October 30, 1938: War of the Worlds

Sunday, October 30, AD 2016

How little it took to panic the country 78 years ago!  The War of the Worlds broadcast on Halloween Eve 1938 by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater demonstrated the power of radio and how edgy the country was.  Or did it?  Recent studies have contended that the panic was not widespread and that relatively few radios in the country were tuned to the broadcast.  At any rate there was enough of an uproar that CBS called a press conference the next morning at which Welles appeared and took questions:

MR. WELLES: Despite my deep regret over any misapprehension that our broadcast might have created among some listeners, I am even more bewildered over this misunderstanding in the light of an analysis of the broadcast itself.

It seems to me that they’re our four factors, which should have in any event maintained the illusion of fiction in the broadcast. The first was that the broadcast was performed as if occurring in the future, and as if it were then related by a survivor of a past occurrence. The date of this fanciful invasion of this planet by Martians was clearly given as 1939 and was so announced at the outset of the broadcast.

The second element was the fact that the broadcast took place at our weekly Mercury Theatre period and had been so announced in all the papers. For seventeen consecutive weeks we have been broadcasting radio sixteen of these seventeen broadcasts have been fiction and have been presented as such. Only one in the series was a true story, the broadcast of Hell on Ice by Commander Ellsberg, and was identified as a true story in the framework of radio drama.

The third element was the fact that at the very outset of the broadcast, and twice during its enactment, listeners were told that this was a play that it was an adaptation of an old novel by H. G. Wells. Furthermore, at the conclusion, a detailed statement to this effect was made.

The fourth factor seems to me to have been the most pertinent of all. That is the familiarity of the fable, within the American idiom, of Mars and the Martians.

For many decades “The Man From Mars” has been almost a synonym for fantasy. In very old morgues of many newspapers there will be found a series of grotesque cartoons that ran daily, which gave this fantasy imaginary form. As a matter of fact, the fantasy as such has been used in radio programs many times. In these broadcasts, conflict between citizens of Mars and other planets been a familiarly accepted fairy-tale. The same make-believe is familiar to newspaper readers through a comic strip that uses the same device.

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Nothing to Get Scared About. Really. Maybe.

Sunday, October 30, AD 2016

And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians–dead!–slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.

 H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

 

Remember, no panicking.  All will be well.  Nothing to worry about:

 

Amateur astronomers are puzzling over a seemingly anomalous cloud that has shown up on images of Mars taken over the past few days. Is it really a cloud, or a trick of the eye? Does it really extend 150 miles up from the surface, as some of the observers suggest? And what churned up all that stuff, anyway? The amateurs and the pros will be trying to resolve those questions before the phenomenon fades away.

“It’s not completely unexpected,” Jonathon Hill, a member of the team at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, told me today. “But it’s bigger than we would expect, and it’s definitely something that our atmosphere guys want to take a look at.”

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Sermon of Father Mapple

Sunday, August 28, AD 2016

John Huston’s film Moby Dick (1956) is a true work of genius.  The only film version worthy of the novel, the screenplay was written by Ray Bradbury who in 10,000 words  got to the essence of the 206,052 word novel.  (Bradbury confessed when he was approached by Huston to do the screenplay that he had never been able to get through the novel.)  A deeply religious film that asks questions about God and the human condition that still  jar us, the most striking scene is the sermon on Jonah by Father Mapple, portrayed unforgettably by Orson Welles.  Enoch Mudge who served as the chaplain of the Seaman’s Bethel in New Bedford and Father E.T. Taylor who served as the chaplain of the Seaman Bethel in Boston, served as the real life models for the fictional Mapple. (At the time of Melville any clergyman of age or authority was often accorded the title “Father” by his parishioners in Protestant churches, a distinction retained today only by Catholics, the Orthodox and a few Protestant churches.)

