August 2005 Archive
31 August - Nero Fiddled...
...But guitars are so much cooler, nowadays. This picture was taken yesterday, August 30. I guess that the president hadn't heard about Katrina, yet. Via Boing Boing. AP Photo by Martha Raddatz.
31 August - Katrina Aid
Here's a comprehensive list of charities, over on Instapundit.
30 August - Thinking of Friends; Report from NOLA
Friends, spare some good thoughts for some Friends of the Museum - Gibbons Burke of New Orleans, safely evacuated with his family. Mathew Krainik, son of Cliff and Michele Krainik, also left town in good time. Ian Jernigan, son of Bob and Jeaneen Jernigan, is still in the city. And Steve Phelps, "Steebmboy", is recovering from surgery today, up in New York. It tends to put one's own trivial problems in perspective - we're still searching for a svelte HVAC guy.
UPDATE - Ian Jernigan has reported in to his folks, safe and about 20 miles outside of Baton Rouge. Gibbons sends this utterly depressing report from the Times-Picayune, which is running breaking stories here:
Even a Cop Joins in the Looting
28 August - Cats of Washington Grove, Again
Cat Jasper plays a waiting game with Leroy in the historic Circle in Washington Grove. Jasper is walked on a leash, but occasionally his owner Marlene allows him to roam free. The leash, therefore, comes a dangly object, and is irresistible to Cat Leroy; he chases and pounces on the leash until Jasper, goaded beyond endurance, chases Leroy into the bushes. He then subsides into his normal good humor, and Leroy resumes leash-pouncing activities:
Leroy often displays deep emotion when he has a good dangly object in his sway. And so the time passes in The Circle.
26 August - Aaya Toofan
Above, our favorite star Dara Singh is in a tight spot in Aaya Toofan (1964). Moments later, he gets blinded, but it's OK - I've learned that blinding is just a temporary setback in Bollywood swashbucklers. He plays Dipoo, a wrestler; so there's lots of excellent grappling in the film:
Here Dara Singh grapples with a very British looking opponent; possibly the Australian wrestler Baron von Heczy. The credits feature these "World Famous Wrestlers" - Baron von Heczy - Trilok Singh - King Kong - Roy Appulen. As an added bonus, there's the first Bollywood spit-take I've had the privilege of seeing:
Very fine entertainment! The fabulous dancer Helen co-stars. Here's the inimitable synopsis from the DVD case:
The King of Kamroo having heard of the praises of the youth and beauty of Rajkumari Chandra, makes his way towards earth via Moon on the occassion of her birth-day and presents a gift. Having seen the miracle of the gift, the brother of Rajkumari Raja Naagsen makes the magician the Royal guest.
26 August - The Power of Song to Avoid Arrest
We're pleased to present another fascinating and improving anecdote from the pages of history, this time from the excellent Paris After the Liberation 1944-1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper. In the autumn of 1947, France was in a state of crisis - crippling strikes were bringing the already weakened economy to its knees, if an economy can be said to have knees. Rumors of Communist uprisings and right wing coups were in the air. The American Army was said to be about to intervene, and could the Red Army be far behind? In the National Assembly, a Communist deputy, Raoul Calas, appealed to French soldiers, then being used against strikers in the coal fields, to disobey orders from "the murderers of the people". This was considered to be incitement to mutiny, and a resolution to expel Calas was passed in spite of Communist protests. Calas refused to leave the tribune, and he was surrounded by a posse of other Communist deputies, preventing his removal. The stalemate continued all night. At dawn, a Colonel Marquant of the Garde Républicaine arrived with an order to remove Calas. But when Colonel Marquant approached the tribune, the Communist deputies began to sing the Marseillaise - Marquant sprang to attention and saluted. The song came to an end, and the Colonel resumed his advance - and the deputies sang the Marseillaise again. Marquant would go to attention and salute again until the anthem ended. Finally, by advancing slowly but steadily during the breaks between performances, the intrepid colonel reached the tribune and touched Calas's arm - Je cède à la force, said the deputy - "I yield to force", and submitted at last.
