30 September 2009

Happy Birthday Bapu - October 2

Born October 2, 1869
Porbandar, Kathiawar Agency, British India
Died January 30, 1948 (aged 78)
New Delhi, Union of India
Cause of death Assassination
Resting place Rajghat in New Delhi
Other names Mahatma Gandhi, Bapu, Gandhiji
Alma mater University College London
Known for Prominent Figure of Indian Independence Movement
Propounding the philosophy of Satyagraha and Ahimsa
Religious beliefs Hinduism
Spouse(s) Kasturba Gandhi
Children: Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, Devdas
Parents: Putlibai Gandhi (Mother)& Karamchand Gandhi (Father)

Those are the bare bones facts about one of the most inspiring men who has ever graced the earth. A simple biography is available on Wikipedia, but the link under the picture will take you to the Gandhi page with a wealth of information on his writings and research sources.    He was the pioneer of resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon total non-violence.  This led to the independence of India  from the British, and he is known as the father of the nation.  Gandhi's life became the motivation for campaigns for civil rights and freedom across the world. As is often the case with peaceful men, Gandhi's life was ended by violence with his assassination in 1948.  Still he left behind a legacy of activism and quotes that have led others to great ideals and aspirations.

He is officially honoured in India as the Father of the Nation; his birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Non Violence and Peace Day.  You can start practicing peace now as a warm up for the Blog Blast for Peace on November 5.  Don't forget to get your Peace Globe at the link from the site.

Nine years ago Gandhi made number 17 on the list of most influential people of the 20th century.  It is an interesting list and you might quibble about some of the names or think that someone should rank higher or lower, but just getting into the top fifth in quite a feat for a man who made his greatest impact by quietly sitting.

Let’s review those 100 names, beginning at the bottom of the list. As you read and consider the impact made by each individual.  This was a somewhat popular vote as well as a panel of experts, so even after only a decade some of the names may seem to have lost their luster while others may move up or down.  One thing is not in doubt and that is the impact Mohandas Gandhi had on his country and the world.
100. Suleiman I
99. Vasco Da Gama
98. Louis Armstrong
97. Jonas Salk
96. Enrico Caruso
95. Charlie Chaplin
94. Patient Zero
93. Eleanor Roosevelt
92. Florence Nightingale
91. Steven Spielberg
90. Louis Daguerre
89. Susan B. Anthony    
88. Robert Oppenheimer
87. Rachel Carson
86. James Joyce 
85. Ronald Reagan
84. Guglielmo Marconi
83. Peter the Great  
82. Neils Bohr
81. Nelson Mandela
80. Elizabeth I  
79. Joseph Stalin
78. Isabella  
77. Thomas Hobbes
76. The Beatles   
75. Gregory Pincus 
74. Enrico Fermi
73. Princess Diana
72. Simon Bolivar
71. Harriet Tubman
70. Pope Gregory VII
69. William Harvey
68. Benjamin Franklin
67. Vladimir Zworykin
66. D.W. Griffith
65. Werner Heisenberg
64. Pablo Picasso
63. Jane Austen
62. Walt Disney
61. Michael Faraday
60. Franklin D. Roosevelt
59. Immanuel Kant
58. Joan of Arc
57. Elvis Presley
56. Elizabeth Stanton
55. Ferdinand Magellan
54. Marco Polo
53. Marie Curie 
52. Winston Churchill
51. Edward Jenner
50. Margaret Sanger
49. Mikhail Gorbachev
48. Mary Wollstoncraft
47. Charles Babbage
46. Niccolo Machiavelli
45. William the Conquerer
44. Alexander Graham Bell
43. Mao Zedong
42. Gregor Mendel
41. Bill Gates
40. The Wright Brothers
39. Dante Alighieri
38. Francis Bacon
37. Voltaire
36. Alexander Fleming
35. Vladimir Lenin
34. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
33. Martin Luther King, Jr.
32. Rene Descartes
31. Watson and Crick
30. Ludwig van Beethoven
29. Henry Ford
28. Johann Sebastian Bach
27. Napoleon Bonaparte
26. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
25. James Watt
24. St. Thomas Aquinas
23. Abraham Lincoln
22. Genghis Khan
21. George Washington
20. Adam Smith
19. Michelangelo
18. John Locke
17. Mahatma Gandhi
16. Adolf Hitler
15. Thomas Jefferson
14. Thomas Edison
13. Louis Pasteur
12. Sigmund Freud
11. Leonardo DaVinci
10. Galileo Galilei
  9. Nicolaus Copernicus
  8. Albert Einstein
  7. Karl Marx
  6. Christopher Columbus
  5. William Shakespeare
  4. Charles Darwin
  3. Martin Luther
  2. Isaac Newton
  1. Johann Gutenberg

