Friday, 30 November 2007

Folies Bergere stage first revue

Once a hall for operettas, pantomime, political meetings, and vaudeville, the Folies Bergère in Paris introduces an elaborate revue featuring women in sensational costumes. The highly popular "Place aux Jeunes" established the Folies as the premier nightspot in Paris. In the 1890s, the Folies followed the Parisian taste for striptease and quickly gained a reputation for its spectacular nude shows. The theater spared no expense, staging revues that featured as many as 40 sets, 1,000 costumes, and an off-stage crew of some 200 people.
The Folies Bergère dates back to 1869, when it opened as one of the first major music halls in Paris. It produced light opera and pantomimes with unknown singers and proved a resounding failure. Greater success came in the 1870s, when the Folies Bergère staged vaudeville. Among other performers, the early vaudeville shows featured acrobats, a snake charmer, a boxing kangaroo, trained elephants, the world's tallest man, and a Greek prince who was covered in tattoos allegedly as punishment for trying to seduce the Shah of Persia's daughter. The public was allowed to drink and socialize in the theater's indoor garden and promenade area, and the Folies Bergère became synonymous with the carnal temptations of the French capital. Famous paintings by Édouard Manet and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec were set in the Folies.
In 1886, the Folies Bergère went under new management, which, on November 30, staged the first revue-style music hall show. The "Place aux Jeunes," featuring scantily clad chorus girls, was a tremendous success. The Folies women gradually wore less and less as the 20th century approached, and the show's costumes and sets became more and more outrageous. Among the performers who got their start at the Folies Bergère were Yvette Guilbert, Maurice Chevalier, and Mistinguett. The African American dancer and singer Josephine Baker made her Folies debut in 1926, lowered from the ceiling in a flower-covered sphere that opened onstage to reveal her wearing a G-string ornamented with bananas.
Josephine Baker on cover of 1936 Folies Bergere Program

The Folies Bergère remained a success throughout the 20th century and still can be seen in Paris today, although the theater now features many mainstream concerts and performances. Among other traditions that date back more than a century, the show's title always contains 13 letters and includes the word "Folie."

Ulster woman fleeced on eBay

A Despondent Ulster woman told last night how she lost a diamond engagement ring worth £2,000 - after being caught out by an elaborate scam on the internet.

Lisa Woodside, from north Belfast, placed the ring on eBay hoping to raise money for Christmas.
She received an email from a buyer she believed to be from Dallas, USA, offering £1,200.

But after Ms Woodside was asked to send the ring to the buyer's sister in Nigeria the money never appeared in her account.

It soon emerged the so-called buyer was using a fraudulent internet payment account and sending " spoof emails". ... more:

While I have every sympathy for her predicament, all I can say is - where has she been hiding these past few years, does she not read the newspapers? Did she not smell a rat when asked to send the ring to Nigeria, of all places! It is a terrible way to learn not to be so trusting.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Christmas and a window dresser's imagination

Tonight I was passing a large city centre store on the bus and noticed this window arrangement. I was so taken by it that I got off the bus and walked back to take these photos. To me it is a very simple arrangement evoking the feeling of christmas without being overly commercial. Congratulations to the person whose creative talent thought this up.

... and the centre-piece, that would bring a smile to many a woman's face ....

Christmas and a young child's imagination.

As window displays go it's actually not bad but when I think back to when I was a child and awed by the magic of christmas I can remember a time when the stores were in competition with each other to produce the best christmas display in the city centre. Sadly not many take the time or effort any longer to produce something to capture a young child's imagination. I regret that, when I had the chance recently, I didn't take my grandson round to see the polar bear but it was a cold wet saturday and we opted instead for the warmth of a local cafe - still, there will be another couple of occasions when I can put that to rights.

I am reminded also of the times when my father took my sister and myself to the Ulster museum and our first stop was the stuffed polar bear that stood near the exit, it was much more exciting than the real life bear at the zoo - because you could walk right up to this one and look him straight in the eyes.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

pssst .....

.... don't say a word to Francis but Diane might be pregnant !!!

Happy birthday ...

Today is our grand daughter's 16th birthday -

so, to her, we send our very best wishes for a very Happy Birthday

Sharing her birthday with - Jimi Hendrix, 1942, Bruce Lee, 1940

p.s. the photo is not of her.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Festival de la Bande Dessinée

Sorry I missed this.

Opera Monday - Catalani - La Wally.

Fernandez sings the aria "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana", from Catalani's opera "La Wally." This performance plays a prominent role in the 1991 French romantic thriller, "Diva." Another must-see film.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

by Brian Ownbey

The fog bullies the coast again
and I remember nights you walked home
with a loaf of bread, a fifth of bay rum
and just enough pills to keep you
from cutting the stitches along your wrist.
You told me there was a comfort you felt
when the fog cloaked your body
and held you hidden within the ghost light...
hidden from the locals who thought of you
only as the girl who tried to drown herself
just off the cape the day after police
found your father dead from an aneurism
and frozen to the lighthouse floor.

