Thursday, July 27, 2006 07/25/06-Brilliant Explosion

In today's encore excerpt, "the most brilliant explosion ever witnessed by humanity":

"Early in the morning of January 23, 1999, a robotic telescope in New Mexico picked up a faint flash of light in the constellation Corona Borealis. Though just barely visible through binoculars, it turned out to be the most brilliant explosion ever witnessed by humanity. We could see it nine billion light-years away, more than halfway across the observable universe. If the event had taken place a few thousand light-years away, it would have been as bright as the midday sun, and it would have dosed Earth with enough radiation to kill off nearly every living thing...

"The flash was another of the famous gamma-ray bursts, which in recent decades have been one of astronomy's most intriguing mysteries...Before 1997, most of what we knew about gamma-ray bursts was based on observations from the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) onboard the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. BATSE revealed that two or three gamma-ray bursts occur somewhere in the observable universe on a typical day."

Neil Gehrels,, Scientific American, Majestic Universe 2004, "The Brightest Explosions in the Universe", pp. 65-6

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 07/26/06-William Penn, Promoter

In today's excerpt, William Penn, using A Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia in the Province of Pennsylvania in America, a seminal document in the history of city planning, promotes the new colony to prospective settlers and investors. Promoting, that most basic of human tendencies, reaches new levels in the new cities of America over the next two centuries--from Philadelphia to Houston to Los Angeles and countless cities in between--and sets the stage for the hyperbole of the real estate developers and promoters of today. Penn and his city planner Thomas Holme, mindful of the great fire of London in 1666 and the Puritan religion of most of Penn's peers and contacts, used this and other communications to tell prospects that the city had been designed so:

" '...that it may be a greene Country Towne, which will never be burnt, and always be wholsome.'

" '...I remember not one better seated.' Penn announced, 'so that it seems to me to have been appointed for a Town, whether we regard the Rivers, or the conveniency of the Coves, Docks, Springs, the loftiness and soundness of the Land and the Air, held by the People of these parts to be very good.' Holme was careful to label the plan a 'draught' that might 'hereafter, when time permits, be augmented' and drew in only a rough approximation of topography, leaving out such worrisome details as the numerous streams that zigzagged through the area and the marshy banks along the Schuylkill that would impede the building of roads or houses immediately adjacent to that river. The Portraiture described an efficient commercial hub where 'Ships may ride in good Anchorage, in six or eight fathoms of good water in both rivers, close to the City, and the Land of the City level, dry and wholsom: such a scituation is scarce to be parallel'd'

"...both Penn and Holme described the city as if already formed."

Portaiture of Philadelphia: <>

Elizabeth Milroy, "The Politics of Penn's Squares," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, July 2006, pp. 258-261

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 07/25/06-Siddhatta Gotama

In today's excerpt, twenty-nine year old Siddhatta Gotama, embarking on the quest that would lead him to become the Buddha, leaves his wife and newborn child:

"One night toward the end of the sixth century B.C.E., a young man called Siddhatta Gotama walked out of his comfortable home in Kapilavatthu in the foothills of the Himalayas and took to the road...His father was one of the leading men of Kapilavatthu and had surrounded Gotama with every pleasure he could desire: he had a wife and a son who was only a few days old, but Gotama had felt no pleasure when the child was born. He had called the little boy Rahula, or 'fetter': the baby, he believed, would shackle him to a way of life that had become abhorrent. He had a yearning for an existence that was 'wide open' and as 'complete and pure as a polished shell,' but even though his father's house was elegant and refined, Gotama found it constricting, 'crowded' and 'dusty.' .

"....It was a romantic decision, but it caused great pain to the people he loved. Gotama's parents, he recalled later, wept as they watched their cherished son put on the yellow robe that had become the uniform of the ascetics and shave his head and beard. But we are also told that before he left, Siddhatta stole upstairs, took one last look at his sleeping wife and son, and crept away without saying goodbye."

