The moans, groans, complaints and pontifications have begun as the Christmas marketing season of 2011 commences. Which side are you on?

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Every year, it seems, the opening date for Christmas marketing creeps forward, adding days, not just hours, to the already lengthy selling season. This year my cadre of Christmas watchers reported seasonal catalog and store sightings as early as Labor Day, September 8 . But you can count on this: as people worldwide read this article, they will surely report even earlier sightings. This happens every year… and as it does one of the interminable debates of our times reignites: when is this much too much Christmas?

Ask this query in a crowded room and, hey presto, there will be pandemonium, mayhem, and strident calls for the public lynching of the people who so tamper with and wantonly extend the most important and revered holiday of the year. Christmas creep is here… and you have an opinion on this matter; I’m sure of that. Everybody does.

Christmas is the promised land — for merchants everywhere. That’s the problem.

Christmas purists, and their number is legion, never tire of beating up the merchants who are, they aver, at the bottom of Christmas creep. From this moment of the year forward, a large percentage of Americans will get up on any soap box to hand and excoriate, insult, belittle and besmirch people who earlier in the year they knew and attested to be good, hard-working, service-providing, tax-paying citizens. But where Christmas creep is the issue, truth and justice are early casualties.

People will creep… it’s as American as apple pie.

Know any folks from California? Or Oklahoma? I do. They are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. They are also the descendants of creepers.

Take California for instance. There a grand gentleman named John Augustus Sutter was peacefully minding his own business when James W. Marshall on January 24, 1848 discovered gold on Sutter’s land, at Sutter’s Mill, near Sacramento. The nation didn’t say, “Good for you, Mr. Sutter.” No way. Instead they took to creeping on to old man Sutter’s land, a little bit here, a little bit there… until the creepers had everything and Mr. Sutter had nothing but lawsuits and a footnote in history. A little bit of gold in them thar hills and a whole lot of creeping got us the State of California, and that’s a fact.

Or consider the folks in Oklahoma. They’re not called Sooners for nothing. In 1889, the federal government organized the great land rush, whereby folks who wanted land could get it free by racing for it against other land-hungry folks. Problem is, a good many of the wanters couldn’t be bothered to wait… and so they crept out early and grabbed the good stuff. Yup, they were creepers and some of the best families of the state started that way, and that, too, is a fact. Creeping pays, and only a Grinch would disagree.

But Grinches proliferate the closer Christmas comes and its insistent, unrelenting messages.

Although there have been plenty of Grinches in our history, lives, and culture, the actual character debued in the 1957 children’s book by Dr. Seuss, who was by all accounts a Grinch himself. It was titled “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and was adopted into a popular television special in 1966. In an instant people with anti-holiday spirit and growly disposition were indelibly tagged as partisans of that scowling hermit with green fur, red eyes, and boots who lives in an isolated cave near Whoville.

Now exuberant Christmas lovers had just what they needed to characterize and lambast the nay sayers, “Don’t be a Grinch,” causing the justly labeled Grinches to writhe and squirm. Just as they deserve. We all know it’s fun — and de rigueur — to pick on each and every Grinch we know.

It’s a question of dates.

After the fall in 1815 of Napoleon and his gimcrack empire, a peace conference was convened in Vienna to divvy up the spoils. Participants included Russia, England, Prussia, Austria and — drum roll — the France now ruled again by its Bourbon dynasty and represented by the Prince de Talleyrand. One day Tsar Alexander I of Russia, who always made such a bad impression as he rattled on about God and morality, was being particularly insufferable on the matter of how to divide the Kingdom of Saxony, which had, in his imperial view, stayed loyal to Napoleon a little too long. Its king, he insisted, should be losing half his country, or more.

Talleyrand, polished, aristocratic to his manicured fingertips, the ultimate cynic and realist, scanned his colleagues, each of whom (but the English) had made deals with Bonaparte, and renigged on them, snapped out that toxic phrase, “That, sire, is a question of dates.”

And so it is with our Scrooges, our Grinches.

The person who wants no Christmas festivities at all, just strict, gloomy adherence to what they suppose has been ordained and sanctified…. are Scrooges to the people who want the Christmas season to exist for a day or two, but not more. These, in turn, get dubbed as Grinches by those who want more… and there are always those who do. And so it goes…

… merchants trying (especially nowadays) to make up for one punk month after another, delving deeper into the calendar….

… thereby fueling yelps of outrage and righteousness from folks who raise the cry of too much self-seeking commercialism too early…

… thereby forcing those who might even agree in theory, to push the adamant seasonal marketing forward and forward again, as an act of mercantile preservation and profit.

Each says, “Enough is enough”; each points fingers and mouths frantic imprecations; each postures, preens, pouts, and always acts and speaks as if truth lived in their house and only their house. So there!

Whoa! The baby at the center of Christmas has indeed been thrown out with the bath water, and this will never do. Thus some thoughts of reconciliation, offered humbly and with trepidation.

Christmas has had a significant commercial aspect since the three wise men of the Orient, who came so far and at such inconvenience, approached the manger and offered their expensive presents. Did they just happen to find such offerings — gold, frankincense, and myrrh — in their saddlebags? Doubtful. More likely, they had gone shopping at one of the great bazaars along the way; such bazaars, blazing with the riches of the rich lands of the East, were the malls of their times… even unto parking their camels, always malodorous and mean spirited. In such a place, even the most fastidious desires of the most demanding could be met, including those who shopped for the King of Kings, for whom they employed their most discriminating tastes and ample means, never rushed. Thus, commercialism and Christmas go hand in hand… as they always have.

These suggestions will help you cope with and better enjoy this best of all holidays:

1) Let every man set his own acceptable level for just the amount of Christmas he desires. A laissez faire attitude is not just useful, but mandatory. Stop worrying about whether the man next door is asking too much or too little from the holiday and instead concentrate on making yours the best ever.

2) Leave the merchants alone. They have had a bad year; even if we think they are going over board, let them get on with it without our jeremiads, lamentations and snide remarks. Where would we be at Christmas, after all, without them?

3) Remember Henry Ford II’s celebrated line, “Never complain, never explain”. Since the very inception of Christmas the Thought Police have attempted to coerce uniformity. Mr. Ford was right… you owe it to no one and nobody to adhere; simply believe in your own way and style. As the song says, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas…”

4) Select a few of your favorite Christmas carols and seasonal preferences and load them into your audio player. You’ll be a lot happier when you enter some establishment with music you detest, no matter how venerable, if you can hear the tunes you particularly like.

And one more thing, whether the Christmas you celebrate is long or short, the single day itself, or the 12 days with five gold rings and lords a-leaping, or something else altogether, remember this: the gift you should most give and be most fortunate to receive is love… it is the only true and essential element. All else pales beside it.

One of the proudest days of my life… the day I give you Internet success through a unique gift you can only get from me!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Today is a red-letter day for me… one of the most important days of my life. For such a day nothing short of one of our weary world’s greatest masterpieces, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” (1824), will do . Please play it before you read this article. You cannot but feel the thrill and exultation. If a human being can do this, human beings can do anything. Find it in any search engine and turn up the volume. Then you’ll know how I am feeling now as I prepare to give you a gift only I can give and which has taken me a lifetime to perfect.

Deaf… sublime.

