Saturday, January 10, 2004

It's late. A lot went on today, but it's too late to recount it all.
I will make an announcement here. For those of you who haven't heard, I have decided to try living in Chico for a while. I'll be moving up the weekend of Valentine's Day and don't plan to come back down until my birthday (which is April 20th.) I figured it was about time I posted this information since much of the next month will probably have to do with the move.

Friday, January 09, 2004

It's Friday and the work is light, so here's some more info on the "Dreadnought." I've got a lollapalooza of a story for you.


1859. Captain Samuels often had crews sent to him from a judge in Liverpool. Men in whom the judge saw some spark of good and, rather than doom them to a life in the cyclical criminal punishment system (for, lets face it, there's never been a focus on rehabilitation,) this judge would send the men to crew the "Dreadnought."
In July of 1859, the crew aboard were known to Captain Samuels as the "Bloody Forties," a sea gang that bordered on pirates. He'd also heard that these men meant to overthrow the officers, have their run of the ship glutting and pirating, then scuttling the ship with the passengers trapped below. So, as soon as the men were on board the Captain told them that he knew of their plan and ordered them all to have their knife blades dulled. They groused about it and Captain Samuels further reprimanded them saying "You have every right to grouse, but don't do it where I can hear it."
But the vibe grew worse until one day when the sailor steering was slacking off and not paying close attention. Samuels shouted, "Steer straight." The sailor sassed back, "I am steering straight."
Samuels hauled off to slap him in the ear and the sailor came out with his knife. Quickly Samuels struck the sailor in the temple, knocking him out, and Samuels' dog attacked the sprawled out sailor. Samuels picked up the knife and had the sailor carted off in irons before any of the other crew knew anything had happened.
Oh, but the news spread and that evening the crew surrounded Samuels. He ordered them to "turn to, and haul taut the weather main-brace." Nobody moved. One said that they wanted their man out of irons. Samuels told them that if they disobeyed an order it would be considered an act of mutiny. Still none of the crew moved. It was then that the Captain noticed that the knife he was holding had a sharp edge on it and that all of the crew most likely had resharpened their knives as well.
The Captain went into his cabin and came out with his pistol and cutlass hidden in his coat. He lead the passengers below deck and the crew followed behind him. When the passengers were below, the Captain wheeled around with a pistol pointed at one man's head and his cutlass aimed in front of him. Nobody moved. Samuels was well known as a dead eye shot. After a moment Samuels said, "Men, you have found your master."
He turned to go back to his cabin and the men rushed behind him. Again he turned and screamed "The next man who takes a step dies!"
He backed into his cabin safe.
One of the passengers approached the Captain and requested that they stop in Queenstown to let off the mutinous crew. Samuels informed the passenger that this ship was bound for New York.
That night the Captain went to reason with the crew. They swore at him. Finnegan, their ring master, bared his chest and dared the Captain to shoot him. So, Samuels raised his pistol and Finnegan shrank and took many steps backward. The Captain told them that they wouldn't eat until they returned to work.
The stand off began. In the meantime, the Captain told the Germans he was transporting that the crew would most likely scuttle the ship with them on board if the Captain lost power. The passengers were won over to Samuels' side. Then Samuels went and told the crew that if they threw their knives overboard and came back to work he would forgive their conduct, except for Finnegan.
Late that night two men from the crew came to the Captain's side of the deck and threw their knives overboard, telling Samuels that they had families they'd like to be able to go home to. Samuels asked them why they came back. They said that they didn't want to kill Samuels, which was what the crew was fixing to do.
At 4:00 AM, the dog began to growl. Two men lept up from behind the captain and were felled by the passenger hitting them over the head with iron bars just as quick. The rest of the crew fell back and the Captain ordered again for them to throw down their knives and get back to work. Finnegan swore and called Samuels a coward.
One other in the crew yelled, "What guarantee do we have if we throw down our knives that you won't shoot us?"
Samuels replied, "If I don't fear you with knives, I certainly won't without them. And to show good faith, if you throw down your knives I will give my pistols to any passenger you name."
Defeated, they threw down their knives and Samuels gave up his pistols. Then he asked that Finnegan apologize for calling the Captain a coward. Finnegan said he wouldn't. So the Captain clocked him unconcious and the crew tied him up. The crew went back to work.
When Finnegan came to, they threw him into "the sweat box" until he screamed for mercy (I really wish I knew what that meant.) They hauled him out and he apologized in front of everybody.
Samuels said that a more grateful and hard working crew he'd never seen before. So, then came the speech where Samuels begged them to break the chains of the depraved life they were leading. He told them to live decently, find good wives, work hard and one day they might be respectable Captains of clipper ships. He told them that he forgave them freely as he hoped to be forgiven in the world to come. He wrote up a contract of marine laws and promises to lead wholesome lives which all the crew signed and Finnegan himself delivered to the Captain. Before reaching New York the Captain told them that he would not prosecute and that if any of them wanted to serve on his ship again, he'd be happy to have them. "Bully for Dreadnought. Bully for Samuels." they cried.

