Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Catharine Aiken School in Stamford Hired Georges Clemenceau the French Statesman and Journaist to teach French and Horseback Riding

Today is the birthday of Georges Clemenceau (September 28, 1841 - November 24, 1929) the noted journalist and physician who became the 72nd Prime Minister of France 1906-1909) and then the 85th Prime Minister (1917-1920).

In 1861, the twenty year old Clemenceau was living in Paris where he was pursuing his studies in medicine. He co-founded a weekly newspaper which promoted Republican causes; he spent 77 days in prison because he hung posters calling for a demonstration.

In May of 1865, he became a doctor; he also founded several magazines and penned articles which denounced the government of Napoleon III. He had to flee France for the United States because the government was rounding up dissidents for detention. He set sail for the US on July 25 of the same year.

Once in the United States, he opened a medical office on 12th Street in Manhattan and earned a living as a correspondent for a Parisian newspaper. Subsequently, he taught French and horseback riding at the Catherine Aiken School, a fashionable private girls school in Stamford.

According to the Stamford Historical Society, he eloped with one of his students, Mary Plummer (1850-1923) who he later married; he had three children with her and the marriage ended in divorce.

Downtown Stamford : Alive with Small Acts of Kindness

It was raining very hard yesterday about 12:30 as I took care of some errands.

I was crossing Atlantic Ave. at the corner of Broad Street in the direction of Target.

Naturally, I was walking without an umbrella and the rain started to come down harder than ever!

I spotted the doorman from the Bank of America Building at #1 Atlantic with a beautiful blue and white patterned umbrella and as he walked by I mentioned to him: "Sure could use an umbrella like yours!"

Whereupon, said gentleman said to follow him toward the front door of his building and then gave me his umbrella saying: "Here, take it, it's yours!"

Automatically, I thanked him and walked across the street with an elderly Asian woman next to me who had witnessed the event.

As we both headed to Ferguson Library she commened: "There are still some good people in the city."

My new umbrella proudly sports the name Seaboard Properties 203-357-1600, www.seaboardproperties.com on it.

Thank you Seaboard and your commendable representative.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Albert C. Barnes Adds Late Renoirs to his Collection

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Washerwoman and Child, Ca. 1887
Oil on Canvas, The Barnes Collection

This blog is an update to my August 17th blog on the late Renoir exhibition that closed earlier this month at the Philadelphia Museum.

The inventor and art collector Albert C. Barnes of Philadelphia created the Barnes Foundation in 1922; amongst its 2500 objects are 800 paintings of which 181 are works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Barnes's interest in Renoir's works was sparked by his meeting Leo and Gertrude Stein at their famous apartment at 27, Rue de Fleuris in Paris in 1912. This began a 4 decade friendship between Leo Stein and Barnes. Both collectors developed a passion for collecting Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne and Renoir.

There is no doubt that Leo played up his deep admiration for the many late Renoirs he had purchased especially the Washerwoman and Child which hung on the studio wall of the Stein's' apartment. Indeed both Picasso and Braque, guests at the atelier, urged Leo to pay more attention to gallery exhibitions of Renoirs later works with an eye to having him add to his collection.

So, Barnes started buying up Renoirs at a rapid pace, snapping up 27 paintings between 1915-1916.

By 1920, Leo, who had split from his sister Gertrude, was in deep financial trouble; he was forced to sell 16 Renoir paintings to help him move to Italy. In these circumstances, Barnes was able to buy 8 of these paintings directly at cheap prices; shortly thereafter he indirectly acquired another five.

Why was Barnes so keen on buying late Renoirs? Here's a clue from his 1935 book entitled The Art of Renoir:
"...Renoir's career is a superlative example of all the essential characteristics of the process of growth. Nothing is ever included in his mature painting that he has not made genuinely his own, and nothing, once assimilated is lost."
The inventor saw a natural evolutionary growth in Renoir's work that reached it's 'apotheosis' in his later works. Hence his passion for collecting them.
Image source (1)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fish Flying all over Rte 95 at Westport Last Monday Evening

I was driving south on the 95 last Monday at about 5:30 PM. I had just entered at Exit 17 and the traffic was at a near standstill.

