Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Adoration of the Shepherds

The Adoration of the Shepherds, by the wonderful Venetian artist Jacopo Tintoretto; on display in the incomparable treasury of art that is the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice.

From a guidebook by Francesco Valcanover;  "In an open scenic illusionism, the shepherds below present their gifts with impassioned and joyous gestures.  They are counterpointed by the light and shadow created by the brightness from outside; above, main and secondary figures taking part in the divine event take on attitudes of conscious, almost solemn participation and are dazzled by the light which streams through the cracks between the wooden beams of the humble barn.  The two different spiritual moments are underlined also by the different colour quality; without breaking the continuity the lower part is continuously struck by reverberations and reflections and at the same time carefully and realistically evokes the animals in the stall, the brightly-colored peacock, the humble tools; the upper part is calmer and more relaxed although the wide chromatic background painting is strengthened by sudden, flashing rays of light."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The First Heisman & Jay Berwanger of UChicago, 80 Years On

Jay Berwanger
Eighty years ago today the Downtown Athletic Club awarded its first Heisman Trophy to Jay Berwanger as college football’s most outstanding player.  He was the star halfback of the University of Chicago Maroons, in the team’s waning years as a Big Ten powerhouse.  That alone is a great trivia question. 

Berwanger was also a great track and field athlete, and for many years held a school record in the decathlon.  He tried out for but did not make the 1936 Olympics team in that competition.  In 1936 he became the first player drafted in the first ever NFL draft – the second great Berwanger trivia question.  The Philadelphia Eagles selected him then traded the negotiating rights to the Chicago Bears, but owner George Halas and Berwanger could not agree on a salary so Berwanger never played pro football.  Typical Halas, who over his long history with the Bears gained a reputation as a tightwad.  Berwanger eventually went into business, and passed away in his suburban Chicago home in 2002 at the age of 88.

His Heisman Trophy is on display at the University of Chicago.  I clipped a photo of it from the UChicago website; I don’t think they’ll mind. 

Speaking of the Heisman, at a school charity auction a few years ago I had the good fortune to win a football signed by 20 Heisman Trophy winners, donated by Johnny Lattner, the 1953 Heisman winner and star at Notre Dame and Fenwick High School in suburban Chicago Oak Park.  Lattner's signature is just to the left of the figure of the player.

R Balsamo

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My UChicago Haunts (Part 1)

This year the University of Chicago is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding.  In commemoration of that great and special (and unusual) place, home of the “life of the mind,” where exasperated shouts of “define your terms” bounce between the limestone Gothic buildings, where secondary sources are third class citizens, where the graffito “F-you – Newton” is coupled with “F-your vicinity – Heisenberg,” and where when hurrying to the library on a brisk fall Saturday afternoon a driver pulls over to ask, in all earnestness, “where’s the Plato lecture,” as if you’d know just which one.

Reminiscing on some well-travelled campus haunts:

Hitchcock Hall is an unusual building, inside and out.  Completed in 1902 as a men’s residence hall, it has Gothic elements encased in prominent horizontal lines enclosing five vertical sections, four stories each, connected only by cross corridors in the basement and on the quad side a ground floor, unheated cloister.  It was designed, writes campus historian Jay Pridmore, as “a merger of Prairie School and Gothic Revival.”  Very UChicago – cross-discipline fertilization.  How many other Prairie-Gothic buildings can one name on the National Register of Historic Places? 
Hitchcock Hall
(Snell Hall in more traditional Gothic design is adjacent to the right)
Hitchcock Hall is a place where once upon a time, after yet another intense conversation around a greasy table in the basement kitchen, someone would remark sardonically “well, another raucous Saturday night at the U of C;” but also a place where, should anyone try to leave such conversation, on the price of tea in China or carbon-carbon double bonds, the plea “five more minutes” would invariably be heard. 

Bartlett Gymnasium was a pretty neat, and historic, place.  It once stood as the eastern part of the Stagg Field complex, housing a big gym, offices for coaches, a large trophy room with testaments of past Big Ten glories, and a locker room where attendant Bill Dee would string a mean Hornet squash racket for a young college freshman.  It was decorated with large hand-painted murals and most notably over the entrance a large, multi-paneled stained glass window depicting a scene from Ivanhoe “in which the knight is crowned for his triumph in a legendary twelfth-century tournament” (Pridmore).  Build of very solid limestone in the Gothic style, of course, with the same turrets and battlements found on Stagg Field. 
Bartlett Gymnasium
A place where I learned the game of squash, which I played there for many years, and the place where I would interview the athletic coaches for my short-lived small sports column in the student newspaper The Chicago Maroon.  In the twenty-first century, upon completion on the edge of campus of a larger athletic center with a faddish, futuristic-look, the convenient and centrally-located Bartlett Gymnasium building was turned into a cafeteria.  My oh my.
Hutchinson Commons, Mitchell Tower, a sliver of the Reynolds Club, and a corner of Mandel Hall (L to R) 
Hutchinson Commons was the grandest place on campus to eat a mediocre meal, though when a student it was a bit pricey for me.  Always an interesting experience to chow down in the wood-filled, heavy-beamed, high-ceilinged hall, watched over by past university greats whose huge portraits hang on the walls all about you.  The building, modeled after Oxford’s Christ Hall Church, is, writes Pridmore, a “classic example of the late-Gothic English Perpendicular.”  How about that?  Hutch Commons is part of a multi-building complex that includes Mitchell Tower, Mandel Hall auditorium, and the Reynolds Club, a hodgepodge of spaces and offices built as a student center.

