Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Green River

My favorite Creedence Clearwater Revival song.  It "let[s] me remember things I love" even though I didn't live that life when I was younger but "barefoot girls dancin' in the moonlight" has that kind of effect.  And you can't beat the last three lines of the song - we all need a Green River to come home to.

Well, take me back down where cool water flows, yeah.
Let me remember things I love,
Stoppin' at the log where catfish bite,
Walkin' along the river road at night,
Barefoot girls dancin' in the moonlight.

I can hear the bullfrog callin' me.
Wonder if my rope's still hangin' to the tree.
Love to kick my feet 'way down the shallow water.
Shoefly, dragonfly, get back t'your mother.
Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River.

Up at Cody's camp I spent my days

With flat car riders and cross-tie walkers
Old Cody, Junior took me over,
Said, "You're gonna find the world is smould'rin'.
And if you get lost come on home to Green River."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Leopard

Giuseppi Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote only one book and before he died in 1957 it had been turned down by every publisher in Italy who had seen it.  When The Leopard (the Italian title is Il Gattopardo, which refers to the African ocelot, not the leopard) was finally published in 1958 it became the best selling novel in Italian history and today is regarded as one of the greatest works of modern Italian literature.  I'd heard about the book but never got around to reading it until last year and highly recommend it.

The Leopard is set in Sicily, primarily in Palermo and the surrounding region, and covers the period from 1860 to 1910.  It is the story of the decay and transformation of the Sicilian aristocracy during the period of the unification (the Risorgimento) of Italy.  Tomasi, born in 1896, knew this period well being himself the last descendant of a minor princely Sicilian family, the Lampedusa.

The book is the tale of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina and his family (and clearly owes much to the story of the Lampedusas during the same period) and its initial, and longest section, takes place in 1860 as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (comprising southern Italy and Sicily) is crumbling under the pressure of Guiseppe Garibaldi's forces and the House of Savoy (based in the north of Italy).  Don Fabrizio must choose whether to maintain his alliance with the old order or bend to the new.  One of the best known passages from the novel sums up the dilemma when Don Fabrizio's nephew Tancredi tells him "Unless we ourselves take a hand now, they'll foist a republic on us. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change."
The brilliance of the novel is that it is not just a story of conflict.  It is also a beautifully written, leisurely and somewhat melancholic tour of the world of the Sicilian aristocracy.  Early on we sit in Don Fabrizio's estate office and view his domain:

"On whitewashed walls, reflected in wax-polished tiles, hung enormous pictures representing the various Salina estates; there, in bright colors, contrasting with the gold and black frame, was Salina, the island of the twin mountains, surrounded by a sea of white-flecked waves on which pranced beflagged galleons; Querceta, its low houses grouped around the rustic church on which were converging groups of bluish-colored pilgrims; Ragattisi, tucked under mountain gorges; Argivocale, tiny in contrast to the vast plains of corn dotted with hardworking peasants; Donnafugata, with its baroque palace, goals of coaches in scarlet and green and gilt, loaded with women, wine and violins; and many others, all protected by a taut reassuring sky and by the Leopard grinning between long whiskers."
Tomasi shows us the Prince of Salina's domain disintegrating under the tectonic pressures of modernization and the rise of a middle class based on business and commercial life.  As Don Fabrizio tells an interlocutor for the new Italian government who conveys to him an offer to join the new national Senate:

"I cannot accept.  I am a member of the old ruling class, inevitably compromised with the Bourbon regime, and tied to it by chains of decency if not of affection.  I belong to an unfortunate generation, swung between the old world and new, and I find myself ill at ease in both.  And what is more, as you must have realized by now, I am without illusions." 

Tomasi has a gift for writing descriptive passages that capture an atmosphere, a people and a landscape as well as portraying the thought processes of Don Fabrizio and it's well worth your time to immerse yourself in his world.

In 1963, Luchino Visconti made an epic movie of The Leopard starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Forgotten Americans: Helen Dortch Longstreet

The December 27, 1943 issue of Life Magazine contained a feature on a woman working at the Bell Bomber plant in Atlanta, Georgia.  The woman was notable for several reasons.  She was 80 years old, she was a riveter at the plant and she was the widow of General James Longstreet, who along with Stonewall Jackson, was the best known Corps Commander under General Robert E Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 to 1865.  Her name was Helen Dortch Longstreet.

Helen Dortch was born in 1863 in Carnesville, Georgia.  Well-educated, in 1894 she became the first woman to serve as Assistant Librarian for the State of Georgia.  In 1897 she married General Longstreet (he was 76 at the time) and was widowed when he died in 1904.  Helen first met Longstreet when she was at college and his granddaughter was her roommate.  General Longstreet was a controversial figure in the Reconstruction-era South.  A promoter of national reconciliation he joined the Republican Party and became the target of many of his former comrades in arms who viewed him as a traitor and attempted to blame all of the defeats of the Army of Northern Virginia on him (they waited to do this until after Lee died in 1870).  Helen Longstreet helped the General fight this portrayal and the year after he died she published Lee And Longstreet At High Tide, a spirited defense of her husband.(Helen and The General)

Helen Dortch Longstreet was politically active her entire life.  In 1911 she led one of the first conservation campaigns in Georgia in an unsuccessful attempt to create a state park at Tallulah George and oppose the construction of a hydroelectric dam by Georgia Power. In 1912 she was a delegate to the National Convention of the Progressive Party and supported Teddy Roosevelt's presidential campaign. She also campaigned for women's suffrage and promoted the establishment of the Georgia State College For Women.  She was also appointed Postmaster of Gainesville, Georgia, reportedly the first woman to obtain such an appointment in Georgia.

When WWII came along and US industrial mobilization occurred there was a need to add women to the workforce.  Helen Longstreet volunteered and took the training to become qualified as a riveter and worked the 8am to 445pm shift at the plant where, as she said, "I am going to assist in building a plane to bomb Hitler".  Every day she left her home and drove in her Nash coupe to work.  According to Georgia Women of Achievement:

"When controversy erupted over unionism, her employers became aware of her age and asked her to quit. Helen refused, stating she had the eyesight of a 20-year-old and was in otherwise perfect health."
She took great pride in her work record telling The Atlanta Journal:
"I've been an assembler and riveter for about two years and have never lost a day from work or been a single minute late.  I will quit only when the last battle flag has been furled on land and sea."
 You can find the Life Magazine article here. (Helen the Riveter)

Helen Longstreet remained active after the war.  In 1947 she became the first woman to have her portrait placed in the Georgia State Capital and in 1950 she ran an unsuccessful write-in gubernatorial campaign against the arch-segregationist Herman Talmadge,  Helen's platform included repeal of the Jim Crow laws that segregated public life in Georgia.

