January 31, 2015 archive

The Third Battle of Ypres

Lasting from July to November of 1917 this battle (also known as the Battle of Passchendaele) cost nearly a Million lives on both sides of the conflict.

Among Allied critics the argument is made that the objectives were too limited (capture of some ridges controlling a supply line), premature in the face of United States Expeditionary Force deployment, the tactics limited and antiquated, and the price too costly in resources that could have been diverted to other fronts (the Battle of Caporetto for instance).

Among German critics it exposed Ludendorff as a commander of limited skill and little imagination and it was objectively a tactical loss.

Allied apologists claim it blunted German offensive capabilities in the critical year of 1917 and diverted German resources from the Eastern Front which eventually collapsed anyway due to the Russian Revolution.

German ones point out the Germans held long enough to ensure that collapse and the transfer of resources West to enable the Ludendorff Offensive of 1918 (which failed).

It is possible that The Great War could have come to an ultimate decision ending in Allied victory without United States intervention.  The British blockade was just as stifling as it had been against Napoleon a century earlier and the German Army after the failure of a reinforced Ludendorff no more resolute than the French (among which there was spreading mutiny).  What would likely not have happened is a settlement as punitive as the Treaty of Versailles which led, ultimately, to the ascendancy of Hitler and the Second World War.

So, lives wisely spent or not?  Or are you with Chairman Mao who said when asked if the invention of fire had been good for the Chinese people- ‘Too soon to tell’?


The Breakfast Club (In The Navy)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgNot that Marines aren’t part of the Navy but one Band Leader is known primarily for his marches and one is… well, not.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was an active duty officer in the Russian Navy with a lot of time on his hands during his 2 year tours of duty.  He felt his early works too derivative of Beethoven and abandonded many of them, but hated Navy life more than music and took a position at the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he was a teacher of ‘Practical Composition’ and studied far more than he taught in fact abandoning composing for over 3 years.  He kept his job in the Navy as an on shore clerk and frequently taught his classes in uniform.

He was much influenced by his mentor Mily Balakirev and came to be associated with him in a group of five Russian composers known as The Mighty Handful.  The other 3 members were C├ęsar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Alexander Borodin.

They were very representative of the Romantic Nationalist movement and drew much inspiration from folk songs and peasant dances.  Of the group Rimsky-Korsakov was the most mainstream during his lifetime because he wrote in traditional ‘Art Music’ formats like Fugues, Sonatas, Symphonies, and Opera.

They all had a strong mix of what is called ‘Orientalism’ in their music, though it’s really mostly Arabic and Mughal influence, not what we would call oriental today (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) and is based on their heavy use of a Pentatonic scale and other self concious musical tropes that were highly artificial and not really representative of any authentic or strictly Russian (or Oriental for that matter) tradition.  Rimsky-Korsakov added elements he had encountered at ports of call in Greece, England, the United States, and South America.

In 1873 he was named Inspector of Naval Bands and retired from active service.  At about this same time (and after his 3 year hiatus) he started re-writing his old pieces to bring their orchestration up to date and make them more mature and finished compositions.  He also published 2 collections of folk songs which he would use to provide musical themes for much of his later work.  By the time he left that position in 1884 he was well established as a composer and professor of music theory.

While considered innovative by some Rimsky-Korsakov was quite rigid and conservative.  He didn’t like Tchaikovsky at all and though like many (but not the rest of the Five) he thought Wagner exciting and fresh where he was merely long winded and bombastic, Rimsky-Korsakov never really warmed to the works of Strauss and Debussy.

He’s best known for things like “The Flight of the Bumblebee” from The Tale of Tsar Saltan and Scheherazade but today I present you Mozart and Salieri, a late work full of his most controversial mannerisms that perpetuates the myth that Salieri poisoned Mozart out of jealousy at his talent.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History January 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 31 is the 31st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 334 days remaining until the end of the year (335 in leap years).

On this day in 1865, The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, abolishing slavery, submitting it to the states for ratification.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865. On December 18, Secretary of State William H. Seward, in a proclamation, declared it to have been adopted. It was the first of the Reconstruction Amendments.

President Lincoln was concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed slavery in the ten Confederate states still in rebellion in 1863, would be seen as a temporary war measure, since it was based on his war powers and did not abolish slavery in the border states.


Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation


The first twelve amendments were adopted within fifteen years of the Constitution’s adoption. The first ten (the Bill of Rights) were adopted in 1791, the Eleventh Amendment in 1795 and the Twelfth Amendment in 1804. When the Thirteenth Amendment was proposed there had been no new amendments adopted in more than sixty years.

