Monday 29 March 2021

All Ears


Pipistrello Illumination Snippet
The Psalter of Humphrey de Bohun, 1360-1400
Exeter College MS. 47

As ever, new technologies are slowly adopted hereabouts, despite Mr. P embracing the glitter of the new. So whilst the idea of podcasts and whatnots might be old hat in your own household, it has taken a bit of time for Your Correspondent to come around to the idea of doing something other than listening to music* when an opportunity for multitasking arises. But times are a'changing and I've now joined the fray.

A for inst. in the Multitasking Opportunity Department

I can, Dear Reader, finally report back on a handful of Free Entertainments - our favourite kind! - out in the interwebs which may pique your interest. So if you are All Ears in that department, do read on:

Slightly Foxed

The joy that is the quarterly literary magazine Slightly Foxed has been spoken of here before, and does  indeed require some pesos for subscribing, but they've been putting out a delightful & free monthly podcast (29 to date) where they chat about behind-the-scenes stuff and interview a guest on matters bookish. English.

Articles of Interest

Blogger Taste of France recommended this one in the Comments Department. This is a story of fashion(ability) in 12-episodes, where each episode unpicks a theme, eg: Pockets; Punk; or Plaid. The host is a Young Person, so a little bit gee-whizzy in her delving into the whys and wherefores, and covers a bit of territory which may already be familiar, but she unravels some fascinating tidbits and weaves a quirky history of each topic. American.

The India Hicks Podcast

India Hicks, daughter of Lady Pamela Mountbatten and granddaughter of the last Viceroy of India, chats with her nonagenarian mother about her life over 14-episodes. Thoroughly eccentric, gossipy and a sort of upper-crust Who's Who (doing what and with whom), with rambling insights into Our Queen's Commonwealth Tour in the 50s and the partition of India and Pakistan amongst other stuffs. English.

Handel's Operas

Do you like your opera Handel-flavoured**? The Göttingen International Handel Festival is screening their past ten annual operas through NDR Kultur, so there are visuals, too, which aren't particularly useful if you're looking to do something else at the same time and in no way add to one's comprehension of the German-subtitled Italian show tunes as they're truly whacky, but you can listen along. I'm presently working through them and am up to Imeneo, which I am indeed watching since it's staged with baroque gestures and choreography and is a candle-lit production and the costumes are amazing. Thanks to Sean in the Comments Department for pointing me in this direction. German.


This is an ABC Radio staple which has been going for years now and hence has about a gazillion episodes, so Richard Fidler has of necessity been joined by Sarah Kanowski in taking turns to interview an Interesting Person for an hour. When we painted our House by the Sea, Conversations formed part of the drum tattoo which kept our spirits from flagging as we slogged like slaves on the trireme Home Renovation. Some par examples: memorable interviews from the painting days are with Ken & Patricia Taylor, Ken being the Canadian Ambassador to Tehran during the 1979 hostage crisis, and Yossi Ghinsberg's survival story of adventure in the Bolivian Amazonian jungle; and Mr. P, who listens more regularly, advises the recent two-part episodes with Tana Douglas, the world's first Lady Rock & Roll Roadie; and Will Oxley, the ocean racing navigator with incredible manly tales. Australian.

Futility Closet

Resident on the Flying With Hands sidebar is the Futility Closet and they are currently at episode #337 in their weekly podcast of stories historic, and a bonus lateral thinking puzzle to be thrown in as well. Another quirky gladbag of offerings. American.

There are more multitasking entertainments to be had in audiobooks, and I can't resist our back library of P. G. Wodehouse & Agatha Christie's which entertained us on our car journeys in times past (the latter restricted mostly to readings by either Hugh Fraser or David Suchet, because the reader makes all the difference), and I'm also third book into the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian (abridged versions are sufficing because a) they're read by Robert Hardy, a.k.a. Siegfried Farnon in the 1978 version of All Creatures Great and Small, and b) I don't know what in the heck is going on with the ship and sailing chatter but by golly they're exciting and I can't even tell how they've pruned the up to 18-hour unabridged readings to a much more comfy 3-4 hours) and am determined to get through the 21 books in my lifetime, for they are famously entertaining but said life is too short to sit and read them all!

* Although last year did provide for a solid listening and pruning of the CD collection, which did occupy some rather goodly amount of time.

