American Elephants


Happy Valentine’s Day! by American Elephant
February 14, 2012, 8:28 am
Filed under: Pop Culture | Tags: , ,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Being of the male of the species, I’ve never much understood the importance some place on the holiday. Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a concoction of the greeting-card industry to promote the sales of schmaltzy valentines. And as a holiday, it’s kind of a rip-off — if even the most perfectly executed Valentine’s Day gesture doesn’t excuse one from being romantic the rest of the year, then, really, what’s the point?

That said, I should point out that Elephants are known to be very partial to chocolate truffles.



Be Thankful! by American Elephant
November 24, 2011, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Freedom, History, Religion | Tags: ,

first-thanksgiving-2

I am thankful for the health and well-being of my family and loved ones.

I am thankful that I am alive, happy, and retain all my necessary organs and appendages.

I am thankful that I am blessed to live in the United States of America — truly the greatest nation on Earth — where we still remain free.

I am thankful for the Pilgrims, the colonists, our founding fathers, and thankful that I know liberal revisionist history is codswallop.

I am thankful that after progressives took full control of the elected branches, the American people threw them back out again as soon as humanly possible in the biggest electoral landslide in 75 years.

I am thankful that I am blessed with everything I need: food, drink, warmth, heat, light, clothing and healthcare, and many comforts above and beyond that which I require.

I am deeply thankful for my neighbors; good people and good friends who are facing very difficult times.

I am thankful for our armed forces who keep us safe at great peril and sacrifice.

I am thankful for the wisdom I gain every day from others.

I am thankful for all of our readers.

I am thankful for fresh apple cider, thick socks and down pillows.

I am thankful that I have more blessings than I can count here.

And I am thankful that there is a God in Heaven who loves us, and has blessed each and every one of us, no matter our circumstances, in different ways, and blessed us all in the same way, through His Son, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, to whom I am thankful for everything.

Happy Thanksgiving!



Happy Juneteenth! by The Elephant's Child

[click to enlarge]

Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. State of Texas in 1865.  Abraham Lincoln, Republican, the 16th President of the United States, Issued the Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863.  It had little immediate effect on most slaves day-to-day lives, particularly in the Confederate States.  Texas, a Confederate state, was resistant to the proclamation.

Slavery was prevalent in East Texas, but not as common in the Western parts of the state, especially in the Hill country, where many German-American settlers were opposed to the practice. Juneteenth commemorates the day when Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of slaves. On June 19, 1865 General Granger read the contents of General Order No. 3, from the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Former slaves rejoiced in the streets, and Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year.  39 states have officially passed legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth.



Happy Father’s Day! by American Elephant
June 19, 2011, 2:40 am
Filed under: Pop Culture | Tags: ,

 

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!



Happy Easter! by American Elephant
April 24, 2011, 8:02 am
Filed under: History, News, Religion | Tags: ,

http://evangelicalcatholicity.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/resurrection.jpg

“And the third day He will rise again.”  ~ Matthew 20:19



How the Easter Bunny Trains for the Big Day by American Elephant
April 24, 2011, 7:33 am
Filed under: Fun n Games, Pop Culture, Sports | Tags: , , ,


The Indispensible Man by The Elephant's Child

The George Washington that most of us see most often is the engraving after the Gilbert Stuart portrait on the one dollar bill.  Reproductions of the Gilbert Stuart portrait and a portrait of Abraham Lincoln used to hang on the front wall of every elementary classroom when I was growing up, with an American flag standing in the corner.

We all know, I think, that George Washington had dreadful false teeth.  A terrible pity, both for the President — because they must have been instruments of torture in his mouth — and because they distract our attention from far more important things about the man. Certainly Washington must have had access to the very best dentists of the day. By 1789, he had only one of his own teeth left.  The teeth were horrible-looking contraptions made of substances like hippopotamus ivory, hinged at the back and operated with springs. He complained that they distorted his lips, and they must have distorted his appearance as well.

