Saturday, August 29, 2009

Julia Child Makes Primordial Soup

Everybody's favorite French Chef was a true advocate for science who had no truck with creationists, nosiree Bob! Enjoy, and bon appetit!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Plot To Blow Up the Statue of Liberty

In 1965, three black militants from a group called the Black Liberation Front conspired to blow up the Statue of Liberty with help from a white Canadian woman in the Quebecois separatist movement who provided them with dynamite. The photo below is a UPI photo of the four bomb plotters from the front page of the February 17, 1965 issue of the Zanesville, Ohio Times-Recorder.

An interesting 1965 article from Time magazine's online archive describes the "Monumental Plot" in further detail. Robert Steele Collier, the ringleader of the plot, got the idea to blow up the Statue of Liberty (which he called "that damned old bitch") after visiting Cuba in the summer of 1964. Another plotter, Walter Augustus Bowe, later convinced the group to blow up the Liberty Bell and the Washington Monument too, after a replica of the Statue of Liberty convinced them they could blow up the statue's head and torch. The group then obtained dynamite from a Quebecois television personality, Michelle Duclos, but the plot was foiled by Ray Wood, an undercover police officer who was in on the plot the whole time.

Two months later, a Quebecois man who had provided dynamite to Michelle Duclos committed suicide in his jail cell by hanging himself with a leather thong attached to his artificial leg. The newspaper story reporting his death is taken from the front page of the April 19, 1965 issue of the Columbus Daily Telegram.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rare Silver Apples Article

Vintage article on the cult electronic psychedelic band, the Silver Apples, from the El Paso Herald-Post in August 1968.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vintage Article on Julia Child

From p. 18 of the November 20, 1961 issue of the Pasadena Independent. The article mentions that Julia Child and her husband were staying with Julia's father and stepfather in Pasadena and also mentions Julia's performance in "fairytale operas" (!) put on by the Pasadena Junior League when she was younger. Click on the article to get a closer look.

Julie, Julia, & the Red Scare

My wife and I saw the movie Julie & Julia last night, which has some interesting biographical details about Julia Child. I was already aware that Julia Child had worked for the OSS, the World War II spy agency and precursor to the CIA, but I was not aware about how her personal history intersected with McCarthyism and the Red Scare in the United States. I have not yet had a chance to read the Julia Child book, My Life in France, but the blog Strange Culture has a post summarizing how the Cold War, the Red Scare, and the later development of McCarthyism shaped Julia Child's life:
1. The historical story that is nestled into this book is fascinating. It's certainly interesting to see how America's foreign policy following WWII changes and adapts through the administrations of Harry S Truman and Eisenhower through the eyes of Paul and Julia Child. Paul Child's diplomatic role in furthering a presentation of American culture and art through ECA (Economic Cooperation Administration) is interesting as a direct arm of the Marshall plan, yet the lack of promotional opportunities for Paul, the increased emphasis on military expansion, as well as the growing fear that was associated with McCarthyism in the United States really was shown through the life of Paul and Julia and their experiences in Europe as American citizens, especially when Paul gets a surprise trip to Washington DC were he is interrogated.

In addition, the movie Julie & Julia depicts Julia Child and her husband as staunch anti-McCarthyite Democrats who occasionally had disagreements with Julia's father about Joseph McCarthy. Paul Child was even questioned by federal investigators about whether he was a homosexual, a common practice during the McCarthy era, as depicted in the book The Lavender Scare. According to My Life in France, Julia Child's father wrote her a letter that said, "I think it's time you two [Julia Child and her husband] had a vacation at home and got the American idea and forget what the Socialistic element of Europe are trying to sell you."

