Wednesday, January 31, 2018
15. Abraham Lincoln:
In 1984 author Gore Vidal published Lincoln: A Novel, a historical novel that is part of the Narratives of Empire series. Set during the American Civil War, the novel describes the presidency of Abraham Lincoln through the eyes of several historical figures, including presidential secretary John Hay, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, his daughter Kate Chase, U.S. Representative Elihu B. Washburne, and conspirators John Wilkes Booth and David Herold. The novel's emphasis is on the president's political and personal struggles, and not the battles of the Civil War. Though Lincoln is the focus, the book is never narrated from his point of view (with the exception of several paragraphs describing a dream Lincoln had shortly before his death). Vidal's portrait is drawn from contemporary diaries, memoirs, letters, newspaper accounts, and the biographical writings of Hay and John Nicolay, Lincoln's secretaries; and is buttressed by the work of both 19th- and 20th-century historians. Although written as a novel, historians acknowledge that the novel has been exceptionally researched.
The novel contains a passage that is poignant, moving and a suitable inclusion in this continuing series of greatest replies and responses.
Before the battle of Gettysburg Lincoln went to the front and passed a large tent that was a facility for Confederate wounded. Over the protests of security, Lincoln insisted on entering the tent of unpleasant sights, smells and sounds to see the young wounded Southern soldiers, any one of whom would no doubt have liked the opportunity to kill him.
When the colonel started to call the men to attention, the President stopped him with a gesture. Then Lincoln walked the length of the room, very slowly, looking to left and right, with his dreamy smile. At the end of the room, he turned and faced the wounded men; then, slowly, he removed his hat. All eyes that could see now saw him, and recognised him.
When Lincoln spoke, the famous trumpet-voice was muted; even intimate. ‘I am Abraham Lincoln.’ There was a long collective sigh of wonder and of tension and of…..? Washburne [a Congressman and friend] had never heard a sound quite like it. ‘I know that you have fought gallantly for what you believe in, and for that I honour you, and for your wounds so honourably gained. I feel no anger in my heart toward you; and trust you feel none for me. That is why I am here. That is why I am willing to take the hand, in friendship, of any man among you.’
The same long sigh, like a rising wind, began, and still no one spoke. Then a man on crutches approached the President and, in perfect silence, shook his hand. Others came forward, one by one; and each took Lincoln’s hand; and to each he murmured something that the man alone could hear.
At the end, as Lincoln made his way between the beds, stopping to talk to those who could not move, half of the men were in tears, as was Washburne himself.
In the last bed by the door, a young officer turned his back on the President, who touched his shoulder and murmured, ‘My son, we shall all be the same at the end.’ Then the President was gone.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Byter Nick K sent me an email taking me to task for an item published on and for Australia Day, namely:
It’s Monday morning after a long weekend. So naturally, rather than doing work, I am catching up on my bytes.
Thank you for this excellent service you provide. Interesting, thoughtful, thought-provoking and amusing. Always worth reading.
I am not sure whether or not you recognised it - perhaps if you did, you included it as a commentary on a segment of Australia (rather than a reflection of your own personal views) - but the last item on this Australia Day post is racist, Islamaphobic. The references to eating bacon, drinking alcohol and treating women as equals is unmistakably anti-Islam. It is the same sentiment, expressed more acceptably that appears on the louts’ t-shirts in the cartoon you posted “Makes you proud to be Australian” (namely, LOVE IT OR F**K OFF and F**K OFF WE’RE FULL). Cleverly, the meme invokes treating women as equals - for who could argue with that. Personally, I wonder whether the people who hold these views truly are the type to treat women equally. Perhaps. Perhaps not. In any event, the subtext of that meme is that Muslims do not belong in Australia. That is hurtful, divisive and, in my view, very wrong.
All the best,
Nick’s email raises some interesting points.
Firstly, not everything I post necessarily accords with my own views and philosophies. Take, for example, the Thought for the Day and the Quote of the Day – some reflect my own feelings, others may be posted to raise a smile, provoke thought or simply to look at something in a different way.
