Tuesday, March 30, 2010

R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)

Written in 1920, this work from Czech playwright Karel Capek is widely considered to be the origin of the word robot. Artificial workers rise up to slay their masters. It's a time-worn story (see: Frankenstein, or Blade Runner) but we heard it here first.
The Czech word robota means "drudgery" or "servitude"; a robotnik is a peasant or serf. Although the term today conjures up images of clanking metal contraptions, Capek's Robots (always capitalized) are more accurately the product of what we would now call genetic engineering. The play describes "kneading troughs" and "vats" for processing a chemical substitute for protoplasm, and a "stamping mill" for forming Robot bodies. - Dennis G. Jerz
It was produced by the Cleveland Repertory Unit at the Carter Theatre, the same ensemble who would perform It Can't Happen Here in October.

Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival produced R.U.R. at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium in 1970.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"America Is In Peril."

The welfare of American men and women and the future of our youth are at stake. We dedicate ourselves to the preservation of their political liberty, their individual opportunity and their character as free citizens, which today for the first time are threatened by Government itself.

The Administration+ has dishonored American traditions and flagrantly betrayed the pledges upon which the Democratic Party sought and received public support.

The powers of Congress have been usurped by the President. The integrity and authority of the Supreme Court have been flouted. The rights and liberties of American citizens have been violated. Regulated monopoly has displaced free enterprise.

The Administration+ constantly seeks to usurp the rights reserved to the States and to the people.

It has insisted on the passage of laws contrary to the Constitution.

It has intimidated witnesses and interfered with the right of petition.

It has dishonored our country by repudiating its most sacred obligations. It has been guilty of frightful waste and extravagance, using public funds for partisan political purposes.

It has promoted investigations to harass and intimidate American citizens, at the same time denying investigations into its own improper expenditures.

It has created a vast multitude of new offices, filled them with its favorites, set up a centralized bureaucracy, and sent out swarms of inspectors to harass our people.

It had bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment and prolonging the recession+.

It secretly has made tariff agreements with our foreign competitors, flooding our markets with foreign commodities.

It has coerced and intimidated voters by withholding relief from those opposing its tyrannical policies.

It has destroyed the morale of many of our people and made them dependent upon Government. Appeals to passion and class prejudice have replaced reason and tolerance.

To a free people these actions are insufferable. This campaign cannot be waged on the traditional differences between the Republican and Democratic parties. The responsibility of this election transcends all previous political divisions. We invite all Americans, irrespective of party, to join us in defense of American institutions.



1. To maintain the American system of constitutional and local self government, and to resist all attempts to impair the authority of the Supreme Court of the United States, the final protector of the rights of our citizens against the arbitrary encroachments of the legislative and executive branches of Government. There can be no individual liberty without an independent judiciary.

2. To preserve the American system of free enterprise, private competition, and equality of opportunity, and to seek its constant betterment in the interests of all.


The only permanent solution of the unemployment problem is the absorption of the unemployed by industry and agriculture. To that end, we advocate:

- Removal of restrictions on production.
- Abandonment of all policies+ that raise production costs, increase the cost of living, and thereby restrict buying, reduce volume and prevent reemployment.
- Encouragement instead of hindrance to legitimate business.
- Withdrawal of Government from competition with private payrolls.
- Elimination of unnecessary and hampering regulations.

Adoption of such policies as will furnish a chance for individual enterprise, industrial expansion, and the restoration of jobs.


The necessities of life must be provided for the needy, and hope must be restored pending recovery. The administration of relief is a major failure+. It has been faithless to those who most deserve our sympathy. To end confusion, partisanship, waste and incompetence,

1. The return of responsibility for relief administration to non-political local agencies familiar with community problems.

2. Federal grants-in-aid to the States and Territories while the need exists, upon compliance with these conditions: (a) a fair proportion of the total relief burden to be provided from the revenues of States and local governments; (b) all engaged in relief administration to be selected on the basis of merit and fitness; (c) adequate provision to be made for the encouragement of those persons who are trying to become self-supporting.

