Monday, March 29, 2010

Why I'm A Jeffersonian Democrat

If RNC Chairman Michael Steele and company really spent $1620.71 at "a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex," I bet you won't give the Republican Party any money either. If true, this is a disgrace. Paul Mirengoff has more at Powerline. If I just had to visit Voyeur West Hollywood I sure as hell wouldn't put it on my voucher.

UPDATE: The RNC reports that Steele wasn't there, was unaware of the incident, and would never approve of the behavior or its reimbursement. I bet there's a new directive on voucher reviews at the RNC.

An Empty Suit And Unrealized Expectation

You've heard me rave about how ignorant Barack Obama is when it comes to basic American history. William Katz has more on what he calls the Second Coming of Adlai in the White House. It's not an especially hopeful picture, and as Katz says, more like "Change we should never believe in."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Other Waltons

Simon Heffer, reporting for, has written an interesting note on the passing of Lady Walton, widow of the British composer, Sir William Walton (1902-1982). Walton was 46 when he met his 20 year old wife to be in Argentina. He proposed later that evening. Unfortunately, the fairy tale wedding did not extend into the marriage. It appears he treated her "monstrously" while feeding an enormous ego as "pet" to several benefactors and "the gigolo of various well-heeled women." Heffer writes that "his stomach never rumbled" as a kept man, hence, his musical output, though excellent early on and exhibiting great promise, ended being quite meager. Here is an example of that excellence:

Through it all, Lady Walton remained loving and loyal, and following his death in 1982, worked mightily to keep his music alive. Seems to be characteristic of several widows of English composers in the 20th century. Link here to see what she leaves behind for Sir William's legacy, the world of classical music, and her love of gardening.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flannery O'Connor

One of the nation's finest writers, Flannery O'Connor, was born on this day in Savannah, Georgia in 1925. Here is my blog entry from last year. Can't improve much on that entry; however, this informal video made by a visitor touring her farm, Andalusia, will elaborate:

I recently learned that the peacocks roaming the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, a Trappist community about three miles from my home, are descended from those at Andalusia. The story goes that there was no place for the peacocks at the farm after her death in 1964. The monks were quite happy to give them free range on their large estate. It's a pleasing link to O'Connor, reinforced by the ancient Catholic tradition of the peacock as a symbol of immortality.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Venerable Warthog

Long-time readers know how much OTR loves airplanes. For newer reader, let it be said that I spent most of my first nine summers in an around a recycled World War II Quonset hut in West Virginia. It served as the hub of the small fixed base operation known as Baker's Air Park. After that experience, I never saw an airplane I didn't like. Any hint of sound in the air or sight of a contrail and my eyes were skyward. Still happens today.

When we lived on the great salt marshes east of Savannah and under a magnificent sky dome, it was great fun watching the endless air traffic on the Northeast to Florida jet route. Closer to sea level, we saw any number of military aircraft, but watching the training flights of one aircraft in particular was always an air show. That aircraft was the A-10 Thunderbolt, fondly known as the Warthog. Thirty five years later she is still at the battlefront as an essential close-in air support weapon.

The Warthog is quiet, nimble and deadly. Not much to look at, she's still loved by pilots and mechanics alike as a reliable flying cannon that almost always returns to base, even when missing parts and filled with holes. Blogger-journalist Michael Yon, reporting from Kandahar Airport, Afghanistan, earlier this month, has posted a beautiful photo essay on the Warthog. Although this essay hit news outlets and blogs in quick order today, I simply felt it could not be overlooked so here is your link. Hope you enjoy.

For the aviation enthusiasts among us, here's an interview on the A-10 conducted by Aero-TV at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture 2009, Oshkosh, Wisconsin:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rush Week In The Congress: Going Greek

The health care "reform" bill is positive news for me in a quirky way. Many pundits are concluding that it won't be long before the United States looks like Greece. Perhaps it's time to return to the Sea Islands we have come to love. I always liked white exteriors with Greek blue accents. If the pundits are correct, I should be able to open my door and enjoy this scene in just a few years:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Can Dying Cities Be Saved?

