WE’RE OFF TO HEAR THE WIZARD

To those of you who may think the fourth word of the above title is a misprint, I hasten to tell you that we’re not off to SEE the Wizard of Oz , but to HEAR the Wizard of Menlo Park (as Thomas Alva Edison was known) speaking the first words he recorded:

Many of us have seen photos of the famous inventor when he was old. Here he is at age 31:

https://www.onthisday.com/photos/thomas-edisons-phonograph

Note that in the “Photo Info” several paragraphs below the photo, the location is given as Menlo Park, California. I believe it should be Menlo Park, New Jersey. There is a Menlo Park, CA, which, surprisingly, was founded before the New Jersey town, which was named after the California town, which happens to be the headquarters of Facebook, which is located at 1 HACKER WAY, Menlo Park, CA. Just for the record….would I kid you?

Seriously, why am I publishing this post on this day?

http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/on-this-day/December/Edison-Successfully-Tests-Phonograph.html

Would you care for a demonstration?

I leave you with this famous Edison quote: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So stock up on deodorant and don’t give up, or you’ll be foiled again.

POST PROPOSES PARCEL-POSTING PRES TO POLE

This post is honored to note the 105th anniversary tomorrow of a notable day in U.S. Postal history. Let’s begin with a ‘little’ background, which you can take as gospel because it was written by a Pope:

https://postalmuseumblog.si.edu/2013/02/very-special-deliveries.html

Yes, friends, for just 53 cents worth of stamps attached to a little girl’s coat, the precious cargo wearing that coat was shipped by rail in a train’s mail compartment, thereby saving the cargo’s parents a pretty penny in passenger fare. This got me to thinking about the possibility of saving money by restoring the mailing of humans via the U.S. Postal Service. Think, for example, of all the “border wall” money alone that could be saved by shipping President Trump to the North Pole to chill in Santa’s workshop, helping Santa make toys that insure children are happy instead of policies that traumatize them….or Santa could toy with the bright idea of replacing Rudolph’s red nose with Donald and his orange glow.

Now, I’m not saying The Donald is a worm, but if it acts like a worm, leaves a trail of slime like a worm, and glows like a worm, that may account for why so many have taken the bait.

 

SEE NO EVIL (REVISITING CHARLOTTESVILLE AS METAPHOR)

The statues you’re defending are of men who erased my history. –Kevin S. Aldridge, opinion editor, Cincinnati Enquirer

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Rick Borden said of his son, Daniel Borden, who (along with others) beat up an unarmed black man, “I absolutely don’t think my son did anything wrong.” Daniel’s mother called reports of her son’s actions “fake news” (sound familiar?). The beating victim was left with a concussion, eight staples in his head, a broken wrist, and other injuries. And we wonder why the son of such a father and mother grows up with moral blinders.

That beating wasn’t the only violent act committed in Charlottesville, Virginia, during that white supremacist rally in August 2017. An avowed neo-Nazi deliberately drove his car into rally-protesters, injuring dozens and killing 32-year old protester Heather Heyer. Her offense: actively opposing the alt-right’s racism. In her last Facebook post before her death, she had said of her activism: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

Last month, Heyer’s killer was sentenced to life in prison. As for Daniel Borden, he was sentenced last week. The particulars? In the words of the old idiom, “Read ’em and weep”:

https://www.c-ville.com/daniel-borden-2/

Around the time of the Charlottesville madness, the opinion editor (a black man) who was quoted at the beginning of this post, wrote an editorial titled YOUR HERITAGE BEING ERASED? WELCOME TO THE CLUB. It included these words:

“There’s been a lot of consternation among some folks about this growing movement to take down Confederate statues and monuments across the United States. Even President Trump has joined the chorus of laments that removing these monuments is an attempt to erase or rewrite history and rob certain people of their Southern culture and heritage.”
“But here’s the thing that some people don’t seem to get or want to acknowledge: These monuments pay tribute to individuals who took away and erased the history of Africans through slavery, through the killing and slaughtering of innocents, through the destruction of black families by way of rape and separation  – all in the name of cruelty, white supremacy, exploitation and greed.”
“How would I like my history taken away?”
“Been there and done that, sir.”
“Most African-Americans in this country will never know the true history of our ancestors. Much of our heritage was lost when our forefathers were densely packed into slave ships and transported across the Atlantic to be sold like common goods. Many of them died and their individual histories along with them. And those who survived….had their native, ancestral names stripped from them and replaced with the ones slave masters wanted them to have.”
“Much of our African heritage has been irretrievably lost to the ravages and ruthlessness of callous individuals and traitors to this nation, such as General Lee, who fought to maintain the deplorable and murderous system of slavery. Now there are some who want to romanticize, revere and commemorate them as heroes.”
“Well, excuse me if I’m not willing to buy that brand. Forgive me if I don’t shed a tear for your loss. Sorry if it ruins some quaint childhood memory.”
“All I can say is, welcome to the club.”

Are YOU paying attention?

 

UNACCUSTOMED AS I AM TO PUBLIC LEAKING….

Perhaps, by the title, you’re anticipating that this post will be a dissertation on the subject of urinating in unisex restrooms–a practice little practiced in these provincial parts, and which, therefore, I feel little qualified to address. Obviously, such a paucity of experience could only end up in a cock-and-bull story which peters out soon after it starts, leaving my post hanging. That would be a big disappointment to my followers, I’m sure, but luckily, I have in mind other kinds of leaks to stretch this sordid exposition out to a respectable length.

Friends, I mean the kind of leaks which emanate from sources I can use to pad this post, thereby relieving me of the chore of overworking my brain cells. To my mind, that’s….

Yes, friends, I refer not to the kind of leaks that are a plumber’s best friend, but to….

https://www.history.com/news/9-leaks-that-changed-the-world

Of course, the above leaks barely scratch the surface when one considers the sheer volume of leaks released on a daily basis throughout history. Perhaps you yourself would like to reveal something that’s in the public interest, which you’ve kept bottled up for fear of exposure. Friends, if that’s the case with you, you can leak your dirty laundry right here with reasonable assurance that your name will stay right here. After all, who takes the time to read comments, much less notice who writes them….and you know mistermuse would never betray a source. So, leak with confidence, my friends, while I will go about my business, and you too will conclude….

 

LET US TURN BACK TO THE WRIGHT, BROTHERS AND SISTERS

PROLOGUE:
We had to go ahead and discover everything for ourselves.
–Orville Wright, 1901

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Friends, Readers, Countrymen —

If you have spent many a sleepless night
tossing and turning ’til dawn’s early light,
wondering if I’d e’er host another post,
take such worries off thy plate — they’re toast.

Yes, Brothers and Sisters, thy long wait is o’er.
I’m back, and who of you could ask for more
although I must confess
that most may ask for less. 😦

Never-the-less, Brothers and Sisters,
it is written in the stars that I must return to the scene of my rhymes and other crimes. It’s Kismet.

Notwithstanding the never-the-less, Brothers and Sisters, I digress.
I come here not to berhyme the Wrights, but to praise them.

Thus this follow-up to my May 17 post, THE DAY THE WRIGHTS DONE ME WRONG, because, by ancient axiom, it’s the Wright thing to do (If at first you don’t succeed, fly, fly again). And if this discourse has the unintended consequence of being the sleep-aid you need to catch up on those zzzzz, the added benefit comes at no extra charge.

But I doubt that will be the case with THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, which, it so happens, is the title of a book I just finished reading (by my favorite historian, David McCullough). It’s no less than you’d expect from a Pulitzer Prize winning author: a masterful biography which (quoting from the dust cover) “draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including personal diaries, notebooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence, to tell the human side of a profoundly American story.”

The Wrights spent years of trial and air working to construct the world’s first ‘aeroplane,’ but as reader Don Frankel noted on May 17, America paid scant attention even after their successful first flight Dec. 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (and Don wasn’t just whistling Dixie in his comment). Finally, in 1906, after numerous improvements (including a more powerful engine) and many test flights, “much of the scientific world and the press [began] to change their perspective on the brothers”, and they started to attract commercial and government–especially French, not American– interest.

