Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nostalgia (part 2) - Christmas Past in War and Peace

everystockphoto.com/Christmas Festival
Old movies and television shows give us a peek into Christmas Past - not long past, but perhaps our past, our parents' past, and even our grandparents' past.

And some of our best loved classics have meant much to the Greatest Generation who lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, then settled down with a special loved one during the post-war period of the 1950s.

My pick from the pop culture of the past are two iconic holiday scenes from the 1950s, one from the movies, the other from television:

Christmas Past in Wartime

White Christmas (1954) opens with crooner Bing Crosby as Captain Bob Wallace singing the title song.  This classic captures the nostalgia of the soldiers, who were fighting overseas, yet yearning for home during the holidays.  That feeling is timeless.



And Bing Crosby was also a great patriot.  America had entered World War II when he was 37 and, with a family, he was deemed too old to put on the uniform and fight.  But much like his contemporary Bob Hope, Bing Crosby worked tirelessly to entertain the troops and boost their morale.  [reference:  As Veterans Day approaches, niece remembers Bing Crosby's service to soldiers]

The composer of White Christmas, Irving Berlin (1888 - 1989), like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, was a patriot as well.  Born Israel Baline,  he was an immigrant to America, fleeing religious persecution of the Jewish community in his native Russia and settling in New York City.  For more on his biography - Irving Berlin - Biography - Songwriter - Biography.com

From a misspelling of his name, I. Berlin, as lyricist, Israel Baline decided to keep the name and become known as Irving Berlin. And what followed were many ironies of a Jewish composer choosing the surname Berlin. Most obvious, his career spanned two World Wars, which the United States fought against Germany, whose capital was Berlin.  And Hitler's Germany was hell-bent to exterminate the Jews, like Irving Berlin.

During World War I, Irving Berlin had first written God Bless America, as a great peace song.  But with a glut of patriotic songs coming out at the time, he tabled it.  Two decades later, Kate Smith introduced his peace song in 1938 at the cusp of World War II.  Another irony.  For more on this story: The story behind Irving Berlin's "God Bless America"

Though Jewish, Irving Berlin composed one of his best loved songs, White Christmas, celebrating a Christian holiday.  Yet another irony.  And it was Bing Crosby who introduced White Christmas to the world - on Christmas: December 25, 1941 - just as America had entered into World War II a few weeks earlier.  [reference:  Bing Crosby introduces "White Christmas" to the world — History.com This Day in History — 12/25/1941]

Christmas Past in Peacetime

And in the movie, White Christmas, the war came to an end.  And the plot focused on the characters making their way during peacetime and ending their adventures with a big Christmas production, such as shown here:  White Christmas ending

But during the postwar years, the early days of television produced another classic holiday scene from  the Honeymooners (1955-1956) .  Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason, a bus driver in New York City, struggled to strike it rich. Meanwhile, his wife Alice, played by Audrey Meadows, pulled him back to earth.  The couple would fight and argue, such as in these scenes:  Bang Zoom ...You're Going to the Moon!

But Ralph and Alice, bereft of material goods, living in a spartan apartment, deeply loved each other.  And during Christmas, Ralph waxed nostalgic about his feelings during this closing scene from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (24 Dec. 1955).

The entire episode can be seen on youtube:  The Honeymooners S01E13 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

In spite of the everyday struggle of the middle class, those seemingly more innocent times as shown in popular entertainment reflected the post-war optimism during peace.

Christmas past ... Christmas present ...  

Let me wax nostalgic during Christmastime. During this dark time of the year of short days, long nights (at least for us living in the northern hemisphere) the goodwill spirit of the season has an effect on us.  Ralph Kramden  expressed it so beautifully in the clip above.  We may seem kinder, more generous, more compassionate toward one another than at any other time of the year.

And Christmas seems to reflect the optimism that during a dark season such as the dead of winter, we've turned the corner.  Spring will soon come and our days will get longer and nights shorter.   And my Christmas wish is for a kinder spirit to prevail throughout the New Year.

Merry Christmas!
And God bless us everyone!

