Sunday, November 19, 2017

Quote of the Day (George Whitefield, on God’s Promises)

“Plead His promises, be much in secret prayer, and never give God rest, till your soul is filled with all His fulness.”—English revivalist George Whitefield (1714-1770), Nov. 19, 1742 letter, Letters of George Whitefield, For the Period 1734-1742 (1771)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Photo of the Day: Johnny Mercer Statue, Savannah, GA

The last time I visited Savannah was three years ago this month, for an afternoon, on a vacation spent mostly in Hilton Head, SC. 

But, in this coastal city of distinctive Southern charm, I was delighted to come across, on my way to somewhere else, something I never expected to see, in Ellis Square. I’ve been waiting three years to use this photo of an outdoor sculpture I snapped then, and what better occasion than on what would have been the 108th birthday of Johnny Mercer?

I never grasped the full extent of this lyricist’s contribution to the Great American Songbook until I saw Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which uses—more effectively than anything else in that often disappointing movie—a soundtrack filled with classic Mercer songs. But really, his songs had been flowing slowly into my consciousness, much like the lazy Georgia rivers this Savannah native loved as a boy.

In the early 1960s, Mercer won consecutive Best Song Oscars for “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses” to go along with two others he had won previously. But that comes nowhere near to conveying the breadth, beauty and verve of his work. Think also of “Skylark,” “Blues in the Night,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive,” "Jeepers Creepers," “That Old Black Magic,” “One For My Baby," "Autumn Leaves," “Satin Doll" and “Summer Wind.”

Outside of his lyrics, Mercer—unique among lyricists and composers in the golden age of the Great American Songbook—also made his mark as quite a good singer in his own right and an astute business executive and talent scout, as co-founder of Capitol Records, which he helped establish 75 years ago.

Back in October 1999, on a longer vacation in Savannah, I had made sure to see Bonaventure Cemetery, where Mercer was buried in 1976. While it’s a lovely spot, his gravesite is, of course, a somber affair.

That was part of the reason why the Ellis Square bronze statue—unveiled in 2009, in commemoration of the centennial of Mercer’s birth—pleased me so much when I viewed it. 

Sculptor Susie Chisholm placed it not far from Savannah’s City Market, a setting with an active nightlife and music. Here looking up from his newspaper, as if you’ve just caught him by surprise, wearing a hat and a Huck Finn grin (even down to the gap in his teeth), is a guy with all the warmth and charm in the world—with not merely one song in his heart, but 1,400.

Quote of the Day (Russell Baker, on the ‘Trump Captivity’)

“To the extent that it had any political content at all, the Trump Captivity might be described as a flare-up of reactionary demagoguery. There was obvious racism in the effort to deny Obama’s citizenship and a hint of more in the slogan about making America ‘great again.’ This could not have been easy to swallow for a party one of whose founders was Abraham Lincoln, yet it submits quietly to the more blatant racism still flourishing in Congress with the do-nothing politics of Senate leaders like Mitch McConnell and the reactionary House faction that rules by terrifying two inert parties.”—Russell Baker, “On the Election—I,” The New York Review of Books, Nov. 10, 2016

At the time he wrote this, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Russell Baker was describing how Donald Trump had captured the Republican Party. A year later, following a cataclysmic election that sounds more and more like a mistake with each passing day, it is America as  a whole that the dictator wannabe has captured.

“America Held Hostage.” During the Iranian hostage crisis nearly 40 years ago under Jimmy Carter, TV viewers grew used to watching those words appear on their screens in the late hours of each evening, in the ABC news show that became Nightline.

Now, America is held hostage again, this time by a touchy megalomaniac unable to stand the slightest criticism even from within the party he captured with shocking swiftness, with far greater damage:

*to civility toward opponents;

*to a rational two-party system; 

*to economic and racial equality; 

*to Presidential rhetoric that contributes to the nation's ideals; 

*to the notion that religion can bring authentic moral witness to the public square; 

*to the global environment left to future generations;

* to national security; 

* to the Constitution;

* and to citizens abroad who can no longer look to the promise of the nation that Abraham Lincoln once termed “the last best hope of earth.”

Friday, November 17, 2017

Quote of the Day (Calvin Trillin, on Skyscraper Restaurants)

"I never eat in a restaurant that’s over a hundred feet off the ground and won’t stand still.” —American journalist, humorist, and gourmand Calvin Trillin, American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater (1974)

(Photo of Calvin Trillin taken at a discussion at Dartmouth College, February 2011.)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quote of the Day (Anthony Trollope, on How a Mind Is Made Up)

"A man's mind will very gradually refuse to make itself up until it is driven and compelled by emergency."— British novelist Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Ayala’s Angel (1880)