Friday, November 28, 2008

Stupid butterflies

We've had several frosts during the past week, so I was amazed to see a bunch of butterflies today. They were there, I swear it. I tried repeatedly to photograph one. It's a conspiracy. They vanish while my shutter is lagging. I was Required to stop chasing butterflies and perform a Scooter-scratching, and while I was thus preoccupied a butterfly circled my head and took off by the time I'd picked the camera back up! Little bleepers.

But all the components of yesterday's drawing are really out and about as November wanes, and the others were more cooperative:

I had to give up on the butterflies but maybe you'll settle for ladybugs. 4 of them at various spots on the porch walls, but this was the only semi-clear shot.

All photos were taken this afternoon.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

For these, and all Thy mercies

Thankful today.

Ple-e-ease blacken our Friday!

Nice big newspaper arrived this holiday morning.

Only they forgot to include .... the actual newspaper. This is all ads, except for the pre-printed "Neighbors" feature section.

I guess we'll get some news today, when they redeliver.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Track the tool bag!

Among my iGoogle gadgets, I have the one that tracks satellites. You can pick the one you want to track, and get an active map of where it is whenever you log on.

Today a new tracking option appeared -- The Tool Bag!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tough times, new methods

You'll need to click these scans, to really see them!

I've tried to strike a balance between shrinking the files to manageable size and still making them large enough to be readable, but the original magazines are huge and the pix are just plain BIG.

I had a grandiose idea a couple years ago, about doing a whole website about comic strip ads. Small though my vintage magazine collection is, there are plenty of the ads and they always make me smile. Once I had a scanner, I looked into the matter of rights and discovered that ads are a whole different ballgame from other creative works. If we win the lottery, I might take my newfound leisure time and really get serious about it, but meanwhile I've obviously given in to my desire to share a few of them here.

My vintage magazine collection is small and haphazard. The dates are unevenly distributed, with big gaps. And at least for now, I'm just posting for fun and have done no research about any of this. So they in NO way provide "proof" of anything about the history of ads, but interesting observations stand out.

Ads in the style of a comic strip really don't exist until the Depression is well underway. The biggest stack I've got is 1920's magazines, and there's not a comic strip ad in any of them.

Modern ad methods are starting to appear. I love both of these: the graceful lines and the use of white space in the Lifebuoy ad (McCalls, Aug. 1926); and in the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce ad (Time, Sept 10, 1928), the energetic, stylized, rather jagged images that make me a little antsy, as an evocation of the "impatient age" should. Cartoon drawings abound, but not strips with word balloons that tell a story.

In the early 1930's, comic-strip ads appear and then they really seem to proliferate. Through the '30's (and '40's) there are several in every magazine. My Deep Thought Of The Day is that tougher competition for customers spurs innovative advertising methods. Advertising may be an industry that's valued more than ever during hard times, and primed by the economic-stress pump.

The earliest in my collection, come from Woman's Home Companion, November 1931. Two comic strips ads nearly identical in format and page placement. Not really terribly interesting as ads go, but the form was new and different!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A veteran's story [updated]

When we lived in New Jersey, ten years ago, Larry and I started a witers' group, and one of our members was WWII veteran David Wetherill. Dave was a wonderful man and a major asset to the group.

For this upcoming Veterans' Day, Larry has contacted David's widow and received permission to publish in his Ring of Life blog a true story that Dave wrote for his outfit's newsletter, about his quest to find out what had happened to the pilot who didn't make it home when they were shot down. It moved us deeply and you guys might like it too. You can find Part One (of 2) here, along with more about Dave. Larry will post the rest tomorrow and I will link that in an update.

And by the way, Dave and Jean's daughter is the youth novelist Susan Shaw.


And as promised, Part 2 of Dave's story, Poppy Field Found, is now up.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Shelter From The Storm

In memoriam a troubled soul, 1952-2008. One of his favorite songs. He never found it in this life and I pray he's found it now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

All I can say is ...

...I hope she won.

"Competent" and "efficient" are very very important.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Heart gets weary

If you live in the south you fight the god damned Civil War and fight it and fight it and fight it. There's no rest for this war. And you are always on a side, because your race is assumed to correlate exactly with your stand unless you actively proclaim otherwise.

My slave-owning South Carolina ancestor came to SC with very little, started a lumber and shipbuilding business in the 1830's and began to accumulate his fortune. In 1861, a northern journalist made a tour through the Carolinas and devotes a few pages of the resulting book to him, among many others. It's still in reprint editions. I was amazed to discover that there's even a Kindle edition! It identifies G3 Grandfather only as "Captain B--" but every family member knows who it refers to and a copy of the book can be found in every senior family member's house.

The Captain was apparently an exceptionally kind master. He was both pro-slavery and a Unionist. The book quotes him as he argues with a secessionist:

"Who will do the work in your new Empire -- I do not mean the agricultural labor; you will depend for that, of course, on the blacks -- but who will run your manufactories and do your mechanical labor? The Southern gentleman would feel degraded by such occupation; and if you put the black to any work requiring intelligence, you must let him think, and when he THINKS he is free!"
My cousins have taken to renting and shooting off a bleepin' cannon on Confed'rate Holy Days. They vote for Republicans. We avoid some topics. And you might notice that in this entry I'm working to avoid searchable terms. Lily-livered, I know.

