Celestial trifecta


I was going to post something about jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard who died this week (yes, another one). But enough people have been doing that elsewhere and I wrote about the album of his that I know best, Sing Me a Song of Songmy, back in April. Better, then, to leave a gloomy year with a smile, even if it’s only a piece of cosmic anthropomorphism. The rare trifecta of Venus, Jupiter, and the moon earlier this month was one of National Geographic’s most viewed space photos of 2008.

British Design Classics


The Royal Mail issues this splendid set of stamps next month, celebrating their choice of “the greatest achievements of British design”. The set was designed by HGV with photography by Jason Tozer and regular readers will note two { feuilleton } cult items among the selection, the Penguin book jacket and Harry Beck’s London Underground map.

British Design Classics will be available from January 13th, 2009.

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Speak & Spell


Before speech synthesis became a standard feature of home computing there was this crude device for teaching children spelling, now emulated in Flash by Kevin St. Onge. Anyone who’s heard Kraftwerk’s later music will recognise the tones generated by the top row of buttons which Ralf and Florian used on the track Home Computer for the Computer World album. Speak & Spell voices turned up on many recordings throughout the Eighties and Nineties. Fun as this emulator is I’d much prefer an EMS VCS3 to play with.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Old music and old technology
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score
Aerodynamik by Kraftwerk
The genius of Kraftwerk

Further farewells


Harold Pinter and Eartha Kitt.

2008: the year that keeps on taking.

The Guardian has a copious collection of Pinter pieces including Michael Billington’s lengthy obituary. Eartha Kitt was just as unique in her own way, prompting Orson Welles in the 1950s to call her “the most exciting woman in the world”. For my sister and I a decade later she was the most exciting Catwoman in the world and that’s how I’ll remember her. But let’s not forget those Cha-Cha Heels

Eartha’s frivolity might seem to jar beside Pinter’s moral and political seriousness but the World Socialist Web Site managed to link the pair with a priceless headline, Harold Pinter and Eartha Kitt, artists and opponents of imperialist war. Their article tells you a few things about Eartha that many of the obituaries would have ignored. I’m sure Pinter would have been proud to hear of her speaking her mind at the White House. The world is a smaller place when talents and voices like these are gone.



It was forty years ago this week that Apollo 8 astronaut William A Anders took this famous photograph of the Earth appearing over the Moon’s horizon. I was six years old at the time but remember the considerable interest caused by the mission, the first to leave the Earth and orbit the Moon, and I was old enough to appreciate that the flight path of the capsule formed a figure eight. This was the beginning of a four-year obsession with the Apollo missions, taking in model kits, jacket patches of spacecraft insignia and an eager viewing of every TV transmission. (Although I missed the first Moon landing a year later as it was after my bedtime.) I was convinced that by 2008 many of us would be living in space; a part of me remains disappointed that we’re not.


The above graphic comes from the quaintly primitive Apollo 8 press kit which can be downloaded from one of NASA’s pages. On another page there’s the crew’s Christmas message to the world which controversially included readings from the Bible. And as usual with NASA you can see William Anders’ photo in a variety of sizes including luscious high-res. The impact of his picture may have diminished over the the past four decades but its import as an ecological symbol remains as pertinent as it was in 1968.

Things will be quiet here over the next few days while I visit family but I’ll be leaving the archive plug-in running for anyone who wants a random dip into the past. If you need some more retro space thrills there’s always this.

Have a good one.


Previously on { feuilleton }
East of Paracelsus