Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another Presidential Moment

Continuing a look at some US Presidential items in the leadup to the elections.  Today, something from 100 years ago . . .

The President: 

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1858 – 1919) was the 26th President of the United States, 1901 – 1909, the youngest ever President (one year younger when he became POTUS than JFK) and the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize. Born a sickly child who suffered from asthma, he engaged in strenuous physical activities to compensate. Before becoming President at age 42 he was a naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, rancher and soldier. In 1898 he formed the Rough Riders, a volunteer cavalry regiment that fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. (Interestingly, he was nominated for a Medal of Honour for his actions in that war but this was disapproved. In 2001 Congress granted the award posthumously). Elected Vice President in 1900, he became President on the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. His two terms as President were characterised by breaking up of large monopolies and regulation of business, fair treatment of citizens (“square deal”), conservation of the environment and an increasing American presence in world affairs. 

Roosevelt disliked being called and referred to as “Teddy”. He referred its use as “an outrageous impertinence”. Nonetheless he remained known as Teddy to the American public, even becoming the inspiration for the still popular Teddy Bear (a future Bytes). 

He remained active to the end of his life and died of a heart attack in his sleep in 1919. The Vice President, Thomas R Marshall, commented “"Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight." 

The Moment: 

Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft

Roosevelt’s Presidency came to an end in 1909 when his second term expired. He anointed William Taft as his successor and Taft was duly elected President, but Roosevelt became disillusioned with the directions in which Taft took the government and the Republican Party. He announced himself for nomination as the Republican candidate in the 1912 elections but was unsuccessful in securing the numbers to be appointed as the Republican candidate ahead of Taft, having left his run too late. Undeterred, Roosevelt left the convention hall and walked to a nearby theatre where he and his followers formed a new political party, the Progressive Party. 

While campaigning in Wisconsin on October 14, 1912 a saloonkeeper named John Schrank shot him in the chest. The bullet passed through Roosevelt’s metal eyeglass case and 50 sheets of paper before entering his chest. Roosevelt believed that because he was not coughing blood he did not need to go to the hospital immediately. He mounted the podium and gave a 90 minute speech, all the while blood seeping from the wound. His opening words were "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose." 

Doctors decided against surgery and the bullet remained in his chest for the rest of his life. 

X-Ray of Roosevelt's ribcage showing the bullet at lower left 
The bullet-damaged speech and eyeglass case on display at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace 

The Progressive Party became popularly known as The Bull Moose Party and it adopted a Bull Moose as its emblem: 

In the 1912 elections Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was elected President, obtaining 42% of the votes as against Roosevelt’s 27% and Taft’s 23%. Roosevelt had 88 electoral votes to Taft's 8 electoral votes, Taft thereby becoming the only incumbent president to place third in a re-election bid. 

And what of John Schrank, the unsuccessful assassin? 

Schrank maintained that the assassinated President McKinley, whose death had elevated Roosevelt to the Presidency, appeared to him as a ghost in a dream. The ghost identified Roosevelt as his murderer and instructed Schrank to kill Roosevelt. Schrank spent the rest of his life in institutions for the insane. Whilst being taken by train to the Northern Hospital for the Insane at Oshkosh on November 25, 1912, Schrank gazed at the Wisconsin countryside. Someone asked him if he liked to hunt. He replied, "Only Bull Moose."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tuesday Quote

Billy and Audrey Wilder

Billy Wilder (1906 – 2002) was an Austrian-born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist and journalist. He became a screenwriter whilst living in Berlin in the 1920’s but, being Jewish, left for Paris as the Nazi Party grew in power. In 1933 he left Paris for Hollywood where his career spanned over 60 films. He is one of only 5 people to have won Oscars as producer, director and writer, for a 1960 turkey of a movie that also won the best pic, The Apartment

In 1957 Wilder was filming Love in the Afternoon in Paris, with Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper and Maurice Chevalier. 

