Saturday, April 8, 2017

APRIL 8 = "Venus de Milo" is Found



"the ruins of an ancient theater in the vicinity of Castro, the capital of the island", adding that Bottonis and his son "came accidentally across a small underground cave, carefully covered with a heavy slab and concealed, which contained a fine marble statue in two pieces, together with several other marble fragments." This is a description of what happened on today's date, April 8 in the year 1820, when a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas accidentally discovered the statue "Venus de Milo",
one of the finest and most beautiful examples ever found of classical Greek art.

Where and by whom was "Venus" found?

There are other sources which identify the discoverers as Yorgos Bottonis and his son Antonio. The statue was found on the Aegean sea Island of Melos which is called Milo in modern Greek. It has come to be called "Venus" because Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, although the ancient Greeks would have referred to her as Aphrodite who was the Greek Goddess of love and beauty. Exactly why there is conflicting accounts of who found her is something which I have not been able to determine through on-line sources, but there it is.

More Details of Venus and Her Discovery

Whatever the conflicting of WHO found her the accepted belief is that the statue was discovered in two large portions (the upper torso and a lower portion with cloth-draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads). Fragments were also found of the upper left arm and left hand which was holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth (a usually square block serving as a base). Venus de Milo is thought to have been the work of one Alexandros of Antioch, about whose life not much is known, working about 100 B.C. during a late portion of the
Hellenistic age. Originally made in two large blocks of granite, she stands 6 feet 7 inches from top to bottom. And this is where the details of WHO discovered her get a bit murky again. Apparently a French Navy Ensign with an interest in antiquities observed "a farmer" pulling rocks out off a cave for making a wall. Whether this farmer was the Bottonis and son or the peasant Kentrotas cited above, is not at all clear to me.  But the ensign,  Olivier Voutier noticed that the "farmer" had discovered the top half of the Venus statue.  So he and his superiors bought the statue from the farmer "for a relatively modest sum." She was then transported back to Paris as a gift to Louis XVIII, who placed her in the French museum, the Louvre wherein she has remained ever since.

What About Her Arms?

There has been much speculation on this subject over the years. One account has the arms being pulled off in a fight between French and Turkish military (as this part of the world was at that time ruled by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.  But most scholars believe that the arms were already missing when Venus was found and dug out of the cave where she was found.


Sources =

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo

 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plinth

http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/what-happened-to-the-venus-de-milos-arms

http://mentalfloss.com/article/65911/15-things-you-should-know-about-venus-de-milo







Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MARCH 28 = Juan Bautista de Anza Founds S.F.



On today's date in 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza, (left) one of the great western explorers of the North American continent in the 18th century, arrived at the future site of San Francisco with 247 colonists.


Juan Bautista de Anza - a Born Soldier

Born into a military family in Fronteras, Sonora, New Spain (Modern day Mexico) in 1736 (near Arizpe), Anza enlisted in the army in 1752 and had risen to teh rank of captain by 1760. His  primary duties lay in making Forays into lands in California against Indian tribes such as the Apache.  In this area he excelled showing a keen tactical mind in these engagements.

Anza Explores California

In 1772, with a long and difficult expedition northwest to the Pacific Coast, Anza put in place the first successful overland connections between the northern California, and the Mexican State of Sonora. The Mexican Government in Sonora, always eager to expand commerce into new areas was very happy with Anza's work in this domain. So the
Mexican Viceroy directed Anza (pictured left, circa 1774) to go back to California with an eye towards setting up  a more substantial settlement along the northern California coast  For a good many years, Spanish Explorers at sea had sailed along the coast of northern California, both in the 16th and 17th Century.  But the area of present day San Francisco with it's outstanding natural features for a harbor was not discovered by the Spaniards in 1769. While they of course could plainly see it's strategic value it would be some seven years before they Anza there to claim it for the King of Spain.

Anza's Trail Leads to S.F.

