BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 Feb 2020, 12:47

"I'm going to be the most self-fulfilled lady on the block." Joanne Woodward.

On September 11, 2001, Joanne Woodward and her husband were in Washington, DC, finalizing the new season of plays at the Westport (Connecticut) Country Playhouse where, at age 71, she’d just taken on the job of artistic director. Given the events of that day, the season had to change, she thought, and the play she chose to add was Wilder’s Our Town. It was, she said, “something real.” It was an interesting choice for a woman who’d enriched her life as a successful film actress by moving away from Hollywood to raise a family (three daughters) and engage herself in changing things for the better in a smallish place of manageable scale. Joanne Gignilliat Trimmier Woodward was born in such a place, Thomasville, Georgia, on February 27, 1930. The middle names suggest her father’s pride in the family’s Huguenot ancestry, and perhaps a bit of pretention, for he was a big fish (vice-president of Scribners) in a small pond. His connections put her (at 9) on Laurence Olivier’s lap at the Atlanta premier of Gone with the Wind, and after schooling in the small-town south, some dabbling in beauty contests and bouts as a drama student (at LSU and then in New York), she fetched up in Hollywood. Her distinguished career included an Academy Award for The Three Faces of Eve (1957) and a Golden Globe for Rachel, Rachel (1968), both troubling films that explored character in depth and with sensitivity. There had been and would be other awards (and nominations too), but what made her life remarkable was her decision to move with her husband and young daughters into a different, domestic setting. She and her husband, who was Paul Newman, often emerged from Westport to engage in film and stage productions, often together and often successfully, but they spent their energy also on parenting and on charitable projects, and not only the Westport Theater. Newman died in 2008. Now suffering from Alzheimer’s and nearing her life’s end, she is further troubled by legal wrangles among her children over the Newman-Woodward estate, apparently because they fear she will give it all to charity. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 28 Feb 2020, 14:10

"America is a constipated nation…. If you pass small stools, you have to have large hospitals." Dr. Dennis Burkitt.

“You are what you eat” is an old saying that once had more to do with class and culture than with health. New England Puritans were reluctant to eat “Indian corn” (maize) for fear it might make them into Indians. American dietary reformers of the 19th century like Dr. Graham and Mr. Kellogg were more interested in their ‘pet’ foods’ impact on our moral fiber than on our health (crackers and corn flakes, respectively). But lately it’s been health and longevity that have driven our dietary notions. That shift has many causes, but one person stands out, Dennis Burkitt, born in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, on February 28, 1911. Already a devout evangelical Presbyterian, Burkitt (while in college) was diverted from engineering to medicine by prayer. There, at Trinity College Dublin, attending religious revivals, he also honed a preaching style that would later serve him well in the cause of health. In WWII he went out to Kenya as a British army surgeon, and then decided to stay on as a medical missionary, a carer and a curer. But it was as a scientist that he described ‘Burkitt’s Lymphoma,’ a virulent cancer particularly frequent in a narrow band of equatorial Africa. As an engineer, he found ingenious ways to construct artificial limbs from scrap. But he also became convinced that the high incidence in western societies of many diseases owed to our dietary habits. Westerners working in Africa brought those habits with them and, predictably, Burkitt thought, died of those diseases. He returned to Britain and, his scientific and surgical reputations burnished by his work with cancer and prosthetics, he became a medical missionary for dietary reform. In particular, Burkitt became the fiber man, urging us to restore (as he saw it) our natural habits of eating fibrous foods. Those oratorical skills honed in evangelical rallies were now turned to convince people that they were indeed what they ate. As a medical man loaded down with scientific awards and distinctions, he spoke with authority and became influential in several countries, not least the health-conscious but increasingly unhealthy United States of America. Dr. Dennis Parsons Burkitt died at home in Gloucestershire in 1982. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tizer » 29 Feb 2020, 12:24

Thanks for that, Bob! I was fortunate enough to attend a special lecture by Denis Burkitt at the Liverpool University Medical School. An unusual lecture in that it was illustrated with a series of slides showing his own photos taken in Africa of the stools of various native people, all very soft and bulky stools, compared with those typical in the `developed world'. I'm glad that smartphone cameras hadn't been invented then or we might have been subjected to even more graphic images! :smile:

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 29 Feb 2020, 12:30

"The mighty Monarch was beguil’d// And own’d a Master in a Child!" From a poetic review of George Bridgewater's royal command performance at Bath, 1790.

Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata (no. 9, for violin, 1803) was first called ‘the Mulatto Sonata,’’ and i the original Ms. carries the notation (in German) ‘Mulatto sonata composed for the mulatto Bridgetower, great fool and mulatto composer.’ However, Beethoven and Bridgetower quarreled, and today we have the Kreutzer, after a famed Parisian violinist who didn’t like the piece and never played it. So who was Bridgetower? George Augustus Bridgetower was born in Galicia, Poland, on February 29, 1780, in or near the court of a Radziwill prince. His father was probably a former Barbadian slave but by 1780 was a free person and was soon in the service of Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy . In the same noble retinue was Franz Joseph Haydn, but young George was already a musical prodigy and probably trained in the Raziwill palace. At any rate, by age 10 he was a sensation in Paris, and when he reached London he was billed as ‘George Augustus’ Bridgetower, an interesting name given that Britain had a King George. The Prince of Wales was soon acting as George’s patron, and the boy (while still taking lessons) performed for the Prince at court, in private functions and benefits and for the public, too. He met Beethoven while on a visit to his mother. The two hit it off well, extremely so, and indeed Bridgetower played the premiere of the Kreutzer, with Beethoven at the piano, on May 24, 1803. On the day, the second movement was still in manuscript, but Bridgetower, by then a seasoned veteran, did not stumble. There’s a story that during a rehearsal Bridgetower altered a passage, delighting Beethoven so much (“Noch einmal, mein Lieber Bursch!!” or ‘once more, my dear fellow!’) that he changed the notation. After the falling-out, Bridgetower continued to perform and compose, mostly in London. He married an Englishwoman but survived his wife and their daughter. He died in 1860, leaving his estate to his sister-in-law. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, having lived, one has to say, an extraordinary life. On the other hand, his brother Frederick and his nephew Frederick II were noted cellists. There was, perhaps, some talent in the family. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 01 Mar 2020, 13:21

"Rather than pushing children to think like adults, we might . . . try harder to be more like them." Seymour Papert.

Seymour Papert was born early enough to work with Jean Piaget and then lived long enough to bring Piaget’s developmental ideas into the fields of computing and artificial intelligence. His ideas were also shaped, or forged, by his experience of racism and then of formal apartheid, for he was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on March 1, 1928. He stayed there until after his degrees in philosophy (BA, 1949) and mathematics (PhD, 1952) at Witwatersrand. It was after a second PhD (in mathematical theory) at Cambridge that he went to Geneva to work with Piaget. There he became an evangelist for Piaget’s ‘constructivist’ view that the learning process works best when it’s tied to people’s (aka children’s) construction of their world or world view. Or, as Papert put it, “you cannot think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.” At MIT (from 1963) he took that idea into computing, including programming and even computer engineering, and almost immediately began brainstorming about how computing and computers could improve childhood education: or, as he put it in a 1980 book, mindstorming (Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas.) Remembering his own youthful, and playful, fascination with mechanical gearing, he wanted to put the computer to the use of the child, not vice-versa, even including children doing their own programming (in the 1960s Papert inventing a simple programming language, Logo, which made that sensible and possible). The Danish company Lego liked his ideas enough to finance further projects and to create, at MIT, the LEGO chair of learning research. Holidays in Maine led, after his retirement from MIT, to the creation in Maine of the Learning Barn, the Learning Lab, and the Papert Institute, mostly focused on how to make the learning child the chief brainstormer of the process—and on how a computer can help a child to do this. You can learn something of how it’s done (and some of its results) by visiting the One Laptop Per Child website, yet another Papert project which he began in 2004, and which operates well beyond the boundaries of Maine. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 02 Mar 2020, 13:44

"Academicians of Oxford, Thomas Bodley has built this library for you and for the republic of letters. Use it well." Inscription (in Latin) at the entrance to the Bodleian Library, Oxford

If the 1604 royal charter of Oxford’s Bodleian Library still holds good, the library is a corporation and in its own right entitled to hold (and dispose) property and goods in full legal title. It is certainly a wonderful place for students of all sorts, particularly Duke Humfrey’s Library, the oldest part of the building, which until 2015 was the manuscripts and rare book reading room. There, one felt, one ought to work all day, assiduously taking notes and soaking up the atmosphere despite its chairs, made of the hardest wood available and constructed on acute angles. The building (1485) was named for Duke Humfrey of Lancaster, younger son of King Henry IV, who in 1447 had willed his 281 books to the university. It was a magnificent donation. But today the library as a whole carries the name of Sir Thomas Bodley, scholar, diplomat, and merchant, who spent the last two decades of his life restoring Duke Humfrey’s Library and expanding its collection, in manuscripts and in printed books. Bodley’s life began in Exeter, in the southwest, on March 2, 1545, as the eldest son of a radical Protestant publisher. On Mary’s accession to the throne, Bodley père and mère fled with their young family to the continent, ending up at Geneva where Thomas proved old enough (and smart enough) to be educated in Hebrew and Greek by leading scholars and in theology by none others than Calvin and Beza. This tutelage stuck, and once England was again Protestant the young Bodley (aged 14) fetched up at Oxford, first as a student and then as a fellow: and known in both capacities as a scholar of wide and widening interests. Those interests soon (1576) took him “beyond the Seas” to learn even more (including four modern languages) and to make some money. He married well (a rich widow) and entered the service of another powerful woman, Elizabeth I, serving her as a ‘court’ MP, a Gentleman Usher, and as a rather independent (and thus exasperating) diplomat. Hearing that “for my comfort . . . the Queen did wish I had been hanged” but doubtless for other reasons he returned to Oxford in 1595 “to set up my Staffe at the Library doore.” There his energy, his private means, and his persuasive pen and tongue rescued the university library from its ruin and gave to it his name. And I do forgive him those diabolical chairs. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 03 Mar 2020, 12:40

"I Wish I Knew How It Felt To Be Free." A Margaret Bonds song, 1971, commissioned and sung by Leontyne Price.

