Friday, December 31, 2010

Regarding the plight of the underclass, please take this message to Garcia...

We called out author Joe Bageant for his thoughtful and thought-provoking book DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS. Just the power of the title made me read it. I'm glad I did.

No author is perfect or all-knowing, and in the aftermath, I came around to thinking: Joe never really treated how some people escape a background of poverty and poor thinking. Part of it may be that part of the existentialist or libertarian or Christian creed: take responsibility.

We fully understand that only the very, very few are willing to do something so momentous as to take full responsibility for their life. Much easier, much more "gratifying" to blame parents, class, whatever for holding one back. Trouble is, it doesn't advance the cause.

As we launch out into 2011, ready or not, pays us all to think about "taking responsibility" -- for whatever.

An old story, dating from 1899, said it very well.

Share it with you here now:

A Message to Garcia

By Elbert Hubbard

In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba- no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly.

What to do!

Some one said to the President, "There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing- "Carry a message to Garcia!"

General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.

No man, who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man- the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slip-shod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, & half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, & sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office- six clerks are within call.

Summon any one and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio".

Will the clerk quietly say, "Yes, sir," and go do the task?

On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:

Who was he?

Which encyclopedia?

Where is the encyclopedia?

Was I hired for that?

Don’t you mean Bismarck?

What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?

Is he dead?

Is there any hurry?

Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?

What do you want to know for?

And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia- and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.

Now if you are wise you will not bother to explain to your "assistant" that Correggio is indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile sweetly and say, "Never mind," and go look it up yourself.

And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? A first-mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting "the bounce" Saturday night, holds many a worker to his place.

Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply, can neither spell nor punctuate- and do not think it necessary to.

Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

"You see that bookkeeper," said the foreman to me in a large factory.

"Yes, what about him?"

"Well he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him up town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street, would forget what he had been sent for."

Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the "downtrodden denizen of the sweat-shop" and the "homeless wanderer searching for honest employment," & with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.

Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with "help" that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away "help" that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues, only if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer- but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go.

It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best- those who can carry a message to Garcia.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him. He cannot give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, "Take it yourself."

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled No. 9 boot.

Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying, let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slip-shod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude, which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry & homeless.

Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds- the man who, against great odds has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there’s nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes.

I have carried a dinner pail & worked for day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; & all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.

My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly take the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off," nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village- in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed, & needed badly- the man who can carry a message to Garcia.


(of the story.....the beginning of 2011..............) Wish you the best new year yet.....

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rx: for what ails you, work

To novelist Alice Adams in 1960, while breaking up with his second wife, author Saul Bellow wrote:

“The only cure is to write a book. I have a new one on the table and all other misery is gone.”

Mozart used to quote from himself, from work to work, and if it was good enough for him, surely for me. So, may we quote from "Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success":


summer home in Lovell, Maine, on June 19, 1999, superstar
author Stephen King was hit by a minivan. Suffering a collapsed
lung and several broken bones, he was raced to the
hospital at 110 mph over country roads. King nearly died.

Recovery was slow and painful, and the physical
therapy was grueling. King doubted his ability to ever
write again. But he did write again, five weeks after the
accident, and King eventually said it offered the best
therapy of all, even though it didn’t seem that way at the
outset. There was no inspiration that first day, only a
stubbornness and a determination and a hope that
things would get better, he said. That resolve was
enough to get King started.

King finished On Writing, his tome about the craft of
writing, in 2000 and turned to his long-stalled Dark Tower
series in the following years. He even ended up writing
himself, and his near-fatal accident, into the seven-volume
series. He later told interviewers that he was using the
work as a painkiller because it was more effective than any
pharmaceutical the doctors had prescribed.

Though King has permanent physical ailments as a
result of the accident, he didn’t lose his sense of humor.
He eventually purchased the van that caused him so much
pain for $1,500 so he could smash it with a sledgehammer.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

We've come across a very off-the-beaten track writer: Joe Bageant


Here's a thought-provoking essay:

Anderson Cooper and Class Solidarity

You cannot man the barricades with a mouth full of Cheetos

By Joe Bageant

"Class solidarity was such a good idea. It really was. Obviously, most of the people who need solidarity are in the world's laboring classes. After all, the rich have more than enough solidarity already, as was recently demonstrated by their successful execution of the greatest global financial heist in history.


Blogs he credits for publishing or defending or criticizing his work:·

Friday, December 17, 2010

No one "dug deeper" to find the musical meanings than Carlo Maria Giulini

Came across mention of a newly published (2010) biography on a former Chicago luminary: Carlo Maria Giuilini. He was guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, back in the golden days of 1960s, 1970s.

I read the book with interest. Then I listened to his recordings again, what a revelation.

Even before the 24/7 age of Twitter, Facebook, CNN, CNBC, cell phones, iPads, smart phones, emails, IMs, and all the rest, before there was an Internet, here was a man who insisted on taking enough time to sequester himself, to think, to study, do the job right. He often worked extensively with the string section of an orchestra on bowings, something many other conductors gave little thought to. But Giulini was himself a viola player. He knew how important these things were to get the "sound" he was after. Furthermore, he purposely limited his repertory to those works he could master. He purposely limited his time on stage to seven months per year so that he could spend the remaining five months studying, to be better.

His aim: music that touched the soul. He eschewed flash, dash, empty bombast, in favor of warmth, lyricism, humanity.

(I am made very aware, today, as I write this, that God truly is in the details, in any and every field of human endeavor. "Drink deep....." the saying goes...)

I had the unexpected fortune of meeting Maestro Giulini, on the street, outside Orchestra Hall, some 33 years ago.

I was looking in the display case of then-named Orchestra Hall one brilliant, freezing winter’s day (now it’s “Symphony Center”). On proud display: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s brand new recording of the Mahler Ninth Symphony, Carlo Maria Giulini conducting. Such was the affection of the music world back then for him that the yellow-label DGG cover art was solely the patrician visage of Giulini himself, dressed for the elements in a striking fedora and dashing scarf.

Sensing a new presence to my left, I turned and there was the maestro himself, wearing the selfsame hat, and the very scarf, taking in his mirror image.

Making eye contact, I nodded and said something terribly profound like “Nice to see you, Maestro.”

Nice to meet you, too,” the tall Italian chortled, delighted at the visual irony of the moment, extending his hand, which I shook. In those days, much was made, in the media, of his humanity and grace, vis-à-vis the motoric thrashing the high octane music director Solti gave his selections (make no mistake, we were and are big Solti fans, too). Giulini conveyed that in a few seconds, in a chance encounter.

A music god had come down to the pavement and there I was to meet him. Like Judy Tenuta used to say “it could happen.”

And it did.

Hats off to author Thomas D. Saler; highly recommended:


Tooley visited Giulini the day before Marcella was to undergo surgery to relieve pressure on her brain after the aneurysm. As he was leaving, Tooley told Giulini that he and Marcella would be in his thoughts and prayers. "John, thank you for that," Giulini replied, "but the world is full of suffering and there is no reason why Marcella and I should escape it." He then found a silver lining that could help others in the same position, noting that the surgeons could learn something from the operation. Marcella's illness brought the couple even closer..............p 134

Giulini extended his kindness even to strangers. Marsha Head, a London piano teacher, who had never met Giulini, sent the maestro a letter telling him how much his "exquisitely sensitive, meticulous and spiritual interpretation" of the Mozart Requiem with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus had moved her. That following Christmas, Head received a phone call from Italy. "It was Maestro Giulini, who had taken the time and trouble, despite his own important commitments, to find out my telephone number and speak to me at length on the subject of music, sensitivity and spirituality. I did not expect or ask for a reply (to my letter), especially from such an eminent conductor. I will always remember that deep conversation, his genuine interest in my music, and the kindness, sincerity, humility, and huge musical intellect of Giulini...." p 137