"My Life is My Message"

28 September 2009

History Lesson - God and Politics

This event happened in April and it has taken me a while to get around to commenting due to other things buzzing through my head.  Since this is a very old bee in my bonnet, I figured it could wait.  I hope someone has gotten hold of Congressman Forbes, his aides, advisors, and constituents to let him and them know that someone really, really needs a history lesson. When you hear assertions that the United States was founded on “Christian” ideals … you may automatically assume that they don't know what they are talking about.

The only area of what became the United States that was founded on “Christian” principles was the original Plymouth colony in Massachusetts, by the Puritans who were fleeing religious persecution in England … and of course, they promptly started inflicting their own warped sense of Christian values on the Native Americans and amongst themselves (Salem Witch Trials, anyone?).

This nation was NOT founded on the belief in one true God. When asked about this, Alexander Hamilton once responded that the United States was not in need of “foreign aid.” The majority of the founders, as was common during the "enlightenment" period of the mid to late 1700s, were "theists". They believed in a God but not in a specific religion as an expression of that belief. It is the main reason that they inserted that "freedom of religion" clause in the first amendment because they wanted no "established" religion as was the case with The Church of England.

One of the areas where the Evangelicals go off track is with this insistance of a "Judeo-Christian" foundation, posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, and prayer in school is that they don't understand the Amendment. You are free to practice (or not practice) any religion only because THE STATE in any form cannot force you to worship in any particular way.

The word God did not appear on US money until the Civil War, and did not appear in the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954, as a reaction to the McCarthy-driven anti-Communist hysteria. The word “God” isn’t mentioned in the Articles of Confederation. There are two brief mentions of God in the Declaration of Independence (“Laws of Nature, and Nature’s God” and “endowed by their Creator”), but the Declaration of Independence is not the document on which our nation is based. The Constitution, which was drafted 11 years later, holds that honor and there is not a single mention of God in the original document as adopted.

Furthermore, in the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified in 1797 in one of the Senate’s only unanimous votes, Article 11 famously states:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, - and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
In 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
Note that Jefferson, along with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine were not Christian. Although they believed in one Supreme Being, they rejected many elements of the Christian church. James Madison, primary author of the Constitution once wrote on Christianity:

What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

All the founders, including the clerics among them, believed that true freedom of religion came from no official state sponsored religion.  By design, God, in whatever form, has no place in official government.  These twits in Congress who try to shove this "super religious, holier than thou" stuff down our throats are in direct violation of the intent of the founders of this nation who truly believed that everyone was totally free to form or not their idea and practice of religion. What they can not do is inflict upon or force their fellow citizens to share their idea and practice of same.

Signing of the Constitution
Louis S. Glanzman

This is an interactive portrait on the website linked. As you run your cursor over each of the signers, their names will appear as well as an historical write up of the events connected to the signing.

27 September 2009

Take This Tune - September In The Rain

This week's "Take This Tune" is September In The Rain featuring Dinah Washington.  We are about to enter on my favorite time of the year.  Maybe it was growing up with almost constant sunshine, but the time of the year when the heat of summer started to give way to cooler temperatures some time in October and then waiting for the first of the November rains has always been very special.

Now rain in a desert is different than rain almost anywhere else.  Los Angeles is a desert.  Don't let the imported water and those irrigated lawns fool you.  It is a desert.  The rain isn't some gentle mist or drizzle.  It is pound the sidewalks and bounce up to soak your knees downpour.  It comes in waves from slashing at your face to blinding car wash gushers and then it's gone until the next wave crashes.  Trying to drive is follow the tail lights in front of you and hope they have good reaction time.

As a good thing, it settles the dust, cleans the air, puts out the last of the summer fires, and cools off a chain of 100 plus temperature days.  As too much of a good thing, it brings down hillsides and houses, tumbles boulders off mountains, and creates jobs for road builders for months to come once it stops raining.

Despite all the problems of rain, I always love the fog and rain part of the year and the places it could take you.  There is always a song playing in my head to the point that I finally wrote a short poem about it:

Falls says down
crushed into earth
leaves of Autumn
mulch sacrifice to spring

Foot falls, damp lamps of twilight
wash sidewalks wet with fog
Old songs filter smoky air
thick with might have been.

