BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 29 Aug 2017, 05:48

I made many films that were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Bogart. Ingrid Bergman.

Among the ever-growing legion of US politicians who were little known in life and lesser known in death we find Edwin C. Johnson, a conservative (anti-New Deal) Democrat who moved from dispatching trains to being governor of and then senator from Colorado. His chief claim to lasting fame was an early 1950s senate speech floridly denouncing Ingrid Bergman for her marriage-busting affair with Roberto Rosselini. The senate diatribe seemed to fit in with America’s fervent cold-war mentalities (Johnson also welcomed the power the atom bomb gave the USA to burn its enemies “to a crisp”), and led to Bergman’s decision to stay away from the land of the free for a prudent interval. It also led to a good deal of talk in the Bliss household and my parents’ decision to be sure to attend Bergman’s next American film (Anastasia, 1956) as a political act. Ms. Bergman had already twanged the country’s heartstrings in several films, most notably (at the time) in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) and Gaslight (1944), but most lastingly in Casablanca (1942). Ingrid Bergman was born on August 29, 1915 to a Swedish father and a German mother. She learned a good deal about death in her early years but always wanted to act, did so, and was ‘discovered’ by David Selznick and brought to Hollywood in 1939, first to do an English language remake of her Swedish film Intermezzo. The rest, despite Edwin Johnson’s best Pecksniffian efforts, is Hollywood history interspersed with a pinch of Italian spice. I don’t think I can count the number of times my heartstrings have been plucked by Bergman as Ilsa, Rick Blaine’s brave and faithless lover and Victor Lazlo’s braver and faithful wife, in Casablanca, but I can report that my latest viewing was courtesy of British Airway’s eastwards flight 0294, high over the Atlantic Ocean, in August 2017. “Play it, Sam.” Twang!!!!!!!!!!!! She made a short night of it, and I didn’t sleep a wink. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 Aug 2017, 06:02

Beware, for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818.

While true equality remains goal rather than reality, an encouraging mark of our ‘modern’ age is that women exercise rights (including rights to their own person), that they are encouraged to nurture their own ambitions, and that they are (by many) celebrated for doing so. And, despite the naysayers’ often hysterical pronouncements, growing equality doesn’t seem to have stripped women of their rights to motherhood. Even so, it remains unusual for a famous mother to produce a famous daughter, so a tip of the hat to Mary Wollstonecraft (provocative prophet of gender quality) who on August 30, 1797 birthed her daughter Mary Godwin. Puerperal fever made the birthing the last of the mother’s creative acts, but the father, William Godwin, also believed in female equality (and autonomy) and raised Mary to be her own person, literate (indeed well-read), imaginative, and with an almost overpowering romantic streak (in its several senses). So Mary Godwin formed attachments quite as tempestuous as her mother’s, the operative one with the poet Shelley. That scandalous affair did issue in a marriage (1816) and didn’t last long (Shelley drowned in 1822), but the connection with Shelley and his friends (including Byron), Mary’s education with her father and, one has no doubt, the inheritance from her mother, did produce in Mary a remarkable talent, strong enough that (after Shelley died) she supported herself through writing (novels, mainly historical, and essays, political and literary). And it’s now accepted that Mary Shelley’s talent had genius in it as well as strength, for one of her earliest productions was Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (1818). We might well call it the “mother” of all ghost stories, its publication the “birth” of science fiction, but it’s also an important document in the history of women’s liberation, and so those metaphors may not fit the case. ©

[I shall be spending the day with Uncle Bob tomorrow. We embark on a day trip on the canal laden with booze and goodies..... Yippee!]
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 31 Aug 2017, 05:23

Is it only those who have the money who can enter the land of milk and honey? Bertholt Brecht, 1928.

