Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Value of Time Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

By Nicholas A. Tonelli from Pennsylvania, USA

In her new book from Brandeis University Press, The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season, poet Marcia Falk casts a contemplative light on these most important days of the Jewish year, beginning today with Rosh Hashanah and culminating with Yom Kippur on October 4.

While it may be easier to channel one's focus toward each of the bookend days, Falk says that it is "more accurate, and truer to the spirit of the season, to view the High Holidays as a span of time, a continuous progression that begins at the onset of Rosh Hashanah and concludes at the close of Yom Kippur..."

This "between" time—between past and future, night and day, birth and death—she calls liminal time. And in fact, liminal time comprises that moment, all too fleeting, when one thing, such as light, changes into another, the dark. And depending on your level of attention to it, either nothing happens in that space of time or everything does.

The High Holidays, Falk goes on, are "ten days of meeting oneself face-to-face, opening the heart to change."

So in the universal spirit of taking the time and opening oneself to the unimaginable potential of liminality, as autumn passes from fiery hues to cool smolder, make the next ten days count.

From the book:

Opening the Heart

At the year's turn
in the days between

we step away
from what we know

        wall and window
        roof and road

into the spaces
we cannot name

        cloud and sky
        cloud and wings

Slowly the edges
begin to yield

the hard places

        wind and clover
        reed and river

The gate to forgiveness

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Your Dirigible Preparedness Education

Blimps. Zeppelins. Airships. Dirigibles.

Long before these inflatable flying machines became synonymous with a tire manufacturer and were relegated to loops overhead football stadiums, they were the future of aviation! Before the Wright brothers had liftoff in Kitty Hawk, a daring and big-dreaming Brazilian named Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1852 became the world's first to achieve true dirigibility—that is, to fly through the air by engine power—over the Zoological Garden west of Paris.

With this first success came lofty visions for a tomorrowland in which wars were fought by airborne armadas and calmer skies were highways of balloon transport, complete with landing platforms, filling stations, and repair shops, though we can safely assume you'd never pull up to find "free air."

We tend to forget, however, that the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 wasn't a small hitch in the rise of the airship age—it was its end. As C. Michael Hiam writes in his newly released Dirigible Dreams, after that flaming failure over New Jersey, "not a single customer was taken up in an airship ever again, and by the start of World War II just two years later, the airship had become entirely extinct."

Today's blimps are hardly awe-inspiring; Hiam calls them merely "quaint reminders of the beginning of man's dirigible dreams." But a recent report suggests that something of an airship revival may be in the works. According to the New York Times, "engineers are designing sleek new airships that could streak past layers of cloud and [into] the stratosphere, 65,000 feet above the ground...with onboard telescopes that peer into distant galaxies." Even NASA is getting into the steampunk spirit, considering sponsoring a contest to design a better blimp.

Guaranteed that nobody imagined the end of the shuttle program would give rise to the dirigible department.

Fifty years ago, as NASA was entering its golden age of discovery, while the military advanced its own aerodynamic fleets, the idea of balloon aviation must have been at its most laughable. Which may be what was so funny about a little humor piece in the September 1962 issue of the now-defunct Pageant magazine. (A copy of said issue was serendipitously rescued by a UPNE colleague from a dusty box full of old glossies at an estate sale.)

The jokey article, by Charles Barsotti—published on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis—claims to be "Your Illustrated Guide to Dirigible Defense, Vol. 1." (Is it a dig at Castro's air force might?) For reasons obvious or not, but shamelessly coincidental to the publication of Hiam's Dirigible Dreams, we thought we'd bring this long-lost bit of bellicose humor into the digital age.

Do you have the chops to be a Civilian Watcher for Unidentified Dirigibles (CWUD)?

The whistle is an essential part of the uniform.
Leggings, too, apparently.

You may be just as likely to spot one by looking down. #hindenburghumor

Whatever you do, don't speak to the dirigible.

Also mistaken for dirigibles: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

If you can lend more historical context to this article, please leave a comment!

