Showing posts from April, 2013

Charles Cros, poet-inventor-visionary

In 1877, Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, self-publicist and notorious elephant assassin (1) invented a sound reproduction audio contraption called the phonograph. 

Or did he? Was it perhaps - as some claim - the poet, inventor, surrealist and visionary Charles Hortensius Emile Cros that gave the world this new invention in sound recreation?

Charles Cros was born 1st October 1844. A precocious boy, at the age of 16 he was teaching Hebrew and Sanscrit, and two years later was a Professor of Chemistry. 

His imagination and genius for invention was unstoppable. At the Universal Exhibition of 1867 he presented his automatic telegraph system. He proposed a solution to the problem of processing photographs in colour. And on 30 April 1877 he delivered to the French Academy of Sciences a sealed envelope containing a document describing a procedure for the ‘registering and reproduction of phenomena perceived by the ear’. He gave his invention the poetic name of Paleophone - Voice of the Past.


The First Impressionist Exhibition - Monet and his gang go solo...

Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, universally regarded as among the greatest artists of the Nineteenth Century, or of any century. But in 1873 things were very different.

The bourgeois press shunned them as amateurs without talent. Classical painters treated them with disdain. All venues at which they could display their work were closed to them, with one sole exception, the Salon des Refusés (Exhibition for Rejects). Then that closed down! They were in desperate straits. There was only one option left if they wanted their work to be seen. They’d have to go solo and organize an exhibition themselves.

Monet was nominated their leader and they set up their Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors & Engravers. For the exhibition location, they hired the photographer Nadar’s defunct studio at 35 Boulevard des Capucines. They selected the paintings to be exhibited, and arranged them on the walls. But while printing the exhibition catalogue a problem arose over what to call…

Arthur Stace : Mr Eternity

"...I felt a powerful call from the Lord to write 'ETERNITY'. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket and I bent down there and wrote it". - Arthur Stace.
Arthur Stace was a graffiti writer with a message. 
His message consisted of just one word:
Over a period of 35 years he wrote the word 500,000 times around the streets of Sydney (Australia), and if apprehended by the police would tell them he had"permission from a higher source".

His mission began on 14 November 1932 when he heard an evangelist preacher John G. Ridley telling his congregation:
"Eternity, Eternity, I wish I could sound or shout that word in the streets of Sydney. You've got to meet it, where will you spend Eternity?"Though he had no schooling and could hardly spell his own name, Stace found that not only could he spell Eternity, but that when he wrote it "it came out smoothly in beautiful copperplate print".
Soon the word was mysteriously appearing on pavements throu…

La Goulue (the Glutton) swings 'le French cancan'....

1893, and Louise Joséphine Weber, known as La Goulue (the Glutton) is the unquestioned star of the new dance sensation - le French cancan.

They come from across Europe to watch her raise her petticoats and go through her dazzling display of high kicks, cartwheels, vertical one-legged turns and flying splits.

She's a sensation!  So much so that when Joseph Oller, owner of the Moulin-Rouge cabaret club, needs a star attraction to inaugurate his new theatre on Boulevard des Capucines, there's only one kid in town - La Goulue and her chorus line of hot dancers!

The opening night is slated for Wednesday 12 April 1893. All of Paris is there. The reporter from Le Gaulois is frantic in his poetic enthusiasm: 'Nothing is more admirable than the seats in the stalls, like chaises longues, in which we could easily fall asleep, if there weren't so many wonderful things to look at".

The programme includes a ventriloquist, performing dogs, acrobats, and female dancer called Bob. 


La Reine Margot (Marguerite de Valois) and the death of her teenage gigolo lover.

"Love works in miracles every day: such as weakening the strong, and stretching the weak; making fools of the wise, and wise men of fools; favouring the passions, destroying reason, and in a word, turning everything topsy-turvy". - Marguerite de Valois.
"To see the court without Marguerite de Valois, is to see neither France nor the court". - An Italian scholar in La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas.
"She was so hot you could cook an egg on her!" - Free translation from Brantôme, Agrippa d'Aubigné.
It may not be apparent from the portrait by Rubens, but in her younger days Marguerite de Valois, the first wife of King Henry IV, was famed for her beauty and for her sexual exploits, having seduced many of France's aristocrats, including, it was claimed, the Duke de Guise, assassinated in 1588.

Marguerite had three passions in life - love poems, young men and sex. Some believe that her adventures were the inspiration for Shakespeare's Love's Labour…

Juan Ponce de Leon and the Quest for the Fountain of Youth

On 2 April 1513, after several days of sailing, three small vessels under the command of Juan Ponce de Leon, reach sight of land. Have they found at last the island they are looking for? The mysterious world is which is hidden the Fountain of Youth? They can almost taste its waters! 

Juan was 39 years old at the time, a respectable age for the period in which he lived. He had fought Arabs in Granada, and then, like many soldiers, had cast his eye on the New World, recently rediscovered by Christopher Columbus. 

So, along with 200 other Spanish gentlemen adventurers, he accompanies Columbus on his second expedition, plays his part in exterminating the natives, and is rewarded with an appointment as a provincial governor. 

Like any conquistador worthy of the name, Juan consolidates his power and wealth in the islands around Hispaniola. Then he falls foul of one Diego Columbus, a son of the illustrious Christopher, sent to replace him as governor. The feud continues until the King of Spain …