Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Railway Man" with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman (2013)

In this based on the real life experiences of Eric Lomax; who was a Japanese POW working on the infamous Bridge on the river Kwai; Colin Firth plays the part of the troubled veteran who returns to England at the end of the war. Although the actual war has ended, Mr. Lomax must now begin the real battle faced by so many veterans of armed conflict; he has to remember how to live.

Eric Lomax was a victim of PSTD before it had the name. He was beaten, tortured and starved at the prison camp where he was forced to labor on the railway bridge. But even more than the physical torture, the thing that hurt him the most was the actions of one man; the Interpreter. This man had the power; by the way he translated a prisoner’s answers; to affect the prisoner’s treatment by their captives. A simple inflection of his voice could change the way a POW’s answers were received, and as a result influence the severity of punishment inflicted.

When he returns from the war he is united with his wife Patti, played by Nicole Kidman. She is supportive of her husband in every conceivable way, but only time and circumstances will ever help him. And that circumstance comes when Eric finds that his old nemesis, Nagase, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, is working as a tour guide at the very prison camp where he was interred. Through a series of events the two come face to face again in the very place where the atrocities of the past took place.

As the film cuts back and forth between the past and present, Eric is forced to relive the past while confronting the demons sowed by Nagase’s past treatment. He has the man in his power now. The question is; what will he do with it?

Monday, September 29, 2014

"Chasing Shadows" by Ken Hughes (2014)

The cover of this book is intriguing at first glance. It is a photo of President Lyndon Johnson in a White House elevator with President-Elect Richard Nixon on November 11, 1968, just days after Nixon won the Presidential election by the 2nd closest margin in the 20th century; the first being John Kennedy’s victory over Nixon in the 1960 election. There is almost an irony to that alone.

The author mainly concerns himself with tying the Watergate Affair to the 1968 Presidential election, when Nixon basically sabotaged the Paris Peace Talks; talks which would have possibly cost him the election against Vice President Humphrey. Through back channel maneuvers with Anna Chennault; widow of the man who commanded the Flying Tigers during World War Two; Nixon was able to accomplish just that, narrowly winning the election in the bargain. That was in 1968; in 1972 he would win by a landslide.

The real surprise here is the role Lyndon Johnson played in defeating his own Vice President, whose aims and goals regarding Vietnam did not match the party position in reference to the bombing halt. Johnson wanted it pegged to the restoration of the DMZ; with which the Republicans agreed; while Humphrey and McCarthy wanted to stop the bombing without conditions in order to show “good faith” to the North Vietnamese.

Relying on thousands of hours of tape recordings at the Johnson Library and the Nixon Archives, the author paints an accurate picture of the political ambitions which got us into the war in the first place, and then kept us there far longer than was necessary. There were no “clean hands” in the bunch. The Republicans and Democrats were both focused on politics rather than what was right. These tapes prove the point.

While Johnson was advising Nixon; and Nixon was working with Chennault to delay the Peace Talks; an atmosphere of secrecy and subterfuge became the standard operating procedure in Washington. That attitude led directly to Nixon forming the celebrated “Plumbers Unit” in the White House; ostensibly to stop “leaks.” Left to their own devices they went on to embroil Nixon in the Watergate scandal; something he knew nothing about until after it happened. This was Nixon’s Bay of Pigs. He was blindsided by the same group of people in the same way in which Kennedy’s administration was blindsided by the last minute revelation of the full extent of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

This is a very important book in that it finally ties the Watergate scandal to the things which preceded it. There are many who believe that Nixon was set up by the CIA and Howard Hunt; who were working with some Cuban exiles that were connected to the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The real question is why?

Nixon was asking for the CIA files on the Bay of Pigs and even stuff related to Dallas from the moment he took office. Why? He was surrounded by people who all had ties to George Bush; either as an oil tycoon, or later as a politician and head of the CIA. Why? This book doesn't answer these questions, but they are inherently connected. The author has touched only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The name Bush doesn't even appear in the index. 

The author even blames the entire ineffectiveness of the B-52 bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail on Pentagon and Cabinet leaks while completely ignoring the Walker Spy Ring, which cost the U.S. approximately 15-20,000 more battle deaths. It is impossible to discuss the B-52 bombing raids, and their having been compromised, without at least mentioning the Walkers. But that is exactly what the author does.

This book is a very detailed and helpful account of the proposed policy to halt the bombing in Vietnam and how it was used as a campaign issue by both sides in the 1968 election. It even shows how Nixon forged a policy of secrecy and paranoia which would eventually culminate in the Watergate burglary and his eventual departure from the White House.

But the book never really answers the crucial question of how; or even why; Nixon would have allowed this to happen. For a wider scope on the issues raised in this book; particularly the “why” behind the Watergate break in; you can do no better than to read Russ Baker’s 2009 book “Family of Secrets.”

In spite of any shortcomings, this book is still an important one, if only because it goes beyond the basic assumptions of Watergate being the product of an overzealous staff and a paranoid President. Nothing as complicated as Watergate could possibly be that simple.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Armed Forces Prayer Book for Jewish Personnel

Today marks 38 years since I left Brooklyn for basic training at Great Lakes, Illinois. Within a week of arriving there I was given a book which I still have today and use each week. This is the story of that book and what is has come to mean to me.

I have a lot of books. And I've read them all. They are my friends and are all special to me, though some more so than others. This book is one of the more special ones.

I received this book while in Navy boot camp at Great Lakes in 1976. It has literally been around the world with me 3 times. And even today I use it for weekly Sabbath Prayers. But what makes this book so extraordinary is that it was given to me by the Base Chaplain. Why is that extraordinary? Let me explain.

We live in a self described "Christian" nation. But freedom of religion, and the right to worship as one pleases, are both principles which form the core of our democratic Republic. That the power structure of this nation saw fit to include my religion in its' plans when organizing the Armed Forces is nothing short of amazing to me. That the book was handed to me by a Christian makes it even more so.

In short, this book is emblematic to me of what we do best as Americans. We respect, and we tolerate one another’s differences in points of view. From politics to God we are a people that are reasonable. We are founded upon the principle of "inclusion" rather than "exclusion." I find that principle remarkable.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Seal Skinners" - Captain and the Kids Cartoon (1939)

In 1938 MGM launched a series of cartoons based on the characters featured in the comic strip “The Captain and the Kids” which was originated by Rudolph Dirk. The strip was actually just another version of his highly popular classic “The Katzenjammer Kids.” Dirks was that strip’s original creator and Harold H. Knerr did the drawings. “The Captain and the Kids” cartoons would number 15 in all; released during the years 1938 and 1939.

