Friday, June 02, 2017

Turnips Redux

Years ago I posted about a Soviet-era arcade game involving harvesting turnips.

Recently the BBC broadcast An Art Lovers Guide to St. Petersburg (Russia), and the hosts visited the very same arcade featured in that post.  They even play the turnip game for a bit:

Saturday, March 07, 2015

We Almost Lost Cabin Pressure

Cabin Pressure is one of my favorite radio sitcoms of all time.  It almost didn't make it onto BBC Radio 4.

Caroline Raphael [CR], in an "exit interview" with Roger Bolton [RB] after 17 years as Commissioning Editor of Comedy on Radio 4 and 4Extra, from the 06/03/2015 edition of Feedback. The excerpt begins about 16:35.

[RB] Finally will you carry away a sense of a programme where you've faced a great deal of opposition getting it commissioned but it really has worked and you've been able to say 'Told you so.' Can you think of one?

[CR] Cabin Pressure.

[RB] You mean people opposed that to begin with?

[CR] Mark Damazer, who was controller of Radio 4, didn't want it first time round. I had to take it back to him.

[RB] Why were you so convinced it would work?

[CR] I...Reading it, it flew off the page. You .. the characters were distinct. There's a trick you do when you're script editing or looking at stuff which is that you hide the names of the characters so you just read the lines and if they have a voice that you can carry on hearing and start ... you think "Oh no, that's that character"  and you can hear the conversation without actually seeing the name on the left side of the page, that's always a good trick. It made me laugh. It also was beautifully contained. To keep four or five characters going in a confined space -- the cabin or the small office of this aircraft -- is just sublime and that is a magical gift which very few people have.  Mark Damazer, to be absolutely fair to him, he said publicly that he made a mistake first time 'round. So what I said to the team was let's just leave it. I want you to reoffer it in six months time and I promise you I will have another go and I went back and said I honestly think we've got this one wrong.

 I'm also glad to see that the CD collection of Cabin Pressure A to Z  (with all the episodes and many special features) is available for pre-order at here in America for the release in April. Pleasingly, it is currently the Number One New Release in Radio Shows.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Tube amps are in fashion.  Certainly tubes can lend a wonderful sound -- especially for guitars -- but it's hard to believe this product is worth the $299 price tag:
Elekit TU-H82.

It's a hybrid amp, with both a printed circuit board and a vacuum tube, and produces about 8 watts per channel stereo output.  [More photos and details here.] I believe it's intended for use with computers or laptops.

And ... it's a kit. You assemble it from the provided components, though the circuit board is preassembled and requires no soldering.

Considering that you can get an ok little 20 watt Lepai Tripath amp for about $20,  I'm pretty sure this is more fetish than fidelity.  Looks cute, though.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Assault on Astrology

Successive entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 's  Life of the Day were particularly hard-hitting for me this week.

19 December is the birthday of John ("Johnnie Moon") Duncan, hand weaver and self-taught botanist. Born illegitimate in Kincardineshire and unschooled, he had help learning to read but did not learn to write until he was 34 years old.

He got little money from weaving but thanks to "extreme frugality" he saved enough to buy for £1 a copy of Culppeper's Herbal. "He collected over two-thirds of the British flora and, despite having only a tiny loft area to live in for many years, found space for his specimens." And that's despite being so shortsighted he had to "crawl along the ground when botanizing".

He lived in penury his whole life, especially in his later years until a public appeal brought him a few hundred pounds in donations.

The very next day's entry is for the birthday of Dame Margaret Helen Greville,  a society hostess who cultivated the company of aristocrats and royalty. She seems a thoroughly revolting figure. Sir Cecil Beaton said of her: "‘Mrs Ronnie Greville was a galumphing, greedy, snobbish old toad who watered at her chops at the sight of royalty … and did nothing for anybody except the rich."

Let's compare what the ONDB says about their bequests made at death.

Greville: "In her will ... she left Marie Antoinette's necklace to Queen Elizabeth, £25,000 to the queen of Spain, £20,000 to Princess Margaret, and £10,000 to Osbert Sitwell. Polesden Lacey [her estate] was bequeathed to the National Trust." In constant money terms, those 1942 bequests to royals are the equivalent to millions of pounds today. Apparently she did leave "smaller bequests to different charities."

For his part, Duncan presented his herbarium sheets to the Aberdeen University and "His pleasure in knowing his gift might inspire students to study botany was also reflected in the use of the remaining portion of the money raised for him to found prizes to encourage botanical studies by local schoolchildren."

 I particularly encourage you read the John Duncan entry this holiday season. It's well written, as is typical of ONDB, by Anne Secord.

The fact that these two were born on 19 December and 20 December is an assault on astrology.

The ONDB links expire with time. Here are Wikipedia entries for John Duncan and Margaret Greville.
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