Saturday, December 31, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Seventh Day

Sometimes there is Christmas music without instruments and singing. Here is A Child's Christmas In Wales, surely one of the finest pieces of prose ever written in the English language, ever spoken by its author:

My father read this piece to me when I was a young boy and I wondered why. When I became a man with distant Christmas memories, I understood, and read it to women I loved. Later, my children would hear it in loving memory of their great grandmother, Elizabeth Jones, born in the U.S. of parents who immigrated from Cardiff, Wales, around 1870.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Sixth Day

The Boar's Head Carol dates from 15th century England. The presentation and feast it describes likely has pagan origins as do many of our Christmas traditions. In the U.S., restoration of this traditional whole pig roast, complete with apple, appears to be strong among churches and colleges. Here is a bold treatment of the carol by Steeleye Span and Maddy Prior:

The boar's head in hand bear I,
Bedeck'd with bays and rosemary.
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio (Translation: As many as are in the feast)


Caput apri defero (Translation: The boar's head I offer)
Reddens laudes Domino (Translation: Giving praises to the Lord)

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck'd with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico. (Translation: Let us serve with a song)


Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio. (Translation: In the Queen's hall)


Lyrics: Wikepedia
Photo: Christ Church, Cincinnati

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Aviation in Film History: Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines

In 1965, movie mogul, Daryl F. Zanuck, produced Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines. Directed by Ken Annakin and starring Stuart Whitman, this humorous film featured several replicas of flying machines, both successful and unsuccessful. It consistently ranks as one of the best aviation films, providing viewers with over two hours of exceptional film making and solid performances from a first-rate cast of comedians.

Here's a trailer to whet your appetite for some good fun:

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Fifth Day

 Of the Father's Heart [Love} Begotten is a plainsong carol based on the 13th century setting, Divinum Mysterium,  and 5th century texts taken from the writings of the Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Fourth Day

Fantasia on Christmas Carols, by the timeless English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Third Day

The concluding recitative, chorale, and chorus da capo from Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Part III, Music for the Third Day of Christmas.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Second Day

The Sinfonia from Part II of Bach's Christmas Oratorio.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The First Day

Exult! Rejoice! Awake! Glorify the days! Praise what the All Highest has done today! Set aside fear, banish lamentation, swell full with joy and merriment! Serve the All Highest with glorious song! Let us worship the Lord!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011

Quiet sounds as Christmas Eve surrounds us...

First, a carol by the English composer, Gustav Holst (1874-1934), with words by the poet, Christina Rossetti (1830-1894):

1. In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

2. Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

3. Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

4. Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

5. What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

...and second, a carol by the American modernist, Charles Ives (1874-1954), one of the nation's first internationally known composers:

Little star of Bethlehem!
Do we see thee now?
Do we see thee shining
O'er the tall trees?
Little child of Bethlehem!
Do we hear thee in our hearts?
Hear the angels singing:
Peace on earth, good will to men!

O'er the cradle of a King,
Hear the angels sing:
In Excelsis Gloria, Gloria!
From his Father's home on high,
Lo! For us he came to die;
Hear the angels sing:
Venite adoremus Dominum.

N.B. Ives wrote this piece in 1894 when he was twenty. Though it may sound conventional, a careful listen reveals bits and pieces of experimentation that he and his father, a bandleader, conducted with music. In time, the younger Ives would develop such an original style he would be virtually unknown and unappreciated in his lifetime.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sun Belt Resurgens

What kind of migration patterns could the United States experience once our economic downturn ends? Current data suggests that growth in the Sun Belt, excepting California, will resume with the big winners being Texas and Florida. You can read more about the Sun Belt comeback here at New Geography. The post has several interesting links for demographics junkies.

So who is leaving for fun in the sun? Here is a link at Gateway Pundit to a new study by the Illinois Policy Institute showing the state has lost one resident every ten minutes for the last fifteen years. And here is a link to the more complex story in California where numbers have stabilized in the last year, but the characteristics of the population continue to change significantly.

H/T: Instapundit, The Gateway Pundit

Music For Christmas 2011

Irving Berlin
It wouldn't be Christmas across the nation without some reference to Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Bing Crosby's recording of this nostalgic wish for home and family remains the #1 top selling - 50,000,000 - single record of all time. Mark Steyn has posted an informative look at the song in an audio interview with Berlin's daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett. Along the way, you'll learn plenty about American music history and hear some fine renditions of several songs. Your link to this thirty minute interview is here. Yes, it may be a bit long, but you can enjoy it while doing some light surfing on the electronic highway.