Low moaning of horns and
the whining clarinet
cry for a place at the end of the bar
And a lonely woman in black

Gravity wins, Look back
Take hold of a year almost done.

It surprised me many years later to find a painter had created an image to go with the picture in my brain when that was written.  Jack Vettriano is a Scottish artist who paints some of the most enigmatic and sensual paintings where the relationships between the men and women leave whole novels to your imagination.   This one is Cocktails and Broken Hearts.

So when I hear September In The Rain it brings back a poem, a painting, a person and a place to be for Rainy Days and Mondays.

23 September 2009

A Man and His Dog

Bo Obama - Official White House portrait

Most of us are familiar with the saying, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.". It would seem that the majority of the Presidents have seen fit to take this advice wholeheartedly. There has seldom been a Presidency without a White House dog.  Some Presidents were not dog people but had other pets, while others were absolutely pet crazy to the point of having zoos.  Only one is known to have no pets at all. This probably explains why almost no one can remember Chester A. Arthur. I mean if you can't even get a a dog to love you ... just saying.

Franklin Roosevelt & Fala

While several Presidential dogs have met the press, only one has had a speech made about him broadcast on all networks in the middle of a war. President's Roosevelt's "Fala Speech" is so famous, it is on You Tube for your pleasure.
These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself - such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.

President Bill Clinton & Buddy

Barbara Bush & Millie

Barack Obama - Bo - Portuguese Water Dog

George W. Bush - Spot - English Springer Spaniel; Barney & Miss Beazley - Scottish Terriers.

Bill Clinton - Buddy - Labrador Retriever
George H. W. Bush • Millie & Ranger - Springer Spaniels

Ronald Reagan • Lucky - Bouvier des Flandres • Rex - Cavalier King Charles Spaniel • Victory - Golden Retriever • Peggy - Irish Setter • Taca - Siberian Husky Fuzzy - Belgian sheepdog

Jimmy Carter • Lewis Brown - Afghan Hound
Gerald Ford • Liberty & Misty - Golden Retrievers

Richard Nixon • Vicki - Poodle • Pasha - Terrier • King Timahoe - Irish Setter • Checkers - Cocker Spaniel (Technically Checkers was a VP dog as he passed away before Nixon became president, but he did get another famous speech)

Lyndon B. Johnson • Him and Her, Edgar, Freckles - beagles; • Blanco - white Collie • Yuki – Dogs

John F. Kennedy • Gaullie - Poodle • Charlie - Welsh Terrier • Pushinka - Dog • Shannon - Irish Cocker Spaniel, Wolf - Wolfhound & Schnauzer mix • Clipper - German Shepherd; Butterfly, White Tips, Blackie, and Streaker - Dogs

Dwight D. Eisenhower  • Heidi - Weimaraner

Harry S. Truman • Feller - Cocker Spaniel • Mike - Irish Setter

Franklin D. Roosevelt  • Fala & Meggie - Scottish Terriers; Majora - German Shepherd • Winks - Llewellyn Setter • Tiny - Old English Sheepdog • President - Great Dane • Blaze - Mastiff

Herbert Hoover • King Tut Belgian Shepherd • Pat - German Shepherd • Big Ben and Sonnie - Fox Terriers;  Glen - Scotch Collie • Yukonan - Eskimo dog • Patrick - Irish Wolfhound • Eaglehurst Gillette - Setter • Weejie - Norwegian Elkhound

Calvin Coolidge • Rob Roy and Prudence Prim - White collies • Peter Pan - Terrier • Paul Pry - Airedale Terrier • Calamity Jane - Shetland Sheepdog
Tiny Tim and Blackberry - Chow Chows • Ruby Rouch - Collie; Boston Beans - Bulldog; King Cole - German shepherd • Palo Alto - Bird dog • Bessie - Collie

Warren G. Harding  • Laddie Boy - Airedale Terrier • Old Boy - Bulldog

Woodrow Wilson • Davie - Airedale Terrier • Bruce - Bull Terrier

William Howard Taft • Caruso - Dog

Theodore Roosevelt • Pete - Bull Terrier • Skip, Blackjack, Jack & Peter - Terriers • Manchu - Pekingese • Rollo - Saint Bernard • Sailor Boy - Chesapeake Bay Retriever • Gem and Susan - Dogs

