Featured Post



Monday, February 29, 2016

A Personal Note from 19 February 2016, and before

       A CHEAPSKATE’S DAY ------  Hugh Murray
I am notoriously cheap – perhaps not as cheap as I once was, but still cheap.  I cut my own hair.  It’s a long story of how it began, but since the mid-1960s, I have cut my own hair.  I was doing research on the old Scottsboro case of the 1930s in 1960s Alabama, and had driven to the northern part of the state to see records in Scottsboro, over the state line to Chattanooga in Tennessee, to Decatur, Ala., through Birmingham, and then to the Alabama capital city of Montgomery.  (Some maintain that Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was a fictionalized version of the Scottsboro case.  Harper Lee died today.)  I did some research in the Alabama state’s archives, which were located in the basement of the State Capitol Building.  Another researcher told me one could get a good, cheap lunch in a state cafeteria, so we went there for lunch.  Coming out of the cafeteria, a short guy with glasses walked up to me and introduced himself by saying, “I’m George Wallace and I’m running for President.”  I did not recognize him.  On TV, he appeared much taller, and in those days I don’t recall seeing him with glasses.  He was a leading segregationist; I was an integrationist.  I did not know what to say, and probably appeared to him like an idiot.  I probably just said, Glad to meet you.  He moved on.  The other researcher told me Wallace often appeared there and greeted potential voters.
Another reason I was tongue-tied was that before the other researcher told me of the nice, inexpensive place to eat, on other days I had wandered on the main street, Dexter Ave.  I had noted Blacks picketing a store, and asked about it.  Next day, I had joined the picket line on Montgomery’s main street, a few blocks from the state capitol.  George was at that moment no longer Governor of the state, but his wife, Lurleen was.  I had even gone at night to the church to paint signs for the picketing – it was the church where Martin Luther King, Jr., had been minister during the bus boycott begun by Rosa Parks.  I only picketed a few days, for the store gave in an promised to hire a Black.  Anyway, I was surprised to see the leading segregationist of that era, George Wallace by the entrance of the cafeteria.
Because I had picketed on the main street, I soon faced a problem.  I needed a haircut.  This was before I ever tried to shear my own.  I decided I did not want a segregationist to use a razor on my neck (part of the regular haircut in those days).  So, what to do?  I walked about downtown and on a side street found a small Black barber shop.  Walked in.  Others looked at me.  Waited.  Barber called me to the chair.  He was very nervous.  He held the clippers, but his hand was shaking.  People opened the door of the shop, “Ooh, what’s goin on here?”  I suddenly realized, it may have been illegal for him to cut my hair.  His hand shook so much, he was not really cutting my hair, but pulling it, cutting a little.  He looked almost like he was going to have breakdown.  I finally told him to stop.  I said I would pay him, and did so, even though half of my head was uncut.  I returned to my hotel room and used scissors to try to cut my own hair.  Next day I bought a small comb-cut plastic devise.  Since then, I have usually cut my own hair.  Last time I went to a barber was in 2006 in China, and he did not know how to cut my hair either.
Around 1995 there was a nice bookstore in Milwaukee, and it carried attractive calendars.  I bought 2.  I liked the photos.  Next year, instead of purchasing 2 more calendars, I simply used a magic marker, to change the S,M,T,W,TH,F,ST   to W, TH,F,ST, SN, M, T.  So I got to see the nice photos for another year (one photo a month).  I had to get accustomed to starting the calendar week on a Wednesday or whatever.  The following year, I tried that again, but there were too many marks at the top and it was just too confusing, so I had to break down and buy new calendars.
Some people pay to join a gym.  Even at age 77, I too need exercise, but rather than pay for a gym, about once a week I walk 2 miles to the nearest supermarket.  The real exercise comes in walking back carrying a week’s groceries.  I could take a bus, but that is $2.35 for most passengers, but only $1.10 for seniors like me.  Were it icy, and too dangerous to walk carrying the food, I would take the bus, but most times, I walk both ways for the exercise.  I have often walked the miles when it was 95 F, 35 C, and once when it was -10 F or -23 C.  Brrrrr!

