‘I’ve got you under my skin.’ Bed bugs on the rise!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. I found lots of songs for the musical accompaniment to this article, but one in particular really stood out, Cole Porter’s smooth tune “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” It was introduced in 1936 in the Eleanor Powell MGM musical “Born to Dance” in which it was performed by Virginia Bruce. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song that year.

It was given a new lease on life by Frank Sinatra. He first sang the song in 1946 on his weekly radio show. It immediately became his signature tune, amorous, hummable, sophisticated in the distinctive Sinatra manner. In 1963 he included it in his album titled “Sinatra’s Sinatra”… and it will indeed get under your skin… like those pesky bed bugs. You’ll find it in any search engine.

Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. But if they do. Take your shoe and hit them till they’re black and blue.

My grannie said this to me at bedtime all the time, but I didn’t know what a bed bug was until I went away to college. Then I promptly got the infernal itch that comes when grannie isn’t there with her strict hygienic standards and proven bug eradication methods. The bugs know this, of course, and know they’re in for a long feast where you, itching in places you didn’t know existed, provide a most diverting floor show.

New nationwide survey shows bed bugs on the rise.

According to a survey released August 17, 2011 by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, pest control companies said there was double-digit growth in infestations in the past year. These infestations are particularly noticeable in college and other school dorms, hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, office buildings, schools and day-care centers.

About 54 percent of pest companies reported treating bed bugs in college dorms, compared with 35 percent in 2010; 80 percent treated hotels, compared with 67 percent the year before, and 36 percent report treating schools and day-care settings for the bugs, more than triple the 10 percent in 2010. In short, this is a problem with real bite.

What is a bed bug anyway?

Cimicidae (bed bugs) are small parasitic insects. The most common type is Cimex lectularius. The term usually refers to species that prefer to feed on human blood. All insects in this family live by feeding exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals.

The name “bed bug” is derived from the insect’s preferred habitat of houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. Bed bugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts.

Physical description of bed bugs.

Adult bed bugs are light brown to reddish-brown, flattened, oval shaped and have no hind wings but front wings are vestigial and reduced to pad-like structures. Adults grow to 4-5 mm in length and 1.5-3 mm wide. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, lighter in color and become browner as they moult and reach maturity.

Reproductive habits of bed bugs.

All bed bugs mate by traumatic insemination. Female bed bugs possess a reproductive tract that functions during oviposition, but the male doesn’t use this tract for sperm insemination. Instead, the male pierces the female’s abdomen with his hypodermic genitalia and ejaculates into the body cavity. As they mate, of course, your eradication problems grow and grow.

History of bed bugs.

Bed bugs may have originated in the Middle East, in caves inhabited by bats and humans.

The ancient Greeks, who chronicled everything, first wrote of bed bugs as early as 400 BC. They were later mentioned in Aristotle and in Pliny’s “Natural History” first published in Rome circa 77 AD. Pliny claimed bed bugs had medicinal value being able to treat such ailments as snake bites and ear infections. He did not explain where, should you be bitten by a snake, you would quickly find the necessary number of bed bugs to treat the bite… but no doubt that problem would be solved at the time, especially if you were bitten at home and had a large bed bug infestation to hand. “Flavius, I’ve been bitten by a snake… go fetch me as many bed bugs as you can… right now!”

Fast forward to the 18th century where Guettard recommended the use of bed bugs to cure hysteria. Not to quibble with a master, but I should have thought applying bed bugs, especially crushed and in a pasty mass, was more likely to induce hysteria rather than cure it, but I defer…

Infestation and eradication of bed bugs.

The goal of the bed bug is to infest your dwelling in every way possible:

* “hitchhiking in” on pets, on clothing or luggage.

* infesting items such as furniture or clothing brought in to your home

* infesting your dwelling by entering through duct work or false ceilings

* brought in by wild animals such as bats or birds.

Once they’re in your house, you’ve got a real problem, not least because bed bugs are elusive and hard to spot. They often lodge unnoticed in dark crevices and eggs can nestle in fabric seams. Aside from bite symptoms, signs include fecal spots, blood smears on sheets, and molts.

Bed bugs can be detected by their characteristic smell of cilantro, coriander, almonds or over-ripe raspberries. Bed bug detection dogs are trained to pinpoint infestations, with accuracy up to 97.5%.

Practical steps for getting rid of the pests.

1) Clear the infested area. Get rid of everything you don’t need and place it in tightly sealed plastic bags.

2. Remove all bedding, clothing etc. and place this in sealed plastic bags also. Launder everything at as high a temperature as possible. Items which cannot be laundered may be placed in your tumble dryer on a high setting for about 10 minutes. Alternatively you could use a steam cleaner to kill any bugs in garments unsuitable for laundering or tumble drying. Once items have been treated place them in fresh plastic bags and seal them up again to avoid recontamination. REMEMBER â?? you will have to check closets, drawers etc. because bed bugs will hide out anywhere.

3. Once the room is completely clear, vacuum everywhere in a methodical, thorough manner. This must include the bed, soft furnishings, curtains, inside furniture, etc. Also check places like smoke alarms, light switches and alarm clocks. It is vital that you also empty your vacuum cleaner into plastic bags and seal them tightly immediately you complete this task.

4. Repeat step three using a steam cleaning. Bed bugs cannot withstand heat and a steam cleaner delivers an immediate, intense source. This should get rid of bed bugs at all stages of their development from eggs and nymphs through to full sized adult bugs.

5. If you have any small cracks or crevices in walls or floors now is a good time to carry out repairs. This will get rid of bed bug hiding places!

Beware of extreme eradication measures.

Bed bugs cause acute human exasperation, especially if you’ve tried to get rid of them and failed. In this case you must beware of the “I’ll get you buggers” response. Here folks engage in extreme, dangerous measures, including the use of kerosene, alcohol, gasoline, or diesel fuel.

In July, the owner of an infested Ohio home, heated his dwelling to 140 degrees… and promptly started a fire that destroyed it. On the whole it’s better to call a pest control company. And if all else fails, sing some Sinatra beloved of the bugs who love us so, “Don’t you know, little fool, you never can win. Use your mentality. Get back to reality…” and learn to live with them…

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The students return to Cambridge, August 2011…. I welcome them, remember… and smile.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note: There could only be one song to accompany this article, the theme from the 1970 film “Love Story,” written by Harvard classicist Erich Segal. You see, this article is about a love story, too, a love for a special place… and for a lifetime of memories launched from this very neighborhood. Start by going to any search engine and finding the lush “Love Story” theme… designed to put you in the mood for memories… deep, poignant, infinitely touching, forgiving.

It has been 42 years now, almost to the minute, since I first arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts to commence my Harvard education. It was, in fact, the Friday of Labor Day week-end, and I arrived here without benefit of previous visit, without knowing a single person, and with an incipient case of mononucleosis. To compound the challenges, I had about $50 to my name.