William McKinley • No Dogs

Benjamin Harrison • Dash - Collie
Grover Cleveland • poodle
Chester A. Arthur • No record of any pets

James A. Garfield • Veto - Dog

Rutherford B. Hayes • Dot - Cocker Spaniel • Hector - Newfoundland • Duke - English Mastiff • Grim - Greyhound • Juno and Shep - Hunting dogs • Jet - Dog
Ulysses S. Grant • Faithful - Newfoundland;  Rosie - Dog

Andrew Johnson • No Dogs

Abraham Lincoln • Fido & Jip - Dogs

James Buchanan • Lara - Newfoundland • Punch - Toy Terrier

Franklin Pierce • Miniature Oriental dogs (Gift from Admiral Perry after mission to Japan)

Millard Fillmore • No Dogs

Zachary Taylor • No Dogs

James K. Polk • No Dogs

John Tyler • Le Beau - Italian Greyhound

William Henry Harrison - No Dogs

Martin Van Buren • No Dogs

Andrew Jackson • No Dogs

John Quincy Adams • No Dogs

James Monroe • Unknown Name Spaniel

James Madison • No Dogs

Thomas Jefferson • Buzzy and unknown name - Briards

John Adams • Juno and Satan - Dogs

George Washington • Sweet Lips, Scentwell and Vulcan - American Staghounds • Drunkard, Taster, Tipler and Tipsy - Black and Tan Coonhounds (As the largest distiller of whiskey in the colonies, it is interesting that Washington's dogs seem to have had a drinking problem.)

Here is a full list of all the strange and wonderful animals that have called the White House home.

Here is a nice slideshow of many of the modern Presidents with their animals.

22 September 2009

Tuesday Noise

Sammy Davis, Jr. showing how tap dancing is done.

A Day To Remember

On this date, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  It set the date for freedom for more than 3 million black slaves in the United States and recasts the Civil War as a fight against slavery.  Unfortunately, it only freed the slaves of the rebellious south. 

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, shortly after Lincoln's inauguration as America's 16th president, he maintained that the war was about restoring the Union and not about slavery. He avoided issuing an anti-slavery proclamation immediately, despite the urgings of abolitionists and his personal belief that slavery was morally wrong.  Lincoln chose to move cautiously.
Following a union victory at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. On September 22, the president announced that slaves in areas still in rebellion within 100 days would be free.

On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebel states "are, and henceforward shall be free." The proclamation also called for the recruitment and establishment of black military units among the Union forces. An estimated 180,000 African Americans went on to serve in the army, while another 18,000 served in the navy.

After the Emancipation Proclamation, backing the Confederacy was seen as favoring slavery. It became impossible for anti-slavery nations such as Great Britain and France, who had been friendly to the Confederacy, to get involved on behalf of the South because they had already outlawed slavery. The proclamation also unified and strengthened Lincoln's party, the Republicans, helping them stay in power for the next two decades.

The proclamation was a presidential order and not a law passed by Congress, so Lincoln then pushed for an antislavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ensure its permanence. With the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, slavery was eliminated throughout America.

Lincoln's handwritten draft of the final Emancipation Proclamation was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Today, the original official version of the document is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

20 September 2009

Take This Tune - September Morn

Neil Diamond's "September Morn" is one of two songs that immediately brings up a group of memories.  "We danced until the night became a brand new day" is the night of my 18th birtday dancing with the young man who eventually became my husband.  It might have been in March rather than September, but that is the picture that goes with the words as we married in August and September brought the streets of San Francisco and a whole new life.  If you are expecting, "happily ever after" ... nope.  This was one of those doomed from the start relationships.  It lasted nine semi good semi bad years without acrimony, but just not working.  I did get two children out of the deal, so no regrets.

The next line that hooks me is "Standing in the door, stay with me awhile" and there I am in a hotel room a couple of years after the divorce and so desperately wanting to leave that I opened the "dry cleaning" door and stepped through rather than opening the main door with, "I never thought I would say it, but I don't love you anymore.".   "Look at what you've done, you've become a grown up girl" is another decade when he shows up on the doorstep and I just waved goodbye to an opportunity. 

In the final line, "Look how far we've come, from where we used to be" and it is an image of us pushing 50 sitting by a swimming pool where his younger fourth wife is splashing with our now grown up daughter who is only two years her junior while we laugh comfortably but still really not speaking, just at peace. 
Innocence lost.  Wisdom gained.  Tears shed.  Memories made. 

Do you remember how we danced the night away
Two lovers playing scenes from some romantic play
September morning still can make me feel this way.

