Monday, March 31, 2014

Performance Art

In Sunday's  (30 March, 2014) St. Louis Post Dispatch:  Sarah knows her art and her craft, I suspect a 20 yo editor in the fuel supply.(emphasis mine)

In orchestras, a sea change in gender proportions

Think back to the symphony orchestra of yesteryear, as seen in Disney’s 1940 film “Fantasia”: all male, but for two female harpists.
Now take a good look at the orchestra of today: In the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, women players outnumber the men. The numbers were 50-50 in 2011-12; women outnumbered men for the first time in 2012-13, with 46 women out of 97 musicians; and this season the breakdown is 45 men and 51 women.
Things have changed at orchestras all over the country, if not always to the extent found here. The numbers are largely due to a combination of so-called blind auditions and changing societal attitudes...


In a world increasingly ruled by cynics knowingly offering the lowest quality goods and services secure in the knowledge the masses will meekly grumble and pay up, I've had the opportunity this week to experience 2 art realms of near human perfection.

The first,  a capital A art, is live theatre.  Certainly, bad theatre and bad art exist, but never is shlock the artist's goal.  Live theatre is transcendent. Transforming empty space to somewhere deep within your soul, via a gesture and a few lines of dialogue is one of life's eternal mysteries. Each performance, repeated however many times during its run, is unique.  Human perfection, while never achieved is the objective, the target not often missed.

The second sphere of performance art lies in the world of fine dining.  Mrs. T and I had perhaps the finest meal of our lives at chef John Besh's Restaurant August last Friday. We arrived early in the evening to have an opportunity to talk with our waiter before the evening performance.

Imagine making the same dish many times each day, knowing each must taste exactly alike the last not only today but forever.  Sounds boring until you try it.  The cutting, chopping, plating, presentation were exquisite.  The front of the house true professionals.  I'd return in a heartbeat. 

For she:
 A Tasting Of Farmers Market Vegetables

apple and parsnip soup
salad of charred broccoli
Landrem citrus, shallot, cotija cheese
spring pea yard egg raviolo
carrot and brown butter
medallions of blackened beets
fresh cheese, charred tomatillo and jalapeno
Meyer lemon souffle tart
lemon curd and gingersnap ice cream

For he:

market vegetable chop salad
with petite herbs and champagne vinaigrette

Gulf snapper "courtbouillon"
shrimp, blue crab, and jasmin rice

Soon our local farmer's markets will reopen.  Until then....


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Knowledge is Power

I once prided myself on knowing how to behave.  I may not have behaved, but mother, reinforced by father, beat good manners into her sons.  Today I'm stumped, so once again I come to you hat in hand.

The following story appeared earlier in this week in our local,  the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

"Ross is alive and well after report of his death"
Former Southern Methodist University and NBA basketball player Quinton Ross had to ease the fears of friends and family members after he was erroneously reported dead.  Ross lives in the suburbs near Dallas and was attending Monday's night NIT game between Louisiana State and SMU. He said he woke to a phone loaded with messages from people concerned about his well being...."

Apparently, the New York Post published a story saying his body was found buried on a public beach in New York.
It would never once occur to me to phone someone I thought was dead. Believing they wouldn't answer what would I whom?  Is phoning the dead now common practice?

Just wondering.

Friday, March 28, 2014

rebirth of a brand

A story in the New Orleans Times Picayune caught my eye.  The Haspel family, creators of the American seersucker suit had re-purchased the rights to their company, and now back in family hands they were recreating their storied past with a new line of American made suits.  I had to see this for myself. For the past decade Haspel has made crappy clothes with shoddy material.

Being a hopeful fellow in need of a seersucker suit yet unwilling to pay BB's tariff, I've booked passage to Perlis in NOLA. I figure if there is any hope in their resurrection it must come this year.  Uncle Harry invited Mrs. T and I down for the weekend. It would be ungracious not to accept, besides I'm hungry.  See you Monday.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tischeborn claimant

Sir Roger Doughty Tischborne Baronet or Butcher?
by Carlo Pellegrini (Ape) published in Vanity Fair June 6, 1871

Old families living in old houses are loaded with closets, many filled with skeletons.  The Tischborne's are no exception.

The Tichbornes were devout Catholics, which until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 meant that they could neither stand for Parliament nor become officers in the armed forces. Like other Catholic families therefore, the Tichbornes lived the lives of wealthy country gentlemen, hunting, shooting and amassing land and wealth.

