070720.Bath, Scarred

July 21, 2007 at 3:09 AM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Bath, people, somerset, Supernatural | 8 Comments

For lack of a better title, it’s over now: phony Pottermania has bitten the dust — although it was a quite enthusiastic final showing. There was a good deal of hats present and some decent costumes. The line was incredibly long, it occupied most of Milsom St, but even still the drunks outnumbered the witches.
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Above: Drunks attack a Hippogriff
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Above: Beat the line and buy the book at full price. There’s a photo of JK Rowling on the back and it says “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” on the front but the cover art is strangely different.
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070622.Stonehenge, Druid Woodstock From Dusk Till Dawn

June 22, 2007 at 11:19 PM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Chisel Marks, Gardens & Parks, hippies, people, Pilgrimage, Salisbury, Sculpture, Supernatural, Wiltshire | 6 Comments

Stonehenge Solstice 2/3: [One], [Two], [Three]
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Our position throughout the night looking east, high up in the inner circle on one of the fallen slabs. This was near the center of the sacrificial mosh pit, where there was a nightlong drum banging concert. Maybe it was music, maybe. It was cheered and had many replacement musicians. The final twilight shot includes the ominous cumulus cloud that here forms a lintel but soon joined with other clouds to block the sun.

Sunset: 9:26 pm
Sunrise: 4:58 am

With that said, I will state that my group was running late…. The bus dropped us off after nine and a good mile or so away from the Henge, nevertheless, we could see the pink-glowing stones. Having now seen the Henge on several occasions and in different lights, I’ll tell you it is like the Taj Mahal, which continuously changes color during the day. However, this being England, the stones are mostly gray due to the overcast climate. Sure enough, before we could get a good shot of the pink stones from afar, a cloud moved in and blocked the sun. This became a theme of the experience: relatively cloudless skies skewered during the final moments by a streak of clouds. Why the ancients ever decided to build the monument dependant on sun-caused shadows in England beats me, but they did – and I came.

Getting There:070620.513.WI.Stonehenge

While walking with thousands of others through the fields to get to the Henge, I began to familiarize myself with those in attendance. There was a good number of students, many parents with children, several elderly and disabled individuals, many adult tourists/hikers, an overwhelming number of twenty/thirty something New Agers, with the rest of the large cast made up of adolescents with Lord of the Ring or Dungeon and Dragon inspired consumes. Also, I met several tourists from quite a far ways away in the US and Canada who came with large families for this event.
Were there any Druids without these pop-culture inspired robes, frills, and walking sticks? Hardly. Somewhere in that mix were the Emos, Goths, Hipsters, and Punks. It’s fair to say that every single person in England who had a shaved head or mohawk was at this event. And one in every two people in attendance had dreadlocks. This will be better detailed in tomorrow’s post on the people there.

Because all of these subgroups were all English, (I assume), they were all quite polite – even the excessively moody ones. One robe-wearing girl (or young woman) with gnarly walking stick, who appeared to be quite old from behind stammered out a thank you when I held a sheepgate open for her. Those words looked like they were killing her. She was supposed to be an elf, or witch, and supposed to be deeply lost in thought – but she yielded to the civilized culture. Very odd.
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Druids:

Early on, the Druids were kind of lame [Lame, Better, Nice]. I saw one solemn adolescent Druid in a brown Franciscan robe with cord being escorted around by his decidedly middle-aged, ordinary, and slightly embarrassed parents. I explained that many of what might be considered Druids at the event owed more to D&D or LotR, and others were more like aging hippies, but I don’t know. The ones that were there had banded together to chant and play on small drums or recorders, truly the devil’s instrument. One group, reduced to hyping modern tourist gimmicks, tried to get folks to vote for Stonehenge as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Only later did I see Druids throwing (hopefully non-human ashes into the crowd) and sprinkling them at the base of each stone. That seemed cool (largely because I avoided being hit with the suspect ashes.)

There’s too many photos to post here, so I won’t try even uploading that many. None were great.

Music:

The center of the Henge had one or two bongo/drum players at all times. There was sometimes a recorder or horn there. These were not Druid musicians, who were forced outside of the Henge with their screeching animal horns. Whenever a musician handed over the bongos to another, there was clapping but no audible change in music. I stayed in the center perched high on a slab for most of the night; the night was clear and the stars were incredible from inside the Henge…and the outside of the Henge glowed blue from floodlights set up by the authorities for that night.
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There were bands of Druids roaming outside with horns and other small drums, but the funniest other musician was a lone bagpiper outside the Henge for a long time. Not one person was listening to him, it was extremely sad and he eventually quit.
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Sunrise:

At twilight, it began to rain lightly and then quit, just God’s way of washing Druid-hippies. I usually hate umbrellas but here they looked interesting in profile and in shadow. It had been clear, if quite cold, all through the night … but as sunrise neared clouds suddenly moved in. It was like a race between the sun and the clouds. Everyone knew when the sun would rise over the hill and they could figure that the overhead clouds’ speed meant that there was no hope in seeing the sun unobstructed. Some left, but others continued to hope since they were only minor clouds….nothing happened. More clouds came and what had been a clear day turned into one that was completely overcast. Thank you England. Twenty minutes after sunrise a very small hole in the clouds cleared that allowed the sun to be seen, if not shine through. It disappeared before I had zoomed in on my third picture.

If I can manage it, I’ll post some videos….and more photos tomorrow.

070320.Bath, Shiny Emergency

March 20, 2007 at 1:14 AM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Bath, Conservation, Crescents, Light and Shadow, Mansion, Peephole Views, people, Reflection, somerset, Supernatural | 4 Comments

Door handle of One Royal Crescent’s Drawing Room.

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One hundred beeswax candles lit equals the light given off by one 60-watt light bulb. Although it may be romantic to have that many candles lit

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in a room, it’s expensive and dangerous as well. Before the choice of electric or gas, candles or oil lamps of any kind were expensive and thus used sparingly. However, when they were inevitably used, precautions had to be taken in the event they burned down the house. Thus lamp and candle-era door handles, knobs, etc. were shiny to reflect the light of a carried candle or a raging inferno. If you needed to get out fast, you could find the exit. These were the equivalent of red-light EXIT sign boxes you see everywhere that are positioned throughout large spaces to aid in their two and a half minute evacuation. In Micahel Forsyth’s book “Buildings of Music,” (I don’t have it in front of me so don’t quote me) he figured out that theatres in particular burned down on average ever [number under 10, I think] years.

Most aesthetics of that long gone age reflected this necessity, and as gas and electric overtook commonplace lighting, so too did non-shiny, duller, more subtle colors overtake fashion. Today, we see shiny as somewhat tacky. (Although its use in architecture has been resurrected with the starchitects’, like Gehry’s, use of the aesthetically superficial to have their building stand out on glossy magazine covers.) Who wants an old mirror frame re-gilded to its shiny former like-new self? Basically, shiny doesn’t work in terms of modern aesthetics: think Liberace.

[Above: Liberace and “the World Famous Liberace Museum” in…Las Vegas. Below: The Great Lafayette. The story is paraphrased from JK GILLON’s article.]
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Now, for a second, think of a different Liberace a long time ago in a place far far away: Edinburgh, Scotland, May 1911. One of the greatest and most popular magicians of Europe was the Great Lafayette, the highest paid entertainer on the continent at that time. His shows immediately sold out everywhere he went and featured numerous illusions, large-scale stage shows, a fantastic mechanical teddy bear, midgets galore, and exotic animals too!

The magician himself was somewhat of showstopper. As a “bachelor recluse,” he lived with his cross-bred terrier named Beauty, a gift from the great Harry Houdini. Beauty was certainly loved by its owner, who had a metal statue of the dog cast for his limo hood ornament. Lafayette bought the dog a pure gold diamond-studded collar, velvet cushions, a minature porcelain bathtub that was fitted on his private railcar. This magician lived for his dog.

But then, the unthinkable happened — Beauty died (curiously enough, of apoplexy caused by overfeeding – the same thing that French chefs do to the foie gras geese and also what probably killed by gerbil)! The magician could barely go on, he had his beloved dog embalmed and buried in what became his own plot in Peirshill Cementery, on a mound near the Portobello Road entrance.

