BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 May 2019, 12:14

"It matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.” Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience."

Father’s funeral was in part a secular affair, actively assented to by his Presbyterian minister. The texts were drawn from Emerson, and among his favorite hymns we sang “Once to Every Man and Nation,” from a James Russell Lowell poem of 1845, “Verses Suggested by the Present Crisis,” written to resist the ‘slave power’ and its fever to expand slavery through war. Out of the same stable, New England Transcendentalism, came Henry David Thoreau’s famous essay “Civil Disobedience,” first published (by Elizabeth Peabody) on May 14, 1849. The essay’s genesis lay in a simple act, Thoreau’s refusal to pay his poll tax, and a simple response, the authorities’ decision to throw him in jail for it. Thoreau’s delight in pointing out the absurdity of the punishment was evident, but so, too, was his serious purpose. He had honed the argument in a talk given in 1848 to the Concord Lyceum, “The Rights and Duties of the Individual in Relation to Government,” and doubtless many of his hearers knew that Henry hadn’t needed to go to jail, he could have paid up, his friends offered to pay up, but he wanted to make a point, and he knew it could be emphasized (italicized and underlined) by jail time. It was resistance. And going to jail made it more than symbolic. Henry didn’t like what his national government was doing, he didn’t like why it was being done, but he also wanted it known that his “quarrel” was “not with far-off foes” but with his neighbors whose unthinking private compliances (minding their businesses, paying their taxes, abiding peacefully in Concord) made them aiders and abettors of public wrongs. Like Lowell’s poem, Thoreau’s essay lived on past slavery and the Mexican war to inspire those who would resist injustice not in their hearts but in public, a list that would eventually include Mohandas Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others who spent way more time in jail than did Henry Thoreau. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 15 May 2019, 14:45

"It seems a secret place, vast, spread out, bare but secret; and some strange industry, some dreadful trade is evidently being carried on here in the wet desert, where a flood has passed and another flood will come" Mary Borden, "the Somme,"

I first saw the ‘Lost Generation’ through the perspectives of Ernest Hemingway’s début, The Sun Also Rises (1926), and Malcolm Cowley’s Exile’s Return (1951). It’s all ambulance crews picking through the Great War’s trenches and then drinking parties in post-war Paris punctuated by bursts of fine writing. And—except for Gertrude Stein and her faithful Alice B.—it’s emphatically a man’s world. But then comes Mary Borden, A Woman of Two Wars (to borrow the title of a 2010 biography) and also a writer, and it all looks different. Mary Borden was richer than Cowley’s typified “lost” young man, born in Chicago on May 15, 1886 to a Colorado silver fortune. She kicked over her traces first on a world tour, marrying a Scots missionary in British India. They returned to Britain with their three daughters in time for the suffragettes and WWI, and she joined in both. May ran an ambulance service, often under fire, met the love of her life (a British brigadier attached to the French army). She wrote war poetry, some of it published and later collected, a couple of novels, and then in 1929 (after an unpleasant divorce) married the Brigadier-General and became Lady Spears. In the same year she published The Forbidden Zone, well-received war stories and sketches but outshone in 1929 by A Farewell to Arms. But May Borden was still around to run an ambulance service, under fire, for the Free French in the liberation of 1944, and to continue writing. Her marriage to Spears had cooled, and in peacetime Borden returned to the USA where she embarked on a new writing career, crafting rather fine speeches for her nephew Adlai Stevenson, who’d drawn the role as Eisenhower’s fall guy in the campaigns of 1952 and 1956. Mary Borden died in 1968. Luckily, she was rediscovered in the new wave feminism of our times, providing us in the process with a more fully gendered view of that legendary Lost Generation. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 May 2019, 12:43

"Most kids at 10 or 11 love science. I just never outgrew it." Nancy Grace Roman, in interview.

The USA has its “founding fathers,” and we still use the fatherly idea to characterize the origins of many things, railroads, aviation, and for all I know the paper clip. The usage may not be sexism per se, but it certainly reflects the gendered social structure of past times. Now that we’ve moved on some, we find founding mothers. The Hubbell Space Telescope, through which we’ve peered more deeply into the universe, has one, Nancy Grace Roman, born in Nashville, TN, on May 16, 1925. Roman’s scientist dad had traditional ideas about gender roles, and it was her music teacher mother who gave her an abiding interest in the sky at night and encouraged her early explorations—in public libraries—of astronomy. Throughout her education, even at Quaker Swarthmore, she constantly had to reject advice that women could not or should not choose astronomy as an academic major (let alone as a career). She still found this at NASA, even after her (pioneering) appointment as chief of astronomy, where despite her democratic instincts she insisted on being called “Dr.” Roman. “Otherwise,” she recalled, “I couldn’t get past the secretaries.” As head of astronomy, Nancy’s first ‘baby’ was the Orbiting Solar Observatory program, which put up its first satellite platform in 1962, and gave promise of what might be seen by an optical orbiter, freed from the distorting lens of our atmosphere. At NASA, Roman organized the scientific effort, and before congress she justified the public expense. There she brought it down to the sort of detail that appropriations committees could grasp. For the price of a Saturday matinee music ticket, Roman noted, every American could own a piece of the project which would, she promised, bring the most exciting advance in optical astronomy since Galileo. Nancy Roman retired before Hubbell was launched, though not before it was named, and well before her death (last year, aged 93) her role was widely recognized through what was, for a woman, the appropriate parenting metaphor. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 May 2019, 12:03

I am something between a man and a woman, looking both ways. Dorothy Richardson, The Tunnel, 1919.

