BOB'S BITS

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"Drum Roll." The title of the autobiography of James Blades, percussionist extraordinaire.

In all these notes, I’ve never done a percussionist. There are reasons, but the underlying one may be that I go to classical concerts to listen to the prose, not the punctuation. My musician friends mock me for this deaf spot, as does my wife and (silently) the exemplary life of Jimmy Blades, James Blades, born in Peterborough, England, on September 9, 1901. His family was poor, but not so poor that they couldn’t afford to buy a fattening pig each spring, and it was in the pigsty at the bottom of the garden that Jimmy did a lot of practicing, once he’d become obsessed by percussion of all sorts, mainly drums. He apprenticed as a machinist (and retained a metalwork hobby all his life), but he marched with his drums up through the ranks, first in a circus for £3 weekly (plus board, room, and uniform), then in cinemas and for dance bands, then recording sessions, picking up competence with all sorts of instruments. On his way he met all sorts of people, including the conductor Malcolm Sargent and the young Benjamin Britten, and Blades’ self-training proved rigorous enough to win him a place in the London Symphony in 1932. That’s pretty amazing. It’s cooler still that Jimmy Blades was chosen to play out the V-for-victory in Morse Code (dot-dot-dot-dash) that prefaced most BBC broadcasts to the continent during WWII (the others used the thunderous opening of Beethoven’s Fifth, dum-dum-dum-duuummmm). Blades used an African hand drum with a kettledrum stick to record his own signal: helpful, hopeful, defiant. After the war his partnership with Britten flourished, and Blades became known as an innovator (his garage metalwork shop helped here), creating new ‘punctuation’ sounds at the composer’s request. Britten was not the only composer who wrote pieces especially for Blades, but the only one to entitle his the “Timpani Piece for Jimmy.” Nor was that all. In 1964, this self-taught genius became Professor of Percussion at the Royal Academy of Music, a job that continued years past his retirement from the LSO. Besides his scholarly work, Blades discovered that mentally-challenged children responded well to his percussion-chatter, and he spent much time with them, too, and as distinguished scholar-author on music theory and history. After giving up his master classes in 1993, Blades died at home in 1999, survived by his second wife (an LSO oboist), his son from his first marriage, and by the fond memories of legions of friends. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

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"All human affairs rest upon probabilities. . . [therefore] our interests must not stop at our own fate, but must embrace the whole community." Charles Peirce.

The name Arisbe has a cloudy presence in Greek myth, possibly a minor goddess, more likely the first wife of King Priam of Troy, a seer-woman of remarkable insight (and for that soon divorced). It’s also the name chosen by Charles Peirce and his second wife, Juliette, for their country estate in Pennsylvania, into which Peirce sank his inheritance. It was an awful investment, condemning the Peirces to poverty, but its isolation enabled Peirce to scribble down his ideas and (occasionally) to sell his essays. He was a polymath, but it is his manuscripts (many still unpublished) about mathematics and philosophy which, today, are reckoned to qualify him as a genius, the founder of that quintessentially American philosophical school, pragmatism: as his life indicates, not to be casually confused with “practicality”. Charles Sanders Peirce was born to the New England purple, his father a Harvard professor and his mother a senator’s daughter, on September 10, 1839. Brilliant at school and then at Harvard, he gravitated towards the sciences and mathematics (his father was a pioneer mathematician), but even as an undergraduate he was entranced by philosophy and became certain that there was a fundamental linkage between them all but particularly between mathematics and philosophy, which he found in statistics (at which he was a master). I first ran into Peirce as one of the heroes (that’s the right word) of Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, which won (and deserved!!) a Pulitzer Prize in 2001. In it, Menand makes clear the debts to Peirce of a ring of hugely influential American thinkers, including the philosopher William James, the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and the educationalist John Dewey. This debt was clear to Menand, and indeed is clear to a host of European scholars (there are today centers of ‘Peirce studies’ in several European universities), but prophets are unloved in their own country, and Peirce (admittedly a most difficult cuss to just about everyone but Juliette) lived out most of his life in the poverty and obscurity of Arisbe, kept in food, drink, and writing by annual whip arounds organized by his old friend (from college days) William James, who (pragmatically) knew a debt when he saw one. ©.
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"You don't have to be a cave-man to appreciate Lascaux." Walter Bannard.

Almost exactly 80 years ago, the exact date is uncertain but sometime between the 8th and 12th of September, 1940, four French youths went for a walk in the woods near Montignac, in the Dordogne. Their leader, Marcel Ravidat, was perhaps the imaginative one (he had named his dog “Robot”), so one wonders what they talked about. They had plenty to discuss. France had just fallen, and their region was being incorporated into the Vichy regime. Or, possibly, they were just hunting for mushrooms. What they did find was a new hole in the ground (uncovered by an uprooted tree), and a shaft leading to a new cave in what was a region of caves. At first it was too dark to see much, but Marcel the clever apprentice fashioned a torch out of a grease gun and they returned to discover, in its strange light, a magnificent art gallery, 600 wall paintings—some life-size—of animals, some long-extinct, all done in dramatic outline, alive with movement, and in colors that turned out to be ‘natural.’ These youths were smart enough to know they’d stumbled on something quite wonderful, and science has since proven that the paintings were executed 17,000 years ago, by humans very like ourselves, thinking beings who knew their past and speculated about their future. It would be an inspiring place. After the war the entrance was revealed and improved, and in 1948 the Lascaux cave was opened to the public. Thousands flocked to see its wonders, sadly introducing into the long-sealed cave new elements that caused the paintings to deteriorate. Since 1963, casual visitors have had to content themselves with a replica cave (or, rather, replica paintings in a nearby cave). But back in September 1940 those four jeunes proved as alive to their past as had been those long-ago artists, just as concerned about their future. So they kept secret their discovery for over a week before entrusting it to one of their schoolteachers, whereupon it was decided to keep the Lascaux cave a secret, but not in order to preserve the paintings. They had more pressing business, and for the next four years, the Lascaux cave served as an arsenal for local units of the Résistance, in its way as much a tribute to the human spirit as were those wonderful, magical paintings. When Marcel Ravidat died, in 1995, after a long career as a factory mechanic and Lascaux guide, there is no doubt that he merited his two-column obit in the New York Times. ©
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"Go on pestering [but] exercise the virtue of patience." Said to be the response of prime minister Campbell-Bannerman to the 1906 women's delegation.

