Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A00027 - Ibn al-Faqih, Persian Geographer

Ibn al-Faqih
Ibn al-Faqih. (Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadhani(Persianابن فقیه الهمذانی‎)  Persian author of a geography written in Arabic during the ninth century.  In his only surviving work The Book of the Countries (Concise Book of Lands), he describes his native town Hamadan and the countries of Iran, Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Rum, Jazira, Central Asia, Nubia, Abyssinia, North Africa, al-Andalus and Sudan are given merely a brief mention.

Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadhani became famous for his Mukhtasar Kitab al-Buldan (Concise Book of Lands). He was noted for his comparison of the customs, food diets, codes of dress, rituals, along with the flora and fauna of China and India.

A00026 - Otto Petersen, Voice of Vulgarity


Otto Petersen and the dummy George Dudley, a team for more than three decades who found fame at the X-rated end of the comedy spectrum.

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Otto Petersen, a ventriloquist who was the flesh-and-blood half of Otto and George, a comedy team renowned for vulgarity so stunning as to make Rabelais look like a church picnic, died on Sunday at his home in Keyport, N.J. He was 53.
Mr. Petersen died in his sleep, his longtime companion, Tricia Conte, said. He had been hospitalized last year for bacterial meningitis; whether the illness played a role in his death is unknown, she said.
With George Dudley, his wooden companion of four decades, Mr. Petersen was a frequent guest on “The Opie & Anthony Show” and “The Howard Stern Show,” both on SiriusXM satellite radio. On television, he was seen on “Late Show With David Letterman” and elsewhere.
Popular with audiences and widely admired by other comics, Mr. Petersen was often described as soft-spoken in private life. But he was no match, he often said, for the strong-willed, forked-tongue George, whose caustic, profanity-laced outbursts rained down on a spate of targets, not least of all Mr. Petersen himself.


Mr. Petersen and his dummy entertained the lunchtime crowd on the steps of the New York Public Library in 1980. CreditPaul Hosefros/The New York Times

No subject was sacred, and George’s myriad observations could range over matters sexual, scatological, urological, gastroenterological, racial, bestial, theological and homicidal. None will be quoted here.
Mr. Petersen’s act was so scurrilous that it once proved too much for a historically thick-skinned crowd.
“They were told they had managed to offend the audience at the annual adult-film awards — the porno-world equivalent to the Academy Awards — in Las Vegas,” The Montreal Gazette reported in 2010. “Otto and George had twice served as hosts, but weren’t asked back by the insulted and suddenly squeamish organizers.”
Performing on network TV, Mr. Petersen served up an only somewhat bowdlerized version of his live show.
“I’m doing an act,” he told The Gazette in the same article. “I don’t mean everything I say. Jack Nicholson was in ‘The Shining’ and chased people around with an ax for two hours. It doesn’t mean he’s an ax murderer.”
Otto Sol Petersen was seduced by a dummy as a child. The son of a Danish father and a Jewish American mother, he was born in Brooklyn on July 29, 1960, and reared on Staten Island. Growing up, he fell under the televised spell of the mild-mannered ventriloquist Paul Winchell and his milder-mannered dummy Jerry Mahoney.
Otto bought his first George for $350 from a Times Square magic shop in 1974 and spent his teenage years honing his craft on city street corners, on the Staten Island Ferry and in Central Park, where an admiring John Lennon once gave him two dollars.
“He came up and said, ‘$1.50 is for your puppet, and the rest of it’s for you, since he was funnier,’ ” Mr. Petersen later recalled.
In the late ’70s, when Mr. Petersen began seeking club dates, he ran up against an obstacle: the pervasive disdain in which ventriloquists were held. He realized, he said, that in order to work at all, he would have to “work blue.”
“Clubs need to inform people that this is going to be a filthy night of comedy,” Mr. Petersen told The Bergen Record in 2010. “I was playing a place in Rhode Island recently, and there were grandmothers and conservative-looking women in the crowd. They had no idea that they were going to see a brutal show. They thought they were going to see Bob Hope.”
He added, with breathtaking understatement, “I’m no Bob Hope.”
Besides Ms. Conte, Mr. Petersen’s survivors include his mother, Sylvia; a sister, Lona Palmieri; and a brother, Tom.
With George, he was featured in “The Aristocrats,” the 2005 documentary about a joke so utterly profane that even Mr. Petersen appeared to have difficulty telling it on camera.
George rose articulately to the occasion.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A00025 - Basil Paterson, Harlem Political Powerbroker


