Eight hundred, fifty years ago, today…
The Leaning Tower of Pisa (torre pendente di Pisa…in Italian) is the campanile or freestanding bell tower of Pisa Cathedral. It is known for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation. The tower is one of three structures in the Pisa’s Cathedral Square, which includes the cathedral and Pisa Baptistry. The tower has 296 or 294 steps. [The] seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase.
The tower began to lean during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground, which could not properly support the structure’s weight. It worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century. By 1990, the tilt had reached 5.5 degrees. The structure was stabilized by remedial work between 1993 and 2001, which reduced the tilt to 3.97 degrees.
Construction of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. On January 5, 1172, Donna Berta di Bernardo, a widow and resident of the house of dell’Opera di Santa Maria, bequeathed sixty soldi to the Opera Campanilis petrarum Sancte Marie. The sum was then used toward the purchase of a few stones which still form the base of the bell tower. On August 9, 1173, the foundations of the tower were laid. Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on August 14 of the same year, during a period of military success and prosperity.
The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-meter foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for the better part of a century, as the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle […], [otherwise], the tower would almost certainly have toppled.
There has been controversy surrounding the identity of the architect […]. For many years, the design was attributed to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano […]. A 2001 study seems to indicate Diotisalvi was the original architect, due to the time of construction and affinity with other Diotisalvi works, notably the bell tower of San Nicola and the Baptistery, both in Pisa.
Between 1589 and 1592, Galileo Galilei, who lived in Pisa at the time, is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass, in keeping with the law of free fall.
During World War II, the Allies suspected that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. Leon Weckstein, a U.S. Army sergeant sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower, was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral, and its campanile and […] refrained from ordering an artillery strike, sparing it from destruction.
The tower has survived at least four strong earthquakes since 1280. A 2018 engineering investigation concluded that the tower withstood the tremors because of dynamic soil-structure interaction. [The] height and stiffness of the tower, combined with the softness of the foundation soil, influences the tower’s vibrational characteristics in such a way that it does not resonate with earthquake ground motion. The same soft soil, that caused the leaning and brought the tower to the verge of collapse, helped it survive.
***The ceremony, for the 850th anniversary of the foundation of the Tower of Pisa, was started, today and runs all year to August 9, 2024.
850th Anniversary (Turismo.Pisa.it)
The Leaning Tower Of Pisa Was Once Tilting Dangerously (CNN/Sharon Braithwaite/August 9, 2023)
I don’t remember where I got this and I have no idea where it was taken but, it is dated August 2011. So cute… ~Vic
Video of the Day
One hundred, five years, ago…
Hello Central! Give Me No Man’s Land is a World War I era song released in 1918. Lyrics were written by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young. Jean Schwartz composed the music. The song was published by Waterson Berlin & Snyder, Co. of New York City. Artist Albert Wilfred Barbelle designed the sheet music cover, which features a photo of Al Jolson next to a shadow of a child on the phone. Explosions in No Man’s Land take up the rest of the red background. The song was written for both voice and piano. It was first introduced in the 1918 musical Sinbad.
The song tells the story of a child attempting to call her father in No Man’s Land. She is unable to reach him over the telephone because her father has been killed fighting on the Western Front.
There is very little else written about this song. When I have gone to the Tsort charts, with these older pieces, I have usually chosen whatever was at the top of the particular chart, for the particular year. This time, I looked, specifically, for this month in 1918. According to (old) US Billboard 1, this song was on the chart for eight weeks. ~Vic
Returning to my Samsung playlist, submitted for your approval…
“I’ll be coming home, wait for me…”
This song is older than I am. My dad liked the Righteous Brothers and their music was in my house, growing up. This is one of my favorites. It has an interesting background. Composed by Alex North in 1955 (a song he’d written in the 1930s), the lyrics were written by Hy Zaret. It was the theme to the movie Unchained, a film about a convict in a medium-security prison, wanting desperately to escape and go home to his wife. This was the movie’s “Melody.” Todd Duncan was the singer for the soundtrack.
There are over 1,500 recordings of this song, with the most notable being the Righteous Brothers’ version. Recorded by the duo in 1965 for Philles Records, Bobby Hatfield won a coin toss to sing it solo on their fifth album Just Once In My Life, according to Bill Medley. [Note: According to the Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Google Books), Just Once In My Life is listed as their fourth album. This reflects, otherwise.] Hatfield changed the song a bit during recordings. He decided to sing “I need your love…” in the final verse much higher than previous singers.
Ken Sharp: “Bobby’s vocals on Unchained Melody […] are stunning. Did he recognize his gift?”
