Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day 2019

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.

On this day I think of the sacrifices made by many friends who served in Vietnam and of all those who have served in the defense of the United States. In particular I think of family and the service of a great uncle in World War I and two uncles in World War II.

My Great Uncle George, standing on the left with his fire brigade in Jacksonville, Florida, served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in World War I, the Great War. To him, this day was Armistice Day. I was ten when he died and didn't know him, but much of what he was as a veteran is present in my house. His portrait hangs just off our foyer. The pocket Bible he carried is in a keepsake cabinet nearby along with his military issue binoculars and a silver-plated swagger stick - a gift from his unit - made from machine gun shells casings and the Seal of the U.S. Army. The last item is one he never saw, but it summarized everything he did as a soldier. That item is the flag that covered his coffin. To my knowledge, it's still in the original triangle fold made the day he was buried sixty years ago.

The other family veterans from the world war era I knew very well. Uncle Hollis, better known as "Red," and Uncle Charles, both served in the Pacific during World War II. In 1943-44, Red was assigned to Barber's Point Naval Air Station in Hawaii while his brother-in-law, Charles, served at Pearl Harbor. The facilities were a mere five miles apart but almost one year passed before they knew they were neighbors. On hearing the news, they resolved to meet for a photograph at the first opportunity. Here's that photo, taken at Waikiki with Red (l) and Charles (r) together at last. 

Both returned safely to their Potomac Valley hometowns in western Maryland but a declining economy in the region forced them to relocate to better job opportunities. Red moved his family to Ohio where he had a very successful career with Goodyear. Charles took his family to the booming oil industry in Houston, Texas, and a career in real estate management. Both are gone now, along with their wives, Edith and Dorothy. All four of them were fine examples of the Greatest Generation.

I never experienced military service and will never know how it shapes a person inside and out but I do know that every veteran has paid a very personal price that enables us to enjoy life in this bountiful nation. On November 11 - Armistice Day or Veterans Day - we should take some time to remember those who have served their country and its people. I offer up to all of them my sincerest admiration and thanks on this day and every day.

Friday, November 1, 2019

All Saints Day 2019

Allerheilegen (All Saints)                                                            Johann Koenig, 1599

The remembrance of the departed faithful is an old custom in the Christian church. Here is some commentary on this day taken from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website:

The Commemoration of All Saints has been observed by Christians since at least the 4th century after Christ, although not always on November 1. Christians then as now desire to follow the encouragement of the writer to the Hebrews: "Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" (Heb 13:7).
The original purpose of remembering the saints and martyrs was blurred during the medieval ages, as saints became the objects of prayers and petitions for merit before God. Pointing to Christ as the only source of forgiveness, Luther cleansed the church of this abuse of the saints. Lutherans did not remove All Saints Day from the church calendar, however.
Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517 precisely because he wanted the document to be seen by the throngs that would services on November 1, All Saints Day. Lutherans eventually chose October 31 as the day on which to remember Luther's legacy to the church, and All Saints Day in the Lutheran Church has forever after been overshadowed by Reformation services.

There is no more suitable hymn for the day than Ralph Vaughan Williams's setting - Sine Nomine - for the processional hymn, For All the Saints, written by William Walsham How.

Most versions omit several verses that I believe are most relevant to our time. They are:

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

All Saints Day in Krakow, Poland

May you have a blessed All Saints Day as you remember both the faithful who have attained their everlasting glory in the light of Jesus and those who look forward to the light to come.


For All the Saints entry,

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween 2019

We hope you're having a Happy Halloween. The Atlanta weather was uncooperative
this year with roaring winds into the upper 30's at sundown.  Not one trick-or-treater climbed our hill to enjoy the giant spider, assorted pumpkins, mummy, dancing clown, scary tree, and skeleton guarding the door. On the bright side, our candy supply should last us well into the coming year.

And here's a return to the "spirit" of the season from the pen of the father of the horror genre in literature, Edgar Allan Poe, and read by the incomparable and unforgettable actor, Vincent Price.

Sending you our best wishes for a safe and happy Halloween!

Reformation Day 2019

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther posted ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Germany. He could no longer tolerate the Catholic practice of collecting indulgences from sinners seeking salvation. Today, Protestants commemorate this event every October 31 as Reformation Day. He chose this day, All Hallows Eve, because he knew the church would be filled with influential people within and outside the church as they gathered to celebrate All Saints Day.

