Want long life? Be Bond, sing about Bond, star with Julie Andrews, be Julie Andrews, appear with Ray Harryhausen

Roger Moore’s death was the first of a cinematic James Bond (well, excluding David Niven in the first Casino Royale) – Sean Connery, born 1930, is still with us, as is Lazenby (1939), Dalton and the rest. As far as I can  make out, Chris Cornell’s death in 2017 was only the second of a Bond theme singer after Matt Monro’s in 1985.

At 83 Julie Andrews is still with us, as are her co-stars from The Sound of Music (Christopher Plummer, born 1929) and Mary Poppins (Dick van Dyke, 1925)

Meanwhile, half of Badfinger died by suicide before their mid-40s, and another member died of a brain aneurysm in his mid-50s. Being a Beatle has had a fifty percent mortality rate, so far. None of the original the original Magnificent Seven  survive, though some at least had a good innings

Usually women live longer than men, but the male stars of the 1961 Ray Harryhausen monster movie Mysterious Island are still with us – Michael Craig aged 91 and Michael Callan aged 84 – while the female stars Joan Greenwood and Beth Rogan, the youthful sex interest of the movie, are dead, Beth Rogan dying in 2015 with home grown cannabis drying in the airing cupboard after a life of more off screen drama than on.

Sadly Todd Armstrong,  Jason in the 1963 Jason and the Argonauts , another Harryhausen feature,  also died by suicide, but the other stars have exhibited a reasonable degree of longevity – Honor Blackman (1925) (and also a Bond girl), Nancy Kovack (1935),  John Cairney (1930)Gary Raymond (1935)

What to make of all this? It is, I guess, statistically unremarkable. It would be tempting, but too much, to suggest that if you want a long life, play James Bond (or sing about him), or star with (or be) Julie Andrews, or play opposite a Ray Harryhausen beast (he himself died at 92)

And I haven’t even touched on Angela Lansbury’s survival of the astonishing murder rate of Cabot Cove.


Beware the gleaming, purpose built headquarters: C Northcote Parkinson’s Law of Buildings

From the Johannes de Berlaymont blog a few years back,   here is a piece on C Northcote Parkinson, prophet of administration. I have a sense that the world of work is now treated with far less humour and levity than it was. Parkinson exemplified how wit could illuminate patterns of organisational life we all surely recognise:

Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1909-1993) was primarily a British naval historian who accidentally fell into the field of public administration and management via a 1955 humorous article published in the Economist magazine. Later expanded to book length, Parkinson’s Law, which argued that ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’ rapidly became ubiquitous. That ubiquity overshadowed the fact that Parkinson, a prolific author, proposed a number of equally convincing laws and observations about bureaucratic life. He developed, for example, a mathematical formula to predict that the (British) Royal Navy would one day have more admirals than ships (on 24 September 2008 the Daily Telegraph duly reported that ‘There are currently 41 admirals, vice-admirals and rear-admirals but … the number of fighting ships in the Navy now stands at just 40.’).


The post is focused on “Parkinson’s Law of Buildings” (Johannes de Berlaymont focuses on EU institutions, a fertile source indeed):


This blog may return to Parkinson’s other laws at some date, but the law that concerns this essay was first published under the title of ‘Plans and Plants, or The Administration Block.’ For ease of reference, it shall be referred to here as Parkinson’s Law of Buildings. This he defines as follows; ‘a perfection of planned layout is achieved only by institutions on the point of collapse… Perfection of planning is a symptom of decay. During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is not time to plan the perfect headquarters. The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done.’

Parkinson calls in evidence a series of historical examples of architectural grandeur accompanying organizational/institutional decline. In the case of the Vatican, for example, ‘the great days of the papacy were over before the perfect setting was even planned. They were almost forgotten by the date of its completion.’ By 1933 the League of Nations was seen to have failed, and yet its ‘physical embodiment’, the Palace of Nations, was not opened until 1937. He argues that Louis XIV moved to Versailles in 1682, the year his career reached its apex, and thereafter, as the sumptuous Palace was gradually completed, so his power inexorably declined. Parkinson gives a number of British examples, including Blenheim Palace, Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster and the Colonial Office, but identifies New Delhi, started in 1911, several years after the decline of British imperialism began (with the 1906 General Election), as a perfect example of his Law’s applicability.