The following anecdote is from the book Billy Wilder in Hollywood by Maurice Zolotow. 
Much of Love in the Afternoon was filmed on location in Paris. While Billy was over there, Audrey [Wilder] suddenly got the most irresistible craving for...a bidet! She had to have a bidet. She could not live without her very own bidet in the master bedroom. She cabled Billy to purchase a bidet and ship it to their Westwood apartment. Unable to locate a French plumbing supply firm which exported bidets, Wilder replied: IMPOSSIBLE TO OBTAIN BIDET STOP SUGGEST YOU DO HANDSTANDS IN SHOWER.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Monday Pic

Google Earth has revealed some interesting landscapes and geographical items, indeed some people make it their hobby to scan the images on GE to come up with items of interest. Some of them will be featured in a future Bytes. 

One such image that came to attention in 2009 as a result of GE was an aerial view of the island of Galesnjak, located off the coast of Croatia. It is naturally heart shaped and hence has been called Island of Love and Lover’s Island. It is privately owned and is not inhabited. There are 3 burial mounds dating from Roman days and the foundations of an ancient building. The beach which runs around the shores of the island is 15km in length. 

Since being shown on Google Earth, the owner, Vlado Juresko, has been inundated by requests for lovers to stay on the island: 
"It has been incredible. We think it is the most perfect heart-shaped island in the world. Nobody lives there so if lovers really do want to spend time alone it's the perfect desert island. We always thought it looked a bit like a heart but since it's been on Google Earth everyone else has seen it too and the whole world seems to want to stay here.
Some other naturally occurring heart shapes: 

A white whale blows heart-shaped bubbles in the water in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province 

A heart shaped leaf 

A heart shaped lake near Brampton, Ontario, Canada 

Mangrove, Voh, New Caledonia 

Glass heart. Nahhh, I made that one up, everyone knows that heart of glass is by Blondie, not Nature.

Winnie the Pooh, Cristopher Robin and Others

Some Winnie the Pooh quotes (A A Milne):

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” 

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you.”

“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
Even longer,' Pooh answered.” 

“If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart. I'll stay there forever.” 

“You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” 

“I'm not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” 

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” 

“Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.” 

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.” 

“Sometimes,' said Pooh, 'the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” 

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.” 

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why we call it the present." 


Some Winnie the Pooh, and related, trivia: 

Winnie the Pooh, aka Pooh Bear, is a fictional bear created by A A Milne in various stories and collections of stories that appeared between 1924 and 1928. Originally named Winnie-the-Pooh, the hyphens were dropped when Disney acquired the rights and produced its own features. 


Milne named the character after a teddy bear owned by his son Christopher Robin. 

Winnie was the name of a popular Canadian black bear in the London Zoo. That bear had been purchased in Canada as a cub from a hunter by Lieutenant Harry Colebourn. Colebourn was a Canadian en route to England in WW1 and he purchased the bear in 1914. He named the bear Winnie after his hometown, Winnipeg and smuggled it into England, where it became the unofficial mascot of the Fort Garry Horse. Winnie was left with the London Zoo whilst Colebourn’s unit served in France. After the war she was officially donated to the zoo and she became a popular attraction. 

Lieutenant Colebourn with Winnie, 1914 

Christopher Robin with Winnie at the London Zoo.

Christopher Robin had been given a large doll bear for his first birthday, which he had named Edward Bear.  Because Christopher was one of Winnie's greatest fans and a frequent visitor to the zoo (where he was allowed to enter Winnie's enclosure, above), Christopher renamed his doll bear Winnie the Bear.

Christopher Robin with Winnie the Bear.


Pooh was the name of a swan that Milne and his son encountered whilst on holiday. 

In the first book it is explained that Winnie is called Pooh because that is the sound made when he tries to blow flies from his nose: 

“...whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think – but I am not sure – that that is why he is always called Pooh.” 

An alternate explanation is also offered in another work, that Pooh was what Christopher Robin had called a swan.  With the swan gone, Christopher Robin changed the name of the doll bear to Winnie the Pooh to remember the swan.


Christopher Robin’s names for his other toys were used for the additional characters in the Pooh stories, except for Owl and Rabbit. 

The toys are now on display in the New York Public Library. 

Original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed toys. Clockwise from bottom left: Tigger, Kanga, Edward Bear ("Winnie-the-Pooh"), Eeyore and Piglet. 


Milne’s son Christopher Robin (1920-1996) was the inspiration for the Christopher Robin of the Pooh stories. Most will be familiar with the lines 

“Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares! 
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers!” 