Welles suffered from a bad case of stage fright just prior to the scene and John Huston produced a bottle to help Welles fortify himself.  Welles then did the scene letter perfect in one take.  Here is the text of the sermon as written by Bradbury for the film:

And God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Shipmates, the sin of Jonah was in his disobedience of the command of God. He found it a hard command, and it was, for all the things that God would have us do are hard. If we would obey God, we must disobey ourselves.
But Jonah still further flouts at God by seeking to flee from him. Jonah thinks that a ship made by men will carry him into countries where God does not reign. He prowls among the shipping like a vile burglar, hastening to cross the seas, and as he comes aboard the sailors mark him.
The ship puts out, but soon the sea rebels. It will not bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes up. The ship is like to break. The bo’s’n calls all hands to lighten her. Boxes, bales and jars are clattering overboard, the wind is shrieking, the men are yelling. “I fear the Lord!” cries Jonah, “the God of Heaven who has made the sea and the dry land!”
Again, the sailors mark him. And wretched Jonah cries out to them to cast him overboard, for he knew that for his sake this great tempest was upon them.
Now behold Jonah, taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea, into the dreadful jaws awaiting him. And the great whale shoots to all his ivory teeth, like so many white bolts, upon his prison.
And Jonah cries unto the Lord, out of the fish’s belly. But observe his prayer, shipmates. He doesn’t weep and wail, he feels his punishment is just. He leaves deliverance to God. And even out of the belly of Hell, grounded upon the ocean’s utmost bones, God heard him when he cried. And God spake unto the whale, and from the shuddering cold and blackness of the deep, the whale breached into the sun and vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
And Jonah, bruised and beaten, his ears like two seashells still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean … Jonah did the Almighty’s bidding, and what was that, shipmates? To preach the truth in the face of falsehood! 
Now, shipmates, woe to him who seeks to pour oil on the troubled water when God has brewed them into a gale. Yeah, woe to him who, as the pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway! But delight is to him who against the proud gods and commodores of this Earth, stands forth his own inexorable self, who destroys all sin, though we pluck it out from under the robes of senators, and judges. And eternal delight shall be his who, coming to lay him down, can say “Oh father, mortal or immortal, here I die. I have striven to be thine, more than to be this world’s or mine own, yet this is nothing. I leave eternity to thee, for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?

 

Here is the much, much lengthier version from the novel  (Too bad that time prevented Ray Bradbury from serving as Melville’s editor!)

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  • That sermon, as are the Gospels, is pertinent today as it was in sailing ship days and when St. Peter was still fishing for fish, not men. St. Peter, pray for us. .
    .
    It reminds me of a priest’s sermon (I found on the net) on St. Dismus’ conversion and redemption on a cross next to Jesus’ Cross.
    .
    The priest noted that St. Dismus acknowledged his guilt (and Jesus’ innocence) and the justice in Dismus’ execution. St. Dismus did not ask that his punishment be eased. He asked that Jesus remember Dismus when He came into His Kingdom. St. Dismus showed humility – the theme of today’s scripture readings – along with Faith, Hope and Love of Jesus who suffered next to him. And, Dismus acknowledged true repentance/contrition for his sins.
    .
    Twenty or thirty years ago, I made it through Moby Dick (MD). I also read a number of Melville’s shorter South Seas sailor novels. In addition to the deep-running themes, MD is an encyclopedia of whaling. I recommend Joseph Conrad’s sea novels, as well.
    .
    St. Elmo, pray for us.

  • God will save us despite ourselves if only we admit our error and seek his help.

Macbeth and Christ

Monday, July 11, AD 2016

 

makbet-2-scene-6

 

I was watching Orson Welles’ 1948 version of Macbeth.  It is a version of the play steeped in darkness, with the drama taking place on a landscape that looks like a dark and evil lunar surface.  Interestingly Welles adds a character, the Holy Man, a Catholic priest.  At the beginning of the film he chases away the “three weird sisters”, waving the Celtic Cross he carries.  After King Duncan arrives the Priest leads the court, anachronistically, in the rendition of the Saint Michael Prayer, go here to read about it, that would be written by Pope Leo XIII some nine centuries after the events depicted in Macbeth:

Saint Michael, the arch angel, be our safeguard

against the viles and wickedness of the devil.

Do thou, oh prince of the heavenly host,

by the divine power

thrust into hell satan and the other evil spirits,

who wander through the world,

seeking the ruin of souls.

Amen!

Thus thou renounce Satan?

I renounce him.

And all his works?

I renounce them.

And all his pomps?

I renounce them.

Amen!

Candles are distributed during the prayer, are lit and are raised by all at the end, Macbeth slower than the rest.

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  • Thank you for posting. Was not aware of Welles’ Macbeth. Very interesting interpretation of Shakespeare as there is supposition that the Bard may have been Roman Catholic.