In 1962, at the age of 99, Helen Dortch Longstreet passed away.

In 1992, her old adversary, Georgia Power, rerouted the Tallulah River back into the gorge and deeded 3,000 acres to the state for the creation of Tallulah Gorge State Park which now contains the Helen Dortch Longstreet Trail System.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beatles/Stones Face Off Part 2

Reviewing the rules:

Dates of single release in the U.S. are shown in (parens).

Singles reaching #1 on the Billboard Charts are shown in boldface.

Singles not reaching #1 but charting in the Top 5 are underlined.

Singles peaking between #6 and #10 are in italics.

As Tears Go By (12/18/65):   The Stones show their “sensitive” side as they try to imitate Yesterday. Strings on a Stones song??
19th Nervous Breakdown (2/4/66):   Stones quickly decide to “man up”. Another surprising choice of topic and lyric "You better stop, and look around".   And you have the bass thing at the end.
Nowhere Man (2/15/66):  Not released as single in the UK. One of my least favorite Beatles singles but great sounding guitar and soaring harmonies.
Paint It Black (5/7/66):  Awesome, unusual, brooding, dark.  One of my favorite Stones singles.
Paperback Writer/Rain (5/30/66):  Definitely the first song ever about paperback writers! First Beatles single where you could hear the bass on the AM radio. Rain was the first single about whatever it was about as the Beatles began their drift away from reality. The backwards ending was a first.  This is the promo video for Rain:
Mothers’ Little Helper (7/2/66):   First single about housewives pill popping, for whatever it’s worth. About as “snappy” as the Stones got.
Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby (8/8/66): Although I don’t like it, Yellow Submarine had a unique sound but is way too silly for me. Eleanor Rigby: poignant, succinct and perfect pop.
Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadows? (9/24/66):  Is this just bad production or did the Stones do it on purpose? It sounds like every once in a while there are some horns and a drum on the track but all I can really hear is that THUNDERING bass.  I really liked this when it came out; loved the chaos.  Here's what the mess sounded like:

Ruby Tuesday/Let’s Spend the Night Together (1/14/67): After a long (for the 60s) hiatus the Stones hit the top again. This single is much better produced than earlier Stones singles – although on Ruby Tuesday it sounds like Charlie is playing the drums down the street. Let’s Spend the Night was a #3 hit in the UK.
Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever (2/13/67): After a six month hiatus (and four months before Sgt Pepper is released) the new era starts. This was the most avidly awaited Beatles single ever because of the lengthy silence from the band.  Everyone knows both songs.  They are embedded in our brains.  I still prefer Strawberry Fields ("no one I think is in my tree").
With that both bands were on to new territory but the great hit singles competition was over.  The Stones got diverted into trying to imitate the Beatles with His Satanic Majesty's Request and then jumping on the "Summer of Love" fad with Flowers but it just wasn't them. They didn’t have another major U.S. hit till the summer of 1968 (Jumpin’ Jack Flash) when they came to their senses and realized they needed to stop dabbling in that psychedelic peace stuff and get back to the basics; rebelliousness, dissolute behavior and girls.  They only had one other hit single, though it was a huge smash, Honky Tonk Women (summer 1969) before The Beatles dissolved in 1970.

As for The Beatles during this same period (spring 67 to spring 70) they released nine more singles of which seven hit #1, including their best selling single ever, Hey Jude, and the other two made it to the Top 5.

Final scorecard (Nov 64 - Feb 67)
Beatles:  10 Singles, 9 #1, 1 Top 5, 2 B sides Top 5, 2 B sides Top 10

Stones:  10 Singles, 4 #1, 1 Top 5, 4 Top 10

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beatles/Stones Face Off Part 1

Let's take a look back at that surprisingly brief period (certainly shorter than I remembered) when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones went head to head releasing singles in the U.S.  It only lasted from November 1964 to February 1967, twenty eight months in which the two groups released 20 singles, some of which were double-sided hits (all but one by The Beatles).  Part 1 covers the first 14 months, to the end of 1965 while Part 2 covers the remainder of this period.

Until late 1964 there was simply no competition.  The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show in February, in March 60% of all singles sold in the States were by John, Paul, George and Ringo and in early April they had 13 of the top 100 Billboard singles. There was a deluge of Beatles singles as various labels put out tracks to capitalize on the band's insane popularity and order was not restored till late summer.  Meanwhile, the first Stones singles barely charted in the US with only Time Is On My Side barely making the Top 10. 

Some notes before we start the review:

Dates of single release in the U.S. are shown in (parens).

Singles reaching #1 on the Billboard Charts are shown in boldface.

Singles not reaching #1 but charting in the Top 5 are underlined.

Singles peaking between #6 and #10 are in italics.

Okay, now we're ready:

I Feel Fine/ She’s A Woman (11/23/64):  The Beatles kick things off with the first single to use guitar feedback. Great riff and nice break with Ringo on the drums.
Heart of Stone (12/19/64):  The Stones were, along with The Animals, the leading “black” sounding British invasion band and this song reflects it although it also has an odd country overlay in parts. Second Stones song to hit the Top 20.

Eight Days a Week (2/15/65):  Not released as single in the UK. The last early period Beatlesque single. They could have gone writing stuff like this forever but they would have lost their relevancy.
The Last Time (3/13/65):  Neat, and simple, riff. Second Stones song to reach the Top 10.  Murky production.
Ticket to Ride (4/19/65):  Listen to the off kilter drumming! First use of British slang in Beatles single.

