Sunday, February 27, 2011

50 Years of myTunes: 1988

There was only one best album of 1988 for me, and there were only a few noteworthy singles. It wasn't me getting old either, because things really picked again in the 90's. 1988 did coincide with paradigm shifts in the music industry. Look at the following chart:


Vinyl albums were dead by 1988. Many people were just re-buying favorites in CD format.  I have no clue what was happening on MTV then.

Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth. Sonic Youth had been around awhile already but they failed to incite or ignite much in me until this album. Truly avant-grunge, their sound picked up where so many had tried (and ultimately given up).  The thing about Sonic Youth was they didn't seem to care about the money.  They exuded coolness, and that was enough for them.


1988 Singles

Only Life  The Feelies trying to catalog the upbeat in NY/NJ

Colors by Ice T, cataloging the decline of L.A.

I Drink Alone by George Thorogood, cataloging some personal decline.

Hello Dad, I'm In Jail by Was (Not Was), cataloging the further decline of Detroit.

____________________

It was mourning in America again, in many ways.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beats Me Man

Ron (@kngFish) tweeted me a video link the other day:
@chickelit This is stuck in my head...live, from 1938. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2S1I_ien6A.
His link goes to:



The drum track on that Benny Goodman song caught my ear. I was, for some reason, instantly reminded of the drums on this (still unidentified) instrumental surf track:



Are the two drum tracks separated at birth?

I think so. They share something. They share a common influence--the great jazz and bebop drummers of the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. I cannot recall the name of the surfer band in my YouTube link. I recorded it from the radio in Madison, WI in the late 80's. I initially marked it as Link Wray--however, I have since been unable to verify this nor match it to any Link Wray tune.

The drummers of that bygone era all learned their chops from the greats like Gene Krupa.

Jim Chapin (1919-2009) wrote a highly influential book called Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, first published in 1948 and which went through about 60-odd printings:


I bought a copy around 1976 at Ward-Brodt Music on Henry St. in Madison when I took lessons (briefly) from a local jazz drummer. I lost my original somewhere, but recently bought another copy.
It's a classic.

50 Years Of MyTunes: 1987

The Replacements "Pleased to Meet Me." I'm forever indebted to those guys for bringing me and my wife together for the first time. We met at their concert:



Warehouse: Songs and Stories, the final album by Hüsker Dü. Some fans thought this album was a sell-out, or they were disappointed. But it's really the only one that I still listen to. I was fortunate to see them play it just before breaking up. I can't find a YouTube of my favorite, Ice Cold Ice, so These Important Years will have to do.

"Heuvos" by the Meat Puppets. Their best album IMHO Just Look At the Rain!

The Joshua Tree by U2 came out in '87. No hype necessary. With Or Without You  & Still Haven't Found.

1987 Singles

Just Like Heaven The Cure

Kinky Sex Makes The World Go Round by the Dead Kennedys. Totally irreverent. No wonder Tipper Gore went after Jello Biafra.

Pipeline by Stevie Ray Vaughn & Dick Dale. Instrumental surf languished for years and years. Truly an American (Californian!) musical genre, it did see some resurgence which I will get to shortly. Bands like Agent Orange even kept it going in the punk genre. BTW, I wrote about Dale back here in a wistful way. Turns out that rumors of his imminent demise were greatly exaggerated.

True Faith by New Order. Earnest band IMHO.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers caused a riot in Fort Collins when they played College Days that year. With the kind of lyrics in Special Secret Song Inside, who can blame the youths?

Pour Some Sugar On Me Hair bands like Def Leppard became endangered species.  Hi Darcy!

La Bamba Los Lobos redid the old Ritchie Valens tune. Ritchie Valens died in the same plane as Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.

The One I Love and It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) from R.E.M.'s almost epic Document.  Truth be told, Michael Stipe and his "attitude" were starting to become evident.

Touch of Grey Grateful Dead I saw them (again) around this time at the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheater west of Denver. Red Rocks is a shining example of a "good" depression-era WPA/CCC project.

20 years after the Summer of Love they sang:
I see you've got your fist out, say your piece and get out.
Guess I get the gist of it, but, it's alright.
Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say:
Every silver lining's got a touch of grey.
I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, by--I will survive.

YEAH!

Lips Like Sugar  Echo & The Bunnymen Pure sugary pop! My wife hates this song. I like it because it reminds me of her at that time.

Birthday by the Sugarcubes. Weird band from Iceland made it into my iTunes.

Fairytale of New York by The Pogues. Shane MacGowan kind of blurs his sleech in the song and so here's a version with lyrics. link

Friday, February 25, 2011

Letters Home: "I'm just living till the day I get home"

February 26, 1953


Dear Folks,

I got a letter from you yesterday so I guess I had better answer it tonight. We sure are having nice weather now. It's dry but not too warm. About like May back home. The sun is real bright. Good days for taking pictures.

We have to be on parade the 4th. I'll be in a tank that day. I think only one jeep out of  the 141st is in it. It's suppose to be in the newsreels and on television back in the States.

You asked me about that shirt. I guess I sold it to some GI at Campbell that wanted it.[1] I believe I would sell the shirt off my back for enough money Ha! I am going to get that watch and a 400 day clock sent next week for sure.[2]

Did dad ever trade the Mercury off? I suppose it's about all in??

I guess there's not any thing of importance happening over here. I'm just living till the day I get home.

Bye for now.

Love, V.


____________________

[1] "Campbell" refers to Fort Campbell, KY/TN, where he completed his specialized tank training the previous year.

[2] These were intended as gifts. I had to Google "400 day clock" to figure out what he was referring to here. Then it was obvious he meant a clock which I recall as a living room fixture growing up. My family was like that. They would gift each other things all the time and then end up with them in the end! I once gave my grandmother a bone china ceramic chicken (she had a collection). Before she died, she made sure that it got back to me and I still have it.
The 400 Day clock looked something like the one in the photo above. It stopped working after about 400 weeks, sometime in the 1960's. My mother tried to have it fixed then, but unsuccessfully. My brother now has it and as far as I know it still doesn't run. I never really cared for the thing and preferred the Kit-Cat Clock.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A New Idea Is Born

Suppose we consider a new life to be like a new invention, which under our patent laws must be both new and useful.* The novelty of a new life (identical twins aside) is self-evident in its genetic code. Inventions occur (again under our law) following conception and reduction to practice.  The two events may be connascent or sequential. Conception is the fixed and permanent idea of the invention, while reduction to practice is the embodiment of the idea. Like parenting, only an inventor can contribute to conception.