Dorothy Richardson was born in Abingdon, south of Oxford, on May 17, 1873. She was the third of four children, all girls, and very soon her father—who’d wanted a son—began to treat her like one. She later wrote that this gave her a “boyish” willfulness, and perhaps so, but she also wrote a fiction, Pilgrimage, whose 13 volumes (she called them ‘chapters’) trace her life from 1891 to 1915. Or, rather, they trace her protagonist’s life, Miriam Henderson’s. But considered on its own, without the ‘chapters,’ Dorothy’s life was interesting enough. Her father’s bankruptcy forced her to earn her living, which beginning in 1891 she did in various ways, teaching, working as a dental assistant. She even labored on a Quaker farm. She began to write in about 1905, reviews and poetry, and fell in with the Bloomsbury set, Virginia Woolf, Augustus John, et al, including an affair with H. G. Wells. The first chapter of Pilgrimage, Pointed Roofs, appeared in 1915, and before ten years were out there were eight ‘chapters.’ Their pioneering character was recognized (the fifth, Interim, was serialized in 1919 with Joyce’s Ulysses in The Little Review) and Dorothy kept at it, telling Miriam Henderson’s story as a woman’s life mediated through a woman’s consciousness. A crucial scene comes in The Tunnel (also 1919) when the H. G. Wells figure, “Hypo” in the novel, in bed, naked, with Miriam, tells her she’s “pretty”: “I wish you could see yourself.” It’s a telling phrase. And suddenly, through a woman’s eyes, Miriam sees herself, and she’s beautiful. And then she sees Hypo, too, and “his body was not beautiful . . . not desirable.” Dorothy Richardson lived out her long life with her husband, a studiously eccentric and consistently unsuccessful artist, supporting him with her short reviews and sketches while she finished Miriam Henderson’s Pilgrimage, the last chapter of which was published posthumously in 1957. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 May 2019, 12:04

Ego geometria sum. ("I am geometry"). The title of Helen Chadwick's breakthrough exhibition, which toured in 1981-1983,

In grad school, we attended a number of MFA exhibitions by Paulette’s art school friends that were billed, I think, as “happenings.” Some were interesting, but I had difficulty thinking of them as ‘art.’ Once you’ve done abstract expressionism, where else can you go? And that question led to all kinds of art expression, for instance those famous Campbell soup cans, in serried ranks. That’s on canvas, but there is also “installation art,” and we’ve all seen it, everyday objects arranged, artfully perhaps, on a gallery floor, or garbage cans stuck on a wall, and I was suspicious of these, too. But then came Helen Chadwick, whose exhibits were in the news, in Britain, in the late 80s and 90s. I never saw one, except in newspaper pictures, but they did seem to have substance, satire sometimes (a fountain of molten chocolate) but compassion too, often with her own body reproduced photographically but in odd, even whimsical framings (printed on a pram, for instance). More often others were her subjects, for instance welfare claimants waiting their turn in A Model Institution where the theme was obviously sociological and political. And in 1992 Chadwick did a special for the BBC on Frida Kahlo, which also suggested a serious mind at work. And then in March 1996 Helen Chadwick died. It was March 1996, and she was only 42, for she was born, in Croydon, on May 18, 1953. It was thought by many that her hectic schedule killed her, and certainly her death was mysterious enough to require investigation. It turned out to be a virus infection that affected her heart and brought her down, suddenly, while she was at a private view. It’s rare enough that one sees affectionate obituaries, but Helen Chadwick got them. One of them, in The Independent, said that Chadwick had taken up installation art when, in art school, she’d discovered that she couldn’t paint. But she was an artist, after all, not only in her installations but in her life. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 May 2019, 12:42

Accuracy in language is one of the bulwarks of truth. Anna Brownell Jameson.

Like every other ism under the sun, feminism has a history; thus in it we find, early on, pioneers who were not feminists. Anna Brownell Jameson, née Murphy, born on May 19, 1794, was one such. Her father Denis, an Irish painter, prospered enough to hire a governess for Anna and her four younger sisters, but Anna was such a quick study that when family fortunes declined she took over the task when she was just 12, She then became a governess herself, in three eminent families, from 1810 to 1825. An unhappy marriage to an English barrister and judge, Robert Jameson, quickly broke down leaving Anna an independent woman. Luckily, she’d begun to write, an 1826 novel, The Diary of an Ennuyée. It was a telling title, for it was her marriage year, but even more tellingly it was about a young woman’s delight in travel and in art. It was popular enough that when it was discovered to be a fiction, it caused a minor scandal. Anna Jameson recovered from that to become an important art historian and literary critic: a considerable achievement, then, for she independently earned enough from her writing to support three sisters, and a niece, and to continue her travels and her labors (in London, at the British Museum). And she was, or became, well connected. She even helped the Brownings to execute their elopement. Indeed she accompanied them to Pisa, and ever after they called her, artistically and affectionately, “Mona Nina,”. When Anna died (she contracted pneumonia walking home from the BM in a snowstorm) her friend Harriet Martineau wrote of her as the “restless, expatiating, fervent, unreasoning, accomplished Mrs. Jameson . . . a great benefit for her sex and for Art.” Perhaps more importantly for a feminist future, Jameson had mentored Barbara Smith Bodichon, a feminist in a more modern sense and the co-foundress of Girton College, Cambridge, from which quite a few feminists would go forth to modernize their world. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 May 2019, 11:39

"By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap, To pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon . . ." Hotspur, in Henry IV, Part I, Act I, scene 3.

