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RIP Daydream Believer 1945-2012

I've never really been a good inhabitant of my own era....especially with music and TV.  When I was in about 2nd grade, Nick at Nite started airing reruns of sitcoms from the 50's and 60's.  My sister and I were soon hooked on "My Three Sons."   Pretty much combine some cute guys, and some gentle goofy humor, and we were both happy campers.  I'd catch as many of the episodes as I could, mostly in black and white but now and then in color.

Eventually when I was 9 I started noticing commercials for a show which looked like it had the older version of Chip Douglas in it.  I wondered if he wound up doing this other show after "My Three Sons."  They also kept playing this song "I'm a Believer" that really appealed to me.

So one day after school I saw my very first Monkees episode.  Before long I was hooked.  It had everything I could want from a television show.  There was the gentle goofy humor, the cute guys....but so much more.  I loved the music.  It was my first foray into the mid 60's.  I loved everything about the music...the instruments, the style...the harmonies.  I also adored the bright colors of the show...both of that over-saturated 60's style, and just from the styles that were popular at the time.  I mean, check out the rainbow room! Overall, it was the sheer charisma of the Monkees that sucked me in.  

My friend Kari shared my obsession.  We would get dressed up and pretend we were marrying our favorite Monkees.  She'd always marry Davy and I'd always marry Micky.  During one such game, we put on "More of the Monkees" played "The Day We Fall in Love"  and pretended it was a phone call I was getting.  I did some sort of exaggerated reaction to the "romantic phone call."  Then at the end Kari said "Just kidding...it's really MIKE!"  (It took me another 10 years to appreciate Papa Nez....)  

While my favorite Monkee will always be Micky Dolenz...I have a strong appreciation for Davy as well.  I was recently watching their audition tapes and realized 3 out of 4 of the parts Micky could have done by himself.   But there was no substitute for Davy....the sensitivity, his Broadway/Music Hall sense of showmanship....like every time he launched into a rousing rendition of Swanee River. His sense of comedic timing   was also impressive.  Remember "the cute one" is almost never "the funny one" as well.  That English accent didn't hurt either.

That summer my father took Kari and I to the Monkees concert.  It was my first real concert.  Kari and I both bounced up and down the whole time.  This must have been part of the entertainment for my father as Kari and I were both pretty nerdy and introverted.  The line that thrilled me most that evening was Davy shouting out "This is 1987!!!"  I think it delighted me beyond measure that somehow these people who were part of a ....TV show seems too weak a word....that I loved so much, were in the same time and space as me.

However they would soon be eclipsed.  In some of our Monkee games, Kari and I needed villains.  She suggested maybe the Beatles.  I hadn't heard of them.  She'd noticed in one episode the Monkees throw darts at a Beatles poster.  However, like all my obsessions, I was reading massive amounts about the Monkees and the Beatles kept coming up, comments about the Monkees being "plastic Beatles."    I started to wonder if I might like these Beatles too.  Then one day MTV (which had been one of the main catalysts in the Monkees revival in 1986) started airing the Beatle cartoons....and it was all over.

The Monkee tapes eventually were neglected among my music collection.  Although my whole family went to see the Monkees when they came to the Walworth County fair....it was probably 1990.   While it was a bit sad seeing them in that setting after Alpine Valley....it was a pleasure getting to hear them with the hysteria calmed down.  I got to appreciate the tight harmonies and the sheer entertainment of it all.  My mom and I got a kick out of the fact that Micky was improvising a lot of one-liners.  We wound up seeing them perform twice that night, and he used different jokes in each set.

About 10 years later, I got the urge to see the Monkees episodes again.  In my 20's I began to have a hobby of revisiting a lot of what I used to like in my childhood to see how well it did or didn't hold up.  Thanks to the joys of interlibrary loan, a bunch of Monkees episodes were delivered to me on Valentine's Day.  I proceeded to have one of the best Valentine's Days of my life revisiting with the old friends.  I became reacquainted with the show and the music and fell in love with them all over again. I still love the tunes and appreciate the comedy all the more. I also have gratitude to the Monkees for being that safer group to try before the Beatles....kind of like a childhood sweetheart introducing you to the love of your life. 

It's become a bit of a tradition for me to watch the Monkees during February.  Even had a Monkee Partee last year.  I'd just finished another round of watching all my DVD's...even had an hour in the car of singing Monkees tunes last Sunday.

In my mind, one of the ultimate measures of success is to be somebody's happy childhood memory.   Tonight, 25 years after I first heard that famous drum beat, and saw animated stars in his eyes for the first time...my inner 9 year old's heart is breaking.     Godspeed and thank you David Thomas Jones.



"When I feel my head start to swell I look at Ringo and then I know perfectly well we're not superhuman." - John Lennon

How's this for a want ad?  WANTED FOR TEMPORARY EMPLOYMENT: A chief executive/commander-in-chief to follow one of the most popular and successful presidents in American history.  Job duties include: ending World War II, protecting democracy world wide from totalitarian states, deciding how best to utilize the single most destructive weapon in human history.  Training: None.  Retirement plan: None.  Living accommodations: A rat-infested rapidly deteriorating 150 year old house (we would not recommend going to the third floor if you value your life.)  

I don't know about you, but that makes the worst of my temp jobs sound pretty good by comparison.  Now add to the mix, the man chosen to fill this job was a failed haberdasher with a high school education.  Is it any wonder people were concerned when Harry S. Truman took office?  Fortunately, throughout Truman's life, he had the capacity to rise to the occasion in situations where at first, he seemed to be hopelessly in over his head.  

Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri on May 8, 1884.  The S. didn't stand for anything in particular...it was a way to name him after both grandfathers at the same time: Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young.    Early on the family moved to the town of Independence, where he lived most of his life.

When he was 6 he started going to Sunday school at the local Presbyterian Church.  It was there that he first met Bessie Wallace.  As Bessie was from a prominent family.....and Harry wasn't (plus he was....gasp....a BAPTIST....)....Harry wasn't really on Bessie's radar.  However, she was the love of Harry's life.  He was never interested in any other women.  It's like of like if Charlie Brown, after 3 decades, finally won over the little red-headed girl.

By today's standards Harry was legally blind without his glasses, which made sports nearly impossible.  So he became a voracious reader.  He was a regular at the Independence Public Library.  I picture him being like a couple of the regulars at my middle school library.....racing in to get another book.  His favorite books were about history, and the biographies of generals.

Harry's other main pasttime was playing the piano.   Later he used to joke that if he hadn't gone into politics, his only other option was to play piano in a whorehouse.  (Given how straight-laced Truman was, it's doubtful he ever even set foot in a whorehouse let alone would play piano in one.)  However he took his study of piano very seriously.  He continued his piano lessons past high school until he could no longer afford it.  In 1900 when Paderewski came to Kansas City, Truman's piano teacher made arrangements for Harry to not only meet Paderewski, but to have a master lesson on Paderewski's Minuet in G.  (A piano player AND a bibliophile...I think he and I could have been good buddies.)

However any of Harry's hopes of becoming a concert pianist or going onto college were dashed when he was 18.  His father got into serious financial trouble.  Harry moved to Kansas City and found work as a bank clerk.  One of his housemates was Arthur Eisenhower, older brother of Ike.  Harry had a great time in Kansas City, especially enjoying his hobby of going to the theater....which he would sometimes skip out on church to do.

The party was over pretty soon.  Harry's father took over the family farm, and insisted that Harry move there and help out.  This had to have been a difficult adjustment for a self-described "sissy" who had never actually done farm work before.  Still he didn't complain, and stayed there for the next 8 years.  In his spare time he made frequent trips to Independence to see Bess Wallace, who he had recently reconnected with.  Bess's father had shocked the family and the town by committing suicide a few years before.  This left Bess to look after her ever more difficult mother.  Margaret Wallace never thought Harry was good enough for Bess....even after she'd moved into the White House with them.  She was pretty much on a par with Ulysses S. Grant's father....would love to see the two of them in some sort of celebrity death match.

Bess and Harry wrote regular letters to each other.  She turned down his first proposal.  He took it in stride, but made these comments in his response: "You may think I'll get over it as all boys do.  I guess I am something of a freak myself.  I really never had any desire to make love to a girl just for the fun of it, and you have always been the reason.  I have never met a girl in my life that you were not the first to be compared with her, to see wherein she was lacking and she always was...I'll never tell such things to anyone else or bother you with them again.  I have always been more idealist than practical anyway, so I really never expected any reward for loving you.  I shall always hope though..."

Bess strung him along for years, but finally relented in 1913.  He was on Cloud Nine.  This is my favorite of what he wrote after that "I could die happy just doing something for you.  (Just imagine a guy with spectacles and a girl mouth doing the Sir Lancelot.)  Since I can't rescue you from any monster or carry you from a burning building  or save you from a sinking ship--simply because I'd be afraid of the monsters, couldn't carry you and can't swim--I'll have to go to work..."  I think this is classic Harry Truman: earnest, heart-felt and hilarious.  Although it should be noted, eventually he did learn to swim (an awkward side stroke that allowed him to keep his glasses on...) and also proved more than capable with some monsters as well.

In 1918 the United States entered World War I.  Bess decided NOW would be the time to finally get married.  However Harry wanted to enlist, and insisted they wait a little longer....because apparently 25 years of pining and a 5 year engagement just wasn't long enough.

Harry easily could have avoided the draft with his poor eyesight.  However, he memorized the eye chart so he could make it in the army.  He was 33 years old and soon was made captain of Battery F.   He bought 6 pairs of glasses and was off to France.  Some of his fellow soldier were delighted to find out how much Harry knew about France, thanks to all those years in the library.  He'd know where to find different historical sites.   Truman was a highly successful captain.  The only of his men to sustain casualties were temporarily under the command of somebody else.  His men adored him, and were fiercely loyal to him for the rest of his life.

