Saturday, September 29, 2007
We continued up 80 to Sacramento. When we took the exit in West Sacramento, I was sad to learn that the Tower Bridge was closed for work. We took a long detour that led to 5.
Eventually we got to the California State Railroad Museum. The exhibits have been rearranged and augmented quite a bit since we had last gone. I liked the way the sleeping car and the diner are together. Visitors enter at one end of the sleeping car, then cross a platform at the other end to the diner. We went under the freeway to the K Street Mall for a late lunch, then went to the depot, where I was able to take photos and videos of the Sacramento Southern's Granite Rock locomotive taking water, switching, and leaving with the three o'clock train.
Traffic was very light and we were home in about 90 minutes. It was a nice, relaxing day.
Friday, September 28, 2007
"Who's at short?"
"What is the name of the shortstop?"
"Hu is the shortstop."
"That's what I'm asking."
It's more fun than the game.
The Giants playing the Dodgers inspired to post a photo of the Juan Marichal statue. He was known for his kindness and gentleness with the Dodgers.
I took the photo on 21-September-2007.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I don't know the name of this body style. It doesn't look entirely safe to have the passenger in front of the driver.
How many car ads today would use the word "obviates"?
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
I was hoping Bengie Molina would win, and he did. He has been a great boost to the team and I am happy he is under contract for two more seasons.
As I passed the ballpark going each way, I noticed a lot of people going into the offices. I held the door open for a guy with a big box in his arms. I wonder if the activity had anything to do with the announcement later in the afternoon that Barry Bonds will not return to the Giants next year.
I am very happy that we had Barry Bonds with us for 15 years. I remember his father Bobby when he played for the Giants. I was sad when Barry signed with the Pirates.
I remember when we thought the Giants were leaving for Florida. Then the new owners came in and signed Bonds. Things got better after that.
Barry Bonds is the best player I have ever seen in person, except for Willy Mays.
I'm sorry to say it, but I think it's time that the Giants move on and try to build a new team. Barry is not much of a fielder any more, and he hasn't been in the lineup enough to make a difference this year.
I took the photo today. As I walked back across the Third Street Bridge, I wondered where they were going to put the Barry Bonds statue, and what action it will depict.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Jasper Fforde has published the fifth novel (briefly it was the sixth) in his series about SpecOps/Jurisfiction/carpet-laying agent Thursday Next. Every Fforde novel that I have read has been a fun ride. He is widely read and I have fun spotting the references to various books, movies, television series, and urban legends. I also like the way that Thursday is a person who does the right thing.
This is the cover of the UK edition. I like it better than the US version.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Read the first article.
The text is taken from the Library of Congress' American Memory site (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html).
The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion.
BY DR. P. H. VAN DER WEYDE.
Manufacturer and Builder Magazine, Volume 22, Issue 11, November 1889
The pneumatic dispatch systems are closely allied to the pneumatic or atmospheric railways, because they are operated by the same agency -- air pressure. It is, therefore, proper to refer to both of them, especially as the improvements in the latter have had a useful influence in the development of the former.
Very soon after the invention of the air pump by Otto von Guericke, in Germany, in 1655, it was found that small objects could be propelled by atmospheric pressure through a tube of which one end was open, while the other end was connected with an air pump. It was, in fact, for many years a favorite lecture-room experiment to let a little ball ascend in an inclined glass tube, by exhausting the air at the upper end, and letting the ball roll down again by gravity when the air was admitted from above.
It was only after a lapse of 170 years, in 1825, that the first practical application was made of this discovery, by ValIance, of Brighton, England, who invented a device intended to transmit freight, and even passengers, by atmospheric pressure acting on a piston, or rallier diaphragm, fitting almost air-tight, in a square wooden tube. This piston was attached to a carriage on wheels, in which the freight or passengers were placed, while the air was exhausted by a stationary steam air pump placed at the forward end of the tube.