And yet, when I first saw Harvard Square… then Harvard Yard… I knew that I was exactly where I wanted to be… exactly. Such insistent insights irrevocably change lives.

The privileged students of Harvard are now just beginning to arrive, the anxious freshmen… desperate not to show the anxieties they could not hope to conceal; the insouciant upper classmen, omniscient, whose every move tells the world that they have been here before and are now the repository of the Harvard mystique, which they know… and defy the rest to find, if they can.

The returning students are keen to put you in your place by retailing the stories of their life-shaping, exotic, privileged summer vacations. This one drops the name of a well-known candidate with at least a chance for the White House. “I had lunch with him just the other day,” the student avers. He does not say the candidate had dropped into a sandwich shop in New Hampshire to shake hands.

He bought a tuna on dark rye, extra pickles, to go. He gulped a bit, handed the balance to the student who was go-fer of the day. Such was the lunch they shared… but while the actuality was unimpressive, the massaged tale more than serves its purpose of enhancing the student’s perceived altitude in the pecking order, where perception is everything. And every Harvard student is a master of perception.

Other returning students drop the names of congressmen in whose crowded offices they interned. There are the many who served the green movement… the others who scrutinized the “must see” locations of a dozen European countries, including the young woman entertained at dinner by the president of Latvia, who just happened to be a distant cousin. The welcoming meeting was capped by a photograph of the president en famille with cousin, autographed of course, very much on display in the student’s dorm room where the flag of Latvia was immediately visible and impressive upon entrance. Harvard students know the value of presidents, to whose powers and office many naturally aspire.

The returning students have a pecking order for everything, including just when and how they return. Upper classmen in positions of power and influence (like editors of “The Crimson,” the most influential student newspaper in the nation) come early. They wish to demonstrate their seriousness and control. The best writers, including those already published in “Cosmo” or the “Village Voice” with even a soupcon of name recognition, come later, at the very last moment. They wish editors to know they are beyond the mundane banalities of time and place… from the very way they enter the newsroom, they tell you the paper is the better for their presence, not the other way round. It’s an advantage they intend to press.

Such students, an early book and film deal already in the offing, know not only the essentials of smooth condescension but the knack of sailing near the edge of impudence and imprudence, without missing a beat. Too, they know the secrets of a glamor so serviceable on a walk down Holyoke Street… or a book jacket with attitude. They walk. Heads turn and boys from small towns and respected families know the misery of sharp desire… never to be fulfilled.

These students, who scoff at the unending ways aristocrats at the Court of Versailles insulted their inferiors while toadying to those they intend to insult tomorrow, are themselves and undeniably masters of such nuances. Who is greeted, how they are greeted, whether there is allowable physical contact or not and where, all these are subject to the most arcane rules and procedures. You have only to watch a small group of students as they walk through the Yard to see it on full display. Find the person in the middle of the group, the most verbal, the most voluble, the most directive, without even a scintilla of hesitation or doubt. He is on display… a beau brummell, for all his shoes are scuffed and jeans ripped. A coxcomb, a popinjay, he yet has claims to your life… and makes suggestions with impunity on what you must do and how… whilst his followers listen, follow and take no liberties, for all they want to. Their time will come… and they will put these invaluable insights to work…

Some students, of course, do not participate in these tribal rites of the young and upwardly mobile. Instead, they sit in their unkempt rooms and vow terrible vengeance on the chosen ones whom they envy and dream of. Years from now they’ll write novels and memoires about how miserable and oppressed they were. They were neither, of course, they just didn’t know what to do and lacked the gumption required to take their places amongst the glorious.

Jenny Cavalleri could have gone either way.

Jenny Cavalleri was a character in “Love Story” so great a hit that people worldwide came to Harvard to see where its protagonists cavorted, played, and loved. She came from no family either and, but for an accident of fate, might have gone through four lackluster years at the College, and then married a suitable Italian boy passing muster with her father. But she knew how to wisecrack… and one deftly timed comment opened her way to a world as unknown as Mars, where those selected by God and birth to flourish had names like Oliver Barrett IV and Harvard buildings named after clever ancestors, the better to mark you, too, for life and ease your way.

Oliver Barrett IV was most assuredly in… and he was determined that Jenny should be in, too… but she, famously, died young, the experiment incomplete and inconclusive.

Youthful disdain.

Like many people in Cambridge, I did not read “Love Story” or even see the film in 1970. They were, after all, infra dig and would never do. I probably thought like many hereabouts that he, a renowned classicist, had let down the side by writing something so un-Harvard. But then I was firmly in the thrall of what one did and didn’t do to make friends and influence the right people.

Years later, when I did my book “Our Harvard” (1982) I asked Erich Segal class of ’58 to provide a chapter. He couldn’t have been nicer or more professional to work with. He opened his essay with this paragraph:

“In September 1954 I and a thousand or so other freshmen gathered in Cambridge, sharing the confident assumption that, having been chosen for Harvard, we were, ipso facto, the best and the brightest. And that very first day we learned the most painful lesson of our young lives: most of our classmates were better and brighter. We spent the rest of our college years coming to terms with this and spent the rest of our lives trying to disguise it. This is the root cause of the infamous Harvard arrogance.” Now a brand-new crop of Harvard students is arriving, each to learn this truth and promptly lock it away, as they master the ways of getting others, especiailly those better and brighter than they, to believe what they want them to believe… When they fully learn this lesson, they will not only be a success at Harvard… they will be ready to take on the world and leave it breathless at their high skills, unmatched abilities, and, most of all, a charm that moves mountains and peoples of every kind. And it will all occur just paces from me… while I watch and enjoy, as I have for so very many years, with many more to come.

Another reason why U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann is unfit to be President of the United States.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

There is no question that Representative Michele Bachmann emerged as the big winner in the August 13, 2011 straw poll in Ames, Iowa. Her candidacy which was once rated nearly a joke now has a certain credibility. By that I mean, she is now being discussed as more than a candidate; rather as a potential president. As such, she will get enhanced and detailed scrutiny of everything she has said, endorsed, and embraced in the past. It’s all grist for the commentator mill. This includes the many bombastic statements she has made (many of which will be cited in this article) about homosexual American citizens.

It’s time she either confirm that these declarations of hate and ignorance are still her views… or make clear she has changed her mind (very much her prerogative) as she has matured as a politician and human being.

America must know, for a candidacy based at least partly on disdain, condescension, and repeated statements advocating discriminatory policies against gay and lesbian citizens is unacceptable in 2011 and must be protested and vigorously attacked. Whatever previous presidents may have thought, believed, and said about homosexual citizens, their civil rights, including their right to marry whomsoever they wish in the exact way anyone can do, we have now reached a new chapter in this struggle; where the rights of gay citizens should be viewed as a beneficial inevitability and that the hurtful, ignorant, bigoted views of any presidential candidate immediately mark that candidate as unacceptable, threatening to the fundamental beliefs of the nation, where the granting and maintenance of rights is what we are about… not blocking those rights, thereby creating a two-tier, fundamentally inequitable society, where some get rights and benefits withheld to others.

