Towse: views from the hill

January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter From Birmingham Jail

Filed under: history,people,video — Tags: — Towse @ 12:45 am

A reprise of something written on an earlier MLK, Jr Day, with links updated.

Monday is a federal holiday to honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Schools, libraries, city, state and federal offices are closed. The Post Office won’t be delivering mail. The stock market is closed. But here in Silicon Valley, most private firms are not taking the day off.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk

People remember, are familiar with, King’s I Have A Dream speech, but King should be remembered not only for his dream, but also for his work to bring that dream to reality, for his decision that the time had come to take steps to reach that dream.

In April, 1963, four months before he gave his Dream speech, King was thrown in jail for leading protests in Birmingham, AL.

Local white clergymen in a letter to the Birmingham News criticized King for coming to Birmingham as an “outsider” to lead demonstrations that were “unwise and untimely.”

King responded with what is probably his second-best known work, his Letter from Birmingham Jail wherein he says

[...]

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

[...]

I would hope, that if King could somehow see where we are today, he would be encouraged by how much things have changed.

I would hope, that if King could somehow see where we are today, he would not despair, that things have not changed as much as they could … or should.

October 14, 2009

[URL] Canadian disasters

Filed under: factoid,history — Towse @ 12:25 am

We were sitting around outside the Ferry Building Sunday morning talking of weird and useful Canadian bits of info.

Something someone said led me today to SOS! Canadian Disasters

For those who don’t know much about Canadian history and those who do. …

This site uses digitized collection material from Library and Archives Canada to feature 15 historical and contemporary disasters grouped under elemental the themes of Fire, Air, Earth and Water, plus the distinctly Canadian element of Ice. Each of these disasters has had a profound and life-altering impact on Canadian communities, families, and society in general. The site looks at these selected events, their scale, and their news coverage. This phase of the site also features a section on Shipwreck investigations in Canada.

July 21, 2009

Rachel Maddow: "we regret the errors"

Filed under: history,news,people — Towse @ 4:34 pm

If you don’t watch Rachel Maddow, at least occasionally, you should. I watch her whenever I’m in a hotel that carries MSNBC and I watch her over the Web. (Our dirt-cheap cable subscription does not include MSNBC.)

Last week Maddow and Pat Buchanan got into a brouhaha over Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court and affirmative action, which Maddow supports but Buchanan does not.

Here is a snippet where Maddow corrects some of the “facts” presented by Buchanan during the debate.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

The original debate is here:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

July 10, 2009

Plimsoll – trivia for the day

Filed under: factoid,history,wordstuff — Towse @ 12:31 am

Are plimsoll shoes related to the Plimsoll line on a commercial ship?

Yes, indeedy.

A plimsoll shoe or simply plimsoll is a type of athletic shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole, developed as beachwear in the 1830s by the Liverpool Rubber Company (later to become Dunlop). The shoe was originally, and often still is in parts of the UK, called a ‘sand shoe’ and acquired the nickname ‘plimsoll’ in the 1870s. This name derived, according to Nicholette Jones’ book “The Plimsoll Sensation” because the colored horizontal band joining the upper to the sole resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship’s hull, or because, just like the Plimsoll line on a ship, if water got above the line of the rubber sole, the wearer would get wet.

We’d been looking at an incoming container ship and I was wondering if the plimsoll shoe got its name because of the resemblance of the demarcation between the shoe’s rubber sole and canvas upper and the Plimsoll line on the ship.

The Web is a wonder.

July 2, 2009

On this date in 1731 …

Filed under: factoid,history,libraries — Towse @ 12:07 am

… according to The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

It was on this day in 1731 that Ben Franklin founded the first circulating library, a forerunner to the now ubiquitous free public library. He started it as a way to help settle intellectual arguments among his group of Philadelphia friends, the Junto, a group of civic-minded individuals gathered together to discuss the important issues of their day.

[...]

[from Jessamyn West's blog: librarian.net]

April 23, 2009

The classic Alice B. Toklas recipe

Filed under: books,food,history,recipes,writers,writing — Towse @ 9:46 pm

I found a good home for my softcover edition of The ALICE B. TOKLAS COOKBOOK. I have an older, hardcover, first edition that I intend to keep but, really, there aren’t many differences ‘twixt these two.