The poet always has license, for the play’s the thing, but in Hotspur’s case Shakespeare’s main invention was to make him the same age as Prince Hal, a very neat distortion that allows Hal (Henry, Prince of Wales) to kill Hotspur in battle. Otherwise the ‘real’ Hotspur, Sir Henry Percy, was so dramatic a character that all Shakespeare had to do was to lift him out of history’s pages and plunk him down in Henry IV Part One, where to this day Hotspur lives, boasts, breathes fire, and dies in battle, as much the victim of himself as of Prince Hal. Henry Percy, eldest son of the Earl of Northumberland, was born on May 20, 1364. Knighted by Edward III in 1377, aged 13, Percy first tasted battle in 1379 at Berwick Castle, against the Scots. At about the same time he married a Mortimer, Elizabeth, and they contributed to the Percy dynasty by producing a son who became yet another Earl of Northumberland in 1416. But well before that Sir Henry had established his reputation as “Harry Hotspur,” scourge of the Scots, , diplomat, and in the field a recklessly brave military leader, mainly on land (at the Scottish borders), but also at sea and in the late 1380s in Aquitaine helping John of Gaunt to keep order by imposing it. Hotspur his name and Hotspur his nature, he was also an exemplar of knightly chivalry, often sweeping the field in jousts, as those at Smithfield in 1396, held to celebrate Richard II’s second marriage (to Isabella of Valois). Soon after, the Percy clan rebelled against Richard, joined with King Henry IV, and Sir Henry’s leading role in that battle brought him great rewards, enhanced military commands, and, soon enough, the idea that he, too, could be king (on the back of his wife’s Mortimer claim to the throne). Thus came death (in battle, though not by Hal’s hand), at Shrewsbury (1403), but so potent was the legend that Henry IV had Henry Percy’s body exhumed to prove that the great Hotspur was, indeed, no more. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 May 2019, 11:57

"The Atoms Club doesn't stand for track. It stands for excellence in education, for trying to better yourself in this society." Fred Thompson, 1985.

Frederick Delano Thompson was maybe named after the new president, FDR, but otherwise being born black in Brooklyn, in the depths of the Depression, was not the greatest start. It was May 21, 1933, and it didn’t get much better when (in 1938) his parents split up and left Fred and his baby brother in care of their Aunt Ira. But Ira’s home was a powerhouse, and both boys got a college education “or else.” Fred went from Boys High, Brooklyn to CCNY to major in engineering. But he switched to history, then law at St. Johns, and after military service worked mainly on negligence cases; but he also gained some major clients (e.g. ABC-TV) and, in 1967, appointment as assistant state attorney general. But Fred had also starred in track, and Aunt Ira had always told him to get involved and stay involved. Volunteer work with Brooklyn’s Police Athletic League showed him that the kids who really needed help, and coaching, and a place to be safe, were girl kids. So in the mid 1960s Fred Thompson founded the Atoms Track Club, for girls of most ages, and he was so good at it that in 1974 he became full-time, paid director of the Colgate Women’s Games, a post-Title IX innovation of Colgate Palmolive, a company with many women customers that knew a good thing when they saw him. But the Atoms remained his core and center, and where most of his time and money went. It wasn’t as good as having your own kids, he said on retirement, but it was close enough, and out of the Atoms family came many track & field stars but many more young women for whom it had been just a good place to be, and to grow up. Retirement from both the Atoms and the Colgate came in 2014, and then came Alzheimer’s. But Fred was never institutionalized. Until his death last year, he was cared for at home, in Brooklyn, by Lorna Forde. She’d won the 400 meters in the 1978 national championships, and she thought it was the right thing to do. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 May 2019, 11:57

"Every single death in [the Troubles], and every death in every war that was ever fought represents life needlessly wasted, a mother’s labor spurned." Betty Williams, Nobel acceptance speech, 1976.

On August 10, 1976, a young IRA soldier was shot at a British army roadblock and fatally wounded. His car careened off, hitting Anne Maguire and her three children (Joanne, 8; John, 2; Andrew, 6 weeks). Two of the kids were dead at the scene, one died the next day, and Anne later committed suicide. 1976 was a bad year in Northern Ireland. In January an IRA ceasefire ended in terrible violence, especially in the ‘frontier’ county of Armagh, loyalist paramilitaries killing Catholics, IRA Provisionals killing Protestants, but the Maguire deaths put the lid on it for Mairead Corrigan, Anne Maguire’s sister and the children’s aunt, and Betty Williams, who was an eye witness. Betty Williams (born in Belfast on May 22, 1943) and Corrigan got together, formed the “Women for Peace” movement, and at the children’s funeral a march of 10,000 women provided dramatic news and hope for a grassroots peace movement. And when that march was broken up by IRA units, the “Peace People” assembled 35,000 to march through Belfast and proclaim a peace campaign. Ever alert to good news, the Nobel prize committee got together and awarded Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan the Nobel Peace Prize for 1976. There’s no doubting that the women deserved it, for their vision, their passion, and their courage. They made good acceptance speeches and ever since they have campaigned for peace, though in very different ways. Williams (herself the product of a “mixed” marriage) has resettled in the USA and might be seen as an ‘establishment’ peace advocate. She has held appointments of various sorts, including a professorship. Their actual effect in Northern Ireland is disputed to this day, for although it’s probably true that they weakened the IRA’s hold on the Catholic population, anything like real peace still awaited the negotiations of 1993-94, secret negotiations between the parties concerned and in which the “Peace People” played no part. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 24 May 2019, 02:36

"Computers are the most important thing to happen to musicians since the invention of cat-gut." Robert Moog.