And the other song that always reminds me of my ex:  Once Upon A Time

18 September 2009

Only The Good Friday - Donor's Choose

It's been a while since I did something for Shelly's "Only The Good" Friday on This Eclectic Life, but I happened to come across a charity that is truly wonderful for anyone who cares about children, education, and schools.

The average teacher pays out several hundred dollars a year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies.  In the current economic climate with budgets even more constrained, conditions are worse than ever.  In addition, there are those "nice to haves" that parents in wealthier areas often donate to their schools that teachers and classrooms in less affluent districts never see.

Donor's Choice allows you to select a project and pledge any amount you can afford until the target is met.  You can select by location from state to city to a specific school, or you can choose from a variety of subjects.  If you are a music lover and want to encourage a classroom that needs replacement strings for guitars, then that is what you select.

Each project has a full write up with details of the location, the need, the money raised so far, and the comments of those who have already given towards the goal.  Some of those comments are funny, sad, or tender and filled with memories of a childhood event or goal that the kindness of strangers helped fulfill.

17 September 2009

Take This Tune - Mary Travers

When I woke at 8:00 A.M. the morning of February 21, 1963, the first thing I saw while looking through the window was the space ship landing on the roof of the building next door complete with glowing lights and a pleasant humming sound. Now it had been a rough night, but I knew this was probably at least a small diversion from reality. The next thing I noticed was that I seemed to be missing a rather large protrusion on the anterior side of my anatomy. The little alien had been removed about two hours before, and I had a baby somewhere. The mists started to clear. Apparently, having a saddle block due to a breach birth delivery should come with the following warning: "Your thinking may be unclear. Do not make important decisions for 24 hours afterwards."

When the nurse noted that I was awake, they brought in the little alien to get acquainted. As I wrote in an earlier article, the radio in the room chose that instant to start playing, "Puff The Magic Dragon". It is now more than 46 years later, but every time I look at my son, I still hear Peter, Paul and the clear bell like voice of Mary Travers. They greeted him on his first day of life which makes me particularly sad that she is now gone.

Puff may have become something of a cliche, and it isn't may favorite of the PPM Canon which has many more powerful, lovely, or humorous songs, but it is the song attached to a very, very vivid memory and an event that has never ceased to bring me joy. So one more time for Christopher and Me, just to say goodbye to a seemingly lovely lady.

16 September 2009

RIP Mary Travers

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary has passed away from cancer at the age of 72. She is survived by her husband, Ethan Robbins and daughters, Alicia and Erika.

Associated Press Obituary

Where The Past Is Always Present

Every once in a while, you come across a blog that just blows you away. As most of my readers know, I'm an absolute nut about history and really appreciate bloggers who regularly do it well such as Are We There Yet and This Eclectic Life.

Well I just found another one. It's called Lisa's History Room . Today's post is about Marilyn Monroe and is part of a series on the Kennedys, but if you look under CATEGORIES on her right side links, you can find something about a whole lot of interesting people and events.

If you are as fond of history as gossip as I am, I hope you will pay her a visit.

Alphabet Answers

This is one of those emails that runs around, so feel free to steal the idea to tell people about yourself.

A - Age: 65
B - Bed size: Queen
C - Chore You Hate: Laundry
D – Dad’s Name: Robert
E - Essential Start Your Day Item: Coffee
F - Favorite Actor/Actress: Robert Downey, Jr., Glenn Close
G - Gold or Silver: Silver
H - Height: 5'4"
I - Instrument(s) you play: Piano sort of
J - Job Title: Retired writer/editor
K - Kid(s): Chris & Lani
L - Likes: Apple Pie & Bread Pudding
M - Mom’s Name: Mary Ellen
N - Nickname: Jamie
O - Overnight Hospital Stay Other Than Birth: Tonsils and Back Injury
P - Pet Peeve: Anger.  It really pisses me off when people lose their temper.
Q - Quote that you like:
       Words have power, choose the right ones and you might change the world.
R - Righty or Lefty: Righty
S - Siblings: Two Steps for a short while
T - Time You Wake Up: 0400
U - Useful tool: Level
V - Vegetable that you dislike: Okra yech!
X - X-rays You’ve Had: Top to bottom.  You name it, somebody has peeked.
Y - Yummy Foods You Make: BBQ Spareribs and Pilaf
Z - Zodiac: Pisces

15 September 2009

A sharper Wit

Awhile back I was musing on black and white television and the old variety shows.  In addition to those, there were the early talk shows such as Jack Paar and  Steve Allen among others.  What was distinctive about them was that people came on to talk.  They might have been hyping a motion picture, stage appearance, or book, but mainly they talked and they did it with wit, charm and a vocabulary that could have served a masters thesis in English.  Stories were frequently risque in the best sense of that word ... suggestive but not blatantly dirty.  Language danced and flirted.  It didn't assault.

