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Saturday, May 30, 2009

How Rome Fell

How Rome Fell

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Burke and Obama by Thomas Sowell on National Review Online

Burke and Obama by Thomas Sowell on National Review Online

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Thursday, May 28, 2009


In youth we learn; in age we understand.

~ Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach ~

(1830-1916, Austrian novelist)

Aye, ‘struth!!!

(My Auld Pop always said there were two truths :the proud man’s truth –always flawed- and God’s truth; hence ‘Struth or God’s Truth which is more emphatic and certain!)

We must hesitate to say which is ours!

Aletheia (ἀλήθεια) is the Greek word for "truth” which means "unhidden; or self-evident. ".

So some truths are so strong that they are, or ought to be , self-evident. The Latin translation is VERITAS.

Aristotle defines truth 'to say what is true, and to say what is not true truly.' (Metaphysics 1011b)

Cicero, who was the coiner of many words we use today such as PERSON, HUMANITY, QUALITY, CONCEPT, was the among the first to use the Latin word veritas as a translation of aletheia .

Cicero said:

"Friendships are nurtured by veritas (truth), alliances by fides (good faith), close relationships by pietas (loyalty and steadfastness). "

(veritate amicitia, fide societas, pietate propinquitas colitur [Pro Quinctio 6.26)."

Virgil’s Aeneas was considered the model of a man with pietas (dutiful reverence and loyalty).

The Marines’ motto is SEMPER FIDELIS (always faithful) but PIA FIDELIS (dutifully faithful) would also have been a good motto as well. To a Highlander the good man was the Leal Mon or someone who was loyal and true no matter what. “Highland hearts are as true as Toledo steel” is an old saying I remember. Mar lann Toledo; like a Toledo blade.

A good Roman had to show pietas. (dutiful reverence and loyalty) towards his family, his country, and above all, piety (reverence) to the Gods.

As Aristotle knew there at least two wisdoms: PHRONESIS (knowledge and practical wisdom) and then SOPHIA (true and deep wisdom found rarely in those under 30.)

In youth we understand less than we think we know; in age we understand more fully the depth and width and pathos of our small bounded mortal lives.

Not all can be known though some things can be felt.

The young are bold as brass; the old cry HARK ALAS!

(If only I had more time…….)

With humility we learn at last that even the wise and the learned are at the beginning of knowledge and true wisdom.

One truth I have learned is that it is one thing to know and quite another to teach.

How difficult it is to know but even more difficult to teach what one knows!

We pitch ‘em but they have to hit ‘em. They have to WANT TO HIT ‘EM. Students must be exhorted to have the desire so that they can have the willingness to achieve –most have the ability that they need but many waste their opportunities out of what can only be described as false pride, stubbornness and willful ignorance.

Algunos se quedan con la carabina en el hombro my old Spanish teacher used to say; “some (students are like batters): they go back on their heels and take strike three with the bat on their shoulders.”

In other words they don’t put forward the effort they need to succeed. Inspiring them to make that effort to want to make that effort and even to want to sacrifice is part of what makes for good teaching.

Love what you teach. Love your school. Love the kids. Forgive a lot. Every day is a new day. Never give up. Understand that there will be bad days but stick to your guns. Accept that there will be losses, failures and disappointment. You can’t save everyone. Mother Theresa said it best: “God does not expect us to be successful only faithful.” If you do the right thing and do not give up you will get good results in the end.

You have to realize you are working for something much bigger that you are.

Education is a great unfinished task that will never be complete; God willing others will pick up the torch and carry on when your day is done. It is very satisfying to know that two of my own children want to be teachers and many of my students have chosen to be teachers.

And above all love the kids or get out of teaching.

Teaching is not a job it is a calling.

SO these are my final musings of the school year. One always learns a little bit more.

My last essays have been graded and the grades entered in not into a grade book but a mysterious collection of pixels on the computer screen. I still print out all my grades so as to double check what is in the machine. Sometimes I think computers have a mind of their own! Sometimes things just vanish but the printed screen is proof that I was not imagining things! So always double check and verify! Always have a backup!


Here’s wishing you all health, happiness and length of life!

Signing off from WEST HIGH SCHOOL for the summer in 48 hours.

I will be unplugging the computer May 30. And only God knows when I will plug it in again or where! (I am moving classrooms).

Off to Cincinnati June 9th to grade AP Spanish exams as I have for many years.


Packing up the old kit bag etc.

Richard (Ricardo) Munro

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Richard K. Munro

Appreciation, I think, is the highest, purest form of love. It is a kind of love that can blossom even when it is not returned. At its best it is a self-renewing kind of love.The leal and true mon appreciates his life of love, hope and liberty. Loyalty, appreciation, gratitude and love ask for nothing and give everything.

"You never lived to see
What you gave to me
One shining dream of hope and love
Life and liberty

With a host of brave unknown Soldiers
For your company, you will live forever
Here in our memory....

NE OBLIVISCARIS do not forget.


Mackubin Thomas Owens

May 25, 2009

Mackubin Thomas Owens is professor of strategy and force
planning at the Naval War College in Newport and a Marine
infantry veteran of Vietnam. He is also Editor of Orbis,
FPRI's quarterly journal of world affairs, and a senior
fellow of FPRI


Many cite the observation of Glen Gray in his
book, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle:
"Numberless soldiers have died, more or less willingly, not
for country or honor or religious faith or for any other
abstract good, but because they realized that by fleeing
their posts and rescuing themselves, they would expose their
companions to greater danger. Such loyalty to the group is
the essence of fighting morale."