For some reason the series didn't catch on with the public and was relegated to the back shelves until the advent of television. As more and more households purchased TV sets there was a serious lack of new shows to fill the time. As the 1950’s rolled around the television became the first thing many children saw in the mornings; even before their parents woke up. I remember waking up many a day and seeing the test pattern still on the tube, waiting for start of the broadcast day with the Star Spangled Banner and sometimes even a morning editorial. Then came the cartoons.

This series is interesting because it was produced by William Hanna; later of Hanna-Barbera fame; and the voice over genius of Mel Blanc. If Lon Chaney was the Man of a Thousand Faces, then surely Mel Blanc was the Man of a Thousand Voices. He would go on to become the voice of every character heard in a thousand Looney Toon cartoons. In this cartoon he is the voice of John Silver. The Captain was done by Billy Bletcher.

The plot for this cartoon is relatively simple; a seal has escaped from the circus; Jingling Brothers; and a reward of $100,000 is offered for his return. Bad guys John Silver and the Captain both show up as cabdrivers, offering to take him home. Of course their motives are less than honorable, and soon the seal finds himself in a battle of wits with the two witless ones.

But, fear not; as in most cartoons good triumphs over evil; the beauty is in the way that it gets accomplished. I had forgotten all about these cartoons and was pleasantly surprised to find them while scrolling around on You Tube. You can expect that I will be running the remaining 14 in the weeks to come.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sophie Feldman - AKA Totie Fields

Totie Fields (1930-1978) was a groundbreaking comedienne in the 1960’s. She took a page from Phyllis Diller and turned it into a full length persona. At a time when “thin was in” she was unafraid to poke fun at herself- and in doing so made us all more comfortable with ourselves and our own shortcomings.

Born Sophie Feldman in Hartford, Connecticut in 1930, she began her career as a singer in local nightclubs around Boston. She was still in High School at the time. As her popularity rose she changed her name to Totie, which was a childhood nickname, and changed her last name to Fields.

In New York she began doing the nightclub circuit. With her combination of singing and comedy she caught the eye of Ed Sullivan one evening at the Copacabana. Her first big break would come on his show. Soon she was performing on all the talk shows such as Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin and on The Tonight Show as well. She was everywhere, including the Brighton Beach Swimclub where I saw her in 1965. She was dressed in a wildly patterned shift dress that would have been the envy of "Mama Cass."

Her struggles with her weight were a big part of her act. In 1976 she was diagnosed with a blood clot and her left leg was amputated above the knee. This brought a new meaning to the phrase “break a leg” and she soldiered on, if only briefly, before her next health crisis. She did a one woman show in 1977, unheard of at the time, and opened the show in her wheelchair.

Suffering 2 heart attacks and breast cancer, she kept performing, using her infirmities as part of her act. In 1978 she was voted “Entertainer of the Year” and "Female Comedy Star of the Year” by the American Guild of Variety Artists. The honors came just in time.

In August of 1978 she was appearing at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas when she suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism. Originally buried in Las Vegas she was later moved to Los Angeles and buried beside her husband who passed away in 1995.

But she's still around- you can bring her up on You Tube anytime you like. She's still funny and in some ways; particularly in issues about body image; more relevant than ever.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"August: Osage County" with Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep (2013)

This is a difficult film to watch. It deals with interpersonal relationships in a highly dysfunctional family; which is never an easy topic to tackle in a film, let alone view as entertainment. In this film version of the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, the Weston family comes to terms with the myriad of issues which confront all families. The real question isn’t about the issues; it’s about how we deal with one another concerning them, and the impact from that attempt at interaction.

The Weston’s consist of Violet, played by Meryl Streep, who is the mother afflicted with cancer and is dependent upon the pain relieving drugs she needs to take. Beverley, played by Sam Shepard, is her husband. He is a poet. They have 3 daughters; Barbara, played by Julia Roberts; Karen, played by Juliette Lewis; and Ivy, played by Julianne Nicholson. Rounding out the cast are Violet's sister Minnie, played by Margo Martindale; her husband Charles, played by Chris Cooper; and their son, Little Charles, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

The movie is not easy to watch- I had to take a short break midway through; but the plot is fairly simple. When Beverly commits suicide the family comes together; or at least they make an attempt to do so. Violet has a drug problem and Barbara is having difficulties in her marriage. Ivy; who has been the one taking care of their Mom; has a boyfriend nobody knows about, and is about to leave with him for a new life in New York City. Karen brings her fiancĂ©e with her, and he is a little bit too interested in one of the sister’s 14 year old daughters.

The friends of the family are also involved, bringing their own set of problems to the table. The only ones who seems to even have it slightly together are Little Charles and also Ivy. They seem to be their own persons and you begin to look at them as the only survivors in this whole mish mash.

The movie is well made, written and acted. But I don’t recommend it as entertainment. It was more of an investment of time. The whole point of the movie seems to be to show how we screw up in dealing with one another as human beings. Families with a chronically ill member are particularly vulnerable to this trap. The dueling emotions brought on by health issues can devastate a family. I speak from experience. This is a great movie but one that will perhaps hit too close to home for some viewers; like me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"The World According to Me" - Jackie Mason (1988)

If you have never listened to; or seen; Jackie Mason then you should take the time to do so. And, if you find that his comedy is infused with the wit and wisdom of thousands of years of Jewish Talmudic teachings, there is a reason; he used to be a Rabbi. But, as he notes; “I began to slip in a joke here and there…” And so his career was born.

Coming from a family of Rabbis dating back several generations, he was expected to remain true to the family tradition. But, as he read the Talmudic teachings, and observed the human behavior around him, he began to see the funny side of just about everything.

His most well-known faux paus occurred on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960’s. The producers were signaling him to cut his act short so they could switch to the news; which was going live to the White House for a speech by the President. Responding to their hand signals he gave one of his own; which looked like the middle finger. Ed Sullivan had him blacklisted and for about 10 years he was relegated to playing stand-up comedy clubs in Los Angeles, where he caught the eye of Rodney Dangerfield and several other comics. He was then featured in the film “Car Wash” and then “Caddy Shack”; playing a curmudgeonly cheap Jew. With these films; featuring a trademark rapid fire cadence and quick witted humor; his career was re-ignited.

By the 1980’s he was headlining again and by 1988 he had the first of two one man comedy shows on Broadway; in which he poked fun at everyone and everything. The best bit in this one is the side splitting part about his psychiatrist and the search for the real Jackie Mason.

Whether or not you have seen this before, it’s still worth the time to watch, and listen as he spins joke after joke; all based on reality. Be prepared to laugh at yourself or don’t bother to listen at all. This is the one comedy album which I listen to on a regular basis.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Alabama Voter's Literacy Test - 1965

Lately there have been a lot of people; both Liberal and Conservative; who have called for the return of “literacy tests” to become eligible to Vote. This is in addition to the Conservative movement to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The photograph above was taken just after LBJ signed that bill into law in August 1965.  Among the people in the photograph are MLK and Rosa Parks.

