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Posts Tagged ‘humor

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast”*…

 

royal-albert-hall-1974

… or not.

Consider the Portsmouth Sinfonia…

an English orchestra founded by a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in 1970. The Sinfonia was generally open to anyone and ended up drawing players who were either people without musical training or, if they were musicians, ones that chose to play an instrument that was entirely new to them. Among the founding members was one of their teachers, English composer Gavin Bryars. The orchestra started as a one-off, tongue-in-cheek performance art ensemble but became a cultural phenomenon over the following 10 years, with concerts, record albums, a film and a hit single. [source]

For your corespondent’s money, the apex (nadir) of their work was their performance of “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss:

 

And then there’s the performance pictured above: “the Piano Concerto in A,” by Tchaikovsky, at Royal Albert Hall– a run to which thousands of tickets were sold:

 

The best of the worst: The Portsmouth Sinfonia.

* William Congreve, The Mourning Bride (often misquoted as “music hath charms to soothe the savage beast”).  The same play gave us “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” often misquoted as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

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As we embrace enthusiasm, we might send more melodic birthday greetings to Constant Lambert; he was born on this date in 1905.  A composer, conductor, and author, he was the founding Music Director of the Royal Ballet, and (alongside Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton) he was a major figure in the establishment of the English ballet as a significant artistic movement.

Lambert is also remembered as the inspiration and model for the character Hugh Moreland in his close friend Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time (especially in the fifth volume, Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant, in which Moreland is a central character).  Lambert’s son, Kit Lambert, was one of the managers of The Who.

Constant_Lambert_by_Christopher_Wood

Christopher Wood‘s portrait of Lambert (1926)

source

 

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable”*…

 

FL covid

 

Data visualizations that make no sense...

cheese

weather

flights

work from home

More at “WTF Visualizations.”

* Mark Twain

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As we celebrate clarity, we might spare a thought for the mathematician, biologist, historian of science, literary critic, poet, and inventor Jacob Bronowski; he died on this date in 1974.  Bronowski is probably best remembered as the writer (and host) of the epochal 1973 BBC television documentary series (and accompanying book), The Ascent of Man (the title of which was a play on the title of Darwin’s second book on evolution, The Descent of Man)… the thirteen-part series, a survey of the history of science–  from rock tools to relativity– and its place in civilizations, is still an extraordinary treat.  It’s available at libraries, on DVD, or (occasionally) on streaming services.

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“This page contains material that is kept because it is considered humorous. It is not meant to be taken seriously.”*…

 

800px-Cow-on_pole,_with_antlers

A cow with antlers atop a pole. Wikipedia contains other images and articles that are similarly shocking or udderly amoosing.

 

Of the over six million articles in the English Wikipedia there are some articles that Wikipedians have identified as being somewhat unusual. These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something one would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica. We should take special care to meet the highest standards of an encyclopedia with these articles lest they make Wikipedia appear idiosyncratic. If you wish to add an article to this list, the article in question should preferably meet one or more of these criteria:

  • The article is something a reasonable person would not expect to find in a standard encyclopedia.
  • The subject is a highly unusual combination of concepts, such as cosmic latte, death from laughter, etc.
  • The subject is a clear anomaly—something that defies common sense, common expectations or common knowledge, such as Bir Tawil, Märket, Phineas Gage, Snow in Florida, etc.
  • The subject is well-documented for unexpected notoriety or an unplanned cult following at extreme levels, such as Ampelmännchen or All your base are belong to us.
  • The subject is a notorious hoax, such as the Sokal affair or Mary Toft.
  • The subject might be found amusing, though serious.
  • The subject is distinct amongst other similar ones.
  • The article is a list or collection of articles or subjects meeting the criteria above.

This definition is not precise or absolute; some articles could still be considered unusual even if they do not fit these guidelines.

To keep the list of interest to readers, each entry on this list should be an article on its own (not merely a section in a less unusual article) and of decent quality, and in large meeting Wikipedia’s manual of style. For unusual contributions that are of greater levity, see Wikipedia:Silly Things.

At once a delineation of the frontiers of canonical (vs. valuable but off-beat) knowledge and a rabbit hole down which it’s eminently amusing to descend: “Wikipedia:Unusual articles

* Notice atop the Wikipedia page “Wikipedia:Unusual articles

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As we forage on the fringe, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that then-27-year-old director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel Jaws premiered.  Released “wide” (to 500 theaters at once, as opposed to rolling out in a few theaters first, as was then customary) and backed by a (then substantial) $700,000 marketing campaign, Jaws grossed $7 million in its opening weekend (on its way to over $450 million worldwide).  Prior to Spielberg’s triumph, summer had been the studios’ dumping ground for their weaker films; Jaws ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster.

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Written by LW

June 20, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Man always finds the omens he wants”*…

 

hell

 

… or the omens that are resonant with the future he has come to expect…

happiness

spiders

heaven

 

Dark humor for dark times: Screenshots of Despair.

* Yukio Mishima

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As we search for the silver (lining), we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Sammy Davis, Jr’s cover of “The Candy Man” began it’s 21-day run at #1 on the pop chart.  The song had, of course, originally appeared in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; it was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley specifically for the film.

 

 

“Great changes, even in the field of science, are always preceded by a certain carnival consciousness that prepares the way”*…

 

Puppet

 

After receiving our 7,482nd corporate email about “Our Covid Response,” we knew we had to do something. That something was hose down the internet machine with brake cleaner and go make something… behold! Art!

While you’re at home flattening the curve, why not take a break from your rigorous nap schedule to make a puppet show?

Entries to our contest must be original work and less than 1 minute long. Extra points for:

• all homemade and recycled props

• pyrotechnics

• involving children and/or pets

• non-professional jingles.

Remember, basically anything can be a puppet: Peanut shells, over-ripe tomatoes, political regimes. Be creative!

Our top prize is a t-shirt and $100 gift certificate to Dean’s Car Care, and the runner up gets $50 gift certificate and some oily rags…

Screen Shot 2020-04-10 at 4.27.01 PM

From’s Portland’s Dean’s Car Care (“Buy Less, Fix More”), the “Socially Distant Puppet Show.”

 

* Mikhail Bakhtin

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As we lend a hand, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that CIA director Allen Dulles launched the secret program Project MKUltra.  Its aim was to develop a perfect truth drug for interrogating suspected Soviet spies during the Cold War, and to explore other possibilities of mind control, including the manipulation of foreign leaders (indeed, several schemes to drug Fidel Castro were devised).

Techniques explored included the covert administration of high doses of psychoactive drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, electroshocks,  hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, and other forms of torture.  Many of the experiments– especially those involving drugs– were conducted on unwitting test subjects.

The project ran until 1973, when most project documentation was destroyed on the order of CIA director Richard Helms.

220px-DeclassifiedMKULTRA

A declassifed copy of one of the few surviving MKUltra files

source

 

 

Written by LW

April 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

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