According to Ward Lamon, Marshal of Washington and a former law partner of Abraham Lincoln, three days before his assassination, Lincoln spoke about a strange dream that he had:
How little it took to panic the country 78 years ago! The War of the Worlds broadcast on Halloween Eve 1938 by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater demonstrated the power of radio and how edgy the country was. Or did it? Recent studies have contended that the panic was not widespread and that relatively few radios in the country were tuned to the broadcast. At any rate there was enough of an uproar that CBS called a press conference the next morning at which Welles appeared and took questions:
MR. WELLES: Despite my deep regret over any misapprehension that our broadcast might have created among some listeners, I am even more bewildered over this misunderstanding in the light of an analysis of the broadcast itself.
It seems to me that they’re our four factors, which should have in any event maintained the illusion of fiction in the broadcast. The first was that the broadcast was performed as if occurring in the future, and as if it were then related by a survivor of a past occurrence. The date of this fanciful invasion of this planet by Martians was clearly given as 1939 and was so announced at the outset of the broadcast.
The second element was the fact that the broadcast took place at our weekly Mercury Theatre period and had been so announced in all the papers. For seventeen consecutive weeks we have been broadcasting radio sixteen of these seventeen broadcasts have been fiction and have been presented as such. Only one in the series was a true story, the broadcast of Hell on Ice by Commander Ellsberg, and was identified as a true story in the framework of radio drama.
The third element was the fact that at the very outset of the broadcast, and twice during its enactment, listeners were told that this was a play that it was an adaptation of an old novel by H. G. Wells. Furthermore, at the conclusion, a detailed statement to this effect was made.
The fourth factor seems to me to have been the most pertinent of all. That is the familiarity of the fable, within the American idiom, of Mars and the Martians.
For many decades “The Man From Mars” has been almost a synonym for fantasy. In very old morgues of many newspapers there will be found a series of grotesque cartoons that ran daily, which gave this fantasy imaginary form. As a matter of fact, the fantasy as such has been used in radio programs many times. In these broadcasts, conflict between citizens of Mars and other planets been a familiarly accepted fairy-tale. The same make-believe is familiar to newspaper readers through a comic strip that uses the same device. (more…)
Something for the weekend. Appropriate both for Halloween and the political season: Werewolves in Congress. A political parody song by Paul Shanklin in the nineties.
We are not here today to bow before the representation of a fierce warlike god, filled with wrath and vengeance, but we joyously contemplate instead our own deity keeping watch and ward before the open gates of America and greater than all that have been celebrated in ancient song. Instead of grasping in her hand thunderbolts of terror and of death, she holds aloft the light which illumines the way to man’s enfranchisement. We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home, nor shall her chosen altar be neglected. Willing votaries will constantly keep alive its fires and these shall gleam upon the shores of our sister Republic thence, and joined with answering rays a stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression, until Liberty enlightens the world.
President Grover Cleveland, October 28, 1886
The official portrait in the White House by John Singer Sargent is actually the second official portrait. The first portrait was done by French painter Theobald Chartran. Roosevelt despised it and hid it in a dark recess of the White House. When his kids began to call the portrait “Mewing Cat” because their father appeared so harmless in it, he had the portrait destroyed. John Singer Sargent had difficulty in getting Roosevelt to stay still long enough to pose. Sargent discussed the portrait when Roosevelt was going up a staircase. Irritated Roosevelt immediately struck a pose. Sargent saw the potential immediately, and was able to get the peripatetic president to stand still for half an hour a day in the same pose, although the half hour was often interrupted by aides and secretaries.
A lecture by my favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson. We are at an interesting point in regard to World War II. The youngest veterans of that conflict are now approaching 90. Soon that conflict will slip from living memory. When it does, how it is perceived in hindsight will probably shift as has happened with other conflicts. It is one thing to have Uncle Bob, or great Uncle Bob, tell you what the Battle of the Bulge was like. It will be another to depend upon historical records only to form our perceptions, especially as generations arise that have had no direct contact with World War II veterans.
October 25, 1415 was an amazing day for the English. The English longbow had long proved during the Hundred Years War to be a devastating weapon in the hands of skilled archers, but rarely had the English faced such long odds as they did at Agincourt. Approximately 6,000 English, exhausted and worn from their march, faced approximately 30,000 French. About five out of six of the English were archers with the remainder men-at-arms, knights and nobility. The French had about 10,000 men-at-arms, knights and nobility, and 20,000 archers, crossbowmen and miscellaneous infantry.