In 1772, Anza proposed taking an expedition to Alta California he won the backing of the Viceroy of New Spain. This plan was endorsed by the King of Spain, Charles III, and on January 8, 1774, with an assortment of over 170 men ranging from servants to padres, to soldiers, moved out on his trek from Tubac, near present day Tuscon, Arizona. He reached Monterrey, CA. in April of 1774.  Anza returned to Tubac in
May of 1774 and reorganized his forces.  Anza was raised to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and given orders with a slightly more military nature. He was directed to lead a corps of colonists to Alta California. This was not for purely commercial purposes - there had been Russian colonies advancing from the north. A new Spanish port in the area would give safety to Spanish ships. This group moved out on October 23, 1775, arriving at Mission San Gabriel Arc├íngel in January, 1776, with the colonists having been assaulted by bad winter weather along the way.

Anza Finally Gets There

Anza's diary entry on March 25, 1776, states that he "arrived at the arroyo of San Joseph Cupertino (now Stevens Creek), which is useful only for travelers. Here we halted for the night, having come eight leagues in seven and a half hours. From this place we have seen at our right the estuary which runs from the port of San Francisco."  Anza and his men finally arrived at this spot on today's date in 1776.  Anza
stuck to the military nature of this expedition; he did not set up a settlement, but rather set up military fortifica- tions, building a fort on the tip off the San Francisco peninsula. But the colonists came some months later, a Spanish Franciscan priest founded a mission near the fort which he named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi—in Spanish, San Francisco de Asiacutes. San Francisco remained a fairly isolated post - she became an American possession following the Mexican War (1846 - 1848) at which time she had just 900 inhabitants.  But once GOLD was discovered at Sutter's Mill nearby.... all bets were off, and by 1852 she had ballooned to 36,000 with many more to come. Anza was appointed as the Spanish Governor of New Mexico in 1777.  He retired from the post in 1786.  He died in 1788.



Sources =

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/de-anza-founds-san-francisco

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Bautista_de_Anza











Wednesday, January 25, 2017

JANUARY 25 = Robert Burns is Born.




Robert Burns, widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland was born on today's date, Jan, 25 in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland in the year 1759.  Now don't worry..
I'm not going to go into any kind of in-depth analysis
of his poems, or his effect on the romantic movement in poetry other than to note that he was very much a part
of it.  I simply don't have the necessary knowledge of poetic literature to attempt any such thing.  No, this will not be a long posting. But I've always felt a connection to Scotland due mainly to my love for Scotch Whiskey, and also my love for the one Scots lass whom I've ever had the pleasure of knowing well,  And that would be my life-long friend Lisa Nicol. I came to know Lisa at the University of Texas at Austin. We both have long since left Austin; Lisa is now happily married to Martin Glennie with whom she has a beautiful child.  She also is a percussion lecturer at the University of Aberdeen.  Anyway Lisa, this one's for you!
To most of you who are not Scottish, Robert Burns is not a name that
you know at all well. But the fact is that this man wrote the lyrics to a song which nearly everyone of you has sung at one time or another.

A Bit About Robert Burns
 
   But more about that in a moment first let me give you a few facts of the man's life. Robert Burns was born on today's date, the eldest son of tenant farmers William Burnes and Agnes Broun. (Burn's boyhood home is pictured below). Burns had a basic education, and he loved
reading, indeed his parents encouraged him to read great writers such as Shakespeare. But the farm life was not for young Robert who found it bad for his health.  But Burns had discovered women, and conducted several affairs which brought the birth of several children out of wedlock. But, in July 1786, he published his first collection of verse, "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect". The work was  widely praised. Next came "The Scots Musical Museum", which consisted of traditional Scot tunes. In 1788 he finally settled down and married Jean Amour. Together they would have nine children of whom only three would survive their infant years. It was during this year that he wrote this beautiful verse about his homeland:

"Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go." 