Most people that call for the return of literacy tests are speaking in jest; more like exasperation at the views of the people who hold different political views than they themselves have. But, just for fun, I’d like everyone to take this 1965 Alabama test and see how they would score. Keep in mind that your level of education is far greater than that of the average African-American who would have been required to take this test in the 1960’s. And remember, in Alabama at the time education was a privilege and not a right for the people required to take this test.

The next time you hear someone talk about how “there ought to be a test for voting” whip this out and see how they would fare. You have about 15 minutes to complete the test and one wrong answer is a failing grade. You will be surprised at how little you think you know.

1. Which of the following is a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights?
 _____Public Education
 _____Trial by Jury

 2. The federal census of population is taken every five years.
 _____True _____False

 3. If a person is indicted for a crime, name two rights which he has. ______________________ ________________________

 4. A U.S. senator elected at the general election in November takes office the following year on what date? _________________________________________________

 5. A President elected at the general election in November takes office the following year on what date? ______________________________________________________________________

 6. Which definition applies to the word "amendment?"
 _____Proposed change, as in a Constitution
 _____Make of peace between nationals at war
 _____A part of the government

 7. A person appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court is appointed for a term of __________.

 8. When the Constitution was approved by the original colonies, how many states had to ratify it in order for it to be in effect? _________________________________________

 9. Does enumeration affect the income tax levied on citizens in various states? __________

 10. A person opposed to swearing in an oath may say, instead: I (solemnly) ______________________________________________________________

 11. To serve as President of the United States, a person must have attained:
 _____25 years of age
 _____35 years of age
 _____40 years of age
 _____45 years of age

 12. What words are required by law to be on all coins and paper currency of the U.S.? ________________________________________________________________________

 13. The Supreme Court is the chief lawmaking body of the state.
 _____True _____False

 14. If a law passed by a state is contrary to provisions of the U.S. Constitution, which law prevails? ________________________________________________________________________

 15. If a vacancy occurs in the U.S. Senate, the state must hold an election, but meanwhile the place may be filled by a temporary appointment made by ________________________________________________________________________.

 16. A U.S. senator is elected for a term of _____ years.

 17. Appropriation of money for the armed services can be only for a period limited to _____ years.

 18. The chief executive and the administrative offices make up the ___________________ branch of government.

 19. Who passes laws dealing with piracy? ________________________________________________________________________

 20. The number of representatives which a state is entitled to have in the House of Representatives is based on _________________________________________________

 21. The Constitution protects an individual against punishments which are _______________ and _______________________.

 22. When a jury has heard and rendered a verdict in a case, and the judgment on the verdict has become final, the defendant cannot again be brought to trial for the same cause.
 _____True _____False

 23. Name two levels of government which can levy taxes: ________________________________________________________________________

 24. Communism is the type of government in: _____U.S.

 25. Cases tried before a court of law are two types, civil and _________________________.

 26. By a majority vote of the members of Congress, the Congress can change provisions of the Constitution of the U.S.
 _____True _____False

 27. For security, each state has a right to form a _________________________________.

 28. The electoral vote for President is counted in the presence of two bodies. Name them: _____________________________________________________________________

 29. If no candidate for President receives a majority of the electoral vote, who decides who will become President? ___________________________________________________

 30. Of the original 13 states, the one with the largest representation in the first Congress was ______________________________________________________________________.

 31. Of which branch of government is the Speaker of the House a part? _____Executive

 32. Capital punishment is the giving of a death sentence.
 _____True _____False

 33. In case the President is unable to perform the duties of his office, who assumes them? ___________________________________________________________________

 34. "Involuntary servitude" is permitted in the U.S. upon conviction of a crime.
 _____True _____False

 35. If a state is a party to a case, the Constitution provides that original jurisdiction shall be in ______________________________________________________________________.

 36. Congress passes laws regulating cases which are included in those over which the U.S. Supreme Court has ____________________________________________ jurisdiction.

 37. Which of the following is a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.
 _____Public Housing
 _____Trial by Jury

 38. The Legislatures of the states decide how presidential electors may be chosen.
 _____True _____False

 39. If it were proposed to join Alabama and Mississippi to form one state, what groups would have to vote approval in order for this to be done? ________________________________________________________________________

 40. The Vice President presides over ____________________________________________.

 41. The Constitution limits the size of the District of Columbia to ______________________________________________________________________.

 42. The only laws which can be passed to apply to an area in a federal arsenal are those passed by ___________________________________________ provided consent for the purchase of the land is given by the _________________________________________.

 43. In which document or writing is the "Bill of Rights" found? ______________________.

 44. Of which branch of government is a Supreme Court justice a part?

 45. If no person receives a majority of the electoral votes, the Vice President is chosen by the
 Senate. _____True _____False

 46. Name two things which the states are forbidden to do by the U.S. Constitution. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

 47. If election of the President becomes the duty of the U.S. House of Representatives and it fails to act, who becomes President and when? _______________________________________________________________________

 48. How many votes must a person receive in order to become President if the election is decided by the U.S. House of Representatives? _______________________________

 49. How many states were required to approve the original Constitution in order for it to be in effect? ______________________________________________________________

 50. Check the offenses which, if you are convicted of them, disqualify you for voting:
 _____Issuing worthless checks
 _____Petty larceny
 _____Manufacturing whiskey

 51. The Congress decides in what manner states elect presidential electors.
 _____True _____False

 52. Name two of the purposes of the U.S. Constitution. _________________________________________________________________________

 53. Congress is composed of __________________________________________________.

 54. All legislative powers granted in the U.S. Constitution may legally be used only by ______________________________________________________________________.

 55. The population census is required to be made very _____ years.

 56. Impeachments of U.S. officials are tried by ___________________________________.

 57. If an effort to impeach the President of the U.S. is made, who presides at the trial? _____________________________________________________________________

 58. On the impeachment of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S., who tries the case? ________________________________________________________________

 59. Money is coined by order of:
 _____U.S. Congress
 _____The President's Cabinet
 _____State Legislatures

 60. Persons elected to cast a state's vote for U.S. President and Vice President are called presidential _________________________________________________________.

 61. Name one power which is exclusively legislative and is mentioned in one of the parts of the U.S. Constitution above______________________________________________.

