Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alice's Restaurant, Part 2


Arlo Guthrie at Woodstock, 1969

Last week I posted some items about a young man in the Traffic Offenders Program and the similarity to an incident in Alice’s Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 hit. I also mentioned that the background to the song (actually more of a spoken narrative than a song) was interesting. Here are some of the background items.


Arlo Guthrie (1947 - ) is the son of folk singer Woody Guthrie. Like his father, Arlo is known for singing protest songs about social injustice. His appearance at Woodstock in 1969 will be remembered for his stoned rambling comments as much as for his rendition of his son Coming Into Los Angeles

"I was never anticipating performing that day, so I was excessing in all kind of indulgences. And after that day, I never did again. Because when I heard the record and saw the movie, I said, 'Oh my god. You can't make a living doing this.' It was the best time in my life but it was the worst moment in my life, both at the same time!" 
- Arlo Guthrie, 2009, commenting on Woodstock and on being scared striaght. 


The song Alice’s Restaurant lasts 18 minutes and 34 seconds, occupying the entire A-side of Guthrie's 1967 debut record album, also titled Alice’s Restaurant. Although the song's official title, as printed on the album, is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (pronounced "mass-a-cree"), Guthrie states in the opening line of the song that "This song's called 'Alice's Restaurant'" and that "'Alice's Restaurant'... is just the name of the song.” Hence it is usually just called by the shortened title.


Much of the narrative is based on fact. On Thanksgiving Day 1965, Arlo (then aged 18) and his friend Rick Robbins were to have Thanksgiving dinner with friends Alice and Ray Brock. The Brocks lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in a church. Deciding to get rid of a lot of garbage in the church, they piled it into a VW bus and Arlo and Rick drove to the dump. Unfortunately the dump was closed so they drove around. Arlo remembered a side road on Prospect Hill from previous time spent in Stockbridge and they dumped the garbage there. Not long afterwards Stockbridge police chief William J “Obie” Obanhein telephoned the church and stated “I found an envelope with the name Brock on it.” They readily admitted that Arlo and Rick had dumped the garbage, expecting to be fined. Instead Officer Obie drove to the church, arrested them and took them to the dump site at Prospect Hill where he took photographs. He then took them to the local jail. Two days later, they pleaded guilty in court before a blind judge, James E. Hannon. Arlo and Ricky were fined $25 and told to pick up their garbage. They then went back to the church and wrote the song.


The later part of the song contains an anti-war message, directed at the war in Vietnam. In the song Arlo is ineligible to be in the army, go to Vietnam and kill people because of the conviction for littering. In reality, Arlo was eligible but his number wasn’t called for the draft.


Many stations across the States have made playing "Alice's Restaurant" a Thanksgiving Day tradition. 


The church where it all began.

In 1991, Guthrie bought the church that had served as Alice and Ray Brock's former home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and converted it to the Guthrie Centre, an interfaith meeting place that serves people of all religions. The centre provides weekly free lunches in the community and support for families living with HIV/AIDS as well as other life-threatening illnesses. It also hosts a summertime concert series and Guthrie does six or seven fund raising shows there every year. There are several annual events such as the Walk-A-Thon to Cure Huntington's Disease and a "Thanksgiving Dinner That Can't Be Beat" for families, friends, doctors and scientists who live and work with Huntington's disease. 


Arlo Guthrie’s website at has a tribute page dedicated to Officer Obie (1924-1994), the Police Chief of Stockbridge, with most accounts and comments about him being sympathetic. A police officer of 34 years whose life and family was touched by suicide, divorce and alcohol abuse, he was also the inspiration for several Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers.

Officer (later Police Chief) Obie

Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover, "The Runaway", showing Officer Obie trying to talk a young lad out of running away from home

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Iconic Photos: VJ Day in Times Square

Those who do not know the background to, and circumstances of, the above photograph may nonetheless be aware of it from watching Night at the Museum 2. That film continues the theme of NATM 1, of the exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York coming to life at night because of the magical effects of the Golden Tablet of Akhmenrah. During a chase when our hero, Larry Daley, and Amelia Earhart are chased by the bad guys, they attempt to get away by going into the above photograph. The scene then shifts to 1945 Times Square in black and white, including the sailor kissing the nurse. When the bad guys follow into the photograph, Larry and Amelia manage to exit the photograph and trap the bad guys by turning the photograph to the wall.

