“Years of Living Dangerously” – April 13 premiere of climate change information series

April 11, 2014

Will it work this time?  Can it recharge the effort Al Gore started?

Monte Best of Plainview, Texas, explains to Don Cheadle how the Texas drought caused the Cargill Company to close its meat packing plant in the city.

Monte Best of Plainview, Texas, explains to Don Cheadle how the Texas drought caused the Cargill Company to close its meat packing plant in the city. “Act of God,” many local people say.

Here’s the trailer:

The avid promotional explanation:

Published on Mar 14, 2014

Don’t miss the documentary series premiere of Years of Living Dangerously, Sunday, April 13th at 10PM ET/PT.

Subscribe to the Years of Living Dangerously channel for more clips:
http://s.sho.com/YearsYouTube

Official site: http://www.sho.com/yearsoflivingdange…
The Years Project: http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/
Follow: https://twitter.com/YEARSofLIVING
Like: https://www.facebook.com/YearsOfLiving
Watch on Showtime Anytime: http://s.sho.com/1hoirn4
Don’t Have Showtime? Order Now: http://s.sho.com/P0DCVU

It’s the biggest story of our time. Hollywood’s brightest stars and today’s most respected journalists explore the issues of climate change and bring you intimate accounts of triumph and tragedy. YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY takes you directly to the heart of the matter in this awe-inspiring and cinematic documentary series event from Executive Producers James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

More: 


Happy birthday, Albert Einstein! 135 years, today

March 14, 2014

How many ways can we say happy birthday to a great scientist born on Pi Day?  So, an encore post.

E=mcc - logo from AIP

E=energy; m=mass; c=speed of light

Happy Einstein Day! to us.  Albert’s been dead since 1955 — sadly for us.  Our celebrations now are more for our own satisfaction and curiosity, and to honor the great man — he’s beyond caring.

Almost fitting that he was born on π Day, no? I mean, is there an E=mc² Day?

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, to Hermann and Pauline Einstein. 26 years later, three days after his birthday, he sent off the paper on the photo-electric effect; that paper would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in another five years, in 1921. In that same year of 1905, he published three other papers, solving the mystery of Brownian motion, describing what became known as the Special Theory of Relativity and solving the mystery of why measurements of the light did not show any effects of motion as Maxwell had predicted, and a final paper that noted a particle emitting light energy loses mass. This final paper amused Einstein because it seemed so ludicrous in its logical extension that energy and matter are really the same stuff at some fundamental point, as expressed in the equation demonstrating an enormous amount of energy stored in atoms, E=mc².

Albert Einstein as a younger man - Nobel Foundation image

Albert Einstein as a younger man – Nobel Foundation image

Any one of the papers would have been a career-capper for any physicist. Einstein dashed them off in just a few months, forever changing the fields of physics. And, you noticed: Einstein did not win a Nobel for the Special Theory of Relativity, nor for E=mc². He won it for the photo electric effect. Irony in history.

106 years later Einstein’s work affects us every day. Relativity theory at some level I don’t understand makes possible the use Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which revolutionized navigation and mundane things like land surveying and microwave dish placement. Development of nuclear power both gives us hope for an energy-rich future, and gives us fear of nuclear war. Sometimes, even the hope of the energy rich future gives us fear, as we watch and hope nuclear engineers can control the piles in nuclear power plants damaged by earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

English: Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp

Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Albert Einstein was a genius at physics, he was more dedicated to pacifism. He resigned his German citizenship to avoid military conscription. His pacifism made the German Nazis nervous; Einstein fled Germany in the 1930s, eventually settling in the United States. In the U.S., he was persuaded by Leo Szilard to write to President Franklin Roosevelt to suggest the U.S. start a program to develop an atomic weapon, because Germany most certainly was doing exactly that. But while urging FDR to keep up with the Germans, Einstein refused to participate in the program himself, sticking to his pacifist views. Others could, and would, design and build atomic bombs. (Maybe it’s a virus among nuclear physicists — several of those working on the Manhattan Project were pacifists, and had great difficulty reconciling the idea that the weapon they worked on to beat Germany, was deployed on Japan, which did not have a nuclear weapons program.)

English: USSR stamp dedicated to Albert Einste...