Bing Crosby on the 1959 reissue of his best selling single

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011

From the brilliant American composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre:

calida gravisque
pura velut arum,
et canunt angeli
molliter modo natum.

warm and heavy
as pure gold,
and the angels sing softly
to the newborn babe.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Nation's Bellwether State Meets The Dark Ages

As a farmer, scholar, and writer grounded in reason and history, Victor Davis Hanson is one of our most significant interpreters of the contemporary American experience. His most recent essay appearing in National Review Online is a combination of beautiful, descriptive prose and urgent politics. The story involves Selma, California, and elsewhere in the Central Valley where  modern-day Vandals are destroying civility while the powers in the city-states on the coast sustain the policies that will surely undermine what gold is left in the Golden State.  California has been a reliable trend-setter for the nation over the last sixty years. That we have no reason to think this role will end makes Hanson's words important for the rest of us.

Music For Christmas 2011

The distinguished British composer conductor, John Rutter (b. 1945), is especially loved in the United States for his melodic purity and simple yet beautiful instrumentation. Here is one of his best loved compositions for the season:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aviation In Film History: Strategic Air Command

Here is the second entry in our new series about airplanes and Hollywood.

In 1955, Jimmy Stewart - a celebrated United States Army Air Forces flyer and superb actor - and June Allyson starred in Strategic Air Command, a 1955 film best-known for its aerial sequences involving the Convair B-36 Peacemaker. This behemoth of an aircraft was powered by ten engines, six piston and four jet. It still holds several superlatives - largest, longest, first, and more - sixty years after entering service as an early weapon of the Cold War.

The B-36 dwarfed the B-29 Superfortress, the largest aircraft in service in World War II.

Only once did OTR see this magnificent aircraft in flight, but it left a lasting impression on a kid already fascinated with flying machines.

Here is the Peacemaker's takeoff sequence from the film:

And here's a brief video on the B-36 story:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

Today, bloggers and pundits across the Internet are writing about the passing of Christopher Hitchens, certainly one of the most entertaining political writers of the last thirty years. He covered a broad range of the political spectrum in his own way, personally and professionally, over the years, becoming more pragmatic and conservative after the September 11, 2001 Islamist attack in New York. Whether readers loved or hated him, they had to admire his skill with both language and humor. Here is a sample of what others have said:

James G. Wiles at American Thinker
Ronald Radosh at National Review Online
John Derbyshire at National Review Online
Steven Hayward at Power Line

And here is a collection of "his most memorable bons mots" selected by editors at The Guardian. The column to the right of the article has links to additional commentary from his fellow Brits.

Central Planning

We in the U.S. will be suffering a long time from the unrealized expectations of universal homeownership brought to us by Freddie, Fannie, statists like Barney Frank, and the private sector porkers in the banking and real estate industries.  It is a mere shadow of things to come from an executive unschooled in the history of the failure of state-controlled or centralized planning. Here is an example of what a controlled economy can produce in terms of both infrastructure and potential social instability. The Chinese government is building scores of these empty cities in an attempt to grow its annual gross domestic product by 8%. The policy has fueled speculation to the point that only the wealthiest citizens can afford to live in them. But who would live in a city without an economy or even the smallest hint of community? Chinese leaders are about to learn the hard way that their "build it and they will come" policy comes without a guarantee.

Here is another link discussing the pop in China's property bubble.

It is interesting how history is there for the taking, how it is indeed cyclical, and how it is repeatedly ignored.

H/T Instapundit
Photo: Ghost city in China

Monday, December 12, 2011

Aviation In Film History: Flying Down To Rio

OTR grew up around airplanes. He was up close to the surplus Cubs from World War II and the small home-builts at the air park across the road from his family's summer cottage. He recalls how odd it was that he never flew in those planes. As for the larger aircraft, he had to settle for running out of the kitchen on hearing the roar of multi-engines at low altitude and looking up, astounded, at the B-36 Peacemaker cruising above the puffy cumulus. Wonderful. He so appreciated the endless aviation themed films about World War II and the new U.S. Air Force. In time, his interests broadened, but he never lost enthusiasm for movies about flying. Here's a brief scene from one of his favorites, Flying Down to Rio (1933), discovered long after childhood's end:

Hooray for Hollywood!

