BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 03 Jul 2020, 12:34

"The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here." Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

Military history has never been my strong point, nor a central interest, but over the years I always gave the Battle of Gettysburg its due as a critical turning-point of the American Civil War. After several feints and skirmishes, battle was truly joined on July 1 and continued for three days, ending with southern defeat and withdrawal on the evening of July 3, 1863. That final day was marked by “Pickett’s Charge,” in which some 12,500 Confederates marched up slope across 1400 yards of open ground, against the Union center at Cemetery Ridge. The whole engagement qualifies as a bloodbath, with 50,000 casualties (one third of all involved), but that charge—which began not with ‘rebel yells’ and running, but silently, at a fast walk which later seemed to some of the Union soldiers like a funeral march—remains in myth as the “high-water mark of the Confederacy.” It did reach the Union line, just, but it could not continue, cut to shreds (over 50% casualties) by Union artillery and musketry. For my money, though, the more critical fight occurred the day before, July 2, on the extreme left of the Union line at Little Round Top, where Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, his 20th Maine almost out of ammunition, ordered his remaining men to mount bayonets and charge. It was a rash command, but with the advantages of downhill, surprise, and—perhaps—desperation it won the day, turned back the rebel advance, secured the Union flank and (arguably) forced Lee to order his own desperate charge at Cemetery Ridge. Chamberlain, wounded on July 2 (and wounded twice more in a war that was not kind to the wounded) would later be chosen by General Grant to accept Lee’s sword at Appomattox Courthouse. As for Grant himself, his presence at Appomattox was secured on July 4, 1863, far to the west, with victory at Vicksburg, which cut the ‘slave power’ in two and allowed the Mississippi, the father of waters, to flow “unvexed to the sea.” Not many battles were truly epochal, but I think these two qualify. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Jul 2020, 12:08

"A picture is like a tree or a church, you've got to let it grow into a masterpiece . . . [at first] nobody knows whether they're all nonsense or a gift from heaven." Gulley Jimson, in The Horse's Mouth.

One of English literature’s better unsung novels is Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth (1944), later made into a more-than-passable film by Alec Guinness, who starred in it as the central figure, Gulley Jimson, and won an Academy Award for the screenplay. Jimson, an artist by conviction, is an old and not very lovely man, driven to his unloveliness by his monomaniacal belief in his painterly genius, and obsessed with his last great work. It is, nevertheless (?), a comic novel, and I have read it several times, always with great pleasure. I’ve often wondered, idly, whether Cary had a real person in mind, a model for Jimson, or perhaps models, for you can’t get very far into The Horse’s Mouth without feeling some deep admiration for this anti-hero and his sacrificial pursuit. One possibility is Walter Greaves, born along the Chelsea waterfront on July 4, 1846. His was a family of boat builders and watermen, and with some experience of art. His father had rowed J. M. W. Turner upstream and down (so Turner could sketch the Thames and its changing skies), and that may have been why, when James McNeill Whistler (and, of course, Whistler’s mother) moved in next door Walter Greaves and his brother rowed Whistler about, performing the same office so that Whistler could construct his gloomier (certainly foggier) views of the Thames-scape. In the process, Whistler taught the Greaves boys to paint, and they helped him with some of his work. Walter, especially, became convinced of his own genius, and after his relationship with Whistler cooled he tried to make a living out of his art. It was an up-and-down life, usually down, and Greaves was often reduced to hawking his sketches and canvases in waterfront pubs, Jimson-like, to bind body and soul and to buy artist’s supplies. Walter Greaves lived long enough to be “discovered,” then forgotten, then rediscovered, causing (along the way) a spectacular controversy over who had really painted his waterscapes. In his 70s Walter Greaves’ new friends (including Augustus John and William Nicholson) found him an honorary membership in their artists’ club. Nevetheless Greaves died, Jimson-like and poor, in 1930, in his case of pneumonia. His paintings, however, are still being rediscovered. Some of them now hang in the Tate. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Jul 2020, 12:30

"Nature is a book of many pages and each page tells a fascinating story to him who learns her language." Andrew Ellicott Douglass.

It has long been common knowledge that a tree’s age can be determined from its (annual) rings. But through dendrochronology you can find out much more, and that science was the creation of Andrew Ellicott Douglass, born in Vermont on July 5, 1867. His parents, Ann Hale and the Rev’d Malcolm Douglass, were very conscious of their ancestors and named the boy after one of them, Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820), famed surveyor of (inter alia) the federal District of Columbia. Early on, Andrew Ellicott Douglass developed a passion for astronomy, studied it at Trinity College, and then took a position with the Harvard Observatory, But he had other interests, and when in the Andes helping to establish Harvard’s southern hemisphere observatory (1889-92) he discovered a way to time and map (and predict) the glacial movement of sand dunes in the surrounding desert. Returning stateside, Douglass took a position as chief assistant to Percival Lowell at the Lowell Observatory, then under construction on a mountaintop near Flagstaff, AZ. Douglass might have been warned off by Lowell’s naming the place Mars Hill; soon he grew impatient with and dismissive of Lowell’s obsession with the Martian ‘canals,’ and after seven years of that, Lowell fired him. Douglass, never at a loss for something to do, got into local politics for a few years (he was elected Justice of the Peace), but at the observatory he’d developed a side-interest in the possible relationship between the sun’s “spots” and earth’s climate. And while searching for terrestrial evidence, he hit upon the long-lived trees of Flagstaff’s mountains and the surrounding desert. He found plenty of other paid work, for instance professor of astronomy and (briefly) president of the University of Arizona, but through years of field research—much of it in his spare time—Andrew Ellicott Douglass had devised an accurate tree-ring calendar (of climate and of human history) for the southwestern US that stretched back well over 2000 years. Dendrochronology, his brain-child, has since Douglass’s death (in 1962) extended that view to 12,000 years, much of the work done at Douglass’s Laboratory of Tree Ring Research, which he had established at the University of Arizona in 1937. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 06 Jul 2020, 12:35

"So, friends and colleagues, we launch our bark upon the Patapsco, and send it forth to unknown seas." Daniel Coit Gilman, Inaugural Address, Johns Hopkins University, 1876.

