BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Dec 2018, 13:05

Kitāb Suwar al-Kawākib al-Thābitah. The Book of the Constellations of the Fixed Stars, circa 964 CE.

Although the Dark Ages are no longer quite so Dark, the phrase does describe a span of centuries during which the West slept largely unaware of classical tradition, especially unknowing of Greek mathematics and science. Luckily, many manuscripts had passed into the hands of Muslim scholars, who not only translated them (into local vernaculars as well as classical Arabic) but also studied them, edited them, and corrected them. Among the most famous of these cultural and scientific lamplighters was Ἁbd al-Raḥmān al-Ṣūfī, born in Persia on December 7, 903. He spent most of his long life in Shiraz or Isfahan as court astronomer to a succession of sultans. Al-Sūfī’s chief muse, however (besides the heavens themselves) were the observations of Ptolemy, notably those preserved in the Almagest (circa 160 AD). Al-Sūfī’s own observations are preserved in his Book of Fixed Stars (ca. 964 CE), recognized as effecting many significant advances on Ptolemy. Most notable perhaps was his understanding of perspective, gained by traveling throughout the Arab world and triangulating the heavens through (almost always) clear, clean desert air. So he mapped most of his constellations not only as he saw them—from earth—but as he imagined them from some universal perspective, above the firmament. Given time and better instruments, Al-Sūfī might have abandoned geocentrism, but that was left to Copernicus. Of course the Arab constellations, many of them, were different from the Greek (after all, locals had been naming their own for years), but in almost every case Al-Sūfī compared his culture’s heavenly beasts and heroes with Ptolemy’s. The result is not only a great landmark work in the history of astronomy, but an artifact of stunning beauty. A brief tour of the internet will unearth several heavenly pictures for you, most of them apparently drawn from Oxford’s copy of Ἁbd al-Raḥmān al-Ṣūfī’s Book of Fixed Stars, one of the oldest in existence today. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Dec 2018, 13:07

[this occasion is] a prophecy of still greater national enlightenment and progress in the future. Frederick Douglass, April 1876.at the dedication of the Freedman's Memorial.

Among the Civil War statues that has not yet been removed is the Emancipation Memorial, Lincoln Park, Washington, D. C. It’s sometimes called the Freedman’s Memorial because it was largely paid for by subscriptions from freed slaves (starting with $5 from Charlotte Scott). Frederick Douglass donated too, and moreover he spoke honestly and eloquently at the dedication in 1876. Privately, Douglass didn’t like it much, for it depicted the freed slave kneeling, an “unmanly” attitude he thought, under the outstretched arm of a benevolent Lincoln. So in his speech, Douglass memorably focused on Lincoln. But subsequent history has made the freedman the subject and focus of Thomas Ball’s statue; his is a strong figure, crouched (not kneeling), as if starting a race, bursting with energy and looking upwards. And now in his field of vision is another statue, of Mary McLeod Bethune, born in freedom in 1875 to become a great educator. The model for the older statue was once a Missouri slave, Archer Alexander, a man who in 1862 made himself free by escaping from his Warren County master but who even before that had acted as spy and guide for the Union Army in Missouri. Archer Alexander’s freedom was indubitably of his own making, but he was taken in by William Greenleaf Eliot, Unitarian minister, founder of Washington University (and T. S.’s grandpa). Eliot didn’t approve of runaways, but he hated slavery worse, and Archer Alexander (and his wife, Louisa) stayed in the Eliot orbit until Alexander’s death, aged 80, on December 8, 1879. Eliot (who had suggested Alexander as the model, and sent his picture to Ball) and his son Christopher were there at the deathbed, and Eliot noted that Alexander’s last words thanked God that he was going to die in freedom and not in chains. Just so, in Ball’s statue, the shackles are broken and Archer Alexander’s figure looks towards the future. It’s a keeper, that statue, and it should stay. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Dec 2018, 12:29

What in me is dark Illumin . . . That I . . . may assert Eternal Providence, And justifie the wayes of God to men. Book I, Paradise Lost.

John Milton has figured in these notes before, but having just read his Christmas poem, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” (“This is the month, and this the happy morn . . .”), I’ll give the greatest poet in English a break and again remember that this was also the month of Milton’s own birth, December 9, 1608. His father had been disinherited for his Protestantism, but recovered well enough to have young John painted (at age 10) and then to send him off to Cambridge where, despite a few run-ins with his tutors, John took the MA. Some good poetry ensued, notably Il Penseroso, then the Grand Tour of Europe where he met Grotius and Galileo and consorted with Calvinists. When he returned to London he settled down as a schoolmaster, but the world intervened with the English Civil War, where Milton predictably took the side of the Puritans and Parliament, but his disagreements with them on liberty of conscience and freedom of speech produced (1644) The Areopagitica, still as worthwhile as any of his poetry. After the regicide, Milton became a chief propagandist for the Commonwealth government, which brought him trouble when monarchy was restored, in 1660, but luckily for us his absence from public affairs (and his disappointment in them) produced his masterpiece, Paradise Lost (1667), the writing of which was rendered difficult by Milton’s blindness. He composed by dictation, which may account for its remarkable verbal flow and its then-revolutionary free verse form, until Milton not much heard outside the theatre. John Milton is memorialized in Poet’s Corner, in the Abbey Church of Westminster, London. He wasn’t put there immediately, for he was (in Samuel Johnson’s words) an “an acrimonious and surly republican,” but time heals all wounds, even severed heads, and Johnson, lexicographer supreme, had to recognize Milton’s genius with words and their rhythms—and so he did. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Dec 2018, 18:25

I had the opportunity in my little speech to say that I esteemed my highest honour to be a Christian. John Howard, 1883, reporting on his speech accepting a medal for his work on quinine.

