Monday, April 30, 2007 04/30/07-Cemeteries

In today's excerpt--the American "rural-cemetery movement," launched by the creation of Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With Mount Auburn, graveyards came to be called cemeteries and became destinations for truth-seeking and reflection:

"Mount Auburn, the Cambridge cemetery, became one of the principle cultural institutions of the nineteenth century. ... David Charles Sloane notes that the rural cemetery movement, launched by Mount Auburn in 1831, brought into widespread use the Greek-derived term 'cemetery,' from koimeterion ('sleeping- place'). ... The Greek emphasis is one clue to the attitudes being expressed--an escape from the theological gloom of churchyards, a return to nature, a pantheistic identification of dissolution with initiation. ... The new cemetery would be a place of frequent resort for the living, who would commune with nature as a way of finding life in death. The romantic theory of association made people see death in a new way. ...

"Mount Auburn became a place of fashionable resort and cultural indoctrination, a 'school' outside Boston to rank with the neighboring Harvard campus. When Edward Everett was Harvard's president, he took important guests out to contemplate Mount Auburn. In 1849, he escorted Lady Emmeline Wortley there even before showing her around the college grounds, and she was more detailed and enthusiastic in her description of the cemetery than of the campus. [Charles] Dickens was also exposed to this national treasure, which received thirty thousand visitors a year. ...

"The function of a cemetery as a training of the sensibilities was much on Everett's mind. He even suggested that children should be kept in instructive communion with the place by volunteer work on its upkeep."

Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg, Simon and Schuster, 1992, pp. 63-70.

Friday, April 27, 2007 04/27/07-Tammany Hall

In today's excerpt--the blatant corruption of New York City's Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall shows how difficult the path of democracy was for the young United States:

"William Marcy Tweed, born on Cherry Street in 1823 ... set to remake the city in his own image. He abolished the Board of Aldermen and the State Commissions, drew up his own charter and implemented it in 1870, its statutes placing the bulk of municipal power in the hands of a special Board of Auditors--made up of Tweed, [Mayor Oakey] Hall, and [Tammany Committeeman Richard] Connolly. The corruption of the Tweed regime extended from top to bottom and penetrated every corner of the city's structure. Small-time crooks suddenly became untouchable, and often found themselves with governmental sinecures. A mayhem artist and gambler named Tim Donovan became a deputy clerk at Fulton Market; the comedian 'Oofty Goofty' Phillips was made clerk to the Water Register; the crook Jim 'Maneater' Cusick became a court clerk. Under Tweed, the city spent $10,000 on $75 worth of pencils, $171,000 for $4,000 in tables and chairs, and squandered some $12 million on the infamous courthouse behind City Hall, including $1,826,000 for a $50,000 plastering job, $7 million for furniture and decorations, and roughly $3,500,000 for alleged repairs in the first thirty-one months after the building's completion. Tweed invested in judges, who sold receiverships, court orders, and writs of habeas corpus on the open market. ... One of them, Albert Cardozo, once held two women there incommunicado for seventeen days for reasons that were never disclosed, and in a period of about three years released more than two hundred clients of [defense super-attorneys] Howe and Hummel in exchange for financial considerations. Tweed all but bought newspapers as well: the World was his organ in the days before its purchase by Joseph Pulitzer; one of the three directors of the Times was his business partner; at one point he was paying the Post $50,000 a month. ...

"Electoral manipulation had become a joke. There was even a vaudeville routine: 'Come off it,' said the election official. 'You ain't Bishop Doane.' 'The hell I ain't, you son of a bitch,' replied the voter. When black voters tried to mark their ballots in the 1870 election, they found that all their names had already been voted by white repeaters."

Luc Sante, Low Life, Vintage, 1991, pp. 263-5.

Thursday, April 26, 2007 04/26/07-Keeping an Ally in Office

In today's encore excerpt--the task of managing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a constant challenge for President Franklin Roosevelt, General George Marshall, and others among the United States military policy leaders during World War II. They needed Churchill's support, but he was given to proposing unsound and distracting strategies. The United States was helped, though, by the calming, reasonable presence of Sir John Dill, Churchill's liaison to the United States. There inevitably came a time when Churchill became frustrated with Dill and wanted to replace him, which created great concern for General Marshall, who feared the negative effects a less capable replacement. He therefore came up with an artful way of keeping Dill in office:

"Marshall suggested (to Secretary of War Stimson's special assistant Harvey Bundy) that getting Dill 'an honorary degree from your old friends at Harvard would impress the old man in England.'

"Bundy tried but failed; Harvard would grant no quickie degrees nor call a special convocation to present an honorary doctorate.

" 'Try Yale,' Marshall ordered.