New life indeed does begin at conception, but it's not fully embodied until some indefinite point in time.
_________________________
*As for the usefulness of a newly conceived life or idea -- that requires time. The following anecdote may apply.  Sometime in the 19th century, a delegation of government dignitaries visited Michael Faraday to view his electric motors and other inventions. One said "This is all very interesting, but of what possible use are these toys?" Faraday responded: "I cannot say what use they may be, but I can confidently predict that one day you will be able to tax them."

Dosvedanya To All That


Josef Stalin died on March 5, 1953. I note this only because the event affected (I think) one of my father's upcoming letters in the series Letters Home. He wrote home in mid-March talking about Russia wanting to go to war. 

The event certainly had a global effect. President Eisenhower, then in office just a little over a month, spoke to his cabinet days later, telling them:
Ever since 1946, I know all the so-called experts have been yapping about what would happen when Stalin dies and what we, as a nation, should do about it. Well he's dead. And you can turn the files of our government inside out--in vain--looking for any plans laid. We have no plan. We are not even sure what difference his death makes.
In private, and to his speechwriter Emmet Hughes, Ike was more circumspect: link
Look, I am tired--and I think everyone is tired--of just plain indictments of the Soviet regime. I think it would be wrong--in fact, asinine--for me to get up before the world now to make another one of those indictments. Instead, just one thing matters: what have we got to offer the world? What are we really going to do, to improve the chances of peace?...
Here is what I would like to say: The jet plane that roars over your head costs three-quarters of a million dollars. That is more money than a man earning ten thousand dollars a year is going to make in his lifetime. What world can afford this sort of thing for long? We are in an armaments race. Where will it lead us? At worse, to atomic warfare. At best, to robbing every people and nation on earth of the fruits of their own toil. 
Already in 1953, Eisenhower was foreshadowing his famous "Military-Industrial Complex" farewell speech in 1961. His perspective came from a lifetime of national service. 

Eisenhower went on to say to his speech writer:
Now, there could be another road before us--the road of disarmament. What does this mean? It means for everybody in the world: bread, butter, clothes, homes, hospitals, schools--all the good and necessary things for decent living. So let this be the choice we offer. If we take this second road, all of us can produce more of these good things for life--and we the United States, will help them still more...This is what I want to say. And if we really don't have anything to offer, I'm not going to make a speech about it.
Reading about Stalin, I learned that his little Himmler, Lavrentiy Beria, shared Eisenhower's view, and desired a strategic peace with the United States. Beria may have even poisoned Stalin. Beria was executed later that year.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And forgive us our Shoulds...

I posted a comment a while back at Althouse: link

The Lord's Prayer in German:

Vater unser im Himmel,
geheiligt werde dein Name;
dein Reich komme;
dein Wille geschehe,
wie im Himmel so auf Erden.
Unser tägliches Brot gib uns heute.
Und vergib uns unsere Schuld,
wie auch wir vergeben unsern Schuldigern
;
und führe uns nicht in Versuchung,
sondern erlöse uns von dem Bösen.
Denn dein ist das Reich und die Kraft
und die Herrlichkeit in Ewigkeit.Amen

The German words Schuld and Schuldigern mean debt/guilt and debtors/guilty* respectively, and correspond to our words "trespasses" and "those who trespass against us." Our words are perhaps too nuanced with a property infringement meaning (though the figurative meaning is there too).
_______________________
*Nietzsche commented on the historical use in German of the same concept Schuld for guilt and debt (monetary) in his Genealogy of Morals.
An astute commenter followed-up my comment with:
Presbyterians use the debts/debtors formulation for the Lord's Prayer. It comes from the King James Bible. The trespasses and trespassers language comes from the book of Common Prayer, an Anglican formulation accepted by Baptists and Methodists, unknowingly. link
In old English, the word for trespass or guilt, and for debt or fine, was the same: Gylt. This in turn is rooted in an older word Scylde which survives as our modern word should in the sense of a debt or an obligation. link

Monday, February 21, 2011

50 Years Of MyTunes: 1986




  • Best album of 1986 easily goes to The Feelies for The Good Earth. Unavailable for many years on iTunes, I actually converted my vinyl to digital format before it finally came out a couple years ago. Here's one song, a very Peter Buck-influenced The High Road.
  • Candy Apple Grey by Husker Du is a runner up. The Huskers were starting to get too big for SST records, and this album foreshadowed their move to Warner Bros records the next year. Dead Set On Destruction is an example of a Grant Hart song of the time; Hardly Getting Over It is the more melancholic Bob Mould style.

Singles for 1986:

  • Cuyahoga by R.E.M. from Lifes Rich Pageant. That band had almost arrived in the main stream.
  • Walk This Way by Run-D.M.C. & Aerosmith.  I think the main value of this song was to legitimize hip-hop to white audiences.  This was an enormous step.
  • Venus by Bananarama. A cover of the original by the Dutch band Shocking Blue.  I prefer the latter version
  • Speaking of covers, Stand By Me from 1961 by Ben E. King spent a few weeks on the charts in the US, thanks to the eponymous movie. Flashback to 1961: link

Labor's Moves In Politics

Samuel Gompers (1850-1924)

From ITU Lessons in Printing. Trade Unionism Unit VI (1958), p. 97:
Throughout the centuries various political doctrines have been evolved promising, or purporting to promise, the redemption of labor. The suppression of labor in the 18th century led the Anarchists of the early 19th century to advocate abolition of all government, which was to be replaced by a system of voluntary co-operation among individuals. As developed by the French syndicalists, the basis of organization of the new state was to be the syndicate, an expanded trade union assuming full responsibility for the conduct and well-being of its members. The movement had some following in the United States during the 19th century and attained its greatest strength in the International Workers of the World, or I.W.W., which launched extensive strike movements in this country in the early 20th century.
A radically different approach was counseled by Karl Marx; namely, the violent overthrow of the government and its seizure by working class groups led by a "dictatorship of the proletariat." The Communist Manifesto, issued in 1848 at the time of widespread revolution in Germany, stated their position. Within the Socialist movement thus launched, two trends developed: one movement, authoritarian in its character, developed into the Communist Party which successfully seized power in Russia in 1918. The other, more democratic in nature, though committed to the doctrine of public ownership of the means of production, developed into the Socialist and Social Democrat movements of England, France, Germany,* and Italy. Both movements found some adherents in the United States, particularly during the depression years of the early 1930's. American labor, however, has, with few exceptions, followed the advice of Samuel Gompers: a policy of rewarding friends and punishing enemies.
______________________
*Presumably this included the National Socialists of Germany.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