Catholic gentry were far and few between in the early 1800's so Sir. James Tischborne went to France for a bride, marrying a high strung, high maintenance illegitimate member of the French royal family, who loathed England, country life and her husband, although she bore him seven sons.

Roger, heir and the first born, had a birth defect, which after repeated treatment failures by British doctors, his mother sought treatment for him in France. Roger lived in France with his mother's family for 10 years, returning to England, aged 16, for schooling and a stint in the army.  While on army leave Roger fell in love, with his first cousin.

The families were aghast, forbade the marriage, but told the young lovers they were sending Roger away, and if after 3 years they were still in love the families would then consent to their betrothal.  Roger took off for South America in 1854, his intended married another quickly thereafter.

From South America Roger set sail for the West Indies where he was lost at sea, but his mother never lost hope, running advertisements for years seeking information about her son. In 1866 she received the letter she always knew she'd receive.  A man in Australia claimed he was Roger, told the story of the missing years, and said he and his family were "coming home".

Since titles had passed to Roger's brother upon the death of their father, the new boy had to prove to the court that he was Roger Tischborne.  This led to the longest court case in British history up to that time.  Mother believed him instantly to be her lost son; overlooking that he knew no French and had no defect.  On the other side of the ledger were the family that stood to lose everything.  The case, a cause celebre, dragged on as witnesses were called in Australia and South America.  The new Roger was found guilty of perjury. A second criminal trial found him guilty of fraud and perjury and sentenced him to 14 years hard labor. 

Upon his death in 1898, 5000 people attended the cemetery to pay their respects. With the family's permission  the fake Roger Tischeborne's  coffin bears a plate which reads "Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tischborne" 

There will always be an England


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

carlo pellegrini

Oil on canvas- Carlo Pellegrini by Jules Bastien Lepage
Maxminimus photo

One of the greatest newspaper marketing ideas ever was Thomas Gibson Bowles' innovation of including a lithographic print of a prominent newsmaker in each weekly copy of Vanity Fair. They have since become known as SPY prints, for that was the non de art used by the prolific artist Leslie Ward when signing his art.

The first artist used by Bowles, and my favorite was Carlo Pelegrini who usually signed his work APE.  Today would be his birthday.

Ape- Carlo Pellegrini by AJM (Arthur Marks) in Vanity Fair 1889

This is my favorite Pellegrini print, of George Osborne made especially for the then Prince of Wales in 1865. It's one I'll save from the fire.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Tichborne dole

Tichborne Dole-1671

As the New Yorker says, there will always be an England. This is one of the thousands of reasons why.

The Tichborne dole, dates from 1150, during the reign of England's King Henry II (1133-89). Held every Lady's Day since, March 25th, some two tons of high-grade self-raising flour is dispensed to the villagers of Tichborne Hamps.  Villagers bring carrier bags, pillow cases and any other suitable receptacle. Their booty - a family of six merits the maximum of 28 lbs - is particularly welcome to the elderly and needy. Only those families in Tichborne, Cheriton and Lane End are entitled to play.

Before the flour is apportioned it is blessed and the huge flour box is sprinkled with incense and holy water. Then a blessing is made on the soul of Lady Mabel Tichborne, who started it all.  Lady Mabel, a woman noted for her charity and piety, was married to Roger de Tichborne (the Tichborne's and their descendants have owned Tichborne Manor since 909). Roger did not share his wife's views on charity. Even her imminent death failed to arouse his compassion.

Mabel's last request that the value of a small portion of the Tichborne estates be given annually to the poor of the parish in the form of a dole was poorly received. Roger answered his dying wife's plea by saying that he would agree to donate each year, the crop value from as much land as she could encircle while holding a burning torch to light her way. March being windy, she being lame and near death, Roger felt he was playing a strong hand.

Mabel's curse
Legend has it that the wind abated, as Mabel crawled around 23 acres of land, while carrying the burning ember torch, after which she charged her husband and his heirs to forever give the produce of that land to the poor. To this day there is a a field at Tichborne known as "The Crawls."  Mabel added a rider to her demand. She said that should the dole ever be stopped then seven sons would be born to the house, followed immediately by a generation of seven daughters, after which the name would die out and the ancient house fall into ruin.

