Saturday, 27 July 2013

Olden Days photo's

My pal Jeff Davies sent some more photo's of the "olden days" when we were members of an a cappella Gospel Hymn Quartette.

Here we are at the St. Vincent's tunnel and cave in Bristol, U.K. in about 1961

Richard and Jeffrey

Eric, JMP and Richard

For more about the tunnel and cave see

Friday, 26 July 2013

The militarisation of the police a cause for concern (and a good cop story)

When my neighbour was taken off to the hospital some six or seven weeks ago a City of Sarasota  policewoman and a policeman were present to lend support to the two EMT's.

The two Sarasota cops lived fully into the meaning of a police motto "To protect and serve". They were friendly, gracious, and entirely helpful.

Similarly when my neighbour's brother (visiting from Michigan) left her home with the door wide open and the house lights on (which I discovered at 4:30 a.m.) I called the local police --- n (using a non-emergency number) (do check to see if your local Police Dept. or Sheriff's Dept.  have such a number - it's sometimes better than using 911 or 999) -- the two young policemen who responded to my call could not have been more helpful.

So, I am not anti-cop!


It was maybe twenty years ago that when I returned to my office at St. Stephen's, Pittsfield, MA I was shocked to see a massive police presence at the Pittsfield Police Station - just across the street. The local SWAT team was in action, and there were armed and armoured cops "everywhere" - including some (with semi-automatic weapons, and semi-military uniforms)  on the flat roof of the police building.

It transpired that this heavy police presence was on account of a local "sweep" of suspected drug dealers.

Nonetheless it was a chilling sight -  my first encounter with the "militarisation" of local law enforcement.It felt like overkill.


This Pittsfield memory came back to me as I read of the activities of our local police, with HUGE support from U.S.Marshalls.

Here is a story from our local newspaper.


Should you want to believe that the "Sarasota Herald-Tribune"  is a leftish  anti-law enforcement "rag", please read the following from the reliably right wing "Wall Street Journal".


Whether we are from the left or the right, we should be very angry , and deeply concerned about the militarisation of law enforcement.  We are taking tiny but determined steps towards a "police state".

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Three great women. Three good books

I have just read three books about three great women.


"Helga's Diary - a Young Girl's Account of Life in a Concentration Camp" (Norton 2013, Helen Weiss).

It's a powerful account by a Czech woman of Jewish heritage -  Helga Weiss (1929- )  and of her transportation from Prague to the Terezin (Theresienstadt)  camp with her mother and father, of the presumed extermination of her father, and of the trials of Helga and her mother from Terezin to Auschwitz , then  to Birkenau and finally to freedom back n Prague. (Where within a few years they would experience Soviet Empire anti-semitism.)

Helga is a noble women who has suffered so much but has allowed her sufferings to be transformed into a creative and noble life.

* (15,00 children entered Terezin. 100 survived.

* (Theresienstadt was the "model" German Concentration Camp which the Nazis  "tarted up"  in order to persuade a Red Cross delegation that Jews were being well treated).

The Nazis won. The Red Cross was fooled. 



"Strong Medicine" Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say" (Altria Books 2008)

This is an oral history compiled by Amy Hill Hearth all about   Marion “Strong Medicine” Gould, a wise woman Elder of the New Jersey Lenni-Lenape tribe.

Here is what the "Publisher's  Weekly had to say 

March 31, 2008
"Hearth, best known for her oral history of the Delany sisters, HAVING OUR SAY, captures the voice of 83-year-old tribe matriarch Marion “Strong Medicine” Gould as she looks back on her life as a Lenni-Lenape Indian. A once-powerful tribe ranging across New Jersey and parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, the arrival of Europeans would eventually turn the Lenape into “a hidden people”: says Gould, “We kept quiet in order to survive.” With great care, Gould describes the challenges of 20th and 21st century Native Americans and her significant role in her southern New Jersey tribe’s transforming way of life. In many ways, Native Americans’ modern struggle is for a public identity, especially apparent during the civil rights movement: “[A]ll of a sudden, we aren’t dark enough…. Indian was not black. We were totally left out in the cold.” Gould locates the source of her strength and the tribe’s—the Indian way—in the extended family, and suggests that many people’s problems today stem from a lack of “kinfolk to lean on.” Poignant moments of love and loss bookend the tale, and in between Hearth works almost invisibly to craft a graceful, sustained look into the quiet struggles of contemporary Native Americans."



"With Billie"  Julia Blackburn, Pantheon Books 2005

This is a terrific account of the fabulous and tragic Billie Holiday:   "Lady Day".

The book "moved my heart " towards Billie, and reminded me more and more of the racist world in which she strived.  

Here is what the "Guardian" had t0 say:

And this (I believe) is from the Washington Post.

