Thursday, April 30, 2009

Academic regalia

It was during the Middle Ages that academic worlds began to develop the variety of colors on the gowns and hoods until the wearing of today's traditional academic dress as a tradition emerged. Most of them come from the universities of Europe during the twelfth century and like the pages, squires, and knights of the medieval military, the academic world has traditionally acknowledged three basic levels of distinction and achievement.

    Students and teachers in many medieval universities such as Paris, Bologna, Oxford and Cambridge organized themselves into guilds. Gradually the academic costume became distinctive for Bachelors of Arts (the apprentices), Masters of Arts (the teachers), and Doctors (teachers who had completed postgraduate studies). Most of the distinctive characteristics appeared in the hood, which was originally a practical element of dress, but which evolved into a separate and purely ornamental article, draped over the shoulder and down the back. The academic cap was a later development. It was first conferred as a symbol of the M.A. degree.
    - Lunce, Stephen E. Phd, Regalia History

For almost a thousand years the square cap, the flowing black gown, and the elaborate ceremonial hood for those earning advanced college degrees has been the distinctive style of academic dress. It’s roots lie in the oldest English speaking institution of higher learning, Oxford University, which earliest beginnings go back to around as far as 1096. It was here that the traditions of academic regalia first developed from the garments worn by monks and clerics when long robes were needed for warmth in unheated buildings. One example of required graduation regalia cited by a historian occurred early the century at the Council of Oxford. In 1222 a closed, flowing gown called cappa clausa was deemed necessary. The bishop of Canterbury ordered his English clerics to wear it. Consequently this article of clothing came to be considered the academic dress for university masters who, as clerics, wore it. As time went by and education became more readily available to the laity the garment became standardized as an exclusively academic one. The enormous variety in color and material began to indicate the position and wealth of the wearer. Over time unique gowns emerged to designate various professions, trades and religious orders.

The beginnings of academic regalia

During the 14th century policies of certain colleges in England began to forbid "excess in apparel" and stipulated a long gown for all scholars. Oxford and Cambridge set down an explicit academic dress code implementing academia control over all particulars. In 1311 an ordinary headdress of medieval laymen termed the pileus, was agreed to by the Church at the Synod of Bergamo and became the customary headwear at the universities. Eventually a rounded skull cap replaced the hood. There are a few European institutions of higher learning that still sport this style as part of their regalia. It’s from this kind of hat that today’s square cap called the pileus quadralus or more commonly known as Oxford’s mortar board is customary. Today's tassel is also an elaboration of the tuft that was a part of the Master's caps. Mortarboards with tassels are displayed over the left front quadrant and the tassel's color signifies the academic program area. One source explains that according to the Burgon Society which researches academic regalia states, “The first was a black skullcap and the second was a tufted, square cap called a pileus quadralus that was worn on top of the skullcap. The tufted cap evolved into a stiff-cornered cap that would not drape across the wearer’s face. The term “mortarboard” was first used in an 1854 novel, The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford Freshman, as a sarcastic reference to the cap’s shape.”

Cowls worn by monks of the Middles Ages as protection against the rainy weather of Europe is the source of today’s hood as an academic vestment. They were “worn over a short cape, known as a tippet, and had a tail, known as a liripipe." The original purposes of these items were to aid in pulling the “hood over the head and wrapped around the throat to keep the hood in place.” Nowadays even though the hood is never worn during graduation ceremonies the tippet remains as a remnant of the hood with the liripipe as the funnel-shaped part that drapes down the back of the robe. This practice of wearing the hood hanging down the back stems from the convention of medieval monks using the hood as a bag draped over the shoulders as a 'contribution bowl' for clients and well wishers while in attendance of the King's Court.

Trimmings and the European approach to academic dress were imported to the United States as early as colonial times. In 1895 an Intercollegiate Code standardized the regalia. They met at Columbia University to establish the first academic costume code regulating the cut, style and materials of robes. Specifications of different colors for different disciplines were also created. Records indicate that the first time caps and gowns were worn at a U.S. graduation ceremony was in 1894 at the University of Michigan.

