Wednesday, April 30, 2008 4/30/08-The Farmer versus the Elite

In today's excerpt-acrimony and bloodshed between American yeomen-farmers-and American elite in pre- and post-Revolutionary America, culminating in the infamous "Shay's Rebellion":

"Contrary to still-persistent American myths of rural rugged individualism, the yeoman households were tightly connected to each other--and, increasingly, the outside world. ... [But] all was not flourishing tranquility. Especially in backcountry areas, conflicts between and among yeomen, would-be yeomen, great proprietors, and government officials, as well as combat with Indians, led to continual wrangling and sporadic violence, all of which worsened after the revolution. Much of the conflict concerned access to the land, as farmers seeking independent land titles found themselves squeezed out by gentlemen who had exploited their political connections to gain large (sometimes huge), loosely defined land grants.

"Yeomen battled back, with a vehemence born of fear, prejudice, and insular hatreds--as well as an admixture of egalitarian ideals. The largest of the yeoman rebellions before the Revolution, the so-called North Carolina Regulation, began in 1764. ... The uprising turned into full-scale war against autocratic eastern gentry rule that ended only when the rebels were crushed by combined colonial and British forces at the Battle of Alamance (near present-day Burlington) in 1771. Earlier, New Jersey yeomen defied land laws that favored their proprietors, and New York settlers rebelled unsuccessfully to gain rights over land that, as one of them put it, they had worked 'for nearly 30 years past and had manured and cultivated.' ... In central Pennsylvania, the 'Paxton Boys,' furious at the lack of military backing from the colonial assembly against Indian raids, massacred some government-protected Indians and undertook a menacing march on Philadelphia. (Government officials led by Benjamin Franklin met with the protestors and quelled the unrest.) After the Revolution, 'Liberty Men' in central Maine, 'Wild Yankees' in northeastern Pennsylvania, and 'Green Mountain Boys' in western Vermont all challenged local landlords and the courts. The most notorious of these struggles culminated in the New England Regulation of 1786-87 associated with Daniel Shays. ...

"Evangelical religion added a spiritual basis to these fearful egalitarian politics. Out of the postmillenialist stirrings of New England's Great Awakening ... came a growing cultural divide between the backcountry and the seaboard, where more staid, rationalist Anglicans (later Episcopalians) ... held sway. Converts to the evangelical gospel found themselves in a new, direct, and individual relationship with God that sliced across hierarchies of wealth and standing but insisted on humankind's utter dependence on the Lord. By contrast, the gentry and urban mercantile elite were apt to regard the evangelical effusions of the countryside as ignorant, degraded, and dangerous to civic order."

Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy, Norton, Copyright 2005 by Sean Wilentz, pp. 15-19.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 4/29/08-The Dayton Accords

In today's excerpt--the Dayton Agreement, which was in part brokered by the World Bank and which brought a fragile but sustained peace to Bosnia after three and a half years of war. It created a soft partition, separating Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Its success--without the involvement of American ground troops-- has served as the key reference point for the proposed Biden-Gelb plan for peace in Iraq:

"The World Bank was created by its founders [in 1944] precisely to tackle the biggest problems in the world: the threat that poverty might lead to war, that desperation might lead to desperate isms. ... In 1994, it was Bosnia that needed saving most. Sooner or later the country would reach some sort of cease-fire, and the Bank would be expected to help out. ... Bosnians were the survivors of a war that had displaced 2 million people since 1991, killing 250,000. The territory of Bosnia, once a model of multiethnic society, had become the bloodiest slaughterhouse in Europe since World War II. A relatively affluent society had been reduced to burning books and furniture and shoes for heat; there was little food to be found, and snipers struck at any moment. ...

"For the past four years, the outside world had ignored the plight of the Balkans, as though the end of the cold war had entitled them to shrug off foreign crises. The country's Muslim majority--known, confusingly, as Bosniaks--had suffered attack first by the Orthodox Christian Serbs, then by the Catholic Croats; they had hunkered down in their encircled capital, stoking their resentment at the civilized world's indifference. ... Serb aggression--and Serb contempt for the outside world's restraining pleas--had climaxed in a small town called Srebrenica, where the Bosnian Serb army slaughtered more than seven thousand Bosniaks, herding some into execution sites and hunting others as they fled from the carnage. The United Nations, whose peacekeepers were supposedly monitoring this 'safe zone,' was buried in black shame....