Basil A. Paterson, then a state senator, with his wife, Portia, and son David in 1970 after winning the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in New York.CreditLarry Morris/The New York Times
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Basil A. Paterson, one of the old-guard Democratic leaders who for decades dominated politics in Harlem and influenced black political power in New York City and the state into the 21st century, when he saw his son David A. Paterson rise to the governor’s office, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 87.
His family confirmed his death, at Mt. Sinai Hospital, in a statement released on Thursday. Mr. Paterson lived in Harlem. 
Mr. Paterson, a lawyer, labor negotiator and federal mediator who also served as a state senator, a deputy mayor and New York’s secretary of state, got into politics in Harlem in the 1950s and became part of the group of powerful clubhouse leaders known, sometimes derisively and at other times enviously, as the Gang of Four.
The other three were David N. Dinkins, who became the city’s first black mayor; Representative Charles B. Rangel, the dean of the New York State congressional delegation; and Percy E. Sutton, a civil rights leader and longtime Manhattan borough president, who died in 2009.


Mr. Paterson in 1978, then a deputy mayor. CreditNeal Boenzi/The New York Times

In the 1970s and ’80s, they were kingmakers, selecting and helping to elect many black candidates for legislative and executive offices once deemed beyond the reach of African-Americans, and paving the way for other black aspirants in the nation. The group also dispensed patronage, exercised legislative influence, forged alliances with state and national Democrats, and reaped the rewards of a Harlem political dynasty.
Although Mr. Paterson was one of the savviest veterans of New York’s political wars, he never held high elective office. In the late 1960s he was the state senator for much of Harlem and northern Manhattan, and in 1970 was New York’s first major-party black candidate for lieutenant governor, running on a Democratic ticket headed by Arthur J. Goldberg, the former United States Supreme Court associate justice. They lost to the Republican incumbents, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller and Lt. Gov. Malcolm Wilson.
Mr. Paterson was Mayor Edward I. Koch’s deputy mayor for labor relations in 1978 and led pivotal contract negotiations with municipal unions in the first year of the Koch administration. He also was Gov. Hugh L. Carey’s secretary of state, largely keeping records of incorporation and licensing, from 1979 to 1982.
After mediating an end to a 46-day strike against scores of private nonprofit hospitals and nursing homes in the city in 1984 — a task that kept him in the headlines for weeks — he flirted with a mayoral race as a consensus candidate put forward by blacks and white liberals opposed to a third term for Mr. Koch. But he withdrew before the primary elections.
In the 1990s, the influence of Mr. Paterson and his old-guard allies waned as blacks left Harlem. While he had promoted the careers of many black officials, he was known to be ambivalent about the political ambitions of his son David, with whom he had always been close. Legally blind from childhood, David Paterson became a lawyer, a state senator, the lieutenant governor and New York’s first black governor in 2008, when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in a sex scandal.
Associates attributed Basil Paterson’s ambivalence to a father’s instincts to protect a handicapped son from rough politics. But after years of keeping a distance from his son’s political life, Mr. Paterson became his closest confidant after the new governor became entangled in controversies, including domestic abuse charges against a senior aide and perjury accusations in an ethics case involving Yankees tickets.


Three members of the Gang of Four, from left, Mr. Paterson, Charles Rangel and Percy Sutton, outside City Hall in 1970. CreditNeal Boenzi/The New York Times

Governor Paterson paid a fine in the ethics case, but accusations that he had improperly intervened in the domestic abuse matter lingered even after the aide pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Amid reports of an extramarital affair and other hints of scandal, the governor resisted calls for his resignation. But after a tumultuous two years in office, he decided not to run in 2010 for a full term.
“It’s been very difficult for Basil to watch this happen to his son,” Harold Ickes, a political consultant who had known the Patersons for years, told The New York Times. “David has enormous talents and strengths and also has some weaknesses. Basil is one of the singularly most talented, sophisticated, subtle people I know, and is very wise to the world generally and to the political world in particular.”
Basil Alexander Paterson was born in Manhattan on April 27, 1926, to Caribbean immigrants, Leonard and Evangeline Rondon Paterson. (His father was from the Grenadines, his mother from Jamaica.) He grew up in Harlem, graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1942 and enrolled at St. John’s University. After two years in the Army in World War II, he returned to St. John’s and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1948 and a law degree in 1951.
In 1953, he married Portia Hairston. She survives him, as do David; another son, Daniel; and five grandchildren.
The young lawyer practiced in Harlem, joined civic and community organizations and plunged into Democratic politics. By the early 1960s, he was a rising clubhouse leader along with Mr. Dinkins, Mr. Rangel and Mr. Sutton. His 1964 election as president of the N.A.A.C.P. in Harlem was regarded as the prelude to a political career.
In 1965, he was elected to the State Senate, where he supported special education, divorce reform and other progressive measures. Despite his Roman Catholicism, he was an early supporter of liberalized abortion laws. He was re-elected, but gave up his seat in 1970 to become Mr. Goldberg’s running mate in the race for governor. While his ticket lost, he won an overwhelming primary vote, showing promise as a statewide candidate.


Mr. Paterson served as a state senator, a deputy mayor and New York’s secretary of state.CreditDon Hogan Charles/The New York Times

But Mr. Paterson was never again on a ballot for public office. He became increasingly involved in labor relations in the 1970s and ’80s, mediating dozens of disputes and representing transit and hospital workers, teachers and others. After serving in the Koch and Carey administrations, he joined the law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, whose clients include scores of labor unions.
Mr. Paterson cited “pressing family problems” in declining to run for mayor in 1984. Months later, his son David quit his job as a prosecutor in Queens to work on Mr. Dinkins’s successful 1985 campaign for the Manhattan borough presidency. That fall, with the backing of Mr. Dinkins and Mr. Sutton, David won the State Senate seat his father had attained 20 years earlier.
In part to avoid conflicts of interest, Basil Paterson for more than 20 years kept a respectful distance from his son’s rising political career, especially after David became lieutenant governor in 2006 on the winning Spitzer ticket.
On March 10, 2008, as a prostitution scandal broke over Mr. Spitzer and it became clear that David would soon be governor, his first call went to his father, who offered simple advice.
“Well,” Basil said, “you say a prayer.”
“I’ve already said a prayer for Eliot,” David replied.
“That’s good. Now you’d better say one for yourself.”


Basil Alexander Paterson (April 27, 1926 – April 16, 2014), a labor lawyer, was a longtime political leader in New York and Harlem and the father of the 55th Governor of New York, David Paterson. His mother was Jamaican, and his father was Carriacouan (a person from Carriacou, the largest island of the Grenadine archipelago). 

Paterson was born in Harlem on April 27, 1926, the son of Leonard James and Evangeline Alicia (Rondon) Paterson. His father was born on the island of Carriacou in the Grenadines and arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. Vestris on May 16, 1917 in New York City. His mother was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and arrived in the United States on September 9, 1919 aboard the S.S. Vestnorge in Philadelphia with a final destination of New York City.  A stenographer by profession, the former Miss Rondon once served as a secretary for Marcus Garvey. 

In 1942, at the age of 16, Paterson graduated from De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He was shaped by his experiences with racism early on. "I got out of high school when I was 16," Paterson told New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, "and the first real job I had was with a wholesale house in the old Port Authority building, down on 18th Street. We'd pack and load these trucks that went up and down in huge elevators. Every year there would be a Christmas party for the employees at some local hotel. Those of us who worked in the shipping department were black. We got paid not to go to the party." He attended college at St. John's University, but his studies were interrupted by a two-year stint in the U.S. Army during World War II.  After serving honorably, he returned to St. John's to complete his undergraduate studies. While there he was very active in social and community service organizations, including among others the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, where he joined the ranks of the Omicron chapter of New York (now at Columbia University) in 1947. Paterson graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in biology in 1948. He was later admitted to St. John's Law School, where he received a Juris Doctor degree in 1951.   Paterson became involved in Democratic politics in Harlem in the 1950s and 1960s. A member of the "Gang of Four", along with, former New York Mayor David Dinkins; the late Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton; and Congressman Charles Rangel, Paterson was a leader of the "Harlem Clubhouse",  which  dominated Harlem politics during and after the 1960s.  In 1965, Paterson was elected to the New York State Senate representing the Upper West Side of New York City and Harlem. He gave up his Senate seat in 1970 to run for Lieutenant Governor of New York, as the running mate of former United States Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. The Goldberg/Paterson ticket lost to the Republican ticket of incumbent Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Lieutenant Governor Malcolm Wilson. In 1978, Paterson was appointed Deputy Mayor of New York City by then Mayor Ed Koch. He stepped down as deputy mayor in 1979 to become Secretary of State for the State of New York, thereby becoming the first African American person to have held the post.  He served as Secretary of State until the end of the Hugh Carey administration in 1982. Despite having briefly served in the Koch Administration, Paterson made moves to run for Mayor against Koch as the latter sought a third term, but ultimately chose not to run. Paterson became a member of the law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P. C., where he was co-chair of the firm's labor law practice.  Paterson was the father of former New York Governor David Paterson, who was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 on a ticket with Governor Eliot Spitzer. David Paterson succeeded to the governor's office upon Spitzer's resignation on March 17, 2008.  Basil Paterson died April 16, 2014. He was 87.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A00024 - Ibn al-Baytar, Muslim Botanist

