Monday, August 31, 2009

Arthur Godfrey Time

Today marks the birthday (1903) of one of the nation's most popular radio and television talk show hosts, Arthur Godfrey. He was born in New York City, served in the Navy and Coast Guard where he was introduced to radio, and broke into entertainment and civilian radio in Baltimore and Washington in the early 1930s. He also earned his pilot's license in 1931, an achievement that would lead to a distinguished role in military and civilian aviation. His Arthur Godfrey Time breakfast show was heard on radio coast-to-coast shortly after World War II. By 1952, it had joined his other program, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, on television. Without question, he was television's first star, rising quickly, then falling almost as fast, a victim of the darker elements of fame and ego. By 1960, he disappeared from regularly scheduled television and began a brief career in film. By 1972, the radio programs ended and his television appearances dwindled as the decade closed. He died in New York in 1983.

For a comprehensive biography, visit the Arthur Godfrey page on Wikipedia, especially if you're interested in the nasty details of his fall from television grace beginning in the mid '50s. There's an equally comprehensive bio with additional information at Godfrey's tribute at the National Aviation Hall of Fame. For more information on his impact in broadcast media, visit his page at the Museum of Broadcast Communication.

Godfrey developed a wonderful easy going, friendly on-air style that captured American radio audiences. That style, coupled with his big smile and his signature red hair made him a natural for television, and for print advertising. It is a role that is best seen to be understood. And thanks to the Internet Archive, we have this wonderful glimpse of Godfrey in action in 1955:



The pace may seem stiflingly slow and the format and setting anything but catchy, but it was the U.S. in 1955. The folksiness of it all was enough for Arthur Godfrey Time, his talent scout show and radio audience to attract over 80,000,000 viewers/listeners a week at its peak.

I never met the man personally, but geography made him close to the mill town boy you know as the Old Tybee Ranger. First, Godfrey was a regional radio and television celebrity, having made his start in the big cities a hundred miles east of my home town. My parents had listened to him almost from the beginning of his career. And second, fame bought Godfrey the 800 acre farm known as Beacon Hill, located on Route 9 just west of Leesburg, Virginia. He loved the place and spent most of his weekends there after four weekdays in New York. My family made many trips to Washington when I was a child and we always passed the farm. My dad made sure we knew when we were about to pass it so we could look for the horses, another of Godfrey's passions. I came to look forward to seeing the place, maybe not so much for the horses, as much as for the apples we'd buy at Senator Harry Byrd's orchard nearby if it happened to be Fall.

The third reason for the closeness comes from our shared passion for airplanes. Godfrey owned several planes that he flew either from the farm or from Leesburg's airport. As my loyal readers know, as a child I spent many vacations and weekends at a lodge in Burlington, West Virginia, about 55 air miles from Leesburg. For about twenty years following the end of World War II, Burlington was home to an active airfield and I knew the owner, Dave Baker, very well. The flying stories were endless and I was a willing listener.

Though he wasn't a frequent visitor, Godfrey made occasional fly-ins at Baker's Air Park over several years. In the '50s, it was quite an honor to have "your" airfield graced by television's most famous celebrity. It reminds me of visiting small town museums where the treasured display shows President Truman waving from his campaign train in 1948. Nevertheless, Godfrey's visits were the talk of the town for Burlington folks. Late one afternoon, the little airfield may have saved his life. He and a passenger brought in a twin engine aircraft - probably a Beech - with mechanical issues. With the plane repaired the following day, they continued on the return to Leesburg. I'll never understand how they got a twin engined aircraft out of that little dogleg of grass. They probably stripped the plane, released the brake with balls to the wall, and sampled the tops of the sycamores at the end of the runway. Actually, I don't recall if Godfrey was on board. Fifty or so years is a long time to remember, but it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't send the passenger home by car. For a pilot who at one time flew everything in the U.S. Air Force arsenal, lifting out of Burlington probably wasn't much of a challenge. It did, however, require a tempered ego to reduce the risk.

