Saturday, June 25, 2016

Camel Run

This is about Take Five of this Muybridge project. It's not often I get TWENTY images to work with, but then again, it's not often I get twenty images to work with (meaning it seems to take forever to get them into a form I can use for a decent gif). There were several time-consuming outtakes that didn't make the cut, though the first one did have a certain raw energy that appealed to me.

This one has a little more polish to it in that I got rid of a lot of crap in the margins, and most of the camel is still visible in the frame. It seems to me the Muybridge photos vary in size, or they seem to, making cropping them out of the big sheet of images much harder. 

These are stills taken in sequence, and were in fact never meant to be strung together into a "motion picture" because such a thing didn't exist yet (though there were praxoscopes and things like that, things that spun around and fooled you into thinking there was motion. To me it sounds like some sort of device a proctologist would use, but never mind). One was supposed to examine a photo, then examine the next one, then examine the next one, etc., etc., to get a sense of what exactly happened when a body was in motion. Thus, those sheets with all the images printed on them (see below), strange-looking things with a grid in the background and heavy black margins that I try to crop out, though a Muybridge purist would probably leave them in. These look primitive, but they were a miracle back then.  Don't forget: this was a time when people thought a trotting horse always kept one hoof on the ground, and a galloping horses went from back legs to front legs in leaps, in the manner of those old heroic paintings.

As a kid I was enamoured of flip-books which we made by hand. I wasn't as good at them as my brother. I never lost the fascination. Unfortunately it's nearly impossible to find useful sequences of photos like this camel one (imperfect as it is, with the camel framed a little differently in each photo, the graph in the background fluctuating wildly, and even the ground bopping up and down as if there's an earthquake going on).

So I end up going back to Muybridge. 

Still, the eye is fooled. Even with the jerkiness and wildly varying backgrounds (and it feels to me as if there's a frame missing somewhere), there is a sense of motion. Of an actual animal running. I like the way one of its humps flops up and down, and the way the two humps go in opposite directions like one of those tassel-dancers. It looks camelish to me, and moves as camelishly as anything did before the movie camera was even invented.

POST-BLOG FEVERISH MAUNDERINGS. I was wrong about the praxiscope. It doesn't exist, never did. There were, however, many many proto-motion picture/pre-film devices that experimented with the illusion of movement through the rapid spinning around/flipping/projecting of stills. Below is a lovely pink link to a site that gives you all sorts of beautiful information. It's an older, non-slick site that's set up beautifully, logically, with no "things" popping or bulging or moving around. You can actually SEE it, in the tradition of seeing pre-film technology and stuff.

I like the exotic-sounding names of these devices: zoetrope, praxinoscope, kinetoscope, cinematographe, mutoscope, vitascope. . . and no doubt many other scopes that never became well-known. And if you think I'm going to tell you about them. . . just click on the pink link, it'll tell you everything you need to know.

Muybridge dancer

Friday, June 24, 2016

Turn again, Dick Whittington

An Old BALLAD of 
Who from a poor BOY, came to be THRICE LORD-

HERE I must tell the praise of worthy Whittington,
Known to be in his days Lord-Mayor of London.
But of poor parents born was he, we hear,
And in his youth brought up in Somersetshire
Poorly then up to London came this simple lad,
And with a merchant soon a dwelling had:
And in the kitchen placd, a scullion for to be, 
And a long time he passd his labour drugingly.

His daily labour was turning spits at the fire,
To scour pots for a poor scullion's hire.
Meat and drink his pay, of coin he had no store,
And to run away in secret thus he bore:

So from the merchant Whittington secretly
Into the country run, to purchase liberty.
But as he went along in a fine summers morn,
London bells sweetly rung, Turn again Whittington
Evermore sounding so, Turn again Whittington,
For thou in time shalt be Lord mayor of London,
Whereupon back came Whittington with speed,
A servant to remain, as the Lord had decreed.

