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Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Bazza's New Year 'Wordy' Quiz

  1. Linguistically, what do Blackpool in England and Dublin in Ireland have in common?
  2. What is the antonym of oriental?
  3. Which are the only two countries to have an X in their names?
  4. What do these words have in common: Tungsten, Gauntlet, Moped and Ombudsman?
  5. Which Oscar-winning film was based on Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella, Heart of Darkness?
  6. The name of which city is derived from an indigenous word for "stinky onion" (probably garlic).
  7. Philadelphia means "brotherly love". Which capitol city in the east was also once known as Philadelphia in Biblical times?
  8. Which word, not in use before the 1980s, can be defined thus: “A style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction”?

Answers next year (ie. 2020)

I'm listening to the ridiculous Wreckless Eric singing his much-unappreciated late punk recording from 1979 of Hit and Miss Judy. Listen here.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Painting of the Month (92) Dec 2019: Utamaro

Utamaro, born in 1753, is regarded as one of the finest Japanese artists working in the medium of woodblock prints and paintings. His speciality, for which he is best known, was the series of "large-headed woman" in the 1790s.

"He created an absolutely new type of female beauty. At first he was content to draw the head in normal proportions and quite definitely round in shape; only the neck on which this head was posed was already notably slender ... Towards the middle of the tenth decade these exaggerated proportions of the body had reached such an extreme that the heads were twice as long as they were broad, set upon slim long necks, which in turn swayed upon very slim shoulders; the upper coiffure bulged out to such a degree that it almost surpassed the head itself in extent; the eyes were indicated by short slits, and were separated by an inordinately long nose from an infinitesimally small mouth; the soft robes hung loosely about figures of an almost unearthly thinness" (From Wikipedia). Here are some more of his pictures:

I'm listening to Joan Baez's version of Janis (At Seventeen) Ian's  plaintive and sad song Jessie. Hear it here.
Janis's own original version is almost too sad. She gives a vulnerable and completely believable performance here.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

When You Are Old by W B Yeats

When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
W B Yeats                             Maude Gonne

   This lovely, simple poem can be enjoyed without analysis. Its merits are not buried deeply or hidden from the reader but, being me, I am going to offer some analysis anyway.

   The themes of the poem, I would suggest, are growing old, the passing of time and, slightly less obviously, unrequited love.

   The speaker of the poem, whose voice we hear, is directly addressing the lady he loves and asking her to think of a future when she has lost her looks and is “old and grey and full of sleep”. The third line of the second stanza tells us that “one man loved the pilgrim soul in you”. We learn in the third and final stanza where the personification of Love has “fled” – that he has been rejected.

   The poet has used some symbolism (where the words don’t have their literal meaning but stand for something else). For example when Yeats writes “take down this book and dream” book  is a symbol for reading someone’s face. Also “mountains overhead” and “crowd of stars” stand for things that she knows exist but cannot be reached.

This poem was published in W B Yeat’s second collection of poetry in 1893 it is actually based upon a 16th century French sonnet. The lady being addressed was the Irish actress Maud Gonne with whom he had a relationship.

   You may find further symbolism within.

   I'm listening to Michael Nesmith's version of his own song Different Drum. It's still the best one despite many covers including Linda Ronstadt with the Stone Poneys and PP Arnold. Have a listen here. 

Friday, 22 November 2019

Tu You You

The first sentence is completely true. I have some doubts about the second one!
As Leah and I are off to Madeira for 12 days from tomorrow morning there may be a longish delay in any responses.
I'm listening to The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun. Written and sung by the under-valued George Harrison. You can listen here!

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Painting of the Month (91) Nov 2019: John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent. San VigiIio: A Boat with a Golden Sail. 1913

This lovely impressionistic painting, by John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925) is set in San Vigilio on the beautiful and tranquil shore of Lake Garda, Italy. It is always pleasing to look at; using a limited palette, its use of light is magical. Are the sails golden or is it the sunlight? All of the other elements in the picture appear to be draped in late afternoon sunlight, (I know its afternoon and not morning because the light is coming from the west.)
San Vigilio today

