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159th Anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

I've always found that there are certain word combinations or turns of phrase that, when I read them, bypass my brain's regular processing and go directly to some verbal nerve center I seem to have. I know when this happens because I'll get goosebumps or chills even just thinking about these phrases or sentences.

One example of this kind of phrase is contained within citations that accompany the awarding of the Medal of Honor, the highest US military award that can be bestowed. In this case the goosebump phrase is "Conspicuous Gallantry". Perhaps it's because the term "Gallantry" is rarely ever used these days? Or maybe it's because it so tidily compresses a huge concept into just two words? If the author of these citations were to have written "clearly visible courageous behavior" instead, do you get an idea about what I'm talking about? It's as if in compressing the expression of a thought, it somehow becomes more powerful. I envy people who can do that.

Another example of one of these phrases is the reason behind today's rather long post, here. :-) Being that today, November 19, is the 159th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and being that I recently got sucked down a rabbit hole while reading one motorcycle rider's account of his trip to Sturgis, South Dakota, (long story) I find myself thinking about Lincoln's speech and the phrase "... last full measure of devotion..." The full context of the phrase, as used in Lincoln's speech, is "...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion..."

I wasn't able to verify one particular comment made by this motorcycle guy in his article, and that's what got me scouring the various accounts of the time, but the search was interesting. I'm sure I was also dragged into this rabbit hole because I've just started reading "Killing Lincoln" and am to the point where Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox. Both of these reasons lead me back in time to read various people's and publications' opinions on the Gettysburg Address.

I had no idea just how disliked Lincoln was during his time in office, not only by those in the southern states, but in states like Illinois, New York and Washington DC too.

After his election in 1860, but even prior to the certification of the electoral votes, 7 states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas) had already seceded from the Union. They became part of the group of southern states that would eventually form the Confederate government. They would later be followed by 4 more. (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Three more, more northernly states, almost joined them. More on those three in a bit.

From the history-repeats-itself department, before the electoral votes could be counted, there were fears of violence on Capitol Hill, with the New York times writing that, "*the counting of the electoral votes would never be peacefully accomplished.*” There were rumors of plots to take the city, blow up public buildings, etc. all to prevent the inauguration of Lincoln. 

An Illinois newspaper, the Salem Advocate, described Lincoln this way. "*The illustrious Honest Old Abe has continued during the last week to make a fool of himself and to mortify and shame the intelligent people of this great nation. His speeches have demonstrated the fact that although originally a Herculean rail splitter and more lately a whimsical story teller and side splitter, he is no more capable of becoming a statesman, nay, even a moderate one, than the braying ass can become a noble lion. People now marvel how it came to pass that Mr. Lincoln should have been selected as the representative man of any party. His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a President. The truth is, Lincoln is only a moderate lawyer and in the larger cities of the Union could pass for no more than a facetious pettifogger. Take him from his vocation and he loses even these small characteristics and indulges in simple twaddle which would disgrace a well bred school boy.*"

Lincoln had to sneak into Washington for his inauguration, late at night and in disguise, to keep from being assassinated. This too became fodder for the press. Vanity Fair wrote, "*By the advice of weak men, who should straddle through life in petticoats instead of disgracing such manly garments as pantaloons and coats, the President-elect disguises himself after the manner of heroes in two-shilling novels, and rides secretly, in the deep night, from Harrisburg to Washington.*"

Lincoln had won the 1860 election with just 39.8% of the popular vote. To this day, no President has been elected with a lower percentage of the popular vote. It has been estimated that, if there were opinion polls done in 1861, like the opinion polls of today, Lincoln would have come in at around a 25% approval rating. Eastern cities saw him as a weakling, the South saw him as an outsider and as the poster-child for a vast and corrupt political system.

Having survived his inauguration, Lincoln spent the next few years managing the Civil War. In 1863 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves, but only in the states that had seceded from the Union. Shortly thereafter, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio were considering secession as well. They halted their Army recruitment in the meantime. In response, Congress passed the "Draft Law" (I guess this was before bills took on names that had nothing to do with their intent), the first federal conscription law, which lead to the largest insurrection in US history (aside from the Civil War itself) in New York City, the largest city in the country. Many factors played into this riot, the details of which are a huge study opportunity unto themselves, but it can be summed up as one of the most horrific events in US history. It took Union troops, returning from the Battle of Gettysburg to quell the riots.

After the summer of the Draft Riots, we finally get to November, 19, 1863 when Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to commemorate the Gettysburg National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of the war's deadliest battle. That's the name it goes by today, but it was originally known as Soldiers' National Cemetery. 

