BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Sep 2019, 11:47

He spent so many years over here David.... Let's give him a break!
"Organize--don't Agonize." Tish Sommers.

The New York Times currently runs a series of ‘oops’ obituaries called “Overlooked No More.” These new obituaries of the long dead make amends, often very generously, and usually (not always) to women. Having read the Times obituary of Tish Sommers, I think they should add a new series of amendatory obits, “Underwritten No More,” for the one they conceded to Ms. Sommers (at her death from cancer in October 1985), runs only to several paragraphs, each one briefly conceding that Tish was a woman who had something to say, said it, and then did something about it. It does not tell us volumes about Tish Sommers, not even her birthdate, which was September 8, 1914. If you’re curious, you’ll learn more in her biography, published by the University of Tennessee Press (1991), Tish Sommers, Activist. “Agitator” might have been better, and that’s what she called herself on her business cards. Whichever it was, Tish became one in Germany, training for the ballet and witnessing the rise of Naziism. In the USA, in her 20s, she married a college professor, joined the Communist Party, and began to agitate for change, for instance traveling south to support civil rights demonstrators. A “friendly” divorce cast her on her own resources, whereupon she discovered something more to agitate about, the vulnerable state of women she called “displaced homemakers.” She and a friend, Laurie Shields (who in 1991 got an even shorter obit in the Times), successfully lobbied 39 states and the national government to make training provision for such women, then in the 70s Ms. Sommers co-founded NOW and went on its board. Age catching up with her, she founded OWL (Older Women’s League), and then, dying of cancer, she called and led a national conference on how to help people (men and women) to die with dignity. “Life is sweet,” she said, and then set about helping to keep it so, to the end. Her letters and papers now form a research core at San Diego State University’s Institute for Health and Aging. There’s more, of course, but I don’t have a whole obituary page to fill up. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Sep 2019, 12:04

"How can we attain rights? By the strength of our agitation!" Saraladevi Chaudharani.

In 1920, two middle-aged heroes of Indian nationalism, Mahatma Gandhi, 50, and Saraladevi Chaudharani, 47, threatened their reputations and their cause by falling in love. It would have been a disastrous match; they were both married, both with children, and Chaudharani’s husband was in jail for his nationalist activities. Drawing back, Gandhi first proposed to Chaudharani a “spiritual marriage.” She drew back too, and refused. No one knew about it (except Gandi’s son, who was horrified), and everyone thought it odd that when the two finally published their memoirs, neither even mentioned the other. The story was broken in 2007 in a biography of Gandhi written by his grandson, Rajmohan. Everyone knows about Gandhi, so let’s look at Saraladevi Chaudharani, born into the Brahmin caste on September 9, 1872. Almost every member of her immediate and extended family (male and female) was already committed to nationalism, independence and reform, and her uncle, the poet Rabindranath Tagore, was downright famous. So it could be said that Saraladevi’s star was already set, but her special task, to which she devoted the whole of her long life, was the liberation of Indian women, of all castes, Hindu or Moslem. Without that, she thought, political independence would be a cruel joke on half the Indian population. And she began as a firebrand, an extremist revolutionary, determined on maidenhood and total victory, until family pressures convinced her that she had to marry. She chose well, an equally radical nationalist newspaper editor (in the Urdu language) Rambhuj Chaudhuri. Interestingly, her autobiography stops with her marriage, but she carried on for four more decades, chairing committees and leading assemblies (often all-male), making fiery speeches, and eventually calming down a bit to embrace Gandhi’s ideas of non-violence: although, as we now know, she decided not to embrace Gandhi himself. Saraladevi Chaudharani died in 1945, thus saving herself from witnessing the mass tragedies associated with the partition of India. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 10 Sep 2019, 11:58

"I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm." Alfred Hitchcock.

“Uncle Galt,” William Galt, loomed large in my family’s memory. Born in Scotland circa 1810, he emigrated to Illinois and then skipped out to Placerville, CA, where he found enough gold to come back to Illinois and settle down to a life of investing (in farmland) and travel. On one of his trips ‘back’ to Scotland he had his portrait done in Edinburgh, a photo showing him in a noble pose against a (painted) mountain backdrop, and fully attired in kilt, cap, and sporran. In Uncle Galt’s early youth, in lowland Ayrshire, few would have been caught dead in plaid, a relic of the wild highlands and its rebellious cultures, Jacobite and Catholic. For a time after the 1745 rising, indeed, the kilt and the bagpipe were illegal. But by the time Uncle Galt got back to Edinburgh, ca. 1875, the Scottish revival had happened, tartans were big business, and bagpipes too. The chief movers of that Romantic-age enthusiasm, e.g. Sir Walter Scott, are well-known, but let’s give a thought to Angus McKay, the bagpipe man, born of the highlands and islands (in Inverness-shire) on September 10, 1813. His family had kept those traditions alive, notably his father, and Angus and his three brothers, trained to the pipe, came on the market at the right time to enjoy the limelight and the income provided by the revival of old forms (and, be it said, the invention of new ones). He was a precocious player of the pipes, winning prizes in his teens (he took his first first prize in piping at the age of 12), and that made Angus McKay famous enough, but what secured his place in highland life and lore was his scholarship. When you’re reviving a folk tradition you want to have a bit of real tradition at its core, and Angus McKay traveled the glens to hear, play, transcribe, and then publish scores of traditional tunes, along with fairly purple prose about the bagpipe’s history. His first Collection of Ancient Piobaireachd (1838) was a huge success, and at his early death (probably from high living) in 1851 he left mountains of manuscripts which helped the mystique to survive. Uncle Galt’s 1875 portrait did not include a bagpipe, but that was, no doubt, only an oversight. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Sep 2019, 14:44

"My fixed resolution is to discover the termination of the Niger or perish in the attempt." Mungo Park, last dispatch to London, 1806.

