The Foggy Dew

Something for the weekend:  The Foggy Dew, written by Canon Charles O’Neill, a parish priest, in 1919 and set to the tune of a popular love song.  We are just a bit over two months before the centennial commemoration of the Easter Rising in Ireland on April 24, 1916.  A militarily hopeless venture, it was easily crushed by the British.  Yet, astonishingly, this doomed quixotic episode began the events that within five years would bring to an end in most of Ireland of almost a thousand years of English rule.  History is usually so much more dramatic, and unlikely, than fiction.

 

 

Published in: on February 6, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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TR and Spelling Reform

TRSpelling

I suppose that few people would disagree that the spelling of words in the English language is a mess.  Trying to impose rules, with myriads of exceptions, on a language that grew with no consensus as to spelling, has bedeviled generations of school children and foreigners attempting to learn the language alike.

Whenever a problem existed, Teddy Roosevelt optimistically assumed that a solution could be found.  Thus in 1906 as President he became a champion of what he called spelling reform, backing the efforts of the organization called The Simplified Spelling Board, founded early in 1906, which was funded by Andrew Carnegie.

On August 27, 1906 Roosevelt wrote to the head of the US Printing Office:

Oyster Bay, August 27, 1906

To Charles Arthur Stillings

My dear Mr. Stillings:

I enclose herewith copies of certain circulars of the Simplified Spelling Board, which can be obtained free from the Board at No. 1 Madison Avenue, New York City. Please hereafter direct that in all Government publications of the executive departments the three hundred words enumerated in Circular No. 5 shall be spelled as therein set forth. If anyone asks the reason for the action, refer him to Circulars 3, 4 and 6 as issued by the Spelling Board. Most of the critcism of the proposed step is evidently made in entire ignorance of what the step is, no less than in entire ignorance of the very moderate and common-sense views as to the purposes to be cahieved, which views as so excellently set forth in the circulars to which I have referred. There is not the slightest intention to do anything revolutionary or initiate any far-reaching policy. The purpose simply is for the Government, instead of lagging behind popular sentiment, to advance abreast of it and at the same time abreast of the views of the ablest and most practical educators of our time as well as the most profound scholars—men of the stamp of Professor Lounsbury. If the slighest changes in the spelling of the three hundred words proposed wholly or partially meet popular approval, then the changes will become permanent without any reference to what officials or individual private citizens may feel; if they do not ultimately meet with popular approval they will be dropt, and that is all there is about it. They represent nothing in the world but a very slight extension of the unconscious movement which has made agricultural implement makers write “plow” instead of “plough”; which has made most Americans write “honor” without the somewhat absurd, superfluous “u”; and which is even now making people write “program” without the “me”—just as all people who speak English now write “bat,” “set,” “dim,” “sum,” and “fish” instead of the Elizabethan “batte,” “sette,” “dimme,” “summe,” and “fysshe”; which makes us write “public,” “almanac,” “era,” “fantasy,” and “wagon,” instead of the “publick,” “almanack,” “aera,” “phantasy,” and “waggon” of our great-grandfathers. It is not an attack of the language of Shakespeare and Milton, because it is in some instances a going back to the forms they used, and in others merely the extension of changes which, as regards other words, have taken place since their time. It is not an attempt to do anything far-reaching or sudden or violent; or indeed anything very great at all. It is merely an attempt to cast what sleight weight can properly be cast on the side of the popular forces which are endeavoring to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Go here for a list of words whose spelling he wished to simplify. (more…)

Published in: on February 5, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Nation Makers

nation-makers1

American artist Howard Pyle did a series of paintings on the American Revolution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Pyle had a striking style, combining both romanticism and realism in his paintings.  My favorite of the series is the above painting that depicts an American line of infantry advancing at the battle of Brandywine.  Led by their officer, the common soldiers are dressed in rags, but clearly determined and ready to fight.  A ragged American flag gives a splash of color as it towers over the men below it.  The light of the sun seems to be breaking through a cloudy sky.  The painting is brilliantly entitled The Nation Makers, reminding us that this nation came into being largely through the courage of private soldiers.  Most of them, if they survived and did not die of illness or in battle, would end the War poorer financially then they began it, being paid in worthless currency.  They fought their War usually wearing the ragged remnants of uniforms, often barefoot and living off wretched rations.  Many of them were teenagers, no doubt homesick and frequently worried that no one outside of their fellow soldiers really cared about the sacrifices they were making for the nation they were desperately attempting to bring about.  If they were lucky they left the Army without their health being broken by wounds, illness, or the endless privations they endured daily through the long years of the War. (more…)

Published in: on February 4, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  

February 3, 1900: William Goebel Assassinated

 

Only one governor in the history of the United States has been assassinated, which is remarkable over two hundred and forty years of history and the number of men who have served as governors.  The very unlucky man was William Justus Goebel.  A Democrat, Goebel had an abrasive personality.  He was not a glad-hander, greeting only his closest friends.  His features were described as reptilian.  Nonetheless, his championship of populist economics as a Democrat gave him the political heft to win a State Senate seat in Kentucky.

