Flag Day 2015! Fly your flag all week

June 14, 2015

Of course you know to fly your flag on June 14 for Flag Day — but did you know that the week containing Flag Day is Flag Week, and we are encouraged to fly the flag every day?

Clifford Berryman's 1901 Flag Day cartoon, found at the National Archives:

Clifford Berryman’s 1901 Flag Day cartoon, found at the National Archives: “In this June 14, 1904, cartoon, Uncle Sam gives a lesson to schoolchildren on the meaning of Flag Day. Holding the American flag in one hand, Uncle Sam explains that the flag has great importance, unlike the Vice Presidency, which he ridicules in a kindly manner. (National Archives Identifier 6010464)”

Our National Archives has a blogged history of Flag Day pointing out it was a teacher who started Flag Day celebrations.

On June 14, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk at the Stony Hill School in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. The 19-year-old teacher then asked his students to write essays on the flag and its significance to them. This small observance marked the beginning of a long and devoted campaign by Cigrand to bring about national recognition for Flag Day.

And so we do, today, still.


Je suis Charlie!

January 8, 2015

If you follow my Tweets, or if you watch what I post on Facebook, you may have noticed I frequently credit editorial cartoonists with telling the truth.  Cartoonists fill a critical need.  I admire their work.

That’s not strong enough.  I find that political cartoons offer truths, in quickly grokable form, that would remain hidden in news and commentary otherwise.

Perhaps more importantly, cartoons lampoon those who desperately, bitterly need lampooning.

Why is that important?  Lampooning exposes crazy behaviors in our leaders, behaviors that if unchecked might lead a group to disaster.  Or a community.  Or a nation.  Or a planet.

Ancient sayings, properly and improperly attributed to various sources, over a period of 500 to 1,000 years point to the importance of lampooning in correcting actions of leaders and governments.  This version comes from a Sophocles play, Antigone (620-3):

For cunningly of old
was the celebrated saying revealed:
evil sometimes seems good
to a man whose mind
a god leads to destruction.

Lampooning helps, illustrating perhaps with laughter where the problem lies, though it also suggests that the chief perpetrators and promulgators of the craziness may be immune from such insights, whether through laughter or any other method.

If those lampooned genuinely cannot see the humor, a greater problem is exposed.  That’s the point. Expose the madness, lay it bare for all to see.  Sane people will work to help the insane, and avoid leading others into that madness.  Lampooning provides us a great tool to avoid disasters, if we would only look. Laughter is optional, if the message gets through.

Even insane leaders and groups understand this at some level. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote about the value of ridicule of majestic error in his Notebook:

No god and no religion can survive ridicule. No church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field and live.*

We got a sharp and painful reminder of these facts yesterday, when a group of gunmen, stung by ridicule from a French satire magazine, stormed that magazine’s offices and brutally gunned down a score of people, a dozen of whom died.  Their form of religious struggle appears insane to sane people, and when that is pointed out to them, they behave with more intense insanity.

To these gunman, whose existence alone is a blasphemous assault on the idea of peaceful religion, ridicule in publication was too much to take.  Rather than answer with other cartoons or parody, or serious thought in print, they attempted to change the playing field’s fairness.

In doing they exposed their critics as accurate and true. Those already crazed by the gods probably have no sense of irony left, either.

This morning comes the word that Charlie Hebdo will publish next week as scheduled.  Instead of the usual run of 113,000 copies, the first run will be more than a million, to meet greater demand. Stricken down by gunmen, Charlie Hebdo rises phoenix-like, with strength multiplied by more than ten.

We mourn the cartoonists and editors lost.  They are martyrs in the cause of freedom and peace, and especially in the “jihad” they engage in for freedom of expression, something that we know now is not a uniquely American virtue or necessity.

Throughout history memorable phrases heralded periods of great change, when people took a stand against tyranny and violence, and stood for freedom and peace.

I am Spartacus.

Here I stand.  I can do no other.”

“Union!”

“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

” . . . Freedom of speech and expression . . . Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way . . . Freedom from Want . . . Freedom from Fear. . .”

Ich bin ein Berliner.

We Shall Overcome

I Am A Man.”

And now, “Je suis Charlie!”

Beyond Charlie Hebdo, the world’s cartoonists and editorialists storm traditional and electronic media with support for the cartoonists.  Here below are some examples, in no particular order.  What other cartoons or commentary have you seen that we all should see?

Andy Marlette, cartoonist for the Pensacola News-Journal borrowed the saying from the sticker that Woody Guthrie used on his guitar, “This Machine Kills Fascists”:

Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News-Journal, borrowing from Woody Guthrie's guitar

Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News-Journal, borrowing from Woody Guthrie’s guitar

Pete Seeger borrowed Woody’s line, and painted on the drum head of his banjo, “This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender.” Marlette also penned a piece for USA Today.

