Tuesday, July 09, 2024

The Civil War - but with dogs

Earlier this year I added a post to this blog entitled "The Civil War - but with cats." Well it turns out representing Civil War scenarios with animals is practically a genre. I recently found this image.

Here we see Ulysses S. Grant, represented by a bull-dog type canine challenging Jefferson Davis, represented by what looks like a whippet, wearing a planter's hat, to try to get his supplies, while Jeff only has cotton on his side.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Bienvenue à Equestria ~ My Little Pony in French and English

I am a fan of "My Little Pony" which makes me, what, a "brony?" Or maybe, at my age, a crony?

I was aware, back in 2012, of the unusual My Little Pony fandom of young men between the ages of 15 - 30. I know I was aware because I can see I wrote a blog post about it back then

The brony fandom is considered so fascinating that two separate movies were made about them: Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony and A Brony Tale. I've watched both of them.

However, I was so clueless in 2012 that I included in my blog post an image of a "My Little Pony" toy from an earlier generation of the My Little Pony franchise, instead of one from the generation that really captured the brony imagination "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic."

The Friendship is Magic (FIM) animation series includes little knowing asides, which is one of the reasons it is enjoyed by adults. In one episode, called "Too Many Pinkie Pies" there is a reference back to the look of an earlier generation My Little Pony.

A FIM generation pony looks like this:


Grace à la langue française

So how did I become a Pony crony? It's because of the French. When the convicted felon Donald Trump was elected POTUS in 2016 I began to learn French with the idea that if I had to ask for political asylum in Montreal (the closest big Canadian city to New York) I would be ready by becoming bi-lingual. And as Trump is threatening to be POTUS again, I still have that escape strategy in mind.

In addition to taking classes at FIAF in 2017 I began to watch cartoons on YouTube that had dubbed French versions. Cartoons because they are mostly aimed at children which means the dialog was slower, clearer and with a smaller vocabulary than anything aimed at adults.

I started with random videos like this one, La chanson des squelettes. Then I graduated to the French version of the British animated series Peppa Pig which is aimed at four-year-olds. When my French got a little better, and I had seen every French episode available of Peppa Pig, I moved on to another British series "Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom" called in French Le Petit Royaume de Ben et Holly, which is for eight-year-olds.

Like all good TV shows for kids since Sesame Street, these shows have humor that parents can appreciate, especially Ben and Holly. Peppa and Ben and Holly were created by the same team.

So finally I had seen all the French version Ben and Holly episodes and was looking around for something else when I hit on My Little Pony: La magie de l'amitié en français

At first I watched the episodes strictly for the French, but my French was not good enough to understand all the. dialogue, and I sometimes struggled to understand the plots, so I would watch the English language version of the episode I was struggling with. And then I became interested in the show. There were two episodes in particular that I thought raised the MLP: FIM series to a level above Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly. I will write about them soon.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Monday, May 20, 2024

You must be joking son, where did you get those shoes?

Let's hear it for the 50th anniversary of the Steely Dan live recording of Pretzel Logic, the title song from the album, May 20, 1974.

(Also performed on that date, a Dan song I just recently heard for the first time: "This All Too Mobile Home.")

One theory is that Pretzel Logic is about time travel:
Steely Dan FAQ author Anthony Robustelli describes "Pretzel Logic" as a bluesy shuffle about time travel.[6] Fagen has stated that the lyrics, including anachronistic references to Napoleon and minstrel shows, are about time travel.[7][6] According to Robustelli, the "platform" referred to in the song's bridge is the time travel machine.[6]

I would love to tour the Southland
In a traveling minstrel show
Yes I'd love to tour the Southland
In a traveling minstrel show
Yes, I'm dying to be a star and make them laugh
Sound just like a record on the phonograph
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah 
I have never met Napoleon
But I plan to find the time
I have never met Napoleon
But I plan to find the time, yes I do
'Cause he looks so fine upon that hill
They tell me he was lonely, he's lonely still
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah 
I stepped up on the platform
The man gave me the news
He said, you must be joking son
Where did you get those shoes?
Where did you get those shoes? 
Well, I've seen 'em on the TV, the movie show
They say the times are changing but I just don't know
These things are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah

Saturday, May 11, 2024

New flower

My orchid was dropping flowers so I thought that it was going back into its non-flowering state - but then a new flower blossomed. I thought orchids were only supposed to bloom for a few months at most. Now it's been five months since the first blossom.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Speaking of Mae West

The New Yorker magazine recently shared a link to an article which is a reminder that the New Yorker has been around for a long time. A profile of that daring Mae West titled Mae West, the Queen of New York from 1928.

This was right before West went out to Hollywood and never went back to New York. 

And if she hadn't done, we probably would know her name no better than we know the name of Ina Claire, mentioned in the article:

Mae West has little interest in anything outside the theatre. Her reading is confined usually to Variety or any occasional newspaper. She does not even know the names of important theatrical figures unless she has come into direct contact with them. The other night Ina Claire came to see “Diamond Lil.” When Mae West was told she was out front she said, “All right, bring her in. But who is she?”

Although Claire also appeared in films and apparently could be as scandalous as West.

The author of the piece, Thyra Samter Winslow, was pretty prescient:

I have no idea how far Mae West will go, whether she will fade out to “that little place on Long Island” all good vaudeville people long for, or will write, year after year, hokum, melodramas, and sex thrillers to shock the worthies of the town, but I don’t think “Diamond Lil” is her last success.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Clara from Brooklyn

Clara Bow didn't make many talkies, and I've never seen or heard any until I found a copy of a 1929 movie "Dangerous Curves" on YouTube. Bow plays a circus tightrope walker. I knew Bow was from Brooklyn - Prospect Heights (Mae West was also from Brooklyn but Greenpoint) but I did not know how much of a Brooklyn accent she had - or at least had for this role - listen to her say "pah-tik-yah-lee cawfee." 

It was close to her own accent, but she could certainly do the mid-Atlantic accent as can be heard in this clip from "Call Her Savage." 

"This is java - but java."


Bow plays another circus performer in "Hoopla," her last film, in 1933, with an accent closer to her own.

What's really interesting about the role is that it would have been perfect for Mae West - Bow plays a wise-cracking vamp who falls for an attractive young man. In fact the role is the Mae West character - West really never played any other kind. Bow's character is even named "Lou" and West played "Lady Lou" in "She Done Him Wrong" also released in 1933. Based on the few films I've seen of either of them, I'd say Bow had greater range as an actor than West, but on the other hand, West wrote many of her own wise-cracks. 

West was almost a decade older than Bow, but West spent her twenties and early thirties in New York theater, producing, directing and starring in plays she wrote herself, and getting arrested for them

West didn't get to Hollywood until 1932, at the end of Bow's career and the beginning of the dread "Hays Code" which cracked down on naughtiness in Hollywood. Since all of Bow's movies were pre-Code, she got to show a lot of skin, including at least two films where she is seen skinny-dipping, including Hoopla. If it wasn't for the Hays Code, you know West would have tried to top Bow for who could be the naughtiest.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Shrine of Inari at the BBG

This is my favorite part of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden - the Shrine of Inari with the two fox statues in front. Shrines to Inari invariably have these fox statues - or kitsune, apparently. I know they are messengers of the god but also, they're so cute.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Orchid update ~ eight flowers

This last one appeared a month after the seventh flower.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Civil War - but with cats

I found this funny graphic at the Library of Congress website recently and then, coincidentally a couple of days later at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

It's called "The Question Settled" and the cat on the right represents the South - or to be exact "Jeff" as in Jefferson Davis, the white cat represents the North as indicated by "Old Abe" on his collar, and the cat on the left has a ribbon labelled "contraband" which is what the enslaved people, rescued from the Confederacy by the Union Army, were called.