 62. If a person flees from justice into another state, who has authority to ask for his return? _____________________________________________________________________

 63. Whose duty is it to keep Congress informed of the state of the union? _____________________________________________________________________

 64. If the two houses of Congress cannot agree on adjournment, who sets the time? _____________________________________________________________________

 65. When presidential electors meet to cast ballots for President, must all electors in a state vote for the same person for President or can they vote for different persons if they so choose? _____________________________________________________________________

 66. After the presidential electors have voted, to whom do they send the count of their votes? _____________________________________________________________________

 67. The power to declare war is vested in ________________________________________.

 68. Any power and rights not given to the U.S. or prohibited to the states by the U.S. Constitution are specified as belonging to whom? ______________________________

Here are the answers;

1. Trial by Jury only
 2. False (every 10 years)
 3. Habeas Corpus (immediate presentation of charges); lawyer; speedy trial.
 4. January 3
 5. January 20
 6. Proposed change, as in a Constitution
 7. Life (with good behavior)
 8. Nine
 9. Yes
 10. Affirm
 11. 35
 12. In God We Trust
 13. False
 14. U.S. Constitution
 15. The governor
 16. Six
 17. Two
 18. Executive
 19. Congress
 20. Population (as determined by census) less untaxed Indians
 21. Cruel and unusual
 22. True
 23. State and local
 24. Russia
 25. Criminal
 26. False
 27. Militia
 28. House of Representatives, Senate
 29. House of Representatives
 30. Virginia
 31. Legislative
 32. True
 33. The Vice President
 34. True
 35. The Supreme Court
 36. Co-appellate
 37. Trial by Jury
 38. True
 39. Congress and the legislatures of both states
 40. The Senate
 41. 10 miles square
 42. Congress; state legislatures
 43. Constitution
 44. Judicial
 45. True
 46. Coin money; make treaties
 47. The Vice President, until the House acts
 48. 26
 49. 9
 50. Murder
 51. False
 52. (Preamble statements) "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
 53. House of Representatives and Senate
 54. Congress
 55. 10
 56. The Senate
 57. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
 58. The Senate
 59. The U.S. Congress
 60. Electors
 61. Pass laws, coin money, declare war
 62. The Governor
 63. The President
 64. The President
 65. They can vote for different people
 66. Vice President (President of the Senate)
 67. Congress 
 68. The states; the people

Monday, September 22, 2014

"A Book" by Desi Arnaz (1997)

This is one of the best autobiographies you will ever read. Beginning in Santiago, Cuba in 1917 where Mr. Arnaz was born, this book shows you the life of privilege he led as a young man when he was heir to the Bacardi fortune. When Batista came to power all that changed. In the 1940's he went to Miami where he was spotted by Xavier Cugat. He became a singer in Mr. Cugat's band and carved out a small reputation for himself at the same time.

From Miami he went on to lead the country through the "Conga" craze along with Carmen Miranda and her fruited headpieces. He then went on to Hollywood and some minor roles before being cast with Lucille Ball in some "B" movies. From there it's all, as they say, history.

Mr. Arnaz takes us through the years of "I Love Lucy", giving us a "cooks tour" of not only the show but the thought process which was behind it.This is the show that really set the stage for many of the sitcoms that we have enjoyed over the years. This was also the show that introduced us to the use of 3 camera angles, a process still in use today. He also chronicles the changes in his relationship with Lucy that finally led to their breakup in 1960.

The difference between this book and the two earlier books, "I Love Lucy" and "Desilu" is astounding. This book is so much more than just the story of the TV show. This is Desi Arnaz telling the story and history of his family fortune and its' subsequent loss. It is also the story of Miami and the entertainment scene in the 1940's. It's also a look behind the mind of the man who just about invented "residuals" for TV sitcoms. Not to mention taping the shows to begin with.

Fans of Lucy and fans of TV History will love this insightful and snappy book. It crackles from the opening page to the last. The author spares no one- himself included- in an effort to tell the tale correctly, even though it often casts him in a poor light.

Though they both remarried, they remained friends for the rest of their lives. There was just too much passion for their own marriage to endure. An honestly written, straight from the heart autobiography, this is one of those books that you simply don't want to pass up. In short, this is a tremendously appealing and entertaining book.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Political Science" by Randy Newman (1972)

This song was satirical when it was first released; but with the advent of ISIS and all the rest of the crap going on in the world today it sometimes seems like a solution. Just kidding, of course. But the news can often be so frustrating. And a bit of musical "venting" seems to help.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"The Bookworm" - MGM (1939)

A storm and an old mansion are the setting for this 1939 MGM cartoon. As the clock expires from exhaustion in the wee hours of the night a storm rages outside. And as it does the inhabitants of many of the books in the library come out to play. The witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth get Poe’s Raven to hunt for a worm to complete the making of one of their “brews.” Since this is a library the Raven looks in the books for a bookworm.

Finding one isn’t too hard, but keeping him captive proves to be a mammoth task for all concerned. The action is non-stop as the Raven and his cronies attempt to outsmart the bookworm. But remember, he’s spent a lot of time in and around books, so he has a few tricks of his own to fall back on. Great story and animation mark this one as a real keeper.

Although the cartoon was actually directed by Friz Freleng, Hugh Harman got the screen credit. The voice of the Raven is none other than the incomparable Mel Blanc.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Old Textbooks - Foundations to Build Upon

When I was in Junior High School (W. Arthur Cunningham JHS 234 in Brooklyn, NY) there was a bookshelf in the back of my homeroom class. It was filled with older, obsolete textbooks. I used to browse through them with great interest, as they were from the years that my parents had attended school. I also have always loved old books, and so, accordingly I was very interested in what these books contained. There were all kinds of subjects represented on that shelf; science, literature, history and math all come to mind. But the book that held my interest the most was this little gem "Energy and Power" by Morris Meister. The copyright date is 1930, with a second printing in 1935. Inside the front cover there is one of those book stickers that we used to place inside the front cover to identify the owner of the book. This made the book even more desirable to me.

I was a good student in Social Studies, History and English. Anything which allowed my mind to wander was a welcome respite to the tedium of the classroom. Science and Math were my two worst subjects, which is kind of funny when you consider that I went on to become a Navigator aboard ships at sea, a position steeped heavily in my two worst subjects. Even more surprising, at least to me, was that I was good at it! And this little book had a little something to do with it.

While not paying attention in class one day, well, one day might be short changing myself, I came across this book and realized that it was old enough to contain all the basic information that I lacked in my understanding of all things mechanical. So, I took it home to read. And I never took it back. I've never felt badly about it, mainly because those books were destined for the trash and had been out of use for several years. I had to blow the dust off the book before I read it.

