Sunday, July 29, 2012

London Olympic Ceremony: A Tad Wacky And A Lot Of Fun

Ceremony designer, Danny Boyle, and friends in London

The British producer/director, Danny Boyle, cooked up a quirky, high-volume, colorful, and fast-paced Olympic Opening Ceremony in London on Friday. It bore the imprint of a man with many interests forcing a national identity through a 120 minute window of audience experience. Some things simply had to go. And so we were left with a flock of sheep and some ragged cottage types to mark the time from English origins to the eve of the Industrial Revolution. OTR didn't mind the satanic mills as William Blake is one of his favorite anarchists, not to mention writers and illustrators. Nor did he object to the hundreds of dirty miners as the Welsh blood from Grandmother Jones gave him his Celtic heritage. Frankly, there were few objections on the part of this writer as Boyle's creation washed across the stadium. All politics aside, it was great fun, much like enjoying tapas or the sushi bar - so many choices.

If OTR could raise one issue with the evening it would be this: the production virtually ignored the rich literary and scientific history that is Great Britain from 1700 to 1900. For  OTR it would have been pleasing to see some reference to Gilbert and Sullivan and their wonderful, humorous self-examination of Britain at the high point of empire. Though their stage was much smaller compared to Boyle's, they captured so well the eccentricities that infused Friday's celebration. Here is a sample of what we missed:

Gilbert and Sullivan - still going strong around the world after a century and a half.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Urban Sprawl And The Myth Of The Killer Commute

Atlanta's infamous Downtown Connector

This morning, OTR took advantage of the opportunity to vote early in the Georgia primary election. His trek to the polls wasn't particularly exciting with one exception: the Metro Atlanta TPLOST question. There are 5.3 million people in this area and most of them seem to be going from one place to another most of the time. As a result there is a perception that Atlanta has a horrendous traffic problem and it is strangling the place's economic future. Enter the TPLOST question: Will Atlanta voters support  a one cent sales tax to be collected over ten years and devoted to a list of projects designed to resolve the worst transportation issues? The plan has quite a mix of ingredients, but the "soup" isn't attracting broad support. Aside from the usual distrust of local officials carrying through with the plan, some see it as a jobs package while others raise the question of what constitutes a meaningful solution to Atlanta's current and future travel needs. Some would suggest our TPLOST advocates really aren't asking the right questions. The field of urban studies is after all a very inexact science. On the other hand, we do have some understanding of how cities work and how the human species adjusts to urban traffic challenges.

Charlie Gardner examines urban settings and their populations in his blog, Old Urbanist. His latest post addresses commuting times. Atlanta's TPLOST advocates have been using the topic as a major selling point. Surprise, surprise! Are all those horror stories we hear about urban commuting accurate? Does Atlanta have a killer commute? And do those commutes spell death for urban growth and prosperity? Gardner writes that there is a surprising "similarity between mean commuting times among large metro areas, regardless of their population." It appears that thirty minutes or thereabout defines the limit. And after thirty minutes?

The conventional explanation for this phenomenon, as one 1997 study puts it, is that "individuals and firms mutually co-locate in response to congestion costs, and thus reshape those costs."  Implicit in this "tradeoff" theory is that, for most people, commutes beyond a certain length of time are undesirable despite any other advantages that might be gained from the location (e.g. housing cost, school quality, taxation level, crime), or else we should see commute lengths increase at a faster rate relative to population.

Yes, cities may have their limits when it comes to commuting, but the human response doesn't necessarily spell the end to prosperity. Urban studies junkies can read Gardner's post here. Comments are a "must read." Interesting stuff. Really.

Photo: Joeff Davis/Creative Loafing Atlanta

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Calls For Change In America's War On Drugs

Official poster from the 1942 film
The federal government of the United States spent over $15,000,000,000 on the "War on Drugs" in 2010. The modern war has cost hundreds of billions of dollars over three decades, incarcerated millions of non-violent drug offenders, and killed thousands of innocent victims. It is a huge price to pay for a few tactical successes and an elusive victory on a national scale if one can be identified at all. In the past decade, there has been a growing chorus calling for a reevaluation of this costly and futile policy. Earlier this month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became the latest high profile individual to declare this well-intentioned program a failure.

National Review Online's Rich Lowery provides coverage and commentary here. Thanks to CSPAN3, a video of Christie's remarks can be viewed here beginning at 26:15 in the program.

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Election Time, And Time For A Saul Alinsky Playbook Refresher

My copy
 A few years ago a post appeared in this blog about Chicago's internationally famous leftist community organizer. No, not the one  currently occupying the White House. OTR's subject was Saul Alinsky, the founding father of the modern-day community organization movement. Alinsky died in 1972 shortly after the publication of his most famous work, Rules For Radicals (1971). Though both political parties use these rules, they are particularly alive and well - and well-polished - in the thoughts and actions of Barack Obama. He is after all the other internationally famous leftist community organizer from Chicago, and his coalition is in control of the Democratic Party.

Again, expect both political parties to uses various aspects of these tactics. but expect Obama and his party to release a relentless attack on their opposition as their odds on losing the election increase. You can bet the declining economy will guarantee us a dirty, vicious race on the part of the underdog. To help readers identify, understand, and appreciate the rules as well as respond to their power to influence American voters, here they are as written; supporting information is in brackets:

1. Power is not only what you have, it's what the enemy thinks you have. [Power is derived from two main sources - money and people.]

2. Never go outside the expertise of your people. [It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.]

3. Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. [Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.]

4. Make the enemy lie up to its own book of rules. [You can kill them with this because nobody can possibly obey all of their own rules.]

5. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. [There is no defense. It's irrational. It's infuriating.]

6. A good tactic is one your people enjoy.

7. A tactic that drags on too long become a drag. [Don't become old news. Even radical activists get bored.]

8. Keep the pressure on. Never let up. [Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, recover, regroup or re-strategize.]

9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself. [Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.]

10. If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive. [Violence from the other side can become a positive because the public sympathizes with the underdog.]

11. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. [Never let the enemy score points because you're caught without a solution to the problem. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.]

12. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. [Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people, not institutions, people hurt faster than institutions.]

In closing, readers should know that OTR was a lefty radical in 1971. Time and experience taught him well as he moved right of center - new liberals will be happy to know that he never once liked Richard Nixon. Now he  looks at the rule book and its players from two quite separate points of view as the tactics have become mainstream in the world of politics. He trusts his readers will benefit from information in this post as they likely face the most significant national election in our time.

Source: Wikipedia

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises As Something Very Real

We've come a long way from the Batman experience of the '60s. Here is part of Jenny McCartney's review of the 2008 version.
...the greatest surprise of all – even for me, after eight years spent working as a film critic – has been the sustained level of intensely sadistic brutality throughout the film.
 I will attempt to confine my plot spoilers to the opening: the film begins with a heist carried out by men in sinister clown masks. As each clown completes a task, another shoots him point-blank in the head. The scene ends with a clown – The Joker – stuffing a bomb into a wounded bank employee's mouth.
After the murderous clown heist, things slip downhill. A man's face is filleted by a knife, and another's is burned half off. A man's eye is slammed into a pencil. A bomb can be seen crudely stitched inside another man's stomach, which subsequently explodes. A trussed-up man is bound to a chair and set alight atop a pile of banknotes.

A plainly terrorised child is threatened at gunpoint by a man with a melted face. It is all intensely realistic. Oh but don't worry, folks: there isn't any nudity.

Read the rest of it here.

Most readers will be living the cultural impact of this event as it unfolds. For now, let us mourn for those we lost and for their loved ones and friends they left behind.

Hat tip: The Drudge Report

Thursday, July 19, 2012

EAA AirVenture 2012 Takes Flight July 23

It's better known as "Oshkosh" to aviation enthusiasts and every one of them has the event on the bucket list. And for good reason. Imagine a fly-in attracting 7500 airplanes. Imagine 2500 aircraft exhibits, 800 commercial exhibitors, daily world-class airshows, and 500,000 attendee who are "plane" crazy. What organizers call "the world's greatest aviation celebration" will kick off it's sixtieth version on Monday, July 23.  This map gives readers an idea of the scope and scale of Oshkosh and indicates why the event turns a rather sleepy Wittman Field into the busiest airport in the world for one week each year.

For scale, the runway at the top of the page is 8000 feet long

OTR had the privilege of attending Oshkosh several times in the last decade of his career. Energizing, informative, and significant, the show was a great vehicle for delivering an organizational message to a large, captured, and enthusiastic audience.

If any readers have the slightest interest in an aviation theme, EAA's AirVenture needs to be on your bucket list. If you can't change your plans over the weekend and be there next week, the event website has plenty of streaming links that will bring you lots of the excitement in real time. OTR wonders how many hardcore readers who find themselves stuck at home will arrive via Flight Simulator.

Performance Perfection, Or: Why Television Talent Shows Don't Matter, Part 9

Perlman with Ed Sullivan in Tel Aviv, 1958

If you want entertainment instead of warblers, screamers, and low-rent vaudeville, you can experience this even if the art form is at the bottom of your list:

This video features not only the performance perfection of Itzak Perlman but also that of John Williams conducting his composition.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"We Have Not Yet Reached The Whole" - The Real Meaning Of Obama's "You Didn't Build That" Statement


An enormous amount of commentary has swept across cyberspace in the few days since Barack Obama's "you didn't built that" moment in Roanoke. Leave it to Power Line and to Scott Johnson to expose the underlying truth of Obama's statement and give all freedom loving Americans cause for action come November. Here is Johnson's point:

Under Obama’s doctrine, there is no just limit on the power of the government to take the individual’s property. The property isn’t that man’s alone; he alone did not earn it. What the government does not take from the individual by taxes or regulation remains his conditionally, on the sufferance of the state.

No teaching could be more foreign to the founding principles of the United States than Obama’s doctrine.

Once again, our friends at Power Line provide their readers with insight into the meaning of the American experience, then, now, and into the future.  Your link to this essential post is here. Readers will find the comment thread very enlightening.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Massive Landslide Hits Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

The Great Gorge of Ruth Glacier, Denali National Park, Alaska

OTR may be out of the traces these days, but that doesn't mean he can ignore the magnificent resources of our national parks that he defended officially for almost 35 years. Last month one of the largest landslides ever recorded in North America roared down five miles of the Johns Hopkins Glacier in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. A flight up one of the world's deepest glacier valleys - deeper than the Grand Canyon - on the face of Mount McKinley left him breathless. It is the scale of Alaska that matters. The story of the slide is here. And here is a flyover taken a few weeks after the event.

It is one thing to see this in remote Alaska. It is another entirely to contemplate events on this scale in the more populous states. The state of Washington and the cities of greater Seattle come to mind immediately. Officials there have already prepared as best as possible for warning citizens about landslides, lahars, and pyroclastic flows from Mount Rainier. Some Seattle suburbs are only minutes from these dangers. Though probabilities may be low, it's always good practice to keep in mind that we should never underestimate Mother Nature. She can be a cruel mother.

Hat tip to National Parks Traveler for the video.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

American Art For The Ides Of July

July Hay                    Thomas Hart Benton, 1942

From Wikipedia:

Thomas Hart Benton (April 15, 1889 – January 19, 1975) was an American painter and muralist. Along with Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, he was at the forefront of the Regionalist art movement. His fluid, almost sculpted paintings showed everyday scenes of life in the United States. Though his work is strongly associated with the Midwest, he painted scores of works of New York City, where he lived for more than 20 years; Martha's Vineyard, where he summered for much of his adult life; the American South; and the American West.  Here is the rest of the entry.

Arts of the South                                     Thomas Hart Benton, 1932

Friday, July 13, 2012

Obama Guts Clinton's Landmark Welfare Reform of 1996

Yesterday evening, National Review Online reported on an astonishing story that most readers will never hear if they get their news solely from the usual suspects of - take your choice - the MSM, Jurassic media, or Obamedia. What happened?

This afternoon, President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an official policy directive undermining the welfare reform law of 1996. The new policy guts the federal work requirements that have been the foundation of that law — one of the most successful domestic policy reforms in the 20th century.

Welfare reform replaced the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children with a new program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The underlying concept of welfare reform was that able-bodied adults should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving welfare aid.

The welfare reform law was very successful. In the four decades prior to welfare reform, the welfare caseload never experienced a significant decline. But, in the four years after welfare reform, the caseload dropped by nearly half. Employment surged and child poverty among blacks and single mothers plummeted to historic lows. What was the catalyst for these improvements? Rigorous new federal work requirements contained in TANF.
The fundamental transformation of the United States into a model European socialist failure continues unabated. The full article has links to the backstory and the policy itself.  Read it here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


An Atlantic sea breeze is fast approaching Atlanta. It brings with it Lowcountry magic and arouses wonderful memories of living on the sea islands.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The 'Mommy Porn' Music From Fifty Shades Of Grey

 In the last year, millions of American women have been swept away by E L James's (aka Erika Leonard) vividly descriptive erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. OTR suspects this new BDSM fan fiction piece would curl the ears of his generation, a group that came of age as they passed around dog-eared copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover. In addition, he's not likely to read Grey or its two sequels or view the film currently caught up in the usual Hollywood rights war. On the other hand, he will listen to more 16th century music because of this book.

It seems that James has aroused many of her readers to listen to a motet, Spem In Aliam ( translated from Latin as 'Hope in any other'), composed by Thomas Tallis around 1570. The piece plays a significant role in the book and it has had nothing less than a sensational rise up the charts in Britain. Today's article in The Telegraph has the details. An earlier article has more about the composer.

And here for your enjoyment is Spem In Alium performed by the Tallis Scholars:

BTW the piece reached #5 on the iTunes Classical Music Chart this week and #1 in Amazon's classical vocal-non opera category.

Performance Perfection, Or: Why Television Talent Shows Don't Matter, Part 8

If you want entertainment instead of warblers, screamers, and low-rent vaudeville, you can experience this even if the art form is at the bottom of your list:

From Sophie's Choice


From The Iron Lady

Streep won the Academy Award for Best Actress in both films.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Keeping Harmony In The Family: The Louvin Brothers

Ira and Charlie Louvin
Terry Teachout is one of the nation's top participant-observers in the world of American arts and letters. His Friday column in The Wall Street Journal brings us some analysis of the how and why of family acts. He also writes of the publication of Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers, a memoir by Charlie Louvin (1927-2011). The Louvin Brothers - Ira being the other half - produced remarkable, close harmonies that became synonymous with country music beginning in the middle of the last century. They had an immense influence on the sounds of "cosmic American music" and country-rock in the decades that followed.

Link to an excerpt of Teachout's column here. The post has an internal link to the full column.

Here's one of the Louvins' big hits from the '50s to whet the appetite of real country music types out there.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dawn Sky Spectacular: Now Showing Through July 15

Take a few of our brightest planets and stars, add a star cluster and a thin sliced crescent moon, and you have a fantastic sky show over the next eleven days. This one is for the dawn risers among us.  It's best to be up before morning twilight, and you'll need a view toward the eastern horizon.  This NASA video tells us what to expect:

Independence Day 2012

Whilst the last members were signing [the Constitution], Doctor Franklin, looking towards the Presidents chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art, a rising, from a setting, sun. I have, said he, often and often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising, and not a setting sun.
James Madison quoting BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, debates in the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 17, 1787. James Madison, Journal of the Federal Convention, ed. E. H. Scott, p. 763

The "Rising Sun Chair" used by George Washington during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia

OTR  hopes you and your family have a happy Independence Day. If you value your freedom to celebrate this day, do all in your power to ensure that our great American experiment brings to the world all the expectations of a rising sun.

Source: Quotation and photos - Independence National Historical Park

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Andy Griffith (1926-2012)

Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2005

Here is Griffith in A Face In The Crowd, an often overlooked film that contains what many critics consider his finest performance. The film itself is a message for our time.

He'll be remembered as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68):

With Don Knotts as Barney Fife, Ron Howard as Opie, and Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee.

Monday, July 2, 2012

CERN Peels The Particle Onion

CERN Large Hadron Collider - what you don't see is the 27km accelerator ring

To journalists and most news consumers it is "the God particle." To particle physicists it's the Higgs boson, the smallest building block of matter, the stuff that gives "mass to matter and, by extension, how the universe was formed."

Scientist have looked for the Higgs boson for fifty years. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the folks who operate the massive Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border, have an important announcement coming Wednesday about the Higgs. It seems they have enough "fingerprints" to confirm observations of this elusive piece of the universal puzzle. It is an exciting time for physics geeks everywhere. Read more about the story in this Telegraph article.

We may have a big answer coming in two days, but keep in mind that it will generate many new questions. That is the nature of science.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Music And Memories For A Hot Summer Night On A Front Porch Swing In The South

About the composer, Samuel Barber.

About the writer, James Agee.

About the composition, Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

Obamacare Mandate As Tax and Spin

Reprogramming Session      A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The White House is working overtime to dispel the legal reality that the Obamacare mandate is a tax. It it were to be sold successfully to the American public as a fee or penalty, the mandate would be  unconstitutional. Power Line's John Hinderaker has the story here.

And here is a take on the debate by The Washington Post's Fact Checker.