A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
Sixty-seven years ago this Sunday, America was signifcantly and forever changed.
The ancient Hawaiians called Pearl Harbor "Wai Momi", which literally translated, means "Water of Pearl". On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked the United States Naval installations located there.
Readers of this column know I love music, and last weekend I had a chance to listen to some I had not heard in years. I played a wide offering but two stood out - some Sinatra, and Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. It got me thinking about both artists.
Sinatra was an enormous talent, and the first real mega-star of the modern entertainment era. He came of age in the big band era and grew into a living legend. His personality, charisma, and ego were legendary, and the combination of his wealth and celebrity gave him real power. As he exercised that power he was given the nickname he relished, "The Chairman of the Board". Long rumored as having ties to Mafioso, many claimed he was the model for singer Johnny Fontaine in Mario Puzo's novel, The Godfather. He was also an actor of considerable talent, winning an Oscar for the role of Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity, and delivering strong performances in dozens of other films. You know someone is a pop-culture icon when they become the object of repeated caricature on Saturday Night Live. SNL comedians Joe Piscipo and Phil Hartman mimmicked him over the years, displaying some of the most brilliant and hilarious impersonation work I have ever seen.
I have an excellent, inexpensive, and potentially life-changing suggestion for that "tough to buy for" person on your Christmas list. It is the book Younger Next Year - A Guide to Living Like 50 Into Your Eighties, by Chris Crowley and Dr. Harry Lodge. While an excellent read for any age, it is specifically targeted towards people my age and above.
One of my favorite things about the Christmas Season is the music. I break Christmas music into two categories: hymns (spiritual in nature and content) and songs or carols (secular in nature).
My favorite hymn is Oh Holy Night, with its beautiful ascent and simple, clear telling of the Gospel story. One of my favorite carols is Silver Bells, first sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the 1951 movie, The Lemon Drop Kid.
Mark Twain once observed that, "the man who does not read holds little advantage over the man who cannot read". Despite current levels of literacy that would surely astound the great American author, today I think Twain might have said something like, "the man who does not read worthwhile material holds little advantage over the man who does not read anything".
Over Christmas break I read a worthwhile book which I recommend for two reasons: it is very well written, and its tale is one of great value; an all but vanishing combination in contemporary American publishing. There are many reasons for this, but two primary ones, I think. First, many contemporary stories lack meaningful content or value - the literary equivalent of empty calories. Secondly, while many modern stories may be worthwhile, much of the writing is so vacuous and shoddy as to end up be-fouling the very tale it is trying to tell.