Everybody wanted to claim, and honor Einstein; USSR issued this stamp dedicated to Albert Einstein Русский: Почтовая марка СССР, посвящённая Альберту Эйнштейну (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Einstein was a not-great father, and probably not a terribly faithful husband at first — though he did think to give his first wife, in the divorce settlement, a share of a Nobel Prize should he win it. Einstein was a good violinist, a competent sailor, an incompetent dresser, and a great character. His sister suffered a paralyzing stroke. For many months Albert spent hours a day reading to her the newspapers and books of the day, convinced that though mute and appearing unconscious, she would benefit from hearing the words. He said he did not hold to orthodox religions, but could there be a greater show of faith in human spirit?

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

When people hear clever sayings, but forget to whom the bon mots should be attributed, Einstein is one of about five candidates to whom all sorts of things are attributed, though he never said them. (Others include Lincoln, Jefferson, Mark Twain and Will Rogers). Einstein is the only scientist in that group. So, for example, we can be quite sure Einstein never claimed that compound interest was the best idea of the 20th century. This phenomenon is symbolic of the high regard people have for the man, even though so few understand what his work was, or meant.

A most interesting man. A most important body of work. He deserves more study and regard than he gets.

More, Resources:


Register TODAY to vote in March Texas primary elections

February 3, 2014

All votes count

In Texas, voters must register 30 days prior to the election. Primaries for 2014 are on March 4, so today is the LAST DAY TO REGISTER to vote in the primaries in Texas

Registration will be easier than voting for many white women, but that’s the way the GOP legislature likes it.

Today, February 3, 2014, is the deadline to register to vote, to be eligible to vote in Texas’s primary elections, to be held March 4.

Voting is one of the few ways to get the Texas GOP to pay attention to your views.

From VoteTexas.gov:

Register To Vote 

To vote in Texas, you must be registered. Simply pick up a voter registration application, fill it out, and mail it at least 30 days before the election date. Get your application here.


You are eligible to register to vote if:

  • You are a United States citizen;
  • You are a resident of the county where you submit the application;
  • You are at least 18 years old on Election Day;
  • You are not a convicted felon (you may be eligible to vote if you have completed your sentence, probation, and parole); and
  • You have not been declared by a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be either totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.

Are you already registered?

To confirm your voter registration status, you may select one of three methods to perform a search:

  • Your Texas driver’s license number, if you provided it when you applied for voter registration;
  • Your Voter Unique Identifier (VUID), which appears on your voter registration certificate;
  • Your first and last name.

Find out if you are already registered.


Farewell, Pete Seeger

January 28, 2014

Just got the news that Pete Seeger died.  He was 94.

Such a loss for American music, to American music, and to history and art.

New York Times story here.

Pete Seeger at the Beacon Sloop Club in Beacon, N.Y., in 2010. Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

Pete Seeger at the Beacon Sloop Club in Beacon, N.Y., in 2010. Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

I love the Andrew Sullivan photo the New York Times used — it reminds me of the best way to hear Pete, in the out-of-doors, near the Hudson, in the summer, with a small audience who could be coerced to sing along.

Pete was an alumnus of Camp Rising Sun (of the L. A. Jonas Foundation) near Rhinebeck, New York, from the very early days.  In 1974, between concerts at large venues with Arlo Guthrie, and on his way back home to Beacon, Pete stopped and spent a day with us at the camp.  He was , as always, wonderfully gracious, other than outward appearances indistinguishable from the 14- and 15-year boys in excitement to be having fun, exploring nature, and then leading us all in songs.

My unfinished master’s thesis was to explore Pete’s use of different rhetorical devices to get his messages across, and make them popular.   (One of my everlasting regrets.)

But despite his down-home-everybody-welcome demeanor, Seeger drove great movements, and pushed the arcs of history in wonderful directions throughout his life.