In 18th-century Scotland, to be a renter was not necessarily to be poor, and one such substantial renter (on the Buccleuch estate, near Selkirk) was Mungo Park. He and his wife, Elspeth were comfortable enough to birth and raise 13 children and place most of them advantageously; and he named the 7th of them after himself, the Mungo Park, born on September 11, 1771. Young Mungo went to grammar school, then was apprenticed to a surgeon, then entered Edinburgh University. But on a trip to London Mungo met the famed botanical collector, Sir Joseph Banks, and the next thing you knew he was a surgeon’s mate on an East India ship, bound for Sumatra and a spell of collecting for Banks. Park liked the life, and then embarked on a series of travel, mainly in the West African interior, that made him famous and, indeed, a man of legend: collector? Yes, still, but more than that, an explorer, an adventurer, one who attracted sponsorship and then pleased his sponsors and the reading public with published memoirs—fairly accurate ones but nevertheless exciting and with a dash of the exotic about them. His first, published in 1799, sold like hotcakes in Britain and, in translations, in Europe, too, and this despite Park’s rather phlegmatic treatment of slavery in Africa and the slave trade to America (in which, twice, and inadvertently, he actually participated). In his published works and private letters he was aware of the rising tide of opposition (“of many wise and worthy persons”) to the trade in human beings, but he felt that slavery was a “natural” outgrowth of African cultures and he reported on it more or less as he reported on his botanical and geographical discoveries. Of the latter he became most famed for his explorations of the Niger, identifying its eastward course deep in the interior, looking for its source and then following it to its mouth. He found neither, for on his last and longest exploration, in 1806, he died, perhaps in battle, possibly drowning in the river of his dreams. His life, and his death, became the stuff of imperial legend, to be sorted out by Kenneth Lupton’s Mungo Park, The African Traveler (1979). ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Sep 2019, 11:37

"Radio is the theater of the mind; television is the theater of the mindless." - Steve Allen

Back in the good old days of the Great Depression, radio stations and networks took themselves seriously as purveyors, perhaps even symbols, of cultures (local, national, high, low, take your pick). So if you twiddled your dial of an evening you could hear a Shakespeare play or a Count Basie jam session or (on the Iowa state network) a talk on agricultural economics by R. K. Bliss. Or, on September 12, 1939, on WOR in New York City, or your local Mutual station almost anywhere in the USA, or on the CBC in Canada, you could have tuned in to the start of a remarkable series in which the pianist Nadia Reisenberg and the New York Philharmonic, Alfred Wallenstein conducting, began their run of all the Mozart piano concertos. All 27 of them, one per week, live from Carnegie Hall. Reisenberg herself was born in Lithuania in 1904 and in 1922 migrated to the USA with her parents and her two (equally) musical sisters. They taught, they performed (often together), they recorded, and they married too, but Nadia kept her maiden name and became modestly famous, enough that when the idea of the marathon series was broached, Mutual snapped it up. It went on, weekly, until they did #27 at the end of March 1940. If you tune into your NPR classical station today you can hear the (live) recording of their rendition of #26, k. 537, the “Coronation,” which was performed on March 19, 1940. It was quite a run for everyone concerned, and it was the first time it had been done since Mozart’s piano concertos had been gathered together, edited, and published in 1850, a date itself almost 60 years after the composer’s death. The Reisenberg family lives on in New York’s music culture. Nadia’s grandson teaches at the Julliard, and a foundation she and her sisters established provides music scholarships and occasional public concerts, some of which just might be aired on, maybe, NPR. I doubt the other networks would touch it with a barge pole. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Sep 2019, 10:55

Paul Revere's ride, Canadian-style.

