Archive for the ‘History’ Category
(This is experiemental writing that combines poetic form and ideas into an illustrated essay of insights about living. Click the pictures to enlarge for full effect. Click the title to open the post in its on web page.)
Not politics, but painting makes me reflect upon our dilemma of decay. The best painters create an image of Life weaving the mauldin around its mightiest days. Life laughingly reminds us that what comes together rarely fits together.
Dutch painters with their crowd scenes and outdoor panoramas, or
crowded shops were gifted with a magnificent vision and a hundred
My favorites are Pieter Brueghel, the Elder and the Younger, from 15th and 16th century Flanders. Their peerless country sides are packed with people, processions, carnivals. They paint vibrant communities of people who bring their life, work, and engagement to the captured moment. Their landscapes stretch from the familiar square to a horizon place beyond our sight but curious to our heart. What’s there? Is the unseen edge a place of mystery whose margin is hope or fear?
The people in their paintings do not yet know they can not escape what is here. That makes what the artists are doing in the paintings less obvious: even as the people are going about every day living they are also trying to preserve or alter the world.
Hope, or fear? I want to reconcile twin,
conflicting odds. To embrace them both. Like the images in the paintings, I want the familiar to offer assurance and comfort. I want
the flow of time to accent what I know. I want fear to be far beyond the horizon, something considered at another time, but it creeps in. Fear has a hard eye.
In my reverie, how do I
find direction without being lost, move back and forth with ease?
Therein lies the beauty of the Brueghel paintings: their effortless back and forth, their blending of the comic with the cosmic, their bouncing the utter impossibility of no escape against the urge to
temporary freedom, to run away, over the hill, to a new tomorrow, a new day. To know in that day the path to hope or fear.
Amiri Baraka, the poet, puts the problem this way:
Who you know
ever Seen God
But everybody seen
Baraka probes deeper:
Who make dough from lies and fear
I captain a tragic flaw or am I my worse enemy or am I just following the herd?
Suppose my truth is your lie and my fear is the source of your courage?
Does the comfort of the herd lead to a foreign place dressed in the garlands of illusions I am unable to escape? Have I
purchased a strange freedom? What do I expect of others who journey
in the same sunshine and storm?
An Iranian poet cries in haunted celebration:
No one will introduce me to the sunlight
Perhaps I can double down; the Elder Pieter Brueghel
painted more than a hundred proverbs in a single scene.
Fleming Proverbs are mainly about folly, the foolish persistence of
foibles. That seed our vision and deeds. Observe our fear and hope.
Pieter the Younger painted skulls in front of
unbeaten drums next to lifeless body armor, piled in front of dogs
fighting for dominance and submission. What an amazing allegory of
grace! In desolation, we speculate and measure our hope and fear: How
many gone? How many still blind? How many will never see? How many
will be lost or saved?
A day of reckoning is coming and good
and evil have not changed sides or become allies.
laughter is living, the paintings of Pieter Brueghel, Elder and
Younger, speak to the bemused; the denied understanding that underscores
living: repentance requires reconciliation before the setting sun.
Every sin has a moral answer. That answer must be expressed as a
living deed, or it is scored. But few even consider the question, or lay the right stones to lead to the answer. The folk in the paintings of the Old Masters rely upon their own reasoning and reckoning. It’s easy to see in their reverie, they excuse or deny the
case hope makes plain before them.
Things are a drag
lately . .
Beyond your voice
is a place I know
(Cover image, The Seven Acts of Charity. Inside, top down: The Allegory of War, The Seven Acts, The Dutch Proverbs.)
Easter Sunday, at Shiloh Baptist Church. My daughter was baptised at Shiloh.
When I was young, the African-Americans had a saying that was a moral imperative, an axiom of its folk wisdom, heard at school and home, in popular conversation: “two wrongs don’t make a right.” It empowered a people who had suffered slights and bias to steady the course and plow forward, without bringing disrepute to themselves or their community. It valued truth. It praised the good. It celebrated the inner victory of turning away from the hell hounds trail.