Popular culture doesn’t always translate well or quickly, and that was certainly true of Kurt Weill’s and Bertholt Brecht’s Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), which opened to great acclaim in Berlin’s Theater am Schiffbauerdamm on August 31, 1928. In the fevered culture of Weimar Germany it was hugely popular, but it flopped in New York and Paris, was dismissed in Moscow as “petit-bourgeois bad taste” (perhaps the unkindest cut), and didn’t break through in London until 1956. But Weill liked it, had high hopes (eventually realized) for his lively music, and Brecht dared to hope it would contribute to capitalism’s demise. It’s a more vivid and more accessible rendition of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728), and adopted most of his characters, Newgate prisoners and London confidence sharks like Macheath (“Mackie Messer”), Herr und Frau Peachum, and Spelunken (“low-life”) Jenny). Weill and Brecht translated it to Victorian London (possibly in tribute to Friedrich Engels), which might have made its translation easier but at first did not. However, the “play with music” did launch the unforgettable Lotte Lenya (as Jenny) and, three decades on, had much to do with the rocketing rise of Bobby Darin whose rousing “Mack the Knife” proved popular with American teens (but was banned in New York for fear of its impact on gang culture). WWII and Nazi atrocities may have made revivals inevitable, and indeed since the mid-1950s New York, London, and many other venues have seen popular versions, more or less faithful to the original, most recently in London’s National (“Olivier”) Theatre, where it ran for a long summer in 2016 (May through October) and streamed worldwide (the September 22 performance). Perhaps best of all, Lotte Lenya lived long enough to enjoy again her threepenny fame; her off-Broadway Jenny earned her a Tony Award in 1956. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 01 Sep 2017, 03:44

Image

Bob was designated captain for the day......
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 01 Sep 2017, 07:30

One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutanddry grammar and goahead plot. James Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 1926

Children do not grow up exactly as their parents might wish. This truism was certainly true in the case of Harriet Shaw Weaver, who was born into wealth (in Cheshire) on September 1, 1876. Although the wealth was her mother’s, her parents’ wishes were for a good marriage, domestic bliss, tons of respectability—and no more education than utterly necessary to a lady of means (and that delivered at home, by a governess). Instead, Ms. Weaver never married, became a radical, marching, flag-waving suffragist, and in due course an activist member of the Labour Party and finally a card-carrying Communist. And as soon as she came into her own money, circa 1905, she got her own education, too, in sociology and the social work, at the London School of Economics. While at the LSE she also became involved with the cutting edge of English literature, notably as patroness (and sometimes typist) for Ezra Pound’s avant garde periodical, The Egoist. There, almost immediately (1914), Harriet Weaver decided that James Joyce was of the essence, and began her lifelong role as his sponsor and (after his death) his literary executor financial provider for Nora Barnacle (until Nora’s death in 1951). In addition, Anna took over as care provider for James’s and Nora’s daughter Lucia, a talented dancer who was a diagnosed schizophrenic from the 1920s. (The other provider, interestingly enough, was Samuel Beckett). Harriet also published Joyce (Finnegan’s Wake), but as far as literary history is concerned her main contribution came with Ulysses, not as first publisher (that was the American expatriate Sylvia Beach), but as Joyce’s payroll during its genesis, as main transcriber-typist, and after Joyce’s death as the preserver of his notebooks and letters (which she would in turn donate to the British Library). Let us then say that whatever her parents’ wishes, Harriet Weaver lived her own life. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 02 Sep 2017, 06:13

Nothing counts but love and people will realize it again, although hatred reigns in the world at present. Archduchess Elisabeth Marie, 1933.

The labyrinthine gossip that emanates from the lives of errant European princesses has its exemplar in the long life, several loves, scandals, and unexpected loyalties of the Archduchess Elisabeth Marie, born a Hapsburg on September 2, 1883. Quite apart from anything else, she reminds us that Austria once had a navy, for during WWI she scandalized Vienna (and a slew of Hapsburg schlosses) with her well-publicized affair with a submarine commander (a gallant man named Lerch), but then Elisabeth Marie had been born in scandal. She was the sole child of Crown Prince Rudolf’s unhappy marriage, and when she was five, Rudolf killed his mistress and then himself. Elisabeth inherited much private wealth from her grandmother the Empress, but in 1902 married not as well as she ought and was required to give up her right to the Hapsburg succession, though not her title. Since 1919 ended the monarchy, so what? Well, after another scandalous love affair with a high-ranking socialist named Leopold Petznek, Elisabeth joined Austria’s Social Democratic Party, and put her youngest son, still known as “Prince” Rudolf, to work in a factory. In Republican Austria, Elisabeth Marie became “The Red Archduchess.” And so she remained, right through the Nazi era (her lover Petznek spent much time in Dachau, but survived), and emerged with the liberation to find her own personal villa the HQ of the French army of occupation, to marry Petznek (he became an eminent judge in the restored republic), and, philosophically let’s say, to take up dog breeding. When she died, she had her dogs executed but willed all her real and personal possessions (still very considerable, her inheritances from the Empress) to the people of the Republic of Austria, to whom, she said, it all belonged anyway. This did not greatly please her surviving children, who still claimed their rank as princes and a princess, but then their mom was, after all, the Red Archduchess. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Sep 2017, 06:39

Illegitimi non carborundum. My father's favorite motto.

