Tuesday, November 27, 2012

 

--------------------- From Timeline of Kings Queens from Charlemagne to Elizabeth II by Gordon Kerr -------------------------- 

1931  Albania: During an assassination attempt, King Zog opens fire on his assailants; it is the only occasion in modern history when a head of state has returned fire on a potential assassin.  

1934  Yugoslavia: The deeply unpopular Alexander I is assassinated on a state visit to France by gunman Vlado Chernozemski on behalf of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization; it is the first assassination to be caught on film.
 
1978  Rome: A year of three Popes--Paul VI dies and is succeeded by Cardinal Luciani as John Paul I.  He dies after 33 days amid numerous assassination theories and is succeeded by Polish Cardinal Wojtyla as John Paul II.

1996  United Kingdom: Prince Charles ("Do you seriously expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history NOT to have a mistress?") and Princess Diana divorce.

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. . . . and with these entries, this series comes to an end.
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I got this little Q&A from a friend's blog;
 
I'M NOT GETTING OLDER...I'M GETTING BETTER

1. When did you first know you were an adult?
It was when I figured out that my mother was a serious alcoholic, that nobody in the family was going to get her any professional help because then "everybody will know."  The family was very isolated.  There were no friends, nobody was ever entertained at the house, and I had no siblings to offer any relief during the frequent tension-filled days and weeks, often erupting into abuse between my parents.  I realized that to a large extent I was on my own, would have to learn how to take care of myself, and get used to doing so until I could get away to college.  I was nine or ten when I accepted all this and no, my childhood was not a time that I remember happily.
2. Where were you when you first thought, "I'm old!"
This isn't denial, but I honestly haven't gotten to the point where I feel old.  Sure I have some aches and pains but that isn't who I am.  I'm still exploring new things and with Fritz I'm enjoying the happiest years of my life by far.  The surprising and exciting new career of writing opera librettos and then seeing our work performed on stage (and also in my own stage designs) has taken us in directions we could never have predicted.  My political views are staunchly liberal and progressive, I remain very active physically, and I don't "think old."     
3. What was your best year?
I've had two best years.  1980First sex with a guy; I came out to myself because the experience was a major revelation and I was finally able to shake off all the old Catholic school indoctrination and family prejudices.  The other one was 1997 -- I met Fritz and my life was transformed.
4. Have you become your parents?
No, absolutely not.  I came from a socially and politically conservative family that was highly judgmental.  There was nobody and nothing that couldn't be condemned as disgusting, disgraceful or unacceptable in some way.  They were strong supporters of Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.  I will not quote the terms used to describe African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and other Hispanic people.  My family were all very negative about things -- the answer to question #1 should suggest the reasons.   I realized that I wasn't like them and didn't want to become one of them.  One I arrived in liberal, arty Boston for college, I began a conscious journey to rebuild myself from the ground up. 

5. Gray hair:
 - Is it sexy?  Three words: silver fox daddy.  Think Anderson Cooper or the great Russian baritone Dimitri Hvorostovsky:

His hair went like this in his late 20s.

One of the fun things that happened this year was having the good looking 40-50ish guy at the x-ray conveyor belt at the Seattle Airport spontaneously tell me how great my beard looked.   

-How much do you have and where?  Myself, I am totally silver gray, hair and beard.  Chest and body hair are still more or less my original dark brown, so the carpet most definitely doesn't match the drapes.

- Where is the best or worst place you have it?
Wherever it is, is just fine with me -- I don't think of my body as having worst places.

6.  Is older better?   
Yes, if you've kept your health and your body is in good shape and your mind active and youthful, you can still dig into all that life has to offer but understand, experience and appreciate it more deeply.  

Bonus
How is sex different now?
"Mechanically" it is still the same.  I think that the communication is stronger and the connection is more profound.  

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In the days and weeks following the recent election, I've been interested in the many articles by or about the Republicans and how they're coping with the re-election of Barack Obama, an event that their polls, their candidates, Fox News, and they themselves believed could never happen.  It has become obvious that, in the last month or so of the campaign, a kind of mass self-delusion set in -- I thought of that great song from The Wiz, "Don't bring me no bad news!" -- and indeed, they closed their ears and minds to anything that might hint at the coming disaster.

This expression of Republican shock and disbelief was sent me by a friend: 
"Many, many, many Christians were praying and we really need to address that issue first: where was God? Because there were these ’40 Days of Prayer,’ there were several of those that took place, where people fasted and prayed for forty days asking the Lord for His intervention on Election Day. We did a program last week where my wife Shirley came in with her vice-chairman John Bornschein and told how three hundred Gideon prayer warriors came to Washington, went to every single office of the House of Representatives and the Senate and prayed for the occupant, prayed for our representatives, went to the White House, went in a vigil to the Supreme Court, which is now at great risk, and went to the Pentagon. People like that were praying all over this country and the Lord said no."             - Focus On The Family founder James Dobson admitting to Concerned Women that the National Day Of Prayer Task Force prayed for God to defeat Barack Obama. But the Lord said "No."

. . . . as was this reaction to the defeat of Republican economic policy:


 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

 

--------------------- From Timeline of Kings Queens from Charlemagne to Elizabeth II by Gordon Kerr -------------------------- 

1874  Spain: Queen Isabella's son becomes king.  It is thought his father is not the queen's consort, but either of her two lovers: Enrique Puigmolto y Mayans (captain of the Royal Guard) or General Franciso Serrano.
Careless of her not to keep proper records.
1920  Greece: Alexander I dies after being bitten by his two pet monkeys.
    

1929  Rome:  Lichtenstein: Johann II the Good dies; his reign of 70 years and three months is the longest in European history.  He never married and left no heir.
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 A very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  This is one holiday I really love, one that comes and goes rather quickly, involves large amounts of great food not only on the day itself but for several days afterwards, and that brings families and friends together.  Growing up in a strictly Catholic family, I also liked Thanksgiving because it was a secular holiday that didn't involve spending a lot of time at a church service.  

Thanksgiving's roots in the U.S. are right here in New England, which has also been the center of research that has stripped it of a lot of the myth and sentimentality that grew up around it over the years.  There is not anything like an unbroken chain of observance of Thanksgiving going all the way back to the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims.  Our Thanksgiving came about in a flurry of politics and conscious image/myth-making in the years following the Civil War.  

Now, sadly much of Thanksgiving has been co-opted by the ever more voracious merchandising frenzy that "traditionally" begins the Christmas shopping season.  For this incursion on the real meaning of Thanksgiving we can thank Macy's and its iconic Parade, that began in 1924, with the purpose of linking the department store and the run up to Christmas in the minds of the public.  This year the desire to begin raking in the bucks has moved into Thanksgiving Day itself, with workers at Walmart and some of the other retailers protesting at being called in to work at an hour when their family gatherings are still in high gear.  I would like to hope that the opening hour for the "Black Friday" shopping orgy will be pushed back into Friday and leave the holiday alone -- but my instincts tell me that may never happen.

As a kid, I worked on the Macy's Parade.  I had an aunt who was secretary to one of the Macy execs, a great nephew of brothers Isidor and Nathan Strauss who bought Macy's in 1902 and established its flagship store at 34th Street and Broadway in 1905 (Isidor and his wife Ida famously went down with the Titanic on April 15, 1912).  I went into Manhattan to work on the Parade with my aunt for several of my late grammar school and early high school years.  It was always exciting.  As I got older and proved my responsibility, I was given assignments to shepherd notable performers from their dressing areas to the store's Broadway entrance where acts that didn't come downtown on parade floats would perform.  Among them were the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and Hugh O'Brian, famous as Wyatt Earp for seven years on TV.  Afterwards, there was always a reception up on the executive office level where nobody particularly cared if I managed to get some champagne into a plastic cup.  I have always loved champagne!

The Parade's link to seasonal merchandising was vividly demonstrated one year -- I suspect it was the year of President Kennedy's assassination -- when Macy's considered canceling the Parade.  The other major department stores in the city, Gimbels, Stearn's, Alexander's, Bloomingdale's, etc., etc. pleaded with them to go on with the Parade as it so symbolized the beginning of the Christmas shopping season that they feared economic disaster if it didn't happen.