When great Beethoven sat down to compose his 9th Symphony, of which the “Ode to Joy” is perhaps the most celebrated part, he was stone deaf. Yet in his capacious, extraordinary brain the music rang out to thrill the world. He could have said, “a deaf person cannot compose,” everyone would have understood such a conclusion and offered the usual words of sympathy… but that is not the way of people with a mission to improve the world. They recognize no obstacle! Do not give way to defeatism! And reach deep into themselves to find what they alone can give the world and its people who rely upon such genius for relief! Instruction! And improvement! For you see those who have such a gift must give such a gift… and today I give such a gift, the greatest I have ever given, to each of you.

The struggling world… and the profound promise of the Internet.

I have now been on the Internet over 18 years, about a third of my life. During these years I have witnessed humanity’s struggle to make sense of this monumental invention which has the undoubted power and demonstrated potential to connect people everywhere and enable them to say what they want to say without shackle or inhibition.

Now think a moment: for the first time, the very first time, in the long cycles of humanity each person can, with the simple expedient of an Internet connection, present himself, in all his wonderful uniqueness, to others who have the ardent desire to do the same, without the pernicious intrusion of any of the world’s Thought Police who have intervened with impunity and malice in all previous epochs.

The Internet brooks no interference… no one telling you what you can do…when you can do it. Yes, for the first time in human history each person has a voice that can be heard… that must be heard…. and so transform the world — for good and ill.

Is it any wonder then that I have selected “Ode to Joy” and recommended that you play it now… for on our troubled planet we need all the help we can get and the Internet is here to provide it.

Commerce…

From the very first minute far sighted folk saw that such a means of connection could prove to be a superb means of commerce. But how? Most didn’t know and so, without guidance, commenced a struggle which left them frustrated, confounded, angry and, too often, embittered. How, they wondered, could this astonishing invention produce a golden outcome for them? It was a question that millions asked — and continue to ask — but which only a comparative handful have ever answered successfully. With the almost daily assistance of my cherished partners George Kosch and Sandi Hunter, I have found such success… and been given the opportunity to give it to others. Today we celebrate that opportunity and its ability to uplift! Enrich! And empower people worldwide.

It all started with a blank sheet of paper.

I am not just a writer, but a published writer, which is a very different thing. To write to connect should be every writer’s objective… and it has certainly been my objective since my first article appeared in print 59 years ago, when I was 5 years old. You may well imagine what a heady thing it must be for that child, any child to experience such excitement. Once you’ve had it, you spend the rest of your life wanting more and doing what is necessary to get it. In this regard I have been most fortunate… having written thousands of articles and 18 books, mostly on business themes. My word has been carried — and frequently, too — on radio, television and on the lecture circuit. But my connection with the Internet has radically transformed the entire matter of content and given me the means to give you substantial advantage every single day.

How?

As I have often said and frequently written and emphasized, “the list is the business, the business is the list.” Thus each person desiring to succeed in business must spend a significant amount of time building a list, and this activity must be a part of each and every day that you desire to remain in business and increase your profit.

But maintaining your list, growing your list cannot, on the Internet, be your sole objective; that would be protecting your list and ensuring that you can use it daily to email ad copy to your subscribers. The problem is, if you only email ads day after day to these subscribers, they will quickly become disenchanted, even disgusted, with you… and manifest their displeasure by unsubscribing your list, thereby depriving them of all benefits you offer and yourself of their golden custom.

This is the exact situation in which most Web marketers find themselves… and why so many of these people are killing their lists, thereby killing their profits.

Here’s where I — and Bill Gates — enter the scene and why you need to pay attention to our message. Gates has famously and enigmatically said of the Internet, “Content is king.” What does he mean? Just that people will not put up with an unceasing avalanche of ad copy; they need more, much more. They need content… and if you create a blog and give them this content you can accompany it — every day — with the ad copy that generates the revenue. Problem is, most people cannot write engaging, meaningful copy and cannot afford the cost of hiring the people who could create such copy for them; it’s just too expensive.

That’s where I come in… I can and will produce such copy — for free. And today we recognize and celebrate the completion of the first 365 articles, one for every day of the year. These articles, all about 1500 words in length, are timely, intelligent, often provocative, always informative and, my signature and pride, beautifully written. Let me explain the importance of these articles and why you are fortunate to have them: they save your all-important lists from being destroyed by your subscribers, people who want more than a steady diet of ads and as such are invaluable.

Let us be very clear with each other: if you email nothing but ads, you will kill your list and thus obliterate your business. Thus, you have these options. Email the ads anyway and test my thesis (suicidal); try to write such copy every single day yourself (highly unlikely given your writing skills). Or you could hire the necessary talent to do the work, thereby breaking the bank. Or…

You could use the copy I have created for you… and which I give to you, thereby enabling your list and with it your business to grow and flourish while I provide the necessary (and always beautifully written) copy. And that is why we are celebrating today… not just for what I have written… or how well I have written — but because with these often lyric articles I am keeping your online business on the profit path.

“You millions I embrace you,” and give you the best of which I am capable for our mutual joy — freude! So now finish as we began… with Beethoven and his “Ode to Joy”. For we, now working together, have everything to be joyful about! Let the celestial sound soar… as we do — together! Freude!

Of polar bears. As the water rises, their prospects fall.

y Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. What music is appropriate for the undoubted decline and possible demise of one of the grandest creatures on earth — Ursus maritimus — the polar bear? I have selected Edvard Grieg’s 1867 masterpiece “From the hall of the mountain king”, for this is the story of a race of kings, sovereigns all, ruling over a land of snow and ice… a land now melting, imperiling these princes of the North… whose prospects for survival wane as the sea waters around them rise, a rise which threatens human kind, too. This is their story… and we must heed it for they are not threatened alone. You’ll find Grieg’s suite in any search engine. Find it now… and listen to its evocative, enigmatic sound. This sound will endure…. but will the polar bears whose tale I tell this day?

The seas at the top of the world are rising, rising…

While politicians argue about cause and effect, the undeniable fact of global warming and rising seas is beyond cavil and dispute. Sea level has been rising significantly over the past century, according to a newly released study that offers the most detailed look yet at the changes in ocean levels during the past 2,100 years.

Researcher Benjamin Horton, director of the Sea Level Research Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, found that since the late 19th century — as the world’s industrialization intensified — sea level has risen more than 2 millimeters per year on average. That’s a bit less than one-tenth of an inch… a small amount that signals death for polar bears… and chaos for seaside humans, drip by inexorable drip. It’s all about rising temperatures.

Rising sea levels are among the hazards that rightly concern environmentalists and progressive governments with increasing global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil over the last century or so.

The heat generated works to steadily melt some of the millions of tons of ice piled up on land in Greenland, Antarctica, and elsewhere. Such melting raises ocean levels and this, in turn, raises the possibility of major flooding in highly populated coastal cities and greater storm damage in oceanfront communities.

Polar bears must swim further and further for food…

Researcher Anthony Pagano, a US Geological Survey biologist, at the International Bear Association Conference, has, in his newly released study, made it clear what happens to polar bears as the snow melts and the seas rise. He identified and studied 50 long- distance swims by adult female polar bears between 2004 and 2009 in the southern Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

“Climate change is pulling the sea ice out from under polar bears’ feet, forcing some to swim longer distances to find food and habitat,” said Geoff York, a polar bear expert at the World Wildlife Fund who coauthored the study.