Over the years I have done about 4000 of these ‘anniversary notes,’ so I hope old and new recipients will forgive me just a third personal note, this one of my father, also Robert M. Bliss, who was born on September 4, 1916, in Ames, IA. He was the first live birth (there had been two dead girl babies) and the eldest of three boys of Ralph and Ethel, parents whom he revered. In a poem I called him ‘the gentle Lieutenant Bliss,’ and that he was, though not in a gentle century (he survived being artillery forward observer across France, Belgium, and Germany in WWII). He was a gentle parent, too, to which I and my sister can amply testify. His native honesty did not preclude pranks, including the stink bomb (hydrogen sulfide) at Ames High School. His best prank was the frozen lynx fraud perpetrated on the readers of the Waterloo (Iowa) Courier, circa 1947. But some frauds were better than others, and later, as professor of journalism, he ably defended the student editors and reporters who uncovered the Great Saltpeter Fraud at his university, wherein an overzealous dean of students had attempted to ‘de-hormone-ize’ the inmates of the men’s residence halls. That one, well retold by his Presbyterian minister, won hearty laughter at dad’s funeral, itself appropriate for the man loved a good joke. He loved good hymns, too (“Come, Labor On,” and “Once to Every Man and Nation” were favorites), and he wanted a church funeral although he was not an orthodox believer. Appropriately, the ‘biblical’ texts for the funeral homily came from his well-thumbed Emerson volumes. There he was remembered as an extraordinarily patient fisherman and teacher, and it was said that in him those two professions went together very well. Indeed. I still think of him at his first peacetime breakfast, riverside, May 1945, with a Soviet colonel. Alone (except for dad’s Cajun driver) and in silence, they ate liberated raw eggs and drank imported vodka. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Sep 2017, 06:00

To the Girl who Wants to Compose. Title of magazine article by Amy Beach, 1918.

The constraints on female achievement are often most evident in the lives of the women who first broke through them. Take for instance the 1885 marriage ‘agreement’ (though ‘diktat’ better describes it) between Amy Marcy Cheney and Henry Harris Aubrey Beach. The new-minted Amy Beach was then only 18 (she was born on September 5, 1867), and her older (42) husband was anxious to be supreme. His bride was not to teach music, nor was she to learn it from tutors (that would be quite improper!!), and her public performances were to be limited to two per year. Further, any income from her music was to be donated to charity. Henry Beach’s eminence (he was a leading Boston surgeon) was not enough. To outshine his young wife, he must needs hide her under the proverbial bushel. For Amy was, at 18, already famed for her prodigious musical talent. She read music before she read words, and had been taught by the most eminent European talents that could be found in Boston (and she taught herself, too, from European treatises she translated into English). Amy’s concert debut (a Chopin rondo and a Moscheles concerto in 1883) had been a triumph. Amy adjusted reasonably well to her ornamental role in the Beach household, but you can’t keep a good woman down and some of her most famous compositions (the ‘Gaelic’ symphony and an E-flat mass) date from her Mrs. Beach years. Indeed she was known in her publications and her concert programs as “Mrs. H. H. A. Beach”, but in due course (1910) Mr.-Dr. H. H. A. Beach passed beyond the veil and a new woman, aka “Amy Beach,” resumed her own life, established her own household (her ancient auntie, a cousin, and a female friend), and wrote, published, and performed her own music, in Europe and America. And she taught. And she banked the proceeds in her own accounts. For good measure, Amy Beach voted in local and national elections, for that side of things had been seen to by the 19th Amendment. The rest she did herself. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 06 Sep 2017, 03:14

Mea culpa mea maxima culpa.

To all recipients, new and old. I apparently did NOT send out an “anniversary note” on 3 September, which is odd because I did write one. It’s here, below, and I did send it out as a birthday note to the single Honors College student whose birthday it was. Very odd that it did not go out to the mailing list because it was, after all, Paulette’s and my 51st anniversary—which we celebrated in fine style at the Etna Restaurant in Lancaster, proprietor Dominic Agnello, with whom we have celebrated so many anniversaries, birthdays, comings, and goings. Anyway, here is Sunday’s anniversary note, about a brilliant mathematician who finally found his place. Joining us was Bill Fuge, friend from way back, and we talked also to Rosario Agnello, Dominic’s brother, whom we hoiked out of the kitchen to hear about his daughter and her graduation (law) from Cambridge. A good anniversary, all told.