Cuban Angel Boligan (@AngelBoligan):

Cuban-born cartoonist Angel Boligan, on Charlie Hebdo

Cuban-born cartoonist Angel Boligan, on Charlie Hebdo

Nate Beeler in the Columbus Dispatch:

Nate Beeler's cartoon on Charlie Hebdo, for the Columbus Dispatch

Nate Beeler’s cartoon on Charlie Hebdo, for the Columbus Dispatch

Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Ricardo Sanabria in Venezuela:

Ricardo Sanabria, Venezuela

Ricardo Sanabria, Venezuela

Manjool, an Indian cartoonist:

“Last message from #CharlieHebdo cartoonists to their killers. My #cartoon “

Clay Bennett at the Chattanooga, Tennessee newspapers:

Clay Bennett's cartoon on the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo

Clay Bennett’s cartoon on the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo

NOT by Banksy, but by Lucille Clerc:

Cartoon by Lucille Clerc

Cartoon circulated as by Banksy, but really by graphic designer Lucille Clerc

John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune:

@AnnePhutto said:  Je suis Charlie...my 12 year old daughter's favorite cartoon in response to the tragedy.  Cartoon by John Cole, Scranton News-Tribune

@AnnePhutto said: Je suis Charlie…my 12 year old daughter’s favorite cartoon in response to the tragedy. Cartoon by John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune

Charlie Hebdo dead?  I don’t think so.

______________

*  Twain also warned against taking ridicule too far, and spoke on the difficulty of knowing, if you’re the butt of the ridicule:

  • Sense of ridicule is bitterer than death & more feared. — men commit suicide daily to escape it.
    Mark Twain’s Notebooks and Journals, Vol. 3, p. 346.
  • There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.
    Pudd’nhead Wilson

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Christmas 2014: Do we know who invented Santa Claus? Who really wrote the “Night Before Christmas?”

December 23, 2014

An encore post and Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub tradition from 2007, with a few modifications.

“Today in History from the Associated Press notes, for December 23:

In 1823, the poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel; the verse, more popularly known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was later attributed to Clement C. Moore.

Regardless who wrote the poem first published 191 years ago today, how has it influenced America’s view of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus?  And how much of the Santa Claus story really was invented in America?

Thomas Nast invented Santa Claus? Clement C. Moore didn’t write the famous poem that starts out, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house . . . ?”

The murky waters of history from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub soak even our most cherished ideas and traditions.

Isn’t that part of the fun of history?

Santa Claus delivers to Union soldiers, "Santa Claus in Camp" - Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, Jan 3, 1863

In Janaury 1863, Thomas Nast portraye Santa Claus delivered gifts to Union troops in Washington, D.C., wearing a blue, star-spangled coat, just a few days earlier.

Yes, Virginia (and California, too)! Thomas Nast created the image of Santa Claus most of us in the U.S. know today. Perhaps even more significant than his campaign against the graft of Boss Tweed, Nast’s popularization of a fat, jolly elf who delivers good things to people for Christmas makes one of the great stories in commercial illustration. Nast’s cartoons, mostly for the popular news publication Harper’s Weekly, created many of the conventions of modern political cartooning and modeled the way in which an illustrator could campaign for good, with his campaign against the graft of Tammany Hall and Tweed. But Nast’s popular vision of Santa Claus can be said to be the foundation for the modern mercantile flurry around Christmas.

Nast is probably ensconced in a cartoonists’ hall of fame. Perhaps he should be in a business or sales hall of fame, too.  [See also Bill Casselman’s page, “The Man Who Designed Santa Claus.]

Nast’s drawings probably drew some inspiration from the poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” traditionally attributed to Clement C. Moore, a New York City lawyer, published in 1822. The poem is among the earliest to describe the elf dressed in fur, and magically coming down a chimney to leave toys for children; the poem invented the reindeer-pulled sleigh.

Modern analysis suggests the poem was not the work of Moore, and many critics and historians now attribute it to Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828) following sleuthing by Vassar College Prof. Don Foster in 2000. Fortunately for us, we do not need to be partisans in such a query to enjoy the poem (a complete copy of which is below the fold).

The Library of Congress still gives Moore the credit. When disputes arise over who wrote about the night before Christmas, is it any wonder more controversial topics produce bigger and louder disputes among historians?

Moore was not known for being a poet. The popular story is that he wrote it on the spur of the moment:

Moore is thought to have composed the tale, now popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family’s Christmas dinner.

