Monday, May 3, 2010

John Wren (Thanks Michael)

I'm excited to find out who John Wren is.

So, let me go see.....

Lord Wiki says Wren was a businessman. He's famous partly because an author named Frank Hardly wrote a fictionalized account of his life, and then that was turned into a TV series.

Baby John was born in a suburb of Melbourne called Collingwood, on 3 April 1871.

I'm looking at Google Maps. Collingwood is near Fitzroy. I've heard of that. It's kind of weird that Fitzroy is spelled with a Z and not an S.

The Melbourne Museum is right near Collingwood. I'm betting that's a cool place.

Oh, Lord Wiki just reminded me that I've written about Collingwood before. It has a lot of gay venues, and one of them was granted the right to bar heterosexuals from their premises. But I think we discussed this, and they primarily exclude only the heterosexuals who are there to treat gay people like zoo animals.

It's terrible when people come around just to gawk at you.

I don't see much from Lord Wiki about Wren's childhood. His parents were Irish-Catholic immigrants. In 1890, Wren was working in a shoe factory. He would have been about nineteen then. During this time, he went ahead and bet all his savings on the Melbourne Cup. Wow. That's a pretty bold move. I guess he won. And it looks like he got into the whole gambling thing.

In 1893, he opened up an illegal betting shop. This was on Johnson Street.

I'm looking at Google Maps. I'm not seeing a Johnson Street IN Collingwood, but I'm seeing one a little to the East. I wonder if this is what Lord Wiki is talking about.

Anyway, Wren became wealthy through his gambling business. Then he used that money to get involved with a variety of other businesses: cinema, publishing, goldmining, boxing, etc.

There's some controversy here about a boxer; Les Darcy. Darcy wanted to go to America to avoid conscription. But then he was prevented from doing so. I'm confused actually. I'm not sure how Wren was involved. Well, I think what it is is that some say Wren is to blame, and some say he had no part in it. Maybe I'll read more about it later.

Now we're onto some political stuff. Wren supported World War I, which is a different response from most Catholics.

After the Easter Rising in Dublin, Wren started becoming more and more anti-British. He also started bonding with the whole Catholic thing. He became friends with the Archbishop of Melbourne; Daniel Mannix. I guess that caused some controversy, since Wren was a man who obtained his wealth from illegal gambling. Lord Wiki says though that Mannix refused money from Wren. Wren tried to buy him off as he did with politicians, but Mannix wouldn't oblige.

Wren was very anti-Communist. Lord Wiki says this came from Mannix's influence. I guess Communism wasn't loved by Catholics. I wonder how it's viewed now. Are Catholics still very anti-Communist?

This Catholic blog has some information about Catholic anti-Communism. I think it's mostly about America though. It sounds like some of it came from the association of Communism with Atheism.

They say that by the mid 1960's, there was less consensus in the Catholic community about Communism being so awful.

This blogger has rules about commenting. I really love them. They're basically saying debate with respect.

I wish more people in the world could follow #1. No name calling or personal attacks; stick to the argument, not the individual. And I love #3. Don't make judgments about the other person's sinfulness or salvation. You are not the Inquisition. Amen to that.

Now the Catholic Church wouldn't take money from Wren (or at least this is what Lord Wiki says) but politicians would. Wren gave money to those who supported anti-communist and Catholic causes. In return, they were expected to support Wren's business interests. Lovely.

Eventually, Wren had enough money to stop the illegal activities. I guess that's good. Some people might be greedy enough to continue with the illegal stuff because they want even MORE money. Although as Tim was saying the other night, legal doesn't equal moral. In America, it's legal for farmers to keep their animals in atrocious conditions. That doesn't mean it's right.

Frank Hardy, the writer, was a member of the Communist Party. Okay. Then I can see why he might want to write a scathing book about Wren. This book was called Power Without Glory. Lord Wiki says it was based on real people, but Hardy exaggerated, and made up stuff. I'm very weary of books like this. I know you can't fully trust anything you read, but I like to think that what I'm reading is at least TRYING to be true.

It's like Lord Wiki. I know sometimes he completely lies, or gets something wrong. But I think for the most part, he tries to be correct about things. And if he makes a mistake, I think usually someone out there will help him eventually correct himself. I hope.

The last time I was at the library, I almost picked up that fictional novel based on Laura Bush. I forgot the title. But thanks to Google, now I found it; American Wife. It looked interesting, and I considered getting it. But then I put it down. I wouldn't want to read it, and not know what was true, and what was fiction. Maybe I'd be okay reading something like that if I already knew about the person. Then I could separate the truth from the untruths.

Hardy got tried in court for libel, but the charges didn't stick. I guess that's the trick when you want to write bad things about someone. Make it fiction. I think all writers borrow ideas from real people. When I wrote fiction, this was part of my therapy. I'd base negative actions of characters on things people have done that pissed me off.

Oh....well. Now that I think of it. I did write novels that were pretty heavily based on things that had happened within my own family. I changed some things around, but I don't think there was much difference between the novel and what really happened.

I feel like a hypocrite.

Maybe the difference is I wasn't writing about a famous person. I wasn't trying to trash someone. I was just trying to get my feelings out. And I think the main thing going through my head was that although it sucked that it happened to me/my family, it would make a good story.

In 1976, ABC turned Hardy's novel into a miniseries. Oh, I get to go to IMDb! I'm missing that place. IMDb and I have totally bonded the past few weeks.

The movie won a Logie for most popular Australian Drama. So I'm guessing the Logies are like our People's Choice awards? Is it voted by the general population?

Yeah. Lord Wiki says that viewers vote. People send in coupons from a TV magazine. There's some controversy because I guess people can send in multiple votes?

It's kind of like awards/contests I see on the Internet. People will beg others to vote for them. So then the person with the most number of friends wins....or the most number of supportive friends. If the contest is about who's the most popular, that makes sense. But if it's about who has the most interesting blog, or the cutest baby, then it kind of makes it all meaningless.

I got an email from a woman I barely know asking me to vote for her blog so she could win a car. It annoyed me. I'm not even friends with her. I never read her blog, and she doesn't read mine. I thought she was being a bit over-aggressive, and rude. On the other hand, I saw a similar message on a blog that I regularly read. She asked for comments, because comments will help her win something. I was happy to do that, because I truly do read this women's blog, and I comment on a fairly regular basis. I think that's the difference really. If you solicit from people who already support you in the area you're seeking an award, it's not really cheating. At least in my opinion.

Or maybe I'm the wrong one. Maybe I was being stingy. Maybe I shouldn't have cared if that first women was my friend or not. I probably should have helped her win the damn car. I don't know.

Here's a scene from Power Without Glory. And here's another scene.

Jack wants to use my computer. I'm going to take a break. Then I'll look at some other websites.

I'm back. Jack ended up using another computer. But I took a break anyway. His computer use was brief, so then I helped Jack make lemonade. Well, first we made limeade. That didn't turn out well. We dumped it, and tried for lemonade. That was a failure too. Plus, Jack put yellow food coloring in it, and it looked just like urine. Gross.

I'm at the Australian Dictionary of Biography now. Let's see what they have to say.

Wren was the third son of his family. His parents were illiterate. But they were NOT indigent. I'm not sure what that means.....

Dictionary.com says it means, lacking food, clothing, and other necessities of life because of poverty; needy; poor; impoverished.

I just taught Jack the word because he's been into vocabulary lately. Yesterday he was asking me to test him on words as I was cooking our dessert. That was a bit hard. I can't easily think of words off the top of my head.

Wren dropped out of school when he was twelve. He worked in a wood-yard, and then was a boot-clicker. I guess that was the shoe factory thing.

Cool! I just found this website that describes old occupations. They say a boot-clicker cuts out the leather for the uppers. What's the uppers? Maybe it's the top part of the shoe/boot?

Wren did the gambling work.

In 1890's, he lost his job because of the Depression....not the GREAT Depression though. So I guess at one point, the only way Wren could make money was to do the illegal betting stuff. Of course, we could say there were other options. But is that always really true? A lot of decent and hard-working people struggle to find jobs, and end up I-N-D-I-G-E-N-T.

It sounds like Wren was seen as a hero by some, and a criminal by others. He was generous, but there were strings attached. And some might see his money as being tainted.

In all of this, it's hard to separate the truth from the lies. There were various rumors about Wren, and people were somewhat weary of him. One rumor was that he had been involved with the bombing of the home of a guy named David O'Donnell. This was a police guy, and even he said it wasn't true. But when people want to believe something bad about someone, often it's hard to get them to do otherwise. This is especially true when there ARE actually known negative aspects of the person. It's easy to attach a sin or crime to someone that's already known to be guilty of something else.

The biographical dictionary asserts that Wren was NOT involved with the boxing guy's fiasco.

Wren did a lot of mining stuff. Some of it was successful and some was not.

He had some newspaper dealings. He and another guy bought The Brisbane Daily Mail. They later merged it with Packer's newspaper, and it became the Courier-Mail.

