F. Wright, the Racquet Professional on the Titanic

Colonel Archibald Grace survived the sinking of Titanic in April of 1912. On the Titanic‘s last day at sea, he availed himself of the sporting facilities on the ship, which included a racquet court, a gymnasium, and a swimming pool, “a six-foot deep tank of salt water, heated to a refreshing temperature.”

“Impressed on my memory as if it were but yesterday, my mind pictures the personal appearance and recalls the conversation which I had with each of these employees of the ship. The racquet professional, F. Wright, was a clean-cut, typical young Englishman, similar to hundreds I have seen and with whom I have played, in bygone years, my favourite game of cricket, which has done more than any other sport for my physical development. I have not seen his name mentioned in any account of the disaster, and therefore take this opportunity of speaking of him, for I am perhaps the only survivor able to relate anything about his last days on earth.”

Colonel Archibald Grace, The Truth About Titanic, 1913,

Frederick Wright:  https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/frederick-wright.html

Christmas in the Soviet Union

“The secular attributes of Christmas – the lighted tree, the gifts, the cards, Santa Claus, street decorations – have been assigned by the Soviet state to New Year’s, and it is then, starting on Dec. 31, that Russians will try to do justice by both New Year’s and Christmas, combining the midnight drinking of the former and the gift-giving and family cheer of the latter in ample measures.

The idea of the hybrid holiday is usually attributed to Stalin. In the first years after the revolution, the Bolsheviks apparently tried to stamp out the celebration of Christmas altogether, targeting the traditional decorated fir trees as a particularly glaring symbol of reactionary rituals for which there was no place in the new atheist society.

The people, however, proved reluctant to part with a cherished winter holiday. So in 1935, the story goes, Stalin did what the Kremlin has done so many times since with sticky customs – he co-opted it. He lifted the ban on Christmas trees, except that he said they were New Year’s trees, and he declared that New Year’s, Novyi God, was to be a national family holiday – a sort of surrogate Christmas stripped of any Christian meaning.

The people, it must be acknowledged, took to the idea. New Year’s has evolved into probably the most popular of official Soviet holidays, in part perhaps because it has remained largely free of the ponderous ideological and civic baggage of May Day or Revolution Day. Instead of the hammers and sickles and slogans, the streets are hung with bright lights, decorated with brightly decorated trees, and the stern Lenins and Marxs make way for Grandpa Frost, the Russian Santa Claus.”

“Capturing the Holiday Spirit; Soviet Union,” Serge Schmemann, December 22, 1985, The New York Times.

Photo: By Sergeev Pavel – Own work, Public Domain.

Joan Crawford in Africa

In 1957, the film star Joan Crawford toured the continent of Africa with her husband, Alfred Steele, the CEO of the Pepsi-Cola Company. She recalled their trip in her masterpiece My Way of Life. ‘Africa was,’ she wrote, ‘My baptism in Pepsi, and I have a great affection for that continent.’

“I remember, on that first trip, we arrived in Portuguese East Africa at seven in the morning. As we were approaching for a landing I said, ‘I can’t put on any makeup, Alfred. It’s just too hot. And nobody’s going to be there anyway. They don’t know me here.’

As we taxied in I saw in amazement that there were twenty thousand people in that little airport. ‘Who’s on board?’ I asked. ‘Who are they waiting for?’

He grinned. ‘You, darling!’


 …During the African tour we spent a night at Treetops, that famous hotel built high in the trees in the middle of a game preserve where Elizabeth II was staying when she learned that she had become Queen of England. Way out there in the wilderness, it’s one of the most luxurious places in the world. The food can compete with that of ’21’ in New York.’
Joan Crawford, My Way of Life, Simon and Schuster, 1971.



Jean-Michel Basquiat on Renoir

Image result for une odalisque renoir

Jennifer Clement interviewed her friend Suzanne Mallouk about her relationship with the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Mallouk’s recollections were the basis of Clement’s book Widow Basquiat.

“I remember he had a book on Renoir that he loved. Once I asked him why and he said, ‘Because they are so violent.’ I argued with him and said that he was wrong, that the paintings showed placid French country life. He said I was stupid. He opened the book and showed me the painting of Mademoiselle Romaine Lacaux.

‘Those red flowers,’ he said, ‘are blood in her hands.’ Then he showed me The Sisleys and said, ‘You can just tell he hates her.’ Finally he opened a page at Une Odalisque— the one of the harem women– and Jean said, ‘Look, she is about to fart.’ ”

Widow Basquiat, Jennifer Clement, Canongate Books, 2000.

Odalisque, Pierre Auguste Renoir

The Joy of Massage, by George H. W. Bush

Image resultGeorge H. W. Bush has many nicknames: Poppy, Forty-one, and–most recently–David-Cop-a-feel. The forty-first American president has never shied away from a good massage, as he recalled in in a diary he kept when he was serving as the U.S. Envoy to China, Sadly, he has yet to make good on his vow to write a book about the topic.

“Spent the last two days out of that Sheraton Waikiki madhouse and in the 4999 Kahala apartment– just lovely… Checked out the bathhouse again at the Okura. Totally relaxing. Someday I will write a book on massage I have had ranging all the way from Bobby Moore and Harry Carmen at the UN to the steam baths of Egypt and Tokyo. I must confess the Tokyo treatment is the best. Walking on the back, total use of the knees, combination of knees and oil, the back becoming a giant slope does wonders for the sacroiliac, and a little something for the morale too. Massage parlors in the U.S. have ruined the image of real massage. It is a crying shame.” (December 4, 1974).

The China Diary of George H. W. Bush: The Making of a Global President, edited by Jeffrey A. Engel, Princeton University Press, 2008.