Throwback Thursday

Back in June of 2011 I made one of my frequent trips up to Milan for the opera. It was my last assignment for Opera Britannia – Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette conducted by Yannik Nézet-Séquin. As always I took an extra day or two to luxuriate in the wonders which that incredible city had to offer. The Museo Diocesano was a bit off the beaten track but it was, as Michelin use to say back in the days when they were an impeccable source, “worth the detour!”

Unfortunately with some of the older posts that were transferred over from BlogSpot I have not been able to reformat for a more pleasing page display.

On this day in 1872: Illinois becomes the first state to require gender equality in employment.

Willy Or Won't He

“You brought the sunshine with you from Roma,” beamed the always welcoming Vittoria as I checked in a week ago Monday at the Hotel Star in Milano.  And indeed after several days of continuous rain it seemed that the sun had returned to warm the Piazza Duomo and it was a glorious day for strolling through Centro.  However my gift was short-lived: the next morning Vittoria suggested that an umbrella and a sweater would be more appropriate than SF15 to the day.

Peck is a food lover’s paradise however the stern warning tells you – No dogs! No Photos!  And some of the staff give a new dimension to Milan attitude – except for Bruno behind the prepared food counter who is charm incarnate. Though at those prices everyone should be.

Fortunately even in the rain Milano has much to offer – it means spending a bit of extra time…

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Spring Has Sprung

Each year at this time I am reminded of a little rondeau that George Burns my former supervisor at Air Canada use to declaim from the steps of his control console:

Spring has sprung!
The Grass has rise!
I wonder where
the birdies is?
They say the bird is on the wing.
But that’s absurd!
’cause we all knows
the wing is on the bird!

Tain’t Shakespeare…  hell tain’t even good doggerel but as delivered by George it was pure poetry.

And here’s the indomitable Beatrice Lillie being almost as incomprehensible but as sincere about her hatred for the season of Primavera.

And just in case you think dear old Bea was alone in her antipathy I end the first day of Spring with this quote:


On this day in 1854: The Republican Party of the United States is organized in Ripon, Wisconsin.

Lunedi Lunacy

I’m told that British comedy is an acquired taste and I seem to have acquired almost at birth.  Their bawdy, frankly sexist and often politically incorrect but just as often erudite humour appeals to my own peculiar sense of haha.  In North America we’ve become – thanks primarily to public broadcasters in Canada and the US – familiar with a handful of British comedic geniuses. I recall listening to Hancock’s Half Hour on radio and then watching it on our first television set.  Even at an early age my warped mind found poor neurotic Tony, Hattie and Syd great fun.  I adored the Carry On films, particularly the two Kenneths – Hawtrey and Williams. Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii sent me into stitches one “little titter” at a time.  Benny Hill I never really liked – there was something about his humour that made me uneasy, and I can’t really put my finger on it!  Hmm almost sounds like a Benny Hill line doesn’t it?

sta-wat-24_22Still many popular UK comics from the last half of the 20th century – as well as our current – remain unknown on this side of the Atlantic and amongst those one of my favourites is Scottish actor and impressionist Stanley Baxter (left).  Baxter was a child actor who forged a successful adult career in films, on stage, on radio, and on television.  He was a popular pantomime dame up until his self-imposed retirement in 1992.  However in 2002 he can out of retirement and did a series of radio programmes right up until 2012. Once again he chose to leave the public eye though compilations of various shows have been put together for broadcast and as DVD packages.

I dare say given North American sensibilities his penchant for appearing in drag would have worked against success this side of the pond.

I’ve been threatening to take up driving again but fear this may be the most likely scenario.

As always with British comedy some of the references go over my head or, given that these sketches were done in the 1970s, be dated but this is one of the best Marlene’s I’ve ever seen.

When we lived in Warsaw we had full, if not necessary legal, cable access to BBC-TV and I always enjoyed Mastermind but don’t ever recall Sunday Tabloids being any of the contestants’ expertise.

In doing a big of poking around about Stanley Baxter it turns out that he is a bit of a recluse however I found an interesting article by Cole Moreton who, until recently, was a report for the Independent in the UK.  The Invisible Man: Searching for the reclusive Stanley Baxter is a fascinating read.

On this day in 1954: Willie Mosconi sets a world record by running 526 consecutive balls without a miss during a straight pool exhibition at East High Billiard Club in Springfield, Ohio, setting a record which remains unbroken.

The Broccoli Tree: A Parable

“You cannot unsee a tree.”

My good friend Lara sent a link to a video bearing the above title.  I have to admit that I had not heard of either the Broccoli Tree or the story behind Patrik Svedberg’s photographic biography of it.   Its tale is told in this video which was produced, edited, and inspired by Seth Radley and posted on the Vlogbrothers’ YouTube channel. A left click on the photographs of the Broccoli Tree will take you to the Parable of the Broccoli Tree.

A collage of photographs of the Broccoli Tree taken by Patrik Svedberg.

I’m still not sure what moral I am meant to take away from this parable but it is an interesting story and highlights both the positive and the negative of modern communication.

On this day in 1966: Off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, the DSV Alvin submarine finds a missing American hydrogen bomb.


Throwback Thursday

A week or two ago I recalled a visit to the Exhibition celebrating the reopening of the Vatican Library back in 2011. One of the many beautiful illuminated manuscripts that caught my eye was a choir book from the 16th century – the earliest compilation by one composer in their vast collection. I thought I’d revisit it today.

Willy Or Won't He

An engraving from 1578 by Etienne Duperac of the Sistine Chapel shows the full pomp of a papal religious ceremony with the singers in their “cantoria” (lower right) gathered around a lectern. The bottom of the hand coloured engraving has been cut off but other copies show that every important participant is identified by a number corresponding to a legend at the bottom of the page. (From the V&A website)

There was a time when the finest composers and musicians were attached to the Papacy. Music at both Saint Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel were of a quality equal to any in the world. Many great composers are recorded to have been associated with the music making in the Papal chapels and court: Dufay, Ninot le Petit, Festa, Josquin, Palestrina, de Morales,  Landi – a roll call of the major talents of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. …

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