Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FDR defends "my little dog, Fala"

Fala and FDR at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington

Every month produced its share of headlines during World War II, and September 1944 certainly was no exception. The Allies liberated Brussels and Antwerp that month. Germany lobbed a V2 rocket at London. The Battle of Peleliu, which would drag on for more than two months amid tremendous carnage, began. The Allies launched the ill-fated Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne assault in history.

September 1944 also is remembered for another, more lighthearted, reason. It was on Sept. 23 of that year that President Roosevelt delivered a speech in which he defended his Scottish Terrier, Fala.

Republicans were claiming that Roosevelt, having left Fala behind during a visit to the Aleutian Islands, sent the Navy to retrieve him. The story was false, but it gained enough traction to become a distraction during the 1944 presidential campaign, so Roosevelt took it on in his so-called Fala Speech. 

These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala.

Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them.

You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three or eight or twenty million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious.

He has not been the same dog since.

I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself — such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Clay Bennett

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on September 23, 1864

The Civil War, 1861-1865
September 23, 1864

President Abraham Lincoln requests the resignation of Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, as a concession for radical Republican support in the upcoming election.

Information from the Civil War Almanac, by John C. Fredriksen (Checkmark Books) 
Illustration: detail from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston honoring the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment 

Monday, September 22, 2014

In America, we must remain free to decide what to read

Banned Books Week is upon us once again. The forces of censorship never give up the fight, which is why the rest of us must remain vigilant as well.

Each year, the American Library Association records hundreds of attempts to have books removed from libraries' shelves and from classrooms, sometimes including classics and masterpieces. Over the years, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts in the United States. Here they are:

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

Ulysses, by James Joyce

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

1984, by George Orwell

Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Native Son, by Richard Wright

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin

All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence

A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

Sophie's Choice, by William Styron

Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence

Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs

Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence

The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Tom Toles

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on September 22, 1864

The Civil War, 1861-1865
September 22, 1864

President Jefferson Davis arrives by train at Macon, Georgia, and assures residents that "our cause is not lost."

Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan defeats Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early in the Battle of Fisher's Hill near Strasburg, Virginia.

Information from the Civil War Almanac, by John C. Fredriksen (Checkmark Books) 
Illustration: detail from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston honoring the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus"

I had always assumed that The New York Sun's editorial assuring eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon that Santa Claus exists was published shortly before Christmas, but it turns out it first appeared on Sept. 21, 1897.

Here's how it came about. When Virginia asked her father if Santa Claus was real, he passed the buck by suggesting that she write to The Sun, one of New York's major newspapers in the late 19th century, requesting an answer to her question. She took his advice.
Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street 
Francis Pharcellus Church, an editor at The Sun, penned a response that is arguably the most famous editorial in the history of American newspapers.
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. 

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Remembering the Northeast's deadliest storm: the Hurricane of '38

Southbridge, Mass., after the storm
It happened 12 years before I was born. But my parents, who were living in Southbridge, Mass., at the time, remembered it well, and talked about it periodically for the rest of their lives.

Initially, no one was overly concerned about a northbound Atlantic storm in September 1938, because it was expected to blow itself out at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. But on Sept. 21 of that year, forecasters learned how wrong they had been. That's when all hell broke loose.

As the PBS series American Experience reports on its web site, what later became known as the Great New England Hurricane of '38 "suddenly began an unexpected sprint north along the coast, surprising even the Coast Guard. No one had ever seen a storm like this; radar had not yet been invented."

The hurricane "ripped into the New England shore with enough fury to set off seismographs in Sitka, Alaska. Traveling at a shocking 60 miles per hour -- three times faster than most tropical storms -- it was astonishingly swift and powerful, with peak wind gusts up to 186 mph. The storm without a name turned into one of the most devastating storms recorded in North America. Over 600 people were killed, most by drowning. Another hundred were never found. Property damage was estimated at $400 million -- over 8,000 homes were destroyed, 6,000 boats wrecked or damaged." Rhode Island was especially hard hit, and suffered the most casualties.

The winds recorded that day dwarfed the land wind speeds in storms Irene and Sandy. "The hurricane was the death knell for many mills and factories that had barely survived the Great Depression," according to The Associated Press. "It stripped 4 million bushels of apples from orchards, killed livestock and felled millions of trees . . . . Bridges and dams were destroyed, and rail travel was halted for weeks."

Cranston, R.I., following the Hurricane of '38

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Jeff Danziger

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on September 21, 1864

The Civil War, 1861-1865
September 21, 1864

Confederate cavalry under Gen. Nathan B. Forrest cross the Tennessee River and move against Athens, Tennessee.

Information from the Civil War Almanac, by John C. Fredriksen (Checkmark Books) 
Illustration: detail from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston honoring the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Hen Chronicles . . . . . Our hen Snow ends up on the disabled list

On April 21, 2012, my wife Liz and I - chicken neophytes - bought three laying hens, who set up shop in a coop in the backyard of our city lot here in Maine. The makeup of our small flock has changed since then, but not our love of chickens. The Hen Chronicles explore life with our tenants.

Snow, before she went into battle
Over the last two-plus years, we’ve come up with plenty of adjectives for our Plymouth Rock hen Snow: bossy, talkative, pushy, demanding, animated and voracious, to name a few.

Now, we have a new way of describing her: wounded in action.

Monday afternoon, I went out to check on our three hens because demolition was underway on a nearby lot. Predictably, the work was creating quite a racket, and knowing how much chickens dislike loud noises, I thought I should see how “the girls” were doing.

In Snow's case, the answer was not well. Not at all well.

Snow was lying in the nest box. Her head and beak were covered in blood. There were tiny flecks of blood on her back and drops of blood on one wall of the box. Some of the bedding was bright red. Apparently, the demolition had frightened her enough to send her crashing into something. She was conscious. And agitated.

I ran into the house and grabbed some clean rags. Racing back to the coop, I lifted Snow from the nest box and tried to clean her up, but she wouldn’t let me touch her head.

Chickens are, unfortunately, cannibalistic. As such, healthy chickens are drawn to a wounded chicken, and not out of sympathy. In fact, one of our two Rhode Island Reds was pecking at the blood-soaked bedding when I removed Snow from the coop. For all I know, she may have been pecking at Snow's head before I arrived.

I knew it was important to separate Snow from the other hens, for her own protection. We have a backup pen that we use in such situations, so I placed Snow inside by herself, and watched her as I tried to find the precise location of the head wound. To no avail. There was too much blood.

It seemed clear from Snow’s behavior — she began pecking and scratching as soon as I relocated her — that the wound probably looked worse than it really was. It even appeared by then that the bleeding had stopped, or was about to. Still, she was a gory mess.

When Liz arrived home a short time later, she applied corn starch to Snow’s head, to stanch the bleeding once and for all. Meanwhile, I went to the pet store to buy a medication that can be applied to open wounds. Only when we sprayed it on did we realize that Snow had somehow sliced into the base of her comb. About a third of the comb was no longer attached to her head, although it remained connected to the rest of the comb.

Finding veterinarians who treat chickens isn’t easy, even in a largely rural state like Maine. I called one who’s 45 minutes away. The staffer who answered the phone agreed to check with the vet to see if we should stress out Snow even more by taking her for a long car ride to his clinic. His advice? If the bleeding has stopped, the wound will probably heal on its own, so long as we keep Snow separated from the other hens.

So Snow has been living in that backup pen -- her own intensive-care unit -- since Monday afternoon. Her wound is healing nicely. We’ve tried to “reintegrate” her into the flock, but it’s slow going. Chickens don’t like newcomers, even if the newbie isn’t really new. When we allowed Snow to rejoin Nellie and Hope in the “big” pen Thursday afternoon, more than 72 hours after they were first separated, one of the other hens began pecking at Snow’s head. She went back into isolation. We did not try to reunite the hens on Friday.

Under this new, and temporary, regimen, Snow's pen stays outside during the day. We move the pen into the garage at night, to protect her from any critters who may have a hankering for a late-night snack. Snow is eating and talking and walking and even laying, although it’s clear she does not like being alone. Her comb now has a rakish look, because it runs straight back from the front of her head, as it should, before taking a 90-degree turn where she cut herself. It's as if the comb now has a tail that flops around when she moves.

The change is unfortunate, but at least Snow survived, and is on the mend. The accident has given her a bit of a piratical appearance. Which is, as it happens, quite consistent with her personality.

There are eight million stories in the naked henhouse. This has been one of them.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Nick Anderson

Friday, September 19, 2014

Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

It isn't up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas yet, but today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which has a leg up on those better-known holidays, for reasons that should be obvious to folks of a piratical disposition. For one thing, there's no need to whip up a turkey dinner for a dozen ungrateful relatives you don't really care about. And you don't have to run down to Mall Wart to spend a fortune on crappy plastic gifts that no one wants.

No, International Talk Like a Pirate Day is simple and straightforward. The key to celebrating it is, as the name implies, to talk like a pirate, and the good folks at www.talklikeapirate.com (you knew there had to be a web site) have explained the basics as follows: 

Ahoy! - "Hello!" 

Avast! - Stop and give attention. It can be used in a sense of surprise, "Whoa! Get a load of that!" which today makes it more of a a "Check it out" or "No way!" or "Get off!"

Aye! - "Why yes, I agree most heartily with everything you just said or did." 

Aye aye! - "I'll get right on that sir, as soon as my break is over."

Arrr! - This one is often confused with arrrgh, which is of course the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. "Arrr!" can mean, variously, "yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "I'm enjoying this beer," "My team is going to win it all," "I saw that television show, it sucked!" and "That was a clever remark you or I just made." And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!