Among the fundamental changes wrought in American higher education during the later 19th century were the inclusion of science curricula, broadly defined, and the rise of the graduate school. These were of varied parentage, including the Morrill Act of 1862, which created a new institution, the land-grant college with its stress on the ‘agricultural and mechanical arts’ and, almost universally, the bachelor of science degree. The requirements of science recommended a new, hands-on, pedagogy, labs rather than libraries, money, and specialization. Those looking for models of how this might be done looked to Germany, not Britain, for inspiration. Among them was Daniel Coit Gilman, born in Connecticut on July 5, 1831 and, as befit a young Yankee blue blood, he entered Yale College and one of its exclusive clubs. He did the traditional things and almost became a minister, but at Yale he also developed an interest in science (at Yale’s then-separate “Sheffield Scientific School”) and made friends with Andrew White (1832-1918). They toured Europe together, were inspired by the German example of ‘higher-higher’ education, with its advanced seminars and laboratories. In 1865 White would become the founding president of Cornell University in New York, a semi-public institution in the Morrill mold. A decade later, Daniel Coit Gilman was appointed founding president of a wholly new sort of place, The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a privately-endowed institution dependent on tuition fees, continuing gifts, and the capital value of new knowledge. JHU wasn’t only a ‘science’ institution (one of Gilman’s first and best appointments was the historian Herbert Baxter Adams, and Gilman himself was an astonishingly capable polymath), but its abiding aim was the advancement of knowledge and the advancement of individual, professional scholars, who would teach the best and the brightest right through to a new goal, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in (you fill in the blank). After his long tenure at JHU (1876-1901), Gilman took the helm of the Carnegie Institution, another device intended to apply private capital to the creation of new knowledge for the common good. The Gilman model has had its problems, but on balance it’s proved a good investment. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Jul 2020, 12:06

"I had only to open my bedroom window, and blue air, love, and flowers entered with her". Marc Chagall, writing about his wife, Bella.

There’s a painting by Marc Chagall that maybe should be a universal wedding card, the Double Portrait with a Glass of Wine (1917-18). The human figures are Chagall and his wife Bella Rosenfeld, she standing, a bride in white, clearly carrying his weight, he riding on her shoulders, each drunken with delight (rather than with the wine). Their upright figures divide the canvas, not quite in half. To their right a golden sun perches high and casts its golden lights (varied) on them and on the other half of the painting. Below and in the background is a townscape, and it’s not Paris, France, where the painting was executed, but Vitemsk, Belorussia, where they married (1914) and where Marc Chagall was born, on July 7, 1887. He was the son of fishmongers, doubtless smelling of herring, and part of a large, vibrant Jewish community that the next century’s Holocaust would scatter and kill. For that matter, his Bella—sometimes called his muse and who figures in many of his paintings—would die (in New York) in 1943. He did continue to paint her, but remarried (twice) before he died, an ancient, in 1985. And his mood, if one takes his art works as a whole, is cheerful, affirmative, often playful. He sampled and took on various styles or schools of his time, worked on canvas and, latterly, in stained glass, essayed into stage design (e.g. for a Stravinsky ballet and a Mozart opera). He was prolific, and his works sold, and some dismiss him as facile and shallow, a market magpie. His one painting in the St. Louis Art Museum, Temptation (1945), a dark, cubist piece showing Eve grappling unsuccessfully with the serpent over (I think) an apple, suggests otherwise. But that apple is pretty bright, and there is always the Double Portrait with a Glass of Wine to resolve the problem. Marc Chagall was a hopeful sort of person. He loved his Bella. His work is good for whatever ails you. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Jul 2020, 13:09

"The world affords no enjoyment equal to that of promoting the happiness of others." Mary Ann McCracken.

These notes have on several occasions featured folk who illustrate the Protestant roots of Irish nationalism, and now here’s another, the redoubtable Mary Ann McCracken, born in Belfast on July 8, 1770. Her father was a prosperous ship’s captain and a Presbyterian, her mother drawn from French Huguenot stock, and their families had for generations run up against the fact that the “Protestant Ascendancy” in Ireland was an Anglican monopoly. The ‘Church of Ireland’ was the Church of England in exile. And so the McCracken children grew up understanding that they shared “fate” with their Catholic neighbors. They also grew up precociously well-educated, in the progressive style of schoolmaster David Manson, who taught so that children could learn “by way of amusement.” They enjoyed fiction and read the radicals, including Mary Wollstonecraft and Tom Paine, and several, notably Mary Ann and her brother Henry, became social reformers and supporters of Irish independence. Henry went so far as to join the Society of United Irishmen and play a leading role in the rebellion of 1798, planned to support a French invasion. It fizzled, and Henry was captured. At his trial for treason, Mary Ann sat beside him in the dock and then walked hand in hand with Henry to the gallows. She did not, she recalled, weep until he died. Thereafter, as before, she gave her life to reform causes, which she financed through her and her sister’s successful business in the cloth trade. Included in Mary Ann McCracken’s reform brief (besides Irish nationalism) were women’s rights, the care and education of poor children, humane labor laws, animal welfare, and anti-slavery. Much of this had its focus in the Belfast Charitable Institution, founded by her maternal uncles when she was but one year old. It benefited from her boundless energy for a long time, for she lived to be 96. In 1909 her and Henry’s bodies were exhumed and reburied together at Clifton Street burying ground, Belfast. Mary Ann’s stone tells the curious that “she wept by her brother’s scaffold.” ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Jul 2020, 11:42

"He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him." Dutch proverb.