In 1965, dad and I visited the Lundy’s Lane battle site, near Niagara on the Canadian side. The 1814 battle was a bloody draw, but monuments or plaques on each side of the border proclaimed it a victory, evidence still, perhaps, of United Empire Loyalism in Ontario and, in New York, of Americans’ still unrequited passion to take Canada into their arms. But nearby, in 1813, there had been a smaller battle, at Beaver Dams, that produced a resounding British victory and a United Empire Loyalist heroine, Laura Secord, herself an exile from the land of the free and the home of the brave. Laura Secord was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on September 13, 1775. Her father, Thomas Ingersoll, was a patriot hero in the American Revolution, but democratic excess and the anarchy of Shays’ Rebellion drove him to Canada where, in 1797, Laura married James Secord whose father and two elder brothers had fought for the loyalists in the War of Independence. So when the War of 1812 threatened a rebirth of the USA’s imperial ambitions, Laura knew where she stood. She was actually twice a heroine. In a small battle near the Secord farm, her husband (an officer for the British) fell seriously wounded, and Laura threw herself on his body as a shield, screaming to the Americans that if they aimed to dispatch him they would have to kill her first. He survived, but to add insult to injury the Yankees took over the Secord home for their HQ, and when Laura heard of their plans for a surprise attack on the British at Niagara, she sneaked away to walk 20 miles, at night, through mostly wilderness country, to warn the garrison. Forewarned, the garrison, a polyglot force of Quebecois, Mohawks, British regulars, and loyalist exiles, none of whom loved Americans, fought them off and captured 500 of them. Laura lived the rest of her life in obscurity, but long after her death, in the early 1900s, her memory was resurrected by Canadian feminism and by United Empire Loyalism. You will find her monument in the Lundy’s Lane Cemetery and her name at Laura Secord Schools in Queenstown and St. Catherines, Ontario, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Vancouver, British Columbia. It all looks as if the Canadians intend to keep on being Canadians. ©

Bob has said:"A faithful reader, writing from atop her Vermont mountain, reminds me that Laura Secord, the Canadian loyalist, is sweetly remembered by the Laura Secord chain of sweet shops, scores of candy stores—mainly in Ontario and Quebec—specializing in chocolates. While I am at it, I should mention too the Robertson Davies, the (I think) great Canadian novelist who often referred (usually lightly, sometimes sweetly) to his rather eminent family’s loyalist roots in his fiction and in his criticism. Bob Bliss
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 Sep 2019, 12:12

"Justice Is a Black Woman." Title of a 2012 PBS documentary on Constance Baker Motley.

Everybody remembers Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court Associate Justice whose first claim to fame was as the founder (and lead attorney) of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, whence he masterminded the agonizing process of (a) deciding which civil rights cases to pursue and then (b) the triumph of seeing them through to justice. His crowning glory was Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954), which definitively buried the racist policy known as “separate but equal.” What is less well remembered is that the first legal complaint in that case was written by a woman, Constance Baker Motley. At that time (1950) she was Marshall’s chief assistant at the NAACP and a recent (1946) graduate of Columbia Law. She was born in New Haven on September 14, 1921, where her father, oddly enough, was a baker, really the chef, for some of Yale’s most prestigious eateries, notably the dining room at the Skull & Bones Club (where he may well have served sustenance to George Herbert Walker Bush). Perhaps that, or her parents’ West Indian heritage (they never told her that their grandparents had been slaves), gave Constance the confidence she needed to surmount racist snipings, even in New Haven’s integrated public schools. At any rate, surmount them she did, and as a black woman she achieved a whole passel of “firsts,” including her election to the New York state senate (1964), her election as Manhattan Borough President (1966), her appointment to the Federal Bench, confirmed by the US Senate later that same year, and her election as Chief Judge in Southern District of New York (1982). But she always remembered her civil rights cases, not only the Brown case but (as chief counsel) those of James Meredith and Medgar Evers (she had to visit the Evers household at night, under armed guard). Almost incidentally, as a judge she decided (in 1978) that professional (male) sports teams had to admit female journalists into their locker rooms. Her marriage of 59 years (to businessman Joel Motley) ended only with her death in 2005. Her son Joel Motley III carries on as the co-chair of Human Rights Watch. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 15 Sep 2019, 12:04

"I'm a comrade. And I'm tough. I'm unbelievably tough. Like a cat." Lise Welskopf-Henrich in a 1977 interview with a West German journalist.

Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich was born in Munich on September 15, 1901, worked in Berlin, and died in Bavaria in 1979 while on touring holiday from her home in East Germany, the late and unlamented German Democratic Republic. By definition she must have had a turbulent life, but what made it especially unusual was her late entry into the history profession, her success as an historian of classical Greece, and her late-life adventures as a student and chronicler, historian and novelist, of the Dakota (Sioux) nations of North America. Lise Henrich’s father was a lawyer of liberal sympathies, and in her first academic incarnation she followed his tendencies with studies in economics and sociology, leading to a doctorate in 1925. Career opportunities for women being constrained, she crunched numbers for government agencies in Berlin from 1928, right through the Nazi era, to war’s end in 1945. During the Nazi period she did not go “underground” but she was a resister, helping fugitives hide or escape, consorting with communists, collecting food for families of concentration camp victims. So in 1945 it was probably natural for her to stay in the East, to join the Communist Party, to marry a long-time communist, Rudolph Welskopf, and to sign up for elementary instruction in Marxism-Leninism. It’s a little more difficult to explain her ‘conversion’ (at Humboldt, her old university) to ancient history and studies of the concept and practice of the polis, the city-state, the idea of political community, in ancient Greece. In this she excelled, and led a consortium of German scholars, from the west and the east, in a massive research project. It’s even more problematic to understand her growing interest in the Sioux nations. It resulted in much travel (to the US and Canada), living with the Sioux, being named “Lakota-Tashina” (‘protector of the Lakota), and a six-installment historical novel, intended for young adult readers: The Blood of the Eagle (Das blut des adlers) about a young Sioux warrior who became a chief. Go figure. There is nothing quite as surprising as history, unless it’s biography. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Sep 2019, 11:36

“I am not an angel . . . and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester." Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, 1847.

Today let’s celebrate women and their rights, not so much the right to vote or other positive civil rights but the right to be noticed, a not inconsiderable right in an egalitarian democracy. We’ll start with September 16, 1620, 399 years ago, when the good ship Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, for an unknown destination that turned out to be Plymouth, New England. When the Pilgrim Fathers noticed that they had aboard not only quite a few Pilgrim Mothers but also a more or less godless mix of ship’s crew and indentured servants, men and women, the Fathers got together and agreed a covenant (the “Mayflower Compact”) by which we, the undersigned, would govern everyone else, aka them. Somewhat later, but still in England, on September 16th, 1975, the trustees of a large endowment announced that, henceforth, they would notice women applicants for one of the world’s most prestigious awards, the Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford University. When old Cecil first made the money available, in 1902, the few women at Oxford had only a ghostly presence, able to study, take exams, perhaps to excel, but NOT to take a degree away. And did you ever notice in reading or hear in conversation that Sigmund Freud was just a bit of a male chauvinist? Who made some odd assumptions about the female half, or side, of life? If you did not know that, then perhaps you should tip your hat, or bonnet, to Karen Horney, born on September 16, 1885, in Germany. After rebelling against her father’s domineering bluster, Karen became a Freudian with a difference and spent her long life noticing, and rebelling against, the masculine bias of the master’s ideas. So welcome to September 16th, the anniversary notes’ unofficial Notice Women Day.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Sep 2019, 11:53

"Sometime I lives in the country// Sometimes I lives in the town// Sometime I haves a great notion// To Jump in the rive an' drown." Goodnight, Irene, lyrics.

I would have difficulty picking out a funniest passage in literature, though I might settle finally on Mark Twain’s confrontation with a buffalo, up a tree somewhere west in the Nebraska Territory (see Roughing It, 1872). But as to the prose that made me laugh the hardest, hands down it was the botched suicide that comes early in Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), and sets the hero on his Arthurian quest, westwards towards Oregon, the bosom of his family (the Stampers), and the timber trade. I laughed hysterically when I read it first, and soon after when I tried to read it for dinner guests I simply broke down and could not continue. The novel, which may be somewhat autobiographical (certainly not in detail), was Kesey’s second and I think his best. Ken Kesey’s stormy, unconventional life began with his birth, in La Junta, Colorado, on September 17, 1935. His farm family moved to Oregon when he was 9, where young Kesey became a brilliant wrestler, a fine football player, and completely addicted to bad films and worse fiction. Although he went to the University of Oregon on a sports scholarship, and majored in speech along with many of his fellow meatheads and frat brothers, he soon succumbed to the films and the fiction. In his life as a writer, he would improve on both (John Wayne and Zane Grey, respectively), but whatever his final reputation he proved unable to sustain (or improve upon) the level he reached in his first two novels, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962, made into a memorable film starring Jack Nicholson) and the above-mentioned Great Notion. It would be too easy to ascribe Kesey’s ‘failure’ (if such it was) to drugs and his continued zest for the counterculture, for he also enjoyed his family, into which he often retreated. Plagued with ill health (mostly brought on by his excesses), Ken Kesey declined in the 1990s and died in 2001, a million miles away from the glorious, gassy explosion that foiled a suicide, singed off the hero’s eyebrows, and set him running west on his Great Notion. ©

[How about; "Confronted with a large window as his only means of escape he remembered the large stool he had seen in the corridor...." That still cracks me up.]
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Sep 2019, 12:12

LEXICOGRAPHER--A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge. From Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755.

In scholarly writings about 18th century England, literature or politics, you’ll often run into citations of Samuel Johnson. This owes partly to James Boswell’s classic Life of Samuel Johnson (1791, often called the ‘first modern biography’) but mainly to Johnson’s extraordinarily rich life, as essayist, poet, moralist, bon vivant, playwright, satirist and scourge of the American revolutionaries, and, indeed, a biographer of note. But above all else, we remember Johnson as lexicographer, a recorder of the English language. His A Dictionary of the English Language (1755 et seq) was not the first, but it remains arguably the most famous, more widely known, even, than the monumental Oxford English Dictionary. Samuel Johnson (“Dr. Johnson” to you and me) was born on September 18, 1709, in Staffordshire. Given that Johnson became the king of words (and very early on, for he was a most precocious toddler), it was jested that, at birth, he didn’t even cry: the last time anyone, or anything, shut him up. Johnson went up to Oxford in 1728, then a great place to idle in, and left without a degree. After brief bouts of school-mastering, and marriage, his literary life began in earnest in 1738, when he settled in London to write for The Gentleman’s Magazine. He began work on his dictionary circa 1746, and his other writings, and his sponsorships, made it modestly famous before it even appeared, and snagged him honorary degrees from Oxford and Trinity, Dublin. As famous as he was, the literary life was not a road to wealth, and so much of Johnson’s later life (he died in 1784)—when he was not writing—was spent in pursuit of patrons and friends, especially those who had more money—and better lodgings—than the ever-admiring Boswell. The best of these good friends was Hester Thrale, a woman of means and mark in her own right, who (Johnson wrote) “soothed 20 years of a life radically wretched.” That period has been re-imagined through the eyes of Hester’s young daughter in Beryl Bainbridge’s very fine novel According to Queeney (2001). ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Sep 2019, 11:05

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose// By any other name would smell as sweet." Juliet Capulet to Romeo Montague, in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Today, should one go looking for one’s ancestors (or hire a genealogist to do it), the search normally follows back along the male line. That looks like it might become an anachronism, or certainly a conscious choice, thanks to feminism’s theories and rising appreciation of women’s accomplishments. But there’s a deeper problem, which is that the surname itself has not always been with us. It has arisen (and sometimes fallen) in different cultures at different times, depending on when and whether it was needed. That’s an interesting tale in itself (the surname came very late to Denmark, for instance), but let’s switch to Henry fitz Ailwin, who died on September 19, 1212. We know about his surname because he was (probably) the first mayor of London, and his surname tells us quite a lot. It tells us he had property and standing enough to make a surname useful, and probably a trade, too; that he was English and not Norman French in descent; and that his father’s first name was Ailwin, because “Henry fitz Ailwin” meant “Henry son of Ailwin.” So Henry’s brother was Alan fitz Ailwin, but Henry’s nephew (who succeeded him as mayor) was Roger fitz Alan, which could frustrate a genealogist and can confuse historians. We don’t know when Henry fitz Ailwin was born. He first appears succeeding to his share of Ailwin’s estate in 1164 (and perhaps also to his surname). That estate was extensive (in London and in rural Surry and Kent), and his inheritance probably included his involvement in the wool trade. In the same year he became a freeman of the city, and he was mayor from about 1189. Unlike several later London mayors (but like most of them) he was a king’s man, loyal to the crown, and that—along with his wealth—probably helped his surviving children (daughters as well as sons) to marry into aristocratic Norman families—and to take their names as surnames. Henry fitz Ailwin did, however, leave several monuments to his memory, in which his surname survived until the Protestant Reformation. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Sep 2019, 11:15

"The north smells different." Margaret Atwood.

Years ago, my cousins’ nana, Mrs. Helser, gave me Cavalcade of the North, an anthology (fiction and poetry) designed to convince “Americans” that up there, in Canada, along with tamarack swamps and sirop d’érable, there was a culture. From it, I sharply remember the novel Barometer Rising, and ever since I’ve had my eye out for highbrow imports, which helped me to make late-life and very late discoveries of Robertson Davies and Margaret Atwood. Now comes along notice of someone whose work, so far, has not penetrated our intellectual border wall, the playwright Judith Thompson, born in Montreal on September 20, 1954. Both her parents were professors, and a few years of her childhood were spent in the USA, but Ms. Thompson is Canadian born and bred, and she hit upon writing plays while studying acting at the National Theatre School of Canada, in Montreal. Actors spend much time ‘resting,’ and it was while she was resting as a part-time social worker that she gathered material forThe Crackwalker (1980), about First Nation down-and-outers in an urban, industrial setting. It was a hit in Vancouver, and then Toronto, and it established her (then only 26) as someone to watch. Many plays have followed, mostly straight, end-stage dramas, and she’s won many awards since the one for The Crackwalker, but there has also been a constant strain of innovation, especially taking ‘real people,’ listening to them talk about their lives, making a script out of the narratives, and then getting them on stage to ‘act out’ in front of a real, paying audience. Thus 14 women aged between 45 and 80 portrayed themselves Body and Soul (2007), which had fantastic runs in theatres across Canada, and then (successfully) Thompson took it down market to church halls and community centers where she found audiences not accustomed to play-going. Altogether, she sounds like someone whose work we, south of the border, should know more about: although, be warned, it’s “not for the timid.” Meanwhile, her ‘resting’ job is as Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Sep 2019, 11:43

"Rusticity's ungainly form//May cloud the highest mind//But when the heart is nobly warm//The good excuse will find." Robert Burns, 1787.

