Thursday, April 28, 2016

National Poetry Month: To appreciate verse, You must hear and feel its rhythms. A Tribute to Wallace Stevens' "The Idea of Order at Key West"

Wallace Stevens 

In his review of Paul Mariani's recently published biography ("The Whole Harmonium" Simon and Schuster, 2016)  of Wallace Stevens (1879-1955),  New Yorker Magazine critic Peter Schjeldahl exudes awe and admiration for "The Idea of Order at Key West": 

"It may the finest American modern poem....(It gets my vote, with perfectly paced beauty that routinely squeezes tears from me.)"  

Schjledahl could not have said it better.

I dedicated my Columbia University  master's thesis on John Milton's Samson Agonistes with these concluding lines from the poem: 

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred, 
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds. 

You must hear Stevens recite the poem in its entirety!!!

Celebrating National Poetry Month: Shakespeare at 400

Title page of First Folio, 1623
Copper engraving of Shakespeare by 
Martin Droeshout (from Wikipedia)

In celebration of the 400 anniversary of the death of  William Shakespeare (April 23, 1616), I salute the Bard of Avon with some of his more memorable quotes: 

"Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
 (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2:  Spoken by Cassius to Brutus)

                                   "All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."
(As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII: Spoken by Jaques)

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although is height be taken."
(From Sonnet 116)

"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties, in form, and moving how express
and admirable, in action, how like an angel, in apprehension
how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals-
and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not
me-nor woman neither..."
(Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2, Hamlet speaking to Rosencrantz)

For my prior articles celebrating  National Poetry Month, click here.

The best way to appreciate poetry is to listen to you tube readings of famous actors reciting their favorite poems. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Continuing Accolades for Stephen Spielberg who directed and produced Bridge of Spies

Continuing accolades for Stephen Spielberg who produced and directed Bridge of Spies-- a captivating movie that depicts the tense, oppressive and bellicose spirit of the Cold War Era with excellent acting and cinematography. (click here for first-hand reporting of my 1962 visit to East Berlin during the Cold War)

U-2 Pilot Gary Powers held in custody
being grilled by Soviet interrogators

The hero of the movie, lawyer James Donovan ( Tom Hanks), recruited by the CIA, is on a (personal) mission to secure the release of two American citizens/hostages held behind the Iron Curtain: Gary Powers--a U-2 surveillance pilot-- was shot down by a Soviet missile at 70,000 feet while filming enemy defense sites and held in a Russian prison; US citizen Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) an economics graduate student is in an East German prison on trumped up charges that he is a spy.

The CIA is adamant that Donovan seek the release of only Powers in return for convicted Russian spy Rudolph Abel apprehended and convicted in the US.

Donovan, seemingly acting on his own, is hell bent to secure the release of both Americans in an unequal exchange for Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) imprisoned on American soil. (a TWO FOR ONE deal!!!)

The climax of the film-- in my opinion-- occurs just after the East German Attorney General, Herr Herman Ott turns down Donovan's request that Pryor be released (Donovan just cut a deal with the Soviets to exchange Abel for Powers).

The East Germans insist the the deal be a unilateral one with them: Abel for Pryor only--no Powers!

Deal or no deal??? How does Donovan play his cold war 'hand'?

Ott gets an urgent phone call and Donovan is asked to leave the AG's office and await continuation of negotiations in the hallway outside the office.

A young aide comes to inform him that his boss is no longer available.

Here is the brilliant dialog that ensues.

Aide: I'm very sorry sir. The attorney general regrets that he had to leave on some urgent business.
Donovan: He left?
Aide: Yes, many apologies.
Donovan: I've been waiting for over an hour!
Donovan: Young man. Come here (the aide turns around). Come here, it's all right.
Do you like your job here?
Aide: It's a very good job, sir.
Donovan: It must be interesting.
Aide: Oh, yes sir.
Donovan: And important, too.
And your English good.
Aide: Yes, I hesitate to say. But, it's excellent.
Donovan: Good, good, good. See, I just lost my negotiating partner and I need somebody to talk to and you seem like a reasonable young man.....Can I talk to you?
Donovan: It's all right. (CHUCKLES) It's all right. I just need you to give this message to your boss and it has to be very, very very clear. You understand?
Aide: Yes. sir. But perhaps you should wait until he......
Donovan: No, no. the thing is. I have this cold and I wanna get home.
Can you give him the message?
Aide: Certainly.
Donovan: Well, this is the message. There is no deal for Abel unless we get Powers and Pryor.
Do you understand?
Aide: Yes sir.
Donovan: It's arranged for tomorrow morning. It will not happen unless we get two men.
Those two men. Two, two, two.
Aide: Yes, sir.
Donovan: If there is no deal, your boss must tell the Soviets. He must tell the Soviets that they are not getting Rudolf Abel.
Aide: Yes, sir.
Donovan: Oh, and tell him this. (DONOVAN STANDS AND PEERS AT THE AIDE STILL SITTING) Thus far Abel has been a good soldier, but he thinks he's going home. (COUGHS) If we had to tell him that he's not going home, that the Soviets don't even want him...that he's never going home.... Well, I imagine his behavior might change. And who will be held responsible for that? (CHUCKLES)
That's a long message. Uh, did you get it all?
Aide: Yes, sir. Got it.
Donovan: Good. You're a good man.....Oh....And also tell him no deal unless we hear before the end of this business day. He has the number.... If the exchange isn't gonna happen, there's no reason for anyone to get up first thing in the morning.
Aide: (CHUCKLES) No....sir. That would be pointless.