Singing the Marseillaise could be very useful as a technique for temporarily avoiding arrest in France. But does it work only with the Garde, or would the everyday flic also obey the restraints of patriotisme? A series of tests are called for, though I'm too occupied at the moment to fly to France and conduct them myself. Paris After the Liberation is a great read - buy it here and help support The Janus Museum's unspecified patriotic activities.
22 August - Bunnies of Washington Grove
This is Pepper, who lives over on Second Avenue. Very nice guy.
22 August - Varieties of Madness in Officers of the Royal Navy
I came across a fascinating paragraph in Robert Massie's Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War, detailing some of the mental afflictions of Royal Navy officers in the 19th century. In the wardroom of one ship, every officer was found to be drunk - two were suffering from delirium tremens; one was busy picking the bodies of imaginary rats off of the deck. On another ship, an engineer officer conceived that he was the ship's boiler - he would lay on his back, puffing, explaining that he would burst if he stopped. One captain seemed to believe that his first lieutenant was a salmon, and would cast at him with his rod. More tragic is the tragic case of an officer, normally a gentle, retiring sort of fellow, who went beserk, and was confined in the chart room, which was hurriedly padded for the ooccasion. The ship's cat wandered in, and... and... oh, I can't go on.
And in other news, the plumber is here to deal with the Historic Cottage's historic plumbing.
21 August - Balram Shri Krishna
Dara Singh as Balram
We watched Balram Shri Krishna (1968) the other evening - it's the exciting story of Krishna and his brother Balram; incidents from the Mahabharata are woven in, and there's lots of singing and dancing, too, of course. Our favorite Bollywood action hero Dara Singh plays Balram. Above, Balram takes down a demon who was spoiling the yagnas at the ashram! And there's even some cross-dressing, which I've never seen in a Bollywood film, before:
Kind of scary... the gent is one of a pair of villainous princes who are magically transformed into very ugly nautch girls - it is very very funny! You have to love a movie that sees nothing wrong with throwing a little low humor into a tale of the gods. How very different from Mr. Mel Gibson's little religious film, which I hear had no larfs in it, at all.
21 August - Horse Country (With Goat)
We visited the Virginia Draft Horse and Mule Association's (VDHMA) Old Dominion Draft Horse, Mule, Donkey, Halfbred & Draft Pony Show out in Warrenton, yesterday - had a fine time amongst the draft horses, mules, donkeys, halfbreds, and draft ponies - beautiful animals. Also got to watch Friends of the Museum Deb and Bill Cooper show their lovely and vivacious Shire Horse, Mimi (above). Mimi won a bunch of ribbons!
We loved the miniature donkeys - will talk to the Curator about procuring a moderate herd - we could have a petting zoo!
Besides the draft horses, mules, donkeys, halfbreds, and draft ponies, we met Junior the goat - a very fine fellow.
20 August - Vital Info Nuts and Thick Piles Make You Crazy
Here's another communiqué from our friend Emerson Chu, Hong Kong airship correspondent. Mr. Chu continues to believe that The Janus Museum has an anti-terror function; so far we've been unable to convince him that we're merely an historical and cultural institution. But we reproduce selections of his geopolitical thought in case those who deal in these important and weighty matters glance at these pages from time to time. As usual, the spelling and syntax are all his own:
If you (USA) do not eliminate bin Laden immediately today
15 August - Bruiser Wants You
Remember Spunk, one of Cat Abby's kittens up on 6th Avenue? He's moved into his new home, now; but Bruiser, here, is still interviewing prospective families. Bruiser's a bit squirmy, but is a fine fellow, a very fine young fellow.
14 August - Hot and Thinky
Very hot, here, as is to be expected at the foot of the Piedmont in the mid-Atlantic states in August. After a long wait in the Museum's baking parking lot for a busload of Japanese tourists who never showed up, I took refuge in the darkling wood that is Wallingford Park. Still hot, but a few degrees cooler than the parking lot, and the shade was refreshing. There wasn't a sign of life - the Circle Cats had contemptuously refused to make it a catwalk, and I saw no other living creature in the woods - no strollers or dog-walkers, not even a squirrel. Even the cicadas were silent, stunned by the heat, I bet (this is what the cicadas sounded like last year - real audio format). It was a bit uncanny, as if I had slipped out of the normal realm and entered a parallel world where I wasn't quite welcome. I was getting all thinky - probably a symptom of heat stroke - so I returned to the carriage house for a refreshing beverage.
