Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Atomic Cocktail (1945)

Something to go with that turkey and gravy? How about an Atomic Cocktail as shaken by our resident mixologist, Mr. Slim Gaillard and his Quartet.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August Full Moon - Moon Moths

August's full moon is upon us, warm and faintly melancholy, drunk and recognizing summer's doom is at hand.

I have a love of Art Nouveau and that led me to choose this sheet music cover for August's full moon. Moon Moths was, as you can see, composed by Albert Kussner, a man who I can find very little information about. Apparently he composed classical music (two opuses Loves Mystery, and Woodland Flowers), but I couldn't find a recording of any of them online.

The cover does remind me of the Luna Moth, though. Occasionally I'll see one of them flitting about the lakeside or, ghost-like, passing in front of my headlights on a summer night. Or maybe they're not actually moths at all...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The End of World War II - 69th Anniversary of the Bombing of Nagasaki

Mushroom Cloud over Nagasaki as seen from Koyagi-jima on August 9, 1945
Today marks the 69th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, an event that would lead to the end of World War II and the beginning of a nuclear debate that continues to this day.

On August 9, 1945, at 11:01, the American B29A Superfortress piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney opened his bomb bay doors and dropped Fat Man over the Japanese industrial center of Nagasaki. The weapon exploded at an altitude of 1650 feet above a tennis court located half way between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works which made torpedoes for the Japanese war effort. The resulting 21 kiloton explosion generated temperatures of over 7000˚F and winds reaching 624 mph, vaporizing its victims and reducing much of the city to burning rubble in an atomic flash. Estimates of the death toll range from 39000 to 80000, and six days later the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II.

World War I - The Outbreak of War

Punch Magazine, August 1914
The last we touched base with Austria-Hungary and their German allies, they'd sent an ultimatum to Serbia demanding untenable changes be made to avoid dire consequences. Well, it's probably not surprising that the Serbs didn't come through, they never were intended to and the Austria-Hungarian gesture was only meant to paper over the coming war. So, on July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia which prompted Russia to mobilize her troops in preparation to enter the war on the Serbian behalf.

On July 31, Germany sent a warning to the Russians, telling them to stop their troop mobilization mobilization and, after being refused, she plunged headlong into war. The Germans declared war on Russia on August 1, on France on the third, and on Belgium on the fourth. The same day as declaring war on Belgium, Germany executed a modified version of the Schlieffen Plan, a proto-blitz into France through Belgium which intended to encircle the French army on the German boarder and take France out of the conflict quickly. The effort stalled at the Belgian city of Liege where German general Karl von Bulow encountered unexpected resistance. Belgium had been guaranteed independence and neutrality under the 1839 Treaty of London, the violation of which brought Britain into the war.

France counterpunched on August 7th, the VII Corps attacked Alsace in an attempt to capture Mulhouse and Colmar with a second offensive taking place on August 14 when the 1st and 2nd Army attacked toward Sarrenbourg-Morhange and Lorraine. The Germans withdrew, inflicting losses on the French, and the bloody oscillation that would be the hallmark of World War I already was set in motion.

Steampunk Saturday - A Mask for the Dog and the Horse...

Yes, even man's best friend can be saved from gas attack with the right mask! I have to say that the top horse looks a little like some prehistoric creature, half horse and half elephant. Most of the time you think of airships and mechanical steeds, but these were pretty steampunk if you ask me.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Quote for August

The English winter, ending in July
To recommence in August.
~ Lord Byron 

Poem for August

~by Mary Naylor

August, with its clouds of scented blooms,
August, with its great stacks of giant clouds,
August, with corn plants standing like rows of soldiers,
August, with watermelons, full and heavy, dozing in the sun,

August, remember swimming in the lake?
August, remember baby Alice daintily eating berries from the vine?
August, remember Richie playing with the goat?
August, remember Donald practicing on his new saxophone?

