"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
A movie on that theme I'd really like to see would be one of the book I'm listening to now -- George MacDonald Fraser's Flash for Freedom -- about the rogue Harry Flashman's colorful adventures in the slave trade.
For an unusual angle on the slave trade, I recommend Flash for Freedom, in which the incorrigible Harry Flashman encounters the Latin-quoting slave ship captain John Charity Spring. It is one of the better extracts from the Flashman Papers, that incomparable trove of 19th-century historical documentation.
It's an outstanding book, bringing history to life through the eyes of a Victorian cad, a poltroonish Zelig in cavalry whiskers. Amazon reviewer Daniel Berger describes the book as "layering dark satire onto the diciest of subjects":
Flashman is shown at his vile best in this installment of his saga. Signed unknowingly onto a slave ship by his malicious father-in-law to get him out of the country following a scandal, Flashman plunges up to his whiskers into that century's nastiest business. Sailing under an insane, Latin-quoting captain, who brings his tea-serving, equally insane wife along for the voyage, Flashy's misadventures take him from the Slave Coast of Africa to the whorehouses of New Orleans, from the back roads of Mississippi to the frozen Ohio River. Fraser's research into the slave trade is compelling; this is one of the more detailed fictionalizations of the slave trade in most of its horrors that I've ever read. The author gets credit for layering his dark satire onto this diciest of subjects, not something every author would have dared, and not sparing it in the least. It is, of course, almost the perfect vehicle for Flashman's unPC sensibilities, if the reader will forgive the anachronism. His encounter with Abraham Lincoln is absorbing even while satirical; Fraser presents a Lincoln with a frontier-tuned wit that penetrates further than can the capital's shallower sophisticates.
(I hope Steve M will allow me to claim a National Geographic-style dispensation from any Lenten RCBfA restrictions in running the cover art of the Dahomey Amazon above.)
For a recent column poking fun at W for including Flashman on his reading list, the NY Times' Maureen Dowd tracked down Fraser to quote him on the historic futility of invading and subduing Afghanistan. So what would she have done about Afghanistan after 9/11 -- given it a pass? For that matter, what would Flashy have made of MoDo?
We are at a critical moment in Iraq--at the beginning of a key battle, in the midst of a war that is irretrievably bound up in an even bigger, global struggle against the totalitarian ideology of radical Islamism. However tired, however frustrated, however angry we may feel, we must remember that our forces in Iraq carry America's cause--the cause of freedom--which we abandon at our peril. (Via the Llamas)
Wake up, America! This war is not only taking place in Iraq. The struggle is for the future of the world. Our enemies intend to conquer us, and they say so openly. The time to resist is now. #
Monday, February 26, 2007 Geese Ausbie & the "string ball"
Sweet Georgia Brown
"Brother Bones recorded one of the most instantly recognizable songs of the 20th century, yet remains a virtual unknown, overshadowed by his own hit record and the world famous basketball team that adopted it as their official theme," observes the Online Guide to Whistling Records. Listen to "Sweet Georgia Brown" and other recordings at their Brother Bones gallery.
We saw the Harlem Globetrotters this past weekend, and an entertaining show it was: the smell of cotton candy and popcorn in the arena brought back memories of long-ago trips to the circus at the old Garden.
Did you know the Globetrotters, based in Chicago for 50 years, didn't actually play a game in Harlem until 1968, or that they once beat the Lakers in a straight-up contest?
Jerry Jazz Musician, a most interesting website "devoted to jazz and American civilization," offers an interview with Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Here is Green on Marques Haynes:
Marques was undoubtedly the best dribbler in Globetrotters history, and I could make the case that he may have been the best ball handler in the history of basketball...[E]verything Marques Haynes did with a basketball was done spontaneously. His influence was felt by later generations of players, going all the way to Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas.
On Goose Tatum:
Goose Tatum is the most fascinating character in the whole Globetrotter story. Inman Jackson was the first showman, but Goose was the guy who invented Globetrotter basketball in the way people think of them today. He came up with all the great tricks and gags, and was spontaneous as a showman in the same way Marques Haynes was as a dribbler. Everyone who played for the Globetrotters after Goose -- Meadowlark Lemon certainly included -- tried to imitate Goose. While he was the great showman of the team, in some ways he was also its most tragic figure...
And on Meadowlark Lemon:
Two things about Meadowlark came across the strongest, the first being that he really couldn't play basketball...
Interspersed throughout the interview are clips of "Sweet Georgia Brown" as performed by Ethel Waters, Benny Goodman, Red Nichols and Jack Teagarden, and many others.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
George Washington's Birthday
The Haverhill, Mass., library's George Washington statue, a plaster likeness of the first president made using an exact cast of his face, was sold by the city to a New Hampshire antiques dealer for $5 in 1969 and sat for years in a barn before being restored to the library 20 years ago. Historians consider the sculpture one of the most precise likenesses of Washington's face.