Things that hang from people's mirrors

    A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that 'individuality' is the key to success.
    Robert Orben

The types of academic gowns differ depending on the kind of degree that has been earned. The more understated variations in their style and cut indicates the type of diploma received. For example a bachelor's gown is untrimmed, has pointed sleeves, and reaches only to the knees. It’s designed to be worn closed and is never worn at any time other than commencement.

The master's gown is also typically untrimmed, but has closed sleeves in the shape of an arc. The master's hood is usually three and a half feet long and six inches shorter than the hoods of scholars who hold doctorates. The hood is “worn around the neck with the thin velvet panel in front and the larger panel in back. The inside lining is folded outward down the back to expose the school colors. The lining of the hood is the official color or colors of the university conferring the degree and the velvet trim color indicates the discipline in which the degree was earned.” Although the bachelor and master gowns are very much alike, the full-length sleeves of the master’s gown are characterized by a long crescent shape, which extends below the cut at the base of the sleeve itself. Master’s gowns, like the bachelor’s is usually black and may be worn open or closed. Oftentimes it is worn as part of a teacher’s everyday dress in academies as well as formal events such as commencement.

Finally doctoral degree holders wear distinctive gowns trimmed with velvet panels “draped around the neck and stitched down the front edges. It is faced down the front with black velvet and across the sleeves with three bars of velvet; the velvet used for the facings and crossbars may be either black or the color distinctive to the field of study to which the degree pertains.” With bell shaped sleeves the gown may be worn open or closed and it may also be another color besides black. The color is usually determined by the institution that granted them their doctorate. They are worn solely on formal occasions such as commencement and the installation of a university president. Doctorates may wear a six- or eight-cornered velvet tam or beret instead of the mortarboard, and “may also wear a gold tassel on their caps. All other tassels are either black or the color associated with the wearer’s field of study.”

Additional color and finery is passed on in the faculty processions denoted by gold trimmed gowns and hats of the senior University officers: the Pro-Chancellors, the Vice-Chancellor and the Chancellor. In all forms of graduation garb silk or velvet bands of color border the hoods, each color signifying the discipline. For example light blue can be for education, yellow for science, brown for business and so on. The distinction between masters and doctors is a comparatively modern trend; both masters and doctorate levels of accomplishment imply the right to teach. Today when a university is granted the right to confer doctoral degrees it acquires the opportunity to design exclusive and unique regalia for its graduates. As a result each university maintains its own individual design of its doctoral robes. The latter part of the 19th century saw the use of specific colors to signify certain faculties become uniform in the United States.

Etiquettes of wearing regalia for graduates:

  • Use low heat and extreme care when ironing the gown. A garment steamer or steam from a hot shower may also help to smooth out any wrinkles.
  • Keeping the gown on a hanger will avoid new wrinkles.
  • Do not pin jewelry to the gown.
  • Wear the motarboard with the point between the eyes and level it so that it is parallel to the ground.
  • Arrange the tassel to the left before the conferring of degrees. Some institutions ask recipients to move the tassel to the right as they receive their diplomas while others ask the class wait and move their tassels as a group.

Adrift with diploma for sails and lots of nerve for oars

Centuries of tradition are colorfully exhibited in the academic regalia worn by the faculty on ceremonial occasions. Generally speaking most of the universities in the United States and Europe follow traditional ceremonial dress with occasional variations. The regalia have their origins in medieval times, when it was actually a criminal offense for anyone not a member of the university to wear the traditional cap, gown, and hood. Since that time, scholars have worn regalia to display their affiliation with the university and their continuing quest for knowledge.


Academic Costume Code & Ceremony Guide

Arbiter Online - The History of Academic Regalia

Commencement: Regalia

History of Academic Regalia

Texas A&M Graduation - Regalia History

Picture source

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Herman J. Mankiewicz

After getting sick at the table of a persnickety host fussing over his etiquette Herman J. Mankiewicz quipped,

“It's all right, Arthur, the white wine came up with the fish.”

The American journalist and screenwriter born on November 7, 1897 was educated at Columbia and at the University of Berlin. Remaining in Paris at the end of World War I as the head of the American Red Cross Mankiewicz later moved to Berlin and embarked on his writing career as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune.

