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Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Artist of the Month (1): Raoul Dufy

After publishing 100 Paintings of the Month, I am starting a slightly different series: Artist of the Month. 

Self-portrait 1899
The first artist is Raoul Dufy, (1877-1953). Born at Le Havre, France, he was noted for brightly coloured and highly decorative scenes of luxury and pleasure. He went to Paris in 1900 to attend the École des Beaux-Arts. He painted in an Impressionist style in his early work, but by 1905 he had begun to employ the broad brushstrokes and bright colours typical of the Fauve artists. They favoured painterly quality and strong colour over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. He started to design textiles and ceramics but in the early 1920s Dufy rededicated himself to painting and began to produce what are now his best-known works. His distinctive style is characterised by bright colours thinly spread over a white ground, with objects sketchily delineated by sensuously undulating lines. Dufy took as his subjects scenes of recreation and spectacle, including horse races, regattas, parades, and concerts.  Though very popular, his lively, carefree, elegant paintings have been criticised as occasionally bordering on the superficial. They fill me with joy!

Still Life 1928

Window Opening on Nice 1928

Anemones 1953

Venice 1937

Textile Design 1920
I'm listening to Smokey Blues Away by New Generation who later became The Sullivan Brothers. Do you recognise what piece of classical music the melody is taken from? Listen here.


Friday, 11 November 2022

The Eleanor Crosses


ELEANOR CROSSES were a series of twelve extravagantly decorated stone monuments topped with crosses and erected in a line down part of the east of England. They were built at the instigation of Edward I between 1291 and about 1295 in memory of his beloved late wife Eleanor of Castile. The King and Queen had been married for 36 years and she stayed by the King’s side through his many travels including on a Crusade when he was wounded at Acre. She had died in Harby, a village near Lincoln in 1290. The crosses, erected in her memory, marked the nightly resting-places along the route taken when her body was transported to Westminster Abbey in London.   The crosses stood at Lincoln, Grantham and Stamford, all in Lincolnshire; Geddington and Hardingstone in Northamptonshire; Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire; Woburn and Dunstable in Bedfordshire; St Albans and Waltham (now known as Waltham Cross) in Hertfordshire; Cheapside in London; and Charing (now Charing Cross) in Westminster.    Three of those medieval monuments – those at Geddington, Hardingstone and Waltham Cross – survive more or less intact; but the other nine, other than a few fragments, are lost. The largest and most ornate of the twelve was the Charing Cross. Several memorials and elaborated reproductions of the crosses have been erected including, the Queen Eleanor Memorial Cross at Charing Cross Station built in 1865.

I'm listening to Nina Simone's stunning, soulful version of He Ain't Coming No More.
Listen to it HERE

Friday, 28 October 2022

Cezanne at Tate Modern

Strangely, I have not posted anything since April and now I am posting on the same topic as then - Paul Cezanne. As it was our anniversary yesterday, Leah and I spent the day in the West End of London. After a lunch by the Thames we were off to the Cezanne exhibition at Tate Modern on the South Bank. The show is exceptionally popular and one can only gain entrance by pre-booking. It was absolutely packed but the paintings were wonderful and I had seen so few of them previously. All the big subjects were there, The Bathers, The Apple & Water Jug paintings and then there’s that incredible mountain. Cezanne painted Mont Sainte Victoire in Provence over and over, from endless angles and viewpoints. It’s hidden behind trees, peeking up over rocks, spied down a valley from miles away, stared at way up close. Its stunted bulk dominates and looms, its face shimmering pink and lilac in the sun, deep blue and hushed grey in the shade. It’s a whole world effervescing, disappearing and melting. While the Impressionists painted light, Cezanne painted ideas!

These were all from photographs that Leah took at the exhibition.
I'm listening to an amazing song by Brenda Lee recorded in February 1963 when she was only 18 years old. You can listen to Losing You HERE.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Painting of the Month (100): Cezanne

This is the 100th time that I have posted a Painting of the Month, so I am really being self-indulgent today! I have long been intrigued by Cezanne's series of paintings of Mont Saint-Victoire; I have given talks on the topic, blogged about it and deeply researched it. This is one of my favourite paintings of all time!

