The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Star Protocol

The following little SF piece was originally posted last Christmas when there was rampant speculation about Mayan Calendars and the End of Times. Since we made it through that nasty time, I've slightly revised the post.

The Dreamship moved along the outer band of the Mobius curve of the universe at one hundred times the speed of light. Reaching the point at which the outside became the inside, the ship slipped into time.

The Pilot was of necessity asleep and would remain so until the end of the mission when he brought the Dreamship back out of the universe and into eternity. His mission was simple: transport the Judges to the developing world in question and bring them out again. The Judges' mission was the difficult one; amongst themselves they frequently called these missions "End Times" missions.

As always, there were three of them. In current binary terms, they were 101, 111, and 000. In ancient nomenclature, they were two men and a woman. We'll call them Sam, John, and Ruby.

Most often their missions took them to the fourth planet from the local sun, but in this instance, it was the third planet out, a waterworld class planet which meant that at least 65% of the surface was covered with water.

The beings on this planet had reached a stage of development where it was necessary that the Judges make a determination regarding the beings' future existence. If the Judges judged wrong and allowed these beings or those on any "developmental" world who were following the wrong path to continue to live, the entire harmony of the universe would be destroyed and chaos and eventually total destruction would ensue.

The Boss would not be happy because that would mean starting the whole "universe" experiment over again from scratch, beginning at the point of the initial creative explosion. And that took an enormous amount of planning and engineering.

Only about one in ten worlds met the Judges' strict criteria for survival. The other nine were eliminated, swiftly and efficiently. The Dreamship was outfitted with a simple sonic device designed by the Boss which allowed the Judges to eliminate the world instantly if that was their decision.

A highly sophisticated and hidden monitoring system was in place and had been recording data since the beings on the planet had evolved to a certain level. That level included a strong and positive value system and organization into a cohesive society which permitted the maximum amount of individual freedom. There were several thousand other points of measure that the Judges considered too.

When the invisible Dreamship achieved an orbit around the world in question, the Judges moved to the observation room to examine the records available. It was clear that many of the societies on the planet were moving in the wrong direction, but there were a few which seemed promising.

On the first vote, John and Ruby were split. Ruby voted for elimination. John voted for continuation. Sam wavered. It was a most unusual situation. After a spirited discussion, Sam proposed that they use the rare and infrequently used "Star" stimulation to push the world's beings along the right path. This was in effect a spectacular event plus an extension which allowed the world in question a fixed amount of time to reach a level of satisfactory development.

Because they were split (which rarely happened), John and Ruby saw the logic of providing the extension. They were fully aware that they would have to fully explain and justify their decision to the Boss but felt confident in their reasoning.

All three immediately  touched their screens to implement the "Star" protocol.

An artificial "star" was instantly created outside the orbit of the planet's moon; the star would move along a pre ordained path for three years and would be visible to all beings on the planet. On a specified date, a human would be born with specially coded DNA from the Boss himself. This individual would be a teacher who would bring a new morality. The three judges hoped the beings on the planet would embrace the morality and use it to build a viable society that would endure. 

At the end of the designated time the "star" would disappear and the special individual would reach maturity. Judging from these beings' spiritual development (mostly primitive moral codes, but with some movement toward respect for one another and an acceptance of the heavier responsibilities of freedom), the appearance of such a star and a teacher with the necessary morality could possibly stimulate development along a positive path.

The Judges telepathically interacted with the Pilot; the invisible Dreamship quickly left orbit around the waterworld and almost instantaneously reached the outer band of the Mobius curve. It slipped seamlessly back into eternity.

Once they were outside time, John and Ruby maintained their objectivity about the world in question. But Sam was pulling for the little planet and its people. He liked their grit. And they made really good beer.

The Judges would return 2200 solar years later to make the final decision about the planet's survival.

The French Bread Burger Caper

We went out to lunch Thursday with our good friends Scooney and his wife Rae. Both Ed and I keep a pretty close watch on our fat intake because of heart issues, but sometimes "a man's gotta do," as they say in the old westerns, "what a man's gotta do."

We went to an old (it opened in 1945) place, Rotier's, just off West End on Elliston Place.

Rotier's has been praised in the USA Today newspaper and on the Food Network for their burgers. It's also been praised by Vanderbilt students and native Nashville burger hunters for decades. If you're ever in Nashville, give old Rotier's a try. You won't regret it.

Here's a link to their website and menu:

And this is what most people come for...the French Bread Cheeseburger. As you can tell from the pic, it's made of fresh, hand prepared ground beef.

Joyce, Ed, and I had the French Bread Burger while Rae opted for the delicious open faced Roast Beef sandwich.

I could go on and on about the burger but it would probably sound pornographic so I'll just use a line from Van Morrison's song... "It Stoned Me to my soul."

Later, we drove through downtown Nashville and on out Woodland through the Five Points area and on to Eastland Avenue where we had ice cream for desert at Jeni's, a place worthy of another post.

It was a peaceful and relaxing day with good friends and good food.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some Things Are Cooler'n Hell

Christmas is coming and New Year's is in the air.

It's generally a happy time, especially for kids. Adults though, no matter their station or status in life, always go through the season with at least a touch of sadness. In my opinion that's partially because we remember our childhood and our Christmas innocence when the whole world depended on Santa Claus, a toy gun or an electric train, or some other dream. Each Christmas we realize once again that the innocence is gone forever and we can never get back to that time.

The holidays are also a time for taking stock...which can make you sad too.

Personally, I think about the past year--what's been lost, what's been found, who's been hurt, who's been helped, what I've failed at, and what I've accomplished. After weighing it and worrying with it, I generally try to put the bad stuff aside and move on with the good.

I'm 73. Old by most measures. But I like to think that I've still got prospects. A few anyway. Things I want to work on, things I want to do, places I want to go, people I want to love.

Besides that, being above ground instead of below it means you can still enjoy the "good stuff." And there are lots of things that are clearly good. Good stuff. Cool stuff.

Like Ray Wylie (no relation to L. Ron) Hubbard says, there's lots of things under heaven that are cooler'n hell.

One being a 68 Camaro (although the lead pic shows a '55 or '56 Corvette)...candy apple red.

That song itself is "cooler'n hell." And since we caught a glimpse of Bonnie Raitt in that video illustrating things "cooler'n hell," here's the "honky tonkin" blues woman with Norah Jones just killing the Tennessee Waltz..with some great slide work by Bonnie at the break. Cooler'n hell. Indeed.

This old blog ain't necessarily "cooler'n hell," but it does give me some joy and a place to comment, explore, discover, rant, etc. It does that even though I sometimes ignore it for a long spell. But when I come back to it, the nice, inviting, white, and very blank space is waiting patiently for me to lay down some digital letters.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The C 141 Starlifter Project

First of all on Veterans Day 2013, I thank all veterans past and present, dead or still living, for their service. I especially thank my son Barry, my Dad, my brother Dave, my grandson Erich, my uncle Leonard, my uncle Sid, my uncle David, my uncle Will, and my great grandpa Hiram. 
I know Veterans Day is meant to honor people who've served in our country's military. This post is about a person who served his country, but it's also about a machine. The two veterans in question are (1) our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, a decorated veteran of WWII, and (2) a magnificent airplane which proceeded through development and many years of service after JFK approved its production.

Although the picture below of JFK with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor is from 1963, it illustrates and underlines the point that John Kennedy, a navy hero in WWII, understood the importance of having a strong military to protect the United States. Throughout his congressional career he portrayed himself as "tough on communism" and in the 1960 campaign blasted the Eisenhower-Nixon administration for losing Cuba to the communists and for allowing the missile gap between the U. S. and the soviets to develop.
So, it was only natural that John Kennedy's first official act after he became president was to order the production of the aircraft that was eventually designated the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. This important military carrier had a distinguished career that lasted over  forty years.

The C-141 was designed and built to replace our aging fleet of troop carriers and cargo planes -- planes such as the C-119 Flying Boxcar...
and a plane known as "old shaky," the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II...

Plans for the C-141 (initially given the factory designation Model 300) were developed by Lockheed and pieces of the plane were produced in plants around the country, including a wing part here in my home town, Nashville, TN...

And the first C-141 prototype rolled out of the plant in Marietta, GA, in August of 1963 and flew in December of that year. The first production run brought the first operational planes to the military in 1965...

The C-141 was huge; it was over 168 feet in length and had a wingspan of 160 feet...

Wiki gives the following stats concerning this important plane:
General characteristics
  • Crew: 5–7: 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 1 navigator, 1 loadmaster (a second loadmaster routinely used, in later years navigators were only carried on airdrop missions); 5 medical crew (2 nurse, 3 medical technician) on medevac flights
  • Length: 168 ft 4 in (51.3 m)
  • Wingspan: 160 ft 0 in (48.8 m)
  • Height: 39 ft 3 in (12 m)
  • Wing area: 3,228 ft² (300 m²)
  • Empty weight: 144,492 lb (65,542 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 342,100 lb (147,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 turbofans, 20,250 lbf (90.1 kN each) each

The famed "Hanoi Taxi" was a specific C 141, one of the earliest planes to become operational in the '60s. Besides other less glamorous assignments during its early service, this plane (not yet called the Hanoi Taxi) ferried Bob Hope to his USO shows in Vietnam. This C 141 also gained its famous name later when it was selected to ferry the just released POWs (airman and future senator John McCain was among them) from Hanoi to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Some of the returning prisoners left their names on the flight panel and those names inspired the "Hanoi Taxi" nickname.

Sometimes the ordinary day to day actions and signings of U. S. presidents are forgotten by the general public because they don't have a lot of immediate impact on people's lives. President Kennedy's first act, approving production of the C-141, is not one of those actions. This plane has played an important role in American history with its contributions extending to Desert Storm and Desert Shield.  And in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina was approaching New Orleans, a C-141, actually the same C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" mentioned earlier, evacuated hundreds of people before the storm hit.

In the comments to a video on You Tube called the "Mighty C-141," a pilot who identifies himself as John Tompkins has this to say about the plane:
Greatest airplane ever, biggest adventure ever. I thought all airplanes flew like that. Little did I know that they did not. Absolutely the best.
President Kennedy made many important speeches and took several significant actions during his brief tenure in office. Many people, I'm sure, are glad he approved the significant C-141 Starlifter project, a plane that served the nation well during its forty+ year career.

In addition to JFK and the Starlifter, I salute all veterans of the U. S. Armed Forces on this Veterans Day in 2013.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cadillac La Salle, Dusenberg -- Beautiful Design and Great Music from 1927

Have you heard of someone named Harley J. Earl? He was one of my heroes when I was young.

That's him below sitting behind the wheel of one of his most famous creations, the Buick Y-Job.
Born in 1893, Earl became one of the most influential industrial designers in the 20th century. He was a fledgling consultant to Cadillac when designed the beauty in the pic below. It's a 1927 LaSalle.

Lawrence Fisher, General Manager of the Cadillac division of GM, had discovered Earl working in his father's custom body shop and was impressed with his design skill and his use of clay models.  Fisher commissioned Earl to design Cadillac's companion model, the LaSalle, which debuted in 1927.
GM liked the result so much that they made him the first head of GM's Art and Color Division. He eventually became a VP at GM when GM was at its pinnacle, probably because his styling work had helped it reach that pinnacle. Oh yes, I almost forgot, Earl was the guy who pushed GM to develop the Corvette in the early '50s.

During the year the La Salle came out, one of the top popular songs was this nice tune by Gene Austin, "Tonight, You Belong to Me." Listen and tell me if you '50s freaks find anything familiar about it.
Yep, you're right. Frankie Laine had a record of it in 1952. But that's not the version I thought of. The version I remember was by Patience and Prudence.

The La Salle was a beautiful car, a real doozy. Which leads to the next beautiful car from 1927...the Dusenberg. I always thought the word "doozy" originated in reference to the beautiful Dusenberg automobile. I was wrong. Follow this link and a helpful young associate editor lady from Merriam Webster will explain that the Dusenberg link to this word is a nice story but not true.
The Dusenberg Brothers were super engineers but not very good business men. August's and Frederick's engineering skill developed the first hydraulic brakes ever and to their production of the first mass produced 8 cylinder engine. The engines and the cars they powered were very fast. Jimmy Murphy became the first American to win the French Grand Prix in 1921. He was driving a Dusenberg.

Their Model X is very rare and was only built in 1926-27. The pic below shows one of these rare beauties.
Guys and gals from 1927 who weren't filthy rich (and similar guys and gals today) were (and are) probably melancholy that they didn't have the cash to get one of these beautiful automobiles.

"Melancholy Baby" was written in 1912. Gene Austin's version reached #3 on the charts in 1927. From comedian references (Red Skeleton, Milton Berle, etc.), I always associated this song with funny drunks.

Not a bad year to be alive. Good music, great cars. A couple of years before the crash. 1927.

Monday, November 4, 2013

In Class at EKU, 1966.

Lately we've been sifting through old slides, photos, and other mementos from our past.

I finished my M. A. in January of '63 and worked that spring semester at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, LA. We left there and moved to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY in the fall of 1963.

Joyce had completed her AA degree at Martin Junior College where we met, and she continued her academic work by taking some more general education courses at Eastern. We bought our first new car ('64 Dodge) and house when we lived in Richmond--I'll show some pics of them in a later post.

We enjoyed our three years there very much and made a lot of friends, most of whom have passed on now. Our dear friend Professor Philip Mankin passed away in the early '70s and Professor James (Jim) Mangus passed away a couple of years ago. Jim and his wife Carol were our closest friends; Jim and I played a lot of tennis (he won most every set) and were on the faculty basketball team together. Joyce and I remember remember a couple of times when the four of us got into long conversations that lasted all night and Carol prepared a great breakfast before we went home.

For the first two years my office and my classes were all in the old Roark Building on campus. In my final year at Eastern ('65-'66), I moved my office into the newly completed Combs building and had all my classes there. I taught Comp I and II, as well as both semesters of World Literature.

Eastern was a great place to work under President Robert Martin. We enjoyed monthly faculty dinners, a Christmas party, departmental "teas," concerts by national artists (like the Rooftop Singers and Ferannte and Teicher) and student dances.

The college was just beginning its Masters program in English and the department was expanding and hiring new teachers, many with doctorates, but most with MA's to free up the doctorates we already had for teaching the graduate classes.

I shared a long office in the new building with two other instructors,  guys about my age (Perebinossof and Whitson). It was a great time to be a college teacher. We enjoyed considerable student respect, just from our position. Students had not yet evolved into the self centered, profane, shrill, abrasive and demanding creatures they became after the '60s. The previous sentence is a general statement; I, of course, had many great students in the '70s and '80s and on into the '90s, but the overall collegiate atmosphere did change.

Here's a pic taken from the Eastern Milestone annual, 1965-66. It's a posed World Lit classroom scene. I remember we all had a good laugh after the photographer left and then got back down to the business of Plato or Sophocles, can't remember which. Those were good times.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Long and Wandering Postmortem

I always advised composition students to focus on a single subject in their essays. But in this long post, I ignore my own advice. I'm really all over the place--music, family, play directing, a specific play, William Gillette, set design, a theater tech issue, incidental music, and even a tornado. I hope I don't lose you along the way.

I've enjoyed music all my life, but early on I wasn't exposed to much of it. A couple of my aunts played the piano really well, but my immediate family was not musical; we never had a record player and the only radio was in the bedroom I shared with my brother. In church, Mom and Dad and my brother and I held the hymnals and mouthed the words but never sang.

When I married, that changed. Joyce was from a very musical family and when we got together she broadened and improved my narrow and restricted musical tastes considerably.

Later, I directed several plays at the college where I worked and one of the things I enjoyed the most was selecting incidental music for the performances.

The last play I directed was Postmortem by Ken Ludwig; this mystery drama was set in the early '20s. It was a really fun play to work on and had as its central character the great American actor William Gillette, who brought Sherlock Holmes (with Sir Conan Doyle's blessing and encouragement) to vibrant and exciting life on the world stage.

William Gillette had a most interesting life and you can read all about him in Wiki. From his inventions and work in theater he made a fortune which allowed him to build a castle-like mansion in Hadlyme, CT.

The play by Ludwig, Postmortem, is set in Gillette's elaborate castle which had 24 rooms. On the grounds, the actor built a three mile miniature railway. The place was first turned into an amusement park after Gillette's death, but after a +$10 million upgrade by the state in 2002, it became a state park which entertains about 100,000 visitors annually.

Our version of Postmortem was performed in the spring of 1991. That's our student designed and produced program in my shadowy pic to the left.

Below is an equally dark photo of a ground plan of the set for our production. Unfortunately, I haven't yet located my 3D sketches of the set, nor have I been able to find any pics of the completed set. I always started with a 3D drawing and then eventually worked out a ground plan (see below).

You will notice from the ground plan drawing that our theater had a serious design flaw. (I use the past tense here because the building that housed the theater was almost destroyed in the tornado of 2006.) The proscenium was extremely wide and the stage was not very deep. It was 40' across and only 12' from the curtain line (the dotted line) to the back wall (the top edge of the drawing above). If you wanted a closed curtain to hide something on the set, it couldn't be placed in front or downstage of that line.

I always used a cleaned up version of the ground plan to draw out complex blocking maneuvers for the actors. The numbers on this drawing are numbers of flats that we had in our store room which could be repainted and used in the production. Of course we always had to build a few new flats to fit the special requirements of each production.

The set was quite elaborate for our little 400 seat theater and had several levels and exits. There were also  some special and technical effects in Ludwig's play that involved a seance and a ghostly apparition.

Unfortunately, on opening night we had some difficulty with one of those effects, for which I take responsibility. I had assigned a first time tech guy to the catwalk projector. He got the jitters, forgot to check out the projector which didn't come on during the performance. I should have caught this during our tech check in the hour before the audience arrived. But I didn't.

Anyway, if you can roll with such misfortunes (which are a natural part of live theater), they're usually not as bad as they seem to be on the surface. I always tried to coach student actors and production workers to keep focused and continue. We're learning and we're having fun. Mistakes sometimes happen. Keep your wits about you, keep things moving, and the audience probably won't even notice. 

Everything else worked opening night, and, thanks to some quick thinking on the part of our leading man and leading lady who covered the lapse with improvised dialogue,  I don't think the audience noticed.

Now...about that music. Incidental music is used in different ways in a production. Played for 15 minutes as the audience enters the theater, it can set the mood before the curtain opens. Used between scenes and or acts, it can underscore a theme or emotion or provide transitions. At the end during curtain calls and as the audience is leaving the theater, the music can remind the audience of what was important. In a couple of instances I linked my musical choices to specific characters and let the actors know that the song in question was their "theme" song. They got a kick out of that.

Postmortem was set in 1922 and so locating music was difficult (remember, our production was mounted in 1991, right before A. Gore invented the internet).With limited funds and time, I was able to find some albums with a few early '20s tunes and then cheated just a bit on the rest.

I discovered I liked this old music and it made me realize that a person who sticks only to his own time period for popular music, will miss out on a lot of good stuff.

A few of the songs we used were Paul Whiteman's "Whispering," 1920; Whiteman's "Lonely Melody,"1928; Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin,'" 1929; and this great tune from 1928, sung by "the voice of the Southland" Gene Austin, "My Blue Heaven."
In 1928, "My Blue Heaven" became a huge hit on Victor 20964-A for crooner Gene Austin, accompanied by the VictorOrchestra as directed by Nat Shilkret; it charted for 26 weeks, stayed at #1 for 13, and sold over five million copies becoming one of the best selling singles of all time.[3]
Bing Crosby (whose "White Christmas" broke that best selling singles record years later) was an early admirer of Austin and gave him credit for inspiring his career. If you have time read the wiki entry on Austin--as one of the first "crooners" he had quite a career himself.

Finally here's an artist from that era I did not include in my incidental music selections for Postmortem because I didn't know about him--Russ Columbo. Wiki says Columbo
was an American singer, violinist and actor, most famous for his signature tune "You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love", his compositions "Prisoner of Love" and "Too Beautiful For Words", and the legend surrounding his early death.
Columbo died in an accidental shooting. A friend was playing around with an antique gun, pulling and releasing the hammer and fiddling with a match at the same time. Somehow the match got beneath the hammer just as it fell. It ignited and an old forgotten ball was discharged into Austin's head. He died several hours later.

One of the tunes I like by Columbo is this one, which became Bing Crosby's signature song...

Too bad Gore hadn't invented the internet before '91, because had I known about Columbo's version of this song, I would definitely have put it in the Postmortem playlist.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Passing the Torch

This interesting photo shows President Eisenhower greeting president elect JFK on December 6, 1960. Even though Kennedy spoke of the torch being passed to a new generation in his inaugural address, he was an intelligent man and sought the elder Eisenhower's advice immediately after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and during the Cuban missile crisis. As JFK demonstrated, there is much to be gained by seeking the counsel of older leaders and learning from history.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Lucky Guy

Recently Joyce and I have been sifting through old slides in order to select and transfer them to DVD. We came across several from our late '20s (that would be in the late 1960s) when we were living in Columbia, TN, and I had a job at TN's first CC.

The photo for today's post was taken by one of our friends and shows Joyce and I standing in the open door of our '68 Pontiac GTO. We were all dolled up for some campus function or other. The car's nice, but the real beauty is standing next to me in the photo.

I ain't complaining, but it's a mystery to me why she said "yes" to a green, awkward, and uncool guy like me way back in 1960. For years now I've had Boston Blackie, Joe Friday, Peter Gunn, Lew Archer, Philip Marlowe, and even old Joe Rose on the case, but so far they've got zip. And the real puzzler is why, after all these years, she's still by my side.

I think I'm just a lucky guy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Remembering JFK: "The Golden Cup," A Song

Like Martin Luther King, President John F. Kennedy envisioned a "New Frontier," a U. S. where everyone, including African Americans, had equal opportunities for success. His vision also included a U. S. which took a leadership role in the exploration of space as well as a growing and vibrant national economy unhampered by restrictive tax rates.

And like millions of other Americans at that time, I shared his vision of America. Today, some of us are beginning to question whether we can sustain our success and others doubt our nation's ability to lead in these difficult times.

In my view, were JFK alive today, he would disagree with those doubters. Read these words from JFK to see what I mean.
“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”
"I think we have to revitalize our society. I think we have to demonstrate to the people of the world that we're determined in this free country of ours to be first -- not first but -- not first when -- but first." 
I was in my early twenties when Kennedy was assassinated. I miss him. I miss those days when Kennedy embodied the youthful confidence of our country, the boundless possibilities of success, the great give and take of American politics, and the hope that we could all somehow make a difference in this hard world. I confess that I miss the excitement that people felt as the myth of Camelot began to take shape; I know it was a bit over the top romantically, but still, it was a great national fantasy.

All that ended on November 22, 1963. Before we drank our fill, the golden cup of promise was shattered that black day.

Here's a folk song from the album, "The Golden Cup," which honors JFK and what he stood for.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Joe Kennedy, Jr. and Operation Aphrodite

Joseph Kennedy, Jr. was JFK's older brother by two years. Joe Junior had been groomed by his father from a very early age to be president of the U. S. He attended the prestigious Choate School in 1933 and graduated from Harvard in 1938. He spent a year of study at the London School of Economics before enrolling in Harvard Law School.  He was a delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention and planned to run for congress from Massachusetts. As World War II began, Joe Kennedy left law school and began officer and flight training in the U. S. Navy.

He completed 25 missions as pilot of a land based PB4Y patrol bomber by 1944 and was eligible to return home to the United States.
He instead chose to volunteer for a very dangerous mission called Operation Aphrodite. This secret development made use of "unmanned, explosive laden Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bombers, that were deliberately crashed into their targets under radio control."

The bomb filled planes couldn't safely take off by remote control; pilots had to take off and fly them up to 2000 feet where the remote control would take over and the pilots would parachute out of the plane. The planes would then be crashed into the target.

On August 12, 1944, five planes took off from RAF Fersfield near Norwich in Norfok, England. The BQ-8 (a converted remote control equipped B-24 Liberator) was piloted by Joe Kennedy; his co pilot was Lt. John Willy. Two of the other planes were Lockheed Venturas, the navigation plane was a B-17, and an F-8 Mosquito was the photography plane.

Their target was the Fortress of Mimoyecques, an underground German military complex in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France. The allies knew something was going on there, but they didn't know that the site was supposed to house 25 giant V3 cannons which the Germans hoped to use to bombard London (only a hundred miles away). 

Kennedy's plane was loaded with 21,000 pounds of Torpex and the plan was for Kennedy and his co pilot to get the plane into the air, put the plane on remote control for a test turn, remove the explosive firing pin, and then parachute to safety before the plane was guided to its target.

Everything went according to plan up to and including the firing pin removal. Over the radio, Kennedy told the other planes, that the pin had been removed. Two minutes later, the plane exploded.

A camera man in the photography plane who was injured by some of the fragments from the explosion says,  
the Baby just exploded in mid-air as we neared it and I was knocked halfway back to the cockpit. A few pieces of the Baby came through the plexiglass nose and I got hit in the head and caught a lot of fragments in my right arm. I crawled back to the cockpit and lowered the wheels so that Bob could make a quick emergency landing,
Kennedy and his co pilot were killed instantly. Later, an electronics officer said he had warned Kennedy the day before the flight about a possible defect in the wiring harness.

Kennedy's father and the rest of the family were devastated by Joe's death. The presidential plans that Joesph Kennedy senior had for Joe Junior were passed on to the next oldest son, John F. Kennedy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Somewhere I Lost Connection

Hope all you rednecks, gearheads, bikers, bareback riders, raconteurs, and wordbenders that I know out there on the internet highway system are doing well.

It's been a few days since I visited your sites.

I've been stuck in Lodi again. You know the place, that existential limbo that CCR's J. C. Fogerty wailed about back in the day...the place where you think you're just spending the night on your upward path to enlightenment (or fame and fortune)...but the place turns out to be a kind of NEVER NEVER land somewhere between possibly positive realities...or possibly other never really know about those other places unless you go.

Lodi. I thought I was going somewhere else, anywhere else. The man from the magazine said so...

The man from the magazine, 
said I was on my way,
Somewhere I lost connection...

But I guess I didn't realize he was THE MAN from that MAGAZINE though, the tricky big guy whose "Moving Finger writes and having writ, moves on," that indifferent jerk named Fate who sometimes writes with his middle finger. You know that guy?

So yeah, somewhere I lost connection, and now I'm out there in that Lodi wilderness sitting at Moses' Internet Bar, spillin' my guts out to Old Moses and sippin' on a really bad tasting beer, probably a Hudepohl, the beer that didn't make Cincinnati famous.

Not really.

I'm not at a bar, virtual or otherwise. And I've never been to the real Lodi, nor do I care to. But I am in that symbolic Lodi where my wheels have been spinning around, a place where I'm doing a lot of stuff but seem to be stuck.

I got a new blog going a couple of weeks ago where I could write a few pieces about my old political hero, Jack Kennedy, and promote our "JFK 50: A Memorial Album" as well as a book I've been working on.

You can check out that blog here.

Don't worry, you won't get stuck over there. You can always hit the back arrow. My latest post over there is a kind of press release (that will probably appear in the Lodi Ledger only :-), in which I argue that JFK was a centrist whose views appeal to both left and right, and that if his ideas were put forth by a politician today he/she and those ideas would possibly have a unifying effect on a divided nation.

Besides making that point, the release also mentions the EBook I spent most of the spring and summer spinning my wheels on--JFK 50: A Memorial in Drama, Poetry, and Song. I just put it up on Amazon and I've now added a pic (and an Amazon link) to the Cumberland Post's right column.

The small book (84 pages) is unusual in that it's a kind of play or drama for the reader. It's in a kind of "literary" style and  recalls the fear and grief the assassination led to, presents JFK's words and deeds, and makes the case for Kennedy's inclusion in our national pantheon of heroes. To open the book up a bit and illustrate certain points, there are 18 black and white photos. The songs on the aforementioned album are a part of this play too.

So much for that.

And here we are. Stuck again. Not sure how to get out of this post.

How about a weather report? The leaves are falling here in the hollow and there's a chance of frost.

Guess we're still here. Needing a finale.

Okay. It's a long way from CCR's Lodi to Les and Mary. But it's an out.

"Vaya Con Dios." See you next time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ceilings...of the Debt Kind

According to the Washington Times,

The debt ceiling is the borrowing limit for the United States government. Once reached, the United States would be unable to spend more. Like a credit card, there is a spending cap. Unlike a credit card, the government can raise its own “credit limit” — with congressional approval.

The ceiling in the American economic house has gone from a standard 8' to a cathedral in a rather short time. Progressives and some liberal Republicans argue that raising that ceiling is routine. They say that refusing to do so is irresponsible.
Conservatives argue that continuing to spend money until America is broke would be irresponsible. In the long run, the house of cards that is the global financial system will collapse if spending is not reined in. No individual, business or government can spend more money than it collects without eventually having their line of credit cut off. Delaying painful choices makes the inevitable reckoning worse.
If we keep on "kicking the can down the road" by routinely raising the debt ceiling, we will indeed be facing a real crisis. I'm looking for politicians who will step up and demonstrate leadership by explaining to the American people why we need to do something and to offer some plans to deal with the root causes of the problem. In a recent USA Today column, Glenn H. Reynolds says,
As economist Herbert Stein once observed, something that can't go on forever, won't... [Reynolds says] Here's my budget proposal: An across-the-board cut of 5% in every government department's budget line. (You can't convince me -- and you'll certainly have a hard time convincing voters -- that there's not 5% waste to be found in any government program.) Then a five-year freeze at that level. Likewise, a one-year moratorium on new regulations, followed by strict limits on new regulatory action: Perhaps a rule that all new business regulations won't have the force of law until approved by Congress.
I like the regulation moratorium. A lot. And I think we could probably go to a 10% across the board cut without any ill effects. But whatever across the board cut we make would at least put us on the road to fiscal sanity.

What do you think?

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Pretty Good Day

Remember this oldie? It's Ray Stevens with a big hit from 1970. You don't have to listen to the whole thing, just a few bars will do.

Good tune, easy to sing (if you have a voice, which I don't), and an easy to remember lyric. That lyric was easy to ridicule, because, not EVERY thing is beautiful. There's some bad stuff in the world. Some really bad stuff.

Still, the song works for me on those rare times when everything converges and things do, indeed, seem beautiful.

Yesterday was one of those days, a pretty damn good day, actually. Beautiful weather, good company (sweet, beautiful Joyce), a popcorn fun time at the movies, a spectacular sunset, a good meal in a good restaurant, and a beer and a little TV Catherine Cookson (Joyce likes her and hey, I'm a softie, a romantic at heart) from Netflix before bed.

The movie was "Gravity," with Bullock and Clooney. A thrilling 90 minutes. The movie was entertaining and kept my attention, but once or twice I lost my "willing suspension of disbelief" because I wondered "how in the hell did they do that shot?"

Speaking of shots. Buck has posted some outstanding shots with his phone camera recently. I'm not in Buck's league for sure, but he inspired me, so, here goes. The theater first.

The theater's very regal dontcha think? :-) In a neon kinda way. This was taken after we'd seen the movie.

And here's the sunset I mentioned that arrived just as we exited the theater.

Joyce took some pics of the sunset too. We noticed that her shots were warmer looking in terms of color (with more yellow), while mine seemed cooler, whiter. Hers were much better in my opinion. We wondered if the color values on the phone could be adjusted. Anybody know?

Joyce took this with my phone while we were dining on some great spaghetti marinara with mushrooms and parmesan at Demos'. Because we only took the one shot and it had too much flash, I experimented with the filters and decided to see how a black and white would look. It didn't improve my mug any, but no technology will do that.
I mentioned on the Post once before that in '87 or '88 I attended a writers' workshop at my college which was led by novelist (and frequent USA Today contributor at the time) Jesse Hill Ford. One of the things I took away from that workshop was his simple explanation of most fiction. "Put your hero or heroine up a tree and throw rocks at him/her."

The writers of the movie we viewed, "Gravity," certainly did that. And it's always a prominent feature of a Cookson novel. Only in Cookson's case instead of putting her heroine "up a tree," she seems to enjoy putting them into the most miserable, painful, and degrading positions possible and leaving them there for about 97% of the book.

Cookson, who died in 1998, was the UK's best selling novelist. The heroine in her novel, The Girl is abused, whipped, degraded, humiliated time and time again before she finally gets the guy she wants--who in the movie version at least, is riding a white horse.

So. Everything is beautiful in the end. Okay, my photos were not quite beautiful, but the fun Joyce and I had while taking them was exceptional.

We're filing this pretty damn good day away as one we'll not forget.

P.S. Bob Bell just sent me a great list of puns. Here's an example:

The midget fortune-teller who escaped from
prison was a small medium at large.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

November 22, 1963: "He Was Born to Live," a Video

November 22, 1963, is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's death by assassination.

In August and September Joyce and I worked on an interesting project together, an album of original folk songs which remember and honor JFK as that anniversary approaches. The CD/MP3 was released yesterday and is titled JFK 50: A Memorial Album.

With the help of several friends--Charlie Barnes, Jerry Webb (he owns The Project Room studio), and Joe Pointer--we recorded a series of eight song tracks and four recreated newscasts from 1963. Charlie sings on seven of the songs, Jerry is the guitarist, and Joe Pointer plays harmonica. My wife Joyce sings the last track, a reprise of the fourth song on the album, "The Golden Cup."

All of us involved in the project are seniors who were alive at the time of JFK's assassination. Like most everyone else who was old enough and alive at that time, we remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news.

Nashville producer and two time Grammy winner J. Aaron Brown calls JFK 50 "a folksy blend of songs and narrations that will touch the hearts of all who experienced that tragic day in November of 1963....[It's] a must for history buffs and JFK fans around the world."

Though the lyrics are all original, three of the songs make use of traditional or public domain tunes that you might recognize. The song in the You Tube video below, "He Was Born to Live," is one of those, and the melody, which I'm sure most of you will recognize, goes back to the first decade of the 20th or the last couple of decades of the 19th century.

Most of the new lyrics I wrote for it are not all that new either. A few lines go back to 1969-70 when I used them in a play performed at the community college where I worked at the time.
If you click on the album cover link at the top of the right column, you can sample all the other tunes on the album as well.

Thanks for reading this post and listening to and viewing the video.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trapped in an Old Country Song

There's probably been a country song written for just about everything a person can go through in this life.

In "Trapped in an Old Country Song," Cowboy Jack Clement and Don Robertson take that idea and turn it back toward the listener.
Did you ever just feel like a movie
Or a book or a story in a song,
Or did you hear some words for the first time today,
And find yourself hurting alone?
Heard this again recently on XM. Great song. Several artists have recorded it, but this is Ronnie Milsaps's version from youtube.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hey, I'm Back...I Think.

Hey, I'm least I think I am.

It's been a busy summer. Joyce and I are doing okay, although we're a bit tired from all the busy-ness.

We pressure washed and stained the deck...which, thanks to the damn hackberry trees, already looks like it needs it again. Hope they've enjoyed their mayhem, because it's the last time they'll be spewing their ugly sap on our deck and house. they're coming down this fall. We're calling the tree service this weekend.

We also finished up some work in the family room, boxing in the posts, touch up painting, etc. And we started on cleaning our the garage. But that (sigh) is still a work in progress.

We also took several road trips. First we drove up to Ashland, KY, to visit Joyce's younger sister Barbara and her husband Tony. On the way we stopped in Richmond, KY, and spent the night. Richmond is the home of Eastern Kentucky University, where I taught from 1963 to 1966. Before we left, we drove around to some of the old places we remembered, including the first home we ever owned. It was a new 1200 square foot 3 BR gem when we purchased for $13,300 in late '64. Well, after almost 50 years the neighborhood had gone down quite a bit, but the house still looked solid. We were amazed to see that the Sears aluminum carport we attached was still there after all these years. They don't make 'em like they used to.

In Ashland, Barb and Joyce had a lot of catching up to do, and Tony and I reviewed some of his photos and videos (he's a pro with the digital still camera and the video camera) and picked a few songs on his guitars. After a great visit with Barb and Tony and their family, we drove over the mountains to Charlottesville, VA, to visit Helen and Joel, Joyce's older sister and her husband.

While in VA, besides catching up on things, we visited Jefferson's Monticello mansion and Walton Mountain (remember the Waltons TV show?).

We've also taken several shorter trips, including (1) a visit to Joyce's Aunt Hallie Mae in the Huntsville, AL area, (2) a visit to our grandson Jason's family in Ringold, GA, to see his new home, (3) another trip to Chatsworth, GA, to see Jonathan--another grandson, and (4) a visit to our son's family in TX.

This past weekend we took my brother Dave along and went to a concert in Paris.

That would be Paris, TN, not the one in France. Heh.

The concert featured a country artist who has millions of fans worldwide, but who is still flying a little bit under the radar here. His name is David Church and he's from Ohio.

Church's live show is built around some unbelievable renditions of Hank Williams' tunes. He's so good that if you close your eyes while at a live concert, you'll think Hank has returned from the grave. Church also sings his own contemporary songs and they're top notch too. But here's his version of "Cold, Cold Heart."

We went to Paris because a friend of ours, Jerry Webb, who owns The Project Room Studio in Hendersonville, is Church's lead guitar player on many of his gigs. Jerry is an extraordinary guitarist and makes those complicated hot licks seem easy as pie.

We met Jerry earlier in the summer as we worked on our latest project, JFK 50: A Memorial Album. It's a "concept" album of 8 tracks of original folk songs with 4 recreated newscasts from 1963 interspersed throughout. There's a link to it at the top of the right column.

Our old friend Charlie Barnes sings on seven of the tracks and Joyce sings on the last track. All of the people involved in the project lived through that tragic November weekend in 1963, when Kennedy was assassinated. Over the years I've grown more conservative, but JFK was and still is a hero to me. Matter of fact, the ideas and positions he took on most things still mesh with mine. The album is meant to remember that black weekend fifty years ago this November and to honor our 35th president.

I'll do another post on the JFK thing later in the week and put up a video as well.

It's good to be back home at the old Cumberland Post. As per the season, I changed my header photo, although we're not quite that colorful here yet.

I'd like to welcome my old blog buddies back to the site and I'll be visiting your places this week too. Like my Dad used to say, let's keep on truckin' awhile and see what's over that next hill.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Way Down Below: Terraplane Blues

Several times during his life, I heard my Dad speak of a car that a young man in his small town owned back in the '30s. He described it with awe, as a special kind of powerful machine. It was called a Terraplane and was manufactured by the Hudson car company.

When I looked it up back in the day, I found Hudson had also manufactured a companion line called Essex through the '20s and early '30s, and the first Terraplanes in '32 - '33 bore this designation as well.

In my opinion, those from '36, 37, and '38 were on the ugly side, with bulbous bodies and ungainly looking grilles and fenders. But those from '32, '33, '34, and '35 were very nicely styled, with proportioned hoods and graceful flowing fender lines.

And like Dad remembered, Terraplanes were powerful and fast. Wiki says,
1933 Essex-Terraplane 8-cylinder cars were believed to have the highest horsepower-to-weight ratio of any production automobiles in the world, and were favored by several gangsters of the day, particularly John DillingerBaby Face Nelson, and John Paul Chase, for their lightness, acceleration, handling, and discreet appearance.
The opening hood vent doors (instead of louvers) indicate that the beautiful '33 coupe below had the powerful straight eight, but most of them came with six cylinder engines. They were also very fast.

Their speed, light weight, and strength (all steel frame) made them legendary. If you were interested in fast cars, you knew about Hudson Terraplanes. Thus, these beautiful cars became a part of popular culture, including music.

Especially Blues music. Robert Johnson had obviously heard about these fast cars and he wrote a song about them, "Terraplane Blues." Well, not exactly about the car. You see, the song's ostensibly about a car, but it's also about a woman. The comparison between the two is extended over the whole song. In fancy literary parlance, this is called a conceit, or an extended metaphor. Back in the late '70s, early '80s I used to use this song as an example of that figure of speech in class sometimes.

Johnson sets up everything right away. He says, "Who's been driving my Terraplane for you since I been gone?" The woman is his "Terraplane" and somebody's been driving her since he's been away. he can tell somebody's been messin' round with his car (woman) because he flashes her lights and finds her horn won't even blow. He says there must be a short in her connection "way way down below."

Yup, something's definitely wrong, so he needs to "heist her hood" and check....Well, you get the picture.

The version of Johnson's "Terraplane Blues" I used in class was on a compilation vinyl album I bought in the bargain bin back in the late '70s, and the singer was bluesman Son House. That version isn't available on youtube but you can easily find the original by Johnson in their vast holdings.

And there's this version, by Roy Rogers.

Whoa Trigger!