October 2007 Archive
31 October - Spooky Tune
Here's something spooky for Halloween - Mysterious Mose, performed by Karl Radlach and his Orchestra (streaming MP3). The song was later covered by Robert Crumb and the Cheap Suit Serenaders on their first album. Oh, look - Ted Weems' version's available as an MP3 download!
Update - Friend of the Museum Keith West, a long-time Cheap Suits fan, tells me that the album that Mysterious Mose appears on, Chasin' Rainbows, is actually their second album - this is the first Cheap Suits album. And Crumb issued an actual 78 RPM record before the albums. Keith also reminds me of the movie:
And if you ever think you had family issues growing up, just watch the movie Crumb and you will believe your childhood was better than Wally Cleaver's.The movie was incredibly depressing and also very funny. I've even got the soundtrack, which is much less depressing - a lot of nice old tunes.
28 October - Gormenghast
The filmed version of Mervyn Peake's fantastical Gormenghast (2000), is pretty fantastical in its own right, not least in the curious turnout of the palace guard, as shown above: pickelhaubes with canvas field covers complete with regimental numbers, gorgets, and Russian style teleogreikas (padded winter jackets). Some of the chaps have back-and-breasts and halberts, go figure. Very interesting film, even leaving aside the guards' outfits.
28 October - Caminata del Gato con Passacalle
There's a bit more plot in this video, Scenes From a Catwalk, than in our Cat Noir classic Strangers on a Bridge:
Cats Leroy and Natasha set out for a catwalk in the Museum's Forest Preserve - they're joined first by Nutmeg, and then Peake - they disappear briefly in the woods - plaintive off-camera cries of "Kitties..." from myself and Martha Norbeck-Wallingford - the cats reappear - more walking - a bit of scampering - Nutmeg climbs the old Excellent Climbing Tree - the return to the Historic Cottage - a bird trills - the music concludes on a beautiful dying fall - the end. Unfortunately, I missed filming the most exciting part of the walk, when that rascal Peake chased poor Natasha.
Actually, the best part of the film, as in Strangers on a Bridge, is the soundtrack. I used a piece, the Passacalle in D Major, from a beautiful album of guitar music by Santiago de Murcia, Danza y Diferencias, performed by Richard Savino. Oh! The album's available here as an MP3 download from Amazon! It's a really beautiful album - recommend it highly. Here's another piece from the album, the Villanos (streaming MP3).
27 October - The Romance of Ruins
Here's a charming view of the ruins of the old Wallingford heron oil works in what is now Wallingford Park, Washington Grove.
26 October - The Captain's Paradise
There's a lot to enjoy in The Captain's Paradise (1953), starting with Alec Guinness's usual elegant performance. You've also got Peter Bull in a superb fez as the commander of a firing squad, to say nothing of the superb fezzes of the firing squad:
... And there's also another cinematic appearance of the superb de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide:
... Admittedly in a mere cameo role - above, Guinness, as Capt. Henry St. James, with Celia Johnson as wife Maud and Rapide G-AERN all coy in the background. Not shown, Yvonne De Carlo as wife Nita. You see, Captain St. James, commander of a ferry that plies between Gibralter and "Kalik" (seemingly a stand-in for Ceuta) in Spanish Morocco, has discovered the secret of a happy life - a wife in every port. Very British and very domestic Maud in Gibraltar, and hot Latin firecracker Nita in Kalik - yes, hilarity ensues, culminating with the hilarious firing squad scene. By the way, G-AERN was later re-registered in Spain as EC-AKO and is now on display at the Museo del Aire, Madrid.
Regular readers (if any) may recall my review of G-AJXB in the exciting Dragon Rapide scenes in another British comedy, The Maggie. And, of course, there's the only Shakespeare play in which a Dragon Rapide appears, Richard III:
... At least in Ian McKellen's 1995 version. Above, G-AEML makes its dramatic entrance in that superb film.
But I haven't yet seen what must be the best Dragon Rapide film of all time - a Spanish film from 1986 actually entitled - Dragon Rapide. I see there are copies currently available on eBay, but, tragically, they're in PAL format. Damned hard to find an NTSC copy, I bet.
