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Monday, 30 August 2010

Saucy British Seaside Postcards

Donald McGill 1875-1962
There is a vein of humour within British comedy which, in the tradition of old-time Music Hall, trades upon the use of 'cheeky' or risque laughs. In the same way that people like the late Benny Hill would raise a laugh without quite being outrageous. One of the most enduring features of this is the seaside post card and it's most famous exponent was Donald McGill. He worked in the industry from 1904 until his death in 1962. He had already prepared the next seasons postcards for 1963. In 1953 thousands of his cards were seized in police raids on shops on the Isle of Wight and elsewhere and he was prosecuted and fined £50.
A typical post-war saucy British seaside postcard
Another prolific artist was Sunny Pedro
Meanwhile the French idea of a saucy postcard was quite different to the British version!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes by Harry Graham

Harry Graham  (Picture courtesy of BBC)
Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes was published under a pseudonym in 1898 in England. It was ahead of it's time in some ways but can be seen as a a part of the tradition of Lewis Carol, Edward Lear and W S Gilbert (the wordsmith half of Gilbert & Sullivan).
Here's a couple of examples of his work:

A window-cleaner in our street
Who fell (five storeys) at my feet
Impaled himself on my umbrella.
I said: "Come, come, you careless fella!
If my umbrella had been shut
You might have landed on my nut!"

Quite Fun
My son Augustus, in the street, one day,
Was feeling quite exceptionally merry.
A stranger asked him: "Can you show me, pray,
The quickest way to Brompton Cemetery?"
"The quickest way? You bet I can!" said Gus,
And pushed the fellow underneath a bus.
Whatever people say about my son,
He does enjoy his little bit of fun.

He was by all accounts a very affable and amiable chap so his poems were certainly intended to be humorous rather than offensive. OK, they don't scan very well and have unsophisticated rhyming schemes (to say the least) but I think they're fun.
Here's another one:

When Grandmamma fell off the boat,
And couldn’t swim, and wouldn’t float,
Maria just sat by and smiled -
I almost could have slapped the child!

Apparently the 1901 New York edition is quite collectable.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

My Heroes (29): Madeleine Peyroux

I think Madelaine Peyroux is a jazz and blues singer who tends to divide opinion. She obviously sounds like Billy Holiday; some say she is just a pale imitation but I think she a genuine article. Listen to her singing Careless Love and judge for yourself.
She grew up in Brooklyn, New York but by the age of sixteen she was singing for her supper in Paris and toured around Europe honing her craft and living by 'passing the hat'. Among her influences she cites Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.
I really like her version of Dylan's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. She also covered Cohen's 'Dance Me To The End Of Time'.
If she is an 'acquired taste' then I have that taste and I like it!

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Guildhall at Thaxted, Essex

Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Guildhall at Thaxted in Essex, England is still in active use today. The location was chosen in 1390 by the Guild of Cutlers because Thaxted was famous for production of cutlery until about 1550. With the  rise of the Industrial Revolution Sheffield, in Yorkshire, become the world-renowned centre of cutlery manufacture.
The open lower floor is paved was used as a market place.
The building is wooden-framed and is in a good conditon having been restored after it fell into decay when the years of wealth production ended for Thaxted. The small country town retains a chocolate-box appearance and is a popular destination for tourists.
The church in the background was also began over six hundred years ago and has the tallest stone spire in the county.

This post was inspired by my regular visits to the writer Philp Wilkinson's English Buildings blog. I recommend a visit!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

On The Rocks

On The Rocks are the University of Oregon's acapella men's choir and they are great entertainment.
They are very funny, hugely entertaining and, best of all, talented singers. To watch an amateur recording with poor quality sound of Bad Romance, the Lady Gaga song, listen here. I think is the best thing they do. I watch it any time I need cheering up!
9th April 2011update. This post now links to an alternative but not-as-good-but-still-OK version because the original was removed by YouTube for a 'violation of user terms' after nearly seven million (yes, 7,000,000) hits!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Quiz Question (8): Two Book Titles

(1)What are the famous words that complete this piece and provide a book title?
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know......

(2) In 1961 Leon Uris published Mila 18 and caused Simon & Schuster to change the name of a book they were about to publish because they thought that two books with '18' in the title in the same year was one too many.
What was the new title of the book, which became a best-seller, whose title has become a part of the English language?
The photograph might be a clue to one of the questions!
The answers have now been posted. Check and see if you were right!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Painting of the Month (8) August 2010: Cezanne

Mont Sainte-Victoire 1900
You may be aware if you have regularly read my blogs that I am a great admirer of Paul Cezanne. He painted Mont Sainte-Victoire  endlessly throughout his life, yet he always found something new to say each time.

Mont Sainte-Victoire  1885
Imagine my delight when, several years ago, I was on a coach journey from Marseilles, on France's Mediterranean coast, inland to Aix-en-Provence when, half-asleep, I viewed the unmistakeable (to me) outline of Mont Saint-Victoire. I had no idea I was anywhere near to it. I was suddenly wide awake and tapped my wife on the shoulder and pointed to the mountain. I was unable to speak with emotion and couldn't get the words out - poor Mrs Bazza was unimpressed at being woken up!
But look at this next version. Isn't it magical?

Mont Sainte-Victoire 1882-5
Picasso had called Cezanne "the Master of us all", and it is tempting to see a precursor of cubism in the way the surface is beginning to be broken up into flat shapes without conventional perspective. Of course, this may be 'reading in' with a backward look.
Remember that you can view the pictures better if you double click them.