Willow trees have given the world so much: cricket bats, shady river banks, moth food and one of my favourite jazz standards. For the last on the list, we must thank Morrie and Mollie Rosenblatt 's daughter Ann (or George Gershwin according to minority opinion.)
Ann Ronell was born in Omaha, Nebraska on 25 December 1905 and began writing songs while at Radcliffe College. According to the New York Public Library Digital Library Collections, her work for the college newspaper, writing reviews and interviews, led her to meet many of the era's prominent musical figures.
An assignment involving George Gershwin had a decisive impact which lead to her decision to choose the path of music despite the prevailing odds against the likely success of would-be songwriters in general and women in particular. Gershwin offered to connect her with some of his contacts in the music business and she was soon working as a coach and rehearsal pianist for Broadway shows. In 1932 she was to show her gratitude for his efforts on her behalf by dedicating what turned out to be her most acclaimed and widely covered song "Willow, Weep for Me" to him.
The Walt Disney Studios provided Ronell's first employment in the Hollywood film music industry. While there she had a hand in the creation of "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" derived from a "Three Little Pigs" animated short. Around this time, she met the producer Lester Cowan who became her husband in November 1935. The majority of Ronell's work from this point on was centered on film music, though she was to collaborate with Nicolai Berezowsky on a ballet Ship South, compose her own "operetta/ballet" The Magic of spring (1935) and write lyrics and music for the show Count me in, produced on Broadway in 1942.
Over a span of more than three decades, Ronell contributed to the soundtrack scores of numerous films, including Down to their Last Yacht (1935), The River so Blue (1938), Blockade (1938), Algiers (1938), The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), One Touch of Venus (1948), Love Happy (1949), Main Street to Boadway (1953), and Meeting at a Far Meridian (1964). She was also partially or solely responsible for aspects of the musical direction for a number of these films. Ronell was a pioneer in several areas of soundtrack recording and is sometimes given credit for introducing, in The Story of G.I. Joe, the concept of the theme song sung over the title credits of a film.
Ann Ronell died on her 88th birthday, 25 December 1993.
Numerous artists have recorded versions of Willow Weep For Me. Among them:
July 27, 2007 | Permalink
From the Herald (Harare daily), 16/7/07:
GOVERNMENT is still working on a pricing formula and it will soon be released to wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers to correct price distortions.
Chairman of the Cabinet Taskforce on Price Monitoring and Stabilisation Cde Obert Mpofu said the National Incomes and Pricing Commission was still working on the formula.
"We are still working on it and as soon as we finalise it we will forward our structures to the various stakeholders," Cde Mpofu, who is also the Minister of Industry and International Trade, said.
He said submissions from various stakeholders were still trickling in and would be considered to come up with the pricing formulae that will guide businesses in the pricing of goods and services.
In the meantime, Government has set the price mark-up from producers to wholesalers at 5 percent and at 10 percent from wholesalers to retailers.
The percentages were announced last week as Government consolidated the price controls.
Government last month ordered a price freeze to protect the public from continued exploitation by unscrupulous businesspeople.
This move came after rampant price increases on almost all goods and services.
The Zimbabwean Dollar has its own Wikipedia entry. Lucky Zim dollar.
The first Zimbabwean dollar was introduced in 1980 and replaced the Rhodesian dollar at par.…At the time of its introduction, the Zimbabwean dollar was still worth more than the U.S. dollar, with ZWD 0.68 = USD 1.00. However, the currency's value eroded rapidly over the years. On 26 July 2006, the parallel market value of the dollar fell to one million to the British pound . …The dollar was redenominated on 1 August 2006 at the rate of 1 revalued dollar = 1000 old dollars.
…As people panicked to dump their old cash, the revaluation process drove up prices on the Zimbabwean Stock Exchange to levels that, while still below 1000% inflation, are the highest returns of any market in the world.
…Early in the 21st century, Zimbabwe started to experience hyperinflation. Inflation reached 624% in early 2004, then fell back to low triple digits before surging to 1,281.1% in December 2006 . If policies do not change, the IMF has predicted an inflation rate of over 5,000% for the year 2007  and 6,400% for 2008 . The year 2007 has started badly as inflation reached another record high of 3714% (year-on-year) in April . The monthly rate for April exceeded 100%, implying that inflation may soon exceed all forecasts, as 100% monthly inflation over sustained 12 months would produce annual inflation of over 400,000%. Mid year inflation has been breaching records as inflation for May was estimated at 4,530% (year-on-year).