And the cubs simply fall off…

York said polar bears, tracked by satellite devices, routinely swim 10 miles or more for food, principally the seals they dote on and devour. But as the seas rise, these distances increase. Twenty bears in the survey swam more than 30 miles at a time. The longest-distance swim was 426 miles; the longest-lasting swim was 12.7 days, with a few brief breaks on drift ice. All this is bad enough, but here’s the tragic element: eleven of the bears that swam long distances had young cubs when researchers attached the tracking collars. Five of those mothers lost their cubs while swimming… and thus the breed and its prospects are diminished…

Facts about the threatened polar bears, majestic, now vulnerable.

The polar bear, universally admired, is the world’s largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak bear, which is approximately the same size. An adult male weighs around 350-680 kg (770-1,500 lb), while an adult female is about half the size. Although it is closely related to the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals, which make up most of its diet.

The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with eight of the 19 polar bear subpopulations in decline. Researchers estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide; they are listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act.

“Nanook of the North.”

Over the course of uncounted centuries, the intricate, necessary symbiosis between the polar elements, the polar bear, and Inuit and other indigenous peoples of the North has slowly, carefully evolved. The Northern people revered the bear whose flesh they enjoyed… they called the polar bear “nanook”… and took the name proudly for themselves.

In 1922, Robert J. Flaherty made one of the most celebrated documentaries of the silent film era, “Nanook of the North”, calling it “A Story of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic.” In the tradition of what would later be called “salvage ethnography”, Flaherty captured (and some critics said staged) the struggles of the Inuk Nanook and his family in the Canadian arctic. In 1989, this film was one of the first 25 films selected for preservation in the United States Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

But the human Nanook, though most assuredly a predator of the ursine Nanook, was never a problem, for he took only what he needed… and was never wanton. He never forgot he needed nanook. No, he is not the problem, though human kind as a whole most assuredly is. For we as a genus are thoughtless, careless always anxious to shift the guilt, the burden, the responsibility to others for what we have done.

And what’s terrible about this so sad situation is this: we know what to do and when and how to do it. We don’t need more learned studies; for studies about the future of the polar bear and its irrevocably changing environment are frequent, thorough, detailed, and unanswerable. We need action… before this matter becomes, like the histories of so many other species, academic.

But, for now, let us end as we began, with Edvard Grieg, master of unsurpassed, haunting melody. A creature of the North, knowing Winter well, he cherished the fleeting glories of Spring. In this spirit, he composed something so beautiful it is painful to listen to. He called it “Last Spring”, and you must go to any search engine now to play it. Let it fill your heart with compassion for the great creatures now completely at the mercy of their greatest predators, us. Let us pray that this song of soul by Grieg remains great music only and that there is no “Last Spring” for Ursus maritimus, beloved of man, dying through the works of man.

For where shall we find your like again; You who thrilled us so?

Where shall we look when you are gone you who have been made by God?

When you are gone who will care for why when your great heart beats no more?

God will know… … but He will not say for we who were bade to cherish failed you.

So now we lament… too late Now we shall know you not and nevermore.

Never to play again under the great northern lights once your heaven.

Where then have you gone? You whom we loved, and failed…

On croquet, a game of strategy, grace, humiliation and malice. Mere football cannot compare.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Friend, I suspect you are not up on the all-important words and necessary phrases from the world of croquet. That is scandalous, of course, and you should be ashamed of yourself for the dereliction. Fortunately it can be remedied at once by going to the always helpful Wikipedia, where you’ll find an admirable glossary. Go now… and while you’re there be sure to find the original score for the quirky film “Heathers.” (1989). Why?

Because those ever inventive jeunes femmes fatales invent a game (so clever, don’t you know) called “strip croquet”. You won’t play it in your neighborhood; your crusty neighbors would be scandalized… but I can play it in mine, because I live in Cambridge… where beautiful young people abound, glorious to look at but without the sense they were born with. They’d love the inspired innovation. Play the theme music right away. It will put you in just the right frame of mind for this scrutiny of one of the most conspiratorial and vengeful games on earth and where (on the pretext of helping another player with her grip) you can snuggle up without demur…

Lord Reggie learns the power of croquet…

Lord Reggie Pasworthy was in despair. This 7th impecunious son of the impecunious 17th marquess of Unworthington had heard, always on the very best authority, that Lady Pamela Noacres had cast sheep eyes at…… but that couldn’t possibly be… for she was… his… and had once nearly said so. She couldn’t…… she wouldn’t. But it appears she might.

What could he do?

He applied at once to Basil Uppercrust, who knew all but said nothing, so admirably discrete, so clever Basil. “Freddie, old chum, you need to do only one thing to be right as rain with the gel… ” Then he whispered just one word……

“Croquet”…. and immediately wrote his cousin the duchess to arrange a week-end where Lord Freddie might shine amongst the wickets, his admirable figure displayed to best advantage.

Though it has been many years now since that week-end at Castle Allworthy not a thing about it has been forgotten. How Lord Freddie confounded Lady Pamela’s advance with a ball-in-hand.

How Lady Pamela distracted him by proposing a double-bank with her grace. (He won that, too.)

How it all came down to the final hoop… and that unforgettable moment when Lord Freddie took control, determined, insistent, a gentleman no longer but a beast, my dear, I tell you a beast…. Lady Pamela’s temperature rose from tepid to scalding… from polite interest to… riveted… while Freddie ran the hoops until he completed that glorious sextuple peel to roquet her ball spinning down the verdant acres… and when the gallant victor offered his lavendered handkerchief, her fate was sealed…

The engagement was announced in the “Morning Post” just today.

The plight of the World Croquet Association.

Pity the situation and plight of these admirable folks and their invaluable efforts on behalf of croquet. They want us to see croquet in the benign light of demos and beer…. when most of us enjoy the game because of its unabashed elitist, aristocratic nuances played out with insouciance and fine champagne on the most perfect grass we have ever seen, the result of hundreds of years of arrogance and care.

A brief history of croquet.

Ask anyone (anyone, that is, of any intelligence and discernment whatsoever) just where croquet was invented… and, without missing a beat — they’d tell you “Why, old man, in Jolly Old England, what.” And, of course, they’d be wrong… and, such are the ways of croquet, they’d also be right.

Croquet scholars (fastidious and accurate) will tell you the rules of the modern game arrived from Ireland during the 1850s, perhaps coming from Brittany, where a similar game was played on the beaches. A game called “crookey” was played at Castlebellingham in 1834 and, in 1835 was played in the bishop’s palace garden; later that year it was played in the genteel Dublin suburb then called Kingstowne (now Dun Laoghaire) where it was first spelled as “croquet.” There is, however, no pre-1858 Irish document that describes the way the game was played… but the Irish don’t care about such details. They claim croquet and that is that…

…but, of course, that most assuredly is not that, especially if you are of the English ilk, and damn their cheeky assertion.

In the book “Queen of Games: The History of Croquet,” author Nicky Smith offers another hypothesis. Smith says that the game was introduced to Britain from France during the reign of Charles II of England, and was played under the name of paille maille or pall mall, derived ultimately from the Latin words for “ball and mallet.” This is what the “Encyclopedia Britannica” wrote in 1877. But of course the xenophobic Britannica would say so, wouldn’t they?

