Archive for the ‘ Life’s Too Short… ’ Category

Mercié

Marius Jean Antonin Mercié was a French sculptor and painter.  I doubt many people know of him, but if they don’t know of him, they may know of or have seen his work.

He has pieces in Paris and other parts of France, but he has works in the United States as well.

So, who was this guy, and why is he important today.

He entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and studied under some of the greats.  He gained the Grand Prix de Rome at the age of 23 in 1868.  The prestigious scholarship dating back to 1663 and French King Louis XIV, allowed the student to live in Rome for five years at the expense of the state!

Mercié was quite the artist and a French hero and icon.  He received the Medal of Honour as well.

His most popular work in France is his Bronze David.  The Biblical hero and shepherd boy who would become King of Israel is shown nude, standing on the head of Goliath.

He later became Professor of Drawing and Sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts, and was honored with membership in the Academie francaise in 1891.

The awards go on and on, I’ll not belabor his accolades.

In 1891, the statue he created along with Alexandre Falguiere of The Marquis de Lafayette was dedicated in Washington D.C.

Baltimore’s memorial to Francis Scott Key was the work of Mercie as well.

But, his most famous work is one that is at the center of controversy today.  His serene sculpture of Robert E. Lee on horseback towers 60 feet above Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.  Mercie won the commission and to assure a realistic result, he was allowed access to Lee’s spurs, hat, boots, and death mask.

It was unveiled in front of a crowd of nearly 100,000 on May 29, 1890.

Robert Winthrop, a Richmond architect who is one of the authors of Richmond’s Monument Avenue, said, “The South lost the Civil War in a spectacular and total fashion.  A good portion of the women in Richmond were widows at the end of the war.  It was very much an effort to remember them (their husbands), to treat them as gallant men who fought for a cause.”

Winthrop went on to compare the Lee monument to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC.  The Vietnam Memorial went UP before the World War II Memorial.

Winthrop said, “When you lose, you need to put the memorial UP fast. Victors have the victory.  Vietnam was more tragic than World II, we fought a long war for no return, it is similar to the situation the South was in.”

The site was offered in 1886; many were opposed as it was outside the city limits of Richmond.  The $20,000 raised to pay for the land and the work came from across the nation.  Richmond annexed the land in 1892, and it was to be part of a grand real estate development.

Hard times delayed that and the Lee Monument stood alone in a tobacco field until development resumed for Richmond’s Grand Avenue in the early 1900s.

The statue, with exquisite detail and artistic value stands today a symbol of a city which is truly a Phoenix risen from the ashes and is the focal point of not only controversy, but one of the most beautiful streets in America.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Fidel Castro is dead!

Yeah!

Yeah!

Yeah!

All weekend long we listened to Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Dr, Jill Stein, and others laud Castro as a great leader, a hero, a beacon of justice!, and a man who loved his country.

  1. Not a hero.
  2. Not a leader.
  3. Had no clue what justice is.
  4. Loved his power; the location was a matter of convenience.

Forget for a moment the thousands of political prisoners he held captive during his oppressive regime.  Forget for a minute the thousands of dissidents he murdered in the name of socialism.  Forget for a moment the thousands of women he raped.   Forget for a little while the millions of Cuban exiles who longed for home, family, culture, and property.  Forget just for a time the hundreds of businesses he stole from their rightful owners.

For a moment, forget all that.

But if you’re part of my generation, think back to October of 1962.

Remember your parents; how they felt, what they said, how much closer they hugged you.

In 1962, Castro led the world to the brink of nuclear war.  Castro was the Cuban Missile Crisis.  It was his doing, his knuckling to pressure from the Soviets that brought our nation to the very cusp of catastrophe.

It was Castro who traumatized a nation.

And though I’ll never forget those he murdered, robbed, imprisoned, and raped – they may fade.

But I will never forget the Cuban Missile Crisis as it forever changed our nation.

I will never call him a hero, a man who loved is country, a leader.