"As an old Eli, Bundy felt more secure. But even his alumnus status could not circumvent the problem of granting a degree without a ceremony. Instead, the university's president, Charles Seymour, proposed Dill be named the first winner of the Charles P. Howland Award for contributions to international relations. Seymour offered to lay on a full-dress academic parade for the ceremony, and the Army's public relations staff arranged extensive press coverage. Marshall went on to line up other degrees for his friend, always making sure that the publicity crossed the Atlantic.

"Six weeks later, a smiling Marshall informed Bundy, 'My underground tells me that the Prime Minister said, 'You know, that fellow must be doing quite a job.' The honors-laden Dill would stay on."

Ed Cray, General of the Army, Cooper Square, 1990, p. 447.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 04/25/07-The Real Robinson Crusoe

In today's excerpt--Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, is found by the captain and crew of the British ships Duke and Dutchess while they are sailing the Pacific seeking to plunder Spanish ships filled with treasure:

"The next morning the Duke and Dutchess sailed into the [Juan Fernandez Island] harbor entrance, their guns ready for action. ... As they approached the beach, they were shocked to see a solitary man, clad in goatskin, waving a white cloth and yelling exuberantly to them in English. Alexander Selkirk, the castaway whose story would inspire Daniel Dafoe to write Robinson Crusoe, was about to be rescued.

"Selkirk had been stranded on Juan Fernandez Island for four years and four months, ... a Scotsman, [he] had been the mate aboard a consort ... whose captain and officers had lost faith in their commodore's leadership and sailed off on their own. Unfortunately, the ship's hull had already been infested by shipworm, so much so that when the galley stopped at Juan Fernandez for water and fresh provisions, young Selkirk decided to stay--to take his chances on the island rather than try to cross the Pacific in a deteriorating vessel. According to the extended account he gave [Captain] Rogers, Selkirk spent the better part of a year in deep despair, scanning the horizon for friendly vessels that never appeared. Slowly he adapted to his solitary world. The island was home to hundreds of goats, descendents of those left behind when the Spanish abandoned a half-hearted colonization attempt. He eventually learned to chase them down and catch them with his bare hands. He built two huts with goatskin walls and grass roofs, one serving as a kitchen, the other as his living quarters, where he read the Bible, sang psalms, and fought off the armies of rats that came to nibble his toes as he slept. He defeated the rodents by feeding and befriending many of the island's feral cats, which lay about his hut by the hundreds. As insurance against starvation in case of accident or illness, Selkirk had managed to domesticate a number of goats, which he raised by hand and, on occasion, would dance with in his lonely hut. ... He was rarely sick, and ate a healthful diet of turnips, goats, crayfish, and wild cabbage. He'd barely evaded a Spanish landing party by hiding at the top of a tree, against which some of his pursuers pissed, unaware of his presence.

"[Captain] Rogers said ... 'He had so much forgot his language for want of use that we could scarcely understand him, for he seemed to speak by halves. ... We offer'd him a Dram [alcoholic drink], but he would not touch it, having drank nothing but water since his being there, and 'twas some time before he could relish our victuals.' Selkirk was remarkably healthy and alert at first, but Rogers noted that 'this man, when he came to our ordinary method of diet and life, though he was sober enough, lost much of his strength and agility.' "

Colin Woodard, The Republic of Pirates, Harcourt, 2007, pp. 75-77.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 04/24/07-The Main Meal

In today's excerpt--how our forefathers dined:

"The Indians introduced the colonists not only to new foods, but to more interesting ways of preparing them. Succotash, clam chowder, hominy, corn pone, cranberry sauce, johnny cakes, even Boston-baked beans and Brunswick stew were all Indian dishes. In Virginia, it was the Indians, not the white settlers, who invented the Smithfield ham. Even with the constant advice and intervention of the Indians, the Puritans stuck to a diet that was for the most part resolutely bland. Meat and vegetables were boiled without pity, deprived of seasonings, and served lukewarm. Peas, once they got the hang of growing them, were eaten at almost every meal, and often served cold. The principal repast was taken at midday and called dinner. Supper, a word related to soup, was often just that--a little soup with perhaps a piece of bread--and was consumed in the evening shortly before retiring. Lunch was a concept unknown, as was the idea of a snack. To the early colonists, snack meant the bite of a dog. ...

