How do we value

The artistry of this

Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Copyright to Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (Paris), 2004, Concerto Köln; Susanna: Rosemary Joshua, Cherubino: Angelika Kirchschlager, Conductor: René Jacobs

Over this

Copyright to Lin Manuel Miranda and the cast and crew of Hamilton (2015); Burr: Leslie Odom, Jr., Lafayette: (The) Daveed Diggs, Washington: Christopher Jackson

Or this

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance (originally produced 1879/1880). Copyright to the cast and crew of The Pirates of Penzance 1983 film; Frederic: Rex Smith, Ruth: Angela Lansbury, The Pirate King: Kevin Kline, Director: Wilford Leach, Producer: Joseph Papp

If the artistry is there, why should rap be valued any less than a patter song or a recitative? If you argue the artistry isn’t there, how do you frame your arguments?

What is the difference between fans learning Korean to sing along at a Blackpink concert, and others spending hundreds of dollars to listen to European opera being sung in Italian, French, Czech, Russian, or German (though certainly there are English language operas, even American ones, and certainly American composers of more classically orchestral pieces).

Is it the subject matter? Perception of class and status? Perceived tradition of heritage? The style? Or is it the language?

How do we express one artist as having greater culture or value than another?

Copyright Off The Porch History 2021. And a bunch of other folks (read the captions).

Killed by “demons”

For anyone who’s seen the opening scene of Poldark then (spoiler alert) you’ll know it takes place in Virginia during America’s War of Independence.

Ross and others in his company (I assume company, cause there doesn’t appear to be enough British regulars sprinkled around the Virginia trees in that opening scene to deem it a battalion or beyond) are bored, gambling, and quickly ambushed by what looks to be American militia (likely under Wayne, Lafayette, and Nelson).

That scene has stayed with me. Not because of Ross. Well. Not just because of Ross.

It reminded me that the British died here. Sounds so obvious, but we spend so much time remembering the victorious American (and French, and Spanish) dead that we forget the so-called “enemy,” many of whom probably had a cousin, brother, mother, sister, wife, or some friend or business partner fighting for American liberty on the other side.

America’s War of Independence was America’s first civil war. It was brutal.

I never saw such fighting as God made me. The Americans fought like demons.

Lieutenant General Charles, Earl Cornwallis

As much as Americans died in our fight for independence, how many British (and French, and Spanish) never walked away from our battlefields, and lie unmarked beneath them now?

I was at Guilford Courthouse National Battleground in North Carolina. And there’s a spot where it’s estimated 500 men died.

If my understanding is correct (apologies if it isn’t), a vast portion of these 500 or so men died for Britain.

That made me pause.

I looked up, looked around, examining the trees around me.

It was noted that Guilford Courthouse was a heavily wooded area in North Carolina on March 15, 1781. The day 500 or so men died in a few hours, in the service of King and Country.

When they, this so-called “enemy,” were dying, could they have seen what I saw now?

The battle happened in March, so the leaves wouldn’t have been changing, but this could have been a similar scene, certainly the same area where around 500 British (and German, actually, from Ansbach-Beyreuth, Hesse-Cassel), those men, lay because they would not survive the hour, could not pick themselves up, though perhaps only to crawl maybe stumble as they attempted a run for cover, hand over their gushing wound because they were bleeding out, screaming, crying, gasping, writhing, dying.

Instead of home, they were trapped on a foreign battlefield. Did they just give up, lay back, and watch the tops of the pines above them? Was there a March breeze that swayed the pines back and forth? Did a breeze bring them comfort? Were they the only ones to see a bird shoot across the tops of the pines, as it fled the noise of the battle below? Did they look around them to see young and old trees barring their way to a shelter, or to a friend they could die with? Could they see anything through the powder smoke?

They died here. And what memory is left of them, beyond the land?

And these men who died, they likely knew someone (or knew someone who knew someone, six degrees and all that) fighting for the American side! Why did they have to be sent to die in a war where the enemy was their cousin, or best friend’s brother, or whatever, and in a land where some of them may even have been born? General Sir Henry Clinton grew up in New York, for heaven’s sake!

And the British troops dying and buried at Guilford Courthouse (with varying degrees of grace and ceremony, I’m guessing)…

Where in Britain were they from? Wales? England? There’s the 71st Regiment of Foot, or Frazier’s Highlanders, so we know there were definitely some Scots in North Carolina that day (I mean, obvi. It’s North Carolina. You’re always gonna find somebody with a connection to Scotland).

General Charles O’Hara (the officer who was charged with the surrender of Cornwallis’ army at Yorktown in October 1781) was of Irish and Portugese descent. Augustus O’Hara (who I believe was Charles O’Hara’s nephew and a British artilleryman) was killed at Guilford Courthouse. He was young. Or young enough.

Who did they leave behind? Did every “Ross” have a “Francis,” an “Aunt Agatha,” an “Elizabeth” waiting for their return? A “Trenwith” or “Nampara” that they were crying out for, wishing they could die in the comfort of a familiar place rather than on a brutal alien soil? Did every “Ross” who lay dying in North Carolina, have a “Demelza” back in England who they would never meet? Did they have kids waiting for their Dad to come home?