For some years we have held season tickets for the St. Louis Symphony’s ‘Sunday’ series. The tickets are cheaper, we like the afternoon schedule, and the audience is always about as aged as we are. That age profile is part of a critical problem for symphony orchestras in the modern city, how to broaden their appeal. An early pioneer in addressing this problem was Frederick Stock, for 37 years (1905-42) the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps because he came from Germany, he set out to make classical music part of Chicago’s culture, for instance inaugurating an outdoor season in his first year (1905), and seeing to it that the orchestra’s repertoire (and its discography) included ‘popular’ pieces. He also cultivated young talent in the city, performers and composers, often from the wrong side of whatever tracks divided Chicago by class, race, and ethnicity. These contacts included the black women composer Florence Price and her protégé Margaret Bonds. Bonds, born into a middle-class family on March 3, 1913, was brought up to music and produced her first composition (a blues song) at age 5. Her extensive studies in music (at Northwestern and then at the Julliard) included tutelage, in Chicago, from Price, who doubtless introduced Bonds to Frederick Stock. As a black woman, Bonds found it all very tough going (Northwestern, she later recalled, was in 1930 “a terribly prejudiced place.”) Yet not everyone was; Price recorded in her diary an incident in which Frederick Stock ran into Margaret Bonds in a Michigan Avenue store, accosted her in a most friendly manner, and encouraged her to keep working on both performance (piano) and composition. Stock would go on to premiere Bonds as a soloist (celebrating her Northwestern B.Mus.) in 1934. Margaret Bonds went on to a distinguished career in New York (with Langston Hughes and Leontyne Price, on choral compositions) and then Los Angeles. Among her many compositions were several celebrating the civil rights movement (and its movers) of the 1960s. Margaret Bonds died suddenly in 1972, shortly before Zubin Mehta and the LSSO and Chorus premiered her Credo for chorus and orchestra. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 03 Mar 2020, 13:56

Stanley wrote:
03 Mar 2020, 12:40
"I Wish I Knew How It Felt To Be Free." A Margaret Bonds song, 1971
Bob Dylan says 'mysteriously'

Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me
"How good, how good does it feel to be free?"
And I answer them most mysteriously
"Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?"
Born to be mild. . .

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Mar 2020, 03:58

Getting a bit too deep for my little brain Old Lad!
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Mar 2020, 14:25

The P. T. Barnum of Books.

The joke used to be that the nouveaux riches, parvenus, desperate for entry into the ranks of the respectable, would include in their new mansion a library, then fill its empty shelves with books bought by the linear foot. They learned to read when (if ever) they got around to it. There might have been some truth to it in and after 1906, for then one could buy books by weight from Foyle’s Bookshop, Charing Cross, London. The young Foyle brothers, Willie and Gilbert, had just moved there from a nearby alley store front, in order to accommodate their geometrically expanding stock of used books. They’d started their business in 1903, flogging off the textbooks they’d bought for their (failed) civil service exams. So legend has it. Whatever: it worked, for in 1912 they started to sell new books in a larger shop, and in 1929 they opened up in a new building, 4 floors (later, 5), the “largest bookshop in the world,” or so Willie (by now the self-proclaimed ‘Barnum of Books’) claimed. Willie (William Alfred Westropp Foyle), the moving spirit of all this bookishness, was born a London grocer’s son on March 4, 1885. A bright lad with a thirst for knowing, he sought to improve his mind by reading and to raise his status by joining the UK Civil Service, and when that latter didn’t work out he made the best of the former. No Barnum he, Willie loved his books, and he loved book lovers, and he would go to great lengths to find just the books that the lovers wanted. So his business grew, mainly in the retail and second-hand trades, but also in rare books and pre-books (illustrated medieval manuscripts). And when his wife Christina Tulloch (the granddaughter of Shetland fisherfolk) wasn’t birthing and raising their daughters, she helped Willie with the book business. So it was no surprise that when in 1945 the Foyles moved into a magnificent old abbey near Malden, Essex, they made a large library—and did not stock it by the linear foot. Meanwhile, back in London, their daughter, also Christina (1911-1999), raised Foyles to even greater heights, and then left £76 million in charitable trust—part of which has since been used to help the British Library buy yet more books, not by the linear foot. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Mar 2020, 12:59

“Big developers should pay their own way if they want to be dumb enough to develop in the floodplain.” Gregory Lynn Poleski.

When Greg Poleski died earlier this year (on 1/20/20) his friend Tony Messenger wrote up his obit in the Post-Dispatch. In it, Messenger suggested that Poleski had “canoed downriver” one last time. The river in question is the Big Muddy, the Mighty Missouri, which empties its brown flood into the Mississippi just north of St. Louis and thus loses its name to its little brother. The Mississippi, from Itasca to the gulf, is just 2,320 miles long. Tack on the Missouri and you get 3,902 miles and the world’s 4th-longest river. Whichever, Greg Poleski made the Missouri his river, canoeing it (an exciting and occasionally dangerous hobby), hiking it, and more to the point doing whatever he could to preserve the Missouri from those who would tame it, dike it, or turn its flood plain into mammoth shopping centers and gimcrack suburbs—often on tax credits. So Messenger’s death metaphor, ‘canoeing downriver,’ was a nice sentiment, worthy of a Pulitzer Prize columnist. It was worthy of Greg Poleski, too. Gregory Lynn Poleski, river rat, was born on March 5, 1953. During working hours, he was a union man, an employee of all of us at the US Postal Service. After hours and on weekends he was a campaigner for our environment, and not only for his beloved river, the giant that humbled us all (or should have) in the great flood of 1993, but for little things too, like spiders, and medium-size wonders like our local “Greenway Network” of paths and trails. Greg won a big one just before his death, when a local municipality voted against a tax-incentive scheme to turn a ‘neglected wilderness’ into yet another shopping center. But then, just days after Greg Poleski’s funeral, the president of the United States took executive action to erase Obama-era protections for our waterways. Had Poleski survived his cancer, he would have taken that as a spur to yet further action, and then he would have acted. His life was like that. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 06 Mar 2020, 12:59