Oddly enough, at least by today's standards, the President was not the "headline speaker" at this event. That role fell to a man named Edward Everett, politician, pastor and diplomat, considered to be one of the great speakers of that era. He spoke for more than 2 hours, vs Lincoln's address which lasted only 2 minutes. No one remembers the 2-hour speech. Newspapers were able to fit the text of Lincoln's entire speech into their coverage without sacrificing too much column space.

Reactions to the address

The Chicago Times wrote, “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.

Lincoln, himself, said, "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here."

The Patriot and Union newspaper, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just 40 miles from Gettysburg, introduced a re-printing of the Address just some 4 days later, with the following preamble:
"We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of."
150 years later in 2013, the paper, now known as the Patriot News, retracted their editorial.
"In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln's speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error."

The Atlantic Magazine, in 2013, opined on why the Patriot & Union newspaper got it so wrong.
"Part of it was good, old-fashioned partisan rancor: Papers back then were openly—institutionally—partisan. Pens were sharp and bitter. And the Patriot and Union was a Democratic publication. So."

Some people believe the Patriot and Union held a bit of a grudge because in the prior year, 1862, four high-ranking members of the Patriot and Union staff were arrested for being suspected of sedition. They were imprisoned for 16 days without a hearing.

And now, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

An account of the Address written in the Gold Hill Daily News

An excerpt from the Ken Burns Civil War series, describing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

The Bowman Aviation Festival - 2022

After a two-year Covid hiatus, the Bowman Aviation Festival (Bowmanfest) is back! Below you can see some of the various sights from Saturday, October 1st.

Tweety was there, but I didn't see any Puddy Tats..

Jeff Dunham's "Walter" was in attendance.. Quite the view.. Straight from the 4077.. Merica! I guess you could call this spinner shot a "stealthie"? I'm sure the category already exists, but I bet it was not defined as getting yourself into the shot by way of a reflection. Another "stealthie"..

From the everything old is now new again department...

I've recently discovered the usefulness of "vintage" lenses on modern, mirrorless cameras. These flower photos were taken with a 57-year-old Super-Takumar 1:4 / 50mm, adapted to my trusty Olympus OM-1 (OMD Systems, 2022) camera. This lens falls within the range of the radioactive Super-Takumars, so maybe that helped with the red/amber colors.

Through A Russian Lens

This is what happens when you take a 45-year-old lens made in the USSR, put it on a 5-year-old digital camera made in Vietnam, and hope that everything is blurry in the right places.

The lens is from a Zenit-E camera manufactured by Krasnogorsk Mechanical Works in 1977. KMW was located near Moscow, which was the host-city of the 1980 Summer Olympics. My copy of the Zenit-E was made specifically for the 1980 Summer Olympics and bears the logo of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games on its body. At that time, the USSR was second, only to Japan, in the manufacture of SLR cameras. I obtained my Zenit-E Olympic Model specifically because of its connection to the 1980 Summer Olympic Games, an Olympics in which the US and 65 other countries did not participate. Why?

The 66 countries boycotted the 1980 Olympics in response to the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan, a war that was so costly to the USSR, that it has been cited by scholars as a contributing factor to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

1949 Desk Phone Converted to Novelty Lamp

Do you believe in magic?

I still remember the first time I saw a magic trick. Actually, I guess it would be more accurate to call it sleight of hand since, as we all know, magic doesn’t exist (he said with his fingers crossed behind his back).

It was in the McCrory’s 5&10 in Orange, NJ. I had to be about 5 years old and, if my memory is reliable, I think I was there to get a Halloween costume. I have no idea if I got a costume or not, because I don’t remember, but I do remember reading all of the boxes that the costumes came in and the name of the company that made them. The company was called Ben Cooper, which I thought was an odd name for a company, and I also remember being uneasy about the way “Cooper” was written on the boxes but I don’t remember why. Being Halloween related, anything was possible, but it had something to do with the shapes of the letters. They were “scary”!

