Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde


Place de la Concorde
Map pointer.svg

Map of Paris

Arrondissement 8th
Quarter La Madeleine
Length 359 m (1,178 ft)
Width 212 m (696 ft)
Creation 1772
Denomination 1830
Place de la concorde.jpg
The Place de la Concorde seen from the Pont de la Concorde; in front, the Obelisk, behind, the Rue Royale and the Church of the Madeleine; on the left, the Hôtel de Crillon.


The Place de la Concorde (French pronunciation: ​[plas də la kɔ̃kɔʁd]) is one of the major public squares in Paris, France. Measuring 8.64 hectares (21.3 acres) in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city’s eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.






The Place was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Garden to the east. Decorated with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the king at that time. The square showcased an equestrian statue of the king, which had been commissioned in 1748 by the city of Paris, sculpted mostly by Edmé Bouchardon, and completed by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle after the death of Bouchardon.


At the north end, two magnificent identical stone buildings were constructed. Separated by the rue Royale, these structures remain among the best examples of Louis Quinze style architecture. Initially, the eastern building served as the French Naval Ministry. Shortly after its construction, the western building became the opulent home of the Duc d’Aumont. It was later purchased by the Comte de Crillon, whose family resided there until 1907. The famous luxury Hôtel de Crillon, which currently occupies the building, took its name from its previous owners; it was the headquarters of the German High Command during World War II.


French Revolution


During the French Revolution the statue of Louis XV of France was torn down and the area renamed “Place de la Révolution”. The new revolutionary government erected the guillotine in the square, and it was here that King Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793.


Other important figures guillotined on the site, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Princess Élisabeth of France, Charlotte Corday, Madame du Barry, Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins, Antoine Lavoisier, Maximilien Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just and Olympe de Gouges.


The guillotine was most active during the last part of the “Reign of Terror“, in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1,300 people were executed. A year later, when the revolution was taking a more moderate course, the guillotine was removed from the square.


The old plaque, for “Place Louis XVI”, and replacement plaque at the corner of Hôtel de Crillon.


The Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation, one of the two Fontaines de la Concorde (1840) on the Place de la Concorde. Behind: the Hôtel de Crillon; to the left: the embassy of the United States.


Execution of Louis XVI in the then Place de la Révolution. The empty pedestal in front of him had supported a statue of his grandfather, Louis XV, torn down during one of the many revolutionary riots.


In 1795, under the Directory, the square was renamed Place de la Concorde as a gesture of reconciliation after the turmoil of the French Revolution. After the Bourbon Restoration of 1814, the name was changed back to Place Louis XV, and in 1826 the square was renamed Place Louis XVI. After the July Revolution of 1830 the name was returned to Place de la Concorde and has remained since.








The Obelisk of Luxor stands on top of a pedestal that recounts the special machinery and manœuvres that were used to transport it.


The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the 19th century. The other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.


The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Mehmet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1829. It arrived in Paris on 21 December 1833. Three years later, on 25 October 1836, King Louis Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.


The obelisk, a yellow granite column, rises 23 metres (75 ft) high, including the base, and weighs over 250 metric tons (280 short tons). Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no easy feat — on the pedestal are drawn diagrams explaining the machinery that was used for the transportation. The obelisk is flanked on both sides by fountains constructed at the time of its erection on the Place.


Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.


Without warning, in 2000 French urban climber Alain “Spiderman” Robert, using only his bare hands, climbing shoes and no safety devices, scaled the obelisk all the way to the top.


The Fountains


Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation (1840) with the Eiffel Tower in the background.



The two fountains in the Place de la Concorde have been the most famous of the fountains built during the time of Louis-Philippe, and came to symbolize the fountains in Paris. They were designed by Jacques Ignace Hittorff, a student of the Neoclassical designer Charles Percier at the École des Beaux-Arts. The German-born Hittorff had served as the official Architect of Festivals and Ceremonies for the deposed King, and had spent two years studying the architecture and fountains of Italy.


Hittorff’s two fountains were on the theme of rivers and seas, in part because of their proximity to the Ministry of Navy, and to the Seine. Their arrangement, on a north-south axis aligned with the Obelisk of Luxor and the Rue Royale, and the form of the fountains themselves, were influenced by the fountains of Rome, particularly Piazza Navona and the Piazza San Pietro, both of which had obelisks aligned with fountains.


Both fountains had the same form: a stone basin; six figures of tritons or naiads holding fish spouting water; six seated allegorical figures, their feet on the prows of ships, supporting the pedestal, of the circular vasque; four statues of different forms of genius in arts or crafts supporting the upper inverted upper vasque; whose water shot up and then cascaded down to the lower vasque and then the basin.


The north fountain was devoted to the Rivers, with allegorical figures representing the Rhone and the Rhine, the arts of the harvesting of flowers and fruits, harvesting and grape growing; and the geniuses of river navigation, industry, and agriculture.


The south fountain, closer to the Seine, represented the seas, with figures representing the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; harvesting coral; harvesting fish; collecting shellfish; collecting pearls; and the geniuses of astronomy, navigation and commerce.[3]

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Taxis of the Marne, September 1914


With German forces close to achieving a breakthrough against beleaguered French forces outside Paris between 6-8 September 1914, a decision was taken by French military authorities to despatch emergency troop reinforcements from Paris.

