BOB'S BITS

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"La dame qui boite." Virginia Hall, 1906-1982.

This is a long story, but when the spy Virginia Hall was escaping from France for the first time, in the late winter of 1942-43, she cabled her superiors in London about her 50-mile trek, in deep snow, and complained about “Cuthbert,” who’d slowed her down. They wired back that if Cuthbert continued to trouble her, she should “eliminate” him. It was an order she had previously obeyed, but this one she couldn’t, for “Cuthbert” was her pet name for her prosthetic left leg (she’d had the real one amputated at the knee after a hunting accident in Turkey in the 1930s.). It was typical Virginia Hall stuff; sardonic humor and self-deprecation were among her chief character traits, and although she’d distinguished herself as a spy for the British in Vichy France (from early February 1941 to March 1942) and then for the Americans in 1944-45, she never made much of it for the rest of her life, neither before nor after her retirement from the CIA in 1966. She died in 1982, her exploits known to but a few (including her husband Paul Guillot, a resistance fighter in one of Hall’s networks). Now, with three books and two films about her out since 2019, she may escape the anonymity she and her superiors preferred (her wartime awards from France, Britain and the US were conferred anonymously). Virginia Hall was born rich, in Baltimore, on April 6, 1906. Her family’s conventional plans for her did not appeal, and she began kicking over the traces at school and at college (Radcliffe, Barnard, and American University) where she did, however, become fluent in French, Italian and German. When war broke out in Europe, Hall volunteered for the French ambulance corps, and when France fell she was recruited by the British and began her life as a spy in Lyons, where her most trusted aide was the owner-operator of one of the city’s brothels. The French resistance came to know her as ”the lady who limps,” so when she returned in Spring 1944, under American auspices this time, she had to adopt a different persona, as a peasant farm woman and cheesemaker, filed-down teeth and all, with a shuffling gait and humble manner. Under various codenames her successes were many, some quite dramatic, and she became known to the occupying Germans as the lady they needed to capture, but that never happened. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

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"[W.H.R.] Rivers is the Rider Haggard of anthropology; I shall be the Conrad." Bronislaw Malinowski

Bronislaw Malinowski was born into the Polish aristocracy on April 7, 1884. Aristocracy was his mother’s side, and if he’d followed her his life might have been shorter and more violent than it was. Instead, he took after his father with an academic career that began with a PhD in mathematics and philosophy but (after a PhD in those fields) veered sharply into anthropology, a discipline he may be said to have created, or rather recreated in its modern form: not an “olde curiosity shoppe” approach but rather as a social science that studied human cultures in their own terms. Theoretically this inclined Malinowski to functionalism, but his more lasting contribution to anthropology was methodological, not to observe a culture from the outside as a collection of artifacts, but to live within it, to see it whole, as a functioning, dynamic organism. So it was that in 1915-1918, having already earned a D.Sc. in Anthropology from the London School of Economics, Malinowski lived in the Trobriand Islands, in a tent, with the people. Through personal interviews (he learned their language, he analyzed their ideal norms, their commandments so to speak, but through careful, clinical observation he sought to understand the relationship and to measure the distance between cultural norms and actual behavior. He married in Australia, returned to London in 1924, and quickly rose to the post of Professor and chair of Anthropology. From that eminence and through his students his influence on the discipline spread. His method of study has also recommended itself to primatology and its more eminent practitioners like Jane Goodall and Shirley Strum. As for me, I ran into Malinowski in 1964-65 while working on my senior seminar paper (in history) on the land problem in British East Africa, circa 1890-1955 . Malinowski had supervised the graduate work (at LSE) of Jomo Kenyatta, independent Kenya’s first president, and he supplied the foreword to Kenyatta’s Facing Mount Kenya (1938). ©.
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"The direct tendency of Astronomy is to dilate the heart with universal benevolence and to enlarge its views." David Rittenhouse, Oration before the American Philosophical Society, 1775.