It is my own experience that Gray is right about what men
think about in the heat of combat: the impact of our actions
on our comrades always looms large in our minds.. As Oliver
Wendell Holmes observed in his Memorial Day address of 1884,
"In the great democracy of self-devotion private and general
stand side by side." But the tendency of the individual
soldier to focus on the particulars of combat makes Memorial
Day all the more important, for this day permits us to
enlarge the individual soldier's view, to give meaning to
the sacrifice that was accepted of some but offered by all,
not only to acknowledge and remember the sacrifice, but to
validate it.

In the history of the world, many good soldiers have died
bravely and honorably for bad or unjust causes. Americans
are fortunate in that we have been given a way of avoiding
this situation by linking the sacrifice of our soldiers to
the meaning of the nation. At the dedication of the cemetery
at Gettysburg four months after the battle, President
Abraham Lincoln fleshed out the understanding of what he
called in his First Inaugural Address, the "mystic chords of
memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot
grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this
broad land..."

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address gives universal meaning to the
particular deaths that occurred on that hallowed ground,
thus allowing us to understand Memorial Day in the light of
the Fourth of July, to comprehend the honorable end of the
soldiers in the light of the glorious beginning and purpose
of the nation. The deaths of the soldiers at Gettysburg, of
those who died during the Civil War as a whole and indeed,
of those who have fallen in all the wars of America, are
validated by reference to the nation and its founding
principles as articulated in the Declaration of

Though Lincoln was eulogizing the Union dead at Gettysburg,
the Confederate fallen were no less worthy of praise, and
the dialectic of the Civil War means that we include them in
our national day of remembrance. As Holmes observed, "...we
respected [those who stood against us] as every man with a
heart must respect those who give all for their belief."

Some might claim that to emphasize the "mystic chords of
memory" linking Memorial Day and Independence Day is to
glorify war and especially to trivialize individual loss and
the end of youth and joy. For instance, Larry Boyer was an
only son. How can the loved ones of a fallen soldier ever
recover from such a loss? I corresponded with Cpl. Boyer's
mother for some time after his death. Her inconsolable pain
and grief put me in mind of Rudyard Kipling's poem, Epitaphs
of the War, verse IV, "An Only Son:" "I have slain none but
my mother, She (Blessing her slayer) died of grief for me."
Kipling too, lost his only son in World War I.
But as Holmes said in 1884, "...grief is not the end of all.
I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see
beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column.
Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of
life, not death--of life to which in their youth they lent
the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great
chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful
orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good
and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope
and will."

Linking Memorial Day and Independence Day as Lincoln
essentially did enables us to recognize that while some of
those who died in America's wars were not as brave as others
and indeed, some were not brave at all, each and every one
was far more a hero than a victim. And it also allows us
forever to apply Lincoln's encomium not only to the dead of
the 1st Minnesota and the rest who died on the ground at
Gettysburg that Lincoln came to consecrate, but also to John
Basilone, Larry Boyer, and the countless soldiers, sailors,
airmen, and Marines who have died in all of America's wars,
that a nation dedicated to the liberal principles of liberty
and equality might "not perish from the earth."

Requiem for a Soldier

You never lived to see
What you gave to me
One shining dream of hope and love
Life and liberty

With a host of brave unknown Soldiers
For your company, you will live forever
Here in our memory

In fields of sacrifice
Heroes paid the price
Young men who died for old men's wars
Gone to paradise

We are all one great band of brothers
And one day you'll see we can live together
When all the world is free

I wish you'd lived to see
All you gave to me
Your shining dream of hope and love
Life and liberty

We are all one great band of brothers
And one day you'll see - we can live together
When all the world is free


Music by Michael Kamen
Lyrics by Frank Musker
Published by Music Sounds Better / BMG Music
Publishing UK Ltd./ Copyright Control/ Sony /
K-Man Corp./ ATV Music Publishing (UK) Ltd.
Additional percussion and programming
by Nick Patrick
Orchestra arranged and conducted
by Nick Ingman

Gaelic for beginners



It has been felt that the first three pages of Roderick MacKinnon's book Gaelic may be too condensed for some readers. This book is probably the best complete course for beginners in the language and is published by Hodder & Stoughton at 95p (Australia and New Zealand $2-75) and in U.S.A. by David McKay Company, Inc. N.Y. -- ISBN 0 340 15153 6.
Accordingly, the following commentary has been produced in the hope of giving examples of pronunciation down from the Gaelic-English vocabulary (on pp. 270-302) of the same book. It is useful to consult this part of the vocabulary as the number given after a word refers to a lesson in which it first occurs.

In following this commentary one is expected to have Mr. MacKinnon's book open in front of one and follow it closely with this commentary. If, afterwards, one wishes to progress to a more advanced stage in studying the pronunciation or phonetics of Gaelic advice can be obtained from Gairm Publications, 29 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2, Scotland, or An Comunn Gaidhealach, Abertarff House, Inverness, Scotland, they might suggest Calder's Gaelic Grammar or the Norwegian Universities publication on the subject. There are several others available too.
Beginning with the consonants on the first page:
b is much like English to begin a word (beo = alive) but more like p elsewhere in a word (ciobair= shepherd).

bh as in bha=was. Rarely silent at the beginning of a word.

c as k in cat. In middle or end of word often has h sound.

ch phonetically given as ch as in 'loch', itself a Gaelic word.
t with either e or i gives the first and last sounds as in 'church', as in té=one or tir=land.

chd given phonetically chk as in 'beannachd'= blessing.