About a quarter of mile from the entrance, a truck had overturned dumping several thousand live fish onto the roadway. As I inched by the scene, I could see hundreds of small fish jumping up and down.

What a sad sight to behold, all those innocent fish.

I later learned that all the fish were confiscated by authorities and the driver was unhurt

Ulysses Grant Updated: Stamford CT Welcomes Its 18th President

My blog on President Grant's coming to Stamford in the 1880's to write his memoirs elicited two responses. Both questioned the accuracy of some of my statements.

One respondent is writing a biography of his great grandfather Fernando Ward and the other is a trustee of the Grant cottage at Mt. Macgregor in upstate New York where Grant spent the last waning weeks of his life feverishly completing his memoirs.

As you may recall, I photographed a plaque that is at the entrance to the Holbrook Estates area of our city which reads in part that the General "visited and began writing his memoirs" on this site between 1881-1884.

I met with the person behind the erection of this monument and read her beautiful Grant portfolio of newspaper stories and Grant memoribilia and could find no explicit source to back up this claim.

So is the story apocryphal?

The best I can say is that no one disputes the fact that Grant visited Ward on his estate during the time of Grant's investing money with the former.

There is no documention, however, concerning Grant's actually writing his memoirs in Stamford. Perhaps, he was thinking about his memoirs and perhaps Ward suggested he write them to generate much needed funds.

I apologize for any confusion and misunderstanding my blog may have caused and I am thankful to the two respondents to my blog to help set the story straight.

Why I Blog: a Bursting Bubble of 8 Reasons.

I blog because I care about life.
I blog because I care about progress.
I blog because I believe we should be happy and thankful every waking moment of our day.
I blog because blogging puts you in touch with yourself and others who similarly care.
I blog because when I do so, I gain much personal satisfaction.
I blog because as I gain much personal satisfaction, I reach a higher level of happiness.
I blog because I feel my observations can bring others closer to a higher level of fulfillment in their waking and sleeping lives.
I blog about the heightened and uplifting immediacy of the moment because its sharing that immediacy--those moments-- that sustains life in our families, our neighborhood and work environments, our communities, our schools, sports teams, synagogues, mosques, churches, ashrams, along our highways and byways, along the endless impersonal flow of information across the internet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Women of the US Open at the Billy Jean Tennis Center: You've Come a Long Way...

Kim Clijsters of Belgium, Winner of the US Open

An editorial in the New York Times on Monday, September 20th caught my eye.

Its title is Shortchanging America's Women and the short message is that full time working women earn only 77% of what men do for a comparable position. It urges the US Senate to pass a bill that would go a long way to even out the pay differential.

So, it is heartening to learn that at the recent US Open women earned just as much as their male counterparts.

The total prize winnings were about $19 million. The winners, Nadal and Clijsters each earned $1.7m and Kim was awarded an additional $500,000 because she earned qualifying points by playing in a USTA series leading up to the Open.

Accolades to the formidable ladies of tennis over the years: Maureen Connelly, Doris Hart, Althea Gibson Margaret Court Smith, Yvonne Goolagong, Nancy Richey, Anne Hayden Jones, Virginia Wade, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratalova, Steffi Graff, Traci Austin, the Williams sisters and so so many others.

What a wonderful two weeks it was and hats off to the women for their gallant performances.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Churchill's Bunker: Richard D. Holmes Explores World's Below and Worlds Above

My intimates know that one of my favorite historical characters that I have blogged about is Winston Churchill.

So when I saw a 2010 recent release at Harry Ferguson library, entitled Churchill's Bunker by Richard Holmes (Yale University Press, 2010), I grabbed it off the shelf.

It's an entertaining book. If you want to be sustained only by the underground life, then be prepared to be surprised.

We are told early enough that the ability of the underground bunker to survive a direct hit above was always in doubt; thank God, for Churchill and the country's sake, Hitler's Lutwaffe bombing never tested its integrity.

