Happy Birthday Tenzing Norgay

tenzing

Tenzing Norgay, first man photographed on top of Mount Everest.  Norgay was perhaps born on this day in 1914, three years to the day before John F. Kennedy.  In 1953 on the same day, Norgay and Edmund Hillary were the two first men to successfully ascent the highest mountain in the world.

Norgay had no ability with a camera so the only photograph of the event was of Norgay, taken by Hillary.

Norgay knew he was born in May (from the growth of crops) in the year of the rabbit (1914).  When he summited Everest on May 29th he adopted that date as is birthday.

hillary_tenzing_20130629_350_630

Some like it Hot.

some-like-it-hot-bfi-00m-e8m1

On this Presidential inauguration day I am reminded for some reason of Marilyn Monroe, who had a relationship with a previous president.  She famously sang “Happy birthday Mr. President” to JFK.  Rumour has it that their intimacy ran far deeper.  No wonder he had a bad back.

From this I jump to my favourite of her films, “Some Like it hot”.

That reminds me that Billy Wilder stuck in two of three parts of the joke into that movie.  He puts in the beginning, which has a great hook.  Later on he puts in the end, which sounds like a good punchline.  But he leaves us without the context, the narrative that makes the beginning fit to the end.

I suspect the Trump presidency will be a lot like that joke.  All flash at the beginning, explosive at the end, but with nothing to show for it all.  Lots of pizzazz and no sustenance.

So what is this great joke anyway?

Have you heard the one about the girl tuba player who was stranded on a desert island with a one-legged jockey?

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So the one-legged jockey says, ‘Don’t worry about me, baby. I ride sidesaddle.’

JFK, Dallas, 1963, Nov 22.

John F. Kennedy Jr. Saluting His Father at Funeral

I Have a Rendezvous with Death;  by Alan Seeger

 

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ‘twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

 

 

Candle in the Wind

Candle

If I mention “Candle in the Wind” I will get lots of people telling me about Elton John, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.  What is interesting is how the meaning of ‘Candle in the Wind’ came to this association.

I like tracking the origin and changes of meaning over time.  Candles are a symbol of many things.  Mostly of good.  A Candle is a light in the darkness, representing Hope, Truth, Education, Goodness and so on.  The darkness beyond the light carries meanings of ignorance, evil, fear.  A force that seeks to extinguish a candle must therefore be a force of evil.  The image of a candle resisting an evil wind is a powerful one.  It needs little explanation.  Everyone gets it.

The earliest usage of the phrase “Candle in the Wind” that I can find is the title of the fourth book in T.H White’s novel “The Once and Future King”.  It is an Arthurian romance, pulling together all previous versions of the tale of Arthur, Camelot, Lancelot, Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table.  The novel was published in 1958 to an audience who had seen the rise and fall of Fascism.  The Central theme of White’s novel is the attempt by Arthur to replace naked force with a better form of rule.  Arthur is the force for good in a world where might is right.  He is the candle in the wind.

In 1960 J.F. Kennedy became the youngest candidate to win a presidential election.  On Dec 3rd 1960 Lerner and Loewe launched their musical “Camelot” on Broadway.  Based on the T.H. White novel it was a fantastic success.  The LP became the best selling record in the USA for the first 60 weeks of the new Kennedy administration.  The two became intertwined with some of the Broadway glamour rubbing off onto politics and the Kennedy Administration gained the nickname of Camelot.

Then Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and this particular candle in the wind was extinguished.

Some years later a journalist pulled up the metaphor when he wrote an obituary for Janis Joplin in 1970.  She died at only 27 and it seemed that she was the candle and the commercial interests of the music industry were the evil wind.

Bernie Taupin, lyricist partner of Elton John, read the obituary and liked the phrase.  He said it was about “the idea of fame or youth or somebody being cut short in the prime of their life. The song could have been about James Dean, it could have been about Montgomery Clift, it could have been about Jim Morrison … how we glamorize death, how we immortalize people.

The song he wrote was about Marilyn Monroe and it appeared on the 1973 album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.  Released as a single in the UK it only reached number 11.  Possibly as a result of this poor performance it was not released at the time in the USA, and “Bennie and the Jets” was.  But it achieved a kind of background recognition and was always playing away in the wings.

When Diana, Princess of Wales, died in 1997 the song was remixed by Elton as “Goodbye English Rose” and became the best selling single of all time.

This first Wednesday in Advent there is a candle in the wind for Diana Spencer, Marilyn Monroe, Janice Joplin, Jack Kennedy and all beacons of hope against the terrible dark.

JFK – 3 Random Facts

Victura

On the anniversary of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (I was almost 2 months old) I have prepared three lesser known facts about him.

1.  His favourite boat was “Victura” (pictured above).  She is a Wianno Senior, a 25 ft gaff rigged sloop given to John as a 15th birthday present by his father.

2.  The favourite part of his visit to Ireland was the military drill by the Irish Army Cadets at the graves of the heroes of 1916 in Arbor Hill Cemetery.  Kennedy wanted a similar drill to be performed for the fallen at Arlington.  When he died the Irish Government sent a squad of cadets to perform the drill at the burial of Kennedy.

3.  His favourite poem was “I have a rendezvous with death”.  Some people think he foresaw his own demise.  I like to think he remained grounded.

I Have a Rendezvous with Death ; by Alan Seeger

0
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air-
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath-
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.