BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 26 Jan 2018, 15:14

[Every woman] must choose her way . . . which will help her to form a platform for progress for other women. Julia Morgan.

Today we celebrate Julia Morgan, one of our first female architects, born in San Francisco on January 26, 1872, who lived to see her 85th year, to design hundreds of buildings, and to puzzle everyone by living quietly, indeed monastically. That may have been a reaction against her flamboyantly wealthy upbringing, for by their marriage her parents united two great fortunes of America’s Gilded Age (though it was not J. P. Morgan money, not banking but cotton and mining). But her family also provided her with eccentric, forceful role models, notably her mother, her maternal grandmother, and an older, female cousin. All of them, and indeed her otherwise ineffective father, saw her talent and encouraged her to develop it. So Julia Morgan became a woman of firsts, securing a civil engineering degree at Berkeley (the only female in her class) and then a certificate of architecture at the École nationale supérior des beaux arts in Paris, (the very first woman of any nationality to do so). Returning to San Francisco she worked first on the master plan of the University of California (her boss remarked, privately of course, that that though she was excellent at her work, “I have to pay almost nothing, as she is a woman.”) However, she soon met someone who recognized her talent and was willing to pay her for it, William Randolph Hearst, and she became the principal architect of his extensive estate at San Simeon, on the California coast. From then the commissions flooded in. But Julia Morgan is best remembered for her women’s work, women’s colleges, the YWCA, the Berkeley (CA) Women’s City Club, and a magnificent home for orphaned Chinese girls. It’s worth noting that her buildings were designed to be earthquake resistant (her first major commission, a bell tower at Mills College, survived the 1906 earthquake quite intact), but they were (and still are) most appreciated for their aesthetic qualities. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 Jan 2018, 02:12

Please pass on to “Tizer” my thanks for a wonderful beetle story.

Cheers, Bob
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 Jan 2018, 14:42

'Tis never for their wisdom that one loves the wisest . . . 'Tis for benevolence, and virtue, and honest fondness one loves people. Their other qualities make one proud of loving them. Hester Thrale.

I became acquainted with Hester Thrale by a circuitous route, via a fine novel by Beryl Bainbridge, According to Queeney (2001), in which the eponymous Queeney, Thrale’s daughter, sources stories about the relationship between her family—especially her mother—and the legendary Samuel Johnson. They are vignettes, separate scenes, sparingly told (not always by Queeney), and yet they convey fully believable pictures of Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale, and they remind us that the past was a different country. But there was a real Mrs. Thrale, who did know Johnson very well, but who is worth knowing in her own right. Hester Thrale was born Hester Salusbury on January 27, 1741. Her upbringing was that of a wealthy, eminently marriageable girl, directly descended from Henry VII on both sides of her family. She was well read, and though very small was pretty (some said “arresting”), literate, and witty in prose and talk. These last traits may not have appealed to her first husband, Mr. Thrale, a much older man, a London brewer, but while keeping her wits about her she bore him 12 children and developed a character that (in the words of her close friend Fanny Burney, Madame D’Arblay) “contained a great deal of good and not good.” It was while she was Mrs. Thrale that Hester constructed her close relationship with Johnson, who appreciated her erudition and her coruscating wit, but when her husband died (in 1781) Johnson was not pleased that she fell quite in love with, and in 1784 married an Italian violinist, Gabriel Piozzi. In 1786, Johnson himself having died, Hester Piozzi published her anecdotal but revealing notes on Johnson’s life, then in 1787 her correspondence with him (on which books Bainbridge would base much of her fiction). Hester then retired with Piozzi to her Welsh estates and her Bristol town house where, among other accomplishments, she added Hebrew to her impressive roster of languages. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 28 Jan 2018, 14:03

Smash the machine. William S. Burroughs II.