The Bronx High School of Science is special; its graduation lists provide evidence for that. Founded in 1938, the school has produced eight Nobel Prize scientists, like Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow, who graduated together in 1950 and then, in 1979, shared the Physics Nobel. You’ll also find six Pulitzer winners (e.g. William Safire), literary folk like Harold Bloom and E. L. Doctorow, politicians like Stokely Carmichael, and Jills-of-All-Trades like Dava Sobel, a popularizer of science. And then you’ll find Robert Moog, class of ‘52, who went off in his own direction to transform music, both in and of itself and as a performance art: or, as the Moog Foundation puts it, he “expanded the boundaries of sonic expression.” That sounds like verbal overreach, but for those who think that Moog killed “music,” it may offer some solace. Robert Moog was born in New York City on May 23, 1934, graduated from the Bronx H. S., and then (via Queens College, Columbia University, and Cornell) became a scientist of sounds. His first attempt was a “theremin,” still I think best thought of as a contraption, built from plans in a popular science mag. But at Cornell Moog turned to the synthesizer, a computer that can take any sort of electrical impulse and turn it into almost any sort of sound. At Cornell, he worked mainly with ‘serious’ composers (e.g. John Cage), for this was, after all, part of Moog’s PhD in engineering physics. And his synthesizers have had a major impact on classical music. But most of us will know him through his effect(s) on popular genres where some of Moog’s wilder sounds still echo through our cranial chambers. He did not invent the synthesizer; when Moog started RCA sold a very big one for a very big price. But Moog made it better (more flexible) and smaller (cheaper) and his “miniMoog” could be carried to a jam session by any frail keyboardist who had access to $10,000. And the rest is “sonic expression.” ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 24 May 2019, 11:59

"I am not a decorator. The only place I decorate is my own house." Florence Knoll.

In 2018 the New York Times began a series of obits, “Overlooked,” about persons the paper’s obituary sections have, over the years since the paper’s founding, ‘forgotten’ to mention. They began with Ida B. Wells and Diane Arbus, and indeed most of the ‘new’ entries have been women. But in January this year a woman died whose obituary (almost certainly) would have made the Times at any time. She was Florence Knoll Bassett, aged 101, and she was born Florence Schust, a baker’s daughter, in Saginaw, on May 24, 1917, and orphaned in 1929. Her guardian sent her to private school and then the Cranbrook Academy of Art where she was virtually adopted by Elliel and Loja Saarinen. Then she studied with Mies van der Rohe at Illinois Tech in Chicago, where she got her architecture degree. In 1943 she went to work for Knoll Associates and in 1946 she married the boss, Hans Knoll. Florence headed the design team, doing her own work and calling in top talents—and paying them well in both money and prestige. Hans directed the business end, and by the time he died in a car accident in 1955, the firm was a leader in its field and soon leading American businesses (including CBS, Seagram, Look Magazine, and H. J. Heinz) were making themselves over in the Knoll style, buying Knoll stuff if they could or imitations if they could not. Florence Knoll had parlayed her experiences with the Saarinens, van der Rohe, and the Bauhaus school into a ‘total design’ concept which was not only visually distinctive but seemed to make work hours more pleasant and more productive. Then, after Hans’s death, Florence took over the whole show and more than doubled the company’s size (and its profits). She ‘retired’ in 1965, remarried, but continued to serve as a consultant for Knoll and set up her own (successful) design firm. Her works survive in offices across the world, but now also in museums where they help to define what we mean by ‘modern.’ ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 25 May 2019, 12:24

"There is nothing so agonizing to the fine skin of vanity as the application of a rough truth." Edward Bulwer Lytton, 1829.

An exemplar of Victorianism, Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer Lytton, was born on May 25, 1803. He modeled his era for better and for worse, and in that he took after his father (an irascible and willful military man who died when the boy was four) and his mother (an heiress with a will of iron and a taste for books). His litany of names reflected his family history, starting with the Norman Conquest and culminating in 1843 when he inherited his mother’s estates, and, in rhetorical obeisance, added a second Lytton to the litany. For brevity he’s referred to as “Bulwer,” but brevity was not his forte. Beginning with a novel in 1820 (financed by his mother), Bulwer out-produced every scribbler of his age, fiction, poetry, scholarly criticism, essays, and a classic ‘sociological’ work, England and the English (1833). At least several of his conventional novels followed their hero from early dissipation to mature heroism, possibly autobiographically, and in his historical fiction he paid some attention to his families’ pedigrees. He acquired the latter tendency from his mother, and he is reputed to have asked her (when he was but 9), “Pray, Mamma, are you not sometimes overcome by the sense of your own identity.” Bulwer was a moderate success as an MP, beginning as a Radical and evolving into Tory, but his vanity and sensitivity made him a friend of few (Dickens and Disraeli were among his few faithful friends, and Dickens couldn’t avoid joking about his vanity). Bulwer also had a spectacularly unhappy marriage, and his wife Rosina lived long enough, angrily enough, and wrote novels enough to expose some of his failings and embarrass him deeply. He’s infamous now for the first line of one of his early novels, “It was a dark and stormy night” (Eugene Aram, 1832), and not for much else, but in his day Lytton Bulwer Lytton led the literary pack and was the epitome of Victorian culture. He died First Baron Lytton in 1873. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 25 May 2019, 14:12

Fascinating. Never heard of him - but I have now. He seems to have been an 'interesting' chap

There's a slightly fuller, and perhaps a bit kinder biography here Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I like
"When King Otto of Greece abdicated in 1862, Bulwer-Lytton was offered the crown of Greece, which he declined."
Probably a shrewd move. :smile:

Source of some common famous quotations, "

The pen is mightier than the sword", is from his play Richelieu where it appears in the line:

beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword

In addition, he popularized the phrase "pursuit of the almighty dollar" from his novel The Coming Race.