The Old English word for a rocky hill translated into modern English as “cloud,” which is a great idea for some clouds. But clouds come in all shapes, and in the 18th century an English Quaker (and scientist), Luke Howard, coined more names. Goethe liked the names so much that he wrote poems about them, dedicating the poems to Howard. We still use those names. But this not is not about clouds; it’s about quinine, and the role played by Luke’s son in studying quinine’s chemistry and how best to produce it. John Eliot Howard was born on December 11, 1807. As a Quaker, he couldn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge, and so like many Protestant dissenters he studied at home and in his father’s business (pharmaceuticals). There he developed his interest in quinine. He didn’t discover it, of course. Peruvian Indians used it for chills from time out of mind, and well before Howard got hold of it, quinine was a well-known specific for a number of ills. Howard applied his skills as a gardener and chemist, and his wealth as a traveler, to find and produce better quinine. What exactly was cinchona bark made of? What was its active ingredient? Which species of cinchona tree produced the best bark? How might the best qualities of that tree be improved through hybridization? Howard built on good work done by other scientists, mainly in France, but accomplished so much on his own that he was rewarded by a grateful queen (that was Victoria) and elected to the Royal Society by grateful fellow scientists. He continued his scientific work all his life, but he, his wife Maria, and most of their nine children were at least as interested in religion, first in Quakerism and then as leaders of the Plymouth Brethren. Quinine itself remained the preferred treatment for malaria until the mid 20th century. One feels quite sure that John Eliot Howard would not have approved of quinine’s current main use, mixed with gin, even though it still does help to cool the fevered brow. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Dec 2018, 03:51

This one slipped the net.

FW: If a man . . . can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house. Emerson.

Emerson never did say “build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” But he said something similar, and he might have been thinking of Matthias Baldwin who, before he left his name forever imprinted on railway engines invented quite a bit of stuff. Matthias Baldwin was born on December 10, 1795, in New Jersey. His father died in 1799, leaving the family comfortable, but incompetent trustees lost that fortune. So Matthias Baldwin made his own good luck, beginning as an apprentice jeweler. His apprenticeship was a Ben Franklin experience, so he struck out on his own. As a jeweler he invented a new process for gold plating. He next moved into printing and bookbinding, inventing as he went. One of his inventions, a rotary printing ‘drum,’ seemed to him to work better with steam power, so in 1828 he built a steam engine fitted to the printing press, another profitable invention. Steam power turned Matthias Baldwin’s head, and when in the next year he heard of the Rainhill Trials in England, he pirated George Stephenson’s design for the Rocket, and soon Matthias Baldwin’s printing and bookbinding firm was making steam engines for the nascent American railway industry. This time he was careful to record his own patents, and he waxed wealthy. By the time of his death in 1866 the Baldwin company had produced over 1500 railway engines which sold very well except in the South. That’s partly because the South, wedded to slavery, didn’t build many railways, but it’s also because the South, wedded to slavery, couldn’t brook Matthias Baldwin’s virulent abolitionism or his generous charitable support of schools and other institutions for free blacks. Had they bought more “Baldwins,” southerners’ war to save slavery might have succeeded. As it happened, instead, Matthias Baldwin’s locomotives kept the Union army well-supplied, his abolitionism became the Union cause, his inventiveness became an American credo, and the Baldwin works went on to produce over 75,000 railway engines. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Dec 2018, 13:48

Why don't we have a little game? Let's pretend that we're human beings, and that we're actually alive. John Osborne, Look Back in Anger, 1956.

When I entered the Wharton School in 1961, it was undergoing a curricular reform meant to insure that business majors became civilized persons. Now we know it didn’t work for everybody, but if it worked for me the main vehicle was its year-long freshman English course. I did not do well in it (one of my papers got a grade of 8%!!), but it did well by me. It was designed, I think, by Jerre Mangione, a passable novelist and brilliant scholar, and one thing he wanted us to know was that not all classic literature was ancient. So we read contemporary works, the most modern being John Osborne’s play, Look Back in Anger, first performed in London in 1956 and thus very warm off the presses. We learned about how best to read a play, including reading it aloud and with feeling, and we were pleased to learn from our reading that it was OK to be young and, well, angry. John Osborne himself was fairly young and very angry. He was born on December 12, 1929, into a family struggling to raise itself. It didn’t succeed, but it gave Osborne leave to wear faintly good working-class credentials on his sleeve despite his fluke-ish attendance at a minor public school. Somehow Osborne acquired an ambition to write but at first didn’t find success in writing (or in love), and much of his frustration with the way things were boiled up on paper as Look Back in Anger. He wrote it in 17 days, in Morecambe, a rather grim seaside resort, but the play’s success can’t have been because of that. I lived only a few miles from Morecambe for 27 years and produced nothing as brilliant as Osborne’s play, one so “full of self-pitying snivel” (to quote an early review) as to imbue a whole generation (my own) with the idea that it was a far, far better thing to be furious than to snivel. And just in case we didn’t get it, Mangione’s Freshman English also required Catcher in the Rye (1951), where Holden Caulfield proved to our great satisfaction that one didn’t have to snivel, anyway. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Dec 2018, 13:19

One must forgive one's enemies, but not before they are hanged. Heinrich Heine, 1848.

