Thursday, June 21, 2018

Georgia Summer 2018

Summer arrived in Atlanta a few minutes before sunrise this morning. The sun reaches its highest point in the sky today and it is the longest day of the year. Although the sun begins its descent tomorrow, insolation from our star will continue to raise atmospheric temperatures until late July. As this day marks the end of the season of renewal and the beginning of the season of growth and flower, I am reminded of this quote by the English writer and poet, D. H. Lawrence:

The greatest need of man is the renewal forever of the complete rhythm of life and death, the rhythm of the sun's year, the body's year.

Image of sunrise photographed from the International Space Station
Sunrise from the International Space Station                   NASA/Reid Wiseman

For me the rhythm also calls for music.  In Atlanta the longest day of 2018 has been a steamy one featuring wave after wave of brief and often heavy showers and thundershowers.  Skies have calmed for the moment. Perhaps the calm will last into sunset  when we can retire to the porch and enjoy this music accompanied by that from the woods. 

Splendid way to end the day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Happy National Martini Day 2018!

Yes. There really is a national day for that delicious beverage staple, the dry martini. It is a classic though, no vodka allowed. Wikipedia has an informative post about the drink, including a few recipes.  The information there may be useful but there is no finer discourse on the martini than Judge Robert Bork's 1996 article in National Review. Thanks to columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez you can enjoy it here.  

For me the perfect cocktail calls for some perfect jazz.  Today we'll enjoy a cut from John Coltrane's album, Blue Train, released in 1957. It may be sixty years old but it still sells well and consistently ranks among the top jazz albums of all time. 

When it's time for dinner and relaxing afterward I suggest the 1963 album John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman - also an all-time top ranked album - in addition to another martini. This combination must only be enjoyed with the one you love. No better way to enjoy the  progression of the evening and the close of National Martini Day. 

Juneteenth 2018

Emancipation                                                                       Thomas Nast, 1865

There's no federal holiday but there will be official state celebrations of this historic national event in forty-three states today. The day itself has come to be called Juneteenth. The Library of Virginia says this about it:

[The celebration] has grown into a popular event across the country to commemorate emancipation from slavery and celebrate African American culture. Juneteenth refers to June 19, the date in 1865 when the Union Army arrived in Galveston and announced that the Civil War was over and that slaves were free under the Emancipation Proclamation. Although the proclamation had become official more than two years earlier on January 1, 1863, freedmen in Texas adopted June 19th, later known colloquially as Juneteenth, as the date they celebrated emancipation. Juneteenth celebrations continued into the 20th century, and survived a period of declining participation because of the Great Depression and World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s Juneteenth celebrations witnessed a revival as they became catalysts for publicizing civil rights issues of the day. In 1980 the Texas state legislature established June 19 as a state holiday.

For more about the history of this significant day in American history visit Juneteenth World Wide Celebration.


Photos and Illustrations:
Library of Congress at


Monday, June 18, 2018

Paul McCartney Turns 76

Today is Paul McCartney's birthday.

McCartney performing on a piano while singing into a microphone.
McCartney performing in the East Room of White House, 2010

The man remains as powerful a force in music today as he was in 1966. What more can be said other than...


Photos and Illustrations:
public domain photo: official White House photograph by Pete Souza, 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day 2018

Below is a photo of my dad at seventeen, a high school graduate, holder of class medals in English and debate, and a seasoned thespian. He was a mill town boy with high ambitions tempered by the security of a good-paying, full-time job in the midst of the Roaring Twenties. He never got the college degree he wanted but he was successful, building on his strong faith, a solid marriage, and a remarkable work ethic.When I look at this picture I am reminded that he only had four "good" years before the Great Depression and World War II brought him and the country he loved into sixteen years of hard times. Through it all he survived as a member of the "Greatest Generation" to see his nation prosper.  He was "old school:" through and through and never met a stranger.

Graduation, High School Class of 1925

Though neither of our dads was present during virtually all of our children's "shaping" Nancy and I know that their values played a major role in teaching our kids to be responsible, caring, and loving individuals. Not a day passes without a wish to have our dads and their guidance with us once more. How fortunate we were to have such beacons in our lives. And how wonderful it would be to see the reverence and respect for fatherhood restored in our nation today.