In terms of winning space in the annals of history, being the woman behind the man is often unrewarded. So it is that Lady ‘Ginny’ Fiennes, the first wife of the explorer (and political eccentric) Sir Ranulph Fiennes gets only a short paragraph in Sir Ranulph’s Wikipedia entry. Although Ginny died young, making Ranulph famous was a long project, for they first met when she was 9, he 12. Very shortly after that, Ginny (as we used to say) set her cap for him. For some he might have been a catch, a baronet at his birth in 1944 (his father having predeceased him) and as his triple-barreled surname (Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes) might suggest, the heir of a very old family, once the Viscounts Saye and Sele. But her landowner father disapproved, and they were not wed until 1970. By then, Virginia Frances Pepper was 23, having been born on July 9, 1947. Even before 1970, she had taken time off from her first job (with the Scottish National Trust) to organize Ranulph’s first big expedition, a hovercraft (!!!) exploration of the White Nile. Such an odd endeavor suggests something about the nature of modern British exploring, in which it seems that the stranger the challenge the more likely the sponsorship. Ginny Fiennes proved a genius at the whole business of conceiving the adventures, finding money for them, and then the matter (tiresome but vital) of supplying the expedition with food, clothing, transport, toilet paper, and personnel. Between 1969 and her early death from stomach cancer (2004), her greatest triumph was Sir Ranulph’s transpolar expedition (1979-82), in which Fiennes (enjoying the patronage of the Prince of Wales and £29 million in sponsorship) circumnavigated the earth along the line of the Greenwich meridian. Ginny Fiennes is she who conceived the “mad but marvelous” project, obtained the permissions (Antarctica was a big problem), found the money, recruited the crew and did all else needed to make the thing work. Meanwhile, at home on their Exmoor farm, Ginny Fiennes raised herds and flocks (prize-winning Aberdeen Angus cattle and Black Mountain sheep), dreamed up somewhere else for Ranulph to go, and odd ways to get there. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 09 Jul 2020, 12:10

I've had an interest in this chap for over twenty five years after seeing a documentary on TV of an early 'expedition' - I think the excuse for it , was to search for 'Bigfoot' in the States. I think he was still in the SAS at the time. One of his men who was abandoned by his leader, said afterwards that if he ever saw him again 'he would kill him'.

He is said to have cut the frostbitten ends of his fingers of in his garden shed with a hacksaw.

It's a close run thing between him and Geoffrey Archer as to whom I dislike more . . :laugh5:
Born to be mild. . .

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 10 Jul 2020, 12:08

Snap David!

"Men was formed for society, and is neither capable of living alone, nor has the courage to do it." William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England.

The ‘common law’ grew up an orphan, outside the prerogative courts, ignored by the courts of trading companies, but it grew. This was partly because more and more of England’s economic life ran in new channels, and the common law of contract arose to adjudicate cases between economic actors who were otherwise free of one another. Thus the common law of contract gives us one of our first looks at a functional idea of “equality.” That we can see this history whole owes to the labors of many, lawyers, judges, and scholars (and litigants!), but our foremost debt must be to William Blackstone, born in Cheapside, London, on July 10, 1723. His comfortable life was disrupted by the early deaths of his parents, but a series of patrons, notably his uncle and the Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, got this very bright lad through school (Charterhouse) and into Oxford (Pembroke College). Among his many studies was law, and he spent some years as a practicing barrister and university lecturer before taking (in 1758) the newly-endowed Vinerian Chair in English law. His lectures and essays, graced by clear style and apposite illustration, brought him to prominence, and in 1766 he resigned the chair to undertake his magnum opus, his Commentaries on the Laws of England. In the end it would stretch to four volumes (only the last on the criminal law), and it would be difficult to overestimate its impact, not only in England but in the American colonies and then the United States, where the law and its literature assumed huge political and cultural significance. By 1772, when the first American edition came out, there were already over 1000 copies of the Commentaries in the colonies. It could be said that one reason God was not mentioned in the 1787 Constitution is that the founding fathers had their Blackstone, and most of them did. The Commentary lived on, notably in the legal imaginations of John Marshall and Abraham Lincoln (Honest Abe learned language from it, as well as law). The founders’ revolutionary idea—also Blackstone’s—that we should have a government of laws, not of men, was yesterday unanimously upheld by a normally-divided Supreme Court, in two decisions rejecting the claim that sovereignty lies with the president. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Jul 2020, 12:38

"The sole effect [Jameson's lectures] produced on me was the determination never as long as I lived to read a book on Geology." Charles Darwin.

In the few centuries before Darwin published his On the Origin of Species, the creation stories in Genesis were undermined by new discoveries in several fields, and by ancient logic, too. Astronomy had long since moved Earth off center stage, for instance. And through geology the Earth itself yielded up findings that were increasingly difficult to place on a six-day schedule. Most of these rockhounds were not scientists in the modern sense, and some were merely collectors of curiosities, but most—almost all—were anxious still to find biblical truths or some divine agency in the planet’s jumbled, tossed, and scarred geology. And how better to jumble, toss, and scar Earth than by the Noachian Flood? Such a catastrophe could explain, for instance, why one found marine fossils on mountain tops, for did not the water on which Noah’s ark sailed cover all the earth? But as Enlightenment natural philosophers they would not base their story only on the Bible, but on the evidence itself, and so they called themselves Neptunists or Catastrophists. Prominent among them was Robert Jameson, long (1804-54) Regius Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University. Jameson was born in Leith, Edinburgh’s port, on July 11, 1774. Jameson’s geology professor at Edinburgh, John Walker, was also sometime Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and Jameson took over the chair at Walker’s death. Never as thoroughgoing a Noachian as Walker, Jameson compiled a distinguished career at Edinburgh, and actually numbered among his students a reluctant and rather bored Charles Darwin who vowed never again to study geology. That turned out to be a double irony, for Darwin did indeed return to the fray. As for Jameson, as the evidence piled up for the earth’s very long and very gradual evolution, he did finally abandon his catastrophism. Whether he would also have accepted Darwin’s story of the earth’s evolutionary biology is doubtful, but unanswerable. Jameson died in 1854, five years before Darwin published his revolutionary work. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Jul 2020, 11:53

"I'd rather be a has-been than a might-have-been." Milton Berle.