Lynn Case’s ‘Modern Europe’ survey turned me into an historian, and among my memories of it was Case’s use of the poet Heinrich Heine to explain, or to gauge, the impact of the French Revolution on European life and culture. Heine was born on December 13, 1797, in a small German principality that came under Napoleon’s direct rule, which Heine remembered as a time of reform (e.g. trial by jury and by a modern law code) and liberation (liberté, égalité, fraternité, etc.). It all came crashing down with Napoleon’s fall in 1814-15, and Heine spent the rest of his life bemoaning the loss, not least because his small state was absorbed by Prussia, a rising power that identified modernity with repression rather than with liberation. But Heine moaned in style, with glorious poetry and the best of satire (at once funny and savage). This satirical streak distanced Heine from the Romantic movement and its taste for affirmation through “Nature.” For Heine, German reaction soured everything, even blue flowers. He did make efforts to become “more German,” e.g. converting to Lutheranism, but his irrepressible spirit (in print and in life) made Germany too hot for Heine, even in the liberal ‘free city’ of Hamburg, and from 1831 he spent most of the rest of his life in France, still loosing his arrows (mainly poetry and satires) in the general direction of the German states, and not just against royalties and their ruling aristocracies but also the political quiescence of most Germans. In this Heine found some solace and support from his cousin, Karl Marx, but for Heine Marx’s proletariat was too “lumpen” and his dismissal of culture as a merely material construct too sweeping, so the cousins at length went their separate ways. Heine spent his last years abed and ill with, as it turns out, lead poisoning. Much later, his books were burned by the Nazis, which Heine would have regarded as a tribute. And it was. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 Dec 2018, 13:13

A man only in the ring, a child out of it. Jem Ward, as described in a sporting paper, 1824.

My Uncle Ed called boxing a gentleman’s sport. Teddy Roosevelt would have agreed, but both of them meant amateur boxing, where young gents vying for honors from club or college could prove their manhood while blooding themselves with something other than swords. Professional boxing was a different sport. To be sure it attracted crowds “of persons of varying character and class,” but most of its practitioners were rough sorts, graduates of the barroom brawl rather than the college club. Some were rough diamonds, though, and in 19th-century England one of the roughest of these was the “Black Diamond” himself, James “Jem” Ward, born (probably) on December 14, 1800 near the docks at Shadwell, London, where his father was a “ballast-heaver.” Jem followed to the docks, where he became a “coal-whipper” by day (thus his nickname) and an increasingly adept pugilist (“miller”) evenings and weekends. By the 1820s he was known far and wide, often boxing in open fields. In 1825, at Warwick, Jem claimed the championship of Britain and the stupendous sum of £1,000 by knocking out Tom Cannon. Some disputes over Jem Ward’s sportsmanship preceded and followed that match (he threw a fight in 1822 and refused one in 1828), but it was still a rather irregular sport and he reclaimed the championship (and a new belt) in 1829. Ward retired in 1831, unbowed and rarely beaten. He married a concert pianist, Eliza Cooper (the daughter of another “miller”), and became a painter of note (often painting boxing scenes as well as landscapes), as if to prove his “rough diamond” credentials. The couple ran several pubs in Liverpool and London, finishing up at the Sir John Falstaff near Covent Garden where, often, Eliza played the piano while Jem accompanied her on various instruments: guitar, violin, or flute. The pub still exists, and you can hear music there, but in 1884 Jem Ward joined Eliza (and their grandson) at the Nunhead Cemetery. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 15 Dec 2018, 13:44

"Too late! This is fidelity." Or, "What an artist dies in me." Alternative versions of the Emperor Nero's dying words, 68 CE.

Tom Paine was hardly the first to point out that one of the great evils of monarchy (nepotism) was also one of its greatest weaknesses. Just as monarchy’s chief recruiting tool is birth, notoriously a lottery, so the monarch or emperor is often forced to depend on family for support. The “family” may or may not be competent but at least the head of it can hope they are ‘nearest and dearest.’ But Roman emperors often found that their family members were neither near nor dear. A good for instance was Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, born on December 15 in the year 37. That wasn’t his name originally, but he was about as well-connected as one could be with the imperial family. He was Caligula’s nephew, Caesar Augustus’s grandnephew, and Marc Antony’s grandson. His adoptive father was the emperor Claudius, who gave him the ‘Nero’ moniker and made him next in the Julio-Claudian line of gods-emperors. But Nero’s was a family whose best skill lay in killing each other, and Nero got right into the swing of things by doing away with his mother, Agrippina (who’d married Claudius, then probably killed him) and his step-brother Britannicus on the possibly well-founded suspicion that they intended to do away with him. By this time, 65 CE, young Nero had become old with worries, including suspecting his wife Octavia (who was Claudius’s daughter) of adultery—so he had her killed, too, and then killed his own mistress-wife, Poppaea, but (pretending grief) deified her. He killed a few others, too, and had (thus) become the last of his line. Meanwhile, Nero had lost the support of the Senate and, perhaps, the populace, and decided in 68 CE to commit suicide rather than be murdered, but he lacked the courage to fire himself and had his chief of staff (not a family member!!) do his very last ‘dirty deed.’ Nero may also have set fire to the city, but since no fiddles were available he would have played on a lyre while Rome burned. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Dec 2018, 12:35

I think I shall write this up when I come out; it should make a small monograph. Harold Walter Bailey's last recorded words, in hospital, in Cambridge, 1996.