The night we met at the Barbary Coast Lounge
you coaxed me to the lighthouse
and we pried off the lock with a crowbar.
In the control room where your father
died in the middle of a thought
we finished a bottle of red wine
and watched a dreadnought of fog
swallow the town lights one by one.
You told me as a child you often slept
on a cot beside your father and dreamed
the Angel of Death came in the shape of an opal fog
and carried you beyond reach of the lighthouse,
and then you undressed me as if there was something
in the taste of my skin that could save you
from another night of wanting to die.

That summer we'd wade out naked past the breakers
and whatever there was of a moon laced your breasts
in antique strands of silver ivy. The black water
pitched up against your back as you straddled me
for the last time, biting hard into my lip
as if you wanted to leave a mark on me.
Swimming back to our clothes I lost sight of you
in the shorebreak that rose out of nowhere
like the blurred sight of a fist we see
just moments before the deathblow,
and I am still halfway convinced that something
that died years ago in the riptide came back
and pulled you down into its arms.

Tonight the air is embalmed with the silence of fog
that hangs over the town like a death threat.
I breathe the salt of a Nor' easter
and remember the persistent chill of your fingers
as you placed them around the handles of my body.
I unfold the Barlow knife you gave me
and recall how you said the scars on your arm
were simply a means for keeping time.
When the harsh light of this room straps against my face
and the fog strangles my thoughts until there is no logic
beyond the blade of this knife I will come to understand
the sudden rush of headlights skimming up the road
as if two angels were coming to bring me the news
of how they delivered you themselves
with their own blinding opal wings.

Merry Belfast from Christmas

....... an early morning shot before the crowds gather and get in the way of a decent photo. It's the same when you go on holiday, bloody tourists always getting in the way of a nice kodak moment (c:~

J Braddell & sons

This is to complement a recent pic on Belfast Daily Photo.

.. and to repeat something I said .. Joseph Braddell & Son Ltd. was founded in 1811 when Joseph Braddell and his son came to Belfast from County Donegal. They established a business for the manufacture and retail of general sports and fieldsports equipment, including guns, fishing tackle and golf clubs. The fieldsports section separated from the general sports in 1913 and has become an established part of Irish sporting circles.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Chickweed Lane - the honeymoon (update)

Simone White: The Beep Beep Song

... a song that has been used in a television advert

... and another.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Belfast's Lord Mayor - Jim Rodgers catches a Salmon

Fabrizio Belluschi took this picture of Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers grappling with – oh sorry - welcoming television presenter Zoe Salmon back to Belfast at the Christmas lights switch-on. BBC:

The Thursday Comic Strip - The Perishers

This week we pay hommage to a British comic strip: The Perishers

artists: Maurice Dodd, Dennis Collins, Bill Melvin

America may well have had the apple-pie delights of "Peanuts", but here in
the UK we've had the h'effervescent pleasures of a daily strip cartoon starring
"The Perishers". Wellington, Maisie, Marlon, Wellington's scruffy sheepdog
Boot, B.H. the bloodhound, Fiscal and Baby Grumplin have pondered,
pontificated, plundered, preached, and pratfalled for forty years in the
pages of the "Daily Mirror".

"The Perishers" are particularly well-known for the way they talk. Their speech
bubbles read like Liza Doolittle in "Pygmalion", a combination of posh and
cock-a-ney and creator Maurice Dodd has always delighted in exploiting
sophisticated vernacular and wordage between the strip stars, dropping
their 'H's and pronouncing words phonetically to clever effect.

Dodd was an ex-apprentice car salesman, baker's roundsman, universal
grinder operator, spray painter, shop assistant, postman, locomotive foreman,
caretaker, aircraftsman and paratrooper who had juggled his commitment to the
strip with employment at ad agency Young & Rubicam. Indeed, he was actually
the mastermind behind those famous Clunk-Clink seatbelt advertisements. His
advertising experiences frequently found their way into the strip too. In the
sixties, in particular, the kids made regular reference to Guinness ads,
Government Milk ads, Washing Powder commercials, and suchlike. Dodd's one
abiding political Bugbear also continued to surface: His dislike of taxation! Toonhound:

The Perishers was a British comic strip about a group of urban children and a dog. It began in the Daily Mirror in 1958 and was written for most of its life by Maurice Dodd (October 25, 1922 - December 31, 2005). It was drawn by Dennis Collins until his retirement in 1983, after which it was drawn by Dodd and later by Bill Mevin. After Dodd's death the strip continued with several weeks' backlog of strips and some reprints until June 10, 2006.

