Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Proposed 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

On this 226th anniversary of the United States Constitution, I'm re-posting my suggestion for a new amendment. I realize it won't go anywhere, but I still think it's a good idea. Many so-called "Originalists," who insist that Justices on the Supreme Court should interpret only exactly what is written in the United States Constitution and no more, fail to recognize that nothing in that sacred document gives the Supreme Court the right to rule on the constitutionality of legislation. Activist Chief Justice John Marshall-- legislating from the bench--assumed that right in the Marbury v. Madison Case; and that is all the more reason I contend that it is undemocratic for the Supreme Court to reach decisions by a simple five/four majority when overruling the two other co-equal branches of government.


Oh, no! Not another nut attempting to tamper with the Constitution! Don’t people realize that our Republic has endured so long in part because our Founding Fathers bequeathed to us an elegantly sparse Constitution? Why clutter it up with unnecessary amendments!

At the outset, I must confess, I am not a supporter of the amendment to protect the flag. Yes, I do revere the flag of the United States of America. Some of my fondest memories from childhood were raising and lowering the flag at my maternal grandfather's summer house in the Thousand Islands on the Saint Lawrence River near Alexandria Bay, New York. We had an elaborate ceremony at the beginning and end of each day. We were extremely diligent not to let the flag touch the ground. We folded it carefully in military triangle fashion. (Curiously, I recall some regulation, which specified that burning was the only lawful way to dispose of an old, tattered flag). My grandfather had been a staunchly conservative Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania during the New Deal. I am one of his two namesakes. He and I would most likely have disagreed on most issues; but admiration for our flag is one on which we did agree. (Then there are the mythic images of Iwo Jima, Fort McHenry, and ‘Old Glory’ on the moon).

My reason for opposition to the proposed amendment is: despite the opening words of the Pledge of Allegiance, I do not consider that I actually pledge allegiance to the flag— a piece of cloth— instead, I pledge allegiance to the country, to the constitution, to the concepts which establish our liberty. And one of those concepts is freedom of expression as protected in the First Amendment. I consider the proposed flag amendment to be so much political posturing. I'm not aware of any current outbreaks of flag burning. But even more important than protecting the flag, is redefining a proper balance between the three branches of the Federal Government.

Recently, there have been a number of five-to-four decisions by the Supreme Court, which ruled several U.S. laws to be unconstitutional. On the face of it, it seems to me, that a one-vote majority, by a supposedly third co-equal branch of government over-ruling legislation passed and signed by two other co-equal branches of government, is structurally out of balance. But you say, doesn’t the President, as a majority of one, have the authority to veto legislation passed by the two houses of Congress? Yes, but Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution clearly defines a procedure for the Congress to override the President’s veto by means of a two thirds vote in both houses.

The Supreme Court, on the other hand, has no such specific procedure defined in Article III. Section 2 of Article III apparently gives jurisdiction over Laws of the United States to the Supreme Court; but it wasn’t until fourteen years after ratification— a time when many, if not most, of the original framers were still alive to be consulted about their intent— that the doctrine of judicial review was asserted in the 1803 decision by Chief Justice John Marshall in the seminal Marbury v. Madison case.

The doctrine of judicial review is clearly established, so why consider a constitutional amendment on the matter 205 years later? Let me offer an example. It wasn’t until 126 years after the assertion of a Vice-President to be called “President” instead of “Acting-President” when succeeding in mid-term, that an amendment clearly defined what had already been established in practice. That was done in Section 1 of the 25th Amendment ratified in 1967. Had William Henry Harrison died in the last year of his term rather than near the end of his first month in office, Vice-President Tyler might have been content to have been addressed as “Acting-President” (as, indeed, Vladimir Putin did in the Russian Republic). Forty-seven months was apparently too long. Besides, Tyler held the office, and so appropriated the title. The precedent was set and used six more times before the 25th Amendment legalized the title as part of the procedure for selecting a new Vice-President. So here goes my proposed amendment for clarifying judicial review.

28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America


Section 1. The Supreme Court of the United States retains authority for judicial review of all United States Laws as passed by the two houses of Congress and signed by the President, or passed by two thirds override of a Presidential veto.

Section 2. To render a United States Law unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of the United States must decide by an affirmative vote of at least two thirds of the justices on the Supreme Court.

Section 3. This amendment does not apply retroactively to previously adjudicated cases, nor to other jurisdictions enumerated in Article III.


Under the current configuration, a two-thirds vote by the Supreme Court would be six to three— or two to one— surely a more powerful and a greater moral authority for overturning legislation than a simple majority. Linda Greenhouse, in her report about the May 15, 2000, five-to-four vote overturning the Violence Against Women Act, wrote in the New York Times published May 17, 2000,that the decision in the United States v. Morrison represents the “…court’s new federalism jurisprudence….: holding Congress to its limited and enumerated powers.”

The problem is, there is no countering limited and enumerated power defined for the court, itself, in the matter of judicial review of legislation. For all the criticism of the so-called activist Warren Court, many of its most controversial decisions were passed unanimously. This proposed amendment falls short of that, but is an attempt to set aright a structural imbalance between three co-equal branches of government; so that a single Supreme Court Justice would not be able to invalidate an established law simply by majority vote.

Granted, I might regret some future five-to-four vote, which would not prevail because of this new amendment. So be it. The procedure, at least, would be appropriate; and a more proper balance, established between the three branches of the Federal Government.

Rob Bell

San Francisco

Robert F. Rich Bell
Grandson of The Hon. Robert F. Rich
Member of Congress
16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania 1931-51

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


(Grito de Dolores) Independence from Spain declared on September 16, 1810. The Grito de Dolores ("Cry of/from Dolores") was the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence, uttered on September 16, 1810 by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato.

