Archives for the month of: August, 2010

This British Pathe Newsreel from the 1960s is a delightful reminder why we should cherish The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

The Bonzos (1962-1970) musical jesters of the swinging sixties, lasted as long as The Beatles, and were, in some areas as influential; for they were, in cultural terms, the evolutionary link between the Fab Four and ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.  Indeed the Bonzo’s Neil Innes would go on to write the songs for, and star as Ron Nasty in Eric Idle’s classic mockumentary The Rutles.

The Bonzos mixed jazz, comedy, Music Hall, and rock pastiche into aural delectations. Here they perform ‘Music for the Head Ballet’ and ‘Equestrian Statue’ (the latter inspired by Innes reading of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Nausea‘), from their 1967 debut album ‘Gorilla‘, shown here together with two clips from ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set‘: ‘Love is a Cylindrical Piano’ (accompanied by Eric Idle) and ‘Metaphorically Speaking’.

‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ was a children’s TV comedy series, which starred Eric idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, David Jason and Denise Coffey, and was a favourite of my childhood’s TV schedule (along with ‘Batman’ and ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.).

If there is any truth in St Francis Xavier‘s saying, ‘Give me the child for the first seven years of his life and I will make you the man’, I wonder what affect ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set‘ had on my adulthood?  I loved the show with its mix of comedy sketches from Idle, Palin, Jones & co. and musical interludes from The Bonzos. As  a 5-year-old, it was the funniest, most bizarre and dangerous TV show I had ever seen -and this less to do with the embryonic Pythons, more to do with the benign madness of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Under the guidance of Vivian Stanshall, the Bonzos (Neil Inness, Rodney Slater, Roger Ruskin Spear and ‘Legs’ Larry Smith) offered a moment of indulgent childish joy, where anything was possible – one week a dastardly rendition of ‘Sound of Music‘ the next a classic pop hit.

Whatever the effect on my adulthood, I know the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band made my childhood happier, funnier, and more exciting. ‘Nuff said?


The hit success of the internet comedy series, ‘Svengali’ asks big questions about the future of TV.

Made by the team behind ‘Wedding Belles’, ‘Svengali‘ is jointly self-financed by director Philip John, writer Dean Cavanagh and actor Jonathan Owen, through their company, Burn After Listening.

Their series follows a wannabe’s dreams of pop success, and is available through posts on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, runs a tie-in blog and episodes can be downloaded on i-Tunes.

‘Svengali’ is heralding a mini-revolution in self-financed, programme-making and has managed to attract the talents of Martin Freeman, Roger Evans, Sally Phillips, Alan Mcgee, Sean Harris, Jodie Whittaker, Jordan Long and Colin Tierney.

Add to this a supporting cast like a DJ’s guest list: Carl Barat, Maggot, Michelle Gomez, Bonehead, Ciaran Griffiths, and Boy George, ‘Svengali’ has proved what talent and ambition can achieve outside of the Box.

It was a charwoman, Sophia Bishop, who uncovered the truth about Dr James Barry.  Her discovery proved a great embarrassment to the distinguished members of the medical profession, who had failed to guess the doctor’s secret, despite their former colleague’s diminutive stature and smooth complexion.

An embarrassment indeed, considering Dr Barry was one of the most outstanding doctors of the Victorian age, a celebrated surgeon who pioneered new treatments, and performed one of the first Caesarean sections.

It was only after the doctor’s death in 1865, as his body was laid out that Sophia Bishop could see Barry was a ‘perfect female’.  She also noticed what appeared to be stretch marks on Barry’s stomach indicating the doctor had once been pregnant.

As the news of this discovery spread, press speculation reached a fevered pitch in a bid to uncover the truth about Dr Barry’s identity.

The Medical Times reported that although the Army had failed to order a post-mortem to settle the matter, their sources said the facts about both Dr Barry’s sex and her maternity were true.

Other witnesses also commented on the late doctor.  The Dean of McGill Medical School in Canada, who had treated Barry for a chest infection, explained his ignorance of Barry’s sex by stating the bedroom had always been in almost total darkness when he paid his calls and this was why he had failed to notice anything unusual.

Staff Surgeon Major Dr McKinnon, who had described Barry as male on her death certificate, admitted he hadn’t been sure whether Dr Barry was male, female or hermaphrodite, but that he had no purpose in making such a discovery.

Dr James Barry was born Margaret Ann Bulkley in Ireland in 1792.  A highly intelligent child, Bulkley desired to study at university, something that was forbidden for women at that time.  However, in 1809, she travelled with her mother to Edinburgh, where she enrolled under the name of James Barry as a student of Medicine and Literature.  From existing correspondence, it is obvious Mrs. Bulkley was complicit in her daughter’s subterfuge.

Barry proved a brilliant student and qualified as a Doctor in 1812 – the first woman to ever do so in Britain.  It is impossible to guess just how isolated James Barry must have felt, not just in her student days but also throughout her entire lonely, single-minded existence.  Her secret was shared by so few, the burden of deception must have been heavy.

Barry then moved to London, where she qualified at the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1813, was commissioned into the Army as Regimental Assistant.

Bulkley continued with her disguise as a man and may have served at Waterloo, before travelling to India and then South Africa, where she served as a military doctor and personal surgeon to the Governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset.  It was while serving as Somerset’s physician that the first rumours spread aboout Barry’s gender, and it is believed Barry and Somerset were lovers, and it was here she gave birth to a child.

