The Cumberland Post

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

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.