Mont Saint-Victoire, Aix-en-Provence. Depicted more than 60 times by Cezanne.
I'm listening to the late Amy Winehouse singing Don't Go To Strangers with Paul Weller and Jools Holland. What an incredible talent we have lost! Listen here.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

it may not always be so by e e cummings

Sometimes it seems that the only thing people know about e e cummings is that they think he never used capital letters – even in his name. His poems tend to be untitled so this one is known as ‘it may not always be so’:

it may not always be so; and i say
that your lips, which i have loved, should touch
another’s, and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be—
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

You may have noticed that there are two capital letters in this sonnet; one in the word Accept, which is quoted speech and one to begin the final sentence. It can be read in various places that he wanted his name only to be written in lower-case but it isn’t so. It was his publishers who wanted to do that (although he readily agreed). He also used capitals when signing his name. But enough of that – let’s discuss the poem! He is writing about losing the love of his life to another man and conjecturing what this would be like. “If this should be”…”send me a little word; that I may go unto him”.

He is virtually saying that he would give his blessing although he would be extremely sad – “Accept all happiness from me”. In other words, if you love someone let them go. If you really love someone, then their happiness is your primary desire – even if you are not included in that love. A very generous attitude don’t you think? Or maybe it’s paranoia...

I'm listening to The Perry-Gardner Orchestra playing a tune that will be very familiar to BBC listeners over a certain age. It is possibly the most relaxing music you will ever hear! Click here for Sailing By.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Painting of the Month (99) FEB 2022: Gene Brown

Brown describes his paintings as representational expressionism. “You can tell what the subject is, but I exaggerate shapes and colour. Because I love texture and bright colours, that to me is almost as important as the composition.” Brown’s work is uniquely his. There will be no head-scratching wondering who did these paintings. There is an obvious emphasis on strong design and colour. “Happy” and “joyful” are words that define the emotion of his paintings. “I have had many people tell me that my paintings are happy paintings,” Brown said. “They make people feel good. I know all about aerial perspective and lost and found edges, etc., but rules are made to be broken. I have fun with bright colors and I enjoy my niche. I had a gentleman, who bought one of my paintings, put it on his mantle at home so that when he came home, he could look at it and unwind from his hectic day at work. That’s all I need."

Acrylic on canvas. The artist is American, b. 1938
I'm listening to Betty Wright's Clean Up Woman. It's a great recording but is mightily enhanced by the fabulous guitar playing of Willie Hale. Listen here.

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Ruth's Wedding

I haven't been around the Internet so much recently because, last weekend, we were celebrating the wedding of my daughter Ruth to Gary in London. Now they're Honeymooning in Tenerife.  Here she is just before setting off for the venue.

I'm listening to The Beatles singing Baby It's You. Listen here!

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Painting of the Month (98) Jan 2022: David Hockney

 Mr and Mrs Clark & Percy

Mr and Mrs Clark & Percy, David Hockney, Acrylic on Canvas, 1971

This painting depicts the newly-married fashion designer Ossie Clark and his wife the textile designer Celia Birtwell in their flat in Notting Hill, London, with one of the couple's cats on Clark's knee. Actually, Percy was their other cat but Hockney thought that Percy made a better title; read on to find out why! It is a very large canvas so that the figures are nearly life-sized. They are both looking directly outward making the viewer a third person in the triangle. Typically, the cat disdains this and looks out of the window. The room is stark in a 1960s minimalist style.

Among the various sources that Hockney drew on was Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Marriage (see below). There is plenty of symbolism in both works. The Arnolfini dog, which represents fidelity, is replaced by the cat, a symbol of the penis, and representing lack of fidelity ('Percy' is a slang term for a penis).

Hockney's portrait, with the bride standing and the groom sitting, reverses the convention of traditional wedding portraiture, such as Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough (also shown below). Indeed Hockney shows the Clarks standing apart, a foreshadowing of their 1974 divorce because of his bi-sexual infidelity. And the reversal of roles hints that she is the dominant party.

The lilies next to Celia Birtwell, a symbol of female purity, are also associated with depictions of the Annunciation; at the time of the portrait she was pregnant.

Hockney worked and reworked the portraits many times until he was satisfied, repainting Clark's head perhaps twelve times. He achieves the difficult task of balancing the dark figures against the light flooding in through the window behind them.

