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Requiem for the world's greatest race car driver Posted - May 16, 2020
Racing great Stirling Moss died in his London home on April 12, 2020, age 90, following a long illness. In the early 1960s, Stirling Moss was not only the best racing driver on the planet, but the best-known sports figure in the world, and the highest paid. In 1999, his native England bestowed upon him its highest honor: the Order of the British Empire (OBE), making him Sir Stirling Moss.

While never crowned world champion, it was often said that he was the best driver NEVER to win the world championship. An inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, he won 212 of the 529 races (a 40 per cent winning average). His best year was probably 1958, in which he won four Grands Prix (three more than that year's champion Mike Hawthorne), and missed the world title by a single point.

Moss broke just about every bone in his body, from a number of accidents. In early 1962, he nearly died from a particularly bad crash that ended his career. While recovering he wrote a controversial book entitled "All But My Life", in which he said he gave motor racing his absolute all, indeed, gave it all but his life. In the book he broke a number of taboos by writing frankly about death and motor racing's inherent danger, and about his sex life. He wrote: “Of course, racing is dangerous. I like it that way. Without danger there wouldn’t be any point to it, really.”

His greatest victory is often said to be the 1955 Mille Miglia, Italy's grueling thousand-mile race over the open roads of the Italian peninsula, from Brescia in the north down to Rome in the south, and back again. He was the first non-Italian to win the event, and set a record time never to be broken. However, in ex-motor cycle racer Dennis Jenkinson, he had a co-pilot who knew the roads intimately and who kept him informed of what lay ahead, through ingenious hand-signals the pair had perfected in the days leading up to the race. In the Mercedes Benz 300SLR, Moss had the fastest and most technically advanced sports racing car in the world. Driving an identical car, his teammate Juan Fangio of Argentina finished second, which means that if Moss had faltered, Italy's hold on the event would have been broken anyway.

My choice for Moss's greatest race is the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix, where he beat the superior might of Team Ferrari, in a year-old underpowered car. His disadvantage was such that to win he had to drive absolutely flat-out for nearly every one of the race's 100 laps. The slightest mistake or let-up and he would have finished second or worse. What follows is my analysis of the race, and more about Moss.

Stirling Moss stood an athletically fit 5-foot 8-inches tall–the ideal height of tennis players, golfers. and NFL linebackers. He was not merely a great racing driver, but a superb athlete. He possessed boundless energy and an unflagging enthusiasm for life. Those who knew him well, couldn't recall ever seeing him tired. Moss made his home in London, but he was a citizen of the world, recognized wherever he went. He also was a promoters' dream. If you were holding a motor race in some far-off place, say down in New Zealand, or in South Africa, or in Brazil, and Stirling Moss was entered, you were guaranteed a sellout crowd. Moss was always good for one or two pithy quotes for the media, and he always made time to to sign autographs for racing fans. He was a true gentleman, and a never a poor loser. He often said, "I can lose a race, even lose the world championship, and the next day be out enjoying myself."

'61 MONACO GRAND PRIX

Wedged between the coastal mountain range of Southern France and the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco had no real roads to hold a motor race, merely “ledges on the face of a cliff” as some wag put it. That said, when the president and founder of the Automobile Club de Monaco, Anthony Noghes, was given the task of creating a Grand Prix circuit, he found a way. Possessed with a can-do attitude, he scouted the principality's narrow streets and alleyways, walked the harbor front, used his imagination, and came up with a circuit so ingenious that it has remained little changed since the first Monaco Grand Prix back in 1929. The Monaco circuit is 1.9 miles of hairpin curves, and two short straights. On such a tight circuit, a driver has no room to relax.

Every May, as if on cue, the dry scirocco winds blow in off the North African desert, into Southern Europe, signaling the arrival of summer–and the kickoff of the Grand Prix season, beginning at Monaco. Then the transporters arrive, from Italy and France, and from England, Germany, and the Netherlands. Temporary bleachers are erected, the streets are blocked off, and practice begins for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The biggest star by far at the '61 Monaco Grand Prix was Stirling Moss.
However, a Grand Prix wouldn't be a Grand Prix without Ferrari. With their blood-red paint scheme, and flashy wire wheels, Ferraris are candy for the eye. The three Ferraris F1s parked on pit row stand out from the herd of Lotuses, Coopers, BRMs and Porsches, that comprise the rest of the field. That said, Moss’s dark blue Lotus attracts lots of attention, but only because it’s Moss’s Lotus.

This is the first year of a rule change in Formula One. All the teams are faced with the same problems: new smaller displacement engines, new weight restrictions, new safety rules; in effect, having to start over. Cooper Cars, which has won the world championship the previous two seasons, finds itself in the same boat as Lotus, BRM and the independents: saddled with a four-cylinder Formula Two engine that puts out barely 150 horsepower. This anemic engine is merely a stop-gap measure, until English engine supplier Coventry Climax develops of a new more powerful V8 engine. Porsche likewise is behind schedule, running its flat-four F2 engine, while awaiting a new flat-eight engine. The only team truly prepared is Ferrari. The V6 beneath the Ferrari bonnet is jewel-like in appearance, and boasts a whopping 25-horsepower advantage over the competition.