50 Years Of MyTunes: 1985


Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash
--misattributed to Winston Churchill
  • The Pogue's music is so timeless that it's easy to forget that it belongs to the 1980s. Their traditional folk instrumentation reminds me so much of Scots-Irish music transplanted to America that the first time I heard them I thought I was hearing a strange hillbilly music dialect from the Old Country. Of course that's exactly backwards. So what is it that makes the Pogues so adorable? It's the storytelling I think. For example:
  • I'm A Man You Don't Meet Everyday and A Pair Of Brown Eyes. Storytelling is AWOL in most modern music. Even the raucous The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn manages to get a good story on.
  • Tim was The Replacements's last album with the original line-up. Guitarist Bob Stintson (who later drank himself to death) was given the boot. Several songs are favorites: Waitress In The Sky, Kiss Me On The Bus, but Bastards Of Young lyrics:
    God what a mess, on the ladder of success, where you take one step and miss the whole first rung... 
     A demo version of Can't Hardly Wait was recorded along with Tim but the song was tarted up and released on their next album.
  • Hüsker Dü released both Flip Your Wig and New Day Rising that year. Bob Mould explained questionable economic policy on How To Skin A Cat:
We are starting a cat ranch and taking one hundred thousand cats...
But what should we feed the cats?..
...Now get this!
We feed the rats to the cats and the cats to the rats
And get the catskins for nothing!
  • Up On The Sun by the Meat Puppets. The band took their name from industry slang for fashion model. These guys could never sing worth crap but they were great musicians. I saw them play this album at a real dive in the 4 Corners 'hood in Denver around this time.
  • Have You Ever Seen The Rain? by the Minutemen from 3-Way Tie (For Last). The Minutemen were highly influential on the punk rock scene in SoCal. Doubts?  Rent We Jam Econo: The Story Of The Minutemen and listen to the who's who of testimonials.  But not so much for me (I could never get over how anachronistically political they were -- singing anti-Vietnam war songs in the 1980s?)  But Mike Watt is an uber nice guy. I met and spoke with him twice in the 90s -- once in Zurich and then again in Fort Collins, CO a couple years later -- and he remembered!!

Singles 1985

  • Money For Nothing by Dire Straits. I didn't realize that this song actually got banned. [added: see comments]
  • Centerfield by John Fogerty. A "comeback" video and song for Fogerty after a decade long hiatus. I kind of feel for the guy because he did seem to be needlessly cut-off from the royalties of his own songs and face it -- he was the voice of CCR.
  • California Girls by David Lee Roth  OK that video is an LOL. I used do a pretty good vocal impression of David Lee Roth's high pitched squeaky "oww" which used to punctuate his songs. Roth parted ways with Van Halen in 1985. According to Wiki, by the late 1990s, Roth trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and worked as one for some time. A Van Halen reunion is in the works.
  • Take the Skinheads Bowling by Camper Van Beethoven Some of these guys later morphed into the band Cracker who had a minor hit in the early 90's.
  • Jockey Full Of Bourbon from Rain Dogs by Tom Waits. Jim Jarmusch made good use of that song in his 1986 film Down By Law.

Too Many Chiefs And Not Enough Indians

Well this sounds familiar:
The early printers had already organized their offices into a sort of freemasonry, under which the discipline was promoted and trade secrets protected. Each guild was composed of masters, journeymen (paid workers), and apprentices, with far more proprietors than journeymen.*
______________________________
*The Duchy of Magdeburg in Germany had 27,050 independent masters and only 4,285 journeymen and apprentices in 1784; the principality of Wurzburg had 13,762 masters and 2,176 journeymen and apprentices. Thus five-sixths of the industrial establishments of the two places employed no extra help, but were one-man shops.--Industrial Evolution by Karl Bucher
from ITU Lessons in Printing. Trade Unionism Unit VI (1958)

I would like to see a comparable breakdown of unionized workforce by cohorts. I suspect that part of the problem today is a top-heavy superstructure. I also suspect that there was little opportunity for young people in the Old Country for such reasons. It's also personally interesting to me because my family immigrated from that time and place to this country. And while preoccupied with agricultural (as was the whole nation) for almost a century, many family members eventually found their way back to the organized labor force.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Printer's Guilds & Apprenticeships

On the history of printers' guilds and trade unions:
Prior to the invention of print, the making of books was carried on by three guilds, the scriveners', illuminators', and bookbinders' guilds. The scribes wrote the books with quill pens; the illuminators designed initials and decorations and embellished them in gold, silver and colors; and the bookbinders preserved the finished works in suitable bindings. When the printed books of Gutenberg, Fust, Schoeffer, and Caxton, and other early printers began to find their way into the channels of trade, after the middle of the fifteenth century, the need for scribes and illuminators became less and less until, finally, they were merged into a printer's guild.
On apprenticeship in the days of the guilds:
In those days, if a boy desired to learn a trade, he was obliged to apply to one of the master craftsmen, to whom, if satisfactory arrangement could be made, he was indentured for a number of years. Apprentices seldom received wages for their services, but were frequently required to pay the master for the training and education received. The master, however, provided board, lodging, clothing, medical treatment and books. The term of apprenticeship in the printing trade was usually seven years. 
When a boy had finished his apprenticeship or "served his time," he was required by the guild to demonstrate his ability to do a journeyman's work before he could claim pay as a workman....a journeyman aspiring to become a master craftsman or employer was required to produce a "masterpiece." This piece of work had to be set, proofread, and printed entirely by the applicant's own hands as proof of competency.
ITU Lessons in Printing. Trade Unionism Unit VI (1958)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It Is The Duty Of Union Men To Keep Informed

My dad was a member of the International Printers Union (ITU) from around 1960 when I was born to the Fall of 1977 when his union struck Madison Newspapers, Inc. The strike was a long and bitter one and ended with a tiny negotiated settlement.