One could imagine many other examples. As well as  “during a period of exciting discovery or progress there is not time to plan the perfect headquarters”, I wonder do organisations in cramped, improvised settings have a better institutional functioning precisely because the staff are thrown together, are less likely to have their own offices,  with a resulting sense of collegiality and solidarity? (or something like that)

Great moments in stage names: from Angus Murdo McKenzie to Karl Denver

If ever a name sounded like a Hollywood Scotsman, it was Angus Murdo McKenzie. And if ever a name sounded like a Scottish fantasy of a Wild West cowboy, it was Karl Denver. Father of Mike, perhaps?

Angus and Karl were the same person. Glasgow-born, with a stint in the Norwegian merchant marine and an illegal immigrant in Nashville, Angus became Karl and had s string of European hits in the early 1960s. From his Wikipedia bio it seems he fathered eleven children before dying just before Christmas 1998.


Here he is with his biggest hit, a version of Wimoweh:



And here he is 28 years later popping up with the Happy Mondays in Lazyitis (One Armed Boxer):

The lost worlds of Debois and Julieta Guipeal at the Tipperary County Museum

The lost worlds of Debois and Julieta Guipeal at the Tipperary County Museum

This is Portrait of a Man, by Julieta Guipeal:


Apologies for the photo quality – this was taken with my phone’s camera in a well-lit (and thereby reflective) space.

It is currently on display as part of an exhibition called Reflections in Tipperary County Museum, Clonmel. Here is a bit of background on the exhibition:

Earlier this year [2018], Tipperary County Museum initiated a vital research project which focused on the origins of its municipal art collection. Art Historian, Catherine Marshall was appointed Curator in Residence at Tipperary County Museum to oversee this particular project. The result of Catherine’s findings will be documented in a specialised catalogue in early 2019 and the accompanying exhibition ‘Reflections’ will exhibit approximately 65 paintings which have remained unseen by the general public for many years.

This Tipperary Art Collection is the result of active, committed and sustained citizenship by a small group of people, from those who established the South Tipperary Fine Arts Club in the 1940s, to individual donors like William English in the 1980s and more recently Tipperary County Council S.R., South Tipperary County Council and our now unified Tipperary County Council.

Portrait of an Artist and others of the most interesting works (including “F***lands 1982”) are part of the William English Bequest. I haven’t been able to find out much about William English online (possibly because there is an artist of that name) this article:

Subsequently, the original collection was added-to by a number of bequests, the most notable of which came from Clonmel man, William English. This brought relatively modern artists (working in the late decades of the 20th century) into the gallery: Robert Ballagh, Patrick Pye, Leo Hogan, Julieta Guipeal, and the Clonmel-born artist, Martin Quigley.

The above article by Margaret Rossiter is the only online reference to Julieta Guipeal I could find.  The catalogue for the exhibition states “All attempts to find the artist Julieta Guipeal have so far come to nothing. While almost all of the William English Bequest was acquired in the Limerick area, enquiries about Guipeal there have yielded no information, nor have early international searches”:


Here is another, unfortunately blurry, view of Portrait of A Man:

Julieta Guipeal is not the only lost artist on display. Here is a work whose very title is a mystery. Is it  EA or A1/2?  We known it is signed by “Debois”, but who is Debois? Again, apologies for the quality:


Here is the image in a bit more context with a great big stonking reflection of myself hogging the frame:

While in Guipeal’s case one can make assumptions (possibly misleading ones) about gender and possible ethnicity, in Debois’ case we have even less to go on. As the catalogue states “No information has come to light about the artist who signed this work, Debois, and no indications of how William English came across his or his work. That is all the more intriguing since the work itself is so tantalisingly dreamlike and surreal”:



So there you have it – I have posted before here about the amnesia of our supposedly information-saturated age., and here we have two intriguing works, each by an artist apparently unknown for anything else.

Gizella Bodnár AKA “Airplane Gizi” RIP

Gizella Bodnár has died. No, I hadn’t heard of her either until I came across her via Wikipedia’s Recent Deaths page. Hungary’s “Queen of Thieves”, she also earned the name “Airplane Gizi’ due to her M.O. of making hadty getaways using domestic flights.

