4th of July

flag

All around the neighborhoods, in the cities, on the farmlands, in the mountains, along the grassy plains, and even rocking on the oceans and seashores. Americans are celebrating Independence Day…the Fourth of July. The skies are doused with the smells from smoky barbecues and diamond-studded sparklers…while the night skies will be ablaze with fireworks’ shows that dazzle, awe, and surprise… dogs will bark, some will hide, while children coax them out from beneath the bed with pieces of soggy hot dog buns. How lucky and grateful are we in the United States to be able to celebrate this historic occasion, while I lament that still others round the globe are unable to express freedom such as ours.

Today’s blog, in honor of the 4th of July, brings to you the words of the esteemed thinker: Edwin Percy Whipple (b. Massachusetts 1819-1886). Who? Oh, maybe you will recognize him by ‘E.P. Whipple’…is that better? Oh, still no recollection…well let me give you a bit of background about him. Of his time, he was considered a “compelling” speaker, lecturer, intellect, and literary critic; offering him an opportunity as the literary editor for the Boston Daily Globe. He was not stranger to the literary world having been the trustee of the Boston Public Library, 1868-1870. During the height of the lyceum movement*, he delivered as many as one thousand public lectures from Bangor to St. Louis.EP Whipple

From his essay The True Glory of a Nation, we take a moment to pause and read the words of Mr. Whipple…and though he may not be the most celebrated writer today, his thoughts regarding the people who “are” a nation indeed parallels the glory of why we “can” honor Independence Day.

“The true glory of a nation is an intelligent, honest, industrious people. The civilization of a people depends on their individual character; and a constitution which is not the outgrowth of this character is not worth the parchment on which it is written. You look in vain in the past for a single instance where the people have preserved their liberties after their individual character was lost. It is not in the magnificence of its palaces, not in the beautiful creations of art lavished on its public edifices, not in costly libraries and galleries of pictures, not in the number or wealth of its cities, that we find a nation’s glory. …The true glory of a nation is the living temple of a loyal, industrious, upright people…”

* Lyceum movement in the United States, especially in the northeast, was the beginning of adult education; organizations sponsored lectures and debates often on current interes

Esteemed thinker: John Muir and respecting nature

IMG_9913

There are few people that would disagree with the idea that humans and plants should and can co-exist. Though we know that there are many species of plants that have raised the ire of both men and woman, for the most part our relationships are of the utmost importance, especially for people. Plants provide us not only shade, food, medicinal benefits, and aesthetics, they are the source that keeps our land from eroding and provides us with oxygen to breathe. All and all it seems as though they are certainly pulling their weight.

IMG_9963 Being this is the case, with all the positives they provide, one can agree… flora and fauna do not ask for much except to be left alone. However, it makes us wonder why it is that some humans have a propensity to destroy or maim with no regard for the outcome of the plants. For example, let us take the bamboo plants that are growing in a particular zoo’s habitat; it offers us the opportunity to walk among the gatherings of these majestic plants that have grown to heights that rival a tree. Such a lovely setting it is until you examine the stalks closely and see the bamboo  has been intentionally carved and defaced with names and dates of those who felt a need to molest the plants. An intentional act with seemingly little value or purpose.

And so, the next time you come upon a plant, take heed for although you may have a yearning to claim it as your own, think twice before putting you signature on Mother Nature’s creation.

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker John Muir (1838-1914), a revolutionary preservationist naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club. Born in Dunbar, Scotland in 1849, the Muir family emigrated to the United States, settling first at Fountain Lake and then moving to Hickory Hill Farm near Portage, Wisconsin.muir

In 1867, while working at a carriage parts shop in Indianapolis, he suffered a blinding eye injury that would change his life. When he regained his sight one month later, Muir resolved to turn his eyes to the fields and woods. He walked a thousand miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, sailed to Cuba, and later to Panama. After crossing the Isthmus, he sailed up the West Coast, to San Francisco making California became his home.

John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service, convincing the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks through his writing. John Muir’s words came from his lifetime work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

So, I take you out of your hectic world into a day with John Muir and his observation of trees; Feast upon this vivid excerpt from Steep Trails.

