Monday, January 24, 2011

Two Speeches

“Now let me suggest…that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional.  Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation, and this means we must develop a world perspective.  No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world.  Now the judgment of God is upon us and we must learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.”
         Martin Luther King, "Christmas Sermon on Peace", December 24, 1967

“[we must] use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together…I believe that we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved life here—they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.”
                   President Barack Obama, Tucson Memorial Service, January 13, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Weapons of Mass Destruction

A 22-year-old mixes with a crowd at a public gathering with the local congressional representative.  The true picture of democracy:  an elected official asks her constituents for opinions and conversation.  The young man pulls out a 9-millimeter pistol with a 30-bullet clip, capable of firing multiple bullets in seconds.  In less time than it takes to pull a pin from a hand grenade, six people are dead, 14 injured.

And the discourse over the past two days is about the 'atmosphere of vitriol'.

We should be asking why anyone should legally carry a weapon that can kill six people in a few seconds.  Clearly, rational people would not argue that a hand grenade is a reasonable weapon to carry in public.  Why should an automatic weapon be an exception to that rule?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The first State of the State

From George Washington's first speech to Congress, January 8, 1790:

"The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government.”

Young country with no defined self-image of unity quite yet.  But the new (old) leader already knows that unity in vision from elected officials is the best way to succeed.

The old days, and the old ways, were not purer in cooperation, nor more efficient in governance, than today.  Those Congressmen and Senators were still preoccupied with self-interest, and prochial (sic, and i don't feel like looking it up!) interests of their own states.  They were still hesitant to assume large-scale powers that would override states' rights.  The House is having the same argument this month as they attempt to alter 2010's health care act.

George did say that their task was to insure 'to our fellow citizens.'  Was he including women in that statement, even while speaking to a roomful of men?

He probably opened with a prayer.  He should have opened with poetry.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Stuck in the Middle

Gerry Rafferty is an asterisk on the music compendium of the early 1970s.

Yet, Dave and I had our memories triggered on the way home from work today.  NPR's 'All Things Considered' did a short story about Rafferty, who died at 63 today.

First semester, freshman year, Lycoming College, fall 1972.  The corner of Washington Boulevard and Franklin Street, Williamsport.  Late night trips to the small sub shop.  The jukebox inevitably playing "Stuck in the Middle with You" -- mainly because one of the football lineman, who frequented the place at the same time, loved that song.  Infectious song, one of those that took over the music memory socket in your head and did not let go -- like his other songs,  "Baker Street", "Get It Right Next Time".

A producer on 'ATC' probably had memories triggered upon the news of Rafferty's death.  So Gerry gets a few more minutes of fame, and another few thousand minds are humming along.

I believe a sub shop still occupies that corner.  I may go find out; I got a note today from my history professor at Lycoming, inviting me to speak to a seminar class.

A song hook, a sub shop, and Dr. Larson, all within a few hours.  Threads link so many things in life, in the shortest of timespans.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Lost analog memories

My brother Dennis still had the tape recorder.

Our famiily gathered for Christmas in Cooperstown last week.  Dennis brought the old Grants tape deck, a small portable player/recorder with three settings:  play, rewind, record.  He and I had used it to record the Christmas Eve broadcast from Apollo 8 in 1968.  We both think it also contains other music and commentary that we recorded during our early teen years.

The brown tape ran on two reels about three inches in diameter, and looked to be in fairly good shape; the box, which measures about 11 inches across and eight inches wide, came with a cover.  We bought fresh batteries -- two C's and a 9volt -- and inserted them; the positive/negatives both faced the same direction, something rare in devices today.

Dennis hit the play button, and the motor dragged the tape at less than optimum speed.  It emitted a low sound at various points, as if a voice were speaking in very slow motion from the bottom of a well.  The reels turned in fits and starts, and he turned it off.

The tape still contains memories.  The 40-year box just is not the device to bring them to reality.  Oh well, thank goodness for new technology -- we can see the whole thing thanks to digital archiving and the internet.

[Incidentally, I highly recommend the White House Inn if you ever visit Cooperstown -- a very welcoming and comfortable B&B.  Ed, Margie, Pattie and Mary are excellent hosts, and it is a fine gathering place.]