  • Pete was an anchor for Woody Guthrie in New York, and sometimes a rival.  As Pete told it, everybody loved Woody and always came to a performance to hear Woody sing.  It was often Pete who pushed Woody out front; no mistake that Woody’s famous New Year’s resolutions from 1942 included “Love Pete” among them.
  • Having learned from the Lomaxes at the Library of Congress, Pete recorded history in songs, preserving old tunes, making foreign tunes popular, and re-arranging verses here and there.  Pete revealed, discovered, or pushed the music of a family domestic (“500 Miles”), Cuban revolutionary poets (“Guantanamera”), his engineer sister (“Going to be an Engineer”), and hymn books.
  • Pete taught a song to seminar attendees at the Highlands School in Kentucky, people who went on to do great things with that song.  The song was “We Shall Overcome,” and photos show that those Pete taught to sing included both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Blacklisted after refusing to give in to the civil liberties assault by the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), Pete created a series of records to teach how to play a guitar, a banjo, and a twelve-string.  One of the kids who learned some twelve-string licks included a guy who went on to play strings for the folk group, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and their new tenor, a guy named John Denver.  Roger McGuinn electrified that twelve-string, and leading the Byrds, turned some of Pete’s songs into rock and roll hits — like “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
  • I asked Pete about getting him to Salt Lake City for a concert in the 1970s — he demurred, saying he needed to spend some time locally.  He told a story about showing up at a PTA meeting in Beacon to talk on some issue, and some local guy told Pete that Beacon didn’t need outsiders telling them what to do.  This hurt Pete, since he’d been living in Beacon at that time for more than 30 years, in the house he built by hand.   Pete told me that he realized a world reputation doesn’t count for much if you can’t use it to make things better in your home town.The “local project?” He said he wanted to get an old sloop, and sail the Hudson River signing to get people to clean it up.  At the time, the Hudson was very much a sewer from Albany to New York City.  A short time later the Sloop Clearwater was refitted, and Pete started music festivals up and down the river.  The Hudson, Pete’s local river, runs much cleaner today for his work.
  • I saw Pete and Arlo in concert at Wolf Trap, the performance park near Washington, D.C., a couple of times; and some other venues — but nothing ever beat that open air concert at Rising Sun.
  • Bruce Springsteen did us all a favor with his album of Seeger tunes; I chafed at Ronald Reagan’s choices of performers at his inaugurals, and at many other choices over the years.  I often thought Pete Seeger’s music, and voice, would be a better choice.  Springsteen’s pre-inauguration concert in 2008, from the Lincoln Memorial, had my full attention.  The only thing more perfect, I told Kathryn, would be Pete singing his own tunes from those steps (I heard him tell the stories of King’s and Marian Anderson’s performances there more than once).  Within a few minutes, Springsteen pulled Pete out onstage, and at the age of 90 he led the crowd singing Woody’s “This Land is Your Land.”  A perfect capstone, I thought.

If  you would, pull out your collection of Pete Seeger music today, and give it a spin.  It will raise your spirits, I guarantee.

What wonderful gifts Pete left us!

So long, Pete, one of the best American citizens we’ll ever know.

Maybe we should just say, “So long! It’s Been Good to Know Ya!”

More:


Fly your flag for Martin Luther King Day, 2014

January 20, 2014

I don’t really need to remind you to fly your flag today, right?  You’ve already got it waving.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Credit: architecture.about.com - See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2013/12/statue-of-martin-luther-king-jr-proposed-for-georgias-state-capitol/#sthash.TKrjYCX7.dpuf

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Credit: architecture.about.com, via Saporta Report

Fly the U.S. flag today for the holiday for the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January.

Many Americans will celebrate with a day of service.

More:

2014 Google Doodle for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

2014 Google Doodle for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day


What would a Boy Scout do in this situation?

June 25, 2013

This parallels my experience:

How about your experience with Boy Scouts?

Have you seen this PSA on television stations in your town?  Call the stations, ask when they run it.

More:


June 15: Magna Carta anniversary, #798

June 15, 2013

In 2015 we’ll celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.  I predict that, beginning in late 2014, pseudo-historians will begin an assault on the history of the document, attempting to convince us that the document banned income taxes, banished the poor from hospitals and job finding agencies, and said children should have to work for their meals and never get food stamps. 

I hope I’m wrong.

Today, June 15, 2013, is the 798th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.  The document laid a foundation for freedom, almost 800 years ago, upon which we stand today.

Runnymede, Magna Carta Isle, photo by Wyrdlight, Antony McCallum, 2008 (Wikimedia)

What event critical to western history and the development of the democratic republic in the U.S. happened here in 1215?

A teacher might use some of these photos explaining the steps to the Constitution, in English law and the heritage of U.S. laws. Other than the Magna Carta, all the events of Runnymede get overlooked in American studies of history. Antony McCallum, working under the name Wyrdlight, took these stunning shots of this historic meadow. (He photographs stuff for studies of history, it appears.)

Maybe it’s a geography story.

View of Runnymede Meadow from Engham Village -- Wyrdlight photo through Wikimedia

View of Runnymede Meadow from Engham Village — Wyrdlight photo through Wikimedia

Several monuments to different events of the past millennium populate the site. The American Bar Association dedicated a memorial to the Magna Carta there — a small thing open to the air, but with a beautiful ceiling that is probably worth the trip to see it once you get to England.

