In 1901, Buffalo was the center of civilization, site of the Pan-American Exposition, and Thomas Edison was its God. His Roentgen X-Ray machine sat in the Temple of Science. But the futuristic machine gave no hope to the fallen president. Edison was called up from New Jersey to get his machine to run, but before he could, the gynecologist at the fair who improvised McKinley's surgery had already sewn him up. McKinley died of gangrene within a few days. Thomas Edison's filmmakers, however, immortalized him in jerky video, their kinetoscopy—the first president captured on film.

 

The historic life of Casiana Nacionales, also known as the Geronima of Balangiga, is chronicled by the Leyte-Samar Historical Society, most pertinently in Glenda Lynne Tibe-Bonifacio’s “Deconstructing Maria in Geronima: The Balangiga Story.” As Professor Tibe-Bonifacio notes, Casiana was a “lay prayer leader and the lone woman privy to the Balangiga plot.” On the plaque of the plaza in Balangiga registering revolutionary names, her feminine struggle is solitary. However, the ghosts of the washing women, cooks, gihay sweepers, water carriers, and so on who helped the men survive lie behind her august name. Women in war salute you with tears in their eyes, Casiana Nacionales! And kudos and bravo to you, Leyte-Samar Historical Society! Keep it up!

The martial arts of chess and arnis saved the day. The great chronicler of the Balangiga incident, Professor Rolando Borrinaga, credits the Chief’s twin obsessions, the intellectual arts of chess and arnis, with the chess moves of the townspeople’s actions and the martial arts stealth of their cunning plot. Kudos and bravo to you, Professor Rolando Borrinaga, for your own scholarly wizardry! History salutes you!

The statue of Valeriano Abanador, the Chief, the Hero of Balangiga, remains standing in Balangiga despite the ravages of time, oblivion, and Typhoon Yolanda. 

Balangiga, Samar, has been the eye of storms. Most famously: razed to the ground following uprising of its people on September 27, 1901—helped or not by Aguinaldo’s general in Samar, Vicente Lukban (opinions are divided). Their daring action was fit for a costume zarzuela, an operetta, with cross-dressing, divinely inspired but comely heroine, chess maneuvers, and inspired use of ancient martial arts. Americans found no women and children in Balangiga after the raid, despite evidence of their presence the night before when the Chief, Abanador, got Americans got drunk at a fake fiesta. Who knows if the revolutionaries were already in disguise—hairy women spooning out rice and bibingka to unsuspecting soldiers? Americans found absolutely no one in the burning huts of Balangiga, so they also burned the outlying towns, Giporlos, Guiuan, San Roque, Quinapundan. In fact, the U.S. Army kind of took all of Samar to exact revenge. Body counts range from 2,500 to 50,000, depending on who is doin...

Virginie Brasi, née Rubinson, wished to take the veil after converting to Catholicism in 1981. She had a change of heart going through Cambodia. In a passing moment in June, she heard a song on the radio as she moved through haunting ruins in Phnom Penh. Beneath the high, nasal wail of the country’s old opera, she heard an ancient grief, something spoke to her, that faint tinkling of bells, from her childhood. She found herself swerving into the path of a farmer and his carabao: she stopped the car. It was the tinkling of the bells at Central Park Zoo, approximated in the sunlit, dying fall of the soothing Khmer sounds. For a moment, she wished she were Buddhist. 

Diane Arbus, née Nemerov (1923-1971) was a photographer and a granddaughter of furriers, the Nemerovs of Russek’s Fifth Avenue. Like Rubinson Fur Emporium, Russek’s Fifth Avenue boasted progeny of cultural significance—in Russek’s case, Diane Arbus and her brother, poet Howard Nemerov.

Rubinson Fur Emporium was often confused with Russek’s Fifth Avenue, another fur emporium also owned by Russian emigrés. Rubinson Fur Emporium became a major investor of the movie world, under the guidance of its peripatetic heiress, Virginie Brasi, until Virginie was disowned for betraying her forefathers by converting to Roman Catholicism. See Virginie Brasi

Chaya Sophia Chazanov Rubinson, also known as Madame Rubinson, began in the New York theater world as seamstress then set designer Cassandra Chase. She caught the eye of an investor in the 1933 Broadway flop, Mrs. Ida McKinley Gives Her Regards, a one-woman show. Synopsis: the epileptic widow of the fallen president gives a long and excruciating monologue while crocheting slippers as she talks her dead husband, who is in paradise. An avant-garde performance, it climaxed in an abrupt and completely unexpected seizure onstage, bringing down the house, literally, as people left the theater to avoid the “stark, vulgar display of rabid melancholy and unbearably extended, high-pitched, squealing sounds of mourning,” so the Times reproved. Despite rave reviews from a few discerning people in Brooklyn, the show shut down after twenty-four hours (to the relief of the ingenue actress, Sylvie Plato, who reported in an interview that “it was not just my vocal cords that were at stake, my fingers w...

Luca Brasi died in 1977. He died of exsanguination on an uncertain date in April: his body was found too late to determine the exact time of death. His obituary in the Catskills Reporter, clearly written by some anonymous childhood friend, privy to such minutiae (Peter Horn, is that you?), notes he graduated from Oberlin College, magna cum laude, with a major in comparative religion; his thesis, mainly speculative (he could have done more research, so said his advisors), was on Eastern mystic emblems in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. In his gap year, he traveled through France, Italy, Greece, and sneaked through what was then Yugoslavia, making friends mainly by mentioning names of soccer players, e.g., Ferenc Puskas, or Andrea di Stefano (though of the Real Madrid player, he was no fan). He loved the city of Trieste, where he made his first film, a stop-motion animation masterpiece clarifying a moment in Ulysses regarding the mysterious recurrence of ‘the lanky-looking galoot over there...

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