Monday, December 31, 2012

Music For The Seventh Day Of Christmas

Medieaval Baebes

Gaudete is a Christmas carol with origins that extend into the Middle Ages of Europe. The Latin lyric first appeared in print in a 16th century collection of Finnish/Swedish songs. The tune is derived from early church  music. This performance is by the British vocal group, Medieaval Baebes.

Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus/Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!/Out of the Virgin Mary, rejoice!

Tempus adest gratiae/The time of grace has come -
Hoc quod optubamus/What we have wished for,
Carmina taetitiae/Songs of joy
Devote reddamus/Let us give back faithfully.

Deaus homo factus est/God has beciome man.
Natura mirante/To the wonderment of Nature.
Mundus renovatus est/The world has been renewed
A Christo regnante/By the reigning Christ.

Ezechielis porte/The closed gate of Ezekiel
Clausa pertranistur/Is passed through.
Unde lux est orta/Whence the light is born.
Salus invenitur/Salvation is found.

Ergo nostra contio/Therefore let our gathering
Psallat  iam in lustro/Now sing in brightness
Benedicat Domino/Let it give praise tot he Lord:
Salus Regi nostro/Greeting to our King.

Sources: Wikipedia

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Music For The Sixth Day Of Christmas

Today's Christmas song is the Christmas song of songs, White Christmas, debuted by Bing Crosby in the 1942 film, Holiday Inn. He reprised the song in a 1954 "remake," White Christmas, but the film, even in color and the first in VistaVision, simply doesn't hold up to the original for most film buffs.  To be fair, there is enough divergence in the story lines and music to make both films enjoyable, a point that may be vigorously discussed by those who choose to have a "battle of the films" on some cold evening during the holiday.

National Review Online's Rich Lowery has provided us some interesting background on the song in an article published on the big day.

Rudyard Kipling: An Author For Our Times

Today is the birthday of the British writer, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). He was the product of both India and England and infused his writing with the essence of Victorian times and the adventure of empire. Political correctness over the last fifty years has sadly pushed him into literary obscurity in most of academia, but he remains a beacon of reason and rhetoric especially among centrist and conservative thinkers. His works for children have never lost their popularity among young readers.

Kipling and his wife spent about five years living at Bliss Cottage near Brattleboro, Vermont, just prior to the height of his career.  In was in this setting that he produced some of his most memorable work, including the Jungle Books, a short story collection entitled The Day's Work, his novel Captain's Courageous, and a volume of poetry, The Seven Seas.

Our political and cultural slide to the left in the last few decades has brought Kipling's appreciation of realism to the fore.  One of his most quoted poems that speaks to the necessity for reason and the folly of cultural relativism is The Gods of the Copybook Headings. Many readers have inquired about the poem since it appeared in this blog a few years ago. Here it is again for the uninitiated and those in need of a Kipling booster:

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Postscript: OTR first read this poem several years ago in a National Review post. He agrees with an Instapundit reader that this is a good time to revisit its wisdom.

Savannah's Christmas Punch: Complete With Socks, Rocks, and Nylons

It's time to prepare the punch for Twelfth Night - January 5, or the night of Epiphany, January 6, in some traditions - that most ancient festival on the eve of Epiphany.

In 1977, I was introduced to Chatham Artillery Punch at the Lion's Den, a nook-like lounge in the DeSoto Hilton in Savannah. The punch reminded me of rumtopf, only it was better. Much better. The container - pictured - was as elegant as the beverage. The Chatham Artillery, the elite military unit for which it is named, is one of the oldest in the nation and has a storied history of defending Georgia and the United States for over two centuries, including service in Iraq. Today, the unit serves as the 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery. The punch always graces their celebration of Saint Barbara's Day and Christmas. I can think of no better way to end a traditional celebration of Christmas in Georgia than with one cup of this wonderful drink. And I do mean ONE cup.

