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April 25, 2006

Elizabeth I Part 1 on HBO

After the dismal "Elizabeth" movie of a few years ago, and the rather bizarre Henry VIII and Elizabeth series that came out of the BBC recently, it was very refreshing to see HBO's very historical treatment of the second half of the life of Queen Elizabeth I.

Continue reading "Elizabeth I Part 1 on HBO"

Posted by Walter at 06:57 PM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2006

Historical Hatiquette

The subject often comes up at living histories and vintage dances of when to wear hats and when to remove them. While the stuff they told me in the Army of "Hats on outdoors--hats off indoors" is not a bad rule of thumb, in historical practice, it wasn't always that simple.

Continue reading "Historical Hatiquette"

Posted by Walter at 12:57 PM

April 17, 2006

I am Punked from beyond the grave,

Or how I was disabused of a dearly held notion.
I'm not a credulous person. I could smell a rat about the "Hitler DIaries" and tabletop fusion, remember that? I know that a memoir is part truth part embellishment and good editing. Who wants to read "Went to store, forgot wallet. Had a sandwich and sat on the sofa paid some bills". Fasinating. (Well maybe in two hundred years, "they had wallets back then?") Recently I was talking with my good friend A--- while she was at work and the conversation strayed to the 18th century diary (You can take the girl out of the English major...) well really the 18th century popular novel and we lamented what hard going they usally are, so full of edifiing virtue in the face of terrible tempations and they do go on and on. I mentioned that I had read a great diary lively, funny, well paced, not like an 18th century diary at all. It was by Cleone Knox a young woman of the landed Irish gentry, her supposed attachment to a Mr. Ancaster and her travels through Europe to separate them. Edited by a distant relation in the early 20th century and published by the family with some omissions in deference to the sensiblities of the time.

Continue reading "I am Punked from beyond the grave,"

Posted by at 01:42 PM | Comments (1)

More Web Design--The Power of Boringness

I have recently completed what is, probably, my most boring website--of which I am, I believe, justfiably proud. It is the Los Encinos State Historic Park site at

The plain brown and white layout was inspired by Victorian newspapers, though I did not try to make it look like I was trying to reproduce one in web form.

There are some features of this site which I would like to offer as a possible example for amateur designers who have found themselves saddled with the responsibility of creating a website for your hobby group.

Continue reading "More Web Design--The Power of Boringness"

Posted by Walter at 11:17 AM | Comments (3)

April 16, 2006

Places to Buy Vintage Recordings On Line

Here are a few places I know about where you can find vintage recordings from the first half of the 20th Century.

Continue reading "Places to Buy Vintage Recordings On Line"

Posted by Walter at 10:02 AM

April 15, 2006

Dance Classes

Since we were mentioned in "Westways" magazine last year, we have have a huge influx of "new blood" into the local vintage dance scene.

Most new folks come in with much enthusiasm, but little experience.

Over the next few months, the Social Daunce Irregulars and the Lively Arts History Association will be putting on some classes which, we hope, will help our new friends join the fun. These include the special waltz series from the SDI, and dance classes in the weeks preceding the Avalon Ball.

For a list of all the dance classes I know about, along with classes related to other stuff like costume, go to

Posted by Walter at 04:27 PM | Comments (2)

April 14, 2006

Finding Historic Recordings Free Online

There are currently thousands of recordings, dating from the 1890s through the 1940s, which are available for free online.

Here are good vintage recording sites I know about. These are all "legit" sites, and do not include any sites where questionable filesharing might be taking place.

I will address where to buy vintage recordings in a later post.

Continue reading "Finding Historic Recordings Free Online"

Posted by Walter at 11:57 AM | Comments (1)

April 12, 2006

19th Century Clergy and other "Characters"

I recently received an email asking for suggestions on what a Methodist minister should be wearing in the Civil War era South.

I referred the questioner to a page in my "Gentleman's Page" website which shows a 19th Century clergyman, but his question does raise an interesting and broader ranging question: what if the questioner wanted to portray a Baptist preacher in an ordinary business suit--how would anyone know, without him constantly introducing himself, what he was portraying?

Continue reading "19th Century Clergy and other "Characters""

Posted by Walter at 08:23 AM | Comments (2)

April 10, 2006

Common Website Design Mistakes

It has pretty much become essential these days for a dance or history group that wants to be found to have a website. Since most of these groups don't happen to have a web designer among their members, they have to do the best they can, and, unfortunately, many if not most, make a lot of mistakes.

As someone who actually makes a living at web design, and also as someone who has, personally, made a lot of the same mistakes, here are a few pointers I would like to offer on web design.

Continue reading "Common Website Design Mistakes"

Posted by Walter at 08:31 AM

April 08, 2006

The Invisible iPod

Have you ever wanted a nice soundtrack of period music playing in the background of your 20th Century event or in the room of your historic house--but a boom box is too bulky, and if you subject your volunteers to the same CD on a continuous loop, they might take a hostage. ..

Here's something that has worked for me:

Continue reading "The Invisible iPod"

Posted by Walter at 01:05 PM

April 07, 2006

Men--What to Wear to a Jazz Age Ball

Brothers, you have it pretty easy dressing up for a formal event set in the 20s, 30s or 40s. Men's formal wear hasn't changed much in the last eighty years or so. However, there are some details that make your tux shop stuff into proper historical attire.

Continue reading "Men--What to Wear to a Jazz Age Ball"

Posted by Walter at 09:09 PM | Comments (6)

April 03, 2006

April Is The Cruelest Month

I have always found it interesting that April 15th is the confluence of historically important dates. Lincoln's death, the sinking of the Titanic and of course Tax day. I know that Lincoln was shot on the 14th and the Titanic was struck on the same, but they both waited for the 15th to succumb. Ominous. (Why is it that when ever I see the movie "Titanic" I always think "Come on Iceberg! ", Oh yes, the TERRIBLE writing. I hope such a bad movie is never made about Abe or I'll have to root for J.W. Booth.) So as you run to the post office on the 15th think of John Wilkes Booth chasing Lincoln with a hand gun around the deck of the Titanic saying "Sink semper tyrannus".

Posted by at 01:09 PM

April 02, 2006

Places to get Victorian Dance Music Recordings

If any of you have ever purchased a CD with a title like "Strauss Waltzes" by, say, the Berlin Philharmonic, you may have discovered that bands focusing on the concert performance of dances don't really play in a way that is congenial for actual dancing. They are too slow or too fast or have muddy unclear tempi, or the tempi change suddenly.

While I am a firm believer in live music, no matter how humble, for your ball--if you are running a dance class, practising at home or listening for pleasure, you need a good recording.

Take heart! There is hope. There are a few bands out there whose CDs are made with dancers in mind.

Continue reading "Places to get Victorian Dance Music Recordings"

Posted by Walter at 03:51 PM | Comments (5)