Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘People’

In 1880, the renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was commissioned to create a pair of mighty bronze doors to serve as the entrance to a proposed Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. The museum’s backers wanted the doors to be majestic and dramatic, inasmuch as grandiloquence was in vogue at the time.

Rodin was certainly the right guy in that department, and he delivered. For the project, he chose the theme The Gates of Hell, based on Dante’s epic poem The Inferno. Here is one of Rodin’s early small-scale models.

The centerpiece of the scene, as you see, is a seated nude male, envisioned by Rodin as Dante pondering his poem. The figure was to be centered on the lintel above the doors.

Unfortunately, the project eventually fizzled. The museum was never built, and the doors were temporarily forgotten, although they were highly regarded and were cast some years after Rodin’s death.

But Rodin was a resourceful dude, and he cast and sold many of the figures in the scene individually, most notably the seated male figure that became known as The Thinker.

Initially, Rodin called the figure The Poet, meaning Dante Alighieri. But workers in Rodin’s foundry began referring to the figure as The Thinker. They said the pose reminded them of Michelangelo’s statue at the tomb of Lorenzo de Medici — a work known as Il Pensieroso, which in Italian means the pensive or thoughtful one.

This is Michelangelo’s Il Pensieroso:

To look at the statue, you would think Lorenzo (1492-1519) was quite a grand fellow. He was, indeed, a member of the illustrious Medici family, and his grandfather was known as Lorenzo the Magnificent.

But young Lorenzo was just a ne’er-do-well who died at age 26, “worn out by disease and excess.”

Still, Lorenzo was a Medici, and the family ruled Italy at the time, and they were patrons of Michelangelo, Botticelli, and other luminaries of the artistic world. Lorenzo was a loser, but to the family, his tomb deserved a proper marble statue.

Michelangelo was given the project, and he portrayed Lorenzo as a mighty warrior in battle gear reflecting on unspecified weighty matters. Europeans were big on pondering in those days.

But back to Rodin and The Thinker. Rodin knew that he had hit the jackpot with The Poet/The Thinker. Over the years, he produced a succession of castings in various sizes, some of bronze and some of painted plaster. He preferred the figure to be oversized and elevated, so the viewer looked up at it.

Also, the name The Thinker soon became so popular that Rodin finally adopted it.

Art experts say The Thinker expresses the mental effort and anguish of creativity. Rodin agreed.

“What makes my Thinker think,” he wrote, “is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.”

I’ll buy that.

Ten versions of The Thinker were cast in Rodin’s lifetime. Today, 28 large bronze castings are located in museums and public places around the world.

The figure below, cast in 1906, is located in front of the Rodin Museum in Paris. The wording Le Penseur on the base is French for “the thinker.”

Now, in order to write this post, I did the usual Googling to get the details right. But I already knew the general story. Specifically, I schooled myself on the subject in 1960 when I graduated from high school, and my uncle Allan sent me a pair of Thinker bookends.

These days, the bookends are in use in a bookcase dedicated to my outdoorsy and travel books.

As you can observe, Allan’s bookends bear only a superficial resemblance to Rodin’s original. The manufacturer got the pose right, more or less, but the style is totally different, and the craftsmanship is… lacking.

Maybe it’s the hair, but the figure looks like John F. Kennedy, if Kennedy had been Asian.

Anyway, it was obvious back in 1960 that the bookends were of the El Cheapo variety. I remember digging up a photo of Rodin’s Thinker and being surprised at how bad the bookends really were.

I also ended up digging a bit into the backstory. I had to go to the library to do it, mind you, since this happened in olden times — Before Google.

In case you are wondering, I did appreciate Allan’s thoughtfulness, and I harbored no ill thoughts regarding the El Cheapo angle. As evidence of that, consider that the bookends have been in use in my home for 60 years and counting.

They do their job, and they make me smile. Thanks, Allan.

———

Read Full Post »

The career of the late singer/songwriter Bill Withers, best known for “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” followed an unusual path. Withers stuttered badly as a child. He joined the Navy at 17 and overcame the stuttering with the help of speech therapy arranged by his commanding officer.

At age 33, Withers left the Navy and released his first album. He went on to win three Grammies, and he was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But his music career lasted only from 1970 to 1985. By the early 80s, he was butting heads with the bosses at Columbia Records (he called them “blaxperts”), who wanted to alter his style. When Columbia delayed a new Withers album and released one by Mr. T instead, Withers quit.

Ain’t No Sunshine” won a Grammy in 1971 for Best Rhythm and Blues Song.

Ain’t No Sunshine

By Bill Withers, 1971
Written by Bill Withers

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
It’s not warm when she’s away.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And she’s always gone too long,
Anytime she goes away.

Wonder this time where she’s gone.
Wonder if she’s gone to stay.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And this house just ain’t no home,
Anytime she goes away.

And I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know — hey —
I oughta leave the young thing alone,
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
Only darkness every day.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And this house just ain’t no home,
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.

———

Read Full Post »

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The star Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation Orion, is 767 million miles in diameter. For scale, Jupiter and Saturn are 480 million miles and 890 million miles from the sun, respectively.

● When Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was 12, his father died, leaving the family destitute. Young Samuel dropped out of school and took a job. He received no further formal schooling.

● In its natural state, with no artificial coloring, butter is white.

● The funeral scene of the 1981 movie Gandhi employed over 300,000 extras, easily a record.

● If the Borough of Brooklyn were independent of New York City, it would be the third largest city in the United States, following the rest of NYC and Los Angeles.

● When Charles Dickens was writing A Christmas Carol, before he settled on the name of the character Tiny Tim, he tried and rejected the names Small Sam, Little Larry, and Puny Pete.

● In 1967, the International Olympic Committee adopted strict anti-doping regulations. The first participant to be disqualified for drug use was Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

The Swedish team was surging in the pentathlon competition, and Liljenwall was nervous. With the pistol event coming up, he reportedly drank two beers to calm his nerves. He scored well, and Sweden won a Bronze medal, but it was forfeited after Liljenwall failed his drug test.

● The floating dot over the lowercase letters i and j is called a tittle.

● The African continent consists of 28 percent wilderness. North America consists of 38 percent wilderness.

● Since 1996, Australia’s banknotes have been made of a plastic polymer instead of a paper or cotton fiber like most currency. The polymer is cheaper, stronger, and more durable, and it can incorporate added layers of security protections, both visible and machine-readable.

● Alligators can’t move backwards.

● On the flag of the South African nation of Lesotho is the likeness of a mokorotlo, a traditional hat woven from a local grass. Mokorotlos are worn by court officials and are displayed in homes to protect against danger and evil.

———

Read Full Post »

The Questions…

1. What is the oldest active volcano on earth?

2. What are the world’s number one and number two fruit crops?

3. Where and when did the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history occur?

4. What’s the difference between jam and jelly?

5. What do the writer Edgar Allen Poe and the singer Jerry Lee Lewis have in common?

The Answers…

1. Mt. Etna on the island of Sicily. Its first known eruption was in 1500 BC. It has erupted 200 times since then, the most recent being on May 22, 2020.

2. Number one, grapes. Number two, bananas.

3. Galveston, Texas, 1900. Between 8,000 and 12,000 people died.

4. Jam is made by crushing the fruit and adding the gelling agent pectin. Jelly is made by crushing the fruit, discarding the solid parts, and adding pectin.

5. Both married a 13-year-old first cousin.

———

Read Full Post »

RIP RBG

When I heard the news that Justice Ginsburg had died, I reacted as any fair-minded person would. And just so you’ll know, I’m a fair-minded person.

In my case, I had a progression of thoughts.

First, I was sad that she’s gone. Justice Ginsburg was a titan of our time, someone widely beloved and respected. The loss is significant, even though, given her age and physical condition, her death can’t be considered a surprise.

Second, I was mortified by the timing. The fact that she did not survive beyond the term of the traitorous psychopath in the White House was like a punch in the gut.

Third, I was angry that it meant the Republicans, the shameless, morally bankrupt, Trump-enabling Republicans, now have an opportunity to confirm another jackleg conservative to the Supreme Court.

And fourth, I was reminded that Justice Ginsburg is a shining example of how the political left has claimed the moral high ground by default, since the political right has devolved into a quagmire of sneaky, mean-spirited hatefulness.

The truth is crystal clear: compared to the warped conservative worldview, the liberal take on things is sensible, rational, and morally superior by a country mile.

The conservatives have retreated to a moral sub-basement. They have become a bunch of preposterous, Snidely Whiplash villains, clinging to — how shall I put it? — their guns and religion.

Trump’s response to COVID-19 has been criminally incompetent, but the Senate Republicans sit on their hands.

The GOP is eager to help the rich get richer, and at the same time, they want to take away your health care.

They are unmoved when cops commit murder, as long as the victim isn’t white. They are okay with putting immigrant kids in cages. When Trump was caught and impeached for illegal and unethical conduct, they voted to acquit.

Just hours after Justice Ginsburg died, my own congressman, Republican Doug Collins, took an especially nasty shot at her.

Collins said upon RBG’s death, “RIP to the more than 30 million innocent babies that have been murdered during the decades that Ruth Bader Ginsburg defended pro-abortion laws.”