Hidalgo and several educated criollos were involved in a planned revolt against the Spanish colonial government, and when the plotters were betrayed, he declared that war should be waged against the Spaniards. Just before the dawn of September 16, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation. Flanked by Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, he addressed the people in front of his church, encouraging them to revolt. The exact words of the speech are lost; however, a variety of "reconstructed versions" have been published. Hidalgo is believed to have cried: "Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe [a symbol of the Amerindians' faith], death to bad government, and death to the Spaniards!" The Battle of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. Mexico's independence would not be recognized by the Spanish crown until September 27, 1821, after a decade of war.

The United Mexican States (Spanish: Estados Unidos Mexicanos), commonly known as Mexico, is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2 million square kilometres, Mexico is the fifth-largest country in the Americas by total area and the 14th largest independent nation in the world. With an estimated population of 109 million, it is the 11th most populous country. Mexico is a federation comprising thirty-one states and a Federal District, the capital city.

In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica many cultures matured into advanced civilizations such as the Olmec, the Toltec, the Teotihuacan, the Maya and the Aztec before the first contact with Europeans. In 1521, Spain created the New Spain which would eventually become Mexico as the colony gained independence in 1821. The post-independence period was characterized by economic instability, territorial secession and civil war, including foreign intervention, two empires and two long domestic dictatorships. The latter led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910, which culminated with the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution and the emergence of the country's current political system. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time that an opposition party won the presidency from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI).

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There's a bronze statue of the priest Hildago in Dolores Park, San Francisco, just a few blocks from my flat.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Battle of Britain 1940


The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England or Luftschlacht um Großbritannien, literally "Air battle for England" or "Air battle for Great Britain") is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940. The objective of the campaign was to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially Fighter Command. The name derives from a famous speech delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the House of Commons: "...the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin."

The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date. From July 1940 coastal shipping convoys and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth, were the main targets; one month later the Luftwaffe shifted its attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure. As the battle progressed the Luftwaffe also targeted aircraft factories and ground infrastructure. Eventually the Luftwaffe resorted to attacking areas of political significance and using terror bombing tactics.

The failure of Germany to achieve its objectives of destroying Britain's air defences, or forcing Britain to negotiate an armistice or an outright surrender, is considered its first major defeat and one of the crucial turning points in the war.If Germany had gained air superiority over England, Adolf Hitler might have launched Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain.

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When I first moved to San Francisco in the early 70's, Grace Cathedral hosted a Battle of Britain service sponsored by the British Legion. It was a grand and solemn affair with bagpipes and military bands, followed by an elaborate tea downstairs. I sang in the choir for this service for several years. I can't remember when they stopped commemorating the event-- possibly in the late 1980's.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

ARTHUR WELLESLEY, 1st DUKE of WELLINGTON ~ c.April 29/May 1, 1769 ~ September 14, 1852

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS (c. 29 April/1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852), was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the nineteenth century.

Born in Ireland to a prominent Ascendancy family, he was commissioned an ensign in the British Army in 1787. Serving in Ireland as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland he was also elected as a Member of Parliament in the Irish House of Commons. A colonel by 1796, Wellesley saw action in the Netherlands and later India where he fought in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War at the Battle of Seringapatam. He was later appointed governor of Seringapatam and Mysore.

Wellesley rose to prominence as a general during the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, and was promoted to the rank of field marshal after leading the allied forces to victory against the French at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Following Napoleon's exile in 1814, he served as the ambassador to France and was granted a Dukedom. During the Hundred Days in 1815, he commanded the allied army which defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

An opponent of parliamentary reform, he was given the epithet the "Iron Duke" because of the iron shutters he had fixed to his windows to stop the pro-reform mob from breaking them. He was twice Prime Minister under the Tory party and oversaw the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829. He was Prime Minister from 1828–30 and served briefly in 1834. He was unable to prevent the passage of the Reform Act of 1832 and continued as one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement. He remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death in 1852.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG ~ September 13, 1874 ~ July 13, 1951

Arnold Schoenberg (13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951) was an Austrian and later American composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School. He used the spelling Schönberg until after his move to the United States in 1934 (Steinberg 1995, 463), "in deference to American practice" (Foss 1951, 401), though one writer claims he made the change a year earlier (Ross 2007, 45).

Schoenberg was known early in his career for successfully extending the traditionally opposed German Romantic traditions of both Brahms and Wagner, and later and more notably for his pioneering innovations in atonality. During the rise of the Nazi party in Austria, his music was labeled, alongside swing and jazz, as degenerate art. In the 1920s, he developed the twelve-tone technique, a widely influential compositional method of manipulating an ordered series of all twelve notes in the chromatic scale. He also coined the term developing variation, and was the first modern composer to embrace ways of developing motifs without resorting to the dominance of a centralized melodic idea. Schoenberg's approach, both in terms of harmony and development, is among the major landmarks of 20th century musical thought; at least three generations of composers in the European and American traditions have consciously extended his thinking and, in some cases, passionately reacted against it.

Schoenberg was also a painter, an important music theorist, and an influential teacher of composition; his students included Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Hanns Eisler, and later John Cage, Lou Harrison, Earl Kim, and many other prominent musicians. Many of Schoenberg's practices, including the formalization of compositional method, and his habit of openly inviting audiences to think analytically, are echoed in avant-garde musical thought throughout the 20th century. His often polemical views of music history and aesthetics were crucial to many of the 20th century's significant musicologists and critics, including Theodor Adorno, Charles Rosen, and Carl Dahlhaus.

Schoenberg's archival legacy is collected at the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Battle of Vienna ~ September 12, 1683 ~ Origin of the Croissant

Years ago, back in the 1960’s and ’70’s, there was an SF Chronicle columnist named Charles McCabe. I remember a particular column of his that must have been from the late ’70’s. I can’t locate it now, but think I still recall much of it.

McCabe was staying at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong on the Kowloon side. (I had had tea there in October, 1977; so I think the column was written sometime after that.) Anyway, McCabe had breakfast brought up to his room. He remarked that there was a copy of the London Times, a single red rose in a bud vase, a pot of strong French roast coffee, and.... a perfect croissant. The column went on to discuss the glories and origin of that marvelous breakfast pastry.