Jack Lange didn't like Wren. He called him a champion wire-puller. This refers to how Wren used his money to bribe politicians. But the biographical dictionary says it's hard to know to what extent this occurred.

There's argument over whether James Scullin was one of the politicians influenced by Wren's money. Jack Lange said he was. Scullin's biographers said he wasn't. Maybe someone should get a Ouija board out, and ask Scullin.

Wren would call John Curtin on the phone, trying to get the guy to reduce or do away with wartime taxation. Curtin didn't oblige.

In the first World War, Wren didn't just support the war, he joined the Australian Imperial Force. Lord Wiki says this was a volunteer group of fighters/participants. I wonder if Wren did any fighting.

Well, it sounds like he spent a lot of time doing other stuff. The biographical dictionary says he harangued his comrades against vice. I had to look up another word there. I guess this blog is a great vocabulary builder for me.

The Free Dictionary site says it means to make a forceful and/or angry speech.

Wouldn't that be a bit hypocritical coming from a guy who partook in illegal gambling?

Eventually Wren was discharged from service. I don't know if this was because he was annoying, or he had an injury or something.

Wren had something against higher education. I wonder why? Was it because he never had it? I wonder how far he went in his self-education. Did he read at all? At what level were his literacy skills?

The day before Australia became a Federation, Wren got married. He married a Catholic girl educated by a convent. I almost wrote convict.

They had their honeymoon in New Zealand. That was the only time he went overseas. Interesting that someone with all that wealth wouldn't travel more. If I had tons of money, I'd want to use most of it for traveling.

Mr. and Mrs. Wren had seven children. The website says two died in infancy, but I'm not sure if they mean seven out of nine children lived, or five out of seven.

Wren took his showers at 6:30 am. I love these little details. Oh, and he used hot then cold water. Isn't cold water supposed to be better for your hair? Well, this website says it is. They say to rinse your hair with cold water before leaving the shower. Maybe I'll try that. I went through a stage of taking completely cold showers. That might not have been good for my hair though, because I rushed out. So I probably didn't rinse the shampoo and conditioner good enough.

I had gotten the sense that Wren was a social guy. But the biographical dictionary makes him sound like a bit of a recluse. He avoided publicity, and rarely entertained.

He didn't eat much meat. He was an almost-vegetarian. That's like Tim now. He usually eats vegetarian meals, but will eat meat every so often.

He prayed daily, but did not practice Catholicism, on a formal level, until late in his life.

Wren didn't like cars. He mostly walked. I like that about him.

Three of Wren's daughters ended up marrying in Europe. One married a Communist. Uh oh. I wonder how that all worked out. Did Wren go to the wedding?

The biographical dictionary says that Wren was contemptuous of establishment opinion. I think that's very much me at this stage. As a society, we see certain things in a very rigid way. I question a lot of stuff. Are things a certain way because it's better for all of us? Or are things a certain way because we are convinced ourselves this is the only way. And sometimes people convince us of certain things, because doing so will line their pocketbooks.

I was going to say this started when I became a mother and started attachment parenting and homeschooling. But I think I did it when I was a child/teen as well. I remember asking about hallucinations....that whole how do you know he's seeing something that's not there? What if he just has better vision than us? That's just one example, but there were probably others. And now.....

I question the notion that children must have a formal education.
I question the notion that dropping out of school is a thing that leads to definite failure.
I question why marriage has to be between two people only? What's really wrong with bigamy?
I question why it's okay to eat ice-cream for dessert, but not for breakfast. Or why it's okay to eat pancakes with syrup for breakfast, but it's not okay to eat cake.
I question why Australians are up in arms about Americans owning sugar gliders, but no one seems to be protesting all the parakeets that are owned by Americans.
I question why we (some of us) don't eat dogs and cats.
I question why we say watching TV causes obesity, but no one worries if a kid sits for hours reading a book. Does reading burn more calories somehow?

What do you guys question?

Well, I think that's about it for today. I'm going to check our new houseguest. My sister let us borrow her cat for awhile. They're going to Hawaii, so we're babysitting. And then we might keep him for awhile. They have a lot on their plate (a hyper-active dog, a toddler, a bun-in-the-oven, and house-hunting).

So...I'm just hoping that Honey is a better guest than some of our previous temporary occupants. He's VERY cute. My sister says he might be standoffish. She says not to smother him with kisses and cuddles. I understand. Mu Shu is VERY loving towards us, but not so much to other people. But I'm hoping Honey warms up to us.


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