This version from the Library Company is in better shape than the one in the Library of Congress, but you can still see spots and stains on the image. I'll have to clean that up with Photoshop one of these days. More about the image here.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Getting Right with Lincoln

Initially I called my play about the friendship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass THE LINCOLN-DOUGLASS DEBATES but decided to change it to GETTING RIGHT WITH LINCOLN.

The first title was a response to the Republican party's shameful abuse of the memory of Douglass, specifically when a Republican state senator of Virginia, in the early days of the ongoing campaign by the Republican Party to erase Black history, introduced a bill to ban the teaching of "divisive concepts."

He was open, however to the discussion of "history" for example "the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass."

The senator had confused abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass with white senator Stephen Douglas, who famously had a series of debates, primarily about slavery, with Lincoln in 1858. This was after Donald Trump had said “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” Which made it sound like Trump believed Douglass was currently alive.

But in the end I decided that too many people might not get the difference between Douglas with one S and Douglass with two Ss and so might assume the play was about the actual Lincoln - Douglas debates. 

The phrase "getting right with Lincoln" is used often by historians, as I came to learn in the year and a half of researching Lincoln and Frederick Douglass before writing the play. The phrase comes from an essay by historian David Donald published in The Atlantic in 1956, although apparently Donald originally got it from a congressman:

 as Congressman Everett Dirksen solemnly assured his Republican colleagues, that these days the first task of a politician is "to get right with...Lincoln."

I decided to use the phrase as a way to describe Frederick Douglass' gradual appreciation of Lincoln and their friendship, which was cut horribly short by Lincoln's assassination.

Also it sounds cooler than my first title, although the phrase has been used by some of the least cool people imaginable, starting with Donald himself. Although he does not explain why he finds it so objectionable that all points on the American political spectrum want to claim Lincoln as an ally - does he not understand how politics works? - he does not hide his contempt for politicians as a whole. And then of course there's the very fashionable misogyny of the time:

the seventeenth annual Lincoln Day dinner of the New York Republican Club, held at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1903. Some five hundred men attended--their wives were segregated in those happy, bygone days-

Even less cool is Charles R. Kesler, who wrote Getting Right with Lincoln: Why Lincoln's Conservative Critics Are Wrong. The article is valuable in that it demonstrates a right-winger admitting the right's hostility towards Lincoln, but a quick Google of his name demonstrates that Kesler is awful. He was a member of the Trump-led Republican Party's scheme to erase Black American history, the "1776 Commission." 

As if that isn't bad enough, Kelser wrote an apologia for Trump after January 6, in which he cites third-rate thinker and professional racist Steve Sailer

Nobody except other racists take Sailer seriously, and so I have no doubt Kesler is a racist. Abraham Lincoln does not need an extremist ghoul like that defending his honor.

More recently the phrase was seen as the title of the 2021 book Getting Right with Lincoln: Correcting Misconceptions about Our Greatest President by Edward Steers. It's an exhaustive and exhausting book examining claims about Lincoln's relationships and beliefs. Steers finds no nit too small to pick. It's not a fun read, although I do appreciate its emphasis on the fact that historians, while usually starting out from the same primary sources, often do not agree among themselves.

In a lecture about Frederick Douglass in 2018, historian David Blight used the phrase too:

...there's this old saying about Abraham Lincoln that I think David Donald coined in a 1955 essay, 50-something. And the line is simply "getting right with Lincoln." You know, choosing your Lincoln and getting - using Lincoln for your cause, getting on the side of Lincoln. What would Lincoln think? What would Lincoln have done? We kind of do that with Douglass now to some degree...