What impressed me about Holmes's well documented and researched history are a number of interesting characters that have a Churchill underground connection, several above ground international conferences that are reported and an excellent collection of photographs.

Two characters stand out. One is Dennis Wheatley. We first meet Dennis who worked in the Cabinet War Rooms (CWR), aka underground bunkers, with this quote from his book Stranger Than Fiction:
Hitler never envisaged being driven into a cellar; so when at last the blasting of Berlin by the Russian guns forced him and his personal staff to seek refuge in the Reich Chancellery they had to descend into a maze of chilly, hastily furnished concrete rooms having none of the amenities of a Great Headquarters. In Britain, on the other hand, the Committee of Imperial Defence had had the forethought to take precautions against the annihilation of its 'brain' by heavy bombing.
What intrigued me about this Wheatley character (of whom I was unfamiliar) is Holmes' own comment: "He was,as we have seen, being more than a little generous : but then, he was an author who travelled to the wilder shores of fiction." (p.32).

Indeed, Wheatley was a prodigious writer of primarily fiction. 75 works of his works are listed on wiki; and in the 1930's -1960's, he was one of the best selling authors in the world. Though he commanded an incredible knowledge of the occult and satanism, his writing showed an aversion to these obscure arts in practice.

So, naturally, being a blogger who savors fiction as least as much as straight historical prose, I read on in the work until I reached Chapter 4 , entitled Life in the Bunker where Wheatley is again mentioned.

Here Holmes tells us two revealing notions: first, Wheatley's books dealing with the occult and satanism kept Holmes up many a night and that the former wrote over 500,000 words on 'various aspects' of the war (pp.133-34) and that his papers included 'Resistance to Invasion' and two additional papers 'Further Measures for Resistance to Invasion' and 'Village Defence.'

Wheatley was later involved in deception and one of his many projects included misleading the German High Command as to the location of the D-Day invasion.

Another character I enjoyed reading about is Joan Bright who has many many mentions--too numerous to refer to all. She is credited with opening up the War Office to competent females (such as Ms. Olive Christopher who recruited agents such as the actor David Niven); based on her working with Ian Fleming in intelligence, the latter loosely based his Miss Moneypenny character in the James Bond 007 series on her: she is the model of efficiency, secrecy and competence.

She refused to have her male superiors treat her as a common secretary. While working in the bunkers, she was asked by then Major Anthony Head to take dictation and matter of factly told him she was neither a clerk or stenographer.

She was later promoted 'upstairs' where she was in charge of an information room for visiting commanders in chief; "With her systematic mind, she was able to marshal a mass of complex documents with clear and accessible filing systems she designed." (p.139).

In a Chapter 3 called Running the Show, we are introduced to not only Winnie's bohemian lifestyle (e.g. often greeting important advisers clothed in a large bath towel and his perennial cigar in his mouth), but to his coterie of insiders. Like a mediaeval court , "courtiers had to dance to the rhythm of the monarch's day." (96)

The insiders included Professor Frederick Lindemann, a Professor of Experimental Physics, a wealthy polymath who became his personal assistant and then his paymaster. Brendan Bracken was another eccentric confidant who had "great charm, keen intelligence and an encylopedic memory" despite "unruly red hair, thick glasses and poor teeth." He constantly amused his boss with an endless flow of stories and was promoted to Minister of Information.

Major Sir Desmond Morton was Churchill's neighbor at Chartwell in Kent and passed on information to him about German rearmament in the 1930's in violation of the Official Secrets Act. He may have been the most powerful of the prime minister's advisors being described as the Chief Cardinal and arch schemer (in the tradition of Max von Oppenheim) at Churchill's Papal Court.

Churchill did the most traveling of the three allied leaders, logging an estimated 110,000 miles by the end of 1943. Much detail is brought to bear in the section called The Bunker Goes Abroad. Particularly enlightening is the degree of secrecy that both FDR and Churchill maintained when they first met at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. FDR supposedly took a fishing trip to Maine and then boarded a US cruiser. Churchill kept his boarding of the Prince of Wales battleship under tight wraps.