When his 5-year old son died, Emerson wrote in his diary “he were a better man than I,” later composing “Threnody” about “The gracious boy who did adorn/ The world whereinto he was born.” Emerson thought grace and genius were born in all and ever ready to spring into glorious bloom. If you wanted to prove that point you might begin with Sir Harold Walter Bailey, for many years Professor of Sanskrit and fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge. Sanskrit was not really “his” language, though he was adept in it and in about 50 other tongues. He’s best known as a scholar of Persian languages ancient and modern. But at his birth (December 16, 1899) he started tabula rasa, the son of a common laborer. He did get some schooling in England, but at 10 his family took up their unskilled labors on an outback farm at Nangeenan, Western Australia. There was no schooling there, and much hard labor, but Bailey somehow came upon a 7-volume encyclopedia and four “teach yourself” books with lessons on Greek, Latin, German, Italian, and Spanish. Finishing those in short order, he started in on Arabic and Persian, whereupon the University of Western Australia thought best to take him in hand for a classics degree (MA on Euripides, 1927). A short six years on, and he had an Oxford D.Phil (on Zoroastrianism, 1933), and 3 years later the Cambridge chair. Bailey had a very long career marked by grace and genius, and generosity. Early on, hearing that the Danish scholar Kaj Barr was embarked on the same project, Bailey withdrew and sent Barr all his notes. After Bailey’s own retirement (in 1967), he made the major donations (in money, books, and time) that not only established Cambridge’s India and Iran Trust but also gave it a house and garden (the gardening was Bailey’s, for he was, remember, once a farm laborer). When he died (1996), his eulogist called him Queens’ greatest scholar since Erasmus, a sort of Emersonian claim that none cared to challenge. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Dec 2018, 13:42

You know my part of the work is such a hum-drum . . . I just grease the old engine and watch the wheels go round. Harriet Upton to Anne Miller, June 26, 1907.

An unsung heroine of the women’s suffrage movement, Harriet Taylor Upton, was born in Ohio on December 17, 1853. Her father was Judge Ezra Taylor who—anti-slavery to the core—would join the Republican party and, later, serve in Congress (replacing James Garfield in the House of Representatives). Thus Harriet gained entrée to national politics, and made the most of it, becoming acquainted with several presidents (and friend to their wives). Whatever her father thought of women voting, her husband was OK with it, and once converted to the cause (in 1890, by none other than Susan B. Anthony) Harriet pursued its goals with such astonishing energy that the Uptons’ home served for a time as the HQ for the National Women’s Suffrage Association. The house (willed to Harriet by her father) was in Warren, Ohio, hardly at the center of things but for Harriet’s drive. Soon business grew so that she took it into the new wing of the Trumbull County Courthouse (surely a constitutional oddity if not downright illegal). Harriet later acquiesced in moving it to New York City and then Washington, D. C. She still regarded Warren as home, and so traveled a great deal, speaking, fundraising, and friendraising. She also found time to make herself into a respected amateur historian (of Ohio’s Western Reserve and its reforming spirit) and author of several children’s books. No fool she, her letters abound with accurate reflections on male politicians and their level of real commitment to the suffrage struggle (she was very sharpish on the subject of Woodrow Wilson). Harriet was alive and well for the triumph of 1920, but for her, being voted on to the Warren school board was reward enough. After Mr. Upton’s death, hard times forced a sheriff’s sale of her beloved house. Harriet died in Pasadena in 1945. Her house has recently been restored and, rightly, is now a charmingly modest historical monument open to the public. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Dec 2018, 13:45

“I am GRIM ALL DAY, but I make you laugh at night.” Joseph Grimaldi, Memoirs.

The fool (or clown, or jester) is as old as entertainment itself, and Shakespeare elevated the role with such as The Fool (in King Lear), Nick Bottom, Puck (both in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and Feste (in Twelfth Night). Their foolishness was often wisdom in disguise, even poor Yorick, alas, that dead “fellow of infinite jest” in Hamlet. But the clown as the center of attention, hair askew, flushed of face (and nose), costume utterly outlandish, colors clashing, the clown as one who might make athleticism funny; that modern clown owes more to Joseph (Joe) Grimaldi, born near Clare Market, London, on December 18, 1778, who imported into the English theatre the talents that had made his grandpa (Giovanni “Iron Legs” Grimaldi), the toast of Italy and then of France. In this Joe Grimaldi also followed his dad Guiseppe and his mother Rebecca Brooker, who were made famous at Drury Lane by the actor-director-entrepreneur David Garrick. Joe’s theatrical career began when he danced (at age 3!!) out of Pandora’s Box (a pantomime) at Sadler’s Wells. He was one of the evils loosed on the world, out of the box so to speak, and that air of mischief or misrule or mischance would characterize most of Grimaldi’s roles, most of his life. He did take ‘serious’ parts occasionally, and to acclaim, but mostly he was the clown of clowns, indeed often called ‘the king of clowns.’ And he transformed Shakespeare’s rural rustics and court jesters into the stars of many shows, usually pantos, usually at Sadler’s Wells, Drury Lane, or Covent Garden but sometimes on circuit; and there was a whole year in Dublin (1805-6). His many admirers included such as Lord Byron (who attended his performances often and gave him a silver snuff box); and editing Grimaldi’s memoirs was one of the first writing jobs of none other than Charles Dickens. Worn out by the sheer physicality of his clowning, Joe Grimaldi retired in 1825 and died in 1832. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Dec 2018, 12:34

"A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!" Ebenezer Scrooge, upon awakening on Christmas morning present.

