Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ten Weeks of Summer Update

My Dad and I have completed eleven weeks of this blog! We have caught the "blogger bug" and plan to continue the blog in a few weeks. It will be new and improved! Can't wait!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Great Speeches - Calvin Coolidge

Today's great speech comes from "Silent Cal" Coolidge, a greatly underestimated President. His Inaugural Address from March 4th, 1925, provides a blueprint for limited government as prescribed by our Constititution. Coolidge's critics are those who believe that a government should play a strong role in the regulation and control of a nation's economy. His admirers are those who have read, understood and believe in the Constitution. Guess what side Harry Reid is on. His reputation made a strong comeback during the Reagan administration. No surprise there. Here is one of my favorite parts of the speech: The wisest and soundest method of solving our tax problem is through economy. Fortunately, of all the great nations this country is best in a position to adopt that simple remedy. We do not any longer need wartime revenues. The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny. Under this republic the rewards of industry belong to those who earn them. The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to public necessity. The property of the country belongs to the people of the country. Their title is absolute.

You can read all of it here:

Please feel free to pass it on to your liberal friends.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Great American Literature- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was a regular guy who wrote great poetry that appealed to the average people like himself, but also to a refined and highly educated audience. He was a child prodigy and published his first poem at the young age of thirteen. He was privately educated and later attended Bowdoin College, where he was told that he should teach if he was able to gain cultural finesse. So, he traveled to Europe where he learned French, German, and Italian. He then taught at Bowdoin and in later years, at Harvard. Voices of the Night and Ballads and Other Poems were Longfellow's first main poetry collections. Longfellow's poetry became widely recognized and his poems were quoted not only in the states, but overseas too. Longfellow's most well-known poem (though many may not know that he is the author) is Paul Revere's Ride.

This is a small excerpt from the poem. To read it in its entirety go here.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Great Moments in American Sports- The Greatest Presidential First Pitch in History

In the wake of the attacks (by Islamofascists) against our Nation on 11 September 2001, President George W. Bush traveled to New York City for Game 3 of the World Series between the Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. He strode confidently from the Yankees dugout in a sweatshirt emblazoned with FDNY, a tribute to the great heroes of the New York Fire Department, gave the fans a thumbs up from the mound and then fired a perfect strike to Yankees' catcher Todd Greene. As he left the mound, the fans chanted "USA, USA." Even Rosie O'Donnell, noted overweight loudmouth and leftist, expressed pride and admiration for her country and President on that day. What a moment, what a man!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great American Artists - Frederic Remington

Frederic Remington was an American painter, illustrator, sculptor and writer whose favorite subject was the old American west, including cowboys, indians and the U.S Cavalry. Remington was the son of a U.S Army Colonel from the Civil War. His father had great hopes that his son would attend West Point and follow in his footsteps as a soldier, but Frederic new from an early age that this was not the life for him. He was very interested in illustrating and painting from his early school days and he was not a particularly industrious or motivated young man. He did, however, venture out west and experienced the life of a settler firsthand. He even tried his hand at ranching for a time, but found it to be uninspiring, boring and a bit rough for his tastes. He did have, obviously, a great eye for the ways of the west and a unique ability to depict it in paintings and stories and then later in sculptures. In his career he covered the U.S. Government's war against Geronimo, illustrated a book by Teddy Roosevelt and was a war correspondent and illustrator during the Spanish-American War in 1898 and witnessed the assault by the Rough Riders on San Juan Hill.
When the Rough Riders returned to the U.S., they presented their courageous leader Roosevelt with Remington’s bronze statuette, The Broncho Buster, which is pictured above. In
1888, he had two of his paintings used for reproduction on U. S. Postal stamps.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Great American Heroes- John Fremont