All too recently, a t-shirted rabble tried to make Charlottesville safe for slavery, and while they were at it proclaimed that the city and its university should also be free of all Jews. However, in 1819 Thomas Jefferson had insured that the University of Virginia should be non-sectarian, and on that welcoming note, in 1841, a young (if rather portly) English Jew arrived to take up Virginia’s chair of mathematics. He was James Joseph Sylvester, born in London on September 3, 1814. His mathematical genius was discovered early (as was his facility in languages ancient and modern), at a dissenting academy, and he entered the newly-established London University (also non-sectarian) at 14. His prickly personality seemed to invite a bit of trouble wherever he went, but in a long and productive life James Joseph Sylvester made many friends and broke through many barriers, his main weapons being number theory and an incomprehensible (to me) branch of the calculus called invariant analysis. Occasionally stymied by Oxbridge’s requirements of religious orthodoxy, Sylvester taught briefly at Virginia, then at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, later (1876-83) at Johns Hopkins, and along the way revolutionized the actuarial tables used by English insurance houses, but in due course Oxford joined the modern world, dropped its religious bars almost to the ground, and belatedly (in 1883) took Sylvester in at the top as fellow of New College and Savilian Professor of Mathematics. By then he’d already received honorary degrees from Cambridge and been elected to several European scientific societies (including London’s Royal Society, which had for good measure awarded him the Copley Medal). Today his memory is honored by the Royal Society’s Sylvester Medal, given for pioneering research in mathematics. Charlottesville’s Nazis are not consulted, for the award is made “irrespective of nationality”. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 06 Sep 2017, 06:06

He was a very disinterested man who seemed to have no ambition beyond that of being thought a good Philosopher. Sir Humphrey Davy on John Dalton, circa 1844.

I have remarked before on the astonishing ability of 18th- and 19th-century scientists to isolate, identify, and order most of the atomic elements. Using fairly crude instruments (including, dangerously, their own taste and smell) they gave us what they reasonably regarded as a building blocks of the universe. It didn’t all start with John Dalton, but he it was who established the fundamental “atomic” theory that would later enable Dmitri Mendeleev to make perfect sense of it all with the Periodic Table (sense perfect enough for this first-year chemistry student in 1962). Like so many English pioneers in science, Dalton was a religious dissenter, a Quaker, born near Quakerism’s cradle in Cockermouth, Cumberland, on September 6, 1766. His own family were very poor, but the community saw Dalton’s prodigious talents and (from age 12) he was teaching in Quaker schools, mainly at Kendal in Westmoreland. He was learning, too, in the ancient languages, in math, and (from a blind Quaker mentor in Kendal, John Gough) some things about matter and its constituents. He also became experimentally curious about the weather, about mountains, and about his family’s tendency to color-blindness, but while teaching at Manchester’s dissenting academy, the “New School,” Dalton began working on the gases, how they behaved (e.g. when heated or under pressure), and their constitution. While measuring the capacity of water to absorb gas, Dalton became convinced that it varied according to the “weight and number of the ultimate particles of the several gases.” From this basic insight, and after much experimentation and perhaps even more philosophical speculation, came Dalton’s ‘atomic theory’ and much of modern science. As befit a man of Quaker habit, John Dalton lived modestly, worked incessantly, and when he died in 1844 Mancunians turned out in their thousands to mourn their local genius as a civic hero. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by BillHowcroft » 06 Sep 2017, 22:09

Please excuse a newbie's ignorance but who is Bob?

I enjoy these little dits.

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 06 Sep 2017, 22:47

Glad you like his pieces - so do I. We are lucky to have his input to the site.

Here he is Uncle Bob Bliss :smile:
Born to be mild. . .

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Sep 2017, 05:59

I was born the 7 of September on a Sunday 1523, turned from that I was unto that ye see Anno Domini 1557. Inscription on the 1557 portrait of Mistress Alice Barnham.