I find myself thinking about that saying when I listen to Donald Trump.
In the name of Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump’s name should not be resurrected, even if he saddles a mule and
shouts: you’re fired! for the high office of the USA President. Simply put, Trump is master fake (how he made his “money”) and a monstrous fraud (legal fraud is selling investor stakes, promising to meet obligations, and using the laws of bankruptcy to reorganize and downsize capital while others are left holding your worthless promise). He flip-flops more than pancakes at the I-HOP lunch hour. Once he wanted to tax the rich; now it’s a “bad idea.” Once he was pro-choice, now he’s pro-life. Once, he was for universal health care. Now, well . . we’ll know soon. Trump’s fantasy of “abracadabra” demolishes American policy. He has rabid anti-American views. He is a joke that everybody wants to say is no joke. Trump is a stalking horse proxy. His job is not to pace the run, but to ram and spit on the opposition. He wins by spewing disrespect.
Emmett Kelly, the sly, sensitive, sad silent clown, with his compassion and intelligence, had the good sense to sweep the spotlight away, unlike Trump, who chases its glare. Kelly’s downturn smile brightened hearts, as Kelly understood the nuances of life. Trump is perpetually one of America’s biggest losers. Bluster and scrawl, whose big talk signifies nothing but shines on his personal bankruptcy.
Heritage: First, Trump’s German immigrant grandmother was probably not a naturalized US citizen and may not have had a birth certificate. Born in the town, Kallstadt Pfalz, Germany, she was married in Germany. His grandmother and grandfather, both German immigrants to the US at the turn of the century–who probably didn’t have birth certificates when they entered the country—so far, no evidence exists that they did–began assembling the family’s commercial wealth when they founded a construction company, Elizabeth Trump and Son. Trump’s father married his Scottish mother, and the family lived in Queens, New York.
Did Trump’s mother have a birth certificate when she migrated? Why have no media reporters asked him directly or investigated the status of his immigrant family more closely? Did generations of his family enter the country legally?When Trump references his family experience, the question unanswered: is Donald Trump an anchor baby? Was his grandfather? Where’s the proof?
Trump’s Character. No, not the ego driven, hard edged executive who was charging for “education” at Trump certificates, grades, or credits and was forced to shut down by several state attorney generals, including Texas and New York. It’s back with a name change, although New York’s Better Business Bureau give it a grade of “D.” This man wants to manage the national deficit when his business debt ranged above $3.5 billion and his personal debt reached close to a $1 billion, by 1994.
Character here is his personal core values, the way he lives, his personal choices. His advice: have passion; enthusiasm on a big scale. Be tenacious. Take action. His life: three divorces, all break ups precipitated by his cheating openly. While he demands loyalty, he disregards it in his personal relationships, and plays by his own rules. He once called the President of Columbia University “a moron” and “dummy” after he halted a mid-town real estate deal in which Trump had an interest. Trump claimed the University’s preferred Harlem site, next to its campus, was a “lousy location.” Trump talks about the art of the deal, but he loves the audacious put down, ridiculing others with name calling, and using descriptions that low rate those who question or challenge his judgement.
Trump Finances. Trump has had four of his business file for bankruptcy and undergo reorganization, including his casino business. He has resigned from the boards of businesses he founded when the finances were shaky, leaving others to catch and clean up his mess and debts. His business bankruptcies occurred in 1991, 1992, 2004, and 2009. His current holdings include the Miss America Pageant and a bottled water branded with his name.
His casino company built a monstrosity of a building that didn’t have a sound plan, ignored the facts of the business at the shyster rate of 14%, met none of its projections, and was doomed to fail by bad odds played out by an addictive, defiant ego.As President, the country might expect more of the same: Trump might built bigger monuments and finance more boondoggles than the now famous “bridge to nowhere.” While others might pause at Trump’s overreach and his over the top antics, one commenter called him a “quality entrepreneur.”
Trump on Poverty. Can you picture Donald Trump in a soup kitchen? That’s his answer to homelessness and poverty; greater community involvement. For the record, Obama and his family have both volunteered in DC and Chicago soup kitchens, serving the homeless and poor.
Trump on Trade and Foreign Policy. Trump’s foreign policy borrows from Groucho Marx. On Groucho’s television, if you “say the right word, win a $100.” Trump believes and has said repeatedly that all we have to do is “say the right word” to China and they will change their trade policies. The same with the Middle Eastern countries in OPEC, if “we tell them in the right way,” they’ll bring the price of oil down.
If Trump knows the magic word why doesn’t he just say it? The country would vote for him in a heartbeat.
Remember during the Reagan presidency, the downed flier, Robert Goodman? The young Air Force lieutenant who Jesse Jackson persuaded the Syrians to release? Jackson’s negotiations were a success and Goodman came home. Those who would serve say, “call me,” and don’t waste time putting down others. With patriotic valor, they serve our better angels. Why doesn’t Donald walk the walk? An American company that drilled the shafts that saved the miners in Chile. Charleston’s Water Missions International provides safe drinking water for a million people in over 27 countries worldwide, saving the lives of children who die water borne diseases. The extraordinary work of Dr. Mark Manary and others developed a low cost peanut based food paste that can end malnutrition for the world’s infants, in rich and poor countries. His product saved 54,000 children during a famine in the African country of Niger. Trump has much to learn from them. Mainly, they would say, if you are on the raise, the work you do speaks for itself.
Ask Emmett Kelly, whose sad silent face antics never appealed to the ugly or the rude and made a nation laugh at what was best about ourselves without pulling us apart.
(Note: Eight American Presidents were British citizens at birth: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Andrew Jackson, and W.H. Harrison.)
Under the 14th amendment & US Code 9, a child born to a US citizen (either parent) is a US citizen no matter where he is/was born!
4th of July, 1937. Hillhouse, Mississippi. (Click all pictures to enlarge.)
Two photographs taken in Mississippi in 1937 by one of America’s photography masters lay in the Library of Congress archives for half a century. Today, I am proud to present these two photographs. I am excited about the remarkable story these two pictures tell.
Dorothea Lange, a woman trained as a portrait photographer in New York and who apprenticed with prominent society photographers, was the photographer for these two environmental portraits. Born Dorothea Nutzhorn in 1895, as a child she changed her name to her mother’s maiden name after her father left and her parents were divorced. Two of her five photos of a Mississippi woman are overlooked master works.
A Sharecropper’s Family that moved to Mississippi, 1937
Dorothea Lange took the long road to Mississippi. She traveled west to San Francisco in 1918, and opened a successful portrait studio, married a painter and gave birth to two boys. In 1935, she divorced. She married a economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and as the Great Depression drew near, she begin to make photographic images that documented the impact of the economy on daily lives of her subjects. Her photographs of human character find people on the edge of survival, working in poverty, standing in meal lines, alone, with their family,or in groups. Their faces are a deep study of the impact of these conditions.
A Sharecropper from Issaquena County, MS
In 1936, Dorothea Lange was hired by the federal government’s Farm Security Administration’s Office of War Information to travel across the South documenting a rural America. When she got to Mississippi, she photographed the sharecroppers and agriculture of the Delta. Her eye connected the relationships of work to living through the simple mechanism of image and composition. She raised these two photographic techniques to an art which at its best, is still surpassed.
Negro Children, Mississippi Delta, 1936
As a photographer, she waited on each story to appear in the faces before her lens. For Dorothea Lange, sharing was a natural action, and she valued what was within. She was not interested in matching her images to variations of external social ideals. She waited untilher subjects’faces got past the apparent doom, relaxed from the usual cliches ,and finally opened a window to her and her camera that offered an inner glimpse into the expressions and emotions held dear in their inner heart. Working with spare back drops of natural settings, a porch or a field, her photos are careful documents of the hardships and hopes that lived and collided within her subjects. Her images somehow acquire and preservean inner strength and vulnerability. Her photos are a window to the inner grace of her subjects, presenting the dignity of their real selves as they face the camera for all to see.
I think two of her best examples of image and composition are of a Mississippi women who was a field hand, working as a sharecropper in the Delta, that Lange photographed in 1937. This unnamed women has five images in the Library of Congress archives of Lange’s photographs. I was absolutely astounded when I found them. Together they tell a story heard but rarely seen. Photos of Negro sharecroppers , often idyllic and stereotyped, many times expressed the values of outside views of the people and their work.Lange soughtout the inner character of the persons photographed. But Lange also took herself out of the way. She knew how to look for the dignity and real vulnerability within everyone; she knew each person was a hero with a 1,000 faces, and she went beyond preconceptions to capture that moment in which the person emerged unique. She reveled in what she had not seen before. She abandoned formula or familiarity, sparked by the emerging difference that offered a look unseen before. She knew when she had this elusive quality: her photos are one with this transcendent moment.
Traveling Highway 1, 1938
The Mississippi woman she photographs offers two extraordinary instances of Lange’s gifts.First is a picture of the woman sitting alone on her porch in a wooden ladder back chair. The woman, a farm worker and sharecropper, chops cotton; she uses a long handled hoe to weed and turn the soil in cotton fields. She is skille in “hoe culture.” She was born, by her own words, two years before the surrender, (the end of the Civil War in 1865). Photograph in 1937, she is likely 84 years old. Like other people Lange photographed, she is unnamed and no located is noted.
The wooden slated or cane-backed ladder chair in which she sits was the most common piece of furniture on rural porches. In the South, and in many rural locales, porches served as outdoor living rooms. From the porch, the sun cast its colors of pink and rose, leaves fell, dust rolled into the wind, wind played across the skin, and the changing light and its display of textures and signaled the swift, silent passage of time.
Master Work: A Portrait of an 84 year old Mississippi Woman
Lange’s photograph elevates the chair. Its straight back rail is at an offset angle to the vertical boards rising like timbers, towering above the sitting 84 year old woman. The chair is a throne more than a place of rest. It is a fixture exalted by its function. Its special role is to be a gathering place. Sitting here, the elder womanoffers silent, contemplative thanks for the immeasurable gifts of life given by an immeasurable God whose hand and will wrote the sky and colors and trees and fields seen by her living eye, restored her peace after troubles and calmed her fears, and gave her the health and strength she feels within. Look carefully at her face: her eyes are looking within; this wonder is almost too much to contemplate. Her hand supports the weight of this glorious knowledge, this lived experience.
Each day the woman sits in this chairknowing that God calls to her. Her face is etched with a light filled with bright love. She is seeing something that belongs only to her. Dust, hard work, and weariness can not diminish this place she has entered. In fact, the journey to this place is a praise song deep in the soul. This elder woman has worked and earned a living turning the ground with a long handled hoe. Her real earning shows in the promise of her face, her hand touching her cheek to affirm that this presence that stirs within her is as real as the ground she works. Yet Lange’s composition makes this photo work: she photographs the woman from the side, allowing the viewer to look in. She subtly uses wood, the chair and the long, vertical house boards (rising out of view of the photo) to call to mind the altar chair in a church. Her composition frames and presents this woman’s story.The second shot is deceptive and its features easy to miss. It looks like the stereotypes often associated with this era, but close inspection offers a profound difference. This women, by her own words, born two years before the surrender, in 1863; in 1937, sheis 84 years old!
At 84, she poses as a life-long, proud farm worker, a skilled laborer, knowing both how to tend a crop from planting to harvest, but also knowing, from long experience, how to preserve her body from the wear of sun and hand labor. Back and neck muscles and worn-out arthritic bones have often put others out to pasture, but she proudly is going on. Smiling, looking straight into the camera, her face expresses her easy confidence, a fierce pride, a lifelong way-making. This second portrait is taken at work rest.
Master Work: Portrait at Work Rest of an 84 unnamed Mississippi Woman,
A Sharecropper skilled in “hoe culture,” “born two years before the surrender.”
The details of her longsuccess are in the details of her stance. Her thin frame is at an angle to the hoe. The angle offsets the pulling action of chopping by torquing the pull. As she chops the ground and pulls the hoe to turn the soil, her body twists from her lower back, hips, and thighs. In fact, by the portrait, her action works exactly like a modern rotary tiller, whose curves blades lift and spin the soilin exactly the same way she does with with the pose of her body!Her head is elevated, raised from the neck. Keeping her neck up and her head raised staves off the painful onslaught of arthritic that field workers who bent their necks and dropped their heads suffer from.
But the signature adaption she has made is easy to miss. Look carefully at her right hand. Her palm is turned out. Her thumb is below her fingers. Pulling out prevents the muscles and tendons from becoming sore and uses the shoulder and back to pull the load as her lower back swings around, using her legs and thighs to complete the action.
This portrait is a brilliant photograph. It is an anthropological study of advanced farm worker’s techniques. (I can find no other photograph of workers before or after the civil war photographed in a similar pose, showing similar techniques.)
I am glad to share both photographs with you. Enjoy this remarkable story, connecting the American experience, told by two woman, one whose life touched the 1861 war, experienced freedom as an infant, and hoed the cotton fields of the rural Mississippi Delta; the other, a polio survior, a society photographerwho livedin large cities; both collaborating on a July day in 1937, before and behind a camera set up in the Delta to make these lasting images.
All photographs by Dorothea Lange from the Library of Congress (available with no known restrictions).
Click here to see the Denver Post’s photo blogs amazing color photographs of America during the Great Depression. Many of these are from the same time period as above.
The 2 interviews below feature Walter Rhett, the founder, publisher, editor, and writer of Southern Perlo, the South’s most successful review of shovel ready ideas.
with Walter Rhett, Writer
and hot; good thoughts, improved by memory; hope, love, mercy, and faith, given by eternity.
How do you use Twitter in your professional life? Manage and accelerate stories, ideas, and views.
What’s your favorite Twitter app? Kanaso, allows unlimited characters, great wingbats, modified RTs. Versatile! Paper li – twitter news web dailies. Great sources!
Twitter or Facebook? Tweets, all the way, baby!!!
What was the funniest trend you’ve seen? Whatever it was, a new, more outrageous trend will come tomorrow!
What feature should Twitter add? The ability to op out of sites they recommend! The ability to link multiple accounts.
Who do you wish had a Twitter feed but doesn’t? Many of my good friends!
Is there someone you want to follow you who doesn’t already? If so, who? One never wishes and dreams and tells to titillate! NYB!
Have you ever unfollowed someone? Who and why? Yes! For being press releases w/o new content or views.
Why should we vote for you? I engage; I offer cutting edge content in southern history; I support my followers & others, I look at issues deeply & globaly, I write well.
Terms you wish would start trending on Twitter right now? #peace. #faith. #mercy. The gifts that belong to us all that we can share.
What’s the most interesting connection you’ve made through Twitter?To leading news reporters. (I prefer not to mention names.)
Hashtag you created that you wish everyone used? #perlo for the American subsistance found in every life and story.
How do you make your tweets unique? Fresh insights, good stories, hot tips, personal support, caring tone, honest questions.
What inspires you to tweet? Living; the lives of others. The global human spirit. Every tweet tells of a heart, in joy or distress.
Ever get called out for tweeting too much? In the beginning!
140 characters of advice for a new user? Be silent. Listen to what others have to say. Find your community. Change and grow.
How long can you go without a tweet? Weeks, if I’m deep into a project. But I feel guilty.
How do you imagine Twitter changing? Great platform and search options.
Who do you admire most for his or her use of Twitter? Soledad O’Brien, her amazing humanness; Cory Booker, an inspirational mayor who combines new and old.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions of Twitter?It only duplicates FB. Shorter version. That it has no features.
Why should people follow you? They find their own reasons; it’s presumptive of me to suggest.
Can you name some one-of-a-kind Twitter accounts that you follow?NepalTV, who will often provide ground level commentary upon reply.
How do you decide what to tweet? Posts that travel the world, touch its people, that find and share its stories, old and new, preserve its love, and recall its fear, greenly and cheaply.
Why’d you start tweeting? The posts reflect interests, are easy to share and offer a means of personal support and contact.
Has Twitter changed your life? If yes, how? Yes. Greater confidence, greater satisfaction, new friends, renewed faith in spirit and social action.
What do you wish people would do more of on Twitter? I write history because its truth and honesty gives my writing intimacy and authority. I wish people shared more local history.
How will the world change in the next year? I don’t have a crystal ball. I hope for improved water and health among the world’s poor.
What are some big Twitter faux pas? Sales pitches; too many lists and bests; bad research; inaccurate facts; pushing ideologies, name calling, cursing.
What will the world be like 10 years from now? I love living in the moment.
Walter Rhett has been writing since the fourth grade and has a variety of awards and achievements under his belt: He first published poetry in Essence and a Paris journal, Presence Africane.
Then he switched to nonfiction, winning a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University’s summer writers’ workshop in 1986. He can be contacted at email@example.com for information regarding readings and signings. He also does tours.
Q: What’s your identity as a writer? Where do you find inspiration?
A: I react strongly to stories. I write about epic memories. I’m a Perlo writer — perlo is a Charleston rice dish made with local bounty. Perlo’s spice is history. I write history because the debate is settled and the facts are not disputed — unless you are talking about the Civil War. I write nonfiction because its truth and honesty give my writing voice intimacy and authority.
Q: Who are your major influences?
A: Frank Yerby, a wildly popular Georgia novelist from the mid-20th century who lived in Spain and sold 30 million books. Florida’s Zora Neale Hurston — she had absolutely the best ear among Southern writers. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks for her elegance. Local jazz writer Jack McCray for his swing. New York Times columnist Gail Collins — I actually scream and cheer at her lines.
Q: What advice would you give to local writers?
A: Practice craft. Find your voice and gain a sense of discovery and authority.
Q: When and how often do you write?
A: I write daily, usually posting in the top 100 online markets. Using standard metrics, my weekly audience averages 100,000 readers. New York Times Nobel and Pulitzer winning columnists frequently single out my work. Times columns feature and promote comment essays. The writers and editors highlight the exceptional essays and rank readers’ recommendations. I’m usually there.
I post my Southern Perlo blog (www.southernperlo.wordpress.com) weekly in 35 mid- and major U.S. newspaper markets: Savannah; Montgomery, Ala.; Des Moines, Iowa; and San Francisco, where the online editor invited me to post on their political page. I publish Southern Perlo on its own site with beautiful graphics and photos. I also publish three online news dailies and update a news stream and a unique Lowcountry history stream on twitter (www.twitter.com/walterrhett). I love photographs; Perlo and my twitter streams feature many of them.
Q: What’s in store for the future?I just finished my new paperback, “Butter My Biscuit,” a collection focused on Southern wit and storytelling. It’s available for the holidays.
To stir the pot, here’s a brief passage:
“But my mind always goes back to Ms. Lucy’s lunch. There are days when the single thought of a bite of her breads is enough to sustain me through the crush of a world that has left me starved for so much.”