We've avoided the Involuntary Hiatus, so far...
UPDATE - Friend of the Museum and Dragon Rapide connoisseur Brian Nicklas told me of another instance of a Rapide in the flickers - it's Fathom (1967), in which a...
Curvaceous Raquel Welch is Fathom Harvill, a featured skydiver with the U.S. team touring Europe. Before you can say, "Pull the ripcord," a Scottish colonel working for a top secret government agency approaches her. He's hot on the trail of a lost atomic device and wants Fathom to parachute to a house occupied by Red Chinese who have the device. But can she trust the colonel's intentions?Maybe Curvaceous Fathom is descended from Captain Harvill of Persuasion - the plot does have a bit of an Austenesque air to it. Anyway, it's now on my Netflix queue.
21 October - Fire and Ice Cream
This superb Mack pumper truck has reappeared in a lot next to the railroad tracks; it had first shown up about four years ago, then went away, and now it's back. I think it's still for sale, as is this fine vehicle:
... which one can acquire for only $28,500. Nice, but I'd prefer the pumper.
21 October - Tigran Alikhanov and the Problem of Criticism
Washington Grove's Mousetrap Concerts kicked off the new season last week with a very fine recital by People's Artist of Russia Tigran Alikhanov, who gave a musicianly rendition* of Beethoven, Schumann, Moussorgsky. I had only one of the famous Mousetrap Meatballs at the post-concert reception, because we went out afterwards to our favorite Peruvian restaurant La Flor de la Canela, and I didn't want to spoil my appetite. I had the steak with tallerines verdes - pasta with pesto, Peruvian style - and a pisco sour - altogether, a pretty fair way to spend the day
*Tragically, I can't write intelligently about music - I'm very like the poor old reporter that Flann O'Brian mentions in the hilarious The Best of Myles in the course of his criticism of the state of criticism:
... Some poor old man who was good at funerals, police courts and the like was sent by accident to review a recital by Paderewski. When he was seen in the theatre, the management became alarmed. After considering the problem, they invited him into a back room, gave him a few drinks, explained that music was rather a bore and promised to let him have a reasoned and technical review of the whole programme, nicely typed out, to save his time and trouble. The reporter was very thankful, and in due course went back to his office with one of the best-informed notices ever written in his pocket. He was about to send it in when he felt that some little comment of his own was called for to make the thing look genuine. He added the following as a last paragraph:By the way, the paintings in the background are the work of Pat DiBella.
20 October - Visiting the General
I neglected to mention, months ago, that our buddy General Tso moved back to his home in historic Fredericksburg, Virginia, after a tumultuous extended stay in Washington Grove. We recently drove down to Fredericksburg and had a very pleasant visit with the General - he's a very affable guy, when he's not bent on feline mayhem. Fredericksburg also has an excellent soda fountain:
... At Goolrick's Pharmacy. I had the ham salad sandwich - very good.
20 October - Chansons de Lawsonomy
Mighty Menorgs, by Margaret Taylor
A recent entry in Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society informs one that Doug Skinner, musician, actor, ventriloquist, and co-creator (with Bill Irwin) of the wonderful The Regard of Flight, presents his Cabinet of Musical Curiosities every Thursday night at Dixon Place in New York City. The program includes:
... Songs from Freemasonry and Lawsonomy; some "Liszt" by the musical medium Rosemary Brown; a "magic melody" by the 19th c. black Rosicrucian Paschal Beverly Randolph; short pieces by the Count of St.-Germain, Rameauís Nephew, and Lewis Carroll; tunes printed on playing cards; Piero Aretino translated into Solresol; a Hungarian Esperanto cabaret song; and many other lovely things. Also, Kircherís rendition of the Harmony of the Spheres (extended following his suggestions). Doug Skinner is on voice, Venezuelan cuatro, and piano; David Gold is on viola.It sounds like a wonderful program, but what really caught my eye is that Lawsonomy songs are included - Lawsonomy, of course, being the the study of the scientific method of Alfred Lawson, and also the religion dedicated to Lawson's principles and philosophy. We've touched on Lawson and Lawsonomy from time to time here - check out our video visit to the campus of the University of Lawsonomy. Lawson's followers in his Direct Credits Society composed a number of songs, mainly, I think, in the 1930s, extolling Lawson and his works. Many of the songs are reproduced in Lawson's books - I scanned the example above, Mighty Menorgs by Margaret Taylor, MGDCS (Major General, Direct Credits Society), from Short Speeches as Spoken by Alfred Lawson: Text Book for Orators. I once tried to interest a classically trained singer friend in staging a recital of Lawsonomy songs, but she thought the music lacking - not exactly up there with Winterreise, evidentially.