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Previous post in this series:

Nostalgia (part 1) - A Father's Thanksgiving Prayer  (2014)


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CC (part 3) - Happy Bill of Rights Day

Wikipedia/We the People

The Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution, were ratified on December 15, 1791.  [reference:  Bill of Rights Institute: Bill of Rights]

Our most cherished freedoms as Americans come from the Bill of Rights.  And they still are debated to this day.  For a good summary of them, check out the clip below:





In the Book, His Tribe of One, from The Commander and the Chief series, these Bill of Rights are mentioned, as shown in the scene here:

The "Chief," Dr. Nova Orlovic, is collecting the major players for her search and recovery expedition for her missing husband, Admiral Quinn, which the world believes is dead.  She is accompanied by a long time friend of the family, Kaya Stillwater.

Nova's agent Lord Frederick Wise has just introduced her to Colonel Jack Sheffield as they are waiting for the Commander, Dr. Barrett.  Meanwhile they are discussing Nova's career change from a scientist to a lawyer.  (If you wish to know why ... well, you have to read the book. )

“Admit it, doctor.”  Wise smiled at her.  “Scientists do run in your family.”

Nova skewed her lips.  “But I don’t do science, anymore.  Remember?  I’m a lawyer now.”

“Really?”  The Colonel looked surprised, again.  “I’d like to see your business card for that.”

And Nova delivered, producing one from her jacket pocket that said, Law Offices of Orlovic, Lee, and Kim.  Their logo had a quill resting in an ink bottle and an antique firearm framing an outline of the state of California.  Below were the words:  The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.  “Our motto is a quote from Thomas Jefferson.  He wrote the Declaration of Independence, among other things.”
   
Jack examined the card.  “What’s with the feather and old gun?” 
  
“Symbols of the Bill of Rights.  The quill is Freedom of Speech.”  Then Nova grinned.  “But it’s the Second Amendment – the Right to Bear Arms – that gives teeth to ensure we keep the rest of our rights.”
  
“Oh, bite me.”  The Colonel leered.

“Don’t.”  Kaya glared at Jack, then resumed her knitting.

Jack flinched.  The last woman to make him jump like that was a lion tamer, who loved to crack whips as foreplay.

“It’s okay, Colonel.  Kaya is quite protective.”  Then Nova added fondly, “She has watched over me since my mother died when I was twelve.”

“It was your grandfather’s wish.”  Kaya twirled some yarn about her turquoise-ringed fingers.

ffrom:  The Commander and the Chief 
Book 1: His Tribe of One 
Part 1 - Admiral Connor Quinn, MIA 
Chapter 5 - Is there a doctor in the house?


And as for Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, here is a pithy tribute to this foundering father:




In summary, Thomas Jefferson left America three main legacies:

*  Political Freedom
*  Religious Freedom
*  Intellectual Freedom

And most of all this warning, which is quite relevant in our day:

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.


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His Tribe of One in an eBook form, and it can be sampled and purchased for:

NOOK devices at Barnes and Noble:  His Tribe of One


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For the latest news, check out:  S. K. Smith - The Commander and the Chief

Your readership is most appreciated!


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For other posts in this series:

CC (part 1) - The Commander and the Chief: His Tribe of One (2014)

CC (part 2) - Universe in a Glass of Wine  (2014)

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Picture from:  Wikipedia/We the People

Monday, December 1, 2014

CC (part 2) - Universe in a Glass of Wine

everystockphoto.com/Cheers!

Richard Feynman once quoted a poet -

'The whole universe is in a glass of wine.'

[reference:  Goodreads | Quote by Richard P. Feynman: “A poet once said, 'The whole universe is in a g...”

And the clip below illustrates Dr. Feynman's comments as to how our universe is connected with a glass of wine:


( reference:  http://youtu.be/b3_n7TDL7lc )


For a great graphic of this conversation:  ZEN PENCILS » 67. RICHARD FEYNMAN: The universe in a glass

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This Dr. Feynman quote becomes the slogan of one of Dr. Nova Orlovic's businesses in the thriller series:  The Commander and the Chief.  Here are some excerpts from the first book, His Tribe of One, concerning that quote:

In this scene, Nova Orlovic's agent, Lord Frederick Wise, recruits British Colonel Jack Sheffield for the search and recovery expedition to find her husband, US Admiral Connor Quinn.  The excerpt begins with Colonel Jack Sheffield asking Lord Wise about this mystery.

“Remind me, again, why have you come to me with this mystery and not the Americans?”
  
“I come at the request of Dr. Orlovic.”

“Doctor … who?”
 