And now a quick retelling of the sinking of the "Dreadnought."
So, apparently, as we see in the story above, the Red Cross Line, the line that the "Dreadnought" was on, was for carrying immigrants from Liverpool to New York. Tougher than any other boat it was nicknamed by others "the Wild Boat of the Atlantic."
In 1863, the ship got caught in a raging mid-Atlantic gale. The waves ripped the rudder right off the boat and broke Captain Samuels' leg. And I mean broken as in the bone snapped in two. They created a make shift rudder and steered for whatever was the closest sea town (details are a little muddy here.) The Captain took two months to recover his leg. It was Samuels' last journey on the "Dreadnought." Two more months of repairs on the "Dreadnought" and then it was rerouted to run "finished goods" from New York to San Francisco. I assume from some details that Samuels retired in San Francisco with his wife and son.
Then Captain Mayhew ran the boat ashore at Tierra del Fuego. The ship sank and the crew barely made it off in two boats.
A few more items of possible interest. The "Dreadnought" was constructed in 1853. It was sponsered by several rich and powerful men (no mention of Mr. Spreckels though.) Captain S. Samuels oversaw the construction. It was among the fastest (but not the fastest) ships to run from Liverpool to New York. Captain Samuels did something new for the clipper ship industry. He was the first to get the bright idea to use newspaper advertisements for his ship. Hence, his was one of the most lucrative ships in the business at the time.
Friends said that Captain S. Samuels was a very funny and witty man. A joy to be around and a pleasure to work for.
The other major piece of information I found today was that the "Dreadnought" ran afoul of some rocks and sank in Cape Horn in 1869. So, one imagines that the Liverpool to New York run had been discontinued at that point and the ship was being used for different purposes. A Captain Mayhew was commander of the ship at the time. I have no idea what Captain Samuels was doing when this went on, but I mean to find out.

I also realize, after learning all of this, that I may have confused some of my dates before. The obituary I own may in fact be for Fredrick Samuels. It's possible that Samuel Samuels lived to be over 100, but not plausible. That also means that Samuel Samuels was the great grandfather of the man whose library I came into and Fredrick the grandfather. Also means that the Chinaman letter might be from Fredrick Samuels rather than Samuel Samuels. We already knew that Fredrick was the Spreckels connection. Also explains why John D. Spreckels didn't help fund the "Dreadnought." That would be hard to do when you're in cloth diapers.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Well, I didn't listen to any Elvis today. I like Elvis. Elvis actually had a great deal to do with me getting over Nissa breaking up with me. I know how that sounds, but it's true. About a week afterward I was still pretty slammed so I went out and got the Elvis #1 collection. I moaned along with Heartbreak Hotel and Don't, but soon I was skipping those tracks and shouting along with Wooden Heart, Burning Love, and Way Down. Elvis. Is there anything he can't do?
I'm not an Elvis fanatic. I just appreciate the man's work. I try not to be an anything fanatic. I like to have a life outside of all of my entertainment. Or maybe I just like to spread my rich fantasy life out. Anyway, Elvis is a valuable resource and the inspiration for Bubba-HoTep which was the best film of last year no matter what anybody says.
But I did listen to the forty minute Midnight Hour that Pigpen sings on Fallout from the Phil Zone in rememberance of Bill Graham. I listened while I boxed many many books.
I took a walk around sunset and that was the only point when my lungs got a little ornery. Otherwise I'm about 90% better. At last.
I did get to Mother's and I did get some bubblebath for National Bubble Bath day. It's expensive stuff. Six bucks for a bottle. I didn't want to go to a regular store and get the corporate bubble bath because I didn't want to sit in a chemical bath. So I got something some hippies in Marin bottle and ship around the coast. It's lavender and some bubbling agent and so on. Granola bubble bath.
But what I'm really listening to right now is Jonatha Brooke and her early band The Story. If you haven't heard her work you're really missing out. She's a great songwriter. The Story is a little more fun than her solo work, but they're both good.
Also you should get music by The Flash Girls and The Poxy Boggards. Get The Poxy Boggards before you get anybody else. They're the best band I've run across in many years. And Solomon Burke is really good too. That's all for now.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

So, looking over the past few postings, I had an idea. I thought, "Why don't I post those song lyrics by Captain Samuel Samuels? Then somebody out there might be inspired to put music to them."
Since I have no music for these lyrics, I thought it'd be pretty cool if somebody wanted to put music to them.
Heck, maybe if I get a harmonium someday I'll do it myself.
And even if nobody does, I thought it'd be groovy to show people the old poetry I found in the Samuel Samuels book. So here's the text I found.