One guest who was always welcome was Oscar Levant.  He might look as if he were permanently half asleep and the cigarette dangling from his mouth was an invitation to disaster, but oh could that man talk.  The man was so sharp that a zinger could go between someone's ribs without them feeling a thing until the audience started laughing hysterically.  From 1958 to 1960 he even had his own show featuring some of the biggest names in music, motion pictures, and theater.  There are very poor quality kinescope clips of the show on You Tube but are worth viewing for Fred Astaire as his guest.    Today you can only get a tiny taste of his ascerbic and musical abilities in films such as "An American In Paris" or "The Band Wagon".

Concerto Scene from American in Paris

Oscar had been a musical prodigy, but seemed to prefer just noodling around until he really needed to play to accompany an Al Jolson or Fred Astaire, then watch out!  The man could play everything from boogie woogie to classical and do it perfectly.  In addition to playing, he composed.  While many songs are still performed from time to time, one has become a classic.  So here is Blame It On My Youth.

13 September 2009

Take This Tune - September

This week's "Take This Tune" is the song September by Earth, Wind and Fire. The group's name comes from the zodiac signs present in founder Maurice White's astrological chart. For those not familiar with the divisions among the 12 signs into various elements.

Earth Signs--Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn-- Earth represents material resources, environment and possessions. These are level-headed individuals, who, like their element, are stable and supportive. Even when an earthquake, in the form of personal catastrophe, rocks the very foundations of their existence, their resilience and practical approach generally soon reassert themselves, enabling them to rebuild their world steadily, patiently, and productively, in typically earthy fashion.

Air Signs--Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius-- Air represents the intellect and one's ability to reason and communicate. These coolly cerebral people are stimulated by ideas, be they those that they think up themselves or those that spring from the minds of creative, artistic, individuals. They often consider practical, earthy types unimaginative and uninspiring.

Fire Signs--Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius-- Fire represents desires and creative energies. Just as we are drawn to a fire when we are feeling chilly, fiery people are said to be warmhearted, generous, and magnetic, relish being the center of attention (notably Sun-governed Leos), and to be stimulated and energized by contact with others, particularly airy individuals, whose ideas act like oxygen on fire, as well as their fire-sign fellows.

Even though I loved the music of Earth, Wind and Fire, I always resented that Maurice didn't have at least one placement in a Water sign. As a piscean, I love being alone but hate being left out. To correct this oversight, a heavy flow of liquid:

Water Signs--Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces-- Water represents imagination, human feelings and one's ability to love and sustain. Like the water in a glass, water signs conform to the elements around them. Feelings, emotions, and deep personal conversations are what motivates and stimulates the water signs. Sensitive to a fault, the water signs are often more concerned with your feelings and needs then their own. Everything seems to touch them. Psychic and secretive are often characteristics of the water elements. When they can no longer withstand the emotions of the world, they often retreat into their own private worlds.


Songs about the Zodiac have been a little thin on the ground except for the one we all seem to know: When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planet and love will steer the stars ...

The Company They Kept

I am willing to believe that not all of the 50,000 or so people who took part in the 9/12 March on Washington are evil.  Even the majority of them might have had legitimate issues and disagreements with the government.  They certainly had the right to petition their government for redress when they disagree with those representatives.  Still, as my mama used to tell me:  "If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas!" and "Birds of a feather, flock together

As you can see, the dogs and birds are racists.  They were smiling and proud of their signs  Which just proves that racists can smile.  To call them anything else is to deny the way they presented themselves.  They might as well have been wearing white hoods and carrying burning crosses

Those who disagree with a Democratic party majority or who are fearful of a ballooning debt or who have issue with the details of healthcare reform, may be perfectly wonderful human beings.  They might want to rethink their associations and method of protesting issues rather than scratching and flocking.

All I have to say to the sign carriers is:  FLOCK YOU!