Gilbert Stuart was the most celebrated of portraitists.  He trained in London, and was thought to be a potential successor to the famed Sir Joshua Reynolds.  However Stuart was extravagant and fled in debt from London. He turned up in Philadelphia during 1795 , hoping to pay off his creditors by creating a multitude of portraits of the world’s greatest man. Washington sat to him for three separate portraits, and Stuart made hundreds of copies.

According to James Thomas Flexner’s Washington: The Indispensable Man, Washington and Stuart did not get on.  The portraitist usually kept his sitters amused and their faces alive by a flood of showy and outrageous talk. Washington always felt uneasy at having to remain still and being stared at and was put out rather than being amused.

Stuart, who felt that “artists were fundamentally superior to all other men including Presidents, resented Washington’s formality.  He could not forget what had resulted when, in trying to unstiffen the hero, he had gone to the length of saying, “Now, sir, you must let me forget that you are General Washington and I am Stuart the Painter.  Washington replied (as it seemed to him politely), Mr. Stuart need never feel the need for forgetting who he is and who General Washington is.”

Stuart emphasized, as no other portraitist did, the distortions of Washington’s mouth.  Flexner suggests that since Stuart was known to have angrily used General Knox’s portrait as the door of his pigsty that perhaps the harm he did to Washington’s historical image was somewhat deliberate.

This life mask by Jean Antoine Houdon gives us more clues as to what Washington actually looked like.  He was tall, about 6’2″, and most verbal descriptions mention his ‘roman’ nose, so it was perhaps a little prominent. This is not the face of the Stuart portrait, but looks more probable.

Washington was an outdoorsman who spent much of his life in the saddle, and his complexion would have reflected that — more wrinkles, more weathered.  They didn’t have sunglasses and baseball hats with a brim to keep the sun out of the eyes,  lots of squinting.  The portrait above seems to match the life mask fairly well.  A far cry from the disagreeable Gilbert Stuart portrait.

I’m going a bit out on a limb here, but I spent some years in art school attempting to capture likenesses, and the smallest errors in size and distance relationships can lose a likeness completely.  Also, people see likenesses differently. Some will insist that two siblings look just alike while others will see no resemblance between the same two.  I have no real explanation for that.

I suspect that Gilbert Stuart had such a reputation as a great portraitist, undoubtedly aided by his own self description,  that perhaps people were apt to accept his work as the “right” one.  Portraits are an odd matter. One tries to capture a mobile. alive face that changes its expression constantly and represent it on a flat surface.  If you have ever had photographer’s proofs of pictures of you to choose from, that will explain the problem.  They’re all you, but you’ll like some better than others.

Here are “reconstructions” done by a forensic reconstructionist of Washington at his inauguration, as a general, and at around the age of 19.  They are startling in their realism. I suspect (nit-picky as I am) that the face is too free of wrinkles, and too pinky-white, and not quite rawboned enough.  (I said I was being picky)  But they give you a vastly different impression of the man.  Haul out a dollar bill and compare.  Stuart played a cruel joke on Washington.

Washington didn’t know much about being a general when he was appointed by Congress to lead the American armies, but he was the best we had, and he did fine.  His men loved him, and he gradually taught them to be soldiers.  He was elected unanimously to be President when he wanted nothing more than to return to Mt.Vernon and retire from public life. The people idolized him.  He could have been a king or an emperor, or like some — a dictator for life.  But it was he, with his sterling character, who set the nation on the right path.  He had a horrible temper, and mostly kept it under firm control.  Any of his deeds alone would have made him famous, but in twenty-four years he led the armies, led the country, shaped a constitution, set a nation on its path and then went on home.

ADDENDUM: I especially recommend Richard Brookhiser’s Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington.  It is not a life history, but a moral biography, only 199 pages.  It’s a rewarding book. The portrait above and the one in the header are by Charles Wilson Peale.




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