Hutchinson Commons; Portraits Fill the Walls Now
My thin wallet preferred the adjacent C-Shop, where, if flush with a few extra dollars from the latest advance on a loan, my pals and I ate many a greasy hamburger rather than cooking up a pot of cheaper spaghetti or gnocchi.  We were glad to have a late night dining option on campus.  It looks now to have been converted into a healthy-food sandwich, granola, and muffin shop, with a full line of organic juices.  Times have changed.     

Cobb Gate
(Incorrectly named on the postcard)


Finally, for now, Cobb Gate merits a mention.  It is the south entrance (on 57th Street) first to Hull Court, with its complex of biology buildings, and then to the main quadrangles.  Traversed innumerable times in a typical undergraduate’s stint, it certainly is a sight, a passageway beneath a massive limestone archway covered with a bevy of gargoyles and other grotesque creatures glaring down on passers-by, a fair warning that the University of Chicago isn’t for the faint of heart.   



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Saint Nicholas, the Christian Bishop Who Became Santa Claus, & Turkish Chutzpah

Desubleo: Saint Nicholas
Knowing that today is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, the fourth century Greek Christian bishop in Anatolia upon whom the character Santa Claus is based, I took a few minutes to read up a bit on him.  And, as the saying goes, you learn something every day.

This I already knew:  That Nicholas was known to freely give gifts, often in secret, to the needy, and his practice became the basis for the Christian custom of gift-giving at Christmastime; That somehow the practice of gift-giving was moved, for most Christians, to Christmas Day; That the name Santa Claus comes from the Dutch name “Sinterklaas,” which is some sort of linguistic corruption of “Saint Nicholas.”    

What I did not know was that Nicholas was one of the bishops at the First Council of Nicaea and was such an ardent defender of the “orthodox” Christian position on a point of Christology against that of Arius that, according to legend, he punched Arius in the face.  Nicholas was one of the signatories to the Nicene Creed, a variation of which is still recited in many Christian churches today.

Most art work on St Nicholas seems to be in the Orthodox tradition, two-dimensional and unrealistic, but I came across an appealing painting on the subject by the 17th Century Flemish painter Michele Desubleo, who spent his career in Italy: “Saint Nicholas with the three school children and a Carthusian monk.”

Nicholas died in 343 and was buried in southern Anatolia.  His tomb became a popular religious site to visit.  About 700 years later, the area was threatened by the invasion of the Muslim Turks.  To protect the relics of St Nicholas, some of his remains were whisked off to Bari in the heel of Italy.  The rest were soon carried off to Venice, a maritime culture especially drawn to the patron saint of sailors, where a church in honor of Nicholas was built on the Lido, one of the islands in the lagoon. 
Church of San Nicolò al Lido, Venetian Lagoon

An amusing epilogue:  According to Wikipedia, in 2009 “the Turkish Government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of St. Nicholas's skeletal remains to Turkey from the Italian government” on the grounds that Nicholas’s remains “were illegally removed from his homeland.”

So here we have it:  the Muslim Turks, increasingly becoming more religiously fundamental and even less-hospitable toward Christians, and not all that long after slaughtering the Christian Armenians, and who as a people were not even living in Anatolia at the time of Nicholas, now are demanding the seventeen hundred-year old remains of a Christian man who once lived in Anatolia hundreds of years before Muhammad was even born.  There’s a Yiddish word for this – chutzpah.  St Nicholas was part of a Christian culture in Anatolia that the Turks purposefully destroyed, but now the Muslim Turks want his dusty bones back presumably to promote Christian tourism.  I suspect the Turks will be waiting a long time, but if they are really serious about the principle of returning old stuff to rightful owners they could start with a show of their bona fides by returning to Christians Hagia Sophia, once the greatest church in Christendom, and whatever holy artifacts survived the centuries of their wanton destruction.  And, while they’re at it, why not return the entire city of Constantinople?  Now that would be a real show of good faith.

R Balsamo

Friday, November 20, 2015

A T. rex Girl Named Sue

Sue is the name given to the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on permanent display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.  The 67-million-year-old fossil remains were discovered in 1990 in western South Dakota by Sue Hendrickson, a paleontologist, and the skeleton was named after her.  The Museum says it is the “largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.” 