Anyway, there was a guy in the store with small foam rabbits, each about the size of half an adult thumb. He would walk around the store and demonstrate them to the various groups of parents and kids who were also, undoubtedly, shopping for Halloween costumes. He eventually made his way around to my mom and me and had the 3 foam rabbits in his hand. He told me some kind of story about the rabbits which had them traveling back and forth between his palms until the part of the story where one rabbit gets separated from the others and winds up alone in the chosen hand. He then asked me which hand that lone rabbit was in. I was extremely certain that I knew, because I had just seen him put it in that hand. I confidently pointed to the hand with the single rabbit, he opened his hand and there were no rabbits. He then opened his other hand and all 3 were there! I remember yelling something like, “Shut The Front Door!!” only I didn’t know about that yet, so I must have said the five-year-old equivalent. If I had to guess it was probably, “Holy Cow!!” Needless to say, I had to have these magic rabbits made out of foam and, when I left the store that day, I was the proud owner of 3 foam magic rabbits.

I don’t think there was even any packaging involved with these rabbits, certainly no instructions. I think this guy was just peddling naked foam rabbits, for who knows how much money, to kids like me who wanted to have their own magic rabbits. I’m pretty sure he showed me how to do the trick and, when I found out that it was not magic at all, and that I would have to practice this movement with my hands while misdirecting my audience (aka, my mom who was also seeing how this “magic” was done), I thought, well this is bull sh**, only I didn’t know about that yet so I probably thought the 5-year-old equivalent. Not sure what that would have been.

It was a valuable lesson on several levels, but it also introduced me to the sensation of not believing what my eyes were telling me was true. I have always loved that feeling and I’ve had an interest in the art of illusion ever since. I especially like the kinds of illusions that you can look directly at and not immediately figure out how you are seeing what you are seeing. A good example of this is the magic water spigot, seemingly hanging in the air with no visible means of support, yet it has a continuous stream of water coming out of it and falling into a container below. The best version of this I ever saw was in a mall. For the life of me I can’t remember if it was one of the malls where I grew up, or a mall in Florida, but that version of the magic water spigot was in an open part of the common area of the mall and the spigot was huge and probably ten or fifteen feet up in the air. (If anyone reading this remembers the giant mall spigot, let me know because it has been driving me crazy trying to remember which mall it was.) Though I knew how the floating spigot worked by then, I still loved to stare at that thing. 

Similarly, when I first came to Louisville, I was in the Spencer’s Gifts in the Jefferson Mall. They had a tiny wind chime hanging near the cash register and it was gently chiming, seemingly by magic, because there was no wind in the store. I looked at it for a few seconds then noticed that the piece from which it was hanging was moving slightly, back and forth, but, over time, it was enough movement to make the swinging striker touch the chimes now and then. It was a cool effect but they wanted a ton of money for those wind chimes. It bugged me enough that I eventually built my own, but my magic wind chimes, which I named “Invisi-Breeze” at the time, have been running for an hour each morning for the last 30ish years. My indoor wind chimes have no moving parts. The striker is driven by a hidden electromagnet that gets energized with pulses of electricity. I should make a video of it someday because back in 1991, when I built it, we were still in the camcorder days and cell phones with no cameras. It is one of those items though that I still look at with amazement because it seems to be doing the impossible, even though I know exactly how it works because I built the stupid thing.

Speaking of videos, that’s the entire purpose of this long trip down memory lane. I finally finished my phone project with the 1949 desk phone. Some of you may have seen the photo of its dial that I posted a couple of days ago. That phone has been around longer than 99% of the people who are likely to be reading this. It couldn’t serve its purpose as a phone anymore, but I hope it will serve in its new capacity, acting as a conversation piece and giving me more of that Ben Cooper uneasiness, for many years to come. You see, it’s a lamp now, but one that looks like it ignores the laws of physics. It’s got a sort of a Harry Potteresque feel to it. I had seen something similar on a website a few years ago, but the illusion was not convincing because the cord between the handset and the phone was too fat and the bulbs stuck out. I’ve had this phone for a year now and it has taken that long to figure out what kind of parts would make it work safely and how I could get those parts to actually go together. Think of it like Wordle, but with physical objects, and you don’t know what the scope of the “alphabet” is when you start.

The video is only about a minute long but, since you are not seeing the phone in-person, I wanted to try and induce a bit of a feeling of vertigo, or being slightly off kilter, because that’s the way it feels to me when I look across the house and see it lit up and floating above the book case. I think Ben Cooper would be proud…

How Way Leads On To Way...

I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence...

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~Robert Frost

Broad Run Park

A beautiful sunset at Broad Run Park, Louisville, KY.

Chipmunk On A Log

Slightly obscured by several sticks, I just really liked the colors in this photo.

Let There Be Light 2020

I photograph this Let There Be Light statue, by George Grey Barnard, at least once a year, why should 2020 be any different. I think of her as the goddess of photography since light is the photographer's medium.