d as discussed here is a d followed or proceeded by a broad vowel -- a, o or u as in dad= anything; dol= going; dubh = black; by saying it with the tongue on the tip of the front teeth. However, d with a slender vowel e or i gives a sound as the first consonant in 'jam', as in de=what and in goirid=short.

dh is represented by gh when with a broad vowel somewhat as the a, o, u, the last letter in 'mug' as in bualadh =striking. The y sound when with a slender vowel e or i as in ceilidh=a social gathering.

f as in English -- e.g. fas=grow. fh is silent except in fhein= self; fhuair= got; and fathast=yet, where it is sounded like h.

g as in English at the beginning of a word gas=gas. But elsewhere in a word more like k as in fag= leave. gh is treated the same as dh already discussed above.

h as in English -- e.g. na h-uain=the lambs (page 148).

d with a slender vowel is treated phonetically as in 'jam'.

l with a slender vowel (e or i) in the middle of a word as in mile=mile or thousand.

ll as in muillean =million (page 156).


l with a broad vowel a, o, u, said with tongue on tip of front teeth as: lach=wild duck; loch=loch* and luch=mouse. m as in English but nasal, as mala=eyebrow.

mh is also nasal as v in 'van' sometimes silent as seasamh= standing.

n is always nasal: with a broad vowel is pronounced nasally with tongue on tip of front teeth as in nan=of the, or if: an nochd=to-night and null=over.

n + a slender vowel e or i is nasal, otherwise as in English, as in nead=nest and ni=will do.

ng is shown in the phonetics, as in English as in trang=busy.

nn as in tinn=sick.

p at beginning of a word as in English as pos=marry but elsewhere in a word of sounded with h before it as in 'cupa'=cup.

ph =f as in English as Mac-a-phearsain= Macpherson.

r with a slender vowel like e or i sounds like 'th' in English or like a narrow r as in tir=land.

r (r phonetically) with broad vowel a, o, u, is rolled as with rach=go; ron=seal; rud=thing.

s with a broad vowel a, o, u as in English salm=psalm; sona=happy; suipeir=supper.

s with a slender vowel e, i is as the 'sh' in 'shut. Seomar=room; sin=that.

t with a broad vowel is pronounced with the tongue on the tip of the front teeth, unlike in English where the tongue goes on to the ridge of the gum. As talla=hall; tog=lift; turus=journey.

t with a slender vowel has the sound of the 'ch's' in 'church' as an t-eilean=the island; tir=land.

idh/igh or the other slender vowel dhi/ghi gives the 'y' sound as in dhiubh=to you (plural).

MacKinnon next deals with his phonetics of vowels on the third page.

There are two types of short vowels. The stressed short vowel which is usually the first vowel of a word. In double words, like te-eiginn= someone (feminine), the first vowel is short as also the first vowel after the hyphen.

Stressed short vowels have their pronunciation somewhat as in English but when they are unstressed coming in second or later place they are unstressed and all sound as 'u' in 'but'. This is clearly seen in fada=long, which is pronounced 'fadu', remembering that the 'd' is broadened by the broad vowels.

Examples of MacKinnon's short vowels are given. His phonetics are given first:
a as in 'bat' see ad=hat.
e as in 'bet' see b'e=it was he/it (page 28).
i as in 'bit' see cathair=chair.
o as in 'bot' see droch=bad.
u as in 'but' see second vowel in fada=long.
a as in 'gate' see first vowel in eile=other.
e as in 'feet' see cir=comb.
i as in 'fire' see gruaidh=cheek.
o as in 'rote' see tog=lift.
u as in 'cute' see iuchair=key or you.
oo as in 'coop' see cupa=cup.


Two accents are used in Gaelic; acutes as in céis=case/envelope, and graves as in pòg=kiss. Not only do they make clear the sound of the vowel but show that the vowel really is long, much longer than any in English.

aa long as in second syllable in 'barrage' see Màiri=Mary.

eh as explained, it is the same sound as in French but longer, see greasaiche = shoemaker.

oeu as explained, see gaoth=wind.

aw as explained, see ol=drink.

au as explained, see toll=hole

nall= over

These last two words are seldom now written with double consonants -- (tom (m) =heap, tuft; (am (m) = time

ay as explained, see céis=case, envelope.

e as explained, see cir=comb.

oo as explained, see cul=back (side), rear.

i as explained, see also as 'gut', see doirbh= difficult.

In the interests of simplicity and space, MacKinnon has omitted certain other points of pronunciation. Examples are given from pages 280 to 302 which might be of some help.

adharc=horn and aghaidh=face often 'adh' or 'agh' in front of a word is pronounced as ao in gaoth.

Certain words like ailm=helm, aimsir=weather, ainm=name, airgead=money, Alba=Scotland, have an unstressed vowel sound as in 'but' where indicated by the
arm=army; marbh =dead; fearg= anger.
earb=roedeer; ainm=name; falbh=go away;
ailm=helm; tilg=throw;
sgolb=lump (not in MacKinnon); calpa=calf of leg. Also 'sr' sounds like 'str', e.g. sraid=street.

Lastly, 'rt' and as mart=cow and 'rd' as ard=high, tall, usually have an 's' sounded after the 'r'. There are other interesting features and to avoid spoiling the enjoyment it is suggested that other items of interest be noted as one works through Roderick MacKinnon's excellent work.

Gaelic is no more difficult than many other European languages and is more consistent in spelling than English.

As our own language, which has come down to us from our forefathers its appeal is irresistable.

While every help to enquiries will be gladly given by An Comunn Gaidhealach and Gairm Publications mentioned above it might be of interest to note that a fine printed list of publications currently available can be obtained by writing The Gaelic Books Council, Department of Celtic, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8RZ, Scotland and asking for their catalogue Leabhraichean Gaidhlig, which is well set out and in English.

In the year 1838, a large number of people emigrated to Australia from the neighbourhood of Kingussie. The St. George, by which they had taken passage to Sydney, lay at Oban, so it was necessary for them to make the long journey to Fort William in carts, and thence proceed to the place of embarkation by steamboat. Their departure from Kingussie took place at mid-summer, and on the day of St. Columba's Fair -- Latha Feill Chaluim Chille. {My wife and I were married June 9th 1982 and my grandfather passed away on this day as well}This fair was the occasion of a general gathering of the inhabitants of Badenoch; and to it many resorted from a distance for purposes of trade or mere amusement. Several near relatives of the writer, who were among those present on the memorable day referred to, used to describe with deep emotion the scenes of heartrending grief which they witnessed.
A band of strolling musicians in connection with some entertainment, readily entered into the situation and temper of their assembled patrons at the fair. Playing airs suited to the occasion, and followed by crowds of people, they made their way to the top of the Little Rock, which commands a view of the whole of Badenoch downwards from Glen Truim. From that height, where a few years before, "the young men of Kingussie" had erected a cairn in memory of Duke Alexander, many eyes were turned wistfully to take a last farewell of much-loved haunts and homes. One strain of song touched every heart, and snatches of it were ever associated with recollections of the affecting events of the day:

Let Fortune use me as it may,
I will think on Scotland far away.

After descending from the Creag Bheag, the emigrants set out on their westward journey, accompanied as far as the old stage-house of Pitmain by relatives and friends. Here, those who were departing for the 'New World' and those who were remaining behind took leave of each other as persons who would never meet again on this side the grave.

Among those who then bade farewell for ever to the banks of Spey, there was one of whom I should like to make passing notice, This was a young man named John Eason. His parents were natives of Morayshire, and had come to reside at Kingussie, no doubt in consequence of some employment on the Gordon Estates. A stone-mason to trade, he found time to devote to reading and the cultivation of the Muses. Being much possessed of much public spirit, he was the recognised leader of the forward youths of the village, and a universal favourite throughout the country. Half a century after he had gone, those of his companions who still survived, like to speak of him often. I understand that he died not long after his settlement in the 'New World'.


The Bard, Domh'Il Phail, was another resident in the neighbourhood of Kingussie, who had resolved to seek his fortunes beyond the seas. Circumstances, however, prevented him from carrying out his intention. It was when in prospect of leaving his native land, and when the advantages of emigration were constantly under discussion, that he composed this song, which makes bantering allusion to the various inducements that might be supposed to suggest themselves to his mind. It may be remarked that the good ship, St. George, took no less than five months to make the voyage to Sydney, which must have been a tiresome one, indeed, for the unfortunate passengers.

Gu 'm a slàn do na fearaibh A health to the fellows,
Théid thairis a' chuan, Who'll cross o'er the sea!
Gu talamh a' gheallaidh, To the country of promise,
Far nach fairich iad fuachd. Where no cold will they feel.
Gu 'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

Gu 'm a slàn do na mnathan A health to the goodwives!
Nach cluinnear an gearan, We'll hear no complaining;
'S ann thèid iad gu smearail, They'll follow us heartily
'G ar leantuinn thar 'chuan; Over the sea.
Gu 'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

'Us na nighneagan bòidheach, And the beautiful maidens
A dh' fhalbhas leirnn còmhladh, Going with us together,
Gheibh daoine ri 'm pòsadh, They'll get husbands to marry.
A chuireas òr 'nan dà chluais. Who'll give earrings of gold.
Gu'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

Gheibh sinn aran 'us im ann, We'll get bread and butter,
Gheibh sinn siucar 'us tea ann; And sugar and tea there;
'S cha bhi gainne oirnn-fhìn, Well experience no want,
'S an tìr 's am bheil buaidh. In that bountiful land.
Gu'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

'N uair dh' fhàgas sinn 'n t-àit' so, When we're gone from this country,
Cha chuir iad mór-mhàl oirnn; Our rents will be trifling;
'S cha bhi an Fhéill Màrtainn And Martinmas will not
'Cur nàire 'n ar gruaidh. Bring blush to our cheek.
Gu 'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

Gu 'm fàg sinn an tìr so, We'll depart from this region,
Cha chinnich aon nì ann; Where nothing will flourish,
Tha 'm buntàt' air dol 'dhìth ann, The potatoes are ruined,
'S cha. chinn iad le fuachd. And won't grow for the cold.
Gu 'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

Gheibh sinn crodh agus caoraich; We'll get cattle and sheep;
Gheibh sinn cruithneachd air raointean, We'll get wheat on the fields,
'S cha bhi e cho daor dhuinn, And it won't be so dear
Ri fraoch an Taoibh-Tuath. As the heath of the north.
Gu 'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

'N uair a théid mi do 'n mhunadh, When I go to the mountains,
A mach le mo ghunna, And roam with my musket,
Cha bhi geamair no duine No keeper, or living,
'G am chur air an ruaig. Will drive me away.
Gu`m a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

Gheibh sinn sìod' agus srolann; There we'll get silk and ribbons --
Gheibh sinn pailteas de 'n chlòimh ann, We'll get wool in abundance;
'S ni na mnathan dhuinn clò dheth, And the wives will make cloth
Air seòl an Taoibh-Tuath. In the style of the North.
Gu 'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.