At the bottom, Samuels writes, "This is a copy of the original song, which I had for many years, but now is lost. I was on board at the time with my father, the late Captain S. Samuels, and the song was composed and sung for the first time to my mother on July 4, 1858, on the voyage from Liverpool to New York."

The Dreadnought
By Captain Samuel Samuels.

'Tis of a flash packet, a packet of fame,
She is bound to New York and the "Dreadnought" 's her name.
She is bound to the westward where the stormy winds blow,
Bound away in the "Dreadnought" to the westward we'll go.

Now we are hauling out Waterloo dock,
Where the boys and the girls on the pierhead do flock;
They give us three cheers, while the tears down do flow,
Bound away in the "Dreadnought" to the westward we'll go.

Now we are laying in the Mersey all day
Awaiting for the "Constitution" to tow us away,
All around the Black Rock where the dark Mersey flows,
Bound away in the "Dreadnought" to the westward we'll go.

Now we are bowling down the wild Irish sea,
While the passengers below they are drinking so free,
And the sailors aloft like larks to and fro,
Wishing luck to the "Dreadnought" wherever she go.

Now we are crossing the ocean so wide,
Where the white and blue billows dash against our back side,
With our sails spread so neatly the red cross we'll show,
Bound away in the "Dreadnought" to the westward we'll go.

Now we are crossing the backs of Newfoundland,
Where the waters are green and the bottom's all sand,
Where the fish in the ocean swim around to and fro,
Wishing luck to the "Dreadnought" wherever she go.

Now we are hauling down Long Island shore,
Where the pilot boards us as he's oft done before;
Fill away your fore-topsail, board your main tack also!
She's a Liverpool packet- Lord God let her go!

Now we are anchored in New York once more,
I'll go and see Sally, she's the girl I adore.
You may talk of your packets, "Swallow Tail" and "Black Ball,"
But the "Dreadnought" 's a clipper and she licks them all.

Here's health to the "Dreadnought." her officers and crew,
Here's health to Captain Samuels where'er he may go,
Here's health to us all when the stormy winds blow,
And this song was composed in the dog watch below.

My day of mostly resting seems to have been a success on many levels. The most imporant one is that I started off today coughing and hacking. By mid-day I was just dry hacking and worried. Now I'm coughing rarely, so I seem to have it on the run. I didn't really just lay around all day. I worked around the house. I did a good deal of inputting because all that requires of me is to sit in a chair. I got some reading done. I got to let Boingo in and he crawled all over me and spent a good deal of time watching Toulouse eat the remainer of the feeder fish. I was able to get caught up on my tea drinking. And, just in time for tax season, I spent the better part of the day in my pajamas.
So just the important work today.
It's good that I may be (fingy crossy) on the mend, well for obvious reasons. It's good to not feel ill. But it's also good because tomorrow I have to get up to Mother's market and buy, among other things, some bubble bath. As some of you may know (Phish printed up some delightful calendars with strange holidays noted on them) tomorrow is National Bubble Bath Day. This year it happens to fall on the birthday of both Elvis Presley and Bill Graham. So I'm bound to bubble bathe with Elvis and The Dead playing. It's important to mark these times of year. Helps us to appreciate the passing seasons.

I forgot tell mention that I ended up getting a calendar for five dollars because I was willing to wait until the year in question actually started. They reward you for that kind of behavior for some reason. It's the World Wild Life Federation's calendar of Polar Bears.

Having said all that, today's DVD review is of one of the two DVD's I bought with a gift certificate I got for Christmas. It was between getting the two that I got or getting Lost In La Mancha. I really want to see the latter, but I figured the ones I ended up buying will probably get shown to more people. So, here's a review of the first one.