Milne’s mother kept his hair long and dressed him in girlish clothes, having wanted a girl. The girlish hair and clothing also appear in the Pooh books. 

 Not long after Christopher’s birth, Milne had written to a friend “We did rather want a Rosemary.” 

Christopher Robin and Winnie with his mother, Dorothy ('Daphne') Milne (née de Sélincourt)


Christopher served in the army for 5 years during WW2. Originally rejected on medical grounds, his father was able to secure him an enlistment, serving in the Middle East and Italy where he was wounded. Ironically both Christopher and his father had been pacifists. 


Whilst serving abroad, Christopher became resentful at what he considered to be his father’s exploitation of his childhood. He came to hate the Pooh books and stories which prevented him having an identity in his own right. Even at boarding school as a child he had been constantly teased about the Pooh association. 

In 1973 he wrote that as a child "I quite liked being Christopher Robin and being famous. There were indeed times . . . when it was exciting and made me feel grand and important." 

In 1974, in his autobiography The Enchanted Place he described how that feeling had changed: 
“...when I was trudging London in search of an employer wanting to make use of such talents as I could offer, it seemed to me, almost, that my father had got to where he was by climbing upon my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and had left me with nothing but the empty fame of being his son.” 
The book caused Oliver Marre Pendennis of The Observer to comment that Christopher 
"had spent over 40 years trying to get off his knees from saying his prayers. Perhaps the most famous of all tiny boys (by comparison Little Lord Fauntleroy was a mere starlet), A.A. Milne's golden-curled son grew up loathing the Pooh books." 

In 1948 Christopher married his cousin, a marriage disliked by his mother in that she did not get on with her brother, who was the father of his bride. His mother had not spoken to her brother for 30 years. 

Christopher Robin Milne, pictured here with his fiancée Lesley Selincourt in 1948


Despite his association with the Pooh character and his hostility to it, he opened a bookshop with his wife in 1951. It was a moderate success. 

He saw his father occasionally before his father’s death in 1956 but had no further contact with his mother for the next 15 years until her death. On her deathbed she refused to see him. 


A few months after his father's death in 1956, Christopher's daughter Clare was born, and diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. She would later run a charity for the disabled called the Clare Milne Trust. 


Christopher battled for some years with myasthenia gravis, a neurological disease, and passed away peacefully in his sleep on April 20th, 1996.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

5 Minutes of Art and History: Guernica

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Spain but spent most of his adult life in France, his first trip to Paris being taken in 1920.

In 1937 the German Luftwaffe, assisted by the Italian Fascist Aviazone Legionora, bombed the Basque town of Guernica in Spain.  A focal point of Basque culture, it was also an area of Republican sympathy during the Spanish Civil War. The attack by planes of the German Condor Legion supported both Nationalist advances in the area and Franco’s forces already in place. The bombing caused widespread destruction and killed a large number of defenceless civilians. Some commentators have argued that Guernica was an early example of terror bombing, the deliberate targeting of civilians to psychologically demoralise the enemy, a conscious policy of the Luftwaffe; others maintain that high civilian casualties were collateral damage from bombing of military and strategic targets. Whatever the policy, raid after raid bombed Guernica from the air, a town that had remained distant from the civil war and which had no air defences. The attacks took place on a Monday when most of the population was at the markets. After 8 waves of carpet bombing raids, a forerunner to the later German blitzkrieg, planes strafed the roads in and out of the town.


According to The Times’ journalist George Steer (above):

Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basques and the centre of their cultural tradition, was completely destroyed yesterday afternoon by insurgent air raiders. The bombardment of this open town far behind the lines occupied precisely three hours and a quarter, during which a powerful fleet of aeroplanes consisting of three types of German types, Junkers and Heinkel bombers, did not cease unloading on the town bombs weighing from 1,000 lbs. downwards and, it is calculated, more than 3,000 two-pounder aluminium incendiary projectiles. The fighters, meanwhile, plunged low from above the centre of the town to machinegun those of the civilian population who had taken refuge in the fields."
The number of dead has been debated, numbers varying from 126 to 3,000.