Moss’s year-old Lotus is owned by Scotsman Rob Walker, of Johnny Walker Whiskey fame. If you’re Moss, it doesn’t matter that the rules have changed, or that you’re driving for an independent, or that Ferrari has a sizable horsepower advantage. Moss competes in all types of cars: in Formula 1s and 2s, in sports cars and in salons; in Coopers, Lotuses and Porsches; in Aston Martins and Maseratis, literally in anything with wheels, but rarely in Ferraris. With Moss the car is secondary. He usually wins in whatever he races, or breaks down trying.

Around one o’clock on race day, Moss leaves the sanctity of his hotel room and walks down to the harbor front, where the starting grid is located. People everywhere call out his name and wave to him: from hotel balconies, and from cordoned off side streets; from doorways and storefronts; and from the makeshift bleachers on the harbor quay, where 16 F1s await the start.

Moss is on pole, the number-one position on the starting grid, where logic and common sense says he doesn’t belong. His Lotus 18 is last year’s model, powered by the Coventry Climax Mark II, an updated version of the aging F2 motor. But Moss is Moss. He has made a career of beating Ferraris with lesser equipment. “I admit I like being the underdog,” he says, “coming from behind, doing things the hard way.”

Can he do it again? That’s the question on everyone’s mind as they await the 3 p.m. start. The Ferrari beside him on the front row is driven by American F1 rookie Richie Ginther. Next to Ginther, on the outside of row one, is Scotsman Jimmy Clark in the latest works Lotus 21. It’s slightly lower and better streamlined than Moss’s Lotus 18. This is Clark’s first Formula 1 race at Monaco. His front-row starting position has turned more than a few heads, but not Stirling’s; he knows talent when he sees it. Indeed, Clark will go on to win the 1963 and '65 world championships, and be heralded as his generation's greatest race car driver.

In row two are the cars of two drivers who are not related but share the same last name: the BRM of Englishman Graham Hill, and the Ferrari of American Phil Hill. Phil Hill is fast and experienced and favored to win the 1961 Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship. He likes Monaco and usually does well here. In row three is the third Ferrari, driven by Wolfgang von Trips, a German Count no less, with an estate in the Rhineland. Next to him is the Cooper of young Bruce McLaren, and the BRM of veteran Tony Brooks. In row four are the Porsches of Swiss driver Jo Bonnier and Californian Dan Gurney. Behind them are a bevy of independents that fill out the grid, mostly aged Coopers and Lotuses that have no chance of winning.

As he does everywhere he goes, Moss stands out at the drivers’ meeting. Most drivers already have their helmets on, but not Moss. He is bald, and is one of those rare men who looks better bald. His white cotton coveralls are tailored to accentuate his muscular build, are pressed and clean, unlike other drivers’ coveralls which are baggy, wrinkled and grease smudged. Drivers fidget and appear bored, having heard similar pre-race instructions countless times before. Not Moss. He listens intently to what Race Director Louis Chiron has to say, lest he miss a vital bit of information that might give him a slight edge. The meeting ends and Moss, always in a hurry, walks briskly out to his car.

Moss slips on his helmet, and steps down into the narrow Lotus cockpit, checks both side mirrors, and grips the steering wheel. His crew chief Alf Francis hovers over him like a doting father. For this race, he has removed the panels from each side of the cockpit, to dissipate cockpit heat from the front-mounted water radiator, heat that broiled Moss last year when he won the race in this very car. Exposed are frame tubes and the aluminum fuel tank behind his seat. For spectators, today will be like having x-ray eyes. They will be able to peer inside the cockpit and see Moss at work.

Wearing a white summer suit, race starter Louis Chiron steps to the front of the grid, as starter motors whir and engines roar to life. Chiron counts off the final seconds, waves the Monegasque flag, and the field roars away in unison, and bottles up rounding the Gasworks Hairpin. Exiting, the field spreads out accelerating up Boulevard Albert I.

Moss is not first away, which is uncharacteristic of him. He is third, behind Ginther and Clark. Making the fast climb up the hill to the Casino, he checks his mirror and is surprised to see the silver Porsches of Bonnier and Gurney, trailing him. Somehow the two Porsches got away fast, overtook the cars ahead of them, and now snap at his tailpipe. Approaching the Casino, Ginther has opened a slight lead on Clark. The field funnels between the Hotel de Paris and the Casino, and in a rush of acceleration descends the downhill grade to the sharp right-hander in front of the Mirabeau Hotel.

Back and forth across the road, Moss presses Clark relentlessly. In tandem they round the hairpin in front of the railway station, and set up for the right-hander that takes them beneath the railway arch, and on to another right-hander that puts them on the waterfront. Moss can see wisps of smoke flare from Clark’s tires as he brakes, turns, and accelerates. The Scof is unruffled and precise, and will not yield to Moss’s pressure. By now, Moss detects a misfire coming from Clark’s engine, and decides he won’t have long to deal with the Scot.

Spreading out now, the field flows through a tunnel then slows for the chicane at the harbor front. At 140 m.p.h., the chicane looks impossibly small, a tiny opening in a line of hay bales. Ease on the brakes to, say 60 m.p.h., and the chicane is taken with a quick left-right-left flick of the wheel. On the harbor quay now, with a row of yachts on the left, and a rock wall on the right; Ginther's Ferrari leads strongly into the tight Tabac left-hander, on past the makeshift pits and over the start/finish line to complete lap one. His cockpit temperature is already nearing 140-degrees, and sweat begins to show on his cotton coveralls.

As Moss suspects, Clark is having engine trouble. At the end of lap two, he pulls off into the pits. With Clark out, Moss is now in second place. His work is cut out for him: Ginther is driving like a man possessed and has increased his lead to seven seconds. Phil Hill, meanwhile, having overcome a slow start, has passed both Bonnier and Gurney, to take over third place.

Laps tick off as Moss whittles away at Ginther’s lead. On lap 12, he sees Hill’s Ferrari closing in from behind. Two laps later, Moss catches and passes Ginther, to take the lead. A lap later he sees not Ginther's Ferrari in his mirror, but Hill's. The crowd rises to its feet. This is what they have been waiting for–can Moss in a year-old Lotus hold off Hill’s newer and more powerful Ferrari?

Moss derives special pleasure from beating Ferrari with less powerful British racing cars, but he has paid a price for it. He can’t do it consistently, and it has cost him at least one and perhaps as many three world championships. Moss’s life might be easier if he drove for Ferrari, but he refuses to do so. Early in his career, Enzo Ferrari offered the Englishman a seat in one of his cars for a race in Bari, Italy. When Moss arrived, he was told the offer was withdrawn: Il Commendatore, the mercurial patriarch of Italian racing, had a change of mind, and without so much as an explanation or an apology, assigned the car to someone else. Moss was incensed, believing that Ferrari had not only insulted him but England as well. Then and there he swore never to drive a Ferrari. With rare exception, he hasn’t.

Moss’s crew is well-trained and highly inventive; they have gutted the year-old Lotus to meet this year’s minimum weight limit of 980 pounds, making it one of the lightest and flimsiest cars in the race. The bungy cord holding down the engine bonnet is a nice touch. In Alf Francis, Moss has arguably the best mechanic in the business. And the Climax Mark II engine mounted behind him has the full-factory support of Coventry Climax. Climax engineers swear they supply engines of equal horsepower to all the British teams, but everyone knows Moss’s engine is more equal than the others. In fact, it is the Walker pit where most of the Climax engineers congregate on race weekend. Moss’s Climax engine is the only one in the race that doesn’t smoke, pop, or bang at low RPM. The R.R.C. Walker Racing Team, while classified among the independents, is in fact, the de facto Coventry Climax factory team.

Phil Hill should be leading the race. He is the ranking Ferrari driver, he knows Monaco like the back of his hand, and he has a 25-horsepower advantage over Moss. But all is not as it seems at Ferrari, where politics sometimes takes a back seat to winning races. Enzo Ferrari is a hard-headed, stubborn man, and for reasons unknown to all but him, often stands in the way of his team's progress. Ferrari was the last to adopt disc brakes, the last to switch to a rear-engine chassis, and in 1961, still prefers wire wheels over lighter and stronger magnesium wheels. Since joining the team in 1957, chief engineer Carlo Chiti has fought an uphill battle to bring Ferrari up to date. In the Ferrari 156 “Sharknose” he has finally succeeded. After a couple of down years in F1, Ferrari has once again regained the upper hand, thanks to Chiti's engineering brilliance and persistence.

There is yet another problem at Ferrari: Ill Commendatore refuses to name a number-one driver. Hill is the obvious choice. He has been with the team longest, is the fastest driver, and has won the most races. But he is not named number-one so enjoys no special status and must fight for everything he gets. He does not enjoy the advantages of working closely with the mechanics, as does Moss with Walker, and defending world champion Jack Brabham with Cooper, or Clark with Lotus. At Ferrari, you tell the team manager what is wrong with your car, and pray something is done before the race. At Monaco, Hill does not even have the fastest Ferrari. As Ferrari's newest driver, Ginther has the hot new Ferrari. Ginther's machine has the more powerful 120-degree V6 engine, which puts out 190 horsepower, 10 horses more than Hill’s Ferrari. The 120-degree V6 is lighter, sits lower in the chassis, and has been moved further forward slightly, which means Ginther’s Ferrari not only has more horsepower, but handles better, and so is better suited to Monaco’s demanding streets. The official word is the car is too new, too untested, to give to a driver of Hill’s veteran status. But Ginther’s Ferrari still sounds crisp at the half-way point of the race, while Hill’s machine still makes the same blubbering sound around corners that it made in practice. It’s a problem with the downdraft carburetors, that had yet to be fully resolved by race time.

Carburetor problems or not, Hill has the bit between his teeth, and gets within five seconds of Moss, only to fade as his carburetor troubles grow worse, and his overtaxed brakes begin to lock while slowing for a curve.

On lap 78, the Ferrari team manager gives Ginther the "faster" sign. Ginther passes Hill (who yields) and begins cutting into Moss’s lead.

The race is closing in on the three-hour mark, and Moss is nearing physical and mental exhaustion. To stay in front, he has had to concentrate all his energy and driving ability on driving absolutely flat-out since the start. Moss would later say, “Every corner, every lap, as far as I remember, I was trying to drive the fastest I possibly could, to within a hair’s breadth of the limit, for at least 92 of the 100 laps.”