N.B. This film features Fred Astaire paired with Ginger Rogers for the first time, and is notable for its cast and music as well as the flying sequence.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Walt Disney, The Imagineer

OTR's made some efforts recently to get away from playing the role of aggregator on the Internet. On the other hand, he doesn't mind backsliding a bit when it comes to the subject of Walt Disney and his "world." Our friends at PJMedia have posted an entertaining article by Chris Queen that lists Disney's greatest innovations. Some are well-known, others not so.

One thing is certain: the Disney effect permeates art and entertainment today. Those of us who still have our Davy Crockett watches likely understand this impact. Younger readers probably know about the Disneyland-Disney World stories, but there is much more of the story they should know. The link, with its several short videos and links, is here.

H/T Instapundit

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Voyager I Enters Purgatory

In September 1977, NASA launched Voyager I, a cosmic traveler designed to explore the outer planets in our solar system, then accelerate beyond into space. Voyager has just now reached the edge of our system and entered what astronomers call a "cosmic purgatory" where the Sun's energy "wind" falls back on itself. So what is in store for this craft now that it is 11 billion miles from the Sun? For the next eight years, its instrument package will relay information on space itself.

After those years pass, Voyager will fall silent, but its journey will continue until ending in one of perhaps three likely scenarios. First, the craft could be a "cosmic mariner" for all time. Second, it could be destroyed either by any one of billions of objects in the universe or by an alien culture viewing it as a threat. Third, it could be discovered, recovered, and studied by a culture that viewed it more as a curiosity. They would not be disappointed.

Voyager I carries the Golden Record. It is "a twelve-inch gold plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on earth." We can only imagine their reactions to the sound of thunder, surf, wild dogs, a F-111 flyby, a human heartbeat, or to a diversity of music.  Here is the final selection from the Golden Record:

Seems quite fitting for our traveler - Voyager, drifting in emptiness, will not pass close to another planetary system for 40,000 years.

Note: Most of the audio selections from the Golden Record are available on YouTube. It's an interesting listen. For an explanation of the diagram, go here.

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

This is the 70th anniversary of the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on the U.S. Navy's base at Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor, October 30, 1941

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Photo taken by a Japanese pilot during the torpedo attack on Battleship Row, visible on the far side of Ford Island.

There were almost 4000 casualties that day, including 1200 dead.

The attack led to a war effort that included 16,000,000 American men and women in uniform. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans writes that only 1,700,000 of these veterans survive and they are dying at the rate of 740 a day. Soon, the relics, memorials and ceremony will be all that is left to testify to America's greatest generation at war. If we are to survive, we need to remember them now and in the future for what they did to crush evil in the world.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Sacred Harp of Hoboken, Georgia

This past weekend, there was a Sacred Harp concert in a small church in Oxford, Georgia, a ten mile drive east of OTR's woods. Sacred Harp has nothing to do with a frame with strings. The only "instruments" are human voices singing four part harmony. Sacred Harp, a form of shape note singing, originated in 1844 with the publication of a songbook of the same name by Benjamin Franklin Wright (Harris County, Georgia) and Elisha J. King (Talbot County, Georgia).  Their work enabled untrained voices to worship with polyphonic, harmonious song. After a century and a half, the unusual cadence and harmony of the Sacred Harp survived only in a few places, mostly in the South and Midwest. Today it enjoys a resurgence - thanks in part to the Internet - and enables listeners to hear the past singing in the present. In the following videos, readers can hear Sacred Harp from Hoboken, Georgia.