Most women who speak directly to us from the Elizabethan age are of noble birth, or characters in plays written by men, but we have ample evidence of one female commoner, Alice Barnham, born in Chichester on September 7, 1523. She was the youngest child of a merchant who raised all his 14 children to be active citizens and (come the Reformation) good Protestants. She married well too, to Francis Barnham who became a London draper worth £1,000 per year (a huge income perhaps 15 times what was thought sufficient for a “gentleman”). But in his will (1563) Francis called himself a yeoman, a self-deprecation Alice probably accepted. What makes her remarkable are several things. She became a “silk-woman,” and a substantial one, and thus by custom and law entitled to act as femme sole, make her own contracts, employ apprentices, own property, sue and be sued. She was literate and before and after Francis’s death brought her children up to be active in church and marketplace. And in 1557, while Francis still lived, Alice commissioned her own portrait, a very detailed one, showing her with her two eldest sons, her religious texts (a poetic translation of the Proverbs of Solomon is open to the page “my son receive ye these words”), her writing box, and her silk lace. Everything pictured is the labor of her own hands or body or the purchases of her own purse. After Francis’s death Alice set up her sons in business, on favorable terms, and she stoutly resisted an offer of marriage from the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Ramsey, whose marriage contract would have required Alice to move the contract with her boys over to Ramsey’s ownership and discretion. Accusing Ramsey of covetousness and considering her case proven beyond reasonable doubt Mistress Alice Barnham lived out her long life as a free and independent widow woman. ©

[Bill, see the pic on September 1 for Captain Bob last week on the L&L canal. He's one of my old mentors from Lancaster and a good man!]
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Sep 2017, 08:48

Our struggle is a question of power. Husbands can not bear that the wife should have power. Priscilla Bright McLaren, 1880.

Today we remember one of the most remarkable families of Victorian Britain (and I do not mean the Saxe-Coburgs): the Brights of Rochdale, in Lancashire. There, Jacob Bright, Quaker and mill owner, fathered 11 children, and most of them, boys and girls, became famous reformers. History knows much of John and Jacob Bright the younger, MPs both, agitators in parliament and outside it. The Bright girls are less well known but were equally energetic. Priscilla Bright, for instance, was born on September 8, 1815, and as a mere slip of a girl joined Elizabeth Fry’s prison reform movement, visiting the darkest and dankest prisons for her Quaker witness. As a youngster she was also active in the British anti-slavery movement. Nor did marriage divert her, for at 33 Priscilla married the Presbyterian minister and reformer, the widower Duncan McLaren, and joined him on the podiums of 19th-century reform. In her long campaigning life (she lived to be 91), Priscilla Bright McClaren increasingly identified with women’s rights, and not only in politics but also in the workplace and marketplace, in the family, and on the street. She could be scathing in her views of male hypocrisies, notably over the operations of the notorious Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s (which basically blamed prostitution on prostitutes), views she delivered in print, in speeches, and in her public and private correspondences, and she was a beloved mother to her children and step-children, a “civilizing force,” one of them later said. She functioned also as the good auntie to a veritable legion of Bright nephews and nieces. One imagines that “Aunt Tilla” especially favored those among them who followed the injunctions of old Jacob Bright to look around them, decide what was wrong, and then spare no effort to put it right, right away: first Rochdale, and then the world. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Sep 2017, 04:23

Is it a fact – or have I dreamt it – that, by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time?” Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, 1851.

Have you noticed a kind of electricity in the air today? It could be because you are in love, or because your finger is in a light socket, but it is just possible that it’s because September 9, 2017, is the 280th anniversary of the birth of Luigi Galvani, born on this day in 1737, in Bologna, Italy. Partly because of Galvani’s work, the 18th was a century in which electricity was an issue. Our own Ben Franklin, whom we think a practical bloke (stoves, clean streets, and bifocals) with a fairly good sense of humor, gave much time and money to serious theoretical speculation on electricity. But we don’t Franklinize something, we Galvanize it. And we also have volts, and indeed Galvani worked with—and disagreed with—his rival and friend Alessandro Volta. Galvani, in the 1780s president of the University of Bologna, was dissecting frogs when he noticed that a severed frog leg could be made to jump. After much ingenious work, he theorized that there was an electric force within the body, a vital energy. Volta disagreed, theorizing that electricity was a physical phenomenon separable from any “life force.” In this friendly argument Volta was more right, or less wrong, than Galvani, which is probably why we have batteries and certainly why early batteries were powered by voltaic piles. Galvani’s notion of electricity as a life force did have another, and lasting, effect. His work inspired Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein, in which a monster is activated, brought into life, by galvanic means. Luigi Galvani turned out also to be a very political university president. When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded northern Italy and set up the French client state, the Cisalpine Republic, Galvani refused to take the required oaths of allegiance. He was immediately deprived of his office, his laboratory, and his salary. For him, as for so many, poverty and powerlessness turned out to be fatal diseases, and he died on December 4, 1798. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 10 Sep 2017, 06:08

When German soldiers used to come to my studio and look at my pictures of Guernica, they'd ask 'Did you do this?'. And I'd say, 'No, you did.' Pablo Picasso.