Another hidden connection between the Red Scare and Julie & Julia can be found in the character of Avis DeVoto, Julia's pen pal who helps get publishers interested in Julia's cookbook. The movie does not emphasize this much, but Avis DeVoto was the wife of the writer, Bernard DeVoto, a New Deal liberal who ran afoul of the FBI before Joseph McCarthy was even elected to the Senate. (It is a point that doesn't get emphasized enough that anti-Communist witch hunts were in effect in the 1940s during the Truman Administration, a few years before Joseph McCarthy got to federal office.) Bernard DeVoto attracted the FBI's attention, because he wrote a column in October 1949 in Harper's Magazine mocking the FBI, titled "Due Notice to the FBI." I highly recommend reading the column, because it has just the right mixture of outrage over the violation of civil liberties lightened with humor and bemusement.

Even more interesting, when you consider Bernard DeVoto's connection to the movie Julie & Julia, is his depiction of how "foodie" behavior used to be viewed as a sign of Communist sympathies by J. Edgar Hoover's agents. In the column "Due Notice to the FBI," DeVoto depicts some of the ridiculous questions FBI agents would ask about their target's food preferences:
Does Harry S. Dewey belong to the Wine and Food Society? The Friends of Escoffier? Has he ever attended a meeting of either group? Does he associate with members of either? Has he even been present at a meeting of any kind, or at a party, at which a member of either was also present? Has he ever read Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste? Does he associate with people who have read it? Has he ever been present at a meeting or a party at which anyone who has read it was also present?

DeVoto also describes how the FBI used nosy neighbors to get information:
But Mr. Craig goes a few doors down the street and interviews Frances Perkins Green, who is a prohibitionist and has suffered from nervous indigestion for many years. She has seen truffles and artichokes and caviar in the Dewey garbage. The Deweys' maid has told Mrs. Green that they have porterhouses much oftener than frankforts, that they always have cocktails and frequently have wine, that sometimes cherries and peaches come all the way from Oregon by mail.

Cherries and peaches from Oregon, oh my! The right wing and its obsession with "latte liberalism" and the food preferences of its ideological opponents will never change, I suppose. Anyhow, the more I read about Bernard DeVoto, the more I like him. For his very funny column about the FBI, the FBI compiled a massive FBI file about him for his trouble. And all this happened, not because DeVoto was a Communist agent or any threat to national security, but because DeVoto simply believed in an America where people should mind their own business about their neighbors. As Devoto said,
I like a country where it's nobody's damn business what magazines anyone reads, what he thinks, whom he has cocktails with. I like a country where we do not have to stuff the chimney against listening ears and where what we say does not go into the FBI files along with a note from S-17 that I may have another wife in California.

It's a message we could do well to listen to today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More on Reagan's Operation Coffee Cup

Here's a clipping from the November 2, 1966 issue of the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown of California evidently made a campaign issue out of how Ronald Reagan used over-the-top rhetoric about totalitarianism in an attempt to squelch the creation of Medicare. Brown eventually lost reelection as governor of California to Ronald Reagan, but when I read the clipping, I am struck by how forcefully Brown was willing to call out alarmist right-wing rhetoric for the total crock of B.S. it was. If only some Congressional Democrats now had similar courage in dealing with right-wing nonsense...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wake Up & Smell the Coffee Cup

The recent right-wing temper tantrum over health care reform bears an interesting resemblance to this 1961 recording, Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine:

The LP was part of Operation Coffee Cup, an early 1960s campaign developed by public relations consultants for the American Medical Association in opposition to the creation of Medicare for seniors. On the LP, Reagan engages in gloom and doom rhetoric, warning his listeners that if they fail stop the creation of Medicare "you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free." Reagan not only warns that the government will command doctors where they can practice medicine, but that in the future, children will have their professions chosen for them by government schools.

