BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 Sep 2019, 11:24

"Life and business are rather simple—to make a success of either, you've got to hang on to the knack of putting yourself into the other person's place. " William Wrigley, Jr.

William Wrigley left his mark on Chicago, and no, I do not mean Wrigley field. It is a nice old ballpark, ivy and all, but Wrigley bought it rather than built it. I mean the Wrigley Building, which he did build, 1920-21 (with later modifications), a rather pleasing skyscraper but, at only 50 stories, Chicago’s skies now have a lot more and taller scrapers. Wrigley left his mark on every other place too, in the form of those black spots that congregate especially heavily at bus stops: they are dead chewing gums, and if you scraped them up and analyzed them, most would turn out to be fossil remains of Wrigley’s chewing gum, a product made universally acceptable by Wrigley’s company—but never to my grandmothers, both of whom thought gum chewing (especially in public) to be coarse, disgraceful, and demeaning. William Wrigley, Jr., was born in Philadelphia on September 30, 1861. Like many of his era’s captains of industry, he was born rich, and started out in life by moving to Chicago and selling his dad’s products, domestic soaps and scouring powders. The chewing gum began as a bonus, given to people who bought his soaps and powders. It was to be in gum that Wrigley made his own fortune, and (as per above) his own marks on American lives and landscapes. As Wrigley waxed rich, he seems to have made some effort to distance himself from gum, buying his way into the Cubs (he was sole owner by 1925), naming their stadium Wrigley Field, and placing the Wrigley Building in a prime Chicago site, but by the 1920s he was already looking west, where he was the major developer of Catalina Island and the owner of the old LA Angels (then in the minors, but they also played at “Wrigley Field”). His first western base was a mansion in Pasadena, but by the mid-20s he’d built a more modern house (indeed, a rather pleasing one) in Phoenix. He died there, in 1931, but was buried on Catalina. His family continued to run the firm until 2006. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 01 Oct 2019, 12:16

"I wanted to prove that a chorus could be as good as an orchestra." Margaret Hillis, interview, 1986.

Margaret Hillis was born on October 1, 1921, into a Kokomo, Indiana family that was wealthy enough to support her astonishing efforts to master several musical instruments: piano, double bass, and a bevy of brass and woodwinds. But somewhere around high school she developed the ambition to lead a major symphony orchestra. Hillis developed other talents, too, including flying; in WWII, while her kid brother was off in Europe, she became a civilian flight instructor. But then it was back to school, a BA (Indiana) in music composition and a spell at the Julliard in New York, where she developed a different talent and found her life’s work as a choral director. She did gather musicians into orchestral array in several places, and conduct them (14 years in Elgin, Illinois), but the chorus was her destiny and she followed it at the Julliard, Tanglewood, and Union Theological Seminary before 1957, when she was asked, by Fritz Reiner, to create (and conduct) a chorus for the Chicago Symphony. Auditions began right around her 36th birthday, and in very short order her singers took on Mozart’s Requiem (February 1958, conducted by Bruno Walter) and then Verdi’s Requiem (March 1958, Reiner at the podium). Many triumphs followed for Margaret Hillis and her singers, including nine Grammies (Haydn and Beethoven to Bartok), and to judge by a 1986 interview on Chicago public radio she was very happy with the way her life turned out. And such was her eminence that invitations to conduct a full orchestra soon came. The first one, however, was by accident. When Sir Georg Solti fell ill, in 1977, Margaret Hillis was called forward to conduct the whole shooting match (orchestra and chorus) in Gustav Mahler’s gargantuan Eighth Symphony. She was, thus, the first woman to conduct the Chicago Symphony. Several reprises followed with Chicago, and with other major symphonies too. And, just occasionally, she did return to Elgin to conduct her dedicated amateurs. Margaret Hillis died just as the Chicago Symphony Chorus was tooling up to celebrate its 40th anniversary, every year under her leadership. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 02 Oct 2019, 12:41

"Progress is made by trial and failure." Sir William Ramsay.

Somewhere amongst “the greatest discoveries in science” I would have to place the elements themselves. The ancients knew of a few absolutely pure substances like copper, tin, and arsenic, but moderns discovered the rest. Starting with the isolation of cobalt (1735), often using very primitive instruments (including their taste buds), and always using their brains, scientists knocked them off, one by one, until in 1869 a young Russian, Dmitri Mendeleev, put everything then known (64 elements) together in one “periodic table” and, what is more, brashly predicted that there would be more and made startlingly accurate guesses about their characteristics. But his predictions left out an odd, interesting ‘class’ of elements. The man chiefly responsible for finding them was William Ramsay, later Sir William, born in Glasgow on October 2, 1852. He was educated at Glasgow and Tübingen and spent his academic career—as a chemist—at Bristol and London. Ramsay specialized in gases and their compounds, but then (acting on a hint dropped in a public lecture) he began to find elements that Mendeleev had not predicted and had no place for. These were the inert or “noble” gases, noble in the sense that they wouldn’t combine with other elements but existed quite on their own. Ramsay named the first one he found (1894) Argon, Greek for “lazy,” which may suggest what he thought of the idle rich of his day. Mendeleev lived long enough to doubt and then to accept that these lazy aristocrats deserved their own places amongst the others and if you pick up your favorite copy of Mendeleev’s brilliant table you’ll find Ramsay’s brilliant discoveries all down the far right hand column, their nuclear cores so well protected (each by 8 electrons) that they have no “valence” and therefore no wish, nor desire, nor possibility of becoming molecularly associated with any other element. They don’t even mess with each other. Ramsay’s discoveries are (in their Mendeleevian order) Helium, Argon, Krypton, Neon, and Xenon. A little later, Radon (radioactive but otherwise just as inert and lazy as the others) was discovered by Ernest Rutherford. Both would later win Nobel prizes, but Ramsay’s was for all those gases. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 03 Oct 2019, 13:09

"Anyone who thinks about it can see that for human beings the teaching and following of morality is something necessary." Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, 2001.