In 1789 Burns included the following tune in the "Scots Musical Museum" with a note: "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man."  And everyone of you out there has sung this, most likely on New Year's Eve:

"Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,

for auld lang syne."

SO - A Happy New Year to us all, and a Happy Birthday to Mr. Robert Burns and his admirers wherever they may be!!!!!!!




Sources = 

















Friday, December 30, 2016

DECEMBER 30 = Rasputin is Murdered



Gregori Rasputin (left) was assassinated on today's date, December 30 in 1916. This man was as strange and mysterious a character as could have been invented by any novelist. He was a figure whom, as stated elsewhere in my Blog, belonged in a nightmare. And the circumstances surrounding his death on this date were equally mysterious, nearly to the point of being unbelievable.  But I shall try here to give the facts as best as I can manage. And you, my readers can judge for yourselves as to whether they are believable or not.

Rasputin, Alexei, and Alexandra

The basic problem was this: When the heir to throne, Alexei, was born on August 12, 1904 it was soon discovered that he suffered from hemophilia - an illness that prevents a clot from forming to stop any bleeding either external or internally.  Russia was a weak but extremely important player on the world stage especially by 1916 when she was embroiled on the Allied side against Germany and Austria during
World War One. If Alexei's condition (that the heir to the throne was in such delicate health) had become public knowledge especially during the extreme political stress of wartime, the effect would have been enormously destabilizing. Thus his hemophilia was a closely kept secret. Rasputin was first presented to the Russian Emperor (Czar) Nicholas II and the Empress (Czarina) Alexandra (above) on Nov. 1, 1905. He was not a monk or even a priest - he was a "starets" a kind of wondering holy-man.  But when Alexei suffered from his episodes of bleeding and on at least or more occasions when Rasputin was present, the bleeding stopped, Empress Alexandra became totally convinced that he was the only salvation for her son. Thus this man was kept in the very bosom of the Imperial Family.

Rasputin Becomes a BIG Problem

  As the course of the war ground on and on, the public popularity of the Imperial Family and the Empress in particular fell steeply.  The poor families were seeing their young men killed by the hundreds of thousands, seemingly for no reason, while they starved at home. The noble class didn't starve, but they suffered the same losses of their sons for the same useless cause. And all of it in the service of an Imperial Family which kept this unkempt, monstrous man in their midst for no apparent reason. According to biographer Robert Massie: "He rose 
and slept and rose again without ever bothering to change his clothes. His hands were grimy, his nails black, his beard tangled and encrusted with debris." And his influence extended to telling the Empress who should be appointed to the government and to important army commands. Having this man at the very heart of the government and the ruling family was indeed a nightmare. It was clear to anyone that this man had to go. And one man who determined to get rid of Rasputin was Prince Felix Yussoupov (above), one of the very richest men in Russia, and the husband of the Czar's niece, Irina. Felix was a fairly thin. slight figure of a man. But he was very charming and was a social friend of Rasputin's.

The Conspiracy to Murder Rasputin

   This is where the story gets difficult to believe in its details. But I am following the account of Massie, which is based primarily on the account of Yussoupov himself. And different accounts have surfaced over the years to muddy the picture. As "Wikipedia" puts it: "So the murder of Rasputin has become something of a legend, some of it invented, perhaps embellished or simply misremembered."
In any event Prince Felix invited Rasputin at a late hour to his basement apartment at the Moika (below) Palace in St. Petersburg, one
of his many family possessions. The lure was that Felix's wife Princess Irina was supposedly there, and Rasputin had always wanted to meet her. Irina was actually in the Crimea, but Rasputin thought that she was waiting to meet him. The band of conspirators numbered five: Yussoupov, Vladimir Purishkevich a member of the Duma (the Russian Parliament), an officer named Sukhotin, Dr. Lazovert, a Doctor from the Army, and a young friend of Prince Felix: Grand Duke Dimitry Pavlovich. So late on the night of today's date, they lured Rasputin to Prince Felix's basement with plenty of wine, cakes and the promise of Princess Irina.