3. Undertaking of Federal public works only on their merits and separate from the administration of relief.

4. A prompt determination of the facts concerning relief and unemployment.


Real security will be possible only when our productive capacity is sufficient to furnish a decent standard of living for all American families and to provide a surplus for future needs and contingencies. For the attainment of that ultimate objective, we look to the energy, self-reliance and character of our people, and to our system of free enterprise.

Society has an obligation to promote the security of the people, by affording some measure of protection against involuntary unemployment and dependency in old age. This Administration's+ policies, while purporting to provide social security, have, in fact, endangered it.

We propose a system of old age security....
- We propose to encourage adoption by the States and Territories of honest and practical measures for meeting the problems of unemployment insurance.
- The unemployment insurance and old age annuity sections of the present Social Security Act are unworkable and deny benefits to about two-thirds of our adult population, including professional men and women and all those engaged in agriculture and domestic service, and the self employed, while imposing heavy tax burdens upon all. The so-called reserve fund estimated at forty-seven billion dollars for old age insurance is no reserve at all, because the fund will contain nothing but the Government’s promise to pay, while the taxes collected in the guise of premiums will be wasted by the Government in reckless and extravagant political schemes.


The welfare of labor rests upon increased production and the prevention of exploitation. We pledge ourselves to:
- Protect the right of labor to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of its own choosing without interference from any source.
- Prevent governmental job holders from exercising autocratic powers over labor.
- Support the adoption of State laws and interstate compacts to abolish sweatshops and child labor, and to protect women and children with respect to maximum hours, minimum wages and working conditions. We believe that this can be done within the Constitution as it now stands.


The farm problem is an economic and social, not a partisan problem, and we propose to treat it accordingly....

Our paramount object is to protect and foster the family type of farm, traditional in American life, and to promote policies which will bring about an adjustment of agriculture to meet the needs of domestic and foreign markets. As an emergency measure, during the agricultural depression, Federal benefit payments or grants-in-aid when administered within the means of the Federal Government are consistent with a balanced budget.


1. To facilitate economical production and increased consumption on a basis of abundance instead of scarcity.

2. A national land-use program, including the acquisition of abandoned and non-productive farm lands by voluntary sale or lease, subject to approval of the legislative and executive branches of the States concerned, and the devotion of such land to appropriate public use, such as watershed protection and flood prevention, reforestation, recreation, and conservation of wild life.

3. That an agricultural policy be pursued for the protection and restoration of the land resources, designed to bring about such a balance between soil-building and soil-depleting crops as will permanently insure productivity, with reasonable benefits to cooperating farmers on family-type farms, but so regulated as to eliminate the administration's+ destructive policy towards the dairy and livestock industries.

4. To extend experimental aid to farmers developing new crops suited to our soil and climate....


We recognize the existence of a field within which governmental regulation is desirable and salutary. The authority to regulate should be vested in an independent tribunal acting under clear and specific laws establishing definite standards. Their determinations on law and facts should be subject to review by the Courts. We favor Federal regulation, within the Constitution, of the marketing of securities to protect investors. We favor also Federal regulation of the interstate activities of public utilities....


The Administration+ has been characterized by shameful waste and general financial irresponsibility. It has piled deficit upon deficit. It threatens national bankruptcy and the destruction through inflation of insurance policies and savings bank deposits.

Stop the folly of uncontrolled spending. Balance the budget—not by increasing taxes but by cutting expenditures, drastically and immediately. Revise the Federal tax system and coordinate it with State and local tax systems. Use the taxing power for raising revenue and not for punitive or political purposes.


We advocate a sound currency to be preserved at all hazards. The first requisite to a sound and stable currency is a balanced budget. We oppose further devaluation of the dollar. We will restore to the Congress the authority lodged with it by the Constitution to coin money and regulate the value thereof by repealing all the laws delegating this authority to the Executive. We will cooperate with other countries toward stabilization of currencies as soon as we can do so with due regard for our national interests and as soon as other nations have sufficient stability to justify such action.