The last time I saw Milton Berle ‘in public,’ so to speak, was in 1963, in Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I then thought of him as superannuated (he was only 55), and the movie was a bit of a shambles, but as soon as I saw his face (in the guise of an unusually discreditable businessman named J. Russell Finch) I was prepared to laugh. In retrospect (I saw it again recently, on ‘stream’), it was indeed his face and manner that made him a comic. Rather like Sid Caesar but lacking Sid’s bite, Milton Berle had to be seen to be laughed at, but when you saw him you did laugh, notably on NBC’s “The Texaco Star Theatre” (1948-54) where after you got a quartet of uniformed service station attendants singing about gasoline, you saw “Uncle Miltie” doing stand-up monologues and comedic skits (often in drag), and you got the astonishingly plastic face and what was maybe the best double-take in the business. Milton Berle was born Mendel Berlinger, the youngest son of Moses and Sadie, in Harlem, on July 12, 1908. Four years after he took to the vaudeville stage he changed to Milton Berle, but that may have been along with the whole family. His brothers became Phil, Frank, and Jack (notable NBC producers), and Sadie become Sandra. Milton did very well in vaudeville, and OK in the movies, but he was a visual guy. His radio career, often judged as promising enough to give him a series, tended to sputter and I think it’s true that no Berle radio show lasted more than a year. As vaudeville sank, nightclubs did beckon, and Berle was popular in that circuit. But it was TV and Texaco that made him famous for my generation. Although at first he was only taken on for four shows, he proved popular in the studio and ‘out there’ on the network (including in the Bliss household in Des Moines, IA). He became the permanent Texaco host within four months, and it was the making of him as a national figure. But despite a 30-year contract (signed in 1953) and the success of Mad World, he faded from view. His later life was marked by rare appearances, less rare faux pas, and recurring references to his sexual prowess. It was long, but it wasn’t funny. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Jul 2020, 12:23

"On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology." Kenneth Clark.

The normal ‘blockbuster’ TV series is not a highbrow experience; indeed, with some of them, it’s a challenge to discern any brow at all. But there have been exceptions. And some have been very fine, for instance the explorations of nature by David Attenborough or of American history by Ken Burns. I’m not sure, though, whether any of them have enjoyed the phenomenal success of Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation: A Personal View (13 episodes, first aired on BBC in 1969) Kenneth Clark was born to wealth (and also to a family tradition of mild progressivism) on July 13, 1903. His family homes (there were four, one on the Riviera) had plenty of books and a fair-to-middlin’ art collection, and Kenneth—an only child—was educated at Winchester and Oxford. He didn’t do as well as his tutors expected, perhaps because he was already diverted by his interests in the fine arts, notably painting. He learned something about art at Oxford and then more from Bernard Berenson, in Paris, and entered the museum trade in 1929, first cataloguing the royal collection’s da Vinci holdings. Having entered at or close to the top, he stayed there, first as director of Oxford’s Ashmolean (where he used his own fortune to spruce the place up) and then (1934-44) of the National Gallery in London. There and later Clark was an influential figure, an elitist member of the Labour party who believed that high culture was accessible to all and should be made so. His extensive practice (and successes) at that task made him a natural selection when David Attenborough (then director of special programming at the BBC) wanted a “highbrow” series to exploit the new technical potential of color television. Hence Civilisation. Clark’s “personal view” was parochial (his ‘civilisation’ was decidedly a European phenomenon), his manner was patrician, but his welcome was warm and inviting and his subject matter (all the fine arts and then some) was quite delicious. Paulette and I, budget-conscious on an Oxford fellowship, used it as one excuse to rent our first color TV and invest in a TV license. Our other excuse was Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and I think Lord Clark would have appreciated that, too. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 Jul 2020, 12:29

"My books are based 98 per cent on documentary evidence." Irving Stone.

All historians, a friend told me years ago, are or should be frustrated novelists. He’s since become one, a novelist that is, and I’m still frustrated. It’s not that historians lack imagination. The best of us have oodles of imagination, high flights of fancy, and that’s precisely where the frustration lies, for we still have a dependence on verifiable fact. It’s a tether, not a total dependence. Were it total it would be fatal and no one (save perhaps stenographers) would ever bother to read (or write) a history book. But we tread beyond inference at our hazard as historians, and there lies the angst (the pun is intended). One scholar who severed the tether was Irving Stone, born Irving Tennenbaum in San Francisco on July 14, 1903. He did well at Cal Berkeley (political science, economics, English, and jazz sax), and was well on his way to a life of scholarship when the Great Depression intervened. The first result was his ‘fictionalized biography’ of Vincent van Gogh (Lust for Life, 1934). He sent that to 17 publishers before Longmans took it up. The second result was that he married his Longmans editor, Jean Factor. Together he (writer and researcher) and she (researcher and editor) ploughed that furrow, with great success, forever after. In some lists, all of Stone’s books are called “novels,” and the worst of them were indeed fictions. But his better books are biographies, fictionalized if you like that adjective, in which he goes beyond inference to invent, certainly conversations and the scenes that conversations make, perhaps more. My parents had several on their shelves, and I enjoyed them. Besides Lust for Life, there was Sailor on Horseback (1938, Jack London), Immortal Wife (1944, the amazingly admirable Jesse Benton Fremont), Adversary in the House (1947, about the ideologically stormy marriage of Eugene V. Debs), and the one I particularly remember, The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961, Michelangelo). There are other Stone fictions, including on Mary Todd Lincoln, Abigail Adams, and Rachel Jackson: First Ladies all, and Irving and Carol liked each of them. Chances are, so will you. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 15 Jul 2020, 12:21

“Gathered close into ourselves and imprisoned at the foot of the mountain as it towered in silence over the barren waste, we searched its gaunt face for the mysteries of our destiny”. Estelle Ishigo, remembering Heart Mountain.