“No lover of trees will ever forget his first meeting with the sugar pine. In most coniferous trees there is a sameness of form and expression which at length becomes wearisome to most people who travel far in the woods. But the sugar pines are as free from conventional forms as any of the oaks. No two are so much alike as to hide their individuality from any observer. Every tree is appreciated as a study in itself and proclaims in no uncertain terms the surpassing grandeur of the species. The branches, mostly near the summit, are sometimes nearly forty feet long, feathered richly all around with short, leafy branchlets, and tasseled with cones a foot and a half long. And when these superb arms are outspread, radiating in every direction, an immense crownlike mass is formed which, poised on the noble shaft and filled with sunshine, is one of the grandest forest objects conceivable. But though so wild and unconventional when full-grown, the sugar pine is a remarkably regular tree in youth, a strict follower of coniferous fashions, slim, erect, tapering, symmetrical, every branch in place. At the age of fifty or sixty years this shy, fashionable form begins to give way. Special branches are thrust out away from the general outlines of the trees and bent down with cones. Henceforth it becomes more and more original and independent in style, pushes boldly aloft into the winds and sunshine, growing ever more stately and beautiful, a joy and inspiration to every beholder…”

 

 

Esteemed thinker: Emily Post

eating toddler

Long ago in the Medieval days, when tapestries were hung on castle walls to keep in the heat and moats were built to keep out the unwelcome, there were celebrations of revelry. During such events, not unlike our banquets today, people gorged themselves on the delicacies of the time. Servants brought out huge helpings of food and set them on long tables where the festivities would go on for all hours of the night and into the morning. However, unlike our table setting, there lacked some useful implements. Napkins were not a staple and instead a woolly dog would travel round the seating permitting the hosts and guest to use its fur to wipe the grease off their hands. Fingers were often used rather than forks, bread sopped up the liquid, and bowls were picked up instead of using spoons.

Fast forward to the 21st century and take a walk down the grocery aisle; a revolution of sorts has infiltrated our eating habits. More foods are prepackaged that require little use of utensils and not much more effort than opening the package. Now very common, it appears that like the days of yore, we have accepted the use of our fingers to pick up our food and eat with. Toddlers are seldom required to learn at an early age to use a spoon but rather drink their yogurt from a plastic tube and finger out from a container their peas. Finger food has become the norm, not the exception. And while germ phobia may be a sign of the times, the hysteria has seemed to dodge our shared eating habits.

So while fads come and go, it just may be that using utensils has become a dying art, one that has been replaced with a simpler method; just be sure to pack the hand-sanitizer.

emily post

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Emily Post (b. Emily Price 1890 – 1960) Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Emily came from high society, educated in private school in NYC. She was a well-sought after debutante who married financier Edwin M. Post in 1921. However, after a scandalous divorce a few years later, she found herself having to help support herself and her sons. To supplement a small income Emily Post wrote short stories which were published in the popular fiction magazines Ainslie’s and Everybody’s.

Now as a successful writer and a woman of social position she was encouraged to write a book on etiquette with emphasis on graces. Etiquette—The Blue Book of Social Usage was published in 1922, quickly became a best seller. It went through ten revisions and 89 printings and bringing her fame and fortune. Her “Blue Book, ” earned the title as an American standard of etiquette and was reported to be second only to the Bible as the book most often not returned or stolen from libraries.

And so, I now bring you a snippet from her 1922 book titled ETIQUETTE IN SOCIETY, IN BUSINESS, IN POLITICS AND AT HOME. The portion you shall find is a bit of advice regarding children at the dining table; taken from the chapter “Kindergarten Etiquette”.

“Elementary Table Manners

Since a very little child cannot hold a spoon properly, and as neatness is the first requisite in table-manners, it should be allowed to hold its spoon as it might take hold of a bar in front of it, back of the hand up, thumb closed over fist. The pusher (a small flat piece of silver at right angles to a handle) is held in the same way, in the left hand. Also in the first eating lessons, a baby must be allowed to put a spoon in its mouth, pointed end foremost. Its first lessons must be to take small mouthfuls, to eat very slowly, to spill nothing, to keep the mouth shut while chewing and not smear its face over. In drinking, a child should use both hands to hold a mug or glass until its hand is big enough so it can easily hold a glass in one. When it can eat without spilling anything or smearing its lips, and drink without making grease “moons” on its mug or tumbler (by always wiping its mouth before drinking), it may be allowed to come to table in the dining-room as a treat, for Sunday lunch or breakfast. Or if it has been taught by its mother at table, she can relax her attention somewhat from its progress.

Girls are usually daintier and more easily taught than boys, but most children will behave badly at table if left to their own devices. Even though they may commit no serious offenses, such as making a mess of their food or themselves, or talking with their mouths full, all children love to crumb bread, flop this way and that in their chairs, knock spoons and forks together, dawdle over their food, feed animals—if any are allowed in the room—or become restless and noisy…”

First image: Title: Puffed Rice, c1918.  Child in high chair eating at dining room table.

 

 

Esteemed thinker: Nikola Tesla

futureIt is astounding to think that only a hundred and fifteen years ago, which is not a very long ago in the realm of time, the world was in the throes of a new millennium. This was the Edwardian era, the very beginning of the 20th century, and the future seemed as unrealistic as one could imagine. Airplanes, radios, and wireless transmission were at its infancy. And if only the predictions had come true, what a different world it would be. Andrew Carnegie hoped warfare would “become the most dishonorable” profession and Secretary of the Navy John D. Long held the common belief that war would be abolished.”

Forward to the 21st century, where we began with such inventions as segways, ipods, braile gloves and hybrid cars. Sadly we cannot celebrate the predictions of Carnegie and Long for they did not hold up to the test of time. Which leads us to today’s esteemed thinker: Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) a world renowned scientist who made some of his own predictions seventy or so years before the millennium.

nikola tesla Nikola Tesla, born in Smiljan, Lika, which was then part of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, the region of modern day Croatia. In 1873 he began his studies in mathematics and physics at the University in Prague, however became fascinated with electricity. In 1881 he started his career in electrical engineering in Budapst and privately built a reduction motor, a radical idea that was not received well in Europe. As a result he moved to the United States and worked with Thomas Edison. For the next 59 years he established himself as a great inventor, which included constructing his theory of alternating current, in direct conflict with Edison’s theory of direct current. In 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, a fundamental principle in physics and the basis of nearly all devices that use alternating current. Alternating current became standard power in the 20th Century, an accomplishment that ultimately changed the world.

I now bring to you a snippet from an article in the 1935 issue of Liberty magazine. Here is one of many predictions made by the inventor, Nikola Tesla, a man who probably did not predict his own beneficial contribution to everyday life.

“… At present we suffer from the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age. The solution of our problems does not lie in destroying but in mastering the machine. Innumerable activities still performed by human hands today will be performed by automatons. At this very moment scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a ” thinking machine.” I anticipated this development. I actually constructed “robots.”

Today the robot is an accepted fact, but the principle has not been pushed far enough. In the twenty-first century the robot will take the place which slave labor occupied in ancient civilization. There is no reason at all why most of this should not come to pass in less than a century, freeing mankind to pursue its higher aspirations…”

Walker Evans and choices

Cereal aisle One has only to take a stroll down the aisle of the grocery store to see that the choices offered are more than one stomach could ever tolerate. Perhaps that is why we are often reminded that if you are trying to watch your weight you should not go to the store hungry. The cereal shelves are a fine example of choice overload, flakes of every size and concoction, from sugar coating to corn and rye, it seems as though we have been given quite a palette of breakfast delights.

But lest we really take time to pause just perhaps all this abundance is actually what could be referred to as “false generosity”. Are all these enticing products for our nutritional benefit or have they been formulated for our ever-greedy taste buds and another’s financial appetite? And although the food industry and manufactures have given us such ample reason to eat, their generosity may actually be something very different than what meets the eye.

Today’s blog reintroduces the esteemed thinker: Walker Evans (1903-1975), an artistic icon who became one of the most influential American photographers. In 1926 he traveled to Paris where he developed an interest in literature. However, upon his return to the United States a year later, he resorted to a different medium, photography, as his artistic outlet. Rejecting the prevailing aestheticized view of artistic photography, he instead chose a straightforward and direct style where he concentrated on photographing quotidian American life during the second quarter of the 20th century. He is universally regarded as the premier photographic artist among the Farm Security Administration staff during the late 1930s.