“It’s part of Satan I think to say that this is ‘gay’. It’s anything but gay.” Minnesota state senator Michele Bachmann speaking at EdWatch National Education Conference, November 6, 2004. Does Bachmann still believe this, or not?

Bachmann’s insistent bigotry against homosexuals began when she adopted evangelical Christianity. Such people, obsessed with sexuality, particularly homosexuality keep a constant focus on a topic they know nothing about. But knowing about the subject is not required. It is enough that they use it to “prove” their superiority, for without designated whipping boys they would have no one to lord it over. Hatred towards designated people, their livestyles and beliefs, is an essential element of being “born again”. God in their pinched view is a God of vengeance… and they are quite prepared to tell you that God has made it clear who should be scourged and berated… and who should be exalted and sanctified. Let me make this point abundantly clear; the evangelicals of the United States demand scapegoats; homosexuals are absolutely crucial to their well being.

Thus on the Sunday before the straw poll, Bachmann attended the Point of Grace Church, an evangelical megachurch with a 2,000 strong congregation in Waukee, Iowa. The program began when the lights were dimmed for a video testimonial from a “straight man who used to be gay.” The man is married now, his wife pregnant. Gays deserve to be in hell, he emphasized. He claimed to be living proof that the homosexual disease and affliction could be cured through liberal doses of prayer.

Bachmann listened to this standard bigoted attack and, through her smiling presence, indicated that she believed these sentiments, sentiments which she has advocated for years… and clearly still believes today.

“If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.” Further comments from the EdWatch National Education Conference, cited above. Does she still adhere to this opinion, or not?

“You have a teacher talking about his gayness. /The elementary school student/ goes home and says, ‘Mom! What’s gayness? We had a teacher talking about this today.’ The mother says, ‘Well, that’s when a man likes other men, and they don’t like girls.’ The boy’s eight. He’s thinking, ‘Hmmm. I don’t like girls. I like boys. Maybe I’m gay.’ And you think, ‘Oh, that’s way out there. The kid isn’t gonna think that.’ Are you kidding? That happens all the time. You don’t think that this is intentional, the message that’s being given to these kids? That’s child abuse.” Further comments from the EdWatch National Educational Conference, cited above. Does Bachmann still adhere to this opinion, or not?

Does Bachmann still believe homosexuals are “sexually dysfunctional”?

At the same EdWatch National Educational Conference cited above, Bachmann also said, “Don’t misunderstand. I am not here bashing people who are homosexuals, who are lesbians, who are bisexual, who are transgender. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.”

The weight of opinion in this nation has been shifting steadily for years toward a complete, overall acceptance of homosexuals and rightly so. Bachmann’s view is wrong in every particular, and she is already being called upon to explain her current position on the matter.

However, Bachmann is playing the standard political game around these outspoken, prejudiced positions. On the one hand, she wants her right-wing adherents to know, and in no uncertain terms, that she has not changed her position one iota. However, she also wants these folks, who constitute her essential core constituency, to know that she cannot be as outspoken on these matters as previously… because her ultra conservative supporters are insufficient to hand her the nomination. She must expand her base, to folks who are far more moderate on the homosexual question, especially gay marriage, and would not only feel uncomfortable with Bachmann’s views on the subject but would oppose her outrageous language and unnecessary malevolence towards fellow law-abiding, tax- paying citizens of the United States.

Thus Bachmann, famous for her uncompromising views on any subject she takes up, is now doing some fancy footwork that will (wink, wink) reassure her most ideological followers that she is still the old Michele they love… while reaching out to moderates with a very different rendition.

And now the cherry on the cake..

On March 6, 2004, Bachmann was a guest on “Prophetic Views Behind the News” on KKMS 980-AM hosted by Jan Markell. She said, “It isn’t that some gay will get some rights. It’s that everyone else in our state will lose rights. For instance, parents will lose the right to protect and direct the upbringing of their children. Because our K-12 public school system, of which ninety percent of all youth are in the public school system, they will be required to learn that homosexuality is normal, equal, and perhaps you should try it. And that will occur immediately, that all schools will begin teaching homosexuality.” Does Bachmann still adhere to this grab-bag of intolerance, misinformation, ignorance, and malignity? America demands and deserves a straight answer.

Last words

Michele Bachmann has served in her state’s senate and in the Congress of the United States. From this combined public service she can point to absolutely no legislation of her sponsorship that benefited anyone except her own political agenda. She has no foreign policy experience, she knows nothing of national defence, she has no immigration policy and has no economic, financial or job-creation experience. She is a poorly educated woman who would need home schooling in the White House. Her strong suit is religious mummery, a smug certainty that she knows God and understands His will, and how to create sound bites which get the attention of a slothful nation, wanting quick fixes to endemic problems.

But above all else, we cannot afford the luxury of a candidate, much less a president who carries the burden of such hostility, spite, rancor and aversion to so many of our best and most productive citizens, whose mere presence on this planet she finds unsettling and unacceptable. Challenged though we are, we have not yet sunk so low in America as that, to see in Michele Bachmann a president, a woman who would divide rather than unify us. In conclusion, I refer her to the greatest man her party has yet produced, a man who spoke of “malice towards none, with charity for all.” Thus Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address… the man who died bringing together the great nation this misguided woman would rend.

‘To the shores of Tripoli’, let freedom ring as one of the world’s nastiest and most enduring tyrants dies by inches. The end of Moammar Khadafy.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Like so many of my Scottish countrymen, my family left the Highlands in the mid-eighteenth century to pursue a better life in America. But though they left physically, a portion of their heart remained behind and their love continued strong and enduring. The current events taking place in Libya returned my attention to the cruel end of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland when 270 innocent passengers were shredded in mid-air to satisfy the blood lust and barbarism of one man, Moammar Khadafy. Today this most bestial, longest-serving dictator in the Arab world, is inches from the retribution he has long deserved and is hopefully as painful as his deeds demand. But first, take a moment to find the evocative, spectral song “Loch Lomond” in any search engine. Let it sooth the spirits of the airborne dead and remind them, we have never forgotten what Khadafy, his henchmen, and their hatred did to you… and to so many innocent others.

Today the remnants of Khadafy’s insolent regime are crumbing, block by block, desertion by desertion, as the everyday people of Tripoli, and throughout Libya, do what they have not been allowed to do for the nearly 42 year regime — think for themselves! Live for themselves! Be who they want… not merely whom they have been told to be.

Today is one of the rarest days for one of the world’s oldest civilizations… a day of possibilities, not restrictions. A day of high hopes, not of grinding despair. A day when the heart beats faster and when the world’s peoples extend the hand of friendship and fraternity… glad to share the joy of a people who have experienced so little of it.

This is 21 August, 2011 and their long dreaded, capricious lord comes closer, closer to his inevitable conclusion, squalid, bloody, wherein the reigning monster of their long terror is shown to be what he always was, a man of small mind, mendacious habits, and contempt for every human but himself. And so the great man is revealed and abased… humbled… and shown to be at the end so very little.