We know for certain he had both a temper and an ego, not an unusual combination for super successful people. And Godfrey was surely super and successful. He knew how to transcend the airwaves and come into your house for breakfast, make you laugh, maybe even sell you something you didn't need. It was television in it's first real decade in the U.S. And Godfrey transitioned his leading radio talk show into the leading television talk show almost overnight. It was the equivalent of going from silent film to talkies twenty years earlier. He made it look easy. He put the mill town boy and his mom and dad at ease, made good conversation, strummed the ukulele, sang a bit, made us laugh, then sent us off for the day. We had a good time. That's really because it was Arthur Godfrey's time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Airbrushing History

Ted Kennedy went a different route. He got kitted out with a neck brace and went on TV and announced the invention of the "Kennedy curse," a concept that yoked him to his murdered brothers as a fellow victim - and not, as Mary Jo perhaps recognized in those final hours, the perpetrator. He dared us to call his bluff, and, when we didn't, he made us complicit in what he'd done. We are all prey to human frailty, but few of us get to inflict ours on an entire nation.


Read the rest of Steyn's NRO post here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Rest Of The Story

Imagine a U.S. senator enlisting the Soviet Union to help his party defeat the president of the United States. Senator Ted Kennedy proposed this to Soviet President Yuri Andropov in 1983. The letter was found in the Soviet Archives in 1991. Peter Robinson has the sordid details here in his column at Forbes.com. Source: George Moneo, Babalu. I'll bet you won't hear about it in the state-run, mainstream media.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Manufacturing Consent

The Obama administration is poised to use the National Endowment for the Arts to affect policy. Read about it here.

In it's 45 year history, the NEA has never been used this way. One could expect it in collectivist regimes, the usual set of socialists, communists and fascists, but not in the United States unless there is a national emergency. We did have Federal Project Number One under the Works Progress Administration during the Roosevelt years. It was devoted to promoting the arts, but not as propaganda. That would change with the coming of World War II when the arts did play a policy role under the U.S. Office of Emergency Management.

Our times may be tough, but this recession is not as difficult as the one many of us faced in 1982. This issue bears careful watching as it has its roots in the leftist Saul Alinksy playbook for community organizers. Obama knows this playbook well, as does Hillary Clinton.

Edward Kennedy

Powerline's Scott Johnson and Paul Mirengoff(1) and (2), provide readers with an accurate assessment of Edward Kennedy's place in American history. One of my most respected sources, William Katz, offers his comment on the Lion of the Senate here on his blog, Urgent Agenda.

UPDATE: The Anchoress has a balanced appraisal with scores of links followed by several interesting comments. Could be the best link on the subject; it's showing up all over the Internet. My source: Blue Crab Boulevard.

Perspectives

With the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy, we'll be hearing hours of coverage about the thousand days of Camelot and the assassination of his brothers, John and Robert. The state-run, mainstream media will be declaring this as the end of the Kennedy dynasty, which it surely is, but they will likely contrast the quiet passing of Ted with the violent end of his brothers. The opportunity to turn this week of mourning into a political statement may be overpowering among some circles. Should this occur, readers need to be alert to the following:

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by an avowed communist, Lee Harvey Oswald;

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant, because he supported Israeli interests in the Middle East;

Senator Ted Kennedy's early support for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election derailed Hillary Clinton's campaign during a series of critical primary elections. Kennedy's endorsement at a time when the general electorate sought new leadership very likely sealed the party nomination and the presidency for Obama.

I will be watching how the old media and blogosphere treat these three historical events. I'll rest happy if they're played straight.

With Deepest Sympathy, Support Nationalized Health Care

On the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrats on the Hill are issuing statements embedded with messages to support the current health reform "bill" under debate as a tribute to the late senator. I find this rather shabby. Senator Robert Byrd even suggested naming the "bill" after Kennedy. It reminds me of the widely televised memorial for Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone during the 2008 campaign. Democrats turned it into a partisan political event, tarnishing what should have been an uplifting commemoration of a life well-lived. What's happened to class?

As for the "bill," if there is strength in numbers, our elected officials may want to quietly co-sponsor this disastrous legislation, but none of them would wish to have it named after them, living or dead. No question, Kennedy's passing will impact this legislation. The Hill has some comment here.

She Turned Me Into A Newt [Gingrich]

A few weeks ago, Eric Holder saw nothing wrong with Black Panthers using billy clubs to intimidate voters. Today, he thinks intimidating terrorists with cigars is a crime. Holder is the one who should be answering tough questions under oath.
Read the rest of it here.