Satisfaction (5/27/65):  The Rolling Stones become THE STONES. One of the best known riffs in rock history, great lyric and beat along with “hey, hey, hey, that’s what I say”. First single to ever combine mocking consumerism with sexual suggestiveness (actually, it’s more than suggested). The bad boys become badder.
Help (7/19/65):  Unusual opening and ending. The first introspective lyric in a Beatles hit.
Yesterday (9/13/65):  Whaa? Jaw dropping when it came out. Another first for The Beatles -  kids and the DJs agreed, never heard anything like it before - some liked it, some hated it. Hey, where’d John, George and Ringo go?
Get Off of My Cloud (9/25/65):  What’s Mick saying? What's it about? Doesn’t sound like a love (or even lust) song. It's all jumbled up but it's very cool and the Stones keep the momentum going from Satisfaction.
We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper (12/6/65):  The Beatles use unusual instrumentation (including a harmonium) and song structure and the lyrics sound like they start in the middle of a conversation. A beautifully constructed pop single. Day Tripper has another memorable riff and big use of British slang.

The count so far:

Beatles:  6 Singles all of which were #1 and 2 B side Top 5s.

Stones:   4 Singles, 2 #1 and 1 Top 10. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Good Old Days

With the NBA Playoffs starting it brings back memories of when Mrs THC and I became big fans of the Boston Celtics in the 1980s during the Larry Bird era.  We didn't attend many games but we watched or listened to a ton of them (broadcast distinctively by Johnny Most).  Along with Bird we also had Kevin McHale, Chief (Robert Parrish), Dennis Johnson and for one glorious season, Bill Walton.
(McHale, Chief) (Johnson, Most)
During that period the Celtics had three rivals.  In the early 80s it was the Philadelphia 76ers led by Julius Erving (Dr J) and the dangerous Celtic-killer Andrew Toney.  It was a good rivalry and we always wanted to beat the Sixers but there was mutual respect and we all admired Dr J (of course there was that unforgettable moment when Bird and J started strangling each other on the court which Bill Simmons said was as shocking "as watching Santa Claus throw down with the Easter Bunny".
Next were the Los Angeles Lakers who we really disliked and felt entitled to beat.  That was a hot rivalry but we all knew how good Magic Johnson was and we respected him.

But then, starting in the mid-1980s the Detroit Pistons arose from the primordial ooze and we hated the Pistons because they were the cheapshot champs of the NBA.  They specialized in irritating opponents until they retaliated and were talented at not letting the referees catch them while they were doing it. We already didn't like Isiah Thomas and then when he and Dennis Rodman claimed that Bird was an overrated player because he was white, well things got a lot worse.  Thomas was generally disliked across the league; he was a natural selection for the 1992 Olympics Dream Team but was kept off the team when Michael Jordan told league officials that if Isiah was on the squad he would not play. You had also had Ricky Mahorn deliberately and repeatedly stepping on Kevin McHale's broken foot in the '87 playoffs but worst of all was Bill Laimbeer, the smirking and sneaky center who was loathed by Boston fans (and, I'm sure, by all true basketball fans outside Detroit).

The rivalry reached its peak during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.  In Game 3 at Detroit, Laimbeer clotheslined Bird, provoking Larry to retaliate and triggering his ejection from the game - nothing happened to Laimbeer.  Game 5 was in Boston and every Celtics fan, whether you were at the Garden or watching on TV, as we were, wanted Laimbeer taken care of.  He was, and from an unexpected source.  Robert Parrish was an excellent center who never changed his expression, never showed excitement about anything and never got angry.  Until that day.  In the second quarter, Laimbeer elbowed Chief and Parrish hit him hard from behind and knocked him to the floor.  We all went nuts.  The best part was that the referee saw the whole thing and didn't call a foul (Bill Simmons called it "maybe the most astounding non-call in NBA history").  We figured it was because he agreed that Laimbeer deserved it.  Game 5 ended with the Pistons on the verge of victory when Bird stole Isiah's inbound pass, and whipped it to Dennis Johnson who scored at the buzzer to win the game.

The league stepped in and suspended Chief for Game 6, which the Pistons won, but the Celtics came back to win the seventh and deciding game.

You can see the clothesline, Chief's slugging Laimbeer and Bird's steal here:
And here is Larry Bird in 2013 on why he still hates Bill Laimbeer (ah, the good old days).
  We'll close with my pick for the best sports celebrity commercial which started airing during this year's March Madness, featuring Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabber.  First, it's amazing they got four of the five greatest living retired players in NBA history (only missing Jordan) and second, it's actually funny (and true!).  The first time I saw it I could not believe who I was seeing. Of course, my choice for best commercial ever remains the Dollar Shave Club.

Monday, April 22, 2013


We saw 42 this weekend and recommend it.  Is it a little stilted and hokey at times?  Yes, but it's a great story, well told.  And as a baseball history nut it is impressive how accurate it is.  They telescope some events and change some chronology but virtually everything you see happened (though they take liberties with the dialogue at times).

This is true even for the parts that seem like they must have been invented by the screenwriter for dramatic purposes like when Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford, who hams it up, but Branch Rickey was a ham so it works) finally tells Jackie Robinson the real reason he wanted to integrate baseball.  Hard to believe but true.

Kentucky-born shortstop Pee Wee Reese really did come over to first baseman Jackie and put his arm around him in front of a hostile, taunting crowd at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.  And look at the stands in Crosley Field!  The folks who made this film did a phenomenal job accurately recreating these old ballparks.

Pee Wee and Jackie became friends and in the interviews and speeches Robinson gave later in his life, he always cited Pee Wee as second only to Branch Rickey in helping him succeed in those difficult times.

And the most searing scene in the movie, when Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman baited Robinson throughout a game with the most vicious and vile taunts really happened (if anything, as bad as the movie makes it seem, the actual language may have been even worse based on some accounts I've read).

The movie captures well how pivotal the integration of baseball was for American society and how lonely and difficult it must have been for Jackie and Rachel during those first two years after his signing by Ricky in October 1945.  They had both grown up in Southern California where racism was present but relatively mild compared to what they would face when the Dodgers had spring training in Florida and during the season when they traveled to cities like Philadelphia, Cincinnati and St Louis and, indeed the open hostility of some of his own teammates.

The movie features terrific casting, even for the smaller parts.

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in what I think must be his first character actor part and yes, Rickey really dressed like that.

Christopher Meloni (From Law & Order SVU) as Leo Durocher, the fiery Dodger manager who faced down a player revolt against Robinson joining the team.

John McGinley (the older doctor in Scrubs) as Red Barber, the Dodger broadcaster.  It is uncanny how McGinley captures Barber's distinctive cadence and voice. 

Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese.

Alan Tudyk (the pirate in Dodgeball) as Ben Chapman.