Among the books and papers which my mother gave me after my father's death in 1995 was a volume entitled Trade Unionism. The slim volume was published in 1958 and appears to have been written for new members of the ITU. Here is the preface, entitled It Is The Duty Of Union Men To Keep Informed:
If we are to be successful in convincing unorganized workers, as well as employers, congressmen, and the general public of the merits of labor's program, it is necessary that every union man and woman first understand the social and economic facts of our modern industrial life. If we are to ask the membership of our union to decide economic questions intelligently and on their merits, it is first necessary that they have adequate knowledge of such questions. We have long since recognized that fact in our requirements for citizenship. Before an immigrant can be admitted to full responsibility of American citizenship, he must know something of the history and constitution of our country. Before a new member of the union can fully serve his organization, it is essential that he know its history and aims; also the problems confronting organized labor.
--Preface to ITU Lessons in Printing. Trade Unionism Unit VI (1958)
The rest of the book looks like an interesting (albeit biased) monograph on the history and development of organized labor, specifically in the printing arts. I'm going to examine this briefly, in view of all the State Employee Union activities and backlash in Wisconsin and in California.

Repetitio Est Mater Studiorum

That single Latin phrase inspired me the day a high school teacher (the same one!) wrote it out on a chalkboard. The lesson that day was not about rote memorization either. Rather, we were discussing how newspaper and broadcast advertising, movies, and popular music massaged our brains. I took in the intended message, but the Latin itself came alive for me. I recognized vestigial kernels of words cloaked in many English words.

Letters Home: "I wouldn't know because I wasn't no family man"

A 1949 Ford
February 16, 1953
Langendiebach


Dear Mom, Dad and all,

I guess I haven't wrote for about a week so I will tonight. I've been driving my jeep about 100 miles a day. Mostly handling Brass between here and the other post (Hanau Sub-post). I had to take the First Sergeant to a town near here to look at a house. His wife is coming over next month. He asked me what I thought of the place he picked out and I told him I wouldn't know because I wasn't no family man. [1]

It's been kind of cold here but we haven't no snow. I asked a German how much longer it would be cold and he said about a month. I won't mind it so bad over here after it warms up.

I don't know what to tell dad about trading for a 49 Ford. They had weak frames and you couldn't keep the front wheels in line. They corrected it in 50. I know the Mercury is about wore out and should be traded off. It's up to him if he thinks it's a good deal to go ahead and trade. The Ford shouldn't cost over $950.00.

I guess I will have to sign off now.

Love, V.

p.s. not much news this time.
___________________

[1] Little did my father know that just two years later he'd meet and become engaged to my mother. Two years later my brother was born and then me three years later. Love does mysterious things.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

50 Years Of MyTunes: 1984


Let It Be by The Replacements. The jangling guitar solo on the first song I Will Dare kind of sounds like Peter Buck from R.E.M. -- and so it is!  Unsatisfied is the anthemic masterpiece from this, the first of three very good successive albums by the Replacements. It's still hard for me to grasp how and why these guys didn't make it commercially.

Zen Arcade by Hüsker Dü. Hüsker Dü took their name from a children's board game. link  They, along with Prince and The Replacements, put Minneapolis on the map of American music. I owe my introduction to these bands at this time to a friend named Bill Amundson who then lived in Fort Collins, CO.

Couldn't Stand The Weather by Stevie Ray Vaughan. SRV pulls off a cover version of Hendrix's Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). This is about as close as any mortal got to covering Hendrix.

Learning To Crawl by The Pretenders. This was the album I saw them play in Akron OH, while I lived in Cleveland.

1984 Singles/Video


Drive by The Cars. This song will forever remind me of a girl I dated in Cleveland around this time. I didn't have a car then.

Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper. Another MTV classic from around this time.

Eight Miles High by Hüsker Dü. Pure metallic angst. This song was released on a 45 RPM single on STT records.

Repo Man by Iggy Pop. Never released as a single to my knowledge. The version I know and love is from Alex Cox's 1984 film Repo Man. The entire soundtrack for that movie is a great screen capture of that time.

The Ghost in You by The Psychedelic Furs

(Don't Go Back To) Rockville by R.E.M.

Pride (In the name of Love) by U2

Panama by Van Halen. Though already formulaic and beginning to choke on hubris, they still crunched enough to catch my attention with this one.


Silicon Is Where The Flintstones Meet The Jetsons



Van der Krogt has the usual collection of fascinating facts, histories and stories about silicon. link

Silicon's chemical properties rhyme with carbon's. Silicon lies right under carbon as one of the Group 14 elements in The Table. I also like the juxtaposition of SiO2 and CO2 but the two molecules couldn't be more different. One is a gas and the other is as solid as rock. SiO2 is rock. How wonderful if we could polymerize CO2 or depolymerize sand, but we just can't.

I wrote about CO2 back here but none of that is too relevant to SiO2. Silicon is to rock what carbon is to life; it's in practically everything inorganic. Silicon appears in as many species of rocks and minerals as carbon appears in forms of life. And then there is the whole artificial intelligence lodged in silicon chips -- "life" created in our own image. That brings me to the Silicon Valley. I have some reflections on living and working there, but I'm not ready to go back there yet. In a sense, my "Conversations with Henry" series belongs to that time and place.

I think that a William Shockley biography could be seriously fascinating. Ditto Madisonian John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. I'm curious about silicon chips and want to know more about how they actually work. Silicon comprises the bulk of solar cells too.

A little know fact is that Shockley's first solid state transistor company (which later spawned Intel) was funded by Arnold Beckman (1900-2004). Beckman invented the pH meter and invested his profits wisely, mostly seeding American ingenuity. In many unappreciated ways, Beckman was yet another humble Midwesterner behind the scenes of American greatness.

There's artificial intelligence and then there's artificial breasts. I also thought about writing about silicone breast implants. That might have engendered a lot of hits. Or maybe not. Silly Putty boobs -- meh.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Best Teacher



Like many other American high schools, mine was a hodgepodge of old and new buildings. The original three-story cream brick structure dated from the early 20th century. The town outgrew that building and cobbled on a whole new addition in the early 1960's, trebling the capacity. They added brand new sports facilities after I left in 1978. I recently looked at the Google Maps footprint of the high school and it's unrecognizable to me now.

Back in the late 1970's, the first and third floors of the original core building were mostly offices and storage. The second floor was still used for teaching--but only for English, foreign languages and some history classes--subjects that didn't require modern science or shop facilities. That's where I had a thoroughly memorable semester of English Literature taught by Mr. Van Lanen.

