Category Archives: Updates

Admin Note: A Quick Update…. And Random Ephemera

Hi all, just dropping a quick note here today. Work on a rebooted podcast is going a little slowly – I think, like a lot of people, the US election has been the only show in town over the week just past. When your country, Americans, is the hegemon – the most powerful nation on earth – I think we are all in some ways de facto Americans. We live under the same neo-liberal experiment you ushered in. Our dollar is tied to yours due to the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944. Your nation exerts a soft power on other ‘western’ nations in a myriad of ways from the jeans we wear, hamburgers we eat and music we listen to – to some of the scarier stuff i.e. when I see people I know posting Ben Shapiro and other Alt Right grifters on social media. The world has, on some level, been watching apprehensively to see who our new president is this week. I’ll let you all guess if I’m pleased with the outcome (if you follow me here, you know that I am).

Anyway, I’ve got ten topics for the podcast, FYI all existing posts. I’m still hoping to launch in early December. So far I’ve recorded six scripts, mixed three of them. I’m looking to find some time next week to record the theme and background music for those episodes, then on to do the final four. I’m hoping to restart the blog series at the same time, and at least until Christmas, will be running week to week. I suspect my choices of blog topics will be swayed to Tales I think of as ‘oldies but goodies’ – stories that have been with me for decades now. I’m really not sure if they’re anyone else’s oldies but goodies however.

This week (yes I’m launching this a little early, I know this should have been Tuesday) I’m compiling some of my off the cuff Facebook ads into a post. At my day job this year my personal development plan revolves almost entirely around the blog and podcast, and one of the things which has come from that is to up my weekly social media game, including by dropping weekly ads. I normally write these in my morning tea breaks, fact check and find a picture at lunch, then release later that day.
It’s still early days in rolling these out, check out the few I’ve done so far below.

One: Doppelgangers.

There is a Tale goes thus…
On 28th July 1900 Italy’s King Umberto I sat down to a restaurant meal in the town of Monza, Italy. Nothing seemed extraordinary about the meal until the owner of the restaurant came out to meet the king.

The two men were doppelgangers, mirror images of one another.

The king and the restauranteur got to talking. Both were named Umberto. They shared a birthdate, and birthplace (Turin).
To add to the weirdness, both men had married on the same date – 21st April 1868. Both women were named Marghareta – though I’m not sure if Umberto the restauranteur also married a cousin.
The day of Umberto’s coronation, 9th January 1878, was the day Umberto the restauranteur opened his business.

The monarch was deeply moved by the experience of meeting his brother from another mother he invited him to come sit with his party at a track and field meet he had to attend the next day.

Neither man would see that day’s end. Umberto the restauranteur was murdered by robbers in the wee small hours while locking up the shop. The king would be assassinated by the anarchist Gaetano Bresci, in retaliation for the brutal massacre of protesters in Milan in 1898…

Why a Tale of Doppelgangers, Facebook followers? This page now has it’s own evil twin… a Twitter profile If you are a Twitter person please follow our ‘evil twin’ profile also – Simone

Two: What’s His Line?

Next week. (sorry folks, I could only find one very murky black and white still to turn into a colour cartoon this week).
The man in the white suit should be familiar to all right? Colonel Harland Sanders, a Kentucky gas station franchisee who began selling fried chicken at his store… and who subsequently founded what we now call KFC.

The other man is John Charles Daly. Daly was the reporter who, on December 7th 1941 informed the USA of the attack on Pearl Harbour. As a special reporter he covered a lot of big news during World War Two – and moved on to host a gameshow in 1950 called What’s My Line?

On What’s My Line? a panel of very sharp media personalities would try to guess the occupations of the contestants. Most were everyday Americans. One contestant would always be a celebrity – and the panel would wear blindfolds in that round.

Sanders appeared on the show in 1963 as an everyday American. He had around 600 stores across the USA at the time, but had yet to sell the business to a corporation who took KFC worldwide- it was only when he sold in 1964 that he became a brand ambassador, and everyone came to know his face.

Daly and Sanders make a cameo in the next tale, which will likely run for two weeks. Next week will be a whodunnit that touches on a number of infamous deaths.

Three: I was tardy…

Hey all I really wanted to share a picture with you all today of Myron T Hendrick, but I guess the man’s tardiness knew no bounds, including having his photo taken? Instead I find myself sharing a picture of this man, Robert Bacon.

And yes folks I know I could make the same point, a very similar one at least, using Seth McFarlane – of whom there are a load of photos… Seth didn’t seem old-y World-y enough…

My mini Tale today: The rather stern looking man in the photo is one Robert Bacon; a former businessman turned secretary of state for the William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt governments. In 1909 he served as the American ambassador to France – concluding his term in 1912, with a plan to return to the USA and run for senate. In early April he had his voyage home booked in… but his return was delayed till April 20 by his late replacement – the aforementioned Mr Hendrick.
When I look at Mr Bacon’s stern visage I can imagine him wanting to cuss Hendrick out as every kind of lazy, shiftless bastard imaginable. I bet he was all smiles however – I can even imagine a big old hug for Hendrick – when he finally arrived. Hendrick’s slowness saved Bacon’s life. The ship he was forced to miss was the Titanic.
This is my way of saying sorry, this week’s tale is likely to be a little late. This one took me days in working out how I structure this tale. Some time tomorrow evening NZ time I’ll drop part one of my tale on What’s My Line’s Dorothy Kilgallen.

Four: House Moving…

Hi all just a quick update. We’ve been packing up and lifting so many boxes, tables, chairs and wardrobes here that…. well we’re probably a long long way from having guns like strongwoman Katie Sandwina (1884- 1952) …. but if we stopped the takeaways we definitely would.

The house/office move continues. Writing remains on pause. In the meantime I am finding time here and there to edit some already done, and half done pieces.

Normal service will resume shortly. Keep yourselves all safe out there – Simone

Five: Swan’s Arch.

Hi all just a quick note. The picture today is local to me …. Westies will perhaps recognize it as that weird arch sticking out of the grass in Central Park Drive, on the way to Henderson. It’s known as ‘Swan’s Arch’. It was built by British immigrant Henry Charles Swan early in the 20th Century.

We don’t know when exactly Henry arrived in New Zealand with his wife Edith, but we know the couple moved to the leafy North Shore suburb of Devonport. Henry, it appears bought a large plot of land around Henderson creek in the 1890s without telling Edith, and a sailing boat. Swan jumped on his boat in 1900, telling Edith he was off to sail round the world alone, just like Joshua Slocum had done a few years earlier. Instead he sailed up the creek, moored his boat there, and engaged in an affair with his true love – growing fruits and vegetables…. It appears Henry loved gardening more than he loved Edith.

Swan lived on his boat, but built a brick shed to house his library. The archway was the entrance. Edith lived till 1940 in a house in Devonport, completely unaware of her husband’s dishonesty – believing he must have been lost at sea.

Why do I tell you this today?

Well, for one I have a rare New Zealand tale to drop next week – followed by a week’s worth of Halloween Tales to drop….. and I’ll be taking a month off the blogs to restart the Tales of History and Imagination podcast. There are a couple of things I need to develop that are in my can’t do yet bucket, to do a podcast some justice. I was going to do that over Christmas – but it seems since Joe Rogan has signed up with Spotify, the podcast episodes already made have been accruing dozes of listens + I should really fix + re-launch sooner rather than later.

I’ll be back, I’m no Henry Swan… though all fairness to Henry I bet he told Edith he’d be back too.

Unlike Henry Swan, I will drop in with something new next week. Have a great week all.

Robert the Bruce and the Spider

Hi all just a quick note today. I normally do mini tales like this on the social media accounts – sometimes weekly, and try to keep the blog for blog posts, but I’m mindful the page is getting a lot of traffic from other places at the moment.

This man is Robert the Bruce, (1274 – 1329). In 1306 he was crowned King of Scotland, and would go on to throw off the shackles of English rule. His decisive moment, the Battle of Bannockburn, 23 – 24 June 1314, where Edward II’s much larger force was destroyed by the Scots. His victory was fraught with struggle, with a few missteps and defeats.

There’s a legend, if true it lacks things like dates which could classify it as history – that after an early defeat from which he was lucky to survive – Robert the Bruce hid out in a cave for three months. Utterly dejected, and thinking of fleeing for the continent, Robert observed a spider weaving a web. The spider would run a line out, then pitch off for another angle. Sometimes it succeeded. Often it failed, crashing to the ground. Every time the spider would dust itself off and get back on the web though, till it had the entranceway covered.
It’s said, most notably by 19th century author Sir Walter Scott, Robert the Bruce learned a lesson in the cave, telling his followers “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” while recalling the spider to them. I’m choosing to ignore that particular phrase seems to come from an educationalist called Thomas Palmer, in the 19th century… and choosing to ignore that Robbie probably had to knock down the spider’s handiwork so he could escape the cave. One could conclude a spider can achieve just fine – till some lumbering man with a sword comes through, knocking your whole web down.
But I will leave it to you to cast those lines. I’m really only using the tale as a plot device to say I’m planning a little casting myself in November – not lines but pods. I’ve felt quite unhappy about my own attempts to run a Tales of History and Imagination podcast in the past – The format of those first few episodes is far from great. As some aspects tightened up, I all but lost my voice… then it appears I went and hid in a cave for a while. In November I’m putting together a series of ten podcast episodes, and we’ll see how it goes from there. The plan at the moment is to record and mix a season at a time during four week breaks from the blog – and material from the blog to mostly fill the podcast. I’m hoping to get some blog posts in reserve over the Christmas break, so the blogs are seamless moving forwards.

Spotify signing Joe Rogan to their platform, then announcing they suddenly had podcasts (well, you know, they’ve had podcasts on there for years) has led to a spike in clicks on the old episodes, and has lit a fire under me in this regard. Otherwise I’d have left this till Christmas/New Year.

In the meantime, check out my Daily Halloween series, from tomorrow, till Halloween itself, 10am New Zealand time. – Simone.

Little Richard- the architect of Rock & Roll – bonus tale

Just a quick note ahead of this blog post. I did have a plan next week Thursday to drop another Tale of Rock & Imagination bonus piece – a piece I’ve got sketched out but will hold off on for another week. I was also planning another episode of this Rock & Imaginaton series for a few weeks’ time and calling it something like ‘Sex & Religion’ or something similar. In it I wanted to discuss people like Big Mama Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Johnnie Ray…. maybe Jackie Shane? and in it share a story of a Sister Rosetta gig in Macon Georgia – some time in 1946 or 47 where she invited some 14 year old kid up on stage with her to play a few songs – and how this young, flamboyant kid was dynamite and would go on to revolutionize popular music. Seeing that kid has just passed this does seem timely. Apologies dear readers I’m pasting my Facebook post up here today, unvarnished as it is. RIP Little Richard.

Sad news this morning to read ‘the architect of rock and roll’ Little Richard has passed on. Musically, over the space of a little over two years he turned out several of the greatest rock songs ever. As a person I think it has to be said this vibrant, larger than life personality lived a life often darkened by the caprices of his strict pentecostal upbringing, and his thuggish church deacon father who never accepted his bissexual, non-binary child. This caused Richard to vacillate between his true, authentic self, and the man his God, or his father, or the congregation demanded of him.

There was Little Richard, the flamboyant, iron lunged piano thumper – came up through the carnival circuit opening for snake oil salesmen, then on to a drag revue before being discovered by Specialty records. Androgynous, flashy, overtly sexual. A preacher of the gospel of free love, good times and hedonism. The kind of guy who would write a song about having sex in an alley with a drag queen (Long Tall Sally) and just smile to himself knowingly when stuffy old Pat Boone stole his song……

Then there was Richard Wayne Penniman, deeply religious and terrified he was going to hell – aboard a ferry in Australia in October 1957. The Russians had just launched Sputnik days earlier, he had just endured an extremely turbulent flight to Aussie. Sputnik had been playing on his mind all night and he had been having nightmares of apocalyptic fireballs, hellfire and thunder. This Richard stood at the edge of the boat throwing $100,000 worth of jewellery overboard and proclaiming as soon as this tour was over he was done with rock and roll, boyfriends and partying – he would go on for some time to become a preacher.

I love Richard’s music, feel a little sad to think of the turmoil he must have gone through in life. No doubt will be playing some Little Richard around the house today.

Podcast Update: Season 2 coming soon!

Hi all I hope you all are keeping safe out there in these crazy times – for anyone playing this update in years to come I recorded this in April 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As some of you know I’m based in Auckland, New Zealand. I am safe, at the time of writing my family and friends are safe. New Zealand went into lock down early. At this point we were getting through this with minimal fatalities and many more people than ever here are starting to find talking points, I guess gaining a little popularity online? found in books like Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists and Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism – both books I recommend, if anyone is looking for book endorsements.

I’ve been working through this in my day job. Some of you will know I work from home – my blogging and podcasting studio is also my office from 8.30 to 5pm. I have to admit the current crisis has thrown me off my game a little – both in the day job …. And in the preparations for the next season of Tales of History and Imagination. I apologise folks, some nights where I should be knocking out 1000 words I’m getting through 500 or 600, other nights I’m just pouring a bourbon and relaxing to whatever is on Netflix. Week one of lockdown for me – I have been home alone – had more than it’s normal share of anxiety (the last time I have had an anxiety attack was in 2016, preparing for Mastermind and realizing maybe I should’ve picked one Shakespeare play, not several, as a specialty subject). The following weeks have been much more manageable. All this means I’ll be on track to launch the 2nd season in four weeks – about a month behind schedule.

In the meantime I’ve scheduled four extra blog posts on historyandimagination.com. I am keeping those posts plague-free. It occurred to me right now I could be topical, and still avoid the more worn paths – skip did the Black Death clear the way for a more prosperous late middle ages and the Renaissance, for the tale of Pope Gregory IX and his Papal Bull ordering the death of all Europe’s cats – which possibly made the eventual Black Death worse than it could have been. Maybe a look into how several bouts of Yellow Fever in Memphis Tennessee in the 1870s killed white people disproportionately and led to the rise of Beale Street, and the Blues as we now know it. I’ll stash these, and a bunch of other similar tales away somewhere for some time after this pandemic. The blog, as per the podcast when it returns, will be as plague free as it can be.

Please go check out my blog page, historyandimagination.com, I’ve just published my 50th blog post up there so there is plenty of historical weirdness to work through. If productivity further nose dives I’ll release some of those shorter blog tales as podcast episodes. Follow Tales of History and Imagination on Facebook, under Tales of History and Imagination. I am on Twitter under @simonetwhitlow and am very slowly building up an Instagram. Please share the podcast with anyone you know who likes these kinds of tales – ideally episode 5 onwards – the first four could do with some editing and polishing up.

And stay safe, look after yourselves in your bubbles. We’ll all come through this soon enough. Talk soon – Simone.

…. What I wish the 15th March 2019 was remembered for…

Hey folks just a quick note from my desk at my day job. To those pouring scorn on the kids today:

February 1 1960, four black teens took it upon themselves to sit down in whites only seats, at a lunch counter in a Woolworths in North Carolina. These four young men, Ezell Blair jr, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond refused to be moved and were arrested for their civil disobedience. Within days 300 black students sat at the same counter, refusing to move, and within weeks this scene played out in 50 American cities. This WAS an important step leading towards the Civil Rights act of 1964.

Likewise, the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976, became an important step towards the abolition of apartheid in South Africa – Thousands of protesters took to the streets in protest of being forced to speak Afrikaans in the schools. Police sparked international outrage when they shot into the crowds, an image of a young boy, Hector Pieterson’s body being carried away the final straw for many businesses – who started to boycott the country after this.

Never forget, days after the Berlin wall came down in 1989 Czechoslovakia demanded their independence from the USSR. Who instigated this movement, which culminated with 500,000 citizens out on the streets of Prague to demand their independence? The kids.

From campus protests to black lives matter, from Tiananmen square to Iran in 1999 the kids have been showing us adults what standing up for your rights looks like. Today in New Zealand, as around the world lately, they are standing up for Mother Earth. My message to other oldies like myself, never underestimate what the kids can accomplish.. and to the kids thank you for stepping up on an issue of existential proportions, if we want an Earth, and continued life then someone needs to step up. I for one am glad it’s you, past experience has shown you guys have made all the difference.