When Pablo Picasso died, he left behind about $6 million in cash, about 45,000 works of art, and several legitimate heirs (five of whom survive to this day). Of course some of that art was “casual” (the inventory includes his sketch books and not a few odd bits of clay), but much of it wasn’t, and Picasso’s art is almost incomprehensibly valuable. To complicate matters, he left no will. Not surprisingly, it took 25 years to sort out, and most of what could not be sorted is now held by the “Picasso Administration,” a kind of trust run by his son Claude, appointed executor by the French courts. But Picasso left clear instructions about at least one of his paintings, the famous Guernica, which was to be returned to its rightful owner, the Spanish Republic. After all, the Republic had commissioned the painting, and Picasso had decided to use the commission to memorialize the people of Guernica, blown to smithereens in April 1937 by Francisco Franco’s Nationalists (the bombs and planes were supplied by Hitler and Mussolini) in an acid foretaste of the London blitz, the Dresden firebombing, and Hiroshima. Working at speed, Picasso finished Guernica in 35 days, still in good time for the Paris International Exhibition of 1937. Trouble was, the Republic soon fell, and, the Republic having perished, Picasso took ownership of the painting (it was exhibited here and there), and in 1973 El Caudillo (the best translation is ‘der fuhrer’) Francisco Franco was still in power. Perhaps Picasso’s directions concerning the painting were the last shots fired in the Spanish Civil War; if so they very soon found their mark. Franco died in 1976, democracy returned to Spain, and after the confusions attendant on deciding ownership and transport for what is a very large, quite priceless, and emotionally devastating work of art, Guernica also “returned” home (albeit for the first time) on September 10, 1981. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Sep 2017, 05:46

Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them. Genesis 11:6

Among other curses (and blessings) the computer age has brought us an ersatz vocabulary and, with it, a whole new range of illiteracies. And after all, who wants to know what RAM or ROM means, or the subtle differences, if any, between ‘bits’ and ‘bytes?’ And sometimes confusions arise between all this and older technobabbles. So, today being the birth anniversary of Émile Baudot (born in eastern France on September 11, 1845), I decided to settle once and for all my (only) occasionally troubling problems with “bits” and “bauds.” This is because M. Baudot, with but a rudimentary education (he was a farmer’s son and left school at 12), revolutionized telegraphy, quickly in most of the world but more slowly in the USA where we so loved our “Morse” code that we clung stubbornly to it when mere common sense should have brought us quickly to substitute Baudot’s much faster, much easier, and much cheaper frenchified ways. Young Baudot, finding no place on the farm, became an apprentice in the French telegraph service at the relatively advanced age of 24. Very quickly he demonstrated extraordinary technical cleverness (an early ‘nerd’?) in the coding of electronic impulses, decided that ‘Morse’ was too cumbersome for words, devised his own five-element code and, even more astonishingly, the intricate electronic machinery needed to send and receive it. All this was basically completed in four years, 1871-1875 (the latter the date of his main patents), and so the world (or most of it) had the Baudot Code. It also had a lightning fast way of transmitting it, loading telegraph wires to near-capacity and then (at the other end) neatly translating the electronic jumble into separate messages. And the speed at which this was done is the “baud rate.” How does it differ from the “bit rate” of computerese? I’m sorry to tell you that the answer to that question is too long and too complicated for an Anniversary Note. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Sep 2017, 05:44

The finest rough and tumble fighter for the good life of others that Hull House ever knew. Jane Addams on Florence Kelley.

