The bespoke recording apparatus that Milman Parry took to Yugoslavia in the summer of 1935 – manufactured by Sound Specialties Inc of Waterbury, Connecticut, it had two turntables and a toggle for switching instantaneously between them – got me wondering about the history of such devices. Parry used his equipment for recording rather than playback, but it’s the same principle that later allowed generations of DJs to keep a dancefloor grooving indefinitely.
Dawn Foster’s books will go on sale at Housmans Bookshop in King's Cross from 11 o'clock tomorrow morning (Saturday 16 October). All the books are stamped ‘Dawn Foster Forever – From the library of Dawn Foster 1986-2021’, and are priced £1, £3 or £5.
I may be the only living soul who witnessed both the first and last public performances of Tom Lehrer. In my junior year at Harvard, 1949, one of my roommates was taking an introductory course in calculus. It was a large course and graduate students were engaged to grade homework assignments. The customary thing to do when performing this tedious job was simply to annotate with crosses and question marks. But on my roommate’s papers there were amusing remarks and even the odd funny drawing. I asked who the grader was and was told that his name was Tom Lehrer.
On 1 October, David Miller was fired by the University of Bristol for his controversial statements about Israel. The reason for terminating his employment, the university said, was that ‘Professor Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff.’ The behaviour in question consisted of words: contentious words with which many would disagree, but words nonetheless, words not directed against any specific individual and not conforming to any conventional definition of harassment, though respected colleagues have argued otherwise.
The nuclear weapons launch site in San Cristobal that sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis was modelled on one at Plokštinė in Lithuania, which opened on New Year’s Eve 1961. The disused installation is no longer top secret – it’s now a museum – but it is still out of the way. Overlooked by dense pine forests, the silos yawn with ominous promise, like thermonuclear wishing wells. Each of the SS-4 rockets that might once have roared out of them had more than half the firepower used throughout the Second World War, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A single warhead could have flattened London within ten minutes of take-off.
The archaeological site of Sutton Hoo in coastal east Suffolk has ‘seen an overwhelming increase in interest’ since the release of the movie The Dig. The National Trust, the site’s guardian, has seized the opportunity to build a new viewing tower, a gossamer structure of latticed galvanised metal and slatted dark-stained timber which stands at the furthest end of the site. The aerial perspective you gain from the platform 17 metres up, together with an elegant explanatory plan etched into metal, transforms the scene from a bumpy stretch of heath into the royal burial ground of an Anglo-Saxon monarch and his immense retinue, a place of unmistakable, if masked, resonance.