A special edition of the beautiful photograph of the olde footbridge I snapped before I became delirious, above, is available in PDF format here (662kb) - right-click to save. This edition is suitable for framing or for use as a DVD illustration. The olde footbridge, has been featured here in cooler times.
12 August - Circus Posters
Oh, it's easy to spend too much time at Circusmuseum.nl, a wonderful huge collection of vintage circus posters, mainly European, I think. A visit to the site is bound to be tinged by sadness, though, at the realization that one will never have the opportunity to see acts like Tom Bibb and his mule Sussi, above, or dogs dressed like Prussian soldiers:
... Or an act I'm fascinated by, for some reason:
... The 3 Brooklins, excentric musical marvels, with their amazing comic knife-sharpening act. Maybe I'll run away and join the circus and attempt to revive the art of comic knife-sharpening. Via Boing Boing.
12 August - The Obesity Crisis Hits Home; A Possible Solution
Narrow Furnace Gap in The Historic Cottage
Thoughtful persons may disagree over whether the nation is going through an Obesity Crisis or not, but the Janus Museum has just been negatively impacted by it. The Historic Cottage was to undergo its annual furnace inspection today, and the representative of the heating and cooling firm that we use arrived in a timely manner. He was - how shall I say this? - a portly gentleman. Kind of big, well-fed, husky - huge, in fact. I showed him the furnace access, which is through a dank narrow crawlspace. The portly gent shined his flashlight into the dank, noticed the very narrow access to the furnace, and sadly shook his head. He told me I'd have to reschedule the service appointment and especially request a "small repairman", one that could manage the narrow gap. Though disappointed, of course, that the Museum's furnace remains unserviced, I was glad that the gent hadn't attempted to get through regardless - perhaps getting stuck, and needing the emergency services to rescue him, and the emergency services damaging the Museum's furnace with the Jaws of Life. I also wondered if I could request the services of Deep Roy, who recently appeared as the Oompa-Loompa in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and could certainly squeeze through the gap. It's a good thing that this didn't happen in the teeth of a howling blizzard, with the furnace disfunctional, and the staff and fellows and museum visitors freezing to death and all.
But I recently came across a possible solution to the Obesity Crisis - Hebrew National, the firm that answers to a higher authority, has introduced a kosher hot dog that is an incredible 97% fat free - 45 calories, and 15 calories from fat. I had previously enjoyed the firm's Reduced Fat dogs - 120 calories; 90 calories from fat, but this is a real breakthrough, that we, as Americans, should all be proud of. The taste? Excellent - I've had four of 'em today, so far. As an individual of the portly type myself (427 lbs.), I expect to see some real benefit, here.
I should've mentioned all this to the large furnace guy, I guess - might could do him a world of good, too.
11 August - Those Eyes, Those Whiskers...
Our Museum Cat Maxine - such beautiful eyes - taking it easy in the Fellows' Lounge.
11 August - More Music
A couple of Friends of the Museum noticed my distress over the closing of Dorian Recordings, and kindly suggested several other excellent musical sources. Allan Heim told me about Magnatune, a record label with a very interesting classical list. One may purchase CDs or downloads, and there are a very generous number of free streams for one's listening pleasure. I especially enjoyed Edward Martin on the vihuela and lute, and James Edwards, baroque guitar.
Gibbons Burke told me about Sugar in the Gourd, an old-time music site with a wonderful stream - listening to it now, even. The streams were hard to reach a few days ago after a mention on Boing Boing slashdotted the site - no danger of that happening here, so enjoy the tunes.