Luther As An Augustinian Monk              Lucas Cranack the Elder, 16th century

Johann Sebastian Bach, the musical voice of the Reformation in the Baroque period, wrote the following cantata for Reformation Day 1725:

Gott der Her ist Sonn und Schild

1. Chorus

God the Lord is sun and shield. The Lord gives grace and honor, He will allow no good to be lacking from the righteous.

2. Aria A

God is our sun and shield!
Therefore this goodness
shall be praised by our grateful heart,
which He protects like His little flock.
For He will protect us from now on,
although the enemy sharpens his arrows
and a vicious hound already barks.

3. Chorale

Now let everyone thank God
with hearts, mouths, and hands,
Who does great things
for us and to all ends,
Who has done for us from our mother's wombs
and childhood on
many uncountable good things
and does so still today.

4. Recitative B

Praise God, we know
the right way to blessedness;
for, Jesus, You have revealed it to us through Your word,
therefore Your name shall be praised for all time.
Since, however, many yet
at this time
must labor under a foreign yoke
out of blindness,
ah! then have mercy
also on them graciously,
so that they recognize the right way
and simply call You their Intercessor.

5. Aria (Duet) S B

God, ah God, abandon Your own ones
never again!
Let Your word shine brightly for us;
although harshly
against us the enemy rages,
yet our mouths shall praise You.

6. Chorale

Uphold us in the truth,
grant eternal freedom,
to praise Your name
through Jesus Christ. Amen.

We can only imagine the exhilaration Luther had on posting his objections. He placed his worldly apprehensions in the hands of Jesus, continued to call for reform within the Catholic Church, and eventually developed a new vision of faith.


Photos and Illustrations:
Conrad Schmitt Studios, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Bach translation, emmanuelmusic,org

Monday, October 14, 2019

Yeager Flies Faster Than Sound

October 14, 1947:

... Bob Cardenas, the B-29 driver, asked if I was ready."Hell, yes," I said. "Let's get it over with."He dropped the X-1 at 20,000 feet, but his dive speed was once again too slow and the X-1 started to stall. I fought it with the control wheel for about five hundred feet, and finally got her nose down. The moment we picked up speed I fired all four rocket chambers in rapid sequence. We climbed at .88 Mach and began to buffet, so I flipped the stabilizer switch and changed the setting two degrees. We smoothed right out, and at 36,000 feet, I turned off two rocket chambers. At 40,000 feet, we were still climbing at a speed of .92 Mach. Leveling off at 42,000 feet, I had thirty percent of my fuel, so I turned on rocket chamber three and immediately reached .96 Mach. I noticed the faster I got, the smoother the ride.Suddenly the Mach needle began to fluctuate. It went up to .965 Mach - then tipped right off the scale. I thought I was seeing things! We were flying supersonic! And it was as smooth as a baby's bottom: Grandma could be sitting up there sipping lemonade. I kept the speed off the scale for about twenty seconds, and raised the nose to slow down.I was thunderstruck. After all the anxiety, breaking the sound barrier turned out to be a perfectly paved speedway.
I radioed Jack in the B-29, "Hey, Ridley, that Machmeter is acting screwy. It just went off the scale on me."
"Fluctuated off?"
"Yeah, at point nine-six-five."
"Son, you is imagining things."
"Must be. I'm still wearing my ears and nothing else fell off, neither."
. . .  

And so I was a hero this day. As usual, the fire trucks raced out to where the ship had rolled to a stop on the lakebed. As usual, I hitched a ride back to the hangar with the fire chief. That warm desert sun really felt wonderful. My ribs ached. 


The flight didn't hurt his ribs. He cracked two of them in a horseback riding accident a day and a half earlier.  Seventy-two years after his remarkable achievement, aerospace pioneer, General Chuck Yeager, is 96 years old. He lives in Penn Valley, California, and continues to lead a very active life flying, fishing, and managing the General Chuck Yeager Foundation.

Yeager and his Bell X-1, "Glamorous Glennis" in 1947

For more information read Yeager: An Autobiography, an outstanding window into not only the life of an American hero but also the early years of the nation's aviation and aerospace history. 


Photos and Illustrations:

Cover photo by Anthony Loew, Yeager: An Autobiography, General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janus, Bantam, 1985.

Yeager with Bell X-1, U.S. Air Force,

quotation, Yeager: An Autobiography, General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janus, Bantam, 1985.