"In Bosnia in 1995, there was no way the warring parties could discuss reconstruction; they could not even agree where the discussion should be located. It took the World Bank's mediation to focus the Bosnians on practical problems: Should there be a central bank? How to reconcile conflicting tax and customs systems? ... On November 20, after three weeks locked up at the airbase [in Dayton, Ohio], Richard Holbrooke was prepared to disband the talks and declare defeat. ... An ultimatum extracted a final round of concessions from the Serbs, which persuaded the Croats to sign on; it remained for the Americans to sell the deal to the Bosniak president, Alija Izetbegovic. ... 'It is not a just peace,' Izetbegovic finally declared, and Holbrooke's heart was in his mouth. But the yearning for reconstruction, for a return to normalcy after four years, seemed to push Izetbegovic on. 'My people need peace,' he said slowly. Holbrooke took that for a yes and made swiftly for the exit. ... Izetbegovic's acceptance of the deal had been balanced on a knife edge, and without the promise of substantial World Bank aid, he might have rejected it. ...

"In 1996, the Bosnian economy grew 86 percent, the next year it grew another 37 percent; unemployment halved from about 70 to 80 percent at the start of 1996 to around 35 percent two years later. Even allowing for the inevitable bounce after war, this was a robust recovery."

Sebastian Mallaby, The World's Banker, Yale, Copyright 2004 by Sebastian Mallaby, pp. 119-142.

Monday, April 28, 2008 4/28/08-Julie Andrews

In today's excerpt--Julie Andrews, known to the world for her star turns in My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, is left by her mother at the age of five:

"My father, Ted Wells, became a full-time teacher at age twenty-four on Boxing Day, December 26, 1932. On the very same day, at St. Peter's Church in Hersham, he and my mother, Barbara, were married. My mother once told me that Granny Julia had said to her on her deathbed, 'Whatever you do, don't marry Ted Wells.' It was probably because he was so very poor. ...

"Someone once asked me which parent I hated the most. It was a provocative question and an interesting one, because it suddenly became apparent to me which one I loved with all my being ... and that was my father. My mother was terribly important to me and I know how much I yearned for her in my youth, but I don't think I truly trusted her. ... My mother started going away for periods of time, working more regularly [to supplement our income], mostly playing at concert parties. ... In the summer of 1939, Mum played a series of concert parties for the Dazzle Company in the seaside town of Bognor Regis. It was there she became an accompanist for a young Canadian tenor by the name of Ted Andrews, who had just arrived in England. ... That September, World War II broke out. ...

"My mother was now often away performing with Ted Andrews. ... My brother Johnny and I remained with Dad and Aunt Joan. Early in 1940, my mother signed on for ENSA, an organization set up to provide recreation for British armed forces personnel during the war. She went off with Ted to entertain troops in France. There were two children at home who needed her, but I think the compulsion to go with Ted was overwhelming. One particular day before she left is seared upon my memory.

"Mum took me out for a walk, which was unusual since she never had time to take walks with me. We strolled through the village, hand in hand, past the shops--and I saw a child's dress in a window. It was over-the-top, fluffy and pink, but I thought it was the prettiest I had ever seen. A day or so later, I came home from some outing and as I entered the house, I realized it was empty and that she had gone. She had not said good-bye. Though she had been away before, I sensed, the way children can, that she was not coming back.

"Feeling terribly sad, I went upstairs to my bedroom and discovered the fluffy pink dress spread out on the bed with a note. Nothing special--just 'With love, from Mummy' or some such thing. My heart full to bursting, I ached for her, loved her, missed her, knew that she had thought of me as she left--and I wept."

Julie Andrews, Home, Hyperion, Copyright 2008 by Julie Andrews, pp. 14-24.