The skeleton was subject to various disputes over ownership, and at one point it was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Ultimately ownership was awarded to the American Indian on whose land the fossil was found, and in 1997 a consortium of buyers led by the Field Museum purchased the skeleton for over $8 million.  At 42 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hip, Sue has been on striking display in the great hall of the Field Museum since 2000.  Kudos to the Field.  Sue is a wonder to be seen. 
Photo by author; November, 2015
R Balsamo

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hillary Clinton the Naked Liar on Islamic Terrorism

Coming days after Muslim terrorists killed 129 people in coordinated attacks in Paris and after the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, Hillary Clinton said this today in New York City in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (link):
Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism
"Nothing whatsoever," Clinton says.  Reports the Daily Mail:  “Clinton instead referred repeatedly to 'radical jihadism' as a global scourge, but didn't explain how the concept of jihadism is consistent with [her] notion that adherents of [Islam] are uninvolved."

Everyone by now knows that in the Koran there are passages that promote peacefulness as well as conflicting passages that urge Muslims to commit violence against non-believers (jihad).  Individual Muslims decide which path to follow.  One can acknowledge that the vast majority of Muslims in the world live decent, peaceful individual lives while also recognizing that there are many Muslims who read the Koran as a guide to violence.  Everyone knows this.  Muslim terrorists can and do recite those Koranic verses that prescribe their actions.  The head of the Islamic State, the Muslim terrorist organization most in the news these days, has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad.

The only real solution is for peaceful Muslims to reform Islam from within by expurgating the violence-promoting parts of the Koran and later texts, combined with world-wide aggressive suppression of, and not apologies for, Islamic terrorism.  Appeasers and apologists of violent Islam serve to undermine any Muslims seeking an Islamic reformation by insisting that there is nothing wrong with Islam itself.     

Frankly I do not understand what Hillary Clinton seeks to gain from such a ridiculous statement that everyone knows is a lie.  She certainly knows it is a lie.  Perhaps she spits forth such lies, not only because she is an inveterate liar just for the sport of it, because she gets a sense of power, a perverse frisson, in uttering bold lies that everyone around her accepts as a sign of her power.  She is the empress with no clothes, but in her version of the morality play even she knows she is naked.      

R Balsamo

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reflections on the Devolution in France

The Islamification of Western countries, particularly in Europe, is for some people of ethnic European heritage, exhausted and culturally disorientated by the conflicts of the Twentieth Century, a cultural expiation, for others a desired cultural transformation, and for yet others a craved-for cultural suicide.  I for one am very enamored with Western culture and the Judeo-Christian ethic (not to be redundant) and would like to see them stick around for a great while longer. 

Of course there’s a long history before the most recent “setback,” as Barack Obama of the Democrats has described the recent Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds more.  Liberals blame much Islamist terrorism on George W. Bush, their all-purpose bogeyman.  In fact, exhibiting uncanny prescience before George W. Bush actually became president, Islamist terrorists reacted to his anticipated arrival with the 2000 USS Cole attack, the 1996 Khobor Towers bombing, the 1993 WTC bombing, and the 1983 Beirut Barracks bombings, to name but a few. 

In 570 A.D, and even in 632 A.D., the Levant and Egypt were primarily Christian with large Jewish populations, centuries before the Crusaders felt the need to go east; one wonders what happened to all those people when warrior horsemen from Arabia stormed in.  In 732 A.D., Charles the Hammer and his Frankish crew, who didn’t know Mecca from Medina from Marrakesh, not all that far from Paris managed to fight off an Islamic invasion of northern France .  According to some recently-unearthed texts written at the time by a man named Obamus, the Islamophobic Franks brought it all on themselves.  

The only solution is for sensible Muslims firmly rooted in the twenty-first century to reform Islam from the inside, forcing it to accept Western principles such as separation of church and state, full civil liberties for everyone including women and homosexuals, and equality for all under fair and consistently-applied law. 

This conflict has a long history with apparently a long way to go.  By accepting into Europe what promises to be hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants with no sense of Western values to add to the growing, self-isolating Muslim communities already there, European leaders are ensuring that life for most Europeans will get much worse before it gets much better.

R Balsamo

Saturday, November 14, 2015

German Leaders Want More “Tolerance” After Muslim Terrorist Attacks in Paris

Given the great wars of the twentieth century, I can understand the ambivalence some Germans apparently feel toward Western culture and even the notion of nationalist ethnicity.  I can also understand, although it seems a deeply misguided fantasy, the desire, given the low birthrate among ethnic Germans, to import young Muslims from the Middle East to supply the workforce that will, it is hoped, support older ethnic Germans in their declining years.  But I am increasingly surprised to see just how strongly some German leaders, popularly elected, want to fundamentally transform their country.