The above photograph, a famous iconic image, is titled V-J Day in Times Square and was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt on 14 August 1945.

Some facts and trivia about the photograph:


V-J Day stands for Victory over Japan Day. It is also known as V-P Day, being Victory in the Pacific Day and commemorates the surrender of Japan on 14 August 1945. V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day, commemorates 8 May 1945, the date when the Allies accepted the surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany.


The photograph shows a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day, when celebrations had taken to the streets on the announcement of Japan’s surrender. It was published a week later in Life magazine.


The photograph is also known as V-J Day in Times Square, V-Day, and The Kiss.


The scene photographed by Eisenstaedt was spontaneous and he was unable to obtain the names of the sailor and the nurse. Shortly after the photograph was taken the area became a sea of people.


In two books, Eisenstaedt has given slightly different accounts of the taking of the famous photograph:

From Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt:

In Times Square on V.J. Day I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn't make a difference. I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a stupid dark dress I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor had worn a white uniform, the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds. 
Only one is right, on account of the balance. In the others the emphasis is wrong — the sailor on the left side is either too small or too tall. People tell me that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture.

From The Eye of Eisenstaedt:

I was walking through the crowds on V-J Day, looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all — young girls and old ladies alike. Then I noticed the nurse, standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I'd hoped, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her. Now if this girl hadn't been a nurse, if she'd been dressed dark clothes, I wouldn't have had a picture. The contrast between her white dress and the sailor's dark uniform gives the photograph its extra impact.


US Navy photographer Victor Jorgensen photographed the same kiss but from a different angle:

That photograph is not as effective, showing less of the surrounding scene and cutting off the legs and feet of the sailor and the nurse. It is darker and shows less details of the persons kissing,


Because Eisenstaedt did not obtain the identities of the parties, various persons have come forward claiming to be them. 

It is generally accepted that the nurse was Edith Shain, who died at age 91 in 2010 of liver cancer. She maintained that she and her friend left work to go to Times Square to celebrate the announcement of Japan’s surrender. As soon as she arrived and exited the subway, she said, she was grabbed and kissed by the sailor. She allowed the kiss, saying to herself that he had fought for her in the war.

There are a number of claimants to the identity of the sailor, front runner being George Mendonsa, whose scars and tattoos were matched by experts and forensic analysts to those seen on the sailor in the photographs. Mendonsa was on leave from USS The Sullivans at the time and was watching a movie with his future wife, Rita, when the doors to the theatre opened and people began shouting that the war was over. According to Mendonsa, the bars were too crowded to get into so he and Rita walked down the street. Displaying considerable sensitivity to the feelings of his partner, George saw a nurse walk by, took her in his arms and kissed her. "I had quite a few drinks that day and I considered her one of the troops—she was a nurse." Mendonsa claims that Rita is visible in the background of one of the four photographs he took of the kiss. In 1987, George did a very modern, American thing: he sued Time/Life for violating his privacy by publishing the photograph without his permission. When it reached the stage of Mendonsa having to prove that he was the sailor in the photograph, he dropped the suit.

Edith Shain

George Mendonsa

George then

Rita Mendonsa future wife of George Mendonsa behind the kissing couple

One final note: 

On 14 August 2005, John Seward Johnson displayed a life size sculpture of the kiss, Unconditional Surrender, in Times Square to mark the 50th anniversary of VJ Day. The ceremony that featured his sculpture included attendances by Edith Shain and George Mendonsa. She declined to allow him to kiss her as in the photograph.

Johnson later made a number of 7.5m versions in aluminium, styrofoam and plastic which were displayed in various locations.

The works were offered for sale at prices ranging from $542,500 for styrofoam, $980,000 for aluminum, and $1,140,000 for bronze.

Having been displayed at the bayfront in Florida in 2005, it returned in 2009, prompting the Chairwoman of the Public Art Committee to comment that "it doesn't even qualify as kitsch...It is like a giant cartoon image drafted by a computer emulating a famous photograph. It's not the creation of an artist. It's an artist copying a famous image."

Robert L. Pincus, art critic of The San Diego Union Tribune also commented on the version installed at San Diego as being kitsch and that "The figures look like something from a cheap souvenir factory, blown up beyond any reason."