So now this man of hatred, contumely, and abuse is reaping what he had sown day by day….

Today is a day which looks resolutely forward, for today the people of Libya, who have and have always had under this regime, so very little, at least have the prospect of a future. But today must also be a day of full remembrance for the full litany of dislocations, murders, maimings, disappearances, and ceaseless terrors perpetrated by a regime with power but no vision, weapons but no soul, destructive prowess but without humanity and compassion. Let us pause to remember them now… and vow that these outrages, every one of these outrages, will never be forgotten and stand as a vital testament to the never-ending saga of what a man is capable of doing when the world stands by and pretends that this diabolic business as usual is acceptable.

So now tolls the bell, for each and every one of these outrages, each a manifestation of malice aforethought…

As one of his first deeds, Khadafy in 1970 expelled the Italian population of Libya. He detested all Westerners… and ordered the extirpation of all evidence of their culture… and their systematic dislocation and removal.

From the first days of his power, and reaching full speed and application by 1973, he became the living symbol of Orwell’s Big Brother. Dictators all have a compelling need to know what their peoples are doing at all times and places. Khadafy’s need to know was the very essence of dictatorial thoroughness. Surveillance took place at every level of the government, on all people in any position of power, no matter that he had put those people there himself. Surveillance was constant, intrusive, paralyzing in factories, in education, in the military, everywhere where two or more people might meet and converse.

In short order, human behavior, human contact, human interaction in Libya became just what “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution” permitted, and absolutely nothing else, upon pain of unimaginable suffering and horror. Libya was not a nation; it was a prison, where everyone was in thrall to a man of unmatched skill in the business of refined and exquisite torments,

His capacity for inflicting sufferings developed apace…

He hung dissidents to his all-encompassing regime in public, the better to intimidate. He headed a band of zealots perfect in the art of mutilation; so happy in this severe art that he had its execution and best examples played on television, to a nation which never failed to grasp the glaring meaning: so could thy life end, in an instant, with such pain.

But this quintessence of evil had more pain and suffering to deliver…

He censored the press, of course, by the simple expedient not just of suppressing content but by killing its writers, brutally and publicly, so that the ones not executed today would not even think of thinking, much less writing and publishing the brutal truths they knew to be irrefutable.

He executed, too, after the full panoply of torture, all those who sought national redemption through means political. Their moment of dissent was their last. They went to prison where they experienced the full pain humans can inflict. Such outrages against humanity were constant, brutal, the stuff of everyday existence for every Libyan.

Of course, he had a special regard for the growing ranks of his critics worldwide… they were a menace, a problem, and as such he increased the ranks of his thorough executioners, the better to diminish, and painfully so, the ranks of the disaffected.

There is more, much more, every instance an outrage to every sentiment that makes us human. And at last, Libyans, who saw nothing more for their lives than the constant chaos and confusion of their existence, saw that revolt was their only hope against a regime without any limit to the abuses perpetrated against the long suffering Libyan people.

On 17 February, 2011 major political protests began, as Libyans looked carefully at the events that had toppled the Mubarak tyranny in Egypt and called forth the admiration of the world, in their attempt to become the men they were, the men Khadafy had tried so long and with such bitter means to control.

Khadafy, with more men at his command, more armaments, more mercenaries, more money yet failed to eradicate the often ramshackle forces against him. The reason could be deduced in a single word: FREEDOM. Khadafy sought to control, to regiment, to hurt and divide. His opponents, whose names are now the names of patriots, wanted only one thing: for the people of Libya to control their own destinies, free from the daily terrors and anxieties each knew so well under the current regime.

And so, bit by bit, they advanced… never without hardship, never without the immemorial difficulties of war, experiencing want, sacrifice, their own political difficulties and conflicts… but still, despite every drawback, they advanced… until today the end of the regime is nigh, perhaps just hours away. These are the valiant days in Tripoli… the days proud men of action will impart to their grandchildren. It is a great day not just for Libyans but for all of us who value freedom and know its unending cost. Today all us ride with you through streets of Tripoli, optimistic, hopeful, grateful for your courage and application in a cause we all must hold dear.

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America’s newest national monument debuts, dedicated to The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. What we must never forget about the man and his resounding message.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Only one song would do for this of all articles, the iconic anthem of the American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968), “We Shall Overcome.”

It was not so much a song as a declaration of purpose and profound resolve, one that did not merely state and celebrate the destination… but constituted a collective pledge, renewed with each singing, that adherents were united in mind, body and purpose; for they would need all that, and more, as they moved towards the inspiring goal of equality, where people who were divided by tradition, at last forged unity from divisiveness.

“We Shall Overcome” is a protest song. The lyrics are derived from the refrain of a gospel song by Charles Albert Tindley. It was first published in 1947 in the People’s Song Bulletin, a publication of People’s Songs, an organization of which Pete Seeger was the director. The song became associated with the Civil Rights Movement from 1959, when Guy Carawan launched it as the most famous, motivating, and ultimately elegiac song of the movement; their soaring battle hymn. It was what the oppressed people, their adherents and their resolute opponents heard when fire hoses were turned on them, dogs ordered to snarl and bite, and truncheons beat down upon the pilgrims sore beset.

There were many heroes in those days, but not yet a Hero who would rise above the others and become the very heartbeat of the movement, its public face and voice to the world.

That man had not yet emerged, but his first important moment was about to take place… in Birmingham, Alabama, where from a prison cell he was about to instruct his followers, his opponents, and a world oppressed by a panoply of civil rights abuses in what a man who believes in justice must do.

Consider this man now, on the threshold of history. He is mortal, frail, fragile, with profound doubts, hesitations and an acute consciousness of his inadequacies. He, like so many Heroes hoped that he would not have to be what he was in process of becoming; he hoped others would shoulder a substantial part of the burden. But History is infallible. It saw, as the individual did not, that this man could rise above his own demons and limitations… to become what the movement must have to succeed: a moral compass, a higher purpose, a complete humanity, and the ability to be beaten down, bitten, spat on, bruised, and beaten again — and yet love his tormenters, direct the anger of his people towards benign purpose, and always get up… showing that violence, any violence, could not stop him… and so would not stop the movement either. This was sublime! This was what the man was on this planet to do… though he did not entirely know this yet.

And so in April, 1963 he went to the most bigoted city in America, likely the most segregated, the least hospitable to its black inhabitants, the city that taught the nation how to insult, condescend, intimidate, and, all too often, to kill people of color for being born and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was the capital of every finely turned, exquisite form of segregation and haters of every kind looked first to Birmingham as the citadel of their embittered beliefs, the fortress for immemorial hate that every black citizen knew only too well.

And so Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Birmingham as he went to so many fateful destinations… because it was necessary, because it was the right thing to do, because the people needed succor and relief and he had that to give and to spare.