Today, Friday 19 Feb. 2016 I had planned to do several things but changed my plans.  The average temperature for this day in Milw. Is 34 F, or 1.1 C.  One year ago today it was 5 F, which is -15 C.  But today the high was 57 F, or 13.9 C.  I scrapped my other plans and decided it would be a great day to go to the supermarket.  They predicted clouds, but no rain.  They also predicted winds from 35 miles per hour, up to 63 mph! (was the highest wind recorded today, along with trees blown over, electric wires knocked down, etc.)  With the heavy winds, it did not feel warm at all.  I bundled up just like on a cold day.  Sometimes I found it hard to walk in a straight line on the sidewalk, being blown this way and that.  Some large trucks were indeed blown over on their sides.  Got to the store.  Bought the food.  Walking back, it took much more energy because I was walking against the strong winds.  I really got my exercise today. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A notes on US politics

     Thursday 11 Febrauary 2016 at the U. of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, the 2 contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, debated.  It was a rematch of the struggle between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks.  Though with Hillary leading the former, I guess one should call her team the Womensheviks.

     With the death of  Antonin Scalia, a US Supreme Court Justice today, 13 February, President Obama will hope to replace him with a far-left appointee.  Were Obama to succeed, that would mean that the balance on the American high court would be altered.  The Scalia's of Justice, which have tilted slighted to the Right, with his death might weigh heavily to the Left.

Monday, February 8, 2016


As a native of New Orleans, I enjoyed many a Mardi Gras as a child and young man.  Though I have not resided in NO since 1969, it is still my home town, and a few days ago when I read a few pages about a Parisian Mardi Gras, decided to add it to my blog.   Hugh Murray

            Monday 8 February 2016 is New Years’ Day in China, Vietnam, Korea, and many other Asian countries.  It is also Rosen Montag in Germany,  Tomorrow is the day before Lent begins, and in many Christian nations, it is Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fasching, Pancake Tuesday, etc.  With Lent, many Christians gave up something they liked for 40 days, until Easter, when they might again enjoy all the pleasures they were accustomed to.  Some gave up meat (carne mean meat in Latin), so there would be meatless 40 days.  But the day before, all could stuff themselves with meat, drink, and whatever.  Mardi Gras is simply Fat Tuesday.  In New Orleans, south Louisiana, and Mobile, it is the biggest holiday of the year.  In Rio in Brazil, not even the new mosquito virus can halt the samba competitions and parades.  In parts of Spain, Italy, France, and Germany, parades and festivities, with national variations.  In the more puritanical Scotland, women race while flipping pancakes in a pan.
            Most others work as usual – in most of the US people are generally unaware that in part of the nation there is a huge holiday.  If they think of it, they think it frivolous, for booze and boobs and excess.  I was reading a controversial, but fascinating book by Rodney Stark, in which he shows how Mardi Gras may have greatly influenced our universities.  I quote from his How the West Won, paperback ed. 2015, pp. 167-68.
            “In March 1229 at the start of the pre-Lenten Carnival – which was much like a modern Mardi Gras, complete with masks and uninhibited behavior – a group of University of Paris students became embroiled with a tavern owner over their bill. A fight broke out, other patrons supported the owner, and the students were beaten and thrown into the street.  The next day the students returned with reinforcements and clubs, broke into the tavern, beat the owner and patrons, smashed everything, and then rioted in the streets.
            “City officials demanded punishment.  University officials took shelter in the exemption of the Church from local courts, since the university was a religious institution.  But Blanche of Castile, the mother of Louis IX, was then serving as regent of France, demanded retribution.  The university then allowed the city to take action against the students.  Unfortunately, the city guardsmen picked out a group of students who had not taken part in the riot and even killed several of them.
            “The university went on strike…The strike caused a severe economic pinch in Paris.
            “After two years Pope Gregory IX, himself a graduate of the university, issued a bull that guaranteed the institution total freedom from local authorities -…by placing it directly under papal patronage and control.  The university thus had the right to establish its own rules and statutes, as well as the exclusive right to punish violations….The pope’s bull became the university’s charter, which,…,served as the model for new universities.”

            So many of our notions of academic freedom may be traced back to a brawl during Mardi Gras in Paris in the year 1229.