But at last there is documentary evidence that confirms English inventiveness and croquet paternity. Isaac Spratt is the champion. He created the oldest document known to bear the word “croquet”. He wrote a description of the modern game of croquet and the first set of rules and regulations of a game which became ever more esoteric, obscure, arcane. Just the way the players like it!

Spratt’s contribution came in November, 1856 when he filed his document with the Stationers’ Company in London. It is now in the English Public Records Office. In 1868 the first croquet all-comers’ meeting was held at Morton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire and in the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbleton, London. There was absolutely nothing democratic about any of it, and one would have drunk beer, instead of a stirrup cup, at one’s considerable peril.

This result, however, was unacceptable to Ellery McClatchy, dead at 86, in September, 2011 at his home in Pope Valley, California.

If you live in Northern California and are even remotely with it, you will recognize at once the surname, for there (and amongst the politically sentient) it is a household name because of their substantial newspaper properties, not least the major paper in Sacramento, the Bee. As you may imagine, to have such a property, such a position in the largest state in the Great Republic is to have financial resources… and the time and ability to pursue your particular interests. In this case… croquet.

McClatchy was, and this is crucial to the case, an all-American boy; thus he disdained the exclusivities of old regimes everywhere. He had a “desire to make croquet available to people of all ages and to see croquet lawns in a great variety of places,” according to a profile on the US Croquet Association website. He pursued this inclusive objective over the many years he was a ranked croquet player and in 1995 when he was inducted into the US Croquet Hall of Fame.

While we all think highly of his years of effort, democratic (or republican) croquet is not what any of us desires. Which is why our favorite croquet match ever is the one overseen by the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s immortal book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The balls are live hedge hogs and the mallets are opinionated flamingoes. It is curious, odd, unconventional, the best way to play this marvelous game which puts dull baseball and interminable football in their places. I say “off with their heads” to any with the reckless temerity to gainsay me.

How one man — known to history as ‘Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne’ — lost his majesty’s empire and gave victory to the rebellious Americans. An astonishing tale.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne loved the pomp and circumstance of war. That is very apparent from one of the greatest “swagger” portraits ever painted. It is the masterpiece of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who captured if not the man, then the way the man wished others to see him. To Burgoyne we may guess, even if we have no record to confirm, that that pomp and circumstance include just the right martial music. That it stir the blood, quicken the step, and motivate every heart to — victory, for King and Old England.

As the tale of the Gentleman demands, only the renowned music of the celebrated “March of the British Grenadiers” would do. Burgoyne would have known it well. Once you’ve found it in any search engine, play it… more than once. Unless there is water in your tired veins, you will instantly feel its power… and you will understand the loyal soldiers of the monarch stood tall and moved so well as they marched to their fate. And so “Gentleman Johnny” marched to his…

Find the man in the myth.

On his deathbed, August 4, 1792, I suspect the expiring Gentleman would have known (and would surely have rued) the fate and reputation impressed on him. He knew he would be, thanks in large part to the unfortunate sobriquet he once found so stylish, considered a popinjay, vainglorious, interested in the trifles of war, not its often deadly essentials. In short, the classic situation of a man fatefully over his head. It is a situation common in history, often bringing about the most serious consequences and world-changing realities. The question we must ask ourselves is this: does such an evaluation do justice to the man? For history must not be merely (as Voltaire said) a pack of tricks we living play on the dead. It must strive to be just, honest, truth-telling, not truth-manipulating.

Facts about John Burgoyne, born 24 February, 1722.

Right from the start, fate seemed to be playing games with Burgoyne. He was born in Sutton, Bedfordshire, into a county family with the required Baronet at its head. His mother was Anna Maria Burgoyne, daughter of a wealthy merchant. His father… but there’s the rub. The story line might have been taken from “The History of Tom Jones, foundling,” written by Henry Fieldilng in 1749.

Burgoyne’s father was (legally) Captain John Burgoyne; in actual fact, it may have been milord Bingley, who served as his godfather. When his lordship died in 1731, his will specified that Burgoyne was to inherit his estate if his daughters had no male issue. Thus did the young Burgoyne find himself treated like a likely lad with great expectations… but no certainties. Charles Dickens wrote a classic on this predicament which wrecked havoc in many lives.

Burgoyne, like many future officers, was sent to Westminster School. There handsome, athletic, high spirited, gifted with the ability to make friends and to lead boys, he flourished. Perhaps, like many such, he peaked there; it is a common enough tragedy. But at the time things seemed very different… and he made many friends, including Thomas Gage and Lord James Strange. What he needed was money…. a career… and more money, in just that order.

With family help, in August, 1737 he purchased a commission (the usual way of getting one) in the Horse Guards, a very fashionable and very expensive regiment composed of just the kind of people he had spent his life around. His duties were light… the life congenial, not least because it enabled him to find a rich wife, absolutely necessary to maintain the ostentatious life style he loved, pressingly necessary because of his huge gambling debts, so characteristic of the 18th century, so puzzling to us.

Such a man, of course, beautiful, charming, all genteel condescension and winning plausibility was not to be denied by mere woman, no matter how well connected. Her name was Lady Charlotte Stanley, and she was one of the great catches of her day. Her brother was Burgoyne’s school friend, Lord Strange, the heir to one of England’s grandest and most historic families. Unfortunately, the head of that family, Lord Derby, demanded more than white teeth and insinuating manners. He nixed the marriage, whereupon in 1751 Burgoyne and lady eloped, to parental fury, the end to her allowance… and (unthinkable!) a possible lifetime of just making do. But that wasn’t Burgoyne. And so he used his assets to best advantage… and in due course, the Burgoyne’s produced their only child, Charlotte Elizabeth, in 1754. She was the gambler’s lucky chip he needed to reinstate happy (and remunerative) relations with Lord Derby, who in due course, succumbed to Burgoyne’s undeniable charm. It wasn’t enough, of course, and there was absolutely no glory to be delivered from living off his wife’s rich father.

He went back to the military where freedom from wives and debts was to be found and, to the lucky ones, renown and bright shining fame…

Having acquired an empire, England needed the military establishment to sustain and protect it. Wars, small, middling and international, were the order of the day, most every day. Trained officers like Burgoyne were valued… and their peccadilloes winked at. He was (in the parlance of the day), “honorable and gallant”… the more so as he was also in Parliament from 1768. He was leading the charmed life of a man who had (nearly) everything, including a string of military honors and advancements starting with the British raid on St. Malo (1758) and combating the Spanish invasion of Portugal (1762).

His tryst with America.

Like most professional soldiers of the day, Burgoyne despised the colonials and thought they’d be promptly defeated and put back in their place. Right from the start, at Concord, at Lexington, at Bunker Hill this view was challenged. But it was a prejudice that persisted and was to cost him, and his sovereign, dearly. A temper tantrum by Burgoyne in 1775, when he fulminated against the limited opportunities he felt insufficient for his genius might have saved his eternal reputation. He resigned and went home in a huff… but, fatefully, he returned. He thought he had to, since the American theatre was where glory lay… and so it was — but not for him.

And that was because of a place called Saratoga, where Burgoyne’s career of happy mobility ended in 1777 and where the United States of America as a plausible entity began.

Lord George Germain, Secretary of State for the Colonies, had a plan, a clever plan for dividing New England from the rest of the colonies. He would send Burgoyne down the Hudson, General Howe up the Hudson, to rendezvous at Albany and victory. Unfortunately his lordship forgot to tell General Howe, who sat and did nothing while Burgoyne walked into a trap he thought mere colonials could never execute. Too late he discovered American grit, learning to his chagrin that even rebellious Britons are Britons still and that “Britons never, never shall be slaves,” surrendering his entire army of 5000 and the fate of British North America. Lord George Germain, too powerful and well placed for blame, made sure Burgoyne was the culprit and never held another active command,, while his lordship got the chance to muddle again — this time at Yorktown in 1781 — where he got another, final chance to destroy the jewel in the crown.

Burgoyne spent the remainder of his life rethinking what had happened and in writing plays… but none of his dramatic endeavors were as compelling as the plot of his own life.

How one man’s disgust and dedication helped Ghana eradicate the guinea worm disease.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. When I did the search the other day for music with worms in the title I wasn’t terribly optimistic. But my fears were baseless. Right away I found just the perfect accompaniment to this article. It’s the music used in a popular video game called “Worms” from a company called Team17. Their theme song is a soaring, powerful piece of music juiced up for an episode called “Worms Armageddon”, and it rocks.

First, let’s start with the dictionary definition of “Armageddon”: the site or time of a final and conclusive battle between the forces of good and evil.

To confuse you, I must point out that in the game the worms are the heroes; in this article they most assuredly are not. So, “Worms Armageddon” takes on an entirely new meaning here. And when in the tune the lyrics say “the worms battled on, through hunger and pain. Living to fight just to victor again”, you will understand that for Team17 that is a good thing… but not for the sufferers of the guinea worm disease.

Now… to get started search for “Worms Armageddon”. You’ll find it in any search engine. And get ready for a story of the sustained battle and final end of this dread disease…

It all started 23 years ago, when our most useful ex-president, Jimmy Carter, saw something in Ghana which almost made him puke. There in front of him was a young woman… and from her breast one inch after another of a guinea worm was emerging. Carter was horrified! Disgusted! Without having to think twice, out of his revulsion came an immediate pledge. He promised to eradicate the disease within 10 years. And so “worms armageddon” well and truly began.

Dracunculiasis

The disease is Dracunculiasis, also known as guinea worm disease. It is a parasitic infection caused by a long and very thin nematode (roundworm). The infection begins when a person drinks stagnant water contaminated with copepods infested by the larvae of the guinea worm. Approximately one year later, the disease presents a painful, burning sensation as the worm forms a blister, usually on the lower limb.

Known since the 2nd century BC. The guinea worm has been known since the 2nd century BC from Greek chronicles. It is also mentioned in the Egyptian medical Ebers Papyrus, dating back to 1550 BC. The name dracunculiasis is derived from the Latin “affliction with little dragons”, while the common name “guinea worm” appeared after Europeans saw the disease on the Guinea coast of West Africa in the 17th century.

As the worm moves downwards, usually to the lower leg, through the subcutaneous tissues it leads to immense pain localized to its path of travel. The painful, burning sensation has led to the disease being called “the fiery serpent”. Other symptoms include fever, nausea, and vomiting.

The world knew and did nothing, private citizen Jimmy Carter acted.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States for one term (1976-1980). He left office ridiculed and reviled, an angry, bitter man. And so it might have remained… but somewhere along the line, Carter had an “aha!” moment… that he could do untold good for untold millions using his status, contacts, and brains. And thus by patient application emerge as a great humanitarian, finally securing the good opinion, perhaps even the love of the nation. The means he chose was not a presidential library; that concept he concluded is far too passive and removed from service. Instead he created an activist entity called The Carter Center.

The Carter Center.

The Carter Center is a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 by Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter. In partnership with Emory University, The Carter Center works to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. The Center is governed by a Board of Trustees, consisting of many prominent business persons, educators, former government officials, and eminent philanthropists. The Atlanta-based center has helped to improve the quality of life for people in more than 70 countries. The eradication of the guinea worm in Ghana is just the latest feather in its cap.

The idea, the will, the dedication.

Every triumph of mankind has begun in the mind of a single person, a person who looked, as perhaps many people have done before, but this time not only sees but resolves to tackle the problem… and by slow and steady stages solve it.

Jimmy Carter was that person… to the consternation of the guinea worm.

Carter learned that clean, safe drinking water systems were the key to the problem’s solution. And he knew that with hard work, political commitment, and the support of the international community he could deliver that. And so, out of personal revulsion, came patient action…

The situation when Carter made his commitment.

In 1986, 20 countries, 17 in Africa alone with India, Pakistan and Yemen, reported a total of 3.5 million cases a year. 3.5 million people acting as hosts for the fast reproducing guinea worm whose female burrows into the deep connective tissue and leaves multitudes of larvae soon to start their excruciating feast on the terror stricken victims, principally women and children.

Clean water, the key.

Guinea worm disease can only be transmitted by drinking contaminated water, and can be completely prevented through relatively simple measures that could result in complete disease eradication. These measures include

1) Drinking solely water drawn from underground sources free from contamination, such as borehole or hand-dug wells.

2) Filtering drinking water, using a fine-mesh cloth filter like nylon, to remove the guinea worm crustaceans.

3) Preventing people with emerging guinea worm from entering ponds and wells used for drinking water.

4) Developing new sources of drinking water that lack the parasites or repairing dysfunctional ones.

And so Jimmy Carter, touched and outraged by what he saw on his trip to Africa in 1988 seized the initiative, creating an international network that spelled doom for the guinea worm and relief for hitherto suffering, ignored victims.

It took more than 10 years… more than twice that long. But the work, prodded by an insistent Carter, never flagged as he made it clear to dictators and insouciant presidents of ramshackle republics that enough was enough and that their afflicted people needed action… and not insufferable indifference. Thus year by year the number of reported cases dropped… until just the other day, victory was declared in Ghana where, at the start of this project, the guinea worm and its fiery pains were endemic.

A model for victory.

The guinea worm persists, of course, but in victorious Ghana, water filters, a mild pesticide that kills the carrier in water holes and a persistent education effort that keeps villagers out of infected waters has paid off and provides the world with a model. Including a model of leadership by a man whose greatness derives not from the great office he held.. but his unflagging efforts for human improvement. And let us never forget in this unremitting fight the now 86-year-old Carter has always been accompanied by his lady, Rosalynn who sustains and comforts him through this and every other battle of his life. “So fight with their honour, and fight until the end”.

Ex Libris. A new day dawns for books and we bibliophiles are sad, resigned.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. This is an article about books and the people who love them…. people who are seeing what they love so much undergoing the most profound changes, challenges right before their eyes. Books, in all their glories, were we were sure as much a verity for us as for our grandparents. The only thing that could take them away from us was the kind of thought control dictatorship so convincingly drawn in “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953).

But now, for us, it is not some menacing autocracy that threatens books… it is the very Internet you are using now. And so I went in search of a perfect sound for this article and while I was looking I remembered the superb musical theme when “Anne of Green Gables” and “Anne of Avonlea” made a most memorable television event. The touch- your-heart music was composed by Hugh Hagood Hardy, and you can find it in any search engine. Go find it now… and allow the music to create the perfect background for this article.