The most difficult roles to cast must have been Jackie Robinson and his wife, Rachel.  They are so iconic and the story so melodramatic that it is almost impossible to portray them in a normal way.  I think the filmmakers made the right choice in picking two relative unknowns (Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie) who carry the burden and acquit themselves well.
Jackie Robinson died in 1972 when he was in his early 50s but his wife, Rachel, is still alive and now 90 years old and heavily involved with the movie.  If you've seen and heard Rachel interviewed over the years you know she is smart, determined and gracious.  After Jackie retired, Rachel launched a career in nursing eventually becoming a professor at Yale's Nursing School and director of Connecticut's Mental Health Center.  And she is still rolling along.  Here she is at the premiere of 42:
It took an extraordinary man to break the color barrier in baseball and Jackie Robinson was that man and it took an extraordinary man to decide to do it and that man was Branch Rickey.

Rachel Robinson and Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of 42.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

This Is Our City

After this week's events in Boston, the Red Sox held a special ceremony at Fenway Park yesterday.  The heart of the Sox, Big Papi (David Ortiz) had been rehabbing from an injury at the Sox's AAA club in Pawtucket and rejoined the club yesterday and spoke on behalf of the team and the city.  I think his words set the right tone.  I've edited what he said in the title.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

This Is How You Filibuster

From Parks & Recreation (don't know in what form this actually was broadcast).  An epic, and reportedly improvised, rant by Patton Oswalt.  Homeric in scope - though I'm not onboard with his proposal regarding Chewbacca.  Worth watching the whole thing.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Now They Tell Us

ABC News reports that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) complained to HHS Secretary Katherine Sebelius that "I just see a huge train wreck coming down" because of the bumbling implementation of Obamacare in a hearing that ABC characterized as a "routine budget hearing that suddenly turned tense".

Turns out we really did need to pass the bill to find out what's in it!

Guess the joke's on us!!
(from IWDRM)
Maybe there will come a day when people recognize that there is a world of difference between High Concept and good intentions that make you feel noble - healthcare for all! cheaper healthcare!! better healthcare!!! - and the capability of normal human beings to design a detailed, complex, interlinked 2,000 page piece of legislation governing 1/6 of the American economy that requires 1,000 regulations and gaggles of regulators to get everything working together perfectly in timing, design, content and flexibility in order to achieve the desired outcome.


It's Playoff Time!

Last night was the end of the regular NBA season.  To get everyone in the mood here is LeBron James passing to himself off the backboard for a dunk last week against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Leigh Fermor

Patrick Leigh Fermor
He was a travel writer described by a BBC journalist as "a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene" and by The Telegraph as "one of the few genuine Renaissance figures produced by Britain in the 20th century, a man both of action and learning."

More verbosely, Anthony Lane in The New Yorker, wrote that he:

“was, and remains, an Englishman, with so much living to his credit that the lives conducted by the rest of us seem barely sentient pinched and paltry things, laughably provincial in their scope... We fret about our kids' S.A.Ts, whereas this man, when he was barely more than a kid himself walked from Rotterdam to Istanbul. In his sixties, he swam the Hellespont, in homage to Lord Byron—his hero, and to some extent, his template. In between, he has joined a cavalry charge, observed a voodoo ceremony in Haiti, and plunged into a love affair with a princess. He has feasted atop a moonlit tower, with wine and roast lamb hauled up by rope. He has dwelled soundlessly among Trappist monks.” 
Patrick (Paddy) Leigh Fermor died in 2011 at the age of 96 and his passing was the occasion for an outpouring of wonderful writing in the form of lengthy obituaries and reminiscences (Paddy knew everyone) in The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times and the NY Times among others. 

I've read four of Leigh Fermor's books.  Two of them narrate his 14 month walk from Holland to Constantinople (as he called it) in 1933-34 when he was 18 years old.  He embarked on this adventure after being expelled from The King's School in Canterbury for being caught holding hands with the local greengrocer's daughter (she was eight years older and there may have been more to the story - his housemaster wrote of him "He is a dangerous mixture of sophistication and recklessness which makes one anxious about his influence on other boys").  By that time, Paddy had already picked up a love for language, poetry and history but he was never to attend university.

Leigh Fermor was not a speedy writer.  The first of the books about his walk, A Time Of Gifts, was not published until 1977 and the second, Between The Woods And The Water, finally came out in 1986.  Between The Woods ends with Leigh Fermor on the former island fortress of Ada Kaleh in the Danube River, near Bulgaria, a remnant of the Ottoman Empire, inhabited by a few hundred islanders "left behind by the retreating Turks . . . The Austrians held some vague suzerainty over it, but the island seems to have been forgotten until it was granted to Rumania at the Treaty of Versailles; and the Rumanians had left the inhabitants undisturbed" and finishes with the words TO BE CONCLUDED.  This promise will finally be delivered on with the publication of the third and last installment in September 2013, eighty years after Paddy began his walk.  Questions have been raised about the accuracy of the books after the passage of so many years but as the Telegraph noted in its obituary:

 "Yet the accuracy or otherwise of particular incidents was beside the point. Leigh Fermor's achievement was, like Proust, to have rendered the past visible, and to have preserved a civilisation which had since been swept away like leaves in a storm. The books are also a brilliantly sustained evocation of youthful exhilaration and joy"
It is very true that in reading these books you feel you have entered into a world that has disappeared.  This is most striking in The Woods And The Water which covers Paddy's travels in Hungary and the Transylvania region of Rumania.  Even at the time this world was fading away in the turmoil of the post WWI breakup of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, before being completely obliterated a few years later by WWII and finally buried under tons of dull grey-brown crumbling Communist concrete.

Here is an sample (taken from The Economist obituary) of that adventure as he takes tea under flowering horse-chestnut trees at the kastely of Korosladany, Hungary

"We sat talking until it was lighting-up time, and indoors pools of lamplight were being kindled with spills along the succession of lavender-smelling rooms. It lit the backs of bindings, pictures, furniture which had reached exactly the right pitch of faded country-house shabbiness, curtains laundered hundreds of times over and music open above the keys of a piano. What music? I can't remember; but suddenly, sailing into my mind after all these years, there is a bowl on the piano of enormous white and red peonies and a few petals have dropped on the polished floor."
The descriptive language in all of Leigh Fermor's books is enveloping and you can reread the best of it many times.  His prose could also have its pitfalls, as William Dalrymple noted in The Daily Beast, writing of another passage in his books:

"It is an archetypal Leigh Fermor anecdote: beautifully written, fabulously romantic and just a little showy. For Leigh Fermor’s greatest virtues as a writer are also his greatest vices: his incantational love of great waterfalls of words, combined with the wild scholarly enthusiasms of a brilliant autodidact. On the rare occasions he gets it wrong, Paddy has been responsible for some of the most brightly coloured purple passages in travel literature. But at his best he is sublime, unbeatable."