In May 1906, in London, the Liberal prime minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, received an unusual delegation. It was uncommonly large, its 350 members were all women, and they were all, moreover, “university women.” Some had ‘external’ degrees (mostly from London University), but those from Oxford and Cambridge had no such evidence of their attendance or their ‘graduation,’ for Oxbridge had yet to grant its women that honor. One wonders about this meeting (not least where it took place), but one elected spokesperson was Mary Bateson of Newnham College, Cambridge. One might say she’d been born to it, first seeing the light on September 12, 1865, when her family was on holiday on the North Sea coast (at Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire). They returned to Cambridge soon, where her father, the legal scholar William Bateson, was Master of St. Johns. He and her mother, Anna Aitkin, were already active in promoting women’s rights (of various sorts, including the right to vote and the right to study at Cambridge). Mary and her two sisters fell in with these plans and entered the new Newnham College, where Mary performed brilliantly (first-class honours in history but, of course, no degree) and then joined the Newnham faculty. She was a prolific and pioneer researcher, mostly in medieval history, and she first concentrated on religious communities (of nuns or monks, but including the odd ‘royal’ or ‘double’ monasteries which were for both nuns and monks) and chartered boroughs. But she was also her parents’ daughter, and she gave great dollops of time, energy, wit and humor to the various causes of women’s rights, her demands for immediate access upsetting some of her Newnham colleagues. Mary Bateson died young, aged 49, of a cerebral hemorrhage, just months after she read the riot act to the prime minister. If there was a cause of her stroke it was overwork, not the occasional strain of speaking truth to power. Bateson had always taken that sort of thing in her stride. She was widely mourned for her past accomplishments and for what people had come to expect of her future. In this context, it’s interesting to report that, this year, women applicants to UK universities exceeded men by 100,000. ©
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"The Younger Generation comes, bringing its gifts." Alain Leroy Locke.

At Penn, in my junior year, I took a philosophy course from the superb teacher William Fontaine, then (I learned much later) the only tenured African-American professor in the Ivy League, and two or three times I played pick-up basketball with John Edgar Wideman, brilliant athlete and brilliant scholar, who would be selected, later that year, as the second-ever African-American Rhodes Scholar. They were preceded—long before and, as far as I know, not in basketball—by Alain Leroy Locke, born Arthur Leroy Locke in Philadelphia on September 13, 1885. His family had deep roots in the city’s free black community, his father the first black employee of the post office and a grandfather a hero of the War of 1812. A bright lad, he won admittance to the city’s premier academic high school, Central, then went on to be Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard (in English and Philosophy) and (in 1907) the first African-American Rhodes Scholar. There is some evidence that several Rhodes selectors did not know they’d picked a black man, and more evidence that several American Rhodes Scholars of his year refused to have anything to do with Locke, even to stating that they would not join a college of which he was a member. (Thus they anticipated Groucho Marx!!) However, at Oxford, Hertford College took him in, and the philosophy faculty loved him. Locke went on to study at Berlin, returned to the US for his Harvard PhD, and took what would be (except for one year, 1926, when he was fired for seeking equal pay for black faculty!!) a life-long appointment at Howard University. He’s an important figure in our cultural and intellectual history for several reasons. Among them I would cite two. Although by no means yet grey, he served as éminence grise (tutor, confidante, publicist) of the Harlem Renaissance and coined the phrase “the New Negro.” Secondly, Locke developed a robust and compelling view of human equality (and equal human rights), based jointly on our moral sameness and our cultural diversity and exercised (made socially real) through a positive, transformative toleration. A fascinating detail, to me, is that when in 1907 the Oxford registrar asked young Locke to declare a nationality, instead of the USA he chose the ancient African kingdom of Zimbabwe—about which Cecil Rhodes might have known a thing or two. ©
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"The Greatest Game in the World--His Move." Caption under a Gibson Girl cartoon showing a courting couple holding hands over a chess board, circa 1900.

When grandma’s big white house (in Grundy Center, Iowa) burned down in 1967, 17 years after her death, it took with it many treasures and trinkets, hundreds (nay, thousands) of letters, what seemed to me (as a child) a mountain of jet jewelry, antiques fine and crude, old costumerie and, among many other things, two portfolio-sized publications featuring pen-and-ink drawings of “Gibson Girls”. They were the creation of Charles Dana Gibson, and for some represented (for about 20 years from 1898) the epitome of female style and beauty. I suppose grandma must have bought the books, for she was then the only daughter still living at home, but she was already 23 when the Gibson girls first appeared, no one thought she would ever marry, nor (even at 23) could she have approached the Gibson Girls’ impossible body structures, nor have I ever seen her (or her picture) with long hair piled high in bouffant style or cascading around her shoulders a la chignon. But there in the attic they were, two books of Gibson Girls drawings and cartoons, treasured enough for grandma to save. The illustrator, Charles Dana Gibson, was born in Roxbury, MA, September 12, 1867, into an old New England family rich enough and secure enough to encourage his artistic tendencies. He quickly built a good professional reputation (and income) as a cartoonist and illustrator (books and magazines), and then hit upon the idea of modeling his elegant wife, Irene, and her equally elegant sisters (all five of them from a wealthy Virginia family, the Langhornes), not only at home and at play, but also at study and at work. That’s because his Gibson girls, though by no means suffragettes—perish the thought—were thoroughly modern girls, most of them (one thinks) making themselves fit enough, smart enough, and stylish enough for thoroughly modern husbands. My grandma’s corsets, horrendously wasp-waisted and also found lying among all that other attic memorabilia, hinted that she (with her college education, her teaching career, and her love of travel) might have pictured herself as one of them. Perhaps so, perhaps not, but in 1907 she landed her man, a 57-year-old widower and gentleman farmer, Mr. Simms, and lived happily ever after in that big house in town. ©
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"I thought of suicide but decided that I could always try MIT and then kill myself if it was that bad." Murray Gell-Mann on being rejected by Harvard and Princeton for graduate study.

Anecdotally, it has seemed to me that physicists in general and nuclear physicists in particular have some set tendencies. Once upon a time they were almost all men, but that has, of late, been moderated. But there’s still a good chance that the next physicist you meet will have (and be competent at) a musical instrument, and (if she or he is of the nuclear persuasion) a pronounced but odd sense of humor. This whimsicality surfaces in various ways, notably in their special lingo, their nuclear nomenclature. This may come from the very chanciness of quantum physics, the Schrodinger’s Cat kind of quandary where the state of things may depend on, well, the state of things, and from what looks like a statistical model of “fact.” Murray Gell-Mann, who in 1969 won a Nobel in Physics for his work in sorting all this out (more or less, as they say), was not the first origin of this poetry of quarks and charm, up and down, baryon and strange, but he gave it all a big boost and some new coinages in both his scientific writings and those intended for the likes of you and me. Murray Gell-Mann’s parents had moved from the eastern fringes of the Hapsburg Empire to New York, where he was born on September 15, 1929. His parents were not notably scientific, but he was, and he tore through the Yale curriculum for his BA (1948) and (rejected by Princeton and Harvard) got his MIT PhD in 1951. He then spent most of his working life at CalTech, beavering away (with colleagues) at the internal structures and processes of the atom, and finding that understanding it all required not only observation and mathematics (to test or extend theory) but at least a pinch of imagination in order to grasp and explain it all. “Quark” was definitely Gell-Mann’s coinage, lifted from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. He made much of “strangeness” in his explainings, and found inspiration (and a kind of model) in the Eightfold Way of Buddhism. Gell-Mann is said to have summed it all up in his Quark and the Jaguar (1994), a book that is still in print, still highly recommended for those who desire insight into the oddities of the subatomic world. Chapter 12, apparently, is all about ‘flapdoodles.’ ©
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"Your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.” Lauren Bacall.

I’m curious that the favored actors of my late adolescence remain my favorites today. Among female actors, that gives pride of place to Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn. On mature reflection, I think that may be because they were different, but in similar ways—both on film and in their lives. I’ve already ‘done’ Hepburn in these Notes; today I’ll do Lauren Bacall because she was born on September 16, 1924. She was then Betty Joan Perske, born of Jewish immigrant stock, whose parents were wealthy enough to give her a classy school education and, perhaps, that je ne sais quois attitude that said to all and sundry, ‘I’m a classy dame and I’m my own person. Handle at your peril.’ Or words and behaviors to that effect. Besides attitude, she was pretty (some would say ‘striking’) and started out as a teen-age model in classy mags like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. But it was acting that stirred her, even though her first, ingénue role was a flop in a play that flopped. She was then ‘discovered,’ by Howard Hawks’ wife, and, aged 19, starred with Humphrey Bogart, aged 45, in Hawks’ film To Have and Have Not (1944). Later, Bacall confessed to suffering from near nervous collapse in many scenes; if that’s true, the way she dealt with it (full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes) should be a lesson to us all. Her performance as “Slim” Browning (“Slim,” by the way, was also Hawks’ wife’s nickname) knocked out Bogart’s Harry Morgan and conquered Bogart himself. The couple married the next year, starred together in several more noir films, and then, in the mid-1950s, Bacall nursed Bogart through his cancer, to the end. Since Bacall was then only 33, she still had a life to live, and like Katharine Hepburn (who also, coincidentally, lived with her classic leading man, Spencer Tracy) she lived it very fully and to the end, remaining an important presence in film, on stage, and even on the small screen. But to me, and I suspect also to many, Lauren Bacall was always Marie Browning, ‘people call me Slim,’ a woman with attitude, intelligence, and heart. Incidentally, it was a role which, though of course created by Ernest Hemingway’s novel, was remade for film (and for Bacall’s immortal stardom) by William Faulkner, who was principal screenwriter. So To Have and Have Not brings to us four of the greatest talents in 20th-century American culture, five if we include Howard Hawks in that pantheon. ©
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"Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep — He hath awakened from the dream of life." Lines from Shelley's "Adonais" read by Mick Jagger at a memorial for Brian Jones, Hyde Park, London, 1969.

I’ve often heard it said that “only the good die young.” Sadly, I’ve had occasions to say it myself, although now at 77 I think it has lost its charm. But it could certainly be said of John Keats, the great English Romantic poet who died, aged only 25, in February 1821. But by then very few thought of him as a good poet. His lowish social origins didn’t help, and most critics panned (some dismissively, some cruelly) his first publications, including such now-immortal poems as his “On Looking into Chapman’s Homer” and his odes “to a Nightingale” and “on a Grecian urn.” After all, Keats was only an innkeeper’s son and an apprentice apothecary, and there was a note of social snobbery in all of this. Had John Keats the robustness of Lord Byron, he might have stood it all better, but had he been a peer he might not have had to put up with it. On top of being injured (if not broken) in spirit John Keats was now ravaged by consumption, which he’d contracted while nursing his consumptive brother, Tom. And so it was that, on the advice of several friends and a physician, that John Keats set sail for the continent on September 17, 1820, mainly in order to take advantage of what was thought to be (in Europe’s southern reaches) a better climate for the consumptive. But as Nathaniel Hawthorne later noted (in his The Marble Faun) Rome in winter, with its mists and damps, was not that sort of place, and so Keats withered through the winter and died on the eve of the Roman spring. Back in England, his friends and the few critics (like Charles Lamb) who’d perceived Keats’ lyric genius mourned his death and turned to honoring his memory. Thus they began the more important task of constructing his legend and his literary fame. Perhaps the most memorable of these efforts was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Adonais” (1821), which he composed in weeks. In its lordlike references to both Hebrew and Greek, “Adonais” is a remarkable title for an elegy to a (then) very minor poet, and it makes clear in its bitter attacks on Keats’ critics its hope that future generations would see more light in Keats’ lyrics. And so they have. ©
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"Politics and government demand compromise." Barry Goldwater.

Marjorie (“Mo”) Mowlam is called the architect of the famous good Friday Agreement (1999) that pointed the way towards a resolution of the Northern Ireland “troubles.” That’s probably right, but it may be more important that she was also the Agreement’s Dr. Fixit, scurrying around the major players and some minor ones, soothing some egos, discomfiting others, constantly reminding all that any “Agreement” could only be a compromise, rather a whole package of compromises. Since these people, on all sides, had made their reputations by being uncompromising, every contending party had reason(s) to be angry with her, and many suspected her of a burning ambition to be somewhere else, that is, at 10 Downing Street. Not a few added that she was getting fat, which is (besides ambition) a fatal flaw for female politicians. Eventually she came clean about the fat, a by-product of her treatment for brain cancer, but not entirely clean about the cancer itself, which, her doctor diagnosed, early in 1997, as incurable. At the height of her fame, she was dismissed from her Northern Ireland post by Prime Minister Blair, and replaced by Blair’s Svengali, Peter Mandelson. She died of her cancer in 2005, to not-quite-universal mourning, most of it sincere. Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam was born on September 18, 1949, into a lower-middle class family awash in its own problems, learning much from that. No intellectual, she excelled in school and at sports. After a BA at Durham, she gained a PhD in Political Science at the University of Iowa, but returned to Britain to work her way up the Labour Party’s slippery flagpole, moving from apparently Left to apparently Right but never wholly on board with Tony Blair’s “New Labour” hype. As a 2010 “docudrama” about her life seems to have it, Mowlam’s lie about her cancer (which deeply troubled her long-suffering doctor) arose partly from her deepest belief that she would survive it and partly from her burning ambition to replace Blair as party leader. I think it’s likely that Blair dismissed her for exactly the same two reasons. Now, with the Northern Ireland agreement again at risk (from Britain’s Brexit bumblings), Mo Mowlam’s tragedy and her triumph look like becoming merely ironic. ©
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I had the pleasure of sharing company with Mo over an odd pint during the election campaigns in the 90's. She was quite "normal" and very down to earth.
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"Nor child, nor man, Nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is gray, For I have lost the race I never ran." Hartley Coleridge.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), poet, critic, philosopher, and with William Wordsworth the progenitor of England’s Romantic Age, was also an addict (opium) and, probably, manic-depressive. Nevertheless, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy took Coleridge in at Dove Cottage for 18 years (off and on), and for his final 18 (again, off and on) he inhabited his doctor’s house, in Highgate, London (where Ralph Waldo Emerson visited him). He wasn’t the ideal house guest, but he was also, obviously, inspiring to be around and to have around. His eldest son, David Hartley Coleridge, born on September 19, 1796, seems to have taken a similar view of his father and, as Hartley (the name he was known by) matured he became a similar sort of person but a lot more lovable. During his stormy and peripatetic childhood, Hartley developed a precocious ability to express himself in words, found a whole series of supportive, interesting adults (including his schoolmaster and both Wordsworths), and built himself an imagined world that he called “Ejuxeria” and which he may have carried around with him for years. Withal, father and friends, he was well-tutored, did well enough at Oxford to be appointed Junior Fellow at Oriel College, but was expelled for many faults (“general inattention to college rules”) and two besetting sins (“sottishness [and] love of low company”). Like his father, Hartley wandered, wrote, and lived with others for pretty much the rest of his life, finishing up with old family friends at Nab Cottage, overlooking Rydal Water in the Lake District, not too far from Dove Cottage. (You can view Nab up close via Google Earth ®.) Like his father Hartley was a perceptive critic (including essays on Shakespeare) and an imaginative writer, but his main writing persona established his difference and, perhaps, his psychological independence from Samuel. Hartley Coleridge’s pen name for a particular series of essays was “The Old Bachelor”: an elderly, kindly and whimsical observer of the human scene, a bit of a wanderer, one who received many social invitations and enjoyed most. Not least, this particular old bachelor was a pleasing and welcome house guest. He died in January 1849 at his friends’ house, which was also his, of a lung infection incurred by walking home, in a cold December rain, from a dinner party with other friends. ©
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“I was much too far out all my life / And not waving but drowning.” Stevie Smith, from the title poem of her "Not Waving but Drowning," 1957.

If it’s possible to be whimsically gloomy, that’s how one might characterize Stevie Smith and her poetry (though gloomily whimsical might also work). She lived an odd life, spending most of it in a North London “house of female habitation” (a generous end terrace) with her spinsterly Aunt Madge, aka the “Lion Aunt.” Fear often knocked at their door (one of Stevie’s poems has it), but they never let fear in, which is, when you think about it, a pretty good solution. Stevie Smith was born Florence Margaret Smith (the “Margaret” after Aunt Madge, I presume), in Hull, England, on September 20, 1902. Her parents were prosperous but, she later said, “ill-assorted,” and when her dad’s business went bust he jumped shore for life as a merchant seaman. Stevie was 4 then, soon to be diagnosed with tubercular peritonitis and spend three years in a sanatorium where she had her first thoughts of suicide and (not at all paradoxically, she later said) derived much strength from it. Smith was educated in North London, chose secretarial school as a way forward for an intelligent young woman, and worked for about 30 years as executive secretary at an engineering firm. She found that boring but not time-consuming and started to write and publish (novels, then poems) in the 1930s. She was briefly fashionable, and acquired an interesting slate of literary friends including Olivia Manning and George Orwell, but her market shrank after WWII, and soon she found that only Punch would pay for her poems, which may account for some of her whimsicality, gloomy or otherwise. And there are her line drawings, some intended to go with her poems. They are not at all like James Thurber’s but were possibly inspired by him: simple to the point of crudity but expressive, too, in a whimsical sort of way. It was, however, during this commercially ‘dry’ period that Smith is said to have produced her best poetry, which somehow caught the mood of the 1960s, when she was once more read (and listened to, at her readings) for who she was. After Aunt Madge died (in 1968), Stevie Smith’s downhill was steepened by illness, and she died in 1971, just as we had arrived in Britain to find out about her. ©


"Well, I wanted to know what was going on, and in cosmology one didn’t." Donald Glaser, 2003, explaining his shift (in grad school) from theoretical to experimental physics.

In graduate school, I heard a wonderful story about how Einstein hit upon his theory of relativity while riding (in a Zurich tram) past a park. Watching distant tree trunks seeming to ‘jump’ behind closer ones (and then apparently jump out again), the great man (pondering some unresolved problems) muttered to himself, “Aha!! Light bends!” Sadly, it’s not a true story, but my credulity points to a commonly-held notion amongst non-physicists that the whole thing is a mind-game, a mad mix of math and poetry, in which untested conundrums masquerade as theory proven only on blackboards. While it does appear in physics as if theory has often outrun experiment, experimenters have usually caught up with (and confirmed) the mind-gamers. A good example is Donald Arthur Glaser, born in Cleveland on September 21, 1926, whose experimental discovery was so confirmatory of so much that he was awarded the Physics Nobel in 1960, at the astonishingly tender age of 34. And his discovery was mostly a thing, a contrivance, and one with the relatively (pun intended) prosaic name of “bubble chamber.” Glaser invented the bubble chamber in 1952, intending it as an advance on the “cloud chamber.” The bubble’s much denser contents (usually liquid hydrogen, superheated but kept liquid by very high pressure) allowed more frequent and more accurate observation of the paths and collisions of various sub-atomic particles hurled through the chamber by a particle accelerator. Glaser’s first bubble chamber was small, and some later ones were very small, but like particle accelerators they can be huge, up to 5m in diameter and containing tons of liquid. The chambers have confirmed old theories and advanced new ones (and discovered new particles). But as per usual Glaser’s discovery provoked an attractive, imaginative story, that he figured it out while gazing at bubbles in his beer. Sadly (‘sadly’ because I like stories about jumping tree trunks, rising beer bubbles, and dead and/or live cats) that story turns out to be untrue. As for Glaser himself, he switched over to biophysics and became a pioneer in cancer therapies. His bubble chambers have been rendered obsolete by new experimental contraptions, but that is also another story. ©

"I am no poet, but if you think for yourselves, as I proceed, the facts will form a poem in your minds." Michael Faraday, RI Christmas Lectures, 1858.