Cha bhi iad 'g ar dùsgadh, They will not arouse us,
Le clag Chinne-Ghiùbhsaich; With the bell of Kingussie;
Cha bhi e gu diùbhras, Nor will it much matter,
Ged nach dùisg sinn cho luath. Though we wake not so soon.
Gu 'm a slàn, etc. A health to, etc.
Though the present bell of Kingussie Church, which has sounded out loud and strong over the valley, summoning successive generations to the worship of God, is perhaps better than many country parishes can boast, it is not nearly equal to one which was anciently intended to occupy its place. The unfortunate bell I allude to was cast on the Continent, but the ship in which it was conveyed safely across the German Ocean, went down in the River Tay at Perth. Hence the traditionary rhyme:

"Tha clag mór Chinne-Ghiùbhsaich 'n a cruban am Peairt",
"The great bell of Kingussie is crouching in Perth."

from SINTON's The Poetry of Badenoch.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gilbert Highet: A Scottish Cross between Jack Hawkins, Horace and Cicero

Mairi MacInnes in Scotland

Mairi MacInnes on the isle of Arran

Mairi MacInnes, Flora MacNeill, Maggie MacInnes

Maggie MacInnes

Wendy Weatherby

Mairi MacInnes

Anne Lorne Gillies; teacher of Mairi and many other Gaelic singers.

GILBERT HIGHET and his wife Hellen MacInnes

Happy Mothers Day to all celebrants! It's also the birth anniversary of film composer Max Steiner, who was born on this date in 1888 and died 1971. One of his first great achievements in film was the score for a 1933 picture whose most memorable scene takes place high above New York. What was the film?

A) Flying Down to Rio

B) 42nd Street

C) King Kong

D I Cover the Waterfront

Select one option to vote.

The answer of course is "C" “KING KONG”


My family immigrated to the USA in the 1920’s; my father came in via Montreal , Canada (they were imposing quotas then so he was denied entry into Ellis Island) but my mother and grandmother came via Ellis Island in 1922. So the cities that loomed big in my imagination as a child were the ones they always talked about –Glasgow, Scotland and Brooklyn, NY. I was denied the chance to be born in either place like my sisters and cousins were but instead ended up being born in Englewood, New Jersey.

Our school connections so to speak were slender because my family was not, upon the whole very well educated. My father did graduate from Brooklyn College, however, in 1937 and attended business school at NYU after WWII. My godmother , Kay Brennan, with whom I was very close, graduated from NYU. And I had two cousins (I always called them uncle) who graduated from Columbia University in the late 40’s and early 50’s. My sister attended Barnard College, Class of ’69. So I heard a lot about Columbia University (I was intended to go there until the tempestuous 60’s ) and I heard a lot about the professors there and even heard stories about Eisenhower when he was the president of Columbia.

Now Imagine a time when a professor of classics at Columbia University was given a weekly radio show and the only stipulation was that he confine himself to “books of a high standard or else open up some question of broad literary or social interest.”

The time was the 1950’s and the professor was Gilbert Highet (1906-1978). The show was broadcast Tuesday evenings at 9:05 p.m. on WQXR 96.3 (FM) in New York City. Still there though I am sure it is much changed.

Highet’s show aired coast to coast and ran through 1959.

This was just before my time but my father recorded some of them on his 3M Reel to Reel recorded. Some of them are available on CD’s through audio-forum. They are well-worth the effort and the modest expense to have if for nothing else to listen to while swimming or driving.

Highet edited his radio talks into essays and published them in five volumes: People, Places, and Books (1953), A Clerk of Oxenford (1954), Talents and Geniuses (1957), The Powers of Poetry (1960), and Explorations (1971). I have all of these books and have read them all with great pleasure. Even edited for print these essay are Pliny-like or Cicero-like in their conversational tone.

Highet’s essay on the Gettysburg Address is the best I have ever read. His short biography of the “Old Man” (George Washington) is worthy of Plutarch. Another favorite essay is “Summer Reading” from Talents and Geniuses. Without identifying them further, Highet mentions Thomas Mann, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Céline, Malaparte, Spengler and Toynbee, among others!!! All are names most educated readers would have recognized in the nineteen-fifties, even without having read their work except in a college or high school anthology. I have only met one politician in my life who ever read Toynbee and that was Ron Unz but aside from Prop 227 he was not successful as a politician and seems to have become a recluse. I haven’t heard from him for years but I was in close contact with him from 1997 -1999. Some of his published articles drew on information and research I provided him.

Highet was a great linguist he knew German, Latin, French and Greek, but occasionally he showed himself to be a lowlander; I remember he had one essay on Scottish words –he and his wife Helen MacInnes were both Scottish born-but he himself never thought to study Gaelic and he makes the foolish mistake of thinking some of these words are ‘nonsense words’ when they are clearly adaptations of Gaelic words. I remember also he makes the foolish (and untrue) assertion that St. Patrick and St. Columba were NOT Roman Catholics. But that was an old post Reformation canard and a common prejudice at one time in Scotland. But Highet was an lowlander of the lower upper middle class Scotland born in the Edwardian age (1906); his father –if I recall correctly- was the head of the Telegraph Service for the West of Scotland. In other words his father made his living sending telegrams for English lords and Anglo-Scottish lords , ladies and gentleman. No one in my family ever sent or received a telegram –unless it was a notice that someone was killed in action. Telegrams were always associated with death only.