The Birmingham event was a planned non-violent protest conducted by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference against racial segregation by Birmingham’s city government and downtown retailers. He was among the first arrested… the first taken harshly, insistently to his “suite” in Birmingham City Jail. It had to be a shock, jolting, demeaning, insulting, humiliating for this man who so loved life and life’s pleasures, more accustomed to the Word of God than the execrations of man.

But he had something to say, something which he had clearly thought about for some time, because he wrote without hesitation its profound message of import to all the world and its downtrodden.

King responds to eight white Alabama clergyman who opposed his visit to Birmingham.

On April 12, 1963 eight local clergymen offered Dr. King the benefit of their erudition and desire to defuse the anxious situation and rescue the imperiled status quo. These leaders of the church did what so many such have done over the ages. Bereft of courage, with cloudy vision, and a desire to safeguard their own positions and pulpits, they wrote Dr. King to leave… to let things take their course… to stop the violence and be patient… it would be, they were quite clear, so much better so. They didn’t have to say it would be better for them…

Dr. King was bruised in body and spirit as he arrived at the city jail. He must have wondered how he came there and whether against so much hatred he could achieve his goal. He must have wondered, too, at how many people already relied upon him… and of the terrible sacrifices he might ask them to make, even unto death itself. At such a time, a man, any man, might so wonder and reflect.

But then he read the sentiments of these local clergymen about his mission to Birmingham, criticizing it as “unwise and untimely”. He read these words, and he knew at once what he must do… and so the words of high portent and unmistakable conviction came swiftly.

He started his response in the way any disagreeing minister might have addressed a colleague, professionally, directly, pointedly. But this was not destined to be such a letter between Christian clergy of differing views. He had a higher purpose, and it was soon apparent. He meant to remind (if they knew), to teach (if they didn’t) his fellow clerics a fundamental precept of their ministries. He aimed to show them, once, for all, clearly, that justice was their business, the very heart of their business and he meant his message to be stern, unequivocal, a bell summoning all to recognition of their profound duties.

First he reminded these clergymen of the South, with their regional blindness, that the issue was not Southern, but American — “Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds”. In short, what was happening in Birmingham and what made the demonstration necessary was not merely a Birmingham problem or a Southern problem… it was an American problem (not to mention by quick extension a universal problem of long suffering humanity.)

And so he built his case for action now point by irrefutable point, making the considered advice of the local clergy seem like what it was, a self-serving argument keeping the blacks in their place, patient in the face of intimidation, outrage, and a white wrath ready to explode into legally sanctioned outrages against black citizens at any time.

Thus did King find the voice of moral certainty, the voice which freed so many and which resulted in time in the sacrifice of his very life, taken by those who came to know him as the dreaded prophet of black deliverance, and so necessary to destroy.

“Injustice,” he trumpeted, “anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The haters, the entrenched segregationists, the racial purists, the purveyors of inequitable laws and legal terrorism and abuse, for all that they wrote volumes in support of their unsustainable opinions never uttered a phrase so powerful as this… a phrase that showed just where right and a better future lay. He signed his soon-to-be-world- famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”, “Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood” and had it smuggled out in a toothpaste tube to avoid the jail’s guards.

Now this man has morphed into mythology with a grandiose civic temple for his observances. The architect Chinese artist Lei Yixin has been criticized for his work. No matter. Any architect’s work and vision would have found censure in the eyes of the jealous others who were not selected. But the truth is, this monument will soon be amongst the most popular, for all that the great monuments to Jefferson, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are near at hand.

“Now,” borrowing Edward Stanton’s words on Lincoln, King “belongs to the ages.” Here his greatest challenge will be in so inspiring those who follow in his footsteps, that his timeless message remains timely and is not forgotten by all those so beholden to the man who is now enshrined amidst among the worthies of the Great Republic his life’s work so enhanced.

How a perky housewife from Minnesota gets up to 5,000 responses to her blog each and every day… and how you can do as well, or even better!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. This is the tale of someone who has achieved the kind of astonishing online results and amazing ongoing traffic that you wish you had. Her name is Diane Dohrn and she’s one of the handful of residents from Grygla, Minnesota (population 228)… a place that looks like a suburb of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon… the town where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

For this article, therefore, I selected some music by perennial local favorite Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers. Go to any search engine and find his signature tune “Bubbles in the wine.” Sit back in your recliner and enjoy the effervescence of the lady from Grygla and a success story that’ll make you smile….with all the necessary details so you can match her already great and always growing success.

When I first met Diane…

I first met Diane Dohrn a little over 18 months ago when she came to me seeking my help and advice about how to succeed online. Frankly, she needed all of the assistance I could provide; she was in a bad way just then in her life and fortune. She told me a story so typical on the ‘net as to be endemic… She’d been in this opportunity; she’d been in that. She had paid out thousands and reaped pennies. She had no tools for success… no traffic… she’d never had a moment’s training… and, until my advent, she’d had absolutely no one to assist her. And now she was desperate… with acute family difficulties… and her own disability to contend with. In short, she had nowhere to go but… up.

At bottom, she still had two crucial advantages: 1) me and 2) her own “never say die” determination that I came to know so well — and admire.

She was willing to listen…

People with problems say they want solutions… but in fact what they really want is the opportunity to vent… to bewail their lot in the world, do the “poor little me” thing… then rant and rant some more. In short they don’t really want a solution… they want a willing ear to chew on. But that’s not how money gets made. I told Diane, who came with some of these weepies, that I’d help IF and ONLY if she would focus on a series of online business building steps, including specific traffic building exercises she would need to do daily to grow the all-important traffic.

She agreed… and she kept her bargain, although it was sometimes tough for the lady when I absolutely refused to listen to items from the latest installment of “As Diane’s World Turns…”

She needed traffic… traffic…more traffic… and even more traffic. And that was where I kept our focus, with lessons on the effective use of traffic exchanges, safe lists, forums, and article directories where you develop crucial back links. An avid learner, she did herself the favor of listening to what I said, asking intelligent questions, and doing the tasks. To her surprise (but not mine) she began to generate traffic at once… and more each day. Especially as she began to understand and master one absolutely crucial traffic generating tool, which in due time she was to make her own traffic- generating machine. This marvel was the blog… and right from the start, it proved to be her forte so much so that I quickly saw that Diane Dorhn was not just going to master the blog, develop huge daily traffic from it… but become one of the true blog titans of the ‘net. Now she had my full attention, and we worked together less as teacher and student… but rather as 2 colleagues not just interested in how far the lady could take this…. but obsessed with the desire to raise Diane and her traffic to hitherto unimaginable heights. We were rockin’ and rollin’… Note for the blogless.

If you’re an online entrepreneur of any kind, trying to get huge daily traffic, you MUST have a blog. This is not negotiable. You see, a blog is your personal communications vehicle. It enables you to present and deliver your message. It is 100 percent you, 100 percent of the time. Say what you want, say it just the way you want.