In my opinion, the following recipe - derived from several formulations and an archival source that shall remain nameless - captures the historic flavors nicely, although, I'm sure they varied over the years, depending on the ingredients at hand. (A Georgia National Guard newsletter noted that a pair of soldier's socks, the stockings of a soldier's wife, and sand from Iraq were added to the punch in 2006.) We're not going that far.

Chatham Artillery Punch (for 50 guests)

2 quarts of strong green tea (soak about 1/4 pound of tea for a day, then strain)
Juice of 10 lemons
1 1/4 pounds brown sugar
2 quarts Catawba wine (a red muscadine will be easier to find and work just as well)
2 quarts Santa Cruz rum (use Virgin Islands style rum, light or dark)
1 quart brandy
1 quart dry gin (I like the flavorings in Bombay Sapphire)
1 quart rye whiskey
3 pints Queen Anne cherries
3 pints pineapple chunks
3 quarts champagne

To prepare, sterilize a 5 gallon crock or similar vessel. Mix the tea and lemon juice, then dissolve the brown sugar and gently stir in all the alcohol except the champagne. Add the cherries and pineapple chunks carefully. Cover the crock tightly and sit aside in a cool, dark place for at least one week. No sampling allowed. To serve, pour the mixture carefully over a block of ice, add the champagne, and stir gently. Never refrigerate to cool ahead of serving or serve with ice cubes.

This is a deliciously smooth, flavorful and potent drink to be enjoyed responsibly in an appropriate setting. It is not for every party. Also keep in mind that the longer it ferments, the more powerful, deceptive and tasty it becomes. I once brewed a batch for eight weeks. It was legendary.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Music For The Fifth Day Of Christmas

It wouldn't be a true family Christmas unless OTR paid homage to his Welsh ancestry; therefore, tonight's music for Christmas is a familiar carol sung by the superb Welsh bass-baritone, Bryn Terfel.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Oscar Levant: The Unsurpassed Wit Of Hollywood

OTR is a day late with this post, but it won't stop him from honoring one of Hollywood's most brilliant and talented personalities, Oscar Levant (1906-1972). We're approaching fifty years since he was active as a concert pianist, composer, author, actor, and comedy genius, and he's likely unknown by many young people who would appreciate him.  Here are some memorable moments from his career:

Levant was a close friend of George Gershwin and considered the best interpreter of Gershwin's piano music after the composer's death. In this clip, Levant  plays the piano and sings in the 1951 film, American in Paris:

And here is Levant in The Band Wagon (1953), a production often considered with Singing in the Rain as the best of the MGM musicals:

Levant was a psychiatric wreck for a good part of his life. He turned his illness into laughter through a notable series of appearances on late night television's  The Jack Paar Show:

Finally, there is Levant, the writer. He wrote three memoirs, two of them best-sellers. His Memoirs of An Amnesiac (1965) is a recollection of his often weird and tattered life as well as a tour de force of wit and wisdom aimed at Hollywood's famous and infamous personalities beginning in the 1930s. Though a bit dated,  readers with some knowledge of the golden age of Hollywood would certainly find it an entertaining read.

Recently, there was some talk in Hollywood of making a feature length film biography of Levant. OTR thinks it is about time this often overlooked entertainment genius got some notice. For certain, there is enough material out there to fill a series of films.

Music For The Fourth Day Of Christmas

Time to celebrate our Christmas feasting with music.

Never really enjoyed food that looked back at me, but OTR can make exceptions...often.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Music For The Third Day Of Christmas

The Descent of Peace                     William Blake, ca 1815

The American composer, Morton Lauridsen, captured the awe and mystery of Jesus's birth so perfectly in his setting for O Magnum Mysterium, an ancient chant from the Christmas Matins.

O magnum mysterium/O great mystery,
et admirabile sacramentum/and wonderful sacrament,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natun/that animals should see the new-born Lord,
jacentum in praesepio/ lying in a manger!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera/Blessed is the Virgin whose womb,
meruerunt potare/was worthy to bear,
Dominum Christum/Christ the Lord.

