Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017


The Brits, we are warned, are battening down in anticipation of a potentially devastating winter storm, with up to thirty centimetres of new snowfall in parts of Scotland.

Here I dare say I shall throw open the balcony door and welcome into my flat the unseasonal balmy zephyrs! But I feel no compulsion to seek a sitooterie where I can ponder the anomalous vagaries of the weather. It's still another week until my birthday, after all!

I must note, however, that a heroic bolt of lightning is expected to be made manifest in the heart of Brixton...

Monday, February 20, 2017

Best of British

A reminder from The Guardian:

As British as fish and chips? Battered fish was introduced by Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal, the Belgians gave us chips and generations of immigrants have been handing them over the counter.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Full steam ahead

It could hardly escape the attention of an inveterate railway enthusiast! For a few days scheduled trains on the famed Settle to Carlisle line, linking Yorkshire and Cumbria in northern England, have been hauled by the magnificent steam locomotive Tornado. 

What came as something of a surprise was that this exploit would have a German angle.

The video shows that behind Tornado there's the inexplicable presence of a Deutsche Bahn diesel-electric (Class 60099) locomotive lending its power to the train. 

How odd!

Perhaps not so odd after all, when explained by this link found by my sister Pippa!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


“Take a trip through rugged Scotland,” says the sign at the entrance to the Hale’s Tour attraction. Enough to catch the attention of Sandlander, a Scot as obsessed with anything to do with railway travel as with the creation and consumption of entertainment media. Were I twenty years younger I’d be seeing in this story the germ of an entrepreneurial challenge!

At the start of the twentieth century, in 1906, a man by the name of Thomas Saxe in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, borrowed the idea of the Hale’s Touring Car for what we would now call his movie theatre. He fitted up his Theatorium as a mock railroad parlour car. The patrons sat in the coach and gazed at a sheet behind which was a crude projecting machine. This threw moving images on the back of the sheet, while a man with a hose stood by and dampened the sheet so that the pictures would show through. There was also a device operated by a lever, which caused the floor of the Theatorium to rock, thus making the audience believe they were really viewing the landscape as viewed from a moving train. There were forty seats in this static Hale’s Car, modelled on the railroad cars which toured the country offering a similarly entertaining viewing experience.

This was at a time shortly before there were about ten thousand Nickelodeons in North America. Programs lasted from twenty minutes to a full hour and usually included a ten-minute melodrama, a comedy and a travelogue. Sometimes the films were supplemented by a singer or other performer. No venue of any consequence was complete without its compère, similar to the master of ceremonies in early English variety theatres and music halls. He was an entertainer who chattered throughout each film, commenting, amplifying, adding jokes and filling in the gaps if anything was lacking in the film. Amateur Night was a regular and popular addition to the program, not only with the audiences but with the owners, since it was inexpensive. It would not be wrong to see here the earliest origins of Karaoke! The illustrated songs with the lyrics projected on slides were characteristic of the cozy Nickelodeons and contributed to the ambient sound. The patter of the compère, the thumping piano and the singing were not merely elements of the overall entertainment. The soundscape masked the noise of early film projectors and, before owners bought a second projector, bridged the pauses required for reel changes.

The Nickelodeon provided working-class entertainment. A scholar notes that: “Movie theatres were not places in which respectable people cared to be seen. Educated people still considered the movies vulgar, low-class amusements.” Very little use was made of advertising the current or coming attractions since newspapers were addressed primarily to a small middle class. And a Nickelodeon or Theatorium had little need of promotion, their patrons being regulars seeking fellowship just as much as novel entertainment.

·        Today (or tomorrow) simulated realities, deploying holograms, VR, 4K HDR and the like?
·        ‘Pop-up’ events bringing people together for positive shared experiences?
·        A Nickel then is the equivalent of an affordable $1.20 now?
·        Compelling participation opportunities, next-gen transmedia Karaoke?

And I’d find a way of getting a railway train into the mix as well!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A precedent

That decency always overcomes evil is an axiom of American exceptionalism. And yet it was ‘founding father’ Ben Franklin who lapsed into indecent, if not evil fury on the subject of immigration: “Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant stupid sort of their own nation. Not being used to liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it. The Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes are generally of what we call a swarthy complexion, as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted. Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.”

Franklin's animosity towards Germans may have another explanation; sour grapes. In 1732 as a young man in Philadelphia Ben Franklin published the first German language newspaper in America, the Philadelphische Zeitung which failed in after only one year. He would have extended no warm welcome to anyone called Müller, Mayer or Schmidt. Or Drumpf.