"In the ritual world of festive culture," Newman writes, "it was George Washington who 'filled the king-shaped vacuum that followed the overthrow of George III.'"
If Americans had...created a day [July 4th] on which they could gather to affirm allegiance to the new republic, they had also adopted a national hero, and whenever they gathered to feast and drink, they raised their glasses to salute George Washington. The American Revolution created any number of credible heroes, but it was Washington to held the limelight. For while Paine, Jefferson and the angry crowds who tore down Hanoverian crests and symbols had destroyed the images of royalty, popular faith in leaders who embodied popular values did not die so fast. Thus the rites that had been used to honor the Hanoverian monarchs were rehabilitated both for the commemoration of the Fourth of July and in order to pay tribute to America's new "patriot king."
The transition began quickly, and as early as 1779 American Patriots in York, Pennsylvania were singing, "GOD SAVE GREAT GEORGE WASHINGTON! GOD DAMN THE KING," to the tune of "God Save the King"...
On occasion, in direct emulation of the rites honoring British monarchs, some Americans celebrated Washington's birthday. In Williamsburg, for example, two celebratory feasts were held at the Raleigh Tavern in 1779, while in Richmond, the day was celebrated in 1784 "with the usual demonstrations of joy." All over the country at all manner of feasts and festivals, Americans drank to the health of "The Illustrious GEORGE WASHINGTON."
To see that abortion is moral, you just need to look at women as human beings with lives that have value. When a woman chooses abortion, she's not indulging some guilty pleasure, like sneaking in a round of adultery at lunch, to bring up a genuinely immoral action that should not be criminal. She is probably thinking about her family's well-being and yes, her own well-being. Taking your own well-being into consideration is called "selfish" by anti-choicers, but I think valuing yourself is a moral good, even if you are female. In fact, especially if you are female, since you live in a world where having self-esteem can be an act of moral courage that requires some defiance. If I got pregnant, I wouldn't even have to suffer much mental strain to realize that abortion would be the best choice for myself, my family, and my relationship. Abortion, not just the right to abortion but the actual procedure, is a moral good that helps women and families and should be honored as such. Women who get abortions should be recognized as people who can accurately weigh their choices and make the most moral one.
The procedure is gruesome, as anyone who has seen it, including Rashbaum, will attest. One of his former interns remembers watching Rashbaum do a D&E on well-developed twins one hot summer day. He intently leaned in closely and methodically pulled piece after piece of the fetuses out of the mother’s uterus, ignoring the attending staff’s whispers of horror — "It’s twins. It’s twins" — to each other. The intern reacted violently, running home, throwing up, and asking herself, "Is this right?" Rashbaum pisses people off with his cranky, despotic ways, but the other doctors are relieved he’s around to do a job they don’t want. "A person who is more concerned with what people think of him than of doing the right thing wouldn’t last," says a second-trimester-abortion provider who trained under Rashbaum. "He cares more about doing the right thing than what people think of his personality." #
Once was the time when the game allowed a teammate to stick up for another teammate. And because the game allowed it, rosters were built, in part, on that principle. And when a teammate was able to stick up for another teammate, lo and behold, esprit de corps was increased, tempers raised, and fists flew. It was some kind of wonderful, I'll tell you that.
Too violent? I don't think so. I don't want bench clearers, they're ridiculous, dangerous (pile ups, skates, etc.) and I don't want brawls. But solid, justified fights, to prevent cheap shots, save this new wave of superstars from getting injured, to stick up for teammates in the old hockey code, and to stick up for oneself. By all means. #
Habs at Bruins Mayhem
There is something to be said for an old-fashioned donnybrook. The Bruins in their heyday used to average two pier-sixers a night, or it least it seemed that way. In the clip above, Boston's Finest get involved when Derek Sanderson takes the fight to the Canadiens' bench. I do miss Old-Time Hockey.
UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive: Sabres vs Sens (with goalie fight!) 2/22/07
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
As in the old family missal with the pages marked by colored ribbons and holy cards, the bookmarks accumulate. Time to shake them out:
Teetotalers, be forewarned: If you scroll all the way to the bottom of John Cahill's blog you will learn the provenance of his Six Bells URL.
Miss Kelly pays tribute to the virgin and martyr St. Agatha, who according to legend remained cheerful in the face of the most harrowing torture, and was depicted in medieval paintings carrying her breasts on a plate.
Fr Nicholas at Roman Miscellany writes on St Lucy, traditionally pictured carrying eyeballs.
POD stands for "Pious and Overly Devotional," and you don't get much more POD than this picture of Fr Nicholas' friend, Fr Whinder, revering the skull of St Cordula.
As a public service, to get you in the proper penitential frame of mind for the season, Irish Elk presents Hi God!
Oregon Catholic Press calls this album by Carey Landry and Carol Jean Kinghorn a "timeless resource," which only underscores what Vinyl Vulture sees as its schlock value:
Reverend Carey shows us what he's all about with this double LP aimed at letting the kids know the Good News. Overall it's pretty standard late 60's folk, with rather painful vibrato-heavy vocals from Landry and the occasional kiddies chorus. In fact, it's not too far from 'A Mighty Wind' territory or even some of the songs in South Park (especially when he's telling us how's he's 'like a bright shining love ball' - sheesh!).
What little I've heard of it reminds me of the Psychatrist Sketch in Monty Python when the hippy squatters in the guy's stomach are singing "Daddy's Taking Us to the Zoo Tomorrow."
At a small daily newspaper where I once worked, we looked forward to carnival time because the wire-service photo machine would spit out all sorts of pictures from Rio and points south of the border that we couldn't run in the paper, but which we would tack up on the corkboard by the sports desk. And there the pictures would hang until the publisher – an old fellow of pronounced religious views who mandated that passages from Scripture be run atop the editorial page – would come through on one of his occasional newsroom tours and take them all down.
Making annual visits to Japan in the 1930s as a baseball ambassador of good will, he became an idol of fans there. He took the attack on Pearl Harbor as a personal affront. O'Doul died in San Francisco on December 7, 1969.
For the accompanying Lefty O'Doul BBQ I will ask Erik Keilholtz to suggest a fitting Japanese-inspired dish. (The only proviso: It must be cooked.)
Meantime, pull on your Seals jersey and delight in manifestations of the Euterpean muse via:
Salad: traditional Japanese cucumber salad (thinly sliced cukes, with rice wine vinegar, sugar, black sesame seeds), miso-sherry soup with green garlic/goat cheese croutons, and a grilled ribeye with a compound butter of shallot and Irish whiskey and wasabi demiglace served with rice pilaf and vegetable tempura.
Paired with a Kenwood Jack London Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.
Of course I would pair the first course with a Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Reserve or a Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca. #
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
"My Funny Valentine"
NPR reports on the song and the duo who wrote it, Rodgers and Hart.
Johnny Bucyk is honored on his 50th year with the Bruins:
The Bruins owned the city in his heyday, and the stocky, granite-hipped Bucyk was always the quiet, hard-working, kind-hearted mayor who maintained a balance in the dressing room. A link then to the club's hard-luck days of the late '50s and early '60s, he delivered his points -- and his devastating hip checks -- with a coal miner's demeanor and discipline. When the good times finally arrived, he helped to manage the egos within, and likewise helped deliver a common touch to a city enthralled with, if not delirious over, what was perhaps Boston's most endearing team of the 20th century.
The Hockey Hall of fame offers a Bucyk treasure chest and tribute video.
Sully's Tap near Boston's North Station was the place to spend the early consolation game of the Beanpot, putting on a primer for that night's final at the Garden.
It's gratifying to note that apparently little has changed in the quarter-century since the Irish Elk quaffed 75-cent Knickerbockers at the 150-foot bar that stretches one city block from Canal Street to Friend Street.
* You know that Boston staple, the red-faced, white-haired old dude screaming smug, drunken gibberish at you on the T during your morning commute? He was just here.
* The people in this bar are best described as the salt of the earth. Any other moniker is likely to result in your face being artisticly rearranged (think Picasso). The authentic West End watering hole in other words... #
____________ He grew to know greatness, but never
ease. Success came to him, but never happiness, save
that which springs from doing well a painful and a vital
task. Power was his, but not pleasure. The furrows
deepened on his brow, but his eyes were undimmed by
either hate or fear. His gaunt shoulders were bowed, but
his steel thews never faltered as he bore for a burden
the destinies of his people. His great and tender heart
shrank from giving pain; and the task allotted him was
to pour out like water the life-blood of the young men,
and to feel in his every fiber the sorrow of the women.
Disaster saddened but never dismayed him. As the red
years of war went by they found him ever doing his
duty in the present, ever facing the future with fearless
front, high of heart, and dauntless of soul. Unbroken by
hatred, unshaken by scorn, he worked and suffered for
the people. Triumph was his at the last; and barely had
he tasted it before murder found him, and the kindly,
The administrator of London's Westminster Cathedral, Msgr Mark Langham, keeps a remarkable blog that's well worth a visit. His posting of some striking photos taken from the campanile after a recent snowfall prompted this exchange in the comments section:
st columba said...