Anne was (as all bibliophiles, and some others, know) a reader of books, a collector of books, a writer of books. And now her theme garlands an article about the dwindling future of books. Anne would be distressed by this development and would wax eloquent, that “Something must be done.” Thus she would stand ready to mobilize her fellow kindred-spirits, but to what end, for what purpose: because we should do it, she’d say, because it is the right thing to do, because to go down fighting for a thing so important is just what bibliophiles should be doing.

From as early as I can remember…

I am the kind of person books were invented for. I love everything about them and always have. I love them in paper backs which can be spilled on and written in with impunity. I love them with tooled leather covers with seigneurial coats of arms and the mottos of kings and noble princes. I love textbooks… I love olde books… I love new books (but the pas goes to the olde).. I love the way they smell… I love the ways they pile up… and, so high, then fall down to litter the floor.

I love them when I can easily find them… and when, determined, I cannot.

I love the kinds of paper they’re printed on… I love the names of the companies which have published them… and most of all I not only love but venerate all the authors who have written them and, in their way, advanced and preserved knowledge (and ignorance) for future generations as yet unimagined.

As such whatever threatens books, threatens me, the life and pleasures I have known and wished to know forever, the purposes they were written for, and the utmost feeling of total satisfaction one gets on an early day in springtime sitting under a newly budded tree lost in a world conveyed between two covers and opening just for you.

Book stories…

When I was a boy in 1950s Illinois, mine was a house of books. All the denizens of 4906 Woodward Avenue (requisite two parents and three offspring) were book readers, book collectors, and (to a person) scribblers of profound thoughts and declarations running wildly in the margins. I know to this day, 60 years on, just what books they were; my mother fancied Carl Sandberg and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. My father liked Edgar Cayce, Napoleon Hill, and the Good Book. And the children had boxes full of books, each a “favorite” for a time, only to be replaced by the next, but never forgotten or (don’t even ask) loaned to anyone.

Our village was so small we did not have a good book store. That was a discovery yet to come. For us the annual school book fare took its place. Every year the teachers of the elementary school would arrange for a huge array of books to be shown and sold for the benefit of the school. We ended up “needing” a vast number of these books and had the wheedling of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles et al down to a science any publisher would have envied. So important the event, I could tell you precisely how the display tables were set up and who came amidst the throng of eager readers. I always walked away with a grand selection of the newest Landmark titles, principally on American history. I read them so often and thoroughly I can quote them today.

“King Arthur and His Knights”.

My favorite book growing up was based on Sir Thomas Mallory’s celebrated tale. Every page spoke to me… and the mere fact one had one hundred times thoroughly and carefully read it did not mean one would forego a hundred and first reading, just in case some small detail had been, no disrespect intended, overlooked. Like my Landmark books I memorized pages and pages… and made a positive fetish of ensuring I knew the name of every noble knight, his pedigree, and the complete details of each of his adventures. Bibliophiles are like that.

It was this book that produced the first great book trouble. My mother, for all that she loved books, thought her eldest child should spend less time inside “nose in a book” in the dismissive parlance of the day and more outside in God’s green acre doing the usual things prairie children did. Thus, on one never-to-be-forgotten day she came to my room, saw me and Sir Thomas Mallory tete-a-tete again and raised a broom, urging me with the utmost clarity and vehemence to go outside… and now! As she pushed me out the door and locked it, she screamed, “Now play!”

She might have known bibliophiles, especially those destined to write as many books and articles as I have, would have had a superb memory. I told this tale at the Parker House in Boston, when my suave and gentlemanly publisher Louis Strick, gave a party in honor of the publication of my first book, “Insubstantial Pageant: Ceremony and Confusion at Queen Victoria’s Court”. She wasn’t pleased but she had to admit the story was true, not ben trovato.

The Childcraft books.

My grandmother was not a great reader, unless you except her unmatched collection of recipes; under other circumstances she might have massaged them into a book. But for all that she was not a great reader… she understood that one of the myriad roles grandmothers play is to foster a love of books. Here she gets full marks, particularly for giving me a complete set of Childcraft books.

In the volume dealing with Boston there was an evocative line drawing, not a photograph, of Beacon Hill. There was that in the picture that made me want to live, not just in a similar place, but in that place. When I was a student at Harvard years later, I set out to find that street and, in due course, resided on it… where in a room with Ivy covered bow window, I joined the company of authors… so proud, so honored, so determined to keep writing and so remain in the best possible standing amidst so many such.

The end of Border’s Books.

All these reflections came to mind the other day when I read in my fast shrinking newspaper The Boston Globe (also being undone by the ‘net) that once proud Borders Books, once a significant chain which often carried my books, was now bankrupt, going out of business, another e-casualty. Life is constant change, old truths and venerable institutions tumble, their places taken by the “cutting edge” which will in due course be demode’ as well. I know all this. But there will be a void in the world now dawning where there are fewer books every day and fewer to rue their passing. But I shall always be one of them. I hope you will, too.

Remembering the commencement of World War I, when the road to Tipperary proved to be very long and arduous indeed, 1914.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s Program Note. This day in August 97 years ago was a day of general European warfare. The great powers, the most civilized nations on earth, had, at last, done the unthinkable, allowing a regrettable incident to morph into mayhem.

For this story, I have selected one of the most famous songs of World War I, “It’s a long way to Tipperary” to be the musical accompaniment. Written by Jack Judge in 1912, it started life as a rousing music hall number, and you can almost hear the clinking of glasses as you listen. It’s got a catchy beat of course but the underlying message is sad, even tragic, for with each passing day, the way back to Tipperary got longer… and the list of those who would never go home again did, too. You’ll find this tune in any search engine. Try to get the version by celebrated tenor John McCormick (born 1884) It’s grand indeed. Once you’ve found it, play it a couple of times. And listen to the words… carefully… many men died with this song on their lips and in their hearts….

How had it happened…

Once a war begins, people cease to be very interested in how they got there… and focus instead on how to ensure that they go home again safe and sound. That is entirely understandable, but not what we want to know today. We want to know why, so that (we hope) we can avoid such travail and grief for ourselves.

The proximate cause of the war was the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I have two autographed pictures of this man, known to history solely for his assassination and death, when, had he lived and reigned he would have been known for more.

The photographs I am looking at as I write show him first in 1890 (age 27 ) and then later in a glorious silver presentation frame with his archducal coronet blazing in gold at the top looking supercilious, complacent, a tad silly, and not just for his outsized handlebar mustache either.

He looked like a man you wouldn’t want to cross… and insiders within the empire knew he was adamant about reforming the ramshackle imperium, bringing her antiquated systems and infrastructure up-to-date. He gave every impression that he meant not just to be emperor… but master. “Yes, Gustave, he means what he says,” they whispered over their snitzel, then went on with the national obsession, living well. This was Austria in 1914… where things were significant, but not important.

