October 9 – St. Denis’s Day, patron saint for those who have lost their head (Tea Party? House GOP?) 2014 edition

October 9, 2014

Dear Reader: My apologies. As Cecil might say, we’ve been fighting ignorance since 1974, and it’s taking longer than we thought.  My hopes to retire this post have not been realized.  Heck, it doesn’t even need much editing from last year. Saints save us, please!

We might pause to reflect, too:  2014 has seen the media rise of actual beheadings.  This practice, which now strikes many of us as barbaric, occurs in reality as well as memory and literature; unlike St. Denis, those beheaded do not usually carry on to do anything at all; like St. Denis, they are martyred. Vote well in 2014.  Your vote should be directed at preventing anyone’s losing their head, even just figuratively.

October 9 is the Feast Day of St. Denis.

Who?  He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people.   Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame  in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche).  He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.

English: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: porta...

St. Denis greets vistors to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche)

Our trusty friend Wikipedia explains:

According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way.[6] The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.[2]

Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no?  In 2013, you can add Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives.  You catch my drift.

Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor.  In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.

Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache.  St. Denis seems to be our man.

Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?

As Rod Stewart sang, just “let your imagination run wild.”  Maybe St. Denis is listening.

More:

Statue to St. Denis, in Cluny

Another portrayal, in sculpture, of St. Denis. Notice how this one’s face doesn’t really look like the one above? Ouvre du Musée de Cluny, Wikipedia photo by Guillaume Blanchard (Aoineko), June 2001, FinePix 1400Z.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday.  I still hope.  Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.


227 years ago today, in this room

September 17, 2014

Independence Hall, Philadelphia; room where the Constitution was created and signed; Dept of Interior photo

Caption from Department of Interior’s Tumblr site: 225 years ago today, the Constitution of the United States was signed in Independence Hall. Today, you can tour the Hall and see where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both signed, and you can also view the Liberty Bell [close by]. This is a site not to miss while visiting Philadelphia.
Photo: National Park Service

Does this room look a little familiar?  You’ve probably seen Howard Chandler Christy’s painting of the event we celebrate today.

Howard Chandler Christy’s “Signing of the Constitution,” 1940

Howard Chandler Christy’s “Signing of the Constitution,” 1940; Architect of the Capitol image. This massive, 20′ x 30′ painting hangs in the House Wing of the U.S. Capitol, in the east stairway — a location where, alas, most people cannot get to without a guide anymore.

Click to the Architect of the Capitol’s site for the story of the painting, intended by Congress to fill a gap in the story of America told by art in the Rotunda and throughout the halls of the building.

Dr. Gordon Lloyd, Pepperdine University, creator of the interactive

Dr. Gordon Lloyd, Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, and expert in the Constitution and its history.  I met Lloyd almost a decade ago, in programs for history teachers, sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, Liberty Fund, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

My old friend Dr. Gordon Lloyd of Pepperdine University, working with the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, created a study tool from the Christy painting which should be used a lot more in classrooms.  Click over to the Edsitement site, and see for yourself.

Every year there are a few more tools on the internet to study the Constitution with, for teachers to use in the classroom on Constitution Day and every day.  I wonder what will be the effects in another decade.

How important is it that students learn the Constitution, what it says, and how it affects our daily lives?  How important is it that students learn the history of the creation of the Constitution, and does that history reverberate for those students as they venture out into their roles as citizens in the republic created by the document?

More:

This is an encore post.

This is an edited encore post.


Star-spangled Banner’s 200th – with the Steep Canyon Rangers (again)

September 14, 2014

Now everybody’s celebrating.  Time for a quick reprise of this post from June.

Published on Jun 19, 2014

Grammy Award winning bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers, well known for their work with Steve Martin, perform a special version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in honor of the song’s 200th anniversary.

The museum will “Raise It Up!” and celebrate the 200th anniversary by uniting the original manuscript with the flag at the Museum from June 14-July 6, 2014 and holding a special event at the museum on Flag Day (Saturday, June 14, 2014). Join the party: http://anthemforamerica.smithsonian.com/

Special thanks to the team at Wool and Tusk for their hard work and creativity: Scott Mele, Roger Pistole, Derek West, Joe Pisapia, David Bartin, Michael Freeman, Alexis Kaback, Daniel Walker, Jeff Rosen, Harvey Moltz, and Greg and Erin Whiteley.

More:

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. Smithsonian image.

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. Smithsonian image.