In 1961, my parents’ decision to take me to college (in Philadelphia) enabled my mom to reestablish her childhood friendship with Gertrude Dieken; indeed the family stayed with Dieken, who had the space, for she then lived in a large, top-floor flat in a new high rise (20 stories, as I recall it) on Rittenhouse Square. I thought it the height of sophistication, not bad for a farm girl from Grundy Center who’d become women’s editor at The Farm Journal. I later found out that Dieken had also, by then, convinced Curtis Publications—the parent company—to institute an equal-pay policy for men and women, a revolutionary change for the time. Rittenhouse Square was named for another, different revolutionary, David Rittenhouse, born near Germantown (now part of Philadelphia) on April 8, 1732. Rittenhouse was a clever son of a clever family, and was educated by his family, at home. He early showed talent at mechanics and mathematics, making a working model of his uncle’s watermill and mastering Isaac Newton’s calculus while still in his teens. Self-taught, he also became adept at surveying, astronomy, and other useful skills. His inheriting that watermill from his bachelor uncle enabled him to live the life of a scientific gentleman and tinkerer, well enough known to be selected to observe the transit of Venus (in 1769) through a telescope he had made for himself. He also joined the survey which established Pennsylvania’s boundaries (including the Mason-Dixon line) and was an early member of Ben Franklin’s American Philosophical Society (which held some of its meetings in David’s new mansion at 4th & Arch). Thus he was well placed to become one of America’s more radical revolutionaries, friend of Franklin and of Thomas Jefferson and (in the 1790s) the leading member of one of Philadelphia’s radical Democratic-Republican Clubs. Rittenhouse continued to tinker, too, making two of America’s first orreries, one for the College of Philadelphia (Penn), the other for the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Those (which can still be seen at Penn and Princeton) should be more interesting than Rittenhouse Square, but at 18 I was more drawn to Gertrude Dieken and her sophisticated, stylish neighborhood. ©
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"The fact is that we are starving people, not deliberately in the sense that we want them to die, but willfully in the sense that we prefer their deaths to our inconvenience." Victor Gollancz.

Victor Gollancz, pioneering publisher, socialist pamphleteer, humanitarian reformer—and much else—was born in London on April 9, 1893, burdened already with the freight that came with being a Gollancz, a family of immigrants most members of which had made huge successes of their new lives in Britain, whether as merchants (like his father, the jeweler), scholars (like his uncle Israel, professor of English language and literature at London and a founder of the British Academy) or leading rabbis (like his other uncle Hermann, one of the early leaders of “Conservative” Judaism). So what other could Victor be than an astounding success? He did so by becoming a dominant (and transformational) British publisher and a humanitarian crusader. First, however, he was a brilliant scholar (in classics, at New College, Oxford) and teacher (at a couple of leading public schools). At Repton, Victor invented and taught Britain’s first ‘civics’ course, but he soon moved into publishing, perhaps the better to support his growing family (he and his wife Ruth—one of the first female architects in Britain—parented five daughters), but certainly to find a voice, for he had rejected the conservative religion of his family for a broader, more inclusive faith, perhaps even a faith in humanity. His century threw up (inter alia) Hitler, Stalin, and the blanket bombing of civilian populations, so Victor’s new faith was certainly challenged, but he held to it as an innovative and publisher (under his own imprint, Gollancz, and that of the New Left Book Club), as a leading citizen, and as paterfamilias. It was in that latter role that Victor wrote two autobiographical volumes, ostensibly just for his eldest grandson, My Dear Timothy (1951) and More for Timothy (1953). He wrote as a man who had much to explain, for instance why he turned from being one of Hitler’s stoutest foes (in the 1930s and during WWII) to being one of post-war Germany’s greatest benefactors. And why not? Through a lifetime of searching, Victor Gollancz made beneficence into his central religious principle. His favorite brand of humor—the self-deprecating Jewish joke—indicated that he recognized the ‘flip side’ of benevolence to be self-righteousness. ©.
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"My strength was always in remaining cool." Cécile Rol-Tanguy.