Franz Ferdinand has gone down to history as stern and unyielding. The Hungarians certainly thought so… and Hungarians (whose royal status had been upgraded in 1867) had a huge (entirely negative) influence in the empire. Franz Ferdinand meant to change all that, with a system he called “tri-alism”, aimed to elevate the Slavs in his empire to equal status with the Germans who founded it and the Hungarians. The Hungarians, especially the nobility of this most aristocratic of nations, were opposed… and not just mildly, either. In fact, had one heard that Franz Ferdinand had been shot your first reaction would have been to assume the deed was done by an Hungarian. There was certainly (suppressed) joy around the noble tables of Budapest when the news of his death became known… joy and (very subtle but heartfelt) toasts (in the very best tokay, Aszu Escenzia).

A man of cultivated taste and sensibility and a gnawing sense of injustice.

Though Franz Ferdinand’s public persona was grave, censorious, insistent, he was very different at home… for there he was a man in love, whose deep affection was equaled only by the burning rage he felt because his wife could not be accorded his imperial honors. She was Sophie Chotek von Chotkovato, a mere countess, hence beneath the contemptuous notice of the sublime Hapsburgs.

Franz Ferdinand was forced to sign a declaration prior to his marriage saying that while he retained his position in the succession… his wife, of such lowly rank, could not share it, neither would any issue by her be allowed to reign. And so out of his great love for his lady came an abiding, gnawing sense of injustice, rage, and dishonor. Growing exquisite roses, collecting exquisite furniture, the tastes of an accomplished aesthete, did not begin to heal his anger and mortification. The humiliation was as calculated as 650 years of Hapsburg rule and unbending protocol could make it… she could never walk into any imperial function on his arm; she had to walk instead where her rank as lady-in-waiting placed her… each slight an insult like acid… to be endured but could never be amended. He fumed… and whilst fuming sought ways to show her and the world how he felt about the woman he so loved… such an opportunity came in July, 1914. He was going to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in connection with his military duties. He brought Sophie along because she could share his rank there… and he was insistent that she should.

A young revolutionary, burning with youthful zeal and the righteousness of his cause, the cause of Slavic independence, gave Sophie equal treatment indeed, killing both her husband and herself at the same moment. Ironically he got his chance because the car carrying both made an erroneous stop just a few feet from Gavrilo Princip, one of the several terrorists placed in the crowd that fateful day. Even the novice that Princip was couldn’t miss… and didn’t. Another Balkan crisis, amidst an unending stream of Balkan crises,was underway. But “crisis” didn’t necessarily mean “war”. While this great question was being answered, Princip, in prison, probably tortured, became the third fatality. He was just 20 years old…

War did not have to come; a negotiated settlement was not only probable but virtually certain.

Patriotic Austrians were rightly outraged and aghast at the murder of their imperial heir. He might not be popular but the dynasty he represented was. Importantly those with political acuity saw an opening, to weaken the Slavs who wanted total independence from an empire not willing to concede the point. And so an ultimatum, reckoned to be the most severe one sovereign nation had ever sent to another, was drawn up in Vienna and sent to Serbia… an ultimatum which made it clear that each point was not negotiable and that any quibble, even the smallest, would result in an immediate invasion of Serbia and the most abject of terms, even worse than in the ultimatum.

Serbia, having no means ready to combat Austria-Hungary, capitulated… with one minor, even trivial exception. Here was the basis for peace and even the German Kaiser Wilhelm II knew it.

And yet war came. Why?

Because a militaristic coterie in Vienna (headed by Conrad von Hotzendorf, Chief of Staff) and one in Berlin (headed by the Kaiser and the court and army officials who kept this mercurial emperor on track), wanted this war, at this time, sure they could win it. They almost won their bet, too… only to be handed in due course ignominy and total defeat.

Along the way, the road to Tipperary became long and bloody indeed, inscribed as it was with the names of all who knew the poignant significance of its words. As for us, we must remember that we, too, have more than enough people amongst us with a penchant for war. Eternal vigilance is the price we pay to ensure we do not experience any more of the long roads than we already have.

Remembering London, as riots shake the greatest of cities… resurrecting the Edward R. Murrow style, August 10, 2011.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note: In the early days of World War II, and most importantly during the punishing air raids of 1940-41, one man, with gravel in his voice, brought that war, its devastation and its courage, home to America, in all its reality.

That man was Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965), and he worked for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).

Murrow was a journalist’s journalist… and thus every real journalist who aspires to honesty and integrity wants to be like Murrow…. and so, owing so much to this man, I now pen my own paean to him.

To hear some of his wartime broadcasts, go to any search engine. Listen carefully. These reports are each of them historic not just because of where they were made and when but because of the distinctive Murrow touch, deft, real, unforgettable.

****

Hello, this is London calling.

Today I broadcast to you not so much as a journalist but as a man intensely grieving for a great city he loves, the greatest city on earth, London. I am now in the charnel house of the eastern neighborhood of Hackney… and the scene is one of mayhem, violence, and anger.

I am in London, but I cannot believe this city of culture and history has been laid so low. But it has…

When we think of London, we think of its kings,queens and princes… for never forget this is a royal city where the greatest of sovereigns, and some of the worst, have trod the very stones we trod.

We think, too, of the greatest of authors, of the Globe Theatre and the Bard of Avon backstage, refinishing a line moments before the fretful player would have to utter it.

We think of ladies of high style and ladies who compromised… of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her profound ability to give love… and of such a royal mistress as Nell Gwynn whose knowledge of that subject was different but exhaustive and effective.

We think of politicians and statesmen like the great William Pitt, who helped forge an immense empire in North America… and the infamous Lord North, whose lack of judgement threw it away.

This is the London I love.

And now, this London, though I cannot quite believe it, is burning… right before my eyes.

London has burned before, of course…

There was the Great Fire of 1666 when King Charles II showed his people where his heart was, not by fleeing the great Metropolis, but by going into the fire, the flames, the billowing and choking smoke and passing water pails like the least of his subjects. Why did he do it? “Because I am a Londoner, too” and this pithy sentence procured him a lifetime of indulgence. For his Londoners loved him too.

London burned too in the Blitz of 1940, when the best the Nazis had turned their destructive genius to the pulverizing of a city determined it would not bend the knee, would not waver, and would never die… no matter how punishing each wave of airborn catastrophe might be.

For this is London… more lasting than the Eternal City itself. Determined to live and to flourish.

And now this great city burns… and at the hands of its own disgruntled citizens, as if they know that immemorial London, this hallowed place, can only quaver from within, at their own restless hands.

This is London… blackened, in rubble, humiliated… by those who care not for the English genius of politics and law… but only for immediate gratification of an anger they are determined to show a world aghast at what is happening.

What you see here, at this moment, will disturb you, distress you, revolt you…

Buildings of valuable commerce and utility, set afire, burnt, still smoldering.

Vehicles much needed by the good people who require them to get to work and deliver children and pick them up, now just smoking bits of dangerous metal.

Trash dumps… each required for the modern life we wish to live… now places of the utmost danger and peril, for here fires burn deep and may flash high and mighty at any time.

This cannot be the London I have known for a lifetime… it is not possible.

Yet it is…

Here there is riot!

Here there is wanton vandalism!

Here there is woe deliberately undertaken… with profound malice aforethought.

The perpetrators are young and thoughtless.

They who have every means of communication at their disposal select the most ancient means of communicating of all — with rocks, bricks, sticks, bottles, and any sharp instrument to hand. They do not want resolution…. they want chaos. And now they have it.