It goes back to the second Turkish invasion of Vienna in 1683. (The first invasion in 1529 was conducted personally by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. But after a siege of several weeks, he retreated without capturing the city because of illness and approaching winter. Legend is that coffee was introduced to Europe when the Turkish forces— in their rushed retreat— left whole and ground coffee beans behind with their provisions.)

Anyway, our tale deals with the second Turkish invasion in 1683 (when Charles II was King of England, and Louis XIV, master of Europe).

According to Wikipedia: The large-scale battle was won by Polish-Austrian-German forces led by King of Poland Jan III Sobieski against the Ottoman Empire army commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha.

The siege itself began on 14 July 1683, by the Ottoman Empire army of approximately 90,000 men. The besieging force was composed of 60 ortas of Jannisaries (12,000 men paper strength) with an observation army of c.70,000 men watching the countryside. The decisive battle took place on 12 September, after the united relief army of 84,450 men had arrived.

McCabe related that the Turks attempted to undermine the walls around Vienna by digging a tunnel and planting explosives before the arrival of the relief army commanded by Polish King Jan Sobieski. (The wall was where the Ringstrasse is today in modern Vienna.)

According to McCabe, some Viennese bakers had their ovens inside the walls, and heard the Turks’ tunneling. After the bakers warned the military authorities, the Viennese dug a counter tunnel and confronted the Turks and bought time for Sobieski’s arrival to save the day.

In commemoration of the event, the bakers created a new pastry in the shape of a Turkish crescent. So why is a Viennese pastry considered quintessentially French today? Well, when Marie Antoinette became Dauphine of France, she brought along her favorite Viennese pastry chef, who introduced the croissant to France and from there to the world.

According to another legend, even the origin of the bagel can be traced to the same battle. Supposedly the shape of the bagel commemorates the styrrups of King Jan Sobieski’s cavalry. Imagine that: two staples of modern breakfast originating from the same event!

The Austrians, Germans and Russians should have remembered and have been very grateful to Jan Sobieski. Perhaps they were— even as they partitioned Poland the following century.

When my brother Sherry (Sheridan) worked at the embassy in Paris in the early 1980’s, I visited him over my birthday. Just before returning to San Francisco, my sister-in-law Sallie helped me buy ten fresh, out-of-the-oven, croissants from a bakery near their apartment in the Place du Pantheon. We carefully wrapped them in slightly damp paper towels and plastic wrap, and I delivered them to my flat-mates and co-workers the next morning. Fresh croissants from Paris! But not quite – you really must eat croissants within a few hours – and to my thinking, there is no finer morning pastry.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2001

The September 11 attacks (often referred to as 9/11, pronounced nine-eleven) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by Al-Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others working in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C. There were no survivors from any of the flights.

In total 2,974 victims and the 19 hijackers died in the attacks. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of over 90 different countries. In addition, the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to dust from the World Trade Center's collapse.

The United States responded to the attacks by launching a "War on Terrorism", invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, who had harbored al-Qaeda terrorists, and enacting the USA PATRIOT Act [of very questionable legal and constitutional justification, and already planned before the attacks]. Many other countries also strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation and expanded law enforcement powers. Some American stock exchanges stayed closed for the rest of the week, and posted enormous losses upon reopening, especially in the airline and insurance industries. The destruction of billions of dollars worth of office space caused the economy of Lower Manhattan to grind to a halt.

The damage to the Pentagon was cleared and repaired within a year, and the Pentagon Memorial was built on the site. The rebuilding process has started on the World Trade Center site. In 2006 a new office tower was completed on the site of 7 World Trade Center. The 1 World Trade Center is currently under construction at the site and at 1,776 ft (541 m) upon completion in 2011, will become one of the tallest buildings in North America. Three more towers were originally expected to be built between 2007 and 2012 on the site.

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Below is a Repost from last year

Today is the [thirteenth] anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001. We had a Liquidator (specialist for completion of paper processing) at work named America, and I remember how upset she was when our Port Director waited several hours before sending us home. America stormed out before we got authorization. I think we finally were let go when it was reported that the Transamerica Pyramid was a potential target and was only two blocks away from our building. That apparent paralysis was similar to the response after JFK’s assassination, when my Junior High School principal waited an equally long time before allowing us to leave. I remember how my Dad picked me up in his car when I was half way home. There were no cell phones, of course, so there had been no coordination between us. He just wanted to find me.

On 9/11 Dennis had been called at home not to go into work at Lang’s Estate Jewelry. The first thing he did when I got home from Customs was to go to Sam’s, our Jordanian-American corner grocer at 23rd St and Valencia. Dennis wanted to let Sam know that we didn’t blame all people of Islamic faith. Then Dennis felt compelled to go grocery shopping. He wanted a free-range chicken and fresh produce.

Then of all things, Dennis and I went looking for a new refrigerator. But remember, while Dennis was working full time, we seldom had a day off together except for holidays. He worked Saturdays, and I was busy with church choirs almost all day Sundays. Dennis was diligent to arrange his various medical appointments on his regularly scheduled days off, usually Thursdays. As sick as he was the last few years, he took very little time off work. That’s another reason he was bitterly resentful when he was let go from Lang’s after their robbery on Sutter Street. (That’s quite a story for another time). He probably had a better attendance record than all the other employees!

As it turned out, being let go was a real blessing. It gave us almost three years with the most time we had ever had together. It also allowed Dennis to be in Iowa frequently for his Dad, Walt, and later to settle his Dad’s estate.

As we commemorate the horrible and tragic events of [twelve] years ago --that changed our country forever--it’s curious that one of my memories of that day was the purchase of a new refrigerator. Of course, like the assassination of President Kennedy, 9/11 was an event that people who experienced it will remember for a lifetime-- where they were and what they did.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

ELISABETH of AUSTRIA Assassinated September 10, 1898

Elisabeth of Bavaria (24 December 1837 - 10 September 1898) was Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary as spouse of Emperor Francis Joseph I. From an early age, she was called “Sisi” by family and friends.