American anti-miscegenation laws aimed at the ‘purity’ of the hopelessly polluted, and today it’s becoming easier to see them as merely absurd. That is, perhaps, as it should be, and they have been declared unconstitutional, but they expressed racism, if not in its ugliest then in its most hypocritical character. And the laws had varied targets, specific “others” that should not be allowed to mix maritally with a very generalized “us.” In the western states, Asians were specified as among the “other.” And so it was that when Estelle Peck fell in love with a fellow student, Arthur Ishigo, the couple had to flee to Mexico to marry. That was in 1928. Estelle Ishigo was born in Oakland, CA, on July 15, 1899. Her childhood may have been happy, and was certainly filled with art, but at the age of 12 she was abandoned by her parents and moved to the LA area to live with relatives. She met Arthur at the Otis Art Institute, and when they married she was disowned by her family. They both found work, she as a schoolteacher (art of course), but with Pearl Harbor both were fired. Then, by FDR’s Executive Order #9066, Arthur was ‘interned’ as an enemy alien (he was “Nisei,” American-born, and a citizen of this Republic). Estelle chose to join him, ultimately at a concentration camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Back in LA at war’s end (staked by a generous $25 each!!), the couple struggled. Arthur died in 1957. Estelle Ishigo lived on, in great poverty, and was “discovered” twice, first in 1972 when she put on an individual show of her Heart Mountain artwork and then secondly in 1990 when Steven Okasaki made her the heroic center, in a way the auteur, of his documentary film Days of Waiting. Estelle’s art depicts internees’ hope and despair, the forbidding yet beautiful landscape, its harsh climate, its dry-country vegetation struggling to survive. The film won an Academy Award in 1991. Estelle, her body broken by poverty and by ‘years of waiting,’ her legs amputated, died (aged 90) before the film was released. Her Heart Mountain work lives on, an aide memoire of American racism. You can see her pencil sketches and watercolors on-line, courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum, in the Estelle Ishigo Collection. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Jul 2020, 12:29

"That wonderfully ingenious and martyred man." The Bury Times, 1903, reporting on the dedication of Bury's John Kay Monument.

Yesterday a subscriber to these notes asked me an interesting question about Luddites, or ‘Luddism,’ those workers in England’s cloth industry who reacted, sometimes violently (circa 1810-1820), to losing their livelihoods to mere machines. Although it’s “not my period” (the normal excuse for historians), I answered the best I could, but then, providentially I suppose, I found that today is the anniversary of the birth of John Kay, the inventor of one of those merely mechanical ways to throw people out of work. John Kay was born near Bury, Lancashire, on July 16, 1704, of yeoman farmer stock but one who (as fifth son) could not hope to follow in his father’s footsteps. Cottage industry was the thing, and he apprenticed to a loom operator. An ingenious sort, Kay began early to invent improvements and profit from them, but his most important invention was the “wheeled shuttle,” or as it came to be known the flying shuttle, which he patented in 1733. It was, so to speak, merely mechanical, and a bit of a Rube Goldberg contraption, but it worked. By enabling a single weaver to ‘shoot’ weft threads through the warp it sped the weaving process and, more importantly, enabled a single operator to weave much broader cloth. Even with hand-operated looms (steam power had yet to work its magic) that brought a significant increase in productivity and profit. Kay never made much from that particular invention as, despite his patent, operators banded together to avoid paying him royalties. Kay died in poverty and obscurity in France in about 1780, thus learning one moral lesson from “progress.” Patents are property and need to be defended as such. The people his invention threw out of work learned another, and thus did not mourn Kay’s ill fortune, for while his shuttle did increase productivity, and thus speed the expansion of the cloth industry, many workers did not share in the benefits. They could not do so for, as the economist J. M. Keynes would point out during another period of high unemployment, in the long run we are all dead, and on the whole marginal workers live in the short run. For them, it is very difficult to “find something new.” If you live in the short run, Luddism makes perfectly good sense. There is a huge monument to Kay in downtown Bury, but it is one that neither he nor unemployed broadloom weavers could ever have afforded. ©.

(I wonder who could have asked?)
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Jul 2020, 12:24

"Just because people are liars is no reason for us to be fools." Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Grinning Gorilla, 1952.

American criminal justice systems have been shown—beyond any reasonable doubt, to coin a phrase—to be loaded against certain groups, not only racial groups but the poor in general. Historians, criminologists, journalists, have investigated the question in varied ways, and over the years many lawyers have entered the fray on behalf of ‘unwashed’ defendants. A pioneer in all this was a young lawyer in San Francisco in the 1910s and 20s. He kept it up when he set up his own practices (first in Merced, then in Ventura), and in the 1940s made it official by founding a charitable organization called The Court of Last Resort, which focused its efforts on the wrongly convicted. By then that lawyer was in his 50s, and rich enough to ensure that the Court of Last Resort had a real impact. Those of a certain age will know him as the crime novelist who created Perry Mason, defense attorney extraordinaire, a role played on TV for many years by Raymond Burr. He was Erle Stanley Gardner, born in Massachusetts on July 17, 1889. He came into the legal profession by a circuitous route (then fairly common and certainly ‘legal’), including working as a typist-clerk for a law firm. In his ‘real’ defense work he showed a preference for defending Chinese and Mexican defendants (this was California), not a profitable line of work, and so (in 1923) began to write crime fiction. Perry Mason came along in 1933, and while the super-prolific Gardner created other characters, Mason was the man. The titles were always arresting (e.g. The Case of the Perjured Parrot, 1939), but I think those arrested were never convicted, for Perry Mason and his devoted assistants always got them off the hook, not just “not guilty” but innocent, with some other person (often richer and/or whiter) found guilty as charged. In the end (Gardner died in 1970), there were 82 Mason novels, mostly best-sellers, and I should read at least one. Maybe I’ll start with The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink (1952). Sounds surprising, and it reminds me of a dramatic evening in my youthful years, when my mom’s mink stole, somewhat moth-eaten, was devoured by our rat terrier. But the terrier was found guilty. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Jul 2020, 12:48

"Since it is apparent that the purpose of a passport is to establish identity, I assume you will not wish me to travel under a false name." Doris Fleischman Bernays, applying for a passport as Doris Fleischman.