John Fremont is known for many things. He was a military officer, an explorer, and a politician. During the Civil War he was given command of armies in the west but was released due to some hasty decisions that he made. As an explorer, he followed Lewis and Clarke into the American frontier, in the late 1830s and early 1840s. Fremont explored the west, mainly the Oregon Trail. He discovered many new plants during his explorations and the genus of the California Flannelbush is named for him. He is commonly known as "The Man who Mapped the West." He became prosperous during the California Gold Rush of 1848. In 1850, he became one of California's first two senators. In 1856 he was the Republican Party's first ever candidate. He ran again four years later, but withdrew so that Abraham Lincoln would receive the Republican nomination.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This Week in American History- Japan agrees to unconditional surrender

On August 10, 1945, Emeror Hirohito announced to the Japanese people in a radio broadcast that their country had agreed to terms of unconditional surrender in World War II. In doing so, the Emperor had agreed to terms that had been offered as an ultimatum to the Japanese government in late July following the Potsdam conference. The ultimatum offered the choice between total and unconditional surrender or total annihilation. In their initial reply, the Japanese did not capitulate completely. On August 6, the Enola Gay (a B-29 bomber) dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Three days later, as Japan still defied the ultimatum, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. In the face of threats of further such attacks, the Emperor, who had previously rubber-stamped all of the war decisions by his military leaders, stepped up and made the decision to submit unconditional surrender.

There has been much cringing and hand-wringing in recent years over President Truman's decision to employ the atomic bombs, but I think a very strong case, even an inarguable case, can be made in support of the decision. Here is Victor Davis Hanson in a 2005 National Review Online article. "The truth, as we are reminded so often in this present conflict, is that usually in war there are no good alternatives, and leaders must select between a very bad and even worse choice. Hiroshima was the most awful option imaginable, but the other scenarios would have probably turned out even worse."

The whole article can be read here:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Great Speeches - Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

As Abraham Lincoln delivered his second Inaugural Address, the Civil War was drawing to a close and to victory for the Union forces. Grant's Army was pushing Robert E. Lee back toward Richmond and Sherman had stormed through Georgia. In the days leading up to the election of 1864, Lincoln's re-election chances had appeared bleak. Now, as he stepped to the podium to take his second Oath of Office, anticipation was high. What would he say? What would be his tone? Would it be a victory speech? What followed surprised most, angered many and eventually became recognized as, perhaps, his greatest speech. At 703 words, it was the second shortest Inaugural speech. In the speech, Lincoln invoked the name of God 14 times, quoted scripture 4 times (only the second time that scripture had been quoted in an Inaugural speech) and mentioned prayer 4 times. Frederick Douglass, the Abolitionist leader who was in attendance, wrote in his journal that the speech sounded more like a sermon than a state paper. Lincoln suggested that the war was God's will and that both sides were to blame for the sin of slavery and, most importantly, that the war was a way to purge the nation of this sin. The first sentence of the last paragraph provide the speech's most memorable line and the overarching theme, that of reconciliation: "With malice toward none, with charity for all." As the war came to an end, President Lincoln understood that reconciliation was necessary in order to accomplish the goal of saving the Union.

Read the speech in its entirety below.

Fellow countrymen:
At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to disolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Great American Literature - Herman Melville

Call me Ishmael.

Those are the first words of Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick. Most people with a legitimate High School education can quote them, but very few have actually read the novel that many consider to be the greatest American novel and certainly a masterpiece of world literature. I can honestly say that I did read it and found it to be fantastic at times and extremely tedious at other times. Even at its most tedious, it’s time better spent than watching just about anything on the tube. Melville was an American novelist (obviously), a short story writer an essayist and a poet. He is best known for the aforementioned Moby Dick and the novella Billy Budd. He and his early work (which did not include either Moby Dick or Billy Budd) were very popular during the mid-19th century, but his popularity declined from the 1850’s until his death. He was never successful by monetary standards and he was actually considered to be only a minor American literary figure at the time of his death in 1891. His work enjoyed a revival in the early 20th century and he became the first writer to have his works collected and published by the Library of America. Moby Dick was inspired by his voyage on the whaler Acushnet out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Just recently it was announced that a new species of extinct giant sperm whale (how do you like that – new species of extinct giant sperm whale?), Leviathan melvillei was named in honor of Melville. Quite a legacy, that.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Great Moments in American Sports - Doug Flutie's Hail Mary Pass

Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass happened in a college football game between Boston College and the University of Miami on November 23, 1984. Miami was the defending national champ ranked 12th in the nation. Boston College was ranked 10th with a record of 8-2 and was headed to the Cotton Bowl. It was a tremendous football game even before the last second heroics. The game is most notable for a last-second Hail Mary pass from quarterback Doug Flutie to wide receiver Gerard Phelan to give Boston College the win. The game capped a Heisman Trophy season for Flutie. He later lost his mind and supported Hillary Clinton for U.S. Senate and in her Presidential campaign - but this is about the moment.

Read an account of the game below from ESPN.COM and then watch the video.

It's November 23, 1984, and the soldout crowd at the Orange Bowl has seen an electrifying shootout. Each team plays the entire 3-hour, 43-minutes marathon like a two-minute drill. There are 15 scoring drives, none less than 55 yards, five drives of 80 or more, and 1,273 yards produced by both teams combined.

At halftime, it's 28-21, B.C. While the teams rest and strategize in their locker rooms, a driving tropical rainstorm arrives. Snubbing the storm, Miami opens the third quarter with a 96-yard drive to tie the game at 28. The game remains tied at 31 entering the final quarter. Boston College snaps the stalemate with a field goal, but Miami regains the lead as Melvin Bratton comes right back with a dazzling 52-yard scoring run. With 3:50 remaining, B.C. completes an 82-yard drive to go back up, 41-38.

With 2:30 left, Miami is buried deep on its own 10 facing a third-and-21. Kosar scrambles back to his own goal line, is nearly tackled twice and unloads a pass to Darryl Oliver for a first down. The Hurricanes later make a first down on fourth-and-one and then Bratton scores his fourth TD of the game for a 45-41 lead.

The Hurricanes go wild on their sideline, celebrating what they believe is a landmark victory. Only 28 seconds remain. "I thought we had it won," Miami center Ian Sinclair would tell the media later. "We all did."

Doug Flutie

"I assumed we had lost," B.C. coach Jack Bicknell told the press. "I'm thinking, 'What am I going to tell these guys in the locker room?' They just played a great game."

Flutie isn't thinking only of the plays he's going to run on the game's final series. "We've got time for at least four plays," Flutie says to himself as he watches the kickoff. He runs through the Eagles' playbook in his mind. His plan is to get the ball near midfield with his first two passes, and then put one up into the end zone. Perhaps two, if there's time.

As the Eagles huddle up following the kickoff, Flutie yells, "OK, let's get near midfield. If we can get it there, we have a 50-50 chance of scoring."

Starting at the 20, Flutie gets 19 yards on his first play, a completion to Troy Stradford. Then, he gets 13 more on a completion to Scott Gieselman, getting the ball into Miami territory. Ten seconds remain. Flutie's next pass is incomplete. Six seconds remain -- and 48 yards to cover.

"OK, 'Flood Tip' on two," Flutie calls. Flood Tip is a play in which three receivers race downfield, flooding one area in the end zone and wait for Flutie's bomb to fall from the heavens. The play is specifically designed for Gerry Phelan at the goal line. If Phelan is unable to catch the ball, he is supposed to try to tip it to the two other receivers.

B.C. has tried "Flood Tip" three times in the previous two seasons and it worked once -- against Temple, earlier in the season, at the close of the first half. And it was Phelan who caught the touchdown pass.

Flutie takes the snap and darts backward. All-American lineman Jerome Brown chases Flutie out of the pocket. Staring straight into a 30-mile-per-hour wind, and with Miami's Willie Lee Broughton heading straight for him, Flutie heaves a bomb from his own 37, a bomb that sails ... and sails ... 60 yards through the evening sky.