Inspired by the plump, bearded Dutchman who took him by sleigh on his errand through the snow-covered streets of New York City, Moore penned A Visit from St. Nicholas for the amusement of his six children, with whom he shared the poem that evening. His vision of St. Nicholas draws upon Dutch-American and Norwegian traditions of a magical, gift-giving figure who appears at Christmas time, as well as the German legend of a visitor who enters homes through chimneys.

Again from the Library of Congress, we get information that suggests that Moore was a minor celebrity from a well-known family with historical ties that would make a good “connections” exercise in a high school history class, perhaps (”the link from Aaron Burr’s treason to Santa Claus?”): (read more, below the fold)

Clement Moore was born in 1779 into a prominent New York family. His father, Benjamin Moore, president of Columbia University, in his role as Episcopal Bishop of New York participated in the inauguration of George Washington as the nation’s first president. The elder Moore also administered last rites to Alexander Hamilton after he was mortally wounded in a tragic duel with Aaron Burr.

A graduate of Columbia, Clement Moore was a scholar of Hebrew and a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. [See comment from Pam Bumsted below for more on Moore.] He is said to have been embarrassed by the light-hearted verse, which was made public without his knowledge in December 1823. Moore did not publish it under his name until 1844.

Tonight, American children will be tucked in under their blankets and quilts and read this beloved poem as a last “sugarplum” before slipping into dreamland. Before they drift off, treat them to a message from Santa, recorded by the Thomas Edison Company in 1922.

Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph
By Arthur A. Penn, Performed by Harry E. Humphrey.
Edison, 1922.
Coupling date: 6/20/1922. Cutout date: 10/31/1929.
Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

Listen to this recording (RealAudio Format)

Listen to this recording (wav Format, 8,471 Kb)

But Henry Livingston was no less noble or historic. He hailed from the Livingstons of the Hudson Valley (one of whose farms is now occupied by Camp Rising Sun of the Louis August Jonas Foundation, a place where I spent four amazing summers teaching swimming and lifesaving). Livingston’s biography at the University of Toronto site offers another path for a connections exercise (”What connects the Declaration of Independence, the American invasion of Canada, the famous poem about a visit from St. Nick, and George W. Bush?”):

Henry Livingston Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on Oct. 13, 1748. The Livingston family was one of the important colonial and revolutionary families of New York. The Poughkeepsie branch, descended from Gilbert, the youngest son of Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor, was not as well off as the more well-known branches, descended from sons Robert and Philip. Two other descendants of Gilbert Livingston, President George Walker Herbert Bush and his son, President-Elect George W. Bush, though, have done their share to bring attention to this line. Henry’s brother, Rev. John Henry Livingston, entered Yale at the age of 12, and was able to unite the Dutch and American branches of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the time of his death, Rev. Livingston was president of Rutgers University. Henry’s father and brother Gilbert were involved in New York politics, and Henry’s granduncle was New York’s first Lt. Governor. But the law was the natural home for many of Henry’s family. His brother-in-law, Judge Jonas Platt, was an unsuccessful candidate for governor, as was his daughter Elizabeth’s husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson. Henry’s grandson, Sidney Breese, was Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge and his love of literature, Henry Livingston was a farmer, surveyor and Justice of the Peace, a judicial position dealing with financially limited criminal and civil cases. One of the first New Yorkers to enlist in the Revolutionary Army in 1775, Major Henry Livingston accompanied his cousin’s husband, General Montgomery, in his campaign up the Hudson River to invade Canada, leaving behind his new wife, Sarah Welles, and their week-old baby, on his Poughkeepsie property, Locust Grove. Baby Catherine was the subject of the first poem currently known by Major Livingston. Following this campaign, Livingston was involved in the War as a Commissioner of Sequestration, appropriating lands owned by British loyalists and selling them for the revolutionary cause. It was in the period following Sarah’s early death in 1783, that Major Livingston published most of his poems and prose, anonymously or under the pseudonym of R. Ten years after the death of Sarah, Henry married Jane Patterson, the daughter of a Dutchess County politician and sister of his next-door neighbor. Between both wives, Henry fathered twelve children. He published his good-natured, often occasional verse from 1787 in many journals, including Political Barometer, Poughkeepsie Journal, and New-York Magazine. His most famous poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” was until 2000 thought to have been the work of Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), who published it with his collected poems in 1844. Livingston died Feb. 29, 1828.

More on Henry Livingston and his authorship of the Christmas poem here.

Thomas Nast's full realization of Santa Claus, 1881.  Harper's Weekly, from the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Collection.

Thomas Nast’s full realization of Santa Claus, “Merry Old Santa Claus,” January 1, 1881. Harper’s Weekly, from the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

Our views of Santa Claus owe a great deal also to the Coca-Cola advertising campaign. Coca-Cola first noted Santa’s use of the drink in a 1922 campaign to suggest Coke was a year-round drink (100 years after the publication of Livingston’s poem). The company’s on-line archives gives details:

In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. The ad featured the world’s largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store of Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Mizen’s painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930.