And here are some people who shouldn't read "With Billie" because they might get upset:
Those who are put off by descriptions of sex, strong language, drug use and drinking. Those who are too tenderhearted to read about rank injustice and awful poverty, even if it is intermittently laced with glamour and triumph.

There's quite a story behind the writing of "With Billie." Back in 1972, a woman named Linda Kuehl got it into her head to write a biography of the singer. She conducted more than 150 interviews and evidently decided to use the results in a conventional way, with the interviews as source material. But she couldn't make the book work and, perhaps at least partially because of that, seemingly committed suicide. The papers went to a private collector.

About 30 years later, Julia Blackburn also decided to write a biography of Holiday. She purchased the papers: tapes, transcripts, medical reports, private letters. Blackburn, who's written both novels and nonfiction books, tried again to bring order to all this chaos, and once again it didn't work. "That was when I decided," she writes, "this book must be a documentary in which people are free to tell their own stories about Billie and it doesn't matter if the stories don't fit together, or even if sometimes they seem to be talking about a completely different woman."

And with this tack, Blackburn did it; she pulled off a miracle of organization and editing, then transformed the whole thing by the magical (if occasional) addition of her own outrageous, melodious voice. How, for instance, does she establish the "street cred" to write about Billie, who besides being one of the great American vocalists of the 20th century, was also a sometime prostitute, regularly beaten by a string of dubious husbands and pimps -- a woman who did time in reform school and jail and had a daunting string of drug arrests? 


I cannot think about the fabulous "Lady Day" without recalling her most dangerous and subversive song (lyrics by Abel Meeropol)  

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.


Listen here:

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

For my American friends who wonder about British "Royal" names.

George Alexander Louis (newborn)

Father Prince William (William Arthur Philip Louis)

Grandfather Prince Charles (Charles Philip Arthur George)

Great-Grandfather Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh  (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark)

 (I cannot find middle names for the Duke of Edinburgh) )

Great-great Grandfather George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George)

Great-great-great Grandfather  George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert)

Great-great- great - great  Grandfather Edward VII  (Albert Edward)

Great-great-great-great-great  Grandfather Prince Albert (consort of Queen Victoria) (Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

WWII history which you may not know

More French civilians were killed the military actions of the Western Allies as they began the defeat of Nazi Germany, than British civilians who were killed by the Luftwaffe bombings of Great Britain.

“Altogether 19,890 civilians were killed during the liberation of Normandy and an even larger number seriously injured. This was on top of the 15,000 French killed and 19,000 injured during the preparatory bombing for Overlord in the first five months of 1944. It is a sobering thought that 70,000 French civilians were killed by Allied action during the course of the war, a figure which exceeds the total number of British killed by German bombing.”

Source: British historian Antony Beevor

BornAntony James Beevor
14 December 1946 (age 66)
OccupationAuthor, historian
Alma materWinchester College
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

See also

Monday, 22 July 2013

Make your will - right now!

My unmarried and childless neighbour hovers between life and death; and between compos mentis and non-compos mentis

One of her three brothers came down from Michigan. He is a decent bloke and has done his best to be present to his sister (in a hospital); to clean out the "junk yard" of her car port (bully for me); and to rid her home of rodents and other vermin.

But his hands have been tied. His sister (my neighbour) has not made a will; nor has she signed a health care proxy or a durable power of attorney; or a living will. Her condo is owned in her name alone.

If she recovers.her physical and mental health she will be urged her to take care of these matters.

If she does not recover and has to spend a prolonged time in a nursing home I believe that the State of Florida will make decisions regarding her estate (her home, her savings etc) in order to pay for her care.

If she dies intestate, there will be a long and involved probate process before her three brothers will be able to benefit from her estate.

(I have a personal interest in this. It give me no joy to live next door to an incapacitated hoarder.)


With this in mind:

 (This is not and should not be construed as legal advice. It's a list based on my own life and circumstances)

Consult with a lawyer/solicitor.

Ask her/him to draw up a will.

Make a living will.

Empower a health care proxy.

Ask about the wisdom of granting a friend/family member a durable power of attorney.

Check your life insurance and/or employer related death benefits.

Check your life insurance and/or employer related death benefits,

Make a list of all your financial documents.

Put your funeral preferences into writing.

Make sure that if you have a partner she/he (and any adult children) know where you store all your important documents.

If you are un-partnered (and especially if you have no direct heirs) document all this information, and give a copy to your lawyer, and/or your Church, and/or a sibling.

I have done all these things,  but I am sure that my list is not exhaustive.  I also know that the law is not identical in every U.S. State, or in other countries.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Check out Book T.V. on C-Span 2.

My weekends are so very much enriched as I watch C-SPAN'S "Book T.V."


Today I especially enjoyed

 You may view by clicking on this link or copying and pasting it into your browser:

Not only did I learn something about Science from Mario Livio, but I also enjoyed his manner, demeanour, and ever present smile.