We assume the obligations and duties imposed upon Government by modern conditions. We affirm our unalterable conviction that, in the future as in the past, the fate of the nation will depend, not so much on the wisdom and power of Government, as on the character and virtue, self-reliance, industry and thrift of the people and on their willingness to meet the responsibilities essential to the preservation of a free society.

Finally, as our party affirmed in its first Platform in 1856: “Believing that the spirit of our institutions as well as the Constitution of our country guarantees liberty of conscience and equality of rights among our citizens, we oppose all legislation tending to impair them,” and “we invite the affiliation and cooperation of the men of all parties, however differing from us in other respects, in support of the principles herein declared.”

The acceptance of the nomination tendered by this Convention carries with it, as a matter of private honor and public faith, an undertaking by each candidate to be true to the principles and program herein set forth.

- Republican Party Platform, 1936

+ Topical references have been removed. Read the unedited version at the link provided above.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Triumph (book)

History is more interesting than you think it is. It is more awful than you think it is. It is more nuanced and subtle than you think it is. The way most people learn it, history is a plot so dull and obvious you'd fall asleep halfway through.

The 1936 Olympics (winter and summer games) were awarded to Germany during the Weimar Republic. After 1933, they became the Nazis' Olympics. Once the games commenced, they were Hitler's Olympics, and by the time they were through, they were Jesse Owens' Olympics. This may be the basic message of Jeremy Schaap's informative and not very long history Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics, but Schaap does an important service debunking a lot of well-entrenched myths about this moment in time.

There was a serious movement afoot to relocate the German Olympics, or to simply boycott them. Many American men who stood against such a movement pointed to the Jim Crow South as evidence of a certain American hypocrisy. However, the real hypocrisy is the implication that Hitler's Jew-hatred was like our own bigotry - i.e. acceptable and part of doing business.

Owens himself wanted to compete, and why wouldn't he. The story everyone now tells about Jesse Owens astonishing drubbing of the so-called Master Race is how Hitler left his box during the race, or during the medal ceremony, or in some other fashion made a big deal of snubbing Owens. As if any world leader would stoop so low in perception as to show their spite for one particular athlete - or performer, or anyone, really.

Hitler was openly dismissive of the "non-Aryan" athletes, inviting not only German medal winners, but also fair-skinned Finnish athletes to be photographed with him after their wins on the first day - but not the first African-Americans to medal in the these games later the same day. The Olympic committee insisted he greet all medal winners or none at all, and Hitler chose to greet none after this first day, a rule he failed to keep.

Owens himself told later in his life that the German audience in the stands was hostile towards him, though records show the exact opposite was true. The German crowds were excited to have this young, American runner at their Olympics, they cheered wildly. They even whistled, which apparently is a strictly American thing to do.

Hitler did watch as Jesse Owens won four gold medals, in the 100, the 200, the long-jump and the relay. And at the time, Owens claimed Hitler waved at him from his box.
"When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany."
He did not feel then that he had been snubbed by the German Chancellor.
"Hitler didn't snub me—it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram."
FDR did not congratulate Owens, though he did receive a cable from Ohio Governor Martin L. Davey reading:
"It is my pleasure to convey to you the congratulations of the people of your state for your brilliant achievement in the Olympic games."
Now, while it is common knowledge that Americans have long distinguished between the accomplishments of white men and all others (e.g.: first woman astronaut, first black president) I was amazed to learn all of the remarkably colorful adjectives used to describe Mr. Owens. I was not previously aware, for example, the appetite in the media for the word "sepia" when describing lighter-skinned blacks.

Yes, he was the Cleveland Cataclysm (LA Times) Buckeye Bullet (an OSU reference, not one to the color of the nut.) He was also the Negro Wonder (NY Times), the Dark Streak (NY Times), and the Brown Blizzard (several papers.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Judge For Yourself"

Silent Filmstrip, "Judge For Yourself"

Deluxe Ford V-8 for 1936 is from a set of filmstrips purchased at auction by George Borg, President of the Woodside Terrace A.M. Kiwanis and Executive Director of El Centro de Libertad, an outpatient recovery program. The films have been sealed away in their original canisters in a safe for 30 years.

