Monday, April 30, 2012

Does The U.S. Face A Future Of Babyloids, Parasite Singles And Manga Maniacs?

Is there a babyloid in your future?
Ross Douthat, writing in The New York Times, has an amazing article on demographic trends that are driving Japan into a potentially dystopic future. In part, a flat economy, the stigma of unwed motherhood, and the fear of immigration has already driven the populace to this reality:

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world, and there were rashes of Internet-enabled group suicides in the last decade. Rental “relatives” are available for sparsely attended wedding parties; so-called “babyloids” — furry dolls that mimic infant sounds — are being developed for lonely seniors; and Japanese researchers are at the forefront of efforts to build robots that resemble human babies. The younger generation includes millions of so-called “parasite singles” who still live with (and off) their parents, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of the “hikikomori” — “young adults,” Eberstadt writes, “who shut themselves off almost entirely by retreating into a friendless life of video games, the Internet and manga (comics) in their parents’ home.”

Here is your link to the story, an update link, and commentary from Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

May Day 2012

On the eve of May Day about sixty years ago, OTR was likely more concerned about his partner for the Maypole dance at Hammond Street Elementary than any demonstrations by the lefties in urban America. Today, most kids will never have a Maypole dance at school, but they may learn plenty about the day as The People's Holiday. And who is the army behind this holiday. Victor Davis Hanson has some enlightening commentary about the new reactionaries who will be in the streets tomorrow and why they may not be so different from those in the 1960s.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Music For A Surrealistic Midnight

Wonderful in 1969. Even more so today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Auditions For Career In Stand-Up Comedy

This is no joke. It ranks as one of the most hilarious propositions to come out of Congress in the last fifty years.

Tom Carper is a New Democrat representing Delaware, a state that had enough sense to defeat Republican Senate candidate Christine "I am not a witch" O'Donnell in the last election.  Unfortunately, the voters seem to have put into office a senator who thinks the U.S. Postal Service may be saved by storing off-shore, wind generated electricity in the batteries of all those little white trucks that deliver our mail. OTR would like to think that Carper was just having a bad day when he brought the subject to the Senate floor. On the other hand, if it was a good day, we have witnessed shark jumping at its finest.

It may take a bit more magic than Carper has in his bag of tricks, but even the thought of such a proposition is sure to conjure up a spell of uncontrollable laughter across the nation.

H/T Moonbattery

Going Back To The Future With Cars And Coca Cola And More

Arthur Radebaugh (1906-1974) was a commercial artist with an eye to the future. Based in Detroit, he combined Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles with his visions to produce colorful, eye-grabbing illustrations. He found a most successful market among Detroit's "Big Three" automakers, but also worked with many corporations throughout the world.

Radebaugh's illustration for 1951 Chrysler ad

In 1957, Russia launched the first artificial satellite and awakened the "Space Race" with the United States. One of the manifestations of the race was Radebaugh's syndicated Sunday cartoon strip entitled "Closer Than We Think." Appearing in 1958, the strip ran for four years, giving readers - especially young, impressionable ones - a visual feast of science and technology and what it could bring to the nation in the coming decades.

The BBC has produced an illustrated article on Radebaugh in conjunction with an April 28 event in Los Angeles addressing the retrofuture that he and others brought us in the 20th century. Makes one wonder how many young readers chose science, technology, future studies, and related careers as a result of his pictures of things to come.

Advertisement by Rodebaugh, 1957

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ella!

Fitzgerald in 1960, photo by Erling Mandelmann
In 1934, Ella Jane Fitzgerald wanted to dance at an amateur night at the Apollo in Harlem, but was intimidated by other dancers and decided to sing instead. It was the beginning of a career that took her magnificent voice through the big bands, to jazz, bop, and the Great American Songbook. With a voice ranging from smoky to bright she put her signature on every note and sharp diction on every word. For people who like to immerse themselves in lyrics, Ella was unbeatable. And when she forgot those lyrics or let the spontaneity flow, the scat singing was priceless.