On 16 February 2006, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Dr Gideon Gono, announced that the government had printed ZWD 20.5 trillion in order to buy foreign currency to pay off IMF arrears. In early May 2006, Zimbabwe's government announced that they would produce another 60 trillion Zimbabwean dollars. The additional currency was required to finance the recent 300% salary increase for soldiers and policemen and 200% increase for other civil servants.
…On 27 June 2007, it was announced that central bank governor Gideon Gono had been ordered by President Robert Mugabe to print an additional $1 trillion to cater for civil servants and soldiers salaries that were hiked by 600 percent and 900 percent respectively.
What is hyperinflation?
Michael K. Salemi is an economics professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Although the threshold is arbitrary, economists generally reserve the term hyperinflation to describe episodes where the monthly inflation rate is greater than 50 percent. At a monthly rate of 50 percent, an item that cost $1 on January 1 would cost $130 on January 1 of the following year. Hyperinflations are largely a twentieth-century phenomenon. The most widely studied hyperinflation occurred in Germany after World War I...While the German hyperinflation is better known, a much larger hyperinflation occurred in Hungary after World War II. Between August 1945 and July 1946 the general level of prices rose at the astounding rate of over 19,000 percent per month, or 19 percent per day....In October 1923, German prices rose at the rate of 41 percent per day. And in July 1946, Hungarian prices more than tripled each day.
Hyperinflations are caused by extremely rapid growth in the supply of "paper" money. They occur when the monetary and fiscal authorities of a nation regularly issue large quantities of money to pay for a large stream of government expenditures. In effect, inflation is a form of taxation where the government gains at the expense of those who hold money whose value is declining. Hyperinflations are, therefore, very large taxation schemes.
…How do hyperinflations end? The standard answer is that governments have to make a credible commitment to halting the rapid growth in the stock of money.
…In Germany workers were paid twice per day and would shop at midday to avoid further depreciation of their earnings. Hyperinflation is a wasteful game of "hot potato" where individuals use up valuable resources trying to avoid holding on to paper money. The recent examples of very high inflation have mostly occurred in Latin America...In Bolivia prices increased by 12,000 percent in 1985...The Latin American countries with high inflation also experienced a phenomenon called "dollarization." Dollarization is the use of U.S. dollars by Latin Americans in place of their domestic currency. As inflation rises, people come to believe that their own currency is not a good way to store value and they attempt to exchange their domestic money for dollars.
Hyperinflation in literature (introduced by a central banker)
Should we have faith in central banks? Speech by Professor Otmar Issing, Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, St. Edmund's College Millennium Year Lecture, Cambridge, 26 October 2000:
...Inflation - like war, to which it is often closely associated - destroys the fruit of honest labour, it devalues savings and investment, it erodes the social fabric of society and, ultimately, puts the very foundations of democracy and freedom at risk. This is one of the lessons of the bitter history of the 20th century, which was a century of hyperinflation in the wake of wars and wars in the wake of hyperinflation. No one has described the deleterious effects of inflation more vividly than Stefan Zweig has done in his book "Die Welt von Gestern" on Germany in the 1920s. He depicts the sense of distrust, despondency, desolation and despair that hyperinflation brought to Germany in 1923 (in the wake of the first world war) from which the fragile democratic and economic institutions of the young Republic were never really to recover (thus preparing the ground for the second world war). Zweig contrasts this with the pre-war "golden age of security", when "it paid to put money year for year in safe investments", when "the saver was not yet robbed", the "honest deceived" but when the "most patient, not the speculators had the greatest profit". He concludes "that nothing has rendered the German people so embittered, so full of hatred, so ready for Hitler as this inflation" (own translation). From this one could establish not just an economic case but an ethical obligation to maintain price stability. Indeed as far back as the middle ages Nicolaus Oresme has argued in favour of stable money as a principle of natural law and has denounced the debasing of currency by the state as worse than usury and equivalent to robbery and exploitation.
Hyperinflation in art
...a kind of companion piece to Hans Richter’s 1927–8 Dadaist film, Inflation, which addresses runaway inflation in Germany in the early 1920s. Whereas Richter, an influential film pioneer, had limited technical means at his disposal and used simple montage and collage, Mulholland is able to use sophisticated computer animation technology. His imagery is scanned from coins, old banknotes and his own drawings and paintings, painstakingly assembled to create a deliberately ahistorical and ambiguous space. The film itself thus enacts a vampiric transformation, animating dead and inert matter.
Inflation in music
July 16, 2007 | Permalink
The latest issue of Habitus magazine is dedicated to Sarajevo. It includes,inter alia, an interview with Jakob Finci, leader of the Sarajevo Jewish community and director of the Bosnian government's State Agency for Civil Service. Unfortunately, it is not online, but here are some extracts:
"My family arrived here almost immediately after the Jewish expulsion from Spain. On the first Jewish census, in 1681, you can find the name Finci..."