Wikipedia explains briefly, with a note that the ABA plans to meet there again in 2015, the 800th anniversary of the Great Charter:

Magna Carta Memorial


The Magna Carta Memorial & view towards the ‘medes’


Engraved stone recalling the 1985 ABA visit

Situated in a grassed enclosure on the lower slopes of Cooper’s Hill, this memorial is of a domed classical style, containing a pillar of English granite on which is inscribed “To commemorate Magna Carta, symbol of Freedom Under Law”. The memorial was created by the American Bar Association to a design by Sir Edward Maufe R.A., and was unveiled on 18 July 1957 at a ceremony attended by American and English lawyers.[5]

Since 1957 representatives of the ABA have visited and rededicated the Memorial renewing pledges to the Great Charter. In 1971 and 1985 commemorative stones were placed on the Memorial plinth. In July 2000 the ABA came:

to celebrate Magna Carta, foundation of the rule of law for ages past and for the new millennium.

In 2007 on its 50th anniversary the ABA again visited Runnymede and during the convention installed as President Charles Rhyne who devised Law Day which seeks in the USA an annual reaffirmation of faith in the forces of law for peace.

The ABA will be meeting at Runnymede in 2015 on the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the original charter.

The Magna Carta Memorial is administered by the Magna Carta Trust, which is chaired by the Master of the Rolls.[10]

In 2008, flood lights were installed to light the memorial at night, but due to vandalism they now lie smashed.

I’ll wager the lights get fixed before 2015.

Detail of the Magna Carta monument at Runnymed...

Detail of the Magna Carta monument at Runnymede. I took this photo some time in the early Eighties. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is mostly an encore post.

More:


Where have all the flowers gone? A bunch to Pete Seeger on his 94th birthday today

May 3, 2013

Pete Seeger was born on May 3, 1919.  He turns 94 today.

Pete is an alumnus of the Louis August Jonas Foundation‘s Camp Rising Sun, a little nugget that appealed to me when I signed up as a counselor at the Rhinebeck campus in 19#&.  Pete and Arlo Guthrie teamed up for a series of concerts at East Coast venues that summer, including Wolftrap, Saratoga, Tanglewood and others.  Pete lives just down the river from Rhinebeck, near Beacon — but driving home from one of those venues was just a bit too far.  Pete stopped off at his childhood haunts and spent a day with us.

I hoped to invite him to Salt Lake City.  Pete said he might make such a trip, but it was unlikely — and impressed me with his reasoning and dedication to principle.  He explained that he was sticking closer to home as he approached 65, because there was work to do there.  He said he’d attended a local school board or PTA meeting to voice an opinion on some issue in Beacon.  One of the local newspapers complained he was “an outside agitator.”  That stung, he said — he’d been a resident in the town for more than 30 years.

Instead of complaining, though, he started thinking.  He said he’s traveled the world and worked for causes for other people in other towns; and he said he realized that one’s life’s work might be dedicated to making life better where one lives.  So he’d decided to campaign to clean up his local river, the Hudson . . . you’ve heard of the Sloop Clearwater?

Pete’s dedication to making things better, with local action where one may make a huge difference, stuck with me, and it should stick with all of us.

Last month I was doodling around Twitter, and discovered Pete had signed up for a Twitter account — years ago.  He tweets regularly.

He’s an encouragement to all of us.  He boasts that there is no group he has ever refused to sing for, and in his typical humility, he claims that he can get any group to join, so they do all the heavy lifting.  During the pre-inaugural festivities for President Obama’s first inauguration I was happy to see Bruce Springsteen singing some of Pete’s work — highly appropriate for any president’s inauguration — and I thought it would be more fitting only if Pete was singing himself.  Then Springsteen brought Pete out on stage to close out.

Pete keeps up a schedule of concerts, most for causes.  He sails with the Clearwater, campaigning for clean water on the Hudson River (much accomplished) and community efforts to change things for the better.  As you will see below, he pulls his own when raising the sails.    He cuts his own wood to heat the house he built.

Considering his age, 94, we might wonder why he keeps going, doing so much all the time.

Why does he keep on going?  He might be telling us, from this 2012 recording.

More:  

English: This graphic was used for the cover o...

Cover of Pete Seeger’s single release (same photo on an album). The banjo features Pete’s traditional “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” a twist on a sticker famously seen on his old friend Woody Guthrie’s guitar. Wikipedia image

Some material in this post is recycled from an earlier post.


