24 September 2016

A few new things have come my way lately. The picture above shows a recording I can definitely recommend. There are so few recordings of some of Carroll's comic poems, particularly the juvenile works which date from as early as 1845, when he was thirteen. These include "Brother and Sister" and "My Fairy" which satirize his home and family. I was pleased to that Naxos has released a CD of some really excellent performances, including these gems as well as better known works like "Hunting of the Snark". They're very well read by Roger May, who has done at least eighty radio plays, so it is not surprising that his tone and timing are so good. You can buy or download the CD on Amazon and read more about it here.

To be honest, I'd have liked to have seen the option on Amazon to hear tracks before downloading or buying the CD, but in fact there's an "Audible" sampler so you can hear how well May reads. And if you like his work, I see from his biog page that he's also read "Frankenstein" - unabridged!

Next, how about this amazing video? Artist Gene Kogan has run clips from the Disney "Alice" through software which shows it in the style of various well known artists. It was made using computer code developed by Justin Johnson,which was based on work last year by computing researchers at the University of Tuebingen, in Baden-Wuerttenberg, in Germany. I don't think I can say anything about it that beats watching it, and I think you'll agree it's well freaky.

Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk? from Gene Kogan on Vimeo.

Finally, a London graphic designer, Anthony Pike, created this for his daughter's birthday party. The basis of the cakes is vanilla and lemon sponge with buttercream icing, and he took 8 days to make and assemble the whole thing. Mr. P describes baking as his "paid hobby" and says he is an amateur (though this looks pretty professional to me) and when I asked what he would charge to make one for anyone interested, he said, £450, and it would keep for a week after delivery. Here's a link to his Facebook page, in case you are an affluent person who feels like having an Alice teaparty. All his cakes are bespoke, so it doesn't have to be Disney's cartoon Alice, I suppose - he might even be able to do Johnny Depp - though I can't promise.....

05 September 2016

I'll be going to Tokyo again quite soon. Alice is very popular in Tokyo, and my friend Yoshi has sent some pictures of five different fantasy Alice in Wonderland restaurants in Japan. We went to one of them in 2014 (click here to see)

The food is really ingenious. Here's a Cheshire cat....

I like the little cakes...

And these canapes are made of salad in the shape of playing cards

I took this picture of heart shaped biscuits and dips

And here's a link to an Alice Coffee Shop
in Tokyo. Not all of it is "Alice" but it looks quirky and interesting all the same. I'm looking forward to being in Japan again.

24 August 2016

You might say that James Bond doesn't have much to do with Alice, but the repertoire of theup-and-coming cello octet "Cellophony" covers all sorts, including special commissions. And no, I don't know much music written for 8 cellos either, but it does seem to work surprisingly well. On September 11th, you can hear for yourself if you head for the Cellophony Alice in Wonderland Family Concert, which will take place in Kings Place. London. Narrated by James Thorpe-Woods, it is written by one of the ensemble, Richard Birchall, who used to be a boy chorister but has now moved on to more modern music. Among other things, the performance offers parents and kids the chance to learn a new song and perform it with the ensemble.

Kings Place is at 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG - nearest station, St. Pancras. The box office number is 020 7520 1490.

And if you want to hear Cellophony playing something more classical, listen to this Dvorak... they really are very good, I think!

(By the way, I tried to find an image of Alice to illustrate the music. I'm not sure I've been very successful, but I'd say it is one of these two. Down the rabbit hole, like it or not -

Or..... you'll recognise this one.

If you get to the concert and can think of a different image to reflect the music, let me know!)

10 August 2016

Kay, from Georgia, who reads my other blog just wrote to me and told me about an exhibition in The Redoubt, at Eastbourne. Eastbourne is where Carroll went on his holidays in the latter part of his life. Just to fit in with the holiday mood,it seems he had a "bed desk" made to fit over his bed, so he didn't have to get up in the mornings to do his correspondence. (I suspect he also enjoyed feeling he didn't have to get up regularly to attend early morning chapel, as he did in Christ Church, for he was not a "daytime" person.)