And to call him a “beacon of justice in the shadow of empire” is pure lunacy.  And no one who truly loves this nation could possibly feel that way about him.

He was an international terrorist and we should have taken him out decades ago.

Remember President Kennedy on television telling the nation just how close we were to destruction.

kennedy-on-tv

And if you don’t remember, or you’ve never heard of this, take 20 minutes to watch this…

…for nearly 19 minutes, John F. Kennedy showed the world what a leader was.

Castro: no leader, no hero, only a tyrant.

He’s dead; sic semper tyrannis.

 

A Life Cut Short

On October 11, 1809, explorer Meriwether Lewis died along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee.

I know it is unusual for me to post about someone on their death day, but this event warrants some discussion.

I’ll honestly admit, I knew little about Meriwether Lewis other than he and William Clark headed UP the Corps of Discovery and traipsed all over the Louisiana Territory at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson.

meriweather-lewis

America had just purchased the vast area of land from France and everyone back at DC wanted to know what was out there.

Lewis was appointed Governor of the Louisiana Territory by TJ in 1807 and took the job seriously.  He stopped at an inn on the Trace called Grinder’s Stand*.   About 70 miles from Nashville, he turned in for the night following dinner.

He’d arranged for a one room cabin.

Sometime before dawn, Priscilla Griner, the inn-keeper’s wife heard gunshots.  Rushing to the cabin, servants found the Governor with a gunshot wound to the head and one to the abdomen.

Shortly after sunrise, he bled to death on his Buffalo Robe.

Newspapers reported that Clark’s throat had been slashed, and money (borrowed from a friend) was missing as well.

Jefferson and other friends, as well as many modern historians, accept Lewis’ death as a suicide, but there is some debate.

And what’s America without debate? Huh?

And what’s a death without a conspiracy theory or two?

Mrs. Griner left no written account, and some believe her story was a fabrication.  She claimed Lewis acted strangely the night before his death; standing and pacing during dinner while talking to himself the entire time!

She claimed he was speaking in a manner one would address a lawyer, flush faced, almost as though he were in a “fit”.

She claimed to hear him continue the conversation with himself even after he retired.

And, she heard gunshots, a scuffle, and calls for help.  She also claimed she could see him crawling in his cabin, but never explained her lack of further investigation and never explained why she sent her children to waken Lewis and his servants.

A second account claims Lewis’ servants found him wounded and bleeding in his cabin, part of his skull gone.  He managed to hang on for several hours.

And a third version also attributed to the inn-keeper’s wife, says when Lewis realized he was followed by three men, he challenged them to a duel.  She claimed again, she heard voices and gun shots and found the cabin empty and the Governor outside.

Lewis’ mother went to her grave insisting her son was murdered. The coroner’s inquest declined to charge anyone with the crime.

When Clark and Jefferson heard of his death, they both leaned toward the suicide theory.

But no one can tell us why.

There was no autopsy, and it wasn’t until 40 years later that a doctor even looked at the body.

Ewww.

Dr. Samuel B. Moore was commissioned by the State of Tennessee to find Lewis’ grave and erect a monument.  The commission’s report stated that although the opinion had “…long prevailed that Lewis died by his own hand, it seems to be more probable that he died by the hands of an assassin.”

But again, I ask, “Why?”

And apparently so do a lot of other people!

From 1993-2010, nearly 200 of Lewis’ relatives  – great-great nieces and nephews as the man had no children – wanted his body exhumed again so they could determine whether it was suicide or murder.

In 1996, The Tennessee Coroner’s Jury recommended exhumation, but there’s a snag.  The gravesite is in a national monument and exhumation needs the approval of the National Park Service.

They refused, claiming the bodies of more than 100 pioneers might be disturbed.

In 2008, the Department of the Interior gave the go-ahead for the exhumation, but rescinded the decision in 2010 after the presidential administration changed.

One historian, Paul Cutright, says the murder-robbery theory “lacks legs to stand on.” Lewis it seems was a heavy drinker who was heavily in debt, and probably addicted to opium.