Congratulations to the author Gelles Whittell for his non-fiction book Bridge of Spies upon which the movie is based; to co-writers Joel and Ethan Coen along with Matt Charman; to Janusz Kaminski for his riveting cinematography and to Stephen Spielberg, director and co-producer.

Kudos to Mark Rylance who won an academy award for Best Supporting Actor.

Here is the link to the official movie trailer:

Thursday, March 31, 2016

In Celebration of the 35th Year of earning my wings: Accolades to The Glenn Martin Company, builder of the WW II B-26 Maruader Bomber, to Peyton Magruder designer and Stephen Spielberg archivist

B-26 Marauder built by the Glenn Martin Corporation
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

It's time to celebrate my 35th year of earning my wings at Gansner Field in Quincy, California. 

Just five years ago, I celebrated my 30th anniversary of earning my wings by recalling my first flight at Chico Municipal Airport and then completing my training under two crop duster pilots, Tom Rahn and Johnnie Miller, operators of Sugarpine Aviators.

Today, I would like to pay tribute to a World War II 'hero', the B-26, Marauder, a  Twin-Engine Medium bomber designed by Peyton Magruder, then built by the Glenn L.Martin Company and first used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, then in North Africa and finally in Western Europe.

5,288 of them were built by the Glenn Martin Corporation between February 1941 and March 1945 at a cost of $102, 000 per plane.

They were known for their high survival rate. The Marauders flew on over 130,000 missions and had a loss rate of LESS than 1 per cent, the lowest of any USAAF bomber. 

"Above All"-- they were  instrumental in destroying the Nazi war machine.

Stephen Spielberg

Click on the above you tube video to watch 1945 footage 
of B-26 Marauders in flight with soaring music
(courtesy of the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, 
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Kudos to the AOPA PILOT MAGAZINE on its  feature article  B-26 Marauder: World War II's Unsung Hero , Mastering Martin's Marauder  in its September 2015 issue. (click here to read)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My first blog of 2016: Civility in America series continues at Stamford's Ferguson Library with Hope on the Horizon: featuring Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont

Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont 
Courtesy of Wikipedia 

Before an attentive and appreciative audience at Ferguson Library Tuesday night, Governor Jim Douglas, Republican of Vermont  (2002-2009), captivated the crowd with examples of  bi-partisan cooperation in his state.

He thus created positive visions and paradigms that could and will break the congressional gridlock, between the Democratic and Republican parties and even within the fractured latter group--schisms that have paralyzed passage of bills.

He began his discourse with noting that without compromise there is, of course, gridlock. Gallup Polls findings illustrate the alienation of the American voter: 42% of Americans identify themselves as Independents. Locally, collegiality has decreased in Vermont state government as fewer and fewer congressman meeting in  Burlington, the state capital, are electing to board for the week to engage in political give and take. The political debates are more and more often held in chambers devoid of politicians.

Yet there is hope if we attune to changes that are occurring.

For instance, the 2010 budget impasse in Vermont was resolved by bipartisan pressure on the teachers' and other civic unions to accept a decrease in salary.

Photo of Calvin Coolidge while attending Amherst College
He was born in Plymouth Notch, Windsor County, Vermont 
He served as our 30th President from August 2, 1923-March 4, 1929 
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia 

Vermont furthers public discourse on major issues. He noted that the 30th President of our country, Calvin Coolidge, Vermont's favorite son, was silent on most issues when in national office (hence he is nicknamed "Silent Cal'); however, while he attended Amherst College, he exemplified the give and take of discourse by distinguishing himself in his debating class.  

So, following his lead, Vermont hosts a World Schools debate camp for Team USA at the Coolidge Foundation located at Plymouth Notch, the President's birthplace.

The Vermont Health Care Reform Bill was passed in 2000 as a result of the common objective that led to a compromise. 

He urged that Congressional districts must be redrawn to reflect a balanced system that reflects the paradigm of one man/one vote.

This program marks the fifth consecutive year the Ferguson Library, The  Dilenschneider Group, Purdue Pharma LP. and Sacred Heart University have sponsored the Civility in America series here in downtown Stamford. 

The series has brought such notables as Olympia Snow, the retired Senator from Maine (click to read her presentation), Baseball Commissioner Faye Vincent ,  NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, former NYC Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein and, at least, 25 other additional speakers.

Amity Shlaes, who was the 13th speaker in the Civility in America series (on May 7, 2013) attended Tuesday night's event. Ms. Schlaes, an author and columnist is on the board of trustees of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. She is also author of a recent biography of our 30th President.  She addressed the topic of civility in history

The next Civility in America presentation is scheduled for Tuesday, March 8th at 6 PM at Ferguson Library and will feature Financial Times reporter Gillian Tett.