Saturday, 8 March 2014

Bristol U.K. I dream of ...........

I dreamed the other night that I was walking through an old industrial city with my friends Kathy and Mark.

In the dream I pointed out a gorgeous old building which had spires and a dome.  I "knew" this to be the combined City Hall and Fire Station.

The city and the building are in my dreams and nowhere else. 

But all our dreams have a genesis or a trigger.  In the case of this particular dream the genesis may well have been that I am a great admirer of Victorian civic and commercial buildings, and the trigger was mostly likely the news that the gorgeous Lloyds Bank building in Corn St. Bristol is no longer open for banking.

Corn St is a narrow road in the centre of Bristol. It was until recent years the place for commerce and law.  There were many banks on Corn St, some with outstanding architecture.   The street has "the Corn Exchange" - and old building which was once a trading place for grain sellers and buyers.  There is also the "Commercial Rooms"  - formerly a multi use building for all manner of businesses. The street has/had a law court. It has a church, and the covered St. Nicholas Market.

When I was a child my Mum would sometimes dispatch me to a dusty office on Corn St, there to pay what was known as a  ground rent.  I was always in awe of the street.

(see this for Ground Rent  [now abolished in Bristol])

Ground rent - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Here are some pictures of buildings on Corn St.

St Nicholas Market

Corn Exchange with Church (All Saints?) in background

Commercial Rooms

St Nicholas Market 2

Nat West Bank  (formerly Westminster Bank)  not the grandest building on Corn St, but it was the chief Bristol Office of the Bank for which I worked.

Lloyds Bank 1

Lloyds Bank 2
Midland Bank?

Lloyds Bank 3


Friday, 7 March 2014

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Jackie Robinson Autobiography (and degrees of separation).

My good friend Fred Emrich offered to take me to a spring training baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates at the McKechnie Field in nearby Bradenton FL.

I did not accept Fred's offer, not so much because my priestly career in Massachusetts turned me into a "Yankees hater" (I knew which side my bread was buttered), but mostly because I believe that organized sports are about as enjoyable as is the preparation for a colonoscopy.

Fred was nice about this, but he encouraged me to think that sport might well be a window on the wider world, and he suggested that I should read Jackie Robinson's Autobiography. (American and Canadian readers will be well aware of  Jackie Robinson, and I suspect that my readers in other lands will have heard about him).

I finished "Jackie Robinson -  I never had it made" (Putnam 1972 and The Ecco Press 1995) today.

It was a worthwhile read  (thanks Fred).

The book made me understand Robinson as much more than the safe  "one-dimensional figure" of popular culture, i.e. the first Negro to play in American Major League Baseball and not much more.

Robinson  was multi-dimensional. He was:

A loving and devoted son, son-in-law, husband, and father.

A man who was wise enough to learn from his wife Rachel.

A post-baseball successful business man ("Chock full o Nuts" Coffee; and  Freedom National Bank in Harlem).

An independent political thinker (friend and critic of people  as disparate in their politics as Richard Nixon, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Nelson Rockefeller, and  Malcolm X,  to name a few.).

A courageous newspaper columnist.

A baseball Hall of Famer.

A tireless and successful advocate and fund raiser for the NAACP.


Degrees of separation?

As I read the book I came upon a passge on page 129. There  Robinson writes  "We had gone to Detroit to speak at a $100 dollar-a-plate   (NAACP) dinner spearheaded by a socially prominent and wealthy black physician, Dr. Alf Thomas, the head of the Detroit organization" 

The name "Dr. Alf Thomas"  got me thinking.   After a bit of research, my thoughts bore fruit.

I discovered that Dr. Alf Thomas was indeed the Uncle of my next door neighbour Edythe Thomas.

(I confirmed this with Judge Eddie  Thomas of Detroit who is  Edythe's brother).

Well I never!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Sarah Palin take another leaf from the old racist playbook

In the white racist play book black males are men  with  super-endowed penises who are a threat to every God-fearing white woman.

Fearful lest this be true white racists have an alternative explanation.  It is that black males are less than virile.

The ever boring and predictable Sarah Palin espouses this second point of view.

 This is what she is reported to have said on Fox News, according  to the Daily Kos
"People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil," Palin said to Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Monday night. "They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates."

That's it Sarah:  impugn the virility  of black males by asserting that President Obama wears mom jeans

 It's  cheap and easy

It's  been done before in the old South.

It fits  into white supremacist theory

We are so happy that "Ms. Born Again  Sarah Palin" has imported southern (Confederate) mythology to the State of Alaska - from which -  (according to Sarah)  -we can see the macho Putin in  Russia.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

From Mario Livio - a Facebook acquaintance.

See this about Mario Livio.  I am one of his very many Facebook friends.  He is one heck of a cool guy.
He wrote the following on his Facebook page the other day..  I like it very much.

What we refer to as "history", really started at the cognitive (or, "language") revolution. That's when humans started to distinguish themselves from other animals.

Given the huge importance of language, I was therefore very amused to read the following description in Dickens's "Dombey and Son":

"There was no light nonsense about Miss Blimber…She was dry and sandy with working in the graves of deceased languages. None of your live languages for Miss Blimber. They must be dead - stone dead - and then Miss Blimber dug them up like a Ghoul."

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sanctimonious bleating regarding Crimea.

I am not impressed by the sanctimonious bleating of Pres. Obama, Secy. of State Kerry (a poseur if there ever was one), alongside  P.M. Cameron and Foreign Secy. Hague (another poseur - whose unctuous voice makes me long for ear plugs) regarding the Russian "invasion" of Crimea.

One could easily forget that the U.S.A. has sponsored regime change in Chile, Panama and Grenada (to name a few):  regime change to suit our "national interest".

Or that the United Kingdom and the United States have (with others) invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and thereby caused more problems than we could ever have solved.

Or that Obama has no respect for territorial integrity as he plays his real life video games in the deployment of murderous weapons from his toys "the drones".

OF course it's none of the above  (tongue firmly in cheek). We in the west are masters at hypocrisy in foreign policy

It was not for nothing that the U.K. was described as "Perfidious Albion".

(read this for fun )

It's not that I view Vladimir Putin as a latter day boy scout who wants nothing more that to sit around an international camp fire singing "Kumbaya" and roasting marshmallows.

I suspect that he is as cynical and devious as they come. 

But above all I see him as a classic Russian nationalist. ever wary of western encroachments on the Russian sphere of interest. ( Russia has at least twice been invaded from the west  - Napoleon and Hit-er.  Lord knows when the U.K. was last invaded, and the most recent land invasion n of the U.S.A. was in 1812!).

The West's  (NATO and the European Community) flirtation with Ukraine might well have been seen as provocative in  the Kremlin.

None of what I have said is intended to be an endorsement of Russian thinking or of the Russian military presence in Crimea.

But I cannot view the world in the simplistic terms which assert:

1. "NATO, the E.C, and the U.S.A. "super white hats".

2.  The protestors in Kiev "fairly decent white hats"

3. President Viktor Yanukovych "grey hat"

4. President Vladimir Putin  "utterly black hat".

I may of course be very wrong, but "you pays your money and you takes your

"Your choice" may be to read this article from "The Atlantic". (Thanks to Richard Floyd for the tip off  on this.