Mr. V's classes met on the second floor in the old building. His voluminous room--with its creaky old wooden floor and a ceiling high enough to hang light fixtures--perfectly suited his old fashioned (classical?) emphasis on learning through participation. The whole south-facing wall of his classroom was completely windowed with multi-paned sliding windows. Fenestration like that was endangered even then. The school district considered only the heat loss index of such windows and not any warmth and light they passed onto the students. Already in the offices on the other floors, such windows had been plywood-paneled down to a tiny square where an air conditioner hung as the only connection between indoors and out. 

Mr. V had a ruddy complexion and wisps of red-gone-white hair sparsely covered his head (he must have been around 50 then). He wore gold-rimmed spectacles and kept his hair slightly longer than most men his age. He also wore a moustache. He carried himself with a supple--almost athletic--agility. We heard rumors that he had been a running back at Marquette University in his college days. He wasn't a particularly large man for a running back, but it was easy to imagine him outrunning his opponents. It was his methods and manner though that were most memorable.

He certainly taught differently than other teachers--at least ones that I had had up to then. For starters, he arranged all the wooden desks into a semi-circle, so as not to encourage favorites. We were all equal to him and were all equally liable for discussion. And did he stress discussion! I took him for Prose Lit. the last semester of my senior year after I had belatedly thought it a good idea to go to college.

From the very beginning, as soon as he learned our names, he was calling on us to analyze and discuss our reading assignments. Some dreaded this and wished themselves less visible, but he'd make it all the worse for them—they were the ones who would get called on the most. I recall once discussing a passage of D.H. Lawrence’s Sons And Lovers. Mr. V. read aloud:
...there was a jenny wren’s nest in the hedge by the orchard…He crouched down and carefully put his finger through the thorns into the round door of the nest. ‘It’s almost as if you were feeling inside the live body of the bird, it’s so warm.'
He stopped reading, looked up and aimed a question at one of the shyest girls in class: “Now Julie, what would a Freudian say about that?" She blushed and fell silent. Birds twittered outside the open windows and we heard traffic two blocks away on University Avenue until at long last a more outspoken student raised his hand to answer. That sort of Socratic methodology made him some enemies amongst other students. I have a distinct recollection of some calling him a pervert--what with the way he threatened traditional values having us read Camus’s existentialism and John Barth’s nihilism. But they forgot that he equally taught us the beautiful language of Shakespeare and Brontë, the styles of Hemingway and Lawrence, numerous poems & short stories, and even two books of the Bible. Yeah they forgot all about that.

He made us open up. The whole semester was themed "Love" but he encouraged us to talk and discuss anything in class that pertained to literature: love and hate, men and women, life and death, good and evil -- all the usual "heavy" stuff for high school literature. I suppose that some of us were starved for conversation because we sure weren't getting that stuff at home.

Mr. V was like an inquisitor, but when someone was on fire with ideas, he would sit back with his arms folded across his chest, his head cocked to one side, grinning, just knowing he was partly responsible.
“It’s like Heathcliff’s soul just took off out the window to be with Cathy and he just left his cold body behind” somebody said. “Yeah, that’s what I thought too” said another.
He pushed us too. When one person said something worth discussing and our faces sat mute, he’d cup his hands around his mouth and feign a PA loudspeaker voice to make the one student's point, to bring us all a bit closer together and onto the same page.  He'd keep asking each of us one-by-one what we were thinking until each of us picked up on something our own. He loved to stir the pot. That’s the way it went the whole semester. I suppose that to him we were not buckets to be filled but little fires to be lit.*

The school board tried to dismiss him a few years later. Not for what or how he taught but for his union activities of all things. Apparently he refused to back down on some negotiation with the district. I was not privy to the details. I did go back to my high school one evening while in college in Madison to attend one of the public hearings and to show him support. To me, the union activities were not the issue—it was the threat to the best teacher that the school had. The hearings never got anywhere. They did take his space though. Some years later, they razed the entire the old building and raised a newer more energy efficient wing instead.
_______________________
*The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled

Plutarch
I am grateful to commenter named MamaM at Trooper York's blog for inspiring me to seek out the Plutarch quote and to apply it here. link


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hail Britannic!


It's pretty cool when you realize that the germ of something became something bigger.

I watched Calypso's Search for the Britannic, an episode from The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey. The feature dates from 1977 and tells the story of Cousteau's successful 1975 search for the sunken ship Britannic off the coast of Greece.

HMHS Britannic was built during that brief window of time between the sinking of her older sister Titanic and the First World War. She was launched without fanfare. One disgruntled ship worker said of her: "They just built her and threw her out there."

Britannic was fitted-out with all the features intended to avoid her older sister's fate: double-hulls; water-tight bulkheads which rose to B deck, and of course there were ample lifeboats. Intended to replace Titanic as a luxury trans-Atlantic liner, HMHS Britannic was instead pressed into service as a hospital ship and was sunk by a submerged mine just two years after her launch in 1914.

The remarkable thing about the old TV episode is how it foreshadowed James Cameron's Titanic. Cousteau located one of her few remaining survivors, Sheila Mitchell (then 86 years old), flew her to the Calypso hovered over the wreck, plied her memories of the sinking and then took her down in a submersible to see the wreck -- one last time -- just like fictional character Rose Dawson in Titanic. I seriously wonder whether Cameron watched or was inspired by this 1977 televised episode.

I also couldn't help but marvel at the man Cousteau himself. At age 65, he dons helium-oxygen-filled scuba tanks and freely descends to over 300 feet to explore the wreck--for 9 minutes. The hour long episode (available on Netflix) is as much a lessen on deep-sea scuba diving as it is on the Britannic. Growing up, Cousteau was a hero in our family, no doubt due to my dad's love of scuba diving which I wrote about here.

[added: a cool website on the HMHS Britannic: link]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

50 Years Of MyTunes: 1983



Speaking In Tongues by The Talking Heads. There are just so many good songs on this album like Burning Down the HouseSlippery People, SwampGirlfriend Is Better, and Pull up the Roots. The Talking Heads were immortalized in Jonathon Demme's Stop Making Sense (1984).

War by U2. The last U2 album that I bought. I got off the bandwagon when others got on. Was it the overt politics?

Every Breath You Take by the The Police. Sting gave full reign expression to his stalker obsession with his ex-wife.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. Oh yeah, they do.

Radio Free Europe R.E.M. were just starting out.

Pink Houses by John Mellencamp who sang about America from a Hoosier point of view. Something about this song reminds me of Meadhouse.