“Like father, like daughter” covers the case nicely between Florence Kelley (born on September 12, 1859) and her father William “Pig Iron” Kelley, maverick Republican congressman and self-made millionaire (in today’s $$$). “I owe him everything I have ever been able to learn to do,” Florence once wrote. What she mostly owed him was his memory of the grinding poverty in which he grew up, a memory that instilled in him a lifelong sympathy for the poor and powerless, expressed in his militant support for abolitionism, his (very un-Republican) advocacy of currency inflation, and his reading to his daughter literature that had poverty as its major theme. That included Dickens and Marx, and although “Pig Iron” never really got beyond Dickens his daughter embraced Karl Marx and devoted her life to active support for socialism, trades unionism, and equality (racial, gender, and economic). First she had to get an education, and at Cornell she was Phi Beta Kappa (at age 19). She then studied at the University of Zurich where she ‘converted’ to socialism. Then, unable to convince the Penn law school that it should admit women, Florence traveled west to pick up her law degree (at Northwestern). After that, Florence’s life was a whirlwind of reform, including legal advocacy in landmark US Supreme Court cases involving labor law. She started up schools for girls and young women. She became a friend and supporter of Friedrich Engels (and translated his Condition of the Working Class into English). She spent the 1890s, a decade of dreadful poverty, working at Jane Addams’ Hull House settlement in Chicago. She joined (and worked for) a baker’s dozen of radical reform groups, and (1909) became a founder-member of the NAACP. She didn’t stop there, either. A chip off the old block if ever there was one, Florence Kelley’s lifetime of reform and radicalism lasted until 1932. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Sep 2017, 05:24

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray// Go throw your TV set away// And in its place you can install// A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1964.

While reading Roald Dahl’s books to my children, I formed a mental picture of him as an elfin sort of man, inclined to use wit to get his way, mischievous, and with an eccentric sense of humor. The fact that almost all his adults were unpleasant, cruel, and/or grotesque seemed to me OK, and within the range of, say, Lewis Carroll. But that was a hint that Roald Dahl’s life diverged from his works, starting with the fact that he was really very big, 6’-6” in his stocking feet (never mind his steel-tipped boots). Roald Dahl was born in Wales of (rich) Norwegian parents on September 13, 1916. His father soon died, but his saintly mother (Sofie), took the kids on trips, told them stories, encouraged them to read widely, and later gave Dahl one of his rare good adults, the grandmother in The Witches (1983). Dahl was a dutiful son but a rapscallion schoolboy, inclined to bullying, and not much loved by his schoolmates although they admired him for his rebelliousness. His headmaster, later an Archbishop of Canterbury, often beat him for bad behavior, sadistically Dahl thought, and thus provided a model for several awful fictional adults. Before he became a child’s author, Dahl was something of a war hero (in the RAF, though not as heroically as he claimed), then—seconded to Washington, DC—a friend of the Roosevelts, and a writer of sophisticated short fiction for adults. He married Patricia Neal in 1953, and their own children inspired him to write for kids, which he did with gusto and genius. His child’s world of awful (and awfully powerful) adults, bizarre occurrences, and narrow escapes from the bloody jaws of fate struck children as just about exactly right while alarming some adult reviewers with what looked (to them) a lot like misanthropy, misogyny, and miserableness. But for those who like to see an organic connection between an author’s life and his works, be it known that Roald Dahl was (also) a chocoholic. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 Sep 2017, 05:37

The origin of all power is in the people. Mercy Otis Warren.

In early 18th-century Massachusetts, a gentleman’s sons bound for Harvard might expect private tuition in various subjects, not least Latin and Greek, and so it was with Joseph and James Otis. What made their sessions unusual was that their sister Mercy sat in with them. Mercy Otis Warren, born on September 14, 1728, would take in that education and use it to become a leading propagandist of the American Revolution and, at the time of her death (1814) the most published female author in the new nation. She was clearly a remarkable woman, and it’s good to report that the men in her life (her father, her brothers, and her husband James Warren) thought so too. She began to write prolifically during the political crises that led to revolution, independence, and nationhood, poetical dramas attacking the loyalist Thomas Hutchinson and polemics urging first resistance to British policies and finally arguing passionately for independence. Much of this was anonymous, a customary feature of political writing at the time and particularly fitting for a woman author, but as a private correspondent many contemporaries knew of Mercy Otis Warren as an inveterate “scribbler” (as her husband affectionately called her). Her letters, brimming with advice, support, and occasionally criticism went out to many revolutionary leaders, men of course, but also to their wives. No doubt some felt she was stepping outside her proper sphere, but John Adams (for one) thought her talent God-given, her writings providential, and urged her to continue writing and publishing. And so she did, truly a founding mother of a nation, although Adams himself did not much like Mercy Warren’s 3-volume History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (1805), which she published under her own name and in which she criticized Adams for falling away from the radical ideals that, in 1776, had united them. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 15 Sep 2017, 04:03

Lady gardeners do not wish to supplant able, clever men head-gardeners, nor even to compete with them. Frances Wolseley.