Before Paris was ‘liberated,’ on August 26, 1944, it was won. The “Battle of Paris,” which began in earnest on August 19, was fought in the streets and below the streets by la Résistance. They were men and women who answered the call “To Arms, Citizens, to Arms!” on broadsides that had been printed deep underground and then posted streetside, hundreds of them, perhaps thousands, by Marguérite Marie Cécile Rol-Tanguy. She’d needed all those names, and a few more, to help cover her activities from 1940 to 1944, mainly in Paris. Her baby stroller, which occasionally carried her children, now carried posters and paste, but she’d used it, too, to cart weapons (usually small arms but once a machine gun) and carry messages around Paris from one resistance unit to another. Her underground HQ is now the site, 100 steps down, of The Liberation of Paris Museum. It took a while for Cécile and her husband Henri to be recognized and accepted for their heroism, for they and many others were communists. Marie herself was born on April 10, 1919 and inducted, so to speak, one year later when her electrician father, François le Bihan, became one of the founding members of the Parti Communiste Français. In 1942 he would be arrested by the Nazis and die at Auschwitz, but meanwhile she’d married Henri Tanguy, a fighter in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. With the fall of France, what else could she and Henri do but resist? She worked as a liaison officer and a typist-secretary, in the latter role helping to put out the underground journal Liberation. Come the actual liberation, in August 1944, her role could not be ignored and she was one of the few women invited to meet General DeGaulle. She remembered a cold meeting, no wine served, and it was not until this century that Cécile’s heroism was publicly acknowledged with the award of the Legion d’honneur (2008). Cécile died only last year, aged 101, recognized as a hero of France by President Macron and survived by her children who had, unwittingly, helped her carry the war to the occupying Germans . ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

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"A band of lunatics down Camberwell way." An early comment on Percy and Ethel Oliver's Blood Donation Service, ca. 1923.

Having lived in the UK during Mrs. Thatcher’s Mad Cow period, we are still barred from donating blood, but not from reminding everyone that the mere existence of blood banks (and their saving graces) has been the work of many hands and brains over several decades, including two rare examples of history doing justice. In 1936, in Barcelona, at the start of the civil war, a Spanish Republican MD discovered how to preserve usable blood. His 9,000 liters of blood didn’t defeat Franco, but Dr. Durán-Jorda (1905-1957) and his technique would live on; many more preserved liters would work wonders against Hitler’s forces in WWII. And then there was Dr. Karl Landsteiner (1868-1943), a Viennese Jew who fled Hitler’s Anschluss and who discovered how to ensure that the right blood went into the right patients. (He also isolated the polio virus, but that’s another story). But to get and preserve the right blood in the quantities needed you need donors, and that’s where Percy Lane Oliver comes in. Oliver was born in Cornwall on April 11, 1878, but spent most of his life in London SE, where during WWI he and his wife Ethel Grace created and ran four hostels, first for Belgian refugees and then for wounded soldiers. For this they both were awarded the OBE in 1918, but then Oliver, in 1920, answered an emergency call for donated blood, learned more about transfusion and some of its difficulties, and decided it would be better to have not a “blood bank” (the mysteries of preservation awaited Durán-Jorda’s citrate solution) but a “donor bank,” or a donor panel, men and women ready—‘on call’—to give their own blood to save someone else’s life. With great energy, Percy and Ethel set about their work, adopting a suggestion (made by Lord Keynes’s brother Geoffrey) that donations should be wholly voluntary and made without compensation of any kind. On this basis the system grew, slowly at first but faster in the Great Depression and then, come WWII, in a flood. Upholding the volunteer principle, Ethel and Percy ran this expanding show from their home at 5 Colyton Road, London, a pleasant terrace that today wears a blue plaque in Oliver’s honor and, by extension, in honor of voluntarism as a social principle. Today Britain’s blood service remains a voluntary operation. Dr. Keynes thought it would work better that way, and it has. As for Percy Oliver, his wealth at death (in 1944) was £764 3s 1d. ©
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Gleaned from The Barnoldswick & Earby Times local newspaper during my research for missing service personnel from our war memorial.

June 30th 1944

There is a large advertisement on the front page:

A MAN'S LIFE MAY DEPEND ON YOU
Enrol for the "SECOND FRONT" as a volunteer Blood Donor
at the First Aid Post
Bethesda Sunday School
Blood Transfusion Sessions will be held
3.00 - 5.00pm and 6.00 - 8.30pm

July 7th 1944

There is a report about the excellent response to the Blood Donors appeal. A total of 121 pints were collected from the donors that attended. R.N.V.R. Surgeon Lieut. Craig acted as Medical Officer in charge, with local Dr. J.D. Robertson in control of the First Aid Post.
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"In horse racing you don't move out front until you are sure you can stay out front." Jimmy Winkfield.

