Friday, 29 April 2011

ROYALLY DIVERTING

As a momentary escape from today's regal junketings, here's a scene from another Royal Wedding: the 1951 MGM musical comedy of that name starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell as brother-and-sister dance act, Tom and Ellen Bowen.

The film is set in London in 1947 at the time of the wedding of Prince William's grandmother (then Princess Elizabeth) to Prince Philip.

Astaire's character falls in love with English dancer, Ann Ashmond (Sarah Churchill), and he is so swept off his feet that he can dance up the walls and across the ceiling to Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's song, 'You're All the World to Me'...



The choreography was the work of Nick Castle in collaboration with Astaire and the number was filmed by building the room set inside a revolving steel barrel and mounting the camera and operator to the floor so they would rotate along with the room.

Here, courtesy of Galen Fott of BigFott Studios is his is how this wondrous piece of screen magic was created...



The same technique would later be used to create the zero gravity environment in 2001: A Space Odyssey and, more recently, the rotating hotel corridor and room in Christopher Nolan's 2010 picture, Inception.

When you've viewed this remarkable sequence, take a peek at the way it was done...



Now, back to today's big event...

HAPPY NUPTIALS, WILL AND KATE!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

PLUMB DAFT!

Whatever these plumbers charge, you certainly get a pun for your money!

Plumb Crazy!

And, with their Satanic red livery, they may be just the company required by anyone, post-Easter, still experiencing Jesus-in-the-drain-pipe issues!

Image: Photo by David Weeks

Monday, 25 April 2011

DE-TAILING

Here's an Easter greeting I received (can this really be true?) forty-one years ago!

A drawing by Ernest H Shepard – illustrator of A A Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin books – depicting my favourite character, Eeyore the old grey donkey and the tail that was lost and regained...

"Oh, Eeyore!"


True the line is a little shaky, but Shepard was 90 years old at the time and it was over forty years since he had drawn his original pictures of Eeyore, Pooh and the other denizens of the 100 Aker Wood.
"What's happened to your tail?" [Pooh] said in surprise.

"What has happened to it?" said Eeyore.

"It isn't there!"

"Are you sure?"

"Well, either a tail is there or it isn't there. You can't make a mistake about it, and yours isn't there!"

"Then what is?"

"Nothing."

"That Accounts for a Good Deal," said Eeyore gloomily. "It Explains Everything. No Wonder."

"You must have left it somewhere," said Winnie-the-Pooh.

"Somebody must have taken it," said Eeyore. "How Like Them," he added after a long silence.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY

Resurrection

EASTER GREETINGS


Image: Stained glass window in the former St Mary's-at-Lambeth, London, now home of The Garden Museum © Brian Sibley, 2010

You can look into more of my windows on my blog Window Gazing and my flickr photo set, Windows

Saturday, 23 April 2011

EGGSCESSIVENESS!

A seasonal offering from Zoeycakes ('little cakes. big taste'): take one Cadbury's creme egg and bake inside a chocolate cupcake, top off with vanilla butter-cream and a Cadbury's mini-egg...

Creme Egg Cupcake

Serve, eat and...

Inside of Creme Egg Cupcake

...prepare to be very ill!

Incidentally, as in the photo above, why does a cupcake (or a muffin) always look so much less attractive when its paper case has been peeled off? Rather like a stripper that doesn't quite have the body imagination had led one to expect...

You can find more photos of heart attacks on Zoeycakes flickr photostream and on their www.zoeycakes.com.

Friday, 22 April 2011

ON GOOD FRIDAY

Tulip

See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices;
Fields and gardens hail the spring;
Shaughs and woodlands ring with voices,
While the wild birds build and sing.

You, to whom your Maker granted
Powers to those sweet birds unknown,
Use the craft by God implanted;
Use the reason not your own.
Here, while heaven and earth rejoices,
Each his Easter tribute bring-
Work of fingers, chant of voices,
Like the birds who build and sing.

Easter Week – Charles Kingsley


Image: Flowerbed in the churchyard of the former St-Mary-at-Lambeth, now home of the Garden Museum © Brian Sibley, 2010

Visit my flickr photosets for a stroll Up the Garden Path

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

WHEN'S A HOT CROSS BUN NOT A BUN?

When it's a loaf!

Hot Cross Loaf!