"By the time of the Revolution, the main meal was taken between 2 and 4 p.m. A typical meal might consist of salted beef with potatoes and peas, followed by baked or fried eggs, fish, and salad, with a variety of sweets, puddings, cheeses, and pastries to finish, all washed down with quantities of alcohol that would leave most of us today unable to rise from the table--or at least rise and stay risen. Meat was consumed in quantities that left European observers slack-jawed with astonishment. By the early 1800s the average American was eating almost 180 pounds of meat a year, 48 pounds more than people would consume a century later, but fresh meat remained largely unknown because of the difficulty keeping it fresh. Even city people often had chickens in the yard and a hog or two left to scavenge in the street. Until well into the nineteenth century, visitors to New York remarked on the hazard to traffic presented by wandering hogs along Broadway. Even in the more temperate North, beef and pork would go bad in a day in summer, chicken even quicker, and milk would curdle in as little as an hour. And even among the better classes, spoiled food was a daily hazard. One guest at a dinner party given by the Washingtons noted with a certain vicious relish that the General discreetly pushed his plate of sherry trifle to one side when he discovered that the cream was distinctly iffy but that the less discerning Martha continued shoveling it in with gusto. Ice cream was a safer operation. It was first mentioned in America in the 1740s when a guest at a banquet given by the governor of Maryland wrote about this novelty, which, he noted, 'eat most deliciously.' "

Bill Bryson, Made in America, Perennial, 1995, pp. 184-186.

Monday, April 23, 2007 04/23/07-How To Fight Poverty

In today's excerpt--how to fight poverty:

"There is no robust body of economic research showing that particular economic interventions--dam building or malaria fighting or civil-service reform--consistently relieve more poverty than other ones. It is hard enough to measure poverty, and economists vary widely on its extent. It is even harder, and probably impossible, to measure the relative impact of dozens of interrelated strategies to relieve poverty across scores of countries.

"The impossibility of showing which interventions trump the rest is easily forgotten, because development advocates generate a steady stream of claims to the contrary: The key to kick-starting development is said to lie in microfinance, or population control, or greater rights for women, or various other worthwhile challenges. Perhaps the most impressive recent claim of this genre comes from Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian economist, who points out that the poor often lack legal title to their land. Change that, de Soto says, and you give them collateral, and therefore a chance to borrow money and start small businesses. But although de Soto's insight is important, land tenure is not a silver bullet. ...

"There are similar problems with another kind of selectivity proposal. In a Foreign Affairs article published in 1997, Stephen Radelet and Jeffrey Sachs of the Harvard Institute for International Development agreed that a lot of things have to go right simultaneously for development to take off; but they suggested it might be a mistake to try and achieve this on a national level. Rather than address that impossibly vast challenge, Radelet and Sachs argued, it would be better to follow Asia's strategy of creating enclaves of efficiency. Most of the East Asian Tigers created export-processing zones in which corruption and red tape were eliminated, security was reliable, and electricity and transport links were excellent. These enclaves attracted investment, and prosperity radiated gradually outward. China, for example, set up several special economic zones along its coastline, starting in 1980. Within a few years, one of the world's greatest export booms created millions of new jobs, despite the fact that China's national institutions were rotten with corruption. Yet the enclave argument, for all its persuasiveness, raises its own set of questions. What good are export zones if corrupt national institutions lay you open to financial meltdown? And if national institutions are corrupt, won't national politicians be tempted to extract bribes from supposedly uncorrupt enclaves? Rather like Hernando de Soto's land tenure idea, enclaves might start you down the road toward development. But in the end you can't duck the question of [the effectiveness of] national governance, however daunting it might be."

Sebastion Mallaby, The World's Banker, Yale, 2004, pp. 381-2.

Friday, April 20, 2007 04/20/07-Spelling

In today's excerpt--many of the reasons that English spelling contains many silent letters and other complexities date from the 15th century, around the time of William Caxton's 1476 introduction the printing press in England:

"In spelling, the language was assimilating the consequences of having a civil service of French scribes, who paid little attention to the traditions of English spelling that had developed in Anglo-Saxon times. Not only did French qu arrive, replacing Old English cw (as in queen), but ch replaced c (in words such as church--Old English cirice), sh and sch replaced sc (as in ship--Old English scip), and much more. Vowels were written in a great number of ways. Much of the irregularity of modern English spelling derives from the forcing together of Old English and French systems of spelling in the Middle Ages. People struggled to find the best way of writing English throughout the period. ... Even Caxton didn't help, at times. Some of his typesetters were Dutch, and they introduced some of their own spelling conventions into their work. That is where the gh in such words as ghost comes from.

"Any desire to standardize would also have been hindered by the ... Great English Vowel Shift, [which] took place in the early 1400s. Before the shift, a word like loud would have been pronounced 'lood'; name as 'nahm'; leaf as 'layf'; mice as mees'. ...