Sargent is well known as a very great portraitist and quite rightly so, but I have always preferred his landscapes. For me they simply convey a great joy in just looking at his subjects. He was highly skilled in the use both oil paints and watercolours. His parents were American but he was born in Florence and spent most of his life in Europe so he is regarded as an American ‘expat’. 
I'm listening to Madeleine Peyroux singing a lovely,jazzy version of Bob Dylan's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. Listen here

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Our Golden Wedding

This is the music we opened the dancing with at our wedding. Listen here.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

“On the Stork Tower”

On The Stork Tower by Wang Zhihuan
The sun in the distant mountains glows
The Yellow River seawards ever flows
You will find a grander sight
By climbing to a greater height

Zhihuan's short poem works on two levels. It is a mediation on nature which also serves as an epigram, a short motivational work meant to encourage seeking out new and better prospects.   
While the poem is only four lines long, it works as a meditative focus point, something to ponder whether sitting alone outside or during a crisis as a reminder that there is a solution to be found no matter the problem. Combining Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian religious ideas Zhihuan’s only surviving poem provides food for thought dressed in the language of nature. It symbolises the pursuit of an ideal. The message it contains is the admonition to try harder!
In China, the stork (also the heron and crane) is a symbol of longevity because it lives a long life, and its white feathers represent old age. In the Chinese imperial hierarchy, the stork is “a bird of the first rank.” Flying cranes symbolise one’s hope for a higher position.

Here is another, less satisfying,  translation:

The white sun sets behind the mountains,
and the Yellow River flows into the sea.
To see a thousand mile view,
go up another floor.

I’m listening to the British psychedelic folk group The Incredible String Band singing their own song  “Painting Box”. Very sixties! Listen here.

Friday, 27 September 2019

The Jewish New Year

I have been sending this to many of my friends because the Jewish New year is about to be upon us.
As many of them asked me how I made it I have demonstrated how it was done using Microsoft Paint.

I'm listening to the multi-faith 'Prayer' from the wonderful 
musical show Come From Away. When we saw it at a London preview the real people who were being portrayed on stage were sitting next to us and all around us!
 Listen here.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Painting of the Month (90) Sept 2019: The Unsung Heroines of London's 'Golden Age' of Poster Design

The exhibition "Poster Girls - A Century of Art and Design" was shown at the London Transport Museum in 2017. The focus was poster artworks by female designers from the 1900s until the present day, celebrating the forgotten design heroines behind some of the UK's most memorable posters.
Transport for London (TFL) estimates that, since 1910, over 170 women have been commissioned to design posters for the city's various public transport campaigns. The designs come in a mixture of modernist, flat colour, bold patterns, abstraction, collage and oil paintings, promoting everything from London Zoo to the variety of characters one can find on the Tube (London’s Underground Railway system)
The 130-strong poster collection showcases an array of famous artists and designers, including Mabel Lucie Attwell, Laura Knight, Enid Marx and Zandra Rhodes. Their work sits alongside lesser known figures and a handful of women whose names were subsumed by the advertising agencies they worked for.
Here is a selection of some of the works that were on display:
(Credits: London Transport Museum and
Derby Day by Heather Perry

Doris Zinkeisen: It was during the 1930s that Doris Zinkeisen produced a range of posters for the mainline railway companies. Historical themes was her forte, although this image was printed, it wasn't issued due to the outbreak of war in 1939. 
Dora Batty uses a foxglove to convey Kew Garden's beauty in this poster. This image was featured in the Design and Industries Association's yearbook in 1924 as an example of high quality modern design and effective advertising.

Louisa St. Pierre names Peter Blake, Byzantine icons and Gustav Klimt as some of the inspirations behind her work.
Laura Knight: A masculine subject informing rugby fans of the tram links available for a match. This was the first of many posters Knight would design for London Transport.

Mary Koop conceived this poster design to encourage commuters to the Summer Sales in London.

I'm listening to the duettino Sull'aria' from The Marriage of Figaro. So beautiful!