Ten years later (1835), Henry Pinkas placed carriages on rails outside of a round metallic tube, and connected the forward one, by means of a rod, with the piston inside the tube, while the latter had, on the upper side, a longitudinal slot, provided with a continuous elastic double valve, which gave passage to the piston rod, without admitting air. In 1840, Clegg and Samuda constructed such an arrangement on a portion of the West London Railway, which was considered such a success that it was adopted by the Dublin & Kingston Railway from Kingston to Dalkey, and, later, for 10 miles on the South Devon line. The English, and especially the French patent records commemorate a great number of improvements in the details of construction, according to which the St. Germain railway was established, and ran so successfully that it was still in operation in 1862. Later, it was also abandoned by reason of the enormous improvements made in locomotives, which soon took the lead universally, in spite of their deficiency of economy in the consumption of fuel.
The writer of this article saw, in 1849, the operation of a working model of such a railway, which was on exhibition in one of the leading hotels on Broadway, New York. It consisted in an inclined railway track, with a slotted tube between the rails, while a miniature train of cars was propelled upward by the sliding piston moved by the exhausting action of an air pump placed at the top of the incline.
The exhibition was intended as an attempt to introduce the system in the United States, but without success, not so much on account of any deficiency as for the need of a very different kind of invention of a later date, and which is successfully operated at the present day, especially in New York city. It consists in the formation of a stock company, which allows a liberal commission to any one who, by promise of great profits, can induce his rich friends or acquaintances to invest money in the affair by purchasing stock. In order to give this kind of business a lift, it is customary to sell at a very low figure, or, if necessary, to give outright without pay, several shares of stock to some prominent men, in order to have them on the list of stockholders. We mean such men as the Vice-President and Postmaster-General of the United States, the President of the Union Pacific Railroad, etc. This method was applied a few years ago, as is well known, by the Pan-Electric Telephone Company, of New Orleans, with the additional purpose of interesting influential members of the United States government on their side during the pending patent law suits which were anticipated. It is also customary to start rumors of offers made by certain capitalists of one, two, or more million dollars for the possession of the patent-rights, with the additional information that the offer was flatly refused by the company.
About the time (1861 or 1862) that I was occupied with the experimental investigation and theoretical consideration of the subject, I received at the Cooper Union a visit from Elms P. Needham, who was a manufacturer of the so-called parlor organs, or melodeons (at 264-268 East Twenty-third street, New York), and with whom I had become very well acquainted. He informed me that he had secured a patent covering two features of a system of pneumatic transmission of his invention, which were, first, the use of hollow rolling balls containing the materials to be transmitted; and, second, the combined use of compressed air behind the balls and rarified air in font of them. This he accomplished by a blowing arrangement, of which the exhaust tube was connected with the receiving box, and the blowing tube with the transmitter. He invited me to come to his establishment and examine the small working model which he had constructed, and which, he said, excited the astonishment of all who saw its successful operation. I did so, and found a series of mutually-connected glass tubes, of about an inch, or perhaps more, in diameter, forming a closed circuit as long as the large room admitted. In these tubes were contained loosely-fitting small balls, which were easily and smoothly propelled by the operation of an exhaust and compression blower, worked by hand. The whole arrangement was very neat, and well adapted to cause the wonder and praise of those ignorant of the operation of air pumps and the properties of compressed and rarefied air.
I frankly told him my opinion, and mentioned some objections to the rolling balls when applied on a large scale and filled with material to be transmitted, and advocated the construction of closely-fitting wagons, resting on interior wheels, slightly projecting through the bottom. I do not know whether this suggestion caused him to construct, later, the arrangement of a straight, square box of boards, 4 inches wide and as long as the size of his premises allowed (78 feet). In this box he had a small wagon, 8 inches long, in which he packed letters and papers, and found that it operated perfectly, as was to be expected, because he had a disposable surface to exert the pressure on of 16 square inches, which, if his air pump or blower had only the capacity of increasing the air pressure one-fifteenth and decreasing it at the other side as much, would give a pressure of 2 pounds per inch, or 82 pounds for the whole sectional surface -- much more than sufficient to accomplish the purpose.
In 1864, I left New York to accept a professorship offered me in Guard College, Philadelphia, and when, the following year (1865), I visited New York to see the exhibition at the yearly fair of the American Institute, then held in the Armory in Fourteenth street, I found there Elias P. Needham's pneumatic dispatch models in operation, while his brother, Orwell H. Needham, almost daily gave lectures and explanations on the advantages of this system, and he did this with considerable ability.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Having a local comic strip allowed Frank to talk about San Francisco issues in a way that no except Herb Caen equalled.
I know I had heard Joe Zawinul's stuff on KJAZ, like his work with Cannonball Adderly, but I don't think I was aware of his name until I heard Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and saw him in the credits. I remember a friend lent me the first Weather Report album. I found it more accessible than Bitches Brew. I listened to it many times and was reluctant to return it. I finally broke down and found the money to buy a copy for myself.
Thank you, Joe for all the music.
One more thing: The other day, I visited the California Historical Society's current exhibit, "Past Tents". It made me want to go camping, something I haven't done for years.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I had a great time participating in the Slapstick Blog-a-Thon. Now I need to do a little catching-up.
1. Luciano Pavarotti passed on last week. He had a remarkable voice. My grandfather talked about Caruso; I'm sorry he didn't live to hear Pavarotti. Pavarotti's voice was not so dark, but he could do many things with it.
I went to see him in person once, at the Opera House, in a memorial to Mayor George Moscone. Unfortunately, Pavarotti did not show up. In his place, they had Frank Sinatra. That was all right ;0)
2. Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of 09/11/2001. I remembered a dream I had had the next night, of an airliner crashing into the Bank of America building.
3. Saturday, we went to the Cartoon Art Museum on Mission Street. The main exhibit was a show of political cartoons from around the world called "Why Do They Hate Us?" Many of them were not as harsh as what we do in this country. There was also a Peanuts exhibit, Edward Gorey's designs for Dracula, animation items, including two drawings by Winsor McKay, and a nice selection from the general collection. While the family visited the Gap store at Powell and Market, I watched two cable cars get towed away because the cable had stopped. I'll post videos on YouTube.
4. This may be the only time I ever mention football in this blog, but Monday I got off the SamTrans bus at the park and ride lot in Pacifica, and it was full of cars. And there were a bunch of people dressed in red. Then I realized that the Forty-Niners were playing Monday Night Football at Candlestick. I had never seen a Ballpark Express bus there on a weekday because Monday Night Football games usually start around 5pm. This game was starting at 7:15pm for some reason.
The bus, 118, an articulated, was signed for line 810.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Please see my 13-January-2008 update at the bottom.
This post is part of The Slapstick Blog-a-Thon being coordinated by Thom at Film of the Year. My first post for the blog-a-thon was With Their Odd Little Youngster, "Buster". My second post was Fred Karno's Army.
For the third time, I am taking advantage of the recent work of the Library of Congress, which has digitized a sampling of newspapers from 1900-1910 as a pilot for its Chronicling America project. I wanted to see where silent movie slapstick performers came from.
Many silent comics started their careers by imitating Charlie Chaplin. Harold Lloyd created Lonesome Luke by trying to do everything the opposite: tight trousers instead of baggy, a big coat instead of a tight one, a thin moustache instead of a toothbrush. Billy West imitated Chaplin almost exactly. Both men moved on to adopt other characters. Harold Lloyd did pretty well with his career.
Billie Ritchie, on the other hand, claimed he was wearing the tramp costume two or three years before Chaplin was born in 1889, and that Chaplin was imitating his act. He may have had a point. Much of the information I found about Billie Ritchie came from Robb Farr's wonderful Mug Shots website, which appears to have gone out of business.
William Monro was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 05-September-1874. He was performing professinally as early as 1887. He worked for Fred Karno, playing many of the roles that Chaplin later took, including the drunk in "Mumming Birds"/"A Night in an English Music Hall".
Ritchie left Karno and travelled the world performing in slapstick shows. Here is an ad from the Washington Times, 11-October-1908 for a show in a burlesque theater. This was during the period when burlesque focused more on broad comedy.
Here is an ad from the Washington Times, 08-September-1909 for a show at the same theater. Notice that the show, "A Night in a Music Hall", must have derived from Karno's production.
Ritchie claimed that he had played the drunk character 5,000 times. Here is an item about the show from the same edition:
The Gayety -- "Vanity Fair."
The latest musical entertainment that is to hold the boards at the Gayety Theater next week is called "Vanity Fair," which has been chosen as a fitting medium for the introduction of the Ritchie London Comedy Company, a band of players who are without a peer in their particular branch of work andwho were one of the real hits last season when they presented their world-famous travesty called "A Night in a London Music Hall." The company includes Billie Ritchie, Dick McAllister, Clark and Turner, Nelda Noble, the Cycling Brunettes, Winifred Francis, Charles Cardon, and a chorus of thirty show girls and "ponies." An extra added attraction is Conchitte, the world-renownedHindoo nautch dancer.
A nautch dance is apparently an adaption of some dance from India.
After Chaplin's early success, movie producers signed Ritchie. He started to make L-KO Comedies under director Henry "Pathé" Lehrman in 1914. In 1917, Ritchie moved with Lehrman to Fox/Sunshine Comedies.
Not many of Lehrman's films survive, but he is known for making rough and ready slapstick comedies. Ritchie's character did not grow the way Chaplin's did.
Ritchie's career was cut short in what sounds like a scene from a slapstick movie. In fact, it was a scene from a slapstick movie. While shooting a scene in 1919, he was attacked by one or more ostriches. Ritchie was seriously injured, and never recovered. He died in 1921.
I'd like to say a final thanks to Thom for organizing the Slapstick Blog-a-Thon. I've had fun writing these articles, and had even more fun reading the articles written by other people.
Update 13-January-2008: I joined a mailing list about silent comedians (http://www.silentcomedians.com/). What did I find there but a thread started by Frederica Merrivale entitled "I'm Going to Miss Thse Ostriches." She dug up a copy of Ritchie's death certificate and found that the cause of death was listed as stomach cancer. I shouldn't say I am sad to hear that. Sometimes the stories play better than the truth, but the truth is better to know.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
"Fred Karno's Army" is an expression that still turns up in the UK. According to phrases.org, "'Fred Karno's Army', meaning a chaotic outfit, became enshrined in the English language" during World War I, when soldiers sang songs like:
We are Fred Karno's army,
We are the ragtime infantry.
We cannot fight, we cannot shoot,
What bleeding use are we?
And when we get to Berlin
We'll hear the Kaiser say,
"Hoch, hoch! Mien Gott, what a bloody rotten lot,
Are the ragtime infantry."
(Thanks to The Britannia and Castle/Norfolk Section for the lyrics. Visit their site to hear the tune.)
Again I am taking advantage of the recent work of the Library of Congress, which has digitized a sampling of newspapers from 1900-1910 as a pilot for its Chronicling America project. I wanted to see where silent movie slapstick performers came from.
In this article, I will discuss a man who employed Charlie Chaplin, Charlie's brother Sydney, and Stan Laurel (then known as Stan Jefferson) at the same time: music hall impresario (isn't that a great word? I'd like to be an impresario some time) Fred Karno.
Fred Westcott was born in Exeter, UK, in 1867. He left home and went into show business as an acrobat. He changed his name to Karno somewhere along the way. Fred worked his way up in the business and gained great fame as the producer of music hall pantomime shows. Pantomime in this sense is not silent, like mime. It is a tradition of comedy, still commonly performed around the holidays in the UK, involving song, spoken dialogue, and physical slapstick. At any one time, Karno had several companies touring the theatres in Britain and other countries. His headquarters became known as the Fun Factory. Some sources claim that the pie-in-the-face-gag was a Karno creation.
Karno signed Chaplin's older half-brother, Sydney, in 1906. Sydney persuaded Karno to sign Charlie in 1907 or 1908. Stan Jefferson joined Karno in 1910 and served as Charlie's understudy. That is a pretty good roster of talent.
I found some newspaper clippings reporting on a Karno company travelling in the United States, but they were from before 1910, when Karno sent Chaplin and Laurel to America for the first time. While Charlie toured America for the second time, he caught the eye of movie producers, and was signed by Keystone in 1913.
Here is an advertisement from the New York Sun, 09-June-1906.
Notice that the manager of the Jardin de Paris was Flo Ziegfeld, and that the first-ever edition of the Ziegfeld Follies was going to be opening soon.
Karno's troupe was performing "A Night in an English Music Hall", one of their most popular shows. In Britain it was called "Mumming Birds". Chaplin played a drunken audience member who disrupted the music hall show-within-a-show. Chaplin adapted the story and played the same role in his Essanay comedy "A Night at the Show".
The same issue of the New York Sun carried a brief item about the program. Roof garden theaters were popular in New York before air conditioning. "Living pictures" were not movies, but people who posed in tableaux representing works or art or historical scenes.
The third of the roof gardens the Jardin de Paris on the roof of the New York Theatre, announces these attractions: Mlle. Dazie, Fred Karno's pantomime troupe in "A Night in an English Music Hall" Celia Galley, the Four Mortons, the Stewart Sisters and the living pictures.
Here is an advertisement from the New York Sun, 10-May-1908.
"Early Birds" was another of Karno's popular shows. Many US ads refer to it as "Slums". Eva Tanguay was a major vaudeville headliner. Note that Vitagraph motion pictures are included on the bill.
Here is a New York Sun item about the show:
Eva Tanguay will be the headliner at Percy G. Wiliams's Orpheum this week, when she will appear in her cyclonic act. Karno's "Slums" will amuse. Pat Rooney and Marian Bent are a singing and dancing duo. La Gardenia is a Spanish dancer, and she is assisted by troubadours, mandolin players. Julius Tannen is a monologist Lee Amatis is a musical act. Coram is a ventriloquist. The Jack Wilson Trio is scheduled, while the Bessie Valdare troupe are bicyclists.
Stan Laurel said "Fred Karno didn't teach Charlie and me all we know about comedy, he just taught us most of it. Above all, he taught us to be supple and precise. Out of all that endless rehearsal and performance came Charlie, the most supple and precise comedian of our time." It is ironic that the name of a man who taught precision above all became a synonym for a disorganized mob. Thanks to the Sherwood Times for the quote.
The movies ruined the music hall business and Karno went broke.
Coming up next: Other people imitated Charlie Chaplin. Billie Ritchie said that Chaplin was imitating him.
Friday, September 7, 2007
I was excited when Thom announced the Slapstick Blog-a-Thon, and tried to think of something to write about. I have enjoyed silent comedy since I saw Fractured Flickers and the Robert Youngson compilations on television. Later, the Avenue Theatre in San Francisco showed silent movies every Friday night, accompanied live on the Mighty Wurlitzer. Now we have the DVD, which offers many chances to see movies that I had only read about.
I thought I would take advantage of the recent work of the Library of Congress, which has digitized a sampling of newspapers from 1900-1910 as a pilot for its Chronicling America project. I wanted to see where silent movie slapstick performers came from.
I started with my favorite, Buster Keaton.
Joseph Frank Keaton was born on 04-October-1895 in Piqua, Kansas. His parents, Joe and Myra Keaton, were show business veterans. They were performing that night in Piqua, so that is where he was born.
There are many interesting stories about his childhood, and some are true. One story says that Joseph Frank was nicknamed "Buster" by Harry Houdini, who travelled in the same shows as his parents. Houdini saw the infant fall down a flight of stairs and pop up unscathed at the bottom. "That was a buster your kid took!" said Houdini, or words to that effect. Other sources say that Houdini didn't travel with the Keatons until Buster was older. Too bad.
In any event, by the time Buster was three, the act had become "The Three Keatons". Myra played the saxophone while Joe threw Buster around the stage. Buster learned to take spectacular falls without getting hurt. The act was pure slapstick, except for the saxophone. Joe and Buster hit each other with brooms. Joe picked up Buster by a suitcase handle sewed to his coat and threw him high against the backdrop. Buster slid down and again and again popped up unhurt. This got great laughs, unless he smiled. This is where Buster learned to keep a straight face.
Here we see an advertisement from the San Francisco Call, 02-February-1908, when Buster was 12 and the Three Keatons were appearing at the Orpheum Theater. Squint carefully at the advertisement and notice that it bills "Joe, Myra and Buster, with Jingles Thrown in for Good Measure." Jingles was Buster's brother Harry. Sister Louise sometimes expanded the act to the Five Keatons.
Here is an article about the same engagement, from the same issue of the Call.
The Orpheum announces for the week beginning this afternoon a program of extraordinary novelty. Miss Alice Norton, who will head the bill, is a young German chemist who for seven years was a student under Professor Pictet, one of the most celebrated of Teuton scientists. She manufactures in the sight of her audiences rubies, sapphires and other gems, which, it is claimed, bear such striking resemblance to "the real" thing that only the most expert lapidaries can tell them from the genuine stones. She claims that there is no test which science has yet devised which is too severe for her manufactured jewels to stand. Miss Norton begins her performance by taking common clay and placing it in a crucible. She adds chromic acid and the clay is reduced to the consistency of thin mud. A powder is then sprinkled into the crucible and sparks of fire are emitted by the consequent intense heat set up by the chemical reaction. A light, so vivid that the eye cannot look at it, is given out. The clay, becomes a mass of quartz, which when broken up with a heavy hammer discloses the gems which are the products of Miss Norton's skill.
The Melani trio, which will make its first appearance this afternoon, will furnish, it is promised, 15 minutes of excellent music. The members of the trio are singers and instrumentalists. The three Keatons will present an eccentric comedy act highly spoken of. Harry Allister is a clever impersonator who is well recommended in the eastern press, and Mme. Czinka Panna will show what a cymbal virtuoso can do. Her performance is enlivened by a dog that dances and another one that plays the organ. This week will be the last of Hilda Spong and company, and John C. Rice and Sally Cohen will also concluded (sic - JT) their local engagement at the end of this week. They will appear in a new sketch, "The Kleptomaniac."
I was fascinated to see that a chemist was at the head of the bill. Thom kindly pointed out that John C Rice was the star of Edison's 1896 movie "The Kiss". Read about it in Thom's Film of the Year/1896.
The title of this article comes from another newspaper item, from the 26-March-1905 New York Sun. Buster was ten years old.
from IN THE THEATRES THIS WEEK
The chief attraction at Hyde & Behman's this week is the appearance of the English actress Jessie Millward, supported by Percy Herbert and an efficient cast in Hartley Manners's one act play, "A Queen's Messenger." Miss Millward plays a Russian female spy. The programme contains ten more special features, including the Three Keatons, with their odd little youngster, "Buster"; the Italian Trio of singers, Bailey and Madison, in fun and acrobatics; Lew Hawkins, the minstrel; Julia Kingsley and Nelson Lewis, in a farce, "Her Uncle's Niece"; Lillian Shaw, vocalist, and Rice and Elmer, triple bar performers.
Coming up next: Fred Karno, the man who employed Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
There has been a Cliff House at Land's End in San Francisco since 1863. There is some debate over whether the present structure, shown here not too long after it opened in 1909, is the third or the fourth building. It was recently renovated and I don't care for what the Golden Gate National Recreation Area did with it. The front is almost blank. The inside is unattractive.
When I lived in the city, I used to love to walk out to the Cliff House, especially on extra-foggy days.
Monday, September 3, 2007
(somehow the text of this item got deleted. This is my reconstruction.)
We went to the Seventh Annual Washington Township Railroad Fair at Ardenwood Historic Farm Regional Park in Fremont. Antelope and Western 1, an 1889 Porter 0-4-0, operated, along with a horse-drawn railcar and a garden train layout.
I'll post more on my Park Trains page at the end of the month. I took this video of A&W 1 pulling into Ardenwood Station. I have posted three other videos on YouTube.