** Mr. Wikipedia reminds us that Handel's operas were not universally acclaimed and languished unseen for some centuries after they often bombed at the box office. We Modern Things couldn't care less!

Image credits: 1: Bodleian Library; 2: Flying With Hands

Monday 22 March 2021

The Enduring Appeal Of Pegs


The Mastermind outing on my last post feels incomplete without its companion piece, the superlative board game, Master Mind. A staple in the Pipistrello toy box, Dear Brother & I would regularly test our genius against one another by moving its little plastic pegs around a brown plastic board. It sounds so, well, boring on the page compared the wizardry-gadgetry of today but it was rather clever, and not to mention utterly satisfying to solve the code in as few moves as possible*. 

Hunting about for a suitable pic, I discovered that not only was this game enormously and enduringly popular, (such that the models** in the iconic photograph were reunited to recreate the shot thirty years later), but this adaptation of the paper game Bulls and Cows was the brainchild of a Romanian-born Israeli postmaster and telecommunications expert, Mordecai Meirowitz, and is even the subject of a 2013 academic paper***. Between its invention, rights' sale then launch, and finally award of Game of the Year 1973 lay only three years, which must be some sort of game-development record, and proves that there's nothing more entertaining to a child than a bucket of pegs.

* Competition against a sibling three-years younger shall not be mentioned here as such shameless exploitation implies an ugly competitive streak in an otherwise blameless character.

** Enigmatic hairdresser Bill Woodward went on promotional tours with a passport in the name Mr. Mastermind and the über-chic computer science student Cecilia Fung now has the married name of Masters!

*** For the oh so curious, the often cited paper concerned with "the psychological relevance of a logical model for deductive reasoning" can be found here.

Image credit: via Google

Saturday 20 March 2021

Arcane Knowledge In Two Minutes

Take a seat, to the tune of
"Approaching Menace".

Magnus Magnusson: "Name?"

Pipistrello: "Pipistrello."

MM: "Occupation?"

P: "Hausfrau."

MM: "Specialised subject?"

P: "Juniors' Rooms in golf clubhouses around regional New South Wales, and general golfing deportment."

MM: "And your time starts now ..."

In real-life, pipistrelli like to fly out of their caves upon arising and scoop up tasty morsels for their day's sustenance. They never really need to dive deeply for anything as morsels are everywhere for the taking. The same could be said for Your Correspondent, in a way. I'm more than satisfied chasing shiny little nuggets about, collecting all manner of tidbits about life and the world, while never really diving deep down into any one subject, despite the encouragement of Doctors of Philosophy among Family & Friends. 

MM: "Where will a Juniors' Room be located in a golf club?"

And yet I do hold an arcane knowledge of a sort and could probably rustle up the requisite number of questions with which to demonstrate my unique ability*. Here I do speak of Mastermind, of course, the near-perfect forum for Asperger's-scaled obsessives to shine. Except that some general knowledge is also required. Regardless, it is a serious and solemn opportunity to dazzle an audience of factoid-lovers without the hysteria of a game show.

P: "Between the bar and the gents loo."

MM: "Correct. Name the three requisite forms of entertainment in the room." 

My Special Subject: Golf. But not the usual train-spotting factoids surrounding names, dates, scores, courses or even history**. (Although I did stand upon a drenching, windy St. Andrew's for a photo opportunity on my first trip to Scotland). My arcane knowledge lies in the behind-the-scenes world of Juniors' Rooms in clubhouses around regional New South Wales, and General Golfing Deportment.

P: "B&W Television, pool table and darts."

MM: "Correct. What is the special feature of each of these entertainments?"

For a period in my childhood, school holidays were spent trooping about the countryside on the fabled Pro-Am Golfing Circuit following the unfolding sporting career of an erstwhile stepfather, and whereupon many many hours were spent trailing courses about the land and idling away in the requisite Juniors Room in the clubhouse later as the adults did whatever it is that needed doing before prize-givings, viz. pouring over scores whilst waiting for the stragglers to finish.

P: "They are Broken."

MM: "Correct. What comestibles will be offered by the gentlemen who discover you there on their many trips to the loo?" 