A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, was published on December 19, 1843. Later that decade, Charles Dickens would produce five more Christmas tales, but none appealed like the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s sins of greed and his redemption in generosity. Much has been written about the role the story played—helped along by Prince Albert’s trees—in reviving Christmas as a religious and cultural holiday. Anglo-Scottish Protestants (and their American progeny) had seen it as a popish invention, and in colonial Boston celebrating Christmas was a crime. It’s less well appreciated that Dickens also meant the story as an attack on his day’s economic orthodoxies. A Christmas Carol is about poverty in the midst of plenty, and its fire is leveled against those who thought poverty ‘natural’ or even essential, notably Thomas Malthus. Dickens (as novelist and journalist) had already written much about poverty, but in 1843 he was working on a tract appealing “to the people of England, on behalf of the poor man’s child.” In October of that year, he spoke about the pamphlet to a Manchester audience, and their enthusiastic reception led quickly to Dickens’ invention of Bob Cratchit, a man of the working poor, and to his crippled son, Tiny Tim. Dickens set to, and his story was written, set, bound, and published before that Christmas. Good timing for the market, of course (it quickly sold out), but if today we read it in conjunction with the unorthodox economics of Thomas Picketty and Joseph Stiglitz we might realize that Dickens’ warming tale remains timely. In the midst of our plenty, poverty grows. And whether poverty is relative or absolute (it’s actually both), the triumphant sentimentality of A Christmas Carol might move us to sit down together and figure out what can be done about it. If we fail, the picture of our future has already been drawn for us by Ebenezer Scrooge’s visiting ghosts. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Dec 2018, 14:01

They be such curious things/ that they care not for Kings / and dare let them know it. John Fletcher, Philaster, circa 1611.

It’s well-known that the theatre, in Will Shakespeare’s time, was much frowned upon by the hotter (“Puritan”) sort of Protestant. Besides being a waste of time, plays were too much of this world, too little concerned with reforming it, and rarely did they expound on the Bible. Playwrights, including Shakespeare, got their own back by making Puritans figures of fun, laced ridiculously strait, often comically ignorant that they were pains in almost everyone’s neck. But not all playwrights were anti-Puritan in their themes or their politics. John Fletcher was one who returned often to “Puritan” themes: court corruption, the ways in which wealth enervates one’s moral sense, even taking up the ‘Protestant’ cause of supporting the Reformation on the continent and against perfidious Spain. John Fletcher was born on December 20, 1579, into a staunchly Protestant family, and seems never—or rarely—to have forgotten that heritage. A Cambridge graduate, his father a Bishop (assigned by Elizabeth to talk the Queen of Scots out of the Roman communion), he became one of the gentleman playwrights, and like many, even most of his fellows he was now a collaborator, then a plagiarist, frequently a trespasser on intellectual property. Among John Fletcher’s sources was William Shakespeare himself. For instance in 1611-2 Fletcher borrowed heavily from The Taming of the Shrew for his own The Woman’s Prize. But this was common practice, no offense taken, and the two men quickly sat down to co-write at least three plays for the King’s Company. There’s a faint possibility they were also lovers, but one has to connect way too many dots to make that case. At any rate, when Shakespeare retired back to Stratford, John Fletcher took over as the King’s Company’s chief playwright, and kept going until 1625, when the Plague got him. Doubtless there was a Puritan who came forward to make a moral tale out of that. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Dec 2018, 14:02

To say that a man is made up of certain chemical elements is a satisfactory description only for those who intend to use him as a fertilizer. Hermann Joseph Muller.

Immigrants, we are daily reminded, include rapists, drug dealers, and murderers, but our reminder-in-chief never mentions that immigrants (legal and illegal) do these things in much smaller proportion than the native-born. More often they bring virtues to our shores, enriching our moral mix. Take the immigrant grandparents of Hermann Joseph Muller, German Catholics (paternal) and British Jews (maternal) who came to America determined to better themselves and make life better for everyone else. Hermann, born on December 21, 1890, learned these things from his parents and applied them in science. Along the way, he won a Nobel Prize (physiology and medicine, 1946) for his work in genetics. More particularly, Muller was interested in how mutations in the genetic material (which we now call DNA) came about, in what proportion, and in how these changes might affect (and effect) evolution of the phenotype. Like many in this field, he used the fruit fly as his experimental animal (they do a lot of generations in little time). Muller pursued this in an academic career that began at Columbia University but carried him to Rice, to Texas, back to Columbia, then Amherst, a couple of Soviet institutes, and Edinburgh, and finally fetched up at Indiana. Muller’s most important discovery was that radiation (he used X-rays) caused mutations, and at a rate proportional to the exposure. He made this discovery in 1927, but governments and corporations were agonizingly resistant to provide protections for workers and citizens, and so Hermann Joseph Muller (perhaps predictably, given his parental inheritance) turned to a crusade for understanding the social costs of science and scientific research. It took a while (too long, as those who worked in St. Louis’s nuclear industry in the 1940s would discover, to their cost), but Muller didn’t give up the fight until he gave up the ghost, in 1967. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 Dec 2018, 13:43

An equation for me has no meaning, unless it expresses a thought of God. Srinivasa Ramanujan.