Eventually returning to the United States Herman Mankiewicz gained an unsavory reputation among New York's cultural elite as the drama editor under George S. Kaufman of The New York Times and as the earliest drama editor for The New Yorker, he soon moved west and worked for Examiner newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Mankiewicz frequently visited Hearst's great San Simeon estate, also known as Hearst Castle, on the lonesome seaside north of LA, before Hearst decided Mankiewicz's drinking habits were too much of a ” temptation for his mistress, Marion Davies.”

By 1926 Herman Mankiewicz was a veteran professional writer, with a drinking problem, who had written his first screenplay at Paramount The Road to Mandalay for Lon Chaney. An obsessive gambler notorious for his colossal misfortune, Mankiewicz once “wagered $100 that a stranger in a bar could not name Theodore Roosevelt's opponent for the presidency in 1904.” That year he cabled Ben Hecht saying, “There are millions to be grabbed out here, and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.”

Throughout the 1930’s Mankiewicz wrote and co-wrote a number screenplays and adaptations for many years as a “prolific title, dialogue, and script writer” while pursuing a parallel career as a drama critic for the Los Angeles Times.” He collaborated on and worked as an executive producer on a number of films by the likes of Laughter (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), Million Dollar Legs (1932), and Duck Soup (1933). However, more often than not he received no recognition.

By the end of the decade he had been fired by every major studio in Hollywood when he found himself writing radio plays. Originally called "The Mercury Theater on the Air" at the time it was called The Campbell Playhouse. Lady Luck seemed to be smiling on Mankiewicz. In his early 40’s he was once again rubbing elbows with the elites such as Howard Koch, Abraham Polonsky and Arthur Miller. Little did he realize he would become a flashpoint of fate, one that to this day highlights one of the greatest movies teeming with mythologies and legends to come out of Tinseltown as America fast approached the middle of the 20th century.

There was a long pause before the 24 year old leaned in close to Mankiewicz,
    Take my hand, Mank. And we'll dance one last time. We’ll dance to the music of the angels. We'll make history. We'll scorch the earth. We will ... astonish them all.
Silence ensued as Orson Welles offered his hand. Mankiewicz took a sip from his glass of juice; vodka and pool water then finally broke the stillness.
    Thank God you don't write dialogue.

His most famous work is the 1941 Oscar-winning screenplay Citizen Kane; though technically he wrote it in collaboration with Welles, it was Mankiewicz himself who penned most of the script. One source claims that Orson Welles had first heard of Mankiewicz after he broke his leg falling down the steps of Hollywood’s Chasen's Restaurant. Welles himself suffered from fragile legs soon hired Mankiewicz for $200.00 a week at The Mercury Theatre:

    Young Welles liked the flair of the older man, his stories of bygone newspaper days, and newer ones about Hollywood, where Welles would soon move his radio show, closer to the Mercury movie project. Mank, as he was called, managed to go to lunch with Welles in New York, and they hit it off. Welles brought him, still bedridden, back to Hollywood. He was to write, per his contract, under the editorial supervision of Producer John Houseman. Mank soon completed, among others, scripts for "Dodsworth," "Vanity Fair," and "Huckleberry Finn."
The first year’s worth of projects for Welles and The Mercury Theatre were spent on false starts and unproductive endeavors. RKO vetoed Welles’ idea to do John Calhoun’s The Heart Of Darkness claiming censorship considerations and that it was too expensive.
    (Orson Wells) was desperate. The Mercury Theater members were restless, frightened. During an infamous dinner at Chasen's, Welles lost his temper at John Houseman's complaints and threw a flaming chafing dish at him. It was an act that harbingered the end of their legendary partnership. He was to lose … the steady, reliable Houseman, but for a while they continued to cooperate professionally.
One evening, they all gathered to plan a movie, any movie. Many ideas were considered. Would it be about politicians? Too high profile for the times. At some point they reached a consensus; it had to be about well-known and affluent men. Eventually they focused in on the Robber Barons. These wildly prosperous men who controlled Iron, Steel, Horses, Shipping in the late 19th Century, and soon their ideas lighted on the media, magazines, radio, and motion pictures. All the story proposals contained elements of the “Great Jigsaw Puzzle” that is American life. Perhaps it was the story of a newspaper tycoon would fit the bill.
    (William Randolph Hearst) intrigued Welles. His father, an early day auto headlight manufacturer and general speculator, had chased women with Hearst as a young man. Welles' aristocratic first wife Virginia was newly married to screenwriter Charles Lederer, Marion Davies' favorite nephew. They had told him stories about Hearst. …It was agreed that Mankiewicz would write a first draft at an increased salary of $1000 a week, with provisions similar to those in his existing contract. Anything Mankiewicz wrote became "the property and in the authorship of The Mercury Theater."
Actress Ruth Warrick who portrayed Emily Kane in the movie related that Welles emphasized to the cast that the “first Mercury film was to be a story of the kind of man we Americans admire, emulate, want to be -- for all the wrong reasons.”

