Friday, 13 July 2018

Spectacular, spectacular

The BBC Proms Season opens today! From the Daily Express:
[The Proms this year includes] some of the world’s greatest musicians performing a diverse range of scores – from Bach to Bernstein to Jules Buckley.

One of the major themes will be events that occurred 100 years ago, including women’s right to vote, the end of the First World War, the death of Claude Debussy and the birth of Leonard Bernstein, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century.

And as BBC Young Musician celebrates its 40th birthday, the first ever Young Musician Prom will take place, a gala concert bringing together more than 20 of the competition’s alumni.
As every year, the sheer scale and range of musical delights on offer over the next eight weeks is impressive - however we have yet to decide whether we'll be going to any of them except (inevitably) the season-closer Proms in the Park in September. Also impressive is the spectacular "curtain-raiser" taking place tonight at the Royal Albert Hall...

A Prom-by-Prom guide is (of course) available on the BBC website - and every one will be featured on Radio 3.

However, the ArtsDesk website asked a few "classical music insiders" to name their choices - and you can read them here.

Gawd bless the BBC...

Friday, 6 July 2018

It's a mixer, Pats

This "Gay Xmas Eve", we must pay due tribute to one of the most influential of all British comedy performers and screenwriters, Miss Jennifer Saunders, who is sixty years old today!

Alongside the dearly departed Victoria Wood, "Our Jen" - whether in partnership with the wonderful Dawn French, the eternal Joanna Lumley, or whoever - has provided much of the quotable material that enriches our daily lives, such as:
  • "We ARE those Lucky Bitches."
  • "It's LaCroix, sweetie!"
  • "You can have a Hubneub. That's Swedish for Hobnob."
  • "It's a mixer, Pats, we have it with whisky."
  • "Dry clean a t-shirt, I couldn't believe it - I should be dry cleaning her knickers next time."
  • "What did the Krankies say to you? They said 'Fan-daby-dozy'."
  • "Gorgeous, tasteful, little stylish little gorgeous things!"
  • "Are you going to do the accent at all?"
  • “The last mosquito that bit me had to book into the Betty Ford Clinic.”
  • "Your mother sucks jelly babies in hell!"
...and so on...

We adore her.

Happy birthday, Jennifer Jane Saunders (born 6th July 1958)

Monday, 2 July 2018

Phallic benevolence

This being Gay Pride week, I thought I would revisit a subject most dear to our - ahem - hearts: the phallus. And more specifically, how the cock became so fascinating to us all...

The English word "fascinate" ultimately derives from Latin fascinum and the related verb fascinare, "to use the power of the fascinus", that is, "to practice magic" and hence "to enchant, bewitch".

From The Making of History blog:
Fascinus was a minor deity in Ancient Rome. In fact he was not so much a god as part of one - a disembodied penis and scrotum, roaming free and touching lives with his phallic benevolence. This virile member of the pantheon was popular from approximately 753 BC - 100 AD. Roman men, women, and especially children wore Fascinus charms to protect themselves from the ‘evil eye’ and dark magic. When a Roman general celebrated a triumph, Vestal Virgins would hang a charm under his chariot to shield him from the envy of his peers and enemies.

Fascinus charms (called fascinum) were often made of wood or metal, showing an erect penis and scrotum with miniature wings, a penile tail, or, in the more subtle models, a second penis between little penis-shaped feet. Images of Fascinus have been found in wind chimes, jewellery, and art throughout the former Roman Empire.
And from Wikipedia:
The "fist and phallus" amulet was prevalent amongst soldiers. These are phallic pendants with a representation of a (usually) clenched fist at the bottom of the shaft, facing away from the glans. Several examples show the fist making the manus fica or "fig sign", a symbol of good luck.
I, too, have always worshipped Fascinus...

Saturday, 23 June 2018

I think today should be...

...a "Say Something Hat" day! Don't you?

Just like the "ladies" of this year's Royal Ascot Ladies' Day!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

The weight of flowers

The springy twigs arch over walls and beds
Of lilac buddleia, and the long flower-heads
Run down the air like valleys. Not by force
But weight, the flowers of summer bend our course.
- E.J. Scovell

It's Midsummer's Day, the solstice, the longest day. Enjoy it!

Downhill all the way from here, dear reader....

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Floating Palaces

From The Londoness blog:
For more than 100 years, ocean liners were the primary mode of intercontinental transportation. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the jet age kicked in. Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Walt Disney and David Niven were just some of the celebrities who used these giant golden carcasses to cross the Atlantic.

The grande dames of ocean liners included the France, Normandie, Lusitania, Mauretania, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Unsurprisingly, passengers opted for German, French and British liners over American ones, as whilst the Prohibition laws were in effect, the giggle water restrictions still applied on American ships...

...As shipping companies started marketing to wealthier clients, so the interiors started taking centre stage. And the more opulent, the better, with styles ranging from Beaux-Arts to Art Nouveau. During the interwar period, Art Deco became the interior style du jour... [and the grandest] liners included a grande descente, a staircase where the ladies could make a proper entrance dressed in all their finery.
And so it was, on Friday Hils, Crog and I were somehow strangely drawn to go and see the V&A's latest flagship exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed and Style before it closed (today).

It certainly didn't disappoint. With several rooms stuffed to the brim with every kind of artefact - from original promotional posters, tickets and booklets; to designs, plans and scale models of the ships themselves; to menus (First, Second and Third Class); to furniture, ornaments, carpets, lamps, friezes, wall panels and the assorted ornate ephemera that served to decorate these floating palaces; to the clothing, jewellery and suitcases used by the rich and the famous who became their regular passengers. Poignantly, there were some pieces that survived the Titanic disaster - a fragment of the panelling of the First Class lounge, and even a deckchair.

There were some absolute gems on display, such as Lanvin's 'Salambo' flapper dress (which was exhibited at the original Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris that launched the term "Art Deco"):

...the gigantic Art Deco lacquered wall frieze of athletes, from the smoking room of the Normandie:

...the opulent Louis Quatorze-style panels and door from the France:

...the centrepiece displays of elegant clothing as worn by the mega-rich passengers (such as heiress Emilie Busbey Grigsby and Marlene Dietrich), displayed around an imagined grande descente complete with silent movie footage of glamorous people descending; and, adjacent, the full-scale mock-up of an on-board swimming pool:

...and, of course, the Cartier tiara that survived the sinking of the Lusitania, thanks to the swift actions of Lady Marguerite Allen's maid to rescue it:

In common with so many of the V&A's big exhibitions, I imagine this one will be embarking on its own "grand tour" of the world - so catch it if you can!

More about the exhibition