Author Archives: bcarter3

UPDATE: Postings Suspended until September, Maybe

Unless something unexpected and terribly important comes up, I won’t be posting any new items until at least September. There are a couple of reasons.

The pandemic has shut down so many of the things that make life interesting and enjoyable that I’m left with little to celebrate or write about. The museums, galleries, and theatres are closed, and I haven’t visited a restaurant in more than three months.

Because I’m in at least two of the high-risk groups that COVID-19 targets, I’ve been self-secluding since 14 March. Since I’m seriously introverted by nature, it hasn’t been as difficult for me as it has been for other, more outgoing people, but after three months, I’m beginning to feel the effects of an urban version of cabin fever. Condo fever, I guess. Even with all the books and films and music in the world only a few keystrokes away, you go a little batty after a while.

That will all end sometime in the next two months. The long-awaited renovation of my apartment, damaged a year ago when our roof-top pool dumped its contents on the floors below, is scheduled for sometime before the end of July. Everything in my condo must go into storage, and I’ll have to temporarily vacate during the two weeks when the work is being done, so I’ll be hors de combat for the duration. Putting all the pieces back together when I return will probably take up most of the rest of 2020.

So it’s goodbye for a while. See you sometime in the Fall.

Leaving you with my current favourite song, “Suck On Light” by Boy & Bear.

“Remain Indoors” — Mitchell and Webb Saw It Coming

From the British Emergency Broadcasting System’s highest-rated (and only remaining) show, here’s “The Quiz Broadcast”.

Remain Indoors

Remain Indoors

Way back in 2008 – 2009, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, of the BAFTA-winning British comedy team called, uh, Mitchell and Webb, saw the dark clouds on the horizon. To prepare their TV audience for the worst, they began to run these short segments from the post-apocalyptic “The Quiz Broadcast” on their weekly show.

Now the Quiz Broadcast has become unexpectedly relevant again, ever since The Event made it  critical for many of us to

Remain Indoors

More David Mitchell

You may have seen David Mitchell on panel shows like Would I Lie to You? where he plays a posh urban sophisticate opposite Lee Mack’s Northern lout. I’ll post some clips when I get around to it.

He’s also currently starring as William Shakespeare in Upstart Crow, the cheerful and hilarious debunking of Shakespeare’s life and works by Ben Elton, who gave the world the infamous saga of the Blackadder dynasty. Here’s a look at the real Shakespeare:

Next from National Theatre at Home: Gillian Anderson plays Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire

This is a big one.

The National Theatre’s live-on-film series presentation that begins today will be the 2014 production of Tennessee Wiliiams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois and Ben Foster as Stanley Kowalski.

You can watch it free on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel, starting on 21 May 2020 and running through the morning of 28 May 2020.

Must admit that after seeing some of the teasers, I’m not in love with the set, and the accents are…disturbing. But Streetcar has a strong claim to the title of The Great American Play, so this is unmissable.

“Memories, Light the Corners of My Mind…”

(Of course I’m not serious. I’m using it sarcastically.)

Five or six years ago, I was walking down Saint Peter Street in New Orleans, on my way to the world’s best dive bar, Yo Mama’s Bar & Grill, which served the world’s greatest hamburger, the famous and much-missed Peanut Butter and Bacon Burger. (And as you can see, I’m still obsessed with Yo Mama’s and its burgers, and upset that they’ve left New Orleans and moved on to the Dive Bar Heaven in the Sky.)

About a block from the bar, I read the small plaque on the wall at the front of 632 Saint Peter Street, which commemorated the time in 1946 – 47 when Tennessee Williams lived there while he wrote Streetcar.

632 Saint Peter Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

The Great — Two Trailers and a Teaser

Opening today on Hulu is The Great, a not-at-all serious look at the rise of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. And I suppose that means I’m going to have to add yet another streaming service.