That said, I was aware when I posted the above item that there was an Islamic aspect to it. I did not, and still do not, consider it racist or Islamaphobic because it is not directed at all followers of Islam but at those who deny others the right to eat bacon, drink alcohol and treat women equally. In other words, it is directed at those who are themselves intolerant and racist.
Does being critical of Donald Trump or of Kim Jong-un make me anti-American or anti-Korean?
What do others think?
Monday, January 29, 2018
Byter Steve M sent me two emails, one about conkers (which will be the subject of a separate post later this week) and one responding to my post on doorstops, which is as follows:
Enjoyed Bytes this morning Otto. Great door stops! It reminded me of another of my heroes, Roald Dahl. Hope you don’t mind me relating his door stop story – I will try to be brief.
Dahl had written James and the Giant Peach but every single publisher in the UK (without exception, it is claimed) turned it down.
Dahl had not had much luck with his work at this stage, having only published a couple of short stories and one book in the USA.
He became despondent with the Giant Peach story, and the whole of the original manuscript was plonked down on the kitchen floor and used as a door stop.
Out of boredom, one of Dahl’s daughters decided to pick it up, started to read, and could not put it down. Without her father’s permission, the manuscript made it to school, and was smuggled into class. Dahl’s daughter’s best friend shared the adjacent desk, and could not help but notice her companions frenetic and illicit reading. Dahl’s daughter finished the reading the very same day, at school during lessons, and it was immediately passed to her best friend, who took it home to read that night. All this was without Dahl knowing.
The friend caused a bit of a ruckus at the dinner table that night because her parents thought she was rude, reading while the family ate. However the girl was insistent that the story was so wonderful, she could not put it down. She completed the read in one full session!
History has it, that the girl’s father was a publisher, about to leave the employ of one of the largest publishing houses in the UK to establish his own business. No doubt you have already worked out the name of his first published children’s book and who it’s author was.
Until the Harry Potter series took the world by storm, James and the Giant Peach was the biggest selling children’s book of all time!
As a would be author / writer, and dreamer of great things to come, I love this story and find it inspirational. Fate, it appears, lurks behind every door – sometimes it even props the door open for you!
Regards as always
I will mention that Steve is a published author of children’s books and, like Roald Dahl, has also written darker adult books.
Some more door stop thoughts and some vintage doorstop pics, including those that would today be totally unacceptable as racist and stereotyping . . .
Sunday, January 28, 2018
We all know what a doorstop is, right? It’s an object used to keep a door open, and I was put in mind of that when I was looking for something to prop open our front door on a windy day whilst Kate and I sat outside on the porch, letting Tux and Kane have a play. Instinctively, without thinking, I wondered where the doorstop was that we had used when my brothers and I were growing up. It was one of these . . .
For younger readers who may not know what it is, it is a shoe repair last, aka a cobblers’ awl or last, from the days when people repaired their own shoes at home, rather than just throwing them out. Bigger tasks were done by the local bootmaker. How long since you’ve seen a bootmaker’s shop? Not a Mr Minit kiosk but a traditional bootmaker’s? I used to love going in and smelling the leather, the glue. We still have a bootmaker’s shop in Ashfield:
Elias Stavrou opened the shoe repair business in the late 1960s, his brother in law Arthur Gerakas taking over the shop in 1976. Arthur’s son, Jim, has run the shop since the mid 1990s. Arthur continues working in the shop for a few hours a day, helping out Jim.
But I digress.
I ended up propping the door with a cricket bat that we keep near the hallstand as a protective measure. Well, you never know, do you.
It started me thinking about doorstops.
A few weeks ago I posted pics of amazing knockers, door knockers, that is. More of those pics are yet to come. Today, some pics, not of cobblers’ awls, but of amazing doorstops . . .
For Game of Thrones fans, here is the Hodor range of doorstops (GOT fans will know the significance). I took a liking to the gold bullion doorstop and ordered one via Amazon. When I told Kate that I had ordered it, she said that she was glad that I hadn't ordered the Hodor doorstep, it would make her sad every time that she saw it . . .
And speaking of Game of Thrones items, I want one of these, a fitting that turns every seat into the Iron Throne . . .