Friday, April 25, 2008 4/25/08-The Marquis de Lafayette

In today's excerpt--in the bloodiest hours of the French Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, a true hero of the American Revolution, lay pale and emaciated in a filthy Austrian dungeon:

"How was it that Lafayette, having blazed trails of glory in America, was so spectacularly unsuccessful in guiding the French Revolution? It is an intriguing puzzle. He was ... six-foot-one, unusually handsome, and marvelously self-deprecating, he possessed an exquisite bloodline that stretched back to service for Joan of Arc. His family had spilled blood in the name of country, served kings in the name of honor,and amassed extraordinary wealth; he was perhaps the richest aristocrat in France. ... But at the age of nineteen, brimming with passions and compassion and idealism, left it all behind, and defying orders of the king, volunteered to fight and bleed for American independence. And fight and bleed he did: He groped his way through South Carolina's swamps, endured the hideous cold at Valley Forge, weathered the tireless crack of enemy fire in Virginia, and was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine. ... Lafayette was a courageous and canny soldier, revered and loved by his troops. And when America's Revolution tottered on the brink of failure, he harbored no illusions save for idealism, and promptly set sail for France to help push Europe's oldest, most entrenched monarchy to ally itself with the upstart rebels against a fellow king. Succeeding, he arrived on American shores with a sizable French armada in tow, then played a critical role in the campaign that ultimately led to Britain's defeat at Yorktown, earning him the accolade of 'the conqueror of Cornwallis.' ...

"Washington welcomed him, 'as if he were my own son'; in turn, Lafayette loved Washington back as 'my adoptive father.' ...

"Yet whatever Lafayette's successes in America, they quickly turned to farce and then calamity when he labored to transplant American-style liberty and constitutionalism in his native land; more often than not, as the revolution intensified, and the bloodshed mounted, he was fatally naive, or, at times, downright incompetent. ... Once the royal family was incarcerated in the Temple and as an arrest warrant now hung over his head, he hoped to flee to Britain and settle in his adopted land--America. ... He told his wife: 'Let us settle in America, where we will find the liberty that no longer exists in France.' But it was not meant to be, for in France, he was a marked man, and across Europe, monarchs damned Lafayette for having carried this dreaded disease [of liberty] over from America and releasing it on their continent. ...

"Seized by Austrians, Lafayette protested that he was an American citizen; unmoved, their response was to lock him up in a fortress prison. ... For her part, Lafayette's wife begged Washington to use his influence to obtain Lafayette's release. But Washington was as helpless as she was--the United States was still allied with Jacobin France, which wanted Lafayette's head, and lacked sway with the monarchies of Europe. ... In prison, Lafayette soon became almost unrecognizable: Once days turned to weeks, then weeks to months and months to years, he was covered in rags, his hair fell out, and oozing sores covered his skin. But unlike so many of his compatriots, at least he was still alive."

Jay Winik, The Great Upheaval, Harper Collins, Copyright 2007 by Jay Winik, pp. 400-402.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 4/24/08-Shanghaied

In today's encore 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.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 4/23/08-FREE!

In today's excerpt--Dan Ariely, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT, examines the effect of the word "free":

"In one experiment ... we set up a table at a large public building and offered two kinds of chocolates--Lindt truffles and Hershey's Kisses. There was a large sign above our table that read, 'One chocolate per customer.' Lindt's chocolate truffles are particularly prized--exquisitely creamy and just about irresistible. They cost about 30 cents each when we buy them in bulk. Hershey's Kisses, on the other hand, are good little chocolates, but let's face it, they are rather ordinary: Hershey cranks out 80 million Kisses a day. ...

"When we set the price of a Lindt truffle at 15 cents and a Kiss at one cent, we were not surprised to find that our customers acted with a good deal of rationality: they compared the price and quality of the Kiss with the price and quality of the truffle, and then made their choice. About 73 percent of them chose the truffle and 27 percent chose a Kiss.

"Now we decided to see how FREE! might change the situation. So we offered the Lindt truffle for 14 cents and the Kisses free. ... What a difference FREE! made. The humble Hershey's Kiss became a big favorite. Some 69 percent of our customers chose the FREE! Kiss. ...

"According to standard economic theory (simple cost-benefit analysis), the price reduction should not lead to any change in the behavior of our customers. ... A passing economist would have said that since [the price difference] was the same, our customers should have chosen the truffles by the same margin. ... The conclusion, incidentally, remained the same in other experiments as well. In one case we priced the Hershey's Kiss at two cents, one cent, and zero cents, while pricing the truffle correspondingly at 27 cents, 26 cents, and 25 cents. ...

"What is it about FREE! that is so enticing? ... I believe the answer is this. Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. ... I think it's because humans are intrinsically afraid of loss. The real allure of FREE! is tied to this fear. There's no possibility of loss when we choose a FREE! item (it's free). But suppose we choose the item that's not free. Uh-oh, now there's a risk of having made a poor decision--the possibility of a loss. And so, given the choice, we go for what is free."

Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational, Harper, Copyright 2008 by Dan Ariely, pp. 51-55.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 4/22/08-Cassius Clay

In today's excerpt--Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in 1942, was an Olympic boxing gold medalist and professional three-time heavyweight boxing champion of the world. In 1999, Ali was crowned "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated and the BBC:

"The policeman's fighters also noticed that no one taught Clay anything. He just did what he wanted to do. ... [Policeman and trainer Joe] Martin believed there was one way to box, and one way only. He tried to convince Clay to box flat-footed, to slide his left foot forward as he jabbed and return the left arm to where it had begun--elbow tucked firmly to the side, fist next to the chin. It was the way ordinary men learned to fight. But Clay was not ordinary, even at 12 years old, and he knew it. ...

"That first year, as a novice flyweight, Clay lost seven fights. But in those defeats Joe Martin saw characteristics more important than skill. He saw how badly Clay wanted to be good; he was the hardest worker ever in Martin's gym. While the policeman recognized fear in Clay's eyes, he also saw how Clay reacted to it. 'All that talkin' he does,' Martin said, 'that's nothing but whistlin' past the graveyard. ... But he never quit in the ring. Takes guts to face what you're scared of. Clay's got guts.'

"The gym may also have been a safe place away from home. His daddy's whiskey nights scared him. The old man would take a swing at anyone in his way. When Odessa Clay could not handle it, she called the police. Cassius Sr. was arrested nine times for reckless driving, disorderly conduct, and assault and battery. ... He never did jail time, largely because the attorney Henry Sadlo, the state's boxing commissioner, had such affection for Cassius Jr. that he hauled himself out of bed at all hours to tell a judge that old Cash just needed to sleep it off.

"For three or four days in the summer of 1957, Cassius Jr. did not show up at Columbia Gym. That was strange because Clay was usually first to arrive and last to leave. When he appeared with a bandage on his thigh, he told Martin he had cut his leg on a milk bottle. Martin later heard another story. A policeman had been called to the Clays' home by Mrs. Clay after a domestic quarrel, 'either a cutting or a fight or something like that.' ... He told Mrs. Clay, 'Now, look, take him to your own doctor or take him to the hospital, and if you want to, go up and take out a malicious cutting warrant.' Louisville's police files held a cursory summary: "August 8, 1957-10:32 p.m., Mrs. Clay, cutting INV. [investigation] 3307 Grand. NA [no arrest]." Later that year, Cassius told Martin that he had been cut when he stepped between his daddy's knife and his mother."

Dave Kindred, Sound and Fury, Free Press, Copyright 2006 by Dave Kindred, pp. 35- 36.

Monday, April 21, 2008 4/21/08-Descartes

In today's excerpt--Rene Descartes (1596-1650), one of the key figures of the Scientific Revolution; highly influential philosopher, mathematician, and writer; and most famously author of the philosophical proclamation--"I think, therefore I am":

"Towards the end of 1619, the most important event of Descartes's life occurred, and we know exactly when and where it happened because he tells us in his book The Method. ... It was on 10 November 1619 that Descartes first saw the road to his own philosophy and also had one of the greatest mathematical insights of all time.

"Idly watching a fly buzzing around in the corner of the room, Descartes suddenly realized that the position of the fly at any moment in time could be represented by three numbers, giving its distance from each of the three walls that met in the corner. Although he instantly saw this in three-dimensional terms, the nature of his insight is now known to every schoolchild who has ever drawn a graph. Any point on the graph is represented by two numbers, corresponding to distances along the x axis and up the y axis. In three dimensions, you just have a z axis as well. The numbers used in the system of representing points in space (or on a piece of paper) in this way are now known as Cartesian co-ordinates, after Descartes. ...

"Descartes's discovery meant that any geometric shape could be represented simply by a set of numbers--in the simple case of a triangle drawn on graph paper, there are just three pairs of numbers, each specifying one of the corners of the triangle. And any curved line drawn on paper (or, for example, the orbit of a planet around the Sun) could be represented, in principle, by a series of numbers related to one another by a mathematical equation. When this discovery was fully worked out and eventually published, it transformed mathematics by making geometry susceptible to analysis using algebra, with repercussions that echo right down to the development of the theory of relativity and quantum theory in the twentieth century.

"Along the way, it was Descartes who introduced the convention of using letters at the beginning of the alphabet (a, b, c ...) to represent known or specified quantities, and letters at the end of the alphabet (especially x, y, z) to represent unknown quantities. And it was he who introduced the now familiar exponential notation, with x2 meaning x times x, x3 meaning x times x times x and so on. If he had done nothing else, laying all these foundations of analytical mathematics would have made Descartes a key figure in seventeenth-century science. But that was far from all he did."

John Gribbin, The Scientists, Random House, Copyright 2002 by John and Mary Gribbin., pp. 110-112.

Friday, April 18, 2008 4/18/08-Columbus Rejected

In today's excerpt--Christopher Columbus, promoter, dreamer, and dogged pursuer of his quest, gets his answer from Spain. He had been rebuffed by Portugal, and had now waited six years in Spain while the bold monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand remained preoccupied with both the Inquisition and the war to expel the Moors:

"He had returned to [the recently captured Alhambra at] Granada for the final decision on his proposal. All the impediments had been removed. There could be no further excuse for postponement. He had waited six long years for this infernal war to be over, and now, with something of a chip on his shoulder, he demanded a clear and definitive answer. ...

"The queen reconvened her ponderous philosophers [to opine on the proposed voyage], and they repeated their well-worn objections, barbing them with the usual mockery. ... Within days of the fall of Granada [which ended the successful war against the Moors], the supplicant was summoned into the presence of the queen and informed that his proposal was formally, conclusively, and terminally rejected. Angrily, Columbus threw his belongings on his horse and rode north on the road to Cordoba-and France.

"Sprinkled into the second rank of courtiers, Columbus had his admirers. One was Luis de Santangel, a wealthy Aragonese financier. ... Upon hearing of Columbus's departure, he rushed into the queen's presence to launch a passionate protest. He was surprised and disappointed that so great and high-minded a queen had dismissed this man of quality when his project involved so little risk to the crown, and yet, if successful, would bring such glory. ... If another European country, such as France, sponsored Columbus ... Spain would be the great loser.

"Santangel's passion must have been extraordinary, for his speech shook and moved Isabella. ... Santangel [implored], 'Send for Columbus, because I fear that he has already left.' Immediately, she dispatched a bailiff to ride after Columbus and bring him back to court. Sixteen miles up the road ... the bailiff caught up to him. Suspicious and still resentful, Columbus turned back reluctantly. At Santa Fe, Santangel greeted him effusively. The queen had changed her mind. She had instructed her scribe to draw up the necessary documents, giving Christopher Columbus everything he asked for."

James Reston, Jr., The Dogs of God, Anchor, Copyright 2005 by James Reston, Jr., pp. 247-250.

Thursday, April 17, 2008 4/17/08-Spelling

In today's encore 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 [English] 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.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 4/16/08-Order of Information

In today's excerpt--as discussed by political advisor Frank Luntz, the sequential arrangement of information often creates the very meaning of that information:

"[In film, when] two unrelated images are presented, one after the other, the audience infers a causal or substantive link between them. A shot of a masked killer raising a butcher knife, followed by a shot of a woman opening her mouth, tells us that the woman is scared. But if that same image of a woman opening her mouth is preceded by a shot of a clock showing that it's 3 a.m., the woman may seem not to be screaming, but yawning. The mind takes the information it receives and synthesizes it to create a third idea, a new whole. ...

"The essential importance of the order in which information is presented first hit home for me early in my career when I was working for Ross Perot during the 1992 presidential campaign. I had three videos to test: a) a Perot biography, b) testimonials of various people praising Perot, and c) Perot himself delivering a speech. Without giving it much thought, I'd been showing the videos to various focus groups of independent voters in that order--until, at the beginning of one session, I realized to my horror that I'd failed to rewind the first two videotapes. So I was forced to begin the focus group with the tape of Perot himself talking.

"The results were stunning.

"In every previous focus group, the participants had fallen in love with Perot by the time they'd seen all three tapes in their particular order. No matter what the negative information I threw at them, they could not be moved off their support. But now, when people were seeing the tapes in the opposite order, they were immediately skeptical of Perot's capabilities and claims, and abandoned him at the first negative information they heard. ... I repeated this experiment several times, reversing the order, and watched as the same phenomenon took place. Demographically identical focus groups in the same cities had radically different reactions--all based on whether or not they saw Perot's biographical video and the third-party testimonials (and were therefore predisposed and conditioned to like him) before or after the candidate spoke for himself.

"The language lesson: A+B+C does not necessarily equal C+B+A. The order of presentation determines the reaction."

Dr. Frank Luntz, Words that Work, Hyperion, Copyright 2007 by Dr. Frank Luntz, pp. 40-41.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 4/15/08-Gershwin and Berg

In today's excerpt-the influence of Alban Berg (1885-1935) on the American composer George Gershwin (1898-1937):

"In the spring of 1928, George Gershwin, [born in the Lower East Side slums of Manhattan and now the acclaimed] creator of Rhapsody in Blue, toured Europe and met the leading composers of the day. In Vienna, he called at the home of Alban Berg, whose blood-soaked, dissonant, sublimely dark opera Wozzeck had had its premiere in Berlin three years earlier. To welcome his American visitor, Berg arranged for a string quartet to perform his Lyric Suite, in which Viennese lyricism was refined into something like a dangerous narcotic.

"Gershwin then went to the piano to play some of his own songs. He hesitated. Berg's work had left him awestruck. Were his own pieces worthy of these murky, opulent surroundings? Berg looked at him sternly and said, 'Mr. Gershwin, music is music.' ... Berg's Wozzeck is, for some, one of the most gripping operas ever written. Gershwin thought so, and emulated it in [his masterwork] Porgy and Bess, not least in the hazy chords that float through 'Summerime.' For others, Wozzeck is a welter of ugliness.

"DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy had long interested Gershwin as a subject. ... Gershwin later said that he liked the story because of its mix of humor and drama; it allowed him to shift between Broadway-style song-and-dance numbers and vocal-symphonic writing in the style of Wozzeck.

"Porgy begins with an introductory orchestral and choral explosion in which Gershwin shows off what he has learned from his experiments in modern music. ... The texture then subsides toward a summery, humid kind of stillness. A new ostinato gets under way, one of alternating half-diminished sevenths, recalling Wozzeck again-Marie's song of 'Eia popeia' to her child. Gershwin even uses his chords for the same scenic purpose, to accompany a mother's soothing lullaby. If the kid from the Lower East Side seems in danger of losing himself in European arcana, there is no reason to worry. We are listening to one of the best-loved melodies of the twentieth century: 'Summertime, and the living is easy ..."

Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, Copyright 2007 by Alex Ross, pp. xi-xii, 148- 149.

Monday, April 14, 2008 4/14/08-Consummation

In today's excerpt--Isabella, tall and beautiful, next in line to the throne, defies her brother, King Enrique's, preferences, and picks Ferdinand as her husband:

"The Portuguese King Alfonso was an interesting prospect, ... but when [the teenaged Isabella] became of marriageable age, the aging Alfonso did not look so grand, and she raised objections. ... By 1468, other interesting marital possibilities had arisen. At first, Don Carlos, heir to the kingdom of Navarre, seemed like the front-runner. But mysteriously and suspiciously, the vigorous Carlos died. ...

"A match between Castile and France would cement French control over Catalonia and surround Aragon, to the mutual benefit of both Castile and France. Louis XI proposed to unite Isabella with his brother and heir apparent, Charles. Overtures also came from England. ... Preliminary arrangements for an English match were made and then broken in favor of the French. ... However, with more than geopolitics on her teenage mind, Isabella had dispatched a friar to France to scout Charles. His report was depressing. The effeminate duke had foppish French manners, bandy little legs, and could scarcely mount a horse without help. ...

"But there was another option. He was Ferdinand of Aragon, ... who was a year her junior. Her chaplain's secret report bristled with sex appeal. ... 'He has so singular a grace,' Isabella's spy reported, 'that everyone who talks to him wants to serve him.' ... With the stubbornness that would become a mixed blessing later, Isabella knew she had found her man. ... Of the two kingdoms, Castile and Aragon, Castile was the larger, stronger, and richer, and so if Ferdinand was to be favored with Isabella's hand, he must forego the customary authority of a feudal king. Only through her would he derive power. ... This historic [arrangement] ran counter to feudal tradition where the male always took the reins of power. ...