Careful observers may notice that The Descent of Peace is a somewhat unusual Nativity image. For the curious, here is an interpretation of the painting and a window into the mind of William Blake

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Favorite Scenes From A Century Of Cinema - 2

1927 theatrical release poster

Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) remains one of the most defining works in motion picture history. In this scene the scientist, Rotwang, transforms his "Maschinenmenach" into an evil duplicate of Maria, a beautiful and innocent woman who lives in a vast worker's city beneath the towers of prosperity that rise above it.

When you see Rotwang at work in his laboratory, you are looking at the model for 85 years of  madmen, laboratories, set design, and cinematography in science fiction films. If you like science fiction, Metropolis is a "must see."

Music For The Second Day Of Christmas

Frederick Delius in 1907
Here is music written for the winter season by the British composer, Frederick Delius (1862-1934). It's quite appropriate for this Christmas as many Americans may find themselves slipping and sliding down the road and through the woods all week.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Music For The First Day of Christmas

Holst, ca 1921          Photo by Herbert Lambert         
Christmas Day, by the British composer, Gustav Holst (1874-1934), best known for his composition, The Planets.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dylan Thomas Reads His Christmas Memory

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

What follows has been a favorite in OTR's family for fifty years. Without question it is one of the finest readings in  the English language. And it is our gift to you in this holy season.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Robert Bork, R.I.P.

A generation is more like a century in the age of 24/7 news. For that reason, news of the passing of Robert Bork, a legal scholar whose 1987 Supreme Court nomination created a firestorm, will last only hours. What  survives is the controversy surrounding the man and the impact his personality has on the nomination process.     National Review Online has a fine series of posts on Bork by Ramesh Ponnuru, Steven Calabresi, John O'Sullivan, Mark Steyn, and Jay Nordlinger. Additional tributes are available on the December 20 page. Andrew Cohen presents another view of Bork in his post at The Atlantic.

OTR remembers the nomination hearing quite well, but what he remembers most about Robert Bork was this most enjoyable article he wrote for National Review on the reelection of Bill Clinton for a second term. Kudos to Katherine Jean Lopez for posting this essential piece which would otherwise be hidden behind the NR pay wall.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Music For Advent - The Fourth Week

The Annunciation                                                Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

Wake up, a voice is calling!

Sleepers, Awake!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Favorite Scenes From A Century Of Cinema - 1

This post begins a series of OTR's favorite scenes from the movies.  We'll  post one a week for three or four months and touch on a wide range of films. They'll appear in no particular order. In fact, a lot of random thought will go into generating the list. This comes from OTR's lifelong enjoyment of the motion picture. Can't say for sure when it all began, but there are vivid memories of watching The War of the Worlds in 1953, lying on a blanket at a drive-in theater and fully expecting martians to emerge from the nearby woods. Now some folks today may think allowing a seven year old to see such a film amounts to child abuse. Perhaps there was some trauma, but considering the outcome these many years later, there was no perceptible permanent damage. Some people he knows may object to that last statement.

In 1971, OTR was a full-time grad student and had a 32 hour-per-week job working midnight to eight in the morning. He didn't have much of a life outside the classroom and the office, and had to wait several years to discover The Last Picture Show. The film is Peter Bogdanovich's masterpiece about coming of age in small-town America in the early 1950s. There is a superb cast, including film debuts by Sybil Shepherd and Randy Quaid. The film won two Academy Awards - Best Supporting Actress (Cloris Leachman) and  Best Supporting Actor (Ben Johnson) - out of eight nominations. Here is Ben Johnson,  a real Oklahoma cowboy turned iconic cowboy actor, as "Sam the Lion" reflecting on change and old times:

The Last Picture Show is a compelling, thought-provoking 118 minutes of film making. It has a wonderful period (1951-53) soundtrack as well.