Science is now, demonstrably, essential to survival; yet many citizens reject science. In such a very odd circumstance, it might be politic to argue instead or in addition that science is essential to prosperity. That telling argument led, in 1799, to the founding of Britain’s ‘Royal Institution,’ so-called because, in 1800, it received a royal charter. Science was then a pleasing hobby for those who could afford it, aristocrats and gentlemen, but a great deal of the Royal Institution’s (RI’s) original funding came from the Society for Bettering the Conditions and Improving the Comforts of the Poor (sorry, but this was before the acronym age). And today, still, most of the RI’s wealth is spent on science education, sometimes hard work indeed but sometimes exceptionally entertaining. The RI’s “entertainments” include its Christmas Lectures: in the years we lived in Britain a series of six lectures, nationally televised on the BBC, delivered by an eminent scientist and always, by tradition, gussied up by the RI’s chief lab technician. The lectures are sometimes called the Faraday Lectures, which is the whole point of this note, because Michael Faraday, certainly the greatest scientist of his time and arguably of all time, was himself a living, breathing example of the ways in which science can better the conditions and improve the comforts of the poor. Michael Faraday himself was born very poor, the son of an underemployed blacksmith, on September 22, 1791. Sustained by his mother’s serenity and his own Christian faith (he was a Sandemanian, an offshoot from Presbyterianism), he first learned how to bring home the bacon (he delivered newspapers), and then through hard work and a series of chance encounters, he came to learn more about electricity than anyone before him had ever even suspected. Among those chance encounters was Faraday’s hearing (while still in his teens) a lecture series given by Sir Humphrey Davy, at the RI. Already a science amateur, young Michael Faraday became (in 1812) Davy’s lab assistant, and thus began our ascent of knowledge (inter alia about electricity and atoms) and his own ascent into fame and comfort. When the Christmas lectures were founded, in 1825, Faraday soon became their most prolific performer. His record of 19 Christmas Lecture series will never be equaled. As for condition, Faraday lived out his old age in a grace and favor house, with pension, granted by a grateful Queen Victoria and with the approbation of a grateful nation. But he had refused a knighthood as contrary to his religious principles. ©.
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"How few think justly of the thinking few! How many never think, who think they do!" Jane Taylor.

One can’t get very far into the life of the writer Jane Taylor without encountering the extraordinary family into which she was born (in London) on September 23, 1783. Her father Isaac was a dissenting minister of the Calvinist persuasion, but also a gifted engraver and a dab hand at painting. He spawned a line of Isaacs, father and son, who made various claims to fame (the last Isaac as linguist and a crusading dean of York Minster). Her mother Ann was herself a successful writer, mainly for children, and the whole Taylor brood (11 kids, though only 6 survived to adulthood) was educated to be, well, creative. That took exceptionally well with Jane Taylor and her (slightly) elder sister Ann. We know they were pretty girls (a fine painting of them, by their dad, resides in the National Portrait Gallery), but we’ve forgotten that they became popular and successful writers who, after performing for their family imaginary tales in which they were, variously, poor beggar girls or princesses in disguise, soon began to publish anonymously. By 1804 they’d gotten together enough poetry of their own (with some contributed by siblings and other young friends) to publish (again, anonymously) their Original Poems for Infant Minds by Several Young Persons. It sold well enough to produce an unchildlike row over royalties between the Taylor sisters and their (ex-) friend Adelaide O’Keefe, but soon the sisters published under their own names, and Jane especially became famous enough to go on public readings tours and to serve also as editor of the evangelical Youth’s Magazine. She died of a cancer in 1824, and when her brother (one of those talented Isaacs) collected her works for publication he came up with no less than five bound volumes, including a creditable novel in the mode of Jane Austen. The Original Poems enjoyed a brief vogue in the early 20th century and was republished in 1905 (with, of course, lovely engravings). In that edition, by the way, Jane, Ann, and Adelaide O’Keefe were all given public credit as authors, thus burying a very old hatchet. Jane’s ‘nature’ poems do stand out, including “The Violet” (a wild, small thing that “might have graced a rosy bower”) and the rather more famous “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” ©
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"This great principle is that the Constitution and [its] laws . . . are supreme; that they control the Constitution and laws of the respective States, and cannot be controlled by them." John Marshall, McCullough v. Maryland, 1819.

Today is a doubly signal day in American legal history, foundational even, for it was on September 24, 1755 that John Marshall was born, and it was on September 24, 1789 that the new United States Congress passed the first Judiciary Act. In a sense the Judiciary Act should come first. The new Constitution (of 1787) had provided (Article III) for a Supreme Court and for “such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time establish.” Indeed the prospect of a uniform legal system with clear jurisdictions for state courts and (new) national courts was one of the attractions of the Constitution (for some: for others it was anathema). So the first congress got right to work and within a month we had a judiciary. Or, at least, we had a system of a supreme and some inferior courts (on which, at the time, supreme court justices sat). The Act also provided for a Chief Justice. Beyond much doubt the most important Chief Justice in American history was John Marshall, the fourth to hold the office and (still) the longest serving Chief Justice in US History (1801-1835). His landmark cases established the functional meanings of “supreme” and set other critical precedents. The most famous cases decided by the Marshall court were Marbury v. Madison (1803), McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Cohens v. Virginia (1821) and Gibbons v. Ogden (1824). Look them up to discover how the “Supreme” Court became more than just a name. It’s also interesting (in view of the recent brouhahas of 2016 and 2020) that Marshall, a Federalist, was nominated and confirmed after the Federalist party had been skunked by Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans in the ‘revolutionary’ election of 1800. Playing revenge politics with Supreme Court appointments is an old American tradition but not a good one. ©
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"I wonder why an alleged gentleman should give his first loyalty to ordinary seamen." Bligh to Christian, "Mutiny on the Bounty", 1962.