Karen Armstrong, Buddha, Penguin, 2001, p. 2

Monday, July 17, 2006 07/17/06-Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin

In today's excerpt, Frank Sinatra, for whom the party seemingly never stopped, is at a party when the police are called:

"The Martins, Dean and Jeanne, were throwing themselves a black-tie anniversary party, a tented affair, in their backyard on Mountain Drive. A society orchestra was hired, people danced and cavorted and consumed gallons upon gallons of spirits. At just past eleven o'clock, police sirens pierced the air and halted the festivities. Alarmed, the hostess searched for her husband but could not find him. She went to Frank, who calmed her and said. 'Don't worry about it, it's probably an accident out in front. I'll take care of it.'

"Frank strode out to find the Beverly Hills police planted on the lawn. 'What's going on, fellas?' he asked. He was told: 'Well, Mr. Sinatra, we got a call about a loud party. You're going to have to tone it down--or maybe just break it up for the night.' Since most of the neighbors were in attendance, Frank said, 'Who the hell would call?'

" 'Um. I'm not really at liberty to say.' the cop responded.

"Frank gave him a look and said, 'Hey, you're talking to me now.'

"The cop shuffled and said, ''Well, to be totally honest with you, Mr. Sinatra, the call came from inside the house.'

"Frank shook his head, muttered under his breath, 'That son of a bitch.' Then said to the cops, 'Okay guys--thanks a lot.'

"He walked back into the house, climbed the stairs to Dean's bedroom, where (Dean), in pajamas, lay in his bed, holding a putter, watching the eleven o'clock news. Glancing over at Frank: 'Hey, pally.'

"Frank: 'I'll give you pally! Did you call the cops on your own party?'

"Dean, shrugging: 'Hey, they ate, they drank. Let them go home. I gotta get up in the morning.'

" 'You,' said Frank admiringly, 'are one crazy bastard.' "

Bill Zehme, The Way You Wear Your Hat, Harper Collins, 1997, p. 63

Friday, July 14, 2006 07/14/06-Art in India

In today's excerpt, art in India. From the fourteenth century to the nineteenth century, some of the most exquisite paintings in the world were the miniatures being created in India in such royal places as the Mughal Court. Most were watercolors and were typically close to 12 X 12 inches in size:

"...paintings made in India between the fourteenth century and the nineteenth are for the most part tiny works of art originally intended to be held in the hands of a single person and examined closely.

"In many ways the illuminated books...and the individual paintings and drawings that originated in the court workshops of the Indian subcontinent are like jewels. As portable luxury goods, both types of objects are treasured for their artistry, their fine colors and polished finishes, their status as courtly accouterments. Over the years, both have been given as gifts to commemorate political alliances, included as parts of dowry settlements, seized as booty in conquest, amassed into royal treasuries, sought after by collectors, preserved and exhibited throughout the world...

"When Ernest Binfield Havell (1861-1934) began to assemble a collection of Indian miniature paintings for the Calcutta Art Gallery in 1896, he did not realize that he was laying the foundation for a new branch of art history. Nor did he realize that he was initiating a modern tradition of collecting that would take root in India, (and) spread to London, Paris, and New York..."

Though the internet cannot do justice to them, links to two examples are provided below.

Darielle Mason and Terence McInerney, Intimate Worlds, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2001, p. ix, p. 1

Bombay Museum
Ravat Gokuldas Resting After Hunt: <>

Sainsbury Collection
Sultan Abdullah
Qutb : <>

Thursday, July 13, 2006 07/13/06-Saturday Night Live

In today's encore excerpt, thoughts from the early- day cast members of "Saturday Night Live":

"Bill Murray: 'When you become famous, you've got like a year or two where you act like a real a**hole. You can't help yourself. It happens to everybody. You've got like two years to pull it together--or it's permanent.'

"Steve Martin: 'When you're young, you have way fewer taboo topics, and then as you go through life and you have experiences with people getting cancer and dying and all the things you would have made fun of, then you don't make fun of them anymore. So rebelliousness really is the province of young people--that kind of iconoclasm.'