Still blessed be the bells, this was the daily song,
That my Good fortune tell; most sweetly have they rung,
If God so favours me, I will not be unkind,
London my Love shall see, and my bounty find.

But for this happy chance, this scullion had a cat,
That did his fame advance, and him wealth go.
Whittington had no more but his poor cat then,
Which to the ship he bore like a valiant man.
Venturing the same, says he, I may get store of gold,
And the Mayor of London be, the bells have me told
Whittingtons merchandize carried unto the land,
Troubled with rats and mice as we do understand,
The king who there reignd, as at dinner sat,
Daily in fear remaind of many a mouse and rat:
Meat that on trenchers lay, no way could they keep safe,
But by rats torn away, fearing no whip or staff.
Hereupon they brought, Whittingtons fine cat,
By the king was bought, heaps of gold given for that.
Home again they hie, with their ship laden so,
Whittingtons wealth by his cat began to go.

A scullions life he forsook, to be a merchant good,
And soon began to look how his credit stood.
After he was chose Sheriff of the city we hear,
And then quickly rose, as it doth appear.
For the citys grace, Sir Richard Whittington,
Came to be in his days thrice Lord Mayor of Lon-don.

His Fame to advance, thousands he lent the king
To maintain war in France, glory from thence to bring.
And after a feast, which he the King did make,
He burnt the note in Jest, and would no money take
Prisoners cherishd were, widows comfort founp
Good deeds far and near by him were done,
Whittingtons College is one of his charities,
Newgate he built, where many prisoner lies.
Many more deeds were done by Whittington,
Which joy and comfort bring to those that look on.
Somerset, thou hast bred the flower of charity,
Altho hes dead and gone, yet he lives lastingly.
Call him back no more to live in London,
Those bells that calld him back, Turn again Whittington.

Printed and Sold in Aldermary Church 
Yard, London.

This, as usual, started off as Something Else. Every once in a while I become feverish to find the records of my childhood: those scratchy old 78s that occasionally surface on the internet, sounding better than they ever did when I was (seemingly, by the sound of them) using them as Frisbees or even eating lunch off them.

I found lots of them: Pinocchio with Paul Winchell (though I loathe the man and his offputtingly aggressive voice), The Travels of Babar, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Pedro in Brazil, Build Me a House, Slow Joe, and . . . the rest wouldn't interest anyone else.  But it's a strange feeling to listen to something you haven't heard in 50+ years, such as Jimmy Stewart narrating a completely charming version of Winnie the Pooh. The voices of the characters are so perfect that it makes the horrible Disney version even more cringe-inducing (see: Paul Winchell as a thoroughly obnoxious Tigger).

You'd think all these weird auditory vibes from the deep past would bring back your  childhood in a flood, but they actually don't. There's a  lot of variation in quality, and sappiness is the norm. The thing I notice most, eerily, is how short these things are. Each side of a 78 is only 3 or 4 minutes long, and they used to last at least a half-hour. Or so I thought.  Robin Hood or some other four-sided epic would go on for hours, not for 14 minutes! I can only surmise this is the same phenomenon that made it seem like years and years while you were waiting for it to be Christmas.

On a site called Kiddie Records Weekly I rediscovered, to my dismay, a few recordings which had been shoved down our throats (for I didn't buy any of these myself - they were purchased by my parents): Pee Wee the Piccolo, Pan the Piper, and the dreaded Rusty in Orchestraville (with the Miracle of Sonovox!). These were part of our Musical Education and were simply dreadful, and even more dreadful when I forced myself to listen to them again.

But then today I happened upon a very short and very dear-to-me record, a story only four minutes long that as a child I had not encountered anywhere else. It was Dick Whittington and His Cat. 

I guess it's a silly record, but then, why did it make me cry? Why does it still make me cry? It's, to some extent, the very realistic cat noises Dick's cat makes. But it isn't that, it isn't. The cat, with the silly name of Ripple-dee-dee, is Dick's beloved companion, causing him to exclaim things like, "Oh cat, I love you so very much!'

