Friday, January 30, 2015


Today, January 30th, is the day that the sleepy little village of Yerba Buena changed its name to San Francisco in 1847 (the year before discovery of gold on January 24, 1848; the treaty of Guadelupe Hildago, which ended the Mexican American War, signed a week later on February 2, 1848; then the Gold Rush the following year in 1849—when the population surged from 800 to 80,000 in a single year; and California Statehood in 1850).

I had already known that January 30th was the anniversary of the beheading of Charles I outside Inigo Jones' glorious Banqueting House in Whitehall. But I hadn’t known that Oliver Cromwell was ceremoniously executed twelve years to the day after Charles. He had already been dead for two years! When I first went to the Henry VII chapel at the very end of Westminster Abbey, I was surprised to see a bronze plaque in the floor: "Oliver Cromwell 1659 -1661." What ... he was only two years old? Could this have been the grandson of the great Lord Protector and regicide of Charles I? Well no, it was the old Puritan himself.

He was buried there for two years until the Stuart Restoration. Charles II had him exhumed, beheaded, burned and drawn and quartered, then secretly scattered twelve years to the day after his father's execution ordered by Oliver Cromwell. Nothing like revenge!
Other notable deaths on this day were Crown Prince Rudolf at Meyerling in 1889, and Mahatma Gandhi in 1947.

The day also marked Adolf Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor in 1933 (of all things, on FDR's birthday, after he was elected in November, but before his inauguration in March 1933 – afterwards changed to January 20th because the electorate didn't want to wait so long for a transfer of power, especially during a Depression.)

Until I Googled, I hadn't known that such illustrious figures as FDR, Barbara Tuchman (a great American historian & one of my favorites), the extraordinary Vanessa Redgrave, and Christian Bale shared their birthdays on January 30th.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


For the turn of a phrase or the sake of a good picture, events occasionally have been manipulated --ignored or enhanced-- at times even created. Remember President George H.W. Bush's speech from the oval office when a drug addict was entrapped for the sake of an example, pre-written into the speech.

I doubt that we'll ever know the whole truth about the Challenger explosion (enless there are some death bed confessions) but with Nixon's televised precedent of speaking from the oval office to astronauts on the moon, it seems quite reasonable that President Reagan could have made dramatic use of a phone conversation from the Speaker's dais of the joint Houses of Congress during his State of the Union Address in 1986.

Indeed it has been reported that such a conversation was planned as part of the speech. So what was the nature of phone calls between the White House and Morton Thiocol and engineers who tried to prevent the launching? Who really forced the decision to launch and for what reasons?

Look at what happened. The Challenger exploded, and the State of the Union was merely postponed a week. President Reagan won praise for his uplifting words on the loss of our gallant heroes. How ironic! Reagan didn't write the text in the first place -- Peggy Noonan did. Isn't it strange that we should compliment our politicians for words crafted by ghostwriters? In Peggy Noonan's case, some of her most famous lines aren't original with her anyway. "A thousand points of light" is a direct quote from C.S. Lewis' 1955 book The Magician's Nephew or a variation of Thomas Wolfe's 1939 The Web and the Rock ("thousand points of friendly light") and ", gentler..." is, I understand, adapted from a speech of Mario Cuomo's (and I have no idea who actually wrote his speech.)

But back to the Challenger. It seems very likely that the shuttle was launched after multiple delays --against the advice of the engineers-- for the sake of a photo-op and the turn of a phrase. Then after the disaster, the President took credit for uplifiting words written by someone else-- words which wouldn't have been necessary in the first place if the engineers hadn't been overridden for a theatrical stunt.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Strauss' DER ROSENKAVALIER Premiered ~ January 26, 1911

Der Rosenkavalier (Op. 59) (The Knight of the Rose) is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière's comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. It was first performed at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden on 26 January 1911. Until the premiere, the working title was Ochs von Lerchenau. (The choice of the name Ochs is not accidental, for in German Ochs is translated as ox, which depicts the character of the Baron throughout the opera.)

Der Rosenkavalier premiered in 1911 in Dresden under the baton of Ernst von Schuch who had previously conducted the premieres of Strauss's Feuersnot, Salome and Elektra, Georg Toller was originally supposed to produce the production, but he backed out and was replaced by Max Reinhardt. The event was a pinnacle in the career of soprano Margarethe Siems (Strauss’s first Chrysothemis) who portrayed the Marschallin.

The reaction to the 1911 premiere was nothing short of triumphant. The opera was a complete success with the public and was a great financial boon for the house; it is reported that at the time of the première, tickets were sold out almost immediately. The response from music critics was overall very positive, although some responded negatively to Strauss's use of waltzes, a music form out of fashion at that present moment. Despite this, the opera became one of the composer's most popular works during his lifetime and the opera remains a part of the standard repertory today.