The custom of giving the dole, in the form of bread, continued unbroken until 1794, when having had forgotten the curse, Sir Henry Tichborne, father of seven sons, stopped the dole. In 1802, George, Henry's sixth son, died at the age of 13; during that same year the old house partly fell and was partly pulled down. Four years later, John, the fifth son died unmarried in the East Indies. Another four years saw Benjamin, the second son, die in China. He, too, had been a bachelor. A few years later, seventh son Roger died. He was married but without children. However, Henry Jr., the eldest son, managed to father seven children - all girls.

Edward, Henry's third son, changed his name to Doughty in 1826. He produced the male heir so badly needed, sadly, in 1835 his son, six-year-old Henry suddenly died. Edward Doughty immediately revived the dole.

James, Henry's fourth son, had married in 1827 and produced two sons, one born before and the other after the restoration of the Dole. The eldest, Roger Charles Tichborne, was lost at sea in 1845.

Alfred Joseph, the youngest of James's sons, born after the revival, was the only one to survive Mabel's deathbed curse. The family line continued until July,1968 when the last Baronet, Sir Anthony Doughty-Tichborne died without a male descendant. The family estate has since passed through the female line, and the crumbling manor house is now available for rent. Death duties and divorce are taking their toll, yet the dole will be held tomorrow.

True story.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Tryer

I'm trying something new this year- I'm becoming a tryer.  I am by nature happier with the old, the tried, the what I know, but to keep from ageing gracelessly, this year's motto is "try it, you'll like it." I've kicked off the new year with 2 great challenges.

I am not as technically savvy as I once was.  I'm not a Luddite, but after working for 30 years in technology I simply no longer care. Our cable company is converting to all digital service next week.  "To better serve our needs" every television in every house in Mayberry needs to install a digital converter box or cards.  Gone are the simple days of cable ready television.  I despise our cable company and having no interest in high def TV or 200 music channels I insisted to the cable company rep that we only had ancient televisions so please send us digital to analog boxes with only coax connections for analog televisions and my ancient analog TIVO.  I'd rather my old TIVO work than have 4 hi def channels of Ax Grinders. The rep thought me mad, " you don't have 50 sport or music channels?" I cope.

Each weekday I record 30 minutes of television. Sometime during the evening I watch the program then delete it. Surprisingly, it's Pardon the Interruption on ESPN.  I know nothing about sports, don't watch it, don't read about it and have no idea what's being discussed, I simply enjoy listening to the 2 hosts. My TIVO is programmed to receive 6 channels including 1 ESPN, cable could go in a heartbeat and  I'd hardly miss it. On principle,  for 6 channels I won't upgrade to digital Tivo.

 My first challenge is to smile during the digital conversion, content with the knowledge that despite my best efforts my TIVO will never work again, that I'll never watch another episode of PTI, and that my library card has been renewed for another 5 years. I'll come to like it. Thor help me if Mrs. T's television isn't right.

II.  I may be the last American adult with a home telephone but neither an answering machine nor a cell phone, smart or otherwise. I've never given a minute's thought to phone upgrades or if I've the right cell plan.   I don't app, never have, likely never will, however  I do use Google Voice for texting Mrs. T's flip phone.

Google has declared Voice is on its deathbed.  Supposedly, it's being tossed into Google + hangouts. Google's touts rate + slightly ahead of the second coming but I am unable to understand how or why making my life more difficult helps anyone but Google's advertisers. I've signed up simply to keep SMS functionality but haven't logged on and have blocked access to everything and everyone. Their home page offers no evidence of intelligent design, and is too maddenly obtuse to visit!  I must be missing something but for the life of me I haven't a clue what.  Any ideas?

Over the years I've passed on Facebook and Twitter and lived to tell the tale.  May I give + a miss as well? The new me is anxious to learn, willing to try, but please don't make me revert to AIM.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Dachau concentration camp opens

March 22, 1933: Dachau concentration camp opens.
Dachau concentration camp, located in the southern German state of Bavaria, was completed and opened less than two months after Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor or Germany, making it the earliest built of the Nazi concentration camps. The construction of Dachau took place amidst the Nazis’  consolidation of power in the German government (and very soon over all aspects of German life), and its initial purpose was to suppress any potential opponents of the new regime - political prisoners, often communists and social democrats. Later, the camp’s prisoner population came to include common criminals and religious dissidents; in 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals arrived as prisoners to Dachau; in 1938, after the annexations of Austria and the Sudetenland, 11,000 Jews were deported to the camp; and throughout the war, more prisoners from all across Europe came to Dachau. In 1939 its prisoners were relocated to Buchenwald, but by 1944 thousands of people had been packed together into this overcrowded, disease-ridden camp.  