In fact Churchill had such a large retinue of aides and personal staff one of his aides commented "Cardinal Wolsey might have envied" the group. (117).

Among the 27 photos accompanying the text is image number 7. Here is depicted the combined office and bedroom off the main corridor of the underground Cabinet War Room. The quarters are very tight and there was a constant hum of the 'air conditioning' system. It is no wonder that Churchill rarely slept here.

The book is an entertaining read.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crotona Park Comes Alive with Another Bronx Tennis Open

Crotona Park Tennis Scene: Circa 1930's: Tennis
as it was and Still Continues to this day

Crotona Park located in the East Tremont section of the Bronx is where I had lots of fun growing up.

It's where dad would take us in winter to go sledding down its snow covered hills.

It's where we kids enjoyed snowball fights with the neighborhood rowdies

It's where I learned to play handball by watching the 'pros' compete: my dad, my uncle and their cronies.

It's where I played softball with my brothers and other kids from the neighborhood .

About 14, years ago, on the the eve of US Open in Flushing Meadows, I revisited my childhood home at 1928 Prospect Ave. at Ellsmere Place to see P.S. 44, now the Jonas Salk School, the Cross Bronx Expressway which tore apart such an established area and reminisce about Dollinger's toy store, Gelbs (kosher hot dog deli), Powers TV (where our family purchased a Stromberg Carlson 10 inch TV)

Alas, these stores are there no more.

So, it was a treat to walk into my old stomping grounds and become a spectator at the Bronx Tennis Open--open to all free of charge. I got to see Alex Corretja, a top ranked world class player compete-standing just a few feet from the court.

In 1998, the Spanish native Corretja would be ranked the number #2 player in the world and twice would be runner up at the French Open: in 1998 and 2001!

So, it was with great delight to read Kathleen McElroy's 8/27/10 article in the New York Times: "Easy Breezy Bronx Open Adds Star Power." She talks about the "charm of the Bronx Open" which- though a satellite tourney to the US Open at the Billy Jean King Tennis Center-- allows the tennis fan to see some qualifiers play at no charge in a most pleasant ambience.

So go see some great tennis and beat the crowds; come back to my old stomping grounds.

You'll have to wait until next summer, of course.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Today is the Birthday of H. L. Mencken: Alan Purves HLM and the Art of Fine Writing

The writings of H. L. Mencken (September 12, 1880-January 29, 1956) are dear to me.

In my Freshman English Course at Columbia (designed to turn us into competent writers at the tender age of 18), we had to read a Mencken essay about mediocrity.

As much as I would like to forget this required course because of its seeming roteness, it would be impossible to repress the angular tweed jacketed Professor Purves (probably a PHD candidate), nor his monotonous discussion of the fundaments of good essay writing.

Well, in the essay in question, which I have searched for in vain , the sage of Baltimore waxes on end about the endless mediocrity in life and writing; many examples are given and somewhere in the fine flow of Mencken's own exemplary writing, the essayist portrays the detested prose as a sea of detritus overflowing his work area; and not being able to take it any longer-- with the detested prose rising higher and higher-- he is forced to climb up on his desk to avoid drowning in the torrents.

You get the picture.

What is amazing is that 52 years later, I still visualize Professor Purves at the head of the class.

What's more amazing is that Menckens' prodigious output of essays have survived the test of time . A total of 92 books have been written by and about the Sage of Baltimore.

Here is a sampling of his fine prose.

On Harry Hopkins and his aides formulating the New Deal:
Four preposterous nonentities, all of them professional uplifters, returning from a junket at the taxpayer's expense, sit in a smoking car munching peanuts and talking shop. Their sole business in life is spending other people's money. In the past they have always had to put four-fifths of their time cadging it, but now the New Deal has admitted them to the vast vaults of the public treasury, and just beyond the public treasury, shackled in a gigantic lemon-squeezer worked by steam , groans the taxpayer.