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Pedant's Revolt

Something different, made using Microsoft Paint:

I'm listening to Yusuf (Cat) Stephens singing his own composition Here Comes My Baby. It's more than fifty years old but still sounds fresh and exciting. Listen here and cheer your self up!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Painting of the Month (89) August 2019: Maria Cosway

Maria Cosway, Self-portrait 1787
Maria Cosway 1760-1838, was married to the more famous Richard Cosway who was a noted miniaturist. He was twenty years older than her and a serial philanderer who was reputed to resemble a monkey! You can she from this self-portrait and other pictures of her that she was a beauty. The pair were a great social success and leading portraitists of their era which led to jealousy from some of their contemporaries. She was also a highly talented musician and their home in Pall Mall was a meeting place for members of high society. She is reputed to have had an affair with Thomas Jefferson while they were in Paris.
This is an unusual painting for several reasons: she sits facing the viewer in a three-quarter pose with her arms folded in an assertive, almost defiant, manner; rare for a female sitter. I wonder if this was some kind of protest and maybe she was discontented with her life. She is wearing elegant, fashionable clothing with a turban and wears a cross on a black ribbon around her neck - referencing her strong Catholic faith. However, she makes no allusion to herself as a painter although she was well-established by this time.
 An Angel and Putti accompanying a child's soul to Heaven
Jesus raising a woman from the dead, (but no male figure to be seen!)

Portrait of Maria by Richard Cosway.
I'm listening to Jackson Brown's Linda Paloma. You can hear it here.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Chancery Lane, London

CHANCERY LANE is an historic short street in London which runs from Fleet Street at its southern end to High Holborn in the north. It is situated in the ward of Farringdon Without (which means ‘outside of’ the City of London). Since 1994 it has formed part of the western boundary of the City. The route was originally created by the Knights Templar sometime before 1161AD. It provided a route for them to access their newly-acquired property in The Temple from their location in Holborn.
Lincoln's Inn Fields
It originally was called New Lane but it later became known by its present name because the historic High Court of Chancery was established there soon afterwards. It has a long association with the legal profession. A British barrister has to belong to one of the four remaining Inns of Court. Inner Temple is just south of Fleet Street and Lincoln’s Inn forms much of the western side of Chancery Lane. Many of the small roads and alleys leading off the street have names that reflect that history. For example Carey Street, formerly the location of the Bankruptcy Court; the euphemism ‘on Carey Street’ means ‘to be bankrupt’, Rolls Buildings and Cursitor Alley.
Lincoln Inn Fields is the largest public square in London, laid out in 1630. Parts of the film Tom Jones were made there. It’s a real step into history and an oasis in central London.
On the eastern side of the street King Henry III established a Domus Conversorum in the 13th century. That was a residence and chapel for Jews who had converted to Christianity. That would have been the only legal way they could stay in England at that time.
The Domus Conversorum
The Public Records Office was formerly in Chancery Lane but is now in near Kew Gardens, well away from Central London and the Patents Offices was also in Chancery Lane. The London Silver Vaults are still there – an underground, highly secure location and storage place, which is open to the public with 30 retailers having their businesses there.
By the 1770s the lane had taken on a decidedly urban character and it retains many Georgian buildings, which form part of the Chancery Lane conservation area. With the steady rise of the legal profession, solicitors took premises here, as did suppliers such as wig makers, strongbox makers, law stationers and booksellers.
The Law Society of England and Wales, the controlling body of the Legal Profession, is headquartered at 113 Chancery Lane. Chancery Lane is also home to the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee.
The London Silver Vaults
Chancery Lane Underground station is home to one of eight deep-level air raid shelters built to protect government staff and equipment during the Second World War. After the war, the shelter was converted to become Kingsway telephone exchange, equipped for cold war disasters with six weeks food supply, an artesian well, a games room and the country's deepest licensed bar.
It is a short road (about 350 metres) but is packed full of history
Old shop-front in Chancery Lane
I'm listening to the Tango in D Major by Isaac Albeniz. This a very versatile piece of music that works with piano, guitar, violin or full orchestra. I'm a sucker for any version! Listen here.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Some more funnies.