Miami is in its prevent defense with three defensive backs assigned to the end zone. They plant themselves near the 10-yard line. They are unaware that Flutie can throw the ball 60 yards. As a result, they inexplicably allow Phelan to slip behind them, right at the cusp of the end zone.

"I didn't know Phelan was behind us," Darrell Fullington would tell the media later. "I took my eye away from him for just one second to see where Flutie was, and it was too late. I looked back, and the ball was in the air, and Phelan was past me. I jumped as hard as I could, but ..."

As the pass sails through the wet evening air, Fullington tries to recover. He scrambles backwards toward the goal line. He collides with teammate Reggie Sutton. With Fullington and Sutton off-balance at the 3, the ball begins to descend over their heads. They leap, but the ball sails right between their arms, just past the tips of their fingernails, and it falls right behind them ... right into Phelan's arms.

At the other end of the field, Flutie is lying on the ground, the aftermath of getting slammed by Broughton. As Flutie rises to his feet, he is unaware that Phelan is cradling the ball -- his 11th catch of the game for 226 yards -- as if it is "my first-born," he would say.

Flutie realizes what has transpired, that someone, somehow, caught the ball. Flutie begins running toward the end zone, his arms waving and flapping and whirling. "I thought the pass fell incomplete," he would say later. "When I saw the referee's arms go up in the air for a touchdown, I could not believe it."

"We flooded the area," Bicknell would say later with a laugh, referring to the name of the play, Flood Tip. "But nobody tipped it."

The B.C. players race jubilantly off the sideline, onto the field, toward the end zone, where Phelan is buried under a pile of wild, ecstatic players.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Great American Artists - Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was a major figure in American art from the 1920s. She is mainly known for paintings of flowers, rocks, shells, animal bones, and landscapes in which she "synthesized abstraction and representation". What this means, I guess, is that she took real subject matter and transformed it into abstract images. She is also credited with bringing an American style of art to Europe during a period when most influence came from Europe to America - so I like her, at least, for that.

She found much of her inspiration in the Southwest, and particularly in New Mexico, where she lived.

In January 1977, President Gerald R. Ford presented O'Keeffe with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1985, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

The two paintings above are examples of her work. Not sure if they are among her most famous, but I recognize them as her work. Kind of weird, huh?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Great American Heroes-Whittaker Chambers

Whittaker Chambers was an American writer and editor who stood athwart history with William F. Buckley yelling stop in creating The National Review, the highly influential conservative journal. While this is a significant enough accomplishment to make him a hero in my book, he is best known and most worthy of designation as a hero for his part in the trial and conviction on charges of perjury of Alger Hiss. Hiss, a former State Department official was a highly respected figure in Washington D.C. political circles and had been a central player in America's wartime diplomacy and attended both the Yalta and Potsdam conferences as an American representative. He later served as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In other words, he was one of the "ruling class" (spoken with a sneer). Chambers on the other hand was a former Communist Party member who had admitted to serving as a spy for the Soviet Union. He left the Communist Party in 1938 and offered his services to the FBI as an informant on Communist activities in the U.S. He credits his embrace of Christianity as his principal motivation for leaving the Communist Party. He was decidedly not a member of the "ruling class." On August 3, 1948, in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Chambers accused Hiss of being a Soviet spy and member of the Communist Party. Hiss, of course, vehemently denied the charges, claiming that he did not even know Chambers. He had the backing of the political elite including President Truman who called the charges a "red herring." Despite countercharges of slander and vicious personal attacks against him, Chambers persisted in his accusations against Hiss and eventually was vindicated after producing evidence in the form of micro-film of classified State Department documents that he had kept stored in hollowed out pumpkins on his farm. These so-called "Pumpkin Papers" were used to support his claim that Hiss had passed the documents to him for delivery to the Soviet Union. The end result of the trial was that Hiss served 44 months in prison for perjury. He was not convicted of espionage because the statute of limitations had expired on those activities. Hiss claimed his innocence until his death, but more evidence has surfaced in recent years which leave little doubt that he was guilty. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Chambers the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to "the century's epic struggle between freedom and totalitarianism."

Monday, August 2, 2010

This Week in American History- The Battle of Mobile Bay

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

On August 5th, 1864, a Union Fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David Farragut attacked a Confederate Fleet, commanded by Admiral Franklin Buchanan, and three Confederate forts at the mouth of Mobile Bay. The Battle was marked by Farragut's audacious run through a minefield that had just sunk one of his ironclad ships and will be forever remembered by Farragut's battle cry at the beginning of the post. His bold move enabled his fleet to get beyond the range of the shore batteries and to batter the Confederate fleet mercilessly. With no naval support, the forts were unable to resist the Union fleet and they soon also fell to Farragut. This victory gave the Union forces control of the Mississippi and enabled them to complete the blockade of the region. It was also important in that it gave a boost to Abraham Lincoln's re-election campaign....and elections, of course, have consequences!

Great Speeches - Alexis de Tocqueville

This is a departure from the regular Saturday post in that it is not Saturday, it is not a speech and it does not come from an American - in fact, oh, the horror, it comes from a French political thinker and historian who also happened to be a very astute observer of American society in the 19th century. He published Democracy in America in two volumes in the mid-1800's (Volume 1 in 1835 and 2 in 1840). The below comment is from an unpublished scrap of paper in his notes and describes the moral strength that comes from limited government.

One of the happiest consequences of the absence of government (when a people is fortunate enough to be able to do without it, which is rare) is the development of individual strength that inevitably follows from it. Each man learns to think, to act for himself, without counting on the support of an outside force which, however vigilant one supposes it to be, can never answer all social needs. Man, thus accustomed to seek his well-being only through his own efforts, raises himself in his own opinion as he does in the opinion of others; his soul becomes larger and stronger at the same time.

WOW! That sounds like it could have come from a Ronald Reagan speech.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Great American Literature- Robert Frost

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life – It goes on” – Robert Frost

Robert Frost (1874-1963) was born in San Francisco, California but spent the majority of his life living and working in New England. He was a man whose family was challenged by mental illness and disease and who was unable to complete his college education despite many attempts. Yet, he married his love, Elinor, fathered six children and received over 40 honorary degrees, including ones from Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge universities; and he was the only person to receive two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College. At the age of 86 he spoke and performed a reading of his poetry at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. He was honored with four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry.

Though Frost tried his hands at many things including farming to support his family, it was always the writing of poetry that called to him. In 1894 he sold his first poem, "My Butterfly: An Elegy" (published in the November 8, 1894 edition of the New York Independent) for fifteen dollars. Of his collection of well over a hundred poems, many easily recall “The Road Not Taken” (often referenced as The Road Less Traveled.) However, it was “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” that Frost himself felt was his “best bid for remembrance.” He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. Frost continues to be a popular and often-quoted American poet as his contribution to American poetry is like the road chosen to be travelled. It “has made all the difference.”

Great Moments in American Sports - Billy Mills

Billy Mills was an American Indian of the Sioux tribe, born on June 30th, 1938, in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He was orphaned at the age of 13. He took up running and boxing while attending the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. He attended the University of Kansas on an Athletic scholarship and became an All American Cross Country runner three times and a member of two Outdoor Track National Championship teams. He was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps upon graduation from Kansas and was a First Lieutenant in the USMC Reserves when he ran in the 1964 Olympics.