More on Gizella and the rather tragic backstory to her kleptomania :

The fourth of six children born to a railroad engineer father and a housewife mother, Gizella, or Gizi for short, started to steal small things while still a child. She attributed her kleptomania to meningitis which she survived at the age of six. Later she studied in Kassa, but when World War II broke out the stress of it brought her kleptomania to the fore again.

In the early 1950s, Malév, the national Hungarian airline, used to provide domestic flights between cities throughout Hungary. Bodnar’s clever ploy was to fly from Budapest to Miskolc, Debrecen, Szeged, Pécs, and Szombathely where she would break into houses and then fly back home to the capital on the evening flight; although she always denied ever having flown in a plane.

Hungary was not the only country in which she practiced her purloining ways. Among other watch loving capitals, she also committed regular break-ins in Amsterdam, London, and Paris. Part of her modus operandi was to knock on a neighbor’s door in the morning to borrow some condiments for cooking, which she would then return in the evening, thereby providing herself with an alibi for two distinct parts of the day.

During her long career, she was arrested twenty-one times between 1948 and 2006 and stood trial over 20 times. Ultimately, she was convicted to a total of 40 years in jail of which she served a total of 16 years and 7 months in prison.

She moved to the town of Komárom, where she was arrested in January 2009, at the age of 82, for breaking into a house. Late in her life, she was diagnosed with kleptomania: she admitted to liking “shiny things” and claimed that she mostly gave away all her loot to other people rather than selling it, a claim supported by the fact that at the time of her death she had no possessions to her name.

In this age of active ageing, it is heartening to find Gizella continued her criminal habits into her 90s:

In 2015, at the age of 89, incorrigible Gizella was arrested twice, once in June and again in September. In the latter instance, she was found in a cupboard, where she claimed she was hiding from the rain outside. She was arrested again in February 2016 in Sukoró, and again in August 2017 in Tatabánya.

In this age of active ageing, it is heartening to find Gizella continued her criminal habits into her 90s:

In 2015, at the age of 89, incorrigible Gizella was arrested twice, once in June and again in September. In the latter instance, she was found in a cupboard, where she claimed she was hiding from the rain outside. She was arrested again in February 2016 in Sukoró, and again in August 2017 in Tatabánya.

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe, and a cheers to the Poe Toaster

Poe would be 210 if he was alive today, which would be a surprising development for all concerned. And presumably today will see the appearance of the Poe Toaster at Poe’s Baltimore grave. Alas, this is a revival of the original mysterious decades-long toaster:


Poe Toaster is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified person (or more probably two persons in succession, possibly father and son) who, for over seven decades, paid an annual tribute to American author Edgar Allan Poe by visiting the cenotaph marking his original grave in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early hours of January 19, Poe’s birthday. The shadowy figure, dressed in black with a wide-brimmed hat and white scarf, would pour himself a glass of cognac and raise a toast to Poe’s memory, then vanish into the night, leaving three roses in a distinctive arrangement and the unfinished bottle of cognac. Onlookers gathered annually in hopes of glimpsing the elusive Toaster, who did not seek publicity and was rarely seen or photographed.

According to eyewitness reports and notes accompanying offerings in later years, the original Toaster made the annual visitation from sometime in the 1930s (though no report appeared in print until 1950) until his death in 1998, after which the tradition was passed to “a son”.[1] Controversial statements were made in some notes left by the post-1998 Toaster, and in 2006 an unsuccessful attempt was made by several onlookers to detain and identify him. In 2010 there was no visit by the Toaster,[2] nor has he appeared any year since, signaling an end to the 75-year tradition.[3][4]

Pleasingly, the revival since 2016 has maintained the anonymity aspect:


In 2015, the Maryland Historical Society organized a competition to select a new individual to resurrect the annual tribute in a modified, tourism-friendly form. The new Toaster—who will also remain anonymous—made his first appearance during the daylight hours of January 16, 2016 (a Saturday, three days before Poe’s birthday), wearing the traditional garb and playing Saint-Saëns‘ Danse macabre on a violin. After raising the traditional cognac toast and placing the roses, he intoned, “Cineri gloria sera venit” (“Glory paid to one’s ashes comes too late”, from an epigram by the Roman poet Martial), and departed.[25]