Happy birthday, Albert Einstein!

March 14, 2013

How many ways can we say happy birthday to a great scientist born on Pi Day?  So, an encore post.

E=mcc - logo from AIP

E=energy; m=mass; c=speed of light

Happy Einstein Day! to us.  Albert’s been dead since 1955 — sadly for us.  Our celebrations now are more for our own satisfaction and curiosity, and to honor the great man — he’s beyond caring.

Almost fitting that he was born on π Day, no? I mean, is there an E=mc² Day?

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, to Hermann and Pauline Einstein. 26 years later, three days after his birthday, he sent off the paper on the photo-electric effect; that paper would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in another five years, in 1921. In that same year of 1905, he published three other papers, solving the mystery of Brownian motion, describing what became known as the Special Theory of Relativity and solving the mystery of why measurements of the light did not show any effects of motion as Maxwell had predicted, and a final paper that noted a particle emitting light energy loses mass. This final paper amused Einstein because it seemed so ludicrous in its logical extension that energy and matter are really the same stuff at some fundamental point, as expressed in the equation demonstrating an enormous amount of energy stored in atoms, E=mc².

Albert Einstein as a younger man - Nobel Foundation image

Albert Einstein as a younger man – Nobel Foundation image

Any one of the papers would have been a career-capper for any physicist. Einstein dashed them off in just a few months, forever changing the fields of physics. And, you noticed: Einstein did not win a Nobel for the Special Theory of Relativity, nor for E=mc². He won it for the photo electric effect. Irony in history.

106 years later Einstein’s work affects us every day. Relativity theory at some level I don’t understand makes possible the use Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which revolutionized navigation and mundane things like land surveying and microwave dish placement. Development of nuclear power both gives us hope for an energy-rich future, and gives us fear of nuclear war. Sometimes, even the hope of the energy rich future gives us fear, as we watch and hope nuclear engineers can control the piles in nuclear power plants damaged by earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

English: Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp

Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Albert Einstein was a genius at physics, he was more dedicated to pacifism. He resigned his German citizenship to avoid military conscription. His pacifism made the German Nazis nervous; Einstein fled Germany in the 1930s, eventually settling in the United States. In the U.S., he was persuaded by Leo Szilard to write to President Franklin Roosevelt to suggest the U.S. start a program to develop an atomic weapon, because Germany most certainly was doing exactly that. But while urging FDR to keep up with the Germans, Einstein refused to participate in the program himself, sticking to his pacifist views. Others could, and would, design and build atomic bombs. (Maybe it’s a virus among nuclear physicists — several of those working on the Manhattan Project were pacifists, and had great difficulty reconciling the idea that the weapon they worked on to beat Germany, was deployed on Japan, which did not have a nuclear weapons program.)

English: USSR stamp dedicated to Albert Einste...

Everybody wanted to claim, and honor Einstein; USSR issued this stamp dedicated to Albert Einstein Русский: Почтовая марка СССР, посвящённая Альберту Эйнштейну (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Einstein was a not-great father, and probably not a terribly faithful husband at first — though he did think to give his first wife, in the divorce settlement, a share of a Nobel Prize should he win it. Einstein was a good violinist, a competent sailor, an incompetent dresser, and a great character. His sister suffered a paralyzing stroke. For many months Albert spent hours a day reading to her the newspapers and books of the day, convinced that though mute and appearing unconscious, she would benefit from hearing the words. He said he did not hold to orthodox religions, but could there be a greater show of faith in human spirit?

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

When people hear clever sayings, but forget to whom the bon mots should be attributed, Einstein is one of about five candidates to whom all sorts of things are attributed, though he never said them. (Others include Lincoln, Jefferson, Mark Twain and Will Rogers). Einstein is the only scientist in that group. So, for example, we can be quite sure Einstein never claimed that compound interest was the best idea of the 20th century. This phenomenon is symbolic of the high regard people have for the man, even though so few understand what his work was, or meant.

A most interesting man. A most important body of work. He deserves more study and regard than he gets.

More, Resources:


History resources: Rosa Parks’s arrest records

February 25, 2013

Maria Popova at Exp.lore.com suggested some tools for teachers, about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott:

The arrest records of Rosa Parks. Pair with Susan Sontag on courage and resistance. 

Fingerprint sheet from the arrest of Rosa L. Parks, in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955.