After the war, Harry realized going back to farm life wasn't for him.  So after he married Bess, they moved in with her mother.  This would be where he'd spend the majority of his adult life.  Harry opened up a haberdashery (a hat store) with Eddie Jacobson.  Harry and Eddie would be lifelong friends despite the fact that Eddie was not allowed to visit Harry at home.  Among Mrs. Wallace's many charming traits, she was anti-semitic and Eddie was Jewish.

The haberdashery was short-lived (like most of Harry's business adventures.)  Harry found himself 40, a new father...and unemployed.  However he did have a good reputation in the community.  Local political machine boss T.J. Pendergast offered to help him get elected as a judge.   Thus Harry got involved in politics....not for any noble goal, or because of interest, or because of ambition....but purely to be a breadwinner.  The Pendergast machine was fairly corrupt.  T.J. Pendergast would eventually spend time in prison.  Harry, however, managed to stay clean.  Which meant watching everybody around him grow rich, while he struggled to pay the bills.

He had a few political/government positions over the years.  In 1934 Pendergast decided Truman would be a good candidate for the U.S. senate.  He won.  Initially Harry was just seen as a Pendergast pawn, and was snubbed by his colleagues.  This changed really quickly.  From the get go, Harry was horrified at how few members of Congress actually USED the Library of Congress.  (Indeed Truman is the first president I've read of using the Library of Congress since Teddy Roosevelt.)  Truman was always one of the senators to come to work, and did a good job of researching the issues.  The other senators soon figured out that Harry could be trusted to know the facts.  His gregarious personality didn't hurt matters either.

Harry was loyal to FDR and the New Deal and FDR....didn't give a rat's ass.  When Harry was running for re-election in 1940...with his old patron Boss Pendergast in jail....FDR supported a different candidate.  Harry won anyway.

When World War II started, Harry headed a committee to make sure government funds were not being misspent during the war effort.  The committee became known as the Truman Committee, and made Harry a national figure. The committee was very successful and is estimated to have saved $15 billion dollars, and thousands of lives.

In 1944 FDR was looking for a new running mate.  He was in very bad health at this point, and it was pretty much understood that whoever would be vice-president for this term, would probably step into the presidency before it was over.    FDR took his time figuring out which candidate he liked best.  Harry wasn't overly thrilled about the idea.  "The Vice President simply presides over the Senate and sits around hoping for a funeral."    Finally, one day Truman was in a hotel room with Bob Hannegan, one of the key players in the campaign.  FDR called up Hannegan, and said very loudly so Harry could hear it as well "Bob, have you got that fellow lined up yet?"

Hannegan responded "No he is the contrariest goddamn mule from Missouri I ever dealt with."

And FDR ended the call with "Well you tell the Senator that if he wants to break up the Democratic party in the middle of the war, that's his responsibility" and hung up loudly.

In other words, Harry was the choice.  Harry's response to the news: "Oh shit!"

FDR and Truman spent very little time together during the campaign.  When they did meet, Harry was horrified at how FDR looked like death warmed over.

At one point while campaigning in Massachusetts, Harry had a meeting with Joseph Kennedy.  Right away, according to Truman, Kennedy began "throwing rocks at Roosevelt" finally ending with "Harry what are you doing campaigning for that crippled son of a bitch that killed my Joe?"  (Kennedy's oldest son had recently been killed in the war.)

Harry responded "If you say another word about Roosevelt I'm going to throw you out that window."  He later, at the urging of campaign strategists, had to apologize, as they pointed out it was not a good idea to alienate the Kennedys.

Harry spent all of 80 days as vice-president.  He actually had a pretty good time.  He enjoyed getting to preside over the senate.  However one day in April 1945, he got a call that he was to report to the White House right away.  All the color drained out of his face, and he said "Jesus Christ and General Jackson" and then broke into a run.  

When he got to the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt was waiting for him.  "Harry, the President is dead."

When he regained his speech, the first thing Harry said was "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Eleanor responded "Is there anything WE can do for YOU?  For you are the one who are in trouble now."

FDR had been in office over 12 years.  My grandmother, who was just about to turn 5 when he was first inaugurated, was a high school graduate by the time he died.  Truman commented to the press "Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."

Besides being in the unenviable position of following FDR, there was still a World War to wrap up....and FDR had pretty much left Truman in the dark so there was a lot of catching up to do.  That summer Truman went to Potsdam, Germany to have a summit with Churchill and Stalin.  Churchill liked Truman from the get go.  Truman wished that Churchill would stop feeling the need to make speeches, and just get down to business.  To make things more awkward, Churchill's party was voted out of office in the middle of things, so suddenly Clement Atlee was the prime minister instead.  Fortunately Churchill had the foresight to bring Atlee along and keep him in the loop just in case.    Truman actually liked Stalin.....later regretting that he didn't catch on what a duplicitous son-of-a-bitch Stalin actually was.

The summer of 1945 was also when the atomic bomb was finished.  The debate started over whether to use it on Japan.  Although it was pretty clear to everybody that Japan was losing, the Japanese military was determined to take as many Allied soldiers down with them as possible.  Allied troops would have to fight and die for every inch.    Truman thought it was worth it to use the atomic bomb.  He authorized the bombing of Hiroshima.    A few days later, after the bombing of Nagasaki, the Japanese surrendered.  While Truman is sometimes vilified for this decision, he never lost any sleep over it.   "I knew what I was doing when I stopped the war ... I have no regrets and, under the same circumstances, I would do it again."

However after the end of World War II, it was pretty clear there were going to be problems with the Soviet Union.  Wisconsin native George Kennan wrote his famous "long telegram" in 1947 expressing his concerns about U.S.-Soviet relationships, and how to try to prevent the spread of communism with the containment policy.  (My home state gets both extremes....George Kennan, Gaylord Nelson, founder of earth day....and Joe McCarthy....)    This policy was later known as the "Truman Doctrine" and largely set the tone for the next 4 decades.

From 1948-1949 the Soviets blocked off roads to Berlin, in attempt to gain control of the entire city.  In response....mostly planned by brilliant Secretary of State George Marshall....was the Berlin Airlift.  For a little over a year supplies were dropped onto West Berlin.  Ultimately the Soviets capitulated and West Berlin remained autonomous....though I can't imagine it was much fun being the tiny little corner of democracy surrounded by communist East Germany.

In 1948 Truman made the bold decision to have the United States be the first to recognize the new nation of Israel.  The United States recognized Israel 11 minutes after it became a country.  Truman made this decision partly because of input from his old business partner Eddie Jacobson.  It was a particularly gutsy move because at the time, anti-semitism was still pretty common.  The year before there had just been a movie "Gentleman's Agreement" addressing how wide-spread it was.

Bess Truman, never comfortable as first lady, spent a good chunk of her time supervising the White House renovation project.  The White House was falling apart.  The Roosevelts hadn't done a thing to keep it in working order.  (I guess they were too busy saving the world to notice that the 3rd floor of their home had become a death trap.)  The Trumans spent 1949-1952 in Blair House across the street.

However during the summer, Bess, Margaret and Mrs. Wallace would go back to Independence.  Sometimes when Harry was feeling particularly lonely, he imagined that the ghosts of the former inhabitants of the White House were prowling around.  "I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports, and work on speeches--all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study.  The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth--I can just imagine old Andy and Teddy having an argument over Franklin.  Or James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce deciding which was the more useless to the country.  And when Millard Fillmore and Chester Arthur join in for place and show the din is almost unbearable."

Truman's popularity yo-yoed during his whole administration.  At first prospects for his re-election in 1948 were not looking very good.  However, Harry did the famous whistle stop tour by train cross country....and managed to win over the electorate once more.  His opponent, Thomas Dewey, was so arrogant, that he actually did very little to advance his own campaign.  Hence the particularly gleeful look in that famous picture:   

The honeymoon was short-lived in the second term.  In 1949 the Nationalist Army in China was defeated and sent to exile in Taiwan.  Mao Tse Tung was now the head of a new communist government.  (Although the United States would not actually acknowledge this officially until 1972....)  In the same year, the Soviet Union exploded it's first nuclear bomb.

 I used to think people in the early Cold War era were a bit paranoid about communism.  Which is easy for me to think....the same year we learned about the Iron Curtain in history class, the Berlin Wall fell.  However....in Harry Truman's lifetime, two of the largest countries in the world, as well as half of Europe became communist....I'm a bit more sympathetic about why people freaked out.  Senator Joseph McCarthy took advantage of the situation and began the witch hunt for which he is named.....pretty much because he liked the attention.

On June 25, 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea.  The rest of his second term would be dominated by the Korean War.  It was a delicate affair....and there was more than one point where it looked like the tiny little peninsula might start World War III.  It didn't help to have General MacArthur at the helm.  MacArthur knew that China was backing North Korea, and was confident he could defeat the Chinese Army.  He told Truman as much when they met in person at Wake Island.  However the image of the Chinese Army MacArthur had in mind was about 10 years out of date.  He was picturing the Nationalist Army....the same one that got defeated both by the Japanese and Mao.  However, at the very same time MacArthur was bragging to Truman, it's estimated that over 100,000 of Mao's soldiers were already in Korea.  The Americans soon got their ass handed to them.

This put Truman in the position of having to fire General MacArthur.  So he did what any nerd would do in a crisis....he went to the Library of Congress and read up on how Abraham Lincoln fired General McClellan.  He was intrigued by how Lincoln had exactly the opposite problem.  Lincoln wanted McClellan to get off his ass and fight more.  Truman wanted MacArthur to show more discretion and restraint.

After MacArthur's dismissal, he got a very warm welcome home...his first time back to the United States in 17 years.  Like fellow partner in arrogance General McClellan he had grand plans to run for president, that ultimately did not work out.  The much more pragmatic Matthew Ridgeway took over in Korea.  Ultimately the war was not concluded until a couple of months after Truman was out of office, when Joseph Stalin died and saner heads prevailed.