The key to a blog is ensuring that it offers readers the best possible content. “Content is king,” Bill Gates famously said. That’s the kind of content you must have for your blog; content that gets people to read — and respond. Diane was fretful about this point. She worried that she have the time or skills to produce the high level content her blog and readers required daily. What could she do?

That’s where I really entered the picture, as an essential element of her success… for you see, I produce the champagne of blog content, and I produce it in 27 information categories from politics through ecology and just plain good stories; my content is sophisticated, readable, intelligent, timely, well written… and (most significantly) it gets astonishingly high reader response, as Diane came to know at once; right from the start these articles (and I write a new one each day) generated responses… lots and lots of them.

Thus, each day Diane starts by selecting the article of the day, the article that will anchor that blog and be its focus.

Then she follows a daily regime which she has followed, refined and developed over time. It goes like this:

1) Check Kstats first thing. Additionally check it several times each day to see the results on every article she has ever blogged.

2) Prepare today’s article. Select it, copy to Word. Then add all the necessary videos, links, trackbacks, pictures, etc. Diane knows that even great copy is better, more arresting, with such features. (By the way she keeps all this on Wordpad.)

3) She looks up the subject of the designated article in any major search engine. She likes to do this so she can make an intelligent comment on the article.

4) Before she sends her daily blog (first thing each morning), she visits other blogs to get ideas for the improvement of hers. She never assumes she has a monopoly on this subject; she looks for what others can tell her about her blog, the better to improve it. She told me she visits between 35-50 blogs daily, to keep up on developments in the field, get ideas, inspiration, etc. I believe it!

5) She then reads through this daily blog post a couple of times looking for typos and so on. A journalist’s daughter, she is a stickler for mistake-free copy… as a result her blog is clean, without the distracting errors made by other, less careful, blogsters.

6) Her blog always contains a great offer. Diane never forgets that the purpose of a blog is to make money, and so she works hard on her offers… both on the ones she makes in her blog… and the ones she makes when her readers respond. Because of the volume of her responses, she works on this for hours each day… and that really pays off…

One more thing she does…

Diane generously insists on my role in her success. She points to what she calls her “Internet bible” which contains Internet traffic, marketing and business building tips I have given her, live in my online programs and through my huge library of blog articles. She says, “When I need a lift, this is where I go. They are priceless.”

That’s the woman all over…

The truth is, the person who has contributed the most to Diane’s success is… Diane. She’s risen from no traffic at all to getting up to 5,000 responses EACH and EVERY day, without exception. Her own personality and approach to her thousands of blog readers is what makes the critical difference. She’s a small town Iowa girl and has retained the sincerity, empathy and quintessential Midwestern directness and candor of the heartland. Diane is authentic to her fingertips. She likes people; likes to help… and this shines through.

Now thousands of new people will learn about Diane and take heart if, like most online, they have had absolutely no success. That can and should stop now… for the best thing Diane can do is make you understand that the huge results she has already received are fully duplicatable and can be done off the kitchen table. Only one thing is missing from this system… and that is the great heart of the lady herself. That is all her own… and we admire her all the more for what she does with it to help so many for she remembers her roots and the help she got when she needed it most. This is why with her blog, she has not got just readers… but friends.

The stamp of approval. U.S. Postal Service recognizes the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest floating commissioned naval vessel.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. For this article no other song would do besides the jaunty, rousing fight song of the United States Naval Academy, “Anchors Aweigh.” Strongly associated, too, with the United States Navy, it was composed in 1906 by Charles A. Zimmerman with lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles. Zimmerman was at the time a Lieutenant, and had been bandmaster of the United States Naval Academy Band since 1887. Miles was Midshipman First Class at the Academy, in the class of 1907. The song was originally written for the class of ’07 to be used as a football march. It takes great fortitude and control not to jump and march when you hear its unmistakable sound. I own up to having neither when the band in full swing goes by playing this. Go now to any search engine and find the rendition you like best. Then play it loud and clear to get yourself into the mood for this tale of “Old Ironsides.”

“Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!”

Perhaps the most perilous battle she faced, literally a matter of life and death occurred in September, 1830 when the pettifogging bureaucrats in the naval department, eager to pinch pennies, ordered the greatest ship of the young Republic, now past her prime, to be broken up, just so much salvage.

A young Boston Brahmin named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. learned of this intended act of short-sighted barbarism while at breakfast reading the “Boston Daily Advertiser.” At one he decided to take action to save the ship which could no longer fight to save herself. He titled his fast-penned poem “Old Ironsides” and it ran September 16, 1830.

“Ay, tear her tattered ensign down! Long has it waved on high, And many an eye has danced to see That banner in the sky; Beneath it rung the battle shout, And burst the cannon’s roar; The meteor of the ocean air Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood, Where knelt the vanquished foe, When winds were hurrying o’er the flood, And waves were white below, No more shall feel the victor’s tread, Or know the conquered knee; The harpies of the shore shall pluck The eagle of the sea.

Oh, better that her shattered bulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to her mast her holy flag, Set every threadbare sail, And give her to the god of storms, The lighting and the gale!”

By the evening of the 16th, author Holmes was famous… and his fervent verses, overwrought, overdone, overfraught, were making even the most committed pennypinchers abashed and ashamed. “Old Ironsides” was saved… but it was a very close run thing. One shudders to think what would have happened had young Mr. Holmes not been of a poetical disposition.

The great warship is born, 1797.

Now that the former American colonies had become the new American nation, the powerful British fleet, which had always protected them and cost them nothing, became the new nation’s prime antagonist. Thus, this nation found itself in the unenviable position of having virtually no ships to protect them and their crucial maritime commerce. Constructing a navy became a priority, at least for the mercantile East and New England. It was their ships and cargoes, after all, their British antagonists aimed to capture and disrupt.

And so, the USS Constitution, named by President George Washington, was authorized as one of 6 original frigates by the Naval Act of 1794. These ships were larger and more heavily armed and built than standard frigates of the period, a fact which was very important for all six ships, but particularly Constitution, which used this advantage to earn the most glorious battle record of them all.

Right from the first, she was needed and served in the Quasi-War with France (1798) and in the war against the Barbary pirates, practiced thieves of North Africa who had hitherto preyed with impunity on American vessels and crews. Constitution helped win the First Barbary War (1801). But these useful services were just a preface to her greatest service in the otherwise lackluster and regrettable War of 1812, a conflict both Americans and British wanted, but brought neither laurels, treasure, territory or satisfaction.

In this conflict, only the Constitution and its string of oceanic victories stood out, so much so that the British Admiralty ruled that warships combating Constitution and her sisters should never fight alone, only in packs. It was testament to just how good these vessels were, especially Constitution. She defeated one of His Majesty’s ships after another… each victory thrilled a nation irritated, frustrated, exasperated by what the American army couldn’t seem to do… and by a similar lack of results by other ships of the brand new navy.