I have a cat I love VERY very much, and sometimes he makes me cry. His name is Bentley, and he almost wasn't, or wasn't in my house anyway. I've written about this before, but I still find it hard to write about because of the circumstances.

I had a sweet, friendly baby lovebird called Paco. I had only known her for a couple of weeks - and already she had become the family's beloved pet, tame and outgoing with everyone, including the grandkids - when she died. No one could figure out why.

It was stunning. Just stunning - the sudden drop of unexpected loss. My last lovebird Jasper had lived for eight years, and some birds live for fifteen. Paco was only about eight weeks old.

I felt a kind of disorientation emotionally, because I had prepared myself to enjoy a good, long life with Paco (who by the way was a glorious lavender colour). Meantime my daughter had just lost her handsome cat Oscar, an awful thing which caused the whole family to turn inside-out with grief. They sought a new cat, and found an adorable kitten they called Mia.

"Come on, you guys," Shannon said to me (enraptured with Mia, as the whole family was). "You're retired. You need a cat."

A cat?!

We were never getting another cat, not after Murphy (the catriarch of the family since my kids' pre-teen years) died at the age of seventeen. But during my most awful day of grief and anger over the loss of Paco, I found myself bitterly exclaiming to Bill, "Well, Christ, I guess we might as well just go out and get a cat!"

"We could get a cat," Bill said. He had actually taken me seriously.

Suddenly the flame was lit, and I was on the internet seemingly night and day, seeking a suitable cat on SPCA sites. We were soon to find out that kittens got snatched up almost immediately, so we were likely going to have to choose a mature cat.

Though it did not take all that long, it went a way neither of us could have expected. I saw a mug shot of a year-old cat on the local SPCA site, went crazy, and told Bill, "We HAVE to see this cat tomorrow."

"Why not today?" Bill said, so we jumped in the car and drove to Maple Ridge.

The cats were in "dorms", quite comfortable cubicles with lots of "up" space, and bunked in twos and threes, except for the cat I wanted to see. He was by himself. What was going on here?

"He just came in from Surrey. They ran out of space for him there.  He's a stray, ran away from home apparently, and was attacked by a dog. But he's all healed now."

Oh my goodness. Attacked? Would this cat be timid, traumatized, mean? I didn't know what I'd find when I opened the door, but I saw a very self-possessed-looking cinnamon tabby with a white dickie, sitting very high up, at the highest point in his dorm. He perked up, immediately jumped down, ran up to me and looked up expectantly.

I scooped him up, cuddled him close and felt it in my heart: oh cat, I love you so very much.

He had a bald patch on his shoulders and two puncture marks, his duelling scars. He had been neutered since his ordeal. No one could tell me if the fur would grow in, but I didn't care. My daughter-in-law put it this way: "That's where his wings broke off."

It was instant love and bonding, and it has lasted for over a year now. This is "the" cat, the cat of Fate. When we prepare to go out anywhere, he runs into his cat carrier hoping we'll take him with us. He's a presence, he hangs out with us and is a beloved companion who, somehow, seems to look after us, watch out for us.

When I heard the Dick Whittington recording again, and the little boy exclaiming about Ripple-dee-dee, I cried again because this is a cat I love very, very much. He came to us wounded but healing, valiant and unafraid. 

Last night while mucking around with records, I found one of those delightful old English broadsheets with the ballad of Dick Whittington and his Cat on it, fiddled around (I had to print, scan, enlarge and crop it in half to make it slightly legible), then to my surprise found the actual words to it (no, I didn't transcribe it by hand!)

As it turns out, while there was probably a Dick Whittington back in the 14th century (?!), it's doubtful he ever had a cat. He MAY have been Lord Mayor of London at some point. The rest is just fiction. And there was no Ripple-dee-dee or cat of any description.

But if there wasn't, there should have been. 

