Monday, February 8, 2016

Quote for the Day

Of Trams, Light Rail and More . . .

George Street is one of Sydney’s busiest major streets with parts of it now having been closed for works to expand Sydney’s light rail system, artist's impression above of the imagined final result.

The work is expected to take 3 years and, predictably, has caused traffic headaches and delays. Businesses adversely affected may not survive.

Funnily enough, Sydney did have trams until the 1961, when the tracks were ripped up and the trams retired. RIP Sydney Trams 1879-1961. Likewise it had a monorail, also ripped up and retired. RIP Monorail 1988-2013. On the other hand Sydney does now have bicycle lanes where cars previously parked.

Questions remain: Will the expanded light rail system work? Does it take into account that Sydney was never developed with a light rail system in mind? Is it a solution or simply a patch? Time will tell.


Some pics of trams in bygone Sydney.

Horsedrawn tram which ran between Newtown and St Peters stations, c1894

Broadway, 1890’s (Sydney University at the back, St Benedict’s spire on left)

Early model electrified trams on George Street near Hunter Street, c 1900

George Street, early 1900’s

Trams outside the Queen Victoria Building, 1920

George St, 1920’s

Cicular Quay, early 1920’s

Collision tram and truck, early-mid 1940’s

Kings Cross 1950


Ripping up the tram tracks, Sydney 1961
(Note the lack of barricades, lollipop men and fluoro vests, and the state of the art steamroller)

More artist's impressions of what we are to receive . . .

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Quote for the Day

Colourised Historic Photographs, Part 2

Continuing the series "Colorized Historic Photographs", further comments added by myself.

Lou Gehrig, July 4, 1939. Photo taken right after his famous retirement speech. He would pass away just two years later from ALS. 

  • Henry Louis "Lou" or "Buster" Gehrig (1903 - 1941) was an American baseball first baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees, from 1923 through 1939. Gehrig was renowned for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability, a trait which earned him his nickname "The Iron Horse". He was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once, an American League Most Valuable Player twice, and a member of six World Series champion teams. He had a career .340 batting average, .632 slugging average, and a .447 on base average. He hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in. In 1939, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was the first MLB player to have his uniform number retired.
  • in 1939 after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disorder now commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease in North America. The disease forced him to retire at age 36 and was the cause of his death two years later. The pathos of his farewell from baseball was capped off by his iconic "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech at the original Yankee Stadium.
  • This is the text of that speech:
"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
"Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky. 
"When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter - that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know. 
"So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."


Times Square, 1947 

  • The photograph shows the members of the River Boat Jazz Band on the back of a horse drawn wagon promoting their cancer benefit show in New York long before AC/DC did the same with their video for ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ’n’ Roll) in Melbourne.
  • Pepsi Cola still exists but the whisky brand Kinsey went out of business in the mid-1980’s. Four Roses bourbon is still in operation, being made by Japanese beverage manufacturer Kirin. Ruppert Beer is out of business, folding in 1965.
  • The Warner Bros Strand theatre was knocked down in 1987 and is now the site of the Morgan Stanley building.
  • The front film poster is for the film Possessed, a story of an unstable woman's obsession with her ex-lover. Star Joan Crawford and director Curtis Bernhardt spent time in real psychiatric wards in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara and Pasadena, observing mental patients as research for the film. On one of these visits, Crawford and Bernhardt witnessed, without asking permission, a woman undergoing electro convulsive shock therapy. Warner Bros. was later forced to pay substantial damages to the woman, who claimed their presence was an invasion of privacy. 
  • The other poster, further back after the Strand sign, is for the film The Outlaw, a film made in 1943 but not released for general exhibition until 1946 due to censorship issues about the prominence of Jane Russell’s bust. In 1941, while filming The Outlaw, Hughes felt that the camera did not do justice to Jane Russell's large bust. He employed his engineering skills to design a new cantilevered underwire bra to emphasise her assets. The design allowed for a larger amount of bosom to be freely exposed. Contrary to many media reports afterward, Russell did not wear the bra during filming. According to her 1988 autobiography, she said the bra was so uncomfortable that she secretly discarded it. She wrote that the "ridiculous" contraption hurt so much that she wore it only a few minutes. She instead wore her own bra, padded the cups with tissue, tightened the shoulder straps, and returned to the set. She later said, "I never wore it in The Outlaw, and he never knew. He wasn’t going to take my clothes off to check if I had it on. I just told him I did." The famed bra ended up in a Hollywood museum—a false witness to the push-up myth.
Poster for The Outlaw

Publicity still for the film

Lee Harvey Oswald, 1963, being transported to questioning before his murder trial for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 


. . . if you put the murdered President of the United States on one side of a scale and that wretched waif Oswald on the other side, it doesn't balance. You want to add something weightier to Oswald. It would invest the President's death with meaning, endowing him with martyrdom. He would have died for something. . . . A conspiracy would, of course, do the job nicely. 
William Manchester

". . . [I]t is the most bizarre conspiracy in the history of the world. It'll come out at a future date." 
— Jack Ruby

"The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee is unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy." 
— Final Report, House Select Committee of Assassinations (HSCA), 1979

"I didn't shoot anybody, no sir . . . I'm just a patsy." 
— Lee Harvey Oswald

Helen Keller meeting comedian Charlie Chaplin in 1918 


A woman famous for living in silence found a friend in a man who made silent films, but the two also shared a strong passion for their social and political beliefs.  
They met at Chaplin Studios on the set of his film Sunnyside in 1919, and luckily someone was smart enough to take pictures. She talked to Charlie by reading his lips with her hands, and watched two of his films with the help of her long-time teacher Anne Sullivan – who described the scenes with sign language in the palm of her hand.  
Helen led the group in laughter didn’t miss a single moment of comedy.  
Chaplin used his films to express his opinions, and he received plenty of scrutiny for it. J. Edgar Hoover became suspicious of him and used the FBI to influence negative media coverage against him.  
Helen was criticized for being a socialist, pacifist, suffragist, and supporter of birth control. After expressing her socialist views, newspaper columnists started calling attention to her disabilities.  
While both endured years of disapproval, they had gained great respect by the end of their lives. In the years before her death, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Helen the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Charlie Chaplin was banned from the U.S. and moved to Switzerland, but returned 20 years later to receive an honorary Academy Award. He was given a 12 minute standing ovation.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Quote for the Day

Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.

- Bil Keane

William Aloysius Keane (1922 – 2011), better known as Bil Keane, was an American cartoonist most notable for his work on the long-running newspaper comic The Family Circus. It began in 1960 and continues in syndication, drawn by his son Jeff Keane.

Balls of Crystal

An email from Bytes subscriber Charles Z, who originally hailed from the US:

Otto - 

Bytes makes one curious, and makes YOU the victim of that curiosity!

I am in New Zealand and while listening to the radio this morning I heard a commentator use the term Crystal Ball! I began to wonder about how that term originated, and about the idea of predicting the future and where it started.

I recall in my youth, there were mediums, fortune tellers, and palm readers, often associated with carnivals and travelling shows, but sometimes as established businesses.

And in my study of the classics, there were Oracles, as in Delphi. Even Julius Caesar was warned to "Beware the Ides of March", (before it was the day income taxes were due in the USA!)

My Grandmother had a "Dream Book" which was supposed to guide which 3 digit number to play (a daily lottery in my home town), and if she had a dream that involved say, umbrellas, it might counsel her to put a nickel on 395!

The nearest I could relate to a crystal ball was a mannequin of a fortune teller at a penny arcade amusement park into whose stand you inserted a coin and a prediction would be displayed.

So what do you know about this icon of predictability? Anyone who tries to forecast exchange rates has got to be sceptical about knowing anything about what will happen tomorrow, but it does appear that mankind has always sought this ability!

Best regard from Kiwi land!

Charlie Z

Here you go Charles:
  • A crystal ball is also known as an orbuculum.
  • It is a crystal or glass ball and common fortune telling object, generally associated with the performance of clairvoyance (ie extrasensory perception) and scrying (the practice of looking into a translucent ball or other material with the belief that things can be seen, such as spiritual visions).
  • The earliest use of crystal balls can be attributed to the Celtic Druids who divined the future and omens with beryl balls. Beryl is a mineral which forms hexagonal crystals which may be very small or range to several metres in size. Pure beryl is colorless, but it is frequently tinted by impurities; possible colors are green, blue, yellow, red, and white.

  • In the 1st century AD, Pliny the Elder describes use of crystal balls by soothsayers ("crystallum orbis", later written in Medieval Latin by scribes as orbuculum). By the 5th century AD, scrying was widespread within the Roman Empire and was condemned by the early medieval Christian Church as heretical.
  • Dr. John Dee was a noted British mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to alchemy, divination, and philosophy, of which the use of crystal balls was often included.

  • Crystal ball gazing was a popular pastime in the Victorian era and it was often that Immediately before the appearance of a vision, the ball was said to mist up from within
  • As noted above, the art or process of "seeing" is called "scrying". It includes images claimed to be seen in crystals, or other media such as water, which are interpreted as meaningful information. The "information" gleaned then is used to make important decisions in one's life (i.e. love, marriage, finances, travel, business, etc.) Some professed seers say that they do not actually see images in the crystal, but rather that the featureless interior of the crystal facilitates them in clearing their mind of distractions so that future truths or events will become known to them.


Stevie Nicks

Lillian Gish, silent film actress, early 1920’s

Crystal Ball rings

Fortune teller, 1920’s

David Bowie with crystal ball in Labyrinth (I love this movie, and David Bowie in it).

Poster for Labyrinth

A crystal ball in the Royal Sceptre of Scotland is said to have been originally possessed by pagan druids.

The largest flawless quartz sphere is in the National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, USA

The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse

The larger crystal ball used in The Wizard of Oz disappeared after the making of the film in 1939 but was found several years later in a prop house maintained by special effects pioneer Kenneth Strickfaden. Around 1973, ownership was transferred from Strickfaden to Maxwell Smith’s legendary science fiction prop house, Vectrex. An anonymous man found the ball at a junkyard at the defunct prop house more than a decade ago, its authenticity being confirmed by tiny bubbles found in the clear glass matching the small blemishes seen on the irregularly shaped ball in the film. It was sold in 2011 for $126,500 with part of the sale proceeds being given to worthwhile causes.