Georgia's Erskine Caldwell

Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987) was an only child, a "PK," a preacher's kid. The family moved frequently throughout the South until he was fifteen when the family settled in Wrens, Georgia. Still, his father often preached on large circuits, necessitating plenty of travel. In fact, the elder Caldwell traveled so regularly that his son could determine his destinations by the odor of coal smoke on his suit. In time, father took son on many of these journeys. The peculiarity, poverty, and injustice of the Depression era South was embedded in Erskine Caldwell's memory and he soon began writing about it. His observations had little to do with remnants of "the late unpleasantness" - the polite Southern term for the War of Northern Aggression, aka, the Civil War - that often gripped the region. Instead, Caldwell wrote of the raw realities of the human condition in the South. This, and his crusade for improving conditions, did not sit well with many Southerners. The dislike was enhanced because he was writing "in absentia." having left the South before 1930. Furthermore, his subject matter often placed him in conflict with censors across the country.

Caldwell had a long career as a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, but he is best known for Tobacco Road (1932), God's Little Acre (1933) and other works from the 1930s.  An adaptation of Tobacco Road played on Broadway for eight years - a record at the time - beginning in 1933. A very loose film adaptation directed by John Ford in 1941 contributed to the stereotyping and ridicule of poor white Southerners. God's Little Acre  remains one of the most popular novels in the U.S. with over ten million copies in print. A 1958 film version is considered the best presentation of Caldwell themes on film.

Here are clips from both films:

Caldwell, who was born on this day in 1903, is an interesting blend of 20th century authors. He is Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner, D.H. Lawrence, Christopher Isherwood, Joseph Mitchell, and a reflection of other modernists.  Readers who seek more than discourse on the happy veneer of the human condition will enjoy Caldwell's interpretations.

Read more about him in this article from the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tom Wolfe, California, And The Twilight Of The Gonzos

Cover of the first U.S. edition
Hunter S. Thompson coined the phrase "Gonzo journalism" around 1970. The writing style presented stories written as much for entertainment as for traditional reportorial honesty and involved not only the writer's observation but also his participation. The first wave of Gonzos - a wing of New Journalism - is all but gone these days. It's most famous surviving member in the U.S. is Tom Wolfe, who will be 82 next year.   Wolfe's approach to writing has evolved over the years, but it has always retained muted elements of the "wildness" that made such journalism amazingly popular into the 1990s. And it's no wonder that the "wildness" began in California when he penned The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in 1968. Although he would claim New York as "home" almost from that publication date, for the next fifty years he would come to write about the Golden State and its social brand that swept across the nation. Perhaps we are all California now. Regardless, Wolfe's long association with the "island" of California makes for some enjoyable reading in Michael Anton's article appearing in the Autumn issue of City Journal.

It isn't often that OTR can find two of his favorite subjects - Wolfe and California - in a single article. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Music For Advent - The Third Week

Here is an Advent hymn by the German composer, Michael Praetorius (1571-1621):

Listeners can read more about Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming at this link.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor

Today marks the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II. The National Park service has a series of short videos featuring those who experienced the event. Readers can access the playlist here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Congressional Aid For The Pour

The nation's Great Debunker, H.L. Mencken (r), celebrates the end of Prohibition

From 1920 to 1925, he worked for members of Congress out of an office in the Cannon House Office Building until he was arrested. After a brief hiatus, he returned to serving his loyal customers from 1925 to 1930 out of an office only this time it was in the Russell Senate Office Building. His name was George Cassiday. He was known as "the man in the green hat" and his business was supplying Congress with booze during the Prohibition.

Reason TV has a brief article and five-minute history about Mr. Cassiday and his most interesting job. OTR concludes that the period 1920-30 had to be one of the happiest decades in history for our esteemed statesmen on the Hill.

And why are we discussing this story today? This is Repeal Day, celebrating the 79th anniversary of the end of Prohibition. Cheers!!

And it so happens that one of OTR's favorite musical selections addresses this theme. Those unfamiliar with the piece will enjoy the translation provided on the YouTube page by clicking "show me."  Great performance played just as intended by the composer.

Dave Brubeck: The Man Who Made Jazz In His Very Own Way

Brubeck at the White House for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors

Several of my Facebook friends as well as essential bloggers mentioned the passing of Dave Brubeck earlier today. He captured my attention in the late 1950s when I was in my early teens exploring what became a life-long interest in jazz.  George Moneo, writing for Babalu, has a tribute to the artist that reminds OTR of his own journey with Brubeck and jazz oh so many years ago.

We can only imagine the sounds of Heaven in 5/4 time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Music For Advent - The Second Week

2012 Advent banner at Martin Luther College,  New Ulm, Minnesota

Advent surprised our household this year so we're a bit behind with some seasonal music.  Here is a beautiful but seldom heard Advent carol arranged by the magnificent British composer, John Rutter.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

William Blake: A Favorite Anarchist

William Blake in 1807                                   Thomas Phillips 
In the blur of business to be finished yesterday, I completely overlooked the birthday of one of his favorite anarchists, William Blake. He was a rather good illustrator and writer as well, and top it off he wrote a bit about religion. That work on his interpretation of Christianity was so original that most of his contemporaries thought he was insane. Today, we have a more appreciative view of Blake as one whose vision, imagination and sensitivity were unmatched in the age of Romanticism.

Ancient of Days

One of Blake's most familiar pieces is his preface to Milton A Poem:

Readers may recognize the poem through this medium:

Blake is by far one of the most interesting visionaries to come out of England and its traditions.I hopes you will take time to examine every aspect of his extraordinary contribution to western civilization.

C.S.Lewis: The Man Who Saw Everything Else

C.S. Lewis, one of the last century's leading scholars, novelists, and Christian apologists, was born on this day in 1898. Most of OTR's readers likely know his name, but many may not be familiar with the depth and breadth of his literary accomplishments. From this writer's perspective, if you cannot enjoy a Lewis book you simply haven't read enough of his work. OTR was introduced to the author through a gift. A buddy gave him a copy of The Four Loves as medication for some perplexing developments in a relationship with Marti, the girl of his dreams at the time. Eventually, Marti moved on with a professor at UNC Chapel Hill. OTR was left with a satisfying,  life-long literary relationship with Lewis.

Although Lewis was far from reclusive, he appreciated his privacy. For that reason, we have few interviews and recordings of the man. Fortunately, we do have a portrayal that gives some insight into what made him a beloved writer:

"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."  C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night and Other Essays. (1960, United States)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Glenn Beck: Urinary Inflection

It seems Glenn Beck has created quite a stir with his "Obama in Pee Pee."  On the other hand, Andres Serano's "Piss Christ" seems to be doing fine. Nothing to see here, move along.

We'll be waiting a long time before a mob of enraged Christians declares a holy war on Serano.

With apologies to George Cromarty and Ed Rush:

I don't care 'about auto trauma long as I got my plastic Obama riding on the dashboard of my car....

N.B. We hear it's beer. Sam Adams perhaps?

Photo: Gateway Pundit

Monday, November 26, 2012

If You Live In The South, Today Is An Important Day To Remember

Willis H. Carrier in 1915
One of the most significant books in the historiography of the South, Life and Labor in the Old South, begins with these words:

Let us begin by discussing the weather, for that has been the chief agency in making the South distinctive.
. . .
The summers are not merely long, but bakingly hot, with temperatures ranging rather steadily in the eighties and nineties of the Fahrenheit scale.

The early 20th century single story Southern home, with its high-roof, wrap-around porch, and traditional "dog trot" breezeway, is a vernacular response to that baking heat. Homes of this type can still be found throughout the South, in fact, contemporary construction in the region often incorporates its features in vestigial form. But what has made the South so popular these days? OTR believes, in particular, the natural climate remains a significant draw, especially now that the social and political climate of the New South welcomes all Americans. Still, all Southerners must deal with the heat. And that brings us to the significance of  November 26.