But Constitution caused Americans to rush to the harbor and shout “Huzzah” as news arrived about victory… first, over the Guerriere. This was the engagement which gave Constitution its celebrated sobriquet. For cannon balls shot from the doomed British warship seemed to bounce off Constitution without effect. An unknown sailor shouted, “Her sides are made of iron!”… and the nickname stuck, to thrill the proud nation which looked for any hopeful news to cheer at in this entirely unhappy war.

HMS Java was next… then HMS Cyane… and HMS Levant… and HMS Lord Nelson, bearing the most famous name in British naval history… captured as a prize along with everything needed to celebrate Christmas, a meal they so enjoyed… with one toast after another heartily drunk from the defeated captain’s fine liquors. How sweet that was… and sweeter still the cheers, plaudits, and resounding thanks of the nation when on 15 May, 1815 she came home, full of honors and renown.

Now what?

As navy men will tell you, each new ship embodies the best of current technology; as these ships are launched they push previous vessels to obsolescence and the scrap heap, for there is nothing so useless as a vessel, costing money everyday, without the ability to fulfill its bellicose purpose. No ship, not even ones covered with glory like Constitution, can avoid this sad fate. Thus as she aged, the vultures and scrap metal merchants circled… and for all her victories, she also would have been broken up, no more to sail, protect the nation, and make every citizen proud. Sic transit gloria mundi. But providence intervened in the person of Mr. Holmes and his facile pen.

The subsequent history of Constitution and how she continued to serve is mundane compared to her maritime glories. No matter. She survived, though there were always those ready to sacrifice the legendary vessel to save a few pence. Her luck held… not least because of the many who worked mightily to save her and give her the honorable place in the Navy as the world’s oldest floating commissioned warship along with a museum which opened in 1976, the same year H.M. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip trod her decks when they visited Boston as part of the nation’s Bicentennial observations. Her ancestor George III, owner of the ships humbled by Constitution, no doubt spun in his imperial grave.

Now, just in time for the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, the U.S. Postal Service has released the design for an “Old Ironsides” stamp. The beleaguered postal service, in the process of closing 3,700 post offices throughout the United States, hopes to use Constitution to sell commemoratives for needed funds. And because closing post offices means losing such sales… they have launched this new stamp on Facebook, thereby hoping to reach millions of folks of philatelic bent. And so her good uses continue… her future now, we hope, secured. Next time you visit Boston, do visit, for she has always been one of the glories of the nation and so she remains.

‘A-one, an-a-two,’ the ‘wunnerful, wunnerful’ world of Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. It’s a Saturday night in 1955, and you’re looking for entertainment. You want it bright, cheerful, positive, and free; the kind of program that taxes you intellectually not at all… but makes you smile with feel-good music delivered by feel-good people. You spin the dial and find a guy called “Lawrence Welk” and his Champagne Music. You give a listen… you like what you hear and thence forward every Saturday night is dedicated to the ultimate feel-good- guy Lawrence Welk, so expert at creating just the soothing ambiance you need.

This is the man and his music we’re celebrating today. Go now to any search engine and find his signature tune “Bubbles in the Wine”. Lay back, enjoy, and leave the cares of the real world far, far away… Born March 11, 1903 in Strasburg, North Dakota…

Lawrence Welk is arguably the most celebrated individual ever from the rolling hills and punishing climates of North Dakota. And he hated every single aspect of the state that remembers him so fondly now.

He hated Strasburg, a German-speaking community in the middle of nowhere.

He hated his father Ludwig… he hated his mother Christina… emigrants who started life in Odessa, Ukraine, then a part of imperial Russia… arriving in America in 1892…

He hated the sod house in which he grew up.

He hated farming, its backbreaking, never-ending chores and obligations.

He hated the bleakness of it all… and so he bided his time, daydreaming about a place over the rainbow that was anywhere other than where he was. A place where there were happy people, people with a song in their heart and some insistent, cheerful melody on the brain. He knew such a place existed… and he was sure he would find it.

His ticket out was a mail-order accordion. It sold for $400, a fortune in those days. He borrowed it from his unrelentingly pragmatic father, who essentially indentured him to the farm he hated until his 21st birthday or until this headstrong son paid off this astronomical sum. Part of the deal was that Lawrence take on extra paying work on other farms, too, every penny to go to his father. He did, with vengeance in his heart…

Punctilious in his obligation, young Welk on the occasion of his 21st birthday left everything he knew and hated, turning his back resolutely on his detested past. He and his accordion never looked back; they couldn’t. They had burned every bridge and outraged every familial tie. Failure was not an option…

There was hardship ahead…. lots of scheming and hopeful connivances… even days of despair as he strove to find his way…. But every moment that was less than perfect became the fuel to create this always happy, always perfect place of his imagining.

Welk in those early days of the 1920s was a blur of activity. He performed with bands lead by Luke Witkowski, Lincoln Boulds, George T. Kelly… and led the big bands of the dancing Dakotas, the Hotsy Totsy Boys… and the Honolulu Fruit Gum Orchestra. Then he did what he’d always been destined to do… he created his own band and started to craft the lighter-than-air sound that made him rich and famous worldwide. It was a style scoffed at by learned folks, discriminating folks, folks of hubris, condescension and arrogance… but a style embraced by the millions who knew a good thing when they heard it.

A ball of energy, always immaculately turned out, his dancing pumps oiled and shined, baton at the ready… and the celebrated smile about to be delivered with mega- watt brilliance, this was the Lawrence Welk of WNAX Radio, Yankton, South Dakota… and beyond… Always an optimist in hot pursuit of perfection and the better life he took time to study at the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1927.

This was the height of America’s gift to the world, the Jazz Age when a gyrating generation showed their disapproving parents how a body in motion could move in hepped up ways, contorted, nimble, thrilling to watch, soaring to dance. You probably never knew, or even imagined, that the Lawrence Welk of your memory in November, 1928 cut a popular ragtime record with his Novelty Orchestra, for Indiana-based Gennett Records. It was called “Spiked Beer” and it moooooooooved!

But jazz was not his metier; dance tunes and “sweet” music was… and he became a recognized master of an undemanding, smoothie sound that attracted real people, too often burdened by their difficult realities, especially during the Great Depression Welk and his trademark sound helped an often desperate, despairing nation get through… whistling and dancing, forced to move on, move out, move up… optimists all, down perhaps for a minute, but wisecracking as we got back on feet set in motion by the facile tunes of young Mr. Welk.

He kept Amerca dancing in the dark days America needed to dance more than ever… let’s hope that his parents (now a distant memory for Lawrence) came to recognize the swan they had brought forth amongst the chickens… maybe even on one-never-to- be-forgotten night dancing at the Farmstead to his lolly-pop confections, and smiling… If so, it was the only time champagne in any form entered what is now called the Ludwig and Christina Welk Farmplace, an attraction you can visit when next in Strasburg.

The Lawrence Welk Show.