While Elisabeth's role and influence on Austro-Hungarian politics should not be overestimated (she is only marginally mentioned in scholarly books on Austrian history), she has undoubtedly become a 20th century icon. Elisabeth was considered to be a free spirit who abhorred conventional court protocol; she has inspired filmmakers and theatrical producers alike.

She was born in Munich, Bavaria as Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie in Bavaria. She was the fourth child of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria and her mother was Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. Her family home was Possenhofen Castle.

Elisabeth accompanied her mother and her 18-year-old sister, Duchess Helene, on an 1853 trip to the resort of Bad Ischl, Upper Austria, where they hoped Helene would attract the attention of their maternal first cousin, 23-year-old Francis Joseph, then Emperor of Austria. Instead, Francis Joseph chose the 16-year old Elisabeth, and the couple were married in Vienna at St. Augustine's Church on 24 April 1854.

Queen and Empress

Elisabeth had difficulty adapting to the strict etiquette practiced at the Habsburg court. Nevertheless, she bore the emperor three children in quick succession: Archduchess Sophie of Austria (1855–1857), Archduchess Gisela of Austria (1856–1932), and the hoped-for crown prince, Rudolf (1858–1889). In 1860, she left Vienna after contracting a lung-disease which was presumably psychosomatic. She spent the winter in Madeira and only returned to Vienna after having visited the Ionian Islands. Soon after that she fell ill again and returned to Corfu.

Unrest within the Habsburg monarchy caused by the rebellious Hungarians led, in 1867, to the foundation of the Austro–Hungarian double monarchy. Elisabeth had always sympathized with the Hungarian cause and, reconciled and reunited with her alienated husband, she joined Francis Joseph in Budapest, where their coronation took place. In due course, their fourth child, Archduchess Marie Valerie was born (1868–1924). Afterwards, however, she again took up her former life of restlessly travelling through Europe. Elisabeth was denied any major influence on her older children's upbringing, however — they were raised by her mother-in-law Princess Sophie of Bavaria, who often referred to Elisabeth as their "silly young mother"

Elisabeth embarked on a life of travel, seeing very little of her offspring, visiting places such as Madeira, Hungary, England and Corfu. At Corfu she commissioned the building of a palace which she called the Achilleion, after Homer's hero Achilles in The Iliad. After her death, the building was purchased by German Emperor Wilhelm II.

She became known not only for her beauty, but for her fashion sense, diet and exercise regimens, passion for riding sports, and a series of reputed lovers. She paid extreme attention to her appearance and would spend most of her time preserving her beauty. She often shopped at Antal Alter, now Alter és Kiss, which had become very popular with the fashion-crazed crowd, as described by the famous 19th-century writer Richard Rado:

“Everyone, from the most wealthy, to the upper middle class… almost every woman visited the shop. The shop's name even extended beyond the country’s borders… Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary (Sisi), wife of Francis Joseph I and Queen of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, was also among its clients."

Her diet and exercise regimens were strictly enforced to maintain her 20-inch (50 cm) waistline and reduced her to near emaciation at times (symptoms of what is now recognised as anorexia).[citation needed] One of her alleged lovers was George "Bay" Middleton, a dashing Anglo–Scot who was probably the father of Clementine Ogilvy Hozier (the wife of Winston Churchill). She also tolerated, to a certain degree, Franz Joseph's affair with actress Katharina Schratt.

The Empress also engaged in writing poetry (such as the "Nordseelieder" and "Winterlieder", both inspirations from her favorite German poet, Heinrich Heine). Shaping her own fantasy world in poetry, she referred to herself as Titania, Shakespeare's Fairy Queen. Most of her poetry refers to her journeys, classical Greek and romantic themes, as well as ironic mockery on the Habsburg dynasty. In these years, Elisabeth also took up with an intensive study of both ancient and modern Greek, drowning in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Numerous Greek lecturers (such as Marinaky, Christomanos, and Barker) had to accompany the Empress on her hour-long walks while reading Greek to her. According to contemporary scholars, Empress Elisabeth knew Greek better than any of the Bavarian Greek Queens in the 19th century.

In 1889, Elisabeth's life was shattered by the death of her only son: 30-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf and his young lover Baroness Mary Vetsera were found dead, apparently by suicide. The scandal is known by the name Mayerling, after the name of Rudolf's hunting lodge in Lower Austria.

After Rudolf's death, the Empress continued to be an icon, a sensation wherever she went: a long black gown that could be buttoned up at the bottom, a white parasol made of leather and a brown fan to hide her face from curious looks became the trademarks of the legendary Empress of Austria. Only a few snapshots of Elisabeth in her last years are left, taken by photographers who were lucky enough to catch her without her noticing. The moments Elisabeth would show up in Vienna and see her husband were rare. Interestingly, their correspondence increased during those last years and the relationship between the Empress and the Emperor of Austria had become platonic and warm. On her imperial steamer, Miramar, Empress Elisabeth travelled restlessly through the Mediterranean. Her favourite places were Cap Martin on the French Riviera, where tourism had only started in the second half of the 19th century, Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Bad Ischl in Austria, where she would spend her summers, and Corfu. More than that, the Empress had visited countries no other Northern royal went to at the time: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Malta, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. Travel had become the sense of her life but also an escape from herself.


10 September 1898, in Geneva, Switzerland, Elisabeth, aged 60, was stabbed in the heart with a sharpened file by a young anarchist named Luigi Lucheni, in an act of propaganda of the deed. She had been walking along the promenade of Lake Geneva about to board steamship Genève for Montreux with her lady-of-courtesy, Countess Sztaray, when she was attacked. Unaware of the severity of her condition she still boarded the ship. Bleeding to death from a puncture wound to the heart, Elisabeth's last words were "What happened to me?" The strong pressure from her corset kept the bleeding back until the corset was removed. Only then did her staff and surrounding onlookers understand the severity of the situation. Reportedly, her assassin had hoped to kill a prince from the House of Orléans and, failing to find him, turned on Elisabeth instead. As Lucheni afterward said, "I wanted to kill a royal. It did not matter which one."

