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Waiting their turn

Okay, last one from the Mapp and Lucia shoot. I call your attention to the little dog on the wagon. And the fact the man is checking his smart phone.

I’m only posting this stuff because I didn’t earlier, when it happened, and the news is just too depressing right now.

p.s. Except Ukip takes Clacton, a safe Tory seat. And, even more impressively, came within 600-something votes of taking a safe Labour seat! That’s pants-shittingly interesting politics, right there.

p.p.s. Have a good weekend!

October 10, 2014 — 9:45 pm
Comments: 13

More props

Another shot from the Mapp and Lucia shoot this Summer. I think reproducing Twistevant’s was the most impressive set building the BBC types got up to. This entire storefront is fake, bolted onto a very plain-fronted white building on the corner. This is all burgundy paint and gold leaf; they must have a good old-fashioned sign painter on staff. When they were done, the whole thing vanished overnight.

There are even period displays inside — for example, you can just make out in the center a revolving rack of seed packets, all from the appropriate era! And all the notices in the windows and all the handbills posted — all of them perfectly period.

The cheese wheels in the foreground are all plastic, but the produce out front is half and half. There would be plastic onions mixed in with real ones. For some reason. I couldn’t work out the rationale — except that any fruit or veg that was cut open was fake, which made sense.

The production crew was very cool about it. When they weren’t actually filming, we were allowed to wander right through the sets and take pictures and gawk at stuff, though they got itchy if anyone pointed a camera at one of the stars. This area is right in the touristy heart of Rye and tourism carried on right throughout, though I did get briefly pinned down in the gun garden while they filmed a scene.

This is apparently in contrast to the Hollywood types in for the filming of Monuments Men. They were real asses to everyone, locals told me.

October 9, 2014 — 10:05 pm
Comments: 16

A very Mapp and Lucia Summer

In the chicken thread below, we got talking about Mapp and Lucia — the books, not the chickens — and it dawns on me, I’m not sure I’ve ever posted about Mapp and Lucia the books. Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Mapp and Lucia describes a series of six (or more, depending if you count short stories) novels about two middle aged, middle class English ladies in the Twenties. They wage deadly warfare on one another by way of gossip, dinner parties and musical evenings. If you have a taste for bitchy catfights, you’ll love these books (if not, they’ll probably bore you silly).

The author, E.F. Benson, wrote shit tons of books, but Mapp and Lucia are his greatest hits. They’re set in Tilling, which is explicitly modeled on the town of Rye. So closely modeled that a cottage industry sprung up leading people on walking tours of Rye, pointing out landmarks from the books. Benson lived in Rye and was its mayor for a while; his house is at the center of the Mapp and Lucia cycle.

Fun fact: Benson’s father, Edward White Benson, was Archbishop of Canterbury. He had six children and they were all homosexual. I read that somewhere, but Wikipedia says two of them died young, so I’m not sure how gay they had time to be.

Mapp and Lucia has been dramatized many times, most notably in the Eighties in a series starring Geraldine McEwan and Prunella Scales (remember her, Fawlty Towers?).

Welp, the BBC was in town for six weeks this Summer filming a new version, due to be released at Christmas. We live close enough to have turned up to watch the filming a few times. (Rye is used pretty often in film, because it’s gorgeous. Monuments Men was filmed locally last year, f’rexample).

This being the modern BBC, I’m sure they’ll eff it up, but I absolutely can’t fault their sense of set and costume. They took over Market Street and transformed it into the Market Street from the books (it’s mostly residential now, but it was the main shopping street in Benson’s day). It was fascinating to watch the prop people at work; the attention to detail was fantastic. They graveled the road so the markings wouldn’t show and put detailed false fronts on many of the buildings. One day to put it up, a week to film, a day to take it down, like they’d never been.

The picture shows a row of fake plastic pig carcasses hanging from the Town Hall. Guys kept spraying them down so they were shiny wet. I really, really wanted one.

They hired locals for extras and rented several houses for interiors. I felt for those extras when they bundled them up to film the Christmas scenes on a hot July night, fake snow and all.

We’re great M&L fans, if that’s not perfectly fucking obvious by now. I’ll let you know how the BBC manages to ruin these great stories with cheap politics.