Photograph by Def Leppard. Big hit from their album Pyromania. I thought the name Def Leppard was a pun on the band Sun Blind Lion but I guess I was wrong.  Hi Darcy!

Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes. I used to like this band a lot. I think Simon still likes them.

Modern Love and China Girl by David Bowie shows more cultural sensitivity than Rod Stewart did when he sang about his "slit-eyed lady" in Every Picture Tells a Story.

99 Luftballoons by Nena. A side-by-side comparison of the German and English lyrics reveals how lame and softened the English version lyrics are. link The original German version makes several references to Nazi-era and post war imagery and jibes with the post-War pacifist streak so prevalent in German society.

Eyes Without a Face by Billy Idol. I figured out that part of Billy Idol's appeal was his sneer which is on full display here.

Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies  The song captures the Zeitgeist.

When The Shit Hits The Fan by The Circle Jerks. I linked to the "unplugged" version because the lyrics are easier to follow. Sample lyrics:
In a sluggish economy
Inflation, recession,
Hits the Land of the Free.
Standing on an employment line.
Blame the government for hard times.
We just get by, however we can.
We all gotta duck when the shit hits the fan.
Age of Consent by New Order. These guys were all that was left of Joy Division after Ian Curtis's suicide in 1980.

Pride and Joy by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble from their debut Texas Flood. SRV came out of Texas. A record deal brokered by the legendary John Hammond launched his career. I was lucky enough to see SRV twice before his premature death.

The New World by X from More Fun in the World. When John Doe and Exene sang "It was better before before they voted for what's-his-name" they were singing about Ronald Reagan. How's that working out for you these days Mr. Doe?

Sharp Dressed Man & Legs  by ZZ Top. Where were these guys for the last 10 years? It may have taken that long to grow out those beards. Hot chicks in the video.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

50 years Of MyTunes: 1982

1999 by Prince. I don't have this album but I included it here because Prince personified the commercial success of the Minneapolis music scene which arose around this time.

Violent Femmes The eponymous band from Milwaukee used to play around in Madison while I was still in college there. Their first album included several great songs like Kiss Off, Gone Daddy Gone, Blister In The Sun and Add It Up, all purportedly written by Gordon Gano while still in high school. The latter song was the first time I remember hearing the f-word on vinyl since Country Joe and his Fish Cheer.

Combat Rock by The Clash included Rock The Casbah and Should I Stay or Should I Go

1982 Singles/Videos

Avalon by Roxy Music. So what was Brian Ferry doing for all those years since Country Life?

Thriller by Michael Jackson is the best selling album of all time -- and I never owned it! I did enjoy the video singles from this work including Beat It.

Boogie in Your Butt by Eddie Murphy. Still an LOL!

Winnebago Warrior ~ Dead Kennedys. Classic Jello Biafra humor:

Littered campgrounds, folding chairs
Feed Doritos to the bears
Honey, quick, the polaroid...

Save It For Later by The English Beat.

Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac who rekindled the last of their old magic before fading away forever.

Crimson and Clover covered by a smokin' hot Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. She also released I Love Rock and Roll around this time.

Valley Girl ~ Moon Unit & Frank Zappa  A novelty hit fer sure fer sure. OMG, I think we underestimate the impact of Valspeak on modern language. LOL!

Mental Hopscotch Missing Persons. Former Frank Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio and his Playboy playmate wife Dale made a brief splash on MTV with this one.

Only The Lonely ~ The Motels's Martha Davis (eye-candy alert) drove me to go buy a special skinny tie to go see them that year at a Madison club.

Urban Struggle by Orange County punk band The Vandals from their EP called Peace Through Vandalism. I first heard these guys via my girlfriend (now wife) who was well-versed with all the SoCal punk bands.

Caught Up In You by .38 Special. My soft spot for Southern Rock latched onto this one.

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) by The Eurythmics.

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? by Culture Club. No didn't, but I did feel a little Schadenfreude when Boy George was arrested and did time. I forget what for exactly.

She Blinded Me With Science Thomas Dolby. Sie hat mich mit Wissenschaft geblindet.

Jack and Diane John Cougar Melonball. Goofy, quirky song I liked by a Midwestern guy who wound up on the wrong side of politics.

Back On the Chain Gang by "The Pretenders". They were just the "Pretenders" before half the band OD'd in 1982. This song and the theme song for the Rush Limbaugh Show were hastily recorded and released as singles. Both songs later appeared on the 1984 album Learning To Crawl. Both songs got heavy rotation on MTV.

I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow. The version is remarkably close to the original 1965 song by The Strangeloves.

White Wedding Billy Idol. Weird video played a lot on MTV.

Love My Way by The Psychedelic Furs

Come Dancing by The Kinks. Ray Davies keeps his band alive (barely) in the MTV era. A nostalgic look back at his London of the 1950s.

Rio by Duran Duran. More hot chicks in flix by the Fab Five.
_____________________

Whip It by Devo  This video belongs to 1981 and I slipped it in here for Ron and Victoria hoping nobody would notice.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Flying Backwards East

From the air, landscapes assume character larger than is apparent at ground level. East of the Mississippi, luxuriant, deciduous growth once covered the entire surface, broken only by coursing and meandering rivers, and puddled with countless lakes. When the farmers came from further East, they carefully trimmed and shaved the swaths of trees. Vast tracts of indigenous trees slowly gave way to farms as the settlers moved westward. Slaves and freemen clear-cut the forests and made the land farm-ready.

From the air, it's easier to see where whole groves of trees were left standing, usually covering non-arable land such as mountains and hills. The trees remaining survived as second or third growth native species, mostly confined to hills and river bottoms. Diligent fingers and machines kept the trees in check for generations. 

Later on, urban and especially suburban growth supplanted the farms and competed for topographical dominance -- especially around cities. New types of trees encroached, commingling with native species. Of course some people wanted to live in the woodland forests too, but those enclaves were always either exclusive and more expensive to construct, or were too poor to make much impact.

Flying low into Dulles airport recently, I noticed how some landscape was reverting back to trees. From the air, I distinguished not just forest from farms, but working farmland from fallow land. Here and there I could also see multi-acre spreads, some with newer homes planted in the middle and surrounded by acres of buffer land. I could tell that this land had once been plowed. I say that the land was receding back to forest because a farmer would never let stray trees sprout in a field. The lands surrounding these mansionettes were dotted with clumps of new old growth -- some of it deliberate to be sure-- but some looking like a slow reseeding of the land.