I’m listening to La maison où j'ai grandi by French singer Françoise Hardy. The title means The House Where I Grew UpIn the sixties I was really taken with her. You’d have thought I’d have grown out of it by now! Listen here

Friday, 31 December 2021

Happy New Year!

I'm listening to the fabulous voice of Ella Fitzgerald sing George & Ira Gershwin's Someone To Watch Over Me. Listen here for a real treat! 

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Shrodinger's Cat


Erwin Schrodinger, (1887 – 1961), created the most famous thought experiment of all time. However, it has been generally misunderstood. Quantum physics is a subject that’s hard to understand. Indeed, Richard Feynman, one of the greatest of modern physicists is quoted as saying, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. Some of the apparent fundamentals of the quantum world appear to be beyond our understanding; I’ll modify that – ALL of the apparent fundamentals of the quantum world appear to be beyond our understanding! So don’t worry if this short article doesn’t shine a light on your comprehension of this subject. It’s not meant to; it can’t…

But it might help you to understand the function of Schrodinger’s thought experiment. In a conversation with Albert Einstein in 1935, in which Schrodinger discussed his concerns about the most popular interpretation of quantum physics, known as the Copenhagen Interpretation. The problem was with what became known as Quantum Superposition, in which, at a sub-atomic level two different particles appeared to be occupying the same space at the same time. The one that actually was in that place depended on it being looked at! Don’t try to work it out.

In Schrodinger's imaginary experiment, you place a cat in a box with a tiny bit of radioactive substance. When the radioactive substance decays, it triggers a Geiger counter which causes a poison or explosion to be released that kills the cat. Now, the decay of the radioactive substance is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. This means that the atom starts in a combined state of "going to decay" and "not going to decay". Therefore, the cat is considered to be both dead and alive at the same time but only until it is observed, at which time it will become either one or the other! Here’s where the misconception is: this wasn’t meant to explain quantum theory but to point out the paradox it contains.

I'm listening to the classical guitarist John Williams play JS Bach's Gavotte & Rondo. Andre Segovia said of Williams, when he was still a teenager, "God has laid a finger on his brow." Listen to it here!

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Ten Andy Warhol self-portraits

Andy Warhol, born Andy Warhola Jr in 1928, was an enigma even to those who were close to him. He became well known in the 1960s in the field of Pop Art and filming-making. His images of Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and even of tins of Campbell’s soup became world-famous iconic images, However, these ten selected images show him as he wanted to be seen by the world. The works are portraits of the artist's masks and their ambiguity lies in whether they are, in fact, accurate representations of the real Warhol or simply a means of deception - an act in pursuit of privacy. See what you think…

I'm listening to the American country singer Iris DeMent with her song Let the Mystery Be which is about whether or not there is an afterlife. She's not everyones cup of tea but I love her voice and her quirky facial expressions. And I also really like seeing real musicians playing. Listen here - it's fun!

Thursday, 23 September 2021

The Real-Life Tragedy of Peter Pan

Intriguingly, it could be said that Peter Pan and Captain Hook are buried close together at the church of St John-At-Hampstead.   Hampstead has long been a place for the rich and famous of London to live, away from the hustle and bustle. Its location is on a hill elevated above the city with natural spring waters. It is thought there has been a site of worship here since after 986AD when Hampstead was given to the monks of Westminster Abbey. The first record of a church here 1312 with a bishop by the name of John de Neuport.

In 1812, the churchyard became too full and an over-spill graveyard just the other side of the street was procured. It is in one corner of this quiet graveyard that you will find the family grave of the Llewelyn-Davies family.   Arthur (1863-1907) and Sylvia (1866-1910) Llewelyn Davies had 5 boys: George, Jack, Peter, Michael and Nicholas. George and Jack were out walking one day in 1897 with their Nanny in Kensington Gardens when they met J M Barrie, future author of Peter Pan. Barrie went on to befriend the whole family and became a big part of their lives. They went on holidays together and he supporting them financially and emotionally after Arthur’s death. After Sylvia’s death in 1910 he became the children’s guardian and was known to them as ‘Uncle Jim’.

The Llewelyn-Davies family became his inspiration for the Darling family in Peter Pan with the title character of Peter being named after Peter Llewelyn-Davies. The character of Peter, Barrie said, was an amalgamation of the five boy’s personalities.