The arrest records of Rosa Parks. Pair with Susan Sontag on courage and resistance.

Popova’s suggestion of Sontag’s piece — which is available at Popova’s site — lends depth to this assignment frequently lacking in high schools. The other link Popova offers takes us to the National Archives and their great bank of classroom materials, including a few more documents from the incident:  “Teaching from Documents:  An Act of Courage, The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks.

I like to use these materials around the anniversary of Parks’s arrest on December 1, which is out of sequence for the civil rights movement and a couple of months before Black History Month.  I find it useful to talk about events on the anniversary of the events, especially to give students more than one pass at the material in class, and also to link whatever is being studied in sequence at that moment (often the Civil War in Texas classrooms) with later events, and current events, as a view in to the web of interlinked occurrences that really make up history.  (Yes, I’m an advocate of dropping the name “Black History Month” and teaching it throughout the year; though a Black Heritage Appreciation Month is a help.)

Modern students seem to me to be particularly ill-informed on current events.  Far too many of them do not read newspapers, not even the comics.  This makes more important the classroom linking of past events with current events that students don’t know about, or fail to recognize the significance.

More, and other resources:

1955 Highlander Center workshop, showing Rosa Parks

Summer 1955: Desegregation workshop at Highlander Research and Education Center. Highlander Center caption:  Rosa Parks is at the end of the table. Six months later, her actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. [Who are the other people pictured?]


Education, unions, guns and Superman: A few random thoughts

December 18, 2012

Here, I’ve been quiet for a few days on these issues.  I like to have more facts before forming opinions.  Others don’t feel so constricted, though, and one of the key lessons of life we must learn over and over is that too often we must act without knowing all the facts we’d wish to know.

Ryan Houck, Broken Pencil for Bach

Borrowed art: A Broken Pencil for Bach, drawing by Ryan Houck

This is one of those times.  In Michigan, the governor has been presented bills which he has signed which take away rights of teachers to stand up for themselves, part of a long-standing GOP war on education and teachers.  He has other bills intended to legalize carrying guns in schools, which he has not yet signed.   In several states, legislatures gear up for sessions starting early next year, with pre-filed bills to put the screws to teachers, cut back education spending, take money from public schools and give it to private groups under a pretext of improving education (I say pretext because all research indicates the public schools perform better, but I digress).  In Congress, the GOP demands cuts to health care, mental health care, education, roads, aid to any workers, employed, under-employed or unemployed, and especially in payments to people in poverty or otherwise in economic distress (“no pain to others, no GOP gain”).

Highlighting the intentional sloth the GOP insists on in government, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy hammered one of our nation’s largest cities and most important regions for technology, manufacturing, business, finance and news, and the GOP opposes federal aid to speed up recovery; and in Newtown, Connecticut, a man with learning difficulties and/or behavioral issues broke into an elementary school over-armed with human-killling automatic and semi-automatic weapons legally purchased and legally owned, with which he had legally trained, and murdered 26 people, including 20 children.

My few random thoughts:

  • The unions demonized in Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin, saved children’s lives in Newtown.  (Yes, teachers; cops and firefighters, too.)
  • The teachers who “don’t deserve the pay they get,” according to many speakers in the public fora, laid down their lives in Newtown.
  • Teachers who ask for parental support, chaperones for a trip to the art gallery, a working copier, a full set of books for the students, a working grading machine, enough pencils so every kid can write, a working projector and ten minutes to set it up — and too often don’t get any of that, let alone ten minutes for a body break — now are asked by the crazy gun lobby to arm themselves and take on other beneficiaries of crazy gun lobbyists in the halls of the schools.
  • Waiting for Superman” was a film about how teachers are animals, teachers unions are monsters.  Turns out Superman was already teaching first grade, in Newtown, but is demonized by the filmmakers as someone or something else.
  • Maybe we should rethink who are the monsters, who is Superman, and who deserves our support.  Superman’s already in our schools — what are we waiting for?  Somehow I doubt that Superman’s merely showing up will be enough to resolve the issues and “fix” our schools.

What are your thoughts?

More, and related material:


Election day art: Norman Rockwell

November 6, 2012

Can’t let election day go by without at least noting this great, undersung painting by Normal Rockwell, “Election Day (1944)”:

Norman Rockwell, Election Day, 1944, watercolor and gouache, 14 x 33 1/2 in., Museum purchase, Save-the-Art fund, 2007.037.1.