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Birthday For Dad

This is my dad at seventeen, a high school honor graduate and holder of his class medals in English and debate. The year was 1925. He was a mill town boy with high ambitions tempered by the security of a good-paying full-time job straight out of high school and into the midst of the Roaring Twenties. He never got the college degree he wanted but he was successful, building on his strong faith, a solid marriage, and a remarkable work ethic.

When I look at this picture I am reminded that he only had four "good" years before the Great Depression and World War II brought him and the country he loved into sixteen years of hard times. Through it all he survived as a member of the "Greatest Generation" and saw his nation prosper.

One hundred and twelve years have passed since the birth of my father on this day in 1907. That's a long time and one indication of why my value programming is different from that of most people my age. In short, I was raised by parents from the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age while the majority of my classmates, friends, and colleagues had parents come of age in the 1930's and early '40's. The often vast difference in attitudes, opinions and beliefs borne out of such a circumstance bring both opportunity and challenge in the real world for those born somewhat "out of synch" with their peers. 

My children never knew my dad - he's been gone almost forty years - but I think they know him well. I've done my best to teach them who he was and honor him by carrying on his many traditions. How fortunate I was to have him as a beacon in my life. He was a great and careful teacher and, though we had our differences, a constant and trusted friend. Most of all he was my loving dad. I thank him every day and will love him forever.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Coincidence On A Big Arts Birthday

Today, September 29, marks the birthday of two renowned American artists, the painter Walter Inglis Anderson, and the composer, George Gershwin. Both were filled with creative genius. Both lives featured tragic loss. Anderson died (1965) in his early sixties recognized as a local artist and obscure introvert wracked by schizophrenia. National appreciation of his contribution to American art would come slowly and long after his death. Even today he's not well known among general populations beyond the South. On the other hand, Gershwin would die of a brain tumor at the age of 38 at the height of his career and known throughout the world.

I discovered Anderson on my own in the 1970s during the dedication of a National Park Service visitor center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The award-winning center featured architectural elements incorporating his motifs as well as interior displays of his nature paintings. Unfortunately, the center was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In regard to George Gershwin, I had an ear for him very early in life as my mom and dad enjoyed listening to his work on the radio, records, and television.

Walter "Bob" Anderson, self-portrait, 1941

Walter Inglis Anderson, was born on September 29, 1903 in New Orleans. After training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the mid-1920s, he spent most of his career associated with Shearwater Pottery, a family enterprise founded in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Though deeply troubled with mental illness for much of his life, he produced thousands of vivid works of art - often called "abstract realism" - seeking to celebrate the unity of human existence with nature. I often describe his work as decorated illustrations that play freely with figure and ground and the positives and negatives of visual perception. His realizations of nature explode in the mind's eye. Observing Anderson is a meditative experience. Visit the Walter Inglis Anderson Museum of Art site to learn more about the life and work of this regional artist who only recently has taken on national significance.

Frog, Bug, Flowers                     Walter Anderson, ca. 1945

George Gershwin was born in New York in 1898. He went on to become perhaps the most beloved American composer of the last century through his many compositions for the musical stage, the concert hall, and what has become known as the Great American Songbook. Gershwin's appeal comes in part from his colorful and lively incorporation of jazz motifs in all his music. He died in 1937 with what could only be called a spectacular career ahead of him. I often imagine what he could have brought to American music had he lived another forty years.

Gershwin in 1937

Studying these artists came much later in my life. In the last ten years, that study led to a startling revelation: George, Walter and I were born on September 29. It's a coincidence from somewhere in the stars beyond time. I don't want to attempt an explanation. And there's no delusion here, my friends, I will never approach their genius. Not sure I'd want to. I'll simply leave it at that and enjoy their greatness knowing that we share a quiet and inconsequential commonality.

In closing, here is one of Gershwin's most beloved songs - with lyrics by his brother, Ira - performed by jazz great, Ella Fitzgerald. The 1959 recording is one of 57 Gershwin brothers songs she recorded as part of her famous songbook series. The series of studio albums has been an annual best-seller among jazz recording for sixty years.

Photos and Illustrations:
Walter "Bob" Anderson, Self-portrait, 1941. Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Ocean Springs, Mississippi;
Frogs, Bugs, and Flowers, Walter Anderson, ca 1945. Repository: Roger H. Ogden Collection. Copyright: Roger H. Ogden;
George Gershwin 1937. Carl Van Vechten Collection, Library of Congress