This death of a loved one came four days into his two week show at the Empire Theatre, Edinburough. That Tuesday on the 9th of May, 1911, during the second evening performance, the shiny satin-costumed Lafayette was still grieving but had continued to perform and made it through almost the entirety of the show. All that remained was the finale, called “The Lion’s Bride.”

It started off easily enough, Lafayette charmed the audience by pulling out not a hare but an entire goat from the folds of his satin pants, quickly followed by the usual flocks of birds (extracted from a still shinier sequined-handkerchief). Then Lafayette vanished, then he reappeared, then he switched identities with his assistants, you know, the usual. But the act involved a staged “exotic” “Oriental” set, complete with tapestries, cushions, tents, curtains, carpets, etc. There was a caged African lion, fire-eaters, jugglers, acrobats – basically, everyone who was anyone. The whole stage seemed full of people who had previously appeared. A scantily-clad woman entered the lion-filled cage, which was then covered (to allow the sedate lion to be poked and roar), then the covering was lifted and suddenly the magician was in the cage! Fooled you, he’s the lion’s bride.

The crowd went wild, everyone always loved that act, it was a great way to end the show. Lafayette got out and bowed but in so doing he knocked over an “exotic” lamp, which quickly set the “exotic” curtains, carpets, and cushions alight.

What did the crowd think? Oh good! There’s more. Let’s stay seated. Soon the exotic blaze engulfed the footlights and edged to the stall seating. Stage hands, assistants, orchestra members and off-stage performers suddenly broke rank and started spilling out of the woodwork, where they were hidden. As the crowd got this sneak peak and learned a few of the magician’s secrets, the fire curtain quickly fell hiding the growing inferno and the audience jumped up and fled the theatre in about two and a half minutes.

Three hours later, the fire was under control but many of the orchestra and stage-hands didn’t make it out. Neither did midget Little Joe nor 15-year-old mechanical-teddy-bear-operator Alice Dale. But where was the magician — had he vanished to safety? A few survivors claimed he had escaped but returned to save his horse. Whatever the reasons, they shortly found his charred elaborately costumed body on stage – AND THEN THEY FOUND HIM AGAIN! The second severely burned body was found in a lower basement, and this one had his diamond rings – the ones he didn’t lend out to assistants.

Later that week, his ashes were interred in the resurrected and opened casket of Beauty, in a funeral described as “one of the most extraordinary interments of modern times.” Houdini didn’t make it to the funeral but he sent flowers, a floral arrangement shaped like Beauty.

Subsequently, theatres and large arenas have to be evacuated in under two and a half minutes. Cathedral-ceiling spaces can take longer but low-ceiling spaces should be evacuated much faster.

070203.Bath, Be Careful Where You Bathe

February 3, 2007 at 9:18 PM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Bath, Corinthian Order, Ionic Order, Jane Austen, Monuments and Memorials, Overcast, people, Pilgrimage, Ruins, Sculpture, somerset, Supernatural | 12 Comments

A photo from back in October during the filming of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.061007.049.Somset.Bath.Bath St.Filming Austen's Persuasion near the Cross Bath
Here, terminating the Ionic-ordered Bath Street’s (formerly Cross Bath Street) western vista is the Corinthian-ordered Cross Bath, with the John Wood Building of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist as its background. On page 126 of The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (1958), noted architectural critic Nikolaus Pevsner described the street as a the “finest piece of formal planning at Bath,” and “a perfect piece of design made especially attractive by its modest easily manageable size.” The pictured Cross Bath east façade was designed principally by Thomas Baldwin, completed in 1784 to replace the Elizabethan structure. The Cross Baths have been heavily remodeled since then, most recently in 2003.