He is also credited with "the great unwashed". He used this rather disparaging term in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford:
He is certainly a man who bathes and "lives cleanly", (two especial charges preferred against him by Messrs. the Great Unwashed).
Born to be mild. . .

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 26 May 2019, 11:49

"If you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you." American popular saying, probably 'Anon.'

When I was first in New York (my freshman year Thanksgiving break, 1961) I sent home a Brooklyn Bridge postcard explaining that I’d agreed to buy it, for a knock-down price, if only they’d send me a couple of thousand to close the deal. It was a stale joke, made legendary by George Parker (1860-1936) who actually did sell the Brooklyn Bridge and several other landmarks to the credulous. Parker died in Sing Sing, but for a time his fame eclipsed that of bridge’s builder, Washington Augustus Roebling, born in Pennsylvania Dutch country on May 26, 1837. No fraud he. He picked up his engineering skills at home and at various colleges, served with distinction in the Union Army, and with the peace joined his father in the construction of the bridge across the Ohio at Cincinnati. Problems encountered there sent Washington to Europe to study elements of bridge construction, and he returned in 1867 to join his father on the Brooklyn project. John Roebling’s death in 1869 made Washington Roebling chief engineer, when a decompression accident so debilitated him that it seemed he might be removed from his post. But his wife Emily Warren Roebling—who’d learned as much as he from their European jaunt—lobbied to keep him in the post and then served as liaison between Roebling and the site where she became project manager until the bridge was completed. No fraud she, either!! In 1883, Emily Roebling was the first to cross the completed bridge, carrying a rooster as a symbol of engineering triumph. Mayor Abram Hewitt, in his dedication speech, called the bridge a “monument to the sacrificing devotion of a woman and of her capacity for that higher education from which she has been too long debarred.” Emily and her husband (whose partnership continued until her death in 1903) offer us a better way to remember the Brooklyn Bridge than George Parker. New York con men are a dime per dozen, and too costly at that. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 May 2019, 02:46

Bob posted a correction later....
"A scholarly colleague with significant experience of Pennsylvania geography caught me out this AM on my casual guess that a Pennsylvania man named Roebling from a town called Saxonburg must have been born in “Dutch” country. But Butler county is too far west, and Saxonburg too new a town (it was founded by Roebling’s dad) to be ‘Pennsylvania Dutch.’ When I do Emily Roebling I’ll be more careful.
So Roebling’s dad—whom I have actually “done” in a previous anniversary note, some years back--was born in Prussia on June 12, 1806, well educated there mainly in engineering, but when he (along with many of his time and class) succumbed to utopian dreams he and his brother emigrated to western Pennsylvania, bought 1500 acres of land, and founded Saxonburg, Butler County, as the base of a utopian enterprise. That was not entirely different from some of the German pioneers who settled Pennsylvania Dutch country in the previous century, but that’s no excuse. Roebling, Sr., got back into bridge building via founding a wire factory in Saxonburg, but it’s a long story.
Thanks to my Pennsylvania-St. Louis reader for pointing out the error.

Good morning, all. Bob"

[ Best book I have found on Roebling and the Brooklyn Bridge is 'The Great Bridge' by David McCullough]
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 May 2019, 11:50

A woman of taste and of tea. Kate Cranston of Glasgow, 1849-1934.

Yesterday the Glasgow Herald ran the headline “Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow selling camel milk cappuccinos to aid Kenyan farmers.” Glasgow is not on most tourist routes, but it’s worth the trip, and the “camelccinos” at the Willow will top off your visit. Camel milk is top quality, heavy in vitamin C and iron, and the (restored) Willow Tea Rooms memorializes one the city’s famous and fertile partnerships, that between Charles Rennie Mackintosh (art nouveau designer and architect) and Catherine Cranston (tea-room proprietor and much more). ‘Kate’ Cranston was born on May 27, 1849, in a hotel at the center of Glasgow. The Cranstons were a family of hoteliers in Glasgow and Edinburgh (the Waverly was a Cranston house), and Kate took to the trade like a duck to water, or, rather, to tea. In 1878 she followed her brother Stuart’s lead and established Crown Tea Rooms on Argyll Street. She was a success on her own, outpacing Stuart, but in 1892 she married John Cochrane, a man of progressive instincts who invested in her scheme to expand the operation and give it a distinctive flair. Her partnership with Mackintosh began in a new building on Buchanan Street in 1894. Mackintosh then renovated the Crown Tea Rooms, designed a new tearoom on Ingram Street, and decorated the Cranston tearoom pavilion at Glasgow’s 1901 Exposition before turning to his, and Kate’s, masterwork, the Willow Tea Rooms at 217 Sauchiehall Street. Kate’s partnership with Mackintosh extended to many smaller jobs (including the Cochranes’ house at Nitshill) and, according to Pevsner, “deserves the art historian’s unstinting gratitude.” The tea was good, too, and “Cranstonish” became a term of art and of style in early 20th-century Glasgow. And now, today, there are those camelccinos. The Willow’s current owner, Anne Mulhern, believes they could become a permanent feature, a healthy drink in Glasgow’s finest setting, exactly as Kate Cochrane intended. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 28 May 2019, 12:37

"The question is, is there intelligent life on earth?" Frank Donald Drake.