Modern philosophy has encountered a few problems on account of its being, well, ‘modern.’ Democracy, diversity, and discovery have taught us that different cultures evolve differing moral codes, and, more challenging yet, different ethical philosophies. The question of what (if anything) might make one ethical system better than another is a knotty one, and can lead one to fall into what has been (unfairly, I think) called the “abyss” of moral relativism. Religious faith can provide an answer, but that often boils down to the “my God is bigger than your god” trope, more a declaration than an argument. One atheist philosopher who thought the problem solvable and in a profound sense unnecessary was Philippa Ruth Foot (née Bosanquet) who, though the granddaughter of US president Grover Cleveland, was born in England on October 3, 1920. She grew up in a country house in North Yorkshire where ridin’, shootin’ and fishin’ were major pursuits and the women organized dinners and balls. Accordingly, she later wrote, “girls simply did not go to college.” But she went, to Somerville, Oxford, where she read ‘PPE’ (philosophy, politics, economics) and met another student, Iris Murdoch, who became a lifelong friend. After war service (as an economist) she married the ‘other’ Michael Foot (M. R. D. Foot, the historian). The marriage did not last but it took her back to Oxford and Somerville, where she taught philosophy and advised students (both often on issues of “virtue”) for just over 20 years. That period was followed by a career in the USA, latterly holding an endowed chair at UCLA. In both places she issued important critiques of modern ethics and its predilections to linguistics and/or relativism, and argued that moral judgments were (should be) objective. This was not ‘cultural imperialism’ but rather a systematic individualism. The empire of the good, she argued, belonged to those who longed to make disinterested (virtuous) moral decisions. She summed it up in a 2001 retrospective, Natural Goodness. In 1995, a bevy of her former students published a festschrift in her honor called Virtues and Reasons : in themselves titles worth reckoning with. Phillipa Foot died, back in Oxford, on her 90th birthday. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Oct 2019, 11:56

"Under the warm breath of religious faith all social institutions become plastic." Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis, 1907.

In the late 19th century, industrial and finance capitalism transformed the USA and caused much anxiety. As the Lutheran historian Martin Marty points out in The Irony of It All (1986, vol. I of his Modern American Religion), it forced another broad schism in American Protestantism, still reeling from its agonies over slavery. On one side were the ‘moderns’ and on the other side the ‘countermoderns.’ Marty spends more time on the latter, finding in them the origin of modern fundamentalism (the “irony” of his title), but he identified among the ‘moderns’ the Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, born in Rochester, NY, on October 4, 1861. Rauschenbusch was the son of a German Lutheran missionary sent over to the US to keep emigrants loyal to the faith of the fatherland, but in his own seminary studies he migrated over to the (Northern) Baptists and, aged 25, was ordained minister at a German Baptist congregation in the heart of New York City’s immigrant slums. Already moved by German seminarians’ ‘higher criticism’ to reject the notion of biblical inerrancy, Rauschenbusch was unlikely to take the fundamentalist route, but believing the Bible to be ‘true’ and facing the real privations suffered by his parishioners he developed a theology, a style of church leadership, and a mission that we know today as the Social Gospel movement or Christian Socialism. Besides industrialization itself, the poverties of the workers, and the callousness of employers and politicians, Rauschenbusch took his inspirations from German socialists, British Fabians, the Bible’s message, and America’s home-grown radicals. Among these latter the most notable was Henry George, but they included other ministers like the Congregationalist Horace Bushnell and the Episcopalian W. D. P. Bliss (no relation, I believe). Walter Rauschenbusch died in 1918. His life and his publications have inspired many including Martin Luther King, Jr., Reinhold and Helmut Niebuhr, all within the church, and outside it his grandson, the philosopher Richard Rorty, whose birthday was also on October 4 (1931). ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Oct 2019, 11:55

"That which one never questions will never be proved." Diderot, Pensees Philosophique (my translation).

In our time, mistakenly christened the Information Age, any jackass rumor-monger can concoct poison, disseminate it widely, and find enough credulity in us to have it called ‘truth.’ There are plenty of jackasses about, for instance Alex Jones (USA) and Nigel Farage (UK), but, worse, the credulous appear to be more numerous. So one feels a certain pained nostalgia for the progenitors of the first Information Age, broadly called ‘The Enlightenment.’ Scientific experiment had made a promising start, contact with other cultures and places also added to the stock of useful knowledge, and the rise of an educable public stirred the hope that one might cast verifiable facts into the wind, and thus to “change men’s common way of thinking.” Those words were Denis Diderot’s,and he meant ‘change for the better.’ He was born in the Champagne on October 5, 1713, and would become an “encyclopedist.” That’s a classification given to a group of Frenchmen, who flourished in the middle decades of the 18th century. There were predecessors and there would be disciples, but Diderot was, perhaps, the greatest of the lot. Indeed, he was editor-in-chief of Encyclopédie, Ou Dictionnaire Raisonné Des Sciences, Des Arts Et Des Métiers, a work that grew like Topsy, and eventually grew to 28 volumes. But the systematic (raisonné) spirit of the thing was perhaps best caught by Diderot’s 1749 tract, Lettre sur les aveugles à l'usage de ceux qui voient (‘’Letter on the blind for the use of those who see’). There’s a moral lesson tied up in that title, which is why, today, all the best newspapers, scholarly journals, and publishing houses use editors and peer review. As for Diderot himself, he enjoyed considerable fame, but not riches, at least until Catherine the Great, Tsarina of All the Russias, made him her official librarian (book-buyer and cataloguer) in 1764. Catherine had ambitions of becoming an enlightened despot, but it may be that her greatest success was to give Denis Diderot a comfortable old age. When he died, in 1784, his heirs sent his personal library to her as a bequest. It still resides in St. Petersburg, while the likes of Jones and Farage seek despotisms and not enlightenments. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 05 Oct 2019, 13:40

Stanley wrote:
05 Oct 2019, 11:55
There are plenty of jackasses about, for instance Alex Jones (USA) and Nigel Farage (UK),
Nigel is obviously not your 'cup of tea', but perhaps jackass is a bit harsh. For the record - I wasn't impressed by the speed he went to visit Donald Trump after his election.