Let the unhinged cheer. This show trial could destroy the Democratic Party as we know it - not a bad idea.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Colorado Democratic Headquarters Vandalized By One Of Their Own

We don't know if the vandals responsible for $11,000 in broken windows at the CDP headquarters were upset with their party's direction or simply involved in a setup to blame Republicans. Either way, Maurice Schwenkler, a suspect captured by Denver police definitely has connections to the left through work he performed in November 2008 for the Colorado Citizens Coalition. The 527 committee has ties to the Democratic Party.

A party spokeswoman originally blamed the damage on deranged right wing tea partyers opposed to Obama's health care proposal.

We're seeing more and more shenanigans these days, all contrived to project blame on innocent people and organizations. Some of this activity reflects the tactics and "rules for radicals" I have written about in several posts this year. I'm not saying those rules encourage lawlessness, but they do create an environment in which the rule of law can be threatened.

Borrowed Cash For Clunkers

The Cash for Clunkers program ended yesterday. Aside from distributing $2.4 billion - out of $3 billion - in borrowed money to Japanese automakers, increasing the debt load of thousands of Americans, and destroying perfectly usable vehicles, this attempt at stimulating the American economy will have other consequences. The editors of National Review Online provide some observations on the program. If anything, Cars for Clunkers will be remembered for reconfirming that, indeed, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

If you love cars as much as I do, the videos in the link will bring tears to your eyes.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stirring The Pot

I have no idea how the administration thinks these two decisions will benefit the nation and position the Democratic Party for success in 2010:

Holder to Appoint Prosecutor to Investigate CIA Terror Interrogations; and

Social Security Expects No COLAs for 2 Years

The unhinged lefty Bush Derangement Syndrome crowd will be the only ones cheering this interrogation by the time it ends. If the forces of radical Islam stage another successful attack - it won't have to be large - on American soil, this administration and its party will be finished.

And what happens if inflation hits the economy later this year as many economists expect? I can see Social Security officials making this call for 2010, but why do it for 2011 in such a volatile economy?

UPDATE:

Dr. Sanity has a great post on these stories as a deflection from the woes infecting the administration. Stay tuned for more.

Never As Easy As It Looks

Change is never easy, especially when things are going well. We can only imagine the pressure on Conan O'Brien as he follows Jay Leno, Johnny Carson, Jack Paar, and Steve Allen into The Tonight Show. Tom Shales has this to say about it in today's Washington Post.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Genius For Our Time



Stravinsky's Firebird will be a century old next June.

Going, Going, Gone Online

The Times Online has an interesting piece about the Ann Arbor News, a paper dating back to 1835, and its recent transition from press to Internet. This is a story that will be coming to more and more readers as journalism continues to make the transition in smaller and mid-sized markets. It is a trend I accept with mixed emotions.

Minus Fourteen And Still Sinking

Rasmussen's daily tracking poll of likely voters continues to show President Obama slipping in its approval index. The full report from Rasmussen is here. As always, Powerline and Urgent Agenda have worthy comments. It is hard to believe that 41% of likely voters strongly disapprove of our president's performance this early in his term. Obama may have thought he got a mandate from the voters, but he was very, very wrong.

CBS And Fidel Castro

Here is a very different perspective on CBS icon Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes, who died last week. Source: Babalu.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

MANzine

Several of my sources have referenced MANzine lately. The computer already eats up too much of my day, but I finally checked it out and was very pleased. Interesting range of articles, easy layout, well-written. I'll be visiting often.

Oil Contracts For Dying Terrorists

It seems there was more than compassion driving the release of the Lockerbie terrorist. The New York Times has the story here. Here's the story from the Times Online across the Atlantic. And still more from the British perspective here in the Telegraph. No one ever said politics was an honorable game.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Afternoon White House News Dump

Word is out that the Obama White House missed its estimate on the size of the ten year deficit. Unfortunately, if will not be $7 trillion, but more like $9 trillion. A trillion here, a trillion there . . . .

The story is breaking everywhere: Blue Crab Boulevard has its say; Drudge has this report from Reuters as a big, bold headline.

Let's not worry though. Its a weekend of football, the beach, party time, and forgetting about the weekday grind and daily news. This story will bleed all weekend to a distracted electorate. By the time the White House issues something official, the news will trickle into the state-run mainstream media as a lukewarm story.

BTW The president left for a ten day vacation in Martha's Vineyard a few hours before this story broke. Very convenient, but rather obvious. I suspect the people will catch on.

Video Pages To Appear In Magazines

Imagine flipping through a magazine and coming to a page featuring video. The same technology we have enjoyed in audio greeting cards is behind this new development. You can see for yourself in the September 18 issue of Entertainment Weekly sold in the Los Angeles and New York markets. BBC News has the story here. My source: Instapundit.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

White House Learning Curve

This post at NRO tells us more about the knowledge base at the White House. Could be worse, but still very revealing. I'd like to see the college transcripts of these power brokers.

This Tragedy Has No Deus Ex Machina

Victor Davis Hanson reaches deep into Greek thought to define debt as a fate from which the United States has no easy escape. Reminds me of time present and time past in time future.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Science, Journalism And Clam Farts?

Our friends at Blue Crab Boulevard picked up a revealing story about the results we have to endure sometimes when journalists write about science. The BBC wrote the original story. The blogger known as AJStrata (The Strata-Sphere) shredded the science. Gaius (Blue Crab Boulevard) reduced the story to clam farts.

(Nothing beats the aroma of a plate of steaming littlenecks.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Government Motors Volt Jolt

The Chevy Volt is an economy car with a $40,000 price tag that will be reduced perhaps as much as $7500 with a tax payer subsidy. Even with the subsidy, you will not break even until the odometer reaches 160,000 miles. Are you laughing yet? William Katz has some painfully humorous commentary and a link to the original story posted at his blog, Urgent Agenda. Read it here.

Robert Novak

My great uncle Charley was a small roller in the stock market in the late 1950s, but still subscribed to The Wall Street Journal. I'm not sure what it did for Charley, but it introduced me to the political observations of Robert Novak, a columnist and pundit I have enjoyed for half a century.

Novak died yesterday. James Joyner has posted a summary of fitting tributes at Outside the Beltway.

Horrible Murder In Knoxville

Michelle Malkin has followed this under-reported, racially sensitive case for over two years. "Horror" is the appropriate word for this crime. Political correctness will keep you from hearing about the event and subsequent trial in the state-run, mainstream media.

Breitbart On The Bush-By-Proxy Syndrome

As soon as this column by Andrew Brietbart reached an audience - probably sometime early Sunday - it was making news. Bloggers were talking first. It was everywhere on talk radio yesterday and on Fox News during prime time. The column is another fine analysis of how the left uses the tactics developed by Chicago's Saul Alinsky, the "father of community organizing" and how and why those tactics may be turning on Democrats.

If you were tuned into politics in the '90s, you already know about the "politics of personal destruction" as practiced by the Clinton administration. It comes from Rule 12 in Alinsky's Rules for Radicals and was practiced extensively against George Bush. But Bush is out of the picture now and the flailing about for new victims has exposed the leftist strategy for the pure, destructive hatred that it is. Breitbart has hit a nerve.

James Taranto has a nice followup article in today's Opinion Journal.

Escape From Paradise

With the recent visit to Cuba by the lefty fringe of the Congressional Black Caucus, you'd think that paradise island was Eden. Four Cuban basketball team members apparently weren't very happy in paradise after playing a game in the Canary Islands. They missed the return flight and are likely to claim political asylum. Babalu has the details here.

Woodstock: Forty Years Ago

Half a million people. Thirty-two acts. No, I wasn't there, but the music was and it is still very much alive.



Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rasmussen Poll: Obama Slide Continues

Rasmussen is reporting the worst number yet for President Obama it is daily tracking poll of voters. An astounding 41% strongly disapprove of his performance after eight months in office.

Power To The Internet

If you want to see the power of the Internet at work, check out this post at Patterico's Pontifications on Maria Isabel. She was a player in Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee's infamous town hall meeting last week. There was plenty of material to write about coming out of that meeting. I chose the cell phone story. The meeting also featured Roxana Mayer, posing as a physician. Isabel invited Mayer to attend that evening. And Maria Isabel? Many of you will remember her from this photo, taken at the Obama campaign headquarters in Houston. Bloggers at Babalu recognized her. Isabel and Mayer had front row seats at Jackson-Lee's town hall meeting. We shouldn't have any problems connecting the dots here, thanks to the Internet and its aficionados. Not only did we have plants with the AstroTurf - Houston, no less - we also had Che. Should be no question that these folks do not have the interests of the Founding Fathers in mind.

Scott Johnson at Powerline - my source - has some additional comments and links here.

National Review, August 24, 2009

National Review is a consistently good read for anyone, politics aside, simply because it is the written word at its best on world affairs. Sometimes NR outdoes itself. The August 24 issue is one of those times. The cover story on Barney Frank and his role in the American mortgage industry disaster provides readers with a window revealing fundamental power and procedural issues infecting the Hill./ Other highlights include articles on the following: how California immigration is helping the state "catch up" to Mexico, what Sarah Palin can teach prospective winners about managing an election, that illegitimacy equates to poverty and we have a fifty year history to prove it, how the new wave of recent immigrants will congeal rather than melt into the American pot, and a collection of Afghan "postcards" drawn by NR's resident artist, Roman Genn, following his recent trip. There's more, but I'd be reciting 80% of the index page.

If you ever wanted to drop $4.00 on a copy and give it a try, this issue is worth every cent. The print magazine has been delivered to my family for two generations, but I highly recommend the digital subscription; however, the digital version is available free to print subscribers. For more information, go here.

And, no, I'm not getting a percentage.

Deadly Missile Test In May?

Was there or wasn't there? The Jerusalem Post reports via a Japanese news service that a missile test conducted jointly by Iran, Syria, and North Korea failed, killing twenty civilians and injuring another sixty or more. The Post states that it can't confirm the report, but William Katz supplies us with a succinct conclusion about dealing with rogue states in today's edition of Urgent Agenda.

Katz is quite correct that these events don't make good headlines and can be easily overshadowed by flashier news. The backstory here should provide all the information our government needs to confirm the intentions of states operating on the edge of reason.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Risable Dr. Strangelove Moment

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, answered her cell phone while being asked a question at her town hall meeting this week. Scott Johnson (Powerline) has posted a brief, priceless commentary on her attempt to answer a simple question - and video to prove it - from CNN's Rick Sanchez regarding her behavior. As Johnson concludes, "This video has [to] be seen to be disbelieved."

Taking It

Babalu's Val Prieto reminds me that it is time to post this again:



Network (1976) A most prescient piece of film making.

Victor Davis Hanson On Things To Come

Victor Davis Hanson recently returned from one of his many extended lecture and study tours in Europe. Over the past four decades, he has observed the slow and steady growth of socialism on that continent. His latest Works and Days column has some thoughts on socialism and its application to the American experience. Most readers aren't going to enjoy what they read in this column, but Hanson's style and wisps of humor always help the medicine go down. In my humble opinion, he is to the contemporary American political scene what Richard Feynman was to physics.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul (1915-2009)

Les Paul died today at age 94. Paul had more impact on American music - maybe Western music - over the past sixty years than any other person. Read more about this amazing inventor, innovator and performer here.

Sigmund Freud Touches America, 1909

A century ago this month, Sigmund Freud made his celebrated visit to the United States and delivered his series of famous lectures at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Daniel Akst writes about this visit and its impact on the nation in his post at today's Opinion Journal. Here is a brief audio statement Freud made for the BBC in 1938 about a year before his death:

Beware The Granny Gang

Democrats Pelosi and Reid have expressed their fear of senior citizens bearing torches and pitchforks to the nearest town hall meeting. There's nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution, but wealthy old people who vote - usually for Democrats - should be the least of their fears. Jon Henke has the appropriate take on all of this in his post at The Next Right, including a shortened version of this:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camille Paglia Has Growing Doubts

She admits no buyer's remorse on her part about supporting Obama in 2008, but Camille Paglia's Salon.com article today shows there is trouble in paradise among Democrats. Airwaves and bloggers were buzzing about this all day.

I think the Chicago politics is starting to show big time out of desperation by the White House. It's a close-knit crew there; the Chicago way is the only way with our Community Organizer in Chief. Trouble is it doesn't work everywhere and the learning curve just seems to get long and longer.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From 1938, A Sound Apart

The politics of the day wore me out hours ago and it looks like the Perseids will be obscured by overcast tonight. I found a diversion:



The DeZurik Sisters were the first women to achieve stardom on both the National Barn Dance and the Grand Ole Opry. We simply do not hear music like this today.

Monday, August 10, 2009

John Hughes: Chronicler Of The American Teenage Experience

The passing of Budd Schulberg was not the only loss in the entertainment industry this week. John Hughes, a much younger writer, producer and director, also died. Being a bit busy raising children and a tad too old, I missed most of John Hughes's films in the '80s and early '90s. By the time my kids reached their teenage years, Sixteen Candles (1982), The Breakfast Club (1985), Weird Science (1985), and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) , had become a rite of passage. And they were cult films for the "old" Gen X'ers who saw them in their original release.

Writing on National Review Online, Mark Hemingway shows us that, in spite of the wackiness on film, Hughes sent his readers home filled with lessons in good, old-fashioned American family values. Those lessons are the glue that holds our seemingly fragmented society in a delicate balance. He was a rare individual who knew how to package glue successfully. It's too bad Hughes left us so early because I suspect were going to need plenty of glue in the coming years.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Budd Schulberg's America

Popular culture plays an enormous role in shaping American experience. I've written about it before, but the passing of Budd Schulberg gives us another opportunity to explore the significance of one of those shapers. I know very little about Schulberg. That's going to change based on Scott Johnson's tribute at Powerline. Here's a brief sample:

In his politics, as I understand them, Schulberg was an old-fashioned anti-Communist liberal. A man of enormous gifts, Schulberg displayed personal integrity of a kind one can only hope to emulate. He refused to stifle his voice on the order from his fellow Communists or repent his testimony repudiating his past allegiance to please latter-day leftists. His death marks a loss to American letters and the passing of a living link to American history.

The New York Times's Tim Weiner provides us with an informative obituary that includes a photo essay and video. If you're interested in more, the link in the obit's first line will take you to 29 diverse articles about Schulberg's life and work.

Georgia Congressman, David Scott, Rants At Constituent

The republic flourishes when there is spirited debate; however, it usually doesn't come down to an elected representative of the U.S. Congress unloading on those he represents. David Scott was my representative until redistricting a few years ago. I respected him at the time, but no more. It's obvious from the video below that he has no respect for people who don't look and think like him. It is unfortunate that, in all likelihood, he will continue to be reelected based on the non-merit factor of race. This guy is a pathetic loser.



If you are not a minority and happen to live in Georgia's 13th Congressional District, I'd say you have no representation in the House.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Perseid Meteor Shower - Heads Up!

It's that time of year again, my friends. The most reliable meteor shower of the year reaches its peak Tuesday and Wednesday night, August 11 and 12. A waning moon will provide some interference, but there is good news as well. Earth will pass through some significant debris trails this year and skywatchers could see upwards of 200 meteors per hour at these times.

Although the hours of midnight to dawn usually make for good viewing, these times may offer a spectacular display, especially in North America:

Night of August 11/12, midnight to 4:00 AM, EDT; and

Night of August 12/13, 8:00 PM to 2:00 AM, EDT.

Gather family and friends, find an open sky away from city lights, bring blankets or lawn chairs, insect repellent, and food, then enjoy the show.

For more information, check this page from NASA, this page from the American Meteor Society or this site from MSNBC's science and technology pages.

Photo: Perseus with the Head of Medusa, Antonio Canova, c. 1800, Vatican Museum.
P.S. OTR loves puns.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Harry Patch: The Last Fighting Tommy

Harry Patch died in late July. He was the last Briton to fight in the trenches of the Great War. Times Online has a "must see" photo essay on his last years and military funeral.

White House "Punches Back" With Union Thugs

The White House wanted supporters of health care reform to start attending this summer's town-hall meetings. The Service Employees International Union took up the challenge and attended meetings. in St. Louis and Tampa. Moonbattery has a scary perspective on this development. There was violence involving union thugs at both locations, the worst assault occurring in St. Louis.