Extraordinarily these were despatched – on 7 September – using a fleet of Parisian taxi cabs, some 600 in all, ferrying approximately 6,000 French reserve infantry troops to the front.

The tactic worked and Paris was saved – barely.  The incident quickly gained legend as “the taxis of the Marne”.  Events at the ensuing First Battle of the Marne led to a throwing back of German forces, ensuring Paris’ safety – and military stalemate and with it the onset of trench warfare.


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1984 (advertisement) Apple Commercial


Ad apple 1984.jpg

The heroine running with her sledgehammer
Directed by Ridley Scott
Distributed by Apple Inc.
Release dates January 22, 1984 (only nationally televised broadcast)
Running time 1 minute


1984” is an American television commercial which introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer. It was conceived by Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow at Chiat\Day, produced by New York production company Fairbanks Films, and directed by Ridley Scott. English athlete Anya Major performed as the unnamed heroine and David Graham as Big Brother.[1][2] It was televised nationally on January 22, 1984, during a break in the third quarter of the telecast of Super Bowl XVIII by CBS.[3] It was also aired in 10 local outlets,[4] including Twin Falls, Idaho, where Chiat\Day ran the ad on December 15, 1983, shortly before the 1:00 a.m. sign-off on KMVT, so that the advertisement qualified for 1983 advertising awards.[5][6] After the ad’s premiere, widespread media coverage generated an estimated $5 million in “free” airtime.[5] In one interpretation of the commercial, “1984” used the unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top with a stylized line drawing[7] of Apple’s Macintosh computer on it) as a means of saving humanity from “conformity” (Big Brother).[8] These images were an allusion to George Orwell‘s noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised “Big Brother”. The estate of George Orwell and the television rightsholder to the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four considered the commercial to be a copyright infringement and sent a cease-and-desist letter to Apple and Chiat\Day in April 1984.[9]


Originally a subject of contention within Apple, it has subsequently been called a watershed event[10] and a masterpiece[11] in advertising. In 1995, The Clio Awards added it to its Hall of Fame, and Advertising Age placed it on the top of its list of 50 greatest commercials.[12]






The commercial opens with a dystopic, industrial setting in blue and grayish tones, showing a line of people (of ambiguous gender) marching in unison through a long tunnel monitored by a string of telescreens. This is in sharp contrast to the full-color shots of the nameless runner (Anya Major). She looks like a competitive track and field athlete, wearing an athletic “uniform” (bright orange athletic shorts, running shoes, a white tank top with a cubist picture of Apple’s Macintosh computer, a white sweat band on her left wrist, and a red one on her right), and is carrying a large brass-headed hammer.[13] Rows of marching minions evoke the opening scenes of Metropolis.[original research?]


The Big Brother-like figure (David Graham) speaking to his audience


As she is chased by four police officers (presumably agents of the Thought Police) wearing black uniforms, protected by riot gear, helmets with visors covering their faces, and armed with large night sticks, she races towards a large screen with the image of a Big Brother-like figure (David Graham, also seen on the telescreens earlier) giving a speech:


Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!


The runner, now close to the screen, hurls the hammer towards it, right at the moment Big Brother announces, “we shall prevail!” In a flurry of light and smoke, the screen is destroyed, shocking the people watching the screen.


The commercial concludes with a portentous voiceover, accompanied by scrolling black text (in Apple’s early signature “Garamond” font); the hazy, whitish-blue aftermath of the cataclysmic event serves as the background. It reads:


On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.”


The screen fades to black as the voiceover ends, and the rainbow Apple logo appears.

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The Oxford comma debate

The Oxford comma debate

Take a look at a brief history of the contentious little comma, and arguments for both sides of the fight.


Communicators are passionate about many things—jargon and linguistic mistakes rank high on any list—but few things rile communicators like the Oxford comma.

Also known as the serial comma, the Oxford comma sparks a clear divide between communicators. You’re either for or against it.

As an infographic from explains, the Oxford comma got its name from the Oxford University Press, where printers and editors traditionally used it. When you use the comma before the conjunction in a series of words, its job is to clarify the meaning of the sentence.

For example, which sentence is clearer?

“I would like to thank my parents, Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.”

“I would like to thank my parents, Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey.”

The second one, right?

But in sentences with more simple lists, that kind of confusion is absent:

“She wore tan shoes, pink shoelaces and a polka-dot shirt.”

The Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association, American Medical Association, and others recommend the Oxford comma because it clears up ambiguity and makes lists easier to understand.

But the Associated Press, New York Times, and The Economist are against it because it can cause ambiguity and be redundant.

Where do your loyalties lie?

Fun fact: While the Oxford University Press still uses the serial comma, the Oxford University PR department does not.

Check out the graphic for more.

And if you’ve read this far, the Vampire Weekend (a bunch of Columbia U. students) song  states “Who gives a S@#t about and Oxford Comma?”

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The Origins and Meanings of Ashkenazic Last Names


with thanks to Seth Grossman, honorary Wikidaddy


1244px-Juden_1881Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.


In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted and educated (in that order of importance). For centuries, Jewish communal leaders were responsible for collecting taxes from the Jewish population on behalf of the government, and in some cases were responsible for filling draft quotas. Education was traditionally an internal Jewish affair.

