Friday, February 12, 2016

On Liberty: The Sanitary Fair Speech the imaginative conservative)

The President's train pulled into Baltimore's Camden Station promptly at 6:00 on the evening of April 18, 1864.  It was one of his few trips outside of Washington during the Civil War.  Abraham Lincoln carried with him the knowledge that the crucial spring campaign of the Union armies under their new commander, Ulysses S Grant, would begin in just two weeks; a coordinated plan of attack in which George Meade's Army of the Potomac (accompanied by Grant) would set out to destroy Robert E Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and William Tecumseh Sherman's troops would march on Atlanta (to learn more, read The Overland Campaign Begins).  Its success or failure would determine the outcome of the war and of Lincoln's presidency as he faced his own campaign, for reelection in what was expected to be a close race that year.

The event that drew the President to Baltimore was the Maryland State Fair for U.S. Soldier Relief, more popularly known as the Sanitary Fair.  The idea of two members of the Ladies Union Relief Association, Ann Bowen and Fanny Turnbull, the Baltimore fair, like those in other Union cities was designed to raise funds for the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the major national relief organization for aiding sick and wounded Union soldiers.

For the opening day of the fair, which ran until April 30, businesses and schools in the city closed at noon, followed by a large parade featuring thousands of Union soldiers, including 3,000 African-Americans of the newly formed United States Colored Troops.

For Lincoln, it was his first visit to the city since he was forced, by the discovery of a plot against his life, to secretly pass through Baltimore on the way to his inauguration in 1861.  It was also timely, as the Maryland assembly was debating a new constitution which contained a provision ending slavery.

An audience of about 3,000 heard the President make some brief remarks to officially open the fair, which was held in the Maryland Institute, a spacious exhibit hall, illuminated that night by a thousand gas lamps. Maryland Institute, site of the Sanitary Fair(Maryland Institute from baltimore city archives)

Lincoln began by touching on a theme that he would expand upon in his Second Inaugural Address, given in March 1865.
When the war began, three years ago, neither party, nor any man, expected it would last till now. Each looked for the end, in some way, long ere to—day. Neither did any anticipate that domestic slavery would be much affected by the war. But here we are; the war has not ended, and slavery has been much affected—how much needs not now to be recounted. So true is it that man proposes, and God disposes.

He then reminded the audience that "liberty" is not self-defining.  It may mean very different things to different people.
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.

How true!  Each generation of Americans is called on to define that word.

And then the President delivered this parable:
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated.

Lincoln closed by mentioning recent reports of a terrible event at Fort Pillow, Tennessee where it was claimed that 300 Negro soldiers and their white officers had been massacred by Confederates.  Six days earlier the fort had been captured by rebels after a fierce fight.  Today, it is generally recognized that an undetermined, but substantial, number of Negro soldiers and white officers were, in fact, killed while attempting to surrender.  Lincoln vowed to determine the truth of the reports, adding:
Upon a clear conviction of duty I resolved to turn that element of strength to account; and I am responsible for it to the American people, to the Christian world, to history, and on my final account to God. Having determined to use the negro as a soldier, there is no way but to give him all the protection given to any other soldier.

This relatively little known speech is another reminder of Lincoln's ability to be eloquent and meaningful in a few words.

The full speech can be found here.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Ruined Tower

Painted in 1838 by the American artist, Thomas Cole, Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower, was generally not known to the public until purchased by the National Gallery of Art from a private collector in 1993.
 File:Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower-1838-Thomas Cole.jpg

The tower is similar to those THC has seen along the Amalfi Coast and commonly known as Saracen Towers, originally built in the 9th and 10th centuries to provide early warning of Saracen pirates coming from Sicily and North Africa.  To see what one of these towers looks like today go here and here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gettin' Sardonic With Elvis (Vol. 1) seventiesmusic)

To paraphrase Keith Moon, Elvis Costello is the best Elvis Costello-style lyricist of the rock era, by turns sardonic, witty, caustic and king of the put-down of himself, and others.  Add in a large vocabulary, (his first compliation of published music and lyrics was entitled "A Singing Dictionary"), and a love of wordplay and puns (see, for example, Girls Talk, below) and you've got a great package for a lyricist if you like those attributes, as THC does (for more on THC's experience with Elvis read this).  As the years went by, he also added a dose of tenderness into his verse.

In this post, we'll give you some excerpts from the early Elvis, drawing from albums released from 1977 though 1981.  Some pop lyrics don't sound as good, once they are separated from the music.  These do.

I said, "I'm so happy, I could die"
She said, "Drop dead",
Then left with another guy
(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes 

You snatch a tune, you match a cigarette
She pulls the eyes out with a face like a magnet
I don't know how much more of this I can take
She's filing her nails, while they're dragging the lake

You think you're alone until you realize you're in it
Fear is here to stay
Love is here for a visit
Watching The Detectives

All of your family had to kill to survive
And they're still waiting for their big day to arrive
But if they knew how I felt they'd bury me alive
Welcome To The Working Week

Why do you have to say that there's always someone
Who can do it better than I can?
But don't you think that I know
That walking on the water, won't make me a miracle man?
Miracle Man

Well, I see you got a husband now
Did he leave your pretty fingers lying in the wedding cake?
You used to hold him right in your hands
I'll bet he took all he could take
Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
When I hear the silly things that you say

Alison, I know this world is killing you
Alison, my aim is true

I remember when the lights went out
And I was trying to make it look like it was never in doubt
She thought that I knew, and I thought that she knew
The both of us were willing, but we didn't know how to do it

I was down under the covers in the middle of the night
Trying to discover my left foot from my right
You can see those pictures, in any magazine
But what's the use of looking, when you don't know what they mean?

Why don't you tell me 'bout the mystery dance?
Mystery Dance

You're upstairs with the boyfriend
While I'm left here to listen
I hear you calling his name
I hear the stutter of ignition

I got this cam'ra click, click, clickin' in my head

I know what you're doin'
I know where you been
I know where, but I don't care
Cause there's no such thing as an original sin

I'm not angry
I'm not angry, anymore
I'm Not Angy

We were waiting for the end of the world
Dear Lord, I sincerely hope you're coming
Cause you really started something
Waiting For The End Of The World

Sometimes I call you, when I know you're not lonely
But I always disconnect it in time
No Action 

I keep thinking about your mother
Oh, I don't want to lick them
I don't wanna be a lover
I just wanna be your victim
I don't go out much late at night
I don't go out much at all
Did you think you were the only one
That was waiting for a call?
The Beat 

No, don't ask me to apologize
I won't ask you to forgive me
If I'm gonna go down
You're gonna come with me

Hand In Hand

Lip service is all you'll ever get from me
Lip Service

Don't say you love me, when it's just a rumour
Don't say a word if there is any doubt
Sometimes I think that love is just a tumour
You've got to cut it out

You say you're sorry for the things that you've done
You say your sorry but you know you don't mean it
I wouldn't worry, I had so much fun
Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being

Maybe they've told you
You were only a girl in a million
You say I got no feelings
This is a good way to kill them

You got a lot to say
Well, I'm not joking
There are some words they don't allow to be spoken
Lipstick Vogue

There are so many people to see
So many people you can check up on and add to your collection
But they keep you hanging on
Until you're well hung
Your mouth is made up but your mind is undone

Accidents will happen
We only hit and run
He used to be your victim
Now he's not the only one

Accidents will happen
We only hit and run
I don't want to hear it
Cause I know what I've done
Accidents Will Happen

But you tease and you flirt
And you shine all the buttons on your green shirt
You can please yourself
But somebody's gonna get it
Green Shirt

I could be a corporal, into corporal punishment
Or the general manager of a large establishment
They pat some good boys on the back and put some to the rod
But I never thought they'd put me on the goon squad
Goon Squad

Photographs of fancy tricks
To get your kicks at sixty six
He thinks of all the lips that he licks
And all the girls that's gonna fix

She gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle
But there's no place here for the mini-skirt waddle
Capital punishment, she's last year's model
They call her Natasha, but she looks like Elsie
I don't want to go to Chelsea

Oh no, it does not move me
Even though I've seen the movie
I don't want to check your pulse
I don't want nobody else
I don't want to go to Chelsea
(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea

The word upon everyone's lip stick
That you're dedicated
You may not be an old-fashioned girl
You're still going to get dated
Girls Talk

She said, "I catch you taking liberties,
And they do not impress me
Attach me to your credit card
And then you can undress me"
Crawling To The U.S.A.

I wish I had your confidence
It's love and not coincidence
Do you say these words to everyone?
You're fantastic, you're terrific
Your excellence is almost scientific
You took the words out of my mouth
You put your tongue into my cheek
But I'd better lose my memory by Wednesday week
Wednesday Week

Big tears mean nothing
You can count them as they fall
Big tears mean nothing
When you're lying in your coffin
Tell me, who's been taken in?
Big Tears

Layin' about, lying in bed
Maybe it was something that I thought I'd said
With the tempo of today
And the temptation of tomorrow
I could give you anything but sorrow
Just A Memory

Maureen and Stan at the skating rink
Looking for the drummer who threw up in the sink
Laughing and singing, dressed up like dice
Maybe they could freeze to death out there on the ice
Ghost Train

You've never been this far
You've always been too smart
And you know all our boys
Are really girls at heart

This is your big decision
Hope you're not disappointed
He's got double vision
When you want him double jointed
The Imposter

If there's anything that you want
If there's anything that you need
There's no need, to be evasive
Money talks, and it's persuasive

Now you're sending me your best wishes
Signed with love and vicious kisses
You lack lack, you're so lackluster
Is that all the strength you can muster?

Down on the mainspring, listen to the tick-tock
Clock all the faces who move in on your block
Twice shy and dog tired because you've been bitten
Everything you say now sounds like it was ghost-written
New Amsterdam

I was looking at the black and white world
Trying to name some pin-up
Those days, she was just a beautiful girl
Now she's framed and hung up

I though she was young until
I saw her last night in close detail
Though they all fade away, when you're so pale

It's more than just a physical attraction
It starts with a face and ends up a fixation
But you're never gonna feel a fraction
Of the way it used to work on your imagination
Black And White World (undoubtedly inspired by Pictures of Lily from The Who)

The subtle touch of authority
Will take you anytime down to the station
You say that is all right by me
Now you're living with the curse of sophistication

You're just itching to break her secret laws
As you go from claws to clause
Give me temptation


Monday, February 8, 2016

What Happened??

Watching this presidential campaign has caused me to think back on the beliefs my parents sought to instill in me growing up from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.  They had different ways of communicating.  Mom, who held positions in the local and state Democratic party, was always pretty direct.  Dad preferred to do it through the stories he told us, which contained the messages he wanted us to absorb.  Looking back, I'd distill the common points as:

1.  The United States was the greatest country and we were fortunate to be Americans.
2.  In order to succeed you needed to work hard.
3.  The treatment of Negroes (as they were called then) was a disgrace, in both the South and North. We needed to support the civil rights movement and I must treat everyone with respect.  The only basis for discrimination in treating people should be based on their behavior.
4.  The Commies were bad, really bad.  Before I went off to college, Mom gave me a lecture on how to recognize a Commie front group.
5.  We had a obligation to help the neediest, who could not help themselves.
6.  FDR was a great president, the best so far in the 20th century.

Half a century later, I'm still with Mom and Dad on 5 1/2 out of 6*.  So how come when I look at President Obama, the grifter Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, an old man filled with bitterness, envy and greed, I think "what the hell happened to my party?", and find myself a card carrying member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy? (I'd include an image of my membership card here but we've been told not to ever display it to non-members; there's also a secret handshake and passwords involved.)

And lo, what Beast comes slouching towards us, to devour all? . . .  It's The Donald.


* Today I think FDR was a great war president, particularly about the strategic decisions he made in the first eighteen months of the war; he did some good stuff about the banking system at the start of his first term; and, having listened to several of his Fireside Chats, can understand why he was successful in raising people's spirits during the worst of the Depression.  On the other hand, most of his economic policy during the Depression amounted, at best, to useless hand-waving and, at worst, to delaying America's recovery and the damage he did to the Supreme Court and constitutional law still reverberates more than 75 years later.

FDR and Reagan had the best Presidential temperament of anyone who held the office during the 20th century.  I'd pick Ike as #3, which only goes to show that temperament and temper are two different matters, since Ike was known to lose his frequently.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Love Parade

THC stumbled across this scene from the 1929 musical comedy, The Love Parade, starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald in her first film role.  The movie was made early in the "talkie" era.  The Jazz Singer, considered the first talking film, and released in October 1927, had become a smash hit, but the first all-talkie film from a Hollywood studio, Lights Of New York, wasn't released until July 1928 and one of the largest studios, Columbia Pictures, didn't release its first sound film until February 1929.

The Love Parade was German-born director Ernest Lubitsch's first talkie and the film hit it big at the box office.  Later in his career, Lubitsch was to make classics like The Shop Around The Corner, a charming film set in Budapest and starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan; Heaven Can Wait with Don Ameche and Gene Tierney; and the very funny To Be Or Not To Be, starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny (and later remade by Mel Brooks), proving how unique the Lubitsch touch was as he's the only director who could have made a hit comedy involving Nazis in Occupied Poland during World War II.

The song is Anything To Please The Queen and it's enjoyable to watch and focus on the actor's reactions, particularly MacDonald's, while Chevalier has a very funny bit around 1:25.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The State Of Massachusetts

We've featured this once before, but THC was listening to it again today and wanted to do a reprise - this time with the lyrics and a different video.  An intense and powerful song from the Dropkick Murphys.
She had excuses and she chose to use them
She was the victim of unspeakable abuses
Her husband was violent, malicious and distant
Her kids now belong to the state of Massachusetts

They've been taken away! Hey!
They've been taken away!

Billy was a bright one, Tommy's off his head
Mother loved them both the same, at least that's what she said
I don't predict the future, I don't care about the past
Send them both to DSS [Department of Social Services], now you've had your chance

The poison stole your babies
The judges took your rights
You can have your children or the night

I suppose you've been a victim, I suspect you may have lied
Have you lost all ambition, won't you give this thing a try
If you can't and you fail, you won't be the only loser
These kids don't stand a chance with you in their future

They've been taken away! Hey!
They've been taken away!