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Sassy Lincoln

While doing research for my Lincoln play, I found this photo of Lincoln. It seems more dynamic than most of them - he doesn't look so much like his monument here, more like a guy who's about to say something - probably tell a funny story. It almost looks like he's winking but I think more likely his eyelid just drooped like that.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Orchid ~ all seven flowers

Friday, February 09, 2024

Orchid update ~ six

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Orchid update ~ five blossoms

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Lennon & McCartney

I don't know who took this photo or when it was taken (1962?) but this might be my favorite Lennon-McCartney photo of all time. 

My friend Rosemary took this photo last week in Slovenia.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Orchid update - three blossoms


Monday, January 22, 2024

Orchid update

Friday, January 19, 2024


My orchid bloomed!

I bought this orchid plant two years ago and it was tiny. When it was delivered it was already blooming.

Last year it did not bloom again, but kept growing, so I repotted it and then in December I noticed the green stem shooting up and now - voila!


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Tales of the Lincoln White House

  • Hell-cat
    Lincoln and two non-hell cats
    AI generated image

  • Satan's daughter
  • High-strung
  • Demanding
  • Impulsive
  • Natural born thief
  • Crazy
  • Shrewish
  • Termegant
  • Hot-tempered
  • Imperious
  • Stingy
  • Her Satanic Majesty
These are some of the many many unflattering things that people who knew Mary Lincoln had to say about her. 

The only unalloyed positive that most people could say about Mary was that she spurred Lincoln onto the presidency because she was even more ambitious than he was.

It didn't hurt that Lincoln sometimes slept in his office and worked in his office on Sundays to get away from his wife and her rages.

I think of the Trump presidency as the answer to the question "what if Mary Lincoln had been president instead of Abe?"

I've discovered a lot about the Lincoln White House since I started researching a play I'm working on about the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Recently I happened upon a book by historian Michael Burlingame called "An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd" and wow Burlingame spills all the tea about Mary Lincoln.

They really cleaned her up for the movie "Lincoln" - she is portrayed as merely a little arrogant and sort of snippy and she throws only one tantrum. She complains at the end of the movie that the only thing people will remember about her was that she was a crazy woman who made Lincoln miserable. Since she has been sanitized for our protection, there's a tendency to think that maybe she's been unfairly portrayed. 

But she was crazy and she did make Lincoln miserable.

Many have defended her by saying, well of course she was ill-tempered and inclined to self-indulgence, she suffered so much ill-fortune, with three sons and a husband dying on her.

But did ill-fortune make her hit people - including her husband - and turn into a thief?
In 1994 the Chicago Tribune ran an article called Marygate: Lincoln's Scandal:
The diary entries include details of (Owen Hickman ) Browning's conversations with Judge David Davis, who called Mrs. Lincoln "a natural born thief." She ran up astronomical bills for a $2,000 dress, furs and 300 pairs of kid gloves, and took things from the White House when she left, according to Davis, who acted as administrator of the Lincoln estate at one point.

"(S)tealing was a sort of insanity with her," Davis told Browning, according to a July 29, 1861, entry, made 14 years before Mrs. Lincoln was admitted for six months to a Batavia insane asylum.
I'm inclined to believe Burlingame about Mary Lincoln, although I did not appreciate some of the pop-psychology sections in the book.

In addition to info about Mary Lincoln, the Burlingame book mentions that Lincoln loved cats, and I followed up on that and found this article

President Abraham Lincoln “possessed extraordinary kindness of heart when his feelings could be reached,” wrote Treasury official Mansell B. Field in his memoirs. “He was fond of dumb animals, especially cats. I have seen him fondle one for an hour. 

This is also mentioned in the Burlingame book:
The president doted on the cats, which he named Tabby and Dixie, so much that he once fed Tabby from the table during a formal dinner at the White House.

When Lincoln’s embarrassed wife later observed that the action was “shameful in front of their guests,” the president replied, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan, I think it is good enough for Tabby.”

Mary - you knew this was coming - hated pets. Something else she has in common with Donald Trump.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

David Blight on Trump and the "Lost Cause"