Tragically the Llewelyn children had generally unhappy and short lives. George died at the age of 21 as a soldier in the First World War and Michael drowned at the age of 20 in 1921 (thought to be a suicide). Peter also took his own life in 1960 at the age of 63 by throwing himself under a train. He was taunted at Eton for the connection with Peter Pan and believed that Barrie had exploited him. He called Peter Pan ‘that terrible masterpiece’ and it is thought that the association led him to alcoholism and depression.

Captain HookThe story of Peter Pan was, to begin with, a play and was first performed in 1904 at the Duke of York’s theatre in the West End. The villain, Captain Hook, was played by Gerald Du Maurier. You can find him buried right by the Llewelyn-Davies family grave. But why are they buried so close? Gerald was the brother of Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies and uncle to the Llewelyn-Davies boys. Gerald’s daughter was the author, Daphne du Maurier.    Credit: LivingLondonHistory.Com

I'm listening to the fabulous Joni Mitchell singing one of her very lovely songs from the album BlueYou can listen to Carey here.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Five Incredible Facts About Genes


(Edited down from a BBC website)

1. There’s a gene that makes you more likely to become overweight.
Many of us put on weight during the pandemic, but can we blame our genes if we no longer fit into our jeans? The answer is, maybe. The fat mass and obesity related gene, FTO, is a regular gene which all of us have. However, one version of FTO makes you more likely to be obese, and one version makes you less likely to be obese. Obesity expert Dr Giles Yeo explains: “Around half of the world’s population have one copy of this version of FTO that makes you slightly likely to be heavier, and this makes you on average one and a half kilos heavier and 20 percent more likely to become obese over your lifetime.” A sixth of the world population, more than a billion people, will have two copies of this version of the gene and be 50 percent more likely to be obese. 

2. The “Warrior gene” has been used in court as a defence for brutal crimes.           MAO-A or Monoamine oxidase A to be precise, is a gene that breaks down serotonin, a chemical in our brain that we need to feel good. When MAO-A is less active, explains Dr Sally McSwiggan, the result is a higher concentration of serotonin in our grey matter. Some think this results in us becoming more impulsive, more emotional and more aggressive. Up to 60% of us are walking around with the low activity “warrior” version of MAO-A and most will never commit a crime.

A study compared 800 violent and non-violent prisoners to look for a link between this gene and violent behaviour. It found that inmates carrying a certain version of MAO-A were indeed more likely to commit violent crimes. But this doesn’t mean anyone who carries the gene is destined for a life of brutality. In fact, up to 60% of us are walking around with the low activity “warrior” version of MAO-A, and most will never commit a crime. This hasn’t stopped lawyers bringing their client’s DNA in to the courtroom, however, in the hope of getting them off the hook.