"Dan Akroyd: 'It's (the show is) too stressful, because you worry about quality, you want things to be so right, and that really weighs heavily--plus the adrenaline pump, it's like being in combat or a cop or something. You can't take that week after week. It's a young man's game, there's no doubt about it. It is satisfying when you pull something off, and it is tremendously debilitating and anxiety producing when you don't.' "

Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller, Live From New York, Little, Brown, 2002, 121-178

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 07/12/06-The French in the New World

In today's excerpt, Thomas Costain notes why England, less wealthy than France, ended up dominating the New World from the 1600's forward, while France's colonization ended up as today's minority population in Canada. From the outset, King James took a decentralized approach to colonizing America, granting multiple charters and allowing great autonomy and profit opportunity to the merchants and governors. France, through the workings of Cardinal Richelieu, the principal power in France at the time, kept a tight reign, holding for itself the profit opportunities and the governance decisions by creating La Compagnie des Cent Associes:

"The Company of One Hundred Associates! This organization...was the answer which Richelieu was supplying for the problem of Canada...

"Richelieu was creating for himself and for his master, the King...the absolute power in which he believed. The nobility ceased to carry any weight...Canada was to be governed by rules laid down in the cabinets of the new autocracy. Documents signed by the flourish of busy and supercilious pens would determine the lives of men and women who braved the rigors of pioneering across the seas. Every step would be charted, every detail of existence dictated. Free will was to be denied to governor and trader, to explorer and habitant...

"What Richelieu had done was to fix a pattern from which France would never thereafter deviate in the handling of New France. Regimentation would go hand in hand with colonization. The habitant would never be allowed to work out his own destiny, to do with life as he pleased. Instead he would be an automaton, jerked this way and that by strings in the hands of bureaucrats, every detail of his ways determined by writ and provision, unable to think for himself, even subject in marrying and giving in marriage to king-made restriction and controls.

"Richelieu was unequaled as a statesman and organizer, but he lacked in knowledge of the human heart. He did not realize that the impetus to great deeds springs from the spirits of men who control their own destinies, that the feet of strong men who go out to reclaim the wilderness and win the far frontiers of the earth must be unfettered. He had misled himself into thinking that the miracle of success in the New World could be achieved by the remote control of men of thin blood sitting behind comfortable desks...

"(In so doing) he had been the architect of ultimate failure."

Thomas B. Costain, The White and the Gold, Doubleday, 1954, pp. 108-179

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 07/11/06-Immigration and the Black Market

In today's excerpt, attempts to stop or slow immigration create a black market in migration, and historically, immigration continues through government attempts to suppress it:

"International migration is a natural consequence of capitalist market formation in the developing world (and) the international flow of labor follows international flows of goods and capital, but in the opposite direction...

"Once international migration has begun, private institutions and voluntary organizations also tend to arise to satisfy the demand created by a growing imbalance between the large number of people who seek entry into a capital-rich country and the limited number of immigrant visas these countries typically offer. This imbalance, and the barriers that core countries erect to keep people out, create a lucrative economic niche for entrepreneurs and institutions dedicated to promoting international movement for profit, yielding a black market in migration. As this underground market creates conditions conducive to exploitation and victimization, voluntary humanitarian organizations arise in developed countries to enforce the rights and improve the treatment of legal and undocumented migrants."

Douglas S. Massey,, Worlds in Motion, Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millennium, Oxford, 1998, pp. 41-44. Specific reference is made in this excerpt to works by Jacqueline Maria Hagan, Deciding to be Legal: A Maya Community in Houston (1994), and Susan Gonzales Baker, 'Implementing the US Legalization Program', International Migration Review, (1993)



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Monday, July 10, 2006 07/10/06-Alan Jay Lerner

In today's excerpt, Alan Jay Lerner's parents divorce. Lerner was the lyricist and librettist who teamed with Frederick Loewe to write My Fair Lady, Camelot, Gigi and other musicals. His father had become wealthy by founding and building Lerners Department Stores. The setting is New York City in the 1930s:

"My Pappy was rich and my Ma was good lookin', but by the time I was born my father no longer thought so. As far back as I can remember, their life was a familiar symphony in three movements: arguing, separating, reuniting. They played it over and over again but each time the second movement became longer and the third shorter, until finally, one day, it stopped after the second movement. Here's how it happened.