"Word of the engagement raced through the streets. Children began to chant a jingle about the 'flowers of Aragon' sprouting in Castile, as they waved tiny flags of Aragon. Romance was in the air. The fantasy of a handsome young king and beautiful queen uniting Spain in a true confederation sent quivers of excitement through the streets. ... Crowds lined the streets as the procession of nobles and prelates rode grandly by in their exquisite embroidered harnesses and stirrups. The day was filled with lively jousts and tournaments. The rejoicing would continue for seven days. ... The night [of the ceremony], the marriage was consummated. By long tradition, courtiers were posted at the door to the royal bedchamber. When the appropriate time had elapsed, they burst into the bedchamber to strip the bed of its sheet. This trophy they brought to the eager crowd below, displaying its stains as if the relic were a triumphal battle flag."

James Reston, Jr., Dogs of God, Anchor, Copyright 2005 by James Reston, Jr., pp. 28-35.

Saturday, April 12, 2008 4/11/08-The Starry Messenger

In today's excerpt-Galileo and the telescope. Although the telescope was first invented in 1551 by the Englishman Leonard Digges, it is Galileo's bold work in 1609 that thrusts the instrument and its importance in front of the world. At this time, the financially-strapped Galileo is the chair of mathematics at the University of Padua, and thus under Venice and the Doge, though his heart remains with Tuscany:

"Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa on 15 February 1564--the same year that William Shakespeare was born and the same month that Michelangelo died. ... [Forty-five year old] Galileo first heard rumors of the invention of the telescope (strictly speaking a reinvention, but news of the Digges's telescopes never spread in the sixteenth century) in July 1609, on a visit to Venice. News had been rather slow to travel to Italy on this occasion, since Hans Lippershey, a spectacle maker based in Holland, had come up with the discovery by chance the previous autumn and in the spring of 1609 telescopes with a magnifying power of three times were being sold as toys in Paris. ... Galileo immediately realized that an instrument that could make distant objects visible would be of enormous importance to Venice, where fortunes often depended on being first to identify which ships were approaching the port. He must have imagined that his own boat had at last come in, as he considered how best to turn the news to his advantage.

"But he was almost too late. At the beginning of August, while Galileo was still in Venice, he heard that a Dutchman had arrived in Padua with one of the new instruments. Galileo rushed back to Padua, only to find that he had missed the stranger, who was now in Venice intending to sell the instrument to the Doge. Distraught at the possibility that he might lose the race, Galileo frantically set about building one of his own, knowing nothing more than that the instrument involved two lenses in a tube. One of the most impressive features of Galileo's entire career is that within 24 hours he had built a telescope better than anything else known at the time. Although the Dutch version used two concave lenses, giving an upside-down image, Galileo used one convex lens and one concave lens, giving an upright image. On 4 August, he sent a coded message to [his friend and adviser to the Doge Friar] Sarpi in Venice telling him of his successes; Sarpi, as adviser to the Senate, delayed any decision on what to do with the Dutch visitor, giving Galileo time to build a telescope with a magnifying power of ten times, set in a tooled leather case. He was back in Venice before the end of August, where his demonstration of the telescope to the Senate was a sensation. Being an astute politician, Galileo then presented the telescope to the Doge as a gift. ...

"He then took himself off to Florence to demonstrate another telescope to [Grand Duke] Cosimo II [de' Medici]. By December 1609, he had made a telescope with a magnifying power of twenty times. ... Using his best instrument, Galileo discovered the four brightest (and largest) moons of Jupiter in early 1610. The moons were named the 'Medician stars,' in honor of Cosimo, but are known to astronomers today as the Galilean satellites of Jupiter. With the same instrument, Galileo found that the Milky Way is made up of myriads of individual stars and that the surface of the moon is not a perfectly smooth sphere but is scarred by craters and has mountain ranges. ... All of these discoveries were presented in a little book, The Starry Messenger (Siderius Nuncius), in March 1610. ... The author of The Starry Messenger became famous throughout the educated world (the book was translated into Chinese within five years of its publication)."

John Gribbin, The Scientists, Random House, Copyright 2002 by John and Mary Gribbin, pp. 72, 85-88.

For Martha 4/10/08-Pirates!

In today's encore excerpt--the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean, 1715 to 1725, which was led 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's] 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.