Please note. This is Dick Whittington's Cat (top), and Bentley Whittington the Fourteenth. He photoshopped into this picture so neatly that I was able to use the same tail for both of them!

POST-REFLECTIONS.  Yes, I know Whittington and his Cat is a lousy poem! I know it might have been written by that guy, what's-his-name, the Worst Poet who Ever Lived who wrote about train wrecks and ships sinking and such. I'm too lazy to look him up. But this was the sort of thing that was sold as entertainment back in 17-whatever (and I'm too lazy to look that up), maybe for a penny or ha'penny (whatever that is!). 

Try  clicking on the links below (maybe one of them will work for you!) and listen to that Dick Whittington record. It's a charmer. You might like it - very, very much.

Dick Whittington and his Cat

Dick Whittington and his Cat MP3

Special Bonus Cat Record! THIS one will play for sure, because it's on YouTube. I blogged about this recording a while ago, but I might dredge up part of it just because it's fun (and doesn't make me cry).

When I was just a teeny-weeny kitty
Everyone told me that I looked so pretty
They said, 'beautiful eyes'
They said, 'lovely fur'
But all I could answer was 'meoowwww' or "purrrrrr"

My coat was black, my eyes of course were yellow
People always said 'what a charming fellow'
I wanted to thank them, but I didn't know how
For all I could answer was 'purrrrrrr' or 'meow'

Then one fine day as I was lying sleeping
A great idea into my head came creeping
A pussy cat that could learn to say 'meow'
Could say just 'me', by leaving off the 'ow!'

So I said me, me, me, me, me,
Then as you plainly can see
From me to he to she to we
Was just as simple as it could be
I practiced daily for a week
And that is how I learned to speak!

Then I thought that I would try
Slipping off from me to my
From me to my to sky to why
Was just as easy as eating pie
I practiced daily for a week
And that is how I learned to speak!

Soon I was no longer a beginner,
When someone asked 'how would you like some dinner?'
If I wanted to answer, I could say 'yes sir!'
Instead of replying just,
Or purrrrrrr.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sweet as the punch

Every time I think that I'm the only one who's lonely
Someone calls on me
And every now and then I spend my time in rhyme and verse
And curse those faults in me

And then along comes Mary
And does she want to give me kicks, and be my steady chick
And give me pick of memories
Or maybe rather gather tales of all the fails and tribulations
No one ever sees

When we met I was sure out to lunch
Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch

When vague desire is the fire in the eyes of chicks
Whose sickness is the games they play
And when the masquerade is played and neighbor folks make jokes
As who is most to blame today

And then along comes Mary
And does she want to set them free, and let them see reality
From where she got her name

And will they struggle much when told that such a tender touch as hers
Will make them not the same

When we met I was sure out to lunch
Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch

And when the morning of the warning's passed, the gassed
And flaccid kids are flung across the stars

The psychodramas and the traumas gone
The songs are left unsung and hung upon the scars

And then along comes Mary

And does she want to see the stains, the dead remains of all the pains
She left the night before

Or will their waking eyes reflect the lies, and make them
Realize their urgent cry for sight no more

When we met I was sure out to lunch
Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch

Sweet as the punch

Sweet as the punch

Sweet as the punch

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"The Living Sea-Gem": almost my favorite comic book ad

To you - and only you, beloved readers - I offer up this truly strange artifact. Things are a little slow at Glass Character, Inc., so I thought I'd try to dredge up something really weird.

It didn't take me long.

I don't know where I first saw the image of the glass globule, ampule, or whatever it's called - and at first I thought it was a Christmas ornament! The thought of slimy, multi-legged creatures squirming around inside a Christmas bauble was pretty nauseating, considering the life of such a creature when enclosed in an airless glass bauble. Pretty soon they wouldn't even be moving.

You were supposed to wear this pendant to school (I guess) to impress your friends. It was only a buck, which shows you just how long ago all this happened. It was real back-of-the-comic-book stuff, and next to Onion Gum, represents my favorite ad of all time.