Until this period, Jewish names generally changed with every generation. For example, if Moses son of Mendel (Moyshe ben Mendel) married Sarah daughter of Rebecca (Sora bas Rifke), had a boy and named it Samuel (Shmuel), the child would be called Shmuel ben Moyshe. If they had a girl and named her Feygele, she would be called Feygele bas Sora.

Jews distrusted the authorities and resisted the new requirement. Although they were forced to take last names, at first they were used only for official purposes. Among themselves, they kept their traditional names. Over time, Jews accepted the new last names, which were essential as Jews sought to advance within the broader society and as the shtetles were transformed or Jews left them for big cities.

The easiest way for Jews to assume an official last name was to adapt the name they already had, making it permanent. This explains the use of “patronymics” and “matronymics.”

PATRONYMICS (son of…..)

In Yiddish or German, it would be “son” or “sohn”  or “er.” In most Slavic languages like Polish or Russian, it would be “wich” or “witz.”

For example: The son of Mendel took the last name Mendelsohn; the son of Abraham became Abramson or Avromovitch; the son of Menashe became Manishewitz; the son of Itzhak became Itskowitz; the son of Berl took the name Berliner; the son of Kesl took the name Kessler, etc.

MATRONYMICS (daughter of…)

Reflecting the prominence of Jewish women in business, some families made last names out of women’s first names: Chaiken — son of Chaikeh; Edelman — husband of Edel; Gittelman — husband of Gitl; Glick or Gluck — may derive from Glickl, a popular woman’s name as in the famous “Glickl of Hameln,” whose memoirs, written around 1690, are an early example of Yiddish literature

Gold/Goldman/Gulden may derived from Golda; Malkov from Malke; Perlman — husband of Perl; Rivken — may derive from Rivke; Soronsohn—son of Sarah.


The next most common source of Jewish last names is probably places. Jews used the town or region where they lived, or where their families came from, as their last name. As a result, the Germanic origins of most East European Jews is reflected in their names. For example, Asch is an acronym for the towns of Aisenshtadt or Altshul or Amshterdam. Other place-based Jewish names include: Auerbach/Orbach; Bacharach; Berger (generic for townsman); Berg (man), meaning, from a hilly place; Bayer — from Bavaria; Bamberger; Berliner, Berlinsky — from Berlin; Bloch (foreigner); Brandeis; Breslau; Brodsky; Brody; Danziger Deutch/Deutscher — German; Dorf(man), meaning villager; Eisenberg; Epstein; Florsheim; Frankel — from the Franconia region of Germany; Frankfurter; Ginsberg; Gordon — from Grodno, Lithuania or from the Russian word gorodin, for townsman; Greenberg; Halperin—from Helbronn, Germany; Hammerstein; Heller — from Halle, Germany; Hollander — not from Holland, but from town in Lithuania settled by Dutch; Horowitz, Hurwich, Gurevitch — from Horovice in Bohemia; Koenigsberg; Krakauer — from Cracow, Poland; Landau; Lipsky — from Leipzig, Germany; Litwak — from Lithuania; Minsky — from Minsk, Belarus; Mintz—from Mainz, Germany; Oppenheimer; Ostreicher — from Austria; Pinsky — from Pinsk, Belarus; Posner — from Posen, Germany; Prager — from Prague; Rappoport — from Porto, Italy; Rothenberg — from then town of the red fortress in Germany; Shapiro — from Speyer, Germany; Schlesinger — from Silesia, Germany; Steinberg; Unger — from Hungary; Vilner — from Vilna, Poland/Lithuania; Wallach—from Bloch, derived from the Polish word for foreigner; Warshauer/Warshavsky—from Warsaw; Wiener — from Vienna; Weinberg.





Ackerman — plowman; Baker/Boker — baker; Blecher — tinsmith; Fleisher/Fleishman/Katzoff/Metger — butcher; Cooperman — coppersmith; Drucker — printer; Einstein — mason; Farber — painter/dyer; Feinstein — jeweler; Fisher — fisherman; Forman — driver/teamster; Garber/Gerber—tanner; Glazer/Glass/Sklar — glazier; Goldstein — goldsmith; Graber — engraver; Kastner — cabinet maker; Kunstler — artist; Kramer — store keeper; Miller — miller; Nagler — nail maker; Plotnick — carpenter; Sandler/Shuster — shoemaker; Schmidt/Kovalsky — blacksmith; Shnitzer — carver; Silverstein — jeweler; Spielman — player (musician?); Stein/Steiner/Stone — jeweler; Wasserman — water carrier



Garfinkel/Garfunkel — diamond dealer; Holzman/Holtz/Waldman — timber dealer; Kaufman — merchant; Rokeach — spice merchant; Salzman — salt merchant; Seid/Seidman—silk merchant; Tabachnik — snuff seller; Tuchman — cloth merchant; Wachsman — wax dealer; Wechsler/Halphan — money changer; Wollman — wool merchant; Zucker/Zuckerman — sugar merchant

Related to tailoring

Kravitz/Portnoy/Schneider/Snyder — tailor; Nadelman/Nudelman — also tailor from “needle’; Sher/Sherman — also tailor from “scissors” or “shears”; Presser/Pressman — clothing presser; Futterman/Kirshner/Kushner/Peltz — furrier; Weber — weaver