But there's a logic to people like Captain B's descendants feeling wistful about the mythical magnolia-scented Compassionate Conserv- I mean Confed'racy.

What I will never ever understand is why so many other white southerners share it.

The elite few mega-planters were happy to keep the poor whites poor and ignorant. Another big-time planter quoted in the book says: "To be candid, their presence is of use in keeping the blacks in subordination, and they are worth all they cost me because I control their votes."

The author asks him: "Build a free school at every crossroads and teach the poor whites, and what would become of slavery? If these people were on par with New England farmers, would it last an hour?"

And the planter agrees it would not: "The few cannot rule when the many know their rights. If the poor whites realized that slavery kept them poor, would they not vote it down?" and adds of schools, "Thank God they will not be there in this generation."

Slave ownership and resulting prosperity were within reach of the working farmer, early in the 19th century. G3 Grandpa got into it when it was still possible with hard work to become a "self-made man" building a slave labor force. Then as cotton plantations became the 19th century equivalent of today's sprawling mega-farms, that dream became accessible only to the wealthy. The cost of slaves skyrocketed out of most peoples' reach. Rich planters could cost effectively support a work force of hundreds of slaves, supporting the babies, the sick and the old in order to have the laborers, and did so by simple economy of provisions. A certain amount of good food and shelter kept laborers healthy enough to produce labor, but extras cut into profit.

They also hired out their slaves to others who paid the owner and still had to provision the hirelings. Small-scale farmers would have been better off paying wage labor than either paying over $1000 for one slave or hiring at whatever rate the owner charged. One guy who had to hire labor for a turpentine-gathering concern says to the author, "For my part, I'd like to see the n-----s free":

"White folks would be better off. You see, I have to feed and clothe my n-----s and pay a hundred and twenty and a hundred and fifty a year for 'em, and if the n-----s war free, they'd work for about half that."

As with many big social changes, perception lagged behind reality. The poor who had little but white pride still thought they could aspire to the same economic status as the rich guys. After all, the cotton-culture change in the economy was so recent that they knew wealthy plantation-owners who'd started out as poor as they, and thought it was still possible. Under those circumstances, the poor tend to fight for the rich folks' agenda, and share the dream of a "way of life."So it's understandable for the time.

What I don't get is their descendants romanticizing it now. Now. Today, when we supposedly know not only how vile slavery is in theory but how it kept everybody but the elite down.

I marched against the Confed'rate battle flag's presence on the SC state house in September 1994. What Captain B would have thought of this, I can't say. The book's ardent abolitionist author tells us that "Being obnoxious to the Secession leaders for his well-known Union sentiments, he was onerously assessed by them for contributions for carrying on the war," and adds that he had 5 of his ships seized by the Union. Each side penalized him for ties to the other. Two of his sons fought in gray and one died. I'm probably overidentifying, based on that sad and weary look he has in the photo, to think he felt as I do, that both sides were horrendously stupid, and none of it need have happened.

Thankfully the other son, G2 Grandpa, survived capture by the Yankees or I wouldn't be here to march and blog, and risk outraging some readers. Blacks are expected to oppose the battle flag, but I'm sure some flag-proponents would, maybe aggressively, think me a traitor to my own people. The roadside jeering when we marched was quite unsettling.

I admit I was unprepared for the strictly racial lines the issue seemed to take. Honest, I thought the march would be majority black but not that I would be one of only 5 (if I recall correctly) white people in it. I really thought it was more of a liberal/conservative divide. Boy did I learn different. When the New York Times reported on the march it identified the two sides of the flag issue as "white" and "black." Mind-bogglingly true.

Is ardor for one's Confed'rate heritage really racism covered over with blather about states' rights and economics and the Constitution? If the descendants of those whose opportunity was ruined by the slavery-based system are still calling the Confed'racy their heritage, can it be anything else?

Yet so many of my cannon-shootin' neighbors and relations are no such thing.

I have SC roots back to the bloody 17th century, I'm one of them, and I don't understand either them or the whole Confed'rate Heritage phenomenon. I do know, however, that root causes really can get lost in history.

O gawd here comes another of my Meaningful Analogies.

In elementary school we made Christmas ornaments one year, by blowing up balloons and wrapping a filigree of string around them. Then we coated the web of string with spray starch. Once the starch dried, we popped the balloons and pulled them out, leaving a lacy open sphere. Mine collapsed anyway, either portending my departure from my heritage, or proving I'm just lousy at crafts.

It's absurdly naive to think that racial identity isn't a key element in the Confed'rate heritage thing, but I know non-racist southerners, educated, friends of diversity, who cling to it. I can only think that once the arguments about states' rights and economic suppression got wrapped around the Confed'rate nostalgia, time and education could remove -- in some of us -- the racial identity component and leave the structure of legal arguments intact. That may well be the exception and not the rule.

It's difficult to determine whether a battle-flag waver is: a racist; not a racist; or infected with racism so subtle he/she isn't aware of it. The feelings are complex, built of layers and layers, old stories, old dreams of people who died 100 years ago, the grandparent you loved or feared, or both, teacher and playmates and preachers, and the person who was kind or cruel or scary to you at some forgotten moment when you were 5.

But unless the Confed'rate Heritage people really are all descended from the elite of the plantation era, then it still looks to me like descendants of 18th century French peasants pining for life under Louis XVI.