Whilst The Perishers have been dismissed by some Americans as nothing more than a clone of Peanuts, its elements of eccentric British sense of humour, combined with its detailed art style (in its heyday, Collins produced some of the most finely-detailed artwork ever seen in a daily strip), sets it apart.

Many Perishers strips are polyptychs - a single continuous background image is divided into three or four panels and the characters move across it from panel to panel. The story is set in the fairly drab fictional town of Croynge (sometimes spelled Crunge), which is apparently a south London borough - the name is derived from Croydon and Penge. However, visually the location often resembles an industrial Northern town.

Thematically, the strip draws upon nostalgic childhood experiences, and often has a static, almost limbo-like atmosphere, in a similar manner to its companion strip, Andy Capp. The main characters largely exist independently of 'the real world', and adults are rarely seen; for example, every year the Perishers go on holiday but always get thrown off the train home, forcing them to walk and arrive home several weeks late (a pun on how a short scene in comic book time can take several weeks when told in daily installments), yet with seemingly no repercussions.

No comic is complete without catchphrases. This is a partial list of the phrases coined or made popular by the Perishers.
"Go-faster stripes" — Wellington's big selling-point on the buggies he tries to get Marlon to buy. It became a way of describing any useless or frivolous addition to a product.
"GRONFF!!" — The sound of Boot gobbling up something tasty, often something meant for another character, once the contents of a bird table. Also used sometimes when other characters eat.
" Parasite ! Trotskyite ! Marmite !" — Insults hurled at each other by the Beetle and the Caterpillar whenever they brawl, which is frequently. Marmite is, of course, not exactly a valid insult.
"Vilson Kepple und Betty!" — Kilroy the Tortoise's favourite exclamation. It derives from the stage act Wilson, Kepple and Betty.
"Need any help with that paper bag ?" — Maisie can detect the opening of a bag of crisps from far away, appearing almost instantly to help with the consumption, uttering this phrase as soon as she arrives.
"Yeuk!!" — Marlon's reaction to Maisie's perennial romantic advances. He responds to her in this way so often that Maisie has actually asked Marlon, "Is 'yeuk' the only word you know?"
"Ratbag" — The kids' favorite insult. Absent from the very early days of the strip, it quickly became a staple. Maisie is particularly fond of the word, and constantly uses it to refer to Marlon.


Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Prague - the whole kit and kaboodle

Castle Court

The pick 'n mix sweet stand in Belfast's main shopping mall, Castle Court. I wonder what the total is of all those E-numbers?

Christmas in Belfast

... and now the lights have been switched on and the market stalls are in full swing.

To the right we can see the stall being run by the nuns from Belarus, filled with those great wooden Russian dolls and decorated eggs as well as religious icons.
Saw a lot of digital cameras - so expect to see a lot more photos of the market in local blogs.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Ernesto Cardenal - Prayer for Marilyn Monroe

Scottish Provident Institute

Here is another fine old Belfast building - the Scottish Provident Institute, decorated with sphinxes and dolphins ....

Between 1892 and 1902, in other words, during the last decade of Victoria's reign, the Belfast architects Young and Mackenzie designed two enormous officeblocks immediately to the west of Donnegal Place and the new City Hall. The most notable building in the area, the Scottish Provident Institution, a towering Corinthian-inspired block of Giffnoch sandstone, was built in sections from 1899 to 1902:

[It] is faintly reminiscent of the work of Cuthbert Brodrick in
Leeds. The central bay is bowed; there are six floors and an an attic storey;
heavy engaged Corinthian columns run through the third, fourth and fifth floors.
The octagonal domes at the corners, with heavy knops, are not very successful. .
. . there are two large sphinxes, four dolphins, sixteen lion's heads, and
seventeen queens; four panels showing printing, ropemaking, shipbuilding, and
spinning [Belfast's principal industries at the time], all being carried on by
amoretti; and at the corner of Wellington Place, a rather nauseating marble
group in a pompous aedicule compromising a semi-nude lady doing her hair; a
small boy imitating her; and another lady looking on in surprise: apparently
modelled on 'the beautiful seal' of the Scottish Provident Institution. All the
carvings are by Purdy and Millard. (C. E. B. Brett, pp. 58-59)
The Victorian Web:

Somebody is obviously not impressed but I like it - I think it is much better than those monstrosities they are erecting down by the docks.

Thin Lizzy - running back

There is an ad running on tv here for Brennan's bread - well here's the song from the ad performed by the great Thin Lizzy

Chickweed Lane

Monday, 19 November 2007

Opera Monday - NOZZE DI FIGARO - MOZART - Voi Che Sapete

... and the excellent scene from Shawshank Redemption. If you haven't seen it yet then rectify the situation.