On this day in 1876, a son, Willis H. Carrier, was born into an old New England family. By the turn of the century, Carrier developed a system of conditioning air in a stiflingly hot and humid Brooklyn printing plant. The new environment ensured stability in the paper and the perfect alignment of four-color printing. It was soon a huge success in several industries. By the 1920s, air conditioning became popular in retail trade and entertainment, especially the movie theater. It was a small jump from commercial systems to home systems, and by the 1930s, air conditioning began a slow but steady increase in usage until the post World War II era when it boomed. Carrier's application would have far reaching impacts on the American experience.

From an environmental perspective, air conditioning made the South livable year round. One could work hard outside on a mid-summer Georgia day and find comfort in an air conditioned break at work and a cool, comfortable supper and evening at home. Today, we take this comfort for granted, hardly giving it the time of day in the South unless a compressor dies.

If you call the South "home," take a moment today to thank Willis for his contribution, an invention you're going to appreciate perhaps as early as April of 2013 when that heat and humidity begins their sure increase to  "bakingly" unbearable levels in the Southern summer.

N.B. Life and Labor in the Old South was written by Ulrich Bonnell Phillips (1877-1934) in 1929.Phillips reflects not only the biases one could expect of a Southern historian of the time, but the original scholarship one would expect of the finest historians of our time. If readers seek out fine writing and a curiosity about ideas that have shaped our present-day interpretation of the American South, slavery and its legacy, and race as a primary theme in American history, OTR suggests they begin with U. B. Phillips.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Heroes And Villians

File:Scale of justice 2 new.jpeg

All of us have the delicate balance of heroes and villains in our lives. Decades ago, Brian Wilson penned a song about them. It was a lyric open to many interpretations, as indeed are the heroes and villains themselves:

Glenn Reynolds, the mind behind Instapundit, has a profound ability to introduce some of the most interesting, challenging and thought-provoking content by any of the  electric pundits. When his readers respond with equally significant content, he's willing to highlight it for those of us who may overlook such gems. Tonight, he's posted one of these gems from reader, Richard Frankel. It is about those heroes and villains and how we had best apply their thinking in our contemporary world.

Frankel lengthens the information chain for OTR by introducing him to the British historian, Paul Johnson. Even the best minds across the pond often have limited impact here in the United States. But they often  provide us with the most objective and meaningful conclusions about who we are and where we're going. For starters, students of western civilization in general and the American experience specifically may want to start with Roger Kimball's appraisal of Johnson's talents.

In our time, these little discoveries convince OTR that there simply isn't enough time in one life to become an effective generalist in the humanities.  Just too much information!  It's a sad conclusion because we need  lumpers as well as spliters in order to know ourselves.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Birthday For Johnny Mercer: That Old Music Master

Johnny Mercer Statue, Ellis Square, Savannah, Georgia

The great American songwriter and favorite son of Savannah, G - A, Johnny Mercer (1909-1976), was born on this day in 1909. Over three decades he wrote the lyrics to thousands of songs, collaborating with the country's top music writers including Harold Arlen, Bernie Hannigan, Hoagy Carmichael, Harry Warren, Gene DePaul, Henry Mancini, Jerome Kern, Rube Bloom, and Matty Malneck.

In 1971, Mercer appeared in what he called a "parlor evening" performance as part of the 92nd Street Y's Lyrics and Lyricists Series. At the end of the program, he delivered an unforgettable medley of his "bread and butter" songs. I'd say most songwriters and performers would be pleased to have five songs in such a list. Mercer had twenty-nine. Regardless of your age and interest in popular music and jazz, you may be surprised at how many of these songs are still with us:

Lazybones (1933), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Goody, Goody (1936), music by Marty Malneck

Too Marvelous For Words (1937), music by Richard A. Whiting

Jeepers Creepers (1938), music by Harry Warren

Satin Doll (1958), written with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby (1938), music by Harry Warren