The book covers all manner of scientific subjects, among them are; Sources and Transmission of Light, Reflection and Refraction of Light, Cameras and Photography, Projection Lanterns and Motion Pictures, Color, Gravity, Friction, Inertia, Engines and Automobiles. These were all subjects for which I held very little, if any, interest. This was mainly because all of the basic information on these subjects was missing from the newer textbooks. They assumed that we knew these things. They were, in my case, wrong. And so this book became my friend.

From this little book, about 241 pages, I have learned all of the basic principles of science and the little bit of automobile mechanics that I know. I have even used this book to help me figure out how to explain stuff to my kids while they were growing up and in school.

When is a book too old? I don't think they ever really age. The information contained in almost every book is timeless in some respect. And this book is even more important now, when everything is so complicated that you can sometimes feel overwhelmed and under informed. That's when I turn to my small, but potent, collection of outdated textbooks. I even have two books from my Mom and her time at James Madison High School. One is H.G. Wells', "The Outline of History”, copyright 1931, and the other is Bassetts' "Short History of the United States", copyright 1921. Both books have been invaluable to me when trying to unravel the history of the Middle East, or even something as contemporary as the roots of the Vietnam War.

All books are sacred; they all contain something that was worth writing down. But as our knowledge continues to grow, it often becomes necessary to omit, or condense, the things we already take for granted, in order to include the latest information. When that happens, some of the basics, and the understandings that go with them, are often glossed over. It is then that I turn to my older books to solidify the foundation of the subject I am reading about.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

" Skizzenbuch" - Heinrich Kley (1909)

It was about 30 odd years ago that I had a book of German Sketches go missing. I had clipped and mounted one of the sketches, and I have featured it on this site before, attempting to find out who drew it. I knew it was German, but beyond that had no idea of who the artist was. This is sad, as I did own the book before it disappeared. I should have at least remembered the artist’s name!

This drawing has graced the walls of every home I have lived in since 1980. Before that it hung on the walls of various staterooms aboard the ships in which I served. It is a comforting image. It speaks to me of something, or someone, larger than ourselves, helping to guide us through our awkwardness. The fact that the something larger is not the elephant, gives thought to the theory that we are not the largest presence in this dance of life. There is something more graceful to guide us, if we only allow it.

I was napping this morning, and when I awoke, this image was the first thing that I saw. It hangs on the wall opposite the foot of my bed. I have googled it, in a vain attempt to find out more about the sketch over the past several years, all to no avail. But something prompted me to search again, and I got it on the second try.

The sketch comes from the works of German artist Heinrich Kley, who lived from 1863-1945. His two volumes of sketches were published in 1909 and 1910, under the names
Skizzenbuch and Skizzenbuch II, both of which contained 100 pen drawings. Now, I have to get the book.

Meantime, if you'd like a closer look at some of Mr. Kley's work, here is the link to his world;

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Don't Break the Heart that Loves You" - Margot Smith (1978)

If you have ever done some serious drinking in bars; not dives, but not the Ritz either; then you have heard the recordings of Margot Smith. Many a night her voice; accompanied by that deep electric bass guitar; kept vigil with me in some bar somewhere; both here and abroad. She was my link to America. She was the pinup girl of the juke box to all of us who were far away and alone with one another at 2 AM. She kept us connected to the real world.

Margo Smith was born in 1942 in Ohio. She’s best remembered for the 2 number one hits in 1978; "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You" and "It Only Hurts for a Little While", which were both covers of old standards. These were the sure fire records on the jukebox in the wee hours when you were wondering where your girlfriend, or spouse, was at home; and moreover, with whom.

Born as Betty Lou Miller she was a kindergarten teacher for a spell before going into the music business. And when she did, it was as a yodeler. But she was really hell bent on getting to Nashville. She sang songs to her classes and even at PTA meetings, gathering a small but loyal following along the way. In 1975 she landed a deal with 20th Century Records out of Nashville. This song, "Don't Break the Heart that Loves You" was first recorded by Connie Francis.

Although her career was not very long she reemerged as a Christian artist, singing with her daughter during the 1990’s. For more about her see the following link;

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Federalists and Whigs - Irony in Politics

The irony in the history of our two major political parties is rich. Both parties actually stated out representing the opposite constituencies which they represent today. The history of this switch is largely blamed on the so called “Dixiecrats”; those Southern Democrats who in 1948; when Truman proposed a Civil Rights platform at the Convention; walked out, dividing the democratic Party forever and giving rise to a Republican faction which would someday become known as “Neo-Conservatism.”  That’s the short, contemporary side of things. But there is an interesting history which goes even further back.

Originally this country had a myriad of political parties; with the two largest being the Federalists and the Democratic-Republican Party. The Federalists believed in a strong Federal government; Washington and Adams were both Federalists. The Democratic-Republicans believed in a Republic guided by the voice of democracy. Remember a “Republic” is the form of democracy which we live under, and not just the name of a political party. Likewise, representative democracy is the manner in which we conduct our affairs within that Republic.

So, there were two main parties back then; divided as to how much power the Federal government should have over the lives of its citizens. In other words; nothing has changed with the system itself; only the players are different and call their parties by different names while still representing the same old interests.

By the 1840’s the Whig Party; formerly known at the time as Democrats, who had been around since the Revolution and were the real Conservatives of the era; got their first President elected. That was William Henry Harrison. He only lasted 32 days, dying of a cold he caught during his inauguration ceremony. However, he was succeeded by John Tyler, a former Democrat. The Whigs held sway through the Presidency of Franklin Pierce, and were largely responsible for some of the worst decisions leading up to the Civil War.

Now here’s where things get really interesting. Lincoln was the first Republican President. His role in the Civil War is widely known; although sometimes misunderstood. His position on slavery changed many times before he became President, and even after his election. He is seen as the “deliverer” to the newly freed slaves and the Republican Party became the party of the African-American until at least the Depression. But Lincoln was also the man who wanted to deport all the slaves to Jamaica and Liberia as a solution to the “negro problem.”

At the same time the Democrats were doing all they could to avoid a war with the South; even advocating the retention of slavery in the Southern states. These were the same men who were opposed to the 13th Amendment freeing the slaves.

So, what we had; in essence; was a Democratic Party which was not at all in tune with the push for human rights; but rather pro States Rights. And; conversely; a Republican Party which was perceived as being the “Deliverer of Freedom” to the slaves and by extension the “Party of the People.” This has, of course, has been turned on its head by what happened at the Democratic Convention of 1948, but there are interesting things to note between the time of Lincoln and then.

Interestingly Lincoln’s Vice President; Andrew Johnson; was a Democrat who had been elected to the office on the National Union-Republic ticket. At the time we were still not yet confined to only 2 viable parties.