Later, when Mankiewicz realized how good the film would be, and that Welles would be taking full credit, Mank brought the matter to arbitration. Evidence revealed that within the continuity of the script it shows, in Welles' hand, a circle and arrow drawn to move Mankiewicz's name above his own.

John Houseman set his differences with Welles aside, enlisted the aid of a secretary and secluded Mankiewicz in the middle of the Mojave desert and far away from temptation, to write:

    The general outline of Mank's script followed a jigsaw puzzle of the lives of self-made or lucky plutocrats who dominated America from the Civil War onward: Hearst, observed nearby at his movie unit on the MGM Lot; Reaper King Harold McCormick, who married Edith Rockefeller, and for his Polish mistress, Ganna Walska, bankrolled an opera house in Chicago; John D Rockefeller, Sr, recently dead, whose grandson, Nelson Rockefeller, Jr, Welles knew in New York; Samuel Insull, (discussed ) in the tabloids (about) his return to America to face prosecution, having absconded to Greece with a fortune . . .(and) many others -- the railroad giant Huntington! (Anyone who hears the great bronze doors of the Huntington Memorial Library in LA thump shut around closing time knows the chill air of the Thatcher Memorial Library in CITIZEN KANE.)
The premise of the narrative was to be about "communications in the broadest sense” and Mankiewicz tentatively titled it American. His script went through a half dozen drafts with Welles and Houseman adding scenes much like it had been their practice when they worked together in radio. While John Houseman rode herd on Mank, he was also put in charge of "The Newsreel." Eventually "The Newsreel” format was incorporated into the Kane movie as an element depicting a short subject commentary on the main character's life. It would now be used to present Charles Foster Kane in Mank’s jigsaw method and is still employed today in shows like Entertainment Tonight when they present celebrity stories.

There, but for the grace of God, goes God.
Herman Mankiewicz On Orson Welles,
quoted in the NY Times, 11 October 1985.

    Mankiewicz, bored, in pain and out of sorts, exiled to the desert, far from the watering holes he so enjoyed, began to insert little digs and in-jokes about Welles, his embarrassingly youthful Walter Parks Thatcher-like omnipotent employer and captor. Welles recognized the trend and encouraged it.

Undeniably, this was to be the foundation of Orson Welles auctorial style in every movie he made afterward. Letters and memos written by Welles indicated that not only did he revise and add scenes to Citizen Kane he also wanted the narrative to be told from a limited first person perspective, once again applying what had done on radio to film. Gregg Toland volunteered to work as the cinematographer and it was his concepts that he had developed for the previously rejected work on Heart Of Darkness emphasizing light and shadow to symbolize memory that would create a sense of presence for characters in relation to size, distance, and space. Sound, dialog, music, and cameras brought together and gave life to Mank’s story born in the high desert of Victorville, California; few argue that Director Welles executed the plan magnificently.

It'll probably turn out to be a very simple thing.
Mr. Rawlston (Philip Van Zandt), referring to Rosebud.

Mank became entangled in a storm over the Academy Award winning script for Citizen Kane. Even though Orson Welles initially asserted that he wrote it, the majority of the people who worked on the movie as well as host of researchers are adamant that Mankiewicz deserves the most credit.

    Controversy has long swirled around the authorship of the screenplay for RKO's Citizen Kane (1941), which brought Oscars to Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles. As the film was being prepared for release, Welles attempted to claim sole credit and acknowledged the contributions of Mankiewicz only after being forced to do so by the Writers Guild. Critic Pauline Kael, in her 1971 The Citizen Kane Book, revived the debate with her carefully detailed argument that it was Mankiewicz who was primarily responsible for the screenplay, from inception of the idea through the shooting script. And just what was the extent of the unaccredited (sic) contribution of frequent Welles associate John Houseman? Whatever the balance of the collaboration, this much is known: When Mankiewicz and Welles began work on the script, it was titled American, and its central figure was an even more thinly veiled caricature of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst than appears in the completed film.
Herman Mankiewicz almost certainly scripted the bulk of Kane’s incisive, witty, and unforgettable scenes and dialogue. One and all that were employed on the film established that it was Mankiewicz who came up with the concept of the unfathomable word uttered by the dying tycoon, 'Rosebud.' It became an impetus and the verbal icon around which the film revolves.

Film critic Roger Ebert stated that a number of sources in Hollywood pointed out that " . . . Mankiewicz, used 'rosebud' as an inside joke, because as a friend of Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies, he knew 'rosebud' was the old man's pet name for the most intimate part of her anatomy." Because the script was a thinly-disguised fictional biography of the 76 year old publishing king of yellow journalism, when the movie came out Hearst used every bit of his substantial influence and power to raze Kane before it opened and failed. He did nevertheless manage to damage the 24 year old Welles career with a smear campaign in the Hearts' papers branding him a communist. Nominated for nine Oscars Citizen Kane emerged with only one for Best Original Screenplay, "boos" could be heard whenever the film was mentioned during the ceremony.

On regret
Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn’t get or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn’t explain a man’s life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle, a missing piece.

Herman J. Mankiewicz & Orson Welles,
Citizen Kane, screenplay, 1941.

HBO has since produced a movie about the controversial legend surrounding who, what, when, where and how the screenplay developed for Citizen Kane. Titled RKO 281 the drama/biography was done by Scott Free Productions Ridley Scott along with John Logan were the director and screenwriter respectively.

The foundation for the saga was a “dramatic account of the trials and tribulations filmmaker Orson Welles went through while creating his masterpiece of film, Citizen Kane, and how millionaire William Randolph Hearst (sic) sought to block Kane's semi-autobiographical tale of power and obsession. The title is derived from the RKO Pictures designation while in production.” Some of the songs for the sound track were, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Where or When,” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” as well as Richard RodgersDisgustingly Rich” and Ira Gershwin’s “I Can’t Get Started.”

After Citizen Kane Mankiewicz and Jo Swerling wrote the screenplay for The Pride of the Yankees in 1942. It’s based upon the story by Paul Gallico and is “the sweet, sentimental, and utterly American story of Lou Gehrig, the "Iron Man" first baseman of the indefatigable New York Yankees of the 1920s and 30s.” For his efforts Mankiewicz was nominated but did not receive the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Born in New York, New York, Herman Mankiewicz came from a very distinguished film family. Even though none of his biographies mention a wife, while living in Berlin in 1922 he had a son Don M. Mankiewicz who has become a successful is a novelist writing See How They Run, Trial, as well as an intermittent screenwriter for movies like I Want to Live.

Herman Mankiewicz also had a second son, Frank Mankiewicz who was press secretary to Robert F. Kennedy and political director of George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign and syndicated columnist. Today Frank Mankiewicz works as a radio and TV commentator

He was the grandfather of Nick Davis who wrote and directed an Emmy Award winning film portrait of John F. Kennedy.

His younger brother Joseph L. Mankiewicz is well known by his own rights as a movie director, producer and writer . Some of his credits in filmmaking are "A Letter to Three Wives" (1949), "All About Eve" (1950), "Guys and Dolls" (1955), "Cleopatra" (1963), and he directed "Sleuth" (1972).