The trailers for The Great are amusing and the script is by Tony McNamara, who wrote last year’s delicious The Favourite. Elle Fanning plays Catherine and Nicholas Hoult plays Peter III, Emperor of All Russia, who had no idea what he was getting into when he wed his 2nd cousin Catherine, née Sophia Augusta Frederica. It was not a happy marriage. In her memoirs, Catherine called Peter “an idiot” and “a good-for-nothing” and several other names that don’t translate very well,

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult have both been actors since their pre-teens and have gone on to successful careers as adults, avoiding the pitfalls that ensnare so many young actors along the way. It’s reassuring to know that not every teen star is doomed to drunkenness, drug addiction, or turning into Corey Feldman.

Meanwhile, over at HBO, you can find another, somewhat more realistic portrayal of Catherine in the four-episode miniseries , with Helen Mirren as the Empress. While Mirrin herself was not a teen star, she’s still managed to have a reasonably successful career.

Tom Lehrer — “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park”

Outside, it’s a beautiful Spring day. Inside, I’m a few hours away from the start of my third month of “social distancing”, wondering if the lack of direct sunlight will give me a Vitamin D deficiency, or scurvy, or something worse.

Ah! A Remembrance of Springs Past.* How I miss the simple joys of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the National Cathedral’s annual Flower Mart, the various “Taste of…” street fairs from Georgetown to Wheaton, and poisoning pigeons in the park.

That’s Tom Lehrer, performing a song from his 1959 record album. More of Tom Lehrer. Lehrer entered Havard College at 15, and at various times taught at MIT, Harvard, Wellesley, and UC Santa Cruz. His courses ranged from mathematics to political science, to musical theater.

Many of his songs were the black-humoured musical equivalent of Gahan Wilson cartoons. A search of the net will take you to things like his nostalgic tribute to “The Old Dope Peddler” and to the somewhat twisted love song “I Hold Your Hand In Mine”.

He also wrote sharp musical commentary on the political issues of the day. His most productive musical period was in the late 1950s through the middle 1960s, and with the passage of ~60 years, a lot of his references have become obscure.  (Still, people smile at lines from Gilbert and Sullivan, more than a century after the subjects of their humour have turned to dust.)

Lehrer stopped performing and retired from teaching long ago, but is still with us. He celebrated his 92nd birthday in April 2020. As he wrote on the 1997 release of a collection called Songs & More Songs by Tom Lehrer, “If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.”

“We’ll murder them all amid laughter and merriment,
Except for the few we’ll take home to…experiment.”

*Yeah, I know we’re supposed to call Proust’s seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time nowadays, but I also still talk about dialing a phone and buying a record album [see above]. There’s a term for continuing to use an old word or phrase after it has been made obsolete by technology or the passage of time, but I’m too lazy to look it up on the computer google it.

Lilac Time

Memory is the damnedest thing.

This year is the first time in more than a decade that I’ve spent all Spring in Washington, when the city is (usually) at its best and most beautiful. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much of it this year. The severity of the coronavirus became clear just as the famous Washington cherry blossoms were nearing their peak. I didn’t get to see them, because by that time, I was self-secluding. Been self-secluded ever since.

When I was growing up, we had a lilac bush in the backyard. It’s not the one in the picture—I found that image online. But, at least in my memory, our lilac bush was quite similar, except it was fuller and the colour of the lilacs was much more vivid.

Lilacs have a short blooming season. In DC, it’s usually around the first week in May, and I usually walk over to the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market early on Sunday morning to buy a few branches before they sell out.

They don’t last. Within three or four days, they’re gone. But for a little while, the incredible smell of lilacs is one of the most wonderful things on the planet.

I stayed at home this morning. Maybe next year….

Stream Both Versions of Frankenstein from the National Theatre (UK)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Theatre (UK) has made selections from its magnificent collection of live-on-film productions available online, free of charge. Each show is posted to YouTube on Thursday at 7 PM UK time. That’s 2 PM on the US East Coast. Each show will be accessible for a full one-week run on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel.

The current program is a special treat. It’s the 2011 production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle, in which Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated playing Frankenstein and the creature. Both actors won the Olivier Award for their performances.

National Theatre’s NT at Home series lets you compare the performances.

Watch Frankenstein with Jonny Lee Miller as the creature here.

Video No Longer Available

Watch Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature here.

Video No Longer Available

Starting on Thursday: Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo are Shakespeare’s fated lovers in Antony & Cleopatra.