I saw the film Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) when it came out and, unaware that critics had damned it, thought it rather good. I came away disliking Captain William Bligh (Trevor Howard) and drawn to lead mutineer Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando). That was MGM’s intention when, in 1958, it hired Eric Ambler to write the script and Carol Reed to direct. Ambler was paid $5000 a week and produced over a dozen versions, so in quantity MGM got its money’s worth. But Ambler and Reed apparently jumped ship (so to speak) and began to plump to make Bligh the hero. This added to the confusion that plagued the whole production. MGM fired them both, but in truth Ambler and Reed reflected genuine confusion about the real mutiny, partly because the real Fletcher Christian is, in fact, difficult to pin down. Fletcher Christian was born on September 25, 1764, in far Northwest England, his family part of a numerous and wealthy clan originally based in the Isle of Man. Though a younger son, he was brought up in patrician style, well educated, passably polished, and (it seems) friendly enough with Captain William Bligh, RN, to have danced Bligh’s children on his knees. By the same token, perhaps, Christian was not the best person to be taken on (aged 23) as mere master’s mate on a long, boring voyage aimed at moving breadfruit saplings from a Pacific colony to a Caribbean one. It was not a hero’s duty, Bligh was not a hero’s ideal captain, and the patrician Christian chafed at executing Bligh’s sometimes strange orders. As the Bounty’s voyage progressed, Christian gathered about him a large knot of the more skilled seamen, and eventually he led his very own Mutiny on the Bounty. Had Fletcher Christian lived to tell his tale, it might have been easier to sort this out, but he died circa 1793 in mysterious circumstances on a remote Pacific Island, having taken a Tahitian wife and spawned a Tahitian brood. Two centuries later, the whole business flummoxed Eric Ambler and Carol Reed, good men and true, and all I can say is that in my old age I’ve decided that I would not like to have had Fletcher Christian as my subordinate—or William Bligh as my boss. ©
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"We were lucky to have her." Dean Paula McClain, Duke Graduate School, remembering Ida Stephens Owens, February 2020.

“Once a troublemaker, always a troublemaker.” I first noticed Daniel Tosteson, long-time (1977-97) dean of Harvard medicine, when he was identified in a tobacco industry publicity piece as a leader of the “anti-smoking racket,” and (like all racketeers) was said to be in it just for the money. Seems like a good guy to me. Indeed it turns out that years before, when he was a young department head at Duke University medicine, he was a leader of the ‘anti-racism racket;’ for in the very early 1960s he led efforts to integrate the Duke campus. Besides leading the ‘racket’ at Duke, he personally recruited some of Duke’s first black graduate students, traveling around North Carolina’s then all-black campuses to find good talent. One of his first finds was one of his best, a graduating senior (at North Carolina College) named Ida Stephens, born in Whiteville, NC, on September 28, 1939. As Ida Stephens Owens, she would quite a big splash at the National Institutes of Health where (for 49 years, most of them as head of section) she made important discoveries in the physiology of digestion, including several ‘new’ enzymes. At Duke, she was one of the first three African-Americans to be admitted to the graduate school and then whizzed through Tosteson’s physiology program to become one of Duke’s first two black PhDs, and the first woman of color to earn a Duke doctorate. A lot of her success was just hard work. After her mother’s early death, Ida had become little mother in her family, and besides all that domestic work had carried on with her education through North Carolina’s segregated school system, earning plaudits all the while. She maintained a modest demeanor, though, and when, many years on, Ida Stephens Owens received Duke University’s highest alumni honor (the first African-American to do so), she insisted that way back when, when Daniel Tosteson ‘discovered’ her, she was no more than just the right person in the right place at the right time. No less, either. Ida Stephens Owens died earlier this year, aged 80, widely mourned, after a life of hard work, good luck, and (one must think) brilliant research. ©
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"Press forward and fear nothing." Katharine Mary Drexel.

Xavier University, in New Orleans, celebrates today the 105th anniversary of its founding, September 27, 1915. It was originally intended as a high school and a teacher training school for African-Americans. 1915, one of the banner years of lynch law and Jim Crow in the American South, was not a great year to begin such an experiment, especially when the school occupied the former premises of Southern University and in a relatively posh, all-white, district of the city. The neighbors didn’t like it, and greeted the news of its founding with threats and various acts of night-time vandalism, some very damaging. Perhaps they didn’t like, either, the school’s founding mission, “the promotion of a more just and humane society.” Heaven forbid!! But the school prospered and in 1925 achieved university status; today it remains our only Catholic ‘historically black’ university. It stands also as a monument to the multitudinous philanthropies of the Drexel family, more especially of Sister Katharine Mary Drexel, born in Philadelphia in 1858, and raised in a family (father, mother, uncles and aunts) that believed in charity both casual (family members staffed a tri-weekly clothing and food bank in a poor section of town) and deliberate (hence the Drexel Institute, one of her uncle Tony’s gifts to Philadelphia.) When she was 27, Katharine and her two sisters (one elder, the younger, Louisa, was a half-sister) inherited (in today’s $$$) about $400 million, and set about finding ways to employ it in good works. They needed some help, and among others they visited the Pope in Rome who, noting Katharine’s special energy, suggested that she do some of the work herself. So Katharine Drexel became a nun, indeed the head of an order, and devoted the rest of her life (and much of her fortune) to create and enhance educational opportunities for Native Americans and African Americans, “towards a more just and humane society.” The institutions Sister Katharine founded, and funded, still litter our national landscape, mostly in the south and west. If it was a system—which it wasn’t—its flagship would be Xavier University, and taken together they are a significant monument to her memory. But it was in recognition of some other miracle that, in 2000, Sister Katharine became Saint Katharine. ©
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"He gave generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and the afflicted . . . so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched." From a 12th-century biography of Wenceslaus.

I’m (emphatically) not among those who say “it’s never too early for Christmas,” but today is the day for remembering the subject of my all-time favorite Christmas carol. It was on September 28, 935, that Wenceslaus I, duke of Bohemia, was murdered—at the church door, and by his brother’s order. Wenceslaus was very soon venerated as a saint, and as his cult grew (in Bohemia of course but also in England) he was canonized. Not only that, but the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I, promoted him (posthumously) to be a king, and so we know him as “Good King Wenceslaus,” the one who went out on a very snowy Feast of Stephen (Boxing Day in England), to bring comfort—food, wine, and warmth—to a poor peasant who dwelt near St. Agnes’ fountain. Today Svatÿ Václav (Wenceslaus the Good) is patron saint of the Czech Republic, and for a long time his statue has stood in Prague’s Wenceslaus Square. As a children’s story has it, when Bohemia is threatened, the statue will come to life to defend the homeland, like Václav Havel, the president-poet, did in 1989. Over the centuries, it’s had its work cut out for it, and in fact Wenceslaus’ lasting fame owes partly to the roles he played in preserving Bohemia from its aggressive neighbors (Magyars to the east, Saxons to the west) and from his own aggressive mother, the pagan Princess Drahomira. In these struggles, Wenceslaus found it meet to remain faithful to Christianity (into which he had been baptized) and to bring Latin into church and German into his court. He also paid fealty, tribute, to a German king (hence his title of duke or prince). Chances are, too, that the good duke was indeed exceptionally generous to his poorer subjects, and not just on St. Stephen’s feast day. So it is that at Christmastide we sing of Wenceslaus the Good, and assuredly not of his assassin brother, Boleslaus the Cruel. It’s also because, in 1853, a clever English hymnwriter, John Mason Neale, wrote the lyric to “Good King Wenceslaus” and set it to the medieval tune “Tempus adest floridum,” ‘the time is near for flowering.’ So on St. Stephen’s Day you can awaken knowing that spring is one day nearer than it was yesterday and that the day after Christmas is yet another good day on which to be generous. ©
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"What has a Woman to do with Learning?" Elizabeth Elstob.