August, and its lightening laced sky,
August, and newlyweds Pat and Chet decorating their first home,
August, and Billy the Brave, Billy the Fearless, on his two wheel bike,
August, and shimmering memories hanging like drops of dew,

August, the bountiful, August the full,
August, Mama hot, but smiling, over a platter of succulent roast chicken,
August, Daddy mixing her a frosty mint julep,
August, blessed harvest of memories,

1938 - Fair Time

With August here and the Marion County Fairgrounds preparing itself for the 2014 edition of the Indiana State Fair, I thought I'd get into the mood with a Life Magazine's September 1938 cover. It's a nice shot that you might be able to capture today - a man dressed as a clown enticing the crowd to enter (what appears to be) the fun house. 1938 was a time when country and state fairs came and went with the harvest season. They were a venue where hard-working farm folk could display and sell their wares while, at the same time, taking a break from the hard work of scraping a living from the soil. Now we're used to every event being directly linked to ticket sales. But, let's not veer into wanton sentimentality or wax poetic about the ways things used to be!

In the idiom of the carny, the fellow in the clown getup is known as the outside talker and it's his job to deliver the bally or ballyhoo which will build the tip or crowd of onlookers. You're probably familiar with the ballyhoo as a bunch of noise meant to attract attention, but according to Carny Lingo the term comes to us from the Streets of Cairo pavilion at Chicago's 1893 Colombian Exposition where Middle Eastern performers exhibit manager W.O. Taylor brought out Beledi dancers (a term he later corrupted to belly dancers) and musicians during slow periods in order to attract a crowd. Since these unscheduled calls to perform tended to rouse performers from relaxing between sets they often were heard to mutter "D'Allah hun", or (roughly) "Oh, for God's sake!" and mishearing this utterance, Taylor began calling them to "ballyhoo."

Attracting the attention everyone within earshot it’s known as making the opening and a good outside talker has many tools at his disposal to do the job. All he wants is for people to pause just a moment to pay attention to what he’s saying. That's right, today only you can witness a special free show unlike any other performed to date in this great country. Step into the cool comfort of the tent and out of the swelter of the midway and you'll witness wonders galore!

The crowd has assembled, now it's time to freeze the tip. Put simply is forcing the crowd to pay attention and drawing them closer. During daylight hours freezing the tip might mean bring out a couple scantily-clad dancing girls and at night there might be a fire-eater - anything to grab the crowd's attention and hold it. Gradually the curious crowd closer to the outside talker and the mere presence of a few mesmerized onlookers draws more attention and more spectators until a tightly-packed tip has been formed. Now it's time for the outside talker's next trick, the pitch.

The pitch is where the outside talker describes the wonders that are to be witnessed inside. Amazement and splendor await you just inside, see the scandal that rocked the caliphates of all Araby, Seraphim the Seductive Cobra of Cairo will gyrates and sway to the hypnotic music of the mysterious orient! See Sampson the Strongman of San Francisco tear battleship steel with his teeth! Meet Rita the Human Heatah and see the dance that brings young men's blood to a boil! See the tattooed woman and learn all the history they never told you about in school! Witness the Necro-Magical feats of Madam Wundry as she delivers messages from the great beyond!

Next comes turning the tip, that is to say turning the sales pitch into a call to action, driving the crowd toward the ticket booth and eventually inside the tent where the show will take place. The outside talker might even turn the microphone over to a grind man at this stage, a fellow whose only job is to maintain the call to action - that's right folks, twenty beautiful women on one stage right inside...step right up, don't be shy!

Once inside its time to make some real money. Typically, the inside money, that is to say money made inside the confines of the tent, doesn't have to be split with the house. Members of the show sell their pictures, bios, and other trinkets and once the show's over there's always one more special treat for those with the curiosity (and spending money). This is where you might get a chance to gaze upon a specially hideous exhibit such as (what supposedly is) a deformed fetus preserved in formaldehyde (also known as a pickled punk), catch a glimpse of the cabinet of death wherein lies the lovely (and naked) Lola, or maybe learn a lot from Lydia the Tattooed Lady!

So, if you're strolling the midway this summer and you hear the well-measured cadence of an outside talker mingling with the music of the calliope and the happy babble of fair-goers, pause a moment. You're hearing the sound of hundreds of years of history. Maybe you ought to part with a few dollars, step outside your busy schedule, and wander into the shady, salacious, and marvelous world of the sideshow tent. It just might be the greatest show on Earth.