Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thunderbirds Are Go at the Royal Festival Hall

I loved the Gerry Anderson TV shows when I was a kid (especially Fireball XL-5), so when I saw there was a SuperMarionation concert at the Royal Festival Hall, I didn't hestitate to book a ticket. I knew it would be lively and fun, and it was. Anyone who's familiar with the music knows what I mean -- those puppets could dance. It was the centenary of the birth of Anderson's composer Barry Gray, as good an excuse as any. I was surprised at the length of the concert -- all the major shows and films were highlighted, performed by the very large Philharmonia Orchestra plus vocal group Voces8, who did a particularly fine job with a rather complex Bach-like fugue, and Pascale Rousee-Lacordaire, playing the ondes Martenot (an electronic instrument similar to a Theramin). Hosting was Brian Blessed, energetic and jolly, with special guest Gerry Anderson himself (who got the singularly British 'three cheers -- hip hip hooray' from the audience, the first I'd ever heard outside of a movie). Above, the spaceship from Journey to the Far Side of the Sun arrives. The Royal Festival Hall was opened in 1951 and has a handsome, pleasant and vast auditorium. The fireworks in the background are the from the annual Lord Mayor Show.

Composer Barry Gray (1908-1984)
A short stroll west along the Southbank from the Festival Hall is the London Eye and this stunning view across the Thames.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Lost Archives

Recently my brother Todd found three rolls of undeveloped Brownie film in our mother's desk and sent them off to a specialty developer. I did what I could to fix the flaws, spots and clearing in PhotoShop. The dates range from 1963 through 1966 at our house at 7910 Conifer Drive in Pleasure Ridge Park, Kentucky. Above, Halloween 1964, wearing a Collegeville 'beatnik' costume bought at G.C. Murphy's at Dixie Manor. The trick or treat bag is clearly a reuse from the previous year. It rained. Below, a picture of an RCA black and white console TV just like ours that turned up on ebay. Ours blew its picture tube (in a black puff of smoke) during a football game after only about six years of continual use. My father was so startled, he fell backwards off a stool. I laughed. He didn't.
My brother Todd and I in front of our 1957 Rambler. We were so dressed up it might have been Easter, or perhaps we were on the way to one of my dreaded accordion concerts.
Yes, I played the accordion.
A snow day was almost as joyful as Christmas vacation.
The strange shape in the foreground is our standard poodle, Chloe. The trees in the background are now massive, but the houses look pretty much the same.
Brother Kurt came along in 1965.
Todd and gentle Chloe.
Todd in the foreground, me in the background in apparent euphoria.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Westfield London Mall

The new London is wealthy, very wealthy, and its first big centrally located mall makes the big old malls in Los Angeles look like run down K-Marts. I gaped at the daring organic forms, the soaring spaces, the impossibly large glass curvilinear corridors. I was impressed by the upscale food courts (no Hot Dog on a Stick here, I'll have you know), and highly entertained by the live music (overamplified classical and an excellent R & B choral group) and a brief but lively fashion show. I had only come to check out the architecture and really wasn't in the mood to buy anything. Nevertheless I found myself being drawn into shops. Well, just to have a look, you know the feeling, so long as I was there. I don't know if it's because the place just opened yesterday, but the clerks were actually attentive. You can die waiting for someone to help you on Oxford Street, even in the most expensive shops. So right there is a feather in Westfield London's cap. I found a shirt in Boss I quite liked, but decided 110 pounds was a little out of bounds. Despite the gains the dollar has made lately, $170 was still more than I was willing to pay for a really rather ordinary knit shirt. In the end, the crowds started to get to me, so I headed for the exit before I convinced myself $170 wasn't really so bad after all. Outdoors it was cold, wet and dark, and it suddenly occured to me why malls became so popular in America. Umbrellas were being turned inside out, traffic was snarled for miles and the tube stop was jammed. Oh yes, I'll definitely go back.

Above, one of the many touch screen store finders.
A runaway dog from Whoville in the Next Department Store. Who says shopping is not for real men? That's a living model in the window of a lingerie store.