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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Frederick Douglass Escapes ► Throwback Thursday

Born into slavery in what might have been 1818, Frederick Douglass eventually became an icon of the Abolitionist Movement.

Although it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write, Sophia Auld, the wife of Douglass' owner Hugh, taught him the alphabet around the age of 12. When Hugh Auld heard of this he forbade the lessons, but Douglass had already tasted education and couldn't get enough of it. He continued to learn from the White children around him and read whatever he could get his hands on. According to Biography
It was through reading that Douglass’ ideological opposition to slavery began to take shape. He read newspapers avidly, and sought out political writing and literature as much as possible. In later years, Douglass credited The Columbian Orator with clarifying and defining his views on human rights. Douglass shared his newfound knowledge with other enslaved people. Hired out to William Freeland, he taught other slaves on the plantation to read the New Testament at a weekly church service. Interest was so great that in any week, more than 40 slaves would attend lessons. Although Freeland did not interfere with the lessons, other local slave owners were less understanding. Armed with clubs and stones, they dispersed the congregation permanently.
After 2 unsuccessful attempts to escape, Frederick Douglass finally freed himself from the shackles of slavery on this date in 1838. After his escape he married Anna Murray, a Free Black Woman, and they lived for a while under the assumed name of Johnston, eventually settling back on Douglass as their married name.

Douglass subscribed to the anti-slavery weekly The Liberator, published by William Lloyd Garrison. He started to tell his story of life as a slave in Abolitionist meetings in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which had a large free Black population. Eventually Garrison wrote about Douglass and urged him to write his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which was published in 1845.

The book, translated and sold around the world, was a best seller. However, there was a downside to fame. Douglass had to escape once again, this time to Ireland, where he lectured for 2 years until his supporters could purchase his freedom.

Douglass returned home and continued to fight for the end of slavery. He published several other books: My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881), which was revised 11 years later. He died of a heart attack or stroke in 1895 after being honoured at a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. Thousands attended his funeral. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York, where Susan B. Anthony is also buried.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Trunk Lost In Transit ► A Pastoral Letter

Pastor Ken Wilson wrote this book arguing for
full acceptance of LGBT folk into the church
and uses scripture to back up these arguments.
Dear Pastor Kenny: Long time, no see!

Seriously, it was great reconnecting with you at the tail end of the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research, as brief as our reunion was.

I was mighty disappointed when it looked as if we were not going to meet because of your vacation schedule. When I got your message that you'd be available after all, I dropped everything to high-tail it out to Ann Arbor to see you. Had I not already had something scheduled for the evening, I could have stayed and talked forever because there was still so much I wanted to know. Did you ever see that Saturday Night Live sketch "The Guest Who Would Not Leave"? I was already feeling as if I had overstayed my welcome because it was running into dinnertime and you had just got home from vacation.

I have a confession. [Do you take confession?] Because it didn't look like we'd be getting together, I never finished reading your book. A bigger confession: I've been reading your book with the same critical eye and methodology with which I read James Rosen's historical revisionist history of John Mitchell, Richard Nixon's Attorney General. I filled The Strong Man with yellow Post It Notes and then eviscerated it in the Watergate exposé Did Roger Ailes Dupe James Rosen, Or Did Rosen Dupe 'Merka?

The problem is that right up until the time we met I had been thinking of you as a research project. I used our reconnecting last year as a jumping off point for these Pastoral Letters, in which I am (selfishly) exploring and writing about my Atheism, which grew out of my Agnosticism, which grew out of a Reformed Jewish child. To that end, I've read dozens of reviews of your book, read up on The Third Way, and continue to follow the writings of your old church and your new church.

Random Ann Arbor pic
I have often said, "You can take the boy out of the newsroom, but you can't take the newsroom out of the boy." I was wrong. The journalist in me had a million and one questions for you, but the minute I saw your face, all that went out the window. It was Kenny, my oldest friend in the world!!! I was a little boy again, forgetting all about the Not Now Silly Newsroom. In fact, I was so caught up in just reconnecting that I forgot to take any pictures of you, even though I carried 3 cameras, took some pictures on our walk around Ann Arbor, and usually document every tedious moment of my life.

