Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Ellsberg and Bach

February 14th, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in History

Two interviews caught my attention on Bob Edwards Weekend, one of my favorite radio shows. I grew up with TV and sometimes find it interesting that I’m a radio fan and haven’t watched network TV in close to 20 years.

I also grew up in a newspaper family that discussed the news all the time. One of the stories on the show today reminded me of the first news story I read daily, the Pentagon Papers story. By the time I was following it, The New York Times had published the Pentagon’s secret history of the Vietnam War given to it by Daniel Ellsberg, who researched the history and leaked it to the Times. Ellsburg was in hiding, the Nixon Administration and sued The Times, and its attempts to keep the story quiet, such as by breaking into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, were starting to come to light.

I was 12 and went straight to the paper after I got home from school. It was riveting drama.

Bob Edwards interviewed Ellsburg and the makers of the documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America. I can’t wait to see it.

Bob Edwards also interviewed Eric Siblin, author of the book The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece. I love Bach but wasn’t familiar with the Cello Suites.

The story in the interview I found most interesting concerned the influence of politics on music. Casals became a political figure when he decided he would not play in any country that recognized the Fanco government. Bach would not have had that kind of political experience, Siblin said, but may have been influenced by political events in a rather profound way.

The King of Prussia in the early 1700s decided to militarize the country and do away with anything that didn’t contribute to the cause, including the rolay orchestra That orchestra, however, was one of the best in Europe.

Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthens hired the unemployed musicians and, in couple years later, Bach. So Bach has the best orchestra in the world at his disposal and writes some of the most sublime music ever composed, including some of my my favorite Brandenburg Concerti.

I remember reading on the back of an album my mom had that the art of baroque trumpet had been lost for hundreds of years. It makes sense if they had been written for the greatest players of the time.

This reminds me of the stories in Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, in which he makes it clear that talent alone is not sufficient but circumstances beyond the individual contribute to success. As talented as he was, Bach apparently had political and military circumstances to provide the means of expressing his musical imagination.


January 16th, 2010 by Collin Canright | 1 Comment | Filed in History, Political Economy

This post is part of the Collin’s 50th! series, in which I look back as a way of moving forward.

In writing about my 1981 article, “The High Impact of Low Level Radiation,” in the post Political Economy, I recalled my time as an anti-nuclear protester, in marches for the Bailly Alliance, a group dedicated to stopping the Bailly Nuclear 1 plant, to be located on the shores of Lake Michican near Chesterton, Indiana. The promise and perils of nuclear energy have been in the news lately–the debates in Northwest Indiana in the late 1970s are again relevant today.

Needless to say, this was a topic of great interest in a highly populated and environmentally sensitive region of the country. My family, publishers of The Chesterton Tribune, spent a lot of time and effort covering the plant’s planning and approval process, including several trips to Washington, DC, for Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hearings on plant approval. My own reporting contribution included a report on an NRC headlined “NRC to require state Emergency Action plans.”

My father, John, the paper’s editor, initially supported the plant in editorials, and coverage was generally neutral. That led to some conflict within the paper because my cousin Dave, who completely opposed the plant, was a Bailly Alliance member, as were a number of other staff and me.

With the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, coverage took a turn. What seemed promising years earlier was now a potential nightmare. The journalistic turning point came in heading writing. My dad was careful to always use the formal name of the plant in articles: “Bailly Nuclear 1” or “Bailly N1.” As opposition mounted, and it became apparent that the plant construction would not be approved, we all decided just call it a “nuke.” For more, see the sidebar to the low-level radiation article, “Burn-Out at Bailly: NIPSCO’s Nuclear Fizzle.”

The questions surrounding nuclear power are far from resolved and are generating (heh, heh, heh) increasing interest. Current plants happen to be working quite well, and were it not for the continuing problems of nuclear waste disposal and nuclear proliferation, nuclear power may well provide a solution to future energy generation. “The nuclear option should be retained precisely because it is an important carbon-free source of power,” states MIT’s study on The Future of Nuclear Energy, updated in 2009.

Two leading magazines covered nuclear power in December 2009 issues, with The Economist reporting on “Nuclear’s next generation,” a readable report on the pros and cons of six new designs for nuclear power plants. Wired magazine weighed in with its preferred nuclear alternative in “Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke.”

Maybe. Wired made a great case for nukes in February 2005, in “Nuclear Now! How clean, green atomic energy can stop global warming,” and I believe it’s the best alternative for mass energy production in the future.

Yet a nuclear milestone last week gives pause, with stories about the death at 93 of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only survivor of the nuclear blasts at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I still have the No Nukes T-shirt I silk screened for the Bailly Alliance just in case.

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Family Intimacy

January 2nd, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in History, Philosophy, Psychology

I stayed away from anything related to the Tiger Woods drama. Well, for the most part. When my wife and I first heard the reports as a strange story, we knew basically what it was about: a family fight and affair. My manner of gossip related mostly to media reporting of the affair and how much play the story got and how typical that is in our celebrity-obsessed culture.

In looking today for news reporting family and intimacy, I came across “Wood’s story shows our priorities awry,” on from Knoxville, TN. Monty Walton, the writer, asked, “But have we stopped to ask what this story tells us about ourselves? . . . Aren’t we teaching an entire generation of young people that relationships are built on physical intimacy rather than emotional and spiritual intimacy?”

Aren’t we indeed. The the writer answers from a religious and somewhat moralistic point of view. Yet the questions and answers have created a tension since the beginnings of Western philosophy and thought, and intimacy, even in marriage, has been defined largely in physical terms and then decried on moral grounds.

Not for the better, either. “Intimacy fought for in the 1960s and 1970s lost out to morality in the 1980s and 1990s,” I write in “Historical Perspectives on the Family and the Development of Intimacy,” a paper written for my master’s degree at the Wright Graduate Institute for the Realization of Human Potential. In the paper, I trace questions of family and intimacy to a long-standing tension between Platonic and Aristotelian philosophical views.

It’s a tension reflected in questions such as the state support and individual choice that continue today, and it’s a tension that goes beyond the political and moral rhetoric that has become a staple of our political and cultural discourse. The Tiger Woods drama does indeed show that our priorities are awry, but neither making him a public spectacle, as the public and the media have tended to do since Victorian times, nor shunning him in the form of lost corporate endorsements will straighten out priorities.

I suggest we ponder Walton’s first question, “But have we stopped to ask what this story tells us about ourselves?” Download the full paper to tead my initial observations on the historical tensions in family and intimacy.

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Collin in Pictures

October 25th, 2009 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in History, Personal

This is my life in pictures. . . so far, the slide show from my birthday celebration. It ran to The Beatles song “Birthday,” about the best choice there is, followed by a song “Too Young” by the French pop group Phoenix.

Thanks to my wife Christina, Dan Lewis, and my mom and dad for pictures. Hope you enjoy My Life In Pictures, So Far (PDF).

Note, however, that it’s a large PDF, about 10mb. It opens full screen and runs automatically. Hit the ESC key to stop. I’ll post a smaller version in the next couple days.