However jackasses don't do this - :smile:

The party has 29 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and four Welsh Assembly Members. The party's first major electoral success was winning the largest share of the national vote in the 2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom four months after the party's foundation.
Born to be mild. . .

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Oct 2019, 02:36

"So that was the end of my career. I couldn’t manage. I never mentioned this before to anyone." Helen Wills, 1994, explaining how a dog bite to her index finger ended her tennis career.

In the entrance to our condo there’s a marvelous picture of Helen Wills Moody on a tennis court, modestly attired (knee-length pleated skirt, stockings, etc.) but not much constrained. She’s in action, leaping towards the net, launching a shot which, doubtless, few players (of any gender) could have returned. She played to kill, and some say she was the most dominant player in the history of women’s tennis. She was born Helen Wills, near San Francisco, on October 6, 1905, an only child. She was home schooled by her mother, pretty well it would seem, before entering a private girls’ school in Berkeley and then the University of California, where she killed ‘em on court and in the classroom, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. It was probably there that she met Hazel Wightman, the grande dame of American women’s tennis, and one who had strong ties with the university (though Wightman, Cal ’06, had been more a sorority girl). The two hit it off, played competitively together in doubles, and Wightman became her on again-off again tennis (and social) tutor. Wightman, by then mother of five and a wealthy matron (she donated the Wightman Cup to American women’s tennis), thought Moody a dour, socially awkward person (“you have no idea how awkward”), and as Moody vaulted to the top of American and then world tennis journalists made something of this notion. Moody became “Little Miss Poker Face” and “The Imperial Helen.” On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin, no journalist of course, considered that Helen Moody, in action on court, was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. I can’t agree with him, but I see her every day and I know what he meant. Besides Chaplin, Moody was a friend of the artist Frida Kahlo, who painted her, and besides the tennis, she wrote and published poetry. After her marriage to Frederick Moody fizzled, she wed Aidan Roark in 1939. There were no children. Wealthy in her own right, when she died in 1998 she left $10 million to the University of California for neuroscience studies. Today it’s called the Helen Wills Institute. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Oct 2019, 12:24

"To name something is to wait for it in the place where you think it will pass." Amiri Baraka.

I first ran across the notion of the explication de texte in Vicki Creed’s French class at Penn (3rd or 4th semester, I think), and after “explicating” a couple of Jacques Prevert’s shorter blasts I got interested in radical American poets. I was helped along because my roommate was reading Lawrence Ferlinghetti, which may be how I got on to LeRoi Jones, as Jones then still was. But Jones, born in Newark on October 7, 1934, very soon changed his name to Amiri Baraka, not because of his association with the ‘Beats’ (circa 1956-60) even though some of them did play around with names. It was, rather, his cumulative experience with American racism, made diamond-hard by the February 1965 assassination of Malcolm X. Jones was his ‘white’ name, and he would have no more of it. He also divorced Hettie Cohen, his white wife, and after a (defiant) trip to Cuba Baraka settled in Harlem to take up the identity of a black nationalist writer, playwright, and campaigner. He has been prolific in all those pursuits, and in several literary genres. His life, which I haven’t followed closely, has been in part a search for identity, literary and personal, including a brief period as a Muslim that ended in the early 1970s. He probably understands that, as indicated by the title of his 1984 self-portrait, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka. An important part of his self-discovery was as an unhappy enlistee in the US Air Force, which he later referred to as the first time he had been “under the direct jurisdiction of people who hated black people.” For a teenager, it was a searing experience. His life and writing since have been directed at that, both as rebel and as traveler, for instance to a number of university posts and several literary awards. He was for a brief time poet laureate of New Jersey, but lost that honor with his controversial (and anti-Semitic) poem on the 9/11 disaster, “Somebody Blew Up America.” In January 2014, Amiri Baraka died in Newark, close by LeRoi Jones’s birthplace, in the Beth Israel Medical Center, where he’d been under emergency care for over a month. His son by his second marriage is today mayor of Newark. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Oct 2019, 12:22

"Spell Urge reverently and with a capital letter." Evelyn Cheesman, 'the woman who walks.'

I tend to think of Victorian families as repressive, especially for girls, but Evelyn Cheesman’s childhood (in County Kent, England) was anything but. She was born on October 8, 1881, a middle child, and she and her four siblings roamed at will around their father’s acreages (he was a “gentleman farmer”), picking up a bit of home schooling here and a bit of private schooling there. Reading between the lines, I’d guess that family income came and went, and when it went the kids stayed home. It didn’t prepare any of them for life, but Evelyn and her brother Robert were lucky; their forays into the countryside eventually made Robert an ornithologist of note. For Evelyn it was bugs, but not only did she become (largely by self-training) a noted entomologist for the British Museum and the London Zoo; she became better known as an intrepid explorer, asthma and all. Country rambles aside, she didn’t go exploring until she was 43, as official entomologist for a rather large expedition that took in the West Indies, Panama, the Galápagos, and the South Pacific. But when they reached Tahiti she discovered an easy rapport with the local people and an impatience with group endeavors. On Cheesman’s later explorations she traveled light, with a floppy hat and a hammock, trading for local foods as she went, and always collecting (and classifying) insects, tens of thousands of them. On very long explorations of the New Hebrides and then New Guinea, she became known to natives as ‘the woman who walks’ and ‘the lady of the hills,’ and on New Guinea a tambu was placed on her, rendering her more or less safe from cannibalism, still then practiced on the island. WWII sent her back home where her local knowledge (landscapes and peoples, perhaps insects too) proved invaluable to the Allies. There a fall (during a blackout) caused a serious back injury, but later, just to prove she could do it, she went off on a 9-month ‘camp’ on a remote Pacific island. She was then 73. Her remaining years (15 of them) were spent writing, mainly about bugs. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Oct 2019, 12:36

"In other schools girls are sent out quite unprepared into a merciless world, but when our girls leave here, it is the merciless world which has to be prepared." Alastair Sim as Miss Millicent Fritton.