Debates over whether geniuses are born or made usually end in compromise, but if you wanted an individual to prop up the ‘born’ side you could not do better than to select Srinivasa Ramanujan, the mathematician who took Cambridge by storm and surprise within a very few years (1914-1919). He was born in South India on December 22, 1887, into the Brahmin caste and into a poverty made respectable by his father’s clerkship in a silk company and his mother’s performances in Hindu devotionals. He was sent to school, where he came across an maths text with the intriguing title Synopsis of Elementary Results. Its 5,000 proofs so excited him that he failed all other subjects. He left school to a clerkship not unlike his father’s but with a supervisor who was an amateur mathematician. Astonished by the young man’s talent, the Indian Civil Service elevated Srinivasa to a sinecure, and then (1913) another supervisor urged him to apply to Cambridge. Thus came to the mathematician G. H. Hardy a very long application letter loaded with equations and including the appeal “to preserve my brains I want food.” The equations were brilliant, possibly (Hardy later thought) because they were untutored, and so Srinivasa Ramanujan came to Cambridge, where he excelled so greatly (mainly in number theory) that he was elected to the Royal Society before he became a fellow of Trinity (Hardy’s college, in 1919). By this time, Ramanujan was seriously ill (inter alia, with TB, cancer, and lead poisoning) and so depressed that he attempted suicide. He returned to India to his child bride (she was 9 when he married her in 1909), and to a hero’s welcome, a local lad made spectacularly good at the seat of empire. His impact on mathematics is measured by subsequent publication (1927, 1957, 1985-97, and 1988) of his “notes” which now count nine volumes in total. He died in 1920, attributing his genius to the Hindu goddess of creativity Namagiri. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 23 Dec 2018, 12:57

Let us choose for ourselves our path in life, and let us try to strew that path with flowers. Emilie du Chatelet, mathematician and physicist, ca. 1750.

The American Chemical Society, founded in 1876, elected its first woman president, Anna Harrison, in 1978. Since then, the one-year office has been a woman’s place 11 times. If we can count that as a ‘progressive reaction,’ then certainly we can identify the catalyst as Anna Jane Harrison, born on a farm outside the village of Benton, Missouri on December 23, 1912. She got an early lesson in female capabilities when her father died (in 1919), at which point her mother took the place over, ran it successfully for decades, and also saw to it that her only daughter got a good education, briefly interrupted by Anna’s passing it on to others by teaching in a one-room country schoolhouse near her home farm. But Anna persevered to get her Chemistry PhD at Mizzou (1940), do some important war work for the National Defense Research Council, and to teach for five years at Sophie Newcomb College (Tulane’s women’s college). She moved to Mount Holyoke in 1945, retiring in 1979 after her ACS presidency. After that, she continued to teach (at the Naval Academy, Annapolis), and in 1984 served as the 4th woman president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Although her research was important (on the effects of ultraviolet light on organic compounds), Harrison is best remembered for her work in advancing science. She was indefatigable in her efforts to open science up as a life’s work for women, in the process building up an attractive picture of the ideal scientist as a person “intellectually curious but not professionally driven.” And Anna Harrison was even more energetic in seeking to insure that scientific knowledge played its proper role in decision-making by governments and by corporations. Her work here was recognized by her pioneering presidencies, several important appointments in both public and private sectors and 20 honorary doctorates. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 24 Dec 2018, 14:06

Those who write for children must have the ability to remember with all their senses what it felt like to be a child. Noel Streatfeild.

When Janet Streatfeild, a vicar’s wife in Sussex, delivered a baby girl on December 24, 1895, what could they call her but Mary Noel Streatfeild? And whatever else could the little girl call herself but Noel? Daughter to one vicar and granddaughter to two, Noel Streatfeild produced in the 1960s a fiction trilogy about a vicarage and its family, which was “frankly autobiographical.” Later, infirm, she moved into a home run by the Church Commissioners, called “Vicarage Gate,” hard by St. Paul’s Kensington. She died there in 1986, widely mourned, including a lovely obituary by the Washington Post’s book editor, for as a writer Noel Streatfeild had an American market, too. She was most famed as an author for children, one whose books became a marketing phenomenon in the 1930s (and after). Ballet Shoes (1936) started it all off, such a hit that British stores had to limit sales to one per customer. Ten further novels followed in which shoes played a role, and Streatfeild’s American publisher retitled them all accordingly (Tennis Shoes, Movie Shoes, Dancing Shoes, etc.), but they had different titles in Britain and Streatfeild is said to have disapproved of the marketing theme, or meme. As in the Vicarage trilogy, Noel Streatfeild characters appear in many of her children’s books, a plain girl, taller than most, a little awkward, always wanting acceptance but too honest (or too brave, or too nice, or really just too grown-up) to do anything just to be liked. Although fairy godmothers—older women wearing sensible shoes—usually appear to do their bit, in the end the plain Janes of Noel Streatfeild’s world really make their own way to some kind of recognizable success, achieving satisfaction after struggle and finding pleasure in being who they are. This probably explains the books’ lasting appeal to sensitive youngsters who find that growing up is a frightening thing to do partly because it is so very difficult to do it right. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 25 Dec 2018, 14:00

When bonnie young Johnnie cam’ owre the sea// He said he saw naething sae lovely as me. Grisell Baillie, circa 1725.

The internet defines Lady Grisell Baillie as a poet and songwriter. The DNB says “heroine and businesswoman.” True enough: but Lady Grisell herself came closer in 1746 when, on her deathbed, she had read to her Proverbs 31, which asks “who can find a virtuous woman?”, then describes what one might find. This paragon was born on December 25, 1665 into the strict Presbyterian household of Sir Patrick Hume. Her father played Scottish politics in a troubled era, and aged only 10 Grisell became his agent, smuggling letters into and out of Edinburgh Castle where his friend Robert Baillie was in prison. There Grisell met her future husband, Baillie’s eldest son George, but marriage awaited safety and stability. When Robert Baillie was executed in 1685, Patrick Hume went into hiding. Grisell kept him alive, not only taking food from her own plate to feed him but actually digging the hole (underneath their house) where he hid. The family first found safety in Holland and then stability when they returned with William and Mary in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In the new regime, Hume became Earl of Marchmont, George Baillie was restored to his family estates, and in 1691, aged 26, Grisell married George. It was a political match but also a happy, prosperous marriage, lasting until George died in 1738. During those years, and beyond, Grisell kept a day book which is now a major source for political, economic, and cultural history. It shows the rising fortunes of the family, what Grisell did with their money and their land, how they educated their daughters, and much else—right down to the price of neeps and tatties. In also chronicles taste. In 1725 George and Grisell commissioned William Adam to build their new house at Mellerstain, in the Borders. The work, finished 50 years later by their grandson, the first Earl of Haddington, and Adam’s son Robert, is still in the family and one of Britain’s finest stately homes. There you may see several portraits of Lady Grisell Baillie (poet, songwriter, heroine, businesswoman, wife, and mother) whose price was indeed, as Proverbs says, above rubies. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 26 Dec 2018, 13:22

The greatest and noblest pleasure we have in this world is to discover new truths, and the next is to shake off old prejudices. Frederick II.