Ibn al-Baytar
Ibn al-Baytar (Ibn al-Baitar) (Abu Muhammad Abdallah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar Dhiya al-Din al-Malaqi) (circa, 1188 - 1248).  Botanist and pharmacologist of Malaga. In one of his works, he lists some 1400 samples.  This work had a considerable influence both outside and within the Islamic world.

Ibn al-Baytar was an Arab scientist, botanist, pharmacist and physician. He is considered one of the greatest scientists of Al-Andalus and is believed to be one of the greatest botanists and pharmacists of the Islamic Golden Age and Muslim Agricultural Revolution.

Born in the Andalusian city of Málaga at the end of the 12th century, he learned botany from the Málagan botanist Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati with whom he started collecting plants in and around Spain. Al-Nabati was responsible for developing an early scientific method, introducing empirical and experimental techniques in the testing, description and identification of numerous materia medica, and separating unverified reports from those supported by actual tests and observations.

In 1219, Ibn al-Baytar left Málaga to travel in the Islamic world to collect plants. He travelled from the northern coast of Africa as far as Anatolia. The major stations he visited include Bugia, Constantinople, Tunis, Tripoli, Barqa and Adalia.

After 1224, he entered the service of al-Kamil, an Ayyubid Sultan, and was appointed chief herbalist. In 1227 al-Kamil extended his domination to Damascus, and Ibn al-Baitar accompanied him there which provided him an opportunity to collect plants in Syria. His researches on plants extended over a vast area including Arabia and Palestine. He died in Damascus in 1248.

Ibn al-Baytar’s major contribution is Kitab al-Jami fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada, which is considered one of the greatest botanical compilations in history, and was a botanical authority for centuries. It was also a pharmacopoeia (pharmaceutical encyclopedia) and contains details on at least 1,400 plants, foods, and drugs, 300 of which were his own original discoveries. His work was translated into Latin in 1758 and was being used in Europe up until the early 19th century. The book also contains references to 150 other previous Arabic authors as well as 20 previous Greek authors.

Ibn Al-Baytar’s second major work is Kitab al-Mlughni fi al-Adwiya al-Mufrada which is an encyclopedia of Islamic medicine, which incorporates his knowledge of plants extensively for the treatment of various ailments, including diseases related to the head, ear, eye, etc.

In cancer therapy, Ibn al-Baytar discovered the earliest known herbal treatment for cancer: "Hindiba", a herbal drug which he identified as having "anti-cancer" properties and which could also treat other tumors and neoplastic disorders. After recognizing its usefulness in treating neoplastic disorders, Hindiba was patented in 1997 by Nil Sari, Hanzade Dogan, and John K. Snyder.

Abu Muhammad Abdallah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar Dhiya al-Din al-Malaqi see Ibn al-Baytar
Ibn al-Baitar see Ibn al-Baytar

A00023 - Jesse Winchester, Writer and Singer of Thoughtful Songs

Jesse Winchester
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Jesse Winchester, a honey-voiced singer who wrote thoughtful songs with deep Southern roots, died on Friday at his home in Charlottesville, Va. He was 69.
The cause was bladder cancer, said his manager and agent, Keith Case.
Mr. Winchester began writing songs in Canada, where he had moved in 1967 to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War. He did not expect to return to the United States. Yet songs like “Biloxi,” “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” and “Yankee Lady” on his debut album, “Jesse Winchester,” released in 1970, delved tenderly into memories of the South he had left behind.
The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” which Mr. Winchester said was the first song he wrote, was recorded by, among others, Joan Baez, the Everly Brothers, Anne Murray and Patti Page, who had a huge hit in 1950 with “The Tennessee Waltz.”
His songs were rooted in country, soul and gospel, and they strove to stay plain-spoken and succinct, whether he was singing wryly about everyday life or musing on philosophy and faith. In 1989 he told Musician magazine, “You can always find a way to say things in fewer words.”
James Ridout Winchester was born on May 17, 1944, in Bossier City, La., to James Ridout Winchester and the former Frances Manire. His father was stationed at Barksdale Field, an Army Air Corps base at the time. The family moved to a farm in Mississippi and later to Memphis. Mr. Winchester had 10 years of piano lessons, played organ in church and picked up guitar after hearing rockabilly, blues and gospel on Memphis radio.
He attended Williams College, where he majored in German, and enrolled for a year at the University of Munich, although he spent most of his time in Germany playing with a traveling rock band. Shortly after graduating from Williams, he received a draft notice and left for Montreal. “I didn’t see going to a war I didn’t believe was just, or dying for it,“ he said in an interview with No Depression magazine.
In Quebec he worked with bar bands and started playing the coffeehouse circuit, where he became a songwriter. “They expected you to write your own songs,” he told the online magazine Crawdaddy, “so I did.”
After a friend introduced him to Robbie Robertson of the Band, Mr. Winchester was signed by the Band’s manager, Albert Grossman. His debut album was produced by Mr. Robertson and received admiring reviews.
Sales were modest, partly because Mr. Winchester could not tour the United States to promote it. But “Yankee Lady” was a hit in Canada for Mr. Winchester, and later in the United States for Brewer & Shipley, and “Biloxi” became a staple of Jimmy Buffett’s repertoire.
Mr. Winchester released albums steadily through 1981 on Mr. Grossman’s label, Bearsville. The pensive, sparsely produced “Third Down, 110 to Go” — Canadian football has a 110-yard field — appeared in 1972; it included “Isn’t That So,” a bluesy song about God’s intentions and human temptations that was later recorded by Wilson Pickett. “Learn to Love It,” released in 1974, included “Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt,” a 1940s song Mr. Winchester updated to praise Canada; in it, he recalled himself in 1967, singing, “The call to bloody glory came and I would not raise my hand.” In 1976, Mr. Winchester released “Let the Rough Side Drag,” which pondered love, faith and commitment.
Three months after President Jimmy Carter issued an amnesty for draft evaders in January 1977, Mr. Winchester, who had become a Canadian citizen in 1973, played his first United States concerts in a decade. He was ambivalent about the newfound attention. “It doesn’t seem fair to turn your back on your country and then come back when the coast is clear and make money,” he told Rolling Stone in 1977.
With the amnesty, Mr. Winchester could record again in the United States, although he continued to live in Quebec. He worked in Nashville with Emmylou Harris’s longtime producer, Brian Ahern, on “Nothing but a Breeze“ (1977); with another leading country producer, Norbert Putnam, on “A Touch on the Rainy Side“ (1978); and in Memphis with Al Green’s producer, Willie Mitchell, on “Talk Memphis” (1981).
Those albums gave Mr. Winchester his first presence on the American country and pop singles charts, but sales remained low, and longtime fans missed the sorrowful undertow of his earlier songs.
“Talk Memphis” was Mr. Winchester’s last major-label album. He would record infrequently through the following decades, though he continued to tour and write. He built a home studio, and royalties supported him as hissongs appeared on albums by Wynonna Judd, Reba McEntire, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffett and many others.
“I took stock and thought, ‘The only thing making money for me in this business is songwriting,’ ” he told one interviewer. “I don’t make any from records, and what little I did make from performing wasn’t usually worth the aggravation.” But in later years, he grew happier with performing, and he continued to tour into 2014.
Mr. Winchester made two country-pop albums for the Sugar Hill label, “Humour Me” in 1988 and “Gentleman of Leisure” in 1999.
In 2002 he married Cindy Duffy and moved back to the United States, settling in Charlottesville. He credited her “nagging” with getting him to record his last album, the 1950s-flavored “Love Filling Station” (Appleseed), in 2009. He had recently completed another album, “A Reasonable Amount of Trouble.”
Mr. Winchester’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to Ms. Duffy, survivors include a daughter, Alice Winchester; two sons, James and Marcus Lee Winchester; a stepdaughter, Jennifer Slangerup; three grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; a brother, Cassius; and a sister, Ellyn Weeks.
He learned he had esophageal cancer in 2011 and canceled a tour, but after surgery, he was pronounced cancer-free and returned to performing. In February of this year, he was found to have bladder cancer.
A 2012 tribute album, “Quiet About It,” included performances of his songs by Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams and Allen Toussaint.