John Phillip Sousa on 33 1/3 blasts from the Hi-Fi — yes, you heard right, “Hi-Fi” — conducted by my flag-waving Grandfather, proudly standing at attention at 8 o’clock in the morning in the doorway of his open garage, wondering why it took us so long to get there. We may have been at the shore, but Memorial Day was not about a barbecue on the beach.
My grandparents lived down the street from my Great Uncle and Aunt. My Grandfather idolized my Great Uncle (his brother), naming his only son after his brother who had spent World War II as a gunner on a Navy ship in the Pacific. Having broken his back before the war, my Grandfather wasn’t able to get into the military during the conflict. Instead, he busied himself crafting knives to send to his buddies overseas (yes, they censored letters, but allowed knives to be carried through V-Mail) with the instructions “leave them in the enemy’s guts and I’ll make you a new one when you get home.”
My grandfather also played a key role in the war effort, one that goes overlooked when we take the time to honor the troops on Memorial Day. Recruited by the FBI in 1940, my grandfather and his father played a key role in the creation of the Iowa Ordinance Plant, the largest shell and bomb loading facility in operation during the war.
In the autumn of 1940, when a fairly isolationist population still dismissed the idea of entering into Europe’s conflict, my grandfather was pulled out of his job as a tool and die maker by two fairly typical FBI mugs. They strapped secret plans for a military facility, designed by Day & Zimmermann, Co., to his body and handed him a train ticket and a gun with the instructions, “Don’t be afraid to use it.” At the age of 23, my grandfather was the perfect cover: “If anyone asks, you’re on your way out west to go to college.” His job was simple: Escort his father, recruited by the government for his skills as a tool and die maker, to San Francisco to convene with a number of highly skilled Americans engaged to prepare America for war.
In spite of the fact that the new WWII flick The Monuments Men is peppered with Hollywood royalty like George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon, its idealism and patriotic tone has induced mental vomiting among the cultural elite.
Case in point is Philip Kennicott’s scathing criticism of the film in the Washington Post titled “George Clooney saves Puppies from Nazis.“ Ironically, Kennicott misses the point of the movie and then uses the same point to argue his case against it.
In yet another twist of fate, our new series exploring the works of Ernest Becker beginning with The Birth and Death of Meaning sheds a different light on the movie, Kennicott, the Allied Forces and Hitler.
Let’s start with Kennicott, who writes:
“If you care about art, you are obliged to loathe the film “The Monuments Men,” a star-studded history drama that purports to tell the story of American efforts to rescue and repatriate art stolen by the Nazis in World War II…“Monuments Men” is so bad I will save you the trouble and expense of seeing it with the following summary. To make the film a bit more coherent, I’ve substituted the word “puppies” for art.
Over in Europe, the Second World War is raging, and Clooney is very worried about the puppies. He takes this concern directly to Franklin Delano Roosevelt… He explains to the President of the United States the basics of the allied invasion of Germany. He uses a big map with arrows on it, with the Russians coming in from the east, and the allies moving in from France and Italy. Caught in the middle of these armies are a whole lot of puppies. Clooney says he doesn’t want to live in a world without puppies.
Roosevelt tells Clooney to go save the puppies and there ensue several derivative scenes in which Clooney rounds up a rag-tag gang of misfit puppy lovers who all agree to help him return the puppies to their rightful owners.”
His opening with, “If you love art you are obligated to loathe the film” should give you your first whiff of a fermented ideology. The basis of his argument begins by informing us of our obligation to accept his emotions and condescension as the standard of righteousness, and our allegiance to art. Then Kennicott proceeds to obscure the gravity of the facts by replacing it with warm fuzzies–then ridiculing the absurdity.
Like a fresh gulp of air in a stale room of smoke and mirrors, this film is based on American history not yet rewritten–even in Hollywood.
And that alone makes it worth a closer look.
The AP reports that Munich-based Constantin Film will be producing a movie based on German author Timur Vermes’s bestselling novel about the Nazi Dictator. In Er ist Wieder Da, Adolf Hitler “…awakens in modern-day Berlin and becomes the star of a TV comedy show.” No word on whether this “comedy show” will mirror the contemporary Asian game show trend of finding humor in putting fellow citizens in odd, even purportedly life-threatening situations. The film is set to be released in 2015.
Despite Hitler being a “touchy subject” for many Germans, the novel has sold over 1.3 million copies since its debut in 2012. English speakers, have no fear. A translation of the book, titled Look Who’s Back, will be released in April of next year.
In other Hitler satire news, Hitler Rants Parodies (featured above) recently celebrated five years on the web. BothVermes and Constantin Film have as much to do with the YouTube sensation as the psychotic mass murdering dictator has to do with having a laugh. One thing we can confirm: the authors of Er is Wieder Da and Hitler Rants Parodies both know how to humorously kill a conversation.
No word yet on when the satirical biopic about Soviet leader Josef Stalin (working title: Hitler Always Said I Should Laugh More) is set to hit the silver screen. According to several unconfirmed reports, the studio involved is having trouble obtaining a finished draft of the script that isn’t covered in trace amounts of polonium-210.
Last night I was searching YouTube for a video of someone interesting reciting the Gettysburg Address to post on a Facebook page I manage. I was hoping to find a recitation done by someone who would be non-controversial and could convey Lincoln’s message without irritating anyone’s sensitive political nerves. (As it turns out, that’s a rather tall order).
I figured YouTube would be overflowing with videos of school children reciting Lincoln’s famous speech, which he delivered 150 years ago today. When I was growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for school children to memorize it. I made my kids learn it as part of their homeschooling education and I figured it was still common for children to memorize it. (One son was very glad we did this when he was asked to recite it in a college interview!) Unfortunately — and much to my surprise — there aren’t nearly as many videos of children reciting the Gettysburg Address as I expected to find online. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum made a valiant attempt, creating walk-up videos of people reciting the speech in honor of the 150th anniversary, but sadly, many of the children and adults who participated struggled to even read the cue cards, so unfamiliar were they with Lincoln’s words.
Fortunately, I stumbled upon an absolute gem that restored my faith in Western Civilization (at least for today). The video shows Clara, a 96-year old grandmother and resident of Willow Falls Senior Living Community in Crest Hill, Illinois, reciting the Gettysburg Address from memory. The video’s description simply says:
Clara memorized the Gettysburg address in 7th grade…83 years later she still knows it by heart.
I predict this will be more inspiring than all of the professionally produced Gettysburg Address videos you’ll see today! Maybe it will inspire you to learn it yourself if you don’t already know it and hopefully, you’ll teach it to your children. (Confession: I never memorized the speech until I learned it with my kids.)
Oh, and after a bit of searching, I did find some children reciting the speech. It turns out hundreds of Utah school children memorized the Gettysburg Address to commemorate the 150th anniversary. Way to go, Utah!
Just when you thought the intentional infliction of public pain during the partial government shutdown could not possibly get any worse, the Obama administration is now threatening dead people:
Each national cemetery will conduct a reduced number of burials each day. This could cause some families to pay for storage of their loved ones’ remains until burials can be scheduled. Although there may be possible delays in scheduling internments [sic], NCA will continue to provide services to our Veterans and their families during their time of need with the utmost dignity, respect and compassion.
The VA says it will run out of money in late October and will begin to implement its “lapse in appropriation shutdown plan,” furloughing up to 1,063 of 1,809 National Cemetery Administration (NCA) employees. A Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown, posted on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, lists interments under “Services to Veterans Impacted by a Lapse in Appropriations,” saying “Interments at National Cemeteries will be conducted on a reduced schedule.” (Incidentally, the “play” and “pause” buttons on the Veterans Field Guide are not operational — has the Canadian programmer group hit again?)
Sean Baumgartner, director of the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, said there will be a “reduced interment schedule” at the Ohio cemetery. Ohio Western Reserve Cemetery (where my husband’s grandfather is buried) ordinarily conducts eight or nine burials a day. Last week there were 17 burials on Monday. The NCA will restrict the number of interments to eight per day at mid-level cemeteries if the shutdown drags on beyond the end of October.
These days, most pop music consists of style over substance. Regardless of talent, today’s top stars like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber are largely more concerned with dance moves and video poses than songwriting chops – which makes the appearance of a delicate ballad like “Oh Sweet Lorraine” by Green Shoe Studio featuring Jacob Colgan and Fred Stobaugh in the iTunes Top Ten (#10 as of this writing) a pleasant surprise.
What’s even more astounding is the story behind the song. Stobaugh, the songwriter, is a 96-year old Illinois man who wrote “Oh Sweet Lorraine” in memory of his wife of nearly 73 years who passed away in April.
On a whim, the widower entered a songwriting contest that he saw advertised in a local paper with a love song he’d written for his bride.
Green Shoe Studio, the company running the contest, couldn’t accept his handwritten entry (the competition was digital-only), but they were so touched by his story that they decided to produce his song — and a short documentary about it — anyway. That video, which was posted in July, recently went viral, and the exposure has sent “Oh Sweet Lorraine” soaring up the charts.
What sounds like a cute little consolation prize of a story turns out to be a touching tribute to lifelong love.
“After she passed away, I was just sitting in the front room one evening by myself, and it just came right to me,” he says of his song. “I just kept humming it and singing it. That’s how I came to write it. It just fit her.”
The resulting song is simple, but that’s the beauty of it. “Oh sweet Lorraine,” the chorus begins, “I wish we could do all the good times over again.” The song continues, “Life only goes around once, but never again.”
The resulting song is one of the sweetest, most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear. The folks at Green Shoe Studio deserve kudos for taking a chance on a lovely and deeply personal lyric, and Mr. Fred Stobaugh has every right to be proud of his song. No doubt Sweet Lorraine is smiling down from heaven at the tribute.
Here’s the documentary. (Warning: you’ll need a tissue or two.)
Walt Disney gets the lion’s share of the credit for the success of the Disney company in its first four decades, and deservedly so. But many people don’t realize the influence that Walt’s older brother Roy had on the company. Roy served as Walt’s business partner and handled the business decisions for the company from its founding until his passing in 1971. Bob Thomas, author of Walt Disney: An American Original, published Building A Company: Roy O. Disney And The Creation Of An Entertainment Empire. Thomas’ biography of Roy tells his story like no one else can.
Roy Disney was born eight years before his brother Walt. Their two older brothers had grown up and moved away, so Roy took Walt under his wing, and the two were inseparable for many years. Roy served in Europe in World War I, and his brother’s service prompted Walt to serve with the Red Cross at the tail end of the war. Later, Roy contracted tuberculosis and moved to California to recuperate. When Walt decided to strike out on his own in Los Angeles, Roy was in a VA hospital in nearby Sawtelle. Walt visited Roy to tell him of his plans to start a studio. Roy walked out of the hospital with his brother and never looked back.
In the early days of the studio, Roy worked a camera, but that was the extent of his work in “show business.” The two brothers married – Walt married Lillian Bounds, while Roy tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend, Edna Francis. As the studio grew, Roy traveled back and forth to New York to meet with distributors or to secure financing. Many times, Roy found himself faced with the choice of acquiring more funds or refusing to implement one of Walt’s ideas. Roy rarely told Walt “no.”
Over the last few weeks, I’ve written a lot about Walt Disney. I’ve covered his political journey, his faith, his commitment to excellence, his patriotism, his futuristic vision, and the presence of certain Judeo-Christian values in his films (with more to come in the ensuing weeks). Today I want to emphasize the commitment Walt and his brother Roy held to the free market, remarkable in light of the fact that the brothers grew up in a socialist household.
Roy and Walt’s father Elias had an entrepreneurial streak but he was either unlucky or a terrible businessman. Yet he professed socialist views. Elias tried to impress these ideals on his sons. As I wrote about him recently:
Elias…was a Socialist — in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Wayland’s newspaper, Appeal to Reason, “was folksy” and “reached the common man’s ears but irritated the intellectual’s.” Elias Disney subscribed to Appeal to Reason, and Walt remembered cutting his teeth as an artist by copying the cartoons. Walt said he “could draw cartoons of ‘Capital’ and ‘Labor’ pretty good, the big fat capitalist with the money with his foot on the neck of the laboring man with the little cap on his head.”
Elias Disney voted for Progressive William Jennings Bryan and Socialist Eugene Debs in presidential elections, despite being an entrepreneur and employer.
Roy, who became Walt’s business partner, may have provided an early education in capitalism and the entrepreneur’s spirit. Bob Thomas writes in his biography Building A Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire (which I am currently reading):
Clem Flickinger, a boyhood friend of Walt’s, recalled in 1987 what may have been Roy’s first venture into capitalism. He planted an acre of popcorn. When the ears ripened, he shucked them, dried them in the sun, and shelled the kernels. He packed the popcorn into candy sacks and sold them in Marceline.
When Walt headed to California to pursue his dream of running his own studio, he sought out Roy for advice, partnership, and a little seed money. Walt provided the creative spark, and it was up to Roy to conjure up the funds to fulfill the ideas.
There is still time to head over to Amazon to place an order in time for Father’s Day delivery! I’ve linked the images below to help you out.
by John McPhee
“The Swiss Army has served as a model for less languid nations. The Israeli Army is a copy of the Swiss Army. … They are a civilian army, a trained and practiced militia, ever ready to mobilize. They serve for thirty years. All six hundred and fifty thousand are prepared to be present at mobilization points and battle stations in considerably less than forty-eight hours.”
This book, written at the end of the Cold War, gives a compelling view of the Swiss military system. The pastoral views in the Alps don’t reveal that beneath those mountains are bunkers stocked with munitions caches and that the winding roads all have bridges that can be blown to pieces at a moment’s notice to thwart an attack.
The book might provoke some intriguing thoughts and conversations about forced conscription, responsibility as citizens, what some like to call “military adventurism,” and the implications of heavily armed neutrality.
Check out the previous installments in Chris Queen’s ongoing series exploring the values and philosophy of Walt Disney:
April 22: 10 Must-Read Books for Disney Nerds
May 31: Patriotism, Disney Style
Many visions of the future — from 1984 to Silent Spring to Blade Runner to After Earth – lead us to believe a bleak, gray-skied world awaits. The prevailing theme of dystopian futurists is that we and the generations to follow are going to destroy our society or our planet because of our greed. Most futurists view the world through a cynical, grim prism, and optimistic futurists come few and far between. One of them left his mark on the world in a most indelible way — Walt Disney.
When many people think of Disney they feel nostalgia, fantasy, and escapism, but in reality, Walt possessed a strong vision for making the future better than the present. He believed that technology and free enterprise held the key to a positive future.
Walt’s futuristic dreams began to manifest themselves in the science-fiction-crazy 1950s. On the Disneyland television series, he devoted entire episodes to the conquest of space, landing on the moon, going beyond the moon, and using satellites to improve life on Earth. He and director Ward Kimball worked with leading scientific lights such as Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley to create diagrams and dramatizations of potential space travel that even predate NASA — and what ended up on the screen resembled actual space travel in surprising ways!
We live in an era where children in their formative years do not know what patriotism means. My grandparents’ generation knew what it meant to love America and to stand up for its ideals, but the leftists of my parents’ generation — the Baby Boomers — screwed it up for all of us. To them, the only measure of patriotism was opposition to President Bush. Remember: “dissent is patriotic.” (Tell that to the IRS.)
I was blessed to grow up with parents who loved America despite having lived through the ’60s, but many members of my generation don’t know how to be patriotic, thanks to political correctness, multiculturalism, and the growing influence of the far Left.
While the vast majority of pop culture mocks patriotism, one famous name has celebrated American exceptionalism for more than seven decades: Disney. This unabashed love of America began with the company’s founder.
Walt Disney grew up as part of the World War I generation — a time that saw both the enthusiasm of the dawn of the 20th century and the unspeakable horror of threats to freedom and peace across the globe. Though too young to serve in the war, Disney worked in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps after the war. He wanted to serve his country, one way or another.
After his move to Hollywood, Disney’s love for America drove him in many ways to develop the unique entertainment he created and to lead his studio the way he did. He believed that America’s values were worth celebrating and sharing with the world. He once said:
Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards — the things we live by and teach our children — are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.
Disney admitted to a patriotism that occasionally overwhelmed him. He once confessed, “I get red, white, and blue at times.” His love of country showed up in his films and television programs and has carried on in the theme parks that bear his name nearly half a century after his death. Sometimes the Disney brand of patriotism makes itself known in subtle ways, while at other times, it jumps directly in your face.
We tend to think of Hollywood as a bastion of leftism, and rightly so. Books like Ron Radosh’s Red Star Over Hollywood demonstrate the deep-seated left-wing dominance of the entertainment industry. Even with the leftism prevalent in Hollywood’s Golden Age, many unabashed conservatives found success without compromising their principles, including one of the most creative minds in the business — Walt Disney.
Several biographers and writers that I’ve read have tried to declare that Walt Disney was apolitical, but I find this conclusion not to be true. Diane Disney Miller once said that her father was “kind of a strange figure” politically, and Walt admitted his own political naiveté:
A long time ago, I found out that I knew nothing whatsoever about this game of politics and since then I’ve preferred to keep silent about the entire matter rather than see my name attached to any statement that was not my own.
But plenty of people surrounding Walt Disney knew the truth: that he was conservative to his core. Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” said that Walt’s right-leaning politics made him uncomfortable and that politics drove a rift in their friendship in Disney’s later years. Radical writer Maurice Rapf, who worked on several Disney films, including Song of the South, said, “He was very conservative except in one particular — he was a very strong environmentalist.” However, Walt Disney’s conservatism did not manifest itself until after he had been a businessman for several years.
Walt Disney’s early exposure to politics came from his father, Elias, who was a Socialist — in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Daniel J. Flynn, in his book A Conservative History of the American Left, tells of how Wayland “reached Americans with the message [of Socialism] that had been heretofore explained in a German, Yiddish, or Russian accent, but never with a Bible-belt twang.”