During the secession crisis, but prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the majority of slavery-related bills had protected slavery. The United States had ceased slave importation and intervened militarily against the Atlantic slave trade, but had made few proposals to abolish domestic slavery, and only a small number to abolish the domestic slave trade. Representative John Quincy Adams had made a proposal in 1839, but there were no new proposals until December 14, 1863, when a bill to support an amendment to abolish slavery throughout the entire United States was introduced by Representative James Mitchell Ashley (Republican, Ohio). This was soon followed by a similar proposal made by Representative James F. Wilson(Republican, Iowa).

Eventually the Congress and the public began to take notice and a number of additional legislative proposals were brought forward. On January 11, 1864, Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri submitted a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. The abolition of slavery had historically been associated with Republicans, but Henderson was one of the War Democrats. The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Lyman Trumbull (Republican, Illinois), became involved in merging different proposals for an amendment. On February 8 of that year, another Republican, Senator Charles Sumner (Radical Republican, Massachusetts), submitted a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery as well as guarantee equality. As the number of proposals and the extent of their scope began to grow, the Senate Judiciary Committee presented the Senate with an amendment proposal combining the drafts of Ashley, Wilson and Henderson.

Originally the amendment was co-authored and sponsored by Representatives James Mitchell Ashley (Republican, Ohio) and James F. Wilson (Republican, Iowa) and Senator John B. Henderson (Democrat, Missouri).

While the Senate did pass the amendment on April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 to 6, the House declined to do so. After it was reintroduced by Representative James Mitchell Ashley, President Lincoln took an active role in working for its passage through the House by ensuring the amendment was added to the Republican Party platform for the upcoming Presidential elections. His efforts came to fruition when the House passed the bill on January 31, 1865, by a vote of 119 to 56. The Thirteenth Amendment’s archival copy bears an apparent Presidential signature, under the usual ones of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, after the words “Approved February 1, 1865”.

The Thirteenth Amendment completed the abolition of slavery, which had begun with the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Shortly after the amendment’s adoption, selective enforcement of certain laws, such as laws against vagrancy, allowed blacks to continue to be subjected to involuntary servitude in some cases. See also Black Codes.

The Thirteenth Amendment was followed by the Fourteenth Amendment (civil rights in the states), in 1868, and the Fifteenth Amendment (which bans racial voting restrictions), in 1870.

Late Night Karaoke

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Let Your Freekeh On

Get Your Freekeh On photo recipehealthwellpromo-tmagArticle_zps642b85c9-1.jpg

Chefs are coming up with all sorts of inspiring ideas for grains, and I was lucky enough to learn about some of them at last November’s Whole Grains: Breaking Barriers conference organized in Boston by Oldways and the Whole Grains Counsel. [..]

One of the new old grains that peaked my interest at the conference was freekeh, a green wheat product that is popular throughout the Middle East but seems to be just catching on here. It has a smoky/earthy flavor, the result of the production process that I describe in this week’s freekeh salad recipe, and it is bound to win over the hearts and palates of those who can still appreciate wheat.

Cracked Farro Risotto (Farrotto) With Parsley and Marjoram

The farro lends flavor and results in a more robust dish than a rice risotto.

Freekeh, Chickpea and Herb Salad

Teff Polenta With Toasted Hazelnut Oil

A comforting dish with a strong flavor.

Teff Polenta Croutons or Cakes

These croutons have a toasty and crunchy surface with a still-soft center.

Amaranth Porridge With Grated Apples and Maple Syrup

A satisfying breakfast porridge with sweet and grassy overtones.


All the other times I began writing my autobiography (which supplied some of the chapters I have already shared) in the end suffered the same fate:  I couldn’t figure out how it was going to end.  After all I wasn’t dead yet.

But perhaps this will be the terminal chapter in my book.  I’ll have to think seriously about that.

I sometimes (partially facetiously) refer to myself as “immortal until proven otherwise.”  This is different than I have felt about the subject in the past (witness four suicide attempts).  But I am a survivor and see no reason for that to change.  Sure, my body might wear out and no longer function well enough to support keeping my being in contact with the world of our outward shared reality (or is that our shared hallucination?), but I cannot believe that my body is the sum total of who I am (for one thing, there’s just not enough room in there to hold all that is me).  

Our culture (is there really such a general concept?) has always seemed to me to place too much emphasis on death, about how we must “prepare” for it (some people spend way too much energy doing so, in my opinion) and how we must live our lives so that some unknown Good Thing will happen when we die.  The truth of the matter (well, it’s my truth) is that we don’t really know what will happen to us when our bodies no longer function.  All is speculation or hope…faith, if you will.  Someday my heart will stop beating.  What will happen at that moment is anybody’s guess.  Think of it as passing through a door that only permits one-way travel.  

I think the worst that can happen is that there will be nothingness, that the “me” that is connected to my physical form would cease to be.  What a waste of lessons learned that would be!