In early modern England, scholarship was not limited to the universities: indeed, not at all. Outside the walls, gentlemen and aristocrats like Robert Boyle more than dabbled in it, and many without independent means (such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke) found employment suitable for scholars in noble households. And, too, there was always the church, hence the frequent appearance of the parson-naturalist. But for a woman the comforts needed to sustain a scholarly life were much more difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, some succeeded, notably the linguist Elizabeth Elstob, born in Newcastle on September 29, 1683. The youngest child of eight, Elizabeth was weaned into scholarship by her mother, Jane, but then was orphaned in 1692 and put in the care of her uncle, a canon of Canterbury Cathedral who did not approve of scholarly girls. This gifted and possibly rather stubborn child soon convinced him otherwise, or more likely that she was an exception, and her education continued, partly in the cathedral library. She discovered such a gift for languages that (only in her late teens) she was introduced into her elder brother William’s Saxonist circle at University College, Oxford, and quickly became a member of it in her own right, an association that continued after William took a parish in London. Elizabeth Elstob’s scholarship in Old English and other “northern” tongues, some of it published in her lifetime, even more in manuscript and now in the British Library, still draws attention from modern scholars, and is today the more accessible because she chose to write in English, possibly because she intended her work to be accessible to women readers. Elstob’s published work came almost entirely between 1702 and 1715, at which point William’s death cast her on the market, a difficult place to be for a single woman whatever her talents. Elizabeth found a niche running a girls’ school in darkest Worcestershire. This penurious isolation ended when, in 1739, probably through the intercessions of an old male colleague and a new female friend, Elizabeth Elstob became governess in the household of the duke and duchess of Portland and then, as the children grew, companion to the duchess. These latter life tasks, though well within Elizabeth’s intellectual capacities and providing her with a comfortable subsistence, did not allow her to resume her linguistic researches. Elizabeth died in 1756, aged 74, and her friend the duchess saw to it that she was buried in St. Margaret’s, Westminster. ©
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"Poetry is a way of looking at the world for the first time." W. S. Merwin.

I sometimes think of myself as not a successful poet, but I keep at it; thus W. S. Merwin’s comment that he wrote poetry with “abiding desperation” twangs my heartstrings. Merwin was born to it, in a way, September 30, 1927, for almost a soon as he learned to string words together on paper he was writing hymns for his father, a Presbyterian minister. Hymns must have rhythm, and rhyme helps too, but it wasn’t until Princeton (BA, languages, 1948) that Merwin began seriously to write poetry, and not successfully until after he’d done some work (with Robert Graves, among others) translating medieval poetry into modern English. There’s little doubt that all that wordstuff was good training, building up a marvelous vocabulary not only of single words but of their multiple uses and the allusions one can make out of them when “trying to decipher the language of insects . . . making music with their own legs . . . a grammar without horizons . . . wholly articulate . . .”, as Merwin put it in “After the Alphabets.” His early poetry did well, and his later works, too. Among other gongs, he won two Pulitzers and was appointed poet laureate of the USA by President Obama (2010-2011). Merwin’s poetry also became much more concerned with nature, natural and disrupted, forever evanescent; and where better to study disrupted, evanescent nature than in the Hawaiian Islands? He went to Hawaii in his late 40s to study Buddhism, but stayed to study the impact of modern settlement and growth on the islands’ ancient experiment in evolution, plants, birds, its one native mammal, and those singing, articulate bugs. As a poet and activist, he wrote and spoke plenty of words about Hawaiian nature and its preservation, but he also put his money where his mouth was and bought about 20 acres of exhausted (“pineappled”) land on Maui and set about restoring it to something like its ancient state. The species he brought back are pretty poetic on their own (Benang dawn noda noda, for instance, or weeping cabbage and solitary sugar ). And of course he made poetry out of the process, too: great, growing rainforest trees “planted as seedlings no taller than chives.” William Stanley Merwin died in March 2019, aged 91, eulogized as a Thoreau of his time and a poet for the ages. ©.
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"Digestive biscuits are just right for dunking in tea. What do Americans dunk in their tea?" "Gerontius", in an international online forum on digestive biscuits, 2007.

Today our delusions seem political, with immigrant rapists lurking behind every shrub waiting to lay waste to virginal suburban neighborhoods; but these hysterias revive my interests in the more benign delusions that enlivened the nation in the 19th-century “age of reform.” Among my favorites were dietary reforms of the sort pushed by Dr. John Kellogg (1852-1943) and the Rev’d Sylvester Graham (1794-1851). Their new foods (or fads) would rid the nation of a whole range of ills, moral, mental, and physical, and that delusion, I suppose, could be why we still eat Graham crackers and Kellogg’s corn flakes. In Britain, the “digestive biscuit” began its life with similar fanfare in 1839, the brainstorm of a couple of Scottish doctors. Its name gives away its main function, but (made of sweet meal) it also tasted OK. It remained pretty much a home recipe-cure, though, until the extraordinary Alexander Grant got hold of it. Grant was born in the remote and ancient town of Forres, on the wild Moray coast north of almost everywhere, on October 1, 1864, the son of a railway worker. After a conventionally Presbyterian upbringing, during which the upwardly mobile lad dreamt of becoming a lawyer, he took up employment in McVitie’s bakery, Edinburgh, and proceeded to rise up the company’s totem pole. Perhaps he’d eaten those doctors’ biscuits as a youth, but in 1892 he made up a new recipe (still a secret) and McVitie’s began production of what remains its best and most famed product, the “digestive biscuit.” I couldn’t actually say whether it helped my digestion, but (spread with blue stilton or dunked plain in milky tea) it’s a treat. As for Alexander Grant, he is today as famous as a philanthropist as he was in his lifetime as a baker, a hide-bound Scottish Tory whose gifts to the nation (mainly Scotland but also Britain) benefited even me (besides eating too many of his biscuits, I did a whole summer’s research in his Scottish National Library, Edinburgh). One of Grant’s smaller gifts was a limousine for the use of his good friend, the socialist Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, which may have got Grant a knighthood, but many of his gifts remained secret until after his death, for as much as Alexander Grant loved his biscuits, and as hard as he worked to make them a national favorite, he was not in the business of marketing himself. No delusions there for our canny Scot, the biscuit king. ©
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"A teacher can never know where his influence stops." Henry Adams.