The opera has four main characters: the aristocratic Marschallin, her very young lover Octavian Rofrano, her coarse, skirt-chasing country cousin Baron Ochs, and his young prospective fiancée Sophie, the lovely daughter of a rich Viennese bourgeois. Baron Ochs, having arranged with Sophie's father Faninal to combine his noble rank with Faninal's money by marrying Sophie, asks the Marschallin to suggest an appropriate young man to be his Knight of the Rose, who will present a silver rose to Sophie on his behalf as a traditional symbol of courtship. She recommends Octavian. When Octavian delivers the rose, he and Sophie fall in love on sight, and must figure out how to prevent Baron Ochs from marrying Sophie. They accomplish this in a comedy of errors that is smoothed over with the help of the Marschallin.

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Friday, January 8, 2010
By Barb Herbert
In "Der Rosenkavalier" Strauss and his librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, created their most realistic characters. The Marschallin, who is the main character in the opera, is a beautiful, elegant and sad woman. She is sad because time is slipping away and she fears becoming old (she is 32 years old and her lover, Octavian, is 17). Her young lover (the part is sung by a mezzo-soprano) falls in love with a beautiful young girl named Sophie. The Marschallin is the one who introduces him to Sophie even though she knows that she will lose Octavian by doing so. Perhaps the Marschallin will have other lovers; Strauss thought that she would.
The most poignant moment in the opera comes at the end of Act I when the Marschallin sings these words:
"Time, after all ... time leaves the world unchanged./Time is a strange thing./While one is living one's life away,/It is absolutely nothing./Then, suddenly, one is aware of nothing else./At times I hear it flowing -- inexorably./At times, I get up in the middle of the night/And stop all the clocks, all of them."
There is also a comic character in the opera; his name is Baron Ochs. He fancies himself an irresistible lover and is excited about his forthcoming marriage to Sophie. Things don't exactly turn out as he had planned as the other characters play some pretty funny practical jokes on him. He never does marry Sophie, much to his chagrin.
This is an opera of great charm and elegance. The Met sets are gorgeous and reflect the style of Vienna, Austria, during the reign of the Empress Maria Theresa. Soprano Renee Fleming sings the role of the Marschallin, and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham is Octavian.
It is amazing to me that the man who wrote "Salome" and "Elektra," two of the weirdest operas in the repertory, could write "Der Rosenkavalier," the most elegant and wistful of all operas.
Barb Herbert of Cape Girardeau is an opera lover and host of KRCU's "Sunday Night at the Opera."
© Copyright 2010
Der Rosenkavalier is one of my all time favorite operas, both for its story and music. Richard Strauss was a master orchestrator, and his writing for this opera features some of the most glorious orchestral and vocal music ever heard! The Metropolitan Opera in New York had a live high-definition broadcast in movie theatres on Saturday January 9th two years ago. It was completely sold out a week in advance for the showing at a major theatre downtown San Francisco. I was able to attend, however, at a smaller theatre on the other side of the Twin Peaks tunnel, the Empire Theatre in West Portal. I was up early Saturday morning and managed to get a ticket. It was a splendid performance with Renee Fleming as the Marschallin and Susan Graham as Octavian.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Robert Burns ~ January 25, 1759 ~ 256 Years


O, my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run:

And fare thee weel, my only Luve!
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' twere ten thousand mile.


I sang a setting of this poem last night at the annual Burns Night 
dinner sponsored by the St. Andrew's Society of San Francisco 
held at the Family Club on Bush and Powell. I sang in memory
of my dear friend Lyle Richardson, who died at the age of 92
just a few days before Christmas. I first met Lyle when he was
my accompanist for this same song at the same event many years ago.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


1848 – California Gold Rush: James W. Marshall finds gold at Sutter's Mill near Sacramento.

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was discovered by James Wilson Marshall at Sutter's Mill, in Coloma, California. News of the discovery soon spread, resulting in some 300,000 men, women, and children coming to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. Of the 300,000, approximately 150,000 arrived by sea while the remaining 150,000 arrived by land.

Around the beginning of the Gold Rush, Mexican laws were no longer in effect, but there was very little law regarding property rights as the US had just taken over California land. Thus, California was forced to quickly develop various institutions. The solution to the property rights problem was a first-come-first-serve basis with the right to claim jump on abandoned sites.

The early gold-seekers, called "forty-niners," (as a reference to 1849) traveled to California by sailing boat and in covered wagons across the continent, often facing substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. At first, the prospectors retrieved the gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. More sophisticated methods of gold recovery developed which were later adopted around the world. At its peak, technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required, increasing the proportion of corporate to individual miners. Gold worth billions of today's dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few. However, many returned home with little more than they had started with.

The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. San Francisco grew from a small settlement to a boomtown, and roads, churches, schools and other towns were built throughout California. A system of laws and a government were created, leading to the admission of California as a free state in 1850 as part of the Compromise of 1850.

New methods of transportation developed as steamships came into regular service and railroads were built. The business of agriculture, California's next major growth field, was started on a wide scale throughout the state. However, the Gold Rush also had negative effects: Native Americans were attacked and pushed off traditional lands, and gold mining caused environmental harm.

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Note: the date is in the first month of 1848. But we don't say the "48'ers." That's because the people who discovered gold tried to keeep quiet about it because they figured they'd be overrun (and they were.) But more importantly, communication and transportation was so slow in the middle of the 19th Century that it took almost a full year for momentum to build for fortune seekers from around the world to come to California. But come they did. The population of the newly renamed town of San Francisco grew from 800 to 80,000 in a single year!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

LOUIS XVI Guillotined ~ January 21, 1793

1793 – After being found guilty of treason by the French Convention, Louis XVI of France is executed by guillotine.

His cousin, the Duke of Orleans was the one responsible for spreading rumors about Louis' wife which caused people to get very angry. Louis was officially arrested on the 13th of August and sent to the Temple, an ancient Paris fortress used as a prison. On 21 September, the National Assembly declared France to be a republic and abolished the monarchy.

The Girondins were partial to keeping the deposed king under arrest, both as a hostage and a guarantee for the future. The more radical members – mainly the Commune and Parisian deputies who would soon be known as the Mountain – argued for Louis's immediate execution. The legal background of many of the deputies made it difficult for a great number of them to accept an execution without due process of some sort, and it was voted that the deposed monarch should be tried before the National Convention, the organ that housed the representatives of the sovereign people.

On 11 December, among crowded and silent streets, the deposed king was brought from the Temple to stand before the Convention and hear his indictment, an accusation of High Treason and Crimes against the State. On 26 December, his counsel, Raymond de Sèze, delivered Louis's response to the charges, with the assistance of François Tronchet and Malesherbes.

On 15 January 1793, the Convention, composed of 721 deputies, voted out the verdict, which was a foregone conclusion – 693 voted guilty, and none voted for acquittal. The next day, a voting roll-call was carried out in order to decide upon the fate of the king, and the result was, for such a dramatic decision, uncomfortably close. 288 deputies voted against death and for some other alternative, mainly some means of imprisonment or exile. 72 deputies voted for the death penalty, but subject to a number of delaying conditions and reservations. 361 deputies voted for Louis's immediate death.

The next day, a motion to grant Louis reprieve from the death sentence was voted down; 310 deputies requested mercy, 380 voted for the execution of the death penalty. This decision would be final. On Monday, 21 January 1793, stripped of all titles and honorifics by the republican government, Citoyen Louis Capet was guillotined in front of a cheering crowd in what today is the Place de la Concorde. The executioner, Charles Henri Sanson, testified that the former King had bravely met his fate.

As Louis mounted the scaffold he appeared dignified and resigned. He attempted a speech in which he reasserted his innocence and pardoned those responsible for his death. He declared himself willing to die and prayed that the people of France would be spared a similar fate. He seemed about to say more when Antoine-Joseph Santerre, a general in the National Guard (France), cut Louis off by ordering a drum roll. The former king was then quickly beheaded.

Accounts of Louis’ beheading indicate that the blade did not sever his neck entirely the first time. There are also accounts of a blood-curdling scream issuing from Louis after the blade fell but this is unlikely as the blade severed Louis’s spine. It is agreed however that, as Louis's blood dripped to the ground, many in the crowd ran forward to dip their handkerchiefs in it.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

First Presidential Inauguration on January 20 in 1937

Franklin Roosevelt is inaugurated for a second term as President of the United States. This is the first inauguration scheduled on January 20, following adoption of the 20th Amendment. Previous inaugurations were scheduled on March 4.

The inauguration of the President of the United States occurs upon the commencement of a new term of a President of the United States.

The only inauguration element mandated by the United States Constitution is that the President make an oath or affirmation before that person can "enter on the Execution" of the office of the presidency. However, over the years, various traditions have arisen that have expanded the inauguration from a simple oath-taking ceremony to a day-long event, including parades, speeches, and balls.

This day, now known as Inauguration Day, was on March 4 from 1798 until 1933. Since then, Inauguration Day has occurred on January 20 (the 1933 ratification of the Twentieth Amendment changed the start date of the term).

From the presidency of Andrew Jackson through Jimmy Carter, the primary Inauguration Day ceremony took place on the Capitol's East Portico. Since the 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan, the ceremony has been held at the Capitol's West Front. The inaugurations of William Howard Taft in 1909 and Reagan in 1985 were moved indoors at the Capitol due to cold weather.