In the 1964 Olympics he became the only U.S. runner to ever win the Gold Medal in the 10,000 meters run. It was one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history. Mills, who placed second in the U.S. Olympics trial was a virtual unknown and not considered to be a factor in the race for a medal. The favorite was an Australian named Ron Clarke, who held the world record. Mills' time in the preliminary race was a full minute behind Clarke's. As expected, Clarke set the early pace and at the halfway mark only five runners were still in contention. With two laps left, only Clarke, Mills and Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia were left. It seemed to be falling into place for the world record holder, Clarke. Gammoudi took the lead going into the final stretch and Clarke gave chase. Mills appeared to be out of it. Clarke could not catch Gammoudi, but Mills miraculously sprinted past both of them to win the race in Olympic record time and 50 seconds faster than he had ever run before. I've always thought that the mark of a true champion is to save your best performance for your most important game or race. That certainly applies to Billy Mills! Billy was inducted into the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1976 and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984. He is the subject of the 1984 movie Running Brave starring Robbie Benson.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Great American Artists - Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper was born in upstate New York in 1882 to a middle class family. He knew from early on that he wanted to earn his living as an artist. His family encouraged him but wanted him to study commercial illustration as it offered a more secure and stable way of life. He studied for a time in Europe and was most impressed by Rembrandt's The Night Watch. He first enjoyed commercial success in 1924 at a sell out show of his work in New York City. He became best known as a realist and his paintings were known for their starkness and loneliness. His most famous works were oil paintings, but he was also accomplished as a printmaker and water colorist. Two of his most recognizable paintings are featured above: Nighthawks and Gas. His style as you can see is unmistakeable.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This Week in American History- The Fourteenth Amendment

On July 28th, 1868 following ratification by the necessary three-quarters of U.S. states, the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed to black Americans citizenship and all its privileges, was officially adopted into the U.S. Constitution. The amendment stated that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States...are citizens of the United States and of the state in which they reside." The amendment then reaffirmed the privileges and rights of all citizens, and granted all these citizens the "equal protection of the laws." Our great Nation has not always been perfect, but it has always recognized its flaws and, over time, has corrected them. It is important when studying history and when teaching it to our children to focus on that fact and not on the flaws.

Great American Heroes - Rush Limbaugh

This may be my most controversial post of the summer, but only because I am writing about the most vilified, misunderstood and misrepresented man on the U.S. political scene. Rush Limbaugh is a Conservative radio talk show host and the brains and driving force behind the Conservative movement. He is on every liberal/marxist/socialist enemies list and that is reason enough to admire him. He is a staunch defender of our Constitution, our Exceptionalism and our traditions, culture and storied history. He has been influential on the political scene for 22 years now, but never more important than at the present. He is often criticized by those who fear him - and they fear him because he is a threat to their agenda, which is more often than not anti-Constitution, anti-American Exceptionalism and anti-tradition, culture and storied history. His critics call him racist, sexist, and homophobic, but he is really none of those things. These are just the typical ad hominem attacks made by those who have no good arguments for their positions. Zev Chafets just wrote and published a biography of Rush. Chafets is not a card carrying member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. In fact, he probably leans left. His admiration for Rush, however, comes across loud and clear in the pages of the book. Here is an excerpt: "People who dismiss Rush as an entertainer, a pitchman, or a hot air balloon are very wrong. He is a passionate and tenacious advocate, a major political and cultural force who can't be wished away or shouted down or sniffed into irrelevance. Smart liberals will listen to his show, even if they hate what he has to say. The easily outraged will be. Those with a sense of humor will find themselves laughing despite themselves. But nobody will fully understand American politics and media culture until they get who Rush Limbaugh really is, what he does and how he does it." Too many people on the right are afraid to admit that they are fans of Rush, "Ditto-heads" as they are known. I am not. I consider him an American Hero!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Great Speeches - Lou Gehrig

One of the most memorable speeches of all time. Most of you can probably quote the most famous line from the speech - Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth - but you probably don't know that there was only a few more lines to the entire speech. It is considered a great speech because it was given by a beloved and humble man on a momentous, life-changing occasion and it was spoken with grace and dignity.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Great American Literature- Kurt Vonnegut

I can't actually say that I am a great fan of either Vonnegut's writing or his politics (certainly not his politics), but he was a very well known and influential American novelist and a veteran of World War II. As a Private with the 106th Infantry Division, he was captured in December of 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge and remained a POW in Dresden until May 1945. His experiences as a soldier and as a POW shaped his political opinions and his writing. He was also influenced by early socialist labor leaders and was a lifetime member of the ACLU. The main reason I am featuring Vonnegut today is his outstanding short story Harrison Bergeron, which surprisingly enough, given his political leanings, is an indictment of egalitarianism and totalitarianism. You can (and should) read it in its entirety here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Great Moments in American Sports - Tour de France 2001

In keeping with this week's theme, the subject of today's post is someone named Armstrong. On a Sunday in July 2001, my family and I were fortunate enough to be standing on the Champs Elysee in Paris, France, on the last day of the 2001 Tour de France. We were treated to the sight of Lance Armstrong, one of the greatest Bicycle racers of all time and an American, riding his victory laps for his 3rd Tour victory holding, alternately, a Texas flag and an American flag. Our President at the time was George W. Bush, a Texan. What a great moment for a patriotic American family traveling in France!
For those of you who are not familiar with Lance Armstrong's story, he is a cancer survivor who later went on to win seven consecutive Tours de France. He is currently wrapping up his last Tour and has said he will retire. He is also currently in the news facing accusations of fraud and doping violations. I certainly hope for his sake the allegations prove to be false. If he is guilty, it would also be a black eye for the United States, unfortunately.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Great American Artists - Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong

"I see trees of green... red roses too
I see 'em bloom...for me and for you
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world"

Louis Armstrong, also known by the names of Satchmo and Pops, was a jazz trumpeter and singer who rose to prominence in the Roaring 20's. He had a great impact on the jazz music scene and was also an influential singer, well known for his gravelly voice and deftness as an improviser. He was also able to bend the melody and lyrics of a song and was excellent at scat singing. He was a charming and captivating performer who was very popular and highly regarded throughout his career which ended in the 1960's.

Please enjoy the videos of two of Louis Armstrong's most popular songs, "What a Wonderful World" and "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Great American Heroes - Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, most renowned for being the first man to set foot on the moon, was also a test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor, and United States Naval Aviator. As a Naval Aviator, he flew combat missions in the Korean War. His first time in space he was the command pilot of the Gemini 8. During this mission, he was involved in the first docking of two spacecraft together. He was commander of Apollo 11 for his second and final spaceflight, which was the topic of yesterday's post. Armstrong also received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. And, unlike Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong did not embarrass himself on Dancing with the Stars.

Monday, July 19, 2010

This Week in American History- The First Man on the Moon

On July 20th in the year 1969, at 10:56 at night a man 240,000 miles from earth uttered unforgettable words as he took an unforgettable step. Neil Armstrong, an American, became the first man to set foot on the moon. Over a billion people, across the world, listened as he spoke the words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

The desire to send astronauts to the moon began when John F. Kennedy delivered the Man on the Moon speech. At the time of his speech, the Soviet Union was more advanced in space technology Americans, living in the Cold War era, were excited about Kennedy's idea.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (a.k.a NASA) conducted several missions, manned and unmanned, beginning in 1966. Finally, on July 16th, at 9:32 a.m. Apollo 11, with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins on board, took off from Kennedy Space Center. Armstrong was the commander of the mission. Within seventy-six hours (July 19th) Apollo 11 had traveled 240,000 miles and entered into a lunar orbit.

On July 20th, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle dispatched from the command module, where only Collins remained. The Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface two hours later. At 4:18 p.m. the Eagle touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong radioed the now famous message, "The Eagle has landed" to the Mission Control in Houston, Texas. Then, at 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of schedule, Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module and made his descent to the gray, powdery surface of the moon. At 10:56, Armstrong's foot was printed into the large sphere that we see at night. At 11:11 p.m. Aldrin joined Armstrong on the moon. The two took photos, ran scientific tests, and planted an American flag on the surface of the moon. They also spoke with President Richard M. Nixon. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21st, the two had retreated to the lunar module, where they spent the night. Besides the American flag, a plaque reading "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon--July 1969 A.D--We came in peace for all mankind" was left on the moon.