I now bring you one of his photographs, Grocery Store Window, Macon, Georgia (1935) a flashback in time to a date in history when choices of what to eat were often not a luxury but rather a function of necessity.

walker evans grocery store

Esteemed thinker: Paulo Freire

teacher and classThe world of business is thought to be ever so complex however it appears to revolve around two events, the passing of time and the passing of money. Both involve good planning and good luck; for without them both working hand-in-hand, one could stymie the other. For those readers that like examples, let us take the film industry. Production on a new movie does not occur without first deciding upon time involved in production and the finances to put the idea into action. However, how often do we hear that the making of the movie is “behind schedule” and “cost productions” are over budget.

Such an occurrence is not rare but rather common practice. The identical business scenario results ever- so- often in the construction industry. Plans are created however, for whatever reason, perhaps a building permit or poor weather, construction is placed “on hold’ and as the company sorts things out, one-thing-leads to another, costs increase, and extra time is needed for the project to be completed. One can delve into a multitude of examples yet the more we look the more we not that the business world appears not to really have a hold on keeping to a schedule, even when they plan so many planning meetings that one has to wonder how they have so much time to plan.

Yet, there is one set of workers that complete their job everyday on time, regardless of money or the lack of time….teachers. Go into any classroom and one will find a diversity of clients (students) under the management of one and regardless of the weather or the lack of materials, when the bell rings and their day begins, in spite of distractions, interruptions, or disgruntled kids, work goes on according to plans.

So, perhaps the next time a business cannot seem to get the job completed according to schedule, rather than pouring more money into it…why not call in the experts of time management… the teacher.

Paulo_Freire Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Paulo Freire (b. Recife, Brazil 1921-1997) Brazilian philosopher and teacher who developed educational theories that helped transform the field of education to better literacy to the poor. His studies centered around the relationship between teaching and learning where he endorsed that the teacher should help students in developing freedom of thought that would enable them to use their knowledge to take constructive action. In 1962 the first experiments in Freire’s method of education saw extreme success when 300 farmworkers were taught to read and write in just 45 days.

Freire was a child during the Great Depression where his experiences from this time later framed his life’s work; making changes in the development of education and literacy. His book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ is considered one of the foundational texts of critical pedagogy.

I now bring you a snippet from the great Paulo Freire’s work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Take time from your busy day and afterwards, if you could read this…thank a teacher.

“A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient listening objects (the students). The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness…Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other…”

First image early 1890s.

Pablo Picasso and permenance

television setThe rate in which the world around us changes accelerates with time. And as we become increasing more automated these changes reflect our surroundings … a system in flux. A sense of permanence no longer dominates the landscape and the urgency for acquiring new things governs our desires.

Man and womankind have always gravitated to acquire things that are branded “the latest model”, however products that were once designed to last a lifetime are no longer are in vogue. Less and less are things repaired but instead designed to be replaced.

In the twentieth century when a television ceased to function the owner would call the “TV repair man”, a fellow who would come by your home with a set of tools as particular as a surgeon’s. In comparison to today, rarely does one own a television long enough for it to malfunction; for like fashions that change from season to season, there is always a newer and better model to buy. Right when you have saved up enough money to purchase what is deemed the best, the latest and updated model makes its entrance flaunting its upgrades.

So … the next time you pass by a store try to refrain from feeling too out-dated for the only thing permanent is the desire for change.

Pablo_Picasso,_1908-1909,.Today’s blog brings back the esteemed thinker: Pablo Picasso (1881-1975) the renowned artist who was always to on the precipice of modern thinking. He was a painter who brought innovation to the art world, and no matter how old his work may be it is never out of vogue.

Between 1907 and 1914 Picasso and artist friend, George Braque created Cubism; a style of visual arts that become one of the most influential of the 20th century. The subject of the painting was not visible in the discernible sense; in this style of painting and figures were often overlapping planes and facets.

For those who wish to resurrect their artistic senses, feast your eyes on a most famous work of art by Mr. Picasso titled Oil Mill (1909). And remember, if you are able to afford one of his pieces of art rest assure, although it may be over 100 years old, you will be the envy of your neighbors.

Picasso_Oil Mill_1909_ms

First image: 1939, FCC Commissioners inspect latest in television. Washington, D.C.

Esteemed thinker: Pablo Picasso

newspaperEvery evening when the news is about to be reported on the television, the program begins with a jingle of music, just a few notes… notes which really translate to mean “here comes gloom”. These pre-program notes, though simply intended as a prompt, have sorrowfully become a conditioned stimulus that produces the conditioned response…dread… Admittedly, it is a good example of “classical conditioning” for it seems that just the word “news” punctuates a negative connotation, so much so that we even have adopted the saying, “No news is Good news!”

However, news has always been of interest regardless of the method of delivery. What has become dramatically universal is the current cross-over between entertainment, gossip, and authentic news. Although some television programs call themselves “news shows” one soon has only to discover this may just be part of the name… where information is formatted in a one-sided set of opinions that are biased or lacking in full disclosure… (all under the guise of ‘the news’).

Yellow journalism, a term coined in 1898, was based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration to sell newspapers. However, one has to think, are we still stuck in the days of jaundice, for apparently one needs a dose of quinine to get through some t.v. programs touted as “News”.

PABLO-PICASSO- Today’s blog introduces one of the most renowned artists of all time, the esteemed thinker: Pablo Picasso (b. Spain 1881-1975). Picasso dominated the 20th century Western Art, spreading his influence beyond art into many aspects of culture and life.

In 1914 he and other artists produced collages with made of complex materials imitating the effects of painting in dense arrangements of cut and pasted papers. During that time newspapers were printed on cheap, wood-pulp paper stock that rapidly darkened and became brittle when exposed to air and sunlight. Picasso used newsprint fragments cut from them in many of his papiers collés and paintings and, occasionally, as supports for drawings.
Associated with pioneering Cubism, alongside Georges Braque, he made major contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. Painter, sculpture, printmaker, his legacy lives on.

Not wishing to belabor the idea of news, one has to ponder if just perhaps Picasso too found “news” intriguing with his collage titled Guitar (Spring 1913). Made from cut-and-pasted newspaper, wallpaper, paper, ink, chalk, charcoal, and pencil on colored paper enjoy his entertaining and thought provoking work.

Picasso_collage Guitar

First image: Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer, Published: 1910 May.

Esteemed thinker: Albert Einstein

the thinker There is a notion that the intellect of men and women are determined by the dominant part of the brain they favor, the right or the left. According to some, people who are right- brained thinkers are those that are more creative in the arts, more intuitive and subjective; while the left- brained people are those that are gifted in the sciences and mathematics, more logical and analytical. This simple division has made for wonderful excuses not to perform certain tasks… for those who find calculating the sales tax a burden or drawing a map on a paper napkin excruciatingly painful can simply flit their hand up and smile, blaming their inadequacies to their lop-sided brain.

On the other hand, just like the color wheel is not just black and white; in between the two extremes we have hues of grey. And though we often think of the color grey as so distasteful when we find it upon the head, that we wash it away as soon as a single strand appears, we should think not negatively of this color.

On the contrary, a person who uses both the left and right side of his or her brain is to be thought of in a positive light, which I will now coin as “grey brained” ….one that utilizes all senses to accomplish what ever task is at hand. Perhaps if everyone thought with their “grey matter” all the time, what a rational world we might have!

Einstein Today’s blog returns the illustrious, esteemed thinker: Albert Einstein (1879- 1955) born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany. A man that needs little introduction, he is one of the most important and influential physicist of the 20th century. Well acknowledged for having developed the special and general theories of relativity, in 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

And so, I have snipped a most profound statement from his book titled The world as I see it (1949). Upon reading his words I believe you will agree that both the left and right side of the brain, if you contend we favor one to another, are both essential…! And who can argue with his genius?

“…The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle…”

Second image: Turner, Orren Jack, photographer, c1947.