That Old Black Magic (1943), music by Harold Arlen

Accentuate the Positive (1944) music by Harold Arlen

Fools Rush In (1940), music by Rube Bloom

I Remember You (1942), music by Victor Schertzinger

Day In - Day Out (1939), music by Rube Bloom

Dearly Beloved (1942), music by Jerome Kern

Come Rain or Come Shine (1946), music by Harold Arlen

Tangerine (1942), music by Victor Schertzinger

Hooray For Hollywood (1938), music by Richard A. Whiting

Laura (1945), music by David Raksin

Dream (1944), words and music by Johnny Mercer

On the Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe (1946, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Harry Warren

Something's Gotta Give (1954), words and music by Johnny Mercer

One For My Baby (1943), music by Harold Arlen

In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening (1951, Academy Award for Best Music, Oroginal Song), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Skylark (1941), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Autumn Leaves (1950), music by Joseph Kosma

I Wanna Be Around (1962), words and music by Johnny Mercer and Sadie Vimmerstedt

Blues in the Night (1941), music by Harold Arlen

Charade (1963), music by Henry Mancini

Summer Wind (1965), music by Henry Mayer

Moon River (1961, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Henry Mancini

Days of Wine and Roses (1962, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Henry Mancini

That's plenty of "bread and butter" on one man's plate, but we need to keep in mind that he had seven more songs nominated for an Academy Award that never made it into the medley. What a talent.

In 1942, the Academy Award for Best Song went to Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein for The Last Time I Saw Paris. A "loser" that year was Mercer and Arlen's Blues in the Night - as was Chattanooga Choo Choo by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. All the Mercer sources like to recount the story that Hammerstein sent word to him that he had been "robbed." Hammerstein was correct. Today, the song is recognized as a landmark in the Great American Songbook. [and when was the last time you heard The Last Time I Saw Paris???]  Here is Mercer with Jo Stafford, the Pied Pipers and Paul Weston and his orchestra performing Blues in the Night:

Yes, in comparison the much of what passes for music these days, this is songwriting too marvelous for words.

If you want to read more about Johnny Mercer, OTR has over a dozen posts on him that reader can access by clicking the Johnny Mercer label to the left of this text. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

UPDATE: Twinkies At The Brink

OTR admits to being a junk food junkie in an earlier time and place. A food junkie he remains; however, the quality of the junk vastly improved. Nevertheless, this report about the fate of the Hostess Twinkie unsettles him greatly as he has fond memories of Twinkie encounters from the distant past. How many of us have arrived at work to find a package of Twinkies in a Havahart trap sitting on our desk? The Twinkie may soon disappear, but its history will go on forever. We can only hope that the union makes the right decision.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Burned By The Fires Of Gynecological Theology

Hell                                                                  Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 - 1516)

While perusing some of his favorite blogs beyond politics, OTR found a perfect addendum to yesterday's entry on fundamental transformations. It comes from the mind of John V. Fleming, the Louis W. Fairchild Professor of Literature emeritus at Princeton University. Fleming writes occasional entries at his blog, Gladly Lerne, Gladly Teche. As one could imagine, a retired medievalist professor who is also a superb writer can produce some remarkably entertaining observations on our contemporary world. Fleming's journey to the voting booth resulted in this post, Tale of Two Booths, and an observation on the election outcome:

. . . Bottom line: we have the same president we had before along with a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate. As President Obama recently said, "We know what change looks like." In this regard there were some happy surprises. The Republicans are expert at plucking defeat from the jaws of victory, but never before in living memory have they employed gynecological theology as an accelerant of self-immolation.  

Wonderful assessment. And some solid advice on how Republicans - not OTR's party of choice - could improve their chances in 2014 and beyond.

Fleming's Gladly Lerne, Gladly Teche is never dull, always entertaining. Do explore it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fundamental Transformation: The Past In Our Future

Metropolis (1927)

In earlier posts OTR described how some of our cultural observers believe historians deep in the future will view the histories of England and the United States more as one evolutionary experience. Granted, there are some strong distinctions between the two systems of government, but the cultural similarities outweigh them in this writer's opinion. If we examine both nations in the last century, the slow creep of socialism is most evident. One of our British friends recently told how much the Obama "purchase" of General Motors reminded him of the nationalization of the British auto industry in the 1970s and the coal industry three decades earlier. Though there may be some positives, both industries in Britain have never exceeded expectations envisioned by their state planners. As far as General Motors is concerned, the jury is still out along with tens of billions of tax payer dollars. 