As southern nationalism overheated in the run-up to the American Civil War, the pro-slavery argument drew ever sharper distinctions between the heroic model (the plantation-based owner of acres and humans) and the calculating men of business who seemed to dominate northern society. Such men put a price tag on their honor and, if insulted, would sue in civil courts. The plantation owner, master of men, would never stoop so low. Rather planters adopted the “code duello.” However, dueling with pistols was a risky business, so most planters exercised their honor in the comparative safety of big-money gambling (in which the stakes were often slaves) and conspicuous consumption (e.g. the southern plantation house). Another safe way to win honor was to race horses, a perfect symbol when both horses and riders were often owned by the duelers. This practice continued after the Civil War. For instance, in the first running of the Kentucky Derby (1875) 13 of the 15 jockeys were black “boys”. But the rise of Jim Crow racism would drive black-skinned riders out of the sport. One of the last great black jockeys was James (‘Jimmy’) Winkfield, born on April 12, 1882, the 17th and last child of a sharecropping family. Winkfield found tending horses more congenial than tending tobacco and as a stable hand developed a way with horses that soon translated into riding them for money. He was one of the few jockeys in history to win two consecutive Derbies (1901-1902), but soon ran foul, taking a better contract to ride someone else’s horse, and was, so to speak, blackballed. At the same time, horse racing was becoming a whiter pastime, and so Jimmy left the land of the free and the home of the brave to ride for Russian aristocrats, winning prize after prize and developing his talents as trainer and breeder as well as jockey. The Russian Revolution moved Jimmy Winkfield (and quite a few of his horses) to France where, again, he quickly percolated to the top as rider, breeder, and trainer. He lived long enough for some in American racing to note his success, and was invited back to Kentucky to receive an honor in 1961. But the hotel at which he was to receive the gong refused him entry so Winkfield left again. It was not until 2005 when James Winkfield, by then long gone, received American recognition for his lifetime contribution to the sport of kings. ©.
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"A sheltered life can be a daring life, for all daring starts from within." Eudora Welty.

On a hot night in the early summer of 1963, in Jackson, Mississippi, the family of Medgar Evers awaited his return from an NAACP meeting. Evers was a bit late, and they fretted. Soon, Evers’ son Darrel remembered: “We heard a shot. We knew what it was.” Just across town, in a nicer house in a safer neighborhood, a local white woman knew what it was, too, and sat down to write a short story in what must have been, for her, a rush. In this story, Eudora Welty not only imagined the assassin but narrated the tale from within his head, using his voice and his history. Welty was already an established author, her skills well-tried, but even so the story made records in terms of composing, submitting, acceptance, editing, and printing. Evers was shot on June 12. “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” was published by The New Yorker in its July 6 issue. It’s a tragic story, set in an imaginary Mississippi town called Thermopylae (where once a handful of Greeks held off a Persian horde), and with great economy it engages the reader in an explanation of the assassin’s mind and how it was brought to kill. In the end it was not for any cause, not for “The South” (let alone for the Greeks) but “for my own pure D satisfaction.” Not for anyone else. “Thermopylae never done nothing for me. And I don’t owe nothing to Thermopylae.” Eudora Welty was born in Jackson (“Thermopylae”?) on April 13, 1909. She published her first story, a corker, in 1936. She won the Pulitzer, for another corker, in 1973. She lived in a lot of places and she then died in 2001, in the nice house in the nice neighborhood where she was born. Welty was, despite herself and despite her time and place, the optimist’s daughter. And now, if we want to understand white nationalism, conquer it, and leave it behind, we might start by reading some Welty. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to visit her house, and Medgar Evers’s too. They are both now national monuments, sitting on the other sides of the same town. ©
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I bought this LP in 1964 and still have it.
Born to be mild. . .
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Another "lady computer": Annie Maunders, 1868-1947.