I remember Richard Solomon with fondness and awe, one of the few academics of my experience who could turn a large lecture into an intimate seminar. Not much to look at, unless you’re drawn to moderately well-fed Lenins, he made my General Psychology course (Fall 1962) into a learning experience. I will always remember his rapier-sharp dismissals of “IQ” as any kind of quantity and of racial inheritance as any kind of measure. His lectures were always entertaining, and (though already a senior researcher) he took my ‘discussion section’ (maybe others, too) and made it into a weekly highlight. As a Sophomore and a not (yet) very good student, I was aware of a largeish ‘IQ’ gap between Solomon and me, and I thought of him as a rather superior being who was trying not to be. Nor did I have any idea at all of his life. What I know now I discovered in a long obit in my alumni magazine, in 1995. Richard L. Solomon was born in Boston on October 2, 1918, got his BA and MS from Brown, and immediately went to work for the government devising instructional methods to help tailgunners keep coolly to their tasks while on bombing raids over enemy territory. He carried that learning into his PhD work at Harvard, and then in 1947 took what turned out to be a lifetime appointment at Penn. Besides doing groundbreaking work in experimental psychology (I did some of his approach-avoidance experiments—no electric shocks, by the way—at $5 per pop, in the psych labs), what I did not know and would never have suspected was that Solomon was a lover of the Northwoods, a keen cyclist, runner, canoeist, and woodsman, and for years (nearly every summer) subjected his whole family to outdoor adventures (and ecological experiment) on their little ‘tree farm’ outside of Conway, New Hampshire. He and his wife retired there in 1984. Had someone told me all that in 1962, I might have responded “how unlike my favorite Lenin!!” It just goes to show that in most classrooms, you never know how the other half lives. Today I find it very pleasant to think of Professor Solomon running through the woods, whether for fun (approach) or in the attempt to become a somewhat thinner Lenin (avoidance). ©
Stanley Challenger Graham
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Re: BOB'S BITS

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"How smooth must be the language of the whites, for they can make right look like wrong, and wrong look like right." Black Hawk.

Paulette and I first became interested in place names in England, where (via Ekwall’s Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names) we found you could tell a lot about a locality’s history—its ancient history—by studying the etymology of its name. But as Iowans we should have known that already. For instance, a lot of Iowa places are named after American military victories in the war with Mexico, not too surprising as Iowa’s statehood came in 1846. A few others are named after (defeated) heroes of the 1848 revolutions in central Europe. And then there are the Indian place names, after tribes defeated and/or “removed” in the grand march westwards of European Americans. And some Indian leaders are remembered in Iowa names, for instance Black Hawk, a county in NE Iowa, and Keokuk, a county and a (separate) town to the southeast. And that’s a bit of an oddity because, in life, these two chiefs, leaders of a broad coalition of tribes, were themselves deadly enemies. Keokuk was an accommodationist who accepted the 1804 Treaty of St. Louis ceding millions of acres to the USA. Black Hawk, the son of a Sauk medicine man, rose to power by opposing the whole business of surrender and removal, going so far as to ally with the British in the War of 1812. He then, famously, led and gave his name to the brief, tragic Black Hawk War (1832) and Abe Lincoln’s only direct military experience before, in 1861, he became Commander-in-Chief himself. Black Hawk, defeated and disappointed, was taken on a ‘victory’ tour across the east, during which he was humiliatingly displayed as a trophy of war. He died in a remnant, displaced Sauk village near the Des Moines River (a French name) on October 3, 1838. I suppose it was then safe enough to name a county after him. There’s also a “Black Hawk Creek,” a longish, lovely stream now hosting a string of county parks and nature areas. It rises near Grundy Center (named after the “incorruptible” Felix Grundy, Martin Van Buren’s Attorney General). Seeing that creek as a swollen, angry, roaring torrent tumbling a steel bridge and a barn down its valley in the floods of 1947, is one of my very earliest memories. Perhaps that was Black Hawk’s revenge. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

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"The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying-grounds . . . The past doesn't pass away so quickly here." Bob Dylan.

There’s little doubt that the end of slavery hardened lines of racial division in New Orleans; as that happened, it hazarded the oddly-privileged position of the city’s mixed-race, francophone Creole population, including a young doctor, Louis Charles Roudenez (1823-1890). Himself the son of Haitian exiles, he’d lived as privileged a life as was possible for a person of color, but he had to take his medical education elsewhere, his first medical degree in Paris, his second at Dartmouth. While in Paris, he imbibed the heady liquors of Europe’s 1848 revolutions and thus hoped for better things in the US. He returned to New Orleans to marry (another Créole, in the St. Louis Cathedral) and to set up a medical practice that became known as a place where all, rich and poor, white and not, could get care and pay whatever their pockets could bear. But Roudenez was known, too, to be an advocate of greater freedoms, more rights, more liberties, and education, for the whole black population, and with the Union army occupation he became more open about all that in his newspapers, first, and fleetingly, L’Union, and then, from October 4, 1864, The New Orleans Tribune, which he published as a dual-language daily. Here the ambiguities of his own past began to tell, and also the ambiguities of his vision for a better future. Well aware of his “oddly-privileged” past, he found himself unable to give full support to recently-freed slaves and their northern Republican allies. An elitist himself, Roudenez disliked the alien ‘carpetbaggers’ and distrusted the wisdom of the freedmen. Amid deepening divisions, his middle-ground position won him enemies everywhere. His Tribune folded, to be quickly reborn as the organ of the Radical Republicans; it exists today as one of our oldest African-American newspapers. Though his wife and younger children fled to Paris, Roudenez stayed on, doctoring and advocating for his ‘moderate’ position. But the temper of his city ran in other directions on both sides of the color line; mainly towards exclusion of all blacks, of whatever color, and violence against any who dared to demur. Roudenez died 10 years before the “carnival of fury” race riots that erupted in his beloved city in July 1900 after a black man killed a white policeman. ©
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
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