And here is an example of how Sacred Harp has entered the world of entertainment:

For more information, visit this page at the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Last Boy Scout

Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback, and former Florida Gators star, is a great passer, a savvy runner, and an unabashed Christian. The first two attributions fit quite well into the world of professional football and its fan base. The third item, especially Tebow's public demonstration of his faith on the field, doesn't sit so well. Some players have actually mocked him and others have expressed contempt for his "too good" lifestyle. Granted, Tebow is an anomaly in a violent sport world. That doesn't bother OTR. What does bother him is what Tebow's reception on the field, among the fans, and in the sports press says about what Americans have become in the so-called Post-Christian Era. National Review Online's Daniel Foster has some observations on Tebow and his impact that readers will find enlightening.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Season of Advent

Luke 1:46-55 records the wonderful Song of Mary, also known as the Magnificat. The song was the devotion at our Evening Prayer Service tonight. There are many setting for it, but Johann Sebastian Bach has in OTR's opinion left us with the music of Heaven here on Earth. Here is the first part of his Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

My soul glorifies the Lord

The remaining eleven parts of this performance by Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra are on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Goes

And what does this November mean to you as it passes into memory?  Perhaps it is the peaceful acceptance that there is no summer without winter, much in the same way that there is no love without loss.

Simply beautiful work.

The Wilderness of Manitoba is a new group from Toronto. OTR thinks we'll be hearing much more from them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

From the good aromas in the kitchen to the savory feast on the table, the OTR household wishes you and yours a most happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Buy the perishables, mis en place in the kitchen, and set the table...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Humor.

OTR heard a reference earlier in the day to the American illustrator, Leslie Thrasher. He was a contemporary of OTR's grandparents, and born and raised in his little hometown nestled on the Potomac River in the Appalachian Mountains. Thrasher and his better known contemporary, Norman Rockwell, shared many characteristics both in terms of style and philosophy. His career was booming in 1936 when a fire in the family's summer home claimed his life and most of his work. With that tragic event, Thrasher was left to history and remembered in brief flashes of recollection by those who knew his name. OTR's dad knew the Thrasher family and talked often about how proud the Tri-Towns were of their well-known illustrator. Here's a very seasonal recollection from Thrasher's world:

Thanksgiving 2011

Clean the house and prep the service...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Turkey thawing in the fridge...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

To celebrate Thanksgiving 2011 we'll be featuring a vintage postcard each day this week. The postcards come from the family archives and date from 1908 to 1912. Hope you enjoy them.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Johnny Mercer: Too Marvelous For Words

Today marks the 102nd birthday of Savannah's favorite son, Johnny Mercer. Readers are aware that OTR knows a thing or two about the life and times of this remarkable personality. As a lyricist, composer, performer, businessman, and philanthropist, Mercer shaped much of the American popular music industry for forty years, beginning in the mid 1930s.

Two years ago, OTR wrote a seven part series on this man whose talent left us with almost 2000 published songs--and a few thousand unfinished pieces-- and a host of images in song that continue to entertain us more than thirty years after his passing in 1976. He can't improve on these posts so will link to them in this post for your convenience and enjoyment. Readers will find that several of the YouTube links are inactive, but don't worry, there are dozens of new Mercer uploads just a search away.  The original Mercer essays are:

Day One: Mercer's Early Years
Day Two: Hoagy And Hollywood
Day Three: Sense Of Humor
Day Four: The Bread And Butter Songs
Day Five: On Line And Print References
Day Six: Personal Favorites
Day Seven: Cover Artists And Organizations Keep The Music Alive

Hope you enjoy these posts as much as OTR enjoyed writing them.

There are some additions to the body of work by and about Mercer. In late 2009, Kimball, Day, Kreuger, and Davis published The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer. This 500 page hardcover is the seventh volume in Knopf's Complete Lyrics series. In addition, a huge number of new music issues featuring Mercer and those who have covered his music have appeared in the last two years. Readers should consult their favorite sources for more information.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

When The Wind Is Passing Through

Imagine writing this when you are totally deaf. Imagine writing this in 1826. If there ever was a piece of music out of it's time this is it.

Heavy rain, lightning, thunder, hail and high winds swept across Atlanta earlier. Outside at this hour, the moon sits overhead, waning from full, and gray scud races across the sky out of the southwest. Somewhere, the Leonids dance to the music in the sky.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy DC: Dying Media And Depressing Entropic Urbanism

You're going to enjoy Steven Hayward's superb six minute Power Line production on the Washington Post's interpretation of the Occupy DC settlement. The Post writes that the new town in McPherson Square is "a mix of both admonition and promise," and "something new" for the arts and design community.  Hayward proceeds to show and tell us otherwise.

Note on the video: If you were like OTR, the amazing clip on proximity in Bangkok likely piqued your curiosity in the rest of this TED program by futurist, Stewart Brand. Here's the link to this sixteen minute video.