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Miracle of Miracles:

James II’s consort, Mary of Modena, who followed her sister-in-law’s failed attempt at an infertility cure at the Cross Bath and succeeded. Exuberantly expecting a male heir, the Earl of Melfort commissioned and then erected the Melfort Cross at the site, just three months after the 10 June 1688 birth. Descriptively almost a metaphor of Robert Campin’s c.1425 Annunciation Merode Altarpiece, the monument itself was referencing that Biblical subject too literally. The costly marble monument rose from the center of the baths and was composed of a Trinity-referencing three Corinthian columns “springing from a pedestal and supporting a dome, surmounted by a cross with a crown of thorns. Around the dome were three cherubim holding aloft a crown, scepter and orb.” A dove, clearly representing the Holy Spirit, descended between the columns toward the bath, implying the miraculous conception of Queen Mary, soon to mother of a king of three kingdoms. Should this monumental message be missed by the Protestant majority, it was spelled out with numerous religious and political inscriptions, dedications and heraldic shields. An embarrassed Corporation maintained the monument until the Glorious Revolution later that year when the Melfort Cross became a memorial for the Catholic cause. A slow process of dismantling ended in 1783, the same year Baldwin drew up his plans for the new Bath. However, given its expense and quality of workmanship, Melfort Cross fragmentally resurrected around town as decorative parts of shopfronts and in the North Parade Gardens, as late as 1907.

All facts and historic images came from Manco, quoted text from page 65.
See Manco, Jean. “The Cross Bath.” In Bath History, ed. Simon Hunt. Gloucester: Alan
Sutton Publishing Limited, 1988. 2: 49-84.
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070116.Salisbury, The Tragic Treasury-6

January 16, 2007 at 12:11 AM | Posted in Architecture, Cathedrals and churches, Light and Shadow, Pilgrimage, Reflection, Salisbury, Sculpture, Supernatural, Vaults, Wiltshire | 18 Comments

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This abyss, this lightless void
this abyss of world destroyed
this abyss, all deep, all wide
this abyss of being denied

 

Even in the darkest forest
Fireflies are flickering…but not in
this abyss of black increase
this abyss without surcease

 

Even in the deepest ocean
is a little moonlight…but not in
this abyss of night unbound;
this abyss without sound

 

Even in your bedroom shadows
There is something moving…but not in
This abyss, this all-below
This abyss; this death, this “no.”

–“This Abyss”by the Gothic Archies.

Hey, I won’t be checking this very often for a week or two but will get back to everyone after that.

070113.Wells, The Tragic Treasury-3

January 13, 2007 at 12:48 AM | Posted in Architecture, Castles, cemeteries - churchyards - and tombstones, Ruins, Sculpture, somerset, Supernatural, Wells | 16 Comments

Taken a long, long time ago. This is a Phillip Jackson statue group at Wells Bishop’s Palace Hall ruins.
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The world is a very scary place, my dear.
It’s hurled and its twirled through outer space, I fear.
So many ways to lose your skin in it,
the number of ways to die is infinite.

 

The world is a very scary thing, I find.
It’s curled all my toes and it’s curling my mind.
When I was young my study was candies
but they attract tarantulas and bees.

 

Some people act as if there were nothing wrong,
due to the fact they haven’t heard this song.

The world is a very scary place to go
It’s whorled and it’s swirled with death like lace, you know
You may have found my views unorthodox
but now the wolf is at the door; it knocks.

–“The World is a Very Scary Place”by the Gothic Archies.

Hey, I won’t be checking this very often for a week or two but will get back to everyone after that.

070112.Wells, The Tragic Treasury-2

January 12, 2007 at 12:42 AM | Posted in Architecture, Cathedrals and churches, Chisel Marks, Gardens & Parks, gargoyles, Overcast, Peephole Views, Sculpture, somerset, Supernatural, Wells | 3 Comments

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In the reptile room, where the baby screams,
weirder creatures loom than in all of your dreams.

 

In the reptile room, hither and thither,
creatures from Khartoum slither anywhither,

 

In the reptile room anancondas dance!
Will they be our doom? Will we be their bon-bons?

 

And you wanna know, wanna know, wanna know why I frown…
Well, I’m smiling, I’m just smiling upside down.

 

In the reptile room, there’s an evil man
in a strange costume; do not ride in his van.

 

In the reptile room are pythons at play
in the murky gloom; what a horrible day!

–“In the Reptile Room” by the Gothic Archies.

Hey, I won’t be checking this very often for a week or two but will get back to everyone after that.

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