The Plot to Overthrow Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, AD 2014

 

How wonderfully daffy the golden age of Radio tended to be.  A broadcast on December 19, 1944 of the show This Is My Best:  Norman Corwin’s comedic poem The Plot to Overthrow Christmas, a hilarious look at a plot by Hell to stop Christmas, with Orson Welles starring as Nero.  Amazing the entertainment heights that could be reached without car chases, explosions, profanity, bathroom jokes and sex.

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13 Responses to May 17: Norwegian Constitution Day

  • “a descendant of King Harald Hardrada”

    I am sure many of us have some rather interesting ancestors, if we can trace them back far enough.
    In 1809, a maternal ancestor of mine, Lt-Col William Linnaeus Gardner (b. 1770) who had served in the 74th Highlanders raised, , the famous cavalry corps known as “Gardner’s Horse” at Farrukhabad and Mainpuri. In 1796, he married by Muslim rites, Nawab Mah Manzilunnissa Begum Dehlivi, aged 13, a princess of Cambay, afterwards adopted as daughter by Padshah Akbar Shah, Emperor of Delhi.
    Such an inter-racial marriage was no new thing in the Gardner family; he was descended from Col Jonathan Gale of Fullerswood, Parish of St Elizabeth, Jamaica, who, in 1699, had married a West African slave, Eleanor.
    Gardner’s granddaughter, Susan Gardner [Sabia Begum], married Mirza Anjan Shikoh, son of Shahzada Mirza Suleiman Shikoh of the Delhi Imperial Family. He was the grandson of Padshah-e Hind (Emperor of India) Jalal ad-Din Abu´l Mozaffar Mohammad Ali Gauhar Shah Alam II (1759-1788). Such family connections were quite common in the days of the old East India Company, right up until the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
    As a direct descendant of Sabia Begum (one of her sons married a distant Scottish cousin), my ancestors include Akbar the Great and the first Mughal Emperor, Zahir ud-Din Mohammad (Babur). Of course, it also makes me a lineal descendant of Genghis Khan, to whom I attribute my love of horses, simplicity of taste and suavity of manner

  • as it is time for heredity here’s mine.

    My son,” said the Norman Baron, “I am dying, and you will be heir
    To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for my share
    When we conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
    But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:—

    “The Saxon is not like us Normans, His manners are not so polite.
    But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
    When he stands like an ox in the furrow with his sullen set eyes on your own, And grumbles, “This isn’t fair dealings,” my son, leave the Saxon alone.

    “You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears, But don’t try that game on the Saxon; you’ll have the whole brood round your ears. From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field, They’ll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

    “But first you must master their language, their dialect, proverbs and songs. Don’t trust any clerk to interpret when they come with the tale of their wrongs. Let them know that you know what they’re saying; let them feel that you know what to say. Yes, even when you want to go hunting, hear ’em out if it takes you all day.

    “They’ll drink every hour of the daylight and poach every hour of the dark, It’s the sport not the rabbits they ‘re after (we ‘ve plenty of game in the park). Don’t hang them or cut off their fingers. That’s wasteful as well as unkind, For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher makes the best man-at-arms you can find.

    “Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and funerals and feasts. Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests. Say ‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘ours’ when you’re talking instead of ‘you fellows’ and ‘I.’Don’t ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell ’em a lie!”

    Rudyard Kipling

  • Ancestors of Norse origen may be one thing the Irish, English, and Scots have in common.
    .
    My surname is an anglicized version of an old Norse name, yet my lineage is West of Ireland for all known ancestors.
    .
    My friend who is a Norwegian lady close to 90 years old has remarked that in her visits to Scotland, she noted a very pronounced Norse presence in place names, particularly in the northern part of that country.
    .
    Curiously even York, England was known in or about the year 866 as “Jórvík” by its Viking conquerors, and Dublin, of course, in or about 842 was known by its Viking name “Dyflin”. Like so many other invading strangers, the Vikings stayed in Ireland,intermarried with the locals, and became more Irish than the Irish.

  • Slainté is right.
    As late as 1263, the Norwegian king, Harald Harkonarson tried to reassert his sovereignty over the western coast of Scotland at the Battle of Largs (about 4 miles from where I live)
    Three years later, by the Treaty of Perth, the Norwegians ceded the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to Scotland, whilst retaining Orkney & Shetland. They only became part of Scotland as part of the dowry of Queen Margaret, daughter of Christian I of Norway, who married King James III. They were a wadset for the dowry, which was never paid, so they never reverted to Norway.
    Now, here is a curious reminder of those times. I own a piece of ground, about 18 acres of winter pasture, which is known locally as “the ten shilling land.” [The shilling is an old British coin, 20 to the pound, abolished in 1971 and, curiously enough, it is a Norse word] The name refers to the Old Extent.” Now, the Old Extent was a survey of rental values, carried out by King Alexander III (1241-1286) in 1280 as the basis of a war tax. He still did not trust the Norwegians. People around here don’t forget things like that in a hurry and the name stuck.

  • Which is the original, the first line of “Deck the Halls” or the first line of the Norwegian anthem?
    Born into the Knott family, I heard often that we were legitimate (no other kind in this family!) descendants of none other that King Knute. This sounded very agreeable. Then another more prosaic etymology of the word arose. Knott = “a hill”. Blah! The fiery red head of my sister tells me that if it was a hill that described our ancestor a Viking stood upon it.

  • “Which is the original, the first line of “Deck the Halls” or the first line of the Norwegian anthem?”

    Deck the Halls was written in 1862 and the melody of the anthem was written in 1863-64. The melody of the first seven notes is the same as Deck the Halls, the melody of Deck the Halls being taken from a 16th century Welsh song “Nos Galan”.

  • Well Mr. McClarey.
    .
    If your mom had red hair and Kmbold is correct about its originating among the Vikings, and if both parents must possessive the recessive gene for red hair to appear in one’s children, your bride may not be the only one with Norse blood. 🙂

  • Perhaps, although I doubt if the Red Hair gene among the Irish and the Scots has much to do with the Vikings, the Celts always apparently having the gene in abundance.

  • MPS writes: “…Of course, it also makes me a lineal descendant of Genghis Khan, to whom I attribute my love of horses, simplicity of taste and suavity of manner”
    .
    You attribute Genghis Khan as the source of your “suavity of manner”.

    You are nuts MPS. : )

  • The mythology was that Odin (seen as an old man or raven) needed heroes for the final battle, Ragnarok.

    They’re still at it in Afghanistan. A recent YouTube has a Norwegian CO pumping up the troops before an op.

    You are the hunters!
    You are the predators!
    Taliban are the prey!

    Til Valhall!
    Til Valhall!
    To Valhall!

    Picture a berserker with the blood lust, frothing at the mouth, gnawing his shield . . . Homer Iliad has it in spots. The warrior, fully armed striding forth, feeling strength and vigor coursing through his limbs.

    I read that the Irish and Scots Celts/Gaels/Milesians were light skinned, dark haired peoples. The men would bleach their hair with lime or lye. The red and blond hair came from the Danes/Norse and, in America, inter-marriage with Germans, Swedes, etc. The Scottish gallowglass likley had his origin, both gentic and armory, in Norse raiders who “went native.” Which was a common problem among the adventureres, free-booters and mercenaries the sassenach kept sending into Eire.

  • T Shaw

    The Normans, who settled in Scotland and Ireland in considerable numbers, had an admixture of Norse blood
    Tacitus in the Agricola comments on the red hair and large limbs of the Caledonians (that was before the arrival of the Scots from Ireland), which he attributes to a German origin: “Namque rutilae Caledoniam habitantium comae, magni artus Germanicam originem adseverant.” [The red hair and the large limbs of the Caledonian peoples testify to a German origin.] Dio Cassius, I believe, say Boudicca had red hair, but I have not checked the reference.

  • MPS, apologies for being rude. I always understood Genghis Khan to be an invader who conquered civilizations by force of arms and pillory; I did not equate civility and suave manners with his persona. As he is your ancestor, you may be aware of personal details unknown to me. I should have reserved judgment.

  • Slainté

    Not at all. It’s just that when I have mentioned my illustrious ancestor to people I know, they have usually said something like, “I might have known,” or “I should have guessed,” so I can only assume that is what they are referring to.

Sermon on Jonah

Thursday, January 28, AD 2010

Orson Welles gives a spell-binding performance as he delivers a sermon at the beginning of the movie Moby Dick (1956). The role of Father Mapple (back in the days when Protestant ministers would often have that title) is based on Father Edward Thompson Taylor, the great Methodist missionary among seamen who was in charge of the Seamen’s Bethel in Boston in the Nineteenth Century.

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