"The Farmville Jail isn't big enough to hold us all." Barbara Johns, April 23, 1951.

The Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, VA, was inadequately heated, and not air conditioned at all. It had no gym, no cafeteria, and was far too small for its 400+ students. Local people—parents—had built on tar-paper additions to house the overflow. It was named after a local hero, an education pioneer who had risen to become president of the Tuskegee Institute, but even that was a bad joke. Moton High was, as it was intended to be, separate and unequal. So in the Spring of 1951, Moton’s students (the older ones, seniors and juniors) decided to do something about it. Their leader was Barbara Johns, a Junior. Born in Harlem, NY, on March 6, 1935, she’d moved to Farmville with her family, where her dad worked the land and her mom commuted to Washington to work as a Navy clerk. As the eldest, Barbara was ‘mom’ during the week, cooking, getting her younger siblings ready for school, packing their lunches, and then watching as the nicer school bus (for white kids) passed her by on its way to the better school (the one for white kids). So Barbara was a take-charge kid; forging a school’s principal note calling for an emergency assembly, she organized a walk-out, a school strike. No fool she, Barbara had also contacted some NAACP lawyers (“she was very insistent,” one of the lawyers remembered) who liked her story but thought her goal of a new and better school wouldn’t do. They advised striking out for integration and equality, not separation. And so on April 23, 1951, Barbara talked to the 150 strikers, stoking their courage, fueling their defiance, making them laugh, before they set off on their march. It would be a long march, but in 1954 Barbara’s case (by then known as Davis v. County School Board, would become one of the five cases wrapped up in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, which tolled the bells for the American bad joke of ‘separate but equal.’ Since she’d singled herself out, local whites made her life uncomfortable. She finished her schooling elsewhere, went on to Philadelphia for her college degree, and lived out her life as a school librarian. She died of cancer in 1991, almost unnoticed. But today Barbara Johns’ statue stands on the capitol grounds in Richmond, the state attorney general works in the Barbara Jones Building, and on April 23 Virginia celebrates Barbara Johns Day. Some things do change, sometimes. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Mar 2020, 13:24

"I do love cricket. It's so very English." Sarah Bernhardt.

I am certainly one of the few and may be the only American to have bowled out—for a “duck,” no less—a recognized international batsman, and not only that but a batsman named “Gower.” I speak of cricket, that mysterious sport which, unlike baseball, actually does have a World Series. My triumph made me famous for only an instant of time and before a very small audience, for it was only a college match and the “Gower” in question was not the English test cricketer David Gower but a Rhodesian under-19 player. But for me it was a sporting pinnacle, and it was satisfying politically as well, for “my” Gower was a supporter of Rhodesia’s racist “independence” regime, and when I bowled him (with a “yorker”) he stalked off and left the match, a remarkably unsportsmanlike gesture. All this happened in the late 1970s when I and the cricketing world were being mesmerized by the West Indians. First among several West Indian giants was Viv Richards, who burst on the Test scene (and on English county cricket, for Somerset) in 1974. His monumental batting talent made him the opener for the West Indies for a decade, and then his cricketing wisdom made him West Indian captain from 1984 through 1991 (during his captaining years, the “Windies” never lost an international ‘test’ series). Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was born in St. Johns, Antigua, on March 7, 1952. His was a cricketing family, and he began in club cricket, then debuted internationally for Antigua and the Leewards at age 19, and then for the West Indies at 22. His international statistics were and remain astounding, most memorably a 1976 test match average of 90 runs per inning. As a batsman he was courageous and aggressive (to the dismay of insurers he never donned a helmet even against the most murderous bowlers), as a fielder superb, and as a spin bowler well above average. As a cricketing icon of his time, he was equaled only by his Somerset teammate Ian Botham, and to this day Botham insists that Richards was the better cricketer. On the whole, it’s a good thing I never had to play against Viv Richards. I would have hated to bowl him out for a duck. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Mar 2020, 13:15

"You don't realize how important dishwashers are until you wash dishes." Kelsey Grammar, on his first job (at a Denny's Restaurant.)