Since Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth swore in President John Adams, no Chief Justice has missed a regularly-scheduled Inauguration Day swearing-in. When Inauguration Day has fallen on a Sunday, the Chief Justice has administered the oath to the President either on inauguration day itself or on the preceding Saturday privately and the following Monday publicly. The War of 1812 and World War II caused two inaugurations to be held at other locations in Washington, D.C.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

NIKA RIOTS FAIL ~ January 18, 532 CE

The Nika riots (Greek: Στάση του Νίκα), or Nika revolt, took place over the course of a week in Constantinople in 532. It was the most violent riot that Constantinople had ever seen to that point, with nearly half the city being burned or destroyed and tens of thousands of people killed.

The ancient Roman and Byzantine Empires had well-developed associations, known as demes which supported the different factions (or teams) under which competitors in certain sporting events competed; this was particularly true of chariot racing. There were four major factional teams of chariot racing, differentiated by the color of the uniform in which they competed; the colors were also worn by their supporters. These were the Blues, the Reds, the Greens, and the Whites, although by the Byzantine era the only teams with any influence were the Blues and Greens. The Emperor Justinian I was a supporter of the Blues.

The team associations had become a focus for various social and political issues for which the general Byzantine population lacked other forms of outlet. They combined aspects of street gangs and political parties, taking positions on current issues, notably theological problems (a cause of massive, often violent argument in the fifth and sixth centuries) or claimants to the throne. They frequently tried to affect the policy of the Emperors by shouting political demands between the races. The imperial forces and guards in the city could not keep order without the cooperation of the circus factions which were in turn backed by the aristocratic families of the city: this included some families who believed they had a more rightful claim to the throne than Justinian.

Setting the stage for the revolt, in 531 some members of the Blues and Greens had been arrested for murder in connection with deaths that occurred during rioting after a recent chariot race. Relatively limited riots were not unknown at chariot races, similar to the mayhem that occasionally erupts after an association football championship in modern times. The murderers were to be hanged, and most of them were. But on January 10, 532, two of them, a Blue and a Green, escaped and were taking refuge in the sanctuary of a church surrounded by an angry mob.

Justinian was nervous: he was in the midst of negotiating with the Persians over peace in the east, there was enormous resentment over high taxes, and now he faced a potential crisis in his city. Facing this, he declared that a chariot race would be held on January 13 and commuted the sentences to imprisonment. The Blues and Greens responded by demanding that the two men be pardoned entirely.

The riots

January 13 a tense and angry populace arrived at the Hippodrome for the races. The Hippodrome was next to the palace complex and thus Justinian could watch from the safety of his box in the palace and preside over the races. From the start the crowd had been hurling insults at Justinian. By the end of the day, at race 22, the partisan chants had changed from "Blue" or "Green" to a unified Nίκα ("Nika", meaning "Win!" or "Conquer!"), and the crowds broke out and began to assault the palace. For the next five days the palace was under virtual siege. The fires that started during the tumult resulted in the destruction of much of the city, including the city's foremost church, the Church of the Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia (which Justinian would later rebuild).

Some of the senators saw this as an opportunity to overthrow Justinian, as they were opposed to his new taxes and his lack of support for the nobility. The rioters, now armed and probably controlled by their allies in the Senate, also demanded that Justinian dismiss the prefect John the Cappadocian, who was responsible for tax collecting, and the quaestor Tribonian, who was responsible for rewriting the legal code. They then declared a new emperor, Hypatius, who was a nephew of former Emperor Anastasius I.

Justinian, in despair, considered fleeing, but his wife Theodora is said to have dissuaded him, saying, "Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress." Although an escape route across the sea lay open for the emperor, Theodora insisted that she would stay in the city, quoting an ancient saying, "Royalty is a fine burial shroud," or perhaps, [the royal color] "Purple makes a fine winding sheet."

As Justinian rallied himself, he created a plan that involved Narses, a popular eunuch, as well as the generals, Belisarius and Mundus. Carrying a bag of gold given to him by Justinian, the slightly built eunuch entered the Hippodrome alone and unarmed, against a murderous mob that had already killed hundreds. Narses went directly to the Blues' section, where he approached the important Blues and reminded them that the Emperor Justinian supported them over the Greens. He also reminded them that the man they were crowning, Hypatius, was a Green. Then, he distributed the gold. The Blue leaders spoke quietly with each other and then they spoke to their followers. Then, in the middle of Hypatius's coronation, the Blues stormed out of the Hippodrome. The Greens sat, stunned. Then, Imperial troops led by Belisarius and Mundus stormed into the Hippodrome, killing the remaining rebels.

About thirty thousand rioters were reportedly killed. Justinian also had Hypatius executed and exiled the senators who had supported the riot. He then rebuilt Constantinople and the Hagia Sophia, and was free to establish his rule of law.