... and "Sull' aria" as it is usually performed

Belfast City Hall

Now that we have hallowe'en and remembrance sunday out of the way the council can now proceed with setting up the christmas tree and the more lucrative continental market. This is Belfast's second christmas tree because the first began to split in two due to abnormal weather conditions (described by the BBC as a mini global warming disaster !!! )

The continental market looks more like refugee city at present.

Friday, 16 November 2007

The Clangers

The first episode of The Clangers was broadcast by the BBC on 16 November 1969.

Prague clocks

Prague clocks are many and varied rangeing from the complicated astronomical clock to the simple but beautiful sun-dial to the arty spider web. As you have probably noticed one clock supports tram lines - probably powered by the aforementioned lines.

Compare with our Belfast clocks

Thursday, 15 November 2007

French strike

Thousands of public transport and utility workers have gone on strike across France throwing the transport system into chaos. Many people walked or made use of Paris's new self-service bicycle system, Velib.
Though tempers were a little frayed on the gridlocked roads as commuters battled any way they could to get home. BBC:

Transport workers protest in Lille, France, during a nationwide strike

Belfast's continental market

Forget the big rickety wheel - I think the big attraction in Belfast over christmas will be two nuns from Belarus who will be among the traders for the now traditional Christmas fair.

They will be selling traditional handmade goods to raise money for their charitable work back home. The nuns are from the Orthodox Monaster Novinki in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, where they work with adults and children with mental and physical disabilities.

Preparations are already being made at City Hall for the Christmas market, which runs from 21 November to 18 December.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

A little bit of culture


by Thomas Hood

No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--

No road--no street--
No "t'other side the way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--

No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!

No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No park--no ring--no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

The Lennon Wall

The Lennon Wall was formerly an ordinary wall in Prague, but since the 1980s, people have filled it with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles songs.

In 1988 the wall was a source of irritation for the then communist regime of Gustav Husak. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and in a report of the time this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The movement these students followed was described ironically as Lennonism and Czech authorities described these educated peaceful people variously as alcoholics, mentally deranged, sociopathic, and agents of Western capitalism.

The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paints. Even when the wall was re-painted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of youth ideals such as love and peace.

The wall is owned by the Knights of the Maltese Cross, who graciously allowed graffiti to continue on what actually is a lovely Renaissance wall, and is located at Velkopřevorské náměstí (Grand Priory Square), Malá Strana.

Cafe Culture

Now, I thought this was a nice gesture - outside a cafe in the Little Quarter near Charles Bridge - fleece wraps to protect the intrepid customer against inclement weather.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Forget Wikipedia ..

Take a look at this - Norn Irn

Segregated traffic lights continue to be used in Northern Ireland.
Protestants may cross on the orange light, Catholics on the green light.

Church of Our Lady Before Tyn

Church of Our Lady Before Tyn looking like a fairytale castle.

The spires of this powerful looking Gothic church (baroque interior) can be seen from all over Prague.
The church was founded in 1385 during a tumultuous period when ‘heretic’ Hussites were being slaughtered by the ruling Roman Catholics. As part of this, Catholic Jesuits took over the church, recasting the bell and replacing the Hussites symbolic chalice with a large figure of Mary nailed between the towers.

The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn is impressive by day and striking by night, lit up against the dark night sky. Take a close look at the two spires. They are not symmetrical. This is characteristic of the gothic architecture of the time and is a representation of both the masculine and feminine sides of the world.
To the left you can just see the Astronomical Clock which dates back to the 15th century. On the hour, every hour, a small trap door opens and Christ marches out ahead of his disciples, while the skeleton of death tolls the bell to a defiant statue of a Turk. (more about this later) Below the Astronomical Clock are 12 medallions with the signs of the zodiac, added by Josef Manes in 1865.

Some day I'll fly away

Two young women on Charles Bridge taking turns to photograph each other. It's a strange thing, the Japanese give the two fingered peace sign when they have their photos taken but in Prague the fashion seems to be to spread your arms. Maybe they are trying to take it all in or perhaps they are just saying 'I love you this much'

Charles Bridge is a stone Gothic bridge that connects the Old Town and Malá Strana. It was actually called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) during the first several centuries. Its construction was commissioned by Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and began in 1357. In charge of the construction was architect Petr Parléř whose other works include the St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle. It is said that egg yolks were mixed into the mortar to strengthen the construction of the bridge.

Charles Bridge is one of the many monuments that were built during Charles' reign but it is not the first bridge that ever connected the Prague banks of the Vltava. Another bridge used to stand in its place - the Judith Bridge, which was the first stone bridge over the river. It was built in 1172 and collapsed in a flood in 1342.

Unlike its predecessor, Charles Bridge has survived many floods, most recently in August 2002 when the country experienced the worst flood in the past 500 years - so the egg yolks must not have been such a bad idea.