Thursday, February 19, 2009

Saint Obama

"St. Obama Candles Spark Priest's Ire," reports John P. Connolly, of The Bulletin, a Roman Catholic publication, 18 February 2009 -- referring to events in Noe Valley, San Francisco:

"A San Francisco priest has called on his parish to boycott a local shop that has decided to sell devotional candles to 'Saint Obama.' The candles, which sell for $15 apiece at a local shop called 'Just For Fun,' were originally devotional candles to honor St. Martin de Porres, widely considered the first black Roman Catholic saint in the Americas. President Barack Obama’s face has been pasted over the head of St. Martin, making it appear that Mr. Obama is the object of veneration. Fr. Tony La Torre of St. Philip the Apostle Church, is calling for a boycott of the store.

“ 'I am appalled that in such a family-oriented neighborhood, any retailer would be so bigoted and so hateful [as] to carry such merchandise just to "make a buck",' Rev. La Torre declared recently in his parish newsletter."

The Good News: While the "store owners Robert Ramsey and David Eiland say they’ve sold more than 700 candles since putting them on display over the Christmas holiday," sales have really exploded because of the disapproval of the Catholic church. I am waiting for one celebrating Saint Harpo Marx.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Walt Whitman Faces Financial Depression

In the U.S. financial depression of 1873, Walt Whitman wrote, "Wandering at Morn":

Wandering at morn,
Emerging from the night from gloomy thoughts, thee in my thoughts,
Yearning for thee harmonious Union! thee, singing bird divine!
Thee coil'd in evil times my country, with craft and black dismay,
with every meanness, treason thrust upon thee,
This common marvel I beheld -- the parent thrush I watch'd
feeding its young,
The singing thrush whose tones of joy and faith ecstatic,
Fail not to certify and cheer my soul.

There ponder'd, felt I,
If worms, snakes, loathsome grubs, may to sweet spiritual songs be turn'd,
If vermin so transposed, so used and bless'd may be,
Then may I trust in you, your fortunes, days, my country;
Who knows but these may be the lessons fit for you?
From these your future song may rise with joyous trills,
Destin'd to fill the world.

What's That You Say?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Fellow Hoosier Turns 200

Abraham wrote one verse, when he visited the terrible landscape of early childhood in Indiana:

The very spot where grew the bread
That formed my bones, I see.
How strange, old field, on thee to tread,
And feel I’m part of thee!

Lincoln recorded this nightmare:
“About ten days ago I retired very late. I had been up, waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into slumber for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible.
“I went from room to room: no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. It was light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards, and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon this corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. Who is dead in the White House? I demanded of one of the soldiers. The President, was his answer; he was killed by an assassin! Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and though it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”

"There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.” (Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, 27 January 1838)

" Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today." (Notes for a Law Lecture, 1 July 1850)

“The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves -- in their separate, and individual capacities.
” (1 July 1854)

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.” (ca. 1 August 1858)

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed." (Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Ottawa, 21 August 1858)

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” (Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1861)

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." (Lincoln’s First Annual Message to Congress, 3 December 1861)

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just - a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.” … "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. (Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress, 1 December 1861 or 1862)

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity. (1 December 1862)

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” (Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865)

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, 19 November 1863)

"Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” (Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Regiment, 17 March 1865)

"Perhaps a man's character is like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing."

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people, some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

“Improvement in condition is the order of things in a society of equals.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Happy 200th Birthday, Uncle Abe


I would like my Lincoln-On-Alcatraz to look even more elongated than the actual Abraham Lincoln, stretched out of history into myth and fairy tale, impossibly tall.

I would like the skin of this monumental statue to be metal, perforated with large openings so that people ascending or descending internal stairways may look in all directions at the surrounding landscape, city, ocean, bay, bridges, etc.

Two elevators in the center would stop at various landings, with winding stairs throughout the statue connecting the landings. Some people will challenge themselves to climb or descend all the stairs. Most of the interior would be empty space, with nothing on the various landings, unless some food vendors. The ocean wind and fog would blow through the statue.

This Lincoln would require an excellent sculptor to take the stiffness out of the figure I have drawn, or to exaggerate it even more. It would require great engineers: Alcatraz is called The Rock, but is the rock deep and strong enough to anchor such a tall statue? able to withstand the strong winds there?

My Lincoln should not face San Francisco precisely, nor face the Golden Gate Bridge directly, but face in a direction a little south of the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

All right, my fantasy is absurd, and the notion of having a Peace Center on Alcatraz may sound more attractive, but the absurdity is intentional. I want a droll representation of Lincoln -- We've had enough of the historical Lincoln, which is already turning to myth -- So let him be a fantastical creature, a gateway to the imagination, a stick figure Wizard of Oz...

The Lincoln stovepipe hat, of course, must have terraces on the brim and at the top of the hat; an inner observation room when the weather is too fierce; a cafe or restaurant; restrooms; etc.:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Afghanistan Actions

The 30 January 2009 Bill Moyers Journal had a good observation on U.S. plans for Afghanistan. If you have time to read the transcript...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Bryan Harrison Band, with Elisa Welch

The Bryan Harrison Band at Jack London Square: Elisa Welch, Bryan Harrison, Dave Coan (playing djembe), Jim McLaren.