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Among several locations, where I scattered some of Dennis' ashes in Istanbul, was the base of the obelisk shown above in the middle of what had been the Hippodrome.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

LOLA MONTEZ ~ February 17, 1821 ~ January 17, 1861

Arthur Rackham image/

Just after I started working for Customs, Ross and I took our previously planned holiday to Germany. He had studied in Munich, and still had several good friends in the area. We were there for Oktoberfest, which –as you undoubtedly already know— is celebrated in September. That was one of the few times in my life that I have drunk beer, and half enjoyed it. Of course, Bavarian dark beer is very different from standard American varieties.

The plan was to visit all of King Ludwig II’s castles – and we nearly did. We saw Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig had spent part of his childhood, at the base of Neuschwanstein, his paean to Ricard Wagner (as well as the model for several Disney castles) and the site of Ludwig’s arrest;

[Years ago, I used to eat Sunday brunch at Café Mozart on Bush Street between services at Grace Cathedral. The owner was a Viennese named Claus. One Christmas, he made a large gingerbread castle in the shape of a familiar landmark. “Oh Claus!” I said “ What a wonderful gingerbread model of Neuschweinstein.” “Neu- SCHWEIN- stein?!!!! Don’t you know the difference between a schwein and a schwan?!!!!” Now, I do.]

Linderhof, with it’s grotto and elevated dining table; and Herrenchiemsee with its copy of the Hall of Mirrors, and two (mind you two—though only one was actually completed) Ambassadors Staircases from Versailles, where the original had been replaced. We also saw the room where Ludwig had been born at Nymphenburg, the lake where he had drowned, and the church in Munich, where he is still buried.

In June 2008 the San Francisco Opera premiered a new production of Das Rheingold, the first installment of an an American Western Ring cycle.

Did you know that there may have been a California connection to the first production of Wagner’s Ring Trilogy. (Even though it is four music dramas, it’s considered a trilogy….with a prologue) The connection was Lola Montez, a Spanish dancer, who had had an extended affair with Ludwig II’s grandfather, Ludwig I. In reality, her name was Eliza Gilbert, and she was actually Irish. But she did have an affair with that architecturally crazed monarch. Unlike his grandson, his taste favored neo-classical revival, rather than medieval and baroque. Ross and I visited his large Bavarian maiden— on the edge of the Oktoberfest grounds— which seemed to be a forerunner of the Statue of Liberty.

Ludwig the First was so enamored of Lola Montez, that he virtually turned over the state authority to her. For nearly two years, Lola was de facto ruler of Bavaria. "What Lola wants, Lola gets" was originally in reference to her. When Revolution broke out all over Europe in 1848, the people of Bavaria's main grievance against their King, was his affair with Lola. Forced to abdicate, Ludwig left the throne to his son Maximilian II. But then Max died in 1864, leaving the throne to Ludwig I's grandson, Ludwig II.

The Wagner connection is this:

Once on the throne, nineteen year old Ludwig II responded to Wagner's published plea for help from a German prince. Richard Wagner had been exiled in Switzerland, both for his 1848 political, and recurring financial, indiscretions. Ludwig paid off Wagner's creditors, welcomed him to Bavaria, and financed productions of Die Meistersinger, Tristan und Isolde, and the completion of the Ring des Nibelungen.

So what's the Lola Montez connection? Had it not been for Lola, Ludwig I, no doubt, would have remained on the throne of Bavaria. He lived until 1868— a good twenty years after his abdication. Lola Montez, meanwhile, ended up in Grass Valley, California during the Gold Rush. She died of syphilis, which Ludwig had given her along with jewels and bad poetry. Had there been no Lola Montez, Tristan and Meistersinger might not have been produced at all, and certainly not before 1868 at the earliest. The problem, of course, is when you change one fact in history, you may very well jeopardize multiple subsequent facts. But the fact remains, Ludwig II was Wagner's principal sponsor, and had it not been for him, the general operatic public would very likely never have heard of Brunnhilde.


Today January 17 marks the thirty-ninth year I've known my good friend, Jeffrey Hardy.... I picked up his change when he dropped it on Market Street, and we've been friends ever since. There's much more to say, of course, but that'll be for another time.

Today also marks the twenty-ninth anniversary of Dennis and Rob's getting together.

Dennis Graham and I met in 1978, soon after he arrived from Iowa. He was involved with a friend of mine, Kent Smith, and I was committed to Gary Murakami. Dennis and I were casual acquaintances at first. He and Kent came to my 30th birthday picnic in Huntington Park on Easter Sunday 1979. The previous June they had attended the very first Chanticleer concert at old Mission Dolores.

Dennis worked for Sydney Mobell, a celebrity jeweler with a second location in the Fairmont Hotel. Occasionally, I stopped by to visit Dennis there on my way to Evensong at Grace Cathedral on Thursday afternoons.

I hosted a dinner for Dennis the night before his 30th birthday in 1980. The picture above was taken with my Kodak Instamatic. It shows Dennis in a classic pose...with a cigarette.Years later when I asked what he had done on the actual day, he said he hadn't done anything. Kent figured his birthday had already been celebrated.

After Gary died and Ross moved out, I was briefly involved with a few other people; but nothing was very fulfilling. Dennis was a friend in whom I could confide, complain, and on whose shoulder I could cry.

One Sunday after church I was talking to Dennis and a black friend, Everett, in Huntington Park. [I was complaining about a boyfriend named Tomas] Dennis said I should become involved with somebody more my own age and someone from my own cultural background.

Later when I learned that Kent and Dennis had been but roommates for several years, Everett astutely reminded me of Dennis' comments. "Didn't you hear what he said? You need to be involved with somebody your own age—a good CHRISStian man. Don't you realize who he was talking about?"

So on January 17, 1986, I invited Dennis to dinner and took a leap of......possibilities....which lasted more than another twenty years!


Today is my boss' former boss' birthday. Dora Murphy and I share mutual memories of this day. Dora was primarily responsible for my obtaining a leave of absence from work to care for Dennis his final month with home hospice. For that courtesy I am continually grateful. Today is also Michelle Obama's birthday!

Friday, January 16, 2015

CAESAR AUGUSTUS ~ January 16, 27 BCE

27 BCE – The title Augustus is bestowed upon Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian by the Roman Senate.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BCE – 19 August CE 14), was the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 31 BCE until his death in CE 14. Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, he was adopted by his great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar in 44 BCE, and between then and 31 BCE was officially named Gaius Julius Caesar.

In 27 BCE the Senate awarded him the honorific Augustus ("the revered one"), and thus consequently he was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus. Because of the various names he bore, it is common to call him Octavius when referring to events between 63 and 44 BCE, Octavian (or Octavianus) when referring to events between 44 and 27 BCE, and Augustus when referring to events after 27 BCE. In Greek sources, Augustus is known as κτάβιος (Octavius), Κασαρ (Caesar), Αγουστος (Augustus), or Σεβαστός (Sebastos), depending on context.

The young Octavius came into his inheritance after Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE. In 43 BCE, Octavian joined forces with Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in a military dictatorship known as the Second Triumvirate. As a triumvir, Octavian ruled Rome and many of its provinces as an autocrat, seizing consular power after the deaths of the consuls Hirtius and Pansa and having himself perpetually re-elected. The triumvirate was eventually torn apart under the competing ambitions of its rulers: Lepidus was driven into exile, and Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium by the fleet of Octavian commanded by Agrippa in 31 BCE.

After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Octavian restored the outward facade of the Roman Republic, with governmental power vested in the Roman Senate, but in practice retained his autocratic power. It took several years to determine the exact framework by which a formally republican state could be led by a sole ruler; the result became known as the Roman Empire. The emperorship was never an office like the Roman dictatorship which Caesar and Sulla had held before him; indeed, he declined it when the Roman populace "entreated him to take on the dictatorship". By law, Augustus held a collection of powers granted to him for life by the Senate, including those of tribune of the plebs and censor.

He was consul until 23 BCE. His substantive power stemmed from financial success and resources gained in conquest, the building of patronage relationships throughout the Empire, the loyalty of many military soldiers and veterans, the authority of the many honors granted by the Senate, and the respect of the people. Augustus' control over the majority of Rome's legions established an armed threat that could be used against the Senate, allowing him to coerce the Senate's decisions. With his ability to eliminate senatorial opposition by means of arms, the Senate became docile towards his paramount position. His rule through patronage, military power, and accumulation of the offices of the defunct Republic became the model for all later imperial government.

The rule of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana, or Roman peace. Despite continuous frontier wars, and one year-long civil war over the imperial succession, the Mediterranean world remained at peace for more than two centuries. Augustus expanded the Roman Empire, secured its boundaries with client states, and made peace with Parthia through diplomacy. He reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads with an official courier system, established a standing army (and a small navy), established the Praetorian Guard, and created official police and fire-fighting forces for Rome. Much of the city was rebuilt under Augustus; and he wrote a record of his own accomplishments, known as the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, which has survived. Upon his death in CE 14, Augustus was declared a god by the Senate, to be worshipped by the Romans. His names Augustus and Caesar were adopted by every subsequent emperor, and the month of Sextilis was officially renamed August in his honour. He was succeeded by his stepson and son-in-law, Tiberius.

Augustus (plural augusti), Latin for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable", was an Ancient Roman title, which was first held by Caesar Augustus and subsequently came to be considered one of the titles of what are now known as the Roman Emperors. The feminine form is Augusta.

Although the use of the cognomen "Augustus" as part of one's name is generally understood to identify emperor Augustus, this is somewhat misleading; "Augustus" was the most significant name associated with the Emperor, but it did not actually represent any sort of constitutional office until the 3rd century under Diocletian. The Imperial dignity was not an ordinary office, but rather an extraordinary concentration of ordinary powers in the hands of one man; "Augustus" was the name that unambiguously identified that man.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ~ January 15, 1929


Although the official holiday is next Monday January 19, today is the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He would have been eighty-six years old!

My brother Sherry was at the Mall in D.C. and heard Dr. King deliver the "I have a dream" speech just before his Senior year at Princeton in 1963. I remember hearing the news of his assassination in April 1968, my Freshman year at Yale. It was only a few days after the jubilation we felt when President Johnson announced he wouldn't seek the nomination for another term. We had thought the Vietnam War was soon coming to an end. Instead the next few months saw the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the dashing of our hopes.

Nevertheless, the words and example of Martin Luther King, Jr. live on and continue to inspire us. Certainly he prepared the path for Barack Obama.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ALBERT SCHWEITZER ~ January 14, 1875 ~ September 4, 1965

Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965) was an Alsatian German-French theologian, musician, philosopher, and physician. He was born in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, from 1871 to 1918 in the German Empire. Schweitzer challenged both the secular view of Jesus as depicted by historical-critical methodology current at his time in certain academic circles, as well as the traditional Christian view, depicting a Jesus Christ who expected and predicted the imminent end of the world. He received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his philosophy of "Reverence for Life", expressed in many ways, but most famously in founding and sustaining the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, now in Gabon, west central Africa (then French Equatorial Africa). As a music scholar and organist, he studied the music of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach and influenced the Organ reform movement (Orgelbewegung).

Schweitzer's passionate quest was to discover a universal ethical philosophy, anchored in a universal reality, and make it directly available to all of humanity. This is reflected in some of his sayings, such as:

"Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace."

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

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My father used to have an oil portrait of Albert Schweitzer in his church office study. It had been painted by a Pennsylvania State Penitentiary prisoner-- in for life-- for murder. It was a very handsome, well painted portrait, based on the photograph above.

Monday, January 12, 2015


My puppy Renzo is Six Years Old today! He shares his birthday with Martin from Bratislava, who has been such a wonderful friend to all my dogs, whenever he's visited San Francisco.

Renzo came to California five years ago last June with my nephew Sheridan and his wife Sylvie. They picked him up in Pennsylvania and took him back to their apartment in Manhattan for nearly a week before flying to San Francisco for a family wedding in Tahoe.

My friend Adam named Renzo. Originally I was going to call him Roger (which I thought was cute with the double meaning) but Adam thought that too prosaic, and suggested Renzo instead. (With Rupert, Rose and Rob, his name had to start with an 'R') Next Adam coined the sobriquet "Chewy" for my dear Blenheim puppy. Now he calls him "Demon Dog" since he squirms like a fish out of water, and is a very demanding little pup. His funny, off-centered face betrays his mischievousness.

I understand from the breeder Mary Louise in Pennsylvania, that Renzo's not likely to calm down very much even after being fixed. It's in his genes. His sisters, mother, and grandfather were all hyper-active. So I have lots of fun to look forward to over the years! Now I have his mother Bette, who joined the family three Decembers ago.

For the year before Bette's arrival, my wonderful neighbors, Ben and Susan, took Renzo for a half-hour run in Glen Park with their three border collies. They picked him up about 7:05 A.M. Renzo started to yelp and circle as soon as he heard Lucy bark. Then either Susan or Ben came in the back door and took my little guy away for a romp in the park chasing birds. 

Happy birthday to my frisky Renzo boy!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

ALEXANDER HAMILTON ~ January 11, 1755 or 1757 ~ July 12, 1804

Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1757 – July 12, 1804) was the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, a Founding Father, economist, and political philosopher. The chief of staff to General George Washington during the American Revolution, he was a leader of nationalist forces calling for a new Constitution; he was one of America's first lawyers, and wrote half of the Federalist Papers, a primary source for Constitutional interpretation. He was more influential than the other three members of Washington's Cabinet, and the financial expert; the Federalist Party formed to support his policies.

Born and raised in the Caribbean, Hamilton attended King's College (now Columbia University) in New York. At the start of the American Revolutionary War, he organized an artillery company and was chosen as its captain. Hamilton became the senior aide-de-camp and confidant to General George Washington, the American commander-in-chief. After the war, Hamilton was elected to the Continental Congress from New York, but he resigned to practice law and to found the Bank of New York. He served in the New York Legislature, and he was the only New Yorker who signed the U.S. Constitution. He wrote about half the Federalist Papers, which secured its ratification by New York; they are still the most important unofficial interpretation of the Constitution. In the new government under President Washington he became Secretary of the Treasury. An admirer of British political systems, Hamilton was a nationalist who emphasized strong central government and sucessfully argued that the implied powers of the Constitution could be used to fund the national debt, assume state debts, and create the government-owned Bank of the United States. These programs were funded largely by a tariff on imports and a highly controversial whiskey tax.

By 1792, the coalition led by Hamilton was opposed by a coalition led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Hamilton's Federalist now had to compete with Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. The parties fought over Hamilton's fiscal goals and national bank, as well as his foreign policy of extensive trade and friendly relations with Britain, especially the Jay Treaty which was ratified, by a single vote, after a lengthy struggle between the two coalitions. Embarrassed by a blackmail affair that became public, Hamilton resigned as the Secretary of the Treasury in 1795 and returned to the practice of law in New York. In 1798, the Quasi-War with France led Hamilton to argue for, organize, and become the operational commander of the new national army.

Hamilton's opposition to his fellow Federalist John Adams hurt the party in the 1800 elections. When Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied in the electoral college, Hamilton helped defeat his bitter personal enemy Burr and elect Jefferson as president. With his party's defeat, Hamilton's nationalist and industrialization ideas lost their former national prominence. Hamilton's intense rivalry with Burr resulted in a duel, in which Hamilton was mortally wounded.

Hamilton was always denounced by the Jeffersonians and later the Jacksonians, but his economic ideas, especially support for a protective tariff and a national bank, were promoted by the Whig Party and after the 1850s by the newly created Republican Party, which hailed him as the nation's greatest Secretary of the Treasury.

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

JULIUS CAESAR Crosses the RUBICON ~ January 10, 49 BCE

49 BCE: Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon, signaling the start of civil war.

Rubicon (Rubicō, Italian: Rubicone) is a 29 km long river in northern Italy. The river flows from the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic Sea through the southern Emilia-Romagna region between the towns of Rimini and Cesena.

"Crossing the Rubicon" is a popular idiom meaning to pass a point of no return. This phrase is often used by journalists in newspapers. It refers to Caesar's 49 BCE crossing of the river, which was considered an act of war.

The river is notable as Roman law prohibited the Rubicon from being crossed by any Roman Army legion. The river was considered to mark the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north and Italy proper to the south; the law thus protected the republic from internal military threat. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army in 49 BC, supposedly on January 10 of the Roman calendar, to make his way to Rome, he broke that law and made armed conflict inevitable. According to historian Suetonius, Caesar uttered the famous phrase ālea iacta est ("the die is cast").

Suetonius also described how Caesar was apparently still undecided as he approached the river, and the author gave credit for the actual moment of crossing to a supernatural apparition. The phrase "crossing the Rubicon" has survived to refer to any people committing themselves irrevocably to a risky and revolutionary course of action – similar to the modern phrase "passing the point of no return". It also refers, in limited usage, to its plainer meaning of using military power in a non-receptive homeland.

Since the river has changed its course many times through the years, it is impossible to confirm exactly where the original Rubicon flowed when Julius Caesar crossed it.

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Friday, January 9, 2015


1806 – Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson receives a state funeral and is interred in St. Paul's Cathedral. His funeral was two and a half months after the Battle of Trafalgar.

Nelson's body was returned to Britain aboard the Victory. Unloaded at the Nore it was taken to Greenwich and placed in a lead coffin, and that in another wooden one, made from the mast of L'Orient which had been salvaged after the Battle of the Nile. He lay in state in the Painted Hall at Greenwich for three days, before being taken up river aboard a barge, accompanied by Lord Hood, Sir Peter Parker, and the Prince of Wales. The coffin was taken into the Admiralty for the night, attended by Nelson's chaplain, Alexander Scott. The next day, 9 January, a funeral procession consisting of 32 admirals, over a hundred captains, and an escort of 10,000 troops took the coffin from the Admiralty to St. Paul's Cathedral. After a four-hour service he was laid to rest within a sarcophagus originally carved for Thomas Cardinal Wolsey.

Nelson's most famous monument is his column in Trafalgar Square in central London.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS ~ January 8, 1815

The Battle of New Orleans was a prolonged battle which took place around New Orleans, Louisiana from December 23, 1814 to January 8, 1815, and was the final major battle of the War of 1812. American forces, commanded by General Andrew Jackson, defeated an invading British Army intent on seizing New Orleans and the vast territory America had acquired with the Louisiana Purchase. The Treaty of Ghent had been signed on 24 December 1814, but news of the peace would not reach the combatants until February. The battle is often regarded as the greatest American land victory of the war.

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When giving tours of the San Francisco Custom House, I frequently allude to the Battle of New Orleans as an example of how slow transportation and communication was in the early 19th Century. Gold was discovered in January 1848, but we don't say the 48'ers. Of course, the people who discovered gold tried to keep quiet about it, because they were afraid they'd be overrun (and they were). But more importantly, it took almost a full year for momentum to build to attract fortune seekers from around the world.

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)