The empress was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna's city centre which has for centuries served as the Imperial burial place.


In the 1980s, historian Brigitte Hamann wrote The Reluctant Empress, a biography of Elisabeth, again fuelling interest in Franz Joseph's consort (see bibliography). Unlike the previous portrayals of Elisabeth as a one dimensional fairy tale princess, Hamann portrayed her as a bitter, unhappy woman full of self-loathing and various emotional & mental disorders, who spent her entire life searching for happiness, but in the end dying a broken woman who never found it, which opened up various new facets to the legend of Sisi.
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I visited Sisi's private chambers in the Hoffburg and Schoenbrunn palaces six years ago last February, when I accompanied Chanticleer on it's mid-winter concert tour of Central Europe. They were fascinating, particularly her exercise ladders.

Monday, September 8, 2014

California Admitted as the Thirty-First State ~ September 9, 1850

California is admitted as the thirty-first U.S. state on September 9, 1850.

California is the most populous state in the United States, and the third largest by area. It is located on the West Coast of the United States, along the Pacific Ocean, and is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, Arizona to the southeast, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south. Its four largest cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco. The state is home to eight of the nation's fifty largest cities. It is known for its varied climate and geography, as well as its diverse population.

California is the third-largest U.S. state by land area, after Alaska and Texas. Its geography ranges from the Pacific coast to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the east, to Mojave desert areas in the southeast and the Redwood-Douglas fir forests of the northwest. The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.

Beginning in the late 18th century, the area known as Alta California was colonized by the Spanish Empire. It and the rest of Mexico became an independent republic in 1821. In 1846, California broke away from Mexico, and, after the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded California to the United States. It became the 31st state admitted to the union on September 9, 1850.

In the 19th century, the California Gold Rush brought about dramatic changes, with a large influx of people and an economic boom that caused San Francisco to grow from a hamlet of tents to a world-renowned boomtown. Key developments in the early 20th century included the emergence of Los Angeles as center of the American entertainment industry, and the growth of a large, state-wide tourism sector. In addition to California's prosperous agricultural industry, other important contributors to the economy include aerospace, petroleum, and information technology. If California were a country, it would rank among the ten largest economies in the world, with a GDP similar to that of Italy. It would be the 35th most populous country.

MICHELANGELO'S DAVID Unveiled September 8, 1504

David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture sculpted by Michelangelo from 1501 to 1504. The 5.17 meter (17 ft) marble statue portrays the Biblical King David in the nude. Unlike previous depictions of David which portray the hero after his victory over Goliath, Michelangelo chose to represent David before the fight contemplating the battle yet to come. It came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic an independent city state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici themselves. This interpretation was also encouraged by the original setting of the sculpture outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence. The completed sculpture was unveiled on 8 September, 1504.


The history of the statue of David precedes Michelangelo's work on it from 1501-1504. Prior to Michelangelo's involvement, the Overseers of the people of Office of Works of the Duomo (Operai), comprised mostly of members of the influential woolen cloth guild, the Arte della Lana, had plans to commission a series of twelve large Old Testament sculptures for the buttresses of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Until then only two had been created independently by Donatello and his assistant, Agostino di Duccio. Eager to continue their project, in 1464 they again contracted Agostino to create a sculpture of David. He only got as far as beginning to shape the legs, feet and the figure, roughing out some drapery and probably gouging a hole between the legs. His association with the project ceased, for reasons unknown, with the death of his master Donatello in 1466, and Antonio Rossellino was commissioned to take up where Agostino had left off.

Rossellino's contract was terminated, soon thereafter, and the block of marble originally from a quarry in Carrara, a town in the Apuan Alps in northern Tuscany, remained neglected for twenty-five years, all the while exposed to the elements in the yard of the cathedral workshop. The rain and wind weathered it down to a smaller size than was originally planned. This was of great concern to the Operai authorities, as such a large piece of marble was both costly, and represented a large amount of labor and difficulty in its transportation to Florence. In 1500, an inventory of the cathedral workshops described the piece as "a certain figure of marble called David, badly blocked out and supine." A year later, documents showed that the Operai were determined to find an artist who could take this large piece of marble and turn it into a finished work of art. They ordered the block of stone, which they called The Giant, "raised on its feet" so that a master experienced in this kind of work might examine it and express an opinion. Though Leonardo da Vinci and others were consulted, it was young Michelangelo, only twenty-six years old, who convinced the Operai that he deserved the commission. On August 16, 1501, Michelangelo was given the official contract to undertake this challenging new task. He began carving the statue early in the morning on Monday, September 13, a month after he was awarded the contract. He would work on the massive biblical hero for 2 years.


Michelangelo's David differs from previous representations of the subject in that David is not depicted with the slain Goliath (as he is in Donatello's and Verrocchio's versions, produced earlier), a common interpretation is that David is depicted before his battle with Goliath. Instead of being shown victorious over a foe much larger than he, David looks tense and ready for combat. His veins bulge out of his lowered right hand and the twist of his body effectively conveys to the viewer the feeling that he is in motion. The statue is meant to show David after he has made the decision to fight Goliath but before the battle has actually taken place. It is a representation of the moment between conscious choice and conscious action. However, other experts (including Giuseppe Andreani, the current director of Accademia Gallery) consider the depiction to represent the moment immediately after battle, as David serenely contemplates his victory.