"Judge For Yourself" is a limited release production used for training in Ford dealerships. Also purchased at auction were the original combination record player / filmstrip projector and accompanying records providing audio track.

This initial restoration was performed by Michael Akana. Images were transferred to digital media to restore the image quality and to avoid damaging the original media. For this presentation only the video portion of the filmstrip was restored.
- wheelsngears.com

Monday, March 15, 2010

Henrik M. Hansen

Helen and Henrik, 1932

Henrik Mayer Hansen (May 24, 1904 - May 28, 2005) worked in the IBM division of Cleveland Trust Co. in 1936. Born in Fevik, Norway, Henrik emigrated to the United States while in grade school. He was a boatworker on the Great Lakes for Pittsburgh Steamship when he married Helen Denison in 1932. They had three stillborn children before adopting their first, named John, in 1935. By this time, Henrik's father-in-law Amos A. Denison had convinced him to settle down and get a job at home, which to them was Cleveland.

He was raised in a house which still stands on West 44th Street. When he was a kid he frequented the Y at 49th and Franklin (since burned to the ground) where he learned a motto which lasted a lifetime - C.S., C.S., C.H. or Clean Speech, Clean Sport, Clean Habits. I am sure some of that fell by the wayside in his time on the seas.

Cleveland Trust Co. was the 6th largest bank in the country in 1936, and in its time employed my father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

There is a box of letters from Helen and Henrik to each other at my folks' place in Lakewood, waiting for me to read them. It has taken several years, but I believe I will have the time in 2010 to finally take care of that business.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Terminal Tower

Photo by Margaret Bourke-White

Terminal Tower. Municipal Stadium. Public Square.

New slogan: Cleveland. It's Obvious.

Completed in 1930, the Terminal Tower was the tallest building outside New York City in 1936. It was built by the Van Sweringen brothers to serve as an office building atop Union Terminal. "The Vans" also owned the rail ... and the land at the far end of the rail system in Shaker Heights. "Work here in our building during the day, and take our train out to our homes away from the city at night."

The Van Swerigens ruined Cleveland. Still, that's our building.
Terminal Tower facts
- Construction began in 1926.
- Dedicated in 1930.
- 52 floors, 708 feet (216 m) tall.
- Tallest building outside of New York City until 1967.
- There is a 63-foot (19-m) flagpole at the top, taking it to 771 feet (235 m).
- More than 1,000 buildings were taken down to build the Tower Complex.
- Several streets were eliminated and others were built during the development of the complex.
- 2.5 million cubic yards (1,900,000 m³) of material was removed from the tower site, making it the second largest excavation project in the world at that time. (Wikipedia)
Oris (O.P.) Van Sweringen died in November 22, 1936. Mantis (M.J.) the year before. Their fortune was valued at $3 billion in 1929 ... and considerably less shortly thereafter. Oris is reported to have had around $300,000 to his name at the time of his death.

Trawling the Internet for colorful language about the Terminal Tower, I found this tasty, torso-related paragraph ...
This was the ugliest part of the city, filthy from the black soot of the coal fires, overpowering in its sulfurous stench, and strewn with trash and industrial waste. Almost symbolically here, too, was the dumping place for the city's human refuse, the thousands of men who once lived in rural Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana, made homeless by the Depression. This inexhaustible supply of unwanted labor, "hobos" as they were called, rode the freight trains into Cleveland, looking for nonexistent jobs in the mills. There in back of the splendid Terminal Tower, the hobos camped in squalid, corrugated metal shacks, creating a city of their own. -TruTV.com
Other Sources:
The Design Rag

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

1936 Hit Parade

Allan Jones sings "Alone" from "A Night at the Opera"

First featured in this Marx Brothers comedy, it became a hit record in 1936 when recorded by Tommy Dorsey.

Bing Crosby in the1936 film "Pennies from Heaven"

One of the biggest hits of the year, this song was also recorded this year by Billie Holiday.

This Hoagy Carmichael song from the 20s is also one of the most recorded songs ever. Benny Goodman's 1936 recording was extremely popular.