October 8, 2014 — 6:53 pm
Comments: 17

The Three Fates

Time for a chicken update, and here’s my whole sad little flock as Winter approaches. Maggie’s still with us — she’s just off-camera in the cage to the left. They spend a lot of time flocking around her, keeping her company, but they would do her injury if I let them at her.

That’s Mapp on the right. She looks like shit because she’s molting, but she is also starting to show her age a bit. She’s four this year. Six is probably the most we can expect. This is hard, because — don’t tell the other chickens — Mapp is my favorite.

That’s Vita in the middle, the biggest and prettiest of the chickens. Big, beautiful, shy, stupid Vita. Stupid, stupid Vita.

Violence on the left, the off-white one. She’s kind of head chicken at the moment, and a lousy job she does of it, too. She’s mean and arbitrary and apt to say “fuck it” in the middle of the day and go back to bed. At roosting time, she becomes a peckin’ machine. The other chickens fear her, but do not follow her.

Everyone who knows my flock agrees, the heart went out of them when Lucia died. She was the Mary Poppins of chickens, practically perfect in every way. She kept ‘em in line. Without her, they don’t explore. They don’t get up to trouble. They don’t get into the vegetable patch and eat peas or show up in my kitchen and poop on the floor.

We had our first fire of the season last night. Cold and wet and bad time for chickens coming. Spare a thought for my sad, tiny flock.

October 7, 2014 — 9:32 pm
Comments: 20

Fifty four years ago Saturday

The Tennessee Eastman explosion, October 4, 1960. Sixteen dead, couple hundred wounded. Blew out a section of the factory the size of a city block.

I was born not far away, but I was a little babby of five months when disaster struck, so I remember naught.

Tennessee Eastman has an interesting history. Founded in 1920 by George Eastman, of Eastman Kodak fame, who was having trouble getting the chemicals he needed for photography in the aftermath of WWI. Over time, they have made all sorts of interesting chemicals. At the height of dubya-dubya eye-eye, they were kicking out a million and a half pounds of explosives each day.

From ’43 to ’47, Tennessee Eastman managed that part of nearby Oak Ridge that produced all the enriched uranium for the Manhattan Project.

Oak Ridge is a kind of neat place. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, but you can go in and take a lame-ass multimedia tour. I’ve always believed the lame-assery was a carefully contrived put-on. I once knew a risk management engineer who was given such a scary lecture about inspecting parts of the facility that he decided to write his report based on guesstimates instead.

Anyway, I don’t think they were manufacturing anything that interesting when disaster struck. The reports say it was nitrobenzene, which is a precursor to aniline. Hella flammable, obviously.

Unlike the tragedy that struck our friends the Iranians over the weekend. Whatever ignited that one, I have a feeling it was humming Hava Nagila at the time.

October 6, 2014 — 8:33 pm
Comments: 11

a competitive athlete passed this way

It was beautiful here today. Sunny, blue sky, high puffy clouds. Shirtsleeves weather. The nicest you could ask an October day to be. For all I know, though, this might be the last Summery day of 2014 — they’re predicting shit ‘n’ chips, starting tomorrow.

So we went to Sissinghurst for the afternoon. Stopped on the way and bought sammiches and hung out in the garden for a while. De-lightful.

On the way back to the car, under a horse chestnut tree — these horse chestnuts! But these are not as they fall from the tree. Nay, nay! These have been removed from the spiny outer casing, examined for flaws and tossed aside as unworthy.

Yes, that means the competitive Conker Season is upon us! This is when Brits (children, mostly) take horse chestnuts, drill a hole through them, thread a string through the hole and whale away at each other until somebody’s conker falls to bits. There’s more to it. Of course there is.

Like cheating.

The kudos of having a high-ranked winning conker is not limited to the playground and there have been many traditional ways of (illegally) hardening conkers before battling. Hardening methods include soaking or boiling the conkers in vinegar or salt water; soaking in parafin; partially baking them for about a half hour in the oven to case-harden them; coating them with clear nail-varnish; filling them with glue or simply storing them in the dark for a year (the shrivelled ones often seem to get the better of the young shiny ones). My favourite however is that described by two-times World Conker Champion Charlie Bray who says, “There are many underhanded ways of making your conker harder. The best is to pass it through a pig. The conker will harden by soaking in its stomach juices. Then you search through the pig’s waste to find the conker.” Yuk!

