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Monday, August 22, 2016

YOUNG AMERICA | Aug. 22–The British Land on Long Island

After landing on Long Island, the British pursued
the Continental Army at a slow pace, strung out across
the East Coast. On Dec. 25, Washington struck back.
This day in 1776, after the Declaration of Independence in July, the British army under Gen. Sir William Howe landed 24,000 men on Long Island–in what is now Brooklyn. The rebellion began in April 1775 at Lexington and Concord.

The British plan was to end the war by capturing New York City and controlling the Hudson River, splitting apart the rebel colonies. This plan to take New York City succeeded, but the underlying plan to defeat the rebellion failed.

Howe misjudged the resentment of the rebels and their determination to be independent, much as a dog-owner misjudges a pet that has tasted independence and doesn't follow its master's commands any more.

Five days after landing, on August 27, Howe's troops marched against the "rebels"–from the American perspective, the Patriots–ensconced in Brooklyn Heights. They first overcame the Patriots defending Gowanus Pass and then outflanked the Continental Army. The Patriots suffered 1,000 casualties; the British lost only 400.  This was the greatest battle of the war. After this, General Washington avoided direct confrontation, playing the Scottish "secret war" that won against Edward I and Edward II, a defensive game, attacking only relatively small British contingents. Washington surely learned about this game when he was a colonel serving loyally under unpopular General Edward Braddock in the French and Indian War.

Ignoring staff advice, Howe opted not to pursue the Patriots to Brooklyn Heights, where he might have captured General Washington and his senior command, executed them as rebels and probably ended the rebellion. British General William Howe and his brother Admiral Richard Howe believed their Mission was Accomplished and that General Washington or the Congress would surrender.

On September 11, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other congressional representatives did reopen negotiations with the Howes. But after a couple of meetings the British refused to accept the non-negotiable demand for American independence and the congressional team went home.

The delays meanwhile gave General Washington and his troops time to retreat by boat to Manhattan under cover of darkness and fog. By the time the British army went back to work and captured New York City on September 15,  Washington and his men were on their way first north to White Plains and then across the Hudson to New Jersey. After many skirmishes in New Jersey, the Continental Army retreated to Pennsylvania.

NYC would remain in British hands until the end of the war. But on Christmas Day 1776, Washington led a bold counter-attack, recrossing the Delaware River above Trenton, and the Continental Army drove the British out of New Jersey. The war ended in Britain's defeat in 1781.

Friday, August 19, 2016

ART BIZ | Aug. 11–Pollock Died 60 Years Ago

Pollock and Kligman.
Jackson Pollock died at 10:15 pm 60 years ago on August 11, 1956, in East Hampton Town not far from where we spend our summers. It was on Springs Fireplace Road at a still-dangerous area, where several factors contribute to accidents:
  • After a long straight stretch from East Hampton Village, a bend in the road.
  • An intersection on the bend with Woodbine Drive, with an exit that descends steeply and ends, depositing drivers on the main road. For those unfamiliar with this intersection, it can be scary to approach from any direction.
  • In the midst of this confusion, the county (concrete) section of Springs Fireplace Road ends, and the town-maintained asphalt road begins, with two small roads going off to the right.
  • Several roads come together at the next intersection, also busy, at the Barnes General Store, one entering Springs Fireplace Road from the Springs School and another exiting left to a much-used residential road.
The number of fatalities in East Hampton that weekend 60 years ago was very high, 10 people, of whom two were Pollock and one of his two female passengers. Fatalities remain high today for a small resort community (with single-lane highways for most of their length), despite serious  enforcement of DWI laws.

Pollock had some successes in the year 1953, but then relapsed into depression driven by:
  • His wife Lee Krasner's complaints about his excessive consumption of alcohol and his little-concealed affair with NYC art student Ruth Kligman. 
  • Pollock also became depressed about frequently quoted art critics who explained his avant-garde abstract painting as a coverup of his bad drawing. At one point Pollock was feeling so uninspired that he seemed to agree with his critics: "Do you think I would have painted this crap if I knew how to draw a hand?"
Kligman, who was dubbed the "death-car girl", survived the accident. The person she invited to come with her to East Hampton, and was killed along with Pollock in the accident, was a receptionist in the New York City beauty salon that Kligman frequented. After Pollock's death Kligman began spending time with Pollock's rival Willem de Kooning, who lived on Woodbine Road.

In subsequent years there was a huge brouhaha over the provenance and authenticity of a painting called Red, Black and Silver that Kligman and others maintain was by Pollock, while others, including Krasner, aver is a fake. The story is valuable as a case history of how personal relationships and provenance affect the valuation of a piece of art. Another one in East Hampton has recently surfaced.

Posts about the ART BIZ:


HITLER | Aug. 19–Elected President and Führer

Hitler Feigns Respect for President von Hindenburg,
who dies later that day (August 2, 1934).
Already appointed Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler on this day in 1934 is elected President. Holding both offices, he no longer had any constraint and Hitler's dictatorship was in place.