Having expressed that wish for the future, we are left with this wish for today: Happy Father's Day and a big "Thank You" to our dads, Bill and Vergil, and to fathers everywhere.

Igor Stravinsky: Rule Breaker, New Music Maker

U.S. public domain
Today is the birthday of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), popularly recognized as a leading founder of Modern music in the 20th century. Born in Russia, he lived in Switzerland and France before immigrating to the United States after World War II. He composed in a variety of styles over his lifetime but is best remembered for his dazzling, rhythmic music in the early years - 1910 to 1914 - of the Ballets Russes produced by Sergei Diaghilev in Paris.

His work during that brief period included The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). One could say they are all signature pieces - experimental and revolutionary - that dazzled and in some cases infuriated their audiences. Regardless, the three compositions as well as other sounds from Stravinsky's imagination had a huge impact on music and the arts. He was 27 when audiences first heard The Firebird. For a taste of that music here is the finale. While you listen, keep in mind that Henry Ford sold 10,000 cars that year, the U.S. had 1000 miles of paved road, half the American population lived on farms or towns with fewer than 2500 people, and the flying machine was a very rare and thrilling sight. 

Indeed, Stravinsky broke rules. In doing so he made new music. A century later it remains as fresh as the year it was composed.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

James Joyce's Ulysses: Far More Than The Racy Bits

A first edition copy described as "unread except for the racy bits."

Today is far from an ordinary day in the world of western literature. It isn't that a number of significant events occurred or that any event occurred that day. Instead, June 16 (1904) is the setting for a several hundred page descriptive stream of happenings in the life of the fictional character, Leopold Bloom. The work is Ulysses, published in book form in 1922. The author is James Joyce. The day is Bloomsday, a time to celebrate the book and its author among literary circles around the world.

Ulysses is a shape shifting piece of art written out of the ashes of the Belle Epoque and the alienation of an increasingly existential world. If you accept that meanings are in people, this book assuredly means something different to every person who accepted the challenge to read it. Just can't get more existential than that. The Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, said this about it:

What is so staggering about Ulysses is the fact that behind a thousand veils nothing lies hidden; that it turns neither toward the mind nor toward the world, but, as cold as the moon looking on from cosmic space, allows the drama of growth, being, and decay to pursue its course.

To say the least, Ulysses is an adventure. For some it may be merely pornographic or a huge word puzzle or a unique work of art in its truest form. However you chose to view the novel keep in mind that people are celebrating this work and its author across the world today on what has become known as Bloomsday. And even those who know nothing about Bloomsday, never read the book or know little about the author have likely encountered bits and pieces of Joyce's skill in school and through popular culture. This memorable paragraph ends the book:

I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

I came to appreciate that quote so much I used it for almost twenty years in a descriptive writing course. Other quotes could have been useful but their playfulness simply made them interesting, maybe even enjoyable if you had a reading guide - really an essential - at hand:

Meditations of evolution increasingly vaster: of the moon invisible in incipient lunation, approaching perigee: of the infinite lattiginous scintillating uncondensed milky way, discernible by daylight by an observer placed at the lower end of a cylindrical vertical shaft 5000 ft deep sunk from the surface towards the centre of the earth: of Sirius (alpha in Canis Maior) 10 lightyears (57,000,000,000,000 miles) distant and in volume 900 times the dimension of our planet: of Arcturus: of the precession of equinoxes: of Orion with belt and sextuple sun theta and nebula in which 100 of our solar systems could be contained: of moribund and of nascent new stars such as Nova in 1901: of our system plunging towards the constellation of Hercules: of the parallax or parallactic drift of socalled fixed stars, in reality evermoving wanderers from immeasurably remote eons to infinitely remote futures in comparison with which the years, threescore and ten, of allotted human life formed a parenthesis of infinitesimal brevity.

So there is word play at its best with lots of traditional arts and sciences, a dash of Dadaism, even a precursor or two of pataphysics. Rest assured there's more there than the racy bits.

If you want to learn more about the day, the book, and the author, visit these sites: Bloomsday, Ulysses, and James Joyce.


Photos and, June 4, 2009, photo by Martin Argles

Malcolm Cowley, Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s, revised, Viking Press, 1964