Conversations with Henry

Henry: That was nice of Jake to write you back.

Me: Do you think he knows that I dedicated a paper to him?

Henry: Yeah, he knew. I told him.  I've been following your posts on the elements. I think you're doing it wrong.

Me: Huh?

Henry: You should consider going down columns to emphasize how elements rhyme. There's a story there too. Also, don't forget diagonal trends.

Me: But gallium comes after the transition metals.

Henry: Well, you already did boron and aluminum. It might it make sense to talk about gallium next instead of silicon. Did you know that the fellow who discovered gallium was named Lecoq and that people accused him of naming the element after himself?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Imagination Sufficed (again)


Due to unforeseen circumstances, I caught the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XLV on AM radio driving home from a party which had had a wide screen HD TV. After my initial hesitance, I found the radio sportscasting actually exciting, and realized that the art of creating excitement and buzz at a live event was not lost. Of course my kids were clueless about this appreciation because they simply could not visualize a game, even with the help of a good radio sportscaster. For them, such things must be as explicit as possible.

How appropriate to hear a live radio sportscaster on the centenary of Ronald Reagan's birth. Reagan was a natural talent able to narrate a period of history. He was not the first nor the last to have this talent.

Oh, Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers!!!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

50 Years Of MyTunes: 1981



MTV debuted in August 1981 and reshaped the commercial music industry. MTV managed to revive the single as a commercial music vehicle for bands to get noticed. And they did this in an innovative way, giving us terms like VJ and of course helping visual artists cash in on the trend. The "album" concept, barely twenty years old in Rock 'n' Roll, still had significant momentum but lost some steam in the coming years. The music industry countered this to some extent by introducing the CD format, enticing everyone to repurchase what they already owned in that format.

1981 Albums

Damaged by Black Flag. OK I'm not a real big Black Flag fan- I did like this album and found their humor entertaining. The real importance of Black Flag was Greg Ginn and the record company he founded called SST Records. SST recorded many of my favorite '80's bands like Sonic Youth, the Meat Puppets, the Minute Men, and Hüsker Dü. Ginn's brother, Raymond Pettibon, is commercial artist of some fame. But Henry Rollins was/is a serious asshole. I met him once in Zurich, Switzerland before one of his "solo" shows.

Extended Play by the Pretenders. My theory (and I'm sticking to it) is that Talk Of The Town is a love song written to Ray Davies.

Such a drag to want something sometime, 
One thing leads to another I know....
Was a time I wanted you for my mine -- nobody knew.
You arrived like a day, passed like a cloud
I made a wish--I said it out loud...out loud in a crowd, everybody heard, 'twas the talk of the town.

Shake It Up and Since You're Gone from the Cars's fourth studio album Shake It Up. They had just one more good album in them after this.  They did seem to cash in well from several heavy rotation MTV videos.

Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones.  This is the last Stones album that I bought. They were pretty much over as innovators after this. I did buy the Forty Licks CD when it came out in 2002, just because I wanted digital versions of their older stuff. It seems that that's all the Stones are now--nostalgia. But put it in perspective. They had been together for almost 20 years at this point (I remember thinking they were old when they began turning 40).  Waiting on a Friend is my favorite song and video from Tattoo You.

I just had a thought -- The Rolling Stones, first formed in 1962, will be 50 years old next year in 2012. My wish is that they are all still living and that Bill Wyman comes out of retirement for some sort of Golden Anniversary event.

Ghost In The Machine by the Police contained a number of hit singles for that band including Every Little Thing She Does is Magic and Spirits In The Material World (I love Sting's upright bass playing). He may have inspired the Violent Femmes). But this was the last Police album I bought.

1981 Singles

Super Freak ~ Rick James opens some doors for Prince.

Rapture by Blondie. Considered by some to be the first "rap-influenced" music song to chart well. In retrospect, the song sounds more disco influenced than rap.

Belinda Carlisle and The Go-Go's had a slew of hits beginning around this time, mainly due to heavy promotion on MTV. They were adorable enough.

Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie. A great collaboration.

Rock This Town The Stray Cats with Brian Seltzer reintroduced a genre of music not seen since the heyday of Elvis -- Rockabilly. They were more highly amped than Presley's day.

Gloria by U2. A still young and fresh faced Bono made a positive impression on me then via MTV. He's being going downhill since but still manages to pull off "just enough" from time to time.


Added: Ace commenter Jason reminded me about Duran Duran whom I misremembered as being part of 1982: Here you go Jason "Girls On Film" (uncensored):



Duran Duran - Girls On Film [Uncensored]
Uploaded by hushhush112. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Conversations with Henry

[Continued from here]