To my mind (and I'm someone one for whom one HCB is never enough!) this ingenious offering from Asda seemed a bit extreme, but apparently not...

Last April, bakers at Hovis created – or, perhaps, built would be a better word – an HCB that was 9 foot by 5 foot: a total area of 45 square feet or the equivalent of 2,000 regular buns!

The ingredients? "48 kg of British Wheat flour, 4 kg mixed fruit, 68 whole eggs, 6 kg sugar, 6 kg butter; plus litres of milk & water and mixed spice." But how many litres and how much mixed spice? Vital information missing there for all budding home bakers, I fear!

Anyway, here's what it (or part of it) looked like...


You can read the whole(meal) story, along with some interesting facts about the history of the HCB, here.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

DIVINE APPEARANCES

It's doesn't have to be almost Easter, but it helps... I have blogged before about the media's passion for reporting stories about people finding Jesus in unlikely places such as inside the lid of a Marmite jar.

Well, they are at it again this time with Jesus 'materialising' on a dirty tea-towel...


Frankly, I can't see it – or Him, but maybe that's down to a lack of faith...

Anyway, Metro breathlessly reported...

It's well known that cleanliness is up there next to Godliness, but Roisin McCourt wasn't expecting Jesus to pop out of her washing machine load.

Dance teacher Ms McCourt was shocked when she saw the unusual brown stain, which shows what seem to be the facial features of a long-haired, bearded man.

Ms McCourt, 31, has since been mobbed with requests from believers wishing to make a pilgrimage to see the holy imprint.

The Coventry resident said: 'When I took it out I could not believe it. I could see it was Jesus straightaway. I took it to my husband and he agreed with me.

'I don't even know what the stain was made from I had not seen it before I had put it in the washing.

She believes that she has received a sign from God after receiving the surprise.

She said: 'I am Catholic but I am not extremely religious we don't go to mass every weekend but after finding this it has definitely made my faith stronger.'

Some of Ms McCourt's friends have said the image on the towel looks more like Elvis, but Ms McCourt is not convinced.

'I know some people will think it's crazy and I feel a bit silly saying it but I really believe that it is his face.'

'The strange thing is that I have started receiving calls from people asking me if they can come and see the tea towel.

'You never know, it could be Coventry's answer to the Turin Shroud,' she added.

Another resident from Coventry, Alex Cotton, last year claimed to see Jesus face on her drainpipe.


And here, my children is that drainpipe...


In June 2010, under a headline that asked Is this the Second Plumbing?, Metro (again) reported, with reference to earlier holy texts...

We all know that the Lord likes to make his presence felt, be it on a naan bread, in a chip pan or even on Google maps, but now it seems he's taken to the drainpipes of suburbia as well.

Nurse Alex Cotton, 38, returned home from a football match with friends when the holy son decided to make his entrance. While chatting in the garden, eagle-eyed Cotton noticed the mysterious smudge, noticing that ‘It’s got his crown of thorns and beard,’.

We're not entirely sure it's the son of God (it's not), but talk to us after an afternoon's drinking while watching the football and we may well change our minds.

Cotton has even invited the Pope to visit the scene of Jesus' latest apparition, though we imagine his holiness will probably give this one a miss on his next tour of the UK.

Then, just a few days back, there was Jesus in (or on) a log.

Mrs Robertson, mum of two from Solihull told a newspaper (guess which one?): 'We had some firewood by the fireplace – at first it looked like a skull and crossbones – but as the months wore on, it just appeared around the knot in the wood. It was a dark mark and the sap made the face of Jesus – it came up more and more.'

The report went on: Mrs Robertson says the log actually helps to cheer her up and her two kids love it. 'They think it's hilarious,' she said.

And they are not alone, Mrs Robertson.

However, someone who probably won't be laughing (apart from the Pope that is) is Mitchell Grainger, 25, who spotted the Good Lord in a photo of his pet chicken taking a dust bath. A well-known organ of the press (yep, them again) reported Mr Grainger's astonishment at the revelation:

'I literally said ‘Jesus Christ’ when I saw the picture. The face of Jesus is clear to see and when I showed my mom she even pointed out the ring of thorns.'

Gloria, of Rowley Regis, West Midlands, obviously has someone watching over her, after miraculously escaping a vicious fox attack.