St. Trinian’s, the girls’ school to end all education, had a recent film remake (2007) with a great cast (Rupert Everett in drag as the headmistress), but poor reviews. My guess is that reviewers had in their minds’ eyes Alastair Sim, who appeared in the first St. Trinian’s films (1954, 1957, 1960), playing both headmistress Millicent Fritton, and her ne’er do well brother Clarence, a race-track bookie with a delinquent daughter. We needn’t worry about the plots. The comedy was in the scenes. Alastair George Bell Sim, who held it all together, was born in Edinburgh on October 9, 1900. He had thoughts of becoming a chemist, but was a lecturer in a college of education when he set up on his own as a teacher of acting and elocution. There (life prefiguring St. Trinian’s art?) he fell quite improperly in love with one of his students, Naomi Plaskitt. They married when she was 19, Alastair 32, and moved to London to try acting for real. They did well, acting together several times, but for Naomi, Alastair was the thing. His career prospered, in comedy and drama, stage and film. By 1948 he was so well-known and well-loved in Edinburgh that the students elected him Rector of Edinburgh University by a huge margin (an honorific position that had before generally gone to Admirals and Prime Ministers). And St. Trinian’s was yet to come, a film adaptation of a cartoon series (Ronald Searle, creator), in which the faculty are (incompetently, and depending on gender) sadists, voyeurs, or prudes, and the pupils are (competently) ungovernable, unteachable, and either young petty criminals or late-teen-aged voluptuaries. And over it all frets Alastair Sim, aka Miss Millicent Fritton, unforgettably angular, generally frantic. Sim’s St. Trinian films are dated now, particularly in their jejune (yet not-quite-innocent) treatment of sex, but Miss Fritton is timeless. Alastair Sim died in 1976, having accepted an LL.D. from Edinburgh but refused a knighthood from PM Ted Heath. Naomi Plaskitt died in 1999. They left behind them a daughter, Merlith, and a passel of youths they had, in their generosity, semi-adopted, including one George Cole, the ‘spiv’ of St. Trinian’s. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 10 Oct 2019, 12:48

"A rich man bestows . . . alms on a beggar by which he may be able to maintain himself and his family. Does it cease to be a pure gift, because the beggar extends his hand to receive it?" Jacobus Arminius.

By the middle of the 17th century, “you are a filthy Arminian” was about the worst thing one Calvinist Protestant could say of another, short, that is, of accusations of popery. It was an unkind fate for a man we know (insofar as we can know such things) was a most faithful pastor of his Amsterdam church and a caring teacher of his many students. But this was the fate of Jacobus Arminius, born in Utrecht on October 10, 1560. Arminius didn’t have only himself to blame. As a student in Leiden, he’d come into contact one professor who thought John Calvin’s God “a tyrant and an executioner,” another who favored religious toleration, and a third who believed that the church could not be superior to the civil state. He probably got those ideas knocked out of him during a long stay in Calvin’s Geneva. But as a pastor in Amsterdam (from 1588) and a professor at Leiden (from 1603) Arminius fell prey to soft thinking about man’s fate in God’s universe. He told his congregation that they did not have to be prisoners of sin and that they could find seeds of grace within themselves. Then at Leiden he compounded the error by challenging the logic of Calvin’s absolutist version of predestination. His preachings, teachings, and writings were the subject of several inquiries, but he was a clever chap and held on to his Leiden professorship to the end (he died in 1609). Modern students have difficulty seeing what the fuss was all about (Arminius never came close to denying God’s utter sovereignty or man’s inherent frailty, for instance), but it was a precisionist century, and in orthodox Calvinist quarters “Arminian” became a hissing and a byword. In England, his Arminianism (and one or two other failings) cost Archbishop Laud his head, and in early Massachusetts to be an Arminian was to suffer fines, ostracism, or (worse) exile to Rhode Island. But in the 19th century, Arminianism in the shape of Methodism would become an engine of the democratization of American Christianity. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Oct 2019, 12:49

Freedom has become the passion of my life and I shall not see it compromised for bread, for security, for prosperity, for the glory of the state or for anything else." J. P. Narayan, announcing his opposition to Indira Gandhi's emergency rule, 1975.