From 1869-1885 we had only Republican Presidents; along the line of Lincoln. These were the years of Reconstruction followed by the Gilded Age. Reconstruction was a repressive occupation of the Southern states; which came to embitter North against South to this present day; while the later Gilded Age represented the advent of the rewards of industrialization and the greed which those rewards brought to the rich and powerful. The Republicans; at this point; became the party of big business. The Democrats came to embrace the working class and the rise of the Unions.

The Republican run ended briefly to accommodate the election of Grover Cleveland in 1885. He was a Democrat. From this time forward there would never be anything but Republicans and Democrats running against one another for the office of President. It would be well to remember that there had been; as noted here earlier; a Democrat-Republican Party. Indeed our 3rd through 8th Presidents were from that Party. And there were some pretty great Presidents in that group.

Aside from Cleveland’s return to office in 1893; after having been defeated by William Harrison in 1889, which is the only time a former President has been re-elected to office; the Republicans held sway until President Wilson; a Democrat; came to D.C. in 1913. The first thing he did was to segregate the nation’s Capital. That’s right, D.C. was not segregated until 1913 and then by a Democrat!

After Wilson the mantle of leadership went back to the Republicans for the disastrous social policies of Prohibition, the reckless economic policies of the Roaring Twenties and the resultant Great Depression. In 1933 FDR came to D.C. as the first Democrat since Wilson and began the social programs which so many Americans rely upon today to make ends meet. And this is where the division between the two parties as we know them today begins to take place.

The Democrats had to find a way out of the Depression which had happened during the years of Republican leadership; which let big business run themselves. The New Deal programs; such as the NRA, WPA and all the rest were the country’s first attempts at large scale social programs to alleviate the hunger, homelessness and lack of education and job training which came in the wake of those failed Republican policies. The Republicans now became cast as the enemy of the working man and the party of the rich. Right or wrong, these labels would stick.

The only ones getting short changed by all of this were the nations African-Americans. The Party of Lincoln was the party which most blacks identified with due to Abraham Lincoln. That’s understandable. Regardless of the finer points involved in the validity of the Emancipation Proclamation, he was the man in charge when they received their freedom. And the Democrats had opposed the 13th Amendment. It seemed like a no-brainer.

But in between the two World Wars, African –Americans expected more and began shifting their allegiance to the Democratic Party, which promised at least the hope of change. They had served honorably in 2 World Wars defending freedoms for others which they themselves did not have here at home. The time to change that had come. So, the nail was set in place; it just needed one more firm whack to drive it home for good.

That final whack came in 1948 at the Democratic National Convention when Harry Truman; who had succeeded President Roosevelt upon his death in 1945; came out with a Civil Rights platform for African-Americans. The Southern Democrats walked out and formed their own party. They even ran their own candidate; and predictably embarrassed themselves. After the election was over the leaders became some of the leading Republican Senators for the remainder of the 20th century, most notably leading the opposition to the Civil rights legislation of the 1960’s and giving birth to the so-called Conservative movement in 1964 with Barry Goldwater as the first “Conservative” candidate for President.

The Democrats became even more progressive than they had been. This enabled deep divisions to develop within the party. And although they were able to successfully elect the first African-American Pesident; Barak Obama; to office in 2008, the Democrats then lost control of both the Congress and Senate within his first term.

The only point to be made here; if any at all; is that party allegiance; based on history; is suspect at best. It’s also interesting to note how much worse the gridlock in Washington became after the rise of the 2 party system we have today; which consists of Democrats and Republicans. Especially since at one time they were one and the same. That bit of history serves to underscore just how little choice we have today in electing our representatives. They are both different sides of the same coin. This goes a long way in explaining why nothing ever really changes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Hiroshima Nagasaki" by Paul Ham (2014)

This is a fascinating book. I say that because it fascinates me the way that two people; in this case the author and myself; can take the same facts and reach two completely separate conclusions about an event. But that is exactly the case with this book. It’s not revisionist history per se; he doesn't change any of the facts; he merely interprets them in a way to make the point that nuclear weapons are bad; and by extension; that the United States is evil for having used them to end the War in the Pacific. So, we are left to examine the facts.

Mr. Ham makes the argument that we killed 130,000 people; that is the death toll from the immediate aftermath of both bombs; in cold blood, knowing that the Japanese had no way left to fight. He makes this assertion in spite of their still drafting 15 year olds as Kamikazes to fly wooden planes to be used as suicide bombs. The Emperor had already declared his opposition to the Potsdam Agreement of July, which stated that Japan would be subject to all the military might of the combined allies should they fail to surrender.

The Emperor and his military staff knew that Russia was about to invade; bringing with her all the hatred stored up since 1905 war between the two.  The author makes the claim that Japan would have had to surrender under this pressure from the Soviets; completely ignoring what the post war world would have looked like for both Japan and the rest of the world. Japan would probably have become another North Korea; or become subject to colonial control, like Vietnam when it was returned to France. That worked out really well, didn't it? And North Korea continues to be a threat to the world today.

One alternative would have been to continue the use of the incendiary bombings which killed 100,000 a night. The author is also critical of those raids as being inhumane. I have heard these claims before, in connection to the fire bombings of Dresden in Germany. Had we continued with those raids over Japan while the Emperor still refused to surrender, the death rate would have been much higher than even the long term death rate by the effects of the two nuclear bombs.

Moreover, the raids would not have been confined to just 2 targets, but rather have been spread over the whole country. This would have been akin to genocide of the Japanese people and Mr. Ham would be writing his book with that in mind. In other words, there is little we could have done to end the war which would have pleased him. In a perfect world the Japanese would have apologized and we would all sing around the campfire again.

But the Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, was still worried about his social position even after the devastation of the first bomb. He had been unwilling to accept the terms of the Potsdam Agreement which called for unconditional surrender. And, even after the first bomb he wanted to wait and see if we had more. The author even documents that himself. In school we were always taught that Tojo was the roadblock to peace; in reality it was the Emperor. And, in the end, he got what he wanted. He was never punished for war crimes; as Hitler certainly would have been. He remained in power until his death decades later.

Since we obviously have different opinions concerning whether or not the United States should have even developed the weapon; although the Nazi’s were working on it and the Soviets were poised to steal that information from them after they had surrendered; I won’t even belabor the differences too much. Suffice to say that if we had abandoned our efforts to obtain the bomb, then either the Germans would have had it first and won the war; or Germany would have been defeated and the Russians become the custodians of the new weapon. And while we have never used our nuclear weapons to gain new territory, Russia has tried. Remember Cuba? If we hadn't had the bomb how might that one have worked out? And what about Ukraine right now? If we didn't have nuclear weapons then Russia would already have conquered them.