Depending on your point of view, the Burroughs family of St. Louis reached its apex or nadir with William S. Burroughs II (1914-1997), the co-founder of the Beat Generation whose many, mad fictions were banned from US publication until the late 1960s. One measure of his changed reputation is the $20,000 price tag for a bootleg copy ofThe Naked Lunch (Paris, 1959), although you can get the paperback (“one of the most important novels of the 20th century”) on Amazon for $11.61, with scholarly commentary thrown in. What’s less well known is that Burroughs’ education was largely paid for by his grandfather, William S. Burroughs I, whose genius lay in a different field. William S. Burroughs I was born in Rochester, NY, on January 28, 1855. His inventive bent, and his ambition, were early apparent. While still a bank clerk, he built a primitive adding machine. But his health failed and, advised by his doctor, he moved to a warmer climate (St. Louis) and worked on an improved model. To insure precision (for his machines were mechanical), he drew his plans on steel plates. His first patent came in 1885 and in the next year he founded the American Arithmometer Company to build and market the machine. Improved patents followed, and by the time of his early death (1898) the Arithmometer machines were standard and the Burroughs family waxed rich enough that his son Mortimer Burroughs could attract an aristocratic southern belle, Laura Lee, and together they would proudly produce William II. Meanwhile, the Arithmometer Company had birthed the Burroughs Adding Machine Company which then begat the Burroughs Corporation, and that lusty entity became (in 1986) Unisys. It’s quite clear that the grandson’s scandalous fictions have outlived the grandfather’s precision machines, but I am unsure as to whether that qualifies as irony. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 29 Jan 2018, 12:33

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. Edward Abbey.

I am not sure how many socialists, anarchists, and atheists there were in Indiana (PA) in 1927, but Edward Abbey’s father—named Paul Revere Abbey after an earlier troublemaker—was all three. His mother, on the other hand, was a church organist, and Edward Paul Abbey took after both of his parents. He was born on January 29, 1927, so he was the right age to get drafted at the tag end of WWII. A bright kid, he scored two promotions. And he was the son of an anarchist and a church organist, so he also got two demotions, and he and the army soon parted company. Earlier, Abbey had become enamored of the high desert country and, on the GI Bill, he enrolled at the University of New Mexico where his writing bent got him on the student paper and then off it when an ill-judged piece irritated the authorities. It also brought him to the attention of the ever-zealous FBI, which judged that Abbey was too much like his anarchist father and church organist mother. Meanwhile, another section of government gave Abbey a Fulbright to study philosophy at Edinburgh. Thereafter he worked as a park ranger and wrote novels (The Brave Cowboy was in 1962 made into a Kirk Douglas film: Lonely Are the Brave) and a nature piece, Desert Solitaire (1968) which established Abbey’s reputation as an environmental writer. Still the son of an anarchist and church organist, Abbey became a contrarian, an evangelist for the environment, an acerbic critic of “industrial tourism” (he may have invented the phrase), an opponent of illegal immigration, and he was believed by some to advocate ‘terrorist’ resistance to encroachments on nature. Edward Abbey died of a botched surgery in 1989 and was buried, in a sleeping bag, illegally, somewhere in the Arizona desert. A stone lies nearby carved with his name and his last recorded words, “No Comment.” ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 Jan 2018, 11:54

If I should do any thing that is evil, though with pretence that good might come of it, my damnation would be just. William Sancroft, writing to a friend, 1691.

Although in 17th-century England freedom of speech was not yet an ideal, collegiality among intellectuals could come forward to shield one who held momentarily hazardous opinions. Thus Thomas Hobbes benefited from the collegiality of friends after the Restoration. There were many such instances, for it was a century of revolution and of reaction, and among them was William Sancroft, born in Suffolk on January 30, 1617. One day he would become Archbishop of Canterbury, but as a young fellow of Cambridge’s most Puritan college, Emmanuel, during the English civil wars, his devotion to king, bishop, and church spelled trouble, especially since he was without influential connections (he came from yeoman stock), but he had Puritan friends in Emmanuel and at Cambridge, and even in the Westminster Assembly, and for them he kept quieter than he might have, and for him they provided cover. In 1657, he broke cover and flew to the exiled court of Charles II, so at the Restoration he was well placed to gain favor. He rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming famous as the Dean of St. Paul’s, thus overseeing not only Wren’s magnificent new cathedral, but also other ‘new’ churches of post-conflagration London. Then, in 1677, Charles II jumped Sancroft to Canterbury and into the House of Lords, and in both places he proved a loyal monarchist in the crises to follow. Yet there was metal in the man. In the late 1680s, he bravely defied King James’s Catholic policies (and indeed went to prison), but then when William II invaded, Archbishop Sancroft refused to abjure his oath to James II and was ejected from his offices. He died, in internal exile, immersed in church scholarship, in 1693. His mammoth library was willed to Emmanuel College, and the bulk of his historical manuscripts found their way, eventually, into the Bodleian at Oxford. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 31 Jan 2018, 12:34

I am full of stories and zeal and fire... yet I am inhibited by doubt, by fear that my feeling for life is false. Zane Grey, after the rejection of an early manuscript.