H/T to OTR's daughter, another observer of the American experience.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Music From Prairie Wind

Sounds for a warm and rainy evening.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

Thank you to all the American veterans who have served to keep their people safe and their nation strong. In OTR's family, there were two veterans he knew well, Uncle Hollis, better known as "Red," and Uncle Charles. Both served in the Pacific during World War II. In 1943-44, Red was assigned to Barber's Point Naval Air Station in Hawaii while his brother-in-law, Charles, served at Pearl Harbor. The facilities were a mere five miles apart but almost one year passed before they knew it. On hearing the news, they resolved to meet for a photograph at the first opportunity. Here's that photo, taken at Waikiki with Red (l) and Charles (r) together at last.

Both returned safely to their Potomac Valley hometowns in the Appalachian Mountains near Cumberland, Maryland. Hardly a decade passed before the declining economy in the region forced them to relocate to better job opportunities. Red moved his family to Akron, Ohio and had a very successful career with Goodyear Tire and Rubber. Charles took his family to the booming oil industry in Houston, Texas and work in real estate management. Both are gone now, along with their wives, Edith and Dorothy, and contact with the cousins, a victim of time and distance, is rare these days.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time To Make That New Year's Party Punch

One thing you won't find in this recipe is the lady's stocking, soldier's sock, and a bit of soil returned from the unit's latest combat deployment. So much for authenticity.

Yes friends, the introduction means only one thing: it's that time of year to assemble and ferment your Chatham Artillery Punch, a great American holiday beverage best described as a nuclear rumtopf.  You can find the traditional recipe for fifty servings here at one of OTR's 2008 posts. And this somewhat over-the-top video illustrates what you're getting into when you make this wonderful Savannah original that dates from the colonial era:

Fermenting a batch for eight weeks will yield you a wonderfully smooth and deceptively powerful treat. A small serving, including some fruit, will go a long way whether you serve it in cups or pour it over ice cream. Either way it's delicious, but OTR's native Savannahian friends would shun him for suggesting it with ice cream.

Footnote: The Chatham Artillery survives today as the 1st Battalion of the 118th Field Artillery Regiment of the Georgia National Guard. Their latest service was in Iraq. Their annual banquet is moving into its third century.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

West Side Story: A Film At Fifty

Hard to believe, my friends, that this film has reached the milestone of fifty years since its release in late October 1961. West Side Story followed the Broadway production by about four years and possessed all the groundbreaking elements in story, sound, and dance that would make it an enduring work.  It won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Here's a trailer to enjoy:

What would Will Shakespeare think!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gram Parsons's Cosmic American Music

Today, OTR commemorates the birthday of Gram Parsons, the singer and songwriter who sought the fusion of rock and country into what he called Cosmic American Music. Parsons died young, and well-before he was acknowledged as one of America's most influential innovators in the world of popular music. Most authorities credit him with founding the country rock genre.  He leaves behind a wonderful legacy of sound through his membership in three bands, the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers; his solo work, and a legendary association with Emmylou Harris.

Parson would have been 65 today. Here are the Byrds performing his song, "One Hundred Years From Now," on their groundbreaking album - and Parsons's concept - Sweetheart of the Rodeo:

 And here he is as lead vocal on "Hickory Wind," another of his compositions - this one with Bob Buchanan - recorded for the same album:

Parsons passed away in 1973 with hardly a decade of musical composition and performance behind him. Though his life was short, his influence on music was profound, and OTR and his other fans hope that music will live on for generations.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Homage To The Waning Sunlight Days

The world is well past September's Vernal Equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, we begin this month with the Sun's zenith racing south, our daylight shrinking, and nature cooling into a period of rest. Our garden moved inside earlier and we restored firewood to the hearth. The blue sky behind the fall palette of our woods turned gray by supper and rain fell hard by dark. In silence we talk to faces in the fire of the green months and the promises of holidays and future time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spreading The Wealth Around In 1934

Some weeks ago, OTR decided to take a break from domestic politics as a core theme for his blog. Political discourse is everywhere on the Internet and, if you have enough years in the American experience to remember the better times, most of that discourse is painful if not downright frightening. But ignoring pain seldom leads to a better outcome, especially when the learned physician, history, renders such a clear diagnosis.