That old question of whether ‘genius’ (whatever that is) runs in families is certainly raised by the life and accomplishments of Josephine Garis Cochrane, born in rural Ohio on March 8, 1839. Her father John Garis was a hydraulic engineer, a seemingly curious occupation in 1830s Ohio; but Josephine Garis Cochrane’s genius would have much to do with water, and the point may be underlined when we learn that her mother, Irene Fitch Garis, was the granddaughter of John Fitch, inventor of the steamboat. So perhaps Josephine Cochrane also inherited a curiosity about power. But these inherited proclivities did not come out early; rather Josephine moved to Shelbyville, Illinois, perhaps in search of a husband, and there found a local boy, William Cochrane, who did not make good in the California Gold Rush but came home to Shelbyville and made a mint in dry goods. There Josephine managed a mansion with servants. A nice life, we think, but the servants were a problem, and one night, surveying the chipped china they’d washed and dried, Josephine determined to do something about it. So with the help of a local Shelbyville mechanic (who became her first employee) she invented a dishwashing machine, not the ‘first’ one but the first to employ waterjets to wash dishes held in wire racks in a waterproof compartment. She kept at it after the family moved to Chicago, where at first William continued to prosper (in dry goods and Democratic party politics) and Josephine continued to tinker. When William came down with alcoholism and died, about the time (1886) that Josephine patented her device, tinkering became necessity and Josephine became a manufacturer. Her dishwashers (nine of them) were a sensation at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. At a time when domestic plumbing and hot water were still, for most homes, inadequate to the task, her machines sold mainly to fellow mansion-owners, hotels, and restaurants, but they did sell, and when Josephine died in 1913 (of exhaustion, it was said) her company was on its way to becoming ‘Kitchen Aid.’ But her dishwashers awaited the post WWII housing revolution to become ordinary appliances in ordinary middle-class homes where the servants were mostly mechanical. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Mar 2020, 12:51

"It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something." Ornette Coleman.

The I. M. Terrell High School in Fort Worth, TX, was at first bereft of many needed facilities, but even in the segregation era it acquired most of them, often by community donation rather than tax support. Among these was its music program, directed for several decades by the legendary C. A. Baxter, who taught several even more legendary musicians. One of them who did not admire Baxter was Ornette Coleman, expelled by Baxter from the program for reckless improvisation during a performance of Sousa’s Washington Post march. But then let’s not blame Baxter. Coleman was always going to be a rebel, using his consummate skills (first with the alto sax) to transgress boundaries. As a career strategy it didn’t work well, at least early on. Born in Fort Worth on March 9, 1930, as Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman, Coleman’s departure from Baxter’s band was not his only exit, nor his most spectacular one. After high school, in Baton Rouge, he was assaulted off-stage and his sax destroyed. Then in Los Angeles he had to work as an elevator operator as no band would have him. But Coleman kept playing pickup, here and there, and kept thinking, and by the late 1950s had formed a quartet with like-minded talents who, like the American Transcendentalists of the 1830s, had agreed to disagree. Their first albums were Something Else!!!! (1958), then The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959), and finally Change of the Century (1960). These were titles that invited controversy, and they got it. Coleman’s long musical life (he died in 2015) was itself improvisational, including giving himself recording turns (self-taught) with violin and trumpet, and latterly (from the 1970s) as a composer, including his suite Skies of America recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra with Coleman (again on alto sax, as it were to spite Mr. Baxter). His later work Sound Grammar won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2007. Ornette Coleman’s jazz styles have been given many names, partly because they evolved, but the ones that seem to have stuck are “free jazz” and “fusion.” Goodness knows what Baxter called him. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 10 Mar 2020, 13:38

"This is a gathering of the women of the world, and color has no place in it." Hallie Quinn Brown, 1925, protesting segregated seating at the International Women's Conference, Washington DC.

Internet sources display some confusions about Hallie Quinn Brown’s birth year (those given range from 1845 to 1855), but agree that her birth-day was March 10. When she died (in September 1949) she claimed 100 years, so March 10, 1849 seems about right. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA, the daughter of freed slaves, and spent her childhood on the family’s farm in Ontario. In 1870, the family removed to Ohio, built a house they called ‘Homewood,’ and Hallie entered Wilberforce University, graduating BSc in 1873. She immediately took off southwards to teach in a freedmen’s school in South Carolina, then in public (segregated) schools in Mississippi, and in the early 1890s served as Dean of Women at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. Along the way Brown acquired a talent at public speaking (it was said she could ‘play’ her voice like an instrument). She attended a ‘school of oratory’ in Boston, and then taught rhetoric at Wilberforce. She was also a public lecturer (touring in her own name, for the Chautauqua, and as fundraiser for Wilberforce). She served as a missionary for the African Methodist Episcopal Church and as an American delegate at various international conferences. On one or perhaps more of her European jaunts Hallie Brown was invited to Buckingham Palace for tea with Queen Victoria. Back in the USA she was active in the women’s suffrage movement and in black civil rights organizations. She joined with Helen Pitts Douglass to lead the successful campaign to preserve Frederick Douglass’s home in Washington as a national treasure, and then raised funds for its maintenance. She was also active in Republican Party politics and spoke at the 1924 national convention. In the last decades of her life, she turned to writing, published several books, and in retirement continued to teach elocution to Wilberforce students. In September 1949 she was buried in the Brown family plot in Wilberforce’s Massie Creek Cemetery. There are today no separate gravestones, but a grey granite monument proclaims her and her family’s lives. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Mar 2020, 12:36