"The renewed interest in classical languages and cultures, which formed part of the ethos of the Renaissance, had introduced a new perspective into spelling: etymology. Etymology is the study of the history of words, and there was a widespread view that words should show their history in the way they were spelled. These weren't classicists showing off. There was a genuine belief that it would help people if they could 'see' the original Latin in a Latin-derived English word. So someone added a b to the word typically spelled det, dett, or dette in Middle English, because the source in Latin was debitum, and it became debt, and caught on. Similarly, an o was added to peple, because it came from populum: we find both poeple and people, before the latter became the norm. An s was added to ile and iland, because of Latin insula, so we now have island. There are many more such cases. Some people nowadays find it hard to understand why there are so many 'silent letters' of this kind in English. It is because other people thought they were helping."

David Crystal, The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot, and left, Oxford, 2006, pp. 26-9.

Thursday, April 19, 2007 04/19/07-Jane Jacobs

In today's encore excerpt--one of our very favorites from the pen of Jane Jacobs, iconoclastic author of such works as the landmark Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities. Jacobs, in our view, was one of the great original thinkers of our age. who, according to architectural critic Inga Saffron 'almost single- handedly launched the movement to stop America's cities from being paved over by highways, housing towers and high-handed urban renewal projects.' Written in 1961, Death and Life was a withering critique of the post-World War II planning establishment, which believed it could cure what ailed America's cities by replacing dense downtown neighborhoods with a monoculture of concrete public- housing towers. Mrs. Jacobs took the then-radical view that cities derived their richness from diversity itself--their natural, if sometimes scruffy, mix of people, buildings and commerce. Her observations were initially derided as the quaint musings of a simple housewife with no academic degree. It didn't help that she was a woman commenting on a largely male profession, or that she wore her hair in a childish page-boy with self-cut bangs and owlish glasses. But Mrs. Jacobs had her revenge. Her revolutionary ideas have been thoroughly absorbed into mainstream thinking, while her critics have been discredited with one public-housing implosion after another. A review in the New York Times grandly declared her book 'the most influential single work in the history of town planning':

"Great cities are not like towns, only larger. They are not like suburbs, only denser. They differ from towns and suburbs in basic ways, and one of these is that cities are, by definition, full of strangers. To any one person, strangers are far more common in big cities than acquaintances. More common not just in places of public assembly, but more common at a man's own doorstep. Even residents who live near each other are strangers, and must be, because of the sheer number of people in small geographical compass. ...

"So long as we are content to believe that city diversity represents accident and chaos [rather than being itself the source of urban success and value], of course its erratic generation appears to represent a mystery. However, the conditions that generate city diversity are quite easy to discover by observing places in which diversity flourishes and studying the economic reasons why it can flourish in these places. ...

"To generate exuberant diversity in a city's streets and districts, four conditions are indispensable:

"1. The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two. These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the place for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common.

"2. Most Blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.

"3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained.

"4. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purpose they maybe there. This includes dense concentration in the case of people who are there because of residence.

"The purpose of explaining them (in this book) one at a time is purely for convenience of exposition, not because any one--or even any three--of these necessary conditions is valid alone. All four in combination are necessary to generate city diversity; the absence of any one of the four frustrates a district's potential. "

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Vintage Press, 1961, pp. 30, 150.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 04/18/07-Four Thousand and Zion

In today's excerpt--with the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, American Protestants become focused on evangelizing Jews and re-establishing Zion:

" 'We have now entered upon that period which is immediately preparatory to the Millenium,' one Connecticut minister announced in 1815, describing a period in which all wars would cease, every community would have its church, and every family its daily consecration. Particular emphasis was placed on evangelizing the Jews, on uniting the Old Israel with the New. Proselytizing organizations, such as the Female Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews, flourished and expectations of mass conversions soared. ...

"The fascination that many American Protestants displayed towards the Jews did not stem from any extensive contact with them--some four thousand Jews lived in the United States at that time, roughly .04 percent of the total population--nor did it derive from a desire to befriend them personally. Indeed, some early evangelical writing contained comments that would certainly sound anti-Semitic today, including their insistence that all Jews ultimately be baptized. Yet whatever feelings they bore them as fellow citizens were distinct from the affection with which evangelists held the Jews as their cousins in faith and as agents of future redemption. By expediting the fulfillment of God's promises to repatriate the Jews to their homeland, Christians could re-create the conditions of Jewish sovereignty that existed in Jesus' time and so set the stage for his reappearance."

Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith, and Fantasy, Norton, 2007, pp. 86-88.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 04/17/07-Parts of Speech

In today's excerpt--parts of speech:

"Broadly speaking, there are two groups of people who think, talk, and write a lot about language, and parts of speech give them both agita. The 'prescriptivists' ... peer at something like Pimp My Ride and see the decline of Western civilization. The process by which nouns like impact and access, or a noun phrase like fast track are verbed is called 'functional shifting.'...