By the way, Menorgs ("mental organizers") are "microscopic thinking creatures that build and operate the mental instruments within the cells of the mental system". Menorgs are opposed, in a sort of neurological Manicheeism, by the Disorgs ("disorganizers") - "mental vermin that infect the cells of the mental system and destroy the mental instruments constructed and operated by the Menorgs." (Quoted in Martin Gardiner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.
19 October - Fall Colors
It's the dogwoods in the Circle that start off the whole fall colors thing, and then it's the turn of this maple next to the Historic Cottage. But it's quick - the leaves turn, and then - wham! - the branches are bare, and the leaves are down for the count. I was lucky to get this shot - ten minutes later, the leaves had fallen, and Gus was reaching for the rake - fact.
19 October - Hiatus Alert
Sorry to announce that we've received the dread notice from our hosting service that the Janus Museum site, including Panabasis, may go off the air 'til November due to having exceeded our measly bandwidth allowance. If we do go dark, we'll carry on with emergency postings over at our alternate fallback site, Panabasis II, and at our new site, Panabasis-Photo. Awfully sorry - really should get ourselves a serious hosting service.
14 October - The Jolly Flatboatcat
Our conservation studio has released another Adolphus Norbeck canvas after a thorough restoration and careful cleaning. This one, titled Missouri Flatboatman Tragically in the Grip of St. Vitus Dance, appears to bear some similarity to George Caleb Bingham's Jolly Flatboatmen. Myself, I don't see it, but that's what the curator says.
13 October - More Cat Noir
Leroy looks a bit suspicious, but he was just getting in character for his role in our new Cat Noir film, Strangers on a Bridge:
Despite the thrilling soundtrack (lifted from The Phantom Empire), I have to admit that it's not quite the taut thriller I was banking on. It's heavy on atmosphere, but a bit light on plot, I think. Plus I should have done more reaction shots. I'll probably have to recut it before I send it to Sundance.
13 October - Rare Sighting
Out for an uncharacteristically brisk hike at Pennyfield Lock along the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal today; spotted a very rare Wallingford's Heron (Ardea wallingfordensis). Once common to west central Montgomery County, Maryland, this noble bird was hunted almost to extinction by Mongomery market gunners who specialized in the trade - they were called "heroneers". The Museum has an old heron gun in the collection, as a matter of fact. The heron oil was quite valuable, you see - used to make a particularly sought-after hair oil for actors and carpetbaggers. The heron hunt was finally banned in 1920, but their numbers are still extremely low. This one looked pretty wary, even though I didn't bring along the Museum's heron gun.
12 October - News Flash
As expected, the US Supreme Court awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to President George W. Bush today. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which has awarded the Peace Prize since 1901, was without standing as a foreign entity and had therefore violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution by awarding the prize to Former Vice-President Al Gore.
Mr. Gore was unavailable for comment.
12 October - Do-Mi-Don'ts
Hans Conried in The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.
This is all hypothetical, of course - just thinking out loud - but...
... If one happens to be the sort of person who loves The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. - Dr. Suess' surreal movie musical from 1953, and...
... If one also happens to occasionally rip the soundtrack from movies one enjoys; for example, Hans Conried's insanely over-the-top Do-Mi-Do Duds number (streaming MP3) from The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.; and then one uploads the music to one's iPod or other digital music player, and...
... Further (remember, this is a purely hypothetical exercise), if one has a regrettable tendency to unconsciously sing along with tunes on his or her digital music player...
... and if Do-Mi-Do Duds happens to start playing when one's in a crowded public place - say, a crowded car on the Washington DC Metro system during rush hour...
... Then one really ought to have one's damn head examined. Hypothetically, of course.
