Friday, November 21, 2014


Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

Derek De Armond waits in his tent for Black Friday to begin at a Best Buy in Fort Myers, Fla. Four years ago, he arrived at 6 p.m. for a midnight Thanksgiving opening, and found hundreds of people ahead of him. Two years ago, Mr. De Armond set up a pup tent. His latest tent has multiple rooms, and he set it up more than two weeks before Thanksgiving.

A Black Friday Campout

Even in an era of one-click web shopping, people like Derek De Armond are still willing to camp out for weeks to land the best in-store deals.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In the TLS for November 21, 2014: Jimmy Savile; Bolingbroke; National Service; Napoleonic Britain; Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye; Blake; Trolls; T.E. Hulme; Per Petterson; Poet-pamphleteers; Stoics; Furet on C20 illusions; Quinces; Laurie Lee; The Marrakech Express; Star presence onscreen; Rogues and riddlers; The madness of King George's family; Proust, Rohmer, Auster; &c. 

Yes, the cable-news rumors, for once, are true: Sir Peter Stothard, classicist, author, former editor (1992-2002) of The Times and editor (2002-) of its Literary Supplement - and character in a Tomb Raider spinoff -

did indeed, as one of his presumed first editorial chores of the morning today, round 8:42 am London time, reply to a comment of mine beneath his latest blog post: priorities, don't you know - his knighthood to, in the case of my having posted round 3:24 am Eastern US, my overnighthood, which latter will not, I trust, entail my kneeling before a queen of any kind, only to find her 'not amused' by the rendering of my neo-Victorian prank-call likening Prince Albert to tinned tobacco. 

Speaking, as "we", royally and editorially, were, of Jimmy Savile, the Queen's Honors and, within the just-linked post and comments, the Wilson diaspora among the TLS regulars, cf. the lead review this week ("Top of the Pops"), by the UPenn classicist Emily Wilson, of In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile by Dan Davies:
In 1990, [Savile] was knighted, and later commented in an interview with Lynn Barber, “It was a ginormous relief when I got the knighthood, because it got me off the hook . . . . There are no skeletons and I’ve got knighted so that proves it, doesn’t it?” His health declined in the 1990s and he had heart-bypass surgery in 1994 (waking up from the knife to grab hold of the nurse’s breast)...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pork Barrel

Had Malcolm McDowell and director Lindsay Anderson filmed only the scene from the first two minutes eighteen seconds they would be among my beloved immortals.

Leonard Maltin on O Lucky Man!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Will Survive by The Grateful Live

Matthew Thurber

On Smushing Bugs


When my kitchen became infested with ants this summer, as it does every year, I put out ant traps, which, in another annual rite, did exactly nothing. So I did what I always end up doing — inefficiently smushing the ants one by one. Sometimes I'll massacre dozens at a time in a fit of pique after catching them glutting themselves in my sugar bowl, but then, seeing a single ant moping around on the counter looking sort of forlorn and hangdog, I'll hesitate. He looks like maybe he's not having such a great day already. Getting smushed is the last thing this guy needs...​

Ants, as individuals, do not seem like very complicated animals to me (I'm sure E. O. Wilson would correct me), but every time I smush one I am aware I am extinguishing for all eternity one being's single chance to be alive. It's hard to believe Descartes convinced even himself that animals were automata; watching an ant scramble frantically to escape my annihilating thumb, he certainly looks every bit as conscious of his own mortality as I am...​

Mice are a stickier moral problem. Mice are mammals, and, it has to be admitted when you look at them in the light of day, cute — little bright-eyed wriggly creatures. You can see why they make such endearing cartoon characters. In an ideal world I would be content to coexist with mice. But my Gandhi-esque live-and-let-live attitude hardens into a more Fleming-McCartneyesque one when I go to enjoy my first cup of coffee of the day and find a tiny, hardened black turd in my mug. It is then that I set about carefully daubing the trigger of a mousetrap with peanut butter. So begins a wearisome cycle of vengeance and remorse...​