I caught a few minutes of Eddie Izzard's stand up act on television before Christmas and I knew that I had to return to it as soon as I could. Now, up until recently I was with stand ups like I was about musicals. I used to say that I hated stand up comics. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that there were so many brilliant stand ups I've heard that really what I hate is what crappy people have done to an artform that I know can be great. I know, I felt a little weird calling it an artform at first too. If you have any qualms about calling stand up comedy an artform, make haste to your music dealer and buy ANY album of Lenny Bruce doing stand up. That will murder qualms. He set the bar so very high, made a transcendent experience from the form. God bless him.
But I'm talking about Eddie Izzard.
In the first five minutes I knew that I had made the right choice. He does a voice over documentary about Alcatraz that is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.
His act is that he rambles on tangents all over creation (sound familiar?) and then is able to tie them all back together just when you think he's completely forgotten what he was talking about in the first place. Brilliant.
I loved this DVD and I highly recommend it to everyone.
That's all I really had to say about it. Just wanted to speak highly of it and recommend it. And I wanted to say that thing about stand up comedy. There really isn't much for me to say production wise. I mean, it's just a guy on a stage telling jokes. It's not like I can dissect the believability of the acting or point out the elements that the director added.
And it's my blog anyway. Maybe the next film review will be a little more meaty. Maybe I should stop doing so many DVD reviews and get back to reviewing films. Yeah, that might be just the thing. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Yeah, I'm still here. Tomorrow is going to be devoted to resting myself as much as humanly possible. Yesterday I put about $2000 worth of inventory online. Today I put a smaller amount online but I did a lot of work around the house because I don't know how to sit still. Rhino. Tomorrow I'm going to do very little because I worked so hard the past two days and because if this lung thing gets any worse I'm screwed. No medical insurance, you see.
Oh, how about some highlights from the huge stack on Monday? There was a book autographed by Admiral Byrd back when he was Commander Byrd. There was a gorgeous leatherbound french geography book from 1817. There was a law clerk's manual from 1795. There was a 1907 children's book that had some character in it named Maggie and the book was inscribed from the author to the girl on whom the character was based. So, some cool stuff has come in lately.
I'm working on getting more info on Mr. Spreckels. Sit tight. I'll post it as I learn it.
Oh, and I'm going to have a new DVD review soon. So, more to come while I wrassle my lungs away from bad humours.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

There are some ubiquitous techincal problems in the art world that could be mended so easily. One of my big pet peeves is how museums tend to put very little thought behind the lighting of exhibits. Lighting is crucial to experiencing visual art. All we see is light, for Ah Pook's sweet sake. A poorly lit or overly glarey room can ruin one's art experience.
One of the other major problems in the art world is art photography. Take, for example, the dog calliope I spoke about earlier. It's actual title is Kaleidophonic Dog. It's a piece by Stephan von Huene, an expatriot artist who passed away in 2000. Also an artist whose work I'm finding I'd probably enjoy learning more about. But as for the photography of the dog, it'd be easy for you to recreate the results of my experiment. If you google search for images of Kaleidophonic Dog, you do get one picture of the piece. It's tiny, you see very little detail, and it's about fifty percent background. Shame! If you can find a better professionally taken picture of it and send it to me (in an attachment please. Juno don't like pictures.) I'll send you a book... of my choosing. It'll be a cool one, I swear. And this contest excludes anybody who was with me when we went to see the Kaleidophonic Dog because I know my friends took pictures. Or maybe I should open it up to them. Maybe if they have a better picture they deserve a book from me. It'd prove my hypothesis that so very often the experts are total incompetents. Depends on how I feel when I get the picture.
Also, at the LACMA I saw a Toulouse-Lautrec, who many of you know is one of my god artists. The piece was The Opera Messalina (at Bordeaux.) I have a couple of books of Toulouse-Lautrec's works in my personal collection. The piece, when I saw it in person, was dripping blue green in all the shadows. The lady who the directional forces point to wears a searing red gown. The guards that line behind her back to inifinity all have bright pink on either side of their helmets almost like street lamps. The male in armor in front has a satanic face that you can only barely make out, like you're looking at him out of the corner of your eye. And in the dripping background you can see beasts jumping around. All of what I've just described I could only see when I saw the original painting in person. Plus I got to see Henri's cool little signature symbol. None of this is visible in my art books. It's kind of like when you drop acid and see skulls and octopus men in the carpet as real as rain and the next day you look at the exact same spot and all you can see is carpet.
Golly, this started off as a passing observation and turned into a ramble.
Anyway, my lungs are quite sick. They're full of horrible things, terrible to tell. The flu is going around, so they say. But there's also this other thing that's going around that is just a cough. You're totally able to go about your day but you cough like a kaleidophonic dog. At first, at least. My friendly advice is just this: if you begin to get this, don't go about your day. Take a day for hot lemon and honey, a good 12-14 hour's sleep, and cuddling up with your quilt in front of the DVD player eating large bowls of chicken noodle soup with so much garlic in it that you can't taste anything else. It's going to suck because you aren't going to feel sick enough to warrant such behavior. But I have learned the hard way that if you sally forth, your lungs will fill with rot and mold and hair and little wooden boys until you cannot sleep for coughing. And then where will you be. Always remember, it's better to take that sick day than to work five days miserably. Better yet, quit your job and slack off.
In short, it's a cold winter (even my New York friends who were visiting were commenting on the cold last weekend) so take care of yourselves, Blogskateers.