“Admiral Quinn’s widow … my client … Dr. Nova Orlovic.”  Then Wise presented her business card for Chief Rainmaker Winery.  It had a silhouette of a curvaceous Indian maiden in a war bonnet holding a goblet with stars and galaxies bubbling out and surrounding the quote:  The whole universe is in a glass of wine.

from:  The Commander and the Chief 
Book 1: His Tribe of One 
Part 1 - Admiral Connor Quinn, MIA 
Chapter 3 - Soldier of Fortune

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His Tribe of One reveals that the "Chief," Dr. Nova Orlovic, had a career in physics, as in the Stephen Hawking kind of physics.  Why did Nova give up her career?  Read the book and find out.

Meanwhile, here is a tribute to some of Dr. Stephen Hawking's insights:





Below is an other except from the story where Stephen Hawking is mentioned along with Richard Feynman's quote:

In this scene, Lord Frederick Wise has just introduced Colonel Jack Sheffield to his client, Dr. Nova Orlovic.  Meanwhile they are waiting in her luxury suite for the Commander, Dr. Reginald Barrett, the doctor they hope to hire for their expedition. 

“Pleased to finally meet you, doctor.”  The Colonel kissed the hand of the beauty in a black pantsuit, which he noticed she wore so well. 

“And likewise, Colonel.”  Nova returned a sidelong smile.

Jack raised a blond eyebrow.  “You can give me a physical anytime, doctor.”

Looking over this fit Viking in tweed, Nova tossed back her long dark hair and laughed.  “But I’m not an R-D.  I don’t do physicals.”

“R-D?”

“Real Doctor.  I’m not a medical doctor.  But Fred … he likes to call me doctor … that’s because I have a Ph.D.”

“In what, may I ask?”

“Physics.”

“As in … Stephen Hawking kind of physics?”  The Colonel pulled out her card from his breast pocket. 

“Yep.”  Nova’s brown eyes sparkled from the flames of the fireplace.  “And I see Fred gave you one of my business cards.”

The Colonel read it.  “The whole universe is in a glass of wine.”

“Our motto for Chief Rainmaker Winery.  It’s one of Richard Feynman’s favorite quotes.”

“So this fine man is a poet?”

“Actually, Colonel, Dr. Richard Feynman was a famous American physicist.  He passed away in the late twentieth century.”

from:  The Commander and the Chief 
Book 1: His Tribe of One 
Part 1 - Admiral Connor Quinn, MIA 
Chapter 5 - Is there a doctor in the house?

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Eventually, Nova's expedition takes the Colonel and the Commander into the Forbidden Area in the Middle East.  Nova likens to the Badlands in the Dakotas in America.  Away from light pollution, the three see the glories of the heavens such as seen in this clip below:





In this scene, Nova and her team set up camp for the night in the desert.  They are struck by the view.

Reggie and Jack stepped next to Nova, who said, “Looks magnificent out here.  And to think all those stars are giant thermonuclear reactors hung in the fabric of space-time.”

“And all the elements in our bodies are made of star dust,” Reggie added.

Jack said fondly to Reggie, “Sounds so romantic, darling.”

Reggie punched Jack in the arm.

“Take it easy, boys.”  Then Nova lifted her hands.  “The whole universe is in a glass of wine.”

Reggie said, “Then let’s drink in the night, Chief.”

“Cheers!”  Jack stepped between them, then took a swig from his flask.

from:  The Commander and the Chief 
Book 1: His Tribe of One 
Part 5 -  The Badlands 
Chapter 2  - The Cleft of the Rock


everystockphoto.com/Under the Milky Way
Let Heaven and nature sing!

Cheers!

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His Tribe of One in an eBook form, and it can be sampled and purchased for:

NOOK devices at Barnes and Noble:  His Tribe of One


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For the latest news, check out:  S. K. Smith - The Commander and the Chief

Your readership is most appreciated!


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For another post in this series:

CC (part 1) - The Commander and the Chief: His Tribe of One (2014)

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photo credit:  everystockphoto.com/Cheers! ; everystockphoto.com/Under the Milky Way

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Biblia Files (part 4) - Waiting ....

everystockphoto.com/Advent Light

Advent ... it's all about waiting.