Herman Mankiewicz was also the uncle of writer and director Tom Mankiewicz who worked as a script consultant on a small number of James Bond films as well as two of the Superman films. He also directed several episodes on Hart to Hart in the beginning of the 80’s and in 1987 had his directional d├ębut with the action-adventure Dragnet.

After Citizen Kane Mankiewicz continued to battle severe personal problems. His desperate drinking habits, enormous gambling debts, and frequent spats with studio executives combined to undermine the last twelve years of his career and on March 5, 1953 Herman Mankiewicz died of uremic poisoning in Hollywood, California.



Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane (1941) - AFI #1

Dictionary of American Quotations, © 1997 by Margaret Miner and Hugh Rawson

Herman J. Mankiewicz

Katz, Ephraim. Katz's Film Encyclopedia. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1979.

Mank - The Wit, World, and Life of Herman Mankiewicz - by Richard Meryman (1978), Wm. Morrow & Co., NYC.

Mankiewicz, Herman J (1897 - 1953). Crystal Reference Encyclopedia (2001). Retrieved 31 July 2003, from xreferplus.

MSN Entertainment - Celebs: Herman Mankiewicz

Review: Citizen Kane


TV Guide Online - Movie Database

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Naked men, C-rations and tea

When we were station in Taipei, Taiwan and the wonderful Mr Loo was in my life, we had the occasion to visit the R&R center at Okuma Beach, Okinawa. While Sister and I enjoyed the grassy play area in our seersucker sun suits, Dad lounged on the beach, Mom used the binoculars to scan a small, far off island that was rumored to have naked men on it.

We were only there for a few days when an incoming typhoon caused us to be evacuated down the side of a treacherous mountain and then off to Kadena Air Base, Japan where we spent a few days at the Visitor’s Quarters dining on C-rations while the wind and rain whipped around furiously. Soon we were on a ship following the tail end of the typhoon to Singapore.

The waters were so rough Sister and I spent a great deal of the voyage with our heads in paper bags. Once we got to Singapore, there was no one at Customs to check us through. Tired, and with two very sick little girls, our parents decided to just go on home to Taiwan. Needless to say the Chinese took a dim view of our ill manners and we were charged with “jumping ship.” Dad put on his best uniform, went down to the Customs office and humbly apologized over tea.

Mom never did get to see any of those naked men.

April is Month of the Military Child

Picture source

Sunday, April 26, 2009


A Maverick is defined as a nonconformist. Usually a person with unorthodox or independent views.

It’s an eponymous word after Samuel Maverick (1803-1870), a Texas rancher who chose not to brand his cattle. As mayor of San Antonio in the mid- 1800's the small town politician accepted a herd of 400 cattle in 1847 in payment of a debt but left them in the care of one of his men who allowed the steers to roam on his ranch unbranded. One can almost hear the locals upon discovering one of these roving unbranded livestock. ”Oh, that’s one of Maverick’s” which probably became shortened to, “That’s a Maverick.”

From then on any unbranded cow, steer, and especially calves that grow up and became separated from their mothers without a brand to tell who owns them has been dubbed a Maverick.

During the early 1800’s in the United States ownership of cattle was determined by the brand, so the name mavericks came to be given to all unmarked calves caught when straying from the herd. Neglected and allowed to run wild, these calves were rounded up and branded by other ranchers. Because the range was large, a few cattle more or less made little difference to the big ranchmen.

The practice, though dishonest, soon became generally accepted on the range. As this became a customary way of life, many newcomers to the West were able to accumulate a herd "with nothing but a branding iron." First recorded 1886, as the notion of "masterless" and then eventually leading to independent minded humans, became known as mavericks.

In 1957 Mr. Maverick's name was borrowed by the producers of the classic "Maverick" TV show with the enduring James Garner as the starring character. Along with a couple of brothers named Maverick, they all lived by their wits in the Wild West.

You might be interested to know that Maury Maverick Sam Maverick's grandson, served in the U.S. House of Representatives during World War I and coined another splendid word "gobbledygook".


Online Etymology Dictionary

Picture Source

Word Detective