Medley: “I don’t think he knew how good he was. I don’t think either one of us were thinking…are we good or not? I think we were just saying…thank God people enjoy what we’re doing. We admired so many other people and we certainly didn’t feel we were above anyone but, Bobby was sensational.
I happened to produce Unchained Melody. I know a lot of people think Phil (Spector) did it but, I produced and arranged it. I had the arrangement all done and, Bobby came in, sang it twice and that was it. I played piano and sang vocal background on it. [If] I knew that it was gonna be a hit, I certainly would have brought in a better piano player [laughing].”
Soul & Inspiration: A Conversation With Bill Medley Of The Righteous Brothers
Rockcellar Magazine [Web Archive]
May 6, 2014
Recorded on the “B” side of the single Hung On You from the album Back To Back, radio DJs weren’t interested in it and flipped the record over. Per Medley, producer Phil Spector was so pissed off, he began calling the radio stations to make them stop playing the wrong song. Thankfully, he was unsuccessful and the song made it to #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the week of September 4, 1965. It re-appeared in the Billboard charts in 1990 when the movie Ghost was released July 13. Two versions of the song wound up in the charts at the same time, the original 1965 version and a new recording by Hatfield. [They] became the first act to have two versions of the same song in the Top 20 at the same time.
I had no idea that Elvis Presley did his own version. The first track from the album Moody Blue, it was recorded June 21, 1977 and released in March 1978. It peaked at #6 on the US Hot Country Songs chart.
Cover Me: The Stories Behind The Greatest Cover Songs Of All Time (WorldCat Library)
The Time Of My Life: A Righteous Brother’s Memoir (Google Books)
Bobby Hatfield Memorial (Spectropop)
You’ve probably heard of ChatGPT, a computer program that is trained to follow your instruction and provide a variety of wide ranging responses. As someone that has spent some time actually using the AI, I have to say, the results it produces can be eerily human but, did you know that computer scientists have been working alongside chatbots as early as the 1960s?
It was the late 1960’s and Joseph Weizenbaum, an MIT computer scientist, had just completed work on his revolutionary chatbot ELIZA. Weizenbaum was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1923 and fled the country with his family in 1935 to escape the political turmoil. Weizenbaum came to the United States where his road to computer science would ultimately begin. After time spent in the Air Force, Weizenbaum would go on to study as a computer scientist and eventually work in the industry. You have to remember, computers at that time were not portable devices that could fit in our pockets. In fact, they often barely fit into a room! As an associate Professor at MIT, Weizenbaum became obsessed with the way computers could directly interact with humans through language. It was this early through line between computers and human language that would work to lay the foundation for his own chatbot and eventually lay the groundwork for the AI development of programs such as ChatGPT, Siri and Alexa.
Eliza was completed in 1966 and Weizenbaum offered MIT students the opportunity to interact with the chatbot. This process consisted of messages typed into the computer by students and, responses would then be provided by ELIZA, […] routed to an electronic typewriter and printer. Weizenbaum was initially happy with the response that was garnered from users’ experience with ELIZA but, there was one thing he did begin to notice that he viewed as considerably concerning. Overtime, Weizenbaum made note of users starting to divulge deep personal information, looking for help similar to that of a therapy session. This observation ended up pushing Weizenbaum to advocate for caution when relying too heavily on computers for human thought…
“There are aspects to human life that a computer cannot understand—cannot. It’s necessary to be a human being. Love and loneliness have to do with the deepest consequences of our biological constitution. That kind of understanding is in principle impossible for the computer.”
New York Times
May 8, 1977
News of the Day
Fifty years, ago, today…
Shortly after midnight on July 12, 1973, a fire was reported at the National Personnel Records Center’s Military Personnel Records Building, [a branch of the NPRC], in St. Louis County, Missouri. The fire burned out of control for 22 hours and it took two days before firefighters were able to re-enter the building. Due to the extensive damage, investigators were never able to determine the source of the fire.
The National Archives focused its immediate attention on salvaging as much as possible and quickly resuming operations at the facility. Even before the final flames were out, staff at the NPRC had begun work towards these efforts, as vital records were removed from the burning building for safekeeping.
“In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC fire was an unparalleled disaster. In the aftermath of the blaze, recovery and reconstruction efforts took place at an unprecedented level. Thanks to such recovery efforts and, the use of alternate sources to reconstruct files, today’s NPRC is able to continue its primary mission of serving our country’s military and civil servants.”
Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero
The estimated loss of Army personnel records, for those discharged from November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1950, was about 80 percent. In addition, approximately 75 percent of Air Force personnel records, for those discharged from September 25, 1947, through January 1, 1964, were also destroyed in the catastrophe [all records after the last name Hubbard].