Dentists were among the middle-class groups that, in the late 19th century, organized to promote standards and to protect themselves from competitors. Thus in Ohio, in the early 1890s, a young interloper was warned by the state dentistry board to stop extracting teeth without a license. He had been trained in the old ways by his father, a practicing dentist, and he had concentrated on poor, rural patients, but he obeyed board’s censure and enrolled at the U. of Pennsylvania. There he performed miserably in dentistry, brilliantly at baseball, and continued to write stories and poetry. The outlaw dentist was Pearl Zane Grey, born on January 31, 1872, in Zanesville, OH. He would die as Zane Grey, in 1939, at his home in Altadena, CA, where he had gone to continue writing, womanizing, and to keep watch over his film rights. It’s not clear how many of his books are still in print, maybe 50. He worked mainly in the “western” genre, although he was also a fanatical fisherman (especially deep sea) and wrote—factually and fictionally—on the finny pursuit. As a child, I read many of his westerns in the Grundy Center (IA) public library, and though I cannot remember a single one, I loved them, as did President Eisenhower. Ike and I were oblivious to the charge (leveled by most literary critics) that Grey’s work was bogus, fiction without substance. But Grey’s myths charmed and attracted millions of readers. Although Heywood Broun told us that each could have been written on the back of a postage stamp, we went right on collecting the stamps. Would we have kept on reading his books or watching his movies had we known that Grey was (also) one of the world’s all-time great philanderers? I don’t know about Ike, but when I read Zane Grey I was too young to know a philanderer had I seen one. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 01 Feb 2018, 11:57

Cheese is milk's leap towards immortality. Clifton Fadiman.

In St. Louis we can get a few fine English cheeses, Cheddar of course, Blue Stilton in several stores, here and there a Double Gloucester, occasionally a Wensleydale, and very rarely a Lancashire (though never the ‘creamy mild’ varietal, a melt-in-your mouth experience now denied us). But I have yet to see a round of Cheshire, its reddish-yellowish hue promising an appealing sharpness, its dry, crumbly texture defying my efforts to slice it neatly, its lingering aftertaste reminding me what cheese is really like. Back in England, it’s more plentiful, but at its best it’s made by hand, with unpasteurized milk, a very small ‘starter,’ vegetable rennet, and colored with annatto seed dye. And it’s not bound in wax, but in light cotton cloth, watched carefully, timely turned. It’s a rare cheese, and that it can be bought at all owes much to ‘Lucy’ Appleby, born Florence Walley on February 1, 1920 to a farmer-preacher and his wife, in north Shropshire on the Cheshire Plain. Florence went to ag college where she learned traditional cheesemaking and met and married Lancelot Appleby, a farmer’s son. A period of childrearing followed, and then in 1950 Lucy Appleby decided to revive the art of making traditional, unwaxed Cheshire. It caught on (at first, locally) about as slowly as it was made, but it was a great cheese; known as ‘Mrs. Appleby’s Cheshire’ it prospered greatly from the revival of interest in “real” food and, thus, in heritage cheeses. By the time of Lucy’s death, in May 2008, the family were churning out nearly two tons per week, filling special orders still (to be sure) but now sending their cheeses to elite outlets like Neal’s Yard Dairy in Covent Garden, London (who sell it in their shops and by mail). The Applebys produce still more today but, alas, none is sent to St. Louis. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 02 Feb 2018, 12:00

We Can Do It. Rosie the Riveter, government propaganda poster, WWII.

In No Time for Sergeants (1958), Will Stockdale (Andy Griffiths) is the dumb hick kid who can’t even see that his sergeant hates his guts. Nor (in a great comic scene) can he quite figure how to address an officer who is also a woman. Nowadays, women serve as women and in combat roles, so it wouldn’t be so funny. But women warriors are not new, and we don’t need to go back to Joan of Arc. WWII had plenty, and (earlier) one of my favorites was Cathay Williams, freed from slavery in 1861 by the 8th Indiana, who quickly transitioned from battalion cook to Private William Cathay. William later served in the west as a ‘buffalo soldier,’ until Cathay’s ‘real’ gender was discovered in 1876. In the 18th century, the British military had enough women at arms—but passing as men—that they became known as the “amazons.” Perhaps the most famed of these was Mary Anne Talbot, born in London on February 2, 1778. She was the youngest of her mother’s 16 children, some of whom were illegitimate, and she took the name of Talbot because (she claimed) she was the daughter of the Earl of Talbot. That story might be true, for she was privately educated and, still just a girl, received a bequest of £30,000 (a very great sum in the 1780s). She chose as guardian an unscrupulous army officer, and thereby hangs the convoluted and tragic tale that first brought her into the army as foot boy for her “guardian” (who exploited her sexually while plundering her inheritance). Then came actual battle, a capture which was also a liberation, repatriation, and a reenlistment (as Midshipman John Taylor) in the Royal Navy. There’s much more to it, including a serious battle wound, an interview with (and an annuity from) Queen Charlotte, an imaginative autobiography, and (after a struggle) a navy pension. Sadly, the pension was not long enjoyed. Mary Anne Talbot died of John Taylor’s old wound in 1808. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 03 Feb 2018, 13:49

