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A Quote from Albert Einstein

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”Everyone sits in the prison of his own ideas. A human being is a part of the whole called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein
 
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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in People, Photography

 

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Santa Weeps

"Give and Take" (Mark Streeter/Savannah Morning News)

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NOW is the time to discuss gun control and universal health care, including mental illness, in the U.S.

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Art, Christmas, Current Events, People

 

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The Silence on Global Warming

Harrowing predictions of climate scientists are coming true, as glaciers melt, forests burn, heat waves proliferate and freakish weather strikes in unexpected places. But the propagandists of global-warming denial have succeeded in silencing most politicians and the mainstream press. Written by Robert Parry


File Photo credit: Brittney Misialek, former WGN-TV intern.

Something called a “derecho” – a fast-moving line of thunderstorms – strikes the Washington area knocking out power for days. Massive forest fires ravage Colorado. A record heat wave covers much of the country. The U.S. press treats these events as major stories, but two words are rarely mentioned: “global warming.”

What has become most striking about the growing evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger – indeed an emerging existential threat – is the simultaneous failure of the U.S. news media to deal seriously with the issue, another sign of how the Right can intimidate the mainstream into going silent.

Evan Vucci/AP In Pictures: Extreme weather 2012

We have seen this pattern before, as the Right sets the media agenda by bullying those who threaten its ideological interests. Before the Iraq War, anyone who dared raise questions about the Bush administration’s justifications could expect to be marginalized or worse. Just ask Phil Donahue, Scott Ritter and the Dixie Chicks.

During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, his hard-nosed propagandists dubbed this tactic “controversializing,” that is, anyone who got too much in the way could expect to be subjected to systematic smears and professional deconstruction. With so many right-wing voices willing to say almost anything, it wasn’t hard to intimidate people.

The smart career play was always to retreat when these forces were arrayed against you. Why risk your six- or seven-figure salary on some issue when there are so many other stories that you can work on without all the grief?


Shelf cloud from the developing derecho in Chicago on June 29, 2012. Image Credit: NWS Meteorologist Samuel Shea

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Obama Embraces Marriage Equality!

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Mr. Obama said.

Long a proponent of civil unions, Mr. Obama said his views had changed in part because of prodding by friends who are gay and by conversations with his wife and daughters.

“I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” Mr. Obama said. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.”

Mr. Obama also invoked his Christian faith in explaining his decision.

“The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule — you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated,” he said. “And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president.”

 
 

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The Christmas Truce – WW1

This is one of my favorite stories from Christmas past. I am reposting this from the archives of November, 2005.

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WWI veteran, 109, was Scotland’s oldest man

LONDON, England (AP) — Alfred Anderson, the last surviving soldier to have heard the guns fall silent along the Western Front during the spontaneous “Christmas Truce” of World War I, died Monday at age 109.

More than 80 years after the war, Anderson recalled the “eerie sound of silence” as shooting stopped and soldiers clambered from trenches to greet one another December 25, 1914.

His parish priest, the Rev. Neil Gardner, said Anderson died in his sleep early Monday at a nursing home in Newtyle, Scotland. His death leaves fewer than 10 veterans of World War I alive in Britain.

Born June 25, 1896, Anderson was an 18-year-old soldier in the Black Watch regiment when British and German troops cautiously emerged from the trenches that Christmas Day in 1914. The enemies swapped cigarettes and tunic buttons, sang carols and even played soccer amid the mud, barbed wire and shell-holes of no man’s land.

The informal truce spread along much of the 500-mile Western Front, in some cases lasting for days — alarming army commanders who feared fraternization would sap the troops’ will to fight. The next year brought the start of vast battles of attrition that claimed 10 million lives, and the Christmas truce was never repeated.

“I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,” Anderson told The Observer newspaper last year.

“All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machine-gun fire and distant German voices,” said Anderson, who was billeted in a French farmhouse behind the front lines.

“But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas,’ even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.”

During the war, Anderson served briefly as batman — or valet — to Capt. Fergus Bowes-Lyon, brother of the Queen Mother Elizabeth. Bowes-Lyon was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

Prince Charles said he was “deeply saddened” by Anderson’s death and recalled meeting him several times. “We should not forget him, and the others of his generation who have given so much for their country,” the heir to the British throne said.

Anderson fought in France until 1916, when he was wounded by shrapnel. In 1998, he was awarded France’s Legion of Honor for his war service.

Anderson was Scotland’s oldest man. The country’s First Minister, Jack McConnell, said he “represented the generation of young Scots who fought in the First World War, and endured unimaginable horrors.”

“Many of them made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and we must never forget what they have given to us.”

Lt. Col. Roddy Riddell, regimental secretary of the Black Watch, said Anderson’s death marked “the end of the epoch.”

“The entire regiment is in mourning and we are all the sadder for his passing,” he said.

Gardner said Anderson “was quite philosophical about his wartime experiences.” Anderson himself said he tried to put them out of his mind.

“I think about all my friends who never made it home,” he said once. “But it’s too sad to think too much about it. Far too sad.”

In later years, Anderson spoke often of the guilt he felt over the loss of friends and comrades.

“I felt so guilty meeting the families of friends who were lost,” he told The Times newspaper this month. “They looked at me as if I should have been left in the mud of France instead of their loved one. I couldn’t blame them, they were grieving, and I still share their grief and bear that feeling of guilt.”

 

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Christmas, History, Holiday, People, Politics, Vintage

 

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The Origins of the Christmas Tree

How It All Got Started

Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.

Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.


A Christmas tree for German soldiers in a temporary hospital in 1871

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrims‘s second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The Christmas tree had arrived.

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The Rockefeller Center tree is located at Rockefeller Center, west of Fifth Avenue from 47th through 51st Streets in New York City.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree dates back to the Depression Era days. The tallest tree displayed at Rockefeller Center came in 1948 and was a Norway Spruce that measured in at 100 feet tall and hailed from Killingworth, Connecticut.

The first tree at Rockefeller Center was placed in 1931. It was a small unadorned tree placed by construction workers at the center of the construction site. Two years later, another tree was placed there, this time with lights. These days, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights.


Rockefeller Center’s Chrismtas tree is all lit up. Credit: Jason DeCrow, AP

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A Tribute to George Harrison – the Quiet Beatle

Ten years ago yesterday, George Harrison lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of 58, ending one of the most influential musical lives ever led.

Harrison gained a reputation for himself as ‘the quiet Beatle’, often preferring to leave the spotlight to his more vocal band mates. During this time, however, he was the songwriting master behind some of the most highly regarded songs of the band’s career including ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and the cheeky stab at the tax department who were, at the time, taxing the band 95% because they found themselves in the top earners in the country, ‘Taxman’.

‘When you think about it, the four egos, it’s amazing they did anything because they’re all very strong people,’ producer George Martin said in a BBC Radio Documentary on Harrison.

‘He got a bit fed up because his own music wasn’t recognised, by me as well, I’m guilty. I took the two geniuses and ignored the third,’ he regretfully admitted.

Harrison didn’t start out writing such hugely influential numbers though. In 1958, when the band was known as The Quarrymen, he wrote the band’s very first original song with Paul McCartney (who would later split all of his songwriting royalties with John Lennon). The song ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ was a Buddy Holly-inspired tune with Lennon on lead vocals.

George’s solo career started before the demise of The Beatles, with his first album ‘Wonderwall Music’, recorded partially in Bombay. It was the soundtrack to a 1968 film ‘Wonderwall’, directed by Harrison himself.

In 1969 he released the experimental album ‘Electronic Sound’, which was entirely composed on the Moog synthesiser, but it was in 1970 after the split of the Beatles when he began to use his solo career as a vehicle for his pop songs releasing the first triple album ever released by a solo artist: ‘All Things Must Pass’ which features some of his most iconic solo songs, including ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Music, News, People, Photography

 

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