Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween Countdown - Day 9

Today's post begins with a different kind of Halloween music. This country music classic reached #10 on the Billboard charts in 1974.

Our postcard is another nicely embossed 1909 issue featuring the work of Ellen H. Clapsaddle. She was the nation's leading postcard artist around the turn of the 20th century. She moved to Germany to enhance her career by working more closely with her engravers and printers. When war broke out Clapsaddle lost everything and had no way to return to the United States. After the war's end in 1918 she was found wandering as a pauper. Her American benefactors returned with her but she never recovered from the war's emotional damage and died penniless in 1934.

And here is a fitting poem about Halloween by Carl Sandburg from his Chicago Poems, 1916.

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ben Bradlee RIP

News sources are reporting on the passing of Ben Bradlee, the truly legendary editor of the Washington Post from 1965 to 1991. Robert Kaiser said this in the opening two paragraphs of his article for the Post:

Benjamin C. Bradlee, who presided over The Washington Post newsroom for 26 years and guided The Post’s transformation into one of the world’s leading newspapers, died Oct. 21 at his home in Washington of natural causes. He was 93.
From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.

Back in 2008 I wrote a post lamenting the decline in American journalism and wishing for a return to better times:

Wouldn't it be pleasant as well as informative to see the restoration of journalism standards that dominated major media throughout most of the 20th century? At least we would know where to turn - the editorial pages - for opinion. Don't get me wrong, I know the history of American newspapers is filled with bias, partisanship, and polemic....
When I lived in suburban DC (1964-76) I devoured the Washington Post in a fit of Potomac Fever almost every day. On vacations near Romney, West Virginia, I made a 60 mile round trip just to get the Sunday edition. That's bad fever. With Ben Bradlee as editor, and the extraordinary personality of Katherine Graham as publisher, the Post became a stellar newspaper. Toward the end of their reign in the late '90s, I believe the Post overshadowed the New York Times. Today, I don't buy either one, but I do review the Post daily as one would a hometown newspaper. As for the Times, I read the obituaries. Sometimes I wonder if they have a draft notice of their own demise. God knows they need it.

And here is what I said a bit over a year ago on the purchase of the Post by Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos:

We've had our disagreements over the past six decades, but I must confess to having a serious affair with The Washington Post. Haven't been on real speaking terms with the paper for the past decade or so, still, the secret admiration burns on. It's all part of my "Potomac fever." In fact, I wrote a friend yesterday about dealing with my Post Addiction Deprivation Disorder, the fear of not having the Sunday edition of the the paper rattling in my hands at breakfast. Yes, the Internet brings me the pixels; however, nothing can replace the smell and smear of the ink on my fingers.
Yesterday's purchase of the Post by Jeff Bezos ends the Graham family era of ownership and operation of a once-great newspaper. I image millions of readers would enjoy the restoration of the quality brought to the paper by the likes of Katherine Graham, Ben Bradlee, and Donald Graham. It will be interesting to see how Bezos treats his new acquisition.... 
I wish Bezos and the Post well. As for me, the affair simply marches on.

The affair marches on because journalists like Bradlee took enormous risks forging the paper into the nation's newspaper of record and setting journalistic standards recognized throughout the world. No question he left quite an impression on the American experience making 20th century journalism informative, investigative, and entertaining. Today's new journalism carries on much of what he did in a totally different environment. Whether or not that journalism can return successfully to a large corporate setting is a question for the future. Either way we can thank Ben Bradlee for getting it right. Very right.

Halloween Countdown - Day 10

In 1910 the mysterious "Katherine" mailed the postcard below from Camden, New Jersey, to my great uncle, Charles, who at that time lived in the railroad town of Piedmont, West Virginia. The family archives hold scores of postcards from Katherine but never reveal if she and Charles were more than friends. She did include a "friendly" message:

Dear Friend, Charles: I sincerely hope you are enjoying life to the full extent. I suppose you will be out for mischief tomorrow night. Halloween is always the biggest night in the year for me. Katherine

Today's music is perfect for spooky owls, fearful cats, and flying bats. Witches, too. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Halloween Countdown - Day 11

Here's a perfect bit of brew for our run-up to Halloween. I wonder how many people graduate from high school these days without reading these lines or better yet hearing them in performance:

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.
Enter the three Witches.

1 WITCH. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
2 WITCH. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
3 WITCH. Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
3 WITCH. Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Act IV, Scene 1 from Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare

Our graphic for today is an International Art Publishing Company postcard featuring the work of Ellen H. Clapsaddle. It's one of many the mysterious "Katherine" sent to my great uncle in 1911. 

We end today's edition with a dance. Be sure to click the "Show More" link for a description of the story behind the music and the music itself. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Halloween Countdown - Day 12

Today we begin the countdown with Bernard Hermann's theme for Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 thriller, Psycho. The American Film Institute ranked the score at #4 on its 100 Years...100 Films list. The film itself was ranked at #18 on the same list. Double quality creepiness!

And here to lighten the mood is another 1909 postcard featuring the art of Ellen H. Clapsaddle.

"For ways that are dark and tricks that are vain"  Watch out!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Halloween Countdown - Day 13

Jack-o'-lantern ghosts riding black cats across an early evening sky sprinkled with stars. A witch rides her broomstick across the face of a smiling full moon. This nicely embossed postcard was printed by the Samson Brothers, a New York publishing firm active from 1909 to 1919. Great Uncle Charles received this card from Katherine, an admirer who mailed it from Camden, New Jersey, in 1911. 

Boris Karloff (1887-1969) was an English actor best remembered for his roles in horror films. His appearance as Frankenstein in the 1931 version of the story thrust him into stardom. It was a character he would portray often for the next thirty years.  He did have a softer side: readers may remember him as the voice of the Grinch in the 1966 television production, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Other may recall his #1 hit song from 1962:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Halloween Countdown - Day 14

Here is another postcard illustration by the well-known American artist, Ellen H. Clapsaddle.

And here is some music to help set the mood. As we get closer to the big night expect the music to get, shall we say, a bit more intense: