Thursday, March 31, 2011

Negative Quiddity: International Libyan War Management

CBS and the Associated Press report:

Canadian Lt. General Charles Bouchard is in charge of NATO forces engaged in Libya. He says that the NATO mandate does NOT allow for re-arming the rebels as requested by the USA and UK. “We are there to protect the Libyan people, not arm the people,” his spokesman said.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday that “no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya.”

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The New York Times reports that the Libyan rebels have been warned not to attack civilians. The NATO operation is to protect civilians, whether pro-rebel or pro-Quaddafi. So attacks on civilians by the rebels will risk NATO air strikes on such efforts.

“The warnings, and intense consultations within the NATO-led coalition over its rules for attacking anyone who endangers innocent civilians, come at a time when the civil war in Libya is becoming ever more chaotic, and the battle lines ever less distinct. They raise a fundamental question that the military is now grappling with: who in Libya is a civilian?”

Quaddafi forces are arming civilians in areas loyal to the current regime, making the situation even more confusing.

The UN Security Council resolution authorizing NATO action makes no distinction between pro-rebel and pro-Quaddafi civilians.

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CONCLUSION: the Canadian-led NATO forces will destroy by air any artillery or military weapon so large that it can't be loaded to the back of a Toyota HiLux pickup truck. Therefore the forces, deprived already of any air superiority, will have a battle of small weapons. It's likely to be a stalemate.

AFTERMATH: President Obama is likely to face re-election against short video clips of himself stating that Quaddafi has to go (but is still in power over part of Libya). Everyone will be reminded of this, for it is now very likely (almost certain) that Obama will face an anti-war primary opponent.

So we have seen bad planning badly executed with a militarily foolish rapid handoff to international authorities. Unfortunately for the USA, the Canadian general is going to do exactly what he is authorized to do – not more and not less.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Positive Quiddity: U.S. House To Examine AARP Lobbying

The U.S. House of Representatives is, in a rare display of responsibility, about to use its authority to hold hearings to pursue the misuse of power by a lobbying group, AARP.

AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, is a non-profit nonpartisan membership organization with a mission to improve the lives of retired Americans. They are the largest organization of its type in the nation.  AARP publications are very widely read.

AARP used their magazines and experts to push membership very hard into supporting the “Obama Care” health law signed on March 23, 2010. Of itself, this conduct is questionable for such a large organization with such a wide readership, and it should risk at least a review of the organization's tax status.

There is also the probability of a series conflict of interest for the organization itself. “Obama Care,” over time, eliminates an existing Medicare supplemental insurance subgroup called “Advantage plans.” Advantage plans perform administrative paperwork and bureaucratic duties in exchange for a special, favorable payment schedule. Advantage plans are often used by large corporations and large employers such as state and local governments.

“Obama Care” essentially double-crosses large organization employees and forces them over the next few years into an inferior supplemental insurance once the employees become retirees eligible for Medicare. This is a huge event, politically, because about 25% of Medicare recipients have a supplemental “Advantage plan.”

AARP receives large funds as referral fees from an insurance company, United Health, which labels its Medicare supplemental insurance as endorsed by AARP. This plan is not competitive with an “Advantage plan.” But if Advantage plans are eliminated through law, then AARP benefits by endorsing, and receiving insurance funds from, the insurance firm which has the contractual endorsement. Therefore, prima facie, AARP is politically lobbying for its own financial advantage. And such conduct should trigger a review of the organization's IRS nonprofit status.

Tens of thousands of AARP members, many receiving or eligible for an “Advantage plan” supplement, are furious and have cancelled or failed to renew their AARP membership.

An MD in the U.S. House, Charles Boustany, Jr (R-LA) hates this charade and has used his authority as chairman of an oversight subcommittee to obtain congressional hearings on AARP (details below).

    --by the blog author (a retired CPA and specialist in federal tax research, nonprofit taxation and financial reporting, and state government finances)

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timely news article on this issue available at:
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announcement of hearings by a House subcommittee:

Chairmen Herger and Boustany Announce Hearing on
AARP’s Organizational Structure and Finances
Friday, March 25, 2011

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Wally Herger (R-CA) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany, Jr, MD (R-LA) today announced that the Subcommittees on Health and Oversight will hold a hearing on AARP’s organizational structure, management, and financial growth over the last decade.  The hearing will take place on Friday, April 1, 2011, in 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 9:00 A.M.
In view of the limited time available to hear from witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only.  However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.  A list of invited witnesses will follow.
AARP has long held itself out as the preeminent non-profit organization representing America’s seniors.  However, many do not realize that AARP collects billions of dollars each year through the sale and marketing of insurance products.  Additionally, memberships on AARP’s corporate for-profit and tax-exempt non-profit boards overlap.  Given the Committee’s responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight, jurisdiction over Medicare and sale of Medicare insurance products and sole jurisdiction over the tax code, the Committee will review AARP’s organizational structure and finances.

In announcing this hearing, Chairman Herger said, “AARP is known for being the largest and most well known seniors’ organization in the country.  But what Americans don’t know is that AARP was the 4th highest spending lobbying organization between 1998 and 2010 or that the AARP brand dominates the private Medicare insurance market.  This hearing is about getting to the bottom of how AARP’s financial interests affect their self-stated mission of enhancing senior’s quality of life.  It is important to better understand how AARP’s insurance business overlaps with its advocacy efforts and whether such overlap is appropriate.”
In announcing the hearing, Chairman Boustany said, “As one of the country’s most well-known non-profits, many of America’s seniors trust AARP to represent their interests.  But in light of AARP’s dependence on its income from insurance products, there is good reason to question whether AARP is primarily looking out for seniors or just its own bottom line.  Before seniors decide whether AARP is worthy of their trust, or their hard-earned dollars, they deserve all of the facts.  The purpose of this hearing is to provide a public examination of the facts so seniors can decide those questions for themselves.”
The hearing will examine AARP and its affiliates, revenue, charitable giving, Boards of Directors, and lobbying expenditures.      
Please Note: Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms.  From the Committee homepage,, select “Hearings.”  Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, “Click here to provide a submission for the record.”  Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information.  ATTACH your submission as a Word document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by the close of business on Friday, April 15, 2011.  Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings.  For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-1721 or (202) 225-3625.
The Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.  As always, submissions will be included in the record according to the discretion of the Committee.  The Committee will not alter the content of your submission, but we reserve the right to format it according to our guidelines.  Any submission provided to the Committee by a witness, any supplementary materials submitted for the printed record, and any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below.  Any submission or supplementary item not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
1. All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments.  Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.
2. Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased.  All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
3. All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears.  A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.
The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.  If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days notice is requested).  Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.
Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available on the World Wide Web at
               – The above hearing announcement is from:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Elwood Engel's 1961 Lincoln

The 1961 Lincoln Continental four door sedan and four door convertible represented a landmark in American automobile styling, a new dimension of understated elegance. It was designed by a team, but all the real work was done, and even the details were approved, by one man – stylist Elwood Engel. The cars were lovely, durable and test driven for 12 miles before being shipped to dealers.  It immediately won design awards.
To my knowledge, this was the last time that a production automobile was essentially all designed by one man. And it shows – everything fits together stylistically and makes sense. The lines all speak with the same voice. Originally this automobile was designed as the new four-seat Thunderbird. A clay model was made in 1958. Then-president Robert McNamara saw it but picked the alternative design. Rather than rejecting Engel's design, he asked if it could be made a four-door model and used as the 1961 Lincoln. Here's the clay mock up that McNamara inspected:

Elwood Engel's proposed 1961 Thunderbird

And here are some views of the actual production 1961 Lincoln that resulted from the styling study:

Great article with pictures from a lover of this car is at

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Good Engel biography at Wikipedia:

Early days

Engel first joined General Motors as a student under Harley Earl's watchful eye at GM's school of design. In 1939 he met classmates Joe Orosand George W. Walker at the school. During World War II, Engel served four years in the U.S. Army as a mapmaker, in both the European and Pacific theaters of operation. He and Oros remained in touch throughout the war, and after the war when Oros took a position in Walker's design firm, he recommended that Engel be hired as well. Although Walker's firm had Nash as an account, Engel worked on designs for farm equipment, women's shoes and household appliances. However, when Walker obtained a contract with Ford Motor Company in 1947 (and dumped Nash), Engel and Oros went to work full-time designing automobiles. Engel and Oros were such close friends that Oros was best man when Engel was wedded to Marguerite Imboden. While Oros worked under Walker on Ford car and truck designs, Engel concentrated on Lincoln and Mercury vehicles.


When Walker became Ford's vice president for design in 1955, he made Engel and Oros his lieutenants. The trio was responsible for most of the ever-increasing sizes of Ford's late 1950s models, and their ornate chrome adornments.
Engel and Oros came up with competing designs for the 1958 Thunderbird. Oros's four-seater design was ultimately chosen. Engel's team was instructed by Ford President Robert S. McNamara to add two more doors and two more seats to their roadster design - and that became the basis for the 1961 Lincoln Continental.  McNamara had considered terminating the Lincoln brand, along with the Edsel after the 1960 model year. The Continental, however, convinced him to keep the line going, and it became such a success it was credited with saving the brand. Engel also scaled down the Ford Thunderbird and turned it into a four seater to create the 1959 Ford Anglia 105E, a popular saloon in Britain.


In 1961, Walker retired from Ford at age 65. When Eugene Bordinat, not Engel, was chosen as his replacement, the well-connected Walker helped orchestrate Engel's move to Chrysler in November 1961.
At Chrysler, Engel replaced chief stylist Virgil Exner, who had designed the successful "Forward Look" models of the latter 1950s. Exner was responsible for the era of large tail fins; Engel was credited with replacing fins with a slab-sided look, reminiscent of his Lincoln Continental design. In truth, the fins were pretty much gone from Chrysler's styling studios before he arrived.
Engel generally delegated the majority of work to his design teams; he then would fine-tune the clay models with his touches. Co-workers said he had an uncanny eye for the "commercial viability" of designs.
Engel oversaw the design and development of the Turbine cars (of which 50 were manufactured and road tested in 1963). The two-door model was said to strongly resemble his original two-door design for the 1958 Thunderbird, which had evolved into the '61 Continental. Although the Turbine never saw full production, Engel's design philosophy was perhaps best exemplified in the hulking 1965 Plymouth Fury.   Although most of Chrysler's legendary "Muscle Cars" were credited to specific designers, Engel oversaw, worked on, and approved all of them - and they remain his legacy at Chrysler design.

Retirement and death

Engel retired in 1973, but stayed on at Chrysler as a consultant until 1974.  Engel died of cancer on June 24, 1986.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Radical Advances and New Basic Theories in Biology

There are (small) viruses that attack other (giant) viruses:

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Suppose there are MORE than four domains of life? Suppose they all started from viruses! Take a good look at the LAST diagram in this article – what is it? How many domains are there?

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There's a related article from the April, 2011, “Discover” magazine, ppg. 66-71, that also questions Darwin (by opining that evolution is also the process of living things mixing their DNA through methods other than reproduction) – it contends that Darwinian evolution refines species but that sudden and massive changes come from DNA swapping between species. This remains a radical theory but appears to be sensible. Details are at:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Canada Now Leads NATO bombing of Libya

Here's where we are on this.  Americans know that the USA is the major player in
trying  to bomb Libya into democracy.  But Obama has said we would be in charge
for only a couple of days.  After a prolonged meeting (shouting match?) with
NATO nations, it turns out that, yes, NATO will take over, but, the "leadership"
will be a CANADIAN general.

Canadians aren't really foreigners, they are neighbors.  My own maternal
grandfather was a French Canadian from Ontario.  Canadians got our embassy staff
out of Iran in 1979, remember.  They got bloodied at a beach in Normandy in
1944.  We don't have and don't need better allies.

Nobody in America is asking, but, ah, "What do the Canadians think of being
handed this hot potato?"

The Globe & Mail is a major newspaper out of Toronto.  It is printed in six
different Canadian cities, making it something of Canada's national daily
newspaper.  Margaret Wente wrote an opinion piece about Libya on Saturday.  The
link is below.  I erupted with ugly laughter while reading it, because it is so
accurate.  And because I am not an intellectual liberal.  Neither am I a
neo-conservative.  Though I AM INDEED a veteran of an undeclared war that the
U.S. promised not to win.

Feel free to share this link.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Sir William Stephenson

William Stephenson may have been the most important man in private life of the 20th century.

Sir William Samuel Stephenson, CC, MC, DFC (January 23, 1897 – January 31, 1989) was a Canadiuan soldier, airman, businessperson, inventor, spymaster, and the senior representative of British intelligence for the entire western hemisphere during World War II. He is best-known by his wartime intelligence codename Intrepid. Many people consider him to be one of the real-life inspirations for James Bond. Ian Fleming himself once wrote, "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is ... William Stephenson."

Early life

Stephenson was born William Samuel Clouston Stanger on January 23, 1897, in Point Douglas, Winnipeg, Manitoba. His mother was from Iceland, and his father was from the Orkney Islands. He was adopted early by an Icelandic family after his parents could no longer care for him, and given his foster parents' name, Stephenson.

He left school at a young age and worked as a telegrapher. In January 1916 he volunteered for service in the 101st Overseas Battalion (Winnipeg Light Infantry), Canadian Expeditionary Force. He left for England on the S.S. Olympic on June 29, arriving on July 6, 1916. The 101st Battalion was broken up in England, and he was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion in East Sandling, Kent. On July 17 he was transferred to the Canadian Engineer Training Depot. He was attached to the Sub Staff, Canadian Training Depot
Headquarters, in Shorncliffe, and was promoted to Sergeant (with pay of Clerk) in May 1917. In June 1917 he was "on command" to the Cadet Wing of the Royal Flying Corps at Denham Barracks, Buckinghamshire.
On August 15, 1917, Stephenson was officially struck off the strength of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and granted a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. Posted to 73 Squadron on February 9, 1918, he flew the British Sopwith Camel biplane fighter and scored 12 victories to become a flying ace before he was shot down by German ace Justus Grassmann and captured by the Germans on July 28, 1918. He was held as a prisoner of war and repatriated on December 30, 1918.

By the end of World War I, Stephenson had achieved the rank of Captain and earned the Military Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His medal citations perhaps foreshadow his later achievements, and read:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When flying low and observing an open staff car on a road, he attacked it with such success that later it was seen lying in the ditch upside down. During the same flight he caused a stampede amongst some enemy transport horses on a road. Previous to this he had destroyed a hostile scout and a two-seater plane. His work has been of the highest order, and he has shown the greatest courage and energy in engaging every kind of target.
  - Military Cross citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, June 22, 1919.
This officer has shown conspicuous gallantry and skill in attacking enemy troops and transports from low altitudes, causing heavy casualties. His reports, also, have contained valuable and precise information. He has further proved himself a keen antagonist in the air, having, during recent operations, accounted for six enemy aeroplanes.
  - Distinguished Flying Cross citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, September 21, 1928.


After World War I, Stephenson returned to Winnipeg and with a friend, Wilf Russell, started a hardware business — inspired largely by a can opener that Stephenson had taken from his POW camp. The business was unsuccessful, and he left Canada for England. In England, Stephenson soon became a wealthy industrialist with business contacts in many countries. In 1924 he married American tobacco heiress Mary French Simmons, of Springfield, Tennessee. Stephenson patented a system for transmitting photographic images via wireless that produced 100,000 pounds sterling per annum in royalties for the 18 year run of the patent (circa $12 million per annum adjusted for inflation in 2010). In addition to his patent royalties, Stephenson swiftly diversified into several lucrative industries: radio manufacturing; aircraft manufacturing; Pressed Steel Company that manufactured car bodies for the British motor industry; construction and cement as well as Shepperton Studios and Earls Court. Stephenson had a broad base of industrial contacts in Europe, Britain and North America as well as a large group of contacts in the international film industry. Shepperton Studios were the largest film studios in the world outside of Hollywood.

As early as April 1936, Stephenson was voluntarily providing confidential information to British opposition MP Winston Churchill about how Adolf Hitler's Nazi government was building up its armed forces and hiding military expenditures of eight hundred million pounds sterling. This was a clear violation of the terms of the Treatyt of Versailles and showed the growing Nazi threat to European and international security. Churchill used Stephenson's information in Parliakment to warn against the appeasement policies of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

World War II

After World War II began (and over the objections of Sir Steward Menzies, wartime head of British intelligence) now-Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent Stephenson to the United States on June 21, 1940, to covertly establish and run British Security Coordination (BSC) in New York City, over a year before U.S. entry into the war.

BSC, headquartered at Room 3603, Rockefeller Center, became an umbrella organization that by war's end represented the British intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service, or SIS), SOE (Special Operations Executive and PWE (Political Warfare Executive) throughout North America, South America and the Caribbean.

Stephenson's initial directives for BSC were to 1) investigate enemy activities; 2) institute security measures against sabotage to British property; and 3) organize American public opinion in favor of aid to Britain. Later this was expanded to include "the assurance of American participation in secret activities throughout the world in the closest possible collaboration with the British". Stephenson's official title was British Passport Control Officer. His unofficial mission was to create a secret British intelligence network throughout the western hemisphere, and to operate covertly and broadly on behalf of the British government and the Allies in aid of winning the war. He also became Churchill's personal representative to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Stephenson was soon a close adviser to Roosevelt, and suggested that he put Stephenson's good friend William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan in charge of all U.S. intelligence services. Donovan founded the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which in 1947 would become the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). As senior representative of British intelligence in the western hemisphere, Stephenson was one of the few persons in the hemisphere who were authorized to view raw Ultra transcripts of German Emigma ciphers that had been decrypted at Britain's Bletchley Park facility. He was trusted by Churchill to decide what Ultra information to pass along to various branches of the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Under Stephenson, BSC directly influenced U.S. media (including newspaper columns by Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson), and media in other hemisphere countries, toward pro-British and anti-Axis views. Once the U.S. had entered the war, in 1941–44 BSC went on to train U.S. propagandists from the United States Office of War Information in Canada. BSC covert intelligence and propaganda efforts directly affected wartime developments in Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Mexico, the Central American countries, Bermuda, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Stephenson worked without salary. He hired hundreds of people, mostly Canadian women, to staff his organization and covered much of the expense out of his own pocket. His employees included secretive communications genius Benjamin deForest “Pat” Bayly and future advertising wizard David Ogilvy. Stephenson employed Amy Elizabeth Thorpe, codenamed CYNTHIA, to seduce Vichy French officials into giving up Enigma ciphers and secrets from their Washington embassy. At the height of the war Bayly, a University of Toronto professor from Moose Jaw, created the Rockex, the fast secure communications system that would eventually be relied on by all the Allies.

Not least of Stephenson's contributions to the war effort was the setting up by BSC of Camp X in Whitby, Ontario, the first training school for clandestine operations in Canada and North America. Some 2,000 British, Canadian and American covert operators were trained there from 1941 through 1945, including students from ISO, OSS, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Roya Canadian Mounted Police, United States Navy and Military Intelligence, and the United States Office of War Information, among them five future directors of what would become the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Camp X graduates operated in Europe (Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Balkans) as well as in Africa, Australia, India and the Pacific. They included Ian Fleming (though there is evidence to the contrary), future author of the James Bond books. It has been said that the fictional Goldfinger's raid on Fort Knox was inspired by a Stephenson plan (never carried out) to steal $2,883,000,000 in Vichy French gold reserves from the French Caribbean colony of Martinique.

BSC purchased from Philadelphia radio station WCAU a ten-kilowatt transmitter and installed it at Camp X. By mid-1944, Hydra (as the Camp X transmitter was known) was transmitting 30,000 and receiving 9,000 message groups daily — much of the secret Allied intelligence traffic across the Atlantic.


Stephenson died in 1989, aged 93, in Paget, Bermuda.

For his wartime work, he was knighted by the British in the 1945 New Year's Honours List. In recommending Stephenson for knighthood, Winston Churchill wrote [on the list of candidates, to the King's attention]: "This one is dear to my heart." In 1946 Stephenson received the Presidential Medal for Merit, at that time the highest U.S. civilian award; he was the first non-American to receive the medal. General “Wild Bill” Donovan presented the award. The citation paid tribute to Stephenson's "valuable assistance to America in the fields of intelligence and special operations".

The "Quiet Canadian" was recognized by his native land late: he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada on December 17, 1979, and invested in the Order on February 5, 1980.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Al Hirt

Al Hirt Biography

A virtuoso on the trumpet, Al Hirt was often "overqualified" for the Dixieland and pop music that he performed. He studied classical trumpet at the Cincinnati Conservatory (1940-1943) and was influenced by the playing of Harry James. He freelanced in swing bands (including both Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Ray McKinley) before returning to New Orleans in the late '40s and becoming involved in the Dixieland movement. He teamed up with clarinetist Pete Fountain on an occasional basis from 1955 on, and became famous by the end of the decade. An outstanding technician with a wide range, along with a propensity for playing far too many notes, Hirt had some instrumental pop hits in the 1960s. He also recorded swing and country music, but mostly stuck to Dixieland in his live performances. He remained a household name throughout his career, although one often feels that he could have done so much more with his talent. Hirt's early Audiofidelity recordings (1958-1960) and collaborations with Fountain are the most rewarding of his long career; he died at his home in New Orleans on April 27, 1999. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi

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CD Documents Hirt's extraordinary musical range
One of my fondest childhood musical memories is listening to the Al Hirt ablum "Man With The Horn", featuring the grammy winning "Java." That particular tune was, and still is fun to listen to, and now my 3 small children dance around the room when I play it for them. It's an immediately accessible tune that speaks volumes about Hirt's approach to music: fun loving, relaxed, and technically outstanding. Al's playing undoubtedly had an impact on me, as I went onto acquire a life long passion for the trumpet as both a player and music collector.
It wasn't until I wresteled with the trumpet myself for a number of years until I truly acquired an appreciation for Hirt's artistry and outstanding musicianship, as beautifully documented on this "Greatest Hits" CD. His range of interpretation and chops as a player are in fine display. I believe his diverse talent is a function of his classical training on trumpet, joined with a love of the music native to his home town of New Orleans. The CD starts out with a thoroughly enjoyable rendition of "Bourban Street Parade played by Hirt's dixie-land combo in a live setting. The CD then moves onto an outstanding performance of the trumpet standard "I Can't Get Started." These two selections alone demonstrate Hirt's unbelievable ability to execute flawlessly in two very different styles. Another highlight is "Stranger in Paradise", which shows off his world class technical abilities and legendary lung power.
I feel Al Hirt is often overlooked when legendary trumpeters are discussed, which is unfortunate. As a musician he was top notch technically in his prime, while also being a master interpreter of song. This is a combination that is often hard to come by and shouldn't be underestimated.
Thanks Al for your role in giving me a life long passion for music!
– review of the Al Hirt – Greatest All Time Hits Volume I CD on

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Soundtrack composer Max Steiner

Max Steiner (May 10, 1888 – December 28, 1971) was an Austrian composer of music for theatre productions and films. He later became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Trained by the great classical music composers Brahms and Mahler, he was one of the first composers who primarily wrote music for motion pictures, and as such is often referred to as "the father of film music". Along with such composers as Franz Waxman, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alfred Newmam and Miklos Rozsa, Steiner played a major part in creating the tradition of writing music for films.

Steiner composed hundreds of film scores, including The Informer (1935), Now, Voyager (1942), and Since You Went Away (1944), which won him Academy Awards. He was nominated for the Academy Award a total of twenty six times, a record surpassed only by Alfred Newman and John Williams for the most nominations received by a composer. Three of his scores were also nominated at a time when composers were not eligible to be nominated in the Original Score category.

Steiner was one of the best-known composers in Hollywood, and is widely regarded today as one of the greatest film score composers in the history of cinema. He was a frequent collaborator with some of the most famous film directors in history, including John Ford and William Wyler. Besides his Oscar-winning scores, some of Steiner's popular works include King Kong (1933), :Little Women (1933), Jezabel (1938), Casablanca (1942). and the film score for which he is possibly best known, Gone with the Wind (1939). Despite being one of the most popular film soundtracks ever written, Gone with the Wind failed to win an Oscar for him.

Early Life
Steiner was born as Maximilian Raoul Steiner in Austria-Hungary, in the Hotel Nordbahn (since 2008 Austria Classic Hotel Wien) on Praterstra├če 72, in Vienna's Leopoldstadt. Steiner later claimed that he was given, and rejected, the name Walter, but there is no evidence of this in his birth register, held at the Jewish community of Vienna. Later in life he purportedly discovered a half-brother named James Owen, with whom he co-wrote the song “Theme from a Summer Place.” His paternal grandfather was Maximilian Steiner (1830–1880), the influential manager of Vienna's Theater an der Wien; his father was Gabor Steiner (1858–1944), Viennese impresario and carnival and exposition manager, responsible for the Ferris wheel in the Prater that would become the setting for a key scene of the film The Third Man (1949); his godfather was the composer Richard Strauss.

A child prodigy in composing, Steiner received piano instruction from Johannes Brahms and, at the age of sixteen, enrolled at the Imperial Academy of Music (now known as the University of Music and Performing Arts), where he was taught by Gustav Mahler among others. His musical aptitudes enabled him to complete the school's four-year program in only two. At the age of 16, Steiner wrote and conducted the operetta The Beautiful Greek Girl. At the start of World War I, he was working in London and was classified as an enemy alien but was befriended by the Duke of Westminster and given exit papers. He arrived in New York City in December 1914 with $32 to his name.

Steiner worked in New York for eleven years as a musical director, arranger, orchestrator, and conductor of Broadway operettas and musicals written by Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans, and George Gershwin, among others. Steiner's credits include: George White's Scandals (1922), Lady, Be Good (1924), and Rosalie (1928).

In 1929, Steiner went to Hollywood to orchestrate the European film version of the Florenz Ziegfeld show Rio Rita for RKO. The score for King Kong (1933) made Steiner's reputation; it was one of the first American films to have an extensive musical score. He conducted the scores for several Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, including Top Hat (1935) and Roberta (1935).

Movie career

Steiner's first screen credit was an as orchestrator for the score of the 1930 film Dixiana. His first credit as a composer came the following year, for Cimarron. He received his first two Oscar nominations for John Ford's 1934 film The Lost Patrol, and the same year for The Gay Divorcee. He won his first Oscar the following year the Ford's The Informer. At the time, the Oscar was awarded to the head of the studio music department, not the composer, although in this case that was Steiner anyway (the next year, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score to "Anthony Adverse" won the Oscar, but studio music head Leo F. Forbstein was the actual recipient, as per the rules). It was not until 1938 that the composer of the score was eligible for the nomination (coincidentally, that was Korngold, who won for his score from "The Adventures of Robin Hood").

Steiner scored several films produced by RKO, the final of which was Follow the Fleet. He left RKO in 1936 and soon became the musical director of Selznick International Pictures.
In April 1937, he signed a long-term contract with Warner Brothers, and the same year composed the famous fanfare which introduced pictures produced by the studio, although this is no longer in use (curiously, this was never used for the studio's television productions).

In 1939, Steiner was borrowed from Warner Bros. By David O. Selznick to compose the score to Gone with the Wind. He was given only three months to compose a large amount of music for the film, whilst at the same time scoring We Are Not Alone, Dark Victory, and Four Wives for Warner. Gone with the Wind and Dark Victory both earned him Academy Award nominations, however, he lost to the score of The Wizard of Oz by Herbert Stothart. Along with Clark Gable, Steiner was one of the few nominees for Gone with the Wind that did not win. Many feel that Steiner deserved the award. The score was ranked by the AFI as the second greatest American film score of all time.

Steiner received his next Oscar nomination for the 1940 film The Letter, his first of several collaborations with legendary director William Wyler. A further nomination followed the next year for Sergeant York. In 1942, Steiner won his second Oscar for Now, Voyager, and was also nominated for Casablanca, which remains one of his most famous scores. He received his third and final Oscar in 1944 for Since You Went Away.

Steiner's pace slowed significantly in the mid-fifties, and he began freelancing. In 1954, RCA Victor asked Steiner to prepare and conduct an orchestral suite of music from Gone with the Wind for a special LP, which was later issued on CD. There are also acetates of Steiner conducting the Warner Brothers studio orchestra in music from some of his film scores.

Steiner reunited with John Ford in 1956 to score The Searchers, widely considered the greatest western ever made. [Cimarron is the only western to win Best Picture Oscar]. He returned to Warner-Bros in 1958 (although his contract ended in 1953) and scored several films, in addition to a rare venture into television composing a library of music for the fourth season of Hawaiian Eye. He continued to score films produced by Warner until the mid sixties.

Steiner's final original score was for the 1965 film Two on a Guillotine. He worked on over 300 films, sometimes as a composer, sometimes as an arranger/conductor, and often as both.

In 1963, Steiner began writing his autobiography, which, although completed, was never published, and is the source of a few biographical errors concerning this composer. A copy of the manuscript resides with the rest of the Max Steiner Collection at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.


Steiner died of congestive heart failure in Hollywood, aged 83. He is entombed in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

The Music for the 1959 Film, A Summer Place

The movie became popular after its release, but had a mixed critical reception, and received some negative reviews through the years. The 1960 hit "Theme from A Summer Place" (composed by Maxc Steiner and recorded by Percy Faith and His Orchestra) enriched and improved on a secondary musical theme of the film; it remains a classic of its era. An early instrumental version of the song was recorded by the group "Los N├│madas" but only gained 'Top 40' recognition in Mexico, despite Zane Ashton's (also known as Bill Aken) distinctly 'teen-pop' flavored arrangement. A vocal version, with lyrics by Mack Discant, was a hit for The Lettermen in 1965. Singer Dean Torrence referenced the song's melody in Jan and Dean's "Like a Summer Rain" in 1966. The melody has also been used in the 2011 Toyota Avalon "Plane" commercial.
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Further Notes on A Summer Place (by the blog author)

The score to A Summer Place was written by Max Steiner. Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra actually performed the recording used in the film (the soundtrack is finally available on a CD). Scenes between Troy Donahue's character and Sandra Dee's character were called “the young lovers' theme.' This was the music adapted and arranged by Percy Faith in 1960 as “Theme from A Summer Place,”the number one selling instrumental of the 1960s, a single that received radio air time for decades and is still available. This hit Percy Faith version gave Max Steiner the money to make his alimony payments and live for the last ten years of his life.

But Percy Faith's pop arrangement was not the original young lovers' theme, which was itself a languid but distinct rock-and-roll instrumental. It was this theme that was used in the trailer for the 1959 movie. The slow, innocent but distinctly sensual theme was perfect for the seashore and the clips used to introduce the motion picture. This proper, original theme has been reconstructed and recorded by Erich Kunzel with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra as part of Hollywood's Greatest Hits, Volume I, and is available as a MP3 file at

The young lovers' theme sounds something like Melanie's Theme from Gone with the Wind. Melanie goes to the sock hop! Yet, I want to state something emphatically and unequivocally here. Many composers, including Irving Berlin and Hoagy Carmichael, tried very hard and failed very miserably, to transition to rock-and-roll in the 1950s. Max Steiner was 71 years old in 1959, yet he successfully wrote an instrumental rock piece that became a pop arrangement standard for many years. Thus there is a direct connection between the late romantics (Brahms and Mahler, who were Max Steiner's teachers) and rock- and-roll music, which took the world by storm in the 1950s as the most successful form of jazz.

Max Steiner was a thematic and melodic mood mimic, imitator and synthesizer. You can hear this with his use of Irish songs and the Civil War melodies in Gone with the Wind. You can hear it in the use of Latin themes and American standards in Casablanca. Surely Steiner wasn't an admirer or follower of rock-and-roll. But he didn't have to be. He took the 4/4 timing and the boogie-woogie dance beat and put a Melanie-like melody to it. Thus the young lovers' theme, itself the soundtrack for the trailer for A Summer Place, represents an ingenious accomplishment that has not been appreciated by academics nor critics in the music business for half a century.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rest In Peace -- Elizabeth Taylor

“Isn't that fat little tart here yet?”

                         --Richard Burton, 1964, in church, awaiting his bride,
                            Elizabeth Taylor, who is late for the ceremony

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, DBE was born in London on February 27, 1932, and died today. She was, without a doubt, one of the last and biggest of the old, Hollywood, pre-television stars. Only Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney (who starred with Taylor in National Velvet) remain.

Her career began as a child with several successful films, including Lassie Come Home and the role she campaigned for, the lead in National Velvet. Her first role was for Universal in There's One Born Every Minute. As she grew to young womanhood, she made a series of typically successful but forgettable light romantic movies through 1955. The exception was George Stevens' A Place in the Sun, her first and one of her best adult acting performances.

                                            Elizabeth Taylor, 1956

In the mid-1950s, she was able to use her star power and experience in the business to obtain the meaty roles she wanted: She had an important role in George Stevens' Giant in 1956, and was nominated for Best Actress for four years in a row: for Raintree County (1957), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) and Butterfield 8 (1960 – for which she deservedly won the award). She was then awarded a million dollar contract for the film that marked the beginning of the end of her career, Cleopatra. Her on-set romance with co-star Richard Burton was major press at the time and may have saved the 1963 film from being a box office disaster. For the rest of the decade she made other films that were financial successes, and her grueling role in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf won her a second Oscar in 1966. Perhaps her last genuinely outstanding acting performance was in The Only Game in Town in 1970, opposite Warren Beatty, which was a box office flop.

For the last three decades of her life, Taylor was something of an on-going international media sensation. She was married several times, often to socially and financially prominent persons. She took up important causes (AIDS research, for example) that others avoided. The English-speaking world adored gossipping about her, and she was on the cover of innumerable tabloid papers.

Other actresses, notably Irene Dunn, had fought for and obtained top billing in motion pictures. But Elizabeth Taylor also got the rewarding contracts and the money; she was a trendsetter in that respect.

What do we make of her? I have a conjecture to offer. I find her the apt pupil of two other ex-patriate Hollywood women who were nearly, but not quite, a generation her senior: Vivien Leigh and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Like Vivien Leigh, to whom she bore a striking resemblance as the raven-haired, gorgeous flower of England, she knew how to appear lovely and act before the cameras. And she knew how close good acting was to mental instability, having played Zelda Fitzgerald in The Last Time I Saw Paris. She knew when she was on the edge or being dangerous. She also had some of the social skill and unforgettable charm of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Like Zsa Zsa, she could marry well and become a socialite herself, “famous for being famous.”

Taylor could drink hard and talk honestly. She needed to find her match in life. That man was Richard Burton, her Welch equivalent to Gabor's truest love, George Sanders. He drank even more than she did and spoke even more bluntly. Taylor and Burton were horrific but electrifying in Virginia Woolf. They gave famous, amazing dinner parties on location while filming together. Burton died in 1984 and need wait for her no longer. They can throw even better parties together now in the clouds, now that the final curtain has fallen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Negative Quiddity: Bombing Libya Toward Democracy

From Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post:

“….the forces being assisted by the US in Libya are probably no more sympathetic to US interests than Gaddafi is. At a minimum, the data indicate the US has no compelling national interest in helping the rebels in overthrow[ing] Gaddafi.

The significance of the US's descent into strategic irrationality bodes ill not just for US allies, but for America itself. Until the US foreign policy community is again able to recognize and work to advance the US's core interests in the Middle East, America's policies will threaten both its allies and itself.”
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Similar sentiments from Paul Richter and Christi Parsons at the Los Angeles Times:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Accidental Academic Hero -- Alfred Thayer Mahan

Alfred Thayer Mahan (September 27, 1840 – December 1, 1914) was a United States Navy flag officer, geostrategist, and historian, who has been called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His concept of "sea power" was based on the idea that the most powerful navy will control the globe; it was most famously presented in The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 (1890). The concept had an enormous influence in shaping the strategic thought of navies across the world, especially in the United States, Germany, Japan and Britain. His ideas still permeate the U.S. Navy.
Several ships were named USS Mahan, including the lead vessel of a class of destroyers.

Early life

Born at West Point, New York, to Dennis Hart Mahan (a professor at the United States Military Academy) and Mary Helena Mahan, he attended Saint James School, an Episcopal college preparatory academy in western Maryland. He then studied at Columbia for two years where he was a member of the Philolexian Society debating club and then, against his parents' wishes, transferred to the Naval Academy, where he graduated second to last in his class in 1859.

Commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1861, Mahan served the Union in the American Civil War as an officer on USS Worcester, Congress, Pocahontas, and James Adger, and as an instructor at the Naval Academy. In 1865 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, and then to Commander (1872), and Captain (1885). As commander of the USS Wachusett he was stationed at Calao Peru, protecting American interests during the final stages of the War of the Pacific.

Alfred T. Mahan as a Captain

Despite his professed success in the Navy, his skills in actual command of a ship were not exemplary, and a number of vessels under his command were involved in collisions, with both moving and stationary objects. He had an affection for old square-rigged vessels, and did not like smoky, noisy steamships of his time; he tried to avoid active sea duty. On the other hand, the books he wrote ashore made him arguably the most influential naval historian of the period. In pointing out how unlikely his ascent was Kyle Whitney compared his chances of achieving prominence in the navy to that of "a cheerleader becoming president"*.

Naval War College and writings

In 1885, he was appointed lecturer in naval history and tactics at the Naval War College. Before entering on his duties, College President Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce pointed Mahan in the direction of writing his future studies on the influence of sea power. For his first year on the faculty, he remained at his home in New York City researching and writing his lectures. Upon completion of this research period, he was to succeed Luce as President of the Naval War College from June 22, 1886 to January 12, 1889 and again from July 22, 1892 to May 10, 1893. There, in 1887, he met and befriended Theodore Roosevelt, then a visiting lecturer, who would later become president of the United States.

Alfred Thayer Mahan

Mahan plunged into the library and wrote lectures that drew heavily on standard classics and the ideas of work of Henri Jomini. The lectures became his sea-power studies: The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783 (1890); The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793–1812 (2 vols., 1892); and Sea Power in Relation to the War of 1812 (2 vols., 1905). The Life of Nelson: The Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain (2 vols., 1897) supplemented the series. Mahan stresses the importance of the individual in shaping history, and extols the traditional values of loyalty, courage, and service to the state. Mahan sought to resurrect Horatio Nelson as a national hero in Britain and used the book as a platform for expressing his views on naval strategy and tactics. Criticisms of the work focused on Mahan's handling of Nelson's love affair with Lady Emma Hamilton, but it remains the standard biography. In addition to these works, Mahan wrote more than a hundred articles on international politics and related topics, which were closely read by policy makers.

Upon being published, Mahan struck up a friendship with pioneering British naval historian Sir John Knox Laughton, the pair maintaining this relationship through correspondence and visits when Mahan was in London. Mahan was later described as a 'disciple' of Laughton, although the two men were always at pains to distinguish between each other's line of work, Laughton seeing Mahan as a theorist while Mahan called Laughton 'the historian'.

Strategic views

Mahan's views were shaped by the seventeenth century conflicts between Holland, England, France and Spain, and by the nineteenth century naval wars between France and Britain, where British naval superiority eventually defeated France, consistently preventing invasion and blockade, (see Napoleonic war: Battle of Trafalgar and Continental System). To a modern reader, the emphasis on controlling seaborne commerce is commonplace, but in the nineteenth century, the notion was radical, especially in a nation entirely obsessed with expansion on to the continent's western land. On the other hand, Mahan's emphasis of sea power as the crucial fact behind Britain's ascension neglected the well-documented roles of diplomacy and armies; Mahan's theories could not explain the success of terrestrial empires, such as Bismarckian Germany. However, as the Royal Navy's blockade of the German Empire was a critical direct and indirect factor in the eventual German collapse, Mahan's theories were vindicated by the First World War.

Sea Power

Mahan used history as a stock of lessons to be learned—or more exactly, as a pool of examples that exemplified his theories. Mahan believed that national greatness was inextricably associated with the sea, with its commercial usage in peace and its control in war. His goal was to discover the laws of history that determined who controlled the seas. His theoretical framework came from Jomini, with an emphasis on strategic locations (such as chokepoints, canals, and coaling stations), as well as quantifiable levels of fighting power in a fleet. The primary mission of a navy was to secure the command of the sea. This not only permitted the maintenance of sea communications for one's own ships while denying their use to the enemy but also, if necessary, provided the means for close supervision of neutral trade. This control of the sea could not be achieved by destruction of commerce but only by destroying or neutralizing the enemy fleet. This called for concentration of naval forces composed of capital ships, not unduly large but numerous, well manned with crews thoroughly trained, and operating under the principle that the best defense is an aggressive offense.

Mahan contended that with command of the sea, even if local and temporary, naval operations in support of land forces can be of decisive importance and that naval supremacy can be exercised by a transnational consortium acting in defense of a multinational system of free trade. His theories—written before the submarine became a factor in warfare against shipping—delayed the introduction of animals as a defense against German U-Boats in World War I. By the 1930s the U.S. Navy was building long-range submarines to raid Japanese shipping, but the Japanese, still tied to Mahan, designed their submarines as ancillaries to the fleet and failed to attack American supply lines in the Pacific in World War II.
Ideologically, the United States Navy initially opposed replacing its sailing ships with steam-powered ships after the Civil War; Mahan argued that only a fleet of armored battleships might be decisive in a modern war. According to the decisive-battle doctrine, a fleet must not be divided; Mahan's work encouraged technological improvement in convincing opponents that naval knowledge and strategy remained necessary, but that domination of the seas dictated the necessity of the speed and predictability of the steam engine.
His books were greatly acclaimed, and closely studied in Britain and Imperial Germany, influencing the build up of their forces prior to the First World War. Mahan influenced the naval portion of the Spanish-American War, and the battles of Tsushima, Jutland, and the Atlantic. His work influenced the doctrines of every major navy in the interwar period.

Mahan's concept of sea power extended beyond naval superiority; that in peace time, states should increase production and shipping capacities, acquire overseas possessions — either colonies or privileged access to foreign markets— yet stressed that the number of coal fuel stations and strategic bases should be few, not to drain too many resources from the mother country.

Although Mahan's influence on foreign powers has been generally recognized, only rather recently have scholars called attention to his role as significant in the growth of American overseas possessions, the rise of the new American navy, and the adoption of the strategic principles upon which it operated. He died in Washington a few months after the outbreak of World War I.

* [in January, 2001, George W. Bush, a cheerleader for Yale's football team in the mid-1960s, was sworn in as President of the United States – the blog author]

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Rod Serling

Rodman “Rod” Serling was born  December 25, 1924 and died June 28, 1975 at age 50.  He wrote radio plays, screen plays, novels and worked as a television producer.  He also narrated films and television programs.  He was known as the angry young man of television in its early days.

He spent most of his childhood in Binghamton, New York.  His father built a small stage in the basement where his son often put on plays.  Once, on an hour long trip to Syracuse, the rest of the family remained silent to see if Rod would talk all the time and whether he would notice the silence from the rest of his family.  Rod talked incessantly and did not notice the silence of the rest of his family.  Rod was the life of the party, the class clown and a notorious imitator, including his impressions of Jekyll and Hyde, King Kong,  and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In high school, he joined the debate club and wrote for the school newspaper.   Serling was also interested in sports, excelling in tennis and table tennis, but he was too short to make the high school football team.

Serling wanted to leave high school and enlist to serve in World War II, especially on the German front to fight Hitler as an American Jew.  But his civics teacher talked him into finishing high school first.   After graduation, he went to Army boot camp at Camp Toccoa, George and served in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 11th Airborne Division.   Serling competed in Army boxing competitions for 17 bouts.  He used a berserk style of fighting and had his nose broken twice.  He was not greatly successful at Golden Gloves competitions.
Serling’s unit saw action in November of 1944 on the island of Leyte mopping up the area behind the divisions that had gone ashore.  It was hard, slow work because of the terrain and incomplete intelligence information.  Serling was transferred to the 511th’s demolition team, called “the death squad” for its high casualty rate.  It has been speculated this transfer was the result of Serling having irritated someone above him.  Serling was once stuck in a foxhole and didn’t reload any of his magazines before darkness fell.  He  was reported to have gone off exploring against orders  and getting himself lost.

Yet, Serling saw death every day in the Philippines, often in action but also from accidents.  In future years, several of his scripts would be set in the Philippines  and involve the unpredictability of death.

Serling endured two wounds in Leyte including one to his kneecap, but he was in combat again on February 3, 1945, when the 511th landed on Tagaytay Ridge to march into Manila.  There was little resistance until they reached the city, but then there was a month-long, block-by-block battle for control of the city.  Serling’s regiment had a 50% casualty rate, and he himself was wounded.  For his Army service he received a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the Philippine Liberation Medal.   These combat experiences haunted Serling with nightmares and flashbacks for the rest of his life.  Early in his writing career, around 1950, he wrote a script called No Christmas This Year, which was never produced.  In the script, Christmas is no longer celebrated, though no one knows why.  Meanwhile, Santa is at the North Pole dealing with elves on strike.  The workshop is producing bombs and poison gases rather than toys and candy.  Santa has been shot at while on his route, and an elf has been hit by shrapnel!
Discharged in 1946, Serling worked at a rehabilitation hospital while recovering from his wounds, then attended Antioch College, switching majors from Physical Fitness to Literature.  He became very active in the campus radio station, where he wrote, directed and acted in many of the radio programs.  He converted from Judiasm to Unitarianism in order to mary Carolyn Louise Kramer in 1948.  He also earned some extra money by testing parachutes for the Army Air Force.  He received $50 for every successful jump, but he garnered $1,000 for the test of a successful jet ejection seat; this was a test he barely survived.  Serling later told friends that three other men had been killed before he made his test.

Serling’s professional career started as a voluntreeer at WNYC in New York in 1946 and as a paid intern at Antioch in a work study program.   He also took odd jobs at other radio stations in New York and Ohio.  Serling created the entire output of scripts for the Antioch college station for the 1948-49 year, including only one adaption from another work.

Still a student, Serling won a script writing contest run annually by the Dr. Christian radio show.  Serling won a trip to New York and $500 for his script, To Live a Dream.   He also wrote a script about boxing for the radio show Grand Central Station, which rejected the script because it clashed with the romantic character of the show.  Martin Horrell of the radio show suggested to Serling that the topic was better for sight as well as sound, and recommended it be submitted to television shows instead.  Serling wrote a lighter piece for Grand Central Station called Hop Off the Express and Grab a Local, which was used on the air and became Serling’s first nationally produced script.

Serling began a professional writer doing continuity work at WLW radio in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He continued to do freelance writing as well.  He submitted an idea of a weekly radio show involving the ghosts of a boy and girl who would look through train windows and comment on life.  The idea was rearranged and presented on the air as Adventure Express from October 1950 to February 1951, Serling’s first concept to be aired.  Also in 1950, he took Blanche Gaines as an agent and began retuning some of his radio scripts for television.  Serling began to sell his scripts to the live dramatic television programs of the day such as Kraft Television Theater,  Appointment with Adventure, and Hallmark Hall of Fame.  This early work received positive reviews. 

In 1955, Serling wrote a seventy-second treatment that was expanded to a Kraft Television Theater program, Patterns.  Serling and his wife missed the live telecast because they found a babysitter and went out for the evening.  He told his wife, “that no one would call because they had just moved to town.  And the phone started ringing and didn’t stop for years!”  Patterns involved a power struggle between a corporate boss and a bright young executive being groomed to take his place.  Patterns established Serling’s career.  The airing received such positive feedback that it was shown again, live, with identical cast, a month later at audience request, virtually creating the television “rerun.”

Serling used the success to sell some of his unwanted scripts.  There was some concern that he wasn’t keeping up with his best work, but the next year, 1956, he created Requiem for a Heavyweight for Playhouse 90.  He and his family moved to California in 1957, where he was in demand.  Serling then wrote A Town Has Turned to Dust, a story about racism and bigotry in which Serling had to fight to keep the script from being altered.   Serling decided that the way to avoid meddling with his scripts was to create his own show.  He wrote The Time Element and submitted it to CBS as a pilot for his new weekly program, The Twilight Zone.  CBS used the script in a new 1958 show, The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse.  The creepy plot involves a man who has vivid nightmares of Pearl Harbor and goes to a psychiatrist about it.   The story received so much positive feedback to Desilu that CBS decided to grant Serling his own Twilight Zone weekly program, which premiered in 1959.

Serling intentionally picked a science fiction format to avoid and disguise controversies he wanted to deal with in the scripts.  This way his program would escape censorship.  The Twilight Zone had a small but loyal audience.  It was cancelled twice in its five-year run, only to be revived.  Serling himself wrote 92 of the total 156 episodes.  During this period, he also adapted the novel Seven Days in May, written by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, into a screenplay.  The film was released in 1964.  This was a movie that President John F. Kennedy specifically wanted to see made into a motion picture.

After The Twilight Zone finished its run, Serling wrote an unsuccessful western series called The Loner.  The network wanted more action and less character interaction.   He also hosted the first version of the game show Liar’s Club briefly in 1969.  Also in 1969, Serling narrated and wrote the pilot for a rotating show that appeared once every four weeks in a series called Four in One.  The quarter that involved Serling was called Night Gallery.  Night Gallery was retained for a second and third season, though Serling sidestepped management and creative control, which he later regretted.  Serling wound up writing a third of the total series scripts.  In the third season, many of his scripts were rejected or radically changed.  The program lasted until 1973.   Serling dismissed the show as “Mannix in a cemetery.”
Serling also adapted the Irving Wallace novel, The Man, into a screenplay for the 1972 film, which starred James Earl Jones.

Serling suffered two severe heart attacks in 1975, requiring open heart surgery.  He had a third and fatal heart attack during the operation on June 28, 1975.

Summarized by the blog author from

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Rod Serling's Famous Speech

 Speech by television legend and creator of The Twilight Zone
Rod Serling
delivered December 3, 1968 at Moorpark College, Moorpark, California

There seem to have arisen some complications relevant to my appearance here this evening that should be clarified before I begin.  Plainly and simply.  I refused to sign a loyalty oath which was submitted to me as a prerequisite both for my appearance and my pay.  I gather that your local newspaper and some of its readers read dire and menacing implications in this refusal of mine, and I broach the whole thing only by way of a kind of personal disclaimer.
Number one, I have no interest in overthrowing the government of the United States and number two, to the best of my knowledge I have not or am not now a member of a subversive organization whose aims are similar.  I know there are many of you out there who’ve put me in a genetic classification of someplace between a misanthropic kook and an ungracious dope.  Actually, I’m neither.  I did not sign the loyalty oath and I waived my normal speaking fee, only because of a principle.  I think a requirement that a man affix his signature to a document, reaffirming loyalty, in on one hand ludicrous—and on the other demeaning.
A time-honored concept of Anglo-Saxon justice declares that a man is innocent until proven guilty.  I believe that in a democratic society a man is similarly loyal until proven disloyal.  No testaments of faith, no protestations of affection for his native load, and no amount of signatures will prove a bloody thing—one way or the other as to a man’s patriotism or lack thereof.  The concept of the loyalty oath is a new one in the United States—in its present form it dates back less than twenty years.  It’s been around for a number of decades in different countries under decidedly different forms of government.  It was a requirement in Nazi Germany and in Fascist Italy, and is currently a prerequisite for the status of citizenship in the Soviet Union.
Rod Serling at Moorpark College
Under dictators, the so-called loyalty oath is a necessary adjunct to a relationship between man and his government.  Both the Fascists and the Communists have a pathological distrust of their own people.  To require a signature under an oath of allegiance seems to me or presume guilt and an attendant disloyalty.  I simply can’t honor that kind of premise—and I won’t honor it.  And it’s for that reason that I did not sign the oath required of me to speak here for pay.  But parenthetically it might be noted that if indeed, I were hell bent to subvert the government of the United States, I would certainly have no qualms about signing anything.
But so much for my own idiosyncrasies.  I’d like to talk to you tonight about the generation gap as it applies to what’s going on.  I find myself in the uncomfortable and almost untenable position of a man in the middle—the so-called moderate liberal whose roots go deep into the American soil, pounded there by immigrant parents who fled Eastern Europe during the nineteenth century because that peculiar breed of flag-wavers on the other side had taken upon themselves to the prerogative of choosing who should survive and who should not.
Because of this particular background there are certain gut-deep philosophies and attitudes that are a part of my bone marrow—unshakable and unswervable.  I will salute our flag and stand for our anthem and feel an affection for my native land with the kind of fervor and admitted emotionalism that would be peculiar especially to a fat-cat Hollywood writer whose father was an uneducated butcher.  This, on the face of it, removes me from the pale of the new left.  It sets me apart—and I suppose in their view, places me dead center in the basement of the establishment.
But I’ll tell you something.  Reserving certain criticism and negative judgment as to methodology, I nonetheless subscribe to and support what are the goals and aspirations of America’s young.  I am much more prone to embrace their causes that I am any cause which would see the perpetuating of certain aged and no longer applicable concepts of ethics, mores, moralities, more peculiar to my own generation.
I would rather have a son or daughter of mine march through the streets of Chicago protesting injustice—than I would siring a Chicago policeman who’ll club anyone who’ll get in his way—and that includes sixteen-year-olds, newspaper photographers, and senior citizens.

And if anyone wants to raise the spectre of “provocation”—I say this categorically.  There is no provocation extant short of a motive of self defense to excuse as representative of law and order wading in with a billy-club under the pretense of saving the sovereign city of Chicago.  Of the four hundred young people currently held under arraignment for so-called assault and battery, half of them are under eighteen and half of those under a hundred and twenty pounds.

Suddenly we are a nation whose new battle slogan is law and order.  Last year it won countless numbers of elections.  It’s the great new American euphemism.  Law and Order.  It is now interchangeable with God, Motherhood, the Constitution and the Holy Grail.  But how empty and how suspect is this sloganry when it points up the incredible selectivity on the part of America’s citizenry—how picky and choosey they are when it comes to moral outrage.

There was no hue and cry for a re-examination of American conscience when four little Negro girls were bombed to pieces in a Birmingham church.  There was no collective gasp of offense when three young civil rights workers were slaughtered in Mississippi.  There were no slogans at all attending the bombing off over a hundred churches in the south in the past five years, or the fact that there have only been two lawyers, available to defend civil rights cases in the state of Mississippi until last year—or that juries were all white—or that a white man accused of first degree homicide has never, in the history of the south, been given a sentence commensurate with the proven charge.  Or we could go down the list of flagrant violations of law and order as they have existed for the past hundred years—beginning with the five thousand lynchings.

These assaults on conscience we live with, and nobody cries out for law and order.  For a quarter of a century, in the Congress of the United States, we tried to get passed an anti-lynching bill.  A simple law to protect the lives of black citizens below the Mason-Dixon line.  This was not legislation, as our protesting brethren so often take us to task for—the legislation of brotherly love with they say is impossible.  It was a law making it a federal offense to hang a human being from a tree, cover him with kerosene and cremate him.  But the loudest cheerleaders of our current law and order rallies—the Eastlands and the Strom Thurmonds—were the very gentlemen who fought against that legislation until it was ultimately passed.

It’s hardly a revelation to me that the young people in this country take a dim view of our current up-tightness when it comes to street rioting.  They believe, and I think quite properly, that on the scale of misbehavior the black man who takes a torch to a building or breaks a window to loot, and does so out of passion, is less the criminal than the white man who puts his torch to human beings and does so with a cold, calculated, predatory pre-planned blueprint of destruction.

The black man, because he’s suffered this for over a hundred years, looks upon us as a convocation of lizards—a cold blooded species of being who will call out the national guard to keep a ghetto from being burned down—but will raise no finger, let alone an octave of voice, to protest what has been done to him over the past century.

Look across that generation gap now and see it as they see it—the young.  Thirty two billion dollars into a civil war ten thousand miles from our shore to protect the freedom of the South Vietnamese and keep the Viet Cong from attacking San Francisco.  That’s where we are told is America’s destiny—in the rice paddies of DaNang.  And America’s youth—or at least a sizeable share of them—find this to be patently unbelievable.

America’s destiny, in their view, lies on the streets of Newark, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Harlem.  That’s where we keep alive the dream.  Not in Saigon.  And certainly not at the cost of twenty-thousand dead American boys with a hundred-thousand wounded and a half a million civilians put to a torch.  Again, the inconsistencies.  The Hawks who bleat most loudly for our continuing participation in this war—these are the ones who’ve passed the propositions 14—and woe be unto the oriental who has the temerity to put a garbage can next to his.  Again inconsistency.

Those who shout loudest for fiscal sanity—an end to so-called federal handouts.  Stop this nonsense about Federal Aid to education, federal housing, aid to cities.  These are the gentlemen who watched us throw two billion dollars to help prop up the French Colonial Government whose good offices are indistinguishable from the North Vietnamese.

What don’t we like about the enemy?  They imprison people without trial.  They stifle free speech.  They close down newspapers.  They rig elections.  Every objective and dispassionate view presented to us by bona fide journalists, historians and intelligent observers, are uniformly critical of all the governments of Vietnam—the North, the South and the French.  So what, indeed, are we defending there?

If it’s simply a Dean Rusk would have us believe—that the north should return to their side of the fence and the south remain on theirs, it might be pointed out that Premier Ky and President Thieu are both northerners and it points up again the fact that this is a civil war.  And if precedentially we must leave our native soil to attack any government that displeases us, we have opened ourselves up one helluva can of peas.  We’d best load up the ships for South America, Greece, Eastern Europe and elsewhere—where governments exist without the sanction of their people.  And we will have embarked on an international adventure that has no end and at a cost that is incomprehensible.

What turns that younger generation off?  Examine, if you will, the candidacy of George Wallace.  That political stalwart who made a public quote that he would never be out-niggered again.  This from the man running for the highest office in the land.  And though a fraternity of wishful thinkers tell us he’s been discredited, the young are much more realistic.  They look at his ten million votes.  they look at his thirteen percent share of the ballot, one out of seven.  And they realize that had California gone to Humphrey—we might on this very day still not have a president-elect.

Let me, at this juncture, play devil’s advocate.  I’ve reserved my criticism for my generation.  Let’s examine both the pot and the kettle.  The campus of San Francisco State University, for example.  I’ll say this unequivocally.  For students to disrupt classes, to shout down opposing voices of argument, to tear up public property and to foist their will—however just their cause and legitimate their grievances—is an act of criminal, stupid, self-defeating insanity.

The very things they seek: equal education, equal voices, a decent regard and respect for the rights of all—these are the things they throw aside when they practice their own special thing—the introduction of anarchy.  And they do something else that is almost suicidal.  They dissolve whatever possible support and understanding that might be forthcoming.  And no—repeat—no social pressure can succeed on any level without support.  We’ve seen this phenomena before—when you cannot argue with a man, you either belt him in the mouth or shout him down.  That may be an emotional cathartic but it does nothing to advance a cause.

Now where does it all end?  The generation gap that looks with jaundiced youthful eyes at the war, the draft, deeply embedded social inequality and the worship of anachronisms which have become more ritualistic than real.  There are two quotes that I think applicable, albeit abstract, and I ask for your indulgence when I march out quotations.  This is the double syndrome of men who write for a living and men who are over forty.  The young smoke pot—we inhale from our Bartlett’s.

The first quote is on the tombstone of Martin Luther King, Jr.  It comes from the book of Genesis: “They said to one another, Behold, here cometh the dreamer...let us slay him...and we shall see what might become of his dreams.”  Scott Fitzgerald said, “In the dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”  During this long night of our souls there have been other dreamers and they, too, have been slain.  John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Medger Evers, King, and others.  Each had his dream and each paid his price.  And I’ll tell you what this dream is.  It’s pointed up by an apocryphal story.

When Goethe lay dying he was supposed to have opened his eyes in the last moment before death and said, “Light.  Please give me more light.  A hundred years later, the Spanish philosopher, Uno Mono, upon hearing what Goethe said, said, “Impossible, Goethe could not have said that.  He would have never asked for light.  He would have said, ‘Warmth...let there be warmth.’  Men do not die of the darkness...they die of the cold.  It is the frost that kills.  That’s what the dream is.  That’s what it’s all about.  The oneness of men.”
What is the generation gap?  It’s the plaintive and desperate cry of the young that men should be one.  If we can ever accomplish this, understand it, assimilate it, act from its premise—that elusive dream might take on form.

That, my friends, is what I think it’s all about.  I think the destiny of all men is not to sit in the rubble of their own making but to reach out for an ultimate perfection which is to be had.  At the moment, it is a dream.  But as of the moment we clasp hands with our neighbor, we build the first span to bridge the gap between the young and the old.  At this hour, it’s a wish.  But we have it within our power to make it a reality.  If you want to prove that God is not dead, first prove that man is alive.

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