Despite her diminutive stature, Barry was a fine duelist, and is said to have successfully duelled for a leper colony built.

For the next 40 years, Barry served as an Army Surgeon, eventually reaching the position of Inspector General H. M. Army Hospitals.

In 1864, Barry reluctantly retired, and returned to England, where she died in 1865, her body was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

Even by today’s standards, Dr. Barry’s career was remarkable.  Prodigiously talented and dedicated, her work on hygiene and preventative medicine was pioneering; her concern for the welfare of prisoners, lepers and inmates of the lunatic asylum was revolutionary.  Dr Barry agitated for better medical care for the common soldier and long before the advent of antiseptic and anaesthetics, she performed the first successful Caesarean sections ever carried out by a British doctor, saving the life of both mother and child.

Dr Barry’s life story is one of the best-kept secrets in medical history; a story of prodigious talent and dedication versus bigotry and sexism; a story we should celebrate and never forget.

On his Facebook page, the writer Steve Duffy “isn’t quite sure what’s scarier: that this Tumblr thread exists in the first place, or that over a thousand people are fans of it.”

Hold that thought, for there are 1,000 fans (and counting) of Pinup RDJ, which is run by Lisa aka Saxifragious Personette, who writes:

“Vintage pinups are the pinnacle of art. Robert Downey jnr. is the pinnacle of sexy. It’s not rocket science.”

You know, she may have something here.  This is one we’re going to have to ponder.  Answers please, on a postcard.  In the meantime, enjoy Lisa’s incredible handiwork.

With thanks to Steve Duffy

This will put a smile on your face: The Clean’s first single ‘Tally Ho!’  from 1981.

Probably New Zealand’s finest and most influential band, The Clean thrummed and thrilled their first 3-chords when brothers David & Hamish Kilgour and Robert Scott got together in 1978.

Their quirky, melodic, lo-fi drum, bass, guitar and Chris Montez style organ produced generation identifying music, which made The Clean as original as The Fall, as seminal as The Ramones, as lovable as The B-52s, as clever as Orange Juice, as passionate as The Violent Femmes and still as hiply relevant today.

Take a Seat‘ was Jelte Van Geests design concept for a rather neat robotic chair, presented at the Openare Bibliotheek, Eindhoven, in 2007.

With thanks to Joannie Anderson

Norman Mailer claimed he was “imprisoned with a vision” which would “settle for nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time.”  Unfortunately for Mailer, he was far too good a writer to ever do that.

The writers who have achieved  such a “revolution” have always produced poorly written and unrelentingly dull books.  Marx and Hitler may have changed history, but ‘Das Kapital’ and ‘Mein Kampf’ will never be page turners, let alone literature.

As for Mailer, he wrote over 40 books, a dozen of which are important works of literature.  No small feat when considering how often Mailer was reckless with his talents. Now Joseph Mantegna has directed a documentary film, called ‘Norman Mailer: The American‘, which examines the life of the great novelist, journalist, film director, and actor and promises to reveal the man behind these multiple lives, with unseen footage, and interviews from his wives, his children, his lovers, his enemies.

When Martin Amis unflatteringly compared Mailer and his legacy to the ruins of Ozymandias‘ two vast and trunkless legs of stone, languishing in the desert, Amis failed to appreciate how Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s poem had made the great King immortal.  Mailer’s life and books don’t need a Shelley, but it’s certainly about time someone assessed the great man’s life and work, and thankfully it looks like Joseph Mantegna has stepped up to the plate.

Vivian Stanshall‘s rather fine version of the Cliff Richard hit ‘The Young Ones‘.  Not often you see Cliff Richard and Vivian Stanshall in the same sentence.  My goodness, there they are again.

What hasn’t been said about Laurel & Hardy?  Not much, for they were the greatest comedy double act ever, and still hold sway over millions of fans.  Here is rare peek at the men behind that superb comedy act from a 1954 edition of the TV series ‘This Is Your Life’.  look out too for a young Benard Delfont, the legendary British theatre impresario.

And here from 1943, is Laurel & Hardy’s only appearance on colour film – a one reeler made for the promotion of wood products.

Planet Paul

The best tip I can give on how to get the job you want is to never forget the interview is also your chance to ask questions.  And asking the right questions can often be the key to getting hired.

You’re in the room, you think you’ve given a good performance, and now your interviewers ask:

‘Do you have any questions?’

Most times we mumble and mutter something like, ‘Nope, nothing,’ and shuffle off expecting the worst; or ask with eyes-a-gleam, ‘How much is my salary?’ and ‘How many days off do I get?’  All fine if you’re not too bothered about starting Monday.

The one question you should definitely ask is:

‘Are there any reasons why I can’t get this job?’

Sometimes this will stump your interrogators, which can be fun.   Often, after looking at each other, they will give you one or two reasons as to why they don’t think you’re the right candidate.

Now, before you go for your interview, do some homework – put yourself in the interviewer’s place and think what reasons you’d give if you were asked this question.

The first answer you’ll come up with is usually a lack of experience.  Secondly, there were other people better than you.

Listen to what they say, and once they’ve given their reasons, go calmly through them, and honestly dispel each point one-by-one.

If it’s a lack of experience, tell them experience is best learnt through practical work. If they quibble, remind them a failure to develop new and younger potential is a short-sighted way to run a successful company.

If they say, there were other people better than you, then ask if any of these likely candidates posed this question?  Usually they won’t have, which suggests you’re smarter than the average bear.

Continue on until each point is answered.

When finished, your next question is simple:

‘When do I start?’