What does a high Victorian girl do when her dad is a baron, the commanding general of the British army, when she’s presented at the great queen’s court in 1891, and when she hugely enjoys her debutante season? If you answer ‘well, she does NOT consort with the Pankhursts, become a suffragette, and go to jail,’ you would be right, but Frances Garnet Wolseley did NOT marry well and settle down to a comfortable, aristocratic life as a conformable, aristocratic wife. Lady Frances (born on September 15, 1872) devoted herself to helping women forge a life of their own, at home if needs be or in the market place if opportunity presented. Her route to female autonomy (if not independence or equality) was through gardening. A woman of resource, financial and otherwise, Frances Wolseley became England’s most famous female gardener, eclipsed only by Gertrude Jekyll. After her father’s retirement, in 1899, the family moved to Glynde village (in Sussex) where Lady Frances turned a large walled garden into a gardening college for women. The idea sold like turnips in season, and in 1907 she moved it into vacant quarters in the village as the Glynde College for Lady Gardeners, with all facilities including a five-acre “teaching garden.” Inheriting her father’s title in 1913, Viscountess Wolseley left the school in charge of two of its most promising graduates (women of course) and became a peripatetic propagandist for the idea that ladies could, and really should, turn their own gardens into statements of their own scientific expertise, their own aesthetic sensibility, their own place and plot, And then if all went well they might sell a few cuttings, too—or for that matter turnips—and have their own income in their own account. Her testament is her 1916 book, Women in the Land, and she’s also credited with being a pioneer in landscape architecture. Frances Wolseley laid down her shears in 1936, widely mourned. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by BillHowcroft » 15 Sep 2017, 07:26


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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Sep 2017, 02:56

Nice one Bill! I have forwarded it to Bob......
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Sep 2017, 09:54

Life itself remains a very effective therapist. Karen Horney.

Let’s use today to celebrate women’s rights, not only the right to vote (for instance) or other positive civil rights but simply the right to be noticed. Therefore we will start off with 16th September 1620, for today is the 397th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from England to a particular destination (they missed it and landed on Cape Cod). This ships company has been known for many generations as the “Pilgrim Fathers.” I do not need to remind you that there were Pilgrim Mothers on board, too, not to mention children of both sexes, animals, and a lot of more or less godless men and women who made up the ship’s crew and the small complement of indentured servants. It was the very diversity of the ship’s company that encouraged the Fathers among them to get together and agree that they should govern the rest. We call it the Mayflower Compact although we could call it the Mayflower coup d’état. And speaking of women, you will be glad to know that today women are (equally with men) eligible for one of the most prestigious scholarships going, the Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford University. It were not always thus: only on 16th September 1975, a mere 42 years ago, did the Trustees announce that they had broken Cecil Rhodes’ will and made women eligible for the award. And have you sensed that Sigmund Freud was a bit of a male chauvinist pig? Certainly Freudianism made a number of rather odd assumptions about the female half of the species. If you did NOT know this, then tip your hat (or bonnet) to Karen Horney, born on September 16, 1875 who would devote her productive life to exposing the masculine or male bias of the master’s ideas. Perhaps she owed her feminism to her lack of neuroses, for remember that she did not grow up Jewish (like so any of Freud’s subjects) in a grossly anti-semitic society. Anyway, in Karen’s honor, let’s make the 16th of September an unofficial women’s rights day. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Sep 2017, 13:12

They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. William Carlos Williams, Spring and All, 1923.

September 17, 1883 was the birthing date of a notable birther (of the right sort rather than the Trump sort), William Carlos Williams, obstetrician, pediatrician, and poet extraordinaire, in Rutherford NJ. Never mind his babies; he authored one of my very favorite poems (“Spring and All”) and quite a few others. Williams might have been bitten by the poetry bug while at school in Paris or Geneva, or at the University of Pennsylvania (where he met Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle) but he published his first book of poetry in 1909 after he had been practicing medicine for three years. He married Florence in 1912, published his second volume of poetry (1913), moved into a house near Rutherford that he and Florence would share for the rest of their lives, and continued to practice medicine. He also continued to write, began to distance himself poetically from Pound and Doolittle, and became part of a New York modernist group that included Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, and Marcel Duchamp. “Spring and All” is the title poem of his most famous collection, published in 1923, one year after The Waste Land (by Eliot) which Williams strongly disliked for its obscurantism, its intellectualism, and its referential content. Williams, uncompromisingly modernist, preferred colloquial poetry in the everyday tongue, as spoken by everyday people, about everyday things (like births) and he wanted to “write American.” He succeeded, admirably, and remains one of our most approachable modern poets, writing about life as we know it. ©
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