The crowd has been on its feet since lap 15, when Hill moved up to challenge Moss. For 85 laps, the crowd has been transfixed, wondering how long Moss can stay in front. The suspense has become unbearable for team owner Rob Walker. He cannot bear to see Moss lose now, and turns away.

With three laps to go, Moss’s lead is down to three seconds. Ginther is driving the race of his life, sliding the Ferrari through the hairpin curves with abandon. Two laps to go and the gap still holding at three seconds. If Moss can just hold out a little longer. . . .

Louis Chiron steps onto the tarmac and waves the white flag, the signal there's one lap to go. There are no guarantees in this business, and should Moss falter on the final lap it wouldn’t be the first time.

The crews along pit row turn to see who arrives first–Moss or Ginther? The first car to appear is the Scottish blue of Rob Walker's Lotus: it’s Moss, waving one arm jubilantly as he crosses the finish line.

Moss has achieved a miracle again, beaten Ferrari, and added to his reputation as one of the sport’s all-time giant killers. He will beat Ferrari once more, later this season, at the daunting Nurburgring. Looking back, it will be today’s win that gives him the most satisfaction because he had to work so much harder for it.

It turned out that Enzo Ferrari had had enough of seeing Moss beat his beloved red cars. That winter, he invited the Englishman to join his team for the 1962 season, and to sweeten the deal offered to paint Moss's car British Racing Green.

Sadly, it was not to be, Moss crashed heavily the following Spring and was badly hurt. Indeed, his skull was fractured and his brain injured, and for a long time he was in a coma. After recovering, he tried his hand once more behind the wheel, and ultimately decided too much of his racing skill had diminished from the crash, and so retired without achieving his goal of winning the world championship. Still, he had no regrets. Scores of men have won the world championship, and after a few years the larger world forgets most of them, while Moss's name lived on.

It wasn't winning so much that mattered to him, but as with most great athletes, it was competing he loved most, and in showing off his remarkable talent, as he did at Monaco in 1961.

- END -
 
Saint Joan, a play by George Bernard Shaw
Posted - May 03, 2020
In 1968, while a Freshman in college, I watched the Hallmark Hall of Fames's televised broadcast of "Saint Joan", a play by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. I was intrigued with the history, drama, and wit of Shaw's majestic play. I wanted to learn more about Joan, and in my college library discovered "Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses", a book by French historian Regine Pervoud, which I checked out and duly read. It contains the complete transcript of Joan's "Trial of Condemnation", plus interviews with those who knew her or were a part of the trial (the interviews were conducted 24 years after the trial, as a part of Joan's Rehabilitation hearings). I also read Shaw's play, which includes an illuminating 54-page introduction that's as informative and entertaining as the play itself.

Shaw published his play in 1923, about three years after the Roman Catholic Church made Joan a saint. Shaw sums up her road to sainthood thusly: "Joan of Arc, a village girl from the Vosges, was born about 1412; burnt for heresy, witchcraft, and sorcery in 1431; rehabilitated after a fashion in 1456, designated venerable in 1904; declared Blessed in 1908; and finally canonized in 1920."

As with many people of her time and social situation, Joan was unclear about the exact date of her birth, which historians have put at 1412. She was born in the farming community of Domrémy, in northeast France (where her house is now a museum). At the time, France was embroiled in "The Hundred Year War" with England, and losing badly. Indeed, the English occupied much of Northwest France, including Paris. The last French stronghold was what today is known as Alsace-Lorraine, in the eastern region bordering Germany and Switzerland.

At the age of thirteen, Joan began having visions of three saints, who urged her to leave home and save her country. The saints were Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret. They directed her to travel to the court of Robert de Baudricourt, in Vaucouleurs, as the first of several steps that would ultimately lead to the French army driving the English off French soil. Without informing her parents, she left home in the company of her uncle, Durand Lassois. The journey was made on foot through mostly occupied France, and unsafe for a girl of any age, particularly a teenager. (To insure she was not molested, the voices urged Joan to cut her hair and dress as a man).

Having arrived safely in Vaucouleurs, Captain Robert de Baudricourt, a squire, at first refused to see her, "I take orders only from the king," he said. Bolstered by the persistence of her voices, she returned some time later, and was not only granted an audience with the Squire, but given a horse, and a small attachment of soldiers to accompany her to the French Royal Court at Chinon, in Touraine, and a meeting with the hapless Dauphin, the disputed heir to the French throne, who had proved utterly ineffective as a military leader. Swayed by Joan's self-confidence and persuasiveness, the Dauphin first had some theologians examine her for signs of witchcraft. When they pronounced her pure, he sent her to the war zone at Orleans, ostensibly to see how she would do.

Joan's first test as a military leader was to break the six-month Siege of Orleans, which she succeeded in doing in nine days. She devised plans, led bravely, and carried a sword, but never used it.

Having taken Orleans, the English threat of ruling all of France was over. Now the toast of France, Joan led the Dauphin to the great Gothic cathedral of Rheims, where on July 17, 1429, she crowned him Charles VII, King of France.