11 September 2009

Just Do It

Sometimes a piece of writing is just so darn good that all you can say, "Just go read it". That is the case with today's "Same Time Tomorrow". This is the blog I've recommended before as it is the day by day diary of Sean Holton and his life with brain cancer. Believe me when I say it is some of the funniest writing you will ever experience. Add in thoughtful, brilliant, sensitive and did I mention hilarious ...

However you feel about either Dick Cheney or Bob Dylan, the writing is so fine that it is a pleasure in and of itself.

Besides it gives me an excuse to play one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs.

10 September 2009

The Great Flu

Enough of politics ... let's talk about something fun: A World Wide Pandemic

On the helpful side, a few things you should know about the impending arrival of the Swine Flu.

1. Regular flu shots are now available

2. Swine flu vaccine will be available in October and will consist of two injections.

3.  Useful information guidelines and symptoms from the Centers for Disease Control

In the meantime why worry, be happy.  There is a new game: The Great Flu.   It is free and online or you can download.  Your mission if you choose to accept it, is to save humanity. Have Fun

09 September 2009

Senator Kennedy Letter to President Obama

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me – and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles – there always have been – and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.
With deep respect and abiding affection, [Ted]

The Gratitude Campaign

The Truth

08 September 2009

Coast To Coast in 4-1/2 Minutes

Mental Health Break

Pass The Tin Mama

The Best Health Care Money Can Buy

As many know I am totally supportive of Health Care Reform and at the very least a Public Option to allow people to have a non profit source of insurance. Because of this I am on the receiving end of every right wing, wacko, ignorant, racist,  yahoo email on the planet. So to save myself time, here is my response to all of them:

Make the rounds of your neighborhood and start seeing the cans to collect for someone's medical care.  Great country we have where families hold car washes and collect pennies to pay their medical bills. Then thank Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Wellpoint and all the other blood sucking vampires for the "Best Medical Care money can buy"

Most of the charges such as bumping off grandma are totally false and complete scaremongering put out by a combination of the far right and the more than $2 million per day being spent by insurance companies to fight anything that might cut into their 30-40% profits for providing inadequate financing of the health systems, killing 18,000 people a year, forcing people into bankruptcy with the loss of homes and encouraging divorce so that a well spouse can preserve the family savings while dumping the sick spouse on the tax payer just to be able to survive.

One other item. Have everyone you know check their health insurance policies for the phrase, "Maximum lifetime coverage". Take that amount and divide it by $300,000 which is the yearly cost for cancer treatment. How much time do they get before the insurance company dumps them?

On the Constitutional issue, if this argument were true then there would be no Social Security or Medicare. Now there is a political element that thinks these two things should be wiped out, but I doubt most people (including the ones holding signs and screaming at town halls) are among them. Both of these are based in the Constitutional right of taxation to "Provide for the General welfare". A healthy and secure population is a benefit to the whole of society.

So if you are willing to give up both Social Security and Medicare, be my guest.  When you leave there will be more for the rest of us covered by that "Single Payer, Government Run" plan.   I'm fighting for decent healthcare for everyone so that people don't die from lack of care or are driven into poverty while insurance companies deny coverage, dump customers, enforce lifetime maximums, and interfere with medical decisions (dare I say "rationing"), not to mention the executives rake in millions in salary and the billions in corporate profits while contributing absolutely NOTHING to the medical care of a nation.


Note that nine of the ten countries have universal healthcare.

07 September 2009

Labor Day

This is a reprint of a blog article from 2007. It is a good reminder of just what it took to end child labor, long weeks, and longer hours. We owe so much to those willing to stand up to corporate abuse of labor. While enjoying your BBQ or Days at the beach ... remember the laborers who gave us the 40 hour/5 day week, vacations, and minimum wage. Is it time for another fight to regain the benefits and jobs lost?

My grandfather, William Hunter Gibson White, left Scotland at the time of the great strike in 1926. He had been a mining oversman for many years and was a descendant of miners. With the recent deaths of men in coal mines here, I wanted to share the testimony of his great grandfather about the difficulties in mining coal. This helped to end the use of women and children in the coal mines:

Testimony of William Hunter, Mining Oversman, Arniston Colliery before the Commission on Children's Employment in Mines and Manufacturies. First Report 1842 from Parliamentary Papers 1842(381).XVI.I pp 453-454

"I have been 20 years in the works of Robert Dundas, Esq., and had much experience in the manner of drawing coal, as well as the habits and practices of the collier people.