One difference, the newer edition has a foreword by MFK Fisher.

One other crucial difference, for those of us who spent our young adult years in the sixties and seventies, this edition contains the recipe that (for legal reasons) the publisher could not include in the first edition. Yes, the recipe for Haschich Fudge — no, not brownies … fudge, even though the talk was always of Alice B. Toklas brownies.

The Haschich Fudge recipe is not a Toklas original, but rather came to Toklas from painter and film-maker Brion Gysin, according to the notes.

————-
Haschich Fudge (which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)

This is the food of Paradise — of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by ‘un évanouissement reveillé.’

Take 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of coriander. These should be pulverised in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of canibus sativa [sic] can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as canibus sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognised, everywhere in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope. In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called canibus indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.
————-

Now that I’ve saved the recipe (although for what reason I don’t know), I can pass the copy of the later edition on to someone who will give it a good home.

April 22, 2009

[URL] World Digital Library launched. FREE!

Filed under: history,libraries,maps,photographs,resource,URL — Towse @ 5:29 pm

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and 32 partner institutions today launched the World Digital Library, a website that features unique cultural materials from libraries and archives from around the world. The site — located at www.wdl.org — includes manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs. It provides unrestricted public access, free of charge, to this material.

from the site: The WDL focuses on significant primary materials, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other types of primary sources.

See also UNESCO’s Memory of the World project.

[via LOC's Twitterfeed]

April 10, 2009

a fountain pen of good repute

Filed under: history,writing — Tags: , — Towse @ 7:49 pm

Letter from Joseph Conrad to his agent, J.B. Pinker

Hotel Continental
place de la Comedie
Montpellier
21st Febr ’06

My dear Pinker.

    I send you the first 13 pp of Verloc partly that you should see what the story is going to be like and partly as evidence that the Capri fatality is not likely to overcome me this year. After all, considering that we have been just a week here and that it takes some time to feel settled I haven’t done so badly. There is a good bit more MS actually written but I can’t part with it yet. I’ve also worked at the text of the M of the Sea. That and the balance of Verloc you’ll get in the course of a week. Meantime I hope you won’t think I am stretching the point unduly if I ask you to send me £20 on the day you receive this — which I imagine will be Friday — either in English notes or by draft on the Credit Lyonnais who have a house here — whichever is less trouble.
    Don’t imagine that the story’ll be unduly long. It may be longer than the Brute but not very much so. What has delayed me was just trying to put a short turn into it. I think I’ve got it. I haven’t done anything to Chance of course. I imagine it would go easiest at the Pent. But that or some other MS you are sure to have from here. I feel well and have a few ideas.

Yours always
Conrad.

PS Would you have the extreme kindness to buy for me and send out by parcel post a fountain pen of good repute — even if it has to cost 10/6. I am doing much of my writing in the gardens of Peyron under a sunny wall and the horrible stylo I’ve got with me is a nuisance.

===========

n.b. Verloc became The Secret Agent

March 27, 2009

Brooksley Born – Cassandra?

Filed under: financeconomics,history,people — Towse @ 4:12 pm

Brooksley Born – Prophet and Loss, an article in STANFORD Magazine, March/April 2009.

An article on his nibs’ cousin is the cover feature in the current STANFORD Magazine. Interesting writeup of the happenings at the CFTC in the late nineties.

If they’d listened to Born and implemented her proposals, could it have prevented the meltdown?

Update: She’s also getting one of the Kennedy Library Foundation’s 2009 Profile in Courage Awards for the days back then.

February 21, 2009

The whole affair is wrapped in mystery.

Filed under: history,San Francisco,writing — Towse @ 10:49 pm

Was surfing and found a San Francisco history site, with some interesting snippets that could evolve into a story …

[22 Dec 1857] A dreadful murder and suicide took place at the Red House, near the Race Course. The proprietor, SYLVESTER MURPHY, aged 27, a native of PITTSBURG, PA; murdered a servant named MARY ANN MCGLYNN, aged 23, by shooting her in the head and then cutting her throat; afterwards he took his own life by inflicting with a small knife, eight stabs upon his left breast and also by cutting his own throat. The whole affair is wrapped in mystery.

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