How Hitler Became Chancellor

Since Germany was a strong democracy in the 1920s and marginalized Hitler, it is worth dissecting the steps by which the democracy was given up:
  • Hitler had already exploited the loss of German face under the Treaty of Versailles. Now he used the Crash of 1929 as a means for further attacking the Weimar Republic for failing to protect the German people from the Crash and subsequent Depression. Hitler won financial backing from business leaders, to whom Nazis leaders promised to break the German labor unions. 
  • The crisis of capitalism created an opportunity for Hitler to appeal to the public for a better deal. In 1930 Hitler's support jumped to 18 percent of the German vote, six million votes, making the Nazis Germany's second-largest party. 
  • In 1932, an anti-Nazi coalition tried to make sure that the Nazis lost votes in the election contest for President of Germany between Paul von Hindenburg (84) and Hitler.  But the Nazi share grew to 37 percent. Although von Hindenburg was reelected, he was afraid of the growth of the Nazis.
  • In January 1933, von Hindenburg–although he despised Adolf Hitler–sought to control Hitler by appointing him as Germany's Chancellor.
How Hitler Became President as Well, and Führer

Hitler was the now chief executive of Germany, but was subject to the President, to whom the Germany Army reported. This constraint on his actions irritated Hitler and he went about eliminating it: 
  • In February 1933, the burning of the Reichstag building, where the parliament met, gave Hitler the opportunity to call for another election. This time Nazi police under Hermann Göring intimidated Nazi opponents. But even so, the Nazis and their allies won only a bare majority.
  • Later in 1933, Hitler consolidated his dictatorial power through the Enabling Acts. He started arresting and executing political opponents, and even purged the Nazis’ own SA paramilitary organization in a successful effort to win support from the German army. 
  • August 2, 1934. Hitler visited President von Hindenburg to pay his respects.  A few hours later, von Hindenburg died. 
  • After von Hindenburg's death, Hitler purged the Nazi Brown Shirts, his own storm troopers.
  • On August 9, 1934, a plebiscite vote was held on August 19. Intimidation, admiration of job growth under Hitler, and fear of Communists, brought Hitler a 90 percent majority. Hitler decided to unite the chancellorship and presidency under the new title of Führer. He now controlled the army. His dictatorship was solidly in place.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

TENNIS | DYC Senior Men's Doubles Finals

FINALISTS, SENIOR MEN'S DOUBLES (L to R): John
Jaxheimer, John Tepper Marlin, Tim Snell (Pro), Thomas
Gouge, Britton Browne. Photo by Alice Tepper Marlin.
Amagansett, N.Y., August 6, 2016–In the DYC Senior (60+) Men's Doubles, the four finalists were: John Jaxheimer, John Tepper Marlin, Thomas Gouge and  Britton Browne.

After a tie-breaker in one set, the two teams won one set each after more than an hour and a half of play.

Instead of a third set, the match, running on overtime, was decided by a second tie-breaker.

The winners were: Gouge and Browne. All four players received glass bowls as trophies.

A photo of the handsome  trophy bowl is provided at right.

Friday, August 5, 2016

FRIENDS | Great Writing Companions (August)

Melville (L) and Hawthorne first met this day in 1850.
They are an example of a literary friendship that is associated
with the peak productivity of both writers.
Aug 5, 2016–By an accident of the calendar, three events occurred this day that highlight the importance of friendships in literary history.

One is the meeting of Melville and Hawthorne, who are part of the core curriculum of American high schools and therefore of American culture.

Another was the birth of Guy de Maupassant, whose stories are often assigned in school.

The Inklings group at Oxford and the Bloomsbury group in London, and the Round Table and Coffee House Club in New York City are more prominent examples of literary circles.

We sometimes forget the role of smaller or short-lived writing friendships.

Max Eastman, editor of the historic magazine The Masses, shut down by the U.S. Post Office in 1917, wrote about his own literary and personal friendships in his book Great Companions.

This fifth day of August highlights three pairs of friends who illustrate three major forms of literary friendship–parallel productivity (Melville and Hawthorne), mentoring (Flaubert and Maupassant) and exchange of letters (Snyder and Berry).
  • In 1850, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne (parallel productivity) met through a picnic at Monument Mountain near Stockbridge, Mass. Melville followed up by visiting Hawthorne at his red farmhouse close by in Lenox, where Hawthorne gave him two bottles of champagne.  For a year and a half, they kept up their friendship living six miles apart. It was the most productive time in their writing lives–their five greatest books were being written or published. The House of the Seven Gables was written in 1850 and published in 1851. The Scarlet Letter and Moby-Dick (dedicated to Hawthorne in 1851) were published a year apart. Melville's The Blithedale Romance (1952) and Melville's Pierre; or The Ambiguities (1852) were written while they were neighbors.
  • In 1850, the great French short-story writer Guy de Maupassant (mentored by Gustave Flaubert), was born in Normandy. Gustave Flaubert used to have him to lunch on Sundays, and he would discuss Maupassant's writing. Flaubert considered him his disciple and introduced him to Émile Zola, Ivan Turgenev, and Henry James. Maupassant began publishing his first stories a few weeks before Flaubert's death in 1880. Flaubert praised Maupassant's first short story, "Boule de Suif" extravagantly and it is still considered one of his best stories. Maupassant takes a realistic/pessimistic view of the world and anticipates the realistic writers of the 20th century,  many of whom praise his work. In the 1880s, Maupassant wrote most of his work–300 stories and five novels. In the 1890s he became self-destructive, and he died in 1893.
  • In 1934, Wendell Berry, friend of Gary Snyder (exchange of letters), was born near Port Royal, in Henry County, Kentucky.  Berry, who considers himself a Christian, criticizes other Christians who fail to take environmental issues seriously. He also takes strong positions on the death penalty, nuclear power plants and the war in Vietnam. In 1973, he began corresponding with California poet Gary Snyder, a practicing Buddhist. Berry worried about fighting evil, but Snyder responded that his real enemy was "ignorance, stupidity, narrow views". Over four decades they exchanged 250 letters on writing, religion, farming and philosophy that are collected in Distant Neighbors (2014).

I am grateful to Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac blog for noting these three events today.