"He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it." Adams, A Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I regret that I never listened regularly to Douglas Adams’s radio serial A Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I did hear the very first episode (broadcast on the BBC in March 1978) and was amused—even entranced—by its premise. Arthur Dent, a classic nobody, discovers that his house will be condemned in order to build a new road, thinks that it owes to the uncaring machinations of faceless London bureaucrats, but discovers it’s actually Part I of an intergalactic plan to destroy the earth and everything it stands for, including truth, justice, and the British way of life. Over the years I listened spasmodically (it was first broadcast late in the evening) and was spasmodically amused. Suffice it to say that while Hitch-Hiker’s Guide became a modern classic, for all practical purposes I missed it. Its creator was Douglas Noël Adams, born in Cambridge on March 11, 1952, the son of the richest probation officer in the UK. His odd childhood and then his odd youth explain some of the oddities of his odd creation. At any rate the scripts of the Guide have been microscopically examined to find connections, and there are quite a few, including the odd postal address when the hitch-hiker revisits earthlings. After his parents’ divorce in 1957 and then their remarriages Adams was shuffled between families, never quite belonging and always somewhat unhappy, but at the time he thought he was normal. And as a normal-abnormal kid Adams became good at an odd concatenation of things, poetry for instance and pop music (a good guitarist albeit one with his own anarchic sense of beat and rhythm). His oddities got him into Cambridge, where he performed well as a writer for the Footlights but only flashily as a scholar. After college his drinking sometimes got the better of him, but he kept writing this and that and here and there for one production or another (including, by the way, Doctor Who). The runaway success of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide and its off-spins allowed that odd life to continue, spasmodically, creatively, and sometimes spectacularly hedonistically, until it ended with a massive coronary in a fitness gym in Montecito, California, on May 11, 2001, when Douglas Adams was only 49 years old. It seemed to many a modern tragedy. It seemed so to me, too, and I hardly knew the guy. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by PanBiker » 11 Mar 2020, 14:56

42
Ian

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Mar 2020, 13:42

:good:

"In this way the windows were opened in the walls of my dungeon through which the light of knowledge streamed in." Andrew Carnegie, recounting the importance to him, aged 12, of being given access to a private library in Pittsburgh, PA.

I’ve always admired people who give large sums to public libraries, so I was pleased when in 2012 I learned that the DesMarias sisters had willed over $8 million to the Livingston County (Missouri) Library. I knew them both. Varina DesMarias was my mom’s best friend and my first doctor (also the first female doctor in Grundy County, Iowa, where both sisters were born, daughters of a tenant farmer). Lillian DesMarias served in university and public libraries in Iowa and Missouri, finishing up at Livingston County. The sisters were famously frugal (generous to others, including me and my sister, but indulging themselves only with a nice two- or three-week holiday every year), but I hadn’t known they were that frugal. So Livingston’s nice story was, for me, a genuine surprise. The sisters had established a kind of ‘Tontine’ where the sister who died last decided where all the money went. Lillian (who died at 99) survived Varina by three years, and so she decided the matter. Andrew Carnegie, like Lillian DesMarias, had a thing about libraries, and when he set about to give away all his money (he didn’t succeed, by the way), public libraries were among his largest donations. His total of library gifts, adjusted for inflation, far outstrips the $8.3 million shocker of the DesMarias sisters. His largest single gift, dated March 12, 1901, was $5.2 million, given to the New York Public Library to build a string of branch libraries, and that would be ~$140 million today. On the same day, March 12, 1901, Carnegie gave $1 million (~$29 million today) to the St. Louis Public Library, also used to build branches, including the lovely Cabanne Library about two blocks from our flat. And the Grundy Center Library (where I and perhaps the DesMarias sisters learned to love books) was one of 108 public and college libraries in Iowa that received Carnegie money. Grundy Center was a small place, and in 1910 got ‘only’ $6,000 (~$160,000 today). As for Livingston County MO, it didn’t get nothin’. Perhaps Lillian DesMarias, devoted librarian that she was, decided to repair old Andrew’s oversight. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Mar 2020, 12:44

"Men are like linoleum floors. Lay 'em right, and you can walk all over them for years." Mae West.

Years ago I did some volunteer interviewing for a Lancaster colleague’s oral history project, and thus found out more than I needed to know about “L’ile Jimmy Williamson,” first baron Ashton (1842-1930). Love him or hate him (and two of my aged interviewees hated him), he shaped the town with his charity (about £32 million in today’s values) and employed much of the town’s working class in his mills and factories. One reason my interviewees were staunch working-class Conservatives? L’ile Jimmy was a Liberal. They also called him “the Lino King,” and I concluded from this that he (or one of his employees) invented linoleum. But he only produced more of it than almost anyone else in the world. The inventor of linoleum, that accursed but cheap and cheerful floor covering, was Frederick Walton, born on March 13, 1834 in Halifax, Yorkshire. His family produced devices for woolen mills, and Frederick was brought up in the business and, soon, made a partner. He was the firm’s chief tinkerer, and among other things invented a new device for carding wool. He also messed about with linseed oil and cork, which his father thought extraneous, eccentric, and wasteful, and which Frederick thought promising. So Frederick moved off to invent linoleum out of solidified linseed oil and cork. He patented the invention (and named it) in 1863, set up his own company in Chiswick, west London, and licensed an American offshoot (in a factory at Linoleumville [sic], New York). Meanwhile, up in Lancaster, L’ile Jimmy Williamson picked up the idea, ran with it, and created his own ‘Linoleumville’ on the banks of the River Lune. Along with tons and tons (and tons) of lino, low wages, and factory gates that closed at 7AM (if you were late you didn’t get paid), Lancaster got the beautiful and charming Williamson Park, the Ashton Memorial (topped by the 3rd-largest dome in England), a grand Edwardian town hall, its facing Victoria memorial, and (in the shape of the first Baron Ashton), the Liberal party peer that the town loved to hate. In return, in 1911, the first Baron Ashton divorced Lancaster, but that’s another story that had almost nothing to do with linoleum. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 Mar 2020, 13:52