Though I detest like crazy transcribing copy from ads, in this case I simply had to. So for you, my pleasant and loyal readers, I'll tell you exactly what it says here!



Just THINK! Adorable LIVE Sea-Monkeys, world's NEWEST, most LOVEABLE mini-pets, romp within a sparkling crystal pendant that hangs suspended from a chain of GOLD! In REALITY, the pendant is an AUTHENTIC SEAQUARIUM in MINIATURE, filled with the SAME kind of foam speckled sea-water that laps against dreamy tropical island shores! Inside this sheltered glass lagoon, LIVE, bright-eyed Sea-Monkeys splash and frolic like happy natives! Picture the SURPRISE when your FRIENDS see them!


Sea-Monkeys are nature's GREATEST MIRACLE because they LIVE up to 100 YEARS in unhatched eggs! With your Sea-Gem you receive a LARGE supply of these PRECIOUS eggs! Pour them into a fishbowl of water, and BEFORE YOUR EYES, Sea-Monkeys by the DOZENS are BORN ALIVE! 

These AMAZING Sea-Monkeys are even MORE fun to own than a Zoo FULL of chattering, leaping JUNGLE MONKEYS! AND, it's EASY to TRAIN them! At your silent COMMAND they will learn to follow a light beam anywhere YOU wish - turn SOMERSAULTS, and OBEDIENTLY Loop-The-Loop! 

Each has it's (sic) OWN "personality" so put your favorites in the pendant to "show off" when you go out! Some BELIEVE they even BRING GOOD LUCK, and NO DOUBT, they ARE the BEST "conversation makers" EVER! For Sea-Monkeys AND The Living Sea-Gem, complete with beautiful 18" golden metal-link neckchain, clasp, hand-wrought golden filigree cap and glass Seaquarium ball that sparkles like a diamond even in the FAINTEST light, send ONLY $1.00 plus 50 cents postage.

FREE BONUS! I dredged up something even worse, from quite a long time ago. Sea monkeys deserve more than one post, and must be reflected upon every couple of years, in case my opinion of them has changed.

It has not.

OH, oh, oh, oh-oh-oh-ohhhhhh. . . did I ever just find something neat! 

There's ANOTHER Sea Gem ad, I don't know where it's from but it looks sort of British. It looks more up-to-date except the price is the same. 

I've heard of buying sea monkey kits in dollar stores, so who knows. Though it may not have been "as pictured", this one sure looks a lot nicer than the other necklace - if you ignore the hideous "thing" inside it. This could not have been a selling point! For one thing, there's only ONE Of them in there. It looks even uglier than a real sea monkey, if that's even possible. And the glass thingie is only 1-1/2", not exactly aquarium-sized unless you're a micro-organism from another planet.

Where do they get those eggs? Can you do that with semen, do you think? Is that what they do in those labs, instead of freezing it? Could you just, like, go down to the store and buy dried sperm like you'd buy a package of Kool-Aid?

And what about tardigrades? 

These ads raise more questions than they answer.

Oh, and. One more. Can't find where this came from. . . 

And oh my God. The next day.

This is a total enigma. As usual, there's no information about these images at all, just a brief paragraph about how disappointing they were on one of these "retro" blogs that lasts about eighteen months before the blogger runs out of ideas.

But from the open-box display, it honestly looks as if someone HAS one of these necklaces! Perhaps they can be found on eBay or Craigslist, but I feel a bit of reluctance to start digging. (Oh, I probably will.) 

The thing I notice about the last two ads, besides the classic '60s Petula Clark/Cilla Black-ish hairdos, is the fact that they mention just ONE sea monkey, whereas the first ad refers to multiple sea monkeys and picking out your favourites according to "personality". Could it be the first idea failed when the creatures quickly ran out of oxygen/food and started eating each other? Or did this favouritism quickly lead to bitter envy among the sea monkey community, leading to a highly-organized multi-legged coup d'etat?

Dusty Springfield

Priscilla Presley