Little fly
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am I not
A fly like thee?
Or art thou not
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink and sing
Til some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

Ring Nuts

Anna Russell at YouTube

From a 2006 Guardian obituary for the English-Canadian operatic parodist Anna Russell (1911-2006; BBC Radio 4 Extra just ran a repeat, from February 2006, of the episode devoted to her from the series All the Right Notes, Not Necessarily in the Right Order):

Although she made some appearances as a concert singer in the 1930s, it was a disastrous experience as an understudy in a touring production of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana that first showed Russell what could be made of operatic parody. As the tragic heroine, she was supposed to be cast to the floor by the diminutive tenor; not anticipating her to be so heavy, he fell himself, bringing down part of the scenery, and causing such merriment that the performance came to a halt.

At the start of the second world war, she went to her mother's family in Canada, and after one false start in the chorus of a musical comedy, found her first celebrity on a radio programme entitled Round the Marble Arch. As a comic folksinger, she launched such songs as Don Bonzo Alfonzo the Matador (with castanets) and I'd be a Red-Hot Mama if I hadn't got these Varicose Veins. Christmas Box concerts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra were followed after the war by a New York debut at the Carnegie Recital Hall and a one-woman show at the Vanderbilt theatre.

During these early touring seasons, Russell launched some of her most famous skits: How to Write your own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, For Loud Singers with no Brains (introducing the aria, Ah, Lover, from the mythical operetta The Prince of Philadelphia), For Singers with Tremendous Artistry but no Voice (with a German lied, Schlumpf, and a French chanson, Je n'ai pas la plume de ma tante).

Her greatest triumph, though, came with her lecture on Wagner's Ring cycle. This included such celebrated moments as her description of Wotan and Erda: "Weiche, Wotan, Weiche, which means be careful, Wotan. She then bears him eight daughters." Once Siegfried has met Gutrune in Götterdämmerung, Russell reminded her listeners, "She's the only woman that Siegfried's ever come across who isn't his aunt."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Unsorted Bookmarks


[See fifth item from this post] "Injured Humanity; Being A Representation of What the Unhappy Children of Africa Endure from Those Who Call Themselves Christians." Samuel Wood, 1805. GLC05113. The Gilder Lehrman Collection, courtesy of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
8 Weird Animals You Didn't Know Exist  

10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
Kermit the frog used to be a real jerk

29 Prom Pictures That, Um… Just Take A Look

Gyermekvasut, a Soviet-era children's railway in Budapest

History of abolitionism and Quakers: Samuel Wood anti-slavery broadside published in New York
Quaker printer Samuel Wood, active in New York in the early 19th century, published and sold this graphic broadside depicting the sufferings of enslaved people in the West Indies.

History of animals in art: Rubens' hippo painting and accuracy
The best early-modern European picture of a hippopotamus comes from the hand of the celebrated Baroque painter Pieter Paul Rubens.

History of photography in medicine: 19th-century uses of daguerreotypes in consultation.
During the 19th century, physicians used photographs as consultation tools and treated patient photographs as prized collectable objects.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sat Alight in Orbit

Chasing the sun in 'weird-looking' solar racing cars

Rocky Me Genitally, Attica Boy, Jeremy's Iron, &c.

We come on the Sloop John D
My grandfather and me 

On March 19, 2005, under the header "All the Presidents' Men of Letters", I forwarded to divers correspondents "Our Literary Leaders: Books are at home in the White House", an article from the Weekly Standard by Richard Norton Smith​, and follow up now almost ten years on with, thanks to one of those correspondents, a literal rear-view (see National Lampoon strips linked below courtesy the Internet Archive) of Smith's late(st) subject, a governor and vice president who, in dying in 1979 in the embrace of his mistress, may some day inspire a deathbed escort service styling itself with a nod and a wink to convenience-store precedent under the rough-trade name of Cum & Go: 

On Sun, Mar 20, 2005 at 6:48 AM, ​A friend​ wrote:
>             Richard Norton Smith, executive director
> of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, is
> working on a biography of Nelson Rockefeller.
the sections about Megan Marshack should be interesting. 