In response to the large-scale, multi-focal Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris yesterday that killed well over one hundred people, this is what the two top German leaders had to say (link):   
“Many people are now searching for protection and security in Europe,” said [German] Vice Chancellor Gabriel.  “We cannot now let them suffer because they come from the regions from which terror comes to us.”  The chancellor [Ms. Merkel] herself didn’t directly address the migration issue in her comments on the Paris attacks.  But she promised that Germany would respond to the attack in accordance with its values—including “respect for the other and tolerance.”  “Let us respond to the terrorists by living our values in confidence and strengthen these values for all of Europe—now more than ever,” Ms. Merkel said.
Faced with the growing threat of Muslim terrorists in the midst of her people, Merkel wants ethnic Germans to double down on their tolerance of others.  Nary a word about expecting the Muslim migrants now arriving in waves to better tolerate and integrate with their German hosts, and nary a word about hunting down terrorists to better protect the German people.  At some point, though, I expect that for most Germans their cultural and ethnic self-loathing will reach a limit and that biologic impulses of self-preservation will kick in.  But the longer this process of cultural transformation goes on, the uglier it will be when the Germans and the other Europeans reach that limit.  Merkel should think some about that.

R Balsamo

Friday, November 13, 2015

Laudable Pus at Amherst College

I'm delighted to read of the outbreak of yet another skirmish in the liberal fascist attack on Western culture, a development I think can only help more adults realize the excesses of modern American liberalism and the usually low-profile hollowing-out of values that has been going on for years beneath the floor boards.  Now maybe the infection is beginning to come to a head, and laudable pus has burst out at Amherst College in the People's Commonwealth of Massachusetts

A large gaggle of neo-fascist student groups there has just issued a bold set of demands (link), many of which require various adults to issue groveling apologies for the usual litany of alleged errors – racism, sexism, homophobia, cis-sexism, species-ism, failure to provide unlimited free hot cocoa with free delivery on cold days, failure to properly separate plastic recyclables by percentage of polyethylene, etc.  The campus adults on the receiving end of these demands are certainly almost all, if not all, hard core liberals themselves.  The revolution eats its own.

Special bile is hurled at brave, dissenting Amherst students responsible for the “All Lives Matter” posters, and the “Free Speech” posters that stated that “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.”  The student fascists demand that the school "alert" the poster hangers "that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency."

The required stint in a reeducation camp is right out of the communist playbook and one of my favorite parts: "extensive training for racial and cultural competency."  The merits of Western culture, the Judeo-Christian ethic, and the American Constitution won't be part of that curriculum.

These fascist student groups are now working on a salute and debating whether their uniform shirts will be brown or black.  All good stuff – let this culture fight see more of the disinfecting bright light of day.

R Balsamo

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Obama's General Motors To Import Chinese Cars

Not long ago, American automaker General Motors (and Chrysler as well) was effectively bankrupt.  Fearing a standard restructuring bankruptcy legal process that would have preserved the company while negating all of its existing contracts, including those with labor unions, Obama and the liberals shouted the lie that a restructuring bankruptcy would spell the end of GM and all its factories and would open a void that would be filled by more foreign-made cars.  Instead, in the early heady days of his presidency, Obama strong-armed GM into a pre-packaged essentially fake bankruptcy process that preserved all the unreasonably rich and dysfunctional union labor contracts and effectively gave a piece of the company to the unions for free.  By the time the confiscation issue, specifically involving Chrysler, reached the Supreme Court years later, the Court effectively said that he process was wrong and illegal, but nevertheless accepted it as a fait accompli, just as Obama and the Democrats knew they would.  GM, now once again a public company, is still burdened with those union contracts.

Now the Wall Street Journal reports today:  "General Motors, fresh off agreeing to a new union contract that is expected to drive up its U.S. labor costs, plans to become the first major auto maker to sell Chinese-made cars in the U.S."

Schadenfreude:  "Pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune."  

R Balsamo

Click on the "Automobile Companies and Politics" link below to see all posts on this subject and previous commentary on Obama's confiscation of GM for benefit of the Democrat-controlled unions.

Campus Skirmishes in the Culture War

Skirmishes in the Culture War have broken out at Yale University and the University of Missouri at Columbia, and the intolerant neo-fascist protestors are winning.  They're reminiscent of the Red Guard student thugs in China some years ago.

Mario Loyola writes about these developments, and the apologetic show trials that result:  "To submit to tyranny — to offer groveling apologies like the university officials have done at New Haven and Columbia, like dissidents making forced confessions in Stalinist show trials — is not only grotesque and shameful, it contributes to the problem."  Link

At Yale, a liberal teacher was surrounded on campus by a threatening student mob and yelled at by the now-infamous Yale Screaming Girl when, breaking with liberal orthodoxy, he had the temerity to defend the principle of freedom of expression in choosing Halloween costumes.  He quickly folded and has issued a groveling apology.  James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal commented on the story and in closing quoted an apposite passage from 1984, Orwell's novel of a dystopian future:  “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”  Link

R Balsamo

Prison for Non-Liberals on Global Warming?

Much of what passes as modern "liberalism," a set of political values that represent the opposite of the true meaning of the term ever since the progressive, authoritarian left stole it, is really a new-age religion.  It has its dogmas and its rituals.  It also has the urge to burn heretics.  A new poll says over 25% of Democrats would like to see those who do not believe in anthropogenic global warming to be prosecuted under the law and imprisoned.  Prosecuted under exactly what law, one might ask; the law against having any belief liberals don't like -- that law.  And no doubt imprisoned until the non-believer recants in a public show trial and suffers through a long "course of study" at a reeducation camp.  Link

The term "liberal fascism" describes these impulses very well.

R Balsamo

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans on Film

Today is Veterans' Day, and it seems worthwhile to list some of my favorite film portrayals of the valor and sacrifices and successes of American servicemen.

American Sniper – the story of brave and dedicated American soldiers fighting against vicious, fanatical, nihilistic Islamist warriors during the Iraq War.

Tears of the Sun – a team of Navy Seals undertakes a dangerous goodwill rescue mission in Africa.

We Were Soldiers – the harrowing account of one of the early battles in the American Vietnam War.

Go Tell the Spartans – Bert Lancaster leads a small force holding out against the Viet Cong.

Platoon – American soldiers fight to survive in Vietnam.

Pork Chop Hill – A brave American unit fighting the Chinese communists in the Korean War.

Band of Brothers – The masterpiece 11-hour treatment of the Stephen Ambrose book about a unit of the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles, in the European Theater of WW2, made pre-911 by Spielberg before he later devolved into the anti-American moral equivalency state-of-mind.  

A Bridge Too Far – Epic treatment of the Allies' failed Operation Market Garden initiative in 1944 Europe, aimed at penetrating into Germany itself.  

The Bridge at Remagen – War-weary American soldiers fight toward the Rhine River in early 1945 and ultimately capture the last remaining bridge into Germany.

Saving Private Ryan – The story of a special mission behind German lines in northern France in the days immediately after D-Day.

The Big Red One – The story of a squad of the 1st Infantry Division as it fights across North Africa, Sicily, and France in WW2.

The Battle of the Bulge – Epic adaptation of the American resilience in the face of the German Army's last gasp in the West during WW2.

Miracle at St. Anna – The story of four black American soldiers caught behind German lines in northern Italy late in WW2 fighting to keep themselves and local villagers alive, a story not over until it explodes into a modern murder mystery.

Fury – A recent film about an American tank crew late in WW2, very good until its unrealistic and contrived grand finale shootout.

Sahara – An isolated motley group of Allied soldiers with a single Sherman tank led by Bogart battle thirst, heat, and the Germans in the North African desert during WW2.

The Enemy Below – An American destroyer chases a crafty German submarine in the North Atlantic in WW2.

U-571 – An American submarine crew fights to save themselves, the German submarine they captured and are stuck in, and a secret decoding machine in the North Atlantic in WW2.  

Memphis Belle – A B-17 crew's harrowing bombing missions over Germany.

The Bridge On the River Kwai – A lone cynical American serviceman witnesses the descent into madness and treason by British officers in a Japanese prison camp, escapes, and reluctantly returns to set things right.

Midway – The story of the great naval air battle six months after Pearl Harbor that spelled the beginning of the drawn-out end of the Japanese navy in WW2.  

Objective Burma – American soldiers create havoc behind Japanese lines in Burma.

The Pacific – The Spielberg-Hanks treatment of Americans in the Pacific Theater in WW2, that remains compelling viewing despite its lapses at times into the Anti-American moral equivalency point of view.

The Great Raid – Army Rangers on a mission to rescue American prisoners in a brutal Japanese POW camp in the Philippines late in the War.

The Lost Battalion – A outnumbered group of American soldiers trapped behind enemy lines fights off waves of German soldiers in the closing days of WW1.

What Price Glory – Ford directs Cagney and Dailey, not to mention Corrine Calvet, in a rousing story of an American infantry unit on the Western Front in WW1.

Gettysburg – The superbly told story of the greatest battle of the American Civil War.  The portrayal of the heroic 20th Maine and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Little Round Top is special.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Breaking News – Black Lives Matter, Code Pink, and the Communist Party to Host Upcoming Republican Presidential Debates

In a move that comes as a surprise to some, on the heels of the successful CNBC-hosted debate the Republican Party this evening announced a new series of televised debates for its candidates for the party’s presidential nomination.  The three new debates will be hosted by representatives from Black Lives Matter, Code Pink, and the Communist Party of the United States.

Reince Priebus, the national Republican Party head who has arranged for the debates this year, said Republican Party leaders thus far like the balanced, fair, and probative questions moderators have brought to the early debates, and look forward to the new lines of questions these three groups will bring to future debates.  He rejected allegations that some previous debate moderators have shown liberal bias intending to smear his Party’s candidates, saying “the Republican Party is confident that Black Lives Matter, Code Pink, and the Communist Party will choose debate moderators who will rise to the same non-biased and professional level that we have seen from previous moderators like Candy Crowley, Gwen Ifill, Chris Wallace, and John Harwood.”   