Archives Recalls Fire That Claimed Millions Of Military Personnel Files
National Archives News
One-hundred, ten years ago…
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling is a lighthearted song in tribute to Ireland and was very popular in June 1913. Its lyrics were written by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr., set to music composed by Ernest Ball, for Olcott’s production of The Isle O’ Dreams and, Olcott sang the song in the show. It was first published in 1912, at a time when songs in tribute to a romanticised Ireland were very numerous […], both in Britain and the United States. During the First World War, the famous tenor John McCormack recorded the song.
The song continued to be a familiar standard for generations. Decades later, it was used as the opening song on the radio show Duffy’s Tavern. The song has been recorded on over 200 singles and albums, by many famous singers, including Bing Crosby, Connie Francis and Roger Whittaker.
As I have stated in previous posts, Billboard’s charting abilities, in the early 20th Century, is difficult to navigate. My first stop, for these early pieces, is the Tsort site. Playback FM is very helpful, too. Digging around in the Wayback Machine can be a complete rat maze. The data is there but, how much time do you devote to searching for it.
There was a Shamrock Summit in March 1985, apparently, in Canada (which I don’t remember). Starting on St. Patrick’s Day, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan met & talked for two days. Remember the Acid Rain Scare back then? It was seen as a Turning Point in U.S.-Canada Relations (both Trudeaus don’t play well with others?) and the closing ceremonies were televised, with the men & their wives singing the song (Mulroney & Reagan are Irish surnames). I find the meeting in Quebec City and the singing of an Irish song, ironic and amusing. ~ Vic
♦ Irish Eyes Are Smiling (The Account of Composer Ernest R. Ball’s Life/IMDb/1944)
♦ Still Something To Smile About (Pocono Record/Marta Gouger/Wayback Machine/03-06-2007)
♦ When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Irish Music Daily/Pat/No Date Given)
♦ List Of Movies Using The Song
An old Simon’s Cat video from 2007, that I just found on my laptop. I had a little trouble uploading this to YouTube. I re-formatted it and, so far, so good. If it gets snatched down, like YouTube likes to do, I will re-upload another way. ~Vic
Video of the Day
I certainly like her name! ~Vic
One-hundred, thirty years, ago, today…
[The] HMS Victoria was the lead ship in her class of two battleships of the Royal Navy. On June 22, 1893, she collided with [the] HMS Camperdown near Tripoli […] during maneuvers and quickly sank, killing 358 crew members, including the commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon. One of the survivors was executive officer John Jellicoe, later commander-in-chief of the British Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland.
Victoria was constructed at a time of innovation and rapid development in ship design. Her name was originally to be Renown but, this was changed to Victoria while still under construction to celebrate Queen Victoria‘s Golden Jubilee, which took place the year the ship was launched. Her arrival was accompanied by considerable publicity. She was the largest, fastest and most powerful ironclad afloat, with the heaviest guns. Despite the ship’s many impressive features, compromises in the design meant that she proved less than successful in service.
A detailed model of the ship was exhibited at the Royal Navy exhibition in 1892 and another in silver was given to Queen Victoria by the officers of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines as a Jubilee gift.
The ship was nicknamed The Slipper (or when with her sister ship, [the] HMS Sans Pareil […] The Pair of Slippers) because of a tendency for her low fore-deck to disappear from view, in even slight seas, especially as a result of the low forward deck and raised aft superstructure…the two ships [had a] humorously perceived resemblance to the indoor footwear.
In clear, sunny weather, off the coast of Syria…
The officer in command, Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon, was a fearsome martinet with a reputation as a master of complicated ship handling. He had an elaborate plan for bringing his fleet to anchor, providing onlookers a spectacle of precision maneuvering. [Ten] battleships of the Mediterranean fleet were drawn up in two parallel columns, 1200 yards apart, heading directly away from port out to sea. Tryon then ordered a crash 180-degree turn in succession. The intention, apparently, was for each pair of ships…in order…to turn inwards and create a breathtaking view of the ships’ wakes fanning out, while the ships came about, only 400 yards from each other, [then proceeding] in the opposite direction from their original course, heading towards the land. Then, the ships were to turn 90 degrees to form one column and anchor in unison.
[The] Victoria capsized just 13 minutes after the collision, rotating to starboard with a terrible crash, as her boats and anything, free fell to the side and, as water, entering the funnels, caused explosions when it reached the boilers. With her keel uppermost, she slipped down into the water, bow first, propellers still rotating and threatening anyone near them. Most of the crew managed to abandon ship, although those in the engine room never received orders to leave their posts and were drowned. Those who escaped had to contend with the suction from the sinking ship. A circular wave spread out from it which repeatedly drew down those in the water. All manner of items broke loose from the ship as it sank and came shooting up among the men. Onlookers watched as the number of live men in the water steadily reduced.