3. We share the “eyeball gene” with every living creature.
PAX6 is the gene that tells an embryo to build an eye. It is expressed very early on, as Professor Veronica van Heyningen explains, only a week or two after fertilisation in the human embryo. Before the brain is even really a brain – more a tube of nerve cells – the eyes begin to “bud out”. PAX6 is then expressed in all different layers of the eye from the retina to the cornea to the lens.
It isn’t easy for scientists to study PAX6, but one study has revealed an unlikely connection with another creature’s eye growing gene; the fruit fly. Dr Patrick Callaerts ran experiments where he activated the gene in flies’ legs. He found that they would start growing eyes right there on their limbs. His team then put the human PAX6 gene into the flies and, incredibly, the same thing happened: the flies grew normal fly eyes. In transpired that PAX6 is the master control gene, which tells an embryo to build an eye, whether it’s in a fly or a human.
And they learned something even more fundamental - wherever you find eyes, you find PAX6. From fish to flatworms, pandas to parakeets, wallabies to water fleas – it’s ubiquitous. The same gene that makes our peepers is behind the eyes of every other animal, from a tiny fruit fly to a gigantic blue whale.
4. Only one in ten of people genetically at risk of Huntington’s Disease choose to get tested.
Huntington’s disease is an inherited neurological disorder which stops parts of the brain working properly over time. Initial symptoms can include difficulty concentrating and involuntary movements of the limbs and body. There's currently no cure for Huntington's disease or any way to stop it getting worse.
The gene responsible is called Huntington. As with all genes for diseases, we all have two copies of Huntington, one from our mum and one from our dad. But in people who develop Huntington’s disease, at least one of those copies has an unusual glitch. The fault is in a repeating sequence in the gene called a CAG. Normally there are twenty of these repeats but in Huntington’s disease the CAG expands. “When you get to 40 of the CAG repeats you will definitely develop the disease if you live long enough,” explains Dr Sarah Tabrizi. 
Since the 1980s it’s been possible for people in affected families to get tested for the Huntington’s gene, which reveals their risk of developing the disease and the chance of passing it on to their children. But it’s not a simple decision. In fact, only about one in ten people at risk choose to get tested. Perhaps understandable given the fact there is currently no cure. A large-scale trial for a new drug raised hopes, but it did not halt symptoms in sufferers and the trial was stopped. However, Dr Tabrizi remains hopeful. “We will find treatments,” says the neuroscientist. 
5. One in a hundred of us are naturally immune to HIV
Stephen Krone lived in New York through the heyday of the gay scene in the 1970s and early 80s. He watched as one after another of his friends, including his boyfriend, were struck down by the mysterious disease that was ravaging their community. But Krone was never affected. 
Scientists learnt that a gene called CCR5 is the crucial portal by which HIV infects immune cells. And a specific version of the gene, called delta 32, seemed to protect against the virus. Dr Stephen O’Brien discovered that people who had two copies of CCR5-delta32 were never found among HIV infected individuals, which he describes as “remarkable statistically.” It seemed that if you carried this genotype, you could not be infected, ever. It was because these individuals simply had no doorway by which HIV could enter cells. “They were walking around as this rare but very, very noticeable group who were genetically resistant to the infection of HIV,” says Stephen. It was a ground-breaking discovery: “It was really the first time that anybody had identified a human mutation which was good for you in the sense that it protected you from a deadly infectious disease – AIDS.”
I'm listening to David Bowie's The Jean Genie 
(Ha ha!). You can listen here.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London


One of the deciding reasons that London won the right to stage the Olympic Games in 2012 was their impressive Legacy Programme. Last Sunday (15th August) I led my charity walking group there for the third time. The Olympic Park is accessed via Westfield Stratford City, Europe's largest urban shopping and leisure destination. Launched in September 2011 creating 10,000 jobs, the £2 billion development is the prestigious gateway to the Olympic Park in London and attracted an unprecedented 48 million visitors in the Olympic year. It features the first large-scale use in the world of Pave-gen flooring, creating electricity from kinetic energy of the footsteps of visitors.


The first major sight in the Park is the stunning London Aquatics Centre designed by the late Zaha Hadid, still the world’s most technically advanced swimming centre where Olympic Diving Gold Medalist Tom Daley has chosen to base himself.

But these days the most impressive thing is the extensive new developments. The former Athletes Village has been turned into ‘affordable housing’ for key workers and a whole new district has grown around it with a community, an Academy School and hard-to-get yet high-priced housing. There will be more than 34,000 new homes built in five new neighbourhoods around the Queen Elizabeth Park by 2030.

The Victoria & Albert Museum will have a branch there in partnership with The Smithsonian, the BBC is building a state-of-the art music studio and its orchestra will have a home in the Park. The London School of Fashion will be there along with a huge new campus for University College London, East. Sadler's Wells are building a new theatre for dance. The former Broadcast Centre from the London Games has become a 1.2m square feet centre for scientific start-ups in co-ordination with the universities. Despite the extensive building and development there is still plenty of green space and gardens with real ecological purpose. The worlds largest and tallest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit stands in the park and now has a slide around it!

The newest addition is The London Blossom Garden, a memorial to London's victims of Covid-19 and all of the services who are helping.

I'm listening to Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. It's always uplifting so if you would like a drug-free boost, listen HERE.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

The First Car Radio


I have ‘doctored’ this story to make it less technical. Cars haven’t always had radios. One evening, in 1929, two young men named William Lear and Elmer Wavering drove their girlfriends to a lookout point high above the Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois, to watch the sunset.  It was a romantic night to be sure, but one of the women observed that it would be even nicer if they could listen to music in the car.