Americans fought like demons. We killed like demons, too. And not every British or German soldier was quite the demon that centuries-old propaganda (I absolutely love Jason Isaacs, but *cough* The Patriot *cough*) has made them out to be (Tarleton is however, excluded from my reprieve).

How many people were waiting in Bristol? In Liverpool? In London (I know of at least one family who was split between Virginia, and Kensington and Knightsbridge because of this conflict), in Ripon, in Peebles, or Dublin, or Cardiff? I mean, just pick one. But how many people were left waiting in Britain (or France, or Spain, or any of the German principalities) for soldiers now buried in an undiscovered, unmarked mass grave that’s now a parking lot?

Copyright Off The Porch History 2021

Boomers started it

This is a copy of a letter from my Dad to the Federal Energy Administrator. My Dad [who I’ve kept relatively anonymous] is a so-called “boomer.” And this is what a “boomer” had to say to his government on the state of the environment. The letter is dated 5 March 1975.

Administrator

Federal Energy Administration

12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20461

Dear Sir:

During March, the EPA will be holding hearings on the motion of the automobile industry to postpone higher emission standards on 1977 model cars. This is but another indication of this industry’s deliberate procrastination in coming to grips with the vital issue of environmental protection as well as its evasion of energy conservation problems. I fully realize the gravity of the present economic crisis and its effect upon the automobile industry, but this is certainly no time to make environmental sacrifices and condone a wasteful energy policy. The automobile industry must be convinced that it has to comply with the high standards. I urge you to work for this policy.

Your Truly,

[Dinsdale Piranha]

Dad also wrote a letter to the EPA [let’s call that the “other operation”].

The protests for environmental protection and awareness. Boomers started it. Or at least kept it going. The generations before them would be the minds creating the EPA and NEPA and Earth Day.

So maybe those who came before us weren’t all careless idiots. Maybe they could teach us something if we listen to them, and if they listen to us.

Copyright Off The Porch History 2021. Do not reproduce without permission. You wouldn’t want Doug using sarcasm on you, now would you?

Copyright Python (Monty) Pictures Limited and Spiny Norman.

Clear off the Coal Ash, then do your homework.

The following conversation was between myself and a person very close to me. Identities are changed since they’d like to remain anonymous and I’d like to respect their wishes.

But make no mistake, it’s true that back in the day (read: 1960s), cleaning off the power plant’s coal ash that blanketed your home was as daily a chore as tidying up your room, or washing the dishes. Or doing your homework.

Myself: How often did y’all have to clean off the cars and sun porch from coal ash? Was that [coal ash] also from Duke Power?

Lucy: It was Duke Power. They would vent the [coal] ash at night if memory serves and if the wind was blowing in a certain direction there would be gray dust all over the screen porch that we would have to hose off. I can ask [Schroeder] about it. [They] may remember more than I do.

Myself: Good grief. How often did they do this?

Lucy: Don’t know. Fairly regularly I would guess, but cannot say with any authority.

Myself: So it wasn’t every week. Was the community trying to get them to stop?

Lucy: I don’t think so. I think that’s just the way business was conducted at the time. For a bit of perspective- we moved into the house on […] in the fall of 1966. Environmental issues did not begin to come to the forefront until the first Earth Day in 1970. I was a sophomore in high school at the time.

Myself: Did Earth Day have a big impact or was it more of a curiosity? What did [Linus] and [Snoopy] think of it?

Lucy: [Linus] just got tired of having to clean ash off the porch. [They] would get the hose and wash off the cement floor and then shoot the water [from the hose] through the screens to wash them off. Then we’d wipe down the furniture that was out there [on the porch]. Not sure about Earth Day. To the high school students it was new and exciting and we got out of class to go around town picking up trash and cleaning up stuff.

Myself: That’s cool. Did that happen every year?

Lucy: I think it did happen every year for a while. Don’t know what happened after I graduated.

Coal ash is pretty toxic. And this conversation only covers the air. I haven’t begun to ask them about the waterways they were drinking from that would also have been highly affected by the toxic coal ash.

Copyright Off The Porch History 2021. Don’t reproduce without permission. Lucy wouldn’t like it.

Be a Doll

Photo courtesy of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, and Mercury Records

Of course- America was not going to accept the New York Dolls!

Sylvain Sylvain, for Vogue November 2015

The New York Dolls.

Some of my favorites to challenge American masculinity….or at least the perception of what is American masculinity.

Cause let’s talk about 1776, and how wigs were popular. For men.

And let’s talk about General Lee. And how he was vain, and dedicated enough to his looks that he would cut his “hair, moustache, and beard” and follow the styles of the day, transitioning from “George IV curls, bushy sideburns, a matinee-idol moustache, and the [American Civil] war-era beard as soon as they came into style,” every single day from when he was sixteen to when he died, aged sixty-three.

(emphasis added, source taken from Pryor, Elizabeth B., Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. Viking Penguin, 2007. Page 198. Elizabeth Brown Pryor is quoting Humphrey’s Autobiography, Milton Wylie Humphreys Papers at UVa. and Lee’s letter to Sam[ue?]l Frost in 1840)

So this idea of American masculinity being historically-rugged enough to never care about appearance, fashion trends, hair, or cosmetics.

Where’s the evidence?

Looking forward to the Scorsese film.

Copyright Off The Porch History 2021