Truman opted not to go for a 3rd term....and thanks to a new constitutional amendment, he was the last president to even have that option.  He was content to move back with Bess to Independence.  They took a few trips, including a road trip across the Eastern United States.  Truman was pretty much the last president who was able to become a normal citizen of sorts.

However he did help lobby so that presidents would get a pension after their administration.  This way he could afford to pay for staff to help him organize his papers and set up his presidential library. 

Harry spent the last 20 years of his life content to be back in his hometown with his beloved Bess....and thoroughly enjoyed being a grandfather as well.  He died on December 26, 1972 at the age of 88.

I've been asked multiple times who my favorite president is.  When it comes to who I think the best president was, that's Abraham Lincoln, hands down.  For which president I found the most compelling....that would be Richard Nixon.  However for which president I like most as a human being...that's a tie between John Adams and Harry Truman.  After the larger than life aristocratic FDR, Truman was a breath of fresh air to research.  I loved that he never forgot who he was or where he came from.  And the strength of his integrity was rare in a politician...rarer in a successful one.

Recommended Reading: "Truman" by David McCullough - the huge tome on Truman....is thorough and yet never gets dry or bogged down.

"Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure : The True Story of a Great American Road Trip" by Matthew Algeo.....the road trip that Harry and Bess took in 1953.  It's lots of fun, and helped me view Bess Truman in a more sympathetic light.

Here's a clip of Harry Truman getting help from LBJ to sign up for medicare.  







"It's the way it's always been. The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other... But you and I know...that the Doctor is worth the monsters." - From the Doctor Who episode "The Girl in the Fireplace."

World War II is a very popular war among a lot of Americans.  It seems to be one of those rare wars where there were clear good guys and bad guys.  The United States and the UK had to save the whole world from the evil Adolf Hitler to make the world ready for human rights and democracy.  For those of you playing the drinking game version of this blog, get your beverage ready.  Of course, it was more complicated than that.

Germany and Hitler were a problem for FDR from day one.  Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January of 1933.  FDR was inaugurated in March.  The two died within weeks of each other in April, 1945.

The initial problem was getting an ambassador to Germany.  Nobody wanted the job.   So FDR, as he often did, took a rather unorthodox route and offered the position to University of Chicago professor William Dodd.  Usually ambassadors were independently wealthy.....(such as Joseph Kennedy) so that they could afford to throw the kind of parties ambassadors needed to throw to schmooze....as the ambassador's salary itself was pretty paltry.  Dodd was a history professor.  His main focus was the American South.  He had absolutely no diplomatic experience.  However he was fluent in German, and had gotten his PhD at the University of Leipzig.  The hope was that it would be a quiet position where he could finish his magnum opus on the South.  His family also saw it as an opportunity for adventure.  So Dodd, his wife, his son and his incredibly promiscuous daughter Martha packed up and went to Berlin.

The Dodd family got to watch first hand as the Weimar Republic deteriorated into Nazi Germany.  (The story is covered beautifully in Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts.) One of the biggest problems of the Hitler era was everybody underestimated him.  In Germany, most of the moderates figured Hitler and his cronies were too unstable to last long in power.  Dodd rather awkwardly tried to promote democracy and American interests.  Meanwhile his daughter had a date with Hitler, an affair with the head of the Gestapo, another one with a Soviet spy.....and eventually became a Soviet spy herself. 

Britain fumbled around with appeasement.  "OK Germany you can take Austria but NO MORE than that!  All right so you took a good chunk of Czechoslovakia too....well no more than that!"  The United States was in full-on isolationist mode still.  Laws created in the 1920's after the supposed "war to end all wars" made it very difficult for the United States to be involved in any foreign war.  Meanwhile Germany had time to rebuild its military.

But by the late 30's FDR was starting to experience deja vu.  He had been Assistant Naval Secretary until World War I.  In Germany at the time, the Final Solution hadn't started yet....but things had gotten pretty uncomfortable for the Jews.  Eleanor was working her tail off trying to get as many refugees into the country as she could.  This was no easy task as immigration quotas were very limited....and it didn't help that FDR was getting a lot of advice from an Breckinridge Long, an anti-semitic member of the state department....who did whatever he could to get as few refugees in as possible, partly by stirring the fears that any immigrants could be German spies.  

Sometimes FDR gets accused of being anti-Semitic for not aiding the Jewish refugees when he had the chance.  While this was one of the biggest miscalculations of his administration...I don't think FDR was an anti-Semitic.  The cliche about politics is that it is the "art of the possible."  One factor that made Roosevelt successful as a politician was he was particularly gifted at having a feel for public opinion.  The United States as a whole was very anti-Semitic....and thoroughly isolationist.  So part of it was FDR taking the wrong advice...and the rest was not wanting to fight a battle he gauged he couldn't win just yet.  In the mid 40's he changed his mind, but it was too little too late.

Of course the other major miscalculation (or giving into war hysteria) was the Japanese internment camps.  Eleanor's visits to the camps in 1943, and her horror at the conditions, and what it was doing to the families, was the beginning of the end for the internment camps.

On September 1, 1939, Germany with its new pal the Soviet Union, jointly invaded Poland.  Nobody could deny there was a war happening now.  FDR had to console Ambassador Joseph Kennedy who called up sobbing "It's the end of the world, the end of everything."

In the United Kingdom appeaser Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and was quickly replaced by Winston Churchill.  Roosevelt ad Churchill discreetly began communicating with each other about the war.  FDR did not want to let the general public know he was preparing just in case a war happened.  By the summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain had begun.  (On a side note, in the fall of 1940, during a particularly heavy bombing of Liverpool, a young woman gave birth.  In a rare surge of patriotism she named her son: John Winston Lennon.)  

However the first thing FDR had to do was win an election.  He hemmed and hawed over the decision, but finally decided the international situation was bad enough, he wanted to stay in office at see it through.  The 1940 Democratic Convention was particularly bitter and divided that year.  Eleanor Roosevelt helped somewhat to ease the tensions with her speech: "This is no ordinary time. No time for weighing anything except what we can do best for the country as a whole, and that responsibility rests on each and every one of us as individuals."

FDR's Republican opponent was Wendell Willkie....easily the most fun presidential candidate name to say until Hubert Horatio Humphrey.    The tricky aspect of the campaign was Willkie had only recently switched parties...and very few of his views differed from FDR.  Ultimately (inexperienced politician that he was) he made many verbal gaffes that sunk his campaign.

FDR wanted to give aide to Britain, while still technically keeping the United States neutral.  So he devised the "Lend-Lease Act" which pretty much meant that the United States would give....oops I mean LEND....military equipment to the British.  FDR sold it as if you see your neighbor's house is on fire, of course you are going to lend them the hose.  FDR also instituted the first peace time draft in the United States.  (And at that point if anybody thought war was not going to happen, they were kidding themselves.)  Churchill was impressed and touched by the Lend-Lease Act which he called: "the most unsordid act in the history of any nation."  (You are going to be hearing a LOT from Churchill in this blog entry!)

Then in June of 1941, Germany invaded Russia.  This was a turning point for the Allies even if it did put them in the awkward position of having to create an alliance with the Soviet Union.  Britain began helping the Soviets right away.  Churchill, an ardent anti-communist, stated "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons."

Not quite Hell but pretty close.  Most of the world did not realize about the estimated 20 million who died in the Soviet Union during Stalin's regime.  While Hitler and FDR were beginning their administrations....Stalin's plan to collectivize the farms in the Ukraine (thanks to a freakishly good harvest the year he got his numbers) had the Ukrainians starving, all the while they were exporting grain.  It got so bad in the Ukraine that cannibalism began to be fairly common.  In one book I was reading about the era the comment was made "Orphans were people whose parents had not eaten them."  Although the ultimate sign for me of how bad things had gotten was when the Ukrainians went to Poland and asked them to invade.  That's pretty much like asking for help against the bully from the kid that has gotten beaten up by everybody in school....including the valedictorian.

Learning more about Stalin made me question whether it was a good idea to become his ally.  (Not that I condone fascism....or any ism for that matter.  Isms in my opinion are not good.)  However the fact is, while not the better of two evils, Stalin was the smarter of the two evils.  He was the one NOT invading England.

FDR and Churchill secretly met in person just off the coast of Newfoundland on August 14, 1941.  It was love at second sight.  FDR and Churchill had briefly met each other in England at the end of World War I.  It didn't make much of an impression on Churchill.  The second time was very different.  Churchill later commented "Meeting Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it."

Through all of this the United States was still attempting to play the neutrality card, particularly by negotiating with Japan.  All that ended on December 7 1941.....say it with me.... "a day that will live in infamy."  Pearl Harbor actually had a few things in common with Fort Sumter.  Both forts were not fully stocked, staffed or even totally built yet.  And of course, this was the catalyst for public opinion that finally had the American public ready to go to war.

That first Christmas the Churchills spent at the White House.  Eleanor was disgusted at how geeked up FDR and Churchill were about planning strategies together.  She thought they looked like two little boys playing war.  Eleanor did not particularly care for Churchill....especially because he was a heavy drinker.  She worried FDR would start drinking more as well...a remark FDR brushed off by pointing out his side of the family did not have the alcoholism problem.

Now the play by play on how strategically the Allies defeated the Axis powers....I will leave that to other writers' capable hands.  

However...I do want to talk a little more about Winston Churchill....because I absolutely adore him.  In 1943 Churchill and FDR met up in Morocco.  There was some worry that Hitler would find out where they were meeting.  In fact Hitler DID find out but thanks to the message getting confused in the translation, he thought that "Casablanca" meant that FDR and Churchill were meeting at the White House.

There was an elegant reception for the two heads of state.  Churchill was in a crabby mood because thanks to being in a Muslim country...he couldn't get away with drinking alcohol in public.  FDR however was having a good time.  He especially enjoyed getting  to visit his son Elliott.  (All four Roosevelt sons serve in the military.)  The sultan of Morocco had fabulous gifts for the visitors....including an elaborate gold tiara for Eleanor.   Elliott later commented "One glimpse of the tiara, and Father gave me a straight-faced sidelong look, and then a solemn wink.  The same thought was in both our minds: a picture of Mother presiding over a formal function at the White House with that imposing object perched atop her head."

After visiting the Allied troops and getting the diplomatic business out of the way (a.k.a. getting the French to cooperate...) the two world leaders decided to play hooky for a couple of days.  Churchill wanted FDR to experience the beauty of a sunset on the Atlas mountains.  The villa where the view was had steep narrow stairs, so FDR needed to be carried up.



This is my favorite image of Churchill and FDR together.   FDR enjoying the scenery, and Churchill enjoying FDR's company.  Churchill made a painting of the view and gave it to FDR.  

Churchill commented at the end of the trip "If anything happened to that man I couldn't stand it.  He is the truest friend; he has the farthest vision; he is the greatest man I've ever known."

Churchill, although older than FDR, lived to see the end of the war and beyond.  FDR's health was already failing during the campaign for his 4th term in 1944.  In 1945, while on a trip to Georgia, he complained "I have a terrific pain in the back of my head" and died not long after of a cerebral hemorrhage.   It was just weeks before Germany surrendered.

The nation that he left behind was radically different from the one he had started leading 12 years before.   Besides the legacy of the New Deal, the era was also a major catalyst for what would eventually become the Civil Rights movement and feminism.  World War II had finally dragged the nation out of the Depression...but the G.I. Bill helped the returning vets to be better educated and have better job prospects.  (Both of my grandfathers benefited from the G.I. Bill.)

Eleanor, who was very much FDR's conscience, would continue fighting the good fight.  She was head of the committee that drafed the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and was a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945-1952.

Of course, like the Civil War, just because we've reached 1945 in the story does not mean we are done with World War II.  Wait until you hear about the guy that had to clean up the mess....I'm just wild about him.  :)

Here are the books I read on FDR to prepare for this blog entry:

"Kennedy and Roosevelt" by Michael R. Beschloss
"Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship" by Jon Meacham
"In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin" by Erik Larson
"Dead Funny: Humor in Hitler's Germany" by Rudolph Herzog (Actually a very insightful look on day to day life in Nazi Germany.)
"Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin"  by Timothy Snyder (Couldn't finish this one....if you REALLY want a feel for how bad it got in both places....this is the book for you.)
"No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II" by Doris Kearns Goodwin

The Beatles Evolver Part XXXII: 1987-1989

Originally posted by direcorrector at The Beatles Evolver Part XXXII: 1987-1989
I became a Beatle fan in 1987, when I was in 4th grade.  While ideally, it would have been nice to have been around when my favorite group was still making new music....my timing was pretty good.  June 1987 was the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band and there were articles and documentaries about the album and the Summer of Love all over the place.  That November George Harrison released Cloud Nine  Then in 1988, George's supergroup The Traveling Wilburys released an album that my whole family adored so much, we literally wore out the tape.  In 1989 he released a Greatest Hits Compilation....which Santa decided to give me that Christmas....and was how I was really first introduced to George's solo career.

Paul was no slouch during this period as well.  In 1987 he recorded Снова в СССР which became known as "The Russian Album" to English speakers which was all covers mostly from the 1950's.  Then he released Flowers in the Dirt which featured his collaboration with Elvis Costello.

And Ringo....well as we'll see Ringo would pop up on occasion for comic relief.

Here is the playlist for all the songs I'll be talking about:  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEA37590E6458E0EE

Cloud Nine 

While George never stopped writing songs, for a while he lost interest in creating albums.  He was more interested in his movie company Hand Made Films, and his other interests like gardening.  Cloud Nine was George's first album in 5 years, and his last solo album to be released before his death.  This was his first collaboration with former Electric Light Orchestra Jeff Lynne, who would be a steady creative partner the rest of George's life.  The album also featured piano playing by Elton John, and drumming by Ringo Starr and Jim Keltner.  The album was easily one of the most successful of George's solo career.

Cloud Nine - Not much to say with this....the song the album gets it's title from.

This is Love - A Harrison-Lynn composition...George himself explains the song's meaning in the video.  When released as a single, the B side of this song was going to be "Handle With Care"...until everybody realized that song was way too good to waste on a B side.

When We Was Fab -A Harrison-Lynne composition about George's Beatle days.  This is a rare case of George having fun with his Beatle past.  Often when asked, you can tell he's just fighting the urge to roll his eyes.  It makes references to the songs "Taxman", the Bob Dylan song "It's All Over Now Baby Blue", "Strangers in the Night" and "You've Really Got a Hold On Me."   I also think it's one of George's best music videos.  (A few of his I genuinely had to check whether they were the original video, or something somebody had cobbled together on their laptop.)

Someplace Else - A song that was originally featured on the soundtrack of the film "Shanghai Surprise".  The film was a Hand Made Films production starring Madonna and Sean Penn.  It was a bomb at the box office.  Madonna won the Razzie for worst actress.

Got My Mind Set On You -Ironically, one of George's most successful singles was not one that he wrote himself.  "Got My Mind Set On You" was an obscure R&B song from the early 60's that George had wanted to cover during the days of the Beatles.  There was more than one video for this song.  In the first, lesser known, arcade version.  Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will recognize Alexis Denisof, who played Wesley Wyndham-Pryce.  

For a bonus I threw in the Weird Al Yankovic parody "This Song Is Just Six Words Long."  It's fun but I kept finding myself thinking "Really?  You have to say this about a George song and not a McCartney one?"  Granted...I don't think Paul McCartney has a lot of patience of Beatles parodies.  

Once Upon a Long Ago - In 1987 Paul McCartney released a greatest hits compilation, and this was the lone new song on it.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1This album started out as a bit of a fluke.  George was working on a song "Handle With Care" and invited some of us buddies over to help him out with "Handle With Care."  George soon realized that the song was way too good for just a B-side, and that a whole album should be made with this fun group of friends.  Thus the Traveling Wilburys was born which included George, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan.....and although not pictured on the cover, Jim Keltner on drums.

If you ever get the chance I'd recommend watching the "True History of the Traveling Wilburys" documentary.  (I got it on itunes when I downloaded the album.)  You get to see footage of the album being put together, and how much fun everybody was having.  It is also a delight to watch George talk about the Traveling Wilburys after seeing him in interviews talking about the Beatles.  In the Beatles anthology George has a definite edge, some sarcasm and a fair amount of "Oh gawwwwd not THIS again" attitude.  With the Wilburys, it is pure unadulterated joy.   This is clearly his baby and he's proud.   I especially liked a comment on the documentary about how they had both the best lyricist with Bob Dylan, and the best voice with Roy Orbison.  The album was written and recorded really quickly, from April-May 1988, to accommodate Bob Dylan's upcoming tour.   George and Jeff produced it and had it ready to go by October.  The album was a surprise hit, going triple platinum in the U.S.

My family listened to this album in the car until we wore it out.  My sister and I, who had first learned to harmonize listening to the Beatles, took it one step further with the Traveling Wilburys.  We would negotiate who would get to "be" which Wilbury.  She was usually Roy Orbison....because of her clear soprano voice...and because she could do the Roy Orbison gargle/growl thing.  I'm sure I was usually George....because I'm ALWAYS George.

Handle With Care - The jam session that created this song ultimately started the group.  

Not Alone Anymore -  On the documentary, it's kind of implied that Jeff Lynne was the main composer for this song, which was written specifically as a solo for Roy Orbison.

Heading For the Light - This was written by George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.   I've never heard any interview where one of the Wilburys said explicitly what it was about....but I always figured it was about recovering from the depression he went into following the death of John Lennon.  Plus, like many of George's songs, it is pretty obviously about God.  I was always struck by the line "All the dreams are coming true and I think of you."  Which I always thought was quite the compliment to whoever he was singing about.  

End of the Line - Roy Orbison had already passed away by the time the video for this was filmed.  So you can see a nod to him by showing his guitar, and his picture.  This was a pretty classic Wilbury song, which was written by everybody improvising suggestions for lines, and then they would pick the best ones.  I especially love the part about "when somebody plays/Purple Haze."  My mom explained to me about it being a Jimi Hendrix song.....and later that would lead to a whooooole other universe of music.  

The Wilburys inspired a surge of creative output from all of the members.  Here is a sampling:

Full Moon Fever - This was Tom Petty's first solo album.  He collaborated both with members of the Heartbreakers and the Traveling Wilburys.  George Harrison played acoustic guitar and contributed backing vocals to "I Won't Back Down."  Roy Orbison sang back vocals on "Zombie Zoo."  Jeff Lynne helped to produce the album and co-wrote most of the songs with Tom Petty.

I have a special affection for "Free Fallin'."  As somebody who, musically, spent most of the 1980's living in the 1960's....I was rarely into any of the songs that my peers were listening too.  However "Free Fallin'" all of us liked.  The embarrassing thing was, the only reason I was familiar with the album, was because my mom had bought it.

Mystery Girl - Roy Orbison died in December, 1988, just 2 months after the release of the Traveling Wilburys album.   Roy Orbison's final album was produced mostly by Jeff Lynne.  The biggest hit was a song Orbison co-wrote with Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty: "You Got It."

Oh Mercy -  While no other Wilbury bandmates appear on this album, the experience had helped inspire Bob Dylan to start writing songs again.  This is easily one of my favorite albums of his.  I especially like "Man in the Long Black Coat" as his voice is perfectly suited for it.  Youtube won't let me put the video I made in the playlist...so you can view it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3IXEEckZz4

Снова в СССР - The album title means "Back in the USSR" in Russian.  However it is better known among English speakers as "The Russian album."  The album was originally meant to be just for the Soviets who often could not get access to McCartney's music in a legal way. However, the album became fairly successful among fans outside of the Soviet Union as well, particularly after the fall of the USSR in 1991.  For me, this album (and later Run Devil Run) are what John Lennon's Rock and Roll could and should have been.  I included most of the album on here because it's that good.  Some of the highlights are:

Twenty Flight Rock - This is the song that Paul McCartney played the night he met John Lennon.

Lawdy Miss Clawdy and Ain't That a Shame - 1950's songs written by New Orleans natives Lloyd Price and Fats Domino respectively.  New Orleans and McCartney are a VERY nice combo.

Bring It On Home To Me - This Sam Cooke song was initially covered by John Lennon on his Rock and R album.  Paul does the song justice here.  However he later REALLY knocked it out of the park in 2006 when he sang it with Al Jarreau and George Benson.

Ferry Cross the Mersey -Originally performed by fellow Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden and others released it for a charity event.

Best of the Dark Horse 1976-1989 - The Christmas I was 12, Santa left this gem in my stocking.  It's a good overall introduction to George's solo material, and it also has a few new songs.

Poor Little Girl - This one is pretty straightforward.

Cockamamie Business - This one should be on the flip side of "When We Was Fab".  It's about the darker aspects of fame.  "Didn't want to be a star only just to play guitar in this cockamamie business."

Cheer Down - The most Wilbury sounding song on the album was co-written with Tom Petty.  My mom liked to say that it showed because George would say "Cheer" with an English accent and then dayoooooooown....like Tom Petty.

Flowers in the Dirt 

This album featured one of McCartney's most successful post-Beatle collaborations, with Elvis Costello.  Costello gave the McCartney songs an edge rarely seen since his days of working with John Lennon.  Although when they were ask who contributed what to the songs, they commented it was probably the opposite of what you thought.  Pity they did not collaborate more....but I'm willing to wager that Elvis Costello got tired of being the junior partner.  Once again, this album pretty much speaks for itself, but here are a few of the highlights.

My Brave Face - This one written with Costello partly shows what a chameleon Paul could be.  If you listen carefully, he's even singing a bit like Elvis Costello.  It's one of my favorite songs of McCartney's solo career.

You Want Her Too - Another one written with Costello, this one sung as a duet with Costello.

Put It There - Pretty safe to assume that Paul wrote this gentle song about his son James.

Veronica - When I first started listening to Elvis Costello, this song really stuck out as one of my favorites.  It did not surprise me in the least to find out it was one of the ones he had co-written with Paul McCartney.  Paul is playing his Hofner bass on this and T-Bone Burnett produced it.  The song is about a woman suffering from dementia.  Costello got the idea from experiences with his grandmother.

Act Naturally - In the late 80's, if you saw Ringo at all, it was usually because he was acting.  However in 1989 Ringo and Buck Owens recorded "Act Naturally" together.  It was a song that Buck Owens had originally made famous, and Ringo later sang with the Beatles.

Pizza Hut Commercial - Ringo was in a lot of commercials in the 80's....quite a few for wine, until he stopped drinking.  This is one of my favorites, where he manages to get "the lads" back together.




The Beatles Evolver Part XXXII: 1987-1989

I became a Beatle fan in 1987, when I was in 4th grade.  While ideally, it would have been nice to have been around when my favorite group was still making new music....my timing was pretty good.  June 1987 was the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band and there were articles and documentaries about the album and the Summer of Love all over the place.  That November George Harrison released Cloud Nine  Then in 1988, George's supergroup The Traveling Wilburys released an album that my whole family adored so much, we literally wore out the tape.  In 1989 he released a Greatest Hits Compilation....which Santa decided to give me that Christmas....and was how I was really first introduced to George's solo career.

Paul was no slouch during this period as well.  In 1987 he recorded Снова в СССР which became known as "The Russian Album" to English speakers which was all covers mostly from the 1950's.  Then he released Flowers in the Dirt which featured his collaboration with Elvis Costello.

And Ringo....well as we'll see Ringo would pop up on occasion for comic relief.

Here is the playlist for all the songs I'll be talking about:  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEA37590E6458E0EE

Cloud Nine 

While George never stopped writing songs, for a while he lost interest in creating albums.  He was more interested in his movie company Hand Made Films, and his other interests like gardening.  Cloud Nine was George's first album in 5 years, and his last solo album to be released before his death.  This was his first collaboration with former Electric Light Orchestra Jeff Lynne, who would be a steady creative partner the rest of George's life.  The album also featured piano playing by Elton John, and drumming by Ringo Starr and Jim Keltner.  The album was easily one of the most successful of George's solo career.

Cloud Nine - Not much to say with this....the song the album gets it's title from.

This is Love - A Harrison-Lynn composition...George himself explains the song's meaning in the video.  When released as a single, the B side of this song was going to be "Handle With Care"...until everybody realized that song was way too good to waste on a B side.

When We Was Fab -A Harrison-Lynne composition about George's Beatle days.  This is a rare case of George having fun with his Beatle past.  Often when asked, you can tell he's just fighting the urge to roll his eyes.  It makes references to the songs "Taxman", the Bob Dylan song "It's All Over Now Baby Blue", "Strangers in the Night" and "You've Really Got a Hold On Me."   I also think it's one of George's best music videos.  (A few of his I genuinely had to check whether they were the original video, or something somebody had cobbled together on their laptop.)

Someplace Else - A song that was originally featured on the soundtrack of the film "Shanghai Surprise".  The film was a Hand Made Films production starring Madonna and Sean Penn.  It was a bomb at the box office.  Madonna won the Razzie for worst actress.

Got My Mind Set On You -Ironically, one of George's most successful singles was not one that he wrote himself.  "Got My Mind Set On You" was an obscure R&B song from the early 60's that George had wanted to cover during the days of the Beatles.  There was more than one video for this song.  In the first, lesser known, arcade version.  Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will recognize Alexis Denisof, who played Wesley Wyndham-Pryce.  

For a bonus I threw in the Weird Al Yankovic parody "This Song Is Just Six Words Long."  It's fun but I kept finding myself thinking "Really?  You have to say this about a George song and not a McCartney one?"  Granted...I don't think Paul McCartney has a lot of patience of Beatles parodies.  

Once Upon a Long Ago - In 1987 Paul McCartney released a greatest hits compilation, and this was the lone new song on it.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1This album started out as a bit of a fluke.  George was working on a song "Handle With Care" and invited some of us buddies over to help him out with "Handle With Care."  George soon realized that the song was way too good for just a B-side, and that a whole album should be made with this fun group of friends.  Thus the Traveling Wilburys was born which included George, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan.....and although not pictured on the cover, Jim Keltner on drums.

If you ever get the chance I'd recommend watching the "True History of the Traveling Wilburys" documentary.  (I got it on itunes when I downloaded the album.)  You get to see footage of the album being put together, and how much fun everybody was having.  It is also a delight to watch George talk about the Traveling Wilburys after seeing him in interviews talking about the Beatles.  In the Beatles anthology George has a definite edge, some sarcasm and a fair amount of "Oh gawwwwd not THIS again" attitude.  With the Wilburys, it is pure unadulterated joy.   This is clearly his baby and he's proud.   I especially liked a comment on the documentary about how they had both the best lyricist with Bob Dylan, and the best voice with Roy Orbison.  The album was written and recorded really quickly, from April-May 1988, to accommodate Bob Dylan's upcoming tour.   George and Jeff produced it and had it ready to go by October.  The album was a surprise hit, going triple platinum in the U.S.

My family listened to this album in the car until we wore it out.  My sister and I, who had first learned to harmonize listening to the Beatles, took it one step further with the Traveling Wilburys.  We would negotiate who would get to "be" which Wilbury.  She was usually Roy Orbison....because of her clear soprano voice...and because she could do the Roy Orbison gargle/growl thing.  I'm sure I was usually George....because I'm ALWAYS George.

Handle With Care - The jam session that created this song ultimately started the group.  

Not Alone Anymore -  On the documentary, it's kind of implied that Jeff Lynne was the main composer for this song, which was written specifically as a solo for Roy Orbison.

Heading For the Light - This was written by George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.   I've never heard any interview where one of the Wilburys said explicitly what it was about....but I always figured it was about recovering from the depression he went into following the death of John Lennon.  Plus, like many of George's songs, it is pretty obviously about God.  I was always struck by the line "All the dreams are coming true and I think of you."  Which I always thought was quite the compliment to whoever he was singing about.  

End of the Line - Roy Orbison had already passed away by the time the video for this was filmed.  So you can see a nod to him by showing his guitar, and his picture.  This was a pretty classic Wilbury song, which was written by everybody improvising suggestions for lines, and then they would pick the best ones.  I especially love the part about "when somebody plays/Purple Haze."  My mom explained to me about it being a Jimi Hendrix song.....and later that would lead to a whooooole other universe of music.  

The Wilburys inspired a surge of creative output from all of the members.  Here is a sampling:

Full Moon Fever - This was Tom Petty's first solo album.  He collaborated both with members of the Heartbreakers and the Traveling Wilburys.  George Harrison played acoustic guitar and contributed backing vocals to "I Won't Back Down."  Roy Orbison sang back vocals on "Zombie Zoo."  Jeff Lynne helped to produce the album and co-wrote most of the songs with Tom Petty.

I have a special affection for "Free Fallin'."  As somebody who, musically, spent most of the 1980's living in the 1960's....I was rarely into any of the songs that my peers were listening too.  However "Free Fallin'" all of us liked.  The embarrassing thing was, the only reason I was familiar with the album, was because my mom had bought it.

Mystery Girl - Roy Orbison died in December, 1988, just 2 months after the release of the Traveling Wilburys album.   Roy Orbison's final album was produced mostly by Jeff Lynne.  The biggest hit was a song Orbison co-wrote with Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty: "You Got It."

Oh Mercy -  While no other Wilbury bandmates appear on this album, the experience had helped inspire Bob Dylan to start writing songs again.  This is easily one of my favorite albums of his.  I especially like "Man in the Long Black Coat" as his voice is perfectly suited for it.  Youtube won't let me put the video I made in the playlist...so you can view it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3IXEEckZz4

Снова в СССР - The album title means "Back in the USSR" in Russian.  However it is better known among English speakers as "The Russian album."  The album was originally meant to be just for the Soviets who often could not get access to McCartney's music in a legal way. However, the album became fairly successful among fans outside of the Soviet Union as well, particularly after the fall of the USSR in 1991.  For me, this album (and later Run Devil Run) are what John Lennon's Rock and Roll could and should have been.  I included most of the album on here because it's that good.  Some of the highlights are:

Twenty Flight Rock - This is the song that Paul McCartney played the night he met John Lennon.

Lawdy Miss Clawdy and Ain't That a Shame - 1950's songs written by New Orleans natives Lloyd Price and Fats Domino respectively.  New Orleans and McCartney are a VERY nice combo.

Bring It On Home To Me - This Sam Cooke song was initially covered by John Lennon on his Rock and R album.  Paul does the song justice here.  However he later REALLY knocked it out of the park in 2006 when he sang it with Al Jarreau and George Benson.

Ferry Cross the Mersey -Originally performed by fellow Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden and others released it for a charity event.

Best of the Dark Horse 1976-1989 - The Christmas I was 12, Santa left this gem in my stocking.  It's a good overall introduction to George's solo material, and it also has a few new songs.

Poor Little Girl - This one is pretty straightforward.

Cockamamie Business - This one should be on the flip side of "When We Was Fab".  It's about the darker aspects of fame.  "Didn't want to be a star only just to play guitar in this cockamamie business."

Cheer Down - The most Wilbury sounding song on the album was co-written with Tom Petty.  My mom liked to say that it showed because George would say "Cheer" with an English accent and then dayoooooooown....like Tom Petty.

Flowers in the Dirt 

This album featured one of McCartney's most successful post-Beatle collaborations, with Elvis Costello.  Costello gave the McCartney songs an edge rarely seen since his days of working with John Lennon.  Although when they were ask who contributed what to the songs, they commented it was probably the opposite of what you thought.  Pity they did not collaborate more....but I'm willing to wager that Elvis Costello got tired of being the junior partner.  Once again, this album pretty much speaks for itself, but here are a few of the highlights.

My Brave Face - This one written with Costello partly shows what a chameleon Paul could be.  If you listen carefully, he's even singing a bit like Elvis Costello.  It's one of my favorite songs of McCartney's solo career.

You Want Her Too - Another one written with Costello, this one sung as a duet with Costello.

Put It There - Pretty safe to assume that Paul wrote this gentle song about his son James.

Veronica - When I first started listening to Elvis Costello, this song really stuck out as one of my favorites.  It did not surprise me in the least to find out it was one of the ones he had co-written with Paul McCartney.  Paul is playing his Hofner bass on this and T-Bone Burnett produced it.  The song is about a woman suffering from dementia.  Costello got the idea from experiences with his grandmother.

Act Naturally - In the late 80's, if you saw Ringo at all, it was usually because he was acting.  However in 1989 Ringo and Buck Owens recorded "Act Naturally" together.  It was a song that Buck Owens had originally made famous, and Ringo later sang with the Beatles.

Pizza Hut Commercial - Ringo was in a lot of commercials in the 80's....quite a few for wine, until he stopped drinking.  This is one of my favorites, where he manages to get "the lads" back together.






10 Years Ago Today....

It was the Fall after I graduated, and I was working a temp job in Madison.  It involved sitting in a windowless room all day, taking staples out of forms, and putting them into piles.  Usually to help alleve the boredom I would listen to music or NPR on my walkman.  That Tuesday morning, the two other temps and I were having a rather pleasant conversation about how we liked Madison.  Then somebody came in the room and told us about the Twin Towers.  My first reaction was, "Well that had to be terrorism."  Figuring a plane flying into one tower could have been an accident, but not both.  One of the other temps, a man in his early 30's, got excited.  He decided he was going to march by the Capitol and declare his support of the event.  He lied to our supervisors saying he knew someone in New York, and left work early.  Later when the supervisors found out the truth, we got an apology from the president of the company, and we never saw that other temp again.

We spent the better part of the day watching the footage on a TV that somebody set up in the main office.  In the little bit of time I was working, I commented to the other temp, an older lady, about how the situation reminded me of the Kennedy assassination.  She shot back, "How would YOU know?  You weren't alive then!"  (Did I mention this lady was as dumb as a box of rocks?)

Later that evening there was an ecumenical prayer service on Library Mall in Madison.  A group of us of all different faiths: Catholic, protestant, Jewish, Muslim....all stood together and sang patriotic songs, and cried.   I remember thinking "Now we're part of the rest of the world"....as the day before, an event like that, would be something I'd picture happening in some distant country.

Then I called my mother.  She'd been looking at the pictures of our trip to New York City in 1993.  We actually went to the top of one of the Twin Towers.  At the time, my sister was nervous, because it hadn't been that much time since the bombing had happened.  My father reassured my sister that because the bombing had happened once, it "wouldn't happen again."

Like most Americans, I initially was only marginally affected by 9/11.  Everybody I knew in New York and D.C. were fine.  I tend to see it as one of those milestones for me that my last bit of childhood was over.  A few weeks later I moved away from Madison to a job and a community that were not a good fit.....and then the next 4 years after that, living with my parents and  floating from temp job to temp job, until I finally got into teaching.

10 years later I'm a librarian again, a job title I haven't had officially since 2002.  In my life, I feel like I'm getting a second chance.....that this time I have the chance to get it right.  And I'm hoping the country does the same.

Tags:

This is the blog entry that was over 25 years in the making.  When I was about 8 my mom took me to see a movie called "The Journey of Natty Gann."  The movie takes place in 1935.  On the way home, I asked my mother about why most of the people in the movie did not have jobs.  This gave my mother the unenviable task of trying to explain one of the most complicated economic disasters in history....to an 8 year old!    She made a valiant attempt, but I wasn't satisfied.

In 4th grade, in the Gifted and Talented program, two of my friends and I had the opportunity to spend the bulk of the year doing a project on the topic of our choice.  I suggested the Great Depression.  To my surprise, the other two agreed.  This was essentially my first research project, and the teacher did an excellent job of walking us through it.  We interviewed people that had been children during the Great Depression, including talking to our grandparents.  We also went to the library and looked at microfilms of newspapers from the era.

Over the years, I've still found the 1930's to be one of the more fascinating parts of U.S. History.   I especially love the way the culture was affected by the times.....the music of Woody Guthrie, the unique brand of comedy, the artwork.....and of course, the political savvy it took to hold the country together when it seemed like democracy was doomed, and the two options were communism or fascism.

Initially when I started researching FDR for this president series, I was expecting to do a lot of mythbusting.  While there will be some of that happening....like with Lincoln I found myself getting sucked in by the charisma and the skill.  I am just a sucker for the gamechanger presidents.  With three full terms and some change, I thought FDR merited more than one entry.  In this one, I will focus on his early life, and the New Deal aspect of his presidency.  In the next one I'll focus more on World War II.  Also, as always with the major presidents, I'm going to include a reading list at the end as this is a president....and a first lady....that is worth looking into in more depth.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park New York on January 30, 1882 to James Roosevelt, and his second wife Sara Delano Roosevelt.  He had an older half-brother named, I kid you not, James Roosevelt Roosevelt....or "Rosey."  However as Rosie was roughly the same age as Sara Delano....Franklin was pretty much raised as an only child.   Pretty early on in Franklin's childhood his father developed serious problems with his heart.  Franklin was warned not to put any stress on his father....a.k.a......stress your dad out and you could kill him.  With the combination of that, and his domineering mother, Franklin learned pretty quickly how to be very charming and pleasant.....and how to keep his real feelings to himself.  

Most of FDR's early education was at home, or during their frequent trips to Europe.  For high school, however, he went to Groton, a common boarding school for the privileged.  This was FDR's first time being at school full time with his peers.  While, of course, in his letters home he put on a brave face.....he was totally miserable, and never really fit in.  His grades weren't anything special either.  Although he did find the headmaster, Endicott Peabody, to be a huge influence on his later life, with his emphasis on the importance of public service.

After Groton, FDR went to Harvard.  In this part of his life he became reacquainted with his distant cousin, and niece of the president, Eleanor Roosevelt.   Eleanor, who had many social work projects in the tenements of New York City, would bring Franklin along.  This was his first exposure to major poverty, and he was shocked.  He also found Eleanor fascinating.  On Eleanor's part.....as one who had a good-looking, charismatic, emotionally-unavailable father......doesn't take much effort to see why she was drawn to Franklin.   The family did not approve.  Sara.....well Sara wasn't going to be happy with anyone.  As for Eleanor's relatives, they thought of Franklin was a "featherduster"....superficial.  They married anyway.  President Theodore Roosevelt gave the bride away.....and stole the show. 

FDR went to law school in Columbia, but dropped out once he passed the bar exam.    He was never overly enthused about his legal practice, though.  He also got involved in business ventures here and there that never turned out very well.  But he was never hurting for money thanks to his trustfund.....which was controlled by his mother. 
Politics were always his real passion.  In 1910 FDR won his first election as state senator in New York.  In 1912, right when the re-election campaign was heating up, FDR came down with typhoid.  The campaign looked doomed.  However, FDR sent out one of his best buds, the journalist and political strategist Louis Howe, to campaign on his behalf.  It worked.  One of FDR's friends commented "When a bull-moose and an elephant are both outrun by a man sick-a-bed it would seem 'Manifest Destiny.'"

Soon after that, in 1913, following in cousin Theodore's footsteps, he was asked to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  FDR hired his friend Louis Howe to be his assistant.  FDR was 6'3", lanky, and well-dressed.  Howe was short and slovenly.  FDR's son Elliot said when he would see them walking to work together everyday, "The two of them looked uncannily like Don Quixote and Sancho setting out to battle with giants."  This experience with the Navy during the first World War would later serve him well during the second one.

During this period of time, it meant long hours at the office.  One summer Eleanor and the family were up at their summer home in Campobello, while FDR stayed behind in Washington with their social secretary, Lucy Mercer.    One thing led to another....and later Eleanor would discover a packet of love letters to FDR from Lucy.    Initially, Eleanor offered Franklin a divorce.  However Sara would have none of it.  Sara pointed out that a divorce would wreck his family, ruin his political career....and she'd cut him off financially.  So, the marriage continued.  However this was the point when FDR and Eleanor stopped being husband and wife, and began a different sort of partnership. This was also when Eleanor decided to stop trying to be the traditional wife and mother, and started taking on her own projects....and becoming the dynamo we remember today.

In 1920, at age 38, FDR ran as the vice-presidential candidate with James Cox.  It was a major defeat, but it put FDR on the map as a national political figure.

Then in the summer of 1921, after a political publicity trip to a boy scout camp, FDR came down with a virus.  At the time it was believed to be polio, although some today believe it was Guillain-Barre syndrome.    Regardless,  FDR was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.  Traditionally at that time, family members with disabilities would be hidden away in a backroom.  That was the route Sara wanted to take.  She wanted to take FDR back to Hyde Park and care for him....where he'd have the life of an invalid.  FDR wanted none of it, and neither did Eleanor.
Initially, FDR reacted by buying a houseboat, and hanging out in Florida to get away from the whole family.  He spent the time hanging out with his friends, fishing....and probably a good chunk of time just being depressed.    Eventually, he got over his despair and was motivated by wanting to walk again.

 He went to Warm Springs, Georgia as he'd heard the hot springs there had curative effects on polio victims.    While he did not find a cure for his legs....the place energized him.  He bought the resort he was at, and it became a rehabilitation center that is still in use today.  He started making inventions so he could be more independent, including revamping a car so that he could drive it just using his hands.  (Apparently he was quite the speed demon.)  He also loved being around the people of the community....and found it an eye-opening experience to see firsthand the poverty in that part of rural Georgia.

Meanwhile, Louis Howe was coaching Eleanor in public speaking, so she could keep FDR's name alive in the public sphere.  She claimed she was just doing the speeches for him....but really, she loved it.
In 1928 FDR was asked to give the nominating speech for Al Smith at the Democratic Convention.  He had built up tremendous upper body strength and worked out a technique by using leg braces, a can, and leaning heavily on his son Elliot, to give the illusion that he was actually walking.  It was tremendously strenuous, but both FDR and Elliot worked together to make it look effortless.  That famous gesture of FDR's of throwing back his head and grinning, was largely to draw attention away from his body.  In later years, when FDR met Orson Welles he remarked that they were the "two best actors in America."  When Al Smith was asked whether he was worried that he had just enabled a major political rival, Smith shrugged it off insisting "He'll be dead within a year."

FDR then accepted the nomination for governor of New York, which he won.  Not long after was the stock market crash.  This gave FDR a chance to experiment on a state level, what would later become the New Deal.  In one of his earlier fireside chats, he commented "Take a method and try it.  If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another.  But by all means, try SOMETHING."

The whole optimistic "Happy Days Are Here Again" attitude made a sharp contrast to President Hoover.  In the 1932 presidential election FDR won by a landslide.  However, on the evening of his victory, the man who would soon tell the nation they had nothing to fear but fear itself, confided in his son his own fears:  "All my life I have been afraid of only one thing: fire.  Tonight I think I'm afraid of something else...I'm afraid I may not have the strength to do the job."
Then there was the 4 months of awkwardness.  FDR would not talk to the press about his plans for the administration, nor would he cooperate with the lame-duck Hoover administration.  This meant 4 months for the situation to grow more dire.  It was for situations like this that the 20th amendment was already on its way to being ratified.  1933 would be the last presidential inauguration in March.  From then on, it would be in January.

The other event of note during the interegnum was when FDR was giving a speech in Miami that February.  From the crowd, Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara fired five shots.  Mayor Anton Cermak was fatally wounded, but FDR was not hit.  This is probably because when bystander Lillian Cross saw Zangara with the gun, she hit Zangara's arm with her handbag.   FDR went to the hospital to visit Cermak and the other shooting victims.  The secret service men were blown away at how throughout the whole thing, FDR was cool as a cucumber.

After the inauguration, the famous first 100 days started.    Now while it is true that an amazing amount of legislation got passed, it should be noted that some of it was actually started during Hoover's administration....and Congress refused to follow through until Roosevelt was inaugurated.  One thing FDR did right away that helped immensely, was lie through his teeth that he had the bank situation taken care of.  He didn't....but the fact that the people were reassured, and willing to use banks again, helped take care of the banking crisis.

 FDR was also a contrast to Hoover when the World War I veterans came to demonstrate for their pensions.  Hoover had sent Douglas MacArthur out with the military to finish off the demonstration.  FDR sent out Eleanor with sandwiches, and she chatted with the veterans about World War I.  Eleanor proved to be vital for the administration.  She was constantly running all over the country, usually in the most poverty-stricken areas, to both bring attention to the press what was happening in the nation, and also to keep FDR well-informed.  She was also a good litmus test of just how far FDR could push his policies.  If Eleanor would state an opinion that didn't go over well with the general public, FDR would shrug it off and make a comment about how he and Eleanor didn't agree on everything.

Thus the "alphabet soup" of government associations were put into action.  There was the TVA, (Tennessee Valley Authority) for getting electricity into rural areas.  There was the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) for Wall Street regulation.  The first person to head that department was notorious speculator Joseph Kennedy because, according to FDR, "It takes a thief to catch a thief."    (I'll be talking a LOT more about Joe Kennedy later....)  It was the beginning of the FDIC to regulate banks, and Social Security....and a whole laundry list of others.  A lot of wealthier Americans viewed the New Deal as evidence that FDR was traitor to his class.  However he earned the lifelong loyalty of many working class Americans.  My Granny who, by what she actually believed, really should have been a Reagan Republican, was a loyal Democrat partly because "FDR was there for us when nobody else was."

One of the myths about the New Deal was that it ended the Depression.  It did no such thing.  The jobs that were provided helped alleviate the symptoms.  When FDR tried to cut some of the programs in 1937 to balance the budget, the economy went right downhill again, it the situation was dubbed the "Roosevelt Recession."  Ultimately what ended the Great Depression once and for all was World War II.  So if you want to give one person credit for ending the Depression, it would be Adolf Hitler.  But we'll talk about him in my next blog entry.

Besides the bubble bursting in the stock market, there was an economic and environmental crisis happening in in the Great Plains....in a region of that area that was dubbed "No Man's Land."    The area that used to be the home where the buffalo would roam......was divvied up into homesteads.   Because of the unusually rainy weather in the 1920's, people got an unrealistic idea on how much wheat they could grow.  Then in the 30's a vicious cycle started.  Prices of wheat plummeted....so the farmers grew more so they could get more money....so the prices fell.....the combo of the overfarming, and then the drought....did a number on the landscape.  The dust storms began.

 I didn't realize the scope of the dust storms until I read "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan.  (Which I would highly recommend.)  When I picture dust storms, I usually would picture the set of "The Grapes of Wrath"....and picture a dust storm about the size of a typical thunderstorm or blizzard.  But no...these puppies were HUGE.  There were a couple that were a couple of miles high, and hundreds of miles wide, that made their way out of the Dust Bowl, all the way to New York City and D.C.  One advocate for the region got the apathetic senators to go for his cause when the dust storm started happening right outside the Capitol as he spoke.

For Roosevelt, this gave him the opportunity to try and make some changes to repair the environment.  His vision was a line of trees from Nebraska to the Mexican border.  Which actually wasn't a bad idea, but as soon as the rain started again in the 40's, a lot of people abandoned the conservation plans.  Nonetheless, whereas Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to focus on environmentalist in terms of setting aside national parks and reserves.....Franklin's focus was restoration to the parts of the land that WERE inhabited.

So once again, of course, that barely scratched the surface....so here's the reading list I used for this blog entry.

"The Worst Hard Time" - Timothy Egan  - once again, can't recommend it strongly enough.  Besides being very informative, it's a compelling narrative.  You want to find out what happens to the families in it.

"The Great Depression: A Diary" - Daniel B. Roth  I'd especially recommend this for my conservative friends, or for people who want to hear the perspective of an American in the 30's that wasn't voting for Roosevelt.  It is the diary of a lawyer in Youngstown, Ohio who was following the economy to see what he could learn from it.  It gets a bit dry at times, but I found it interesting the perspective of an employed professional in the 30's....different than the usual takes on the era.

"FDR" - Jean Edward Smith - Thorough, readable....although sometimes it errs on the rose-colored glasses perspective a bit.

"Kennedy and Roosevelt " - Michael R. Beschloss  This is about Joseph Kennedy's interactions with FDR.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend this one.  I think the Joseph Kennedy biography "Founding Father" by Joseph Whalen covers it better.

American Experience - DVD's on FDR and Eleanor


For pop culture references.....this time around we're back to "Annie."  First off, "New Deal For Christmas".....which I especially love because how many times are you going to have a Christmas song that lists off the members of the Cabinet?

This second one is also from Annie.  First off, I like this clip because it was probably my first exposure to FDR even being mentioned.  I was 5 when this movie came out, and I watched it repeatedly.    The FDR part starts at 8:30 on this clip.


There is a joke that has made the rounds on the internet that I think makes a good summary of the tragic legacy of Herbert Hoover.  A young tourist goes to a pub in Scotland.  An old codger says to the tourist, "Do you see this pub here?  I built it with me own two hands.  But do they call me 'Pubbuilder'  No!'   

Then the old man pointed to a bridge outside.  "You see that bridge out there?  I built it with me own two hands!  But do they call me Bridgebuilder?  No!"

The old man sighed.  "But you screw ONE sheep..."

In Herbert Hoover's 90 years, he was a self-made man, a hero to starving people in two World Wars, and the leader of  during the 1927 Mississippi Flood.   But you have ONE term as president....

Unfortunately, thanks to that reputation, there is a dearth of decent biographies on him.  Most of what I found was extremely dry.  However, as an armchair historian, I've discovered that often the best way to learn about a historical figure is not to read about them directly....but to read a book where they are a supporting player.  (Example: I got a much better feel for John Lennon in a biography about Paul McCartney.)  Also....next year I'm hoping to go to a couple of Hoover historical sites.  So this barebones bio won't be the last I have to say on the subject.  (Gee....for a liberal I sure get hung up on some of the Republicans.....wait until you see what I have to say about Nixon and Reagan!)

Herbert Clark Hoover was born August 10, 1874 in West Branch, Iowa....the first president to be born west of the Mississippi.   However by age nine he was orphaned, and moved to live with an uncle in Newberg, Oregon.  This means there are Hoover historical sites in Iowa AND Oregon.  Woo hoo!

Hoover was one of the first graduates of Stanford, with a degree in geology.  It was there he met his future wife, Lou Henry.    Then he was off for his exciting career as an engineer.  No seriously, it WAS actually rather exciting.  It took him around the world.   The Hoover lived for a few years in China, and both became fluent in Mandarin.  Later they would speak it to each other in the White House when they wanted a bit of privacy.   The Hoovers were in China during the Boxer Rebellion....and Hoover even helped out the U.S. military because he knew the local area so well. 

The Hoovers spent a lot of time in Australia.  A new mining innovation he created made Hoover a wealthy man.  When he turned 40 he commented "If a man has not made a fortune by the time he is 40 he is not worth much."  As you can imagine, statements like these later came back to bite him in the ass.

In 1914, the Hoovers were living in London when World War I started.  Hoover organized efforts to evacuate the 1000's of Americans that were trapped in Europe.  He also got large amounts of food to Belgium, as they were having a food crisis.  This seemed to be what Hoover was best at....getting massive amounts of food to places that needed it.

President Wilson liked Hoover, as did Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Roosevelt more than once commented that he thought Hoover would make a great president.

Hoover, however, was a registered Republican, and intended to stay that way.  After a failed run for the White House himself, he became Secretary of Commerce first for President Harding, and then for President Coolidge.  The more laissez-faire Coolidge was somewhat annoyed by Hoover's eager beaver attitude.  Coolidge nicknamed Hoover "Wonder Boy" partly in a sarcastic manner.  At one point Coolidge lamented "That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad."

The 1927 flood of the Mississippi was when Hoover's reputation really skyrocketed.  Once again, he had the opportunity to get food to people that needed it.  Hoover's actions in this crisis were a huge factor in what got him elected president in 1928.  If he'd gotten to be president in an economic climate like Calvin Coolidge....he'd probably be remembered fondly today.  However....

Hoover was inaugurated in March of 1929.....which meant he got all of 6 months before everything went to hell.    In October was THE CRASH.  Initially, Hoover figured this was just your garden variety "panic" and it would pass.  It's not like there was a neon sign saying "Welcome to the greatest economic disaster in American history!"  To grossly oversimplify the situation......let's say the only video game you have ever played is pong.  And you are the BEST pong player ever.  Then one day, where your pong game should be, there is an Xbox.  And you try to play games on the Xbox the same way you played pong.  Odds are you are going to be pretty lousy at it.

That was Hoover's problem.  The guy was a pro at the way the world worked up to 1929.  Suddenly the rules change radically, but he was playing the game the same way he always had.  He also made a few mistakes that exacerbated the situation.  The Hawley-Smoot Tariff.....not one of his best moves.   Sending a bunch of soldiers out that shot at World War I veterans that were peacefully requesting their pensions....BAD IDEA.  

Hoover believed strongly that it was not the government's place to be giving people handouts in a crisis.  He particularly did not want to increase government spending in an era where revenues were down, thanks to the Depression.  Hoover figured private organizations should be doing the charitable work.  The frustrating thing is.....the man was brilliant at getting large amounts of food to people who needed it.  If Hoover HAD been in the private sector at the time, he would have been on the front lines figuring out how to get people fed.

On one little tangent......the Hoover administration was also when one of my favorite public speaking flubs happened.  I just adore spoonerisms.  (As you might guess by my name of "dire corrector"....which came from the days when I was a church choir director.)  In 1931 a radio announcer was talking about the president, and introduced him as "the President of the United States....Hoobert Heever!"

Anyway....in 1932 President Heever....uh Hoover......was defeated.  If you see the film footage of Hoover in the car with FDR.....they are so chilly to each other you can practically see frost forming on the car.  He had a rough time during the 12 years of the Roosevelt administration....and spent a lot of it being vocally against the New Deal.

However after FDR died, Hoover and Truman wound up forming an on-again off-again friendship.  World War II once more brought Hoover the opportunity to have food sent to places that needed it, such as Poland.  In Warsaw today you can see a monument to Hoover.  He had somewhat managed to rehabilitate his reputation by the time he died in 1964 at age 90.

My pop culture references for this entry are both from the 70's.  The first one is from the musical "Annie."  It's a song from the "Hoovervilleites."  


And this one, of course, is from "All in the Family."




Our last three days in Costa Rica were pretty laid back, so I figured I could easily sum them up in one entry.  Also I just wanted to write some of the miscellaneous things we learned on the trip.

Our first day after the official tour ended,  Tori and I opted to go to Mass.  This is something I like to try everytime I'm in another country, especially a Catholic one.  On the way there we got an appreciative "Wow wow WOOOOOOW!" shouted from one of the passing cars.

Mass was pretty typical.  The only things really different was first off, they had enough priests that one could sit and hear confessions while the other one did Mass.  Also....I'm not used to pigeons flying through church.  The first time it happened Tori thought "Hey, it's the Holy Spirit!"  While I thought "BAT!!!" as in my past experience, if something if flying through church, that's usually what it is.

Afterwards we wandered around outside.  We heard somebody making a speech of some sort in a park nearby, so we decided to check it out.  Initially we figured it might be some sort of political protest, as they are pretty common in Costa Rica.  However as we got closer we saw a whole bunch of mimes hanging around.  Then we saw that there was some sort of performance going on with a man talking to another man who was operating a dog puppet.  This definitely merited a closer look.

We eventually figured out that we had inadvertantly walked into another church service.  The two performers were talking about Jesus.  The man with the dog puppet noticed us, and intentionally started translating what his buddy was saying in really bad English.

"Damas y Caballeros!"

"Ladies and Gentleman!"

"Amigos y Amigas!"

"Friends and.....friendas!" 

After the puppet show, the mimes did a little performance about coming to Jesus.....although the Jesus actor didn't have any face paint on.

The next day Tori and I decided we wanted to find a book store, and see a movie dubbed in Spanish.  We figured we could meet both objectives by going to a local Mall.   It turned out to be perfect timing to do this as it rained heavily almost the whole day.   There were a few surprises in the Costa Rican mall.  Like the sex toy shops....lots of them.  Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica so we got a pretty good idea where some of the ladies of the night do their shopping.

We ate lunch at the food court.  I continued my tradition of eating at a McDonald's everytime I'm in another country.    Then we went to see "The Zookeeper."  We rightly figured that the most fun option would be to see a really broad comedy with a very predictable plot.  That way it didn't matter if we understood all the words.  Also, half the fun is to see what voices they use to dub actors we already know.  Kevin James has a very sexy voice in Spanish.....which is entertaining after hearing how he speaks in English.

For dinner, we opted to go to the Food Court one more time.  The restaurant we chose is roughly translated as "Food Your Auntie Used To Make."  Definitely the best food I've ever had at ANY food court.  Probably ranks in my top 10 for sandwiches too.

Tuesday was our last day so Tori and I opted to go to the National Theater.  Once more the vacation gods were smiling upon us.  It just happened that Tuesdays at noon there are performances.  While Tori and I were waiting in line for a ticket, a lady came up to us and asked "Would you like my tickets?  I was expecting some friends and they didn't come."

The show was two guys, one with a guitar, one that was more of a storyteller.  From what I could glean, the performance was a sort of political satire.  So pretty much even if I had understood every word they were saying, I still would have been lost.  However, the man doing the storytelling was very animated, and fun to watch.  I also got a kick out of watching the audience's reactions.

And now....time for the miscellaneous things I learned.  First off, the fun part about having Angela, an Australia travel companion in your group, is you learn some interesting new expressions such as:

Whinging pom - A word they use for British tourists that complain about everything.  Both Angela and Allan, our tour guide, thought that British tourists were the worst of the lot.  This surprised all of the Americans, as we figured we were number one in that category too.

Budgie smuggler - This is an Australian term for a speedo.  Although Angela suggested the...ahem....generously proportioned.....gay couple on the snorkeling excursion were wearing macaw smugglers instead.  When we were snorkeling, Tori had a very pleasant view on the way back to the ship, as she was swimming behind one of the macaw smugglers.

Coooooooeey! - Said in the same tone as "Sooey!" for pigs.  An Australian way of calling out to each other.

Nest of Toucans - This phrase is a Costa Rican invention we decided to export.  Our tour guide Allan once had a friend ask him to take him to a nude beach.  The friend didn't realize that it was pretty much a hangout (in more ways than one...) for gay men.  They got to the top of a hill, the friend looked down at the beach and remarked "It looks like a nest of toucans!"  We decided this would be a great collective noun for a group of gay men.  As Costa Rica is a very gay-friendly country, we encountered a lot of nests of toucans.

If it's in plastic, the monkey will think it's food - We did not encounter this first hand, but Allan warned us to be very careful if we were to bring lunch around the part of the Rain Forest that had monkeys in it.  Allan said he once saw a monkey steal a Harry Potter book right out of a kid's bag, because it was in a plastic bag. 

Pura Vida! - This phrase is used constantly in Costa Rica.  One of our guides said it was the local way of saying "Hakuna matata" or "No worries."

Got home safely on Wednesday night.  I'm preparing for a whole new set of adventures.  :)


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Jackie
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