His best known books have to be his translation of Werner Jaeger’s Paideia (in three volumes, The Art of Teaching (1950) which is unpopular at Teacher’s Colleges but has never been out of print, Man’s Unconquerable Mind (1954), and The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature (1949). He also wrote dozens in not hundreds of book reviews for the Book of the Month Club and I have a few stuck in volumes. They are still great reading.

Highet seemed to recognize that New York Cities public schools were going down hill in the 1950’s but he still presumed his audience had a cultural literacy which is scarcely to be expected today. The cultural literacy of my students, for example, is almost nil. They have never HEARD of any of those authors, or Guadalcanal, the Gettysburg Address, polio, small pox, the Wizard of Oz, and many ask in what part of Mexico is Spain! They know who Hugo Chavez is and Che Guevara but not Eisenhower or Winston Churchill. The Left is winning over the youth to socialism , abortion , promiscuity, birth control and Gay Marriage. Today’s immigrants are assimilating much more slowly. They still celebrate the victories of Mexican soccer teams and they hardly know who the Lakers or Dodgers are. They don’t listen to English language media. This will have tremendous cultural and political implications which we are feeling already in Southern California. Very soon a man or woman will not be electable unless he or she has a Hispanic surname and SPEAKS Spanish. Demography is destiny. The Alemani took over Bavaria and the Slavs took over the Balkans and almost displaced the Latins completely (except for a few pockets of Rumanian). Es ist eine alte geschichte. (its an old story as my father used to say; I heard a lot of German as boy as my father and uncles were fluent in German and my sisters both studied German rather than Spanish.) But like Auld Pop I never like the Germans; he always said “the Hun is at your throat or at your feet.” He ought to have known of course since he reportedly killed (with a few of his cronies) over 30 Germans in one day. The only people he disliked more than the Germans were the Turks and close behind the Arabs; he like nearly everybody else even the Tallies (Italians) though he remembers them running away more than fighting.

Highet shows himself to be an elitist (he and his wife were quite prosperous and owned a house in the Hamptons). He assumes summer time means leisure: “Peaceful evenings. Lazy week-ends. And, sometimes, quite long periods of emptiness. Vacant days,” and so on. I never went on Spring break in my life and most summers –even as a teacher- I have worked and scraped to pay bills. Occasionally I have a Saturday afternoon off but that’s about it.

Highet was certainly a reader. One summer he rented a house on Cape Cod and discovered 20 years’ worth of Readers Digest in the house – all 240 volumes. Of course, Highet had his own book MAN’S UNCONQERABLE MIN condensed for the Reader’s Digest. I can’t imagine any wordsmith today ADMITTING they read the Reader’s Digest.

Highet gives good advice on authors:


“…it is also valuable to push directly through the works of a good author, trying to see them as a single creation, appreciating their wholeness and their uniqueness and leaving the details for later study.”

I have followed his advice with a few authors, Highet himself., Conrad, Hemingway, Orwell, Twain Cervantes, but not quite Chesterton Dickens or Shakespeare. I consider Highets’s best essays on par with anything Orwell or Chesterton wrote.

Highet recommends it to his listeners/readers seeking suggestions for summer reading: Choose an “important author” and read all of his or her work. He argues that such a regimen helps readers to “escape from themselves.”


Highet, suggests reading about “one single important and interesting subject: for instance, the paintings of the cave men; or the agony of modern music; or the rebirth of calligraphy; or recent theories of the creation and duration of the universe.”

Highet was not a creationist though he seemed to be at least a conventional Pale Anglican (his family was, surely Scottish Presbyterian or Scottish Episcopalian).

Number #3

“…we might read a large selection of poems and prose passages selected in order to illuminate one single aspect of the world. One such volume would go into a pocket or a handbag and yet last all summer.” Ravitch’s AMERICAN READER or ENGLISH READER for example.

Highet’s also says this and it shows to me how he is closer to Victorian Scotland than he is to 21st century America:

“…one might decide to spend the summer with a single great or at least a single interesting man. For example, every doctor should know The Life of Sir William Osler by Harvey Cushing, and after reading that fine book he would enjoy himself if he went on to read Osler’s own writings. Osler never tired of complaining that most doctors had minds too limited and too confined to the physical symptoms which they observed in the routine of their practice. He kept trying to enlarge his own mind and spirit, and his books will therefore enlarge the mind and spirit of his readers, whether they are of the medical profession or not.”

It seems to me Mr. Highet lived in a happier, more sane world in which scholars and teacher could safely assume SOME of their students, neighbor and readers. sought pleasure and “self-improvement” in the books they read, and that they would find it.

Book reading seems today almost as much a minority pleasure as in Fahrenheit 451. I am sorry to say but Mr. Obama has never given me any indication he has ever read a REAL BOOK in his life. His biblical and literary and historical references are so pedestrian (and often WRONG) that he frankly scares me. Does he KNOW ANYTHING without a speech writer or a teleprompter. George W. Bush didn’t know much either but at least he was no poseur and he, apparently tried to read on a regular basis and some of these like George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis were quite intellectual. Sometimes I DO think we came to the wrong country. I remember my father’s favorite line from the GHOST GOES WEST (which he always did with a broad –braid- Scots accent): FAYTHER I DINNA LIKE AMERICA (in the film gangsters were shooting back and forth their tommy guns)