1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

  • 1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, The Coca-Cola Company commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa, as Mizen’s work had portrayed him.
1942 original oil painting - 'They Remembered Me'

  • 1942 original oil painting – ‘They Remembered Me’

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human. For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa — an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of people of all ages, all over the world.

Santa Claus is a controversial figure. Debates still rage among parents about the wisdom of allowing the elf into the family’s home, and under what conditions. Theologians worry that the celebration of Christmas is diluted by the imagery. Other faiths worry that the secular, cultural impact of Santa Claus damages their own faiths (few other faiths have such a popular figure, and even atheists generally give gifts and participate in Christmas rituals such as putting up a decorated tree).

For over 100 years, Santa Claus has been a popular part of commercial, cultural and religious life in America. Has any other icon endured so long, or so well?

________________________
Below:
From the University of Toronto Library’s Representative Poetry Online

Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)

Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

1 ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,

2 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

3 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

4 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

5 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

6 While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,

7 And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

8 Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap –

9 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

10 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

11 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

12 Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

13 The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

14 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

15 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

16 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

17 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

18 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

19 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

20 And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

21 “Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,

22 “On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

23 “To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

24 “Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

25 As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

26 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

27 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

28 With the sleigh full of Toys — and St. Nicholas too:

29 And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

30 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

31 As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

32 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

33 He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,

34 And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;

35 A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

36 And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:

37 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,

38 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

39 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.

40 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

41 The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

42 And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

43 He had a broad face, and a little round belly

44 That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

45 He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

46 And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;

47 A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

48 Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

49 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

50 And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,

51 And laying his finger aside of his nose

52 And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

53 He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

54 And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

55 But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight –

56 Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto. Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries. Be sure to visit this site for more information on this poem, on Maj. Livingston, and on poetry in general.

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Education just like making toasters?

September 30, 2014

Fred Klonsky, the best under-published cartoonist on education issues:

Fred Klonsky tells the truth:

Fred Klonsky tells the truth: “Teaching your kids like making toasters?” “Not my kids. Your kids.”

Also at Klonsky’s blog.


Ice sheets thick as a denialist’s head

August 25, 2014

Cartoonist Randall Munroe at XKCD demonstrates ice age issues.

Of course it was a cartoonist. Where else does one go to find the truth these days, but the cartoons?

XKCD dramatically shows differences in North American cities and their relationship with their local ice sheets, 21,000 years ago.

XKCD dramatically shows differences in North American cities and their relationship with their local ice sheets, 21,000 years ago. Cartoon by Randall Munroe.

Enric Sala wrote about our disappearing ice for the World Economic Forum — a post worth reading.

Twenty kilometres in 20 years. That’s how much the Ilulissat glacier has retreated as this mighty, flowing river of ice crumbles into the ocean. It sounds like a lot. But I did not fully realize what this meant until we flew over the Ilulissat icefjord. It takes 10 minutes for the helicopter to fly over the amount of ice that has been lost because of global warming – in this glacier alone.

The speed at which the glacier moves has doubled relative to that in 1998. My scientist brain, accustomed to working with numbers and large scales, had a hard time absorbing this information. If I was rationally aware of the consequences of global warming from scientific reports before, now I felt it emotionally. This is what my trip to Greenland with a group of World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders did to us. It made us move from knowing and caring to be desperate to do something about it.

The experience also made us realize that all the international negotiations and agreements to date are not going to help avert the imminent catastrophe. Not even the boldest targets to reduce carbon pollution put forward by the smartest nations are going to move the dial. It’s all an illusion of movement, kind of like Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen, running and running but not going anywhere.

Truth on ice.

There is a difference, though.  Ice thins, gets weaker, and covers less area.  As that happens, as the planet warms, the density of denialists does not appear to decrease, at least not fast, and not toward greater understanding and less insanity.


Happy 74th, Bugs Bunny

July 27, 2014

Who was it who observed that Bugs Bunny is the guy we all hope we are, but Daffy Duck is the guy we fear we really are?

Bugs Bunny is 74 today, having debuted this day in 1940.  Read more here, from last year’s commemoration.

Development of Bugs Bunny -- third image from left is THE Bugs. Wikipedia image

Development of Bugs Bunny — third image from left is THE Bugs. Wikipedia image


“Once a soldier . . .” — Who is the artist?

May 17, 2014

Once a soldier, always a soldier; Who created this?

Who created this?

Interesting tribute to old soldiers, quite touching — and thought provoking.

As with too much other good stuff on the internet, the attribution to the creator or creators has been stripped away in a thousand repostings.

Who created this image?  Do they have other thought-provoking stuff we should know about?


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