In the 1960s, Columbia went with the advertising slogan ‘The World Revolution Is on Columbia Records,’ highlighting (inter alia) the “freewheelin’” Bob Dylan. It reminds us that even radical poets like to put food on the table, raiment on their backs, a roof over their heads. It was just so with Robert Burns (1759-1796). His political radicalism, his dalliances with the lassies, his bawdy verse, tempt us today to think of him as a rebel, a pariah, shunned by all decent folk. But he wasn’t. Much of Scotland was in the grip of a progressive mood, and many followed the skepticism of David Hume or the radical ‘common sense’ philosophy of Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith. And there was a bit of a national Scottish rebirth, too, tartans and all, and for these and other reasons the young Ayrshire poet was a popular man, even with some stern fathers of the Presbyterian Church. And some not so stern. Among the latter was George Lawrie, born in the manse at Kirkmichael on September 21, 1727, George studied divinity at Edinburgh, married Mary Campbell, the daughter of the Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews, and then took up the ministry at Loudoun, Ayrshire, in 1763. Their manse was a lively place, partly because Lawrie became well known as a patron of poetry. His subscription to Burns’s dialect poems (1786) encouraged Burns to make several overnight visits to the Lawries (besides George and Mary, their son—himself a future minister—and their four daughters). The first was a jolly evening during which Burns declaimed, listened to the girls play the spinet, danced with Louisa Lawrie, gave his heart (poetically) to Christina Lawrie, and pronounced the whole family most good-natured and kind. That visit, and a later one, produced at least four Burns poems (one, “Rusticity’s Ungainly Form,” an apology to Mrs. Lawrie for Burns’s untoward comment about a local scandal) and treasured notes left by Burns, perhaps as autograph souvenirs. As for the Rev. George Lawrie himself, he left poetry to the poets. His only known publication was his rather dour contribution to a Statistical Account of Scotland (1799). ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 Sep 2019, 11:14

"We shout for joy that we live to record this righteous decree." Frederick Douglass, commenting on the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, in the Douglass' Monthly.

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 23 Sep 2019, 11:08

"America's health care system is neither healthy, nor caring, nor a system." Walter Cronkite.

The best commencement speech I ever heard was given at my own graduation, at Penn, in 1965. We had expected the president (of the USA), but the president we got was from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons at Edinburgh, there to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Penn medical school and its connections with Edinburgh. Aged and infirm, he sat center stage at Convention Hall and, without notes, addressed the graduating MDs. The rest of us, he said, were welcome to listen. We did. He said that oaths they would live by and the science that they would practice should not be ruled by money, that they should work for health care for all, and that it should be provided equally, free at the point of use. He embellished his remarks with a few personal horror stories of British health care before the 1948 creation of the National Health Service. That speech might have been given, with few changes and in the same year, by Harriet Louise Hardy, already an eminent crusading physician in her own right. Harriet Hardy was born on September 23, 1906. She took a personal oath to become a doctor when she was 12, in 1918, and witnessed her baby brother die in the ‘flu epidemic of that year. In due course she graduated (Cornell MD) and, finding it difficult to obtain a residency (she was, after all, female), took one at Philadelphia General where she became interested in occupational medicine. In her career, she made important discoveries about occupational hazards (starting in 1945 with the beryllium poisoning women workers contracted from working with ‘harmless’ fluorescent bulbs). She would then campaign to force unwilling employers and scroogelike taxpayers to protect workers and to care for those whom society had failed to protect. Health, she thought, was a public resource, part of the ‘common welfare’ for which, in a democratic society, we all (should) share responsibility. Her distinguished career, mainly working with labor unions and government agencies, finished up at Harvard—not Penn—where she became, in 1971, the very first female professor of medicine. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 24 Sep 2019, 13:18

"Call that a maiden speech? It was a brazen hussy of a speech. " Winston Churchill, on A. P. Herbert's first speech in parliament, 1935.

Lawyer friends—some practicing, others retired—have told me that their profession provides plenty of humor, but generally in the form of wry smiles. For the deeper relief of laughter fiction works better than real life, and many legal eagles are familiar with John Mortimer’s comic creation, Rumpole of the Bailey. This doughty defender observes the unseemly ambitions of his fellow barristers and disappoints those of his wife (“she who must be obeyed”), but enjoys his moments of glory in court, defending those charged with high crimes and low misdemeanors. Mortimer’s short fictions were made into a TV series, mercifully still available. A different and in some ways deeper laugh-at-law can be obtained by reading the works of A. P. (Alan Patrick) Herbert, born in Surrey on September 24, 1890. He earned a First in law at Oxford and was admitted to the bar, but unlike Mortimer he never practiced. WWI, in which he was twice wounded (at Gallipoli and on the western front) and lost two brothers, was one interruption, and another was writing. He first submitted to Punch (comic verse) in 1910. Then came a well-regarded war novel (The Secret Battle, 1919). But Herbert is best remembered for his (fictional) law reports, most of which appeared in Punch, and have since been collected in various volumes, one of which, Misleading Cases, is still in print. Most were (and remain) hilarious, but there runs through them a realism that, on more than one occasion, caused them to be taken seriously (usually in America) as reports of real absurdities in English legal practice, of the sort one might expect from people who run around in wigs and black gowns. The same streak of realism motivated Herbert in his other career as a legal agitator, first outside and then (1935-1950) in parliament, a career in which he won several important battles, notably in divorce and obscenity laws. He served as MP for Oxford University, congenially and effectively as an Independent, and was knighted in 1945, ostensibly for distinguished service but perhaps for his laughter. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 25 Sep 2019, 12:25

"We really, truly wanted to--and we did--publish books that mattered." Betty Ballantine, interview, 2002.