Needless to say, Reagan's alarmist predictions turned out to have zero validity. In fact, Medicare has been so unobtrusively integrated into the fabric of American life that health care reform opponents are now engaged in widespread denial that Medicare is a government program. The same reactionary elements who cried socialism in opposition to Medicare in the early 1960s are now wailing against socialism while simultaneously claiming to be defending Medicare. The hypocrisy is galling, of course, but then again, I can see no better illustration of how conservatism consistently fails to accept when its premises have been disproven.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lou Dobbs and Horse Show Hypocrisy

This weekend my wife, my mother, and I went to the New Jersey State Fair. While I was there, I learned that fair included a horse show. According to my farm show brochure, one of the horse show events with the biggest prizes is the $10,000 Lou Dobbs Tonight Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur-Owner Classic, named after CNN commentator Lou Dobbs. Now what gets me is that Lou Dobbs claims to be this populist tribune of the middle class, but he obviously has lots of money to throw around on the economically elite hobby of amateur horse raising. According to this gossip column in the Philadelphia Daily News, Lou's daughter Hillary Dobbs won several awards at the Devon Horse Show shortly after finishing her finals at Harvard. Ironically, Hillary won those awards while riding a German pony paid with money that her father earns by bashing immigrants for stealing American jobs! (What happened, Mr. Buy American? American ponies not good enough for your daughter, Lou?)

Lou Dobbs went from being a pioneer of financial journalism on cable news to turning into an anti-immigrant blowhard and bully. Yet, as he gets richer jumping on the anti-immigrant bandwagon, he still funds a subculture of rich amateur horse enthusiasts who rely on illegal immigrant labor. According to Vicky Moon's book, A Sunday Horse: Inside the Grand Prix Show Jumping Circuit, "This melting pot of international equine aficionados does not include the countless numbers of illegal Spanish-speaking immigrants who shovel the 40 tons of poop a day." Yet no matter how much poop those show horses produce, it still doesn't stink as much as the hypocrisy of Lou Dobbs calling for the mass deportation of immigrants who have made his daughter's opulent lifestyle possible.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Henry Ford Funding Hitler

From page 4 of the December 19, 1922 issue of the Bridgeport Telegram.

American Axis: Henry Ford's Nazi Connection

I don't have much to add to this newspaper clipping, other than to mention that it was taken from page 4 of the December 28, 1922 issue of the Fort-Wayne News Sentinel. Evidently, rumors of Henry Ford's financing of Hitler were active as early as the 1920s, when there was simultaneously speculation about Henry Ford running as a candidate for president.

More Vintage Walter Cronkite

Here's another United Press story from Walter Cronkite's days as a correspondent with that wire service. It's dated March 11, 1941, from the Evansville Intelligencer. According to the story, the Czech figure skater Vera Hruba received 2600 marriage proposals after she was temporarily threatened with deportation from the United States. According to Miss Hruba, "I got a letter from a convict in Texas who said he had 14 more days to serve on a 10-year sentence for killing somebody, and that he'd be glad to marry me. Another said that he was 32, good-natured and handsome, but that he thought it was only fair to tell me that he was drunk all the time." For his own part, Cronkite describes Hruba as a "beautiful and shapely girl with a pronounced accent," a description you would most definitely not find most newspapers these days. Cronkite does not provide context about why Hruba fled Czechoslovakia to go the United States, but her Wikipedia entry states that Hitler asked her at the 1936 Olympics to "skate for the swastika." Miss Hruba then told Hitler that she would rather "skate on the swastika." Later on, after becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, Hruba adopted the name Vera Ralston and had a brief movie career that lasted from the 1940s to the early 1950s.

Why No USS Bill Clinton?

The blog Lawyers, Guns, & Money has a great post about the politics of naming military warships. It turns out, no big surprise, that most of the military hardware is named after Republicans. Most of the Democrats who have ships named after them were Southern Democrats, typically of the segregationist variety, who are thankfully no longer part of the Democratic coalition. As one of the commenters noted, there isn't even a single warship named after a supporter of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s. Before even considering naming an aircraft carrier after Barry Goldwater, we should commission the USS Lyndon Baines Johnson or the USS Bill Clinton first.