The Congress Party, in the early 20th century the chief vehicle of Indian independence, was a broad church. Tied together (not at all loosely) by an increasingly radical push for ‘independence now,’ it contained within itself a veritable pot pourri of nationalisms, reflections of the subcontinent’s rainbow of diversities and of borrowings from western thought and culture. Jayaprakash (“J. P.”) Narayan, born in Bihar on October 11, 1902 may be taken as a case in point. He may first have been drawn into it by his young wife Prabhavati Devi. They were both high caste but when they wed (in 1920 when she was 14) she was already a devotee of Mahatma Gandhi, and so they joined together under a chastity vow. Their marriage, one of easy companionship as a couple and close partnership as politicians, was never consummated. Meanwhile, J. P. went to the USA to complete his education in technical fields, but at the University of Wisconsin was ‘converted’ to socialism and sociology, and (after a BA and MA at Ohio State) returned to India an enthusiast for both as the best routes to true independence in an imperialist world. This soon put him (and his wife) in opposition to both Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, opposition that took shape in their leadership of the ‘Congress Socialist Party’ that, after independence was achieved, broke away from the Congress. But J. P.’s pilgrimage was not yet over. Increasingly disillusioned with both ‘western’ socialism and Russian communism, he and Prabhavati became the leaders of a back-to-the-countryside movement, a “Total Revolution,” which, through sharing of land, labor, and harvests, would end famines and create a truly Indian social democracy. J. P.’s prolific writing (and his historic ties to the Congress) kept him in the public eye, and he would emerge from his rural ‘retirement’ to lead the opposition to Indira Gandhi’s ‘emergency’ dictatorship (1975-77). But age, diabetes, and kidney disease had broken his health, and he died in 1979. Prabhatavi had preceded him, in 1972. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Oct 2019, 11:46

"One of America's strengths has always been its openness to the new: new ideas and new people." Cesar Pelli, Architect.

When César Pelli died earlier this year, aged 92, his New York Times obituary was also an appreciation, by the architecture critic Paul Goldberger. Goldberger dwelt only lightly on Pelli’s career as dean of Yale’s school of architecture, and mentioned not at all the fact that it was Pelli who brought Goldberger onto the Yale faculty, but that’s OK. Pelli’s lasting contribution to architecture lies in his buildings, for the most part unapologetically modernist (as opposed to ‘post-modern’), which are now scattered across the world. César Pelli was born in the Argentine, in San Miguel de Tucumán, on October 12, 1926, and first studied architecture at the university there. His career began in low rises, designing public housing in San Miguel, but it was disrupted by a 9-month fellowship at the University of Illinois, accompanied by Diana Balmori, a landscape architect (and future practice partner). They didn’t intend to stay, but that plan was disrupted by Balmori’s pregnancy and an offer (to Pelli) of a job with Eero Saarinen. As an apprentice he excelled, and today he’s credited with making Saarinen’s soaring TWA terminal (New York) feasible in engineering terms and Saarinen’s modernist collegiate residences (at Yale) compatible in ‘décor’ with the campus’s traditional architecture. Then Pelli set up on his own. With the exception of his Museum of Modern Art in New York (much of it now torn down or radically modified), Pelli’s career was marked by a string of successful buildings, mainly very tall ones, all over the world. Goldberger called Pelli a modernist, and I’ll buy that. Certainly Pelli’s Cira Centre (2017, Philadelphia) on the edge of the Penn campus (it’s partly student residences) is as ‘modernist’ as one can get: startling, soaring geometries in steel and glass. On the other hand his Petronas Towers (1998, Kuala Lumpur: for a time the world’s tallest buildings) looks like nothing at all, unless a post-modern pastiche of western engineering and Islamic motifs. But then, as Pelli always said, the architect is the client’s servant. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Oct 2019, 11:24

"In a different era, given all her accomplishments and scientific contributions during such an extended period of time, Dr Ashby would have been nominated for a Nobel Prize." Patrick Monaghan, in the journal Laboratory Medicine, 2014.

When Miss Winifred Ashby received her PhD from the University of Minnesota, in 1921, her citation read that the degree was being conferred upon “him.” No doubt she gave it a wry smile and pressed on. After all, she was 42 and she’d already made major discoveries in nutrition and hematology; she was accustomed to being the first (or maybe second or third) woman to do this, that, or the other thing, for she was a Jill of many talents. Winifred Mayer Ashby was born in London on October 13, 1879. She moved with her family to Chicago and became a naturalized citizen in 1893. After a BS at Chicago and an MS at Washington University in St. Louis, she worked in the Philippines on malnutrition and plant physiology, returned to Missouri to teach high school physics, and then (in 1917) took a laboratory job at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. There she made major discoveries in hematology, especially that red blood cells could be preserved for quite a long while. She used this “Ashby Method” at the Mayo in transfusion therapy for anemia. It worked, and she published papers on it, but the medical profession as a whole resisted until World War II made it seem like a good idea. After her (or, as you might say, “his”) PhD, Winifred Ashby moved on again, in 1924, to the research staff of St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington, D.C., where she supervised the serology and bacteriology labs. She continued to make medical waves, mainly in blood work (e.g. a standardized technique for diagnosing syphilis.) She retired from salaried work in 1949 (with her piano, to a rural cottage in Virginia) but continued to potter about in the St. Elizabeth labs, mainly in blood pathology. But not entirely. When Winifred Mayer Ashby died, aged 95, in 1975, she was developing a new hypothesis concerning infant death syndrome. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 Oct 2019, 12:40

Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it. Hannah Arendt, 1951.

I first read Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism at the end of my sophomore year. It was not assigned in any course. I was just then in the process of becoming a good student (or at least a better one) and the book seemed something I should try. I then found it difficult (or unconvincing), and given Arendt’s universal reputation as a leading thinker of my time, I think I’d better give it a return visit. Johanna (“Hannah”) Arendt was born on October 14, 1906, in Hanover, Germany, into a liberal family that, in terms of its Jewishness, would be called assimilationist. She gained a superb education (at Marburg under Heidegger and at Heidelberg under Jaspers), then began her working life in the most unfavorable of circumstances, just as Hitler was coming to power. There followed, for Arendt, a series of escapes, the lasting one from occupied France to the USA, where she became a citizen in 1950 and published Origins in the following year. She vaulted to public prominence in her essays (initially in The New Yorker, 1963) on the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann. That’s how I came to know of her, and it is why I picked up The Origins of Totalitarianism. Whatever I thought of that book, and as I say I need to think again, I was hugely impressed by her pieces on Eichmann, particularly by the grotesque contrast she limned between his monumental crimes and his sheer mediocrity. It was in her New Yorker series, “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” that she coined the phrase (or, better, minted the idea of) “the banality of evil.” To me, it seemed to fit, almost the only way to comprehend both the Hitler phenomenon and its American echoes: so obscenely ordinary that it could happen here just as it had happened there. I’ve never asked him, but I think that Arendt’s insight is what impelled Ian Kershaw to undertake and then to finish his meticulous biography (the two volumes entitled Hubris and Nemesis) of the most ordinary criminal of them all, Adolf Hitler. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 15 Oct 2019, 11:59

"Those to whom Nature has denyed the Perfections of the Body are recompensed by the Superior Powers of the Mind." David Samwell, Journal of Captain Cook's voyage, British Library Egerton Mss. 2591, on line.