Veronique de Rugy has a post at NRO applauding Reason TV's six-part series on the question of saving our declining cities. The series focuses on Cleveland, a city she notes ranked as the sixth largest in the nation in 1950. Here is your link to her post and more.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

War And History

This week, the Hoover Institution's video series, Uncommon Knowledge, hosted by Peter Robinson, features Victor Davis Hanson discussing his new book, Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern. Hanson is an outstanding scholar who sees the American experience the same way Kurt Vonnegut's alien Tralfamadorians saw time: like viewing the Rocky Mountains. Few historians have such a holistic grasp of the context of western civilization and what it means to be in this great national experiment we call the United States. Here's your link.

A Day For A Saint And A King

March 17 affords us an opportunity to not only celebrate a saint - the venerable Patrick - but also a king. The royal side of this pairing is the inimitable jazz pianist and singer, Nat "King" Cole, who was born on this day in 1919. I didn't prepare a biography today, but Scott Johnson did, and it's a fine tribute that includes two landmark performances.

I would like to add another video to the mix. This one features Cole singing with Johnny Mercer, the favorite son of Savannah, Georgia. Mercer is credited with discovering Cole in 1943 and developing his early career with Capitol Records, an enterprise founded by Mercer, Buddy DeSylva, and Glenn Wallichs the previous year. What a pleasure it is to watch these two extraordinary artists enjoying themselves in a fun performance on Cole's NBC television show from the 1950s.

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2010

Postcard from family archives, 1910.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Felony In The White House?

I wondered how long this administration could function with Chicago style politics and its hands paralyzed by ineptitude. Now Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), who can be a tad loopy at times, has called for an investigation that may have long and deep national and political impacts. The charges: potential bribery on the part of Democratic Party officials for offering jobs, and potential misprison on the part of Obama administration officials for not reporting the original crimes.

The national political scene has not been a hot topic at this blog for some time for two primary reasons. First, it's depressing and, second, you can only eat so many Tums in 24 hours. The potential of this story requires our attention though, as we spin toward another election cycle later this year. All indicators point toward a combative affair that could unhinge the collectivists and seriously damage the once-great party that welcomed them in coalition. That's what happens when the party in power goes beyond one of the most tried and true sayings about our federal government: the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. And just how have they exceeded this axiom? With this administration, the left hand doesn't know what to do and the right hand hopes what they're doing will bring change. Basically, the Obama method has taken a government that usually practices marginal competence to one that practices incompetence.

Such rank amateurism in high places opens doors for more than business as usual. Some of that process may result in noticeable errors. Some of those noticeable errors may result in law breaking. As I've said before in this blog, politics is an often nasty game of compromise. The back room is an essential part of the game and it's a place where the participants don't want to be interviewed for television or see people taking notes. When the left and right hands can't deliver a unified and effective product, the back room deals can boil up into news from the very lips of the insiders. That is precisely what's happening with Democrats Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff and their contention that they were offered jobs to step aside in their respective Senate races.

Frankly, reasonable American surely don't want a repeat of the Watergate years sapping our national energy. Nor do they want their country forced into a nanny state by Chicago style thugocracy. Where to go? What to do? Betty says it all:

Think I'll have a martini.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Defend Toyota Forever

There are four Toyotas in our immediate family, two Camrys, a 4Runner, and a beloved Previa. Each one is a stellar performer with no hint of "sudden acceleration syndrome" or other safety issues. We had our doubts earlier this year when a rash of claims suddenly hit the news and left Rust Belt congressmen frothing at the opportunity to crucify the competition for their state-owned Government Motors. [I will never own a GM car again.]Now a case in California has left the experts stumped. They cannot replicate the sudden acceleration claim by a Prius driver. Furthermore, the driver seems to be in a bit of a financial pinch, one that could be salved by a fat claim against the world's largest automaker. There's much more to the story. You can read the details here along with the fine commentary of William Katz blogging at Urgent Agenda.

[BTW We love our Toyotas]

Friday, March 12, 2010

"The Chilean Quake Shifted Enough Material to Change The Mass Balance Of The Entire Planet."