"Casey Jones, climbed in the cabin// Casey Jones, orders in his hand// Casey Jones, leanin' out the window// Takin' a trip to the Promised Land". 'Casey Jones', by Johnny Cash

We know that Jonathan Luther Jones was born (in Missouri) on March 14, 1863, and we know that he died on April 30, 1900. In fact, we know he died at exactly 3:52AM, but we don’t know a lot more. Jones was already a legend on the Illinois Central, an unusual engineer who could play his steam whistles like a brass band and make up time like no one else, but his death transformed him into a mythic hero. Well before that, Jonathan had become “Casey” Jones when his family moved to Cayce, Kentucky, and Casey he stayed when he started driving trains, first for the Mobile & Ohio. In 1886 he married Mary Brady, converted to the Roman communion at her request, and was a model family man. He was also known for developing friendships with his firemen, who were mainly African-Americans. If Casey Jones didn’t chase after fast women he liked fast trains, and in 1888 he moved over to the Illinois Central because (it is said) he liked the IC’s bigger, speedier locomotives. He worked for the railroad at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, not only driving people to the fair but as the engineer in the IC’s display pavilion. And folks along the IC’s main line from Chicago to New Orleans got to know “Casey’s” distinctive whistle-blowing, especially along the railroad’s middle reaches, from the Kentucky border to Mississippi’s “Delta” region. And it was there, in Mississippi, where Casey Jones—given charge of a delayed southbound passenger train and told to make up time—met his end. Rolling along at about 75, his fireman, Simeon Webb, spotted a stopped freight on the line. Casey yelled “Jump, Sim, Jump!!” and as Sim jumped Casey applied the brakes and blew his whistle. It is said that when they found his body he was still gripping the brake handle and the whistle string. He’d slowed the train enough that there were no other deaths (Sim Webb broke his leg), and the “Legend of Casey Jones” became a song for, among many others, Johnny Cash and Mississippi John Hurt. For them Casey was a hero. But for Pete Seeger and Joe Hill, Casey was a union scab. You can take your pick. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 15 Mar 2020, 13:06

In which we learn that the likely inventor of gin, Franciscus Sylvius of Leiden, had a few other tricks up his sleeve.

We in the anglophone world tend to view the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s as an English thing, but it wasn’t insular at all. In part, the ‘revolution’ owed its existence to a freer flow of information across national and natural boundaries, which may be why two young men, one a Bohemian and the other a Scotsman, set up in Oxford, in 1640, an “Office of Information,” through which they aimed to disseminate experimental proofs of the way things really worked. And they sent out their letters of request all over Europe, mostly in Latin, for they knew that new ‘information’ was arising from many quarters. Among their correspondents must have been Franciscus Sylvius, recently appointed to the medical faculty at Leiden and already acquiring his reputation as a pioneer researcher into the chemistry of the body and the structure of the brain. Sylvius was itself a Latin name, for he was born (on March 15, 1614) “dele Boë” in Hanau, a German town, but of a Flemish aristocratic family and so also had a francophone surname, “du Bois.” Suffice it to say that he spoke several languages, possibly not English, and was instrumental in shaping the new language of science. Like many of his era Sylvius did not wholly reject tradition, nor metaphysical explanations, but his insistence that the body must be influenced, even animated, by chemical processes did lead him in experimental directions, not only in laboratory chemistry but also in anatomy. One might think that his life was his work, for his lovely house (which still stands in Leiden) contained a magnificent library, a tutorial room, and three separate chemical laboratory rooms. And his teaching did bring him disciples (including several, like the mathematician William Petty, from England). But he also collected art, including a well-known portrait of himself and his beloved wife Magdalena, commissioned after her death in 1669. And he collected artifacts, including a primitive rocking cradle that once held their daughter, who also died in that plague year. Sylvius died shortly thereafter. Besides being a pioneer in science, Franciscus Sylvius was a family man. Whether he died of grief or of the long-term effects of using his taste buds to monitor his chemical experiments is not known. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Mar 2020, 13:12

"Dr. Cole's optimism and her determination to see the best in every situation and in every individual have created around her an atmosphere of sunshine that adds to the happiness and well-being of every member of our family."

We don’t know very much about Rebecca Cole, but what is known is worth passing on. She was born free, in Philadelphia, on March 16, 1846, in a family that prized education for all its five children. She did very well at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University), a Quaker school (founded 1837) where she studied Latin, Greek, and mathematics, and in an era where medical studies for women was just becoming possible, was accepted at another Quaker foundation, the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (founded 1850). Odelia Blinn, her white roommate in medical school, later remembered how very hard it was for Rebecca, who had to cross Philadelphia’s increasingly rigid color lines every day in order to pursue her studies. Despite these difficulties, Rebecca Cole did well, wrote her graduating thesis on the eye, won gracious plaudits from her dean, Ann Preston, and in 1867 became only the second African-American woman to become an MD. But medical practice was still difficult even for women like Blinn (who had to set up for herself in Chicago) and even more so for a woman of color. So Rebecca Cole’s first job was with Elizabeth Blackwell (the first woman of any hue to receive a medical degree in the USA) at the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. That proved to be Dr. Cole’s life work. After a brief spell ministering to the health needs of freedmen in South Carolina, she returned to Philadelphia where she founded (with a woman lawyer) the Women’s Directory Center and then moved to Washington where she directed a refuge run by the Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children. Both organizations provided medical treatment and other support, including legal help and instruction in basic skills. Rebecca Cole practiced medicine for poor people for 50 years, finally retiring at 71. She died in 1922 and no longer had to cross color lines; her resting place is an African-American Cemetery in Collingdale, Pennsylvania. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Mar 2020, 13:21

"Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens." From Justice Harlan's dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896.

In William Faulkner’s Mississippi novels, Yoknapatawpha County residents know that for excitement and sin they can go north to Memphis or south to New Orleans. Most are drawn south by the lure of strangeness, and strangeness is supplied the Creole community, people of color, many of them French-speaking. Whereas Yoknapatawpha was a fiction, those New Orleans creoles were real, conscious of their heritage (often including generations of freedom) and of their status in both black and white society. And after the Civil War and Reconstruction, as a virulent racism took over southern society and politics, many of them fought back. Among them was Homer Adolph Plessy, born Homère Patris Plessy on March 17, 1863. His French grandfather, Germain Plessy, had been a planter in Haiti, then in New Orleans had married a free Creole, Catherine Mathieu. 1863 was emancipation year, New Orleans was under Union Army occupation, and the city’s Africans (free and slave) made themselves ready for it. Homer’s stepfather, Victor Dupart, obtained a position in the US Post Office, and his mother Rosa Debergue prospered as a seamstress. As Reconstruction ended and white southern “Redeemers” took power, a new era of racial segregation (‘Jim Crow’) began, and Victor and when he came of age Homer were among the Creoles who formed the Comité des Citoyens, public-spirited people of color, mainly francophone, who fought segregation and worked to maintain their privileged position in New Orleans society. Homer himself was a shoemaker, and not of the community’s elite, but he was very nearly white. In the curious American lexicon of racial identity, his African eighth made him ‘black’ but in his actual skin shade and bearing he was white enough to buy a first-class ticket and board a segregated train. And so it was that Homer was in 1892 selected to do just that. He was arrested, found guilty, and with legal and financial help from the Comité and others, appealed his case all the way to the US Supreme Court. In 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the court declared its adherence to and endorsement of that cruelest of American jokes, “separate but equal.” The vote was 8-1. The honorable dissent (by Justice John Marshall Harlan, a Kentuckian) predicted that the nation would pay a price for forsaking its ideals. Harlan was proved right, but the heavier price was paid by our citizens of African descent, including Homer Adolph Plessy. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Mar 2020, 13:07

"He was a bit like Grizzly Adams meets Jerry Garcia." Elizabeth Hammond on her father-in-law, Timothy Means, September 2019.

Among the oddities of modern life is the popularity of ecotourism. The more people it attracts to this or that precious environment, the more it threatens the ecosystem’s integrity. On the other hand, ecotourism does evangelize, winning recruits for the preservation army. The Galápagos Islands have struggled with this paradox for decades. Another ecotourism entrepreneur and evangelist, who died only last August, was Timothy Means, for much of his life an eco-warrior for Mexico’s Baja California. An odd bird altogether, Means (according to an obituary in a Mexican newspaper) took his mother’s maiden name (Heineman) as his own surname and went by “Timoteo.” Certainly by 1993 he’d become a Ciudadano mexicano. But he was born Timothy Irwin Means (on March 18, 1944) to a working-class family in Beaver Falls, PA. He was also born with a dicky heart, and his electrician father moved the whole brood to Arizona to give Timothy a better chance. It worked, and Timothy became an outdoor sort of person with a big heart, first guiding raft trips on the Colorado but in the early 1970s moving south to Baja (La Paz) to operate as guide, owner, and sole employee of “Baja Expeditions.” He fell in love with the Baja and with one of his clients, Nora White, who despite her misgivings about ecotourism, joined him in both his business and his crusade. Timothy and Nora jumped the broomstick in 1980 then legalized the thing in 1982. In their business, they took small groups into the Baja, by land and by sea, and made ecotourists into eco-evangelists, thus mobilizing money and influence to save specific sites (Timothy himself bought an acreage that a big casino had its eye on, then gave it to Mexico) and eventually the whole region. Timoteo also roused up the locals, fisherfolk especially, and formed the Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajá as a preservationist lobby. Thus many people had a hand in the work, but it’s Timothy Means they point to as the man who made a national park out of it (Espiritu Santu in 1994), and then a UNESCO World Heritage Site (245 islands and much coastline) in 2005. If that were not enough, Means and some of his moneyed customers bought a couple of ranches in order to preserve certain species—including, I suppose, all of us humans. ©
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