Like virtually all of his fellow Republicans, Collins is an ambitious guy who will say or do anything to advance his career by sucking up to the MAGA faithful.

Naturally, Collins denied he was celebrating Justice Ginsburg’s death, but that is precisely what he was doing.

Collins, like Trump and the Republican politicians who are such a cancer on American society, is a professional weasel. It’s the only skill he has.

Justice Ginsburg was revered in her time, and she will be honored by history; Trump and today’s right-wing politicians will be remembered as vile opportunists.

As for the Republican voters, it simply is not possible for anyone of sound mind — anyone who can entertain a rational thought — to seriously support a no-talent blowhard like Trump or the rogue’s gallery of conservative politicians allied with him.

That’s why history will remember the MAGA crowd as a mixed bag of fools, simpletons, and hate-filled yokels, all mentally out of balance to some degree.

RBG passed on September 18, and that evening, I acted on another thought that came to me. I went online, searched for an RBG t-shirt, and found a nice one on Etsy.

The t-shirt just arrived. I like it a lot.

Read Full Post »

Tune o’ the Day

George Harrison’s first solo album after the breakup of the Beatles was “All Things Must Pass” in 1970. The album was a great success — as well as proof that Harrison was the creative equal of Lennon and McCartney, thank you very much.

The album also showcased Harrison’s Hindu spiritual and philosophical beliefs. “Beware of Darkness” is one of several examples.

In the song, Harrison warns against the corrupting influences of pop idols (fallen singers), con men (soft shoe shufflers), politicians (greedy leaders), and negative thoughts (thoughts that linger). For good measure, Harrison tossed in a line about the Weeping Atlas Cedar, a tree of which he was especially fond.

Beware of Darkness” is Harrison’s baby, but my favorite version is by Concrete Blonde. It was on the group’s magnificent 1986 debut album.

Concrete Blonde never recorded a dud.

Beware of Darkness

By Concrete Blonde, 1986
Written by George Harrison

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of fallen singers
Dropping all around you
The pain that often mingles
In your fingertips.
Beware of darkness.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of thoughts that linger,
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night.

Beware of darkness.


It can hit you,
It can hurt you,
Make you sore, and what is more,
That is not what you are here for.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sideboards
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly.
Beware of darkness.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of greedy leaders.
They take you where you should not go,
While Weeping Atlas Cedars,
They just want to grow.
Beware of darkness.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/beware-of-darkness.mp3

Read Full Post »

Rasta Man

Now and then, I make a run to Big Lots to check the price of dog treats. Dog treats are way overpriced in most places, owing to the fact that people — not me, but too many people — will pay $11.99 for Fido’s chicken-flavored rawhides or mint-infused dental chews and somehow not feel indignant and ripped off.

Anyway, I discovered that Big Lots sometimes has good deals on name-brand treats, so last week, I made one of my periodic trips to the Big Lots in Gainesville.

Approaching the entrance, I noticed a man ahead of me whose attire was especially incongruous and eccentric.

He wore a rastacap, but he was by no stretch the Rastafarian type; he was an elderly white guy who looked to be in his 60s, although he was tall and skinny, which might fit the pattern.

Based on his wispy sideburns, the rastacap was unlikely to be concealing dreadlocks. The cap, I assumed, was a fashion statement.

Well, fashion is the wrong word to use here. In addition to the rastacap, he wore dandelion yellow sweatpants, a blue Adidas hoodie, and red and white running shoes, all of it — cap included — faded and well worn.

Now, everyone has a story, and I know I’m being judgmental here, but personally, I am rather fastidious with regard to my attire. I dress casually, but neatly, and I aspire to a coordinated, tasteful ensemble. That’s just how I roll.

For example, when I wear brown pants, I wear a brown belt, and I choose socks and a shirt of colors harmonious with brown.

When I wear blue or black pants, I select a black belt, plus socks and shirt of complementary colors. (Defined as hues on opposite sides of the color wheel. Look it up.)

Rasta Man’s attire, conversely, was a kaleidoscope of random bits — a jarring and frankly offensive stylistic nightmare. Maybe he dressed in the dark that day. Or while stoned. Or both.

He arrived at the store entrance about 20 feet ahead of me, abruptly stopped, took out his cell phone, and dialed. Best to make that call before you go inside and lose the signal, right?

I heard loud ringing, which indicated he was on speakerphone. A female voice answered and said something unintelligible.

The man tapped on the keypad again, then held the phone aloft, a foot from his right ear. He cocked his ear toward the phone and paused in anticipation.