In 1858, in Collinsville, Ill., my great-grandfather (then aged 23) was moved by a lecture “by a lady from St. Louis” to assert a woman’s right, or duty, to be herself, to own and pursue her own aspirations. He later married one of those women, but establishing that right took a long while and is still in progress. 64 years on, a young couple signed in at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, as “Miss Doris Fleischman” and “Mister Edward Bernays” which caused quite a kerfuffle (indeed it caused headlines). If they’d signed on as “Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Jones” the clerk would only have raised his eyebrows (it was the Waldorf, after all, and he would not have leered). They were married (indeed it was the first night of their honeymoon), but Doris wanted to make a point—she was herself and she had her own aspirations. Doris Fleischman was born in New York on July 18, 1891 into a progressive household that believed girls should be well educated. By the time she married Bernays, a childhood friend, she was an experienced writer and editor, first for the New York Tribune. There, it seems, she was the first woman reporter to cover a boxing match, but she moved over to Bernays’ new firm, an advertising agency, first as a copywriter and after their marriage as a full partner. The Bernays firm was a howling success and today is considered as a pioneer in PR. Partner Doris had all sorts of accounts (from Jane Addams to Dwight Eisenhower) but continued throughout her commitment to social reform, notably women’s rights and civil rights. Among many other things, she acted as press agent for the first NAACP convention to be held in the South, in Atlanta, then a difficult venue both for the NAACP and for the white woman making their publicity arrangements. In 1947, she became president of the Bernays Foundation which recycled the firm’s profits into Good Causes. And, yes, I should mention that Doris Fleischman was the first married woman to have a United States passport (1923) issued in “in her own name,” which was, of course, Doris Fleischman, and signed “under her own face,” which was, of course, her passport photo. Among Doris’s many accomplishments, she was also a charter member (1921) of the Lucy Stone League, which you might want to look up, if you have the time. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Jul 2020, 11:44

"The stranger in a society which estranges everybody from it . . . takes cover under dubious and sinister masks.” Norman Manea.

Norman Manea has been proposed for the literature Nobel several times, including by the writers’ guilds of his native Romania, France, and Sweden (the last, one might have thought, would have won it for him), but so far no white smoke has risen. He may be running out of time. Norman Manea was born in Romania, on the north slope of the Carpathian range, on July 19, 1936, so today he’s 84 years old. His long life was, for many decades, a dangerous one, and this figures centrally in many of his works—fiction, memoir, essays, and artful autobiography. One of his major themes has been uncertainty, not surprising for a man who, at age 5, was carted off to a concentration camp by Romania’s government, eager to prove its anti-Semitic mettle as a Nazi power in eastern Europe. He survived that, only to return home to face the challenges of growing up absurd in a spectacularly backwards communist dictatorship. So besides uncertainty there is said to be that streak of odd humor common to many eastern European intellectuals, not quite sardonic, not quite satirical, not quite ironical, but enough of each to irritate state authorities who required orthodoxy, admiration and paeans to progress. It took Manea a while to anger those people, for he began as a hydraulics engineer and it wasn’t until he was 30 that he began to write. Since then, despite being almost instantly graduated to Ceausescu’s black list, he’s been prolific, the more so since he exiled himself to the West in 1986. In the USA, he taught creative writing first at Columbia and then upriver at Bard College, where he’s still emeritus and still occasionally teaches. He’s won many awards in many countries, including a MacArthur fellowship in the United States. Meanwhile, back home, he’s now celebrated openly as a national hero, indeed Romanian Laureate. His collected works are being published in Romanian, but several are in print in English including in the New York Review “classics” series. As for the Nobel, maybe next year. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Jul 2020, 12:02

"I began as most young people do, showing off and trying to make jokes, but then it began insensibly to dawn on me that being a critic was not criticising in the cant sense of the word." Dilys Powell.

Dilys Powell was not the first Somerville student to “climb over the wall” for a romantic assignation with a boyfriend (it was referred to as “taking tea”), but hers was an early escapade. The college’s Principal, Dame Emily Penrose, a classics scholar, charged Powell with “dragging the name of Somerville in the dust” and expelled her from within the walls (“rusticated”) for two terms. But, as with so many infringers on so many moral codes, it didn’t work out that way. Not only did Powell marry the boyfriend (the archaeologist Humfry Payne), but she copped a First Class degree (modern languages) from Somerville and then, after Payne’s death (in 1936, from a staph infection contracted while on a ‘dig’ in Greece), made herself into the (unquestioned) doyenne of British film critics. As far as I know she did no other penance for climbing over the wall, but she did later make amends for choosing modern languages over the classics (Latin and Greek) by self-tuition, thus perhaps celebrating the fact that she shared her birthday, July 20, with Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca), the 14th-century linguist who humanized the classics. But Dilys Powell, emphatically a 20th-century modern, was born on July 20, 1901, in Shropshire. After her adventures with Payne, she moved up the editorial tree at the London Times, becoming chief film critic in 1939. That was interrupted by her war work (propaganda aimed at Greece and the Balkans), 1939-45, but her film criticism resumed in 1945, and she never really stopped, even though she gained ‘modest’ fame for several other accomplishments (including in the classics and a ‘classic’ biography of Humfry Payne). Powell made film criticism an art form in itself, and her work helped to shape modern cinema. She was particularly known for welcoming pioneers, celebrating selected outrages, for championing those (we might say) who dared to climb over the wall, whether to escape or to join the party. She was still writing in the 1990s, by which time she’d become an institution herself, an irony she would have appreciated. She is remembered in many ways, not least in the annual Dilys Powell Award for Excellence in Film, established in her honor in 1991. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Jul 2020, 12:21

"The Eye that Never Sleeps." Slogan of Alan Pinkerton's detective agency.