We tend to think of “identity politics” as a contemporary phenomenon, and indeed the term itself came into use only in the 1960s and 1970s. And today we have a host of identities, each claiming the right to be itself, and to be itself right out there, in public. But identity politics is not new. Think of a very diverse bunch of human beings who over a long century (circa 1776-1876) came to think of themselves as “Americans,” and then consider how difficult it has been for some of them to welcome “others” into that particular club. So when a young man baptized as David Samuel moved to London in 1770 and called himself “Dafydd Samwell” and not only that but adopted the ‘bardic’ name of Dafydd Ddu Feddyg, we can say he was identifying himself as Welsh. For him it wasn’t a ‘new’ identity. David Samuel was born in Denbighshire, North Wales, on October 15, 1751, son and grandson of Church of England vicars. His vicar grandfather Edward Samuel was a noted translator of Welsh poetry and song and David himself was undoubtedly bilingual. He based himself in London because he apprenticed to a Royal Navy ship’s surgeon, but while ashore in London he became a leading light of 18th-century London’s vigorous Welsh culture (or, I should say, subcultures or identities). Indeed he cofounded the Gwyneddigion Society, participated in Eisteddfods, wrote and declaimed Welsh poems and songs, sometimes, apparently, while drunk. He became famous because he went on Captain Cook’s voyage ‘round the world, during which he succeeded to the rank of chief surgeon and became Cook’s faithful companion and recorder. At least until Hawaii. Samwell’s witty journals still survive, including his racy observations of Pacific islanders’ sexual mores. Back in London he became a well-known surgeon but also, as Dafydd Ddu Feddyg (‘Black David the Doctor’), a ‘public Welshman.’ Poet and rake, a Dylan Thomas before his time, Black David died, probably of drink and opium, in 1798. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Oct 2019, 11:24

"So thou in sport, the happiest men dost schoole — To do as Thou dost, — wisely play the foole." Tribute to Robert Armin in John Davies's The Scourge of Folly (1611). Text available online.

The fool (clown, country bumpkin, jester) was a stock figure in theatre from ancient times, but critics have sensed that in Elizabethan times he and his mates graduated from the school of hard knockabout to become a moral presence. As Isaac Asimov put it, in his Guide to Shakespeare, the “great secret of the successful fool [is] that he is no fool at all.” Some say they can see this change in Shakespeare’s plays from about 1599, the year William Kemp was replaced by Robert Armin. In ‘real life,’ Robert Armin was (of all things) a goldsmith. He’d been born, probably in October 1563, a tailor’s son, in King’s Lynn, a prosperous wool trade port about 100 miles north of London. Robert’s father secured an excellent indenture for him, apprenticed to a master of the queen’s mint in the Tower of London, but well before he became a freeman of the Goldsmiths Company (probably in 1592) he’d given voice, or at least print, to his taste for comedic prose, poetry, and drama, possibly with the sponsorship of the great Elizabethan clown Richard Tarlton. In the 1590s, Armin performed in a touring company, Lord Chandos’s Men, and may have published ballads and comic poetry. Often he performed on his own, or in separate comic interludes, so was ready for greater things when he joined The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and the company’s actor-playwright William Shakespeare. There Armin became the perfect fool, articulate even in his bottomless (pun intended) ignorance, athletic enough to take his knocks (from his betters) or to fall over a hayfork (in his own comic clumsiness), and yet with stage presence enough to deliver telling judgments. In the new theatre crowds of the era, Armin pleased the groundlings (standees) as one of their own, but played to the galleries too as the wise fool, perhaps as a vessel of natural wisdom. There’s no doubt, then, that he paid for his keep; but he also played important roles in some of Shakespeare’s greatest works. Robert Armin, the wise fool, disappeared from dramatis personae after 1610 and was buried in November 1615. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Oct 2019, 11:59

"When a man of parts dedicates his talents to the service his country, he deserves the highest rewards; when he makes them subservient to base purposes, he merits execration and punishment." John Wilkes, 1762.

It is said that politics make strange bedfellows, and so it was that American rebels and revolutionaries got into bed, metaphorically, with an man who was, notoriously, a pornographer, a womanizer who as member of the Hellfire Club partied uproariously and drunkenly with prostitutes, and a brazen buyer of votes. Sound familiar? But this one was a marked contrast to today’s favorite. He was also a journalist and a brave defender of free speech and freedom of the press, a passionate advocate of parliaments, and withal a skeptic about monarchy, indeed about authority in many of its guises. “I am so ignorant I cannot tell a king from a knave.” He was talking about a card game but everyone knew what he meant. He was John Wilkes, a brewer’s son, born in London on October 17, 1725. Of dissenting stock (but a convert to the Church of England), Wilkes was educated by a series of dissenting tutors, in England and on the continent, and honed his wit (perhaps partly to defend against his apparently ugly and ungainly visage) to razor sharpness. His money helped, too, and so he gathered friends and entered parliament as a supporter of the elder Pitt. He became famous in his savage attack on the King’s Speech in 1763. Charged with seditious libel, Wilkes was probably eager and willing to support serious dissent wherever it came from, and of course (with the Stamp Act and all that) it came from the American colonies. At about the same time, his pornographic “Essay on Woman” got him in further trouble with the law, so he was a marked man. But he was a hero with the London voters and quickly became a hero for the American colonists, in need of all the friends they could collect, and so it was that the infant republic had towns, counties, babies, and streets named after Wilkes, a favorite patriotic toast in his honor, and of course and ironically John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin and a collateral descendant of our very unorthodox friend. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Oct 2019, 12:09

"The Restorer of Grecian Geometry, and by his Works the Great Promoter of its Study in the Schools." Robert Simson's epitaph.