Here is a new selection of the  (alleged) funnies, that I have posted on various Facebook sites - not all written by me of course!
I'm listening to the late Ronnie Lane (formerly of The Small Faces and then The Faces with Rod Stewart). He died of MS at a tragically young age but left us some good music. You can here him singing Roll On Babe here.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Painting of the Month (88) July 2019: Matisse

Open Window, Collioure. Henry Matisse 1905

HENRI  MATISSE was a member of the Fauvist group (‘Wild Beasts’) of painters that emerged in the very early twentieth century. The characteristics of their work were the use of vivid, unmixed colours, often in complimentary pairs; red-green, blue-orange etc. often in a non-representative way. This had the effect of making each colour stand out more vividly. They would also utilise a flat-canvas effect in a modernist manner. Picasso and many of his contemporaries admired the colourist aspects of Matisse’s work (you might say that Picasso was more about form than colour I suppose).
This is the view from Matisse’s home in the south of France. It is in no way a complex painting but, for me, in conveys a very strong sense of ‘presence’; I can feel the warmth, hear the sea-birds and sense the boats bobbing about on a calm sea. He often returned to the open window theme, both here and in other locations. The open windows invite us into the scene.
When the work was shown at the Autumn Salon in 1905 it was met with critical disdain and public derision but it is now seen as a very important work that pointed to a new direction in visual interpretation. I just love it! I have shown some more of his work below.

I'm listening to John Prine and Iris DeMent singing John's hilarious song, In Spite of OurselvesListen here.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Abbey Mills Pumping Station

Completed in 1868 by a team led by Joseph Bazalgette, creator of a sewage network for central London which was instrumental in relieving the city from cholera epidemics, while beginning the cleansing of the Thames, the original ABBEY MILLS PUMPING STATION is a Grade II* listed building. It was decommissioned in favour of a modern station just adjacent to it but the original is an architectural delight. Two large chimneys ceased to be used in 1933 but were demolished in WW2 because of the very real threat of bomb damage. The building is a ‘cathedral to sewage’ (or the Cistern Chapel?) in an Italianate Victorian Gothic style. 
The Abbey Mills Pumping Station. Completed 1868

Although the main engineer was Bazalgette, the architect Charles Driver was responsible for the use of the elaborate iron-work internally, thus raising the use of iron above mere utility.  The fabulous interior has frequently been used for filming most notably for some of the Batman Films.
Part of the magnificent interior.
I'm listening to The Three Tenors singing 
O Sole Mio. You can listen here

Sunday, 30 June 2019

History of the Jews in England (Part 2)

History of the Jews in Medieval England Part Two
The Resettlement
After the expulsion by Edward I in 1290, there was a small influx of Spanish & Portuguese Marrano Jews from 1492 until 1656. Marranos were Jews who either chose or were forced to convert to Catholicism under the Inquisition but continued to practice Judaism in secret, whereas converso is the umbrella term for all converts. They were “hidden in plain sight” as it were. For example, the quartermaster for Francis Drake’s 1577 global navigation was named as ‘Moses the Jew’. So there was always a small contingent of Jews in the country.
The resettlement is usually dated from 1655 under Oliver Cromwell. Menasseh Ben Israel, a Dutch rabbi and leader of the community, approached Cromwell with the proposition that the Jews be re-admitted. There were no new laws or edicts passed but the ban simply ceased to be enforced. The Puritans were against the re-admission but the Quakers and some Scottish ministers were strongly in favour of it. There was a population of 400 by 1690 and by 1700 Solomon de Medina became the first Jew to be knighted (by William III).
In 1701 Bevis Marks Synagogue had been completed by the Spanish & Portuguese community as the first after resettlement. That synagogue is still operative, lit entirely by candlelight. The Jewish population had shown strong loyalty to the Government during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and this helped to strengthen their cause. Henry Pelham brought The Jew Act through the Lords with no problem but in the House of Commons there was strong opposition from the Tories who called it “the abandonment of Christianity”. The Bill did, however, receive royal assent.
In 1798 the first Rothschild business was opened in Manchester and after that the N.M.Rothschild & Son bank opened in London. Among other things the bank financed Wellington against Napoleon, the British purchase of the Suez Canal and they funded Cecil Rhodes in founding the British South Africa Company. Rothschild is German for Red Shield – the emblem that hung above their door in Germany. Beyond banking and finance, members of the Rothschild family in the UK became academics, scientists and horticulturalists with worldwide reputations.
Coming next, Part Three: Emancipation and prosperity in the 1800s

I'm listening to the late and truly great Nina Simone's wonderful soulful song.
He Ain't Comin' Home No More
from her High Priestess of Soul album.