Recently, on TV, I saw a 1940 movie by Alfred Hitchcock--"Foreign Correspondant". It was not the best of movies, but one scene has the villain (played oddly by Edmund Gwenn who always is portrayed as a kindly man) attempting to push the hero of the story off the top of the campanile of the Cathedral. The villain erred, and he, not the good guy, went flying off the tower.
Before they ascend the campanile, we can hear a Requiem Mass being chanted inside the Cathedral (which we are not allowed to see.)
Hitchcock, I believe was Catholic--educated by the Jesuits.
Hitchcock was indeed a Catholic, and the Film you mention gives a fascinating glimpse of the Cathedral in the '40s. The entrance they use is now closed off by the Gift Shop, and several Daughters of Charity (in their distinctive 'butterfly wing' headdress) pass by. The Campanile viewing platform is open to the sky, allowing the villain to be thrown off. Nowadays, there are bars securely in place, although someone did squeeze through a few years ago and threatened to jump. Mercifully, the Police managed to talk the person down.
Turner Classic Movies, which has been airing Foreign Correspondent, offers a clip of the scene in which chummy assassin Edmund Gwenn (later famed as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street) tries to push Joel McCrea from the tower. The scene gives me the willies.
Gwenn's "plummy turn as an evil assassin" is hailed by IMDB commenters who describe him as "affable and borderline-snarky in his menace" and "the most cherubic and cheerful hit man you've ever seen."
As it happens, the fall from the Westminster Cathedral campanile is the second longest fatal drop in a Hitchcock film, according to this Hitchcock travel guide:
NO HEAD FOR HEIGHTS? DON'T LOOK DOWN...
Hitch seemed to have a phobia about falling - many of his films feature a climactic tumble from a high tower or monument. Here's the top five, in order of altitude:
1 Mount Rushmore (5,725ft): Adam Williams and Martin Landau are the victims, while poor undercover agent Eva Marie Saint hangs by her fingertips. (North By Northwest)
2 Westminster Cathedral (273ft): Edmund Gwenn tumbles over the railings from the campanile. (Foreign Correspondent, 1940)
3 The Statue of Liberty (151ft): Norman Lloyd plunges to his death from the flaming torch, despite the hero, Robert Cummings, trying to grab hold of him. (Saboteur, 1942)
4 The British Museum (106ft): Donald Calthrop plunges through the domed roof of the Reading Room. (Blackmail, 1929)
5 Mission San Juan Bautista (estimated 75ft): Kim Novak falls from the bell-tower. (Vertigo)
As the major-league baseball teams passed the season's one-third mark last week, the leading pitcher was neither Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, Harry Brecheen nor Ewell Blackwell, nor any of the other established celebrities of the mound. On the figures, the best pitcher was a hooknosed, six-foot left-hander named Warren Spahn; habitat Braves Field, Gaffney Street, Boston...
At the station break, the announcer said: "This is Boston, baseball capital of the country." In his State Street office, a white-haired broker told his secretary that he would be in conference with his radio until the game was over. Attendance at Braves Field, home of Boston's National League leaders, passed 1,305,000-breaking all records. Youngsters bivouacked outside Fenway Park all night to be sure of seeing the American League-leading Red Sox. From as far as Lima, Peru, requests for World Series tickets flooded in. Beantown, which has never had a series all its own, was suffering from double-pennant fever last week-and loving it...
In Boston, everything but the schools, the squirrels and the elevated trains stopped running. The Braves were playing their first World Series in 34 years. The 41,000 seats in Braves Field had long since been sold out. In Boston Common, a battery of 100 television sets was being set up to give more Bostonians a look...
Son of a wallpaper salesman in Buffalo, Spahn was just ripening in the minors when he went into the Army in 1942. A combat engineer, Spahn won a battlefield commission and was wounded by shrapnel in the action to repair the Remagen bridge for the first troops to cross the Rhine. Spahn shrugs off both the wound ("It was only a scratch in the foot'') and the promotion ("I got it only because all our officers were killed")...
* * *
Catbird in the Nosebleed Seats actually has found where old 1940s and '50s radio broadcasts go, and has posted a number of them with a baseball theme.
An episode of the Fred Allen Show from 1945, for example, features Leo Durocher as a guest and a takeoff on Gilbert & Sullivan set in Ebbets Field. You do get a sense of how different the world was then when Fred Allen and Durocher crack jokes about the recent bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Steve Keane at the Eddie Kranepool Society comments:
As far as a sporting event goes, the Super Bowl may be the worst of all. You can’t even mention the Super Bowl in the same sentence as the World Series. It does not have the drama or storyline of an NBA or NHL 7 game series or the final round of the Masters.
There are two things you can count on with the Super Bowl. When it’s over, the following week pitchers and catchers will report to Florida and Arizona camps and at least two or three players from either team will get arrested sometime during the week after the game.