Meantime, journey back to the true age of the airship with C. Michael Hiam's Dirigible Dreams.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Beyond the Ride of Paul Revere

"Paul Revere's ride" by Office of War Information - National Archives' Pictures of the Revolutionary War

by Michael M. Greenburg
author of The Court-Martial of Paul Revere: A Son of Liberty and America's Forgotten Military Disaster (ForeEdge; October 7, 2014)

The story of Paul Revere in popular American culture really begins in 1860 on the eve of the Civil War, about forty-three years after Revere’s death. A New England poet and well-know abolitionist by the name of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, upon a visit to the North Church and Copp’s Burial Ground, found inspiration for his seminal work, "Paul Revere’s Ride" which was published in the January, 1861 issue of The Atlantic. The poem would galvanize the Union cause with a metaphorical call for courage and urgency – and forever clothe the man with a cloak of valor, deserved or not. 

Prior to Longfellow’s poem, Revere had been known locally as a competent goldsmith, a successful entrepreneur, and a dedicated member of the Sons of Liberty, but his midnight ride on April 18, 1775 had been all but lost to history. Indeed his obituary in 1818 made no mention of this, his seminal moment according to modern history. Though based only loosely on fact, Longfellow’s poem would immediately elevate the name of Paul Revere to iconic and legendary status—a status that even perhaps Revere himself might have found puzzling today. 


When most people today visualize Paul Revere they conjure that heroic lone rider, a la the North End statue or, of course, Longfellow’s mythical figure on a majestic stead. He was, of course, an ardent patriot, but an unbiased view of the record reveals what author and historian Bernard Cornwell, describes as “an extraordinary character; belligerent, touchy, capable, awkward, resentful and unstoppable.” 

And Revere is all of that. There is not a question that he displayed extraordinary courage on the night of April 18, 1775, when he brought the warning of the British march to Hancock and Adams and from Charlestown to Lexington, but it is also quite indisputable that in later years he showed himself to be somewhat petty and confrontational and allowed personality conflicts to interfere with his duty as an officer. Revere was many things, but even as his chief biographer Esther Forbes points out, he was definitely not a soldier.

"Penobscot Expedition" by Dominic Serre

On September 6, 1779, following the disastrous American defeat at the Penobscot Expedition on the coast of Maine, a marine Captain by the name of Thomas J. Carnes delivered an incendiary statement to the Massachusetts Council. In a scathing six-count indictment, Carnes accused the artillery commander of the expedition—Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere—of “disobedience of orders…neglect of duty…and unsoldierlike behavior during the whole expedition to Penobscot which tends to Cowardice.” The complaint would lead Revere into a four-year battle for his reputation that culminated in a trial by court-martial.

Stories of Revere’s personal conduct on the expedition preceded his return to Boston. As a successful businessman, he was extremely independent and unaccustomed to following orders. He was legalistic in his interpretation of rules, and during the expedition he was often combative in the many councils of war that were held to determine strategy. On several occasions he ignored the orders of his superior officers and, as the operation degenerated into failure, he left for home without specific authorization to do so.

During the tense standoff with the British he was seen retiring to one of the ships for meals while the men labored on the cliffs with his artillery, and was accused of actually sleeping on board while all hands had been ordered to remain on shore. Solomon Lovell, the commanding officer of the rebel ground forces commented on several occasions that his artillery commander was nowhere to be found. The implication, of course, was that Revere purposely kept himself out of sight to avoid battle. And, in a stroke of historic irony, Peleg Wadsworth, second in command of land forces at Penobscot—and the grandfather of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—promised Revere’s immediate arrest as soon as the army could be gathered for failure to follow his orders. Not exactly the Paul Revere that we learned about as children.

Upon his return to Boston, Revere was, in fact, immediately stripped of his command and temporarily placed under house arrest.

So how did Paul Revere go from vigilant patriot to the accused in a court-martial proceeding? We all learned in school about his midnight ride but that is the extent of what most people know about him. The reality is that Revere’s noble service essentially ended on April 19, 1775—and his troubles actually began.

The Court-Martial of Paul Revere: A Son of Liberty and America's Forgotten Military Disaster, by Michael M. Greenburg, releases from ForeEdge on October 7th.