After reaching Greece at the end of his walk he joined the Greek Royal Cavalry in fighting a rebellion in Macedonia and then fell in love with Balasha Cantacuzene, a Romanian Countess (of Greek background) and moved back to her native Moldavia (Balasha) where he lived till the outbreak of WWII.  Returning to England he enlisted in the Irish Guards but was transferred to the Special Operations Executive (SOE) because of his knowledge of Greek and sent to Cairo to assist in guerrilla operations on Crete and the Greek mainland..

Leigh Fermor spent two years in the mountains of Crete, living with the local resistance fighters and grew to love the culture.  It was there that he conceived of his most daring adventure and managed to secure approval from British Army HQ in Cairo to carry it off - the kidnapping of the German Commandant of Crete, General Heinrich Kreipe.  

In April 1944, Major Fermor and another British officer (Billy Moss), dressed as German corporals, kidnapped Kreipe in his own car and bluffed their way through 23 German checkpoints and into the mountains of Crete (with Paddy wearing General Kreipe's hat and speaking German).  A month later they were able to smuggle Kreipe out of Crete and back to Cairo.  It was during this month of Kreipe's Cretan captivity that one of the most famous of Paddy's stories originated.(Leigh Fermor, right, and Billy Moss dressed in German uniforms, Crete, 1944)

About three weeks into the kidnapping, Kreipe and his captors reached the vicinity of Mount Ida, in Greek legend the birthplace of Zeus.
"Gazing up at the snowy peak, Kreipe recited the first line of Horace's ode Ad Thaliarchum – "Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte" (See how Soracte stands white with snow on high). Leigh Fermor immediately continued the poem to its end. The two men realised that they had "drunk at the same fountains" before the war, as Leigh Fermor put it, and things between them were very different from then on. "
His wartime exploits gained him the OBE in 1943 and the DSO in 1944 and he was made an Honorary Citizen of Herakleion, Crete after the war. In 1957 a movie, Ill Met By Moonlight, was made of this exploit, starring Dirk Bogarde as Paddy.  Oddly enough, Kreipe and Leigh Fermor were reunited in 1972 on the Greek TV version of This Is Your Life.

In its obituary, The Guardian wrote of this period in Paddy's life:
"He was exactly the right age to be a war hero, and in his two years with the Cretan resistance made a number of lifelong friends, blood-brothers and brothers by baptism. At one point General [later Field Marshal] Bernard Montgomery ordered him to depart at once and come on leave to Cairo, but received a telegram saying he had misunderstood, and that Major Leigh Fermor was enjoying himself enormously and did not want any leave. "What I liked about Paddy," one of his Cretan blood-brothers said to me, "was he was such a good man, so morally good. He could throw his pistol 40 feet in the air like this, and catch it again by the handle."
For most of his last 60 years, Leigh Fermor split his time between Greece and England.  He built a house near Kardamyli on the isolated Mani peninsula in the southern Peloponnese and also had a home in Worcestershire with his wife, Joan, who died in 2001.

It was during these years that he wrote the other two books that I've read.  The first is Mani, about a walking tour that Leigh Fermor took on this mostly desolate peninsula in the early 1950s, before he built his home.  In it he tells a story in(On the Mani)  that captures the sense of fun in all his books.  He and his companions are in Kardamyli, and are seated for dinner by the harbor where "It was midsummer in that glaring white town, and the heat was explosive":

"On a sudden, silent decision we stepped down fully dressed into the sea carrying the iron table a few yards out and then our three chairs, on which, up to our waists in cool water, we sat round the nearly laid table-top, which now seemed by magic to be levitated three inches about the water.  The waiter, arriving a moment later, gazed with surprise at the empty space on the quay; then, observing us with a quickly-masked flicker of pleasure, he stepped unhesitatingly into the sea, advanced waist-deep with a butler's gravity, and, saying nothing more than 'Dinner-time', placed our meal before us"
The other book is Roumeli: Travels In Northern Greece in which he visits the hanging monasteries of Meteora, attends a Sarakatsan shepherd's wedding and pursues a pair of slippers said to have once belonged to Lord Byron.  (A Meteoran monastery)

William Dalrymple writes, in Paddyesque style, about his home in Greece:
"Most of these books were written in Paddy’s beautiful house at Kardamyli deep in Mani, at the tip of the Greek Peloponnese. It is the most perfect writer’s house imaginable, designed and partially built by Paddy himself in an old olive grove overlooking a secluded Mediterranean bay. Buttressed by the old retaining walls of the olive terraces, the white-washed rooms are cool and airy and lined with books; old copies of the TLS and the NYRB lie scattered around on tables between Attic vases, Indian sculptures, and bottles of local ouzo. A study filled with reference books and old photographs lies across a shady courtyard filled with olive trees. There are cicadas grinding in the cypresses, and a wonderful  view of the peaks of the Taygetus falling down to the blue waters of the Aegean, so clear that it is said that in some places you can still see the wrecks of old Ottoman galleys lying on the sea bed far below. There is a warm smell of wild rosemary and cypress resin in the air; and from below comes the crash of the sea on the pebbles of the foreshore."
You can find pictures of Leigh Fermor's house in Kardamyli taken by his nephew, Miles Fenton here:

What stands out for me in reading the accounts of those who met him is his sense of graciousness and generosity even with those he barely knew (see, for instance, this piece by Paul Rahe).  He didn't slow down as he grew older and you can read an account of what he was like at 83 here.  Diagnosed with cancer, he underwent surgery in Athens and then expressed a desire to return to England to die and be buried next to his wife.  He was flown to Worcestershire and died the morning after his arrival.