To the latter point, President (and fellow Ohioan) Wm. Howard Taft spoke as follows in presenting the two brothers with Gold Medals on June 10, 1909, in Washington D.C.:

I esteem it a great honor and an opportunity to present these medals to you as an evidence of what you have done. I am so glad–perhaps at a delayed hour–to show that in America it is not true that “a prophet is not without honor save in his own country.” It is especially gratifying thus to note a great step in human discovery by paying honor to men who bear it so modestly. You made this discovery by a course that we of America like to feel is distinctly American–by keeping your noses right at the job until you had accomplished what you had determined to do.

There are many stories within the story of THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, many twists and turns and mishaps along the way. The Wrights weren’t ‘stick’ figures with no interests and little to commend beyond their mechanical genius. Wilbur, for example, wrote home from France in 1906 of long walks and “the great buildings and art treasures of Paris, revealing as he never had–or had call to–the extent of his interest in architecture and painting.”

Read this bio and you will surely be taken along for the ride, as was I, by “the human side of a profoundly American story” of two men most of us know only from dry history books.

So fasten your life jackets and come fly with me.

EPILOGUE:
We dared to hope we had invented something that would bring lasting peace to the Earth. But we were wrong. We underestimated man’s capacity to hate and to corrupt good means for an evil end. –Orville Wright, 1943 (during WWII)

 

JAZZ DAYS IN THE JAZZ AGE

The 1920s were an era of great contradictions. After winning WWI, the United States seemed to be (on the surface) a more liberated country than previously, finally shaking off the restrictions of the Victorian era. Dresses became shorter, many more women entered the workforce, dancing became more exciting and sensuous, some movies actually hinted strongly at sex, the economy was prosperous, and jazz seemed to be everywhere as the country experienced something like a decade-long party [known as The Jazz Age and The Roaring 20s].
But a closer look reveals Republicans ruled the White House, liquor was illegal (even if gangsters and bootleggers made it widely available), the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of its popularity (with lynchings of blacks commonplace), racism was institutionalized, big business had few restrictions, poverty was widespread, and there was no safety net. It was a great era to be rich and white, but the poor and blacks were barely tolerated by average middle-class citizens. –Scott Yanow, author of CLASSIC JAZZ*

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The above puts Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 nonstop transatlantic flight (see my last post) in broader historical context. ‘Fellow’ aviator Elinor Smith Sullivan later said, “It’s hard to describe the impact Lindbergh had on people. The twenties was such an innocent time.” This helps explain why songs like LINDBERGH, EAGLE OF THE USA and LUCKY LINDY were written by wantwits with words which would make wittier writers wince.

Thus, the wittiest composer/lyricist this side of the Atlantic, Cole Porter, put the Jazz Age in earthier terms:

In other words….

Our flight of fancy, like Lindbergh’s, ends in gay Paree with a song (recorded in 1930) from Porter’s 1929 musical FIFTY MILLION FRENCHMEN:

*Kindle edition available online for as low as $17.99 (highly recommended for classic jazz lovers)

 

 

 

IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE….IT’S CHARLES LINDBERGH!

Taking off from my last post (where I left the Wright Brothers up in the air and me breezin’ along with the breeze), we come to May 20, a day second to none in aviation annals.*

On this May day in 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off from New York for Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis (his monoplane), to begin the second (and most famous) nonstop transatlantic flight in history. Yes, I said second — the first was made by paired English aviators in 1919, from Newfoundland to Ireland (about half the distance of Lindbergh’s solo flight).

On this date in 1932, Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland for Paris, but due to weather conditions, she had to ‘pull up’ short in Northern Ireland, nonetheless becoming the first woman to make a solo nonstop transatlantic flight.

We now turn to the musical portion of the program. Faster than you can say “It’s a bird,” Lindbergh’s fame brought songwriters down from the clouds to cash in, hatching a flock of insipid pop songs. Not so with Earhart’s feat, not even a peep of a song….although her lost flight over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 did inspire a few songs that didn’t long survive.

OK. If I had to eat crow in my last post, can I now soar like an eagle with these jazzed-up Lindberg hit tunes soaring over treacly lyrics:

Ladies and gendermen, the Spirit of St. Louis is coming in for a landing — and if we’re Lucky, Lindy will be in the spirit for a rousing finish.

*In addition to the Lindbergh and Earhart flights, May 20 was also the day Congress passed the Air Commerce Act licensing pilots and planes in 1926, and the date of the first regular transatlantic airmail flight (Pan Am, NYC to Marseille, France) in 1939.