I am glad we got to talk about your getting kicked to the curb by your old church. I don't know how much of that was said for publication, so I won't. However, I find it a fascinating story on the type of changes churches need to make in order to survive into the next century.

Here's what surprised me the most about our reunion: Maybe it's because you're a Pastor, or because I have been trying to reconnect to my past, or because you're my oldest friend in the world, but I don't know what prompted me to blurt out my deepest, darkest secret. I can't believe I told you what I've shared with less than a half dozen people, 3 of them psychiatrists. The significance of the title of this post will be mysterious for everybody else.

Random Ann Arbor pic
One mystery cleared up, however. Remember how much I was sweating after our walk, even though it wasn't that hot a day? As it turns out, that was the beginning of my uncommon cold, which I wrote about in Road Trips, Writer's Block, and the Uncommon Cold ► Unpacking The Writer

I always feel like I'm behind on all my writing, but even more so with this post. You asked me to send you links to my writing that I felt were worth your time. Originally I thought I'd just shoot you an email. But, then I thought it might make a better Pastoral Letter. Then I kept putting it off as I had other things to write. Better late than never, eh? Not to brag, and only because you asked, here are a few of my posts I think are worth reading:
1). The Detroit Riots • 2). My Days With John Sinclair • 3). Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins • 4) Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins ► Chapter Two • 5). Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins ► Chapter Three • 6). When Whites Went Crazy In Tulsa • 7). Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past • 8). Josephine Baker Born • 9). Is Marc D. Sarnoff Corrupt Or The Most Corrupt Miami Politician? • 10). The Day I Shook Hands With Glenn Beck • 11). The Day I Met Bob Marley • 12). Any & all of my Watergate stories • 13). A Tribute To Alan Turing ► The Man Who Saved The World • 14). A Musical Appreciation ► Cole Porter • and 15). More Proof the Palin Family Are Liars and Grifters, which is as fresh as today's headlines.
Random Ann Arbor pic
And, of course, my Pastoral Letters, which are all addressed to you, whether you've read them or not.

I think I'll leave it here, Ken. The Autumnal Equinox Drum Circle is coming up later this month, which is when I tend to think of Spirituality without a God. And, if you recall, Drum Circles are when I most often think of you. You'll probably be hearing from me again near the end of the month.

Feel free to write back because I never know what you're thinking.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

More Proof the Palin Family Are Liars and Grifters

Glasses have not made her smarter
Sarah "Skagway" Palin, the quittingest governor in Alaska history, gave birth to a waste of flesh named Bristol, who made averitible fortune promoting abstinence despite having had 2 babies out of wedlock.

Bristol Palin proves -- once again -- that she's a fucking hypocrite, which is the very best kind of hypocrite. Today she wrote [all ellipses in the original]: 
The President should be worrying about the radical jihadists in ISIS who are gaining land and power everyday as they enslave, rape, and murder their way through the Middle East. He should be worrying about Pastor Saeed and the other Americans held hostage in Iran while we send billions of dollars to them in a horrible nuclear deal. He should be worrying about the economy, which still hasn’t fully recovered. You should be worrying about our broken immigration system.

The list goes on and on. But instead he worries about renaming a mountain.

Mr. President, stop playing political games and start doing your job.

That’s what Alaskans really care about.

By the way, no one is buying the “Denali is what the Alaskans have called it for years” line. I’ve never called the mountain Denali .. and neither does anyone I know …

It’s Mt. Mckinley [sic] … It always has been and always will be to most of us…

What a waste..
Heya Bristol. Is this anyone you know? 

On July 26, 2009, the day she resigned as Alaska Governor to ride the gravy train, your Carny Barker mother said
Sarah PalinAnd, getting up here, I say it is the best road trip in America. Soaring through Nature's finest show: Danali, the great one. Soaring under the Midnight Sun.
Watch this video starting at 1:25:

Now what do you say, Bristol?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Arthur Godfrey ► A Monday Musical Appreciation

Celebrating a birthday today is Arthur Godfrey, born in 1903. Godfrey rose from a lowly radio announcer to being one of 'Merka's biggest celebrities.

Godfrey served in the Navy as a radio operator. Later he joined the Coast Guard, where he appeared on a local Baltimore radio show. When he left the Coast Guard in 1930, he got a job as a radio announcer at a Baltimore station, followed by a stint in Washington, D.C.

While laid up after a car crash, Godfrey listened to his competition. According to the WikiWackyWoo:
[H]e decided to listen closely to the radio and realized that the stiff, formal style then used by announcers could not connect with the average radio listener. The announcers spoke in stentorian tones, as if giving a formal speech to a crowd and not communicating on a personal level. Godfrey vowed that when he returned to the airwaves, he would affect a relaxed, informal style as if he were talking to just one person. He also used that style to do his own commercials and became a regional star.
He kicked around in radio until:
Godfrey became nationally known in April 1945 when, as CBS's morning-radio man in Washington, he took the microphone for a live, firsthand account of President Roosevelt's funeral procession. The entire CBS network picked up the broadcast, later preserved in the Edward R. Murrow and Fred W. Friendly record series, I Can Hear it Now. Unlike the tight-lipped news reporters and commentators of the day, who delivered news in an earnest, businesslike manner, Godfrey's tone was sympathetic and neighborly, lending immediacy and intimacy to his words. When describing new President Harry S. Truman's car in the procession, Godfrey fervently said, in a choked voice, "God bless him, President Truman." Godfrey broke down in tears and cued the listeners back to the studio. The entire nation was moved by his emotional outburst.
In the meantime, he released songs that could never be played on the radio in today's manufactured outrage society.

Godfrey kept moving up. It was far simpler times and Godfrey's folksy charm was just perfect for the times, where he eventually became one of tee vee's biggest stars. It started in 1948 with Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, the precursor to today's reality talent shows. It was simulcast on both radio and that new invention called television. By 1952 Arthur Godfrey Time was also running on radio and tee vee. Also according to the Woo:
Godfrey's skills as a commercial pitchman brought him a large number of loyal sponsors, including Lipton Tea, Frigidaire, Pillsbury cake mixes and Liggett & Myers's Chesterfield cigarettes.

He found that one way to enhance his pitches was to extemporize his commercials, poking fun at the sponsors (while never showing disrespect for the products themselves), the sponsors' company executives, and advertising agency types who wrote the scripted commercials that he regularly ignored. (If he read them at all, he ridiculed them or even threw aside the scripts in front of the cameras.) To the surprise of the advertising agencies and sponsors, Godfrey's kidding of the commercials and products frequently enhanced the sales of those products. His popularity and ability to sell brought a windfall to CBS, accounting for a significant percentage of their corporate profits.
Here is sample of his television work:

And, Godfrey continued to pump out music that the public bought by the barrel full.

Miami renamed 41st Street Arthur Godfrey Road after him
While Godfrey came across as everyone's favourite avuncular uncle, behind the scenes he was a control freak and abusive to the "Little Godfreys," which is what he called his supporting company.

Then came the Julius LaRosa incident, which burst Godfrey's carefully cultivated personality. According to many reports, jealousy was partially to blame. Godfrey had hired LaRosa as a nobody, after he wowed the audience of Talent Scouts. Eventually LaRose became one of the most popular performers on the show, his fan mail outpacing Godfrey's. Watch:

The public turned against him and that was the beginning of the end for Godfrey. "No humility," the phony excuse Godfrey made after-the-fact for firing LaRosa, became a national punchline. Comedians from coast to coast made fun of Godfrey.

While Godfrey remained in show biz for several decades after that, he never again held the huge audience he had during the height of his career.