My father’s favorite Highet book had to be Poets in a Landscape (1957) which is about the geography of Roman poets in Italy. He and my mother went to Italy several times and visited most of the places described by Highet so the volume I own is filled with bills from Italian Hotels and postcards. Two of those trips I took also so I remember Horace’s Villa, especially. Horace has always been a great favorite. My father did not study with Highet but he did correspond with him and I have several signed letters addressed to my father by Highet. In my father’s time he knew a few people who were reasonably famous. He met Jackie Robinson in the old 1407 Club (now Abigael’s a fine kosher restaurant serving margarine ). One of his friends was trying to be an early pioneer of talk radio –he recorded a pilot show with my father and his partner talking about the RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH. He served with Lt. Commander Robert Montgomery in the Pacific and saw movies with him. My father had a photo signed by Montgomery that said “TO TOM from his friend BOB MONTGOMERY.” They were not close friends and never saw each other after the war but Dad was proud of that and always loved Robert Montgomery. He met Gen. MacArthur once. He saw John F. Kennedy in a parade from his office window in the 1960 campaign. He was good friends with Bill Tabbert (a charming but hard-drinking actor and lyric tenor who never got over being passed over for SOUTH PACIFIC). When Ezio Pinza died –Pinza would have insisted Bill get the job- his career died. My uncle –who served Highet many times in the Faculty Dining Room said that Highet was a snob and often ate alone while reading a book. In one famous anecdote Eisenhower was listening to the World Series –I think it was 1948 or 1949-and Highet came in and said, “Turn off that damn baseball.” Ike glared at him and Highet said, “Excuse me!” and left. One of my uncles liked baseball and the other didn’t and they always said “Baseball was an acquired pleasure” which I guess means it isn’t for everyone. Just now the Dodgers are doing great but Manny Ramirez has been suspended 50 games for using illegal drugs. Disgusting. There is no honor in pro sports anymore and so I no longer take as much pleasure in them as I did when I was a young man. I was once an ardent fan of baseball, particularly, and also football (soccer) but now I would rate myself no more of a fan perhaps than Highet was in 1949! In any case, there is no question, my father and Highet would have gotten along famously because even though my father was a business man he was meant to be a scribe for Columba or scholar at Balliol College. He was never as happy as when he was reading his Greek authors in the original.

Anyway for me it is a pleasant way to spend a Saturday evening looking through my books, writing and listening to the Lebeque sisters play their piano duets and rounding off the evening with some sweet ballads by some old favorites Anne Lorne Gillies –Jock O’ Hazeldean, Jo Stafford (one of my mother’s favorite’s) singing MY HEART IS IN THE HIGHLANDS and of course Mairi MacInnes singing FEAR A BHATA (the Boatman) and the EVERLASTING GUN. And Wendy Weatherby's SUNSET SONG and TWO LOVES; she is a great a talented cellist and composer. And Maggie MacInnes too of the Barra MacNeills she is. Grand people all though Jo Stafford, alas, is in the land o' the leal.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

LOST HORIZON ...a classic for the thinking man and woman PLUS THAT AMAZING KISS!!!

Is there another film from the period that sums up the longing for that great human ideal, a perfect world, a better one than the one we already exist in? "Lost Horizon" with its ideals is the film for the thinking person. It thrives on its themes for humanity, of kindness, love, simplicity and moderation, stripping away the pretense and petty vanities of our lives. We have to realize, certainly, that many of our problems are man-made and due to our envy, greed, lust, selfishness and excessive materialism and consumerism. We need bread (the material things in life for life) but man does not live on bread alone.

Many great teachers and poets teach us that the real treasures are found in the heart and are friendship, love and life. Mika Waltari wrote : “A man cannot be measured by the colour of his skin,or by his speech, or by his clothes and jewels, but only by his heart.”

TIME: the troubled 1930’s; which saw the rise of Japanese militarism in China, Italian aggression in Ethiopia (1935) and the rise of Adolph Hitler (1933-1937). China is beginning to fall apart due Japanese invasions and a growing Civil War between the Communists (MAO TSE TUNG) and the Nationalists (Chiang Kai-shek)

PLACE: “Baskul” , China near the Tibetan border. and the mysterious community of SHANGRI-LA ; Shangri-La" is a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery (Buddhist monastery). there are also some scenes in London.

Characters and CAST of LOST HORIZON

Robert Conway (“Bob”), famous British explorer, soldier and diplomat, to be appointed to Foreign Secretary (Secretary of State)
(Oscar Winning Actor); famed for his excellent diction. He volunteered for service in World War I and had been severely wounded.

Sondra Bizet JANE WYMAN was a personal friend of Franklin Roosevelt'

Alexander P. Lovett “Lovey”, a paleontologist who cares only for fame

GEORGE CONWAY, Bob’s younger brother..See what happens to him!!! John Howard
HENRY BARNARD, the swindler; a man with a shady past ; he cared only for money Thomas Mitchell –an Oscar winning actor

MARIA, a resident of Shangri-La falls in love with George Conway. See what happens to her!!! Margo María Marguerita Guadalupe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O'Donnell. In her time a famous Mexican dancer and entertainer.

Gloria Stone , a prostitute suffering from TB Isabel Jewell , a well-known Broadway actress of the 20’s and 30’s.

CHANG, a postulant at the lamasery #2 man to the High Lama H.B. Warner nominated for best supporting actor.

The HIGH LAMA (a man of mystery can he be Father Perrault the lost Jesuit Missionary?) Sam Jaffee famous supporting actor.


1) The film begins on March 10, 1935 when Robert Conway, a famous soldier and diplomat, helps evacuate 90 Westerners (called “White People” in the film). When revolutionaries blow up the power station, how does he signal to the plans to land?

2) Conway and the final group of refugees escape just ahead of the Revolutionaries but what is happening to the plane? ______________________________________________
3) How do they learn the plane has been hijacked and they are going the wrong way?

4) Where was the refueling scene filmed? Just guess!

5) When the plan runs out of fuel and crashes in the Himalayas who saves Conway and the passengers?

6) In the beginning what do most of the passengers want to do?

7) Who does Robert Conway meet in Shangri-la?

8) What happens to the terminally ill prostitute Gloria Stone while she is exposed to the pure air of Shangri-la?

9) Robert Conway’s younger brother meets Maria and what do they want to do?

10) Eventually, Robert Conway meets the High Lama and is astonished to find out who he is. Who is the High Lama?___________________________________________
11) What does the High Lama want Robert Conway to do? _______________________________________________________________________
12) Once the High Lama names Robert Conway his successor in Shangri-la what happens to the High Lama?________________________________________________
13) Reluctantly, Robert Conway leaves Shangri-la with his brother and his brother’s girl friend, Maria. On the way back to “civilization” what happens to Maria?

How does George Conway react?____________________________________________
14) Robert Conway is eventually saved by a search party and is heading back to England by ship.. Then what does he do?_____________________________________
15) In the last scene what does Robert Conway find?

16) Who will be waiting for him there?

BIG THEMES in LOST HORIZONS with commentaries and quotations.


War and violence are perhaps man’s most regrettable vice. But perhaps only the dead have seen the last of war. Perhaps it is true that there will always be war and rumors of war. “Three things are best for a chief: Justice, Peace…and an Army.”(Irish saying). Moral force is, unhappily, no substitute for armed force, but it is a great reinforcement. (Winston Churchill)

After the horrors of World War One, LOST HORIZONS touched a chord with many good people in the West. Hitler, of course, hated this film and ordered every negative in Europe to be destroyed. Franklin Roosevelt loved his film and called his Maryland retreat “Shangri-la” (now called Camp David). During the cold war, LOST HORIZONS was considered a foolish product of APPEASEMENT and even “pro-Communist”! This is ironic because the film is infused with oriental anti-materialistic philosophy. Even though President Eisenhower favored a strong defense he recognized, like many thinking people, the tragedy and waste of the arms race: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

#2 The Roots of Peace and Social harmony are JUSTICE as well as COMMUNITY, LOVE and FRIENDSHIP (Very important values)

Mortimer Adler wrote: “Think how different human societies would be if they were based on love rather than justice. But no such societies have ever existed on earth”. ACCORDING TO “Shangri-La” peace and harmony are achieved by a strong community which takes care of rich and poor alike. The High Lama advocates a life of peace and wholeness in which people can enjoy the simple pleasures and virtues of conviviencia living harmoniously with each other. Civilization is order and freedom promoting cultural activity.


A) Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. LAO TZU

B) I am a man: nothing human is alien to me.” ( Terence.)

C) “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage” LAO TZU

D) THE GOLDEN RULE: 'Do unto others what you would wish they would do to you.” (Treat others and you want to be treated). President Kennedy in 1963 appealed to the golden rule in an anti-segregation speech. He said the "heart of the question is ... whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated." ( JUSTICE)

E. Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world. “ (Buddhist saying)

F. Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful. Buddhist saying {GRATITUDE}

G. “And so let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love, and once we begin to love each other naturally we want to do something… Say, Mother, please tell us something that we will remember, and I said to them: Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family. Smile at each other.” MOTHER THERESA

H. To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity (seriousness), generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness. CONFUCIUS


Benjamin Franklin celebrated the frugal, temperance (moderation), in Poor Richard’s Almanac: “He does not posses wealth; it possesses him. ” I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. LAO TZU

4) TOLERANCE: All religions must be tolerated... for every man must get to heaven in his own way. EPICTETUS.

5) BEWARE OF THE harm caused by GREED and MATERIALISM : (The theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life). ; Materialistic concerns are a spiritual danger because they distract and suffocate the ability to cultivate an inner life of the mind and soul. Generosity is the key to a life of abundance and happiness. The desire for wealth is based upon a GRAND ILLUSION. It is founded on the natural desire for SECURITY. But money cannot buy security It cannot buy health, nor true love, nor can it preserve us from, sorrow, loss and death. Remember Robert Conway’s brother; we all will face old age, sickness and death.

1) :The love of money is the metropolis of all evil “ (Democritus; Greek philosopher)

2)“Greed is the desire for that which does not belong to us; from which every evil of the mind springs.” (SENECA)

QUOTES ON MATERIALISM and EDUCATION. In Shangri-la people are happy because they cultivate their personal lives with a higher culture based on self-improvement, self-sustaining agriculture, beautiful architecture, books and music.

1)“When gold and jade fill your hall, you will not be able to keep them safe.” Lao Tzu.

2)“To not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves (robbers) break in and steal.” (Mathew 6:19)

3) “ For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mathew 8:36)

4) 'When the people have multiplied, what next should be done for them? The Master said, Enrich them. Jan Ch'iu said, When one has enriched them, what next should be done for them? The Master said, Instruct them.' (Ancient Chinese. Analects, xiii. 9)

5) The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home. (Confucius)

6) Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Serenity is the greatest joy. LAO TZU

Tao Te Ching 道德經 The Way of Virtue by LAO TZU

1)Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

2) If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading

3) Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

4) He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty. (SELF-CONTROL)

5) It is a grave mistake to disrespect your teacher. .It is a grave mistake not to love your work. This is an important insight.


1) If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.

2) It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

3)No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.

4)Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.