He had other problems as well.  He couldn’t get it together to edit his journals from the expedition for publication – which everyone was demanding – his friendship with Jefferson was on the skids, and he was unlucky in love, never finding the right one.

Of course, there were other opinions.  Eldon Chuinard, another historian, argues for the murder theory.

And modern theorists claim PTSD, stating that after spending months in hostile Indian territory many people exhibited symptoms of the condition plaguing so many today.

But, we still don’t know.

Lewis is buried about 200 yards from Grinder’s Stand.  In 1848, a monument was erected over his grave, the stonemason, Lemuel Kirby, chose a broken column design which was used to symbolize a life cut short.

lewis-grave

Meriweather Lewis was 35 years old.

 

*Griner’s Stand was mistakenly called Grinder’s Stand, after a while, the Griner family gave UP on correcting everyone.

Vogeltanz

For some reason, I thought the Chicken Dance was old, you know, like really, really old.

But alas, not the case.

For the clueless of you, the Chicken Dance is a fad-dance most generally used during the 7th inning stretch – please don’t make me explain that – in ball parks.

Written by accordionist Werner Thomas from Switzerland in 1950s, it has since become a Major League Baseball staple.

Originally it was called “Der Entertanz”, which is German for the Duck Dance.

It was a drinking song – imagine that!

In the 1970s upon the death of DISCO, it acquired the name “Vogeltanz” or the Bird Dance, sometimes called the Little Bird Dance.

OK, it has a million names, and after Wednesday’s chronicle which inspired this post, I’ll spare you.

Starting in the 1960s Werner played the tune in restaurants where he performed – because the accordion used to be considered music  – no, really, it was.

Really.

Some crazy Belgian guy, Louis van Rijmenant, heard the song and thought, “What a great bit of culture, I should take that everywhere.”, and voila!  The Chicken Dance was all the rage.

Allegedly, he came UP with words for the tune!!!

Eddie Duling and Larry Karhoff of Glandorf, Ohio brought the dance and song to the US in 1974.

Ohio, this was not your best moment – really, “flight, buckeye candy, John Glenn, Halle Berry, The Chicken Dance.”  You’re not going to see that anywhere else!

For a few years, people came to their senses and the Chicken Dance was verboten.

Well, maybe not verboten, but at least passe.

Sadly, in 1981 at the Tulsa Oktoberfest some fool decided to “…express his love through dance in costume…”, but there were no duck costumes available near Tulsa so a local TV station loaned them a chicken costume and thus the Chicken Dance was born.

chicken-costume

OK, why would a local TV station have a chicken costume?

Named “The World’s Stupidest Dance,” it suddenly started popping UP at ball games during the 7th inning stretch.

Go Reds!

Go Reds!

No one knows why (or cares apparently.)

wedding

It’s been recorded by over 100 artists, is rumored to have inspired “The Funky Chicken,” is a standard for DJs at weddings, has been featured on television shows, and has become as American as Chevrolet, apple pie, and baseball.

arrested-development

There are even written instructions.

  • At the start of the music, shape a chicken beak with your hands. Open and close them four times, during the first four beats of the music.
  • Make chicken wings with your arms. Flap your wings four times, during the next four beats of the music.
  • Make a chicken’s tail feathers with your arms and hands. Wiggle downwards during the next four beats of the music.
  • Clap four times during the next four beats of the music while rising to your feet.
  • Repeat this process four times.
  • At the bridge, hold your arms straight, in imitation of an aeroplane. All dancers spin around the room in “flight” until the bridge ends.
  • (Alternately: At the bridge, link arms with the nearest person. turn right eight steps, switch arms and turn left eight steps, then repeat until the bridge ends)
  • (Alternatively: Assume close position with partner and polka until bridge ends.)
  • The dance repeats, progressively getting faster and faster, until the music stops.

…and, for the love of Liz, there’s an instructional video!

Hey!  It ain’t “Edelweiss.”

OH, and BTW, Chevrolet is French!