I particularly like this quote for its succinct wit: "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the flag and begin to slit throats."

Finally his epitaph reads: "If after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ted Wright is Creator of The 2010 US Open Theme Artwork

Official US Open Poster Created by Ted Wright

There is one cool refreshing experience to report on during the tropical heat wave that has stagnated over Flushing Meadows.

The themed poster for this year's US Open pictured above are colorful bright, New York City skylined, cosmic , patriotic and meteroic --not to omit a blazing tennis shooting through a racket earthbound.

Its creator is Ted Wright; raised in St. Louis, he is a multi award winning artist/illustrator. He was behind themed illustrations for the Tiger Woods Junior Golf Clinics , the St. Louis Rams training camps and the Byron Nelson Classic.

His theme is featured on all USTA printed materials such as the tickets, Official Program Guide, limited editions posters, apparel, pins, etc.

I found his posters on prominent display on the right side near the entrance to the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center, which I photographed above.

He has his own website: www.tedwright.com

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Patriots and Aristocratic Leaders: Are they Antithetic or Complementary? Consider John Hancock

Portrait of John Hancock by John Singleton Copley, c. 1770-72
Massachusetts Historical Society

Question: Can aristocratic personages make good- even great- statesmen and politicians?

Think Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his Hudson Valley estate owner/ neighbor Robert Morganthau , Averill Harriman, Alexis de Toqueville. And even John Hancock.

Hancock (1737- 1793) is best known for being the first of 56 founding fathers to sign the Declaration of Independence and his signature is the largest on the document.

According to wikipedia, he is known as "merchant, statesman and prominent patriot of the American revolution."

In fact in 1764, when his Uncle Thomas died, John- at age 27- John inherited perhaps one of the most successful businesses in the 13 colonies: a thriving manufacturing and shipping business, boats, slaves, a manor and thousands of acres of land.

It was called the House of Hancock.

So what did he do with this treasure? He continued to run the business, and like Jefferson he dressed as aristocrat which of course made him many enemies in the Boston area.

Did he squander this fortune? No. He continued to build his family fortune. This Harvard graduate became an ardent patriot and the security of a thriving business afforded him the opportunity to follow his natural passions
to advance the cause of liberty.

He became a statesman.

Here are some of his accomplishments: When the British sent in troops to enforce the infamous Townshend Acts of 1767 (which created new taxes on imports), Hancock negotiated with Governor Thomas Hutchinson and the British officer in command, William Dalrymple to remove the troops. He was successful.

Despite numerous attempts by the British Crown to interrupt his business, he remained steadfast. He 1769, he made a public speech in front of a large crowd in Boston remembering the Boston Massacre.

In 1774, He was elected simutaneously to the Second Continental Congress and to the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts.
Two years later, Hancock became President of the former assembly.

Though battling gout, Hancock continued public service by participating in drawing up his native state's Constitution.

He next served as Governor of Massachusetts for five years through 1793.

And this was a man who had to flee Boston into hiding because he was on the most wanted list by the Crown.

Hats off to this patriot.

The blogger was inspired by a C-Span In Depth interview with Gordon S. Wood the eminent Brown University Professor and historian. The program will be aired again this Saturday, September 11th.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mort Walker, the Creator of Beetle Bailey, Celebrates his Birthday Today

Born in El Dorado Kansas on September 3, 1923, Mort Walker published his first comic at age 11 and by age 18 became chief editorial designer at what would become Hallmark cards.

The character that would later develop into Beetle Bailey originated from his undergraduate experiences at the University of Missouri . On September 4, 1950, Beetle made his comic debut. Hi and Lois followed a few years late.

The strip is now read in over 1800 daily newspapers and the number is rising.

He was recently honored in July with the release of a Beetle Bailey 44 cent stamp with a ceremony at Ohio State University; the University is the new home of the National Cartoon Museum.

Mort is also founder of Mort Walker's The Best of Times magazine which is published in Stamford, CT the location of Mort's studio and residence.