"[Functional] shifting has been going on for a long, long time. In the words of Garland Cannon ... the process became 'productive in Middle English, when the nouns duke and lord acquired verb functions, and the verbs cut and rule shifted to a noun.' Shakespeare was the past master of this kind of thing; he had characters say 'season your admiration,' 'dog them at the heels,' 'backing a horse,' plus elbow, drug, gossip, lapse, and silence--none of them ever used before as verbs.

"Nouns still get verbed every day, much to the despair of the prescriptivists. ... The real fun starts when a word shifts more than once. Frame started as a verb, meaning 'to form,' then became a noun meaning 'border,' and emerged as a new verb meaning 'to put a frame around something.' In a similar way, the noun wire engendered a verb ('I wired him the news') and from that turned into another noun ('He sent me a wire'). Despite being less than two centuries old, okay is commonly used as five different parts of speech: adjective ('It was an okay movie'), adverb ('The team played okay'), interjection ('Okay!'), noun ('The boss gave her okay'), and verb ('The president okayed the project'). ...

"By contrast, 'descriptivists' ... would go to their deaths defending the use of hopefully to mean 'it is to be hoped that' simply because people use it that way. ... This school underestimates the difference in protocol between speaking and writing, unjustifiably applying the inherent looseness of the one to the necessary (to some extent) formality of the other."

Ben Yagoda, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It, Broadway, 2007, pp. 3-11.

Monday, April 16, 2007 04/16/07-Pirates

In today's excerpt--the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean, 1715 to 1725, conducted by a clique of twenty to thirty pirate commodores and a few thousand crewmen:

"Engaging as their legends are--particularly as enhanced by Robert Louis Stevenson and Walt Disney--the true story of the pirates of the Caribbean is even more captivating: a long lost tale of tyranny and resistance, a maritime revolt that shook the very foundations of the newly formed British Empire, bringing transatlantic commerce to a standstill and fueling the democratic sentiments that would later drive the American revolution. At its center was a pirate republic, a zone of freedom in the midst of an authoritarian age. ...

"They ran their ships democratically, electing and deposing their captains by popular vote, sharing plunder equally, and making important decisions in an open council--all in sharp contrast to the dictatorial regimes in place aboard other ships. At a time when ordinary sailors received no social protections of any kind, the Bahamian pirates provided disability benefits for their crews. ...

"They were sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves rebelling against their oppressors: captains, ship owners, and the autocrats of the great slave plantations of America and the West Indies. ... At the height of the Golden Age, it was not unusual for escaped slaves to account for a quarter or more of a pirate vessel's crew, and several mulattos rose to become full-fledged pirate captains. ... The authorities made pirates out to be cruel and dangerous monsters, rapists and murderers who killed men on a whim and tortured children for pleasure, and indeed some were. Many of these tales were intentionally exaggerated, however, to sway a skeptical public. ... In the voluminous descriptions of [Samuel 'Black Sam'] Bellamy's and Blackbeard 's [Edward Thatch] attacks on shipping--nearly 300 vessels in all--there is not one recorded instance of them killing a captive. More often than not, their victims would later report having been treated fairly by these pirates, who typically returned ships and cargo that did not serve their purposes. ... At the height of their careers, each commanded a small fleet of pirate vessels, a company consisting of hundreds of men, and ... a flagship capable of challenging any man-of-war in the Americas."

Colin Woodard, The Republic of Pirates, Harcourt, 2007, pp. 1-8.

Friday, April 13, 2007 04/16/07-America in 1955

In today's excerpt--acclaimed novelist Robert Stone, raised by a single mother and leaving high school to join the Navy, speaks of America in 1955:

"The Navy I'd joined contained many young men who had never seen a television set in a private home. I was one of them. I was also a New York boy; I had never owned a car and I couldn't drive. American regions and their cultures had come out of isolation during the Second World War, but there were only radio and movies to further homogenization. Or sometimes resist it. In 1955, authentic country music, pitched to the white South, rarely employed a drum. Rock and roll was coming. It would change everything. One Sunday in the summer of 1955, a cook at the Naval Training Station, Bainbridge, Maryland, had the idea to serve his recruits pizza as a treat. He advertised it as pizza pie. Back where most of these men came from, pie was festively served with ice cream. Predictably, more than half of them put their ice cream on it. It wouldn't have happened three and a half years later, by which time America had been sold various versions of what was supposed to be pizza, coast to coast.