Six months later, in a less taxing military engagement at Compiegne, Joan was captured by the Burgundians (French troops loyal to the English crown), who then sold her to the English army, encamped in Rouen.

Under pressure from secular English leadership, a court conducted by the Catholic Church, tried Joan and found her guilty of heresy. Forces under Charles VII were stationed nearby, and made no attempt to rescue her. In 1431, still in her teens, Joan was found guilty of sorcery (and, for good measure, for dressing like a man), and burned at the stake in the marketplace of Rouen.

Why hadn't the French King, who owed her so much, come to her rescue? According to Shaw, Charles VII had grown weary of Joan's overbearing assertiveness, among other of her character traits, and like so many who had encountered her, was glad to be rid of her. In the Introduction, Shaw explains: "If Joan had been malicious, selfish, cowardly or stupid, she would have been one of the most odious persons known to history instead of one of the most attractive. If she had been old enough to know the effect she was producing on the men whom she humiliated by being right when they were wrong, and had learned to flatter and manage them, she might have lived as long as Queen Elizabeth. . . . "

JOAN'S VOICES

And what of the voices of the three saints? Was she a sorcerous? Or a genius?Under their direction, she led the French army to a number of important victories, and faithfully honored Charles' claim as heir to the French throne. But at the trial, her voices let her down with promises that in the end she would be exonerated and set free. What does Shaw say? "Joan's voices and visions have played many tricks with her reputation. They have been held to prove that she was mad, that she was a liar and imposter, that she was a sorcerer (she was burned for this), and finally that she was a saint. They do not prove any of these things; but the variety of the conclusions reached shew how little our matter-of-fact historians know about other people's minds, or even about their own. There are people in the world whose imagination is so vivid that when they have an idea it comes to them as an audible voice, sometimes uttered by a visible figure. . . . Socrates, Luther, Swedenborg, Blake saw visions and heard voices just as Saint Francis and Saint Joan did. . . . nobody disputes that the relief of Orleans, followed up by the coronation at Rheims of the Dauphin as a counterblow to the suspicions then current of the legitimacy and consequently of his title, were military and political masterstrokes that saved France. They might have been planned by Napoleon or any other illusion-proof genius. That they came to Joan as an instruction from her Counsel, as she called her visionary saints, proved nonetheless she was as able a leader of men for imagining her ideas in this way."

And what of the play? Factual or fanciful? Shaw, who researched Joan's story in France, says everything you need to know about her military career and the facts about her trial are in the play; in other words, for the full story you need not consult the actual trial and rehabilitation transcripts. I would agree. However, having read the transcripts that contain the very words spoken by Joan, did create quite a favorable impression of her sincerity, intelligence, and guilelessness. She answered every question faithfully (without benefit of a defense attorney to protect her against self-incrimination), and ultimately was judged and sentenced to death on information that was withheld from her; information we now have that is not quite as damning as her judges made it out to be.

Curiously, every part of Joan's human body was destroyed in the fire–except her heart. The executioner tried burning it several times, but for some unknown reason, fire would not consume it. In the end, the executioner threw her heart into the Seine River, along with her ashes.

A PLAY IN SEVEN SCENES

Shaw wrote Saint Joan in seven scenes. In Scene I, she meets Captain Robert de Baudricourt, whom she convinces to send her to Chinon to meet the Dauphin. In Scene II, she meets the Dauphin, and convinces him to appoint her head of the French Royal Army. In Scene III, she meets Jack Dunois, who leads the French forces at Orleans; there she discovers the French have failed to take the English bridgehead on the River Loire, because the eastward wind is contrary, stranding their boats far from the enemy stronghold. After she arrives, she prays to her saints, and the wind begins blowing westward, allowing the stalled attack to go forward, with Joan leading the way.

Scene IV takes place at an English encampment, where a nobleman (Richard de Warwick) and a chaplain (Master John de Stogumber), and a Bishop (Monseigneur Cauchon) discuss the inroads the French Army has been making on territory held by the English, now that they are led by "the Maid of Orleans", (as she is now being called after her miraculous victory there), success they can't explain, but rather attribute to witchcraft and sorcery. "Our friends here take the view that the young woman is a sorceress," says Warwick to Cauchon. "It would, I presume, be the duty of your reverend lordship to denounce her to the Inquisition, and have her burnt for that offense." Cauchon responds: "If she were captured in my diocese: yes."

Scene V takes place in the Rheims Cathedral, where Joan crowns the Dauphin as Charles VII, King of France. Afterwards, several in the King's Court complain of Joan's intrusiveness. "If only she would keep quiet," says Charles, "or go home!"

Scene VI depicts Joan's trial in Rouen, where the lead prosecuting attorney is none other than Monseigneur Cauchon, who makes good his vow to have her tried as a sorceress. On the last day of the trial, Cauchon announces that Joan has been found guilty, and will be burned at the stake that afternoon. Joan is surprised, and for the first time recants, hoping her sentence will be commuted. When it isn't she retracts her statement, and is led away by the executioner.

EPILOGUE

Scene VII is the Epilogue, and takes place in the King's Royal Chateau, 26 years after the execution. Joan's rehabilitation has been completed, and one of the King's couriers, tells Charles, "It is solemnly declared that her judges were full of corruption, cozenage, fraud, and malice. Four falsehoods."