If sentient life is found on another planet (or when sentient life from ‘out there’ finds us), it will be a monument to Frank Donald Drake, born in Chicago on May 28, 1930. By trade he’s an astronomer, a subject on which he still lectures, and he’s been a professor and administrator too (mainly at California Santa Cruz where he’s emeritus). Along with Carl Sagan, Drake designed the famous plaques that went into what we call ‘outer’ space aboard Pioneer nos. 10 and 11. Drake was called in because (from age 8, he says) he was convinced that conscious life forms existed elsewhere in the universe. It’s a hypothesis difficult to confirm. Even should we get a message, I’m not sure we’ll understand it (consider the trouble we’ve had translating Stonehenge), and then our reply would take forever to be delivered. But in 1961 Frank Drake devised the “Drake Equation,” a formula not so much on whether such “ET” civilizations exist, but on how many of them there might be, given certain conjectures. Drake did not mean it as a “proof,” nor even as an estimate, but as a way to stimulate scientific debate. It did that, and we continue to quibble over it to this day. However, I like the story of the Pioneer plates because, though Drake and Sagan intended their odd design to convey some universal truths about we humans and our location in space, the plates were and have been since involved in controversies which would surely puzzle some superior intelligences on some distant planet, including arguments over the (deliberately) indistinct ‘racial’ identity of its two human figures. Even more entertaining has been a highly comic spat about the absence of detail on the female figure’s genitals. The detail was there in Drake’s and Sagan’s original design (the figures were drawn by Sagan’s wife), but was apparently erased by a NASA administrator of prudish instincts. But ‘they’ won’t be able to translate that, out there in outer space, will they? I hope not. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 29 May 2019, 11:52

"I don't feel old. I don't feel anything until noon. That's when it's time for my nap." Bob Hope.

Bob Hope was not born with that ski-jump nose at the center of that funny face. He got it in 1921, aged 18, when felling a tree while working for an Ohio power company. After he found fame and fortune, the nose became part of his trademark line of self-deprecating humor, but at the beginning of his Hollywood career (1930) it may have been the reason he failed a screen test, with Pathé. Bob Hope was born, probably with a normal nose, certainly with a different name (Leslie) on May 29, 1903. His birthplace, in Greenwich, England, now bears a blue plaque announcing the fact, but back then it was just a working-class terrace where his parents, William and Avis, had moved (with their already sizable family) from Avis’s home town, Barry, in South Wales. These were modest beginnings, and in hopes of a better life the family emigrated (to Cleveland, Ohio) in 1908. There it was that ‘Leslie,’ sometimes ‘Lester’, began performing, winning a prize in 1915 for his imitation of Charlie Chaplin. Comedy was indeed to be his career, but he tried several other avenues (besides tree-felling and factory work there was boxing) before settling into vaudeville, a movable place, in the mid 1920s. He changed his performing name to ‘Bob’ in 1929, possibly for several reasons, and met his Bing (Crosby, that is) in 1932. Hope’s other famous partnership, with Dorothy Lamour, issued in the “Road” movies, seven madcap adventures (1940-1962) set in faraway places (Zanzibar, for instance) in which Crosby always got the girl, Lamour, leaving the guy with the funny nose in one lurch or several. I didn’t see them all, but then you didn’t need to do that to get the idea. Hope’s long life, his talents, and his astonishing vitality made him into something of a folk hero, remembered especially, perhaps, for his other ‘road’ trips, UFO performances for American troops, often in faraway places, almost always leaving the stage singing his favorite, “Thanks for the Memory.” Indeed. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 May 2019, 11:49

"A handsome, stately young woman who spoke as though she thought her reason and experience to be worth as much as mine." The governor of New South Wales, on his first meeting with Caroline Chisholm, 1838.

In their self-induced trauma over border walls Americans might consider the patron saint of immigration in Australia, also a nation of immigrants. That was Caroline Chisholm: born Carolyn Jones, in Northampton, England, on May 30, 1808. Brought up Anglican, she married a Scottish army officer, Alexander Chisholm, and converted to his Catholic communion, but brought along her family’s tradition of Christian service to the poor. In her lifetime that urge found several expressions, most spectacularly in Australia, where the Chisholms and their children settled in 1838. Immediately Catherine took up the care of immigrants, especially young women who’d come to Australia in hopes of marriage and better lives, only (often) to find themselves selling sex in Sydney’s dockland. Quickly, Caroline obtained the use of old barracks from the colony’s governor and made them into pleasant immigrant quarters. She set up an employment service, finding the girls work with families across south Australia, periodically organizing wagon trains to see the young ladies safely to their destinations. At the trains’ head, Caroline rode majestically on her white horse, “Captain,” her presence a kind of trademark. Inevitably, given Australia’s gender imbalance, her employment service became also a marriage agency, and then she branched out into reuniting families as old convicts, newly prosperous on outback ranches or in urban employment, sought to find their loved ones and bring them out of Britain and into Australia’s sunshine. Early on, Caroline was suspected of trying to turn Australia popish, but her apparent indifference to that particular religious issue enabled her to enlist Anglicans as aiders and abettors in her chosen witness, the charitable care of poor immigrants. At length, the Chisholms moved back to Britain. They were buried out of Northampton’s Catholic cathedral in the same year, 1877, Caroline in March, Archibald in April. Aussies wishing to pay homage can find the Chisholms’ common gravestone at Billings Road Cemetery, Northampton. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 31 May 2019, 12:14

"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, many editions.