The recent 8.8 earthquake off the coast of Chile has shifted the Earth's figure axis by about three inches. For the geophysicist, it's significant. For the rest of us? We'll hardly, if ever, notice a difference. Still, it's a neat story and you can read it here at this NASA update, thanks to for the link.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Well Down The Road To Serfdom

Powerline has a short post by Scott Johnson that is filled with links describing the consequences of the combined impact of Obamacare and Obama-ed on the American republic. If you value your freedom, you need to read this post and links therein.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This story is all over the Internet, but it's simply too good for OTR to ignore. It's not that he's a beer aficionado. He does enjoy sampling the products of microbreweries around the country and doesn't object when his son keeps Heineken in the fridge. Still, his good life does not focus on beer. He does, however, relished opportunities to point out ludicrous and misplaced government intrusion in our everyday lives. Most of us know that the left hand of government doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Sending more than twelve cops to confiscate 60 gallons of "unregistered" brew in Philadelphia is a perfect illustration of this incompetence. Are you feeling safer yet?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lives Both Lived And Living

OTR regrets that his attention has been pulled away from his blog these last two months. One result has been the passage of several birthdays of those who have helped define our culture and, in no small part, shaped what makes OTR sit up and listen.

This is what we have missed: the photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, on January 1; the American singer/composer Iris DeMent and her enchanting voice, on January 5; Carl Sandburg, the Lincoln interpreter, voice of the Chicago image, the rough-handed working man, on January 6; the unsurpassed duo of Django Reinhart, January 23, and Stephane Grappelli, January 26, who gave us the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934; the English composer, Frederick Delius, January 29, who wrote some of the most beautiful, unique and difficult music in the western world; the mathematician/composer Philip Glass, January 31; and the Bambino at the bat, Babe Ruth, on February 6.

That's a long list, and OTR would have loved writing at length about every one of them. In all honesty, if he were to pick one individual it would be most difficult, but the honors would likely go to Frederick Delius, a remarkable force in music that has been a part of his life since 1968.

He remembers sitting at home in front of the old RCA color television console with his dad and certainly not anticipating any earthshaking entertainment. Suddenly he's hearing music the likes of which he has never heard before. In the next hours, watching Ken Russell's Song of Summer, the story and music of Delius's last years become a part of his world.

Delius is an interesting character in western music. He patterned much of his music after that of his friend and fellow composer, Edvard Grieg, but tempered it with English impressionism, his love of naturalism, and folk themes he heard among African American working on his father's grapefruit plantation near Solano Grove, Florida. The result was simply beautiful, but I think appropriately described as an acquired appreciation. In some respects, one could say that Delius has left us The Calculus of music. Here is an opportunity to explore The Calculus at its best as interpreted by Delius's close friend and advocate, Sir Thomas Beecham:

Years ago, I had the opportunity to sit alone on a dock watching the sunset across the St Johns River not far from Solano Grove. This music was in my head, and all the beauty of La Florida was in my heart. Delius had likely walked the river edge, watching the same sun glistening on the water, hearing the insects and the wind rustling the reeds and nearby palmettos, feeling the evening move over the landscape. It was an immersive experience for me. Events like that become fixed in memory and compel you to share them with those you love.

I suppose there is a story much like this one behind all of the shapers of the American experience that I have forgotten over the last eight weeks. That realization tells me it is much too precious to ignore the biographies that have made us what we are and what we will become. OTR promises to do better in the coming weeks.

For those who find Delius to their liking. I offer this as a somewhat deeper excursion into his complex world:

City Cycles

When OTR left his hometown more than fifty years ago, there were five major industries within an easy commute and thousands took advantage of the high union wages. Today, only two of those industries remain. Both operate at significantly reduced levels. One of them - the paper mill - may soon be on life support due to international trade and environmental issues.

Smaller towns, particularly those in the old industrialized East and Midwest, face similar challenges as the post-industrial world leaves its imprint across the national landscape. When all the variables are positive, the field of urban geography is filled with examples of persistent settlement. When we examine the record, it becomes clear that those variables will likely drive many if not most towns out of existence. It is a hard fate to accept when that town has birthed and nurtured those who can still remember the good times. USA TODAY has explored these issues in a story about Ravenswood, West Virginia. Link to the story here. Be sure to check the comments, now numbering over 1400 at the last update.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stick A Fork In It

William Katz/Urgent Agenda has posted what he calls is "a devastating blow to the global warming establishment" issued by the UK-based Institute of Physics. Comment and link here.