The recent presidential election ensures Americans that our fundamental transformation toward more state control of production will do more than creep. The pundits are having a field day discussing the short-term while Jonah Goldberg has presented his readers with a more meaningful assessment in a recent National Review Online column:

The words government" and "state" are often used interchangeably, but they are really different thing. According to the Founders' vision, the people are sovereign and the government belongs to us. Under the European nation of the state, the people are creatures of the state, significant only as parts of the whole.

This European version of the state can be nice, One can live comfortably under it. Many decent and smart people sincerely believe this is the intellectually and morally superior was to organize society. And, to be fair, it's not a binary thing. The line between the European and American models is blurry. France is not Huxleyan dystopia, and America is not and has never been an anarchist's utopia, nor do conservatives want it to be one.

The distinction between the two worldviews is easily a disagreement over first assumptions about which institutions should take the lead in our lives. It is an argument about what the habits of the American heart should be. Should we live in a country where the first recourse is to appeal to the government, or should government interventions be reserved as a last resort? 

We're going to have plenty of opportunities to see how our choices play out across the nation over the next four years and beyond. Let's hope we have chosen wisely.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day 2012

A big "Thank You" to our veterans!

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I on "the eleventh day of the eleventh hour of the eleventh month" of 1918. Today, this holiday honors the men and women who have defended the United States through service in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

Photo: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More Magic From Eric Whitacre: Water Night

From earlier posts, OTR's readers are already familiar with the magnificent work of the American composer, Eric Whitacre. Student choirs love this man and his work and it's easy to see and hear why.

Water Night has appeared before here, but not like this:

Enjoy, enjoy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Song For November 7

Cloudy, cold, icy rain, and brilliant fall colors. Perfect music for the day:

Leaves me speechless, as it should.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Gram Parsons Birthday Reprise

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 theFlying Burrito Brothers; his solo work, and a legendary association with Emmylou Harris

Parson would have been 66 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. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

California: I Have Found it!

California is approaching bankruptcy. Its leftist legislature seems quite happy to welcome the welfare class while driving the middle class away.  And the state's ribbon of wealthy citizens from San Francisco to San Diego don't seem to mind.  Any freshman who has endured Econ 101 knows that such circumstances cannot last for long. The great pendulum of reality, driven by the California magic, will soon swing toward balance. Victor Davis Hanson has a new article in City Journal that focuses on this theme. He has a vested interest in the state as a fourth generation farmer - he does a tad more as well - in the San Joaquin Valley near Selma.

OTR is pleased to see some enthusiasm for California. If he had to choose a favorite state, it would unquestionably be the Golden State.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints Day, 2012

Fra Angelico, 15th century
On All Saints Day, Christians remember the faithful who have passed on to the glorious company of the saints in light. It has been observed since the 4th century after Christ and remains a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church. Over time, the original purpose of All Saints Day changed and, by the Middle Ages, "saints became the objects of prayers and petitions for merit before God."  Seeing Christ "as the only source of forgiveness, [Martin Luther] cleansed the church of this abuse of the saints" but retained the holy day in the church calendar. He made his statement by nailing his 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, ensuring that they would be seen by crowds of worshipers the following day. Today, the celebration of the beginning of the Reformation on October 31 often overshadows All Saints Day in the Lutheran Church, but the days are often celebrated concurrently during Sunday worship.

Here is a prayer for today:

Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one Holy church, the body of Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow the example of your blessed saints in lives of faith and willing service and with them at last inherit the inexpressible joys that you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ our Lord...

And here is William Walsham How's hymn,"For All the Saints," sung to Ralph Vaughan Williams's remarkable setting, Sine Nomine.

Sources: WELS