Experiencing the thrill of Tennis at the US Open:

Arnault Clement on the run returning a backhand shot yesterday

Who ever said Tennis is on the decline (or that the rest of the country is in a deep recession)?

You would never know it during the fourth consecutive day of sweltering heat at the US Open held at Flushing Meadow's Billy Jean King Tennis Center.

The fans were out in droves. The Armstrong and Ashe arenas were sold out by noon. and as I arrived at 1PM, I felt almost like a squished sardine in a rush hour 42nd Street Shuttle train with no air conditioning.

And why shouldn' the venue be nearly packed to the gills when the winner of the men's or women's singles title can pocket up to $2.7 million along with the coveted trophy?

Who wouldn't want the opportunity to see Raphael Nadal, the world's #1 player win the only Grand Slam that has eluded him!!!

The tournament sponsors are heavy handed as usual. Lexus is out and Mercedes is now in along with Chase bank, Continental Airlines and American Express. The latter has its logo ubiquitously displayed on a single piece earphone gratuitously handed out to fans to follow wirelessly a play by play analysis--even on the grounds courts!

Mercedes is proudly displaying its flashy new coupes as well as its reinvented Gull Wing with a multimedia mammoth screen display booth.

I hung out on court 13 most of the day and got to see some great matches. Arnaud Clement, a surprise finalist at the Australian Open in 2001 was in top shape, had won the first set and at 4-3 in the second set, his amazing opponet Eduardo Schwank of Argentina, lost his footing and twisted his ankle; after receiving some first aid, Schwank continued to play and had to retire, though not before evening the score at 5-5.. The two were playing top tennis.

Maria Kirilenko #23 in the world is an aggressive hard-hitting Russian player who easily beat Austrian Yvonne Meusburger in 3 sets; the latter was bagled in the third.

Five Russian women have advanced to the third round: Svetlana Kutznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharopova and Maria Kirilenko.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Tennis Channel: The Coming of Age for an Elitist Sport

Steve Bellamy: Founder of The Tennis Channel

It's been a six year wait for the Tennis Channel founded in 2003 by Steve Bellamy.

The TC is now into its second year broadcasting live from the US Open
in the 11AM to 7PM weekdays slot and now on weekend evenings.. It shares daytime coverage with ESPN II , which broadcasts live from 1PM -7PM.

The network claims to have broadcaster/analysts with over 31 Singles Championships among them.

You've come a long way in such a short time.

With some jockeying on my part, I can now access Channel 399, Cablevision in Connecticut, by paying $4.95 premium for a sports tier, a very, very modest sum compared to the $50 one day fee for a grounds pass to the US Open

But, it wasn't always that way.

About three years ago, I switched to ATT U-Verse which had no agreement with tennis channel, nor were they in any serious negotiations at the time.

A group of tennis diehards went online to publicize demands to AT&T. They never responded.

So last year, I switched to Cablevision which has a very attractive Optimum triple play package: high speed internet, telephone and TV/Tivo

Thanks to the relentless, passionate and aggressive Steve Bellamy founder and current president, Ken Solomon and the many investors who keep tennis streaming 24/7!
Image source (1)

The Tennis Channel

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dorothy Cheney, Tennis Star, Turns 94 Today

Dorothy "Dodo" Cheney ( born in Los Angeles September 1, 1916) has great tennis roots. Her father Tom Bundy was a former U.S. doubles tennis champ and her mom is a former tennis Hall of Famer May Sutton Bundy.

In 1936, she reached the quarter finals of the United States Open. Then in 1937-1939, she was a member of the U.S. Wightman Cup teams. She reached star status in 1938 when she became the first American woman to win the Australian Open beating Dorothy Stevenson in the final 6-3, 6-2.

Due to World War II, she was unable to compete in the Australian, French and Wimbledon tourneys. However she played in U.S. tournaments and rose to number 3 in 1937, 1938 and 1941.

She competed in numerous doubles championships and was a three-time runner up in Grand Slam women's doubles tournaments. She holds more then 300 United States Tennis Association titles.

She has played winning tennis from her teens into her 90's.