The Murder of Rasputin
 
   So Rasputin entered Felix's apartment with it's low vaulted ceilings and rich furnishings and rugs. Upstairs a gramophone played of all tunes "Yankee Doodle" so Prince Felix could claim that there was another party going on which Irina was attending, but she would be with them shortly. There was an array of cakes which Rasputin gobbled
down, each of which had been laced with cyanide according to Dr. Lazovert. Only the poisoned cakes didn't seem to be having any effect on Rasputin.He asked for some wine which Lazovert said he had laced with enough poison to kill several men. Still Rasputin showed no effect. So Felix went up and consulted with his cohorts as to what next? Purishkevich the elder of the group  (left) urged them to finish the man off.  Prince Felix went back down holding Dimity's revolver behind his back, and found Rasputin seated and calling for more wine. Felix got him to take a look at a crucifix which he had on the shelf. When Rasputin turned his back, Prince Felix fired, and Rasputin screamed and fell backward onto the floor.

"...the green eyes of a viper..."

    The rest of the group ran downstairs when they heard the shot.  Dr. Lazovert quickly took his pulse and declared Rasputin dead. But the Dr. spoke too soon. While Yussoupov was briefly alone with the "corpse", it's face twitched, then its eyes opened! "I then saw both eyes 
-- the green eyes of a viper -- staring at me with an expression of diabolical hatred" Prince Felix  recalled. Rasputin then leapt to his feet and grabbed Felix by the throat! Screaming, Prince Felix tore himself away and ran up the stairs with Rasputin on all fours roaring in fury right behind him. Purishkevich dashed outside to see Rasputin
running across the snowy courtyard towards the iron gate to the street. Purishkevich fired two shots which missed, but got him in the shoulders with the third shot. Prince Felix reappeared and
began hitting the body with a rubber club. When at last the body was dead it was wrapped up in a rope,  and then taken to a hole in the ice of the frozen Neva river and pushed through. When it was found three days later, Rasputin lungs were filled with water. Chained, riddled with bullets and full of poison  he had died from drowning.

Epilogue....

   That is the way that the story was told by Prince Felix Yussoupov and several of his cohorts. Dr. Lazovert later denied the part about the cyanide laced cakes and wine saying that his Hippocratic Oath as a Doctor would never permit him to do such things. Rasputin's daughter, Maria disputed all of the details about the shots, saying that it was just one that had hit and killed her father.  Prince Felix was placed under arrest, but was never put on trial. Instead the Czar, had him exiled from Russia for life (above:Felix & Irina in exile). The other conspirators were exiled to distant fronts. Rasputin's grave was ransacked by the Bolsheviks following their triumph in the Revolution.  Prince Felix lived until the ripe old age of 80, dying in Paris in 1967.  So there it is, much of it anyway. Look at he facts, or research it further on your own and believe what you will. But one thing is certain: Rasputin was the
very embodiment of pure evil, and he got what he deserved - whatever the details.



Sources =

"Nicholas and Alexandra" by Robert K. Massie, Random House, New York, 1967

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigori_Rasputin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Yusupov

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Purishkevich


















Wednesday, December 21, 2016

DECEMBER 21 = First Basketball Game is Played





“I showed them two peach baskets I’d nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s peach basket. I blew a whistle, and the first game of basketball began.…"  - James Naismith

  On today's date, December 21 in 1891 the first basketball was played at the Springfield YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts.The sport had been developed by one Mr. James Naismith as a way of giving rowdy young men a way to blow off some steam during the long winter months in that part of the country when they mostly had to stay inside.