As the first camp to be established by the Nazis, Dachau served as the model for later concentration camps and a testing ground for techniques that would be used at those other sites. Theodor Eicke was made commandant of the camp in June of 1933, and it was he more than anyone who devised the system and regulations of Dachau and most later Nazi camps. His Lagerordnung served as the camps’ disciplinary code, laying out the various punishments, ranging from hard time to flogging to death, to be doled out to prisoners who violated dress codes or attempted to agitate revolt. Although distinct from the extermination camps of Poland, whose main purpose was to kill as many people as possible as efficiently as possible, Dachau claimed thousands of lives due to poor sanitation, starvation, overworking, outbreaks of typhus, and other factors. 
Dachau, its subsidiary camps, and the approximately 60,000 people imprisoned within them were liberated in April of 1945 by American soldiers, who, after seeing the horrific conditions of the camps and the railroad cars piled high with bodies, killed a number of German guards. In May, the 7,000 prisoners (mostly Jews) who had been forced by their guards on a death march to Tegernsee were also liberated. 

From the Unhistorical Tumblr site

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mirror Image

Mrs. T and  I took in the French Middle School of Topeka, Kansas thespian's spring production " Mirror Image, a Real Enchanted Musical" starring granddaughter Liz (shown front and center) last week.  I give it higher marks than the star did. The unfortunate rookie teacher shanghaied into directing the program repeatedly failed to live up to Liz's expectations or follow Liz's suggestions.  Teach's calls to mom came fast and furious.

Heaven knows why middle school teachers show up every day knowing they'll face tweens for the next 8 hours.  Verily, it's not for the money or lovely working conditions.  The second big news in the Topeka paper this week covers the state legislature's efforts to circumvent their constitutionally mandated state school funding payment.


Monday, March 17, 2014

You are an introvert when..

Wearin' o' the green and wishing a Happy Mr. Patrick's Day

My name is Toad, I am in introvert. Sophia Dembling, writing in the Huffington Post suggests that "Spotting the introvert can be harder than finding Waldo". She should know, Sophia is the author of "The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World".  She then offered a questionnaire to help you determine if you too are an introvert.  See how well you do, with the following, the answer is unlikely to surprise:

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.
2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.
3. You often feel alone in a crowd.
4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.
5. You've been called "too intense."
6. You're easily distracted.
7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.
8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those      people afterwards.
9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.
10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.
11. You're in a relationship with an extrovert.
12. You'd rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.
13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.
14. You screen all your calls -- even from friends.
15. You notice details that others don't.
16. You have a constantly running inner monologue.
17. You have low blood pressure.
18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.
19. You don't feel "high" from your surroundings
20. You look at the big picture.
21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”
22. You’re a writer.
23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.

I scored a 20.

As if I needed further proof  I've found myself reading the for sale- free stuff listings on Craigslist for fun.

The trick to reading the ads is to mentally create a backstory.

The cable company is going all digital so the rash of old televisions is a no brainer,but 28 years of National Geographic magazines?  Cleaning our grandma's house.  The 5 trash bags full of mulched leaves was the treasure of the day.

Erin go bragh!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I'm in!

Do you have a kid who's answer to most requests is "That sounds cool, count me in." Mrs. T has one and in my experience the cool kids are mom's favorite,  the one dad's fear, simply because the kid represents the haunting other life middle age men become wistful for.

My bonus son is a product of the internet age.  He can live and work anywhere with a high speed internet connection, and a local airport, ours lives in Denver and works for a west coast organization, which requests he stop in once a month.  Since his time is his own, he never sits still.

Should someone ask, however far fetched, he responds, "sounds cool, count me in."  In March he has been to a New York wedding, Mardi Gras, the west coast to visit his employer, and today he leaves for Africa.

Over the holidays a friend said, "we should climb Mt. Kilimanjaro someday"    "Why not in March" was his reply.  Why not.

His mother is of course being motherly, and being mom's favorite he shut her up by saying "If Oprah can do it so can I."  4 days up, 2 days down, with a "safari" to follow, no internet, no cell service.

