Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two sets of notes for papers by Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell was a member of the Monday Evening Club from 1961 until his death in 1978. Previously, we have posted two papers for which standard manuscript drafts survive: "The bed of Procrustes" and "Which way?" The recollection of members who were Rockwell's contemporaries in the Club is, however, that normally Rockwell spoke extemporaneously about a painting or drawing he would bring to the meeting, with at most a few scribbled notes. We reproduce here transcriptions of two such sets of notes, taken from undated manuscripts in the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. In these transcriptions,  spelling and punctuation is generally left as it is in the original. While we can not gather the full impact of Rockwell's storytelling from these notes, there is enough to get the gist of the talk and perhaps to glean a few of the opinions he expressed.

The Club is grateful for the assistance of Corry Kanzenburg and Jessika Drmacich of the collections staff at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. for providing access to the manuscript of this and other papers Rockwell presented to the Club, to the museum's director, Laurie Norton Moffatt, for alerting us to their existence (via a Facebook comment!) and to the Norman Rockwell Licensing Company for permission to publish the papers. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL.

The first paper is entitled "Extra Ordinary Men," in which Rockwell recalls his experiences creating portraits of some of the leading political figures of his time. Rockwell appears to have incorporated bits from another speech about these subjects into this presentation.

[Addendum:] According to a Club invitation card in the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, this paper was delivered on Monday evening, January 18, 1971 at the home of Harry E. Judson on Tor Court in Pittsfield.  

[Envelope:] Monday Evening Club
To Albert Silverman
Silverman [a Berkshire County attorney; not a club member]

[handwritten notes]
After Roger’s wonderful paper two weeks ago [Roger Linscott], which was so well done and thorough.  I feel this may be quite trivial, disjointed and perhaps even frivolous and overpersonal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why are you laughing? — an exploration of the nature of humor

Photo by eliastar, used under Creative Commons License

Presented to the Club by David T. Noyes on Monday evening, Oct. 22, 2012
A new pastor was visiting the homes of his parishioners.
At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks at the door. Therefore, he took out a card and wrote "Revelation 3:20" on the back of it and stuck it in the door. 
When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this cryptic message: “Genesis 3:10." 
Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he found that Revelation 3:20 begins "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Genesis 3:10 reads, "I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid, for I was naked.
Humor. What makes us laugh? I have come to the conclusion in the process of writing this paper that it’s terribly hard to define. And unlike Justice Potter Stewart’s comment about pornography, I don’t always “know it when I see it.” Something I might find hilarious may not even bring a smirk to your face. And vice versa! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Under the green canopy: Hiking the Appalachian Trail the the Berkshires

Presented to the Club on Monday evening, March 12, 2012 by Richard L. Floyd

When I told Harold* my title for tonight’s paper he suggested it might be about a wedding! A great guess, but no, the paper is actually about my experiences of hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Berkshires. “Under the Green Canopy” refers to the lush green foliage overhead when you are on the trail. The AT is also sometimes called the “Green Tunnel” by thru-hikers.

I first encountered the Appalachian Trail over fifty years ago in western New Jersey as a Boy Scout at camp No-Be-Bo-Sco. The camp, which is still going strong, sits alongside Kittatinny Ridge, near the Delaware Water Gap.

I went to camp there for several summers and we scouts hiked sections of the nearby AT. The trail skirts the opposite shore of Sand Pond. I have many memories of that lake; I came to camp as a beginner and learned to swim there, eventually earning my lifesaving merit badge, and when I was fourteen swam the Mile Swim there. I didn’t appreciate that the nearby trail was so special.

It was as a Boy Scout that I first learned to love hiking and camping. I know that when one thinks of New Jersey it does not conjure up pictures of beautiful forests and hills, but that is just what that part of northwestern New Jersey is like. If you don’t believe me you can visit. The camp is private, but years ago it ceded hundreds of acres to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Park and one can hike the trails there, including a portion of the AT.

