Monday, October 5, 2015

El Gran Houdini -- October 5, 2015

Cine-Mundial, August, 1918

Escapologist Harry Houdini wanted to expand his exposure to the public, so he began to appear in movies starting in 1918 with the serial The Master Mystery. It was shown around the world. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Feast of Saint Francis, 2015 -- October 4, 2015

Benny Bufano's "Saint Francis on Horseback" stands at Hillsdale Mall.  Saint Francis was one of Benny's favorite subjects. 

Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon of St. Francis of Assisi

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Birds Are Flying South -- October 3, 2015
Aviation was a hot topic in 1927 after Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic.  the cover of the 24-November-1927 shows what appears to be a well-off lady heading south for the winter, like a migratory bird.  The original Life Magazine was a humorous weekly that was published from 1883 to 1936.

Congratulations to Matt Duffy, the first rookie to win the Willie Mac award.  Many previous recipients were at the ballpark, along with Willie McCovey, who is in a wheelchair. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

News of the Week October 2, 1915 -- October 2, 2015

The 02-October-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

 "English and French commissioners seek loan for allies.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  The Allies depended on US loans to continue buying US food and material.

"Famous warship Portmouth set on fire to get iron from hull.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  USS Portsmouth was a sloop of war launched in 1843.  She served in the Mexican War and the Civil War.  On 09-July-1846 a detachment of her marines raised the US flag in the plaza of Yerba Buena, now called San Francisco.  The plaza is called Portsmouth Square.  After serving as a training ship and a quarantine ship, she was burned in Boston on 06-07-September-1915.

"Sant' Anna leaving New York for Italy.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  Italian reservists headed back to Italy on the French liner Sant Anna, which had been launched in 1912.  She became a troopship in 1915.  Sant Anna caught fire on 12-September-1915 in mid-Atlantic.  People suspected German sabotage.  She made it to Europe.  She was torpedoed in the Mediterranean on 11-May-1918.  605 died. 

"Dr. Dumba, Austria-Hungary Ambassador, leaving the Embassy.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  The Ambassador tried to foment trouble among his nationals working in US steel plants.  He said that they could prosecuted for helping the enemy. 

"Envoys from the allies arrive in New York to negotiate big loan.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  I assume these are the same men seen in the first photo. 

"President Wilson throws out the first ball, at opening of baseball park.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  I'm guessing this is the opening of Braves Field in August.  On 09-October-1915, Wilson became the first president throw out the first ball at a World Series game, when the Boston Red Sox played the Philadelphia Phillies at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia.  Wilson was a big baseball fan. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Okeh Electric Records, October 1, 2015

Talking Machine World, February, 1928

Okeh made many jazz and dance records.

 Frankie Trumbauer was a saxophone player who wrote, arranged and lead.  His orchestra usually included his friend, cornetist Bix Beiderbecke.  Bix was a major figure in 1920s jazz.  He influenced many later trumpet players.  "I'm Coming, Virginia" also featured guitarist Eddie Lang, who is listed above as "Ed."   

Miff Mole was a jazz trombonist who often led bands. 

Boyd Senter was a reed player who frequently led a group called the Senterpedes.  Eddie Lang was a pioneering jazz guitar soloist. 

Violinist Joe Venuti frequently worked with Eddie Lang.  Joe Venuti was famous for his quirky sense of humor. He sent Wingy Manone, the one-armed trumpet player, a gift of one cufflink.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Over the Top -- Chapter X -- September 30, 2015

Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war. With the 100th anniversary of the war, I thought it might be interesting to post his story. Empey later became a prolific pulp magazine author, a movie star and producer, and a playwright.

From "Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches" by Empey:
No Man's Land. The space between the hostile trenches called "No Man's Land" because no one owns it and no one wants to. In France you could not give it away.
Stand To. Order to mount the fire step. Given just as it begins to grow dark.

CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations


I WAS fast learning that there is a regular routine about the work of the trenches, although it is badly upset at times by the Germans.

The real work in the fire trench commences at sundown. Tommy is like a burglar, he works at night.

Just as it begins to get dark the word "stand to" is passed from traverse to traverse, and the men get busy. The first relief, consisting of two men to a traverse, mount the fire step, one man looking over the top, while the other sits at his feet, ready to carry messages or to inform the platoon officer of any report made by the sentry as to his observations in No Man's Land. The sentry is not allowed to relax his watch for a second. If he is questioned from the trench or asked his orders, he replies without turning around or taking his eyes from the expanse of dirt in front of him. The remainder of the occupants of his traverse either sit on the fire step, with bayonets fixed, ready for any emergency, or if lucky, and a dugout happens to be in the near vicinity of the traverse, and if the night is quiet, they are permitted to go to same and try and snatch a few winks of sleep. Little sleeping is done; generally the men sit around, smoking fags and seeing who can tell the biggest lie. Some of them perhaps, with their feet in water, would write home sympathizing with the "governor" because he was laid up with a cold, contracted by getting his feet wet on his way to work in Woolwich Arsenal. If a man should manage to doze off, likely as not he would wake with a start as the clammy, cold feet of a rat passed over his face, or the next relief stepped on his stomach while stumbling on their way to relieve the sentries in the trench.