In a single lifetime, book publishing has been transformed. Book selling, too: and a pioneer of one of the early changes—the paperback book—died earlier this year, at 99. She was Betty Ballantine, born Elizabeth Jones in British India on September 25, 1919. Her father supervised the production end of the opium trade (the legitimate trade), and she was brought up in some comfort, and when (back in London, aged 20) she married an American student at the London School of Economics, Ian Ballantine, her dad provided a £100 (about $500) gift, in cash. That would be $10 grand, today. In Britain, Alan Lane’s “Penguin” paperbacks had only just surfaced, and the young marrieds decided to take the money and run, as Lane’s agents in the USA. Their timing was perfect. The Great Depression still lingered, war was on the horizon, the reading public was just about ready to travel everywhere, ‘quick and light.’ Public libraries and stuffy, expensive bookstores couldn’t travel with them. The paperback could, and it could be sold anywhere, not least in train and bus stations, and in paper a quality book could be sold at $0.25, about 1/12th the prevailing price of a hardcover. And the Ballantines went for quality, not only because the Penguin list was a quality list but because Bantam Books, which they started in 1945, followed the same strategy: good reads, cheap. Betty and Ian went on to found Ballantine Books, and then in the 1960s sold out (for a fortune) to Random House, where both worked as editors. Their marriage and their businesses were very much 50/50 deals, but throughout Betty was the partner more interested in fantasy and science fiction. While Ian went for recognized classics (Mark Twain’s Roughing It was one of his first) or new fiction bestsellers, Betty snagged paperback rights to work by such as Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft and J. R. R. Tolkien (she paid only $10,000 for the paperback permissions of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Ring trilogy). Ian died in 1995. Betty went on publishing, and in 2008 was voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame: overdue but merited. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 26 Sep 2019, 11:52

"I want to have a better understanding." Dr. Ida S. Owens, in an interview for "Career Girls," circa 2013.

As American apartheid, in its various guises, was struck down, southern education desegregated “with all deliberate speed.” Resistance was most noted at public schools, from K-12 through to state universities, but some private institutions also felt the winds of change, and (in most cases) desegregated quietly. So it was that in 1962 Ida Stephens Owens entered Duke University as a graduate student in biochemistry. She was born in Whiteville, NC (named for a person, not for a ‘race’) on September 26, 1929. Whiteville was not a rich town, and hers was not a rich family; it was made poorer by the Great Depression and the 1935 death of her mother. Ida attended segregated schools right through her BSc (1961, summa cum laude, biology and mathematics) at North Carolina Central University, also in Durham and now a constituent part of the UNC system. In 1962, Ms. Owens’ move across town, to Duke, was much more momentous. Her department’s first black student, her success became a matter of concern to her mentor, Dr. Jacob Bloom. He probably needn’t have worried, but doubtless he helped as she tore through the program, graduated PhD in 1967 and started her postdoc at the National Institute of Health. There she stayed, becoming head of her research section in 1988. Her lab has been credited with many advances. She personally has specialized in the study of enzymes and their role in causing, ameliorating, and even curing genetic disorders, for instance the liver dysfunction known as the Crigler-Najjer syndrome that, untreated, causes acute jaundice. As for Duke, it has waxed proud of its first black, female PhD. In 2013, Dr. Owens became the first person (of any race or gender) to receive the Duke University Graduate School’s Distinguished Alumni Award. She earned it. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 Sep 2019, 11:53

"Divine Right went out with the American Revolution and does not belong to the White House. What meat do they eat that makes them grow so great?" Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina.

In these Anniversary Notes, I ‘did’ Sam Ervin years ago, but recent events in Washington call him to mind again. Time will tell whether Senator Richard Burr (R., North Carolina, and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will emulate Old Sam. But here, again, is Senator Sam Ervin.

During the years of the “Solid South,” circa 1877-1977, the Democratic party ruled all the states of the Old Confederacy and the border states, too. Its touchstones were white supremacy, the stars and bars, and southern fried chicken. But Democratic unity was, literally, only skin deep, for some southern Democrats were quite liberal. If you want to picture them, think of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a genuine southern type. Well-educated, well-spoken but capable of “down-home Southron”, moderate on race issues when they dared, but always understanding the cruelties of poverty, white and black. Among these “closeted” folk perhaps the best known in my lifetime were Claude Pepper (FL), Lister Hill (AL), Lyndon Johnson and Ralph Yarborough (TX), Estes Kefauver (TN), and J. William Fulbright (AK). And they were responsible for some liberal innovations (e.g. Lister Hill for the first legislative attempt, in 1947, at “socialized” medicine). Today’s honors, however, go to Senator Samuel James Ervin, Jr., (North Carolina), born on September 27, 1896, educated at Harvard Law, and destined to become a liberal hero for his front-line role in the Senate hearings examining the corruptions of Richard Nixon. Before that, however, Senator Sam had already made a name for himself as a staunch defender of civil liberties and an early opponent of Senator Joe McCarthy. Equally, and well within the traditions of southern white ‘liberalism,’ Sam Ervin stoutly opposed national civil rights legislation, thus perpetuating white racism, the tragic flaw of our national politics. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 28 Sep 2019, 12:35

"After the dust of centuries has passed over . . . we will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit/". John F. Kennedy.