Elegy (For a Plain Black Boy). Song title, late 1950s, written and performed by Oscar Brown, Jr.

In the 19th century, one likely fate of a poor black man was obscurity, and indeed we are not quite sure of when (or even where) William Henry Lane was born. It was probably in the notorious Five Points neighborhood of New York City, perhaps in 1824, and very likely into a family of free blacks (in New York, emancipation had not yet fully come into effect). We can pin down his death date more exactly, February 3, 1854, for we have his (misspelled) death certificate from the Brownlow Hill Workhouse, Liverpool, England. In between, William Henry Lane became a dancer, a good one, and a dance entrepreneur, a successful one. He began, in his early teens, in the only venue open to a black boy in New York, in blackface minstrelsy. Ironic to say the least: even odder, he first vaulted to fame by impersonating a “real” blackface minstrel, the Irish-American John Diamond. Soon, he’d come to the attention of P. T. Barnum and performed as “Boz’s Juba” for none other than Charles Dickens (then on an American tour). So Boz’s Juba he was, and under that name he formed his own dance company, headlining himself as “the King of all the Dancers.” Dickens saw him more than once and was impressed, “single shuffle, double shuffle, cut and cross-cut; snapping his fingers, rolling his eyes . . . spinning about like nothing but the man’s fingers on the tambourine.” And so Boz’s Juba sailed to England in 1848, where he wowed them in London’s Vauxhall Theatre and in other venues north to Manchester. There, in the north of England, William Henry Lane “lived a fast life, dissipated freely, and died miserably.” His last recorded performance was in 1852. By the time he laid himself down and died, he was again an unknown, and he was misspelled in Liverpool’s St. Martin’s cemetery as “Bois Juba.” ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Feb 2018, 13:40

Dress suitably in short skirts and sitting boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver. Constance Markievicz.

It’s never surprised me that many leaders of the suffragettes in Britain were upper class, even aristocratic women. Indeed, the puzzle that may need explanation is that there were not more. In their domestic roles, after all, they were quite able to order about men servants (butlers, pages, footmen, gardeners—if not valets and gamekeepers), and successive Reform Bills meant that most of those guys could vote. Why not the lady of the house? So we have Eva Gore-Booth, Anglo-Irish aristocrat, whipping up enthusiasm for the vote among the distaff staff in Lancashire cotton mills (and in Manchester’s leafy suburbs). And then we have her sister Constance Georgine Gore-Booth who, as Countess Markiewicz (in 1900 she married a Polish aristocrat while they were art students in Paris). Constance was born on February 4, 1868, in the family’s London town house, but spent most of her childhood and youth on the family estates in Ireland. There she enthused for women’s suffrage but also conceived a deep passion for Ireland, and by stages became a member of Sinn Féin, a leader of Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) and founder of a republican youth group. Indeed, by the time of the Easter Rising (1916) the countess had risen to be second in command of a battalion of the Irish Citizen Army, fought bravely, was captured and sentenced to death, then amnestied. Constance played her part, too, in the controversy over the 1921 treaty (she opposed it as establishing an insufficient independence for Eire and for its ‘Ulster option’), until, finally, health broken by her many stays in prison, she died (in 1927, of peritonitis) and was buried among her fellow Republicans (some of them women) at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. And she voted, for along with independence—in 1922—came women’s suffrage. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by PanBiker » 04 Feb 2018, 17:01

I have visited her grave on one of our visits to Dublin as you do.
Ian

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Feb 2018, 12:09

A Midwife ought to void all reflections upon men practitioners; and when she finds herself difficulted, candidly have recourse to their assistance [and the man] should make allowance for the weakness of her sex, and rectify what is amiss, without expos...