Like the malcontents of Ancient Rome, their weapons are the most primitive, but effective. They prize the old paving stones of Londinium and smash them into pieces small enough to throw… big enough to wound a man for life. Molotov cocktails cannot be far behind…

London is not defenceless, of course. She has thrown at these dark forces the men and material to put the insurrection down…. and she has arrested hundreds, who will soon understand English justice better.

How had it all started? Why did it grow so fast?

On August 6, 2011 there was a small antipolice demonstration in Tottenham over the fatal police shooting of a local man, Mark Duggan. This, as if by magic, spiraled into looting, violence, and madness.

There are a legion of “excuses” for what has happened. The economy is bad, the government is unpopular with its pinching austerity plans, jobs are hard to find. All this may be, probably is, true. But it does not account for the denizens of London, who have undergone so much more in times past, destroying their own shops, residences, offices, and neighborhoods… and with such incendiary menace.

16,000 police officers have been deployed. 111 of them have been wounded, many seriously. And riotous conditions have spread to other English cities, like Birmingham where three people are already dead.

All this, too, shall pass. But not until we faithful lovers of London, shocked and appalled, have scrutinized these events and grieved for them, for anything that hurts the London we love hurts us, and so we are hurting deeply now…. and for many days to come.

‘I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter, crunchy peanut butter, too.’ Doesn’t everyone?

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. The other day when my helper Mr. Aime Joseph and I were at the Shaw’s Market in Cambridge, you know the one up Massachusetts Avenue at Porter Square, I felt a thought being implanted in my head, or rather it was more like some kind of brain wave zapped one of the thousands and thousands of subjects I have in my brain’s computer. All of a sudden I had a sharp pang that leads to something that one hadn’t planned to buy being put in my shopping cart, to swell the profits of Shaw’s… and the company producing the product in question. This time the wave zapping me said, “Skippy Peanut Butter…. Crunchy.”

It was the work of a moment to change my direction and return to the aisle where lived Skippy and its dogged competitors Jiff, Peter Pan, and nowadays some examples of what I call “designer foods,” in this case expensive peanut butters made to cater to the tastes of a few people with capacious pocketbooks.

I had the craving. I did what the craving told me to do (“Buy Skippy’s.”), and I had Mr. Joseph take me straight home where, in a minute or two, I was doing something else that craving phenomenon ordered me to do: “Eat some. At once. Be happy.” I did as I was bid.

“Peanut Butter” by The Marathons.

In 1961, the group called The Vibrations was in the curious position of having two concurrent hits under different names . As The Vibrations (Afircan-American soul vocal group) from Los :Angeles) they released “The Watusi.” I remember it well…

Then with a few lineup changes the group hit again, this time under the name of The Marathons with their catchy little number “Peanut Butter”. It’s this song I’m using as the background sound for today’s article. Start by going to any search engine. Then go find your blue suede shoes and that absolutely necessary hair oil for that essential young punk “do” that says, “I’m hot… and so cool. Eat your heart out.”

Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

“Well there’s a food goin round that’s a sticky sticky goo (Peanut, Peanut Butter) Oh well it tastes so good but it’s so hard to chew (Peanut, Peanut Butter.)

Believe me, it’s lots better when you hear it, though it is a song that when played in the soda shoppe after school produces wry looks and consternation. You see, it’s too slow… and you can’t dance to. it But it’s just right to eat peanut butter by… but secretly. Cool kids ate peanut butter… but never at school and never from a lunch box. I, of course, didn’t know this until long after high school. Typical! Life is much simpler now… when all I have to do is buy it… and eat it. I think you’d agree.

What is peanut butter?

Peanut butter is a food paste primarily made from ground dry roasted peanuts. It’s popular in North America, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and parts of Asia particularly The Philippines. It is mainly used as a sandwich spread, sometimes in combination as in the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The United States and China are the leading exporters of peanut butter.

History of peanut butter.

Peanuts are native to the tropics of the Americas and natives have been mashing them into a pasty substance for hundreds of years. The Aztecs, people of discernment, fancied peanut butter’s first versions. Purists will argue that there is a difference between peanut paste and peanut butter… but the people waiting for one or the other will not stand silently by until learned folk resolve the matter. When they want their peanut butter, they want it now. Still what are experts for if not to quibble?… Eat your peanut butter first; when you’ve had your fill there will be time enough to hear what they’ve discovered.

Food historians (yes, there are such people graced by the mandatory Ph.D.) believe peoples like the Aztecs did not have smooth peanut butter; they had not yet so advanced (another good reason for their eradication by Spain); instead they had the precursor, peanut paste. The difference? Peanut paste is pure roasted peanuts. It is is harder to work with than regular peanut butter and had more of an unadulterated, somewhat bitter taste. People still ate it up… no doubt enjoying every bit.

Fast forward to George Washington Carver (1864-1943) and the many folks who learned so much from this great, great man. Now people began to experiment with their peanut concoctions… purists were not happy (purists never are)… but with additives like sugar and molasses there was no telling where these new flavors would take the humble peanut. And as Professor Carver rose, so did these peanut fanciers. One man even took his love affair with the peanut and what you could do with it as far as the White House where as President Jimmy Carter he presided from1980-1984.

As soon as scientists like Carver had their say, canny entrepreneurs entered the scene to have theirs. What they liked was not so much the sweetness of the peanut butter… but the even sweeter sound of money.

Evidence of peanut butter as it is known today came in U.S. Patent 306,727 issued in 1884 to Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Quebec. It covered the finished product in the process of milling roasted peanuts between heated surfaces until the peanuts entered “a fluid or semi-fluid” state. As the peanut butter cooled, it set into what Edson explained as being “a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment.” Edson’s patent is based on the preparation of a peanut paste as an intermediate to the production of peanut candies. While Edson’s patent does not describe the modern confection we know as peanut butter, it does show the initial steps necessary for the production of peanut butter.

More importantly the celebrated J.H. Kellogg, of breakfast cereal fame, and his brother W.K. Kellogg invented their own early version of peanut butter in 1895 and 1897 with U.S. Patent 580,787 for their “Process of Preparing Nutmeal,” which produced a “pasty adhesive substance” they called “nut-butter”.

Bit by bit the peanut-butter business was growing… so that by 1914 there were several dozen brands of peanut butter on the market. One, with the invention of a process to prevent oil separation in peanut butter, was about to break out of the pack. It was the Rosenfelt Packing Company, which in 1933 began the process of obtaining trademark registration in the then 48 states and Hawaii. It took 11 years to complete this proceess. The result was Skippy peanut butter, made into an instantly known brand name thanks to the power of American advertising, including sponsorship of the Skippy Hollywood (radio) Theatre, from 1938 and “You Asked For It”, from 1951.

Skippy sales soared because the folks at Rosenfeld Packing Company had a very clear idea what they wanted: a brand that was as American, as clean cut, as tasty, as fun as the nation itself. And so Skippy grew. This is why I didn’t reach for Jiff or Peter Pan or the designer brands, wonderful though may be… I reached instead, as if by instinct, for Skippy, as I have done for a lifetime. It is always Skippy for me, chunky at that.

Thus, although I go for long stretches without any peanut butter at all, my lifelong loyalty and (a lifetime of buying) is what made conglomerate Best Foods acquire Skippy in 1955. After all, as The Marathons sang,

“All my friends tell me that they dig it the most…Peanut, Peanut Butter.”