Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"And that's the way it is . . . ."


With 63 years under my belt, I'm willing to entertain the flattering possibility that six decades of life have deposited me at the tail end of middle age, rather than at the starting point of my senior years.

Still, I am feeling singularly old today. That's because I've been around long enough to remember what a big deal it was, on Sept. 2, 1963, when the CBS Evening News was extended from 15 to 30 minutes, making it the first half-hour network newscast in the country.

Now, of course, we have 24/7 "news" coverage on cable. This allows us to tune in at virtually any hour of the day or night to watch an endless rehashing of previously reported news stories, not to mention mountains of gossip, tripe and general weirdness posing as news.

Depending on the network, you might be treated to a hefty dose of spin instead of a simple reporting of the facts. Who can resist the cavalcade of mean-spirited egomaniacs who shout and scream at each other as they "discuss" current events on countless roundtable and interview programs?

Obviously viewers are much better-informed today than we were back in the 60s. I mean, a calm and authoritative Walter Cronkite telling us "that's the way it is" day after day? A newscaster so revered by his audience that he was known as the most trusted man in America? That's so 20th century.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by David Horsey

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on September 2, 1864


The Civil War, 1861-1865
September 2, 1864



Gen William T. Sherman telegraphs President Abraham Lincoln that "Atlanta is ours and fairly won," which immediately rekindles Lincoln's sagging reelection prospects.

To offset manpower shortages, Gen. Robert E. Lee advises President Jefferson Davis of the need to replace white laborers with slaves, thereby freeing up men for military service.


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 1, 2014

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a rat's patootie

Once upon a time in America, we cared about things that mattered. Or inconsequential things that were, at least, interesting, such as memorable people and events. But that's so 19th century, don't you think? Now we're supposed to be intrigued by sad little "news stories" like this. It probably would have been a big hit in the Roman Forum during the final days of the empire.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Jim Morin

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on September 1, 1864


The Civil War, 1861-1865
September 1, 1864



Confederate Gen. John B. Hood begins to evacuate Atlanta, Georgia.

Union troops secure their control of Jonesboro, Georgia, but only after a battle that gives Confederate Gen. John B. Hood sufficient time to slip out from Gen. William T. Sherman's noose.


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, August 31, 2014

The Hen Chronicles . . . . . Keeping chickens isn't a great résumé builder


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. 

You learn lots of things by owning chickens. That’s the upside. The downside? Most of it is stuff that is of no use whatsoever in any other context.

Take dealing with chicken wire, for example. Our wood-framed pen is covered in the stuff, and I noticed recently that the wire had become loose on the front of the pen. It wasn't detached  — just slack. The wire had stretched. It wasn’t taut anymore.

What to do? The wire is stapled to the front of the pen in such a way that I’d have to disassemble part of the pen to remove and reattach it. That’s not an attractive prospect. But I found an easier solution. Using needle-nose pliers, I gave a piece of wire a slight turn, which tightened it. By doing this over and over again more than a dozen times across the front of the pen, the whole enclosure ended up nice and snug. No muss, no fuss.

That’s not exactly a skill that would look great on a résumé, but it scored high on the chicken entertainment scale. Snow, Nellie and Hope all lined up, side by side, at the front of the pen and watched in rapt attention as I tackled the job, as if they were supervising my progress.


All three of the normally talkative hens were quiet for a change. Perhaps they were confused -- or intrigued -- by the fact that needle-nose pliers in action vaguely resemble . . . a chicken’s beak!
 

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 Clay Bennett

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on August 31, 1864


The Civil War, 1861-1865
August 31, 1864



The Democratic National Convention nominates Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan as its candidate for the presidency, and George H. Pendleton of Ohio for vice president.

The Army of the Ohio severs the Macon and Western Railroad between Jonesboro and Atlanta, Georgia, cutting Confederate Gen. John B. Hood's final supply line.

Confederates suffer heavy losses in a failed attack on Union troops at Jonesboro, Georgia.


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, August 30, 2014

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by David Horsey

American Civil War: 150 years ago today on August 30, 1864


The Civil War, 1861-1865
August 30, 1864



The Democratic National Convention adopts a peace platform demanding an immediate end to the war.


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 

Book Review: "Eisenhower: A Life," Paul Johnson



Find reviews of over 2,700 books, including this one, at The Walrus Said blog.  
 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fine Lines: Arthur T. Demoulas and the Boston Herald

Fine Lines takes a look at headlines from the tabloids. Not the supermarket rags, but real newspapers, such as the Boston Herald, the New York Post, and the Philadelphia Daily News, that serve up the news with a touch of brass. A clever or pointed tabloid headline is a thing of beauty (or at least a heck of a lot of fun), especially if it involves wit and wordplay.

The news that ousted Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and his family, who own 49.5 percent of the Massachusetts-based supermarket chain, plan to buy out cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and other family members, prompted this Boston Herald headline yesterday, which plays on the winner's middle initial.