During the years that Paulette worked for the Duke’s Playhouse, Lancaster, I counseled the actors of the Theatre in Education (TIE) group on three productions, for instance one on slavery intended for older grade school children. This tradition of taking theatre to the people was a very old one, but its modern ‘educational’ version was pioneered by Lena Ashwell, born on a Royal Navy training ship on September 28, 1872. Her father, the very religious Capt. Charles Pocock, soon quit the navy to become a minister in Canada, so Lena Pocock was educated there, but her interests in music (piano) and theatre took her back to Europe where, as Lena Ashwell (and at first under the sponsorship of Ellen Terry) she became an eminent thespian. She was unusual in her open, and very public, support for militant suffragettes, and also for her sharp business sense. Her theatre career began in 1892, and within ten years she was a lead actor, specializing in ‘modern’ roles. And then, in 1906, still acting, she took on theatre management, first as a sidelight but by the outbreak of war (1914) as her main meat. Already active in taking theatre to the people (in schools, church halls, any place that would have her and her troupe), she switched gears to take it to the troops, especially on the Western Front but also in the Middle East. These were potpourri performances, song, dance and comedy, but Lena Ashwell thought the soldiery needed a bit of Shakespeare, and they got it, crucial scenes and classic monologues, doubtless including Henry V’s stirring words at Agincourt. They also got poetry and lectures on important issues. In the end, her traveling war theatre employed 600 people (over 300 were women). This was expensive stuff, and she raised £100,000 (well over $10 million today) to help cover the costs. As it were despite her militancy on women’s rights and her hard-bitten attitude towards giving her audiences education as well as entertainment, her patriotism got her an OBE (1917), and then (after another decade of public theatre in which she dissipated her fortune) she acquired a second husband, whose knighthood made her into Lady Simson, a title which in her long old age she much enjoyed. Without doubt, she also enjoyed voting. In 1908 Lena Ashwell was divorced by her first husband in a landmark case (in her defense she successfully claimed domestic abuse), but that’s another story. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 28 Sep 2019, 13:43

Stanley wrote:
28 Sep 2019, 12:35
"After the dust of centuries has passed over . . . we will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit/". John F. Kennedy.
Indeed - though if even half of thisJ.F.K. is true he makes Boris Johnson look like a beginner. :smile:
Born to be mild. . .

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 29 Sep 2019, 06:32

Agreed, he was a flawed man but I am always suspicious of articles like that, it's an easy stick to beat a famous personality with and has been used many times. JFK wasn't the only President who was less than perfect.
Interpreting history is difficult enough without allowing gossip to muddy the waters.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 29 Sep 2019, 12:58

Stanley wrote:
29 Sep 2019, 06:32
Agreed, he was a flawed man but I am always suspicious of articles like that
Well - they are either telling the 'truth' or not. Often we ordinary folk have no means of knowing which, and I often rely on a personal 'ring of truth' test, whilst keeping a (slightly) open mind.

To say that other Presidents were as bad or worse is not really relevant. :smile:
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 Sep 2019, 03:00

The world today’s in mourning// O’er the death of Mother Jones;// Gloom and sorrow hover// Around the miners’ homes. The Death of Mother Jones, Gene Autry, 1931.

Whoopee ki, yi yea, get along little dogie, for today is the birth date of Gene Autry, the singing cowboy and (later in life) the zillionaire owner of the California Angels. Unlike many of his contemporaries in “western” show business, Autry was a genuine ranch hand. He was born in Tioga TX on September 29, 1907 and grew up in western Oklahoma where the wind came whistling . . . you know the rest. Another unusual feature of his career is that (like Jimmy Stewart but unlike John Wayne), Autry actually served in World War II, in the Army Air Corps, flying hazardous missions over the Himalayan hump from Burma to China. He was also a progressive employer, both as a rodeo entrepreneur and in major league baseball where he was always #26 on a 25-man squad. (At his death, the Angels retired #26). But the folks who sold the hot dogs and swept the aisles also benefited from Autry’s views on business. And this is a clue to what may be the least-known fact about Gene Autry, that he began his singing career as a warm-up performer for the Oklahoma Socialist Party. Yes, Oklahoma had a socialist party, and Autry also sang for the Arkansas socialists. That’s what I heard from a restaurant owner in Blue Eye, AR, in 1964, who self-identified as “the last socialist in Arkansas.” I refused to believe it then (I was 21 and a lot smarter than he was), but years later a historian confirmed it, and I almost always believe historians, especially when, like Garin Burbank, they’ve written a book on the subject. When Farmers Voted Red: The Gospel of Socialism in the Oklahoma Countryside, will help you to understand why Autry, in his hard-scrabble, early life, was (like Woody Guthrie) a radical. Later, unlike Guthrie, Autry turned from Old Red to new red and voted Republican, but he stuck with his Democratic party registration, his admiration for FDR, and, as Angels employees knew, he retained that old regard for high pay and fair play. After all, one of Autry’s first big recording hits, in 1931 (a depression year), was “The Death of Mother Jones,” a paean to the heroine of the Illinois coal miners’ union. ©
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