Aptheker — druggist; Feldsher — surgeon; Bader/Teller — barber

Related to liquor trade

Bronfman/Brand/Brandler/Brenner — distiller; Braverman/Meltzer — brewer; Kabakoff/Krieger/Vigoda — tavern keeper; Geffen — wine merchant; Wine/Weinglass — wine merchant; Weiner — wine maker


Altshul/Althshuler — associated with the old synagogue in Prague; Cantor/Kazan/Singer/Spivack — cantor or song leader in shul; Feder/Federman/Schreiber — scribe; Haver — from haver (court official); Klausner — rabbi for small congregation; Klopman — calls people to morning prayers by knocking on their window shutters; Lehrer/Malamud/Malmud — teacher; Rabin — rabbi (Rabinowitz—son of rabbi); London — scholar, from the Hebrew lamden (misunderstood by immigration inspectors); Reznick — ritual slaughterer; Richter — judge; Sandek — godfather; Schechter/Schachter/Shuchter etc. — ritual slaughterer from Hebrew schochet; Shofer/Sofer/Schaeffer — scribe; Shulman/Skolnick — sexton; Spector — inspector or supervisor of schools




Alter/Alterman — old; Dreyfus—three legged, perhaps referring to someone who walked with a cane; Erlich — honest; Frum — devout ; Gottleib — God lover, perhaps referring to someone very devout; Geller/Gelber — yellow, perhaps referring to someone with blond hair; Gross/Grossman — big; Gruber — coarse or vulgar; Feifer/Pfeifer — whistler; Fried/Friedman—happy; Hoch/Hochman/Langer/Langerman — tall; Klein/Kleinman — small; Koenig — king, perhaps someone who was chosen as a “Purim King,” in reality a poor wretch; Krauss — curly, as in curly hair; Kurtz/Kurtzman — short; Reich/Reichman — rich; Reisser — giant; Roth/Rothman — red head; Roth/Rothbard — red beard; Shein/Schoen/Schoenman — pretty, handsome; Schwartz/Shwartzman/Charney — black hair or dark complexion; Scharf/Scharfman — sharp, i.e  intelligent; Stark — strong, from the Yiddish shtark ; Springer — lively person, from the Yiddish springen for jump



These were sometimes foisted on Jews who discarded them as soon as possible, but a few may remain:


Billig — cheap; Gans — goose; Indyk — goose; Grob — rough/crude; Kalb — cow



It is common among all peoples to take last names from the animal kingdom. Baer/Berman/Beerman/Berkowitz/Beronson — bear; Adler — eagle (may derive from reference to an eagle in Psalm 103:5); Einhorn — unicorn; Falk/Sokol/Sokolovksy — falcon; Fink — finch; Fuchs/Liss — fox; Gelfand/Helfand — camel (technically means elephant but was used for camel too); Hecht—pike; Hirschhorn — deer antlers; Karp — carp; Loeb — lion; Ochs— ox; Strauss — ostrich (or bouquet of flowers); Wachtel — quail.


Some Jews either held on to or adopted traditional Jews names from the Bible and Talmud. The big two are Cohen (Cohn, Kohn, Kahan, Kahn, Kaplan) and Levi (Levy, Levine, Levinsky, Levitan, Levenson, Levitt, Lewin, Lewinsky, Lewinson). Others include Aaron — Aronson, Aronoff; Asher; Benjamin; David — Davis,Davies; Ephraim — Fishl; Emanuel — Mendel; Isaac — Isaacs, Isaacson/Eisner; Jacob — Jacobs, Jacobson, Jacoby; Judah — Idelsohn,Udell,Yudelson; Mayer-Meyer;  Menachem — Mann,Mendel; Reuben — Rubin; Samuel — Samuels, Zangwill; Simon — Schimmel; Solomon — Zalman.


Names based on Hebrew acronyms include: Baron — bar aron (son of Aaron); Beck — bene kedoshim (descendant of martyrs); Getz — gabbai tsedek (righteous synagogue official); Katz — kohen tsedek (righteous priest); Metz — from moreh tsedek (teacher of righteousness; Sachs, Saks — zera kodesh shemo (his name descends from martyrs); Segal — se gan levia (second-rank Levite)


Lieb means “lion” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names including Liebowitz, Lefkowitz, Lebush, and Leon. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew work for lion — aryeh. The lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah.

Hirsch means “deer” or “stag” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names including Hirschfeld, Hirschbein/Hershkowitz (son of Hirsch)/Hertz/Herzl, Cerf, Hart, and Hartman. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for gazelle — tsvi.  The gazelle was the symbol of the tribe of Naphtali.

Taub means “dove” in Yiddish. It is the root of the Ashkenazic last name Tauber. The symbol of The dove is associated with the prophet Jonah.

Wolf is the root of the Ashkenazic last names Wolfson, Wouk and Volkovich. The wolf was the symbol of the tribe of Benjamin.