"Regional accents were stronger; diction varied more. People from Appalachia had a dismissive challenge for antagonists: 'You and what army? Coxey's?' Coxey's army was a populist gathering that marched on Washington in William Jennings Bryan's time. American speech carried whispers and echoes of the century before."

Robert Stone, Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties, Harper Collins, 2007, p. 22.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

In today's excerpt--young English folk singer Shirley Collins joins Alan Lomax in 1959 on a quixotic journey through the American South to record indigenous folk songs. Collins writes:

"Before I left England, I was full of romantic and naive ideas about Kentucky. I was moved by the fact that the pioneers, leaving harsh conditions in the Old Country, searching for religious or economic freedom, had still kept their songs from home. ... But the truth was that in Kentucky I started to feel afraid. The beauty of the place was undeniable, [but] amidst all the beauty was hardship and deprivation for many mountaineers. We heard of miners' bitter conflicts with mining companies and their armed guards. There were also feuds between families and neighbors, reports in the local newspaper of a man killed because his cow strayed into a neighbor's pasture. I lay in bed at night and could hear gun shots in the hills, and didn't know whether the prey was animal or human.

"On September 6th, a hot clear day, we went to record Old Regular Baptists at an outdoor prayer meeting on the hillside outside of Blackey. ... As we worked, [the preacher] started to preach, and turned his sermon against us. He was a Primitive Hardshell Baptist: he said my bobbed hair was sinful, our recording machines the work of the Devil. The word "abomination" was used, too, and I felt very nervous. ... By now, the preacher was well into his stride, he was sobbing and wailing, his voice breaking as he threatened eternal damnation for whoever allowed 'them 'phones' (microphones) to be brought to the meeting ground. ...

"If you think I'm exaggerating my fear, the texts below were printed on a card handed to me by the preacher, ... see if it doesn't case you the same unease that I feel, even reading it at forty years' remove and many miles' distance:



Shirley Collins, America Over The Water, SAF, 2005, pp. 86-93

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 04/11/07-Broadway

In today's encore excerpt, renowned author and screenwriter William Goldman comments on the difficulty of performing on Broadway:

"It is always wisest to try and see a show as soon as possible after it opens (because) most shows go to hell, sometimes quickly.

"You can't blame the actors for the deterioration. Doing the same precise thing eight times a week, 416 times a year, becomes numbing to the soul.

"Barry Nelson says, 'The longer you play the performance, the more your mind resents it. You're in the middle of a scene, and suddenly all you're thinking about is whether you should have Chinese food after the show.'

" 'I don't think any actor really likes long runs. I don't think humans were meant to do them.' "

William Goldman, The Season, Limelight, 1969, pp. 19-20

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 04/10/07-Our Anthem, Rum, and Opium

In today's excerpt--for some thirty years after the Revolutionary War, America struggled to defend its sea-going trade from the Barbary pirates of North Africa. The military commanders who led this fight were men such as Captain Stephen Decatur, Captain William Bainbridge, and Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon. Finally, through a combination of diplomacy and armed force, peace and free passage for merchants is secured and America enjoys the fruits of this victory:

"The legacy of America's Barbary Wars would live on in America. ... U.S. Marines still hymn 'to the shores of Tripoli' (though, in fact, they reached only Darna) and brandish a scimitar-shaped sword reminiscent of that presented by [Tripolitan leader] Hamid to Lieutenant O'Bannon [upon surrender]. The nation's oldest war monument, situated at Annapolis and commissioned by an act of Congress, commemorates the victory over North Africa. ... The most prominent symbol of the war, however, is perhaps the least acknowledged. First composed for Bainbridge and Decatur in 1805 and set to an old English drinking tune, the anthem for which Americans rise at ballgames and other public occasions originally described 'turbaned heads bowed' to the 'brow of the brave' and 'the star- spangled flag of our nation.' Only after the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 were the lyrics revised by their author, Francis Scott Key.

"A half century after its founding, the United States was still on its own, but fully capable of defending its trade. Freed from piracy, American commerce thrived. Mediterranean ports registered a four-fold increase in visiting American ships in the 1820s. The United States now supplied the region with some twelve million gallons of rum annually and purchased most of Turkey's opium crop. 'What a reproof to the Christians of America,' mourned one Yankee missionary after landing in Anatolia. 'Anticipated by her merchants finding a market for her poisons!' Most Americans evinced no such qualms, however, but rather reveled in their newfound strength."

Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith and Fantasy, Norton, 2007, pp. 77-8.

