BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Jul 2017, 11:41

A funny-looking farmer with a funny-sounding name. Orville Redenbacher, speaking about Orville Redenbacher.

An obscure (to me) legend has it that popcorn featured at the first thanksgiving, at Plymouth, in 1621. If so, it was very much the same popcorn that began to be cultivated by the Aztecs, about 5000 years ago, and pretty much the same popcorn that, for its cheapness and then in lieu of rationed sweets, become absurdly popular in the USA during the Depression and in WWII. Then along came Orville Redenbacher, born on the family farm in Brazil, Indiana, on July 16, 1907. His family grew popcorn, but at first he wasn’t really interested in it. He graduated from Purdue with a degree in agronomy and became, first, a county extension agent, and then a fertilizer salesman. But along the way he and a friend (Charlie Bowman) started to experiment with popcorn genetics and in the early 1950s came up with an improved popcorn (fewer Old Maids, bigger “pop,” better taste), called it “RedBow,” and found it had a market. They used the name “RedBow” out of modesty, they said, but having established exclusive regional outlets (e.g. in Chicago at Marshall Fields!!!!), they waxed ambitious and hired a marketing firm to see if they might go national, and for a cool $13,000 fee they were advised to use the name Orville Redenbacher, that seemed to those clever marketeers to have a sort of down-home, popcorny flavor to it. By degrees, modest Orville grew into the job of being a living trademark, wavy hair, horn-rimmed glasses, outsized bow-tie, winning smile, a host of clever taglines, and Orville Redenbacher popcorn took off. In 1976 Orville and Charlie sold out, to Esmark, and then Esmark sold to Beatrice Foods, and then Beatrice sold to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and then ConAgra bought everyone out, but through all this conglomeration they still used Orville, his name and his actual sunny persona, to convince us that Orville Redenbacher had, indeed, made the best corn that ever you popped. Orville himself ran out of pop in 1995, but his name lingers on. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Jul 2017, 10:40

My circus train pulls through the night// Full of lions and trapeze artists// I'm done with elephants and clowns// I want to run away and join the office. Mike Doughty.

With the possible exceptions of those trades involved in running and robbing banks, it’s in the circus where you are most likely to find long family traditions. Britain’s Chipperfield’s Circus is one of those family affairs, begun (according to both history and legend) by James Chipperfield who presented his menagerie “on ice” in London the year the Thames froze over (1684). So it shouldn’t surprise that James Seaton Methuen Chipperfield was born (on July 17, 1912) in a mahogany circus wagon and that he would become expert in several circus trades (notably the big top trapeze and lion taming), nor that he would marry Rosie, the daughter of a lion tamer who’d been eaten by his lions, nor that James and Rosie in due course would own and run their own edition of Chipperfield’s Circus. Nor, indeed, that several of their children and grandchildren would carry on the tradition. But Jimmy Chipperfield’s life would hold some surprises, nevertheless, notably that despite zero formal education, he became an RAF pilot in WWII. (Come the war, Jimmy put himself in school with children to learn sufficient math to qualify. He flew Mosquito fighter bombers with 85 Squadron). The other main surprise is that he (and Rosie) retired from the circus early, in 1955, first to train animals for Walt Disney and other film productions and then, in 1966, the world’s first safari park, at Longleat, the Wiltshire country estate of the Marquess of Bath. Once started, he couldn’t stop; he was involved also in (inter alia) the Windsor Safari Park, the Woburn Safari Park, the Blair Drummond Safari Park, the Lambton Castle Safari Park, and the Knowsley Safari Park. Those familiar with Britain’s social geography will recognize aristocratic connections in all those names, and indeed in a sense Jimmy had come home. For as one of his middle names announces, Jimmy was born (albeit in that circus wagon) on the Wiltshire estate of the Earl of Methuen. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Jul 2017, 11:17

This story doesn't really involve us. Harriet Nelson, in dialogue, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, 1963.

