Niobe – Grief Personified

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Oakwood Cemetery is the oldest cemetery, and one of the large green spaces, in the Atlanta city limits. Originally consisting of just six acres, it grew over time to occupy a total of 48 acres today.  The last plots were sold in 1884, but families who own some of that hallowed ground still have interments to this day.  Only about 15 burials a year take place in the cemetery as 70,000 are believe to be interred there already and space is at a premium.

If one thought of Oakwood as a place for the dead, they’d be wrong.  Today it is much more a place for the living than for the dead.  Thought it may seem macabre (or at least wierd), visitors come to the place to picnic, to walk their dogs, job or bike along the scenic pathways.  There are those who come to do historical, archaeological or genealogical research, or to paint (or like me) to take photographs.

Today’s photo was one I took a few weeks ago of a statue that is right outside of the visitor center building buried inside the grounds of the cemetery.The statue is of Niobe, a character from Greek mythology, who personifies grief.

In Greek mythology, Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus (king of Sipylus in Lydia) and wife of King Amphion of Thebes. According to Homer’s Iliad, she had six sons and six daughters and boasted of her children’s superiority to the Titan Leto, who had only two children, the twin deities Apollo and Artemis. As punishment for her pride, Apollo killed all Niobe’s sons, and Artemis killed all her daughters. The 2nd-century-bc mythographer Apollodorus mentions the survival of Chloris, who became the wife of Neleus and mother of Nestor. The bodies of the dead children lay for nine days unburied because Zeus had turned all the Thebans to stone, but on the 10th day they were buried by the gods. Niobe went back to her Phrygian home, where she was turned into a rock on Mount Sipylus, which continues to weep when the snow melts above it. (Encyclopedia Britanica)

So Niobe sits above the Gray family plot in Oakwood, a reminder of the grief that brought the families of over 70,000 individuals to this quiet place.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: on July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Reard unveiled a daring two-piece swimsuit at the Piscine Molitor, a popular swimming pool in Paris. Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini modeled the new fashion, which Reard dubbed “bikini,” inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier that week.

European women first began wearing two-piece bathing suits that consisted of a halter top and shorts in the 1930s, but only a sliver of the midriff was revealed and the navel was vigilantly covered. In the United States, the modest two-piece made its appearance during World War II, when wartime rationing of fabric saw the removal of the skirt panel and other superfluous material. Meanwhile, in Europe, fortified coastlines and Allied invasions curtailed beach life during the war, and swimsuit development, like everything else non-military, came to a standstill.

In 1946, Western Europeans joyously greeted the first war-free summer in years, and French designers came up with fashions to match the liberated mood of the people. Two French designers, Jacques Heim and Louis Reard, developed competing prototypes of the bikini. Heim called his the “atom” and advertised it as “the world’s smallest bathing suit.” Reard’s swimsuit, which was basically a bra top and two inverted triangles of cloth connected by string, was in fact significantly smaller. Made out of a scant 30 inches of fabric, Reard promoted his creation as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.” Reard called his creation the bikini, named after the Bikini Atoll.

In planning the debut of his new swimsuit, Reard had trouble finding a professional model who would deign to wear the scandalously skimpy two-piece. So he turned to Micheline Bernardini, an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, who had no qualms about appearing nearly nude in public. As an allusion to the headlines that he knew his swimsuit would generate, he printed newspaper type across the suit that Bernardini modeled on July 5 at the Piscine Molitor. The bikini was a hit, especially among men, and Bernardini received some 50,000 fan letters.

Before long, bold young women in bikinis were causing a sensation along the Mediterranean coast. Spain and Italy passed measures prohibiting bikinis on public beaches but later capitulated to the changing times when the swimsuit grew into a mainstay of European beaches in the 1950s. Reard’s business soared, and in advertisements he kept the bikini mystique alive by declaring that a two-piece suit wasn’t a genuine bikini “unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring.”

In prudish America, the bikini was successfully resisted until the early 1960s, when a new emphasis on youthful liberation brought the swimsuit en masse to U.S. beaches. It was immortalized by the pop singer Brian Hyland, who sang “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” in 1960, by the teenage “beach blanket” movies of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, and by the California surfing culture celebrated by rock groups like the Beach Boys. Since then, the popularity of the bikini has only continued to grow.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Because McDonald’s initially did not want its customers to stay and socialize, they prohibited newspaper boxes, candy machines, telephones, pinball machines, jukeboxes, and other types of entertainment. They also installed uncomfortable chairs to deter customers from lingering.

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4 thoughts on “Niobe – Grief Personified”

  1. Good to see you back Galen. I enjoyed the bikini story, did not know it was named after the atoll. Wow, you learn something new every day right?

    I like to study business, and your blurb about McDonalds is interesting. I remember when Starbucks started encouraging people to lounge around and hang out… I didn’t get it (I still don’t get it, but that’s beside the point). I would have thought you’d want to get your things and move on. So ideologically, I would have taken the path McDonalds did. Logically, it makes sense (and is a bit cruelly hilarious too with the uncomfortable seats).

    But look at how the stock price has moved for both over the last ten years. Look at who is increasing worldwide sales.

    I don’t get it, but it clearly works. Maybe McDonalds needs to change its tune with atmosphere in addition to the food.

    1. Yeah, it seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But I think Starbucks realized that people are missing “community” and being able to hang out for a while is something like hanging out on Facebook or some other social media connection. And, in a way, the longer someone stays at Starbucks, the more coffee they’ll buy, food they’ll eat, etc. Still, it seems that they could make more if they went the McDonald’s route.

      I found something really interesting today that I’m going to send you. I’d never heard about it and I doubt you have, either. You may want to do more research on it and write something about it, but if not, I think you’ll still enjoy what I send.

      1. Thanks G, I always do! :)
        I agree on SBUX, it appears that community aspect thing people really dig. Although ironically most of those people are usually engrossed in their laptop, ipad, or iphones. :D

        In a former life I was involved with investments. We’d frequently pick Starbucks as neutral place to meet clients (everybody loves Starbucks up here). Of course this forces a sale, too, so the “quick public meeting spot” angle really worked well now that I think about it.

        Then there’s the whole drug thing… As long as they can sell this legal drug (of which I admit to being an abuser), it’s a fantastic business model. People usually don’t stop drinking Stabucks.

        This is a buy & hold forever stock for me. :)

  2. Well, I’m afraid I’m not a coffee drinker, so the only time I go into a Starbucks is to meet someone, too. In the winter, I’ll drink their hot chocolate, and when I meet someone there during the warmer weather, they have some frozen frappuccino’s (not even sure I spelled that right) that are pretty tasty. But, it’s far cheaper to buy a diet Dr. Pepper at the corner store!

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