Walt Whitman, perhaps one of our gayest men and certainly our most exuberantly American poet, was born on May 31, 1819, on Long Island. Among his brothers were George Washington Whitman and Thomas Jefferson Whitman, so we may guess that, as well as being Quakers, his parents were patriots. So was Walt. Genteel poverty and many moves made his childhood unhappy, but he did remember being kissed by Lafayette on July 4, 1825. Walt apprenticed as a printer, and in that raffish crowd he began to write, attend the theatre, write, teach, write, work as a reporter, and write. But it was not until 1850 that he began Leaves of Grass, that immortal outpouring of (to quote from the poem) “Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest.” He would return to Leaves again and again, revising, modifying, even retrieving previously trashed lines, truly a life’s work and the work of his life. Early on, Leaves of Grass impressed all the right people (Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, et al), but many (and very possibly most) reviewers thought it obscene and awful. So when next you read something offensive to you, remember it might become something else, in God’s or in our culture’s own good time, for instance it might become, like Leaves of Grass, “our cultural Declaration of Independence.” It’s just possible, then, that the “decision” on whether something is in good taste, or a work of genius, will not be yours alone. After service as a medic in the Civil War (if you haven’t yet, you must read his Civil War journal!!!) Walt Whitman suffered a stroke in 1873 and lived the rest of his long life in some discomfort, cared for by his neighbors, his tenants, his family, and his friends, but always writing, revising his life and his work. He died in 1892. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 02 Jun 2019, 05:47

Whodunit? The mystery of the fingerprints and the Japanese pots.

The march of science has certainly altered the literary whodunit, and for all I know actual police procedures as well. In crime fiction, the hunting field once dominated by ratiocination (vide the incredible detections of Sherlock Holmes or the “little grey cells” of Hercule Poirot) has been replaced by DNA analysis and psychological profiling, field work by the crime lab. It all began, over a century ago, with fingerprinting, which seemed to offer scientific certainty in the task of finding and convicting criminals. Oddly enough the question of who invented fingerprinting itself took on something of the character of detective fiction—or fact. Three perpetrators claimed credit, and got pretty personal about it, but it took forensic scholarship to prove (beyond most reasonable doubts) who was the ‘guilty’ party: Henry Faulds, born poor in Beith, Ayrshire, on June 1, 1843. An improbable life led Henry through a greengrocer’s job, into a weaving shed, a classics degree at Glasgow, a medical qualification (in 1871) and then quite remarkable accomplishments as a medical missionary in Japan. Among these was an archaeological discovery, for in classifying ancient Japanese pots Faulds discovered that he could identify long-dead potters by their distinctive fingerprints. His wife’s poor health led him back to Britain, where he ended up a low-paid but distinctively honorable ‘panel doctor’ in (oddly) the Potteries district of Staffordshire. Before Faulds left Japan he pushed his idea of fingerprinting (even raising the matter with Charles Darwin) and was pleased to see it adopted by Scotland Yard (and the Japanese police!!) early in the 20th century. But he was just as angry to see credit for his method go to other, better-connected men, notably Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton. Faulds died in 1930, still embittered, but historical scholarship has righted the matter, and early in the 21st century memorials to Faulds and his remarkable life appeared—as it were suddenly and mysteriously—in various places including New Street, in Beith, near his humble birthplace. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 03 Jun 2019, 03:17

"The right to be free from unreasonable discriminations belongs to each particular person." From the majority (8-0) opinion in Henderson v. US : June 2, 1950.

Racism has many definitions, but as a basis for public policy it’s a scientific and moral monstrosity. In a nation which was “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” it’s also an absurdity. And among its most absurd expressions was the “separate but equal” doctrine laid down by the US Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Its underlying notion was never more than a fig leaf, inadequate to conceal the naked apartheid that lay beneath, and that cover was stripped away (albeit with almost lascivious slowness) in a series of Supreme Court decisions in early to mid 20th century. In terms of exposing absurdity, I think my favorite was Henderson v. US, decided on June 2, 1950, involving a railroad’s dining car, in which we find that “separate but equal” was not only dreadful but also dreadfully expensive. Unwilling to provide two separate but equal dining cars, the Southern Railway (DC to New Orleans) provided a heavy curtain at the far end of its dining cars. In the unlikely event that persons of color might wish to dine, the curtain could be drawn shut. But there was white priority, of course, so when (May 1942) Mr. Elmer Henderson went to the dining car he was told the car was full. It wasn’t, but a white person was sitting at one of the two ‘black’ tables, and Henderson was excluded in order to prevent the solecism of having the “races” sit together at table. The case took time, but when it got to the Supreme Court the judges decided (8-0, Justice Clark recused) that Mr. Henderson’s right to dine was, indeed, an equal right. Other separate but equal luxuries had fallen before 1950 (law schools, for instance), but now a segregated necessity, the public school, was in sight, and in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954) the Court said what needed to be said, that “separate” was (as everyone had always known, and as it had always been intended) “unequal.” ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Jun 2019, 03:44