Eckstein — Yiddish for cornerstone, derived from Psalm 118:22

Good(man) — Yiddish translation of Hebrew work for “good”: tuviah 

Margolin — Hebrew for pearl



When Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were required to assume last names, some chose the nicest ones they could think of — and may have been charged a registration fee by the authorities. According to the YIVO Encyclopedia, “the resulting names often are associated with nature and beauty.  It is very plausible that the choices were influenced by the general romantic  tendencies of German culture at that time.” These names include: Applebaum — apple tree; Birnbaum — pear tree; Buchsbaum — box tree; Kestenbaum — chestnut tree; Kirshenbaum — cherry tree; Mandelbaum — almond tree; Nussbaum — nut tree; Tannenbaum — fir tree; Teitelbaum — palm tree.

Other name , chosen or purchased, were combinations with these roots: Blumen (flower), Fein (fine), Gold, Green, Lowen (lion), Rosen (rose), Schoen/Schein (pretty) —  combined with berg (hill or mountain), thal (valley), bloom (flower), zweig (wreath), blatt (leaf), vald or wald (woods), feld (field).


Miscellaneous other names included Diamond; Glick/Gluck — luck; Hoffman — hopeful; Fried/Friedman — happiness; Lieber/Lieberman — lover.




Jewish family names from non-Jewish languages included: Sender/Saunders — from Alexander; Kagan — descended from the Khazars, a people of Turkic speaking Jews from Central Asia; Kelman/Kalman — from the Greek name Kalonymous, popular among Jews in medieval France and Italy. It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “shem tov” (good name); Marcus/Marx — from Latin, referring to the pagan god Mars.


Finally, there were Jewish names changed or shortened by immigration inspectors or by immigrants themselves and their descendants to sound more American, which is why “Sean Ferguson” was a Jew.


Let us close with a ditty:


And this is good old Boston;


The home of the bean and the cod.


Where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots;


And the Cabots speak Yiddish, by God!           

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How Much of American Hustle Actually Happened? Abscam- “money talks, BS walks!”


Amy Adams is Sydney Prosser and Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle.

Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures

Like many movies, American Hustle addresses its relationship to fact with a message that appears on screen before the action begins. But rather than the customary (and intentionally vague) “based on a true story,” the claim is more modest: “Some of this actually happened.”

A viewer may be surprised, then, to learn how much of the farfetched storyline is true. Spoilers follow.

The FBI really did enlist a career swindler from the Bronx who had been arrested for running scams to serve as the key player in an undercover operation. With the con artist leading the way, the Feds dangled the lure of a fictitious Arab sheikh named Abdul, who supposedly wanted to use his millions to buy things that can’t legally be bought—such as fast-track citizenship and approval to invest in new Atlantic City casinos. A number of public officials happily responded that, in exchange for cash, they would ensure that various official bodies did the sheikh’s bidding. The operation, revealed to great media fanfare in 1980, was called Abscam (for “Abdul scam”) and resulted in the conviction of 19 people, including the mayor of Camden, N.J., six U.S. congressmen, and a U.S. senator, Harrison A. Williams of New Jersey. It was the largest bribery scandal in the history of Congress.

The most complete account of Abscam is The Sting Man, written by the longtime Newsday journalist Robert W. Greene in close cooperation with the con artist himself, real name Melvin Weinberg. The film is based to some degree on the book.

So which events in the movie actually happened? And how closely are the characters modeled on real people? What follows is a breakdown of fact and fiction, based primarily on news accounts and Greene’s book.

Mel Weinberg and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale)

Still from 60 Minutes, left, and from American Hustle.
Weinberg in 1981; Bale in ‘American Hustle’

’60 Minutes’ clip on YouTube; Columbia Pictures

Rosenfeld is based on Mel Weinberg, who did in fact start out as an owner of dry-cleaning and glass-installation businesses. (Yes, he really smashed windows to drum up demand.) Like Rosenfeld, Weinberg soon moved on to front-end scams, whose general strategy will be familiar if you’ve ever replied to an email from a stranger overseas: I’ve got big money for you if you pay me small money first. Using the name London Investors, Weinberg opened a lavish office and cultivated an air of exclusivity and legitimacy with the help of his mistress. (He told customers they could reach him and his associates in international capitals at fancy hotels—which happened to be the ones that would accept phone messages without indicating whether anyone of that name was registered there.) Targeting clients desperate for loans they couldn’t get otherwise, he would offer to help them secure one for a nonrefundable upfront fee, and you know the rest.

Weinberg, like Rosenfeld, grew nervous when Abscam began to implicate not just public officials but the mob. The dirty middle men who offered to secure approval for casino licenses on the sheikh’s behalf gradually revealed that the mob was coming to control the gambling business in Atlantic City, as it had in Las Vegas. Weinberg did not savor the notion of testifying against the Mafia. But the investigation did not result in indictments for any organized-crime figures—and none of those mobsters, so far as I can tell, knew Arabic, as one does in the film. Weinberg was able to show his face in the Abscam trials as the star witness. He is alive, resides in Florida, and is nearing his 90th birthday.

Evelyn Knight and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams)
American Hustle’s version of Weinberg’s mistress is named Sydney Prosser and played by Amy Adams; her story in the movie diverges further from historical fact. Weinberg’s girlfriend, Evelyn Knight, played a bit part in his scams—she was not a full partner. And she didn’t impersonate a well-born Englishwoman; she was actually English. She really was threatened with prosecution when Weinberg was busted; he pled guilty to save her. He was sentenced to prison before being approached by the FBI to lend his expertise in sleaze.