"Every Friday night my father went to the prize fights at Madison Square Garden...the patrons had season tickets and the ringside was always sprinkled with the faces of the great and famous. When I said my father went every Friday night, I should have said almost every Friday night, for on many occasions his taste for combat drew him to other, more quilted arenas.

"In those days people worked on Saturdays and one Saturday morning, my father told me, as he was preparing to go to the office, two things happened that had not happened before during his entire married life. The first was that while he was dressing my mother woke up. The second was that as she opened her eyes she said: 'Who won the fight?' Alas, that Friday happened to have been one of the nights that my father's ringside seat was empty. I do not remember who fought the main bout, but will call them Smith and Jones. My father, taking a chance, said: 'Smith.' My mother turned over and went back to sleep. My father went into the dining room and opened the New York Times to the sports page. Jones had won. He methodically finished his breakfast and went down to his office. Once there he called the house. There was one maid specifically assigned to looking after his clothes. He told her to pack everything and the chauffeur would call for his luggage shortly. By the time my mother fully awakened, my father and all that was his were gone. As he later explained to me, it seemed the only sensible thing to do. He realized that it deprived my mother of her innings, but it avoided a great deal of noise and he would have ended up at the Waldorf anyhow."

 Alan Jay Lerner, The Street Where I Live, Da Capo, 1978, pp. 16-17



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Friday, July 07, 2006

In today's excerpt, the song "Ol' Man River" from the groundbreaking 1927 American musical Show Boat. The song's words were written by Oscar Hammerstein II, later of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame, and the music was written by the Jerome Kern, the equally famous Broadway and popular music composer of such songs as "All the Things You Are" and "The Way You Look Tonight":

 "Although Show Boat is a musical epic with many storylines, the most important character of all wasn't even onstage. 'Ol' Man River' was one of the last songs written for the score. It's been said that Hammerstein needed the number to cover the set change and borrowed a snatch of Kern's opening 'Cotton Blossom' number and slowed down the tempo. But in an interview later in his life, he revealed a deeper motive:

 " 'The motive for writing 'Ol' Man River' was not even a song writing motive. It was anxiety about the story itself. Edna Ferber's novel, which...was a sprawling kind of novel...didn't have the tightness that a play requires...I decided to write a river theme, which would hold the play together. I put the song into the throat of a character who is a rugged and untutored philosopher...Possibly there's a protest.'

 "The song was not without controversy. The second verse appears as the first lyric of the show, heard the moment the curtain rises on a group of black stevedores on a Natchez levee: 'Niggers all work on de Mississippi.' Over the years, the lyric has been altered to..."Darkies all work..." (and) "Colored folk work..." (and) "Here we all work..." (and) in some productions it has been omitted altogether. In using the word nigger, Hammerstein, one of musical theater's most liberal souls, embroiled his song, and the show, in one of the most emotionally charged cultural arguments of the twentieth century.

 "When Kern played the song to the still-skeptical Ferber in 1927, tears came to her eyes...'This was a great song' "

 Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon, Broadway, The American Musical, Bulfinch, 2004, p. 118



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Thursday, July 06, 2006 07/06/06-The Founding of Los Angeles

In today's encore excerpt, the founding of the city of Los Angeles:

 "In 1769...alarmed that the Russians and the British might challenge Spain's claim to the (California) region...(Spain) sent an establish missions and garrisons with which to guard them. With them...came Father Junipero Serra...a former teacher of philosophy, nearsighted, badly handicapped by an ulcerated leg, and further weakened by his pious habit of scourging his own flesh in atonement for the sins of others...Nothing could quell his missionary fervor, and...Father Serra and his successors would establish twenty missions in all...including San Diego...San Jose, and San Francisco de Asis. Near the Mission San Gabriel, where earthquake tremors were so strong they shook the Spanish off their feet, a small town sprang up in 1781, settled by forty-six persons whom the mission fathers considered lazy and corrupt, interested mainly in drinking, gambling, and pursuing women...called El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles.

 "To curtail what they called the Indians' 'free and undisciplined state,' and thereby bring them to Christ, the friars used soldiers to round them up and force them into missions...The fathers managed to baptize some 54,000 California Indians during the mission era, but few survived more than a few years of mission life. The Indian population between San Diego and San Francisco declined from perhaps 72,000 to as few as 18,000, victims of poor food, poor treatment, and European diseases fostered by overcrowding. 'They live well free,' a puzzled friar said, 'but as soon as we reduce them to a Christian and community life...they fatten, sicken and die.' "

 Geoffrey C. Ward, The West, Little, Brown, 1996, pp. 20-1



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Wednesday, July 05, 2006 07/05/06-The Great War Begins

In today's excerpt, Gavrilo Princip, member of a Serb nationalist group known as the Black Hand, assassinates Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, in June of 1914. This started a chain of events that would lead to World War I, the Great War, an unprecedented war with over 15 million deaths and 22 million wounded:

"On the morning when the drama opened, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was making an official visit to the city of Sarajevo in the province of Bosnia, at the southernmost tip of the Austro-Hungarian domains...

"In the crowds along the route of the motorcade that day were six young men who had traveled to Sarajevo for the purpose of killing the archduke. Five of them...were Bosnian Serb teenagers--youths born and raised in Bosnia but of Serbian descent. All five were sick with tuberculosis, curiously enough, and all were members of Young Bosnia, a radical patriot organization linked to and supported by a deeply secret Serb nationalist group formally called Union or Death but known to its members as the Black Hand. Though the Black Hand had been active for years, Austria-Hungary's intelligence services still knew nothing of its existence. Its purpose was the expansion of the Kingdom of Serbia, a smallish and ambitious country adjacent to Bosnia, so that all the Serbs of the Balkans could be united. Its ultimate goal was the creation of a Greater Serbia that would include Bosnia, and its members were prepared to use terrorism to achieve this goal...

"...Gavro Princip, nineteen years old...pulled out his revolver, pointed it at the stopped car, and fired twice...

"...assassinations were not unusual in those days. In the two decades before 1914, presidents of the United States, France, Mexico, Guatemala, Uruguay, and the Dominican Republic had been murdered. So had Prime Ministers of Russia, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Persia, and Egypt, and kings, queens, and empresses of Austria, Italy, Serbia, Portugal, and Greece. People had grown accustomed to such things and to expecting that their consequences would not be terribly serious."

G.J. Meyer, A World Undone, Delacorte, 2006, pp. 3- 8 07/03/06-The Declaration of Independence

In today's excerpt, America formally declares its independence from England. The British occupation had become war, and Americans had already fought the British well at Bunker Hill, Dorchester Heights, and Fort Ticonderoga, and, in July of 1776, were days away from a demoralizing loss at the Battle of Brooklyn. But America had not yet formally declared its independence:"In Philadelphia, the same day as the British landing on Staten Island, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress, in a momentous decision, voted to 'dissolve the connection' with Great Britain. The news reached New York four days later, on July 6th, and at once spontaneous celebrations broke out...On Tuesday, July 9th, at six in the evening, on (Washington's) orders, the several brigades in the city were marched onto the Commons and other parade grounds to hear the Declaration read aloud...

"The formal readings concluded, a great mob of cheering, shouting soldiers and townspeople stormed down Broadway to Bowling Green, where, with ropes and bars, they pulled down the gilded lead statue of George III on his colossal horse. In their fury the crowd hacked off the sovereign's head, severed the nose, clipped the laurels that wreathed his head, and mounted what remained of the head on a spike outside the tavern."

David McCullough, 1776, Simon & Schuster, 2005, pp. 135-137

"Congress adopted independence on July 2, 1776. It issued the Declaration on the fourth...It was only after it was on parchment and brought back to Congress on August 2 that they formally signed the document...Congress didn't actually circulate a copy of the document with signatures until January 1777. Why? Well, this was a confession of treason. You were putting your head in the noose. And the war was going very, very poorly in 1776. Only after Trenton and Princeton made it possible (in December) to believe that Americans might win this war did they circulate the document with their signatures."

Pauline Maier, from Brian Lamb's Booknotes, Penguin, 2001, p. 13