Frederick II was born on December 26, 1194. Legend has it that his mother Isabella, queen regnant of Sicily, gave birth to him in the town square of Issi (near Ancona) to forestall challenges to his legitimacy, and to establish and maintain his titles was his major life struggle. Frederick was, variously, King of Sicily, King of Italy, King of Germany, and King of Jerusalem. To ease confusion, he’s known as the Holy Roman Emperor, a title he held from 1220 to his death in 1250, a period of that empire’s greatest territorial extent. But being Holy Roman Emperor was a bit like herding cats, and although he proved adept at that (with help from his armies) he was truly monarch of all he surveyed only in the Kingdom of Sicily. He acquired that title at the tender age of 3, and when in his teens began the process of establishing his power. There his territories ran up to the Papal States, and there he was a modernizing king. He established the primacy of written law (his Code, the “Liber Augustalis,” survived until the 19th century). He founded the world’s first state university, at Naples, in 1224. His court—usually at Palermo—was a surprising, lively place, for he called into his service Jewish, Muslim, and Christian scholars. The emperor contributed, both as scientist and poet, and scholars regard him as an innovator in both fields, encouraging a literature of the vernacular rather than Latin or Greek, and insisting on actual observation in scientific matters, notably in his own work on ornithology. But although his court might be open, and he might himself be regarded as a religious skeptic, as a ruler he was the scourge of heretics, and in some of his experiments—notably those with children—he could be spectacularly cruel. In the end, his business was power, and here he was successful only in his lifetime. Shortly after his death his Hohenstaufen line expired, and so by his own standards, of his own time, he was a failure. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 Dec 2018, 13:01

To live will be an awfully big adventure. J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. 1904.

When RMS Lusitania went down off Ireland in 1915, the Broadway producer Charles Frohman famously refused a lifeboat and, standing on the bridge with the captain and the actress Rita Jolivet paraphrased Peter Pan: “Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure that life gives us.” We know this because Ms. Jolivet survived, and we believe it because Frohman was the ‘angel’ who brought Peter Pan to the stage in both London and New York and had long been a close friend of the play’s author, J. M. Barrie. The London performance of Peter Pan: Or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up opened on December 27, 1904. It is said that many, not least in the cast, believed that the play could not succeed. After all, who believes in fairies? But the first-night crowd went wild. Its first run in London lasted three years, and since then it has run and then rerun, on the stage, in film, both in its original version, in pantos and even, now, in satires. Its vogue was helped along by Barrie’s 1911 novel, Peter and Wendy, but in hindsight it’s not too hard to ‘predict’ its success. It began with the death of a bright, funny child, Barrie’s brother David, and with young Barrie’s efforts (play-acting and story-telling) to ease his mother’s pain and to comfort her with the thought that now David would never have to grow old. Thus it tapped a near-universal nostalgia for childhood which, because childhood illness and death were still all too common, was in 1904 an especially powerful engine for success (just consider the popularity in Britain and elsewhere of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn). It seems beyond question, too, that writing the play, and watching it, helped to still some of Barrie’s own demons. It certainly profited him. And then, six years before his own death, Barrie signed over the copyrights to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, where (despite American legal challenges) the royalties continue to comfort, and to cure, those afflicted with childhood illnesses. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 28 Dec 2018, 13:17

I'm an explorer . . . I'm looking for something all the time. And oft-times I get lost. Earl Hines, ca. 1974.

Jazz is an inventive form of music, and one factor that kept it so was the shifting membership of the great jazz bands and combos. Almost all the jazz immortals played with, or for, each other. Breaking up was easy to do for artists afflicted with “ego, ego, ego . . .” (as Louis Armstrong said of Earl Hines), but getting back together again was almost as common. So new techniques and styles (as well as new tunes) flew quickly around too. A few stars, though, shone so brightly that one could pick them out whatever their current constellation, and among these Hines was universally acknowledged as one of the brightest. Earl Kenneth Hines was born just outside of Pittsburgh on December 28, 1903. Both parents were musical, his dad with the cornet and his mom at the keyboard. Earl tried both, at clubs and in church, but “blowin’” hurt his ears so he settled for the piano. His long professional career began in 1920. With a few years out for running a tobacconist shop in Oakland, CA, it lasted until 1983. Hines was a great pianist and a successful band leader, but he was more than that, a genius innovator and mentor whose ideas rubbed off on just about everyone he worked with. That persisted from his early years with Armstrong, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington; his mid-course decades as a band leader pushing the likes of Art Tatum and Charlie Parker; and his ‘revival’ period when he recorded with (inter alia) Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, and Dave Brubeck. Along the way he had his excitements. In 1931, he took an all-black band on an “invasion” (as he later called it) of the segregated South, which turned out to be not much of a holiday from leading the band at Al Capone’s club in Chicago (where Hines learned to see, hear, and smell no evil). In 1974, at a high point late in his own career, Earl Hines played solo at Duke Ellington’s funeral. “Usually,” he said, “they give people credit when they’re dead. I got my flowers while I was living.” ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 29 Dec 2018, 13:52

When it isn't raining in Scotland it is about to rain, or it has just rained. Saying, albeit truer in Glasgow than in Edinburgh.

