Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘People’

Bob Dylan said he wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in ten minutes. “Just put words to an old spiritual, probably something I learned from Carter Family records. That’s the folk tradition. You use what’s been handed down.”

I read somewhere that “Blowin’ in the Wind” succeeds because it’s ambiguous enough to have meaning for everyone. Fair enough, but the song has plenty more going for it.

It had the chops to became an anthem of the anti-war movement, to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and to place no. 14 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The “old spiritual” to which Dylan put words is “No More Auction Block,” a marching song of black soldiers during the Civil War, origin unknown. Dylan performed that, too.

Dylan also said this about “Blowin’ in the Wind”:

“It’s critical and it’s hard, this litany of questions about what’s wrong with the world. If one had to choose one subject to label the song, it would be a song asking ‘why.’ In other words, it asks why we have the issues we do in our world. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Dylan B

Blowin’ In The Wind

By Bob Dylan, 1963
Written by Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 

Read Full Post »

I’m a history nut. To me, history is interesting, informative, compelling, and fun. It’s a gas to come across fascinating nuggets from the past that either add to my understanding of events or introduce me to something new.

Recently, I read that the shortest war in recorded history is the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896. Which, of course, I had never heard of.

I was intrigued and promptly Googled it. What I learned was wonderfully entertaining — and a reminder of why I am a history nut in the first place.

###

In the late 1800s, the nations of Europe finalized their conquest and colonization of the African continent. By 1900, most of Africa was under the colonial rule of either Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, or Italy. Only Ethiopia and Liberia remained independent.

It happened because the European countries wanted Africa’s raw materials and were capable militarily of taking them. It also helped that the nations of Europe were highly competitive, and acquiring new territories was a feather in the cap — an opportunity to one-up the other countries.

Further, the new colonies in Africa gave the Europeans a way to address some of the nagging social problems created by the Industrial Revolution: displacement from rural areas, overcrowding in the cities, poverty, homelessness, unemployment. These issues could be alleviated to some degree by sending problematic people to the African colonies as settlers.

The manner in which the Europeans administered the colonies varied. The British preferred indirect rule, whereby they installed locals who would do as the Brits instructed. The French, Germans, and Belgians preferred direct rule, assigning their own countrymen, either military or civilian, as colonial administrators.

The Africans themselves remained in various stages of revolt, of course, which required a sizable European military presence. Meanwhile, the Europeans also clashed among themselves in every way short of armed conflict. They formed temporary alliances, imposed tariffs on each other, and jockeyed to gain control over waterways and trade routes.

Eventually, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck convened a conference in Berlin that laid down a series of rules and guidelines and brought a degree of order to the continent. Among the colonial powers, that is, not the natives.

Against that backdrop, the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 erupted.

###

For centuries, the island of Zanzibar off the east coast of Africa was a center of the Arab slave trade, enriching a long line of sultans.

But times change, and by the 1870s, the British were able to persuade the Sultan of Zanzibar to end the slave trade for economic reasons; they convinced him that legitimate trade in rubber and ivory was more lucrative.

In 1890, Britain and Germany signed an agreement that gave Germany control of the mainland nation of Tanzania and made the island of Zanzibar a British protectorate. The British soon installed a pro-British Arab, Hamad bin Thuwaini, as Sultan of Zanzibar. Hamad ruled for three years, more or less uneventfully.

Then, on August 25, 1896, Hamad died suddenly in the royal palace in Zanzibar City. The cause was never determined officially, but most believed he was poisoned by his cousin, Khalid bin Barghash.

Lending credence to that belief: within hours of Hamad’s death, Khalid moved into the palace and declared himself Sultan. Khalid, FYI, was pro-German.

The British Consul, Sir Basil Cave, immediately ordered Khalid to vacate the palace. Khalid refused and quickly assembled a defense force of about 3,000 Zanzibaris. They consisted of the palace guard, a few hundred servants and slaves, and a large number of civilians conscripted from Zanzibar City.

The defenders were equipped with assorted small arms, several machine guns, and a few artillery pieces. They were not remotely a match for the British military forces in the region.

By the evening of August 25, three British warships had arrived in the harbor. Hundreds of troops had gone ashore to protect the British Consulate and keep the civilian population in check. The guns of the warships were trained on the royal palace.