Alan Pinkerton’s life, itself a kaleidoscopic refraction of the stresses and strains of both the British and American industrial revolutions, began in Glasgow on July 21, 1819. He was born into a climate of poverty and early death, his mother, father, siblings and half-siblings working for survival in the cloth industry. Among several family deaths was his father’s, who passed when Pinkerton was just 8. Perhaps it was this experience that left him an atheist and a teetotaler, lifelong in both persuasions and rare consistencies in a lifetime of radical shifts, not the least of which was his transition from poverty and anonymity to riches and fame. In Britain he was an ardent Chartist, advocating violence as the only way to achieve that movement’s radical aims. In the USA, once he found his feet, he headed Pinkerton’s (detective) Agency and became a ruthless agent of corporate wealth, using fair means and mostly foul to break the power of struggling union movements in several industries. Pinkerton and his young wife Joan (she was 15 when they married) crossed the Atlantic in 1842, were almost drowned in a shipwreck off Nova Scotia, and fetched up in his trade (cooperage) in Kane County, Illinois, where he offended folks with his mix of radical atheism and radical abolitionism. His fortunes took a turn when he discovered the HQ of a criminal gang (horse thieves and counterfeiters) and masterminded their capture. After that, there was no looking back. His North-Western Police Agency, soon to be “Pinkerton’s Agency,” served many masters, including John Brown and Abraham Lincoln (he became a major-general in the Union Army, specializing in counter-espionage), but after the Civil War tended increasingly towards the protection of private and corporate wealth and union bashing. He excelled some of his employers in self-publicizing, with ghost-written books that celebrated his genius and brought him many new clients, a great mansion west of Chicago (in a grove of specially-imported Scottish larches), and the undying enmity of American trade unionists, the Chartists of their day and place. Ill, infirm, and increasingly autocratic in his later years, Alan Pinkerton died of septicemia in 1884. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 Jul 2020, 11:15

"Twitter is the Devil's playground." Albert Brooks.

In the Britannica entry on the American stand-up comic, movie director and producer, screenwriter, author, voice-over Simpson’s guy, and film actor Albert Brooks, we learn that Brooks “was best known for his comedies.” Well of course the Britannica is always right, but the “was” surprises me, for as far as I know Brooks was (or is?) alive and well in or somewhere near Hollywood, father to two kids who he thinks (or thought?) might grow up to resent him (if he lives too long), still married to his first and only wife, a banker’s daughter, and celebrating his 73rd birthday today. I sometimes confuse Albert Brooks with Mel Brooks, an even older funny guy, to whom the Britannica still accords the present tense “is”, but until today I never confused Albert Brooks with the dead and gone, despite his neuroses. Anyway, his fate as a Hollywood insider successful in several pursuits was perhaps foreordained. Albert Brooks (né Albert Lawrence Einstein) was born on July 22, 1947, in Hollywood, California, to parents who were moderately successful Hollywooders and into a family of sibs and half-sibs who also have worked Hollywood, and with some success. Fated to be who he was, neurotic, anxious persona and all, Albert was maybe nudged in the direction of comedy by going to high school (Hollywood, of course) with Rob Reiner. Afterwards Brooks changed his name from Albert Einstein to appear more intelligent than he actually was, or is, and after a few spot appearances earned favorable notice in 1975 writing, producing, and acting in some shorts for Saturday Night Live. Since then Brooks’ career has been mainly in comedy but not always, playing a really rather awful mobster in 2011 (Bernie Rose, in Drive). He often writes, directs, produces and acts in the same film, and I think he might be a control freak, but he hides it by (usually) being very neurotically, insecurely, and self-deprecatingly funny. In The Muse (1999) he was all of those things. If indeed Brooks is still “is” and has not become “was,” I’d like to wish him a very happy birthday today. He has made me laugh, and I admire that talent in any person. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 23 Jul 2020, 12:02

"Everyone has the right to walk from one end of the city to the other in secure and beautiful spaces. Everybody has the right to go by public transport. Everybody has the right to an unhampered view down their street." Richard Rogers.

I’m one of those who argues that ‘intelligence’ (whatever it is) has discrete components and is too complex to be measurable. This view is best supported by piling up anecdotes, among which one of the best is about Richard Rogers, whose measurable intelligence was at first thought pretty low (he couldn’t read until he was 11), but who (thanks to family money and family patience) became one of the world’s leading architects. Richard Rogers was born in Florence, Italy, on July 23, 1933. His family has been described as Anglo-Italian, but had been pretty much rooted in Italy since 1800, and included the distinguished architect Ernesto Rogers (his father’s cousin). With the approach of war, his father decided to relocate in England, and Richard did poorly at private schools but shone reasonably brightly (in general studies) at the Epsom School of Art and then (in architecture) at Yale University, where he learned his trade and met his first wife (and first partner) Su Brumwell Rogers. He and Su set up in England in 1963, designing houses (including a very modern Wimbledon manse for Richard’s parents) mainly. Rogers’ big breakthrough came when, in 1971, teaming with the Italians Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini, he won the international competition for designing Paris’s Pompidou Centre. That remains his trademark building, exposing important elements of its inner structure and thus aggressively geometric. As Rogers aged he did occasionally include irregularities (notably soaring roof-canopies, as in the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff), but that skeletal, framing feature predominates in much of his work. His River Café, Thames-side in London, which he designed for his second wife, the chef Ruth Rogers, is characteristic of another sort of Rogers work, the repurposing of old buildings. (It specializes in Italian cuisine, by the way.) He’s won a great sheaf of awards, both professional and for particular buildings, in the USA, Asia, and Europe, and his design work is known also for its concern with functional and energy efficiency. Politically progressive, he sat as a Labour peer in the UK’s House of Lords. I think the only Rogers building I’ve entered is Terminal 5 at Heathrow. I liked it well enough (on the inside, anyway) to wish Rogers a happy 87th birthday. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 24 Jul 2020, 12:11

A master of transactional politics. John Wentworth of New Hampshire.