A storm rages outside, and as the room darkens; Charles moves to his bed, picks up a book, and is startled by an apparition that mysteriously appears at the foot of his bed. He hides under the covers, peers out at the apparition, and asks: "Joan! Are you a ghost, Joan?"

It is indeed Joan, in a scene where Shaw takes some liberties with the characters, to bring the play to a satisfying close.

Joan: "Hardly even that, lad. Can a poor burnt-up lass have a ghost? I am a dream that thou art dreaming. Thou looks older, lad."

Charles: "I am older. Am I really asleep?"

Joan: "Fallen asleep over thy silly book."

Charles: "That's funny."

Joan. "Not so funny as that I am dead, is it?"

Charles: "Are you really dead?"

Joan: "As dead as ever is, laddie. I am out of the body."

Charles: "Just fancy. Did it hurt much?"

Joan: "Did what hurt much?"

Charles: "Being burnt."

Joan: "Oh, that! I cannot remember very well. I think it did at first; but then it all got mixed up; and I was not in my right mind until I was free of the body. But do not thou go handling fire and thinking it will not hurt thee. How has thou been ever since?"

Charles: "Oh, not so bad. Did you know, I actually lead my army out and win battles? Down into the moat up to my waist in mud and blood. Up the ladders with the stones and hot pitch raining down. Like you."

Joan: "No! Did I make a man of thee after all, Charlie?"

Charles: "I am Charles the Victorious now. I had to be brave because you were. Agnes put a little pluck into me too."

Joan: "Agnes? Who was Agnes?"

Charles: "Agnes Sorel. A woman I fell in love with. I dream of her often. I never dreamed of you before."

Joan: "Is she dead, like me?"

Charles: "Yes. But she was not like you. She was very beautiful."

Joan (laughing heartily) Ha ha! I was no beauty: I was always a rough one: a regular soldier. I might almost as well have been a man. Pity I wasn't: I should not have bothered you all so much then. But my head was in the skies; and the glory of God was upon me; and, man or woman, I should have bothered you as long as your noses were in the mud. Now tell me what has happened since you wise men knew no better than to make a heap of cinders of me?"

Charles: "Your mother and brothers have sued the courts to have your case tried over again. And the courts have declared that your judges were full of corruption and cozenage, fraud and malice."

Joan: "Not they. They were as honest a lot of poor fools as ever burned their betters."

Charles: "The sentence on you is broken, annihilated, annulled: null, non-existent, without value or effect."

Joan: "I was burned, all the same. Can they unburn me?"

Charles: "If they could, they would think twice before they did it. But they have decreed that a beautiful cross be placed where the stake stood, for your perpetual memory and for your salvation."

Joan: "It is the memory and the salvation that sanctifies the cross, not the cross that sanctifies the memory and the salvation. (She turns away, forgetting him) I shall outlast that cross. I shall be remembered when men will have forgotten where Rouen stood."

Charles: "There you go with your self-conceit, the same as ever! I think you might say a word of thanks to me for having had justice done at last."

Monseigneur Cauchon (appearing at the window between them) "Liar!"

Charles: "Thank you."

Joan: "Why, if it isn't Peter Cauchon! How are you, Peter? What luck have you had since you burned me?"

Cauchon: "None. I arraign the justice of Man. It is not the justice of God."

Joan: "Still dreaming of justice, Peter? See what justice came to with me? But what has happened to thee? Art thou dead or alive?"

Cauchon: "Dead, Dishonored. They pursued me beyond the grave. They excommunicated my dead body: they dug it up and flung into the common sewer."

Joan: "Your dead body did not feel the spade and the sewer as my live body felt the fire."

Cauchon: "But this thing they have done against me hurts justice; destroys faith; saps the foundation of the Church. The solid earth sways like the treacherous sea beneath the feet of men and spirits alike when the innocent are slain in the name of law, and their wrongs are undone by slandering the pure of heart."

Joan: "Well, well, Peter. I hope men will be better for remembering me; and they would not remember me so well if you had not burned me."

Cauchon: "They will be worse for remembering me: they will see in me evil triumphing over good, falsehood over truth, cruelty over mercy, hell over heaven. Their courage will rise as they think of you, only faint as they think of me. Yet God is my witness I was just: I was merciful: I was faithful to my light: I could do no other than I did."

Charles (scrambling out of the sheets and enthroning himself on the side of the bed) "Yes: it is always you good men that do the big mischief. Look at me! I am Charles the Good, not Charles the Wise, not Charles the Bold. Joan's worshippers may even call me Charles the Coward because I did not pull her out of the fire. But I have done less harm than any of you. You people with your heads in the sky spend all your time trying to turn the world upside down; but I take the world as it is, and say that top-side-up is right-side up; and I keep my nose pretty close to the ground. And I ask you, what king of France has done better, or been a better fellow in his little way?"

Joan: "Art you really king of France, Charlie? Be the English gone?"

Jack Dunois (coming through the tapestry on Joan's left, the candles relighting themselves at the same moment, and illuminating his armor and surcoat cheerfully): "I have kept my word: the English are gone."

Joan: "Praise be God! now is fair France as a province in heaven. Tell me about the fighting, Jack. What is thou that led them? Wert thou God's captain to thy death?"

Dunois: I am not dead My body is very comfortably asleep in my bed at Chateaudun; but my spirit is called here by yours."

Joan: "And you fought them my way, Jack: eh? Not the old way, chaffering for ransoms; but The Maid's way: staking life against death, with the high and humble and void of malice, and nothing counting under God but France free and French. Was it my way, Jack?"

Dunois: "Faith, it was any way that would win. But the way that won was always your way. I give you the best, lassie. I wrote a fine letter to set you right at the trial. Perhaps I should have never let the priests burn you; but I was busy fighting; and it was the Church's business, not mine. There was no use in both of us being burned, was there?"

***************************************

I will end it here. There is more, but this is as good a places as any to end the dialogue. For more, read the play.

- END -
 
Review–Heidi, the movie & why the story still resonates
Posted - Apr 17, 2020
"Heidi" is a popular children's story of an orphaned five-year old girl that nobody wants. Her grandfather doesn't want her. Her aunt Dete doesn't want her. And the housekeeper Fräulein Rottenmeier doesn't want her either. Undeterred, she continues to smile and return kindness for coldness, and after three years of being shuttled about, finds happiness, friendship, and family. It's a timeless story by Johanna Spyri, that models the ideals of the Apostle Paul's "Ode to Love," from the 13th chapter of First Corinthians. What are these ideals? Patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, good temper, guilelessness, and sincerity. "Heidi" has been made into a number of movies, the most famous perhaps, is from 1937, and starred Shirley Temple in the title role. The version I watched was made in 2005 and stars a young Irish actress named Emma Bolger.

The story begins when Heidi's Aunt Dete takes her to a mountain cabin high in the Swiss Alps to stay with her cold-hearted grandfather (played by the appropriately gruff Swiss actor Max von Sydow). After being ostracized from the nearly village, he has been living the life of a confirmed hermit, surrounded by mountain goats, and stunning mountain vistas. The last thing he wants is the responsibility of raising a young girl. In the presence of Heidi's cheerfulness and unbreakable spirit, his coldness soon yields to warm acceptance. Next, she befriends Peter, a young goatherd, and accompanies him to the high pastures where the goats graze on grass and wildflowers, and produce goat milk. Heidi learns the art of making goat cheese, which is her grandfather's business. She also develops a strong bond with Peter's mother, and grandmother, who is blind.

After three years, her Aunt Dete returns to take Heidi to Frankfort, where she stays with the rich Sesemann family, and provides companionship for their only daughter, Clara, who is confined to a wheelchair. She and Clara become fast friends, and with help from Clara's tutor and grandmother, Heidi learns to read and write. However, the Sesemann's strict housekeeper, the aptly named Fräulein Rottenmeier, finds it hard to accept Heidi whose mere presents seems to provide a constant disruption to her daily routine. In time, Heidi grows homesick and mildly ill, and with help from Clara's grandmother, returns to the Alps to live once again under her grandfather's roof. Heidi and Clara stay in touch via an exchange of letters. Clara's doctor recommends Clara visit Heidi, believing the fresh air of the mountain country, and her warm friendship with Heidi, will do her good. The following summer with help from her grandmother, Clara visits Heidi and spends the summer with her.

Peter the goatherd, however, becomes jealous of Heidi's and Clara's close friendship, and pushes Clara's empty wheelchair down a steep ravine. Grandfather rescues Heidi from the ravine, after her failed attempt to stop the wheelchair from from being dashed to pieces. At the same time, while attempting to run and save Heidi, Clara takes her first steps and realizes she can walk, however unsteadily.

Over the summer, Clara's legs grow stronger, so that by the end of summer when her father and grandmother arrive, they discover Clara no longer needs the wheelchair. In his desire to continue Heidi's education, the grandfather returns to town and reopens his townhouse. The movie ends with a happy scene in which Heidi is shown playing ball with Clara and Peter.

END -
 
Review: "AC Cobra: The truth behind the Anglo-American legend"
Posted - Apr 05, 2020
Carroll Shelby dreamed of building an American sports car. It wasn't a daydream, but an actual dream he had at night. He awoke and wrote down the name of the car so he wouldn't forget it–Cobra. As he later conceived it, the chassis was to be built in Japan, be clothed with a fiberglass body fabricated in Southern California, and be powered by a small-block Chevy V8.

While he'd been a world-class race car driver (he won the 1959 Le Mans 24-Hour Race of Endurance, for Aston Martin), when he retired Shelby had virtually no money; what he did have was the gift to sell himself, which he had done with startling results most of his adult life. While a chicken farmer in his native Texas, he convinced wealthy sportsmen that he could not only drive their expensive toys (exotic Ferrari and Maserati sports cars) but win races, a promise on which he delivered with such frequency that it earned him a place on the famed Aston Martin team. The problem was his weak heart, which led to his early retirement, as a driver. Without an income, and having settled in Southern California, Shelby convinced the brass at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio that he was the ideal businessman to manage their race tire distributorship in Southern California. With this business as his base, he approached General Motors about financing his dream of building a fiberglas sports car powered by their small-block Chevy V8. They already had such a fiberglass sports car in the highly successful Chevrolet Corvette and weren't interested.

Undeterred, Shelby next turned his attention to England, where AC Cars had just lost their engine deal with Bristol Motors. The AC "Ace" as it was called was a proven winner on England's club circuit: a small, lightweight sports car, clothed in a handsome aluminum body. All the car needed was an engine. To make a deal, what Shelby needed was an engine of similar power and dimensions of the Chevy V8. As fate would have it, the Ford Motor Company had just introduced a small-block V8 of its own, and was planning a return to motor racing. Thus, when Shelby arrived in Dearborn, he found a receptive audience in Ford's executive suites. The only question was, would Shelby's sports car be quick enough to beat the famed Corvette? Shelby assured them it would. Next a meeting was arranged with AC Cars and several Ford engineers about mating a Ford V8 with the "Ace" sports car. The engine fit without problem, and the resulting car–now dubbed the Cobra-Ford–was decidedly quick. But the prewar leaf-spring suspension and brakes needed to be beefed up, if the car was to be a consistent winner. This was done once the car was shipped to Southern California. Fitted with extra-wide 15-inch Goodyear Blue Streak racing tires, all that remained was flaring out the fenders to clear the muscular tires. With Ford covering cost overruns, the car went into limited production, and as Shelby said it would, beat GM's Corvette handily, and went on to win races around the world.

If you're looking for a book about the Cobra-Ford saga, "AC Cobra: The truth behind the Anglo-American legend", by Rinsey Mills, will do nicely. I found the history of the original AC "Ace" particularly fascinating. The subsequent story of how AC cars, Carroll Shelby, and the Ford Motor Company got together is better known perhaps, but I enjoyed the author’s telling, which is from England’s point of view (i.e., Shelby's role is played down). Whether or not it’s the real "truth behind the Anglo-American legend” is another matter, but more about that in a moment. Particularly interesting is the story of how the actual chassis was developed over the years, and how it was assembled during the AC Cobra years (lots of revealing photos). I was also interested to learn that the chassis was constructed at the AC factory in Thames-Ditton, while the labor-intensive aluminum bodies were hand-formed by several outside suppliers. A portion of the book covers by serial number the race history of several Cobras. About 998 Ford-Cobras were built in all.

The problem is with the chapter entitled: “Mk II: Coil-Spring chassis and larger engine.” This is about the final version of the Cobra, the Mark II, powered by a big-block 427 Ford V8 (the idea was not Shelby's but Ford's). Here, the author takes some liberties without having spoken with the principles at Ford who designed the modern coil-spring suspension. He writes: “In the publicity material that Shelby produced for the new model great play is made of the almost revolutionary sounding chassis, with the suspension completely designed at Ford using its state-of-the art computer, with a good deal of input from Ford suspension wizard Klaus Arning. Computers at that time were most certainly not what they are today and Ford’s lumbering dinosaur, as it would appear today, would most certainly not have waved a magic wand over design proceedings as suggested.”

No, indeed. But had the author interviewed computer whiz-kid Chuck Carrig, who wrote the computer program in 1963, or knew anything about Klaus Arning’s patented anti-dive/anti-squat independent suspension, or of engineer Bob Negstad, who converted Arning’s ideas into hardware, he would have known how Arning's innovative suspension was mated to the AC frame rails. The details are covered in two articles I wrote for RACECAR ENGINEERING. The first, published in the October 2007 issue, entitled “The Program Maker,” about Chuck Carrig, the computer programer who developed the software, and of how the program actually worked. The Ford computer did not design suspensions, but it did calculate suspension geometry. Its very first application was to the 1964 Ford GT40, two years ahead of the Cobra Mk II. The second story, published in the October 2008 issue, entitled “Independent Thinker,” is about Klaus Arning, the suspensions guru at Ford who developed the anti-dive/anti-squat suspension as employed on the Cobra Mk II. How was it done? With Ford engineer Bob Negstad stationed at the AC factory in England, exchanging data over the wires with Arning at Ford's Dearborn headquarters. It wasn’t easy getting Arning’s advanced suspension to fit AC’s primitive frame rails, but through their trans-Atlantic connection, coupled with output from Ford’s computer, they got the job done.

Unfortunately, the Cobra-Ford Mk II was not as successful as Ford's brass had hoped, and only 260 Mk Its were actually built, before Shelby's plant was shuttered, and a unique era in the annals of international road racing passed into history.

- END -
 
Work of My Sons
 

Morning Softly - Water Echoes Movement
-Released in 2014. Bill made guitar riffs and synth tracks at home, got Lya Finston to write some lyrics and sing, and got Scott to provide some bass.

Morning Softly - Early Eerie Feeling
-Recorded in 2014. Songs written by Bill, at home. Synthesizers were added later. Some drumming done by Brendan Lenihan.

Scott Nisley - Brick City Skies
-Released in 2014. With his piano melodies and vocals, Scott entrusted the production of his album to several studio musicians.

The 45's - Roof-Hopping
-Recorded in 2010. A collaborative effort between Scott and Bill Nisley, Adam Sherman, and Zach Belka.


Oh, Yeah...
 

Richard Nisley's Brothers in Cars
Thanksgiving Day, 1967. From L to R: my brothers David, Charles, and Rob. Photo by John Nisley.
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