Naismith - the Athlete/Educator

James Naismith was born in 1861 in Almonte (now part of Mississippi Mills), Ontario. He enrolled in Almonte High School, in Almonte, Ontario graduating in 1883.Later that in same year, Naismith entered the Montreal's McGill University (below). Naismith was not a
particularly imposing man, physically speaking. He weighed 178 pounds, and was 5 foot 10 ½ tall. Nevertheless he was apparently a skilled and versatile athlete, representing McGill in lacrosse, rugby, gymnastics, soccer, and Canadian football for which he held the tough and demanding position of center. He graduated McGill in 1888 with a BA in Physical Education. He then moved from Montreal to become a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Naismith Develops a New Game

It was in this position that Naismith found himself with a bunch of
young boys who were very rowdy and needed some sort of activity or game to keep them from getting even rowdier during the long harsh New England winters. He was given the task of coming
up with a game that would keep the track athletes in shape, but which it was clearly specified "make it fair for all players and not too rough." So Naismith decided that the larger softer soccer ball was preferable to the objects used in lacrosse, or hockey. Next he determined that the most physical contact came when running with or hitting the ball, so he made passing the only way to move the ball from one player to the other.  And finally, he made thee goal unguardable, by making it a basket high above the players heads. Above is pictured tthe original court, with the ball on the floor (center), and the peach basket visible way above the door.  He called it "Basketball" and the first time it was ever played was on today's date of Dec. 20, 1891.

Naismith on That First Game

Years later, in Dec. 1939, James Naismith recalled thaat first game:  "Well I didn't have enough (rules), and that's where I made my big mistake. The boys began tackling, kicking and punching in the clinches. 
They ended up in a free-for-all in the middle of the gym floor. Before I could pull them apart, one boy was knocked out, several of them with black eyes, and one with a dislocated shoulder. It certainly was murder. Well after that first match I was afraid they'd kill each other.  But they kept nagging me to let them play again.  So I made up some more rules. And the most important one was that there should be no running with the ball. That stopped tackling and slugging. So we tried out the game with those rules. And we didn't have one casualty. We had a fine, clean sport."  








Friday, November 25, 2016

NOVEMBER 25 = Evacuation Day



"So perfect was the order of march, that entire tranquility prevailed and nothing occurred to mar the general joy..."

This was he recollection of Major Benjamin Tallmadge of the general  joyousness among the crowds which greeted George Washington on his triumphant return to New York City (pictured above) on today's date, November 25, 1783."Every countenance" Tallmadge continued, "seemed to express the triumph of republican principles over the military despotism which had so long pervaded this new happy city."

New York in British Hands Since 1776

Leaving the largest city in the 13 Colonies in the hands of the British had been an especially bitter pill for George Washington to swallow. In fact NYC back then was hardly "the Big Apple" of today. It occupied in it's northern reach just the southern tip of Manhattan as far the modern day Wall Street area. Nevertheless it was the most important single port in the country. And it just stuck in General Washington's heart that he had lost it and never did manage to re-take it.  His army had suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Long Island on August 26,
1776, and in subsequent action had had to retreat into New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and eventually taking shelter behind the banks of the Upper Delaware River.  From that point onward despite Washington's
fondest hope of re-capturing it,  New York City became the center of British planning and logistics for their war against the 13 Colonies. It was also the center of the American "Culper" Spy Ring under the leadership of the above quoted Major Benjamin Tallmadge (above) which continued to collect intelligence on British operations in the city.

The Fortunes of War Force the Brits Out

But the fortunes of war turned sharply against the Brits with their defeat at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. Yorktown was the largest single British offensive force in the Colonies, and once it had fallen all that they had left was New York City. The Treaty of Paris (signed Sept. 3, 1783), effectively recognized American Independence so on this date of Nov. 25 they moved out of the city, and at noon of that day General Washington rode in with his officers and troops in a group spreading
eight men across. It was a triumphant precision march down the center of Manhattan over Broadway to the Battery (the southern tip of the island). Of course there were a large number of Loyalist (pro-Brit Americans) who were obliged to scurry out along with their protectors. In fact some 29,000 such people were evacuated in the days leading up to this one. A British flag had been left atop a pole, which as a final prank had been covered with grease and all off it's cleats removed. But ultimately new cleats were attached, and the American flag was in full view as the British ships sailed out of sight.