Give him a read.  You'll enjoy it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Smells Like 2 Cellos

A year ago today THC wrote about its favorite cover version of Smells Like Teen Spirit.  To celebrate we'll go with another fun cover of that song from 2 Cellos.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lights Out

From NASA's Astronomy Picture Of The Day Archive.  First, a shot from the International Space Station of the U.S. East Coast from Norfolk, Virginia to Hartford, Connecticut - you can almost see our house!
Second, a photo of what Shanghai would look like at night without any city lights - something you will never see in reality.  What the photographer Thierry Cohen did was take a daylight image of the city and match it with a dark sky region from the same latitude.  The picture is taken from Puxi, the older district of Shanghai, looking across the Huangpu River to Pudong, the part of the city I usually stayed in on business trips. Everything you see in the picture was constructed in the past 20 years.  You can find photos of other cities using the same technique at Cohen's website.

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/1304/iss030e078095.jpgSee Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Take Five Amended

This is a version of Take Five done by the Sachal Studios Orchestra of Lahore, Pakistan.  What a wonderful sound they make!  The original was recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quarter in 1959 and in 1961 became a surprising pop hit in the U.S.  It was written by Paul Desmond (the sax player) and featured a classic drum solo by Joe Morello.  I've always enjoyed the Brubeck original but this cover is well worth a listen (discovered via the Open Culture blog).

From the Orchestra's website:

"Lahore, the home of Sachal Studios, remains one of the  great cultural centres of Pakistan and India, notwithstanding the pillage and the spiritual terror this ancient city of music has had to suffer over the last three decades. Sachal Studios, led by the production team of Izzat and Mushtaq, has brought back the glory of our musicians and composers who had been sadly forgotten in the buzz of a digital and electronic world."
Excuse me while I go listen to more of their stuff.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Civil War Demographics

Today is the 152nd anniversary of the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and the start of the Civil War.  Even though the war started on this date in 1861 it was the decisions made by Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas to join the Confederacy after the attack on Sumter that were essential to the rebels maintaining their independence through four years of bloody conflict.*  To understand why, let's look at the 1860 census (you can find the source data here).

The US population in 1860 was 31 million of whom 22 million were in the states that stayed in the Union while 9 million lived in the seceding states.  Population is not destiny but it had a significant impact on military capabilities so let's look more closely.

Secession occurred in two waves.  The first, consisting of seven states, from December 20, 1860 and February 23, 1861, took place before President Lincoln's inauguration.  For the next ten weeks the count remained static and then the final four states seceded between May 6 and June 8, 1861.

The seven states that seceded and formed the Confederacy prior to Sumter were all in the Deep South - South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas - the heart of the cotton economy.  These seven states had a population of 4.98 million but 46% of these were slaves, leaving a white population of only 2.67 million.  If the four post-Sumter states had not left the Union (and even if their populations were not added to the North), it would have meant that the North's population would have been 8 times more than that of the white population in the original seven Confederate states.  It is difficult to see how these states could have been successful militarily for any lengthy period of time in fighting a conventional war.

The four post-Sumter states had a population of 4.13 million of whom only 29% were slaves, adding a total of 2.93 million whites to the Confederacy, more than doubling the white population of the original Confederacy, along with bringing geographical depth to any defensive strategy and reducing the North's manpower advantage to 4 to 1.

This also puts into perspective the manpower loss of the Confederate states in the Civil War.  About 5% of its white population died, including about 20% of adult white males.  In today's context it would be the equivalent of 16 million Americans dying in a war - about 40 times the number of deaths in WWII and about 2,200 times the number of fatalities we have suffered in the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

The 1860 census also shows the relationship between the relative size of slave population and the timing of decisions about secession.  Six of the seven original states had slaves populations ranging from 44% to 57% of their total populations (Texas was an outlier with 30%) while the four states seceding post-Sumter had smaller slave populations, between 25% and 33%.  In the four slave states that did not secede the slave population did not exceed 20%: Kentucky (20%), Maryland (13%), Missouri (10%), Delaware (2%).

Reinforcing this analysis you can also look at the average number of slaves owned by slave-owning families in the slave states and  see a familiar pattern.  In the seven original Confederate states the average number of slaves owned per family was between 9 and 15 with an average of 13. The four late seceding states were between 7.5 and 10 per family with an average of 9.  The four non-seceding slave states were between 3 and 6 per family with an average of 5.

* The triggering event for the secession of the four states was President Lincoln's call on April 15, 1861 for 75,000 volunteer troops to bring the seceding states back into the Union by force of arms.  Although these states had tried to proclaim their neutrality, they were opposed to the use of force against the seven states that had left the Union.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


U2 meet Prince.  Prince meet U2.

This is Muse from 2012.  Madness has a great sonic build, becoming more complex as it goes along.

If you have a good subwoofer and turn it up your entire house or car will shake.  THC believes this is a good thing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Further Note on Maggie

From Yaacov Lozowick's blog.  Lozowick was formerly the Chief Archivist at Yad Vashem in Israel and is currently Chief Archivist for the Israel State Archives.  He writes of his encounter with Margaret Thatcher in the 1990s:

". . . she came by Yad Vashem. In those days I used to meet all sorts of prominent folks and give them tours; I met presidents, prime ministers, and many lesser luminaries. None of them left the impression she did. Her intelligence was so fierce and unusual it was like a physical force, knocking over whatever wasn't solid enough to withstand it. I don't remember exactly what it was I showed her - it must have been assorted interesting documents, some Nazi, some Jewish, that was the sort of thing I normally showed in such cases. She saw the essential significance in each of them well before I had finished explaining what they were, and tied them into her understanding of the world. I vividly remember thinking at the time that being one of her aides or ministers must have been unusually demanding, since if you didn't have total control of whatever it was you were presenting to her she'd have made you feel like an idiot."
Although Lozowick's blog is mostly dormant since he took on his role for the State of Israel last year, if you are interested in the future of Jerusalem and of the prospects for peace you should look at the upper left corner of the blog and browse through Don't Divide Jerusalem and Seeking Peace, Living At War which collect his relevant posts on those issues.