Lear and Wavering liked the idea. Both men had tinkered with radios (Lear was a radio operator in the Navy during World War I) and it wasn't long before they were taking apart a home radio and trying to get it to work in a car.   But it wasn't easy: automobiles have ignition switches, generators, spark plugs, and other electrical equipment that generate noisy interference, making it nearly impossible to listen to the radio with the engine running.

One by one, Lear and Wavering identified and eliminated each source of electrical interference. When they finally got their radio to work, they took it to a radio convention in Chicago. There they met Paul Galvin of the Galvin   Manufacturing Corporation. He made a product called a "battery eliminator", a device that allowed battery-powered radios to run on household AC current. Galvin needed a new product to manufacture. When he met Lear and Wavering at the radio convention, he had found it. He believed that mass-produced, affordable car radios had the potential to become a huge business.

Lear and Wavering set up shop in Galvin's factory and when they perfected their first radio, they installed it in his Studebaker. Then Galvin went to a local banker to apply for a loan. Thinking it might sweeten the deal, he had his men install a radio in the banker's Packard. Good idea, but it didn't work – thirty minutes after the installation, the car caught fire and they didn't get the loan. Galvin didn't give up. He drove his Studebaker nearly 800 miles to Atlantic City to show off the radio at the 1930 Radio Manufacturers Association convention. Unable to afford a booth, he parked his car outside the convention hall and cranked up the radio so that passing conventioneers could hear it.  That idea worked; he got enough orders to put the radio into production. 

WHAT'S IN A NAME? That first production model was called the 5T71. Galvin decided he needed to come up with something a little catchier. 

In those days many companies in the phonograph and radio businesses used the suffix "ola" for their names - Radiola, Columbiola, and Victrola were three of the biggest. Galvin decided to do the same thing, and since his radio was intended for use in a motor vehicle, he decided to call it the Motorola.   But even with the name change, the radio still had problems: When Motorola went on sale in 1930, it cost about $110 uninstalled, at a time when you could buy a brand-new car for $650, and the country was sliding into the Great Depression. By that measure, a radio for a new car would cost about $10,000 (£7,200) today. 

In 1930, it took two men several days to install a car radio; the dashboard had to be taken apart so that the receiver and a single speaker could be installed and the ceiling had to be cut open to install the aerial. These early radios ran on their own batteries, not on the car battery, so holes had to be cut into the floorboard to accommodate them. The installation manual had eight complete diagrams and 28 pages of instructions. Selling complicated car radios that cost 20 percent of the price of a brand-new car wouldn't have been easy in the best of times, let alone during the Great Depression. Galvin lost money in 1930 and struggled for a couple of years after that. But things picked up in 1933 when Ford began offering Motorola's pre-installed at the factory. In 1934 they got another boost when Galvin struck a deal with B.F.Goodrich tyre company to sell and install them in its chain of USA tyre stores. 

By then the price of the radio, with installation included, had dropped to $55. The Motorola car radio was off and running. The name of the company was changed from Galvin Manufacturing to "Motorola" in 1947. In the meantime, Galvin continued to develop new uses for car radios. In 1940 he developed the first Walkiw-Talkie for the U.S. Army.  A lot of the communications technologies that we take for granted today were born in Motorola labs in the years that followed World War II. In 1947 they came out with the first television for under $200. In 1956 the company introduced the world's first pager; in 1969 came the radio and television equipment that was used to broadcast Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon. In 1973 it invented the world's first handheld cellular phone.  Motorola became one of the largest cell phone manufacturers in the world. And it all started with the car radio. 

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO the two men who installed the first radio in Paul Galvin's car?  Elmer Wavering and William Lear, ended up taking very different paths in life. Wavering stayed with Motorola. In the 1950's he helped change the automobile experience again when he developed the first automotive alternator, replacing inefficient and unreliable generators. The invention led to such luxuries as power windows, power seats, and, eventually, air-conditioning. 

Lear also continued inventing. He held more than 150 patents. Remember the eight-track tape player? Lear invented that. But what he's really famous for are his contributions to the field of aviation. He invented radio direction finders for planes, aided in the invention of the autopilot, designed the first fully automatic aircraft landing system, and in 1963 introduced his most famous invention of all, the Lear Jet, the world's first mass-produced, affordable business jet. Not bad for someone who dropped out of school early! 

