“You don’t want to lose something because you decided to have a second cup of coffee.”

I have noted before the irony of finding our past when building our future. Here in New York one often sees well-preserved advertisements on the sides of buildings for products and services that no longer exist. For Sam’s Snake Oil Cream dial Pennsylvania-72000. Often this happens because an adjacent building, that protected the signage, has been torn down leaving the ad exposed for all to see. Yesterday’s New York Times has the story of the archeological race to gather remnants of the December 1862 Battle of Frederiscksburg while the tractors and backhoes are working away at the same time.

Margaret Mitchell above the 38th parallel

MGM movie poster, 1939

From the You Never Know What You’ll See Next department:

The former black marketeer has read it. So has the beautiful young librarian, and the aging philosophy professor who has spent his life teaching the ruling doctrine of this isolated outpost of totalitarian socialism. At times it seems as if everyone in Pyongyang, a city full of monuments to its own mythology, has read the book.

In it they found a tortured love story, or a parable of bourgeois decline. Many found heroes. They lost themselves in the story of a nation divided by war, its defeated cities reduced to smolder and ruins, its humbled aristocrats reduced to starvation.

The book is “Gone With the Wind.”

The more one thinks about it the less surprising it is.

Canada remembers…

John Ware, c. 1845-1905

I confess to not knowing who John Ware was until reading this announcement from Canada Post advertising the release of the above commemorative stamp in his honor. I confess, too, that it never occurred to me that Black History Month is observed North of the Border. Ware was born into slavery in South Carolina and found his way to the Lone Star State after the Civil War. In Texas he joined the legions of black cowboys who worked the range. During a long drive Ware ended up in Calgary, settled there, and established a life for himself. I have been a philatelist almost my whole life and must say CP has done a beautiful job on the Ware stamp. There is more on the man here.

(Image courtesy/Canada Post)

Art on the Mall, cont’d

Frank Gehry’s proposed Eisenhower Memorial

In November I posted about the controversy surrounding the Eisenhower Memorial scheduled for groundbreaking early this year. The Frank Gehry designed monument will be directly on the Mall, near the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and within easy view of the Capitol Building itself, some prime real estate to say the least. I wrote my masters thesis on Eisenhower and believe him to be worthy of this distinction. Public art is almost always fraught with controversy, something no one understood better that Ike himself. Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Museum of Modern Art in 1954 President Eisenhower noted that “as long as artists are free to create with sincerity and conviction, there will be healthy controversy and progress in art.” Controversy can indeed be healthy, moving good ideas forward and pushing bad ones aside. Still, it is this writer’s humble opinion that the design does not suit the subject or the site. Modernity itself did not intimidate Dwight Eisenhower, but the avant garde memorial does not align with how the general and president lived and saw the world around him. Eisenhower’s family has become more vocal in their opposition. Grandson David stepped down from the Commission in December and last week the family issued a letter to the National Capital Planning Commission expressing its disapproval. It will be interesting to see if the projects moves ahead in the face of this opposition.

In other news concerning memorials on the National Mall, the Department of the Interior will change a quotation on the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument to better reflect Dr. King’s words. As currently written the inscription has King saying

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

In a February 1968 sermon know as the “Drum Major Instinct,” King said

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Critics, including Maya Angelou, believe the paraphrase does not accurately reflect King’s statement. The Park Service will consult with the King family and scholars to create a new inscription.

(image/Eisenhower Memorial Commission)