He also operates a blog for the Israel State Archives,which under his direction has been much more active in declassifying documents.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher Has Some Fun

With the passing of the redoubtable Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest political leaders of the post WWII world, let's take the opportunity to watch a portion of her last appearance in the House Of Commons as Prime Minister in 1990.  She's quite clearly having a good time responding to questions (if you've ever watched her other Question Time appearances you will know she was a formidable debater).  At the end of this video you can see the reference to the single currency.  It is thanks to Margaret Thatcher that Britain did not join and thus does not face the crisis that the rest of the EU is currently facing.  As yesterday's Business Insider noted, she predicted that the euro would be a disaster. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Thatcher was her ability to provoke her opponents in ways that revealed more about them than they intended.  British politics and society had always been class and status obsessed (and hostile to women) but by the time Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister in 1979 the opposition Labour and Liberal parties had become the home of the chattering classes (BBC, media, academics, the Oxbridge crowd and the younger generation of inherited wealth).  It drove these groups crazy that someone like Thatcher, who did not go to the "right" schools, and was a shopkeepers daughter(!), was not only Prime Minister, but refused to accept the assumptions embedded within the liberal shibboleths they had learned to faithfully recite and would instead attack their very premises.

Another topic that induced cognitive dissonance with her opponents was the subject of coal.  There is a whole genre of British films over the past thirty years glamorizing coal towns and miners (see, for instance, Billy Elliot) and explicitly or implicitly condemning Thatcherism.It's quite odd when you think about it since coal is the chief villain for those who see global warming as priority #1 and who tend to be the very people who make the movies celebrating coal as long as they can take a poke at Thatcher.  There's a further oddity here.  Margaret Thatcher was the first political leader to raise concerns over human activities raising global temperatures after she has persuaded by her scientific advisors of the potential threat in the 1980s.  The opening of the natural gas fields in the North Sea and the closure of much of the coal industry, strenously objected to at the time by the British Left, significantly reduced CO2 emissions by Britain.

And, of course, the greatest irony is that the largest reduction in CO2 emissions in the past 50 years was when the policies of Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (see, Tear Down This Wall) led to victory over the Evil Empire in the Cold War.  The collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe caused the largest reduction of CO2 emissions in human history.  The scale is really quite enormous.  From 1990 to 1995, global CO2 emissions increased by 4%.  However, in Britain (transitioning to gas), the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe emissions were reduced by 26%!  This reduction amounted to 1.6 billion tons a year or more than Japan or India currently emit in a year and which far exceeds the reductions achieved by the European Union in the 15 years since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

In fact, without Thatcher's closure of the British coal industry and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there simply would not have been a Kyoto Protocol.  So, if global warming is your top priority give Thatcher (and Reagan) a big thanks.

If you'd like to read more here is a wonderful tribute from Andrew Sullivan, who writes of the pre-Thatcher Britain of the 1970s:

To put it bluntly: The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. . . . .And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fighting Fire With Fire

Burning Down The House from Talking Heads and the film Stop Making Sense.  Outstanding performance video.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Full Employment

Looks like the French have found the secret to job creation!  We need to stop being narrow-minded and adopt the best ideas no matter where they come from.  Of course we may have to modify our laws regarding employer-employee practices to allow for some of their innovative practices.  From My Little Paris thanks to Mrs THC.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Company You Keep

This is a review (sort of) of a movie I am not going to see.  Bear with me for awhile and I'll explain.

In the summer of 1969, I attended a summer orientation program at the University of Wisconsin where I was starting my freshman year in September.  While there I saw a notice for a meeting of  Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  I'd read about the SDS in Newsweek magazine (as well as in the much more radical Ramparts magazine to which I subscribed at the time) and since I was against the Vietnam War decided to attend to see what it was like.

I don't remember much about the meeting except that after a few minutes I realized there were two factions in the room arguing.  One called themselves Trotskyites, the other referred to themselves as Stalinists, and they were furiously denouncing each other as deviationists.  I thought it was pretty bizarre to see two groups of American college students fighting over which mass murderer was better and left the meeting.

Three months later, SDS splintered and the most radical faction, later known as the Weather Underground, embarked on a path of violence with an avowed goal of establishing a revolutionary communist dictatorship in the United States.  They were quite clear on their strategy:

"The most important task for us toward making the revolution, and the work our collectives should engage in, is the creation of a mass revolutionary movement, without which a clandestine revolutionary party will be impossible. A revolutionary mass movement is different from the traditional revisionist mass base of "sympathizers". Rather it is akin to the Red Guard in China, based on the full participation and involvement of masses of people in the practice of making revolution; a movement with a full willingness to participate in the violent and illegal struggle."
In October 1969, the Weatherman indulged themselves in a three-day tantrum of violence in the streets of Chicago known as the Days Of Rage.  Their last open meeting was in December 1969 at a War Council in Flint, Michigan, where one of their leaders, Bernadine Dohrn, celebrated Charlie Manson's recent murder spree, gleefully remarking "First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into the pig Tate's [Sharon Tate who was 8 months pregnant at the time] stomach! Wild!". (Dohrn) With that the Weathermen went underground to pursue their war against AmeriKKKa. (as they called it). We thought these people were completely insane.

The Weathermen and allied factions went on to have glorious (again, in their view) careers planting bombs in the US Capital, Pentagon and police stations, robbing banks and armored cars, murdering policemen and building a nail bomb to take to a dance near Fort Dix, New Jersey where they knew American servicemen would be present (fortunately it blew up prematurely killing the bomb makers, including Bill Ayers' then girlfriend, Diana Oughton, along with two other gang members and completely leveling the Greenwich Village townhouse they were in).(Ayers)(Oughton)

Over time the FBI and local police ran the various Weathermen factions down with the last remnants  captured in 1985.  I have some familiarity with this final episode as one day the FBI showed up at the offices of the company I worked at in Cambridge, MA and shared with us intelligence they had gathered when they made the last arrests, including hand drawn maps of our building showing potential locations (marked with an X) for placement of bombs - among the locations was the mailbox on the sidewalk outside my office and in the drop ceiling of the men's restroom that I used.  They told us that while they believed the remaining gang members had been captured, they could not be completely sure, and advised us to improve security.  We took their advice.

All of this is by way of introduction to the new movie by the multi-millionaire ski resort owner and retail catalogue mogul, Robert Redford, The Company You Keep.  Fortunately, since it is a Redford movie, not many others will see it either because his movies aspire to be profound and nuanced but they're just boring. The Company We Keep is apparently his romantic paean to the idealists of the Weather Underground.  Although I was vaguely aware of the movie, I had not planned to write about it until coming across a fawning interview with Redford on ABC News with George Stephanopoulos in which he says "I was very much aware of the movement.  I was more than sympathetic, I was probably emphatic because I believed it was time for a change".  In response to George's question "even with the bombing?" he replied "movements have to be extreme to some degree".