But the biggest problem with this book is how conveniently the author ignores over 12 years of barbarism by the Japanese as they attempted to take over the Eastern hemisphere. As a matter of fact he never acknowledges that this was their goal.  He mentions Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March; but there is nary a word about the literal Rape of Nanjing in 1933. Thousands of women were tied to chairs and gang raped to death by the Japanese troops. They even took photos as souvenirs. You can view them online if you doubt me. 

The nuns in the Philippines who had their breasts hacked off with bayonets; the babies speared and stuck to trees. These are not things I am making up. These are the facts of what Japan was doing as part of her Co-Asian Prosperity Sphere. As a matter of fact I don’t remember even seeing that name in the book at all.

It is impossible to write a complete and concise history; let alone a conclusive book; about the bomb without exploring all the aspects of what made the development of such a weapon necessary in the first place. When faced with monsters sometimes it requires doing monstrous things in order to survive. Rather than take the position that we are the evil ones for having defeated these monsters, it is more accurate to blame the monsters of expansionism and the architects of war who put us in that position to begin with.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Love Power" from The Producers (1968)

Still amazingly funny even after 45 years, the produces went on to become a huge Broadway hit. But they left this scene out- thought it was outdated, maybe so, but for those of us who remember those times, this scene will always tickle a funny bone.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Storm at Sea - Aboard USCG Cutter Carrigan" by George Copna

The US Coast Guard Cutter Cartigan used to sit moored to the wooden bridge which sits at the end of Ocean Avenue and crosses Sheepshead Bay. A few years ago I wrote about it here and have run subsequently run several stories by some of her crew members who saw that post. This one is from April 2011 and was written by George Copna for Rooftop Reviews. 

Everybody who has sailed aboard ship for any length of time will have a story to tell about a storm. Some are better than others. But basically, they are all good. They provide an insight, for those who will never experience it, of the wonder, along with the sheer terror, that comes of facing waves larger than the vessel in which you are riding. They serve as reminders that we are all just visiting, and all at the mercy of something, at some time in our lives. Here is George Copna's latest story of the USCG Cutter Cartigan, during which she encounters some very nasty weather. This story takes place around 1961.

THE BIG STORM by George Copna
Once, while on CAMPAT, we were on the tail end of the patrol looking forward to relief. The weather was warm, the seas calm and we were stopped, just drifting at a certain latitude awaiting relief from the CGC SEBAGO out of Pensacola, FL. I was the RM on duty and I heard them, via CW (Morse code) getting underway enroute to relieve us. I copied their radio traffic which included a weather report to 8th CG District New Orleans, LA. The SEBAGO was reporting winds in excess of 60 mph and seas running 25-30 feet. I thought how lucky we were to be in calm seas as opposed to what they were experiencing.

Let me pause here and say that the SEBAGO was literally twice our size at 255 feet as compared to our 125 feet in length. After being relieved of my watch, I went below and hit the rack. I awoke the next morning to some violent ship movements. All the hatches to the exterior decks were 'dogged down' and nobody was permitted outside on deck. The only way to get to the radio shack was through a hatch in the radio shack deck. I climbed up the ladder to relieve the RM on watch and found that we were in the midst of the weather that the SEBAGO had reported. The duty RM advised me that we had absolutely no communications with anybody. The wind and waves had torn away our whip and wire antennae. The only sounds coming from my earphones was loud static.

So, I spent the next four hours standing in the radio shack door watching the helmsman trying to maintain some semblance of a course while plowing into the seas head on. I watched in awe and some fright as we rode up one wave 25-30' and crash down into the trough with a crash. The next wave would cover us up, sometimes to the flying bridge. It was certainly a wild and somewhat frightening ride, and it was the first time I didn't get seasick in rough weather. I guess I was just too scared to think about it.

At one point, a large wave struck the face of the bridge directly and broke out several windows, showering the bridge watch with water and glass shards. This was truly getting to be a worrisome ride! After getting relieved from my watch, I went to the mess deck for some chow - I actually felt good enough to eat. When I got below to the mess deck, I found the cook fore-lonely seated with the evening meal of oyster stew and biscuits sloshing around his feet. So much for chow, so I just went back to my rack.

I was wakened for my next watch (0001-0400) and found we sere still in the maelstrom so all bridge watch standers were still being routed through the radio shack. I hadn't been signed on long before the sliding door that leads to the bridge flew open. A non-rated seaman watchstander stood there and entered the radio shack, endeavoring to close the door behind him. He looked like he had a mouthful of regurgitated stomach contents (a.k.a. vomitus). His abdomen was spasming and his cheeks were puffed out like a chipmunk. I told him I'd shut the door, just get down below, out of the radio shack. He lifted up the electrical matt covering the hatch that led down below - right into officer's country. He finally got the hatch open and literally slid down the ladder, hitting the deck HARD! This sudden stop caused him to lose control of his ability to maintain control of the contents in his mouth and he sprayed the area with its contents. He then had to clean up the stinking mess.

We rode like this for close to another day before the storm subsided and the seas began to calm themselves. If my memory serves me correctly, we had ended up in the 7th CG District waters (we were assigned to the 8th CG District).

We limped home, beat up, torn up, canvas all gone from fore & aft, port & starboard, low on fresh water and food and very tired. We finally made it into our home port two days longer than we were supposed to be out. St. Andrew's Marina never looked so good!!

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Beyond the Gates" with John Hurt and Hugh Dancy (2005)

Rwanda; and the Genocide which was allowed to persist there in the 1990’s; was the point at which I stopped believing in the United Nations as the cure for anything. In spite of my own experiences in supplying the so-called “Peacekeeping” forces in Beirut during the early 1980’s I had still held out hope that the UN might be able to do something useful in this world. Rwanda dashed all of that hope for me.

How was it possible for the massacre between Hutu and Tutsi to continue while well-armed UN Peacekeepers were in country facing enemies armed with machetes? The official policy was to observe; and shamefully that is just what they did.

As diplomats spoke over lunch and politicians made speeches, the Peacekeepers were left with no clear directive of what to do when the mass killings began. And, as the killings progressed and the bodies piled up, the officers and men of the Peacekeeping Forces did their job and so did nothing.

In this beautifully made movie which takes place in 1994, just after the Hutu President’s plane has been shot down, the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s come to war over allegations that the plane was shot down by the Tutsi’s. The Hutu’s are more numerous and have every advantage of being the governing tribe in Rwanda. The airplane crash serves as a pretext for the killings to begin.

The film centers around a local school run by a Priest named Father Christopher, played by John Hurt. He is assisted by Joe Connor, played by Hugh Dancy. They have forged a community with the Tutsi’s of the area and introduced them to western style education and Christianity. There are also some Hutu’s living at the school as employees, which makes you think that there is hope for peace between the two tribes; at least in the school itself.