​UPDATE [November 14, 2014]:
Sunday Book Review 
'On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller,' by Richard Norton Smith


NOV. 14, 2014

... That Rockefeller ended his political career as a largely inconsequential (though, on occasion, charmingly insubordinate) unelected vice president to the unelected President Gerald Ford puts a sad coda on the tale. Unharmed in two assassination attempts, Ford dropped Rockefeller from the 1976 ticket in favor of the younger and more conservative Bob Dole. Three years later, Rockefeller died in flagrante with a young female staff member — one of many women with whom he had dallied through two marriages — thereby ending the grand adventure that was his life as the punch line to a dirty joke. Still, he did pretty well for a guy whose scribbled directions to his staff made baffling reference to Benat Surf (Bennett Cerf, chairman of Random House Books) and Joe N. Lie (the Chinese premier Zhou Enlai). It helped a lot, of course, that he was very, very rich. But it probably helped even more that he possessed a real, if unreliable, genius for politics.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In the TLS for November 14, 2014: The making of home; Greil Marcus on rock history; In defence of discrimination; German history at the British Museum; Marguerite Duras at 100; Syrian politics and history; Alan Ryan on Tocqueville; Pico Iyer on the art of stillness, &c.

The annual FBI report on Crime in the United States for 2013, by state, metro area and city/town.

The state must compensate the surviving victims of a system of forced labor that dates from the 19th century.
Slavery's Shadow on Switzerland: The state must compensate the surviving victims of a system of forced labor that dates from the 19th century.

Switzerland's shame: The children used as cheap farm labour

Francine Prose on Ruben Östlund's film Force Majeure: Does any residue of the Viking spirit still exist in the modern father dutifully pushing a baby stroller through the streets of Stockholm?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Truer Falsetto

As revealed in the period parody above from a 1982 episode of the Swedish music show Måndagsbörsen, Jimmy Fallon's The Barry Gibb Talk Show, in all its quavering Nights-on-Broadway high-note fidelity, was not first in the files of false falsettoes.

Cf. Kenny Everett (1944-1995), UK telly comic, interviewing "The Bee Gees" (i.e., Kenny Everett x 3)

Wikipedia on The Hee Bee Gee Bees, who when parodying The Police as The PeeCees were not prophets of either the personal computer or political correctness in taking the English rank of Police Constable:

The Hee Bee Gee Bees were a pop group formed initially to parody the Bee Gees towards the close of their sequence of high-pitched, disco-style hits. The 'band' consisted of the three Cribb (Gibb) brothers; Garry (Barry), Norris (Maurice) and Dobbin (Robin), performed respectively by Angus Deayton, Michael Fenton Stevens, and Philip Pope. The name of group was a reference to both the Bee Gees and the expression "heebie-jeebies".

Their first single "Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices)", written by Pope and Richard Curtis, was released by Original Records in 1980 and reached number two in the Australian singles chart. They failed to have any Top 40 hits in the UK however, and are therefore unmentioned in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles.[1]

Two albums were subsequently released under the Hee Bee Gee Bees name, featuring parodies of various pop groups that had originally been featured in the Radio Active radio series, where all three of the comedians were cast members. Tracks included parodies of Supertramp ("Scatological Song" by Supertrash), Michael Jackson ("Up the Wall" by Jack Michaelson), Status Quo ("Boring Song" by Status Quid), The Police ("Too Depressed to Commit Suicide" by The PeeCees), David Bowie ("Quite Ahead of My Time" by David Bowwow), Gary Numan ("Are Trains Electric?" by Gary Inhuman) and others.


Couture Club: "Kiss and Make Up"
Frankie Goes to the Bank: "When Two Songs Sound the Same"
Jack Michaelson: "(Dancing) Up the Wall"
Paul McCarthrob & Stevie Blunder: "Curdled Milk & Boot Polish"
Men Relaxing: "Down Tools"
Larry Pilsson: "Oh Me!"
Supertrash: "Scatological Song"