And grievous bodily harm.

“There’s no defence at all. When you’re playing, it’s natural to flinch when this thing is being swung at you, especially if it comes very close to your knuckles. The best thing to do is look away and think of England or something else.”

Make no mistake, it’s a deadly serious business. Good weekend, folks!

October 3, 2014 — 8:40 pm
Comments: 14

At last – your chance to own Vicky’s knickers!

A pair of Queen Victoria’s ample silk boxer shorts is going to auction. No reserve! They expect them to go for £1,000 to £2,000, but hoping for the best. The last pair to go on sale went for £10,000.

Also, some stockings and a chemise. Circa 1890.

Victoria was five feet nothin’. Those bloomers are 52″ around. And her chemise? Got a 66″ bustline.

Her Majesty’s smalls from his era have come on the market fairly often, reason being she willed most of them to her favorite servants. How would you put that, exactly? “Dear parlour maid. In recognition of your many years of faithful service, please accept this our third best pair of used panties.”

I dunno. Rich people are weird.

October 2, 2014 — 10:22 pm
Comments: 15

They’re just trolling us now…

Despite everything going on in the world today, the second most read article at the BBC News website when I checked the news this morning was this one: Tom and Jerry cartoons carry racism warning. It’s from Amazon’s streaming service (formerly LoveFilm) and the warning on Volume 2 is:

“Tom and Jerry shorts may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”

Emphasis mine, because of the staggering presumption of “wrong then.”

The problem, not surprising, is the character the Wikipedia article refers to as “Mammy two shoes” — presumably because she looks like the classic 19th C mammy character, and all you usually ever see are her legs.

I’m going to cry foul on anyone who calls her “the maid character” though. I’m sure I’ve seen every Tom and Jerry ever, and I recall *no* evidence she was not in her own home and mistress thereof. Thomas is clearly her cat, she’s dressed in the sort slobbing-around-the-house clothes I seriously doubt she’d wear to work. I think she makes herself a sandwich in one episode.

So this is racist because…she’s fat like Mammy? Because she talks like an American black person? Because she’s wearing slobbing-around-the-house clothes? Really, I think we have a right to insist class warriors tell us specifically what parts of this character are offensive. Because I think the answer would be far more racist than the question.

Oh, insult to injury — and I honestly don’t know if they’re flat-out trolling — this from the Telegraph today.

How the hell did we get to the point that a cartoon Siamese cat with chopsticks is some kind of deadly racist stereotype?

October 1, 2014 — 7:05 pm
Comments: 18

A mighty rumbling was heard throughout the land

Spotted at the store today (hence crappy cellphone pic). That’s, like, five bucks worth of beans, son!

I finally worked up the courage to say, no. Really. Thanks. I don’t want Heinz beanz with my dinner. Leaving Uncle B to buy those little teeny one serving cans that cost a relative fortune.

I think he wiped away a tear as we left this aisle.

September 30, 2014 — 8:05 pm
Comments: 24

I want one!

So we went into London to visit the British Museum on Friday. Friday is their late opening day; you can wander the galleries until 8:30. We hadn’t been in so long, this was our first chance to see the new atrium — a big ol’ glassed in Great Court that opened in 2000 (wow, has it really been that long?).

Uncle B is particularly fond of the Assyrian and Egyptian parts. The BM’s collection is outstanding and many of the exhibits are like old friends. Also, his awesome new camera. Me, I tend to head to the Viking and Anglo Saxon section, because racism.

We declined their special exhibit on the Ming Dynasty (£16.50). But I would’ve liked to have spent some time in the Far Eastern galleries. They’ve got a very good print of Under the Wave I’d like to see in person. Truth is, late hours or not, we just ran out of steam.

Do you ever get Museum Brain?

Oh, the sinister object in the picture was one of the best things I don’t remember seeing before. It’s big and iron and surely must be very heavy. The label on it says:

This iron rod from a woman’s grave in Norway may have been used in pagan magical practices. It resembles similar rods found in burials of women who may have been sorceresses (völur in Old Norse). The rituals involving such staffs are mysterious, but they may have included divination and the control of others. This staff was deliberately bent before burial, an act perhaps thought to remove its power.


September 29, 2014 — 7:31 pm
Comments: 13