Photographs of the destroyed town of Guernica after the bombing:


Why did the Luftwaffe support Franco? According to Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring at the Nuremburg Trials:
"I urged him [Adolf Hitler] to give support [to Franco] under all circumstances, firstly, in order to prevent the further spread of communism in that theatre and, secondly, to test my young Luftwaffe at this opportunity in this or that technical respect."

It was through George Steer’s article that Picasso found out about the tragedy of Guernica in the country of his birth.

Picasso had been commissioned by the Spanish Republican government to create a mural for the Paris International Exposition at the World’s Fair, to be held in Paris in 1937. He became aware of the tragedy of Guernica from reading Steers’ article and immediately abandoned what he had been working on without enthusiasm for months, instead painting Guernica, an oil in black, white and grey, on canvas. Its images are stark, horrific, poignant, but I will save analysis of the painting for a future Bytes.


 Some details:


Picasso painting Guernica (also photo at very top):
To give an idea of size and scale of the work:

It attracted little attention at the time. Today it is regarded as one of the greatest symbols against war and Picasso's most famous work.

In 1968, Franco expressed interest in having Guernica return to Spain. Picasso refused, stipulating that before Guernica returned to Spain, the country had to be a republic, with public liberties and democratic institutions. Picasso died in 1973, Franco died in 1975, the painting was delivered to Spain in 1981.

During World War 2, Picasso remained in Paris. He did not exhibit, his artistic style being frowned upon by the Nazis.  He nonetheless continued to paint despite being continually harassed by the Gestapo. There is a story that a Gestapo officer, having observed a photograph of Guernica in Picasso’s apartment, asked Picasso with disgust “Did you do that?”  “No,” responded Picasso, “you did.”




Friday, October 26, 2012

Funny Friday

It's that time of the week again, Friday, which also means that it's time for some humour.  

Today's target:  Catholics.  Part 1 today, Part 2 next Friday.

A new convert to Catholicism decided to go to confession to deal with his transgression. In the confessional, he told the priest that he had sinned. 

"What was your sin, my son?" asked the priest. 

"I stole some lumber, Father," replied the man. 

"How much lumber did you steal?" asked the priest. 

"Father, I built my German Shepherd dog a nice new doghouse."

The priest replied, "Well, that's not so bad."

The man continued, "Father, I also built myself a 4-car garage."

"Well, now, that's a little more serious." 

"Father, there's more. In addition to the doghouse and, the 4-car garage, I also built a 5 bedroom, 4 bath house!" 

With a pause, the priest finally spoke. "That is a little more serious. I'm afraid you'll have to make a novena." 

"Father, I'm not sure what a 'novena' is, but if you've got the blueprints, I've got the lumber!" 

Years ago in Ireland, there was a priest who was very anti-British. Every Sunday he would blast them from the pulpit. He became so notorious that the Pope himself summoned the priest to Rome for an audience. 

"Father," said the Pope, "I want that there should be peace between the British and the Irish. You're not helping matters at all. I want you to kiss my ring and swear by the Blessed Virgin that you'll never so much as mention the British in public again." 

"But Your Holiness, I - I - " the priest stammered. 

"No buts," said the Pope. "Swear it here and now or there'll be trouble!" 

"Aye, Holy Father," sighed the father. "All right. I swear it." 

The very next Sunday just happened to be Easter, and the priest was back at his pulpit in Ireland, giving his annual Easter sermon. 

He got to the part of the Easter story where Jesus said, "And one of you shall betray Me." 

The priest continues: "Saint Andrew jumps up and says, 'Is it I Lord?' and the Lord says, 'Nay, Andy darlin', it's not you. Sit down now and dunna worry. Eat your supper.' 

Then Saint John the Divine gets up with tears in his eyes and cries, 'Is it I Lord?' And the Lord says, 'Nay, Johnny me boy, it's not you. Sit down now and dunna fret yourself. Eat your supper.' 

"Then that dirty dog Judas Iscariot slowww-ly rises to his feet. And he looks the Lord right in the eye and says, 'Blimey, Mate. Ya think it's me?" 

A man walked past the kitchen of a monastery and saw a robed figure at the stove preparing fish and chips. 

“Are you the fish friar?” he asked. 

 “No,” replied the man, “I’m the chip monk.”