“Your balance,” said a mechanical female voice from the phone, “is ZERO dollars and FIVE cents.”

Hmmm. Five cents in the bank might explain the condition of his clothing.

Rasta Man pocketed the phone and proceeded into Big Lots.

Undoubtedly to make a cash purchase.

Read Full Post »

Socialism is a scare word they [Republicans] have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.

Harry Truman, 1952

###

Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.

W. C. Fields

###

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.

George Orwell

###

Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Elie Wiesel

Truman

Wiesel

Read Full Post »

If youth knew; if age could.

Sigmund Freud

###

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

###

Originality is the art of concealing your source.

Franklin P. Jones

###

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

Dorothy Parker

Freud S-2

Freud

Parker D-4

Parker

 

Read Full Post »

Hi-Yo, Silver!

In the 1940s and 1950s, veteran announcer Fred Foy introduced the Lone Ranger on radio and TV thusly:

Hi-Yo, Silver!

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo, Silver!’ The Lone Ranger!

With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early Western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice!

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”

Americans were introduced to the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and their valiant steeds Silver and Scout in the early 1930s. Today, the Lone Ranger is considered ancient history — just some do-gooder cowboy from yesteryear. More often than not, he is now a source of humor mixed with ridicule, à la Colonel Sanders.

That’s a shame. The Lone Ranger is an appealing character and a man, albeit fictional, of admirable integrity.

The Lone Ranger was created for radio in 1933 by writer Fran Striker and producer George Trendle. The program first aired on radio station WXYZ in Detroit. Within a few years, it was being carried on over 400 radio stations across the country.

Striker and Trendle gave the Lone Ranger a compelling backstory. He is a Texan named Reid, first name originally not given. He is the only survivor of a group of six Texas Rangers, one of them Reid’s older brother Daniel, who were ambushed by outlaws.

Tonto finds the wounded Reid and helps him recover. Thereafter, wearing a black mask made from his late brother’s vest, Reid roams the west as the Lone Ranger, helping those in need and fighting evil and injustice.

The Lone Ranger is a man of impeccable character who follows a strict moral code. He never shoots to kill. He doesn’t drink, smoke, or womanize. His grammar and pronunciation are always precise. He is an intelligent version of Dudley Do-Right, minus the humor.

From 1949 until 1957, a popular TV version of the radio show was aired starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

Six Lone Ranger movies have been made, the first in 1956, the most recent in 2013. A comic strip, various comic books, and 18 novels also have been published.

The Lone Ranger has given us some wonderful cultural tropes — Fred Foy’s dramatic introduction. The cry of “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” Silver bullets left as calling cards. The theme music from the William Tell Overture. A bystander inevitably asking, “Who was that masked man?”

LR&T

And then there is “kemosabe,” as Tonto calls his masked companion. Usually, the term is described as meaning “faithful friend” or “trusty scout.”

The meaning has generated jokes, too. In one, kemosabe means the rear end of a horse. In another, it means “meathead.”

Maybe the meaning is cloudy, but there is evidence of the word’s origin. Jim Jewell, who directed the radio show from 1933 until 1939, said the name came from a boys’ camp in Michigan, Kamp Kee-Mo-Sah-Bee, founded by Jewell’s father-in-law.

The father-in-law is believed to have taken the name from a 1912 book on Indian lore by one of the founders of the Boy Scouts. In the book, the term kee-mo-sah-bee is said to mean “scout runner.”

The term may have come from the Minnesota Ojibwe word giimoozaabi, which means “he who peeks” or maybe “sneaks.”

One last anecdote before I allow the Lone Ranger to ride into the sunset…

After the TV series ended in 1957, actor Clayton Moore began a 40-year career of making public appearances as the Lone Ranger, masked and in costume.

In 1979, TV producer Jack Wrather, who had obtained the legal rights to the Lone Ranger, was preparing to release the film “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” in which Moore did not appear.

Convinced that Moore’s public appearances would hurt the film at the box office, Wrather obtained a court order that blocked Moore from appearing in public as the Lone Ranger.

Moore counter-sued, and he continued making public appearances wearing Foster Grant sunglasses instead of the black mask.

Moore C

The lawsuit was a disaster for Wrather. Public opinion overwhelmingly was with Moore. Wrather became “the man who sued the mask off the Lone Ranger.” When Wrather’s movie came out in 1981, it lost money and, for good measure, was panned by critics.

In late 1984, Wrather was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Soon thereafter, he lifted the restraining order, freeing Moore to resume his appearances as the Lone Ranger. Two months later, Wrather died.

Wrather’s final gesture to Moore was noble and generous. It was worthy of the Lone Ranger himself.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »