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