Evelyn did not actually participate in Abscam, and history does not record any love triangle that left her caught in the middle between Weinberg and an FBI agent on the Abscam team.

Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and Tony Amoroso

Still from American Hustle, left, and from CSPAN.
Cooper in ‘American Hustle,’ Amoroso on CSPAN

Columbia Pictures; CSPAN

Cooper’s undercover agent and his supervisor do not have direct real-life counterparts, but they do reflect a composite of the various Federal officials Weinberg worked with. Some were too tightfisted and square for Weinberg’s taste; others were clumsy at playing undercover roles (there were actually two fictitious sheikhs, but one agent muffed his impersonation and was promptly shelved). A few officials, like DiMaso in the film, pushed to give Weinberg and the investigation a freer hand. No one was quite so aggressive as DiMaso is—though the closest analog would be the similarly named Tony Amoroso, who impressed Weinberg with his toughness and foul mouth. Amoroso, like DiMaso, was present for filmed payoffs that sealed the sting operation, and he reportedly served as a consultant on American Hustle.

Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) and Angelo Errichetti

Still from American Hustle, left, and from Portrait of a Man.
Renner as Polito; Errichetti photo from ‘Portrait of a Man,’ a documentary

Columbia Pictures; Vimeo

The film cultivates some sympathy for the mayor of Camden, N.J., played by Jeremy Renner and fairly closely modeled on real-life mayor Angelo Errichetti, who died earlier this year, at 84. American Hustle portrays him as a man of the people (that part is true) who only hoped his illegal maneuvers would create jobs and prosperity in the state. That latter bit is a stretch, as Errichetti was arguably guilty of more outrageous and greedy conduct than anyone else. This did not dissuade Mel Weinberg from developing a certain fondness for the guy, as Rosenfeld does in the movie. It is a flight of Hollywood fancy, though, that Weinberg sought to give Errichetti immunity and dupe the Feds.

The Sheikh

The “sheikh” poses with Angelo Errichetti

FBI photo

One of Abscam’s more outlandish chapters is not depicted in the movie: At one point, Weinberg invited some politicians and a cornucopia of hustlers and low-lifes to take a party cruise on a power yacht in Florida allegedly owned by one of the sheikhs but actually the property of the FBI. On the yacht, several political figures actually posed for photos with the phony sheikh, played by a Lebanese-born FBI agent (who had much better Arabic than the agent of Mexican descent we meet in the movie). In a great twist, Weinberg got around the FBI’s tight budget by elaborately smooth-talking guests into supplying the liquor, food, and cash that made the party an enticing attraction in the first place.

In one scene in the film, the alleged sheikh (played by Michael Peña) gives the mayor of Camden a knife that supposedly has great symbolic significance; later the fallen mayor guesses that the knife was a mere toy. The ceremonial knife did indeed change hands, and Weinberg had retrieved it from a box in his cellar, having bought it as a souvenir at a flea market in Athens, for $2.75.

The Payoffs
In the movie, the payoffs to politicians, captured on video, occur rapid-fire at the Plaza Hotel. Though Abscam did use the Plaza to impress marks, the filmed payoffs occurred at several less impressive hotels and, most often, at a townhouse at 4407 W Street in Washington, D.C. (The FBI had rented the townhouse from a Washington Post reporter temporarily posted elsewhere; the reporter had no idea of the story he was missing, nor even the true identity of his tenant.) Video recordings of these bribes eventually went public and became enduring symbols of public corruption. In the most egregious tape, Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers takes $50,000 and says, “You’re going about this the right way … Money talks in this business and bullshit walks.”

The Aftermath
Abscam had some interesting postscripts that don’t get aired in the movie. A debate that became central to the trial outlasted the case: Had the targets been entrapped? Didn’t Weinberg put words in Senator Williams’s mouth on that one tape? Apart from trying to impeach Weinberg’s character, crying entrapment was just about the only defense that anyone could muster given the hard evidence. The Justice Department ended up overhauling the rules for undercover work to clarify what constitutes fair play.

Some politicians who never took payoffs but were alleged to have been amenable to it had to answer tough questions thereafter, in some cases for years. The legendary Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha had a lengthy meeting on tape in the D.C. Townhouse, during which he said in response to an offer of money, “I’m not interested … at this point.” The episode dogged him and made appearances in obituaries when he died in 2010.

Still from 20/20, left, and from American Hustle.
Marie Weinberg in 1982; Jennifer Lawrence in ‘American Hustle’

YouTube; Columbia Pictures

In a strange and sad note, Weinberg’s wife, whose rivalry with the mistress was more prosaic than the heated showdown depicted in the movie, came forward in 1982 to claim that Weinberg had accepted gifts and cash from targets of the investigation. Weinberg had denied this charge on the stand. On ABC’s 20/20, she supplied some suggestive evidence that the microwave oven they owned was not a purchase of Weinberg’s as he claimed, but a gift from an Abscam mark. (The movie has the Camden mayor giving it to him.) One week after that episode aired, Marie Weinberg was found dead, of an apparent suicide.

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TE Lawrence or Lawrence in Arabia.

Peter  O’Toole who played Lawrence passed away today.  If you ever get the chance to see the movie on a big screen, do it.

Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British epic adventure drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel through his British company, Horizon Pictures, with the screenplay by Robert Boltand Michael Wilson. The film stars Peter O’Toole in the title role. It is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The dramatic score by Maurice Jarre and the Super Panavision 70 cinematography byFreddie Young are also highly acclaimed.

The film depicts Lawrence’s experiences in Arabia during World War I, in particular his attacks on Aqaba and Damascus and his involvement in the Arab National Council. Its themes include Lawrence’s emotional struggles with the personal violence inherent in war, his own identity, and his divided allegiance between his native Britain and its army and his newfound comrades within the Arabian desert tribes.

Plot summary

The film is presented in two parts, separated by an intermission.

Part I

In 1935, T. E. Lawrence is killed in a motorcycle accident. At his memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral, a reporter tries to gain insights into this remarkable, enigmatic man from those who knew him, with little success.

During the First World War, Lawrence is a misfit British Army lieutenant stationed in Cairo, notable for his insolence and knowledge. Over the objections of General Murray, he is sent by Mr. Dryden of the Arab Bureau to assess the prospects ofPrince Faisal in his revolt against the Turks.

On the journey, his Bedouin guide is killed by Sherif Ali for drinking from a well without permission. Lawrence later meets Colonel Brighton, who orders him to keep quiet, make his assessment of Faisal’s intentions, and leave. Lawrence promptly ignores Brighton’s commands when he meets Faisal. His knowledge, attitude and outspokenness pique the Prince’s interest.

Brighton advises Faisal to retreat to Yenbo after a major defeat, but Lawrence proposes a daring surprise attack on Aqaba which, if successful, would provide a port from which the British could offload much-needed supplies. While strongly fortified against a naval assault, the town is lightly defended on the landward side. He convinces Faisal to provide fifty men, led by a sceptical Sherif Ali. Two teenage orphans, Daud and Farraj, attach themselves to Lawrence as his servants.

They cross the Nefud Desert, considered impassable even by the Bedouins, travelling day and night on the last stage to reach water. Gasim (I. S. Johar) succumbs to fatigue and falls off his camel unnoticed during the night. The rest make it to an oasis, but Lawrence turns back for the lost man. Sherif Ali, won over, burns Lawrence’s British uniform and gives him Arab robes to wear.

Lawrence persuades Auda abu Tayi, the leader of the powerful local Howeitat tribe, to turn against the Turks. Lawrence’s plan is almost derailed when one of Ali’s men kills one of Auda’s because of a blood feud. Since Howeitat retaliation would shatter the fragile alliance, Lawrence declares that he will execute the murderer himself. Stunned to discover that the culprit is Gasim, he shoots him anyway. The next morning, the intact alliance overruns the Turkish garrison.

Lawrence heads to Cairo to inform Dryden and the new commander, General Allenby, of his victory. During the crossing of the Sinai Desert, Daud dies when he stumbles into quicksand. Lawrence is promoted to major and given arms and money to support the Arabs. He is deeply disturbed, confessing that he enjoyed executing Gasim, but Allenby brushes aside his qualms. He asks Allenby whether there is any basis for the Arabs’ suspicions that the British have designs on Arabia. Pressed, the general states they have no such designs.

Part II

Lawrence launches a guerrilla war, blowing up trains and harassing the Turks at every turn. American war correspondent Jackson Bentley publicises his exploits, making him world famous. On one raid, Farraj is badly injured. Unwilling to leave him to be tortured, Lawrence is forced to shoot him before fleeing.

When Lawrence scouts the enemy-held city of Daraa with Ali, he is taken, along with several Arab residents, to the Turkish Bey. Lawrence is stripped, ogled and prodded. For striking out at the Bey, he is severely flogged, and possibly raped, which is implied. He is then thrown out into the street. It is an emotional turning point for Lawrence. He is so traumatised by the experience that he abandons all of his exploits, going from having proclaimed himself almost a god, to insisting he is merely a man. He attempts to return to the British forces and swear off the desert, but he never fits in there. In Jerusalem, Allenby urges him to support his “big push” on Damascus, but Lawrence is a changed, tormented man, unwilling to return. After Allenby insists that Lawrence has a destiny, he finally relents. Lawrence naively believes that the warriors will come for him rather than for money.

He recruits an army, mainly killers, mercenaries, and cutthroats motivated by money, rather than the Arab cause. They sight a column of retreating Turkish soldiers who have just slaughtered the people of the village of Tafas. One of Lawrence’s men from the village demands, “No prisoners!” When Lawrence hesitates, the man charges the Turks alone and is killed. Lawrence takes up the dead man’s cry, resulting in a massacre in which Lawrence himself fully participates, with disturbing relish. Afterward, he realises the horrible consequences of what he has done.

His men then take Damascus ahead of Allenby’s forces. The Arabs set up a council to administer the city, but they are desert tribesmen, ill-suited for such a task. The various tribes argue among themselves and in spite of Lawrence’s insistence, cannot unite against the English, who in the end take the city back under their bureaucracy. Unable to maintain the utilities and bickering constantly with each other, they soon abandon most of the city to the British. Promoted to colonel and immediately ordered home, his usefulness at an end to both Faisal and the British diplomats, a dejected Lawrence is driven away in a staff car.

Historical accuracy

Most of the film’s characters are either real or based on real characters to varying degrees. The events depicted in the film are largely based on accepted historical fact and Lawrence’s own writing about events, though they have various degrees ofromanticisation.

