Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Casino Revenues in Oklahoma Up from Last Year story in the Lawton Oklahoma Constitution. I guess people must be cutting back in other areas.

Heard indirectly from a pawn shop owner: fewer items being redeemed. That fits.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I am entertaining a thought this evening that I do not much like. Perhaps we need to rethink forced sterilization.

I'll call him Moe. He goes back and forth between jail and freedom. While out, he tries to stay sober off and on, and clean of drugs; sometimes he succeeds. Last I knew there was another warrant out on him. I have known Moe for a few years, and never known him to earn a wage. He has at least five children with more than one woman. Last I heard he was shacked up with another girlfriend in a different county. I suspect that Moe will father a few more children before biology slows him down. You and I will cover at least part of the cost as taxpayers. If I were dictator, I would consider making a vasectomy the condition for Moe's next release.

I have gotten to know several people affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, or in utero drug abuse by their mothers. And I know a few women who abuse, even while pregnant, and probably will do so several more times.

I believe in individual rights, but not in an absolute sense. Do we need to rethink forced sterilization as an expression of the common good?

It is not an idea I much like, but, I also don't like the alternative.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
"In general, though, the modern tendency was to feel rather than to think; so that men were now more highly esteemed for inventing new diversions than for preserving old facts or pushing back the frontier of cosmic mystery. Religion was a leading interest in Tsath, though very few actually believed in the supernatural. What was desired was the aesthetic and emotional exaltation bred by the mystical moods and sensuous rites . . . " H.P. Lovecraft describing a fictional civilization in decline 1929/30

Michael Jackson as an icon of Pan, or Bacchus; enabling the worshiping throngs to commune with the gods.

What has been forgotten by the modern devotees is that Pan or Bacchus were dangerous, and linked to death as well as orgiastic pleasure.

He could dance. He could sing. He could do both at the same time and make it look effortless.

But, he has been dead only a few hours and already I am sick of the eulogizing.

The dude had serious problems.

He did not want to be a black man. He spent umpteen dollars on surgery and treatment to look more and more white, and more and more feminine. He lived in a theme park like a 12-year-old who became rich.

He preferred the playtime company of children. Was it all none-sexual? Hard to believe.

He made the artist formerly, and now again known as Prince seem normal.
In my previous post, I briefly considered the official White House reaction to the Iranian Protest.

In a nutshell, I am not altogether offended by President Obama's caution. By eschewing the traditional American harsh and unequivocal response in similar cases, the President wisely passes up the temptation to make the United States a center of attention in this internal struggle.

Even more importantly, as I intimated, and the Okie Gardener better articulated, we are "not giving unrealistic expectations to the demonstrators." On a macro moral level, the instances in which freedom-loving dissidents rise up, propelled by the false hopes of a decisive United States intervention, have too often concluded with heartbreaking and cruelly tragic misfortune.

On the other hand, by staying mum while the multitudes bravely take to the streets in pursuit of life, liberty, and peaceful change strikes many of us as craven--or at least quite peculiar. It is in our nature to stand up and yell out our support for and solidarity with our brothers in arms across the seas. As I said before, we have been doing this for more than two hundred years.

However, Obama Americanism is not quite that reflexive (at least not in the same direction). It is a studied skepticism for notions like "natural rights" and the inherent benevolence of American-style democracy. Barack Obama is the first president from a generation of Americans educated in the nation's finest institutions of higher learning transformed during the 1970s and beyond by the advent and establishment of a New Left ethos. At Columbia and Harvard one learns to appreciate cultural relativism and give great weight to the murky and sometimes inconsistent history of American foreign policy and the sometimes hypocritical struggle for freedom at home. President Obama comes to us steeped in nuance, irony, and cynicism.

Is that Enough?

Sometimes we want more than the detached cool of the knowing academic. Sometimes we want and need an official cri de coeur from the President of the United States. Sometimes we need some Daniel Webster.

A Thought Experiment:

When I watch the scene in Casablanca in which Freedom Fighter Victor Laszlo orchestrates the public singing of "La Marseillaise," drowning out the Nazis and "Die Wacht am Rhein," I cannot help myself: I tear up (watch here via You Tube--if you have never seen it, seriously, do yourself a favor).

Vive le France!

Vive Michael Curtiz!

God Bless America!

Godspeed to the brave souls in the streets of Tehran!

My Question:

I wonder, does Barack Obama cry when he watches that scene?

Do you get weepy watching that scene?


PREDICTION: For the record, I think the pressure is mounting for the President to come out strongly in support of the protesters. Regardless of whether he feels solidarity in his heart for their cause, I expect an eloquent statement identifying our history with the democratic yearnings of the masses in Iran.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Recently my wife and I drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and toured the Gilcrease Museum. Built around the art collection of an Oklahoma oilman, the Gilcrease houses an astounding collection of American art. Well worth the time and expense of a trip to Tulsa.

I first became aware of this museum several years ago when I noticed that many of the paintings printed in the American history textbooks I used were housed there.

The collection includes

James Madison (1792) by Charles Wilson Peale

Black Hawk and His Son, Whirling Thunder (1833) by John Wesley Jarvis

Boone's First View of Kentucky (1849) by William T. Ranney

And many, many more, including sculptures.

The art collection includes over 10,000 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by 400 artists from colonial times to the present. Some of the important, non-western artists featured in the Gilcrease Collection include Thomas Eakins, Robert Feke, Charles Wilson Peale, Daniel Chester French, John Singleton Copley, James McNeil Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, John James Audubon, William Merritt Chase, and N. C. Wyeth. Among the Western artists for which Gilcrease is renowned are the following:

Albert Bierstadt
William M. Cary
George Catlin
Woody Crumbo
William R. Leigh
Alfred Jacob Miller
Thomas Moran Frederic Remington (including 18 of his 22 bronzes)
Charles M. Russell
Olaf Seltzer
Joseph H. Sharp
Willard Stone
Charles Banks Wilson
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Two hundred years ago Baptists were not organized into a national denomination. Instead, the Baptist movement, in two or three streams, had no national structures, local churches organizing into Associations. Baptists were, in general, not wealthy nor especially educated. They were not "high society." But, as the American nation grew and developed, so did Baptists. The majority organizing a national denomination (the Convention). But, the minority of Baptists remained outside this endeavor, for various reasons. They looked back to older, traditional ways. And among the treasures kept, was the real old-time music. Even when newer hymns were adopted, they were sung without instrumental accompanyment.

Much of this Baptist minority became the Primitive or Old School Baptist movement. Here is some of their music:

Audio, with a still picture of the Meeting House.

Last week I introduced you to Sacred Harp singing. Here is more, in a PB church.

This video sound a lot like the Primitive Baptist churches in which I grew up.

Another group of the Baptist minority is the Old Regular Baptists, found mostly in the Appalachians. Now they have preserved the real old time singing. Listening to them is like time traveling to a Baptist meeting in 1800. Some Primitive Baptist churches also sing like this, mostly in the mountains.

When Shall We Meet from the Smithsonian Folkways recording.

At a baptism, listen to the singing at the beginning of the video.

I Am a Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow another Smithsonian Folkways recording.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
All across the country, but especially in the South, people will gather weekly or monthly to sing "sacred harp" songs. These songs are a capella, four-part harmony, using "shape notes" rather than modern transcription, and are a living tradition going back to the early years of our nation.

Here is the official website of the Sacred Harp Heritage Association, that has description, history, and other information, including locations of "singings" that anyone can participate in.

Some examples of Sacred Harp singing:

What Wondrous Love Is This, from a singing in Columbia, Missouri. Sound quality if amateur, but a good introduction. Notice that the singers begin by going through the tune fa so la, etc. Sacred Harp schools were held on the frontier in the 19th century and within a week could produce high quality choral singing from whatever group of pioneers were gathered. Rather than being taught conventionallly, the men and women were taught to associate notes with pitch using the do, ra, mi, etc

From Birmingham, Alabama.

This is an "internet ad" promoting a singing in Newbury, Vermont.

From the Cold Mountain movie soundtrack, better sound quality obviously.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Perhaps you've heard about the pharmacist who shot the robber up the road here in Oklahoma City. Story here.

Confronted by two holdup men, pharmacist Jerome Ersland pulled a gun, shot one of them in the head and chased the other away. Then, in a scene recorded by the drugstore's security camera, he went behind the counter, got another gun, and pumped five more bullets into the wounded teenager as he lay on the floor.

The store is in a bad neighborhood, and had been robbed before.

The pharmacist has been charged with first-degree murder. Lots of folks are praising him, though, and giving money to his defense fund.

The charges were filed because he shot the robber five more times after getting another gun, while the young man was lying on the floor.

My thoughts: his first actions were justified, but he went too far when he fired the second-round of shots. However, first-degree murder seems too harsh. A massive rush of adrenaline in the context of fearing for your life can give a person a sort of "tunnel vision," a locked and intense focus akin to an experience of autism.

This man is a civilian, who had to be on edge working in a store that had been robbed before, had just had his life threatened, and was reacting primally. Reduce the charges.

Stupid quote of the story: "He didn't have to shoot my baby like that," Parker's mother, Cleta Jennings, told TV station KOCO. Your "baby" attempted an armed robbery; better his funeral than his victim's.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Christianity Today, the Books & Culture section, has an interesting and enlightening panel discussion of James Elkins' On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art. Elkins is the E. C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Panelists who responded to his book are Bruce Herman of Gordon College, James Romaine of Bethel University, Bruce Ellis Benson of Wheaton College, and Theodore Prescott of Messiah College.

Elkins was prompted to write this book by

his experience as one of four jurors for the 1990 exhibition "Revelations: Artists Look at Religions." It was a big show with several famous artists in it, including Andres Serrano, the maker of Piss Christ. But the jurors also had to slog through hundreds of submissions, looking at slides, reading statements, and scanning résumés. It was a daunting, numbing job. One submission caught their attention, and they were ready to accept it until they learned the artist was a nun, and her work, which the jurors had found quirky, was her vision of heaven. "Oh God," moaned one of the jurors, and they voted it down. Elkins was the only one to vote for it: "I wanted to accept it because it was religious, and religion was supposedly our theme."

This experience started Elkins thinking about "the exclusion of religious meaning in contemporary art,"

This panel discussion provides a good starting point for reflection on the world of contemporary academic art discourse, and on the larger problem of modern aesthetics.