"During Socialism, we easily converted all the religious holidays to national holidays. So it was socially permitted to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Purim and expecially nice festivals like Hannukah.
Before 1941, Sarajevo was a small town with no more than 60,000 inhabitants, of which almost 12,000 were Jews. Unfortunately, over eighty-five percent of them disappeared in the Holocaust. The remaining Jews came back to Sarajevo from all over the world. Some of them had been fighting with the Partisans, some of them survived the camps, and some survived by hiding with neighbours and friends. We have a large number of 'Righteous Persons' here and most of them are Muslim."
Since the war, you have been involved in an effort to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Bosnia. Why is that important to you?
"Because it is important for people to be able to tell the stories of what they did during the war and what happened to them. There is a big difference between the Truth and Reconciliation process in Bosnia and in South Africa. In South Africa, you had to come before the commission and talk about what you had done, and them you could be given amnesty. In Bosnia, though, the Dayton accords gave amnesty to everyone, so our commission doesn't have that motivation.
Each side has its own way of teaching history. We have three different curricula in our schools – three different versions of history with each side calling itself victorious. We need to realistically evaluate our recent past, starting with what happened between November 1990 and December 1995. We need to hear from people about what they went through and what actually happened to them.
I will tell you a story about this: During the war, there was a constant stream of people coming to my office. People knew about what the Jewish community was doing, so all day there were people coming through my door, making requests for one thing or another. One day, a Serb woman from the Grbavica neighbourhood came to see me. She said to me, 'Last night, my son was killed. He was killed in our apartment, but it was too dangerous to go outside and get help...so I spent the whole night lying next to the body of my dead son.'
I was shocked. I said, 'I am so sorry. Tell me, what can I do for you?'
And she said, 'Nothing. But thank you for listening to me.'"
There's plenty of other good stuff in there, including the photograph above.
July 14, 2007 | Permalink
Remember Operation Murambatsvina? One of the places that a couple of thousand displaced people ended up was Hopley Farm, south of Harare. The following story is from The Herald, the (government-owned) Harare daily. It was in the edition of 29 June, but doesn't seem to be online:
Boy's family allocated own accommodation
The 10-year-old boy from Hopley who last year set himself ablaze following a dispute with his grandmother was all smiles yesterday after he was allocated a house built for his family by a local organisation.
Leonard Mukucha said he was happy to have somewhere to stay with his father and stepsister.
"I am happy to have somewhere to stay with my family. This house to me is like heaven after having stayed in a shack for two years.
"I am very thankful to the Homeless Peoples' Federation and all those who were there for me and my family when I was sick," Leonard said.
The two roomed house proved to be the pride of Leonard's family. The boy late last year sprinkled his body with paraffin before setting himself ablaze.
While admitted to Harare Central Hospital, Leonard said he lived a miserable life and just wanted to die.
He said without any home and someone to buy him uniforms, a bicycle to take him to school, which was too far and to pay for his school fees, he saw no reason to continue living.
But yesterday, the boy, who still has difficulties walking to Simbaredenga Primary School where he is doing Grade Four, said he was optimistic that life would be kind to him because there are people concerned about his welfare.
"I do well at school and if only I could find someone to fees for a boarding school where I could stay and concentrate on my studies without having to walk a long distance. I need to be in a place where I do not get worried about food and blankets," he said.
Leonard's sister, Nyarai, said sometimes her brother is in so much pain and does not go to school.
"We were told he developed complications on his chest because of the burns. He takes a rest whenever he has a persistent cough," she said.
But the boy whose face is badly scarred said he was doing fine except for problems with his shoes, which are small sized.
"I am not very sick now and can still manage going to school if there is no one to send me to a boarding school. The problems is with my shoes and socks," he smiled slightly bending his head.
Leonard said he wished all poor families at Hopley Farm could also have decent accommodation.
"All my friends love our house, it is the only one surrounded by plastic shacks. Sometimes when it's cold I ask them in or when they need to listen to our small radio I also invite them," he said.
July 05, 2007 | Permalink
A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry
Enriched by the short intros to each poem, sometimes critical, provided by Milosz.
Isaac Deutscher: The Non-Jewish Jew
This was a great help in kickstarting the escalator post and is worth reading even if you aren't interested in escalators.
Louis & Allen Ginsberg: Family Business: Selected Letters Between a Father and Son
This collection of letters illustrates superbly the tensions that inhere in two types of reconciliation: the parental desire to judge and protect; and the filial desire to plough one's own furrow while seeking parental approval for the results.