Monday, April 09, 2007 04/09/07-Cleaning Up

In today's excerpt--the job of cleaning up at Gettysburg. The battle had left fifty thousand dead, wounded or missing in a town of only 2,500. Four months later in November of 1863, an estimated twenty thousand descended on this same small town to hear the oration of Edward Everett and a dedication by Abraham Lincoln:

"Eight thousand human bodies were scattered over, or barely under, the ground. Suffocating teams of soldiers, Confederate prisoners, and dragooned civilians slid the bodies beneath a minimal covering as fast as possible. ... Even after most bodies were lightly blanketed, the scene was repellent. A nurse shuddered at the all-too-visible 'rise and swell of human bodies' in these furrows war had plowed. A soldier noticed how earth 'gave' as he walked over the shallow trenches. Householders had to plant around the bodies in their fields and gardens, or brace themselves to move the rotting corpses to another place. Soon these uneasy graves were being rifled by relatives looking for their dead--reburying other bodies that they turned up, even more hastily (and less adequately) than had the first disposal crews. ...

"[For the November dedication ceremony] state delegations, civic organizations, military bands and units were planning to charter trains and clog the roads, bringing at least ten thousand people to a town with poor resources for feeding and sheltering crowds. ... Governor Curtin [of Pennsylvania], starting from Harrisburg just thirty miles away, took nine hours [to make the trip]. ... Governor Ramsay of Minnesota started a week before the dedication and was stranded, at 4:00 am on the day of delivery, in Hanover Junction with 'no means of getting up to Gettysburg.' ...

"[On the eve of the speeches, chief orator Edward] Everett was already in residence at [host David] Wills' house, and Governor Curtin's late arrival led Wills to suggest that the two men share a bed. ... Everett's daughter was sleeping with two other women, whose bed broke under their weight. William Saunders, who would have an honored place on the platform the next day, could find no bed and had to sleep sitting up in a crowded parlor."

Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg, Simon and Schuster, 1992, pp. 20-30.

Friday, April 06, 2007 04/06/07-Words Count

In today's excerpt--Frank Luntz argues that a single word choice can make a profound difference in perception-such as the word 'spirits' replacing 'liquor' or the word 'gaming' replacing 'gambling':

"One of the best examples of an industry tackling its greatest image weakness and turning it into its most beneficial strength just by changing a single solitary word is the 'gaming' industry--formerly known as the 'gambling' industry. ... Turning gambling into gaming wasn't [industry association president] Frank Fahrenkopf's idea ... [but he] intensified the effort. ...

"What's important to understand is that the underlying products and services changed not a whit. Same slot machines. Same deck of cards. Same dice. Same casino advantage. But the switch from 'gambling' to 'gaming' in describing one's behavior contributed to a fundamental change in how Americans see the gambling industry. ...

"All the old, unsavory associations (e.g., organized crime, pawnshops, addiction, foolishly losing one's fortune) gave way to a lighter, brighter image of good, clean fun. 'Gambling' looks like what an old man with a crumpled racing form does at a track, or sounds like the pleas of a desperate degenerate trying to talk a pawnshop punter into paying a little more for his wedding ring, or feels like the services provided by some seedy back-alley bookie in some smoke-filled room. 'Gaming' is what families do together at the Hollywood-themed MGM Grand, New York, New York, or one of the other 'family-friendly resorts' in Las Vegas. 'Gambling' is a vice. 'Gaming' is a choice. 'Gambling' is taking a chance, engaging in a risky behavior. 'Gaming' is as simple as playing a game with cards or dice or a little ball that goes round and round and round."

Dr. Frank Luntz, Words That Work, Hyperion, 2007, p. pp. 129-130.

Thursday, April 05, 2007 04/05/07-Optimism in 1963

In today's encore excerpt--optimism in 1963:

"During the first exuberant spring since the brush with Armageddon in Cuba, established organs of mass culture promoted almost anything that was optimistic. Life magazine celebrated the government's plans for using hydrogen bombs to blast out new harbors and a copy of the Panama Canal, and predicted that LSD, peyote, and other hallucinogens soon would be harnessed to make people 'more productive and generally effective.' There was infectious awe over miracles--both profound ones such as the discovery of the DNA molecule, the 'key to life itself,' and prosaic ones such as the invention of the pop-top beer can."

Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters, Simon & Schuster, 1988, p. 711

Wednesday, April 04, 2007 04/04/07-Religion in America

In today's excerpt--religion in America:

"[T]he United States has a superabundance of denominations and sects compared to Europe, as well as a far higher ratio of churchgoers. By one count, the United States in 1996 had 19 separate Presbyterian denominations, 32 Lutheran, 36 Methodist, 37 Episcopal or Anglican, 60 Baptist and 241 Pentecostal. Globalization and immigration have added to the proliferation in surprising ways. In A New Religious America (1991), Diana Eck pointed out that Muslims in America outnumber Presbyterians and Episcopalians, and that Los Angeles is the most varietal Buddhist city in the world. Each Sunday the Los Angeles Times publishes a directory of services that includes more than six hundred denominations. ...