"The result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end. " James Hutton, 1788. Paper delivered to the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

James Hutton was born in comfortable circumstances in Edinburgh on June 3, 1726. This was at the dawn of Scotland’s very own “common sense” Enlightenment, and after a classics education (at Edinburgh) and apprenticing in the law, Hutton became interested in medicine, obtaining the degree Doctor of Medicine at Leiden in 1749. But he still couldn’t settle, becoming involved (for instance) in chemical manufacture. But in 1750 he took his varied interests into farming, applying science and reason to two small farms he’d inherited, living on one of them and actually writing a manuscript with the interesting title “The Elements of Agriculture.” Soon, among those elements, Hutton focused on the soil, the lay of the land, and he became “very fond of studying the surface of the earth.” After a geological tour of the north of Scotland, in 1764, be devoted much of his time to studying the surface, and what lay beneath, but it was closer to his home, on the rugged Berwickshire coast, where he found a feature that evinced a modern explanation of how the Earth came to be what it then was—and to suggest that the Earth would, in time, become something much different. Today we call that formation, at Siccar Point, the Hutton Unconformity, exposed layers, striations and folds, of volcanic and sedimentary rock that, he thought, must have taken some considerable time to come into being, processes that he could also see, in miniature but in real time, at Slighhouses and Nether Monynut, his inland farms. Hutton continued his studies, moved back to Edinburgh, consorted with fellow Common Sensers like Adam Smith, and delivered (mainly to the Royal Society of Edinburgh) his theory of an ancient earth, its formative processes forever at work, but in ways uniform enough be susceptible to scientific explanation and historical narration. His memorial at Greyfriars Kirk calls him “The Founder of Modern Geology,” and it’s a fair comment. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Jun 2019, 12:17

"These shapes are all of someone's mind. That's important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone's mind." Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974.

In the Missouri Botanical Gardens there’s a nice bench where a casting of a smiling Henry Shaw invites the foot-weary to rest and admire the fine Shaw mansion. It should be made of steel, for Shaw came to St. Louis from Sheffield, England, “steel city,” and made his fortune importing steel products. Sheffield’s reputation for steel is a very old one, but that it was still vigorous in Shaw’s lifetime owed much to Benjamin Huntsman, born on June 4, 1704. Younger son of a Lincolnshire farmer, and a Quaker to boot, he was thus an outsider, and in moving around (geographically and intellectually) he acquired much knowledge and several skills, surgery for instance, but finally settled on clock-making. That set him to looking for a new kind of steel, stronger, more uniform, with flexible strength, the better to make his springs and wheels. So he invented a new process, a sort of double melting in clay crucibles, out of which came that better steel. Sheffield’s ironmasters were still a closed clique, a kind of guild operation, and their first reaction to this outsider’s new processes was to try to render them illegal, so he moved to Birmingham, where a progressive dissenting community beckoned. But when Frenchmen started using Huntsman’s methods and exporting to Britain, Sheffield relented, and Huntsman moved back, bringing his methods along with him. His foundry became the core of Sheffield’s ‘new’ steel industry, partly because he never patented his discovery. But he was a good manager and employer, and continued to prosper. Just so, Huntsman continued to dabble in this and that inquiry into this and that subject, well enough and consistently enough that he was nominated for membership in the Royal Society. But he was still an outsider at heart, and he turned the honor down as inconsistent with his Quaker principles. His monument in Sheffield shows steelmen at work with their molten metal and their clay molds. In St. Louis, maybe it’s that bench. ©

Image
Bob on the bench in 1998.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Jun 2019, 13:07

"A film about three bad women." From Namwali Serpell's review of "The Favourite" in The New York Review of Books, 2018.

Whatever the reviewers said about her, you can’t keep a good woman down, and so it was unsurprising to see Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, again making the news, albeit in a movie, The Favourite, in which she was played by Rachel Weisz: rather well, for although Ms. Weisz didn’t win any major gongs for her role one got a sense that “Lady Marlborough” (a misnomer, for at this time Sarah was emphatically Her Grace the Duchess of Marlborough) was a determined woman. Indeed. Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, was born on June 5, 1660, as Sarah Jenyns. Hers was debt-ridden but well-connected gentry family (an elder sister became a duchess well before Sarah attained that rank), and Sarah made her life at the court of James, Duke of York, where she became close to James’s younger daughter, the future Queen Anne. That relationship—central to the movie—was one of the two poles that governed Sarah’s life. The other, possibly more important one was her 1678 marriage to John Churchill, who would become the hero of Queen Anne’s wars. Blenheim Palace, along with his dukedom the magnificent reward for his generalship, was named after one of his great battles. Sarah would survive them both, and in more ways than just outliving them. For although the movie got it basically right (in that Sarah was displaced as the Queen’s “Favourite” by her impoverished cousin Abigail Masham and was driven to a fury by it), a woman of her capabilities (political nous, business sense, and self-taught intellect) was well equipped to ride off into a long sunset (she died at 84, in 1744). During these years Sarah devoted herself to political influence, to consolidating and extending her substantial estates (she’d purchased these in her own right using grants received from the queen), and to infuriating her daughters and other enemies. For, as the movie showed, Sarah Churchill was also very capable of making enemies, even where she did not need to. And it was this quality that led Tobias Smollett to write that the duchess died “immensely rich and very little regretted.” ©
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