At Henry's suggestion, I wrote to Jacob Bigeleisen. He replied:*

[Salutation]:
How did I get into isotope chemistry? In 1943 I worked at SAM Laboratory at Columbia U (Manhattan Project). My initial assignment was to look for isotope shifts in the electronic spectra of uranium compounds (principally uranyl ion). The purpose of this research was to examine the feasibility of a photochemical separation of the uranium isotopes for military purposes. It was a small project. It was here that I became acquainted with Maria Mayer. She worked on the theory of the spectra. I did experiments and consulted with her regularly about my results and her results. The project was reviewed in July 1943 by James B. Conant and Richard C. Tolman, two high officials in the war time science effort. They brought along as an advisor E.B. Wilson, Jr., the outstanding spectroscopist and quantum chemist from Harvard. The Committee found our work very interesting, but recommended that it be discontinued. The time schedule for any practical application of a photochemical process was inconsistent with the plans for the production of a weapon. People like Urey favored a small scale continuing effort as part of scientific intelligence. Was this a path the Germans could be following?
The dozen or so people working on the project were reassigned in September. I was assigned to write up the work of the project as a final report, which was issued under the name of H.C. Urey. Maria Mayer went to the hospital in October 1943 for gall bladder surgery. In late November an assistant of Urey's (one of his former graduate students) Isidor Kirschenbaum came to see me. He said 'you know all about spectra of uranium compounds.' I said I didn't know everything; what was known, I knew. He said: 'Here is this formula. Put in the information about all uranium compounds and give me the results. We are interested in the possible chemical separation of the uranium isotopes. What we would be particularly interested in would be a volatile compound, which dissociates in the vapor. We have reason to believe that this would be very favorable.'  I asked: 'How do you know this?'  He said he could not tell me. I looked at the formula he gave me. It was the Urey-Greiff equation. I told him that I was not familiar with that whole field and I would have to study it out before I put numbers into the equation. He then said: 'Don't you know there is a war on?' He reported to Urey that I was not a very cooperative person.
Well I studied out the Urey-Greiff equation. There are a lot of factors. For uranium compounds, I could see that we did not know some of the factors; for some of the factors the number was of the order +1.001; for some of the factors the number was -1.001. With the computing facilities available then (desktop mechanical calculators) one could get any final answer from +1.00x to -1.00x from the Urey-Greiff equation. So, I decided I would look into a different approach. In chemistry and most of physics, one does not measure absolute quantities. One measures differences. Would it be possible to calculate differences directly instead of absolute quantities and then subtract the two to get the isotope effect? I started on this approach and I completed the zero point energy and the Boltzmann excitation terms.
On Monday after Thanksgiving 1943 Maria Mayer returned to work. She asked me how I was coming along with the final report. I told her I was not working on it. 'What was I doing?' she asked. I explained the problem to her and showed her my progress. This was a general type of problem she was thoroughly familiar with. In collaboration with George E. Kimball and Walter Stockmayer, she had calculated the isotope effect in the reaction HD + H2O = H2 + HDO. This reaction was used to produce heavy water at a plant in Trail B.C. and in Norway.) She was also familiar with the general subject since she and her husband, Joe Mayer, had just written a book on statistical mechanics. I had studied this book as a graduate student. She found my approach very interesting, very sensible and very promising. She then volunteered by asking me whether she could join me in working on this project. I said sure, that would be great. So she did and by the end of the day we completed the derivation of the Bigeleisen-Mayer equation. [1] We then made a number of predictions of systems that would be hopeless for uranium isotope separation and pointed to potential interesting avenues. An experimental program was then organized under Clyde Hutchinson. I worked on that for about a half a year.
Urey was too occupied to look into what we had done. His deputies either did not understand or did not believe that a green Ph.D. new to the field could simplify the Urey-Greiff equation to the point where meaningful calculations could be made. There was a lot of secrecy and people were not told everything they needed to know to make the best progress. In April I became involved in determining the structure of UFby spectroscopic means. I did the experiments at American Cyanamid in Stamford, Conn., where they had outstanding spectroscopic equipment. I worked on the analysis of the the spectra with Maria Mayer, who had tried two years earlier in collaboration with Edward Teller to predict the vibrational structure of UF6 from first principles! I told Maria Mayer when I started on that project that it was an experimental project, not one for calculation. She asked me whether I could do it (determine the Raman spectrum). She took out of her drawer the infra-red spectrum which had been measured by John Turkevich at Princeton. Neither she, Turkevich nor Edward Teller were able to decipher the infra-red spectrum of UF6. While Maria Mayer and I worked on the analysis of the spectra, from which we deduced unequivocally the regular octahedral structure, in contrast to the electron diffraction results of Simon Bauer, she told me that she had written a summary report of our work on the theory of isotope effects in equilibria and our calculations relevant to uranium isotope separation.
She prepared this report at the request of Martin Kilpatrick, Urey's deputy to whom we reported. The reason for this was that Edward Teller was to make one of his regular consulting visits from Los Alamos. Kilpatrick showed Teller Maria Mayer's report of our work. Teller had also worked on this problem (there is a 1938 paper by Herzfeld and Teller). He told Kilpatrick that the work was correct and first class. Kilpatrick reported to Maria Mayer that Teller approved of the work. Fine. That made her furious. She said to me: 'They trust Edward Teller and not me.'
Regards to Henry. Pass this message on to him.
Jacob Bigeleisen
__________________________________
* Bigeleisen wrote to me in longhand. I transcribed it here. I supplied the links as well in case anyone was interested.

[1] Bigeleisen later retold a reporter about this amazing moment when he was briefly overwhelmed by Maria Mayer's brilliance:
She looked at my work and asked 'why don't you finish it up by taking out the classical part?'  Without a pause, she wrote the simplified equation, saying 'Now you have it; it's all done.' I didn't immediately understand what she meant when she said to cut out the classical part. I went home. I worked on it, and eventually I got the same result.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Letters Home: What percent of a dollar is held back for income tax?



February 3, 1953
Vilseck
Dear Mom, Dad and all,
Well I guess there isn't much news going on over here. I got those books R. sent. We had about 6 inches of snow, but the temperature stays around 30° above. I found out the other day that I am not due for rotation until September. That's 8 long months yet. What do you think of this German paper? I am sending a money order home next week. You can put it in the bank.
I suppose if Jr. goes back to Madison he will be working at Oscar Mayers. I would think R.C. could have some big factory where a person could make a living.[1]  I am planning on going back to Celons if I can work 48 hours or more a week. If they hold out at 40 it's hard to tell where I will be working. Anything but the Army.
We got our withholding statement today. I had $1,043 for a wage and they took out 74.80. We are going to get another statement, and when I do I will send them all home. I shouldn't have to pay anymore. By the way what percent of a dollar is held back for income tax? Is it 20%? [2]
I guess I will have to sign off this time.
Love, V.

__________________
[1] R.C. is Richland Center, his hometown.

[2] Here's a form 1040 for 1953 which shows that the tax rate for his income was well below 10%. link  Still, the tax code was much more progressive in the 1950s. The top tax rate for income above $300,000 was around 91%. That's not say that someone earning that much in 1953 was taxed at that rate on all their income--just what they made above that amount. Note also that the poor paid a fair share. Link.

Here are some interesting comparative cost-of-living numbers I got from a pamphlet I picked up tonight at a Borders Bookstore called 1953 Remember When...

New House                               $9,525.00
Average Income                        $4,011.00
New Car                                    $1.651.00
Average Rent                            $83.00
Tuition to Harvard University   $600 per year
Movie Ticket                             70¢ each
Gasoline                                     20¢ per gallon
1st Class US Postage                 3¢ each

Granulated sugar                        85¢ for 10 pounds
Vitamin D Milk                          94¢ per gallon
Ground Coffee                           76¢ per pound
Bacon                                            55¢ per pound
Eggs                                              24¢ per dozen
Fresh Ground Hamburger          54¢ per pound
Fresh Baked Bread                     16¢ per loaf

Everything is inflated by at least a factor of ten or more, including our egos.  The Judds sing about it here.