We had a caravan for such excursions, so in addition to visits to regional towns, there was also the opportunity to explore caravan parks between matches. Setting out always required leaving pre-dawn for some reason, and we had a second car for the towing, in addition to Mum's pumpkin-orange VW (1600 Sedan, for the oh so curious), a black Chrysler Valiant, known as the Mafia Staff Car, which tickled we kids no end. Winter school holidays in a caravan were such fun!

P: "Pink lemonade and Nobby's Nuts."

MM: "Correct. An 18-hole round of golf will take four hours to play. How long will a player spend re-living every shot in the bar afterwards?"

The days were long, needless to say, and between walking the course (Shhh!!!) and the hours in the spartan and usually very uncomfortable Juniors' Room, the space for under-aged golfers who weren't permitted in the licensed areas that always, always, had deficiently-equipped entertainments (viz. the telly won't be tuned or the channel cannot be changed; the pool table will be missing either the balls or the cues or both; and the dartboard has no darts), many hours were spent on the Practice Green, perfecting one's putt and chipping out of a bunker, if you could get your mitts on a club.

P: "Four hours."

MM: "Correct. What will a professional golf player do when they are standing idle yet conversing not about golf?"

Books and comics helped, but this was an age of small pockets and no bags, so they were invariably left in the car or caravan and imagination was the best entertainment. Lots of observations of the general descent over an afternoon of the often red-nosed and portly elderly gentlemen, club stalwarts thrilled to the back porcelain teeth their regional club was hosting the fresh young talent and occasional celebrity player from across the land, and unable to refrain from continually quenching the thirst such excitement brings on, for inst. I'd like to say that critiquing the Fashions was on the cards, but these were times when street-wear and sportswear did tend to overlap, somewhat - a bit like today - and the lairy fare was quite unremarkable for the times.

P: "Swing an imaginary golf club."

MM : "Correct. What is the percentage chance [Bzzz] ... I've started so I'll finish. What is the percentage chance a child thus exposed to professional golf will have an interest in golf or any other sport when they are an adult?"

P: "Zero."

There was the occasional statement-making plus-four ensemble ...

... But 100% polyester was rather more the uniform.

* To be fair, not only could dear Brother answer the self-same questions, but he does rather trump by additionally holding one of the PhDs about the place.

** There's only been one winner to brush up against the Golfing World, one Andy Page in 2003 whose specialist subject in the final was "Golfing majors since 1970". Predictably, any anorak-wearer's fodder.

Image credits: 1: via; 2,3: via Pinterest

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Specs Saved & A Theory

Josef Abel, The Young Franz Schubert, c. early C19th

In Elizabeth Von Arnim's excellent 1929 novel Expiation, newly widowed Millie is discovered to be a fallen woman, an Adulteress, and there is nervous speculation amongst her in-laws as to who the shadowy lover might be. Sister-in-law Mabel chews over one theory:

George? Her own brother-in-law? Oh, no - too shocking. Besides, George always wore enormous spectacles, and Mabel did think it must be impossible to commit - well, what Milly had committed, with someone who wore enormous spectacles.

Chikanobu Hashimoto woodcut of a True Beauty, 1897

Hers is an interesting idea and I'm inclined to agree, for I found that amongst my little stock of specs saved for the blogging rainy day, the agreeable young spectacle-wearers of both sexes favour the tiny over the enormous.

Julian Ashton, Study of Alice Muskett, 1893

Do boys make passes at girls who wear glasses?

Fetching Green D-Spectacles
Jeptha Homer Wade, Nathaniel Old, 1837

And thank you Jim at Road to Parnassus, for reminding me of dashing Nathaniel Old, with his 5 o'clock shadow and studiously tousled 'do, who throws himself into candidacy for a Millie-style Fall.

Image credits: 1: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; 2: Wikimedia Commons; 3: AGNSW via Flying With Hands; 4: Cleveland Museum of Art

Monday 8 March 2021

Temple Of Mammon


Sydney's Temple of Mammon
a.k.a. Crown Casino

There's a new landmark on our city's horizon - a veritable Temple of Mammon. We've been watching this controversial casino inch its way into the sky for a goodly while now, unsubtle as it is by its growing presence. I believe it may even hold the prize for Sydney's Tallest Building at the minute, despite solemn promises from its owner, billionaire Mr. James Packer, it should ultimately be rather more discreet.

Luring gamblers with its golden promises.