But one would really love to have a cool "Happy Fingers" cap from the film. Picture via Filmfanatic's fine review.
Oh! Here's the entire Do-Mi-Do Duds scene! And Bill's Tribute to "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T" site is also worth a look.
12 October - From the Pages of Herbstory
And now for another tale from our old friend Herb Grossman, former conductor of the Baltimore Symphony, assistant and friend to Arturo Toscanini, and tale-teller extraordinary. In this installment, Herb tells us about conductor Artur Rodzinski and his encounter with the New York Philharmonic Mafia.
Please excuse the shaky camera - tragically, I had left the tripod at home, and I was somewhat overtaken by drink.
Previous Tales of Herb:
8 October - Memento Moriori
Over on our other site, Panabasis-Photo, from the Museum's collection, are a couple of rare cartes-de-visite of members of the Moriori tribe from the Chatham Islands, about 500 miles from New Zealand, and their sad story.
8 October - Balance of Terror
I have to admit that the dogs of Washington Grove are a fairly well behaved bunch, but even so, their manners are going to have to improve, pronto, now that our counterfactual prop M1910 Maxim has fallen into the paws of Cat Leroy. How determined he looks! The joke of the thing is that the dogs don't know that it's actually a non-firing miniature replica.
We've covered the whole cats with firepower situation before.
7 October - Huguenots vs. Maxims
Continuing our series of essays into counterfactual history, we consider today what might have happened if the French royal forces, besieging the Huguenots at La Rochelle (1627-'28), had been armed with heavy machine guns. Let's say, armed with the Russian built PM1910 Maxim gun with the Sokolov mount (Pulemyot Maxima na stanke Sokolova), as illustrated above - Cardinal Richelieu directs fire and feeds the belt while one of his cats, Mounard le Fougueux, acts as gunner.
So - Would history have been earth-shatteringly changed if Richelieu had used heavy machine guns at La Rochelle? I would have to say - probably not, due to the scarcity of 7.62 x 54 mm ammunition in 17th century France. And the Huguenots surrendered, anyway.
But it does remind me of one of my favorite uchronic novels - Harry Turtledove's Guns of the South, in which history is like totally curbstoned when, during the Civil War, the Confederates are armed with AK-47s by time-traveling hard-line South African apartheid enthusiasts. I won't reveal the shattering climax, but I can say that it's a very exciting book, and the final battle takes place just down the road in Rockville, Maryland - not far from the actual site of the Battle of Derwood, as a matter of fact.
Previous Counterfactual Essays:
Nelson's Cat vs. Fokker D.VIIs at Trafalgar, 1805
6 October - Plummeting Child Syndrome
So what is the problem with Mexican kids and windows? Only a couple of days ago, I posted this ex voto of the defenestration of a little boy who luckily breaks his fall on Old Yeller; and now today, I find this example on eBay; probably the same kid using a false name - relays of saints team up with the Virgin to safeguard the little brute. The eBay page does not have the usual charming translation of the inscription, but I imagine it's something like this:
My son Luis is a handless clusmy idiot who is drawn insanely toward any open window. Also to fires which he likes to start but that is another ex voto. One day, Luis, as usual, falls from window which I leave unlock and open all the time. Praise to Virgen de San Juan, a Drug Lord is walks under the window and cushions the Fall of Luis. Also thanks to the Virgen, Drug Lord's briefcase is full of American dollars. Thanks to Virgen also is that Drug Lord suffers massive head injuries from Luis and dies, and thanks too that Luis and I hide the body of Drug Lord and buy nice house all on one story.And in other ex voto news, Friend of the Museum Lisa Grossman has purchased a superb example on the Miracle of Knitting - it features a dog in a hat and cats in pants! Read the story and see the ex voto over on her excellent blog, The Tsarina Tsays...
6 October - Dial Meow for Murder
We had a fleeting Film Noir-ish moment during today's catwalk - Leroy, caught in a web of deceit and ambiguity, painfully attempts to work out the twists and turns of the caper gone tragically wrong. Meanwhile, Natasha, with murder in her heart, coldly watches - and waits. How did it end? We all went home for a snack.