"By careful synthesis of polling results, we can affirm that 'about one in four Americans (or 25 percent) are now affiliated with a church from the network of conservative Protestant churches (that is, fundamentalist, evangelical, holiness, or Pentecostal). Not quite one in six (around 15 percent) are affiliated with the older denominations that used to be called the Protestant mainline.' Still, the conservative ratio may be understated by leaving out America's million Mormons and million Jehovah's Witnesses, and perhaps by pegging Pentecostal at a cautious ten million adults rather than in the sometimes suggested twenty million range. ...

"The Roman Catholic Church claims some sixty million members, but only half are frequent churchgoers. The sharp decline from 1965 to 1990 in church ability to recruit priests, nuns and seminarians in the United States has been charted from the Official Catholic Directory by Stark and Finke. From 10.6 enrollments in seminaries for every ten thousand U.S. Catholics in 1965, the number plummeted to 1.1 in 1990."

Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy, Viking, 2006, pp. 105, 119-120.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 04/03/07-Raising Money

In today's excerpt, France's King Philippe Auguste, who took the throne in 1180 at the age of fifteen, was one of the master builders of both the nation of France and the city of Paris:

"How did Philippe Auguste manage to raise money for all his vast urban projects in Paris, defensive and peaceful?. ... One of his main sources of income ... derived from the Jewish community of Paris.

"From Philippe Auguste to Philippe Petain, and beyond, treatment of the Jews in Paris, indeed in northern France as a whole, was never conspicuous for its generosity. But this was true of most of medieval Europe. There were the relatively good periods, and the very bad. To his shame, the reign of Philippe Auguste belonged categorically to the latter. In French Jewish lore, he became known as 'that wicked King.' Under Louis VII, the Jews had been relatively well treated, their synagogues protected, and they had prospered. By the end of Louis' long reign, their small community had come to own nearly half of all private property in the city, with large numbers of the citizenry in their debt. But before his father was even cold in the grave Philippe, still barely fifteen and probably acting under pressure from the establishment, in 1180 issued orders for the Jews under royal protection in Paris to be arrested in their synagogues, imprisoned and condemned to purchase their freedom through surrender of all their gold and silver and precious vestments. Though not in fact initiated as religious persecution, it was a cynically skillful ploy for getting on his side both the Church and the great mass of wealthy Parisian debtors. Above all it granted Philippe the immense sum of 31,500 livres, which he needed both for building the walls of Paris and Les Halles, and for equipping his army to defeat the Plantagenets. Two years later, he followed up with a decree expelling the Jews from France and confiscating the totality of their wealth. Debts were wiped out--except for a fifth which the royal coffers appropriated."

Alistair Horne, Seven Ages of Paris, Pan Books, 2003, pp. 39-40.

Monday, April 02, 2007 04/02/07-Shanghaied

In today's excerpt, unsuspecting young men "shanghaied" into servitude aboard the great 19th century sailing ships:

"The 19th century, the heyday of sail-powered merchants shipping, was also the heyday of the sea pimp, or crimp, who supplied unscrupulous captains with fresh crew members, often unwilling ones. In other words, the men were shanghaied. (The term crimp, originally British slang for 'agent,' probably arrived in America with British sailors. The term 'shanghai' likely arose because many crimped sailors ended up in Shanghai, China, a major port in the day of sail.) Crimping took place in all major ports around the world: London, New York, and Hong Kong were all infamously dangerous places. ...

"Toward the end of the sailing ship's reign in the last quarter of the 19th century, the West Coast of the United States was reported to have the most dangerous ports in the world. Portland was a rough, corrupt city whose economy had risen quickly through timber and grain shipping. In the 1890's it was common for 100 windjammers to be docked in Portland Harbor. ...

"[In one typical instance, Portland resident] A.E. Clarke was wandering down Burnside Street when he met a man who invited him aboard to a riverboat party. Clarke accepted the offer and spent the afternoon drinking and chatting with young women as the boat made its way to Astoria, a port town located where the Columbia River enters the Pacific Ocean. Once there, Clarke was told to sign a passenger list so the crew would know when everyone was back on board, and then he was taken on a 'tour' of an iron-hulled, deep-sea square-rigger. At that point, Clarke and the other victims were held at gunpoint, manacled and shoved in a dark hold. It was seven years before Clarke saw Portland again."

Steve Wilson, 'Of Crimps and Shanghaied Sailors,' American History, June 2006, pp. 58, 60.