Bon weekend

I am sorry about the lack of posts this week. This week I got caught up putting the final on a few projects, which left little time for anything else. A friend came to my office earlier today and asked if I wanted to see Lincoln again tomorrow, to which I gave a big yes. The Hayfoot and I had actually planned on going to the big screen this week, but things got away from us. I think she wants to see Daniel Day-Lewis again in December.

The Civil War on film is a topic in and of itself. There is no doubt in my mind that Spielberg’s Lincoln join D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind in our canon of popular culture. It is certainly the event so far of the sesquicentennial, and I don’t see anything supplanting it between now and 2015.

People have been asking me how true to events the Lincoln film is, to which I always answer “Don’t worry about it.” It is a feature film, not a documentary. Asking or expecting a movie to be true to life is asking too much. Just go see it and enjoy. Then, if you are interested, delve into subject. The film gives a lot to think about, but it’s not spinach. Artistically and creatively it is fully realized and should be experienced in a theater surrounded by others. See it while you can.

Layoffs at Liberty and Ellis Islands

I am no longer a volunteer at Ellis Island National Monument and so don’t have the inside bead on the extent of the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy I once might have. All I’ve had to go on has been a phone call from a friend saying that he has been laid off for an indefinite period and what I can glean from the news. Last week it was announced that the Liberty and Ellis Islands would remain closed through the end of the year. Today the news is that 400 have been laid off, perhaps though April 2013. That would be a full six months closed to the public. I cannot tell you how sad this makes me. What hurts the most is that the it is now the holiday season–the busiest time of the year at Ellis. I know that by the end of the year is unrealistic but I hope they can manage to get at least partial visitation up-and-running in early 2013. For one thing this touches a great deal of the New York economy, as anyone who as ever been to the Battery knows. We shall see.


The Eisenhower Memorial, to be continued in 2013

The demands of work prevented me from commenting the week before last that the National Capital Planning Commission has decided to table any decision on the Eisenhower Memorial until sometime in 2013. I am taking that as a hopeful sign that the powers-that-be will reconsider (i.e. rescind) the plans of starchitect Frank Gehry for his monument to the general and president. In mid-November John S.D. Eisenhower, the 90 year old son of the 34th president and former general and ambassador in his own right, wrote a letter to Senator Daniel Inouye, vice chair of the memorial commission. Media outlets tended to publish only excerpts, His daughter Susan has just published the entire piece. It is worth checking out.

Happy Thanksgiving

High Line

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This popped up on the Hayfoot’s email from the Friends of the High Line blog and she passed along:

 As legend has it, in 1980, after years of declining use, the final train chugged down the elevated railway, carrying three carloads of frozen turkeys.

This last shipment of turkeys marked the end of an era in which the High Line played an integral role in bringing raw materials and food into New York City. Since its construction in 1934, the High Line had transported meat, raw goods, and finished products to and from the area’s factories, including the Nabisco bakery within the building that is now home to Chelsea Market.

If you ever visit New York I strongly recommend a visit to the High Line. Enjoy your day.

(image/Jim Shaughnessy)



Fort Hamilton and Hurricane Sandy

Stereograph of Fort Hamilton, c. 1850
Contemporary view of one of the buildings now on the National Register of Historic Places

Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton was one of the key installations in the New York Harbor fortification scheme. It was a Third System fort begun in 1825 on the Brooklyn shoreline to work in concert with Fort Lafayette in the Narrows itself, and Forts Tompkins and Richmond on Staten Island, to prevent (probably British) ships from entering the Upper Harbor. A young Captain Robert E.Lee was stationed at Fort Hamilton in the 1840s, the four forts I mentioned and the numerous others as well. Unlike the rest, Fort Hamilton is still an active military base.

Verrazano Narrows from Fort Tompkins

The harbor was among the places on the Eastern Seaboard hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. I was speaking on the phone last week with a friend, a ranger at one of the harbor parks, who said he has been laid off until the cleanup ends, whenever that is. Fort Hamilton seems to have been spared the worst, though many of its personnel have been hit hard personally by the storm. Hamilton is now one of the command centers for the recovery. According to Don Bradshaw, the deputy to the garrison’s commanding officer, “To my knowledge, this is the first time that Fort Hamilton has actually been designated a base support installation.”

(images top to bottom: NYPL, Jeffrey W75, Keith Muchowski)

Quote of the day

Lincoln inaugural at the unfinished U.S. Capitol Building, March 1861

From April 1850 until the day he abandoned Washington to become president of the Confederacy eleven years later, [Jefferson] Davis would be the new Capitol’s political champion, benefactor, and shepherd. Without him the modern Capitol, recognized throughout the world as an enduring symbol of republican democracy would never have existed.

–Guy Gugliotta, Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War

A litte irony to go with your coffee

(image/Library of Congress)

Quote of the day

“I hope no one takes it strictly as a history lesson,” he said. “There’s much more to the movie than that. It gives you an opportunity to think about the fact that politics is still dirty. And that great things are done by people, working hard. Great things are not hurled from the heavens like lightning bolts by an old man with a gray beard in a white robe. They don’t spring from the earth full-blown. Great things are the achievement of sometimes lowly people working very hard.”

–Tommy Lee Jones discussing Lincoln, opening nationwide today

(Hat tip: the Hayfoot)

(image courtesy Dreamworks and Twentieth Century Fox)

Bernard Lansky

Bernard Lansky, one half of the Lansky Brothers, the clothiers who dressed Elvis starting in the 1950s through his death in 1977, has died. Lansky helped define postwar cool for generations of black and white musicians, up to and including the present day. It is a quintessentially American story. Like Nudie Cohn, the Lanskies were Eastern European Jews who started small in the clothing business, did well, and eventually rendered their services to some of the buggest names in film and music. Besides the King, The Lansky client list included Carl Perkins, ZZ Top, the Jonas Brothers, Johnny Cash, Duke Ellington, B.B. King, Kiss, Dr. John, and Count Basie to name a few. It was Bernard Lansky who dressed Elvis for his Louisiana Hayride and Ed Sullivan appearances, and Lansky who selected the white suit and blue shirt in which Presley was buried. The Lanskies opened their original Beale Street shop in 1946 selling World War 2 surplus items. A version still exists today. Sad to know that one more person connected to the Elvis story is gone.