It’s déjà vu all over again.  From the last time around, at this blog:
After Ryan Pick, By Agreeing to Ultra-Liberal Debate Questioners Romney Rejoins the Stupid Party

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Northern Michigan Once Again – Part 6: Hemingway Sites

On this trip Up North in Michigan we visited some Hemingway sites.  In 1899 Ernest Hemingway’s parents bought a piece of property on what is now called Walloon Lake, a few miles south of Petoskey.  On this property they had built a cottage at which their growing family was to spend all or most of summers for well over 20 years.  Hemingway himself was brought north when he about two months old for a week while his parents arranged for construction, and he would then spend 19 full summers in the area. 

Walloon Lake, from a spot near the Hemingway Cottage
A few years after buying the property on Walloon Lake, Hemingway’s parents bought a small farm on the opposite shore which was named Longfield Farm.  The Hemingway children helped work the fields in the summers, supplementing the labors of a tenant farmer.  The family had some of the production shipped south for the family’s dinner table in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park.

From a spot near the Longfield Farm site,
looking east across Walloon Lake to the Hemingway cottage site
After his wedding and reception in 1921 at Horton Bay on nearby Lake Charlevoix, Hemingway and his new wife Hadley were driven down Sumner Road to the above spot on Walloon Lake across from the family cottage, steps from Longfield Farm, from where Hemingway rowed himself and his bride across the lake to the cottage, where they spent their honeymoon (sick with bad colds for the first few days).  It was a good pull, for the distance from one shore to the other is considerable.

Seemingly before he even was of school age, Hemingway loved to fish in the trout streams of northern Michigan.  A favorite spot early on was Horton Creek, which flowed into Horton Bay in the nearby lake now called Lake Charlevoix. 

Horton Creek, looking north from the bridge
on the Charlevoix-Boyne City Road 
In his mid-teens, Hemingway began spending more time at Longfield Farm, working it during the day.  Many evenings he would walk the three miles or so west to the shore of Lake Charlevoix and the little hamlet of Horton Bay (sometimes called Hortons Bay or Horton's Bay by Hemingway and others), where he would hang out at a small inn and restaurant called Pinehurst and at the General Store.  Next to the General Store is a building that became the Red Foxx Inn, now a quaint bookstore and memorabilia shop welcoming visitors and Hemingway fans on Fridays and Saturdays.  Both buildings were in use in Hemingway's time, as they are to this day. 

The Horton Bay General Store, with the "high false front," as Hemingway described it in a story;
the Red Fox Inn building sits to the right in the photo
In Horton Bay Hemingway he fell in with a small crowd that summered or worked in the area, most notably the Smith siblings Bill and Katy and their friend Carl Edgar (with whom he would later live for a while in Kansas City).  The Smith family would figure quite large in his life. 

Hemingway would sometimes sell the trout he caught to Liz Dilworth, who with her husband Jim owed and ran Pinehurst, where for a few years Hemingway often ate and slept.  The "resort" property consisted of two small buildings – Pinehurst and Shangri-La – located just south of the Charlevoix – Boyne City Road, about 100 yards up Lake Street from Horton Bay on the north shore of Lake Charlevoix.  In 1921, the reception after Hemingway’s marriage to Hadley Richardson was held here.    

Pinehurst in Horton Bay; Shangri-La stands to the right out of the photo
In the last few summers Hemingway spent up north, Bill Smith had a car and the group traveled around the area, to trout streams and to local towns Petoskey, Charlevoix and Boyne City on Lake Charlevoix, and Walloon Lake Village on Walloon Lake.  In fact, for a short time Hemingway lived in rooming houses in Petoskey and in Boyne City.  In Petoskey, one can drive by 602 State Street, just off the downtown area, and see the well-kept up home that was once Mrs. Potter's boarding house where he lived for almost three months in the fall of 1919.   

Hemingway famously set many of his short stories in northern Michigan, most of them semi-autobiographical featuring his fictional alter-ego Nick Adams.  The Nick Adams Stories span the protagonist’s life from a young boy living with his parents to a young man with his own son.  Many of them are set in the northern Michigan of Hemingway’s youth, notably along the shores of Walloon Lake and around Horton Bay on Lake Charlevoix.         

Horton Bay, from the foot of Lake Street, looking southwest;
in the distance is the finger of land that juts into Lake Charlevoix to form the bay  

From Hemingway's very autobiographical short story Summer People, published posthumously, which describes a clandestine love affair with a young woman named "Kate" who in real life was Katy Smith, who would introduce Hemingway to his first wife, indirectly introduce him to his second wife, and through Hemingway would meet the man who would become her husband, John Dos Passos:
Halfway down the gravel road [Lake Street, now paved] from Hortons Bay, the town, to the lake there was a spring.  The water came up in a tile sunk beside the road, lipping over the cracked edge of the tile and flowing through the close-growing mint into the swamp.  In the dark Nick put his arm down into the spring but he could not hold it there because of the cold.  He felt the featherings of the sand spouting up from the spring cones at the bottom against his fingers.  Nick thought, I wish I could put all of myself in there.  I bet that would fix me.  He pulled his arm out and sat down at the edge of the road.  It was a hot night."     
The spring in Horton Bay, still there today beside the road
The spring is still there and I put my arm in it and it was very cold.
R Balsamo

[Note: Click on the "Hemingway" link below to see related posts; Also, click on any above photo to enlarge it] 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Northern Michigan Once Again – Part 5

The Petoskey area was our base for the second part of our excursion.  The city of Petoskey sits on the southern shore of Little Traverse Bay, a large inlet of northern Lake Michigan.  It’s a good-sized town by northern Michigan standards, and has a thriving, picturesque downtown.  The Petoskey area grew large as a vacation destination at the turn of the 20th Century, attracting thousands of summer visitors to its clean air, rolling landscapes, cool waters, and Chautauqua-like summer encampments sponsored by religious groups. 

Downtown Petoskey, Michigan
The city is named after Chief Petosega, whose father was a French Canadian fur trader and whose mother was an Ottawa Indian.  Petoskey in turn gave its name to fragments of fossilized coral, common along the northeastern Lake Michigan shoreline, called Petoskey stones.  The city is the birth place of noted Civil War historian Bruce Catton, whose widely-celebrated books I read voraciously years ago (and have reread many times since) as they came out around the time of the one hundredth anniversary of that war.

Looking Northwest Across Little Traverse Bay, From Its Southern Shore,
With Open Lake Michigan to the Left.  A Solitary Gull Heads For Shore.
One day we cruised around the east end of Little Traverse Bay to its north shore and the city of Harbor Springs.  We were very pleasantly surprised by how attractive a place it is.  Smaller than Petoskey and Traverse City, at one time though it was a bustling place as the terminus of many Great Lakes steamship lines that brought visitors to the area from big lakeside cities further south.  

Downtown Harbor Springs, Michigan
Harbor Springs sits within a small bay formed by a long finger of land in the shape of a backward comma that juts out into the much larger Little Traverse Bay and that shelters what is said to be the deepest natural harbor on the Great Lakes.  Travelers would disembark at Harbor Springs and take local short-distance trains or smaller ships to nearby towns such as Bay View, Petoskey, Walloon Village, and Charlevoix.
View of Harbor Springs from a Pier in the Harbor 
A road leading north out of Harbor Springs runs along the Lake Michigan shoreline, offering beautiful views of the Lake and of Beaver Island, at times through woods so dense they form the well-known “Tunnel of Trees” over the narrow lane.  On a clear and warm sunny day, we cruised this road for some time to take it all in.     

The "Tunnel of Trees" North of Harbor Springs
R Balsamo

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Northern Michigan Once Again -- Part 4

Today we left Traverse City and drove north along U.S. Route 31.  At Charlevoix we stopped for refreshment and a stroll.  Visible from the downtown main street is a small lake called Round Lake.  It is essentially a small ante-lake to the much larger Lake Charlevoix, which connects to Round Lake through a narrow channel, and Round Lake in turn flows into Lake Michigan.  Here is a shot of Round Lake, with the narrow entrance to Lake Charlevoix in the distance, looking east:

More about this at a later date, but we cruised over to Horton Bay, roughly in the middle of Lake Charlevoix's  long northern shore.  Horton Bay is Hemingway country.  For a few years in his late teens and early twenties, Hemingway spent a lot of time here and used the small hamlet as a setting in a number of his semi-autobiographical Nick Adams stories.  Here is a photo from Lake Street, looking across the Charlevoix-Boyne City Road at the General Store (left) and Red Fox Inn, which is now a bookstore and memorabilia shop.  Both buildings were in use in Hemingway's time as they still are now.  Pinehurst is just behind the camera; it is a modest sized building that in Hemingway's time was a small inn and restaurant, a place where Hemingway often ate and slept.

Finally, we drove to Walloon Village at the foot of the sprawling Walloon Lake, on which the Hemingway cottage sits.  We had a nightcap at a busling new lakeside restaurant there, and strolled to the pier to watch the sunset:

More to come.

R Balsamo

Friday, September 11, 2015

Northern Michigan Once Again -- Part 3

From our base in Traverse City, today we visited the Lelanau Penninsula.  We first headed west to reach Lake Michigan at the little town of Empire, a small stretch of private property that bisects the huge, sprawling Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a national park.  Empire has a beautiful stretch of beach with some great views.

Looking south from the beach at Empire, from Empire Bluff on the left across Platte Bay to Betsie Point, which juts out near the western end of the large, inland Crystal Lake:

Turning around on the Beach at Empire, looking northwest through a small flock of gulls on the move to see South Manitou Island and then, to the right, the steep cliffs, some pure sand and some covered with trees and grass, of Sleeping Bear Dunes; the gulls were startled by a hawk circling above:

Then we drove north into the Sleeping Bear Dunes national park and, as we did last year, stopped for a ride along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  We left our car and walked to the not-to-be-missed scenic overlook, which affords a majestic view of Lake Michigan and the dunes.  The overlook is about 450 feet above the water.  This photo is looking south across Platte Bay, the outcropping at Empire Bluff, and Betsie Point.  The water along the shoreline is a turquoise blue:

We then moved on to the historic preservation site of Glen Haven, and old logging harbor on Sleeping Bear Bay just west of the town of Glen Harbor.  Finally, we drove to Leland, where we walked around and stopped in the Bluebird for their noted whitefish.  Here is a photo of the Lelanau River as it flows over the small dam near its mouth into Lake Michigan; the small, historic Fishtown area lies between the dam and the lake:

Now it's on to points further north.

R Balsamo

9/11 Fourteen Years On -- Europe's Cultural Suicide

Fourteen years after the September 11, 2001, radical Muslim attack on various targets in the United States, an increasingly dazed and deluded Europe, incapacitated by white guilt, enfeebled by the degradation of the male gene pool after two relatively-recent horrific wars, and beguiled by the need for young workers to support an increasingly aging society (fantasizing that young Muslims will work hard to support retired white Christian Europeans), after resisting Muslim invaders for 1,300 years from the fields of Tours to the gates of Vienna, now willingly allows and indeed encourages tens of thousands (with perhaps hundreds of thousands to come) of young Muslim men, accompanied by a few women and children to foster the ruse they are simply "migrants," to invade and occupy their countries.

I think I am on firm ground in saying such a thing has never happened before in human history.  Invading masses of men are just walking through Europe headed towards the countries with the most generous welfare benefits and the most enfeebled citizens and the most leaders contemptuous of people of their own ethnicity.  Muslims in Western Europe are not well integrated, and many reject integration, and many second generation Muslims, born in Europe, have rushed to the Middle East to join radical movements.  Equality for women, acceptance of homosexuality, freedom of religious worship -- these are just some of the Western values not present in the Muslim world.  To think that the next few hundred thousand Muslim migrants will integrate any better into Western culture is a pipe dream.  But the leftist and ultra-liberal destroyers of Western culture welcome the invasion and urge the West to take in yet more.  They have made the enemy of their enemy their friend.  This will end very badly.

R Balsamo

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Northern Michigan Once Again -- Part 2

Today we toured the Old Mission Penninsula, a 22-mile, finger-like projection that bisects the southern half of Grand Traverse Bay into east and west bays.  Homes line its southern shores and are scattered elsewhere, but overall the land is mostly agricultural -- grapes, apples, and cherries.  There are eight wineries on the peninsula, and also bays and beaches and at least one modest marina.  Beautiful views of the east, west, and northern parts of Grand Traverse Bay are all around.

Here is a view from the west side of Old Mission Peninsula, about 1/3 of the way up, looking southwest over the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay to the land on the far side:

Below is the view from a large bay, Bowers Harbor, on the west side of the peninsula, looking southwest again; there are three land masses visible from left to right, starting with the one in the distance below the big trees: Power Island; then further in the distance is the east side of the Lelanau Peninsula; and finally closer again is the southwest tip of Bowers Harbor bay.

The harbor in Bowers Harbor:

Here is a common view in the interior of the peninsula, where vineyards abound:

At the northern tip of the peninsula stands the old lighthouse, looking out wistfully to northern Grand Traverse Bay and open Lake Michigan beyond.  It rests almost exactly on the 45th parallel, the half-way point between the equator and the North Pole.  It is no longer in use but is open to the public as a small museum:

Finally, a view from the east side of Old Mission Peninsula, looking across the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay at the far shoreline just south of Elk Rapids:

R Balsamo

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Northern Michigan Once Again -- Part 1

What a difference a year makes, to borrow a phrase.  Last year at this time we took a drive Up North to northern Michigan and encountered exceptionally cold weather the whole week, and lots of rain as well.  Today we set out again, a year later, under clear, sunny skies and a warm breeze.

Starting on Lake Michigan's southern shore, we headed north and made our way onto US Route 31.  This year, our first detour was a short meander through Ludington, the eastern shore terminus of the car ferry between Wisconsin and Michigan.  The "Spartan" was moored along the quay.

We resumed our northward drive and then made a second detour to cruise around in the lakeside town of Manistee, which sits on the Manistee River just before it flows into Lake Michigan.

Manistee has a small but attractive downtown, stretching a few blocks along the river.  It has what appears to be a still-operational movie theater -- the "Vogue."

We continued on and a short way north of Manistee reached the starting point of Michigan's celebrated Route M22.  We took it north until we stopped for a nice dinner on the terrace of the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club clubhouse, a spot overlooking a few holes of a beautiful golf course with a stunning backdrop view of Lake Michigan.

Then it was on to Traverse City, which will be the base of our touring for the next few days.

R Balsamo