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.


Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, 60 today

September 8, 2014

Happy birthday, Ruby Bridges!

You don’t recognize her there?

How about in Norman Rockwell’s illustration?

“The Problem We All Live With,” Norman Rockwell, 1964; oil on canvas, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Ruby Bridges with President Barack Obama, in 2011:

President Obama and Ruby Bridges viewing Normal Rockwall's painting, "The Problem We All Live With," at the White House in 2011. Photo by Pete Souza, public domain.

President Obama and Ruby Bridges viewing Normal Rockwall’s painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” at the White House in 2011. Photo by Pete Souza, public domain.

Ms. Bridges tells some of her story:


73 156+ things to celebrate about America on the Fourth of July

July 4, 2014

In no particular order, leaving many gaps, on the Fourth of July I celebrate America, and these things about America:

  1. The Apollo Project that put humans on the Moon

    Apollo 11:  Astronaut Buzz Aldrin beside the solar wind experiment. NASA photo

    Apollo 11: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin beside the solar wind experiment. NASA photo

  2. Interstate Highway System
  3. Yellowstone National Park
  4. Edward Abbey
  5. Rainbow Bridge National Monument
  6. The New York Public Library
  7. Jello
  8. Baltimore, home of the Orioles, and playing field for Johnny Unitas
  9. Death Valley, the lowest point in North America, and generally the hottest.
  10. Denali, the highest point in North America, so high it makes its own weather
  11. New Orleans Jazz
  12. Grant Wood’s paintings
  13. Mark Twain
  14. Dred Scott
  15. Thurgood Marshall, and Brown v. Topeka Board of Education
  16. U.S. Highway 101, especially where you can see the Pacific Ocean
  17. Route 66
  18. Hot dogs
  19. Ketchup, or catsup if you prefer
  20. Salsa in a bottle
  21. Miles Davis
  22. Aldo Leopold
  23. French fries, with ketchup, without ketchup, with mayonnaise, with Big H Sauce
  24. Grand Canyon National Park
  25. The Mississippi River
  26. “Ol’ Man River”
  27. Meredith Willson, and “The Music Man!”
  28. Emily Dickinson
  29. Falling Water
  30. Pikes Peak
  31. Bluegrass music
  32. Philly Cheese Steaks
  33. Phyllis Wheatley
  34. Steinway Pianos
  35. Chicken Fried Steak
  36. Amish barn raisings
  37. James Levine
  38. Cheeseburgers
  39. Sojourner Truth
  40. Kansas City Jazz
  41. Onion Rings
  42. Peanut Butter
  43. Leo Fender and the electric guitar
  44. Les Paul and tape loops
  45. Gibson Guitars
  46. Chicago Jazz
  47. Martin Guitars
  48. Mississippi Delta Blues
  49. Chicago Electric Blues
  50. Woody Guthrie
  51. John Philip Sousa
  52. Phillip Glass
  53. Commander Lloyd Bucher and the U.S.S. Pueblo
  54. Frank Lloyd Wright, and Prairie Architecture
  55. Mies van der Rohe
  56. Beale Street in Memphis
  57. Richard Feynman, and his memoirs
  58. Broadway in New York
  59. Bonfires along the Mississippi near Baton Rouge
  60. Indianapolis 500
  61. Daytona Speedway
  62. Fenway Park
  63. Crabcakes from the Chesapeake
  64. Golden Gate; and the Golden Gate Bridge
  65. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
  66. Monticello, Virginia
  67. Cape Hatteras and the lighthouse
  68. Mount Timpanogos in Utah
  69. Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia
  70. Great Houses of Newport, Rhode Island
  71. Bluebirds at the Yorktown Battlefield Monument
  72. Colorado River through Grand Canyon
  73. Bluebell Ice Cream
  74. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream
  75. Mt. Rushmore National Monument
  76. Lake of the Woods
  77. Pete Seeger
  78. Walt Whitman
  79. Robert Service’s poems
  80. Girls Scouts of America
  81. Little League Baseball
  82. Frederick Douglass
  83. College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska
  84. Henry David Thoreau
  85. Niagara Falls
  86. Adirondack Park, New York
  87. Sitting on the porch at Mount Vernon, Virginia, watching bald eagles cross the Potomac River
  88. Condors soaring near Big Sur, California
  89. Irving Berlin, and “God Bless America”
  90. Frank Sinatra
  91. Jonathan Winters
  92. Hollywood Movies
  93. Airplane graveyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona
  94. Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona
  95. The Shiprock, New Mexico
  96. Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building
  97. Blue Ridge Parkway
  98. Susan B. Anthony
  99. Everett Dirksen
  100. Cade’s Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  101. Red touring “buses” in Glacier National Park
  102. Fog rolling over the Marin Headlands, Marin County, California
  103. The Beach Boys
  104. Skiing and snowboarding, at Solitude, Alta, Hunter Mountain, Park City, Sundance
  105. The Alpine Loops — both of them, Utah and Colorado
  106. The Virginian Hotel and Cafe, Medicine Bow, Wyoming
  107. American Bison, in Yellowstone, at Antelope Island, in the Henry Mountains, in the LBJ Grasslands
  108. Osprey at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland
  109. Painted Buntings at Colorado Bend State Park, Texas
  110. Dissident tradition that gives us Edward Snowden
  111. King of France Tavern, and Treaty of Paris Restaurant, Annapolis, Maryland
  112. The Triple Crown: Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes
  113. Jackie Robinson
  114. Sandy Koufax
  115. Jerry West
  116. Secretariat
  117. Lewis and Clark
  118. Sacagawea
  119. U.S. Women’s Soccer Team
  120. Eugene Debs
  121. AAA Baseball, and the other minor leagues
  122. Texas Barbecue
  123. Louis Armstrong
  124. Ella Fitzgerald
  125. Duke Ellington
  126. Ballet West
  127. Second City
  128. The Groundlings
  129. Harriet Tubman
  130. Owl Burgers at the Owl Cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  131. Seattle Opera
  132. Appalachian Trail
  133. Linda Rondstadt; Linda singing canciones
  134. Dolly Parton, Emmy Lou Harris, and Linda Rondstandt singing tight three-part harmonies
  135. Edward Hopper