In 1934, most Americans were adjusting to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's year old administration as it introduced a government-directed economy as a means of overcoming the Great Depression. That same year, in Louisiana the populism of the previous generation merged with the Marxist zeitgeist sweeping Europe. The personification of that movement was Huey Long.

Dave Blount, posting at Moonbattery, has this to say about Long:

To this day the name Huey Long rightly fills freedom-loving Americans with dread, because he personified the threat of the same collectivist totalitarianism that produced Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Soviet Russia taking root on our soil.

Blount's post also links to Long's Share the Wealth plan, a scheme bearing a scary resemblance to the hope and change proposed by Barack Hussein Obama. Blount continues:

The mentality represented by Obama and the Occupy Wall Street crowd isn’t new. Neither is the economic peril that makes us vulnerable to it. What would be new is the sufficient lack of character for Americans to succumb to it.

We have been there before. This is a wake up call we cannot ignore.

All Saints Day 2011

Today, Christians throughout the western world commemorate the faithful who have gone on to their reward In Heaven. Is there a better way to honor these saints than through the joyful noise of a magnificent choir of Welsh voices? OTR thinks not. After all, there must be some long-lost cousins there.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

OTR sends you best wishes for a safe and happy Halloween!  This unused 1909 postcard features the work of Ellen Clapsaddle, the most popular postcard illustrator of the time.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Countdown -1

And another unused 1908 postcard from the family archives.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Countdown -2

Unused postcard, ca. 1910,  from the family archives.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Countdown -3

Here's another card from Katherine to Charles. This one is postmarked from Camden, New Jersey, October 30, 1911. No message this time.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Countdown -4

Here's another postcard Katherine sent to my great uncle, Charles. It's postmarked October 30, 1910, Camden, New Jersey.  Seems sending several postcards to the same recipient on the same day was a popular activity.  The message:

Dear Friend: Because I have not written do not think I have forgotten you. I am alive and enjoying life. Have just finished breakfast at 4:30 a.m.  Kate

OTR wonders if she had breakfast after a night on the town or just got an early start to her day.

Dylan Thomas: My Birthday Began With The Water Birds

Yesterday we recalled the birthday of South Carolina's Lowcountry author, Pat Conroy. By coincidence, today marks the birthday of another writer immersed in the themes and images of coastal living. His name is Dylan Thomas, the Welsh writer whose poetry and unforgettable voice brought him great fame in the United States in the decade prior to his early death in New York in 1953.

Thomas and his native land have special meaning to OTR as his great grandparents immigrated from Cardiff, Wales, to the United States in the 1870s.  Though he never knew his grandmother - she died before his birth - OTR's father often recalled how she took pride in her Celtic roots and the Welsh love for song and singing.

It is interesting that he should remember the talk of song and singing. Many critics and authorities write that Thomas's recitations are spoken words that approach song. Readers can reach their own conclusion by listening to the poet reading Poem in October, his recollections of his  thirtieth birthday. Audio quality isn't the best. OTR suggests earphones and closed eyes for this sound journey if you choose not to read along.

What an unforgettable voice. OTR was in elementary school when he first heard a recording of Thomas reading his work. He doubts few students in any grade have that opportunity today. How unfortunate that education has come a long way since then, but not all of the change has been positive.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pat Conroy: Treasure Of The Palmetto Coast

 OTR scoured his Internet sources today looking for a post or two about the birth of the American novelist, Pat Conroy, born in Atlanta on this day in 1945.  Alas, there was nothing to find and he was left with the happy task of writing a few words about the author and his work.

Even in his fiction, Pat Conroy has a way of writing about himself and all of us as we face the challenges and adversities - mental and physical - of growing into young adulthood and beyond. Stated another way, Conroy has extraordinary skill in probing the long childhoods many of us face as we grow old. For him, it's an arduous journey, carried out with the same reality that comes with recognizing nature as a cruel mother. Yes, there is beauty and light along the way, but the mountains can't stand without the valleys, and Conroy's reality has its share of darkness. Some may not enjoy that journey, but it is a good dose of reality and OTR and millions of other readers hold Conroy in high esteem.

In 1977, Conroy's book, The River is Wide, was hardly five years old when OTR moved to the edge of the ocean east of Savannah and a mere five miles across the sound from the book's setting on Daufuskie Island. In a matter of months, OTR succumbed to life on a sea island and having lived there for eleven years - there's a poem about it - was never quite the same.  The coast obviously had a similar effect on Conroy a decade earlier, and  over the next forty years he would blend his experience with the Lowcountry setting and produce many books. His latest, My Reading Life (2010), is a memoir of sorts recalling his love of reading and listing the essential and influential books in his life.

Twenty years have passed since those days when OTR sat reading in his den, feeling and hearing the low frequency vibrations from ship screws in the channel a few thousand feet away. That may seem like an odd recollection from the complex experience of the natural setting and its cultural overlay, but it approaches the unique and remains one of many fond memories. For the most part - small flashes of creativity being the exception - OTR simply enjoyed them. Pat Conroy, on the other hand, took the everyday and unique events in his life journey and turned them into some of the most lyrical writing of our time.

Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina lowcountry is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes.
                                                                The Prince of Tides

Halloween Countdown

What fun we have on Halloween!

In 1910, OTR's great uncle, Charles, received this postcard from his friend, Katherine, in Camden, New Jersey. She wrote:

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

Charles turned 34 that year. He was a successful small-town banker who like many of his generation never married. We have scores of postcards from Katherine in our  archives, but she never signed her last name, and to this day she remains a mystery woman to the family. If there was some mischief going on, it belongs to the ages.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Autumn Serenade

Perfection for a perfect autumn day.

During his lifetime, Johnny Hartman may well have been the most under-appreciated singer of the jazz-pop era in the 20th century. Coltrane, an incomparable jazz saxophonist, liked Hartman's sound and had wanted to work with him, but Hartman never saw himself as a jazz singer. They recorded on March 7, 1963 and the product was an immediate success. Fifty years later, with a boost from the soundtrack of the film, The Bridges of Madison County (1995), the late Johnny Hartman got the recognition he deserved and the classic album, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, became legendary.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Early Autumn

Perfection for a not so perfect cold and rainy day.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Ides Of October Past

There is a new generation there these days, all strangers. And the cultural imprint left by those he did know years ago continues to fade away. The gleaming white post and rail fence is all but gone. The cedar pavilion where he played for hours on end, observed the Westvaco picnickers enjoying their Labor Days, and listened to local old time music and fire and brimstone preachers lies in ruin. All the playground equipment - massive and unsafe by today’s standards - shining in its blue, yellow and red paint disappeared. The drive-in theater next door closed a generation ago along with the little air field across the highway. Only the nature endures.

Today, the sycamores along the river may be a bit taller, but they still explode in yellow this time of year along with his favorite walnut tree. And the young maple he climbed as a boy has matured into a massive Fall fire tree. Sixty years ago, he watched when the men brought in their bulldozers to reshape the creek bank and channel. The stone beach they built was much safer for the generation of bathers who enjoyed it, but the creek remembered this affront. Over time, its flowing waters restored the original course and bank to a scene his grandfather enjoyed in the 1930s.

Time can bring change to his “campground,” but it cannot erase the memory of this childhood paradise.

For context, here is OTR's original story, "A Fall Tradition Remembered," posted October 15, 2008
Every October 15, my mind floods with wonderful memories. From birth through my 27th year, the date marked an important event. The story descends out of my dad's membership in the Uniform Rank of the Knights of Pythias. The URKP was an elite military-style company within a fraternal organization born out of the search for national reconciliation following the Civil War. Every good military organization needed a campground, with lodging, mess hall, recreation pavilion, and parade. The URKP had theirs in the small village of Burlington, West Virginia. It also served as a regional park, complete with playground, and was often rented for the day for family reunions, company picnics, church functions, and other large gatherings.

"Camp" at Burlington was paradise for a young boy. A creek bordering the camp offered hours of fun. You could explore the woods and fields forever. The frequent social events made the playground a great place to meet new friends. But "camping" at Burlington was, by no means, a wilderness experience. We were lucky to use a cottage that had every comfort of home. And there was a drive-in theater next door where I enjoyed the snack bar as much as the movies. Across the road was a small airfield with several Taylorcrafts and Piper Cubs, and a hangar that gave birth to many "homebuilts" over the years. I can say with confidence that Burlington was never boring.