A copy of the statue standing in the original location of David, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
On January 25, 1504, when the sculpture was nearing completion, a committee of Florentine artists including Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli met to decide on an appropriate site for David. The majority, led by Giuliano da Sangallo and supported by Leonardo and Piero di Cosimo, among others, believed that due to the imperfections in the marble the sculpture should be placed under the roof of the Loggia dei Lanzi on Piazza della Signoria. Only a rather minor view, supported by Botticelli, believed that the sculpture should be situated on or near the cathedral. Eventually David was placed in front of the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, also on Piazza della Signoria, replacing Donatello's bronze sculpture of Judith and Holofernes, which embodied a comparable theme of heroic resistance. It took four days to move the statue from Michelangelo's workshop onto the Piazza della Signoria.

Style and detail

Michelangelo's David is based on artistic drawings of the male human form. He considered sculpture to be the highest form of art because, among other reasons, it mimics divine creation. Because Michelangelo adhered to the concepts of disegno, he worked under the premise that the image of David was already in the block of stone he was working on — in much the same way as the human soul is found within the physical body. It is also an example of the contrapposto style of posing the human form.

In the High Renaissance, contrapposto poses were thought of as a distinctive feature of antique sculpture. As exemplified In Michelangelo’s David, sculptured from 1501-1504, the figure stands with one leg holding its full weight and the other leg relaxed. This classic pose causes the figure’s hips and shoulders to rest at opposite angles, giving a slight s-curve to the entire torso. In addition, the statue faces to the left while the left arm leans on his left shoulder with his sling flung down behind his back. Michelangelo’s David has become one of the most recognized pieces of Renaissance Sculpture, becoming a symbol of both strength and youthful human beauty.

The proportions are not quite true to the human form; the head and upper body are somewhat larger than the proportions of the lower body. The hands are also larger than would be in regular proportions. While some have suggested that this is of the mannerist style, another explanation is that the statue was originally intended to be placed on a church façade or high pedestal, and that the proportions would appear correct when the statue was viewed from some distance below.

Commentators have noted David's apparently uncircumcised form, which is at odds with Judaic practice, but is considered consistent with the conventions of Renaissance art.

Later history

To protect it from damage, the sculpture was moved in 1873 to the Accademia Gallery in Florence, where it attracts many visitors. A replica was placed in the Piazza della Signoria in 1910.

The cast of David at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), had a detachable plaster fig leaf, added for visits by Queen Victoria and other important ladies, when it was hung on the figure using two strategically placed hooks; it is now displayed nearby.

In 1991, a deranged man attacked the statue with a hammer he had concealed beneath his jacket, in the process damaging the toes of the left foot before being restrained. The samples obtained from that incident allowed scientists to determine that the marble used was obtained from the Fantiscritti quarries in Miseglia, the central of three small valleys in Carrara. The marble in question contains many microscopic holes that cause it to deteriorate faster than other marbles. Because of the marble's degradation, a controversy occurred in 2003, when the statue underwent its first major cleaning since 1843. Some experts opposed the use of water to clean the statue, fearing further deterioration. Under the direction of Dr. Franca Falleti, senior restorers Monica Eichmann and Cinzia Pamigoni began the job of restoring the statue. The restoration work was completed in 2004.

In 2008, plans were proposed to insulate the statue from the vibration of tourists' footsteps at Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia, to prevent damage to the marble.
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Sunday, September 7, 2014


Titus Flavius Vespasianus, commonly known as Titus (December 30, 39 – September 13, 81), was a Roman Emperor who briefly reigned from 79 until his death in 81. Titus was the second emperor of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96, encompassing the reigns of Titus's father Vespasian (69–79), Titus himself (79–81) and his younger brother Domitian (81–96).

Prior to becoming emperor, Titus gained renown as a military commander, serving under his father in Judaea during the First Jewish-Roman War, which was fought between 67 and 70. The campaign came to a brief halt with the death of emperor Nero on June 9, 68, launching Vespasian's bid for the imperial power during the Year of the Four Emperors. When Vespasian was declared emperor on July 1, 69, Titus was left in charge of ending the Jewish rebellion, which he did in 70, successfully besieging and destroying the city and the Temple of Jerusalem. For this achievement Titus was awarded a triumph; the Arch of Titus commemorates his victory to this day.

Under the rule of his father, Titus gained infamy in Rome serving as prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, and for carrying on a controversial relationship with the Jewish queen Berenice. Despite concerns over his character, however, Titus ruled to great acclaim following the death of Vespasian on June 23, 79, and was considered a good emperor by Suetonius and other contemporary historians. In this role he is best known for his public building program in Rome—completing the Flavian Amphitheatre, otherwise known as the Colosseum— and for his generosity in relieving the suffering caused by two disasters, the Mount Vesuvius eruption of 79 and the fire of Rome of 80. After barely two years in office, Titus died of a fever on September 13, 81. He was deified by the Roman Senate and succeeded by his younger brother Domitian.
Image & Text:wikipedia

Saturday, September 6, 2014


My sister Julie Bell married her husband Tom Martin forty-five years ago today! I remember the wedding well. Cynthia played her violin. I sang. Dad, of course, conducted the ceremony. The reception was in the fellowship hall in my Dad's Church, Grace United Methodist, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

After the reception I took a flight to Boston to join my Yale singing group, the Spizzwinks(?), on retreat in Falmouth, Mass on Cape Cod. I was the new pitch pipe (director) and had missed the beginning of our music-rehearsal-retreat to be at the wedding.

It was at the retreat that I introduced two of my best arrangements: "Somewhere" and "I Will Wait For You." (See my earlier posts on April 10 and 11, 2009 after the 'Wink Reunion.) Earlier that summer I had led the group on its first tour to California. That's probably a major reason I ended up in San Francisco. Otherwise, I would have moved to NYC and would, no doubt, still be there-- since I STILL live in the same flat I moved into in 1973!


The photo above shows Julie, Allison & Tom around the time of Tom & Julie's 10th wedding anniversary.

Friday, September 5, 2014

LOUIS XIV ~ September 5, 1638 ~ September 1, 1715

Louis XIV (5 September 1638 – 1 September 1715) was King of France and of Navarre from 1643 to his death in 1715. Lasting seventy-two years, three months and eighteen days, his reign is the longest documented of any European monarch to date.

Popularly known as the Sun King (French: le Roi Soleil), Louis only began personally governing France after the death in 1661 of his prime minister (premier ministre), the Italian Cardinal Jules Mazarin. An adherent of the theory of the Divine Right of Kings, which advocates the divine origin and lack of temporal restraint of monarchical rule, Louis continued his predecessors' work of creating a centralized state governed from the capital. He sought to eliminate the remnants of feudalism persisting in parts of France and, by compelling the noble elite to inhabit his lavish Palace of Versailles, succeeded in pacifying the aristocracy, many members of which had participated in the Fronde rebellion during Louis' minority.

For much of Louis's reign, France stood as the leading European power, engaging in three major wars—the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession—and two minor conflicts—the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions. He encouraged and benefited from the work of prominent political, military and cultural figures such as Mazarin, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Turenne and Vauban, as well as Molière, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Lully, Le Brun, Rigaud, Louis Le Vau, Jules Hardouin Mansart, Claude Perrault and Le Nôtre.
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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Romulus Augustus, Last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, is deposed ~ September 4, 476 CE (Common Era)

Romulus Augustus (fl. 461/463 – 476 CE), known as Romulus Augustulus (Little Augustus), was the last Western Roman Emperor reigning from October 31, 475 until his deposition on September 4, 476 CE. His deposition is used to mark the end of the Western Roman Empire, the fall of ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Middle Ages in Western Europe.

The historical record contains few details of Romulus' life. He was installed as emperor by his father Flavius Orestes, the Magister militum (master of soldiers) of the Roman army. Orestes had deposed the previous emperor Julius Nepos. Romulus, little more than a child, acted as a figurehead for his father's rule. Reigning only ten months, Romulus was then deposed by the Germanic chieftain Odoacer and sent to live in the Castellum Lucullanum in Campania; afterwards he disappears from the historical record.

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Today is the sixth anniversary of POTPOURRI. I must admit I started writing it for rather convoluted reasons. Somebody I used to know and care about chose not to communicate with me. RM^3 is a feisty, complex, creative, computer-savvy guy, and it was his example that influenced me to start this blog. I thought this might be a way to communicate with him. It hasn’t worked. But at least I’ve followed through on something I think is worthwhile. He may not think I have anything interesting to say; but several other people do, including my therapist.

RM^3's influence also persuaded me to go back to the gym on a regular basis and to complete a poetic trilogy. He never responded, but I think it's pretty good -- though I may have to wait until retirement to publish it or post it online -- so I don't lose my security clearance (just kidding.)

Hallelujah! (Re-posting of my very first)

Sometime I would like to have Cantor Roslyn Barak of Temple Emman-u-el in San Francisco demonstrate to some choir director friends of mine the proper Hebrew pronunciation of the word ‘Hallelujah.’ It is my observed contention that American and English choral directors have a misplaced fetish about the word.

I think that most people I know, are familiar with the stand-up Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s ‘Messiah.’ (One story is that the reason people stand up during the singing of this chorus, is that King George II needed to go to the loo, and when he stood up, so did the entire audience. Now it’s a tradition.) Anyway, most musically untrained people will sing “Hah-le-loo-YAH” just as Handel set it. But trained Anglo-American musicians— particularly in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition— insist that the only proper pronunciation is to emphasize the ‘LOO’ and very carefully (against the grain) de-emphasize the final syllable ‘YAH.’ Furthermore –except when historically set, as in the Handel— the ‘H’ shouldn’t be pronounced at all, since it never is in Latin. To do otherwise is considered crude and unpolished.

That’s well and good for Latin. The problem is, it’s not a Latin word. Instead, it’s a Hebrew phrase. Literally it means: ‘Praise be to God.” The ‘ia’ or ‘YAH’ is not a throwaway syllable; it’s the object of the entire poetic phrase. I think the opening musical phrase to Cesar Frank’s setting of Psalm 150 gives just the right emphasis to the English words “Praise, Ye the Lord” and would work just as well if you substituted “Hal-le-lu-YAH.” So I contend—especially for new settings in English—that the ‘H’ should be pronounced, the ‘lu’ should not get a false emphasis, and there should be proper weight given to ‘YAH,’ which means God. (Admittedly, some American composers have been under the influence of our misplaced tradition, and have composed pieces, which work well only as they had intended. An example is Randall Thompson’s ‘Alleluia.’ So be it.) But going forward in English, we should be aware of the meaning of the Hebrew phrase, and not be falsely influenced by the Latin word.

But even European settings in Latin are performed differently by Italian, German and French choirs from the performance practice of American and English choirs. I think one could actually do a rigorous comparison of performance styles and practices, and demonstrate quantitatively, by measuring decibel differences in syllable emphases for the word ‘Hallelujah’ in the same piece of music as performed by the different traditions. There have been stranger dissertation topics!


The above is a reposting of my very first blog post back on September 4, 2008.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

TREATY OF PARIS ~ September 3, 1783

Benjamin West's painting titled "American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Agreement with Great Britain" also sometimes referred to as "Treaty of Paris" (unfinished painting -- from left to right) John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British commissioners refused to pose, and the picture was never finished.

The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ratified by the Congress of the Confederation on January 14, 1784 and by the King of Great Britain on April 9, 1784 (the ratification documents were exchanged in Paris on May 12, 1784), formally ended the American Revolutionary War between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the United States of America, which had rebelled against British rule starting in 1775. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements.

The Peace of Paris (1783) was the set of treaties which ended the American Revolutionary War. On 3 September 1783, representatives of King George III of Great Britain signed a treaty in Paris with representatives of the United States of America– commonly known as the Treaty of Paris (1783) – and two treaties at Versailles with representatives of King Louis XVI of France and King Charles III of Spain – commonly known as the Treaties of Versailles (1783). The previous day, a preliminary treaty had been signed with representatives of the States General of the Dutch Republic, but the final treaty which ended the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War was not signed until 20 May 1784.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Speak softly and carry a big stick" ~ Vice President Theodore Roosevelt ~ September 2, 1901

Vice President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt utters the famous phrase, "Speak softly and carry a big stick" at the Minnesota State Fair.