The battle between obstetrics and midwifery is often seen as a war between male doctors and female midwives, but it’s more complicated. It began with a male invasion of midwifery, and its most famous skirmishes occurred in London, between a Scots man and a French woman. Enter William Smellie, born in Lanark on February 5, 1697, and Elizabeth Nihell, born in London in 1723 (of French parents) and trained in Paris at the Hôtel Dieu by “Madame Coudray” and under the direct patronage of the Duc D’Orléans. Smellie came into midwifery via apothecary. In Lanark, William Smellie, apothecary, was called into childbirths by midwives, who asked him for assistance in difficult deliveries. By the mid 1730s Smellie was a midwife, and his skills were recognized by an MD from Glasgow University in 1745. By then he’d moved to London as a “man midwife” and a trainer of many other midwives, mostly male. He published, too, and this and his use of “machines” gave him a “scientific” aura that most woman midwives lacked (and women could not be MDs for another century and more). It was partly on “science” that Elizabeth Nihell attacked William Smellie’s man midwifery. What was needed, she said, in public and in print, was privacy, sympathy, and experience, qualities she identified with femininity, and not “the delicate fist of a great horse-godmother of a he-midwife.” Nihell also despised Smellie’s “machines,” notably his use of forceps (he did not invent them but improved their design and undoubtedly overused them). Their battle was drawn by their deaths but the war continued. When our children were born, in different hospitals, in England, an obstetrician (male) was present, as was the father, but the show was directed by a midwife (female) and produced by the mother. A truce, I guess you might call it. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 06 Feb 2018, 12:44

I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. Philip Marlowe, in The Big Sleep.

On February 6, 1939, Knopf published Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, and thus was born the greatest of American private detectives, who can hold his head above Hercule Poirot and look Jules Maigret right in the eye. Philip Marlowe he was, and although not the first of the hard-boiled dicks, he was the hardest. Chandler had been unhappy as an oil company executive, was fired (for hard-boiled drinking) in 1933, and for six years wrote pulp fiction (crime) for pulp magazines. But Alfred Knopf knew good writing, and to ready the market for Chandler he took out a full-page ad in Publisher’s Weekly to remind booksellers that he’d already discovered Hammett (in 1929) and Cain (in 1934) and now was going to unleash another. Before his death in 1959, Chandler would finish six more Marlowe novels: Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The High Window (1942), The Lady in the Lake (1943), The Little Sister (1949), The Long Goodbye (1953), and Playback (1958). They’re still in print and worth your while (if you are one of the 32 people who haven’t yet read one). So Philip Marlowe lives on, his hard-bitten speech still beautifully grammatical (for he “went to college once and can still speak English if there’s any demand for it”), his attraction to a certain kind of woman magnetic. Marlowe tends to throw them off, and Chandler’s last two lovers (George Orwell’s widow, Sonia, and Stephen Spender’s wife, Natasha) believed him to be a repressed homosexual. Chandler went to school at Dulwich College, in London, and probably named his LA detective after Christopher Marlowe, the equally hard-bitten Elizabethan, a Dulwich old boy. What Chandler (and Alfred Knopf) may not have known is that Christopher Marlowe’s birthday could also have been February 6 (he was baptized on February 26, in 1564). ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tizer » 07 Feb 2018, 10:03

That final mention of Christopher Marlowe prompts me to say that I've enjoyed several of M.J. Trow's Christopher Marlowe novels. LINK

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Feb 2018, 13:15

I should be glad to have my husband always kind, and I know no reason why he should be wearier of being my master, than he was of being my servant. Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple, January 22, 1653.

The 17th century, England’s “century of revolution,” has drawn many fine historians, who’ve done it ample justice. But which should you read? ‘At least two,’ would be the answer, for they have important disagreements. Another would be to take an end-run plunge into the letters of Dorothy Osborne, Lady Temple (b. 1627-d. February 7, 1695). Don’t stop with her charming courtship letters (to Sir William Temple), for she experienced both of England’s revolutions, the 1660 Restoration, and in the 1670s helped to arrange the marriage of the Dutch Prince of Orange and the English Princess Mary (who would, in 1688, snatch the crown from Mary’s father, James II). Dorothy remained close to Mary and, when she died just months after the queen, Lady Temple was buried in Westminster Abbey under her very own stone. That she was a truly extraordinary person wasn’t, however, fully known until the publications of her letters, at first in bits, in the 19th century, when biographers and historians concentrated on their undeniable charm (and on her role as Temple’s helpmeet through difficult times, personally and politically). Latterly, we’ve become more attuned to seeing women as public persons, autonomous individuals, human beings of independent wit and moral agency, and a fuller edition of her letters (which I have yet to see) came out in 2002. Dorothy Osbourne’s letters will not fully substitute for the century’s historical masterpieces; they will whet your appetite to find out more than you now know. But I’d still advise starting with those courtship letters. After all, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and it’s good to read of a courtship-partnership that sailed pretty gaily through many storms, as when (a month before her Christmas-day wedding in 1654) the bride-to-be suffered a disfiguring attack of smallpox. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Feb 2018, 13:15