Over the years these notes have featured the “lady computers” who, at American observatories (notably at Harvard’s) were hired to record “real” (read “male”) astronomers’ observations. These women also calculated (and recorded) various mathematical exercises associated with stargazing. As female workers they were cheap, could be ordered about, and did not need promotions, nor even public recognition. Among them were Annie Jump Cannon, Williamina Fleming, Antonia Maury, and Henrietta Leavitt. Today we know their names because, through their routine observations and repetitive calculations, they began our modern rereading of the universe, its history, and its likely future. Some lived long enough to reap some benefits (in pay and status) from their work; others are remembered today through research grants which bear their names. But it was a good idea and spread, for instance, to Britain, where (from 1891) one of the “lady computers” at Greenwich’s Royal Observatory was Annie Scott Dill Russell. Annie was born on April 14, 1868 in County Tyrone, Ireland, into families (as her names indicate) well connected with colonial Ireland’s Protestant aristocracy. But her precocious talents, mainly in mathematics, took her elsewhere, first to Girton College, Cambridge (in 1886) and then, in 1891, to her appointment at Greenwich, where she worked under the direction of Edward Maunder (1851-1928), chief of the solar department. Her work (chiefly in photographing and recording the sun’s activities) won her the attention and then, in 1895, the hand of her boss, where she found that in some respects married women had more limited opportunities than their spinster sisters. Nevertheless she continued her work, especially on several expeditions undertaken to observe total solar eclipses. She often traveled “unofficially” as Maunders’ wife and companion but also with his encouragement. Much of what we know today about the unsettled condition of the sun’s surface stems from her observations—where she used her own camera and her own telescope. Annie Maunders outlived her husband by 20 years, and well before she died she had gained recognition as an independent scientist in her own right, editor of an eminent astronomy journal, and as one of the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society. ©
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"At the banquet table of nature, there are no reserved seats," A. Philip Randolph.

Over his long lifetime, A. Philip Randolph became famous, although when I first learned of him, he was one of the lesser ‘background’ figures in the famous 1963 March on Washington, where Rev’d Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. But the more you learn of Randolph the more interesting he becomes, a man of varied talents who felt that poverty, rather than race, was the defining factor in American history. Asa Philip Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida, on April 15, 1889, the son of an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister and a skilled seamstress who moved their family to Jacksonville so that their children (including Philip, then only two) could have a better chance within a thriving African-American community and at its Cookman Institute, then the only academically-accredited black high school in the entire state. Randolph graduated there and then continued to New York where he attended, off and on, at City College but also at the Rand School for Social Research. At Rand, he met his near contemporary and lifelong friend Chandler Owen (1889=1968) and his wife, the widow Lucille Campbell Greene, an honors student out of Howard University who was already on her way to fame and fortune as a beauty shop entrepreneur. Together the three of them founded The Messenger, a socialist newspaper. Chandler and Philip wrote for it; Lucille financed it. The three of them also founded a Shakespeare society in Harlem, wherein Philip Randolph played several classic roles and picked up a stage presence and a rhetorical sense that never deserted him. Thus armed, Randolph marched to battle convinced that the black future would be made through the labor movement, then still (largely) a whites-only operation. The rest of his story is better known, including his leadership of the sleeping car porters’ union and his critical roles in securing Executive Orders from Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman for the desegregation of war industries (#8802) and of the United States military (#9981). In the 1960s, Randolph’s activities were curtailed by Lucille’s and then Chandler’s deaths and by his own illnesses. He retired to write his autobiography, but died (aged 90 and one month) without finishing it. His chief memorial today is the very modest A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum in a south Chicago end terrace. But I think that a Randolph memorial can also be found in the ways that President Biden’s definition of ‘infrastructure’ will—if enacted—address the issues of race and poverty. ©.
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"It is not Hans Sloane who has been erased from history, but his slaves." David Olusoga. August 2020, on the demand to remove Sir Hans Sloane's statue from the British Museum

As an historian, I worry about our vogue for toppling statues, renaming institutions, and regretting old endowments, all on the grounds of their connections with our history of slavery and racism. History is, among other things, an exercise of memory, and the erasure of visible artifacts of memory can lead to the loss of memory itself, in this case the memory of slavery’s invisible elements, not least the enslaved. And we (the “we” means us, all of us) must remember slavery and the enslaved. In his second inaugural (the best of his speeches) delivered while the Civil War still raged, Abraham Lincoln hoped that the bloodletting would stop but reminded his audience (and now that audience is us) that if the bloodshed continued it should be seen as justice in action. As Lincoln put it, this justice could be exacted “until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.” Statues of Lee and Calhoun, Jackson and Jefferson, were erected to hide this history, to maintain the anonymity of their slaves. If now we can use them as aides memoires they should be left standing. It can be done. In London, all too recently, the worldwide outrage at George Floyd’s murder led to demands that the British Museum do away with the bust of its founder, Sir Hans Sloane (born on April 16, 1660), not only because Sloane’s wealth arose from Jamaican slavery but also because Sloane could—and did—graphically describe the savage punishment regime of a Jamaican plantation and defend it as ‘practical’ and ‘necessary.’ Instead the Museum moved Sloane’s bust to a more prominent place and surrounded it with artifacts illustrating the brutalities of his system. Sloane was, after all, a pioneering scientist as well as a cruel profiteer, and he saw slavery’s cruelties as mere data, necessary adjuncts to the system that made him wealthy and—in sugar and in the British Museum itself—enriched his nation. So Sloane’s statue is now preserved and our memory of slavery made whole. ©
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"My belief is that a single monoclonal antibody will only be the starting point of a variety of man-made secondary antibodies, each manufactured to fulfill a special requirement." Georges Köhler, Nobel Accpetance, 1884.