I don't actually watch the Parade much these days.  When I worked on it, the acts performed live and faced the crowds in the stands in front of the store.  Now they face the TV cameras in Herald Square. People in the stands get to see their backsides as they lip-sync to their pre-recorded, heavily mixed and edited performances.  I guess I just don't like that there's so much electronic mediation and distancing of the magic of the performers from the children who were originally seen to be the Parade's main audience.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

 
--------------------- From Timeline of Kings Queens from Charlemagne to Elizabeth II by Gordon Kerr -------------------------- 

1848  Denmark: Frederick VII becomes a thoroughly undistinguished king.
Reported as if it was some sort of significant accomplishment.

1856  Monaco: Florestan I dies, leaving the principality divided and poor; Charles III becomes sovereign prince and founds the Casino at Monte Carlo.
     At which point the principality unites and becomes astonishingly, unbelievably rich!

1863  Denmark: Christian IX becomes king; he is married to the king of Sweden's daughter; his son George is king of Greece; his daughter Alexandra marries king Edward VII; his daughter Dagmar marries the Tsar of Russia; his daughter Tyra marries the duke of Cumberland; his grandson becomes Haakon VII, king of Norway.
 In stark contrast to Frederick VII, above!  Perhaps the only equally connected European monarch is Queen Victoria. 
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This man, who has slid into irrelevance and perhaps mental instability if not outright collapse, seriously needs to be sat down and informed about a relevant episode in history called The Holocaust.
When at least six and a half million evangelical Christians are annihilated by the Congress, the media and the gays all working together, then MAYBE he'll have a point.  His is the kind of approach to history and politics that handed defeat to the Republicans last week.

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I purchased two Japanese red maples which were delivered two weeks ago.  We had one that was part of the original landscape scheme, planted directly outside one of our bedroom windows and the first thing we see n the morning.  We loved it immediately and I finally decided to get others.  

The new trees are of two different varieties.  The one above is about five and a half feet high and will eventually grow to twelve to fifteen feet.   It will be normally tree-shaped.  The other one will grow to about six feet in height and outward about twelve to fifteen feet wide and will cascade.  Both have extremely vividly colored foliage, and are visible from anywhere in the front rooms of the house.       

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Monday, November 12, 2012

 
 
--------------------- From Timeline of Kings Queens from Charlemagne to Elizabeth II by Gordon Kerr -------------------------- 

1825  Russia: Tsar Alexander I dies of typhus on a journey to southern Russia for his wife's health; rumors persist that he did not die but became a monk and hermit.  When his tomb was opened in 1925, it was found to be empty.

Somebody was thinking of putting up a Where's Alexander? game, but Waldo beat him to it.
 
1826  Portugal: Joao VI dies.  His son Pedro IV, declared Brazil independent of Portugal with himself as Emperor.  When forced to abdicate, Pedro declares his 7 year old daughter Maria the new Queen.  Pedro's brother Miguel is named Regent on condition that he marry Maria who is, of course, his niece). 

Possibly the only case of legally-mandated incest on record?

1830  France: After the Revolution of 1830, Charles X was forced to abdicate and bypassed his son to name his grandson Henry (aged 9) as heir.  Charles and his son Louis had a huge 20 minute argument before his son would agree to sign his own abdication.  Louis was King Louis XIX for the 20 minutes of the argument (the shortest recorded reign of any monarch anywhere), then Henry was King Henry V for nine days until Louis-Philippe seized the throne as "The Citizen-King."
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Early last spring when the sugaring season was ending we were looking at having, once again, to get the enormously heavy, sharp-edged in several places,  and quite clumsy boiler/evaporator unit loaded up onto or into something, and putting it back into the barn.  This was in full knowledge of the fact that in eleven months we would have to get it out again and haul it back up to the Center where the big wood stack is and where, more importantly, the sugar maples are.

Whatever charm this yearly ritual may ever have had (the lifting and hauling, not the sugaring itself which we love), had long since evaporated like the forty or so gallons of water you have to boil off from the sap to get one gallon of maple syrup.  So I put forth the idea of building a small sugar shed on the concrete patio outside the Center and leaving the boiler in place permanently, wrapped securely against rain and snow when not in use.  The shed would be a good-looking addition to the property, one that let groups that rent the facility know in all seasons that we're syrup boilers, an activity in which they're always very interested.

As it happens, one of Fritz's nephews has been in residence in the big original house for the last year.  A skilled woodworker (boat builder and violin repair specialist) his construction skills are impressive -- it wasn't long before he and I were collaborating on a design, exact placement and other details of the project.  Drafting tables were cleared and drawings made.  Construction began about three weeks ago and ended last week when red metal roof panels were fastened in place. 

And here it is, set up as a gazebo until repairs are made to the boiler and it's set underneath its new roof.  There will be an enclosure of concrete block around the sides and back of the boiler and there may or may not be some lattice applied to the sides of the shed.

View from the side, the wood stack specifically for sugaring is in the background. 

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Monday, November 05, 2012

 
--------------------- From Timeline of Kings Queens from Charlemagne to Elizabeth II by Gordon Kerr -------------------------- 

1767  Montenegro: Scepan Mali claims to be Russian Tsar Peter III (recently murdered by Catherine II of Russia).  He takes the throne as an absolute ruler, but is actually a farmer from Dalmatia.
  So the fact checking wasn't any better then than it is now.
1795  Russia: Catherine II the Great dies, having taken countless lovers, possibly of a stroke, but unsubstantiated rumors suggest that a horse fell as it was being lowered onto her for an act of bestiality.

1801  Russia: Tsar Paul I is assassinated by being strangles and trampled to death by a group of disgruntled army officers.
If they were happy with the Tsar would they have been described as "gruntled"?
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Thanks to Jerome I know that the "mystery" painting on my last post was called Le Douleur -- Sorrow -- by Emile Friant, a French realist whose career spanned the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  He was sometimes criticized for being TOO realistic, possibly because of his fascination with photography and it's influence on some of his painting technique.

Friant documented his life fairly frequently during his career, often depicting himself painting in his studio but also in standard portrait formats like the one above of the artist at age 32.
  
La Douleur is set at an open grave with mourners; funerary subjects were something of a subset in his output.  The painting above is called All Saints Day, depicting a family on its way to a cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of their dearly departed.  The young daughter has a coin to give to the beggar in the cemetery gateway.
 
This one, not surprisingly, is titled Shadows, and is strongly photographic in style.

Another self-portrait is of Friant at age fifteen.  A prodigy, he was already established and selling well at this age.

Not everything was realistic -- Voyage to Infinity has elements of symbolism, unlike the painting below:

The scene depicted in The Expiation takes place probably no more than three minutes before the blade falls on the prisoner.  The painting, perfectly square, dates from 1908.  Beheading by the Guillotine was the standard method of execution in France until 1933, the year after Friant's death.
 
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Election Day is tomorrow.  Finally the endless barrage of campaign ads, predominantly filled with everything to out-of-context quotes to outright fabrication and lies, will end. Here is something to think about when the subject turns to those awful liberals we keep hearing about from the Republican Party.  Thanks to Mark Alexander of the Blog Voenix Rising.  

A Day in the Life of Joe Republican

From my friend Mark:
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF JOE REPUBLICAN

 Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water for his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging, commie liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.

With his first swallow of coffee, Joe takes his daily medications. His medications are safe to take because some evil, lefty bomb-throwers fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.
All but $10 of Joe’s medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some fire-breathing, lazy-ass union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance — now Joe gets it, too. Never would turn it down.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In his morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some cry-baby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is healthy because some wacko, trouble-making, militant environmentalist fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

Then Joe walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants, limp-wristed, freethinkng asshole fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some fire-breathing, Viet Cong-loving union members fought and died for these working standards.

Joe’s employer pays these high standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union in. So Joe benefits from what others have gained.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a workers compensation or unemployment check because some stupid, pinko troublemakers didn’t think Joe should lose his home because of a temporary misfortune.

At noontime Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless, liberal red wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression. He can thank that Stalinist Franklin D. Roosevelt for that.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist, pointy-headed liberal decided that Joe and society as a whole would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. That’s okay, but the bastards tricked him because he has to pay taxes. Romney will fix that, he tells himself.

Joe gets home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government, New Deal, Stalinist liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

Joe is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating Marxist made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that over the decades the beloved Republicans have fought to defeat every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees with the talk-radio loudmouth: We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man and a good Republican and I believe all Americans should take care of themselves, just like I have!
 


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