In 1998, while the nation’s first family was embroiled in its own mess, the writer Peter Jones decided it would be a perfect time to tear the covers off the nation’s first family of the 1950s. No, not Dwight and Mamie (who had their own secret sorrows) but “Ozzie and Harriet.” And so A&E put on a documentary, “Ozzie and Harriet: The Adventures of America’s Favorite Family.” Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and their family ruled the American airwaves from 1944 to 1966, a remarkable span (on radio and then, from 1952, TV). It turned out that the family was not as happy as it appeared, but what is intriguing is how the sit-com family became, in damaging ways, the theatre where the real family tried to work out some of its inner tensions. In all this, Eric (Rick) Nelson was the chief sufferer, but Harriet steamed through it like the trooper she was, enjoying her drinks, her ciggies, her friends gay and straight (among them, Ginger Rogers), and her risqué humor. And she would, wouldn’t she? After all, Harriet Nelson was born (on July 18, 1909) in Des Moines, a sensible sort of place, as Peggy Lou Snyder, a pretty kid with a performing streak. She started very early, learned also to be a rebel, smoking and hanging out at the Cotton Club (NOT in Des Moines) while she was still in her teens, calling herself Harriet Hilliard, and developing a good, sexy singing voice and stage presence that caught the eye of band leader Ozzie Nelson. They married, had a couple of boys (David in ’36 and Eric in ’40), and then in 1944 settled down to their odd double life as both an imaginary and real family. Come the TV era, even their stage-set house was a virtual replica of their “real” family home in Hollywood. It is fair to add that when the A&E documentary showed, the only survivor (David Nelson) didn’t like it. “Why not,” he asked, “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative?” Thus, oddly, David reprised his sitcom role. Or was it his real one? ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Jul 2017, 11:45

Fascism is not simply National Socialism, and this is music about terror, slavery, and the oppression of the spirit. Shostakovich's retrospective on his 7th Symphony.

The siege of Leningrad began in September 1941 and was finally lifted in January 1944. There were well over 500,000 civilian deaths, from the constant bombardment but mainly from malnutrition and disease. But there was heroism, there was grandeur in the ruins, and there was no surrender. There was also music, for as the siege started Dmitri Shostakovich began, between artillery attacks, to rewrite what would become his Symphony No. 7, “The Leningrad.” The composer, serving the while in the civilian militia, played the first two movements—at the piano—during a bombardment. Legend has it that the audience refused to take cover. He was then evacuated (with his family) in December 1941. The symphony, a great patriotic work for the Great Patriotic War, had several premieres, the first one in Kuybyshev on the Volga, March 5, 1942, then in London on June 22, and in Leningrad itself on August 9 (the day that Hitler had planned to celebrate the conquest of the city!!!), and it is as far as I know still played regularly at the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) cemetery that contains the largest mass graves of siege victims. It’s appropriate, for the first movement contains within it a moving requiem. Its American premiere took place in New York City on July 19, 1942. Broadcast nationally on NBC, heralded by a cover story in that week’s Time magazine (the cover showing Shostakovich in uniform, in the siege-scarred city), it was played by the NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by its old maestro, Arturo Toscanini, who came out of retirement to take the baton from Leopold Stokowski and celebrate his own long opposition to fascism. Popular—perhaps excessively so—in wartime, the symphony itself has since been subjected to a good deal of negative criticism, both political and aesthetic. Today, politically, it is accepted as a subtler composition. It will be played today on NPR, and listeners may judge for themselves. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Jul 2017, 14:21

I never felt so fervently thankful, so soothed, so tranquil, so filled with a blessed peace, as I did yesterday when I learned that Michael Angelo was dead. Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad.

In his long lifetime (as long in years, he often said, as the ellipse of Halley’s Comet), Sam Clemens squandered an inheritance (from his father-in-law), lose another fortune (his own), and bury his wife and two of his three daughters. Those trials and tragedies would embitter him, while the low tone of American public life in what he called “great barbecue” provided him with his favorite targets, corruption and cruel hypocrisy in places high and low. One only imagines what he would say of the Trumps. But as a young man, slightly soiled, vibrant with life, he came out of the west like a comet on the back of a jumping frog. Already enjoying a reputation as “Mark Twain,” his second book made him famous (and would be Twain’s all-time best seller in his lifetime). It was The Innocents Abroad, and it was loosed on the public—by subscription only—on July 20, 1869. Sub-titled The New Pilgrim’s Progress, it amply proves that its young author (he was 34) was already possessed of a wicked sense of humor and a pen sharp enough to wield it. Its pilgrims were a company of wealthy Americans, mostly pious, and the object of their pilgrimage was to see for themselves the venerated antiquities of Europe and, above all else, the Holy Land. But veneration was not in Twain’s nature, which was made up of equal parts of satire, irony, irreverence, realism, and exaggeration, and the book remains an enjoyable and amusing one, as only a self-proclaimed barbarian could make it. But he also met some truly civilized folk on board, including Mrs. Fairbanks of Cleveland (who would become, for decades, his ‘mother confessor’) and young Charley Langdon of Elmira, New York, who one day aboard ship (the Quaker City) showed Twain a miniature of his sister, Olivia (Livy), a frail, pretty woman of means and substance who would change Twain’s life, expunge (with the help of her half-sister Susan) his Missouri racism, and strengthen and deepen his creative streak. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Jul 2017, 10:36