Unconditional Surrender

Mass re-enactment

It is interesting to note, in passing, that the sculpture raises the same upskirts issue as for the Marilyn Monroe statue, the subject of a previous post on this blog :

Marilyn Monroe statue, recreating the famous billowing skirt images


Amelia Earhart and Larry Daley leave the photograph in Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian

Friday, June 28, 2013

Funny Friday: Star Trek

I don't know why son Thomas compares me to the guys from Big Bang Theory, even if I do like Star Trek . . .

Doesn't Thomas see what an inspiration Star Trek is? . . .

Limerick Spot:

A classic oldie -

From the crypt ofJustin St Giles
Came a scream that resounded for miles.
Said the vicar, "Good gracious!
Has Father Ignatius
Forgotten the Bishop has piles?"

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Tapestry of Life

Sent to me in an email by Byter Leo:

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said "Mr.Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" 

The pig sympathised, but said "I am so very sorry, Mr.Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" 

The cow said "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient. But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbours came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness. 

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember: when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another. Each of us is a vital thread in another person's tapestry.

- Author unknown


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Great Sporting Moments - Jim Richards, 1992

"You're a pack of arseholes."

- Jim Richards, Winner Bathurst 1,000, 1992

The Bathurst 1000 is a 1,000 kilometre touring car race held annually at Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales. It is regarded as the pinnacle of Australian motorsport.

Historically there has been fierce competition and rivalry between manufacturers Ford and Holden, each with its own dedicated supporters and fans, but in 1990 Nissan challenged their superiority with their Skyline model. With the Skyline’s superior handling and power, it won in 1991.

The 1992 race was stopped 9 laps short after an extreme rainstorm cut visibility and caused a number of crashes. At the time that the race was stopped, the driver in the lead was crowd favourite Dick Johnson driving a Ford Sierra. The winners, however, were declared to be New Zealander Jim Richards and his co-driver Mark Skaife, even though they had crashed shortly prior to the race being stopped. This was because of the rule that where the race is stopped, the winner is declared to be the leader who has completed the last complete lap. It was not a popular result with the crowd

When Richards and Skaife went up to collect their trophies, the crowd booed. 

Richards took the microphone and said: 

"I'm just really stunned for words, I can't believe the reception. I thought Australian race fans had a lot more to go than this, this is bloody disgraceful. I'll keep racing but I tell you what this is going to remain with me for a long time. You're a pack of arseholes."

See the end of the race and Richards’ address to the crowd by clicking on:

He later apologised for the outburst and blamed his words on being stressed after hearing that his good friend and countryman Dennt Hulme had died from a heart attack which he suffered during the race.

Some years later Richards commented that:

"It wasn’t that they didn’t personally like Mark and I. It was a couple of VBs, Dick (Johnson) was revving them up and (MC) Derryn Hinch was on the podium, and that was another thing that probably wasn’t going down too well. It was all good fun, what I said was exactly what I felt at the time but five minutes later I was having a beer with Skaifey having a laugh and a joke about it."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mosaic Stairs, Part 1

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” 

— Dr. Seuss

Not long ago I commented that steps need not be boring and I posted a series of photos of painted steps to illustrate the point. With imagination even something as ordinary as a set of stairs can be made fascinating and beautiful. Here are more examples, stairs decorated by mosaics:

Steps in Coogee (a coastal suburb of Sydney). 
The man pictured is Alan Waddell, now deceased, who began walking after his wife of 60 years died in 2002. Walking daily for an average of 85 minutes per day, he determined to walk every street, laneway, stairs and path of Sydney and its suburbs. By his death in 2008, he had completed 291 suburbs. One other item of note, he was aged 94 when he died. His website, still updated regularly by his sons, contains many photos of interest, whimsy, humour, the bizarre and of beauty. See it by clicking here:
San Francisco

San Francisco

Santa Teresa, Rio


Location Unknown

Happonvilliers, near Chartres, France


San Francisco

By the way:

On the topic of mosaics and proving the old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same, here are pics of some Roman mosaics excavated at the Villa Romana del Casale.  Built in the 4th century and located in Sicily, it contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world.  The mosaics below were discovered as a floor in a room dubbed the "Chamber of the Ten Maidens" and have been informally called "the bikini girls".  They depict young women performing sports including weight lifting, discuss throwing, running and ball-games. Does the mosaic with the ball look like Olympic beach volleyball to anyone else?