Here is raw video from that assault which resulted in six arrests, including three SEIU thugs:



Read the details here and here, taken from a Powerline entry. As the last link states, the intimidation and violence coming from these thugs is the Chicago way. The Chicago way has now become the American way under the leadership of Barack Obama. It is going to be interesting between now and September when Congress reconvenes.

The rebellion has begun. Union intimidation and violence against those opposing the Obama administration will backfire mightily. The victims will be Democrats in the House who represent center-left districts. I expect many of them will be packing their bags after the 2010 elections.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cosmic Mariner - Destination Unknown

He was born in Savannah in 1889 and lived in an elegant townhouse on Oglethorpe Avenue across the street from Colonial Cemetery. He often played in that ancient burial ground amidst tabby crypts and tombstones where the mortal remains of many of Georgia's aristocracy found rest. From the time he was eight or nine he wanted to be a poet, soon found himself captured by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and happily sharing the terror with his brother and sisters.

With his parents immersed in Savannah society and surrounded by wealth, privilege, and pedigree, he seemed destined for success. After all, his father was a successful New England physician and both parents had a long heritage steeped in unitarianism and transcendental thought. But all was not well. One day, when he was eleven, he returned home to find his mother shot to death, his father dead by suicide. Conrad Aiken's world changed forever that day and he would never fully recover from the horror he saw.

Separated from his brothers and sisters, young Aiken lived with relatives in New England, but never felt he had a home. After attending private schools, he studied at Harvard under the guidance of philosopher and writer, George Santayana, and struck up a life-long friendship with fellow student, T. S. Eliot.

Aiken wrote lyrical poetry, weighted with symbolism and psychological exploration so deep that, in his own words, "Freud was in everything after 1912." By 1920, he had moved predominantly to prose expressing his "faith in consciousness" and endless search for knowledge as the means to quell his personal chaos and bring order and structure to the larger consciousness of the world. In all, he wrote or edited fifty books, including his poetry, short stories, five novels, and one autobiography.

For all of his output, Conrad Aiken never achieved the level of fame of his good friend, T. S. Eliot, or other contemporaries. There are several reasons for his obscurity. He was deeply introverted to the point of being clinically shy. His shyness led him to avoid readings that, for a poet, were lifelines to his audience. Furthermore, he chose to be a most candid critic, a posture that did not endear him to his fellow writers. And finally, during his middle years, he was a resident of both the United States and Europe. Many writers, benefactors, and salons on both sides of the Atlantic could never quite identify him as one of their own. By 1960, he had been resident in the U.S for some years and "rediscovered." Aiken eventually returned part-time to the elegance of Savannah. He spent the winters living next to his boyhood home and became the focus of social and academic circles and sought out by admirers until his death in 1973.

If you wander toward the eastern bluff in Savannah's magnificent Bonaventure Cemetery, you will arrive at Aiken Way. There, with the vast salt marshes of the Wilmington River spreading out to the distant treeline, you will find a memorial bench Aiken installed before his death. Next to it is a headstone bearing the identical death dates of his parents, an eerie reminder of the chaos we all face in our lives.

For those of us who have found our peace, there is a profound release there under the live oaks and Spanish moss. Others may not be so fortunate. Aiken is one them. In life, he was restless, a constant searcher forever sailing through an uncertain sea. He felt the same about death and wanted us to know. How fitting it was that he should find his epitaph quite by accident while perusing the Savannah newspapers. It appeared in the daily list of port activity and read simply: "Cosmic Mariner - Destination Unknown." Aiken indeed saw himself a cosmic mariner who arrived in this world on this day, August 5, 1889. On August 17, 1973, he cast off without a port of call, destination unknown. He left behind, engraved on the bench the wish, "Give my love to the world." It is a rather confident wish coming from a restless sailor. We can pray that every man should find safe harbor, all the while knowing that we are not the final judge of his navigation. We are left merely to explore the products of a shy and troubled man who could appreciate a bawdy pun and have his say in singing words and lilting prose.