[On August 22, 2004], the wreck of the Victoria was discovered by Lebanese-Austrian diver Christian Francis, aided by British diver Mark Ellyatt. She was found in [460 feet] of water off the coast near Tripoli […] and was located using sonar. The most amazing aspect of the wreck is that, unlike all others, she sits vertically with about two thirds of her above the sea bed. The upright position is assumed to have been caused by the huge weight of her fore guns, which would have dragged her down, bow first. The wreck has already been declared a war grave and an exclusion zone has been imposed around her, while the English and Lebanese authorities determine her legal status.
Christian Francis Finding HMS Victoria
Returning to my Samsung playlist…submitted for your approval. ~Vic
“My love is strong enough to last when things are rough, It’s magic…”
I have loved ABBA since their music showed up on the radio. Their first album in 1973 didn’t make it to the US. They finally got noticed, here, with their second album in 1974. I clearly remember hearing Waterloo during the summer after second grade (I was seven). I was permanently hooked. I still love them and I am in my middle 50s.
The second track from the album ABBA: The Album, released in December 1977, Take A Chance On Me peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 & #9 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary, in July 1978 and, #5 on Cash Box in April 1978. Written and produced by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, the song was one of ABBA’s first singles in which their manager Stig Anderson did not assist with writing the lyrics […]. In the UK Charts, it was number #1 and, of ABBA’s Top 20 biggest songs, this song is #4. It was a #1 hit in Austria, Belgium and Ireland. It was certified Gold in Canada, Denmark, the UK & the US.
I was also lucky to come across an actual live version of them singing this on a 1978 Olivia Newton-John television special. Most “live” videos are them lip-synching.
Erasure Top of the Pops
Sixty years, ago, today, the British TV Series Wisden Trophy debuted.
The trophy is named after the famous cricketing publisher Wisden and was presented by John Wisden & Co. after gaining the approval of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). The [trophy] was presented to the victorious team as a symbol of its victory but, then, returned to the MCC Museum at Lord’s.
The [trophy was] awarded to the winner of the Test cricket series, played between England and the West Indies. It was first awarded in 1963 to commemorate the hundredth edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. Series were played in accordance with the future tours programme, with varying lengths of time between tours. If a series was drawn, then, the country holding the [trophy] retained it. In 2020, it was announced that the trophy would be replaced by the Richards–Botham Trophy, named after Sir Vivian Richards and Sir Ian Botham.
I have to confess that I know squat about cricketing. ~Vic
One-hundred, ten years ago, today, the black & white, silent comedy short (13 min., 14 sec.) Barney Oldfield’s Race For A Life was released. Directed & produced by Mack Sennett, it starred Mabel Normand, Sennett, Ford Sterling, Barney Oldfield, Raymond Hatton, William Hauber, Helen Holmes, Rube Miller & Carmen Phillips (per IMDb). Wikipedia is a bit different and I’m not sure why. Additional actors are Hank Mann, Al St. John and The Keystone Cops. Usually, cast listings match between IMDb & Wikipedia, as well as release date. The release dates don’t match, either…off by one day.
Virtuous Mabel rejects the improper advances of a villainous cad. The furious villain, and his henchmen, then seize Mabel and chain her to a railroad track. Mabel’s anxious boyfriend turns for help to the great Barney Oldfield, who jumps in his racing car and speeds to the rescue.
A lady, Mabel Sweet and Lovely, is courted by a gentleman, A Bashful Suitor. He offers her a corsage, which she accepts. They coyly share a kiss. After the Suitor leaves, the Villain appears and grabs the lady. She hits him and escapes. This angers the Villain and he vows to get his way. At the next opportunity, the Villain, once again, kidnaps the lady, this time with the help of two henchmen and chains her to the railway tracks.
The three villains travel by handcar to the station, where they assault two workers and steal a locomotive engine. The villains drive the train back towards the location of Mabel, who is still tied to the tracks. The railyard worker alerts the Suitor about the situation, who then rushes to ask his friend, racecar driver, Barney Oldfield for help.
The two friends jump in the automobile and race the speeding hi-jacked locomotive to rescue the damsel in distress. Mabel is dramatically saved at the last moment and is carried away to safety. The foiled villain kills his accomplice and shoots five Keystone Cops arriving by handcar to arrest him. Finally, he turns the gun on himself but, upon discovering the bullet chamber empty, he drops dead in a rage.
Wikipedia Plot Summary