I feel a slight twinge whenever I reflect that the current American president and I share the same alma mater. But I soon recover, reflecting that even Harvard has graduated its share of scoundrels. As a colonial historian, I know quite a few of them; one being Benning Wentworth, Harvard College Class of 1715. He was born (eldest of 14 siblings) on July 24, 1696, son of John Wentworth, founder of the family dynasty, mast merchant, land speculator, and Lt. Governor of New Hampshire. Son Benning grew up a little shark, swimming in the shark-infested waters of the British Empire, and a lot of his ‘scoundreling’ can be seen as a survival mechanism. Empires tend to spawn oligarchies, not only in their centers but also at their peripheries. Patronage politics give rise to transactional moralities, favors given, favors denied, favors received, and this was as true in New Hampshire, at the very edge of empire, as it was in London. In his youth, Benning Wentworth learned the favors game as a well-connected trader, making some scraping acquaintances with bankruptcy, but on his father’s death (1732) he returned to New Hampshire to set about extending his family’s influence and adding to its wealth. In London he was a minor (if effective) cog in the Duke of Newcastle’s patronage machine. In New Hampshire he was kingpin, governor of the colony from 1741 to 1767, a miraculously long tenure in a system where the double-cross was as frequent as the deal. Benning Wentworth was an adept. He continued his father’s businesses on the side, but was especially a land speculator, using frontier land grants as a profitable way of manipulating the colony’s legislature. He could therefore be known as the founder of the revolutionary state of Vermont (the 14th star in the American flag) but Ethan Allen’s revolutionary ‘Green Mountain Boys’ would not wish to claim him. Nor, in the end, would his family. He cocked his snoot even at them, late in life, by marrying his young housekeeper and then leaving her all his money and his 52-room mansion. He died in 1770, before the Revolution could make a Loyalist of him. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 25 Jul 2020, 13:08

"He gallantly gave his life for his country." From the Navy Cross citation for Leonard Roy Harmon, Mess Attendant First Class, March 1943.

Speaking of appropriate names for military forts, etc., the USS Harmon was commissioned on July 25, 1943. ‘She’ (back then, ships went by the feminine pronoun) was a Buckley Class destroyer escort and was in active service until 1947, in the reserve fleet until 1967. The ship was named after Leonard Roy Harmon, born in Cuero, Texas, on January 21, 1917, and was the first navy vessel to be named after an African-American. Leonard Harmon attended segregated schools in Cuero, and was working as a handyman-gardener for the richest (white) man in town when he decided that the US Navy might offer a better break. He enlisted at San Antonio in June 1939. The United States Navy was almost as segregated as Cuero, and the best Leonard could hope for was Mess Attendant, serving in the officers’ mess on the USS San Francisco, a heavy cruiser. That ship was damaged badly at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and ship and crew were battle-tested when ordered into support at Guadalcanal. In the naval battle that accompanied the landing, at night on November 12-13, 1942, the San Francisco took a direct hit that destroyed the ship’s communications and killed nearly every officer on the bridge. Leonard Roy Harmon, now called topside to his emergency station (an unsegregated duty), assisted with the wounded and dead. He performed “with persistent disregard of his own personal safety,” taking the wounded from the bridge area to dressing stations. He saved the life of the one surviving bridge officer, and when his partner (pharmacist’s mate Lyndford Bonsteel) was wounded, Harmon shielded Bonsteel with his own body. He took a direct hit and died instantly. In March 1943 Mess Attendant First Class Leonard Roy Harmon was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for bravery above and beyond the call of duty. Four months later, the USS Leonard Roy Harmon entered the service. It would have better luck than its namesake, serving in the Pacific, notably at the Iwo Jima landing. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 26 Jul 2020, 12:06

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley, circa 1929.

In my pessimistic youth, I read a number of works by Aldous Huxley. I don’t think any were required course reading, but I was trying to be an intellectual and I guess they fit my mood. I remember Brave New World (1932), Eyeless in Gaza (1936), and Point Counter Point (1928), and I think that’s the order in which I read them. Crome Yellow (1921, Huxley’s first novel) came in there somewhere, but I completely missed what is said to be its satirical wit; until today I also misremembered it as Chrome Yellow, an interesting error. Huxley died on the day of John Kennedy’s murder; I was 20, and it was only then I learned that he had, for some years, found optimism (of a sort) in personal experiments with hallucinogens and Hinduism. Neither was my scene, and I don’t think I have read any Huxley since. But if there is any such thing as an intellectual aristocracy, Aldous Huxley was born into it on July 26, 1894, the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, “Darwin’s bulldog.” Aldous was also allied (or would be) by blood or marriage to the Arnold and Darwin families. Two of his siblings became distinguished scientists; a third committed suicide. Oddly, poor eyesight made Aldous a poor reader, so he struggled in school (Eton) and Oxford (Balliol). Later, his brother Julian (a Nobel prize winner) thought this a blessing, for it turned Aldous from science to philosophy, and it was a fascination with deep things (e.g. the meaning of life, ethics, etc.) that is a theme of much of his writing, fiction and otherwise. He also became one of Hollywood’s token intellectuals and a successful screenwriter, earning enough money to help get Jews out of Hitler’s way. It may be significant that Walt Disney didn’t care for his work (Disney turned down Huxley’s script for Alice in Wonderland). Certainly the USA did not care to make him a citizen, for he refused to bear arms and insisted that his refusal was not based on religious grounds, but he remained resident and from the 1940s more than dabbled in Vedanta Hinduism and then psychedelia. Diagnosed in 1960 with inoperable cancer, he wrote a utopian fiction, Island (1962) in which a cynical writer, a journalist, finds hope or at least “the possibility of sanity.” No doubt we should all read that one. ©
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