Norman Rockwell, Election Day, 1944, watercolor and gouache, 14 x 33 1/2 in., Museum purchase, Save-the-Art fund, 2007.037.1.

Remember when people used to dress up to go to the polls?

In 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented fourth term.  Most Americans did not know it, but he was deathly ill at the time.  He dropped Vice President Henry Wallace from his ticket — some argue it was a mutual disaffection at that time — and selected the relatively unknown young Missouri U.S. Sen. Harry S Truman for the vice president’s slot.

In November 1944, D-Day was known to be a successful invasion, and most Americans hoped for a relatively speedy end to World War II in both Europe and the Pacific.  Within the next ten months, the nation would endure the last, futile, desperate and deadly gasp of the Third Reich in the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Berlin in April 1945, and end of the war in the European Theatre on May 8; the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Philippines Campaign, and the bloody, crippling battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific Theatre, and then the first use of atomic weapons in war, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and we hope, the last use).

Voters in Cedar Rapids could not have known that.  They did not know that, regardless their vote for FDR or his Republican challenger, New York Gov. Thomas Dewey, Harry S Truman would be president within six months, nor that the entire world would change in August 1945.

This painting captures a time of spectacular moment, great naivity, and it pictures the way history got made.

For a 2007 exhibition, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art offered this history:

Norman Rockwell: Fact & Fiction

September 12, 2009 – January 3, 2010

In 2007, the citizens of Cedar Rapids rallied together to purchase a series of watercolors destined for the auction block in New York. These five watercolors, by acclaimed 20th century American artist Norman Rockwell, depicted scenes associated with an election day and were created specifically for the November 4, 1944 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. To complete the Post commission, Rockwell traveled to a quintessential Midwestern town, Cedar Rapids, to study local citizens as models for his series of images.

In the 65 years since his visit, numerous anecdotes and stories have arisen about the artist’s time in Cedar Rapids and the creation of this work. This exhibition uses these five, newly conserved and restored watercolors and a related oil painting from the Norman Rockwell Museum, along with numerous photographs taken by local photographer Wes Panek for Rockwell, to investigate the many facts and fictions associated with Rockwell’s visit and this set of watercolors.

Norman Rockwell: Fact & Fiction has been made possible in part by Rockwell Collins, Candace Wong, and local “Friends of Norman Rockwell.” General exhibition and educational support has been provided by The Momentum Fund of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

Friends of Norman Rockwell: Wilma E. Shadle, Howard and Mary Ann Kucera, Jean Imoehl, Ben and Katie Blackstock, Marilyn Sippy, Chuck and Mary Ann Peters, Phyllis Barber, Ann Pickford, Anthony and Jo Satariano, Barbara A. Bloomhall, Virginia C. Rystrom, Jeff and Glenda Dixon, Robert F. & Janis L. Kazimour Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, Fred and Mary Horn, Mrs. Edna Lingo, John and Diana Robeson, Jewel M. Plumb, Carolyn Pigott Rosberg, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Buchacek, Dan and Anne Pelc, Mary Brunkhorst, and John and Diana Robeson.

I am amused and intrigued that this scene also closely resembles the scene when I voted in Cheverly, Maryland, in 1984 — down to the dog in the picture.  Oh, and most of the women didn’t wear dresses, none wore hats, and I was the only guy in the room with a tie.

Roosevelt won the 1944 election in an electoral college landslide, 432 to 99, but Dewey won Iowa, and we might assume Dewey won Cedar Rapids, too.

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Election Day 2012: Fly the flag, vote

November 6, 2012

Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879). The County Election, 1852. Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.

The County Election, 1852. Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879).  Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.

Every polling place should be flying the U.S. flag today.  You may fly yours, too.  In any case, if you have not voted already, go vote today as if our future depends upon it, as if our nation expects every voter to do her or his duty.

Today the nation and world listen to the most humble of citizens.  Speak up, at the ballot box.

Did you notice?  In Bingham’s picture, there are no U.S. flags.  You may fly yours anyway.

The whole world is watching.

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July 4 naturalization ceremony at the White House

July 10, 2012

It’s one of those great and wonderful mysteries:  Why do people enlist to put their lives on the line for a nation in which they are not citizens?

Regardless the motivations, many people do that, for the U.S.  As a partial means of saying “thank you,” the U.S. grants expedited naturalization processes for some of those soldiers.

