Tuesday, July 31, 2012

JACK Report: Free Concert Sunday on Governor's Island

I have been fairly quiet lately about one of my passions, the JACK Quartet; not because they haven't been active but because I've been doing most of my publicizing on Facebook.  But for those few readers I have left who are not Facebook friends, you should know that JACK is playing twice on Saturday (rain date, Sunday,) at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Governor's Island in New York City and you can listen for free.  Here is one of the pieces they will be playing. 

And here is an interview with Ari describing the show. Here is another article describing the show. The Wife and I will be there,so come say "Hi," if you make it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Report: I Am Not A Fan of Mormons

No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph SmithNo Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith by Fawn M. Brodie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who was the first Mormon to run for president?  No, not Willard "Mitt" Romney, but the founder of Romney's church, Joseph Smith.  I wanted to read this book precisely because I am curious about the origins of Mormonism, considering that the Republican candidate for president this year comes from an illustrious Mormon family and was a bishop in the church, the head of the Boston "stake" (what would be a diocese in Catholic terminology.)

This is an objective book, as objective as a book can be whose subject is a fraud, a liar, a convicted swindler and a child molester.  Smith started out his career by swindling land owners into paying him to locate buried treasure.  He was tried and convicted for that.  Even if you believe his preposterous story about finding golden tablets, which he could never show anyone, which contained stories pretty much plagiarized wholesale from other accounts extant in his day of the lost tribes of Israel being the ancestors of the Indians, the proven lies he repeatedly told as head of the Mormon church makes any straight-forward account of his life seem like it's picking on him.

Some of the more egregious lies were the ones he told about his sexual practices.  It is well documented that he repeatedly seduced women by convincing them that God had commanded them to "marry" him and that it included girls as young as 14 and 15.  These "marriages" were not conducted as one might think a religious prophet who believed he was commanded by God to engage in polygamy would conduct them.  These were not marriages conducted in the open "in front of God and these witnesses" with women who then became part of his household. They were done in secret, some with women who were already married and who continued to live with their "earthly" husbands, and he repeatedly denied that he was doing it to his wife and the bulk of his church members.

Although Mormons claim to be Christians, Smith didn't teach the familiar Jesus who urged his followers to renounce earthly possessions and to turn the other cheek when oppressed.  Smith had his own militia, with himself as the "Brigadier General" and they were ordered to turn the earth red with the blood of those who persecuted them.  At Nauvoo, IL, the scene of the death of Smith at the hands of an outraged mob, he controlled all of the land.  He bought it at low prices and sold it at inflated prices to followers coming to the town.  Smith ran for President of the United States and told some of his followers that God had told him he would be "King of the World."

So, what does all this have to do with Willard "Mitt" Romney?  He comes from a background and religious tradition where deception is part of the heritage.  Look at the way he is running for president and then read this book. It's all part of who Romney is.

Yes, I believe in freedom of religion.  I don't have a problem with electing a man president of the United States who believes in myths which I cannot accept.  I don't have a problem with electing a man president who believes in or even practices polygamy.  Polygamy has at least as much support in the Bible as monogamy.  But, I do have a problem with electing a man as president whose religion is based on fraud, lying and sexual predation.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Book Report: The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee, Journalism's Legendary EditorYours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee, Journalism's Legendary Editor by Jeff Himmelman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeff Himmelman has raised a mini-storm in Washington and New York among the journalistic elites who can't believe he betrayed the two great icons of modern journalism, Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward by writing the truth. No one has claimed that Himmelman fudged the facts, only that he should have protected Bradlee (and Bradlee's wife, Sally Quinn) and Woodward by not including things that might make them look bad.

None of what Himmelman wrote is actually that negative about the great gods of journalism.  There was an instance he found where Woodward lied about his sources in his Watergate stories and a letter that Bradlee wrote but never sent in which he questioned the motives of his wife, Ms. Quinn.  Neither "betrayal" was any great shock to anyone who has followed the careers of Bradley, Quinn and Woodward.  I lost any confidence that Woodward could be relied upon as a "truth teller," in the book, "Veil" about William Casey's time at the CIA in which he quotes Casey on his death bed.  There were guards at the door to Casey's hospital room 24/7 who denied that Woodward was ever in the room.  It didn't pass my "smell" test that the hospital staff, the guards and the Casey family would allow Woodward into the room.  There are many other instances of Woodward reporting, particularly his account of the Supreme Court in "The Brethren" that have not passed my "smell test."

Himmelman's book is not a chronologically organized book of biography of Ben Bradlee, but more of a character study.  Many of the facts about Bradlee were already known, since Bradlee had already written an autobiography (which I have not read.)  Himmelman shows a charismatic man whom many people (and I count Himmelman among them) adored.  But he was not exactly a genius, he didn't have the attention span for that.  His gift seems to have been to find good reporters, give them a chance to produce and then support them to the hilt.

I got this book in a Good Reads giveaway.  It is not a "great" book, but it is a very good book, one that entertained and informed me.  I recommend it for people who are interested in journalism and politics.  I don't think I would want Jeff Himmelman for a friend though.

Monday, July 02, 2012

JACK Report: A Smash in Bali

In April, I linked to a JACK fund raising event in connection with a trip to Bali to play with traditional local musicians and dancers.  I am happy to report that the trip was successful beyond what they had hoped for.  The Jarkata Post has a review here in which they say the audience was "stunned" by JACK's performance.  I am told the quartet played to a crowd of 3,000, their biggest crowd to date.  There is a DVD and CD being made of the performance.  I'll let you know when and where they're available.