The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings

Kate Chopin was born (Katherine O’Flaherty) in St. Louis on February 8, 1850. She would die here too, in 1904, and not only that but she would do most of her writing here. In between she lived in and near New Orleans with her husband Oscar, a cotton broker and plantation manager, and after his death in 1882 Kate did her best to manage his farms, to pay off his debts and to find another man. Those flirtatious years masked a real sadness and marked Kate’s understanding of the dilemmas faced by women of her “leisure” class who might want—or be required—to live their own lives. So Kate brought her sadness back to St. Louis, where she was advised to write it out. She wrote for the Post-Dispatch, she wrote short fiction, she wrote two novels. But Kate was a writer from very early on, including a diary where, one evening young Kate O’Flaherty, a very eligible debutante (her father a successful entrepreneur, her mother well connected with the local French gentry), reflected wittily on how to captivate the young men of her acquaintance, “men whose only talent lies in their feet.” Smile prettily, look pleased, seem to be entertained, “lead your antagonist to talk about himself . . . and twenty to one he will report you as one of the most entertaining and intelligent persons” at the ball. Luckily for us, our Kate found her own voice. To paraphrase one of her own short stories, “The Story of an Hour,” at Oscar Chopin’s death Kate “saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.” And so Kate wrote, and she wrote well. Unable to find that freedom, Kate’s greatest character, Edna Pontellier (in The Awakening, 1899), gave herself to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Feb 2018, 12:23

Ah, bless you, Sister. May all your sons be Bishops. Brendan Behan.

In the isles that, from very early on, they claimed to call their own, the Anglo-Saxons always had a tough time with the wild Celts and Gaels. Genetically, it now appears, the Angle-ish absorbed quite a bit of Celt DNA, but drove the rest to the isles’ far reaches, then nurtured myths about the wild Welsh and the tribal Irish and the Scots highlanders, monarchs of their glens. Latterly the wild ones were seen as bards, songsters of their cultures, defiant in their lost causes, romantic figures. In the 20th century, those legends were reinforced by two of history’s wilder Celts, Dylan Thomas of Wales and Brendan Behan of Eire, stormy figures whose love of drink strengthened the myths and killed the poets (Thomas at 39, Behan at 41). But Thomas was the product of the unique (nor particularly “Celtic”) South Walean culture, and did not write in Welsh. Brendan Behan, born in Dublin on February 9, 1923, and brought up to become an Irish Republican hero, wrote in English and Irish, and preferred most nights to be Breandán Ó Beacháin, as wild as the Gaels that bore him. His grandmother, Christine English, father, mother, and uncles were all well-educated if stridently working class, and catechized the boy in all aspects of the republican tradition, including the literary and the alcoholic. His first fame came at 16 when he sailed to England and failed to blow up the Liverpool docks. Sentenced to three years for this presumption, Brendan the Borstal Boy (autobiography, 1958), became a mad, bad, often excruciatingly funny man, poet, playwright, author. Like Dylan Thomas, Behan enjoyed America, where (again like Thomas) he influenced many, not least a Jewish kid from Hibbing, MN, who took Dylan’s name but who actually met—and wrote, and sang, and drank—with Brendan Behan. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 10 Feb 2018, 13:50

A man who trusts nobody is likely to be the sort of man nobody trusts. Harold Macmillan.

Today is the birth anniversary of Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister of Britain from 1957 to 1963 and the last of the “traditional Conservatives” to hold that position. Born into the famous publishing family on February 10, 1894, Macmillan was brought up in very comfortable circumstances, but rigorously kept to the task of being a Macmillan by his redoubtable American mother, Helen Belles Macmillan, an American heiress from Spencer, Indiana. “Nellie” saw to it that Harold was learning French as soon as he could speak and Latin and Greek by the age of 7. After Eton, Macmillan went up to Oxford but, like the whole of his Freshman class at Balliol he went to the First World War. Only he and one other freshman survived, an experience that marked him deeply. He married well, into the Cavendish family, and imbibed some of their Liberal principles. As a Conservative backbencher, he advocated radical schemes to deal with the depression, and he was one of the “Churchill Tories” who opposed appeasing Adolf Hitler. Later, Churchill played a central role in making Macmillan Prime Minister after the resignation of Anthony Eden. Macmillan’s premiership was not distinguished, but he did pick up the pieces after Suez, and he presided over Britain’s former colonies in Africa and Asia moving towards independence. His famous “winds of change” speech split his party but earned him the gratitude of many nationalist leaders. Later, in the House of Lords. he was a thorn in the side of the ‘new Conservatives.’ He died in 1986 shortly after infuriating Margaret Thatcher by accusing her of a politics of “hatred”, of “selling the family silver” (privatizing state enterprises) and of promoting failed monetary policies similar to those that had bankrupted Tibet and Argentina. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Feb 2018, 13:49