And it's the first event celebrated in the traditional liturgical calendar.  And for 2014, Advent starts Sunday, 30 November and continues to the 4th Sunday on 21 December.
[references:  Advent Days 2014, Liturgical Calendar 2015 (pdf) ]

For more details on this first event of the Christian liturgical calender, check out this fine resource:  Celebrating Advent.  But this video clip gives a good summary and perspective:




In Summary:

Waiting ... Hope ... Anticipation ... before Christmas
Remembering the first coming of Christ to a dark and sinful world
*  Galatians 4:4
*  John 1:14
Anticipating He's coming back on the last day - the second Advent

Meanwhile, while we wait ....

But you, dear friends, 
by building yourselves up in your most holy faith
and praying in the Holy Spirit, 
keep yourselves in God’s love 
as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ 
to bring you to eternal life.


Blessings, my friends, 
      during the Holy Days ...

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nostalgia (part 1) - A Father's Thanksgiving Prayer

Wikipedia/Thanksgiving Grace

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday.  And this holiday has been the focus of some TV specials and episodes in series, especially in the 1950s.  Reflecting on some of the early days of television is a good lead in for this new thread -

nostalgia


a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time:  a nostalgia for his college days.

according to:  nostalgia. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved November 23, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nostalgia

One popular show of the 1950s was  Father Knows Best (1954 - 1960). At its center was a loving family: a hard working father, a wise stay-at-home mother, and three kids growing up in more innocent times.  And it was a time when prayer and patriotism were not banned from public places or ridiculed, but they were encouraged in our culture.

The series first Thanksgiving episode, "Father Knows Best" Thanksgiving Day (TV Episode 1954), focused on this holiday that had started out badly.  But in the end, the family came together and the father prayed with his wife and children.




Though it first aired 60 years ago, this final scene still touches me and fills me with nostalgia.

This father leads, loves, and prays.  And he thanks God for their blessings, which are our blessings: our country and our freedoms, especially personal rights to worship, think, and speak as we choose.  And finally he thanks God for his family and their love for one another.

With the masculine references and King James English, this prayer is as un-PC as it gets.  But these virtues are a good thing to remember and something to reclaim.  The following Scriptures come to mind:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

During this Thanksgiving special, with its religious roots, its nostalgia helps me to -

Remember Who We Are!
   
For its history and its impact on our culture, here is a  good resource for more information for starters:   Thanksgiving - Facts, Origin, Pictures & Videos - History.com


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

CC (part 1) - The Commander and the Chief: His Tribe of One

design by S. K. Smith

I'm pleased to announce the launch of a new thriller series:

The Command and the Chief

Book 1
His Tribe of One

Admiral Quinn’s widow,Nova Orlovic, has many doubts about US President Lincoln Todd’s version of her husband’s death.  Suspecting a cover-up, the “Chief” as Nova is known goes on the warpath against the Todd Administration.  She forms her own search and recovery expedition with help from Lord Frederick Wise, a man of many talents.

With Wise’s long reaching connections, Nova assembles a team of Brits to get to the bottom of it, among them Commander Reginald Barrett.  During their expedition, the Commander and the Chief annoy each other until mutual respect bonds them.  But when they stumble upon evidence that could take down the powerful, will they manage to make it out alive?


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For now its in an eBook form and can be sampled and purchased for:

NOOK devices at Barnes & Noble:  His Tribe of One


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For the latest news, check out:  S. K. Smith - The Commander and the Chief

I will let you know when it comes available in print.

Your readership is most appreciated!

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Photo:  The Commander and Chief designed by S. K. Smith

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pray4America (part 16) - God Bless America, 1938

everystockphoto.com/RoadTrip

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) originally wrote God Bless America for the military revue Yip! Yip! Yaphank! in 1918 during World War I.  Twenty years later, the composer changed a few words, and it was reintroduced on Armistice Day (today, known as, Veterans Day) in 1938 on The Kate Smith Show.  The song - a solemn prayer for peace - tapped into the national psyche as World War II was about to break out.

Below is a dramatization of that reintroduction from the 1943 movie, This is the Army.  One of the stars, Ronald Reagan, is shown at 4:20 in this clip:




As World War One (1914-1918) began 100 years ago and World War Two (1939-1945) 75 years ago, this Veterans Day, let us be grateful for our heroes who sacrificed for freedom and protected us.  Also, may we offer our solemn prayers and ...

Pray for America

May God be gracious to us and bless us

    and make his face shine on us—
that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.
 
Psalm 67:1,2 (NIV) 


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