In the flood of news about Covid-19, you may have noticed the phrase “monoclonal antibodies,” which seem to be of great use not only in producing vaccines but also in helping the body to fight the disease. Monoclonal antibodies were first successfully produced at Cambridge University’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology by a team consisting of Professor César Milstein and two postdoctoral fellows, the Dane Niels Jarne and the German Georges Jean-Franc Köhler. The basic work was done in the mid-1970s, and for it the three men received the 1984 Nobel in Physiology. I followed up on Köhler because he was born on April 17, in 1948, but also because he later figured out how to produce transgenic mice, mice whose altered DNA enables them to produce (or reproduce) a “pure and limitless” supply of monoclonal antibodies. For that work, Köhler was awarded the Lasker Prize, also in 1984. Köhler’s picture at the Lasker website reminds one of young German radicals of the 1960s and 1970s, and he may have been one; certainly he was, throughout his schooling, the sort of student who did just enough work to get by. He carried that attitude through his doctoral viva (at Freiburg), where he declined to answer a question that might have won him a summa. and thus escaped with a mere magna cum laude. When he was at school, teachers put his indifferent performance down to rebelliousness. In grad school, his supervisor lamented his lack of ambition (Köhler himself spent as much time as possible with his wife Claudia, a former physician’s assistant, and their growing brood, roller skating, cycling, driving a small tractor around country lanes, and generally messing about. I’m not quite sure what the moral of Köhler’s story is, but it does suggest that one does not need to give one’s life to one’s work in order to excel; and excel he did, as a researcher at Cambridge, then as the director of the Max Planck Research Institute back at Freiburg. Sadly, Köhler died of heart failure in 1995, aged only 47. His work has, since then, saved many lives. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley »

"Mine is the vision of a real Republic where life and language, where ideals and experience have the ring of authenticity." Michael D. Higgins.

Few nations have poet-presidents. One hopes (forlornly?) that this is because there are relatively few poets, but the Irish elected, in 2011, and then reelected (in 2018) Michael D. Higgins as their president, and Higgins is a poet. Is this because the Irish are a nation of poets? Some Irish would have us think so, and if that’s a Guinness-soaked claim there is a real poetical past to reckon with. In old Ireland, Gaelic and tribal, poets had their place, and every túath (province or people) and many clans had their poet. This person was called the ollamh (which means, literally, the “great one”) and when all of Gaelic Ireland was stable enough (rare times) there was an ollamn érenn, a “chief poet of Ireland.” I don’t know whether President Higgins has ever laid claim to this title, and there might be some hazard to it (Irish kings often complained about the uppity-ness of their ollamhs ) but there would be justification, too. Michael Higgins was born in Limerick on April 18, 1941, out of a fiercely republican family, his father and his elder brothers having all fought in the Cork Brigade of the IRA. His chosen path, however, was more academic and literary, at which he prospered in University College Galway and then at the universities of Manchester and Indiana. Still a nationalist, he joined the Fianna Fáil party but drifted leftwards, perhaps inspired by his wife Sabina Coyle, actress and feminist, and enjoyed his best electoral successes as a member of the Labour Party known partly for his poetry but also for his advocacy of female reproductive rights. He served his Galway university constituency as a member of parliament (the Dáil) and became minister for the Gaeltacht (the still Gaelic areas of Western Ireland) in 1991. He also served two terms in the Irish senate. Higgins speaks and writes in Gaelic (as well as in English), and is also known as a progressive politician, pro-feminist and anti-racist, which may explain his wide popularity in a rapidly modernizing Ireland, But his poetry probably doesn’t hurt. Perhaps hankering after a return of the ollamn érenn, Irish voters gave Michael Daniel Higgins the widest-ever majority for President in 2011 and close to that in 2018. ©
Stanley Challenger Graham
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Re: BOB'S BITS

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Listening to Bach in Blue Eye.