If you hear anything bad, don't tell me.  His brother has already preplanned his Facebook posts starting with "have you seen my brother?"


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Almon Strowger

Almon ran a funeral parlor in Kansas City in the 1880's.  His nearest competitor's wife worked for the telephone company as a night operator, these were the days of "Hello..Central..."  Strowger believed, but could never prove, that if grandma died during the night and if her family telephoned for funeral director their calls were directed to his competitor.  The new phone thing wasn't working for him.

In typical American can-do spirit Strowger first got mad then got even.  Always a tinkerer, he became one of the great unsung industrial heroes.  On this date in 1889 he applied  for, and was later awarded, a patent for an automated telephone switching system.  Strowger invented dial telephone service.

Hello central was out, direct dial was in.

Dial telephones were a boon for the telephone companies of the world.  About that time, a study conducted for American Bell concluded that because of the explosive growth of telephone service, by 1910 every unmarried female in America would need to be a  telephone operator. So much for consultants


Monday, March 10, 2014

The death of intelligence

If you have ever questioned why you are subjected to ceaseless bullshit whenever you watch television or read the newspaper you can most likely thank the tobacco industry.

Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson's files, "Doubt is our product." Big Tobacco's method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo's author wrote, but to establish a "controversy."  Industries with troublesome products have ever since followed suit.  

The Los Angeles Times published an article yesterday on the work of Robert Proctor, Stanford  science professor and an expert in Agnotology, the study of the cultural production of ignorance, one of the world's great BS detectors. Professor Proctor, ever the optimist, has made it his career to push back against those filling our heads with nonsense.  It is an interesting read.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Happy Birthday Barbie

On March 9, 1959 Barbie was introduced to the world at the New York Toy Show.   Although not especially funny, the lack of thought behind Oreo Fun Barbie always makes me laugh.

Toad-happy Daylight saving time

Thursday, March 6, 2014

An observation

Ever notice how the virtuous desperately want to tell you how long they've been virtuous?


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Sinews of Peace

In July 1945, soon after fighting in Europe ended during World War II, the British held post war elections in which Prime Minister Winston Churchill's party failed to be reelected. Suddenly adrift after years of wartime struggle Churchill was at loose ends. US President Truman invited him to come to America, at his convenience, after the war with Japan ended. On January 9,1946 Sir Winston and his wife set sail for New York, aboard the Queen Elizabeth along with 16,000 returning Canadian soldiers. The Churchill's arrived on January 14 and immediately set off by train for Miami, returning to Washington in March in order to travel (by rail, on US Car No.1 above) with President Truman to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.

Truman's aide-de-camp, Major General Harry Vaughan, was a graduate of Westminster College. College president Franc McCluer asked Vaughan to see what President Truman could do to induce Churchill to come to Westminster. President Truman thought the idea of bringing Churchill to Missouri (Truman's native state) was a wonderful idea. On the bottom of Churchill's invitation from Westminster College Truman wrote: "This is a wonderful school in my home state. Hope you can do it. I will introduce you." So it was that two world leaders, Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman, descended onto the little campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. The National Churchill Museum is now located there.

On March 5 Churchill gave his The Sinews of Peace speech better known as as the "Iron Curtain Speech".

...From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow...


Monday, March 3, 2014

When the going gets tough...

Today would be the birthday of General Matthew Ridgway, the man who due to his exceptional competence was given every nasty job the US could muster in his 38 year military career.

From Wikipedia: 
RankUS-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held15th Infantry Regiment
82nd Airborne Division
XVIII Airborne Corps
8th US Army
Supreme UN and US commander in Korea
Chief of Staff of the United States Army

Combat Infantry Badge.svgCombat Infantryman Badge (General Ridgway is one of three general officers who have been awarded the CIB for service while a General Officer, with General Joseph Stilwelland Major General William F. Dean[30]
US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge.gifParachutist Badge [31]
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star with "V" device and oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart
World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
Presidential Medal of Freedom.[1]
United Nations Service Medal
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor of France (1953)
Congressional Gold Medal
Order of Saint Maurice (Primicerius)

General Ridgway had the dubious distinction of taking over General MacArthur's commands when Mac was sacked for insubordination.

Throughout American history we have been fortunate in having men of General Ridgway's caliber available when needed. Sadly, we do not always use them wisely.