"It was indeed a joyful day..."

As Major Tallmadge wrote of the experience: "It was indeed a joyful day to the officers and soldiers of our army, and to all the friends of American Independence, while the troops of the enemy still in our waters, and the host of tories and refugees, were sorely mortified.  The joy of meeting friends, who had been separated by the cruel rigors of war, cannot be described."



Sources =

"George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution" by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Sentinel Publ., New York, 2013

"Washington's Spies - the Story of  America's First Spy Ring" by Alexander Rose, Bantam Books,
New York, 2006

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evacuation_Day_(New_York)
















Saturday, November 12, 2016

NOVEMBER 12 = Ellis Island Closes



"In America Life is golden/
In America the flowers are more beautiful/
In America life is much better/
And that's what I'm longing to be my dear..."

The above is a song which some immigrants sung
upon entering New York harbor and seeing the statue of liberty for the first time. It  speaks of their hopes for a better life in a land off freedom. Ellis Island closed on today's date November in 1954. After the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island was the first view of America that most of the immigrants had.  It was the main clearing house for the over 12 million people passed through it's gates in the time that it was in operation, starting in 1892.

Originally built on 3.3 Acres

Ellis Island started out quite small taking up a mere 3.3 acres of land.
Eventually it was expanded to 27.5 acres mostly by using landfill produced by the excavation of the New York Subway tunnel system.
Named after Samuel Ellis, the original owner of the land from colonial days. In 1892, the first station opened. Almost 450,000 immigrants were processed during that first year.  On June 15, 1897 a fire destroyed the main building along with most of its immigration records back to 1855. Plans were immediately made for it's rebuilding with one condition: it had to be fireproof. The new building resembled rather castle-like railroad station.  The total cost for the new building was @ 1.5 million dollars.  It included a baggage room, a large kitchen and dining hall, (above) a dormitory with 600 beds. 4 hospitals, and an outdoor recreation area and garden on the roof.  

The Six Second Physical

All immigrants to America had to pass through Ellis Island, but those in first of second class had only a brief shipboard examination.   Those in third class had a more rigorous course to navigate. Upon arrival the immigrants were inspected for any visible ailments; this became known as the "six second physical."  Those who failed were marked with white chalk for a full physical. Those who passed were sent to the "Great Hall" to be processed.  This room (below) was a large cavernous place - 189 ft. long by 102 ft. wide with 60 ft. vaulted ceilings. The average
wait here was 4 hours. People coming through here asked three questions: their name, their occupation and how much money they carried.  About 2% of immigrants were denied entrance due to disease, criminal background, or mental instability.  About 1/3 remained in New York, and the rest spread out around the whole country.  This main island also known as the "Island of Hope" or the "Island of Tears" processed 1,004,756 immigrants in its peak year of 1907.  Among them were such men as Bob Hope (1908), Cary Grant (1920) and Irving Berlin (1893).

Ellis Island Winds Down

New legislation in the 1920's effectively ended the era of mass immigration into the United States. Thus Ellis Islands operations slowed down considerably. It was used as a training and detainment facility during World War II. But over time neglect took it's toll, and the
old Ellis Island complex fell into disrepair. It was for a time a training and deportation station for illegal immigrants and other such detainees.  The last such detainee was a Norwegian merchant seaman, released in November of 1954 afterwhich the facility was closed for good. Happily, Ellis Island has since been restored as a public museum in recent years.  Visitors can research through millions of arrival records to find their own family history.  And this should be a useful endeavor, as it is estimated 40% of Americans can trace some portion of their heritage to Ellis Island!!





Sources =

 http://www.history.com/topics/ellis-island/videos/arrival-at-ellis-island

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellis_Island

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ellis-island-closes

http://www.history.com/topics/ellis-island/videos/hurdles-to-citizenship-on-ellis-island