Of the controversy, it's a long and tedious story, with three-word phrases like dubious architectural merit, lucrative gambling revenues, lost public space, fitness to operate and gangster money-laundering being bandied about. Such an Australian story, Dear Reader ... 

Stormy skies gather over this beacon to controversy ...

But methinks plenty of jobs for abseiling window-washers lie ahead.

Anyhoo, it looks like it may be finished now, although Mr. Packer is yet to be granted his casino license as there's a bit of rummaging through his underwear drawer to be endured still, and the mythical Chinese High-Rollers are waiting to be jetted in on private planes as I gather our borders are verily still closed to those who are coming merely to indulge in a Hobby, as the Australian Government so quaintly describes Gambling.

Seen from afar on the far right when picnicking
Who knew a casino needed to be so, well, huge?

But now that the Temple is built, there's not much that can be said about it except it's a typical glass-fronted skyscraper that either blends into the skyline or sticks out like a shag on a rock, depending upon your vantage point around the city.

Looking just like another office tower from this angle ...

But a tad more obvious from this.

This weekend I had a closer view than normal when the trusty 325 bus took me directly past it to the newly renovated Sydney Dance Company studios, where I was returning for my Introduction to Tap Dancing in 8 Easy Lessons! It's been a full year since first dipping my toe into the same course which was so rudely interrupted by 2020, and having only had three lessons last year, it was not quite enough to be going on with for practising about the casa and, well, consideration had to be given for all the neighbours stuck at home and whatnot, so it really was like starting from scratch again on Sunday.

New Sunday morning routine starts here at the Sydney Dance Company.

Not even this home for more terrestrially-grounded Hobbies can avoid Mammon's shadow.

Hullo again! 

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Thursday 4 March 2021

Opening Night: Handel's Rome


Dear Reader, on our collective journey on the flat plane around the Sun, now is the time when the Pisceans among us get to have their zodiacal moment. For Your Correspondent, being born thusly under the sign of the fishes, there was also the happy concurrence of the return to the stage, after a year of drumming of proverbial heels, of this household's favourite musical entertainers, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra & Choir. Tickets hastily purchased for for Opening Night for the 2021 Season meant both a pressie for yours truly was sorted, and the Pipistrellos went to our first live performance in a concert hall since, ahem, 2019!

Angel Place, the home of The ABO

As ever, a joyous and uplifting programme is on offer, and this launch concert, in the words of Artistic Director Paul Dyer, starts the season with a bang, a flourish of Baroque brass and all the fanfare of the Brandenburg Choir in full voice. A sort of Handel & Friends was the fare for us: these composers' near-concurrent time in Rome was to be celebrated, and we were to anticipate "vibrancy and verve, solace and solemnity and the radiance of hope". 

Early birds are we

And we got it in spades! First up was Arcangelo Corelli's Concerto Grosso in D major, Op. 6 No. 4 (whose twelve concerti grossi were published posthumously in 1714, but played in Rome as early as 1682). As Corelli himself would have arranged things, Paul Dyer augmented the strings with baroque trumpets and a sackbutt, so we started with a thrilling brassy march into Rome. 

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello's Violin Concerto in C Major, Bre3 came next, where soloist and Concertmaster Shaun Lee-Chen had an opportunity to dazzle us with some energetic playing. Another of the Corelli Opus 6 concerti, No. 7, rounded us out to the interval, when we sat basking in the afterglow of the gorgeous and happy music, before we were treated to the rich and sumptuous acoustics when the choir joined us for George Frederic Handel's Dixit Dominus, HWV 232. 

Handel was aged a mere twenty-two when he composed this stunning commissioned work. Apparently this talented Lutheran ably rose to the challenge of churning out and performing new works for Catholic church services on an almost weekly basis whilst under the patronage of various cardinals during his time in Rome. The luscious Dixit Dominus was probably first performed for Easter Sunday in 1707, when I expect the congregation were as impressed and swept away as we were last week.

The choir's soloists sang like a dream, but a special call out has to be made for twenty-year-old alto soloist, Austin Haynes, above. A songbird, born for the stage; his aria Virgam virtutis was just glorious! 

2021 is looking up!

Image credits: 1-3: Flying With Hands; 4-6: Keith Saunders via Australian Brandenburg Orchestra facebook page

Bats In The Belfry