I first became interested in early modern maths because I was fascinated by the rising confidence men showed in the value of just counting things, or, you might say, in the most primitive dimension of ‘statistics.’ A very practical notion, so men as diverse as Ben Franklin and Bishop Berkeley could extrapolate their estimates of American population and decide that the British empire’s center of gravity would have to move west (Berkeley thought to Bermuda, Franklin had his eye on Ohio). That practical bent, the notion than math might be useful, probably also lay behind the ‘invention’ of calculus by Newton (or Leibniz?). But mathematics also has continued to this day to fascinate people through its playful or ‘merely’ speculative nature: at least some people, those with a grasp of the higher mysteries of the mind, of space, and of flux. One such was Robert Simson, born in Glasgow on October 18, 1687. Simson began his studies at the university in 1701, and distinguished himself in the classics, at least when he wasn’t carousing with his mates. But he grew dissatisfied with the problematic or indeterminate characters of language and literature and was drawn first to geometry (of the plane sort), doubtless for its elegance and its axioms. This genius was noted by the Glasgow faculty, and at the tender age of 22 Simson was offered the Chair of Geometry. Modestly, he decided first to travel to London and Oxford to test his skills against those of Edmund Halley (the comet guy) and other eminent mathematicians. Having judged himself OK, he returned to Glasgow and took up the chair in 1711. He held it for a very long time, and was beloved by students and colleagues as much for his other eccentricities as for his great facility with the mysteries of mathematics. As he aged he became an adept at the unsolvable, too. Simson never married, dressed oddly, walked excessively (counting his steps, of course), lived in lodgings, ate his every meal at a nearby tavern, and at his death (in 1768) willed his massive library to the university, where still it sits, the Simson Collection. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Oct 2019, 12:09

"Our greatest achievements may become mere footnotes." Veronique Greenwood, distinguished science journalist, in a 2014 memoir of her great-great aunt, Marguerite Perey.

Like many women of science, Marguerite Catherine Perey followed an especially arduous path to reach her goals, and then when she attained them her sex denied her a full recognition of her genius. She was born in Villemomble, an eastern suburb of Paris, on October 19, 1909. Her childhood ambition (to become a medical doctor) was blasted by her father’s early death. So instead of university she attended a technical school, where she did well enough to apply (in 1928) to work as a technician in the laboratories of Madame Marie Curie. Much to Marguerite’s surprise, she was hired. There, because of her talent and certainly not because of her humble position, she was taken under Curie’s wing and was promoted to lab radiochemist and personal assistant. In 1935, having read and doubted a paper by leading American physicists on the decay of Actinium, she proved the paper wrong, and went on to show that, actually, Actinium decayed into a ‘daughter’ element, #87, Francium (so-called because it was discovered in France). During and after the war her ambitions were kept on hold; despite her accomplishments the Sorbonne insisted that she obtain a first degree before proceeding to a doctorate. She did that in short order. In 1949 she became head of nuclear chemistry at Strasbourg where she continued her work, for which she did receive many awards, including the Légion d’honneur (1960): but not all of the recognition she might have deserved. In 1962, Perey became the first female to be elected to France’s Académie des Sciences—but only as a corresponding member. After all, she was but a woman. Perey had always hoped that Francium might be useful in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer; instead, it killed her. Just as had her mentor (in 1934), Marguerite Perey died of radiation poisoning in 1975. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Oct 2019, 11:51

"At first, the Africans had the land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible." Jomo Kenyatta.

For history majors at Penn, senior year included two special subjects, a precise historiographical problem in the fall semester and then, in spring, a research seminar. For the latter, in 1965, I took Prof. Martin Wolfe’s seminar on the decline of European empires in Africa, and my research paper was on the land problem in Kenya from 1890 to the Mau Mau uprising (1952-1960). The Penn library proved well equipped, including a whole range of British ‘white paper’ reports, one or two chaired by Sidney Webb, on various imperial issues in Africa. The library also had many documents authored by Jomo Kenyatta, including speeches he had made when a graduate student in London, and Kenyatta—in 1965 the president of the newly-independent Kenya—quickly became something of a hero. One website gives Kenyatta’s birthdate as October 20, 1897, and we’ll go with that. We do know that he was born into Kenya’s dominant Kikuyu nation, and in an area that was becoming the “White Highlands,” increasingly occupied by Europeans, mainly British, who saw it as prime ranching and farming country. The Kikuyu were pushed off their land and down the social ladder. If they could find employment they served as agricultural laborers or domestic staff, while their masters, the whites, lived increasingly rich and racy lives. To ambitious young men like Kenyatta, steeped in Mission School Christianity, the injustice rankled and the immoralities stank. In his European studies he embraced socialism and economics, while making many friends in London. In 1946 he returned to Kenya as a school principal but intent on independence—and on solving the land problem in his Kikuyu homeland. His London writings and speeches—some delivered at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park—became a major source for my research paper. Probably innocent of direct involvement in the Mau Mau (many in the White Highlands wanted him hanged for any reason that could be found), Kenyatta was Kenya’s president from 1963 to 1978, but never solved the land problem—and several others—that history had imposed upon him and his new nation. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Oct 2019, 12:29

"One way or another, I'm coming up to the last cigarette." Simon Gray, 2008.