The whole world is in revolt, and soon their will be only five kings. The king of England, the king of spades, the king of clubs, the king of hearts, and the king of diamonds. Farouk I of Egypt, in exile.

As Thomas Paine and many others have said, the monarchical principle is maimed at birth. But after the chanciness of inheritance (power is easier to pass on than talent), there are dangers involved in princely tutelage. How can you convince someone born to rule that rule is an exacting task? And where the monarchy is a creation of a greater power, its frailties are made manifest. Such was the case of Prince Farouk of Egypt, inheritor of the bloodline that—in the person of the Albanian Mehmet Ali—had won Egyptian independence from the Ottomans and then preserved it from the British. Preserved it? Except that the jewel of Suez required the UK to insert (even in the “independence” treaty of 1922) a clause that required Egypt to hew to the UK line in matters of diplomacy, debt, and dynasty. And so young Farouk, born in Abdin Palace, Cairo, on February 11, 1920, found himself under the thumb of the British High Commissioner, the massive Sir Miles Lampson, who wanted him educated in the best of British, at Eton. But Farouk could not stomach Latin. Thus the royal boy (aged 15) was sent to the Royal Military Academy, at Woolwich, where he failed the entrance exam. Prince Freddy (as he was known locally) stuck around Surrey, lived in a mansion, and shopped until his father’s death called him back to his inheritance, as Farouk I, in 1936. He had ambitions for himself and Egypt (a new caliphate!), but these were sidelined by World War II and by a rising tide of nationalism that was not much enamored of monarchy or, at first, of caliphates. So Farouk was exiled by Nasser, who waited only months to depose Farouk’s young son, declare a secular republic, and then, fatefully, to seize Suez. The British (and the French and the Israelis) intervened, disastrously, but even had they succeeded their plans did not involve Farouk I. He hadn’t acquired the requisite talent, and even the Brits could see that monarchy hadn’t worked. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Feb 2018, 12:26

I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. George Gershwin, on his "Rhapsody in Blue."

Last night at the Winter Olympics, one of those polyglot folk we call “Americans,” Ms. Mirai Nagasu, chose a most American piece of music for her free skating routine, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Too bad she could not wait until today, for Gershwin’s “jazz concerto” premiered on February 12, 1924, and thereby hangs a very American tale. In early January Paul Whiteman had a brainstorm about promoting “the new American music,” mainly jazz, and told the press that George Gershwin would produce a big piece for the concert. Gershwin read about it in the newspapers (while playing billiards with his brother Ira and Buddy de Sylva at 52nd and Broadway), but thought it a great idea, and accepted the offer before it was made. Gershwin had a new musical opening in Boston, and on the way to Beantown, on January 7, 1924, listening to the train’s “steely rhythm, its rattlety-bang,” Gershwin worked out the whole strategy of the piece. Ferdé Grofé, yet another American whose family hailed from elsewhere, would conduct. Meanwhile, Whiteman arranged the concert, sending free tickets to the “big guns” (including Stokowski and Sousa!!) and otherwise attracting a mongrelly American crowd drawn from vaudeville, opera, symphony players, low-lifes and high-lifes, flappers and their beaux, and of course the press (for this was a promotion as well as a premiere). A crowd like that had to enjoy itself, and it did, but the triumph of the evening came near the end. When George Gershwin’s very American “Rhapsody in Blue” took off with its clarinet solo, the house erupted. “Rhapsody” was not, the Times critic sniffed, well suited to its form, and he didn’t much like that “outrageous clarinet cadenza.” But I (and the crowd at PyeongChang) say that Ms. Nagasu chose perfectly. Of course, she skated pretty well, too. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Feb 2018, 03:34

I got this from Uncle Bob this morning......