Father Christopher and Joe are able to shelter 2,500 men, women and children at the school as the violence rages just outside the gate and the corpses pile up. The Belgian Peacekeepers assigned to protect them find themselves under siege and a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues; the only question being how long it will take for the Hutu’s to realize that the UN Peacekeepers are under orders not to shoot; under any circumstances.

As the situation spirals way out of control, Father Christopher begins to question whether he has done any good for the students in his charge. They recite the prayers, they eat the wafers of the sacrament; but do they really understand Christianity? But just as he is judging them he and Joe face the larger ethical question of what they should do as individuals. Do they stay and share the fate of their refugees? Or do they flee with the Peacekeepers, leaving them to the fate of the Hutu’s?

Directed brilliantly and performed with intensity, this film will make you look with even more disgust at the United Nations. Having seen the UN in action close hand in Lebanon, I can tell you that this film does nothing to stretch the truth.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Isn't It a Pity"

Isn't it a pity,
Now isn't it a shame?
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain.
How we take each others love,
Without thinking anymore.
Forgetting to give back,
Isn't it a pity?

Somethings take too long
but how do I explain?
That not too many people
Can see we're all the same.
And because of all their tears
their eyes can't hope to see
The beauty that surronds them,
In't it a pity?

Isn't it a pity,
Now isn't it a shame?
How we break each other's hearts
and cause each other pain.
How we take each others love,
without thinking anymore.
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity?

George Harrison - 1970

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"The Little Cloud that Cried" - Johnny Ray (1958)

This artist is new to me. Ran across his name in a book I was reading, and as is my wont, I went to You Tube to check out his act. I wondered what the earpiece was all about because this video precedes the days of headsets and the other devices attendant to a modern performance. Now I was hooked.

Turns out that Johnny Ray wore a hearing aid! It was now time to hit Wikipedia; always a good place to start before going on to books and interviews. 

John Alvin Ray was one of the more complex American singers and songwriters of the 1950’s. He achieved early success here in America but by the 1960’s his star had faded. He did, however enjoy a long and successful career in Europe; especially in England; and performed overseas until the year before his death in 1990.

Born in 1927 he lived on a farm with his parents. At age 13 he was hurt in a blanket toss during a Boy Scout outing. That injury cost him the hearing in his left ear. By 1958 he was just about completely deaf, but kept performing. He appeared with Ethel Merman in the movie “There's No Business Like Show Business” in 1954 with Dan Dailey, Donald O'Connor, and Marilyn Monroe.

By the time he made that film he was drinking heavily and also had been arrested twice for soliciting sex with other men. The first arrest was in Detroit at a burlesque house; he paid a fine quietly and the story was largely unreported at the time. After a second arrest; also in Detroit; he went to trial and was found not guilty. Surprisingly these arrests did little to hurt his career; although it must be noted that Liberace was a huge hit at the time and the public was not really on a witch hunt against homosexuals.

In many ways Johnny Ray was considered an early harbinger of the rock and roll sound, singing songs with pop lyrics. Tony Bennett has referred to him as the true father of rock and roll. Not sure I would agree with that, but he was a major component of the changes taking place in music at the time. He was kind of like Bobby Darin in some ways. His influences seem to have been Kay Starr, LaVern Baker and Ivory Joe Hunter. His hit single “Cry” was an influence to an up and coming Elvis Presley and he had the girls screaming several years before Elvis did. The King even took some of his lesser known moves from Mr. Ray.

By 1952 he was a major star in America; within the next year he was playing to sold out crowds in England and Australia. Sometimes when he sang he cried; which only served to endear him even more to the audiences. But by 1960 his American label dropped him and his star faded at home. But his recordings; both new and old; never stopped selling outside of the United States.

For more about this artist; including his marriage to Marilyn Morrison; the daughter of the Mocambo nightclub owner; check out this Wikipedia article. And for even more about his unusual career the following link to a blog called The Hound Dog will be very informative.



See the portraits of these two men? Now see the difference in the way some people view them while claiming that race is not an issue in their assessment. If that were true then the only other explanation would be a lack of honesty on the part of the people making that claim; or else just a willingness to spout what they have heard from their favorite talking heads on the television and radio.

President Obama stated several weeks ago that he had no strategy for the problems in the Mideast with the group known alternately as ISIS/ISIL; pick your poison, they’re both the same to me. At any rate, a firestorm of protest was unleashed by the Right; "how can he say that?" " We need a man like Bush. He would have done something!"

Well, as demonstrated by the current mess we find ourselves in, he would have done something too quickly and ultimately it would have been the wrong thing. So, the Right is critical of a President who thinks before committing American lives and money to a decision. That’s a terrible thing…

Now; and this is in advance of the speech that the President will be making this evening about his strategy on the issue of ISIS/ISIL, pick your poison they’re both the same to me; they are already all over talk radio with the following reactions to what has not happened yet. Appropriately I have chosen to respond in advance to their pre-responses. It’s what I do. Here goes;

If the president takes a strong view against ISIS/ISIL; pick you poison they’re both the same to me; he will be viewed as having been indecisive for not having had an initial strategy.

This will make him suspect in the eyes of the American people.

It will provide comfort to the enemy who realize that he does not react quickly enough to situations, as did President Bush.

Now, remember, this is what they will say if they agree with him! I won’t even bother with what will be said if he is soft on the issue and they dis-agree!

So, in answer to the pre-analysis of what hasn't happened yet, since this is obviously the “party line” which Conservatives will be running with anyway, we say the following;

President Obama took the time- just a few weeks- to figure out a strategy for doing something which may affect us for decades to come. President Bush, on the other hand, did not. He was reckless and We, the People, are still paying the price for it.

It will make me less suspect of the President. Just knowing that he is not striving to get a quick knee-jerk reaction from me; in the way that the War in Iraq was sold to the American people; will be comforting. The knowledge that someone is not being reckless at the top of our government; where they never pay the price for wrong decisions; will be refreshing to most. It smacks of deliberate and considered leadership.

It will discomfort the enemy to know that we will be thinking before we act. This will have the opposite effect of empowering the enemy; sometimes with money and weapons; as was the case under Ronald Reagan with the Taliban who gave us Osama Bin Laden courtesy of our own tax dollars.

Well, that’s my “pre-editorial wrap up” for the speech tonight. The speech won’t contain any surprises. It will probably be an outline of what we are going to do as a coalition with other nations. Not sure if I care for coalitions anymore. We seem to do most of the paying and heavy lifting, but it’s probably better than thumbing your nose at the whole world. We shall see. But those are my predictions for the Conservative “take” on the speech, based upon what I am hearing on talk radio this afternoon about what hasn't happened yet.