'It is strange that it would appear on Gloria because not long ago she was the only chicken out of 20 that wasn’t killed by a fox. She was standing on the step when he came and miraculously wasn’t touched' Grainger added.

'That's why we called her Gloria, after Gloria Gaynor's song 'I Will Survive.'

I confess, on this Palm Sunday, that I believe that the person of Jesus is, in a mystical sense, alive and abroad in our world, infusing and informing the cultural history of mankind.

Thanks to the Metro, I now also believe that quite a lot of people are amazingly stupid and gullible and that newspapers are utterly shameless in their devotion to such attributes!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

AN EGGCEPTIONAL WINE

"I think you will be amused by the punning jocularity of its label!"

An Eggceptional Wine!

Photo: David Weeks

Saturday, 9 April 2011

THE WAR OF THE ALBUMS

I still remember the visceral thrill that I experienced when I first heard (back in 1978, heaven help me) Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds.

As a fan of the original H G Wells' book, Orson Welles' audacious radio version and George Pal's 1953 movie, I was, probably, the perfect customer for the album!

Jeff Wayne pulled off the most amazing – and unlikely – pop-cultural coup: a phenomenally successful concept album combining an intensely vivid dramatisation of Wells' story (told with passion and authority by Richard Burton) with a progressive rock music score performed by legendary musicians and vocalists David Essex, Julie Covington, Phil Lynott, Justin Hayward and Chris Thompson.

My slavish devotion to this album was such that I was beside myself with delight when sometime in the mid-to-late '80s, after winning a Sony Radio Award, I was invited to write the script for Jeff's next concept album based on the story of Spartacus. It was almost too good to be true because I was a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick's film ("I'm Spartacus!" "I'm Spartacus!" "I'm Spartacus!" etc etc) and had always been intrigued by the story of the Thracian gladiator who led a rebellion against imperial Rome.

What started out life as a double record album took so long to get made and released that it ended up, in 1992, as a double CD set! Sir Anthony Hopkins was cast as Marcus Crassus (the equivalent of Burton's narrator role in WOTW) with Catherine Zeta Jones playing Spartacus' seer wife, Palene.

During those intervening years I wrote and endlessly re-wrote the script for first two 'sides' ('Animal & Man' and 'The Eagle & the Hawk') and made numerous drafts for the other two sides and wrote what became the final version of the epilogue, 'The Appian Way' . However, when my contract came up for renewal – feeling that the ceaseless re-writing had left me not knowing whether anything actually made any sort of sense – I decided to bow out of the arena and the writing honours were picked up and seen though to completion by playwright, John Spurling.

I rather enjoyed the fact that Miss Zeta Jones single 'For All Time' had, as its 'B' side, Sir Anthonyperforming my 'Animal and Man' monologue for Marcus Crassus but the album itself sadly failed to live up to expectations and certainly not to the success of War of the Worlds.

It was only relatively recently that I discovered that a mash-up had been made in 2000 inter-cutting the opening of WOTW with that of Spartacus.

'The Eve of the War versus Animal and Man' will probably be the one and only Sibley re-mix, so enjoy...



Must find out if I'm owed any royalties!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

MAY THE BEST MAN WIN...

...and the right man get married!



Sunday, 3 April 2011

MUM'S THE WORD

To all those lucky enough to still have their MOTHERS...

HAPPY MOTHERING SUNDAY!


Friday, 1 April 2011

ON THE CARDS

There's more Euro-silliness in the offing today with revelations that forthcoming European Union legislation will require a bizarre change to an item of everyday life that has gone unchanged for several centuries - the common or garden pack of playing cards.

According to breaking news, the proposals announced by the European Union, which will come into place in April 2012 include the dropping of the 12 Royal cards (Kings, Queens and Jacks) from all packs of cards manufactured within the EU in order to reflect the fact that there are more republics than monarchies among members states.

The familiar suits of Clubs Diamonds, Hearts and Spades would be joined by a new suit, Stars (see specimen pack above) making up the new 'metric' pack of 50, as opposed to the traditional 52, cards.

I understand that The Magic Circle is, apparently, planning to mount a legal challenge to these proposals. A spokesperson said: "We are very concerned by these news rules... The standard pack of 52 cards embodies a long legacy of cultural and magical history. Frankly, many of our members are hoping to make these new rules disappear."

For more on this story and the response of the world's premiere magic club, visit the website of The Magic Circle.