the struggle between sacred and profane love and its redemptive powers by Richard Wagner (previously) was the inaugural performance on this day in 1903 for the newly opened concert hall (Stadttheatre) in Bern.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

anatevka

On this day in 1964, the alternatively titled musical Fiddler on the Roof—a collaboration of Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein—premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre. The original cast included Zero Mostel as the leading milkman Tevye, Bea Arthur as the matchmaker Yente, Pia Zadora as the youngest daughter, Bette Midler and Leonard Nimoy who all attempt to maintain religious and cultural traditions after being displaced and resettled in Russia counter to a more liberal second generation and threatened with further eviction.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

most sensational, inspirational, celebrational

Originally airing on the British ITV network before being picked up in syndication for American audiences, Jim Henson’s Muppet Show was first broadcast on this day in 1976—the characters and premise previewed with two pilots the previous two years, the first subtitled the Valentine Show with guest star Mia Farrow and Sex and Violence with an all Muppet cast.  

The first episode featured Joel Grey, the Master of Ceremonies from Cabaret, with the guest act being “Wilkommen” and father of Jennifer of Dirty Dancing fame. Musical numbers, guest interviews are interspersed with Fozzie Bear’s comedy routines, Gonzo’s random act of destruction and Muppet News flashes. The Swedish Chef’s cooking segments appeared in episode two.  Coincidentally on the same date five years earlier, the BBC was offered Sesame Street but rejected to add it to their programming schedule, framing the show as “indoctrination and a dangerous extension of the use of television” and having “authoritarian aims.” Independent broadcasters eventually brought the educational programme to the UK.