The desk was specially made for him and might have been another of Carroll's inventions; he loved to adapt everyday items to suit himself. Even though it is possible these days to buy bed tables for invalids, I don't think I've seen anything similar from Carroll's day. He was not very interested in food but no doubt he did use the table for the occasional breakfast in bed.

Take a look at this Eastbourne museum blog post, which has some more information about Carroll and Eastbourne here.

The picture at the top of the post shows the plaque on the house in Lushington Road, Eastbourne, where Carroll used to stay. And here is the house itself, photographed at around the time when he used to stay there.

Lushington Rd. Eastbourne

12 July 2016
The other day I called over to see my friend Mark, who has a varied and fascinating Carroll collection, biased, I'd say, towards the fine arts. When I arrived, he already had two visitors, Seiko Kusuda and Atsuko Sudo. Seiko is a well known artist in Japan, and I've mentioned her work before, (a couple of examples here) but this was her first visit to the UK. She'd come with Atsuko, her friend and editor, and they'd been on a whistlestop tour of the country, looking for Carrollian inspiration. They'd gone to Christ Church, Oxford, where they had attended a course run by Edward Wakeling (I've also mentioned him a few times - like here - when he commented on an unpublished Carroll poem). They had also travelled up to Daresbury, where Lewis Carroll was born.

And finally, here they were in London, with their flight departing that evening, still with the V & A museum to see. They were looking over Mark's vintage postcard albums featuring Lewis Carroll's many theatrical friends, and vintage Alice productions of long ago.

There were any number of "Alice" character costumes to be seen in the postcards, and it did also seem that Carroll knew lots of rather successful and good looking young women who smiled winningly out of their postcards. I'm always sorry I never saw his own album of postcards - I have no doubt some of these cards appeared in that too - but his album is one of the many possessions which have now disappeared without trace.

Seiko and Atsuko were very charming and friendly. Seiko doesn't speak fluent English, but she gave me some presents of her work, including some pretty postcards and what I thought was something very original - several exhibition flyers which had been printed in different versions to include small pop ups of different Alice characters.

I've never seen anything like this before, Seiko is a collector, and so I think she knows the kind of things collectors like.

Among her photos was one of a carving she'd spotted in Oxford Cathedral, which really did bear a resemblance to the Jabberwock - the monster in the famous poem. This carving is not something I have seen mentioned before, but Carroll would certainly have noticed it. In my opinion, it's more likely to have inspired him with the Jabberwock than the gnarled "Jabberwocky Tree" which the Christ Church porters are always so keen to point out to visitors!

There are, of course, other possibilities - many people in the Northeast think that Carroll was inspired by the Lambton Worm

Lambton Worm I think that's a bit less likely because we don't know if he even saw any pictures of the Lambton Worm, whereas he'd have had the chance to see the Oxford Cathedral carving innumerable times.

Anyhow, the image from Oxford could turn up in one of Seiko's next postcards... and if it does, I'll be sure to write about it here.
30 June 2016
Lewis Carroll Society talks
12 June 2016
Just a reminder that, as ever, Alice will be everywhere in evidence in Oxford next July 2nd, when Alice's Day comes round again. Here are the details. The theme this year is "Animals in Wonderland," a topic which caught my attention because I'm involved in a project about Alice and the natural world. The project won't go public for a long time yet, but "Alice in Wonderland" was published just six years after Darwin's "Origin of Species" so when you think of Carroll telling the original story in 1862, you might ber in mind that the topic of evolution would have still have been in the forefront of much public discussion.

His bank account shows that he spent a lot of money, two guineas, on a ticket for the famous debate about evolution which took place in Oxford between Bishop Wilberforce (below) and Thomas Huxley.