When (in the 18th and early 19th centuries) Americans got serious about founding (and supporting) colleges, they generally looked to Scotland, not to England, for models. Glasgow and Edinburgh were particularly lively places, breeding grounds for the attractive “common sense” philosophy and engines of scientific discovery. They were also embedded in local economies, and attracted more than American emulation. Locals who hadn’t the time or the money to be students could attend anyway, for lectures were public. Among these was Charles Macintosh, born in Glasgow on December 29, 1766. Macintosh was well-schooled. He never went to university, but knowing things fascinated him, and after he took a job (in manufacturing, aged about 15) he spent his whole lifetime attending lectures (in botany, then in chemistry) at both Glasgow and Edinburgh. And he was not just taking notes, but also doing chemistry, so well indeed that in 1824 he was elected to the Royal Society. That was for his experiments with caoutchouc (natural rubber), and that’s why we remember him still, for his work with rubber and coal oil led him to invent (ca. 1820) a new industrial process for making waterproof clothing. Produced cheaply, his rainwear ‘flooded’ the market, but it became famous when (1836) he defended his patent with such skill (perhaps he’d attended law lectures too?) that the London jury found for Macintosh even before the judge finished his summing up. And so it was that “Mackintosh” as a generic term for good rainwear entered our common language, in European English in 1836 (in a letter reporting on the civil case) and then in American English (possibly courtesy of the poet Longfellow) in 1840. So if rain should catch you out today, don your Mackintosh, beg the universe’s pardon for adopting Longfellow’s misspelling, and celebrate one of the many ways in which the Scottish universities have bettered our lives. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 Dec 2018, 12:29

Mr. Senex’s smoak’d glasses, price 6d., are very proper to be had by such as would with any care observe the same. Notice accompanying John Senex's 1715 map of the predicted path of a solar eclipse across southern England.

By the dawn of the 17th century, there was enough of a book trade for London printers to fill up end pages with notices (“for-sale” lists) of their other wares. Since I studied tracts on exploration and religion, these were distractions; even so, I noticed in the lists a preponderance of works on astrology. This seemed an odd obsession in a century known for its “scientific revolution,” and it continued into the next century, if often secularized in the shape of the almanac. In the colonies, Franklin took note, and waxed rich on his Poor Richard line, while in London publishers kept hammering away at the alignments of stars and planets. Other tastes changed, however, and “science” publications, broadly defined, became a profitable line. One of the great publishers in science (astronomy, geography, chemistry, mathematics, etc.) was John Senex, born in Shropshire in late 1678, and died on December 30, 1740. Of gentle birth, Senex secured an apprenticeship with a London printer in 1695, and in 1702 established his own business, moving finally to Fleet Street in 1710. Senex soon became known (and still is famed) for his maps and globes, combining beauty with what then passed for accuracy. I saw his large-scale map of Britain (in 9 pages) at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and while it’s interesting for what it reports, it is also a work of art, in both respects rivalling the ‘Blathwayt Atlas’ (1679-81, maps of the colonies, which you can find at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, RI). Senex also became known as a scientific publisher with works by—among many others—Newton, Hooke, and Halley (including, with the latter, a ‘map’ of the comets), and he was himself elected to the Royal Society in 1728 (there his first paper was on the utility of celestial globes). Still, it’s worth noting that among his many professions John Senex saw himself (also) as an astrologer, and if you survey his publishing lists you will find that he meant it. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 31 Dec 2018, 13:42

Never forget that it is not a pneumonia, but a pneumonic man who is your patient. William Withey Gull.

Only yesterday, at a friend’s for tea and Dundee cake, we talked of Queen Victoria, and of Judi Dench’s brilliant portrayal of the great queen, at which point the queen’s physician came up. We could not think of his name, but one such was Sir William Withey Gull, who was quite a character. Born a bargee—indeed, born on a Thames barge on December 31, 1818—his career qualifies as unusual and unexpected. Gull was the youngest of 8 kids. His father died (of cholera) when he was 9. Luckily for Gull (and, as it turned out, for the Prince of Wales), he had a determined mother who, Gull said, taught him everything he really needed to know. The rest he picked up by accident and circumstance, including collecting natural history specimens for an Anglican clergyman-scientist. This brought Gull to the attention of the cleric’s uncle, Treasurer of Guy’s Hospital, where William Gull began as an ‘apprentice’ in 1838. Gull’s catch-as-you-can education picked up speed, and he earned his first medical degree from the University of London in 1841, brilliantly enough that his first job was as instructor (in Materia Medica) at Guy’s. Then came his doctorate and his career as practitioner, scientist, and advocate. He was eminent in all three, not least as an advocate of medical careers for women. As a practitioner his homeopathic insistence that one treated the person, not the illness, made Gull famous for his bedside manner and may have saved the Prince of Wales’s life. “Bertie’s” typhoid was a near thing, and his cure brought a thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s, a baronetcy for Gull, and an appointment as physician-in-ordinary to the queen. It was an honorific, so Gull was not the physician whose name we searched for over tea (that was Sir William Jenner). Gull died in 1890, of a stroke that first robbed him of speech. Writing on paper, he chose burial in the place where his parents’ bodies lay, in an Essex parish churchyard near to the Thames and its barges. ©
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