    “Morning Sun,” Edward Hopper, 1952

  136. The Marfa Lights
  137. Sloop Clearwater, and the Hudson River
  138. Rafting on the Snake River out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  139. Acadia National Park
  140. The Moffatt Tunnel, and the passenger trains that go through it (R.I.P. old Prospector and California Zephyr; long live the new Prospector and Zephyr)
  141. Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
  142. Brooklyn Bridge
  143. Hires Drive-in and the Big H Burger, 4th South in Salt Lake City
  144. Old North Church, Boston
  145. Any country road in Vermont or New Hampshire, when the autumn leaves are turning
  146. Virgin River Narrows, Zion Canyon National Park
  147. Platte River when the big birds are migrating
  148. The oldest European building in America, the church at Fulton, Missouri
  149. Harley-Davidson plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — across the street from the Miller Brewery
  150. Wisconsin bratwursts
  151. Harry Houdini
  152. Harriett Beecher Stowe
  153. Grits served four ways at a diner in Charleston, South Carolina
  154. Salmon smoked by Native Americans in Puget Sound
  155. Varsity Drive In, in Atlanta
  156. Raspberry milkshakes at Bear Lake, Utah
  157. Maple syrup from Vermont
  158. Sam Weller’s Zion Book Store, Salt Lake City
  159. Old Angler’s Inn, on the C&O Canal
  160. Central Park, New York City
  161. Seabiscuit
  162. Babe Ruth
  163. Lou Gehrig
  164. Renée Fleming
  165. Willie Nelson
  166. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and their friendship
  167. Boeing 707, and the aircraft plants that make them
  168. Howard Zinn
  169. Solid state electronics, and the Chip that Jack Kilby Built
  170. Tennessee Valley Authority
  171. Noam Chomsky
  172. A. Phillip Randolph
  173. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors
  174. Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones)
  175. Gold dome of the Colorado Capitol; the copper domes of the Arizona and Utah Capitols
  176. Things named after John Muir. many in places you would not expect, as well as quite a number of elementary schools
  177. Boy Scouts of America
  178. The United States Marine Corps
  179. Side Street Cafe, Honolulu
  180. Buzz Aldrin
  181. John Glenn
  182. Greensborough Four
  183. Freedom Riders
  184. Freedom Summer
  185. GI Bill
  186. Dennis Banks
  187. Gloria Steinem
  188. Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Farley Mowat and all the other Canadians who come south of the border to make us think
  189. Bob Marshall Wilderness Area
  190. Twin Peaks Wilderness Area
  191. Bonneville Salt Flats
  192. Damon Runyon, and “Guys and Dolls”
  193. Utah Phillips
  194. Et cetera
  195. Et cetera

Okay, Dear Reader: What have I left off the list?