This is arguably one of the most famous debates in the history of science, and how I'd love to know Carroll's impressions - for many of the books in his library show he was fascinated by the issue of Darwinism for the rest of his life. Sadly, the diaries for this period are missing (and once again, I grind my teeth at whichever family member decided that posterity didn't need to know about Carroll's life between 1858-1862!)

Anyway, being quite the celebrity hunter, Carroll was keen to meet the distinguished guests at the debate, and he is said to have assisted with ushering during the meeting, which would have allowed him to get into conversation with them. He photographed several of the delegates, including Bishop Wilberforce, shown here on 28 June, 1860, just two days before the debate. No doubt he was thinking about what he would say.

I doubt if Alice's Day will have much detail on this topic, but the Lewis Carroll Society is contributing a talk: John Vernon Lord, illustrator, teacher and author, speaks about ‘Wonderland Creatures and Looking Glass Beasts’ at the The Story Museum, 11:00-11:30 on 2 July. I hope you can get along.

Here's one of John Vernon Lord's pictures: the Caterpillar. I always imagine the Caterpillar as a crusty old Oxford Don made to look rather ridiculous sitting on a mushroom, and so I do love this image.

31 May 2016

Here's an interesting article by Fran Kohlt on Lewis Carroll and madness. I went to a much longer talk she gave to the Lewis Carroll Society on this same subject. Madness is famously a theme which threads through Carroll's work, and he was interested in psychology, which was, however, in its very early stages during his lifetime. He wasn't, sadly, in time to read the first English translations of Freud's works!
22 May 2016

When I think of Lego I think of constructing Lego Star Wars Death Stars or Lego Mobile Police Units, but the company has now branched out into producing "girl" toys I'm not very keen on such sexist ideas but I suppose they know what suits their business.

One of their latest productions is Alice in Wonderland. So go here to see how to start constructing Alice's story out of Lego!
29 April 2016

The Mad Hatter's topper is instantly recognisable, but what about the other characters' hats? The Tweedles, above, wore the kind of hats which were popular leisure wear with young men - the kind of thing to wear with white flannels when out on a boat on the river, for instance. (Perhaps Dodgson himself wore one on his boating trips.) Later, the caps were adopted for schoolboys such as William Brown (Just William - click on this link to see him wearing one).

Get Your Thinking Caps On" is an inspired-by-Alice competition being run by Guildford Borough Council, whose heritage services department is staging an Alice Day on August 7th this year. It is free, and takes place in the grounds of Guildford Castle on Sunday 7 August, from 11am -4pm.

"After more than 150 years wearing the same old thing isn’t it time they deserved something new to wear?" they ask. "And some of the characters don’t have hats. Don’t they deserve one?"

Contestants can choose from one of the following characters and give them something new to wear.

1: Alice. Spruce up a brand new hair band for Alice to wear to a special tea party

2: The Hatter. Make the Hatter happy with a decorative new topper

3: The White Rabbit. He is always late and doesn’t have a hat. Design a hat to help the White Rabbit be more punctual

4: The Dormouse. He keeps falling asleep, and doesn’t have a hat. Create a hat design to help the Dormouse stay awake

There are three age groups:
7years and younger (specify age)
8-10 years and
11-13 years

Children should send their design in to the address on the entry form (click here to get one, and for more informationn.) They can send a painting, drawing, or collage, and they're asked to include some information about the materials that might be used to make the head band or hat – and of course any special powers it has and how these work.

All the designs will be entered in a competition. The winners and their guests will be invited to a special tea party in Guildford Castle on 7 August, and they'll also be presented with a certificate by the Mayor of Guildford.

The closing date for entries 18 July 2016, and there is plenty of time!

Personally I like this best of the many crazy hats I have seen lately, it is light hearted and fun and I like its simplicity. Do you think it was done with straws?

(It is from familyfun.go.com, and the artwork at the top of this post is by Blue Stevens –based on original illustrations by John Tenniel )

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