Read more about Conrad Aiken and his work at these sources which form the core of my blog entry:

The New Georgia Encyclopedia, Conrad Aiken, entry by Ted R. Spivey
Wikipedia entry, Conrad Aiken
Conrad Aiken: Prodigy Unitarian Poet, by Richard A. Kellaway
The Art of Poetry No. 9, Conrad Aiken, The Paris Review

Decriminalizing Most Illegal Drugs: Another Take

The late, great soul of the U.S. conservative movement, William F. Buckley, Jr., began advocating for the legalization of most drugs in the late 1990s. He recognized that our "war on drugs" was a massive strategic failure from many perspectives ranging from public health to government intrusion. Outside the Beltway has an interesting take on legalization and one of its immediate effects, increasing life expectancy, as well as its impact on the concept of nationalized health care.

More On The Cloward-Piven Strategy: Forcing Political Change Through Orchestrated Crisis

I've written before on the Cloward-Piven Strategy and its use by the Obama administration. It is closely related to more than one of Saul Alinksy's rules of organization for mass power put forward in his book, Rules for Radicals. Several administration initiatives - the clunker program, health care, cap and trade - are swirling about us this summer. With that in mind, I feel it's time for another look at Cloward-Piven and its application to political tactics and strategy coming out of the White House. Any parallels there? You bet.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dog Days

Atlanta is in the midst of its "dog days." Climate data tells us that on average the warmest days of 2009 are behind us. The Sun casts ever longer shadows as it arcs lower across the southern sky. Leaves hang limp on trees catching more and more of that light, giving the woods a golden hue, even at midday. The aging summer has also brought this years acorn crop to maturity. I can tell because the squirrel community in our woods is working overtime on the harvest. They litter the patio daily with twigs, leaves, and broken nuts, making for a big mess as well as hazardous grilling "under fire."

Calm days and high temperatures also lead to popcorn thundershowers that meander across the region waiting to die out as fast as they are born. They bring powerful lightning, the positive strikes that start fires, inches of rainfall, high wind, and pea sized hail. In all, a big punch for such a small footprint compared to the supercell storms on the Great Plains.

Weather isn't the only sky phenomenon at this time. Early Perseid meteors remind us that the most dependable star shower of the year is coming, reaching its peak in the early morning hours of August 12, just before sunrise. This year's shower competes with light from the Moon that will wash out the dimmer meteors. One of my earliest memories is seeing a meteor blaze across the sky from my crib at a bedroom window. My Aunt Edith was there and she told me what it was. I have waited for and watched this shower annually for over sixty years.

The dog days will stay with us for a week or two, then yield to more comfortable temperatures, moderated even more by occasional easterly waves bringing showers and salt air off the Atlantic. The sound sequence of crickets to cicadas to katydids will come earlier and earlier each evening. I'll continue to enjoy it because I thrive in warmer weather. I see the dog days as summer at its fullest. The season may be half over, but there is another half to come. Easy for me to say, but, then again, I am a Libra.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Photographic Copy Of Art Is Not Art

The U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York ruled recently that "exact photographic copies of public domain works of art [are not] copyrightable under U.S. law because they are not original." The ruling has huge implications for museums that have established Internet archives of photographic copies of their collections. Read more about this interesting legal issue in this article from Opinion Journal.

This case is a prime example of why it is sometimes better not to seek a legal opinion or decision on a bothersome issue.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Politics Of Fat

Like millions of other Americans, I've been fighting a war with my weight. The big battle started with marriage and children, when time became precious and running - in the park and on the beach, no less - became a low priority. My knees didn't take kindly to all those years of pounding exercise, so these days the workout is confined to my stationary recumbent bicycle, and landscape and garden maintenance. Another option presented itself last week when my sister-in-law won a national award from the American Volkssport Association. Imagine happily wandering one's way to health and you have the picture. Options for doing so in most Atlanta suburbs are limited, but we'll try. My personal role in the nation's war on fat begins with my first step.

And based on personal observations, there should be plenty of people taking the first step. That is a significant change from twenty years ago when obesity was more the exception than the rule. If you're interested in this problem, its cost to all taxpayers, and honest proposals to solve it, read this article from today's Opinion Journal. There will be no safe quick fix to this issue until we have a few more breakthroughs in genetic research. For now, we're left with solving it the old-fashioned way. That reminds me it's time for my bike workout, followed by a calorie conscious snack.

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