Eventually one of the Scout leaders at camp must have told me that the trail went all the way from Georgia to Maine, and that some people hiked the whole thing in one season. From then on it was a dream of mine to thru-hike the trail, a dream I long deferred and have finally abandoned now that I’ve reached the age where one likes to sleep in one’s own bed.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Red and Blue Divided by 11 = Purple: The rival regional cultures of America

Presented to the Club by Jack Spencer on Monday evening, Feb. 27, 2012

This paper is dedicated to Martin [Langeveld], in appreciation for all that he does by making us part of the cyber world by posting our essays online.  But even more than the dedication is that, against all my instinctual inclinations, I have written this paper out so it can join the ranks of all the illustrative essays that are already there.  It will also mean that the club will have a reasonable dismissal time as an organized, written paper will mean that I ad lib less.

Before I partially explain my title, “Red and Blue Divided by 11 = Purple,” let me first express my regret that a title was not created which would get more hits, so that it would, at least, be in the top four.  An alternative title was thought up, “Sex & More Sex Divided by Catholic Bishops’ View of Birth Control = Rick Santorum on Steroids.”  This title would do quite well and might start a trend in the club that, rather than obscure titles, there will be titles that have even less to do with the paper being presented but will contain key words which will get hits, i.e. Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, Giants and Super Bowl.

But back to my original topic and where it came from.  For many years, especially since the way the 2000 Presidential election was decided (and despite a period of hope with Obama’s election in 2008), I have been quite concerned about the divisions in our society and the inability to reach pragmatic and reasonable solutions to issues such as an understandable and fair tax code, modifications to social security so it is safe for the next 30-40 years, environmental trade-offs so real changes take place, transportations bill, etc., etc.  Some issues such as Medicare and the health system are more complex.  We appear to be unable, in many areas, to function in the 21st century.

The reasons are many and this essay just means to touch on (1) defining some of the issues (2) presenting some theories on the complexity we have become.

In Colin Woodard’s book, On American Nations, he argues that it is too simplistic to describe us as red and blue states, with a few that are purple that can shift either way, such as Colorado.  We are eleven rival regional cultures.  This map I am handing out (it is the teacher in me) shows where the eleven are and what Woodard has labeled them.  Since we in the Monday Evening Club have people born outside of Yankeedom and many who have lived a variety of places in the United States, your vies in the discussion could be interesting.  For the sake of full disclosure, I am Yankeedom every which way, from ancestors to where I have lived.  Instead of the slogan, “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts,” it should have been, “Don’t blame me, I’m from the steadfast Yankeedom.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The long haul: The Erie Canal's place in the growth of a nation

Photo by mcgmatt, via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License
Presented to the Club by Albert Easton for on Monday evening, January 16, 2012

“As a bond between the Atlantic and Western states, it may prevent the dismemberment of the American Empire.  The most fertile and extensive regions of America will avail themselves of its facilities for a market.  All their surplus productions will concentrate in the city of New York, for transportation abroad or consumption at home.  And before the revolution of a century, the whole island of Manhattan, covered with inhabitants and replenished with a dense population, will constitute one vast city.”  In 1816, when New York governor Dewitt Clinton wrote those words, James Madison was president of the new and struggling country, the United States.  His predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, had scoffed at the idea of a canal across New York State, but Madison was more neutral, and actually was persuaded to sponsor a bill in congress providing some funding.  The United States was financially exhausted, however, from the costs of the War of 1812, and the bill went nowhere.

However, Clinton was successful in persuading the New York legislature to support the canal building effort, and it became known later as “Clinton’s Ditch”.  The advocate who had sold the idea to Clinton was named Jesse Hawley.  Hawley had gone bankrupt from trying to get the huge quantities of grain he had been growing on his western New York real estate shipped to market.  It was from debtor’s prison in Canandaigua that he began his agitation for a canal along the 90 mile long Mohawk River valley, and with the help of friends (including land speculator Joseph Ellicott, who later became the first canal commissioner) sold the idea to Clinton.

The project presented enormous challenges, of course.  The total rise from the Hudson at Albany to Lake Erie is 600 feet, and the tallest locks available in 1800 could handle only 12 feet – thus a minimum of 50 locks over that 360 mile distance.  The costs would be enormous, and almost beyond the early nineteenth century imagination.  Nevertheless, the New York legislature eventually committed the then huge sum of seven million dollars to the project, and work began on the 4th of July 1817.