HBD: Yosemite National Park

“Yosemite Valley, California, 1865,” Library of Congress

Happy Birthday, Yosemite! It was on 128 years ago today that the California Valley was designated a national park, a development spurred in large part thanks to Carleton Watkins’ incredible snapshots of the park, like the circa 1865 images above and below.* He was kind of like the John James Audubon of landscape.

Reprinted from coast to coast, Watkins’ exposed  increasingly industrialized, urbanized Americans to nature’s bounty, convincing them and political leaders alike that our land deserves protection from ravenous, capitalistic development. If only contemporary politicians saw things the same way.

You can read all about Watkins’ impact on saving Yosemite  in Tyler Green’s upcoming book, Watkins: Making the American West.

(*This development also helped precipitate the collapse of the racist, socialist Kaweah Colony.)

“Yosemite’s Domes, 1865,” Library of Congress

 

“Cathedral Rock, 1865,” Library of Congress

 

Trump Tries To Create Midterm Cover

President Trump today, without any kind of evidence, claimed China is meddling in the 2018 midterm elections. Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration,” Trump said at the United Nations Security Council meeting today. “They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.” Chinese representatives deny this claim.

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Lyndon Johnson Hated ‘The Graduate’

Lyndon Johnson’s greatest presidential legacy was by far the Great Society, a series of New Deal-inspired initiatives expanding social and cultural services in America — public broadcasting, national endowment for the arts, and Medicare and Medicaid were all part of his circa 1964-1965 program. Some of his efforts were successful; others fell short, such as Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” which many, including Martin Luther King Jr., described as  a “war on the poor,” especially people of color, for all its inadequacies, inequalities, and impotencies.

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Trump’s Formulaic Endorsements

Have you noticed that all of Donald Trump’s political endorsements are more or less the same? They always include the same phrase: “He” – it’s almost always a he – “is a fighter who will be tough on Crime and the Border, fight hard for our Second Amendment and loves our Military and our Vets. He has my full and complete Endorsement!”

The above was from his endorsement of Texas Congressman Pete Sessions. Here’s Trumpet’s endorsement of Danny Tarkanian: “[He] of Nevada is a great friend who supports the Trump Agenda. He is Strong on Crime, the Border and our under siege 2nd Amendment. Danny Loves our Military and our Vets. He has my total and complete Endorsement!”

And this: “Congressman Keith Rothfus continues to do a great job for the people of Pennsylvania. Keith is strong on Crime, the Border, and our Second Amendment. Loves our Military and our Vets. He has my total Endorsement!”

The examples go on – and they’re always the same: crime and border; second amendment; military and vets.

Clearly these endorsement’s aren’t from the heart; that space is too full of his own self-interest.

Found in the LOC: 1970 Cartoon Looks, Sounds Like Trump

Illustrator Robert Osborn couldn’t have known in the early 1970s that Donald Trump would become president. At that point Trump was busy dodging Vietnam.

It’s therefore pretty incredible that today, hours after the New York Times published an op-ed from a Trump staffer claiming to be standing between our deranged president and chaos, I searched “incompetent” on Library of Congress’ website and found, first thing, this 1970-1973 Osborn drawing entitled “The Incompetent Carried by the Underlings.”

There’s no indication the titular incompetent is the President of the United States, but I couldn’t not make the connection, especially after reading this description: “A large, erect, Frankenstein-like creature stand[ing] with arms folded, carried by an army of small men who act as his feet.”

The resemblance is uncanny.

Here’s a detail. I would download a better quality image, but the file is only available at the actual LOC:

HBD: Mary Renault and Richard Wright

 

Today marks birthdays for Mary Renault (b. 1905) and Richard Wright (b. 1908), two authors who used their tremendous talents to tackle social injustice and institutional discrimination.

Renault’s novels, including 1953’s The Charioteer and 1956’s The Last of the Wine, challenged homophobia: the first directly, the second, like most of her works, indirectly, through the lens of historical fiction. Meanwhile Wright’s works, most notably 1941’s Native Son and his 1945 memoir, Black Boy, explored and exploded racism in America and its deleterious impact on the nation and its people.*

In another similarity between these Virgos, both authors left their homelands to live their truest lives: Renault and partner Julie Mullard escaped England’s mainstream homophobia by relocating in 1948 to comparatively nonchalant South Africa (they would also become vocal opponents of that nation’s racist apartheid government); and Wright and his wife Ellen Poplar relocated to Paris in 1946 to enjoy an existence free of American racism, especially because they were an interracial couple in a time when that was uber taboo.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that post-WWII America and England, symbolic stars at the time for the west’s superior liberalism, lost two of their brightest  stars because of their restrictive, moralistic social norms?

Both authors died in their adopted lands, Renault in 1983, and Wright in 1960, in Paris.

(*Note: James Baldwin, the gay black author recently discussed here and who escaped American homophobia and racism by also moving to Paris, later took aim at Wright’s depiction of black people, in Notes of a Native Son).

“Daybreak,” Over and Over.


You may not know the name of this image, but you’ve almost certainly seen it — or a variation of it, at least.

Entitled Daybreak, it was created in 1922 by Maxfield Parrish, the legendary artist whose 148th birthday was yesterday. An instant viral sensation, the painting’s popularity only grew as the century unfurled, becoming, like Benji Franklin’s “Join, or Die,” a sort of pre-internet meme.

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