Until the last eight months women and lassies were brought below these works, when Mr. Alexander Maxton, our manager, issued an order to exclude them from going below, having some months prior given intimation of the same. In
addition to the exclusion of females, no boys will hereafter be permitted to be
brought under 12 years of age, and not then, unless they are qualified in the
reading and writing: They require to be examined prior to going below.

Boys of 14 years of age perform their duties with greater care and quickness. The improved mode of railing roads and ventilating economises time, and men now find they have no one to depend on but themselves, go more regularly to work, and take nearly as much money with one or two boys as when the whole family went below.

In fact, women always did the lifting or heavy part of the work, and neither they nor the children were treated like human beings, nor are they where they are employed. Females submit to work in places when no man or even lad could be got to labour in: they work in bad roads, up to their knees in water, in a posture nearly double: they are below till the last hour of pregnancy: they have swelled haunches and ankles, and are prematurely brought to the grave, or, what is worse, lingering existence.

Many of the daughters of the miners are now at respectable service. I have two former mine women in families in Leith, and who are much delighted with the change.

In honor of my grandfather and the men who recently lost their lives, here is the Merle Travis song: "Dark as a Dungeon" and the first photograph taken of my grandfather in the states with the message on the back about the way he could now dress with the mines behind him:
"This is me sitting at the door. I am ready for work, a great difference from coming home in dirty pit clothes. Tell Mac I will write him shortly. I have had little time to myself yet; having had so many places to go."

06 September 2009

Take This Tune - September Song

Once upon a time there was a television in the den. One television in one room for one family to watch. It was about 12 inches on the diagonal and had a black and white picture. I was allowed to watch it from seven until nine if my homework was done. This was the era of the great variety shows of the 1950s and early 60s. We had Uncle Miltie, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Steve Allen among others and we had a one of a kind in Jimmy Durante.

The earliest TV shows were really radio and vaudeville moving to a new medium, and the variety shows were populated with entertainers from the previous 30 years. The conversation was often witty and urbane with a world knowledge and vocabulary level that must have challenged the audience, but it was an era when the night time audience was expected to think up rather than the networks aiming down to a lowest common denominator.

A couple of weeks ago, there was something on PBS in the background and during one of the please send us money commercials, the sound kept running instrumental versions of song after song from before 1960. It didn't register at first, and then I realized that I knew them all. Not one standard here or there but ALL OF THEM ... sort of a one woman "Name That Tune" and it wasn't taking much more than five notes. All of those evenings watching phenomenal entertainers joining other entertainers on a stage singing, hoofing it with rather stilted dance groups, or sitting on a couch chatting about their reasons for being in New York or Los Angeles. All of those evenings in the den were paying off with a lifetime of music recognition.

Jimmy Durante was a favorite because he always seemed so real. In the midst of the shticks and bits, there was a gentle man speaking warmly to his guests and audience with the iconic closing of "Good Night Mrs. Calabash wherever you are." to his deceased first wife. In researching "September Song", I came across the liner notes for the 1959 album:

‘When Jimmy Durante stepped into the studio to record this album, it seemed as though a burst of dazzling sunlight had enveloped the stark, acoustically insulated walls and danced gaily amid the tangle of electronic equipment. Hat in
one hand, a cigar in the other; the familiar, irresistible grin flashing in the shadow cast by the most famous “proboscus” in the world…Jimmy the “pie-a-nist” had arrived…in person!

Seating himself at the keyboard of one of the two freshly
tuned concert grands in the room, Jimmy executed a beautiful, florid glissando. Looking a bit surprised himself, he quipped “Whatsa matter, didn’t you think I could do it?” Actually, no-one was surprised that he could do it, but amazed that he would let us know it. It is that element of his personality, a resolute
refusal to ever take himself too seriously, that has, perhaps more than anything else, endeared him to everyone he has ever met, either on or off stage.
Jimmy wasn't a great singer, but he was a great entertainer. What's more he was an excellent musician. You just sort of knew the talent was there in the middle of all the throw away lines because when he did decide to sing, it was usually a classic (If you don't count Inka Dinka Do). If you mesh Jimmy Durante with the talents of Hoagy Carmichael, the result is magic. For that matter, if you mesh Hoagy Carmichael with Hoagy Carmichael, the result is even greater magic if only because most people will hear a song and not realize that the composer was Carmichael. That can lead you to wonder what they put in the water in Indiana in the 1890s since Cole Porter came from the same state.

If you were lucky enough to have a black and white TV in the corner of a den in the 1950s, you got an education in music before bedtime that is almost impossible to match today.

Click this link to participate in Take This Tune.