At 4:30 AM this morning, I read (or, perhaps, misread) a CNN report that an American skater had performed, in South Korea, to Rhapsody in Blue. Given that she is of Asian extraction, and Gershwin (and Ferde Grofe) were the children of immigrants, it seemed to me a perfect opportunity (in the era of Trump) to note how very American it all was.
Now my favorite Hungarian has corrected me. It was a Canadian skater, Gabrielle Daleman, who (wisely) chose Gershwin and did not (bravely) try a triple axel.
How appropriate to be the victim of fake news. Or, perhaps, of a very superficial reading of the true scoop, a self-inflicted wound. Anyway, sad.

My apologies to all recipients for firing from the hip, and my thanks to Laszlo D. for catching the mistake. Bob
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Feb 2018, 11:20

To prevent the recurrence of misery is, alas! beyond the power of man. Thomas Robert Malthus, 1798.

Some say that Thomas Robert Malthus was born on Valentine’s Day, but most scholars go with February 13, 1766, just south of London. This seems more in line with the surviving evidence, and in any case Malthus’s grim view of life, love, and procreation doesn’t fit well with Valentine cards. We cite Malthus when we call economics the ‘dismal science,’ and Malthus inspired Charles Dickens to imagine Ebenezer Scrooge, whose cure for the poor was not the Christmas spirit: “if they would rather die they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Malthus wasn’t such a bad chap, really. He grew up in a gentleman’s home, awash with enlightenment optimism, his father a correspondent of Hume and Rousseau, and was schooled in a dissenting academy. And to be fair his strictures on how increasing population could lead only to misery, disease, and death were directed (mainly) to the poor. Prosperous parents could have as many children as they could afford, and Malthus was himself the seventh child in a larger family. At any rate, he shed his dissenting past, did very well at Cambridge, became a country vicar, and wrote about political economy. He became famous (in his own time and since) for formulating the “Malthusian Crisis,” basically a self-correcting market mechanism by which an increasing population will (as it presses too hard on resources) ratchet up its own death rate, thus solving the problem. The only cures (he called contraception a “vice”) were sexual restraint or abstinence. It’s slightly ironic—if you like ironies—that modern-day environmentalists have adopted a neo-Malthusian logic, but I prefer the Canadian economist (and humorist) Stephen Leacock’s prescription:

Let’s seek the Shade of Malthus out from where he walks at Night,

And bring him up for Punishment—It certainly seems right.

Leacock then poetically proposes fitting tortures, including boiling oil, molten lead, and parenthood. Happy Valentine’s day (almost)!!!! ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 Feb 2018, 12:04

Valentine Greatrakes, aka "Greatorex" or "the Stroaker," 1629-1683.

We historians, in our efforts to explain the past to our contemporaries, often neglect to mention that the past was, indeed, a different country. Take 17th-century England for instance, when the king’s magical powers were (for many people) an important element in kingship. King Charles II (r. 1660-85) was particularly jealous of his ability to “touch for the King’s Evil,” that is, cure scrofula by the touch of his hands. So when Valentine Greatrakes was judicially examined—indeed called up before the king himself—to explain his claim to do the same thing, he (bravely or recklessly) did not disclaim his abilities, but prudently said that his methods were not divinely inspired, and were thus no trespass on the royal touch. He then published a book, A brief account … (1666), which elaborated on that theme and made a few other prudent inventions, notably concealing his services (1652-1660) to the Cromwellian regime. Valentine Greatrakes was born in County Lismore, Ireland, on February 14 (of course), 1629, into a family of Protestant settlers that enjoyed the patronage of the great Boyles, earls of Orrery. Accordingly, they fled the great Catholic uprising of 1640-41. Valentine returned to Lismore in 1649 to secure his estates. After trying with the Boyles, he found the better way to do that was to become a Cromwellian soldier and then JP and registrar, trading in the lands of dispossessed Catholics. Those were things he did not mention to Charles II or in his Brief Account. But another reason for his odd insistence that his laying on of the hands to effect cures (of scrofula and of this and that) was not “magical” was that Valentine Greatrakes was indeed a child of his time, a natural philosopher, a friend and client of the great scientist Robert Boyle, and the practitioner who treated (among others of the cognoscenti) John Flamsteed, the future Astronomer Royal. Back then, in that other country we know as ‘the past,’ they drew the boundaries of science differently. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 14 Feb 2018, 13:21

Stanley wrote:
14 Feb 2018, 12:04
that the past was, indeed, a different country.
I learned recently that the judgment of the past by the standards of the present is 'presentism'.

Good grief. . . :smile:
Born to be mild. . .

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