The English established their battle line between the woods of Agincourt and Tramecourt, which offered excellent protection to both of their flanks. The English archers made up the front line with stakes set in the ground before them to impale charging horses. Archers were also placed in the woods to provide flanking fire against advancing French. The men at arms and knights and nobility, were divided into three forces behind the archers. They fought on foot.
The terrain between the woods that the French would have to cross in their attack of the English consisted of newly ploughed, and very muddy, fields. Having walked through muddy fields on several occasions in rural Illinois, I can attest that simply getting from point A to point B in such terrain can be exhausting, let alone fighting at the end of the tramp through the morass. (more…)
(I posted this at The American Catholic. I nomally shy away from expressing my views on current events on Almost Chosen People since this is a blog focused on history, but I am going to make an exception this time.)
An example of how fouled up our priorities are:
The Pentagon is seeking to recover decade-old reenlistment bonuses paid to thousands of California Army National Guard soldiers to go fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
The paper reported that nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom risked their lives during multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay the cash bonuses after audits revealed widespread overpayments by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets at the height of the wars 10 years ago.
But soldiers say the military is reneging on old agreements and imposing severe financial hardship on those whose only mistake was to accept the bonuses, which amounted to $15,000 or more.
The Army asked wounded Iraq veteran and former Army captain Christopher Van Meter, 42, to repay a $25,000 reenlistment bonus it said he was ineligible to receive. He was also asked to repay $21,000 in student loan repayments.
Van Meter told the paper that rather than fight the Army he paid back the money after refinancing his home.
“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” Van Meter said. “People like me just got screwed.” (more…)
Come now, and let us reason together, said the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
“The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.”
Arthur Simon Flegenheimer was born into a Jewish family of German immigrants in New York City on August 6, 1902, the Feast of the Transfiguration. Early in his life his father abandoned the family, and life was harsh for Arthur, his mother and his younger sister. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help support the family. He quickly fell into a life of crime and by age 18 was serving a prison sentence. He was paroled on December 8, 1920, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Going to work for Schultz Trucking, he swiftly returned to crime. Among his gangland colleagues he adopted the nom de crime of Dutch Schultz. Gangster Joey Noe hired him in 1928 to work as a bouncer at a small speakeasy, Hub Social Group. Impressed by his brutality and ruthlessness, Noe took Schultz into partnership and soon he became wealthy owning with Noe a chain of speakeasies. The Noe-Schultz gang quickly became a power in Manhattan, the sole non-Italian gang to rival the five Italian crime organizations that would later merge as the founding five families of the American Mafia.
The expansion into the upper west side of Manhattan, brought Noe and Schultz into conflict with Irish-American gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond. War breaking out between the gangs, Joey Noe was gunned down and died on November 21, 1928. Schultz was crushed by the loss of his friend and mentor.
Holding his own among the murderous New York gangs, Schultz pioneered the numbers racket at the end of Prohibition and also extorted “protection” money from restaurants. In the summer of 1935 he was successful in beating a tax evasion prosecution. During his trial he had portrayed himself as an honest business man, and he engaged in numerous charitable activities. Secretly he began to study Catholicism, convinced that for some unfathomable reason Jesus had spared him from prison.
On October 23, 1935 Schultz was gunned down by Murder, Inc., the gangland Commission having ordered the murder, fearing that Shultz would attempt to murder New York prosecutor Thomas Dewey in revenge for his prosecution of Schultz, and bring the wrath of the law down on their heads.
Taken to a hospital, certain he was to die, Schultz begged to die as a Catholic. Father Cornelius McInerney was summoned, gave Schultz some simple instruction in the Faith, baptized him and gave him the Last Rites. As Schultz went into surgery, Father McInerney stayed at the hospital and comforted the three women in the life of Schultz, his mother, his sister and his wife. Schultz died after the surgery on October 24. He was given a funeral mass and buried at Gate of Heaven cemetery. (more…)
Something for the weekend. Sogno di Volare, The Dream of Flight, the theme song of the game Civilization VI that was released yesterday. (Be still my geek heart!) I know what will be occupying my weekend!