Sir Basil asked London by telegram, “Are we authorised in the event of all attempts at a peaceful solution proving useless, to fire on the Palace from the men-of-war?

The reply: “You are authorised to adopt whatever measures you may consider necessary, and will be supported in your action by Her Majesty’s Government. Do not, however, attempt to take any action which you are not certain of being able to accomplish successfully.”

On the morning of August 26, Sir Basil issued a final ultimatum: if Khalid was not out of the palace by August 27 at 9:00 AM, the British ships would commence firing.

Khalid’s response: “We have no intention of hauling down our flag and we do not believe you would open fire on us.

Sir Basil replied that he had no desire to fire upon the palace, “but unless you do as you are told, we shall certainly do so.” That was the last communication between them.

The next morning, the 9:00 AM deadline passed, and the British warships began bombarding the palace with high-explosive shells.

The royal palace stood at the harbor’s edge and consisted of three main buildings: the palace itself, the harem (the part of a Muslim home where females reside), and the “House of Wonders,” a lavish reception hall. The buildings were constructed largely of wood.

Within minutes, Khalid’s machine guns and artillery were eliminated. The damage to the palace by the exploding shells was devastating. Fire quickly spread, and the buildings began to collapse.

Also within minutes, Khalid and a small entourage fled the palace via a rear entrance, leaving the rest of the defenders behind.

When the shelling ended at 9:40 AM, about 500 defenders were dead or wounded. The war had lasted between 38 and 45 minutes, depending on who did the timing.

Britain promptly installed Ali Hamud, another pro-British Zanzibari, as sultan.

As for Khalid, he fled to the German Consulate and was given sanctuary. The British demanded his extradition, but the Germans refused and eventually smuggled him out of Zanzibar and into Tanzania.

Khalid lived under German protection in Tanzania until 1916, when the Brits managed to capture him. He served a term in exile on St. Helena, then was allowed to return to Tanzania. He died there in 1927.

Khalid was the Sultan of Zanzibar for a whopping two days.

Hamad

Hamad bin Thuwaini

Deutsch-Ostafrika, Sultan

Khalid bin Barghash

Cave B

Sir Basil Cave

Palace

The Royal Palace before the war.

Harem

The ruins of the harem building after the bombardment.

###

“Recorded history” is our way of documenting what we consider the important stuff. But the record we keep is only a tiny fraction of literal history.

In the 50,000 years humans have existed, roughly 108 billion of us have been born. That’s 108 billion lifetimes worth of constant interactions within countless societies. In a real sense, 99 percent of history passes quietly, undocumented, known only to the participants.

Hamad, Khalid, and Sir Basil became historical figures. But we know nothing about the lives of the British sailors and soldiers who were ordered to Zanzibar City in August 1896. Nor of the lives of the 3,000 hapless souls who huddled inside the royal palace as British shells rained down.

 

Read Full Post »

Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.

— Benjamin Franklin Wade

###

Be silent as to services you have rendered, but speak of favors you have received.

— Seneca the Younger

###

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too big a burden to bear.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

###

Wisdom is the reward for surviving your own stupidity.

— Brian Rathbone

Wade BF

Wade

Rathbone B

Rathbone

 

Read Full Post »

The Questions…

1. Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper gave rise to two well-known superstitions. One is never seating 13 people at the dinner table. What is the other?

2. Bank of America was founded in 1904. Under what name was it established?

3. What British-born movie producer/director/actor/puppeteer is the voice of Miss Piggy and other Muppet characters, plus the voice of Cookie Monster and other Sesame Street characters, plus the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars films?

4. In 2001, pro football inducted a non-player, George Toma, into the Hall of Fame. Who is Toma?

5. What and where is Null Island?

The Answers…

1. In the painting, Judas is knocking over a container of salt with his arm, which led to the superstition that spilling salt is a bad omen.

2. BofA began as the Bank of Italy in San Francisco’s Little Italy neighborhood. The founder was the son of Italian immigrants who said other banks were freezing out Italians. In 1922, it was renamed the Bank of America and Italy. The Italy part was dropped in 1930.

3. Frank Oz, real name Frank Oznowicz. His parents were Dutch puppeteers who fought the Nazis during WWII before fleeing to England. They came to America when Frank was five.

4. George Toma was the longtime head groundskeeper of the NFL as well as numerous MLB stadiums. He prepared the field for every Super Bowl from the first one in 1967 until he retired in 1999. Now age 90, he is still active as a consultant.