Some scenes—such as the attack on Aqaba—were heavily fictionalised, while those dealing with the Arab Council were inaccurate, inasmuch as the council remained more or less in power in Syria until France deposed Faisal in 1920. Little background on the history of the region, the First World War, and the Arab Revolt is provided, probably due to Bolt’s increased focus on Lawrence (while Wilson’s draft script had a broader, more politicised version of events). The theme (in the second half of the film) that Lawrence’s Arab army deserted almost to a man as he moved farther north was completely fictional. The film’s timeline of the Arab Revolt and World War I, and the geography of the Hejaz region, are frequently questionable. For instance, Bentley interviews Faisal in late 1917, after the fall of Aqaba, saying the United States has not yet entered the war, yet America had been in the war for several months by that time. Further, Lawrence’s involvement in the Arab Revolt prior to the attack on Aqaba—such as his involvement in the seizures of Yenbo and Wejh—is completely excised. The rescue and execution of Gasim is based on two separate incidents, which were conflated for dramatic reasons. The film shows Lawrence representing the Allied cause in the Hejaz almost alone with only one British officer, Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle) there to assist him. In fact, there were numerous British officers such as colonels Cyril Wilson, Stewart Francis Newcombe and Pierce C. Joyce, all of whom arrived before Lawrence began serving in Arabia.[8] In addition, there was a French military mission led by Colonel Edouard Brémond serving in the Hejaz, of which no mention is made in the film.[9] The film shows Lawrence as the sole originator of the attacks on the Hejaz railroad. The first attacks on this began in early January 1917 led by officers such as Newcombe.[10] The first successful attack on the Hejaz railroad with a locomotive-destroying “Garland mine” was led by Major H. Garland in February 1917, a month before Lawrence’s first attack.[11] The film shows the Hashemite forces as comprising Bedouin guerrillas, whereas in fact the core of the Hashemite forces was the Regular Arab Army recruited from Ottoman Arab POWs, who wore British-style uniforms with keffiyahs and fought in conventional battles.[12] The film makes no mention of the Sharifian Army, and leaves the viewer with the impression that the Hashemite forces were composed exclusively of Bedouin irregulars.

Representation of Lawrence

Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence.

Many complaints about the film’s accuracy centre on the characterisation of Lawrence. The perceived problems with the portrayal begin with the differences in his physical appearance: the 6-foot 2-inch (1.87 m) Peter O’Toole was almost nine inches (23 cm) taller than the man he played, Lawrence.[citation needed] His behaviour, however, has caused much more debate.

The screenwriters depict Lawrence as an egotist. The degree to which Lawrence sought or shunned attention, such as his use after the war of various assumed names, is a matter of debate. Even during the war, Lowell Thomas wrote in With Lawrence in Arabia that he could take pictures of him only by tricking him, although Lawrence did later agree to pose for several photos for Thomas’s stage show. Thomas’s famous comment that Lawrence “had a genius for backing into the limelight” referred to the fact that his extraordinary actions prevented him from being as private as he would have liked. Others disagree, pointing to Lawrence’s own writings in Seven Pillars of Wisdom to support the argument that he was egotistical.

Lawrence’s sexual orientation remains a controversial topic among historians; though Bolt’s primary source was ostensibly Seven Pillars, the film’s portrayal seems informed by Richard Aldington‘s then-recent Biographical Inquiry (1955), which posited among other things that Lawrence was homosexual. The film features Lawrence’s alleged sadomasochism as a major part of his character (for instance, his “match trick” in Cairo, his “enjoyment” of killing Gasim). While Lawrence almost certainly engaged in flagellation and like activities after the Deraa incident, there is no biographical evidence he was a masochist before then. The film’s depiction of Lawrence as an active participant in the Tafas Massacre was disputed at the time by historians, including biographer Basil Liddell Hart, but most current biographers accept the film’s portrayal of the massacre as reasonably accurate.

Although the film does show that Lawrence could speak and read Arabic, could quote the Quran, and was reasonably knowledgeable about the region, it barely mentions his archaeological travels from 1911 to 1914 in Syria and Arabia, and ignores his espionage work, including a pre-war topographical survey of the Sinai Peninsula and his attempts to negotiate the release of British prisoners at Kut in Mesopotamia in 1916.

Furthermore, in the film, Lawrence is only made aware of the Sykes–Picot Agreement very late in the story and is shown to be appalled by it, whereas the “real” Lawrence, while fighting alongside the Arabs, knew about it much earlier.[13]

Lawrence’s biographers have had a mixed reaction towards the film. Authorised biographer Jeremy Wilson noted that the film has “undoubtedly influenced the perceptions of some subsequent biographers”, such as the depiction of the film’s Ali as the real Sherif Ali, rather than a composite character, and also the highlighting of the Deraa incident.[14] (In fairness to Lean and his writers, the Deraa connection was made by several Lawrence biographers, including Edward Robinson (Lawrence the Rebel) and Anthony Nutting (The Man and the Motive) before the film’s release). The film’s historical inaccuracies are, in Wilson’s view, more troublesome than what can be allowed under normal dramatic license. At the time, Liddell Hart publicly criticised the film, engaging Bolt in a lengthy correspondence over its portrayal of Lawrence.[15]

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