Simon Gray, possibly the most underrated playwright of the 20th century, was born in Hampshire on October 21, 1936. Perhaps he was led astray by his Canadian childhood, a tender-aged WWII evacuee cared for by an alcoholic grandmama, but that’s uncertain. We can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that Gray died of his vices—tobacco of course but also “up to” four bottles daily of champagne—in 2008. He could bear these expenses not because of his royalties (probably considerable) but because his second wife, who survived him, was a Rothschild heiress, not to mention a paragon of patience. After the war Gray was educated at Westminster School, then Dalhousie in Canada, then Cambridge, and did very well at all three places, ending up (it seemed) as a lecturer in English at Queen Mary, London. But a story he wrote got produced for television and he was off and running, sometimes at great speed, sometimes not. Looking at his productivity overall one would have to say that he usually wrote at speed, six novels, nearly 50 produced plays, and 8 volumes of memoirs apparently chock-full of savagely self-deprecating humor (e.g. The Smoking Diaries and The Last Cigarette). I saw some of the later plays, on television, but I best remember his early stage play, a great hit. That was Butley, which Paulette and I saw in London in 1971. In that play, Alan Bates was mesmerizing as a savagely self-deprecating university lecturer, the eponymous Butley. Open-minded to a fault, Butley also deprecated everyone else, not to mention much of his teaching material (English literature, to be sure), and the perfect bite of his humor—leaving only the tooth-marks, so to speak—was evidence enough for Simon Gray’s ruthless self-editing. Gray himself took Butley’s advice and gave up teaching, but continued to write, drink, and smoke. On doctor’s orders, Gray left off the champagne in the late 1990s, but he succumbed to heart failure and lung cancer anyway, his final punch line. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 Oct 2019, 11:33

"I can answer in the name of all my sex. Brave Americans, your disinterestedness, your courage, and your constancy will always be dear to America, as long as she shall preserve her virtue. Esther Reed, Sentiments of an American Woman, 1780.

Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick pointed out years ago that the American Revolution was led by a surprisingly young cohort. Thomas Jefferson was only 33 in 1776, Joseph Reed (a leader of Pennsylvania’s radicals who would become the new state’s ‘president’) was only 31. Their friend and co-conspirator John Adams was a greybeard at 41. And then there was Reed’s wife, Esther DeBerdt Reed, who was but 29. What made her into a revolutionary hero? The conventional explanation was that she followed her husband’s lead, but the evidence is almost as good as that for “he followed her.” Esther Reed, née DeBerdt, was born in London on October 22, 1746. Perhaps her rebellion was born in her Calvinist, dissenter upbringing. Or it may have arisen from her preference for sentiment, not as an alternative to reason but a source of its passion: twin streams of her personal Enlightenment. Perhaps it was an expression of her self-education, or her rebellious five-year courtship with a relatively poor colonial merchant, Joseph Reed. They married just before her father died (there is no suggestion that it caused his death!!) and sailed for Philadelphia, Reed’s base, in 1770. So Esther arrived four years before another revolutionary immigrant, Tom Paine. Despite her pregnancies, she assumed a leadership role in the Philadelphia resistance, and then in the drive for independence. Citing biblical and classical precedents, Esther led the ladies, first in boycotts of British goods (notably but not only tea), then in home manufactures, first the Daughters of Liberty and then (as president) of the Ladies’ Association, a national group that raised money and supplies for the Continental Army, including (it is thought) 7s. 6d. from the slave poet Phillis Wheatley. They raised a considerable sum (over 300,000 dollars), and turned it over to General Washington in the summer of 1780. That fall, Esther Reed herself, still only 33, succumbed to Philadelphia’s dysentery epidemic, a very young martyr of a very young revolution. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 23 Oct 2019, 11:54

“My mother’s idea of being poor was going to the Ritz on a bus,” Lady Trumpington, in her autobiography, 'Coming Up Trumps'.

I was appointed Principal of Grizedale College in 1978, and later discovered that I owed my appointment to a Conservative member of the Lancaster University Council. The discovery left me with an instinctive affection for a certain species of English female, the Tory Lady. By no means all of them, I hasten to say, but one sure qualifier (had I ever met her) would have been Baroness Trumpington. Before she was raised to the peerage by another Tory Lady (one of the lesser sort), Margaret Thatcher, she was Jean Alys Barker, wife of a prominent school headmaster, and before that she was Jean Campbell-Harris, born on October 23, 1922, her mother an American heiress, her father a well-connected army officer. The family fortunes were much diminished by the Great Depression, but, she later said, she hardly noticed. Whether or not her family was “in the money,” she had enough, usually, and she knew almost everybody, and she knew how to party. Along the way she became a pretty good tennis player, discovered she was too tall for the ballet, and developed the skills (in languages) that she needed to become part of the Bletchley Circle. A rarified part: when she and her Bletchley friends partied, it was at Claridge’s. After Bletchley she spent a bit of time in New York, living above the Stork Club. There she found her husband, Alan Barker, then a master at Eton on a Yale fellowship. He soon moved on to be headmaster of the Leys School at Cambridge, and besides making waves as the headmaster’s wife, Jean Barber threw herself into local politics, serving as a councillor for the Trumpington district and then as mayor. As Lady Trumpington she vaulted into a more prominent role, in various offices for the Thatcher and Major governments and as a member of the House of Lords. She carved out a name for herself as an outspoken advocate of women’s rights and other crusades, some rather more eccentric than others. In a word, she became what she always had been, a personality, faithfully representing herself and that certain breed of Tory Lady. She died only last year, to a chorus of affectionate obituaries. ©
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