Just try to sleep with a belt full of ammunition around you, your rifle bolt biting into your ribs, entrenching tool handle sticking into the small of your back, with a tin hat for a pillow; and feeling very damp and cold, with "cooties" boring for oil in your arm pits, the air foul from the stench of grimy human bodies and smoke from a juicy pipe being whiffed into your nostrils, then you will not wonder why Tommy occasionally takes a turn in the trench for a rest.

While in a front-line trench orders forbid Tommy from removing his boots, puttees, clothing, or equipment. The "cooties" take advantage of this order and mobilize their forces, and Tommy swears vengeance on them and mutters to himself, "just wait until I hit rest billets and am able to get my own back."
Just before daylight the men "turn to" and tumble out of the dugouts, man the fire step until it gets light, or the welcome order "stand down" is given. Sometimes before "stand down" is ordered, the command "five rounds rapid" is passed along the trench. This means that each man must rest his rifle on the top and fire as rapidly as possible five shots aimed toward the German trenches, and then duck (with the emphasis on the "duck"). There is a great rivalry between the opposing forces to get their rapid fire off first, because the early bird, in this instance, catches the worm,—sort of gets the jump on the other fellow, catching him unawares.
We had a Sergeant in our battalion named Warren. He was on duty with his platoon in the fire trench one afternoon when orders came up from the rear that he had been granted seven days' leave for Blighty, and would be relieved at five o'clock to proceed to England.
He was tickled to death at these welcome tidings and regaled his more or less envious mates beside him on the fire step with the good times in store for him. He figured it out that in two days' time he would arrive at Waterloo Station, London, and then—seven days' bliss!
At about five minutes to five he started to fidget with his rifle, and then suddenly springing up on the fire step with a muttered, "I'll send over a couple of souvenirs to Fritz, so that he'll miss me when I leave," he stuck his rifle over the top and fired two shots, when "crack" went a bullet and he tumbled off the step, fell into the mud at the bottom of the trench, and lay still in a huddled heap with a bullet hole in his forehead.
At about the time he expected to arrive at Waterloo Station he was laid to rest in a little cemetery behind the lines. He had gone to Blighty.
In the trenches one can never tell,—it is not safe to plan very far ahead.
After "stand down" the men sit on the fire step or repair to their respective dugouts and wait for the "rum issue" to materialize. Immediately following the rum, comes breakfast, brought up from the rear. Sleeping is then in order unless some special work turns up.

Around 12.30 dinner shows up. When this is eaten the men try to amuse themselves until "tea" appears at about four o'clock, then "stand to" and they carry on as before.
While in rest billets Tommy gets up about six in the morning, washes up, answers roll call, is inspected by his platoon officer, and has breakfast. At 8.45 he parades (drills) with his company or goes on fatigue according to the orders which have been read out by the Orderly Sergeant the night previous.
Between 11.30 and noon he is dismissed, has his dinner, and is "on his own" for the remainder of the day, unless he has clicked for a digging or working party, and so it goes on from day to day, always "looping the loop" and looking forward to Peace and Blighty.
Sometimes, while engaged in a "cootie" hunt you think. Strange to say, but it is a fact, while Tommy is searching his shirty serious thoughts come to him. Many a time, when performing this operation, I have tried to figure out the outcome of the war and what will happen to me.

My thoughts generally ran in this channel: Will I emerge safely from the next attack? If I do, will I skin through the following one, and so on? While your mind is wandering into the future it is likely to be rudely brought to earth by a Tommy interrupting with, "What's good for rheumatism?"
Then you have something else to think of. Will you come out of this war crippled and tied into knots with rheumatism, caused by the wet and mud of trenches and dugouts? You give it up as a bad job and generally saunter over to the nearest estaminet to drown your moody forebodings in a glass of sickening French beer, or to try your luck at the always present game of "House." You can hear the sing-song voice of a Tommy droning out the numbers as he extracts the little squares of cardboard from the bag between his feet.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Billy Strayhorn 100 -- September 29, 2015

100 years ago today, on 29-September-2015, American composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn was born in Dayton, Ohio.  He became interested in music very early in life.  When he met Duke Ellington after a show in 1938, he showed Duke how he would have arranged one of Ellington's compositions.  Ellington was impressed and invited him to join the band as composer, arranger, conductor and whatever else was needed. 

When I was a kid, I thought Duke Ellington had composed this theme song, "Take the 'A' Train."  It was composed by Billy Strayhorn. 

Billy's most famous song was "Lush Life."  It has been recorded by virtually everyone. 

Touring the world with Ellington gave Strayhorn a chance to live life as a gay man when it was illegal almost everywhere.  It also gave him opportunities to work for civil rights.  He died of cancer in 1967.