Through the summer of 1974, I spent many weeks at "camp" every year, including several weekends of "cold camping" in the off-season. Opening the cottage and grounds for the summer, though exciting, was not especially memorable. Freezing temperatures lingered into May, so the campground usually opened on Memorial Day weekend. On the other hand, winterizing the place was like saying "Goodbye" to an old friend. Thoughts of family, friends, the big fish, fireworks, that scary movie, the old biplane, all those memories accumulated over the past six months filled your mind. Amid the blazing gold sycamores, brilliant fire oaks and maples, the smell of wood smoke, and a harvest of black walnuts,

we went through the years-old closing procedure until the last item - pouring anti-freeze into sink traps - was checked.  At that point, it was time to load the car, proceed with all those repetitive tasks one does "just to be sure," then close and lock the big red door until Spring.

As American society changed, the URKP fell out of fashion. Lodge members grew old and passed away. In 1974, the lodge itself and all its assets dissolved. I haven't locked that big red door for 34 years now, but I still have the key and a remarkably detailed mental picture of the cottage and landscape that I loved.

In many ways, Burlington is with me every day, for the experiences helped shape my personal values, career, hobbies, and general interests. The impact has been so profound that I have asked my children to do their best to provide the same opportunity for their own families.

In weaving all of the memories about this weekend, I ask you, my readers, to do the same: Find a nearby paradise and escape to it often while your children are young. There will be no sorrow there.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Roger Williams: American Pianist, 1924-2011

The noted American pianist, Roger Williams, passed away last Saturday (October 8) at the age of 87. His Wikipedia entry notes that "Billboard magazine ranks him as the top selling piano recording artist in history with 18 gold and platinum records to his credit." In tribute, here is his last hit recordings, the theme from the 1980 film, Somewhere in Time.

Older boomers will remember him well for his 1955 recording of Autumn Leaves, "the only  piano instrumental to reach #1 on Billboard's popular music chart."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prohibition Comes To PBS: Don't Miss It

If you're curious about the prohibition of alcohol in the United States, OTR supposes one could always read a general history book or two. For those who seek a more vivid source of information and some entertainment as well there is a new alternative. It is the work of  documentary filmmakers, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. well-known for their films on the Brooklyn Bridge, the Civil War, baseball, and much more. In Prohibition, they have given us another superb window into our past through their usual fusion of historic images, academic commentary, participants, and music.

This production is an efficient one coming in three episodes totaling about four and one half hours. It has good balance exploring both sides of the issue, but has no qualms about exposing the folly of attempting to legislate morality. That said, one cannot watch this program without seeing the remarkable - perhaps astounding and unsettling - similarities between our earlier war on alcohol and our current war on drug use. OTR will leave it to viewers to draw the conclusions. The important instruction here is a simple one: if you enjoy American history, don't miss Prohibition.

Time for a touch of Dickel on ice.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day And The New World

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Obama Lola Lola

As OTR sits gazing across the early fall pastels in his woods, he thinks of the incredible seduction of the American voter by Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in 2008. How could the electorate make such a poor decision? Emotions and unrealistic expectations? Yes. Looking back, it's almost laughable how easily people can be deceived. But we live dangerously without reason and practicality. The great German director Josef von Sternberg captured this to perfection in his 1930 film classsic, Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel).

Der Engel is a cabaret featuring the stunningly beautiful Lola Lola - Marlene Dietrich - as its star performer. She encounters an accidental - and most innocent - patron, Professor Immanuel Rath - Emil Jennings - whose infatuation with her leads him to a sad end.
The following scene - Lola's flirting, Rath's almost child-like behavior - is a perfect analogy to Obama's 2008 performance and the voter response:

Downright sleazy, wasn't it. Just like the campaign rhetoric, in hindsight.

This performance - like Obama's - was star-quality. Fortunately, Dietrich's talents were such that she went on to a fifty year career as one of the world's most cherished entertainers.  Not so for Obama. Perhaps he could have a future if the Chautauqua movement, less its religious accessory, spontaneously revived.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October...On And On


And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care

And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
And on

Friday, September 30, 2011

See The USA In Your Classic Chevrolet


What fourteen year-old kid didn't love cars around 1960? OTR was no exception, and he kept the evidence to prove it. Just imagine, my friends, there was a time in the U.S. when a maintenance reminder was much more than a simple email message or robo-call.


It was a very good year....

and just so you Ford lovers don't feel left out...