5 October - More Herbstory
Herb Grossman tells another Toscanini Tale - the story of the Maestro's watch.
5 October - The God Janus in Cinema
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet wafts gracefully past a bust of the god Janus in Pride and Prejudice (2005). This screen version, otherwise quite excellent, uses an ampersand in the title, but I refuse to play along. Thanks to our director of planned giving, Martha Norbeck-Wallingford, for pointing out the Janus reference as we watched the film the other evening. I wasn't asleep; my eyes were closed for a moment or two, really they were.
I reported on another Janus sighting in the first season of Rome a couple of years ago; would be glad to know where we could pick up a prop god Janus for the sculpture garden.
5 October - The Rebel Cat
Our ongoing paintings conservation program is revealing some fascinating stuff - a cleansing of old varnish and decades of grime from Adolphus Norbeck's After the Battle of Derwood, Maryland, 1864 has revealed some previously unseen details; most obvious is the cat in the lower left corner. A gray cat, so probably the wee mascot of the dejected Confederate prisoners. The cat looks a bit dejected, too - probably contemplating life at the infamous prisoner of war camp at Point Lookout.
4 October - Use of the Domestic Cat in Aeronautical Research
S.P. Langley and Research Assistants, 1903
Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906), Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, was one of the pioneers of aeronautics - his Aerodrome A, also known as the Great Aerodrome, crashed in the Potomac a week before the Wrights' successful flights at Kitty Hawk, December 17, 1903. Little known, though, is his use of cats as an aid to aeronautical experimentation. Historian (and veteran Navy airship officer) Gordon Vaeth tells the story in his Langley: Man of Science and Flight - Langley was a guest at Baddeck, Alexander Graham Bell's summer place in Nova Scotia. By an oversight, Simon Newcomb, the Superintendent of the Naval Observatory in Washington and an outspoken critic of Langley's aeronautical work, had also been invited for the same week:
Inevitably the conversation turned to the subject of flight. When it did, they began to argue. They were always polite, formally calling each other "Professor Langley" and "Professor Newcomb". But the atmosphere grew increasingly charged. Newcomb insisted that for anything to turn in the air, it had to have something to push with and to push against. Langley disagreed, pointing out that a falling cat turns over by itself to land on its feet.Above, Langley and the Aerodrome's pilot, Charles Manly, and Langley's aerodromical assistant, Leroy, 1903. By the way, Mr. Vaeth is a fellow admirer of Kiddo, the cat of the airship America, and told me that he once knew someone who had petted him. And Paul E. Garber, father of the Smithsonian's aviation collections, once told me that he saw Kiddo asleep in a chair in the America's hangar in Atlantic City, in 1910. Only one degree of separation, just think of it...
4 October - Toscanini's Soup
I'm a bit late in wishing a very happy birthday to old Friend of the Museum Herb Grossman, husband to dear Anne Chotzinoff Grossman - Cookie - and father to Tsarina Lisa Grossman. Herb is a former conductor of the Baltimore Symphony, and also was a participant in the glory days of cultural programming on NBC radio and television - if you're of an age to have watched Amahl and the Night Visitors on TV, you heard Herb conducting. Herb was, through Cookie, nephew-in-law to Jascha Heifetz, and was a friend and assistant to Arturo Toscanini. And he has a fabulous trove of stories; I was lucky enough to record a couple of them at a party last year. Here's the tale of Toscanini's soup:
I'll post the other video tales soon, and some anecdotes Herb has actually written down. Lisa has some very fine family photos of Toscanini here, below the knitting.
In other Friend of the Museum birthday news, Brian Nicklas has his today, and tomorrow is Barbara Weitbrecht's. By the way, many people like to commemorate special occasions by making a generous contribution to the Janus Museum. Just thought I'd mention it.
3 October - Fat and Fury
Here's another superb eBay ex voto - superb, even though it involves neither cats nor octopi. And the translation:
My son Manuelito is very mischievous and one day he fell down the window because he leaned out too much by the window to see the dog and he felt down, I thanks to the Virgen del Rosario because he felt over the dog who's very fat and fury and nothing happen to him.No word about the dog's condition, though. Would it be too much to hope that the Virgen could arrange matters so both the kid and the dog survive unscathed?