Big Stick ideology, or Big Stick diplomacy, or Big Stick policy, is a form of hegemony and was the slogan describing U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The term originated from the phrase “Speak softly and carry a big stick." The idea of negotiating peacefully, simultaneously threatening with the “big stick”, or the military, ties in heavily with the idea of Realpolitik, which implies an amoral pursuit of political power that resembles Machiavellian ideals.
Roosevelt first used the phrase in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair on September 2, 1901, twelve days before the assassination of President William McKinley, which subsequently thrust him into the Presidency. Roosevelt, in a letter to Henry L. Sprague of the Union League Club, mentions his liking of the phrase in a bout of happiness after forcing New York’s Republican committee to pull support away from a corrupt financial adviser. The term comes from a West African proverb, and, at the time, was evidence of Roosevelt’s “prolific” reading habits. Roosevelt described his style of foreign policy as “the exercise of intelligent forethought and of decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis.”
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Monday, September 1, 2014

ELIZABETH RICH & SHERIDAN WATSON BELL, JR. ~ September 1, 1937 ~ 77th Anniversary!

My Mother and Dad met by accident. It was Leap Year 1936. Mother was in her final year at Yale School of Nursing. She had wanted to be a medical doctor; but her Father had insisted she earn a nursing degree first. That, of course, was a mistake. It’s a fork in the road. Once you’re a nurse, you don’t become a doctor: it’s like the chasm between workers and management. And Mother had gone away to boarding school at the age of twelve. By then she was tired of school. I don’t think Mother ever intended to get married. She was a real MHT – Mount Holyoke Type. They were among the first women libbers.

Mother had originally wanted to go to Wellesley, and was accepted. But one of her friends at National Cathedral School, where she took a year’s post-grad after Dickinson Seminary, had had her heart set on Wellesley and was on the waiting list. So Mother turned Wellesley down. Her friend was accepted. Mother hoped that her sacrifice had played a part. Her friend never knew. This story played a part in my psyche and own saga with Stan and the Whiffs. In my case, it was a futile gesture, since Stan had already been selected to be tapped. But I hadn’t known. (See my post on 9/29/08.)

Anyway back to 1936. Mother’s roommate asked her to join her on a double date with two Divinity students. Mother really wasn’t interested. Her roommate persisted and persuaded her to go since the younger Divinity student was engaged. Mother had first choice. By selecting the already engaged, younger man, presumably she’d never see him again. Dad had worked a few years as a social worker in Boston before finally deciding to become a minister. And even at the end of his life, at 73, Sherry had something of a baby face. Dad’s classmate had a moustache, which made him look older. So Mother mistakenly chose the younger looking man, who was not engaged.

Elizabeth and Sheridan really didn’t know each other. When they were married on September 1, 1937, they had spent less than an entire week together. And they hadn’t written very often. Mother graduated from Yale School of Nursing in 1936. She taught Chemistry at National Cathedral School in Washington the following year, while Dad finished up his studies at Yale Divinity School.

According to Dad, Mother called the shots. She wrote him to determine his intentions. Perhaps her Father was exerting some pressure for her to get married. They agreed to meet half way in New York City. Dad said he got on the train in New Haven without knowing exactly what he was going to do. They met at the Hotel Pennsylvania. He proposed and she accepted. But they still didn’t know each other.

In many ways Elizabeth was a catch. Her Father was a successful businessman in the middle of the Great Depression and a Congressman to boot. It would clearly be an abuse of power today—perhaps, it wasn’t considered such then— but Grandfather Rich had three of his prospective sons-in-law investigated by the FBI; so if Sheridan W. Bell, Jr. had had any significant skeletons in his closet, they should have been uncovered then. Anyway, it was very useful for a Methodist minister to have a wife. (I later learned from Aunt Julie that Uncle Charlie had been exempted from the background check because his father had gone to Dickinson College, which Baba attended, but from which he did not graduate. Evidently Baba felt that the Dickinson connection was a good enough reference.)

Sherry visited Betty once in Washington. It was near the end of her year teaching Chemistry. Daddy said it was the messiest lab he had ever seen. That should have been a sign. After they had been married a few months, Grandma Da took Dad aside and quietly suggested that Elizabeth might need some help with housekeeping.

I understand that Grandfather Bell died within the year of my parents' wedding. So I suppose none of us at the Bell Reunion in 1994, besides Aunt Claora, had had the opportunity to get to know him well. Just before that reunion I heard a story from Mother, I think, about Grandfather Bell at my parents wedding in 1937. He was, of course, the Minister. On the day of the wedding he got up early and thought he would play a trick (or perhaps conduct a test) on one of my Mother’s relatives, who was helping to prepare the pre-wedding buffet. Grandfather Bell went to the back door and said he was a stranger in need of some food. Remember this was still the Great Depression. Mother’s Aunt said something like: " I can’t possibly help you. I’m having over a hundred people to breakfast this morning."

Can you imagine her chagrin when she went to the wedding and realized she had turned away the Minister and father of the groom! With today’s increasing tragedy of homelessness, it’s important to remember the saying of one tradition that you never know which stranger is an Angel. In words attributed to Christ: "If you do it to the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me." Enough pontificating! But it sounds as though Grandfather Bell had a terrific sense of humor. I know his son, my Dad, certainly did.


Two years later on my parents' second wedding anniversary, Adolf Hitler began the invasion of Poland and ignited the Second World War.
On this day in 1715, Louis XIV of France departed this life at the age of 77 after a reign of seventy-two years, three months and eighteen days, the longest documented reign of any European monarch to date.
The wedding photo above was taken in front of Mother's home in Woolrich.

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)