I saw her perform once in an overcrowded and hot venue in Washington. After a few songs, the crowd didn't mind the environment. She had us wrapped in music for over two hours and left us wanting more after several encores. Everyone had a great time that night, especially Ella. Looking back on that concert, I realize how significant it was. Ella had turned 50 and completed her famous "Songbook" series a few years earlier. And though her peak years were coming to an end, what she had left exceeded the best of what most 20th century singers ever offered. She went on to perform another quarter of a century dazzling audiences everywhere. Ella passed away almost sixteen years ago, but she's still making her mark, living on through a huge discography and video record. In all, it is an immense, if not iconic legacy.

Throughout her very public life, Ella Fitzgerald remained a private, if not shy, person. Were she receiving a birthday cake today, I can envision a broad, approving smile and nervous glances from squinting eyes behind those big bottle bottom glasses. She'd respond with a heart-felt "Thank you, thank you," and move into the comfort and safety of song.

Happy birthday, Ella. What a lady, that First Lady of Song. Thank you! Thank you!

Here she is performing a Johnny Mercer jazz standard in 1957 in the midst of recording the "Songbook" series. She recorded another version of Midnight Sun for her Mercer songbook. The series has never been out of print and remains a hot seller after more than fifty years:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Perspectives On The New Century's Forgotten Man

Boy working in factory, Alexandria, Virginia, 1911
If it's still a man's world out there, it isn't the world OTR knew in 1968 when he graduated from college. Today, women still make less - 77 cents - per buck than men, but single women under thirty out-earn men of the same age group. And for every 100 college graduates in the Class of 2012, sixty of them will be women. And once on a job backed by fifty years of equal opportunity, for every woman who dies or incurs serious injury, there will be nine men with the same fate.

Marty Nemko explores the contemporary world of work and what he perceives as a bias against men in this article posted at The Atlantic. Note that there is a link to an equally interesting response above the photograph in Nemko's column.

N.B. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine, LOC

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Foreign Press Asks The Right Question About Dog-Gate

Bo's official portrait
It is pathetic that American readers have to look beyond their border not only for reliable news but also for the right questions, even those involving the most mundane of subjects. That brings us to what some are calling Dog-Gate. Who among us hasn't heard about Mitt Romney's family dog, Seamus, and his wild car top ride? The horror. On the other hand, who among us knew that Barrack Obama ate dog meat during his five-year stay in Indonesia when he was a boy? It's right there in his book, Dreams From My Father (1995), a source that hit the press seventeen years ago.

Is there something else we should know? That's the reason why Americans who care about their news sources need to pay far more attention to the foreign press and its - usually -  more objective look at our political scene. The lefty media mouthpieces in the United States - we all know who they are - simply cannot be trusted as a sole news source any longer.

Dr. Tim Stanley is a young British historian specializing in the American experience. A Labour Party member, a Roman Catholic, and a pragmatist with a keen sense of humor, Stanley approaches his work much like a master rhetor would pursue a debate. The product is enlightening. Here is what he has to say about the real meaning of Dog-Gate.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Der Fuhrer Finds Out Obama Ate His Dog

The meme has way more than four legs, but this one ranks near the top.

 H/T to Instapundit and Powerline  - OTR almost beat them to it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Walking In Places

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia
There was a time not so long ago when recreational walking was a popular pastime in the United States. The computer and its games, the focus on the automobile as transportation, an aging population, and other demographic and cultural variables have taken a big toll on this activity. Indeed, we've come a long way from the time Mom sent us out the door after a summer lunch and didn't expect to see us until the street lights came on.

OTR has lived somewhat outside this transition. A career in our national parks gave him some unforgettable experiences including multi-day treks across the Grand Canyon's Tonto Bench, over the woodland trails and beach of Cumberland Island, and almost all of the 184 miles of towpath on the C&O Canal. His job responsibilities kept him "in the traces" into his sixties as he walked hundreds of miles over hundreds of trails from the Mississippi River southeast to the U.S. Virgin Islands. No question, there is less walking in his retirement, much of it due to some minor though irritating disabilities.

Today, recreational trail use, even in the national parks, has dropped dramatically over the past twenty years. Park visitors don't walk nearly as much these days. And worse, on a national scale, our children don't go outside much either. Among park professionals and other outdoor enthusiasts, there is a serious concern that we are raising a generation of citizens who will no longer appreciate nature or preserve its resources into the future.

Tom Vanderbilt has a four-part essay at Slate examining the lost experience of walking in an urban setting. Readers will learn what we once had, why we lost it, and how it can be rediscovered. An appreciation of safe and satisfying walks in our urban settings puts us only a few steps away from enjoying the wilder places in our world.

H/T to Glenn Reynolds and Instapundit.

Music For A Spring Afternoon In Atlanta

We're looking forward to the rain. It will be like music.

The Voice Of The Turtle Is Heard In Our Land

Terry Teachout writes about the arts. He is an exceptionally good writer with a compelling, conversational style that puts readers at ease and looking forward to the next page. His many books include biographies of H.L. Mencken, America's foremost debunker, and the jazz legend, Louis Armstrong. Teachout writes from the heart almost daily at his blog, About Last Night. With winter behind us and spring coming on strong, his post about a walk in New York's Fort Tryon Park struck OTR as revealing much about places and how we learn of and react to them. Readers should prepare themselves for personal moments lost in memory and geography.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Victory Over The IRS 2012!

OTR finished his taxes!

For you, Martie, wherever you are.

FDR And Fifty Years Of Liberalism

Blogging at Powerline, Steven Hayward has some observations on FDR's liberalism compared to the liberalism we have today. Political junkies of all party persuasions will enjoy what he has to say and how his readers respond. Read this post first, then follow up with this one.

FDR and his beloved Falla, FDR Memorial, Washington

OTR entered this world eighteen months after FDR's passing. His impressions of this monumental president were first shaped by his father who had little good to say about the "emperor in the White House." Looking back, OTR thinks his dad was a bit harsh on the charismatic personality who carried the nation through a very dark time. We should be thankful for such strong leadership when the ship of state plows through uncharted and stormy waters. Undoubtedly, FDR was quite willing to experiment with state-directed economics, a hypothesis popular at the time. We are better off for that experiment. At least it was carried out with the best interest of the people and - for the better part - the Founding Fathers in mind.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter 2012

Christ As The Redeemer of Man - William Blake

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday 2012

O man, bewail your great sin;
For this, Christ from his Father's bosom
Went forth and came to earth.
Of a virgin pure and gentle
He was born here for our sake,
He was willing to mediate.
To the dead he gave life
And conquered all sickness
Until the time came
That he should be sacrificed for us,
To carry the heavy burden of our sins
Upon the cross itself.

J.S. Bach - St. Matthew Passion:
35. 'O man, bewail your great sin'

The St Matthew Passion in Bach's own hand

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mandatum - Maundy Thursday

Mandatum. The word in English is "commandment."  On this day Christians remember the Last Supper, likely a Passover meal. Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples and shared these words with them:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34 NIV

That evening, Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.  

Here is music for this day of tenebrae:

Go to dark Gethsemane,
Ye that feel the tempter's power;
Your Redeemer's conflict see;
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his griefs away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

See him at the judgment hall,
Beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
See him meekly bearing all;
Love of man His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
Learn of Christ to bear the cross.

James Montgomery
Richard Redhead

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Obama At The Tipping Point?

From virtually all directions we're learning that the last ten days have been tough ones for Obama. Today, the blogosphere is alive with analysis pointing to serious and unsettling consequences. Here is a taste of the rhetoric:

I don’t know what the political effect of all this will be. But intellectually, this is the week where Barack Obama jumped the shark. In a deep, fundamental way, he is no longer a serious man. Nor an honest one. His public words are now purposefully bleached of truth. And that is a painful thing to have to say about an American president.

Forty years ago, we had another president burdened with unpopular policies and wrapped in self-deception. Nixon turned to alcohol and wandering the White House halls late at night talking to paintings.  Months later he resigned rather than face certain impeachment. Today's political scenario will likely follow a far different track. Regardless, if the past week is any indication, it will be very rough going. Glen Reynold's Instapundit post has more on the story.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday 2012

Palm Sunday crosses from OTR's childhood

Jesus surprises us. He is a liberator, but his way of freeing us is often not dramatic. He comes to us with simple, quiet promises, using the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper to assure of those promises. He is gentle and patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to believe in him for their salvation. He frees us from the guilt of our sins, and strengthens us to bear our daily burdens.

There are but ten more sentences in this moving statement about Palm Sunday taken from the Internet archives of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Read the complete statement here.

N.B. The Bible served my grandparents and parents well. It's too fragile for use these days, but still holds seventy years of memorabilia, including a dozen or so Palm Sunday crosses from my childhood.