Oh Jake, Brett said, we could have had such a damned good time together. . . . Yes, I said, isn't it pretty to think so? The Sun Also Rises, 1926.

One of the best literary histories of the 20th century covers only a decade, but what a decade!! It was Malcolm Cowley’s Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s (1934, revised edition 1951). Despite the singular “exile’s” it was about the lot of them, the expatriates, the lost generation, the middle class orphans washed up by the Great War on the warm shores provided in Paris by Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach. The book’s truth is that these writers (and Cowley, poet and editor, was one of them) were playing themselves, acting out their lives, as if they were in search of a character. Among the most typical of them was Ernest Hemingway, born into comfort in very comfortably middle America (Oak Park, IL) on July 21, 1899, who then spent his life seeking discomfort and, whether as journalist or novelist, chronicling lives of other discomforted seekers. After his ambulance driver role (on the Italian front), Hemingway lost himself (along with others) in Paris, where the exchange rate enabled a reckless, sometimes merely hedonistic style of living, writing for money (as a piece-rate journalist) and for truth. His truth about the lost generation is found in his first and greatest novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926: in Britain it is Fiesta). I first read it as a sophomore in Phyllis Rackin’s American Fiction class, and found it utterly absorbing. Arguably (as Dr. Rackin warned us) it’s a book that is bad for sophomores, but now, 55 years on, I find it still quite magical, revolutionary in its bare-boned, monosyllabic prose, its curt conversations, revelatory in its treatment of character. It is aggressively descriptive, not analytical, without authorial obiter dicta, and it forces readers to draw their own conclusions about Jake (Hemingway), Brett (Lady Duff Twysden), and their fellow stalkers of love and life in the lost generation. It is (among other things) the perfect counterpoint to Malcolm Cowley’s fine narrative. ©
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 Jul 2017, 10:21

The Lord is a shoving leopard. (Attributed to] William Spooner.

In several ways William Archibald Spooner broke tradition at Oxford and then became one himself, for he is the (alleged) origin of the ‘spoonerism,’ a sort of verbal dyslexia that issues in such amusing confusions as “you have hissed my mystery lectures” or “you have tasted a whole worm.” Spooner was born on July 22, 1844, into a well-connected family (his godfather became Archbishop of Canterbury) and comfortable circumstances. He was educated at Oswestry and in 1862 broke his first tradition by being the first non-Winchester boy to be admitted to New College and then, having imbibed his tutor’s “spirit of abominable restlessness” (and performed brilliantly at final examinations) Spooner in 1867 became a New College don himself, rising through the ranks to become dean in 1876 and then, in 1903, warden (head) of the college. As dean and warden, he was a reformer, participating most notably in the invention of Oxford’s lecturing system, which opened the faculty resources of each college to every student in every college, and in the increasing presence of women’s colleges. He was immensely popular with students and faculty, bringing his wife and their seven children into the (radically remodeled) warden’s lodgings which immediately became the social heart of New College. An albino, Spooner even in his age (he did not retire as warden until he was 80) looked a bit like a surprised innocent, and may have cultivated that physical eccentricity. At any rate, New College students affectionately christened him as “The Child” (an exceedingly odd nickname for a dean) and when he married Frances Goodwin, a bishop’s daughter, she inevitably became “The Madonna.” And the ‘spoonerism’? Well, like many legends, it’s not as clear as all that. At his retirement dinner, replying to a celebratory toast from the undergraduates, Spooner said “You want me to say one of those things, but I shan’t.” And then he sat down. ©
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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