5. Null Island is the fanciful name of the spot on Earth where the Equator (latitude 0°) intersects the Prime Meridian (longitude 0°) off the east coast of Africa. Nothing is there except a NOAA weather buoy.

Last Supper

Null Island

 

Read Full Post »

More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

———

Now We Are Six

By A. A. Milne

Milne AA

Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956)

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

———

Ebb

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

I know what my heart is like
Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
Left there by the tide,
A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

———

I Am the Song

By Charles Causley

Causley C

Charles Stanley Causley (1917-2003)

I am the song that sings the bird.
I am the leaf that grows the land.
I am the tide that moves the moon.
I am the stream that halts the sand.
I am the cloud that drives the storm.
I am the earth that lights the sun.
I am the fire that strikes the stone.
I am the clay that shapes the hand.
I am the word that speaks the man.

———

The Rainbow

By Christina Rossetti

Rossetti C

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Boats sail on the rivers,
And ships sail on the seas;
But clouds that sail across the sky
Are prettier than these.
There are bridges on the rivers,
As pretty as you please;
But the bow that bridges heaven,
And overtops the trees,
And builds a road from earth to sky,
Is prettier far than these.

———

Hug O’ War

By Shel Silverstein

Silverstein S

Sheldon Allan Silverstein (1930-1999)

I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

 

Read Full Post »

According to rock musician Mark Knopfler, he wrote the 1985 hit song “Money for Nothing” after hearing a delivery man in an appliance store make comments about the musicians on MTV.

Knopfler said it happened in a store in New York. On a back wall, several TV sets were tuned to MTV. While watching the bands perform, a male employee wearing a baseball cap used the terms “money for nothing,” “that ain’t working,” and “what are those, Hawaiian noises?”

Knopfler has been criticized for including the term “faggot” in the lyrics. In 2011, the tune was even banned in Canada for being offensive — which created howls of protest about banning songs. Knopfler maintains it’s a term the song’s character would use.

Bonus fact: Knopfler shares the songwriting credit with Sting, who wrote and sings the “I want my MTV” lines.

Dire Straits-1

Money For Nothing

By Dire Straits, 1985
Written by Mark Knopfler and Sting

I want my MTV.
I want my… I want my MTV.
I want my… I want my MTV.
I want my MTV.

Now, look at them yo-yos. That’s the way you do it.
You play the guitar on the MTV.
That ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.

Now, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain’t dumb.
Maybe get a blister on your little finger.
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

The little faggot with the earring and the make-up —
Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair.
That little faggot got his own jet airplane.
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

Got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchens deliveries.
We’ve got to move these refrigerators.
Got to move these color TVs.

I shoulda learned to play the guitar.
I shoulda learned to play them drums.
Look at that mama. She got it stickin’ in the camera, man.
We could have some fun.

And he’s up there — what’s that? Hawaiian noises?
Bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee.
Oh, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Get your money for nothin’, get your chicks for free.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

Listen here…

Now, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
You play the guitar on the MTV.
That ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.

Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.
Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’. Chicks for free.

Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.
Your money for nothin’, the chicks for free.
Get you money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.

Look at that, look at that.

I want my… I want my… I want my MTV.

Get you money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.
Money for nothin’, chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.

Easy, easy money for nothin’. Easy, easy chicks for free.
Easy, easy money for nothin’. Chicks for free.

That ain’t workin’.

Dire Straits-2

Dire Straits-3

 

Read Full Post »

More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

Here Dead We Lie

By A. E. Housman

Housman AE

Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936)

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

———

Good Bones

By Maggie Smith

Smith-M

Maggie Smith (B. 1977)

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

———

The Rose Family

By Robert Frost

Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple’s a rose,
And the pear is, and so’s
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose —
But were always a rose.

———

Invisible Fish

By Joy Harjo

Harjo-J

Joy Harjo (B. 1951)

Invisible fish swim this ghost ocean now
described by waves of sand, by water-worn
rock. Soon the fish will learn to walk. Then
humans will come ashore and paint dreams
on the dying stone. Then later, much later, the
ocean floor will be punctuated by Chevy trucks,
carrying the dreamers’ descendants, who are
going to the store.

———

Harlem

By Langston Hughes

Hughes-L

James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore —
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over —
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

   Or does it explode?

 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »