LET US TURN BACK TO THE WRIGHT, BROTHERS AND SISTERS

PROLOGUE:
We had to go ahead and discover everything for ourselves.
–Orville Wright, 1901

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Friends, Readers, Countrymen —

If you have spent many a sleepless night
tossing and turning ’til dawn’s early light,
wondering if I’d e’er host another post,
take such worries off thy plate — they’re toast.

Yes, Brothers and Sisters, thy long wait is o’er.
I’m back, and who of you could ask for more
although I must confess
that most may ask for less. 😦

Never-the-less, Brothers and Sisters,
it is written in the stars that I must return to the scene of my rhymes and other crimes. It’s Kismet.

Notwithstanding the never-the-less, Brothers and Sisters, I digress.
I come here not to berhyme the Wrights, but to praise them.

Thus this follow-up to my May 17 post, THE DAY THE WRIGHTS DONE ME WRONG, because, by ancient axiom, it’s the Wright thing to do (If at first you don’t succeed, fly, fly again). And if this discourse has the unintended consequence of being the sleep-aid you need to catch up on those zzzzz, the added benefit comes at no extra charge.

But I doubt that will be the case with THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, which, it so happens, is the title of a book I just finished reading (by my favorite historian, David McCullough). It’s no less than you’d expect from a Pulitzer Prize winning author: a masterful biography which (quoting from the dust cover) “draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including personal diaries, notebooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence, to tell the human side of a profoundly American story.”

The Wrights spent years of trial and air working to construct the world’s first ‘aeroplane,’ but as reader Don Frankel noted on May 17, America paid scant attention even after their successful first flight Dec. 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (and Don wasn’t just whistling Dixie in his comment). Finally, in 1906, after numerous improvements (including a more powerful engine) and many test flights, “much of the scientific world and the press [began] to change their perspective on the brothers”, and they started to attract commercial and government–especially French, not American– interest.

To the latter point, President (and fellow Ohioan) Wm. Howard Taft spoke as follows in presenting the two brothers with Gold Medals on June 10, 1909, in Washington D.C.:

I esteem it a great honor and an opportunity to present these medals to you as an evidence of what you have done. I am so glad–perhaps at a delayed hour–to show that in America it is not true that “a prophet is not without honor save in his own country.” It is especially gratifying thus to note a great step in human discovery by paying honor to men who bear it so modestly. You made this discovery by a course that we of America like to feel is distinctly American–by keeping your noses right at the job until you had accomplished what you had determined to do.

There are many stories within the story of THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, many twists and turns and mishaps along the way. The Wrights weren’t ‘stick’ figures with no interests and little to commend beyond their mechanical genius. Wilbur, for example, wrote home from France in 1906 of long walks and “the great buildings and art treasures of Paris, revealing as he never had–or had call to–the extent of his interest in architecture and painting.”

Read this bio and you will surely be taken along for the ride, as was I, by “the human side of a profoundly American story” of two men most of us know only from dry history books.

So fasten your life jackets and come fly with me.

EPILOGUE:
We dared to hope we had invented something that would bring lasting peace to the Earth. But we were wrong. We underestimated man’s capacity to hate and to corrupt good means for an evil end. –Orville Wright, 1943 (during WWII)

 

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15 THINGS 15 IS FAMOUS FOR

There is nothing I like more than a challenge (well, there is probably something I like more, but I needed a lead-in). After my posts “FIVE DAYS HATH NOVEMBER” on Nov. 5 and “TEN” on Nov. 10, it occurred to me to keep the gambit going with a “FIFTEEN” post on Nov. 15. However, other than the famous “Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” it’s hard to figure what else 15 is iconic for that I could build a post around. So I challenged myself to compile a list of 15 famous fifteens, knowing that although most of what I come up with may not yet be famous, the mere mention of them here will make them so — thanks to you, my many adoring readers and viral instigators.

Without further ado, then, here are 15 things that 15 has been (or soon will be) famous for:

1.  15 minutes of fame
2.  15 minute coffee breaks
3.  15 humble politicians (coming soon to a universe near you)
4.  15 days of darkness beginning, coincidentally, Nov. 15 (another of those social media apocalyptic rumors, apparently started by someone who had been out in the sun too long)
5.  15 gun salute (for credentials rated six guns beneath the warranting of a 21 gun salute)
6.  15 things that look like Donald Trump:
http://onemorepost.com/donald-trump-hair-look-alikes/
7.  15 flavors of prunes
8.  15 minutes of unforgiving flatulence
9.  15 temptations (Satan’s answer to God’s 15 Commandments, of which Moses dropped five, while Satan’s temptations have multiplied like wildfire)
10. Etcetera
11. And so forth
12. And so on
13. And the like
14. Whatever
15. Last but lust, pure gold — this 15 from Robert Louis Stevenson’s TREASURE ISLAND:

NOTE: The Dead Man’s Chest referenced in the song is DEAD CHEST ISLAND (aka DEAD MAN’S CHEST ISLAND), a small, uninhabited island in the British Virgin Islands. The pirate known as “Blackbeard” is said to have punished his mutinous crew by marooning them on the island, each with a cutlass and a bottle of rum, with the expectation that they would kill each other. But when he returned after 30 days, he found that 15 had survived; thus —

Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest–
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Robert Louis Stevenson, by the way, was born on November 13, 1850 — two days shy of coming to this post on his 165th birthday….a shortcoming for which I absolve posthaste the author of such admired works as the STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, KIDNAPPED, and TREASURE ISLAND.

ADDENDUM: I was writing the first draft of this post when I heard of the terrorist attacks in Paris. To my friends/readers in France, may I express solidarité. In the aftermath, humor can seem out of place — but life marches on through (and past) the madness that does not know how to laugh. We cry at the mindlessness of it all, but we are human; we will laugh again….and we’ll always have Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRENCH LICKS / ROMAN WRINKLES

PARIS IS NOT NICE, & NEITHER IS NICE*

If we would please in society, we must be prepared to be taught
many things we know already by people who do not know them.
–Nicolas Chamfort, French writer

Beg pardon, Monsieur Chamfort, but since when have the French (even the
Nice* French) had a reputation for giving a damn about pleasing anyone?

*Nice (a city in France) is pronounced “NIECE” in French

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NOSING AROUND THE HILLY ROMAN EMPIRE

The Eternal City of Seven Hills
Has more holy grounds than a catacomb.
But — be it ever so rumpled —
“There’s no place like Rome.”

Ah….Roma!

Arrivederci Roma!

BEWARE OF GEEKS BEARING GIFTS

Yesterday I read in USA TODAY that the Statue of Liberty was not a gift from the government of France to the people of the United States. In an article headlined “Unmasking the myths behind Lady Liberty” (expounding on a new book by Elizabeth Mitchell titled Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty), it was further revealed that French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi “did not like most Americans. He thought that they were more interested in money than art.” Can you imagine that!

Like you (assuming you are like me), I am of course highly insulted by such an insinuation….especially coming from a man who, as he was building it, “put parts of the statue on display with an admission charge” and “copyrighted the statue’s image, intending to get paid every time it was used in ads, postcards and trinkets.” A French artiste should be rich enough to finance such a work with his own funds, just like an American artist.

In any case (no thanks to the French government), sufficient funds were raised and the rest, as they parlez-vous, is history….speaking of which, the above revelation got me to thinking about how many other celebrated “gifts” haven’t been all they seem on the surface.

The legendary Trojan Horse story is undoubtedly the most famous of them all, hence the well known saying, Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. In a more general sense, of course, what can top politicians promising anything to get elected? And, not to beat a dead horse, many religions promise eternal bliss in heaven for behaving yourself while going through hell on earth. ‘Twas ever thus.

Satirical geek that I am, my favorite has to be the 72 virgins promised to Islamic martyrs by Muhammad/the Koran — 72 “young, full-breasted” virgins, no less. I must admit that this one is the most persuasive of all. At my age, this holds the future promise of being as good as it gets.