(Maybe we should hold on to this list for Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be grateful for, and a lot of people to give thanks to.)


Glorious images of the Sun, from NASA

July 3, 2014

Who’d have thought of such an image, before we used satellites to look?

NASA SDO images of the Sun

From NASA: Image info: This combination of three wavelengths of light from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows one of the multiple jets that led to a series of slow coronal puffs on January 17, 2013. The light has been colorized in red, green and blue. Credit: NASA SDO

NASA’s press release, from June 27, 2014:

A suite of NASA’s Sun-gazing spacecraft have spotted an unusual series of eruptions in which a series of fast puffs forced the slow ejection of a massive burst of solar material from the Sun’s atmosphere. The eruptions took place over a period of three days, starting on Jan. 17, 2013. Nathalia Alzate, a solar scientist at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, presented findings on what caused the puffs at the 2014 Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Portsmouth, England.

The sun’s outermost atmosphere, the corona, is made of magnetized solar material, called plasma, that has a temperature of millions of degrees and extends millions of miles into space. On January 17, the joint European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, spacecraft observed puffs emanating from the base of the corona and rapidly exploding outwards into interplanetary space. The puffs occurred roughly once every three hours. After about 12 hours, a much larger eruption of material began, apparently eased out by the smaller-scale explosions.

By looking at high-resolution images taken by NASA’s NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (Little SDO), or SDO, and NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, over the same time period and in different wavelengths, Alzate and her colleagues could focus on the cause of the puffs and the interaction between the small and large-scale eruptions.

“Looking at the corona in extreme ultraviolet light we see the source of the puffs is a series of energetic jets and related flares,” said Alzate. “The jets are localized, catastrophic releases of energy that spew material out from the sun into space. These rapid changes in the magnetic field cause flares, which release a huge amount of energy in a very short time in the form of super-heated plasma, high-energy radiation and radio bursts. The big, slow structure is reluctant to erupt, and does not begin to smoothly propagate outwards until several jets have occurred.”

Because the events were observed by multiple spacecraft, each viewing the sun from a different perspective, Alzate and her colleagues were able to resolve the three-dimensional configuration of the eruptions. This allowed them to estimate the forces acting on the slow eruption and discuss possible mechanisms for the interaction between the slow and fast phenomena.

“We still need to understand whether there are shock waves, formed by the jets, passing through and driving the slow eruption,” said Alzate. “Or whether magnetic reconfiguration is driving the jets allowing the larger, slow structure to slowly erupt. Thanks to recent advances in observation and in image processing techniques we can throw light on the way jets can lead to small and fast, or large and slow, eruptions from the Sun.”

Van Gogh painted rather unusual images of the Sun and stars; Turner painted perhaps more life-like images.   There are many interesting views of the Sun in art, by Monet, and many, many others.

Vincent van Gogh,

Vincent van Gogh, “Sower with the Setting Sun”

But who conceived of any image like this one from NASA, above?

What private entity could ever do that?  

J. M. W. Turner,

J. M. W. Turner, “Caernarvon Castle,” 1799

Claude Monet,

Claude Monet, “Impression Sunrise”

British biologist J. B. S. Haldane said:

I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

♦   Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927), p. 286

Haldane may as well have added, the universe is not only more beautiful that we imagine, but more beautiful than we can imagine.  Reality trumps fiction yet again.


Star-spangled Banner’s 200th – with the Steep Canyon Rangers

June 26, 2014

Published on Jun 19, 2014

Grammy Award winning bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers, well known for their work with Steve Martin, perform a special version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in honor of the song’s 200th anniversary.

The museum will “Raise It Up!” and celebrate the 200th anniversary by uniting the original manuscript with the flag at the Museum from June 14-July 6, 2014 and holding a special event at the museum on Flag Day (Saturday, June 14, 2014). Join the party: http://anthemforamerica.smithsonian.com/

Special thanks to the team at Wool and Tusk for their hard work and creativity: Scott Mele, Roger Pistole, Derek West, Joe Pisapia, David Bartin, Michael Freeman, Alexis Kaback, Daniel Walker, Jeff Rosen, Harvey Moltz, and Greg and Erin Whiteley.

More:

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. Smithsonian image.

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. Smithsonian image.


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