I'm listening to Janis Joplin's heartfelt version of Me and Bobby McGee. Listen here.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Robert Wyatt and "O'Caroline"


Robert Wyatt, born 1945, is a retired English musician. He was a founding member of the influential bands Soft Machine and Matching Mole in the Canterbury music scene. He initially played drums and sang before becoming paraplegic after a drunken fall from a window in 1973. He abandoned band work and began a forty-year solo career exploring other instruments. Wyatt's work became increasingly interpretative, collaborative and politicised from the mid 1970s onwards.

His solo music has covered a particularly individual musical terrain ranging from covers of pop singles to shifting amorphous song collections drawing on elements of jazz, folk and nursery rhyme. Wyatt retired from his music career in 2014, stating "there is a pride in stopping, I don’t want the music to go off”

I think his music is very special, sometimes very moving. If you listen to nothing else here listen to “O’Caroline” by Matching Mole. I have said here before that I like sad songs and this always makes me stop and listen.

Shipbuilding” was composed with Robert Wyatt in mind by Clive Langer and lyrics by Elvis Costello for whom it was a hit single. Listen here.

His cover of “I’m a Believer” is very different to The Monkee’s version. Listen here

Heaps of Sheeps” is a hypnotic up tempo rock anthem. Listen here.

O’Caroline” by Matching Mole. Written and sung by Robert.  Achingly sad…Listen here.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

The Wisdom of Margaret Mead

Years ago, the great anthropologist Margaret Mead, was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
“A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts”, Mead said.
We are at our best when we serve others. Let's be civilized.

I have been listening to the late Etta James singing Stormy Weather. It's a great song and I find Etta's version as good as or even better than Ella Fitzgerald's. You can hear it here. Go on, treat yourself!

Thursday, 8 April 2021

The World’s Most Popular Brands

World’s most popular brands by country. It’s not a surprise that overall Google, Netflix, Amazon & eBay are the world’s most popular brands. I was surprised that Ikea was fifth! Here are some individual countries top brands:

Australia EBAY


China BAI DU (Their censored version of Google)

France & Spain AMAZON


Israel EBAY

Laos (and Niger) MICROSOFT

Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway & Iceland IKEA

Portugal IKEA

Republic of Ireland NETFLIX

Russia & most former Soviet States plus most of Africa GOOGLE

South Korea NETFLIX    (North Korea NO INFORMATION)

United States AMAZON

United Kingdom EBAY

Virtually all of Central & South America NETFLIX

I suspect that the following places didn’t have many respondents!

French Southern & Antarctic Lands COCO COLA

Heard Island & McDonald Islands HENNESSY


Pitcairn Islands PEPSI (Population c.50)

South Georgia & The South Sandwich Islands PAMPERS (what?!)

Tokelau FORD

Vatican AUDI

I'm listening to the evergreen song Man of Constant Sorrow by Jackson Browne & Sharron Shannon. Listen here!

Monday, 15 March 2021

Painting of the Month (97) March 2021: Early Cinema Posters

I have always been a keen admirer of Poster Art. It is often dismissed as illustration as opposed to Fine Art, which is true. Fine art exists for it's own sake ('Art for art's sake'; it has no utilitarian function), whereas illustration serves a specific purpose, usually commercial or educational.  However that does not exclude beauty or being able to derive pleasure from Poster Art. I have previously Blogged about London Transport poster art - another source of great enjoyment and also female poster artists. Here are some of the best early cinema posters with minimal comment. They are purely for enjoyment!

1913, In the style of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema I would say.

1914, With the great strap-line:
"Upton Sinclair's wonderful story of the beef packing industry"!

1917, Theda Bara got there before Elizabeth Taylor

1917, Reminiscent of Victorian moral painting

Mary Pickford was 29 in 1921 when this was made.
I think it might be considered somewhat dubious today!

1923, Who knew that Rin Tin Tin was
around nearly a century ago?
I'm listening to Victoria de Los Angeles singing the most famous of Canteloube's collection of Shepherd Songs of the Auvergne. You can listen to Bailero here!It's been a life-long pleasure for me.