July 4, at the White House, about two dozen of those non-citizen soldiers completed the process, and took the oath to become citizens of the nation they’ve already served in defense.  From the White House blogs:

President Obama Salutes New American Citizens

[Colleen Curtis]

President Obama at Naturalization Ceremony July 4, 2012

President Barack Obama listens as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano administers the oath of allegiance during a military naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House, July 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama began his Independence Day celebrations by hosting a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House. It was the third time the President has hosted this kind of service, and he told the audience, which included the families of the service members who were taking the oath of citizenship, that it is one of his favorite things to do. “It brings me great joy and inspiration because it reminds us that we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas.”

Before the President gave his remarks, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas presented the countries of the candidates for naturalization and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano delivered the oath of allegiance.  President Obama told the new citizens that is was an honor to serve as their Commander in Chief, and to be the first to greet them as “my fellow Americans.”

With this ceremony today — and ceremonies like it across our country — we affirm another truth: Our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe.  We say it so often, we sometimes forget what it means — we are a nation of immigrants.  Unless you are one of the first Americans, a Native American, we are all descended from folks who came from someplace else — whether they arrived on the Mayflower or on a slave ship, whether they came through Ellis Island or crossed the Rio Grande.

Immigrants signed their names to our Declaration and helped win our independence.  Immigrants helped lay the railroads and build our cities, calloused hand by calloused hand.  Immigrants took up arms to preserve our union, to defeat fascism, and to win a Cold War.  Immigrants and their descendants helped pioneer new industries and fuel our Information Age, from Google to the iPhone.  So the story of immigrants in America isn’t a story of “them,” it’s a story of “us.”  It’s who we are.  And now, all of you get to write the next chapter.

You can read the transcript of the President’s full remarks here.

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June 15: Magna Carta anniversary, #797

June 15, 2012

Today, June 15, 2012, is the 797th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.  The document laid a foundation for freedom, almost 800 years ago, upon which we stand today.

Runnymede, Magna Carta Isle, photo by Wyrdlight, Antony McCallum, 2008 (Wikimedia)

What event critical to western history and the development of the democratic republic in the U.S. happened here in 1215?

A teacher might use some of these photos explaining the steps to the Constitution, in English law and the heritage of U.S. laws. Other than the Magna Carta, all the events of Runnymede get overlooked in American studies of history. Antony McCallum, working under the name Wyrdlight, took these stunning shots of this historic meadow. (He photographs stuff for studies of history, it appears.)

Maybe it’s a geography story.

View of Runnymede Meadow from Engham Village -- Wyrdlight photo through Wikimedia

View of Runnymede Meadow from Engham Village — Wyrdlight photo through Wikimedia

Several monuments to different events of the past millennium populate the site. The American Bar Association dedicated a memorial to the Magna Carta there — a small thing open to the air, but with a beautiful ceiling that is probably worth the trip to see it once you get to England.

Wikipedia explains briefly, with a note that the ABA plans to meet there again in 2015, the 800th anniversary of the Great Charter:

Magna Carta Memorial


The Magna Carta Memorial & view towards the ‘medes’


Engraved stone recalling the 1985 ABA visit

Situated in a grassed enclosure on the lower slopes of Cooper’s Hill, this memorial is of a domed classical style, containing a pillar of English granite on which is inscribed “To commemorate Magna Carta, symbol of Freedom Under Law”. The memorial was created by the American Bar Association to a design by Sir Edward Maufe R.A., and was unveiled on 18 July 1957 at a ceremony attended by American and English lawyers.[5]

Since 1957 representatives of the ABA have visited and rededicated the Memorial renewing pledges to the Great Charter. In 1971 and 1985 commemorative stones were placed on the Memorial plinth. In July 2000 the ABA came:

to celebrate Magna Carta, foundation of the rule of law for ages past and for the new millennium.

In 2007 on its 50th anniversary the ABA again visited Runnymede and during the convention installed as President Charles Rhyne who devised Law Day which seeks in the USA an annual reaffirmation of faith in the forces of law for peace.

The ABA will be meeting at Runnymede in 2015 on the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the original charter.

The Magna Carta Memorial is administered by the Magna Carta Trust, which is chaired by the Master of the Rolls.[10]

In 2008, flood lights were installed to light the memorial at night, but due to vandalism they now lie smashed.

I’ll wager the lights get fixed before 2015.

Detail of the Magna Carta monument at Runnymed...

Detail of ceiling of the Magna Carta Memorial detailing play of light, and star pattern, Runnymede – Wikimedia image

More, resources:

This is mostly an encore post.


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