In 1895 he had a shootout with a political opponent, former Confederate General John Lawrence Sanford.  Goebel had referred to Sanford as Gonorrhea John in a newspaper article.  Witnesses were not sure who fired first.  Sanford’s bullet passed through Goebel’s coat and ripped his trousers.  Goebel’s bullet hit Sanford’s head, Sanford dying five hours later.  Placed on trial, Goebel claimed self-defense and was acquitted.

Goebel ran for Governor as a Democrat in 1899.  He was opposed by Republican William Taylor and John Y. Brown, a former Democrat governor, who ran as the candidate of a faction of the Kentucky Democrats.  Taylor won the election, beating Goebel by 2,383 votes.  The Democrat controlled General Assembly invalidated enough votes to allow Goebel to win.  Republicans were incensed and the state seemed to be heading for civil war.  William Taylor was sworn in pending a judicial determination of who won.

On January 30, 1900 Goebel, while walking near the State Capitol in Frankfort, came under fire from persons unknown.  Five or six shots were fired from the State Capitol with one seriously wounded in the chest.  The next day Goebel was sworn in as governor, dying on February 3, 1900.  The Kentucky Court of Appeals eventually ruled that the General Assembly had acted legally in having Goebel sworn in. (more…)

Published in: on February 3, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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It’s Groundhog Day!

Ah, Groundhog day, that loopiest of all American observances, dating back to 1886 or 1887.  While I am doubtful of the predictive powers of a woodchuck’s shadow, (Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, indicating an early spring according to Groundhog Day lore.)  who couldn’t hold in high esteem a species that has bitten some nosey politicians on earlier Groundhog Days? (more…)

Published in: on February 2, 2016 at 5:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mercy Street

 

PBS is currently running a show, Mercy Street, set in a Union hospital in Alexandria in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign.  The medical aspects of the show seem true to the period.  As is the case with most television series set in the past, there are too many soap opera elements, and the dialogue sometimes seems to owe far more to the 21rst century than the 19th century.  A nurse is shown sleeping with a doctor, a relationship that appears to be an open secret in the hospital, and which, historically, would not have been tolerated once it became public knowledge.  On the other hand, a doctor who is clearly supposed to be a “good guy character” comes from a slave holding Maryland family, and is interested in preserving the Union while caring less about slavery, a common opinion in the North in 1862, but far from palatable today.  The show thus makes efforts to be historically accurate, although those efforts appear to be subordinate to the program being entertaining.  Mercy Street I think is an effort to make an American version of a British period series.  The first three episodes have been broadcast and three more will be televised for this season.  Go here to read more about the show.

Published in: on February 1, 2016 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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Risen

(I posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it interesting.)

 

Risen (2016) opens in theaters on February 19 and looks like it could be a good film for Lent.  I have long thought that there must have been some sort of official inquiry into the Crucifixion based upon the Roman historian Tacitus writing circa 100AD about Pilate condemning Christ.   He may have been referring to official Roman records.  Tacitus had no sympathy for the Christians and no knowledge of their ceremonies, which makes it highly doubtful that he gained his knowledge from a Christian source as to the trial and Crucifixion of Christ.  Pilate had every motivation to prove that Christ had not risen from the dead as did the Sadducees who controlled the Temple.  Their historical silence may be an indication that what they found out, if they conducted post Resurrection inquiries, was very much not to their liking.

Published in: on January 31, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Winter War

Something for the weekend.  Finlandia Hymn.  My Bride and I are off to Winter War 43, a war gaming and rpg convention that I have been attending since 1976.  Go here to read about it.  We usually pick up some new games from the vendors and more at the game auction.  Twenty-four years ago we brought our four month old twin baby boys through a blizzard to their first war game convention.  Ah, time is a river and the current runs fast.

For the more venturesome, or crazed, among you, here is a link to Open General, a free computer game that has dozens of campaigns and hundreds of scenarios set in various time periods in which you command various military units to achieve the victory conditions of the scenario you are playing.  If you choose to download it, follow the installation instructions carefully.  Happy gaming!

Published in: on January 30, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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January 29, 1845: Poe’s Raven is Published

The publication of the macabre poem The Raven gave Edgar Allan Poe the literary fame he had sought all his life, although the meager financial reward of $9.00 typified his life long failure to earn a living as a writer.  Two years later his wife died at 24, replicating in Poe’s life the role of Lenore in his poem.  Poe himself would die in mysterious circumstances two years later at age 40, his sad and frequently bizarre life worthy of the pen of Poe.

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
            Nameless here for evermore.

    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
            This it is and nothing more.”

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
            Darkness there and nothing more.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
            Merely this and nothing more.

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
            ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

(more…)

Published in: on January 29, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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January 28, 1956: Elvis Presley First Appears on National Televison

An entertainment revolution started on January 28, 1956 when a the nationally unknown Elvis Presley appeared on the Dorsey Brothers Show and sang Shake, Rattle and Roll and I Got a Woman.  Presley for the next 21 years would have perhaps the most phenomenal career of any American musician, but the success came with an increasingly troubled life that ended at age 42.  He strayed far from his religious roots as he indulged in an ever increasing appetite for drugs, his life becoming a cautionary tale of how not to handle fame and money.  However, as the video at the beginning of this post demonstrates, part of him always understood that Christ was King, not him.  When he died, far too young, a book on the shroud of Turin was found next to his body.

Published in: on January 28, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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