11 August - Brisk Sales Reported
As reported here, a recent DVD documentary on the World War II atomic missions uses a photograph possibly borrowed from The Janus Museum's collections. At any rate, the cover displays a photograph showing a member of the crew who is definitely not Paul Tibbets. This DVD has been offered for sale at the shop of one of the Smithsonian museums, the one with all of the airplanes and stuff. Well, word has reached us that some members of the staff of that museum also noticed the photographic singularity - a few even discovered The Janus Museum connection - and started buying copies of the DVD as an historical curiosity, and possibly for investment purposes. The shop staff twigged that the DVD was a bit dubious, and removed all the remaining copies from the shelves. I'm told that one can still obtain a copy by asking for Wendy at the shop. Wild tulipomania type speculation is bound to follow - I wish I had stocked up when I had the chance. I wonder if copies are still on the shelf at the museum's Udvar-Hazy Center, and at the Museum of American History? I still can't find it online.
7 August - Tiger Tail Tale
We watched Kurosawa's They Who Step on the Tiger's Tail (Tora no o wo fumu Otokotachi, 1945) last night. A wonderful, very strange story, based on the Kabuki play Kanjinchô. The acting was very stylized - I assume it draws the style from Kabuki. I also assume that much of the dialogue was drawn from Kanjinchô, and so must be poetical, arcane, elliptical - strange to savage uncultured western ears:
... And our understanding wasn't aided by the fact that the dialogue seems to have been translated first into Chinese, and then the Chinese translated into English for the subtitles. Curiously, frequent application of Gosling Black Seal Rum did not assist our comprehension.
Denjirô Ôkôchi as Benkei, the heroic retainer, disguised as a priest, during his superb drunk scene. I love the little hat; it's called a "tokin" and it's possibly not a coincidence that it resembles the Jewish phylactery. The cords curling up at the back give it a Pippi Longstocking look that really must be an accident, though. And what's with the darling little pom-poms?
This comes at the end of the film, and I agreed with the suggestion, I really did. There's also a little dance at the very end, just like in The Mikado.
The capsule review: a great film, awful transfer, inscrutable subtitles, excellent hats, read the synopsis of Kanjinchô first, have a couple of drinks while watching.
Oh, and here's the sublime theme song, My Heart is Like Stepping on a Tiger's Tail (streaming Real Audio).
6 August - The Mystery of the Enola Gay DVD
I was browsing in the shop of one of the Smithsonian museums yesterday and happened across the documentary DVD pictured above - it stopped me in my tracks, 'cos the photo of the crew of the Enola Gay uses a very rare photograph - the center figure, the bearded guy, is definitely not Paul Tibbets, the commander of the mission, and cannot be identified as any member of the crew of the aircraft. See, it's a very rare photograph - the only copy I've ever seen is in the collection of the Janus Museum, and is displayed on the museum site. It's very similar to this image, but it's not identical. So, m'lud, the question is - where did the maker of the documentary get the image? Certainly not from us, since Martha Norbeck-Wallingford, who handles permission requests for the Museum, says she never heard from the maker of the film. The maker would never just download a picture from a museum web site and use it for profit, would he? It's not the finest documentary I've ever seen, by the way - it's a pretty standard assemblage of stock footage. The most interesting part is that someone managed to misspell the title on the main screen - "Manahattan" - very slick.
6 August - Why a Duck in a Pickelhaube?
And now, for your viewing pleasure, a duck wearing a pickelhaube, with a view camera. For some reason, I just love this picture to pieces. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for pictures of animals wearing hats, especially pickelhaubes. It's from a biography of Julius Neubronner, the inventor of the pigeon camera. But why, then, a duck with a camera, instead of a pigeon? I'm afraid that I don't have an answer; nice picture, though.
6 August - Competitive Eating Update
Tim Janus, the young up-and-coming competitive eater known as Eater X who we profiled after his brilliant victory in a provincial shoo-fly pie eating competition, tied for third and fourth place in the recent Alka-Seltzer® U.S. Open of Competitive Eating in Las Vegas. The winner of the competition, Takeru Kobayashi, ate a "stunning" 13 pounds of spaghetti in 14 minutes, according to the IFOCE release.