In 1964 my family holidayed at Table Rock Lake in a nice motel that had ambitions to become a lakeside resort. The area was not yet developed, and for meals we settled on a café just across the border in Arkansas; and so it was that we met two people we did not expect to find in an Ozark town called Blue Eye. The café owner claimed to be the last socialist in Arkansas, and even more surprisingly his son (who bussed tables and washed dishes) was a student (studying classical guitar) at New York’s Juilliard School. So in the early evenings, in Blue Eye, we listened to tales of early 20th-century socialist derring-do, drank illicit spirits, and listened to Bach guitar partitas. I was astonished, for although a musical illiterate I knew about New York’s Juilliard School (way. way more than I knew about Ozark ‘white lightnin’ or Arkansas socialism). The Juilliard, a conservatory founded in 1905 by Franz Liszt’s nephew Walter Damrosch, got its current name in 1924 as a philanthropy of August Juilliard, the self-made son of immigrants. Indeed Juilliard was born at sea on April 19, 1836, his parents in mid-flight (so to speak) towards the USA and away from France, where his father was a shoemaker. He took up the same craft in Louisville, KY, the family living just across the river in Ohio. Young Juilliard attended local schools and then worked in the local cloth industry, where he did well enough to become ambitious. At 30, he moved to New York to seek his fortune, and after the panic of ’73 and its ensuing depression, he found it, still in fabrics (wool, silk, and cotton) but now as president of the Augustus D. Juilliard Company. Some of his fortune he spent on himself, with a luxury mansion at Tuxedo Park and a large flat in Manhattan, and he made successful forays into banking and railroad stocks. But he also became a leading philanthropist, specializing in the fine arts, notably music, spending three decades and a good deal of cash as president of the Metropolitan Opera. When he died, childless, in 1919, he left his company (and his Tuxedo Park mansion) to his nephew Frederic Juilliard (1858-1937), but the bulk of his estate, some $5 million ($80 million in today’s $$$) went into the Juilliard Foundation where it was to be used, as Augustus had directed, for the advancement of American music. The Juilliard School was named the main beneficiary in 1924, merged with Columbia’s graduate school in 1926, and then waited patiently for the arrival of a gifted youth from Blue Eye. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

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"Progressive Education for a Sustainable Future." Putney School mission statement, 2021.

Utopianisms of varied sorts have been a constant presence in New England. This may be because of the Puritan strain that runs through the region’s history. Some would call it a Puritan stain, as Nathaniel Hawthorne did in The Scarlet Letter and much of his short fiction. But Hawthorne’s more characteristic stance—ambivalence—came in his satire on the Brook Farm utopia of the 1840s, The Blithedale Romance. Indeed Hawthorne briefly joined this community of hand, heart, and head, but gave it up. He was a budding writer and found that ploughing all day behind a mule was an experience bereft of artistic inspiration. But the Brook Farm ideal still exists in the Putney School, founded in 1935 by Carmelita Chase Hinton as an experiment in progressive education where “education” includes everything. Or, as the school’s website puts it, “At Putney, there’s no such thing as extracurricular” and then goes on to warn prospective students that “you are going to be learning all the time.” Carmelita Hinton, née Chase, was, however, no New Englander. Born in Omaha on April 20. 1890, and educated at Philadelphia’s Bryn Mawr College, she got her utopian training by working at Jane Addams’ Hull House settlement in Chicago and then by marrying Sebastian Hinton, a lawyer who thought that since society could improve itself morally and materially, it should begin immediately to do so. Accordingly he did not stand aside from Carmelita’s early experiments in kindergarten education, but worked for them (including patenting the first American jungle gym). After his early death in 1923 (by suicide) Carmelita moved to New England, where in 1935 with the help of Hull House friends she bought the Elm Lea Farm outside of Putney, VT, and proposed to make a head, heart, and hand school out of its 500 exhausted hilltop acres. If you can define that as a success, Carmelita Hinton succeeded magnificently. But utopianism must take its toll, and in the 1950s Carmelita’s rigorous blueprint roused rigorous resentment among faculty and students, and she was forced into an active retirement, advising but no longer commanding the school. But Putney survives today, and so does its utopian strain, which (among failed New England utopias like Brook Farm and Marlboro College) makes the place unusual and of considerable interest. ©
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!
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