I then started looking around for some of the early reviews.

Variety's review included this gem:

"unabashedly heartfelt but competent tribute to 1960s idealism  . . . There is something undeniably compelling, perhaps even romantic, about America's 60's radicals and the compromises they did or didn't make."

The Hollywood Reporter tells of a pivotal scene in the movie in which a young character interviews one of the radicals and "gives him some understanding of the commitment and idealism of the 70s radicals  . . . shows regret for the mistakes that were made but refuses to repudiate her convictions" and that the film depicts "a generation with fire in its belly that has had to adapt to a different world or find other ways to channel their impassioned ideas."

And the New York Daily News called it "an old-fashioned movie about ethics".

Did I mention that these "idealists" hated America, described themselves as Leninist revolutionary communists and despised most of their fellow Americans so much that they were planning to establish "re-education" camps for millions of their fellow citizens if their revolution had ever succeeded? 

In addition to the other crimes recounted above, the summer after I left U Wisconsin some other "idealists" backed a truck containing an ammonium nitrate bomb up to the Army Math Research Center, which was located on campus, and blew apart a six story building, killing a grad student who was married with two young children.

The movie is the latest in a series of attempts to rewrite history and obscure how malignant and despicable these people were and are.  The technique is to mush all anti-war types together and pretend that the Weathermen were just a little more "activist" (another meaningless term from the 1960s that has infiltrated our language) than the others.

In truth the anti-war folks (of whom I was one) consisted of three different groups, a distinction that became clearer to me over time.  The first, and by far the largest group, were those of us who thought Vietnam was the wrong war for America to be involved in.  The second, much smaller, but consisting of a disproportionate number of the movement's leadership, believed that the Communists were the good guys in the war and deserved to win (one of these was the current Secretary of State, John Kerry) and then there were a very tiny sliver who believed in bringing the war home in order to impose a Communist revolutionary dictatorship upon the United States.  This last group included the Weathermen, the people that Robert Redford is intent on glamorizing as flawed idealists.

Liberals have gotten sloppy over the years thinking of these people as just a little more excitable brand of folks, but basically just like them.  They were not, and they despised liberals.  Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers believe that Sirhan Sirhan is an unjustly incarcerated political prisoner since his only "crime" was to quite rightly (in their view) kill Robert Kennedy in retaliation for his vote to sell military aircraft to the Zionist Israeli state which has no right to exist and they included Sirhan as one of the people to whom they dedicated their 1974 book Prairie Fire (published while they were still hiding from law enforcement).

This sloppy thinking also obscures the historical truth that at the time most liberals, and leftists, for that matter, despised the Weathermen and similar nut cases.  They weren't seen as just another group of "passionate" or "idealist" anti-war people.  A few years ago, I was exposed to a fine example of this sloppiness when, on a sunny September morning, I was making my weekly trip to our town's garbage dump (oops, I meant to say transfer station) and listening to NPR's Saturday morning show with Scott Simon.  I was shocked to hear him interviewing Bill Ayers.  My first thought was "what rock did this scumbag crawl out from under?"  Ayers was plugging his new book, Fugitive Days: A Memoir.  Now Scott Simon seems like a very nice guy but he is also clueless and let Ayers get away with portraying himself as just another anti-war activist who may have gotten a little bit carried away at times.  It was appalling to listen to.  Ayers' bad luck was that the interview was broadcast on September 8, 2001, the publication date for his book was September 11, and the country was not in the mood to read the memoir of a bomber who hates America.

Many of these people have been allowed to insinuate themselves back into society.  Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn married and with the help of Ayer's wealthy father (who was Chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Edison) were integrated back into Chicago society and politics (they even held the first political fundraiser for a young politician, Barack Obama, in the early 1990s and Obama blurbed one of Bill's book).  Today, Bernadine Dohrn is an Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern Law School (yes, you read that right) where she was the former Director of the Children and Family Justice Center and Bill Ayers recently retired as Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, a field he went into because he thought it offered him the opportunity to mold young minds in a revolutionary direction. The fact that he is considered quite reputable and influential in the field explains a lot about the plight of education today, particularly since both Ayers and Dohrn still describe themselves as revolutionary communists.  Ayers takes great pride in his background, boasting "guilty as sin, free as a bird" (Federal charges against both of them were dropped because of illegal wiretaps).   (Ayers a few years ago)

Another member of the Weathermen crew has also been in the news recently, Katherine Boudin.  Kathy Boudin had been on the lam after last being seen fleeing the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion in 1970.  Then, in 1981, she and three others robbed a Brinks Armored Car in Nyack, NY, in the course which two Nyack policemen and a Brinks guard were shot and killed.  Waverly Brown (the first black policeman hired in Nyack), Edward O'Grady and Peter Page were all combat veterans with nine children between them. Boudin was eventually caught and convicted but then paroled in 2003 in a controversial decision.(Boudin)

Today, Boudin is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of Social Work and was recently named Scholar-in-Residence at NYU Law School.  Her son, Chesa (whose father was David Gilbert, another of the Brinks robbers) was raised by Ayers and Dohrn while she was in prison.  Chesa attended Yale, received a Rhodes Scholarship, ardently supports Hugo Chavez, approves of his parents being "dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world,” and says “I’m dedicated to the same thing”, and writes that his parents "paid a heavy price for their radical politics" while the truth is the price they paid was for their involvement in a triple murder.  I hope the children of Brown, O'Grady and Page have been provided the same opportunities as Chesa.

What is particularly troubling about all of this is that the distinctions liberals, and even socialists, made between themselves and communists and revolutionaries (as well as the vile and insane) forty years ago are being slowly eroded away in a massive rewrite of history (see, for instance Showtime's Agitprop) with the cooperation of our educational institutions.  It leads to grotesque movies like The Motorcycle Diaries, a recent film romanticizing Che Guevara, who in reality was a murderous Stalinist thug.
Some liberals still exhibit common sense about these warped human beings.  In 2010, Bill Ayers was retiring from his professorship at the University of Illinois and had been proposed for Emeritus status which required approval by the University's Board of Trustees.  One of the trustees was Christopher Kennedy, one of Robert Kennedy's sons.  In an impassioned speech to the Board, Kennedy said he could not confer the title "to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father."  The trustees agreed.