In 1951, after cutting several records (including Spade Cooley’s popular “Shame on You” in 1945) and appearing in many motion pictures, where his increasingly inimitable sound became the perfect background for what were then called “Soundies”, Welk moved to Los Angeles, the most superficial metropolis on earth, where they welcomed him with open arms and where he launched The Lawrence Welk Show on KTLA radio, where it was broadcast live from the Aragon Ballroom at Venice Beach. What a piquant image that is… the smoothly oiled muscular bodies on the beach…. the even smoother sound of Lawrence Welk emanating from on high like so much star dust.

The show was a great hit… and was the proximate cause the ABC network picked up Welk for national distribution in June, 1955. It was here the family of Walt and Victoria Lauing, my maternal grandparents, enter the scene. It is because of them and their obsession with Lawrence Welk and his sound that I wrote this article at all, for they and millions like them were the reason he succeeded.

Walt and Vic, young and attractive, were South Dakota people, who probably heard Welk in his early days. By the time I was 10 or so (1957) they had imbibed a lifetime of champagne music. Minutes before the program began, every child present was hushed and bribed to stay that way… and all was ready for the imperial entrance of Walt and his lady, recliners at the ready. No sound but the bubbles in the wine was even allowed or tolerated for the next 60 minutes. The congregation was ready… the Maestro could commence.

I laughed, of course, and derided, as youngsters of smart-aleck tendencies will do but amongst the cascading effervescence there was love, veneration and gratitude. He was their sound…

That was why my grandmother wrote away for tickets to the program when she and Walt flew to California to see my mother, their daughter, and family . You see she meant to dance with Welk on air. Every week she saw a myriad of other blue-haired ladies stand in line for the chance of whirling in her favorite’s arms on nationwide television. My grandmother wanted that, too…

And so one Saturday night we witnessed her televised struggle to get to the head of the queue, only to discover that the other ladies were as determined as she was… and despite our cheers, she failed.

She didn’t blame her idol, of course; it wasn’t his fault he was so popular and desired. But we all felt it keenly. It was probably the only time he ever let a fan down, until in 1982, when as the nation’s oldest television host, he at last retired, age 79. His legacy and bouncing music live on in the Lawrence Welk Museum, Escondido, California. I’m sure the spirits of Walt and Vic visit… for he made them so very happy for so very long.

‘The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.’ Waiting for Hurricane Irene in Cambridge, Massachusetts, August 28, 2011.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Whether it is because of the unsettling information we have received minute by minute over the last few days; whether it is because of the ominous predictions of so many knowledgeable authorities; whether it is because it is just 5:48 a.m. and it is still pitch black, the moment of the day when night fights its ouster and will not cede to the light, I cannot say… but this is a moment of apprehension, disquiet…even dread.

This is the moment we remember the power of a Nature we so often forget and so regularly outrage.

Now this Nature has reminded us of where true power resides… and of what it means when we talk of an “act of God.”

For now, this very minute, amongst the treasures and securities of my comfortable life, I await the advent of the manifestation of unrelenting power, a force capable of disrupting this cherished life in an instant, leaving me, and millions like me, bereft, shocked, lamenting.

This is the tale of an act of God, called Irene by mankind; this is the tale of one man in storm’s path, waiting, waiting, every daily occupation and thought now set aside while we await the capricious judgement of this mighty storm.

We ask ourselves and carefully scan our multitude of information sources for answers to these insistent queries:

When will it hit?

Where will it hit?

How long will it punish us?

What will it take… what will it leave?

These are the questions of the hour… and we have only the fallible devices of challenged mankind to answer them… and so “the answer is blowin’ in the wind…” Thus I selected “Blowin’ in the Wind” for today’s background music. You can easily find it in any search engine. Find it now and listen carefully.

Written by Bob Dylan in 1962, it became the anthem of a restless generation… which wanted answers… and got none. Now I want answers, too, and renewed securities and peace of mind…. But none but God Himself could reassure me at this moment when even the coolest hand of all craves confidence to be reinforced, restored.

6:25 a.m., first light.

From the window of my study I look out upon the usual early day scene. There is rain in the air… and a light breeze blows the still-green leaves, not yet touched by an autumn now just days away. It is quiet now… no living soul to be seen. This is my world… and at this moment no man alive could say what its condition will be just hours away. But we know, in every fibre, that what is present now will somehow be different, great or small; storms, even as they weaken, make sure of that.

6:48 a.m.

Like millions I scan the news services, not so much for a history of this storm’s destructiveness as for clues and prognostications of what my future holds in the hours ahead. Fallible though even the greatest storm authorities can be, I nonetheless examine their predictions with care; my life, my future, perhaps my very existence on this planet is here foreshadowed. Whether the news be intoxicatingly good or the very worst it could be, I must know…

While scanning my sources, gleaning every fact, I note the condition of my dining room; my storm command center. There are crumbs on floor and table, this room with its historic paintings on the wall not as pristine and well ordered as usual…. and there’s the open pizza box, a certain sign that last night’s meal was eaten in a rush, gulped down while listening to the latest storm coverage. People facing grave disruption, even extinction do not concern themselves with dirty dishes and wayward crumbs. They have graver issues at hand than where crumbs have fallen and what to do with last night’s congealed remains. Normality is when these matters regain our notice with broom and dust pan at the ready. What seizes my attention now is battlefield intelligence from this fast- moving war zone.

9 of my fellow humans, quick and alive just hours ago, now dead. Irene has cost them everything while robbing us of the necessary time and mental state essential for mourning. For now, the dead must take care of the dead; the living have other priorities.

Item: Millions of people from first battered North Carolina north have “at this hour” (as only t.v. newscasters ever say) no electricity… It’s loss drives home their vulnerability and submission to the storm. To be without power is to lose the vital moorings of life. To lose power is to be removed at an instant from every essential service of the 21st century. We feel its loss keenly, for the loss of power is crippling, humbling, demoting us in an instant to the primitive realities of our ancestors who lived with the reality that it is better to light just one little candle than curse the darkness. Do you have your candle ready for just this moment? I do…

8:01 a.m.

The news reports are coming in thick and fast now as sleepy journalists file the day’s first reports. Outside the windows the trees now bend low before a wind not so gentle as before. The light of early Sunday morning is greyer now and obscured by the rain, now heavier, harder falling. Is this a worrisome portent of what we may expect as Irene moves toward us… or is it but the kind of storm that irritates and inconveniences but does not disrupt or kill?

While I wonder, the great cities of the Eastern seaboard are shuttered, quiet, watchful; it’s inhabitants chary, anxious, hopeful that they and their world will survive intact, this incident to be forgotten, not the day of dread remembrance which may still be their fate. They cannot know if their roofs will hold, they cannot know if they will suffer and lose all; they cannot know if dear friends and neighbors will die. And they cannot know in these hours before impact if they will live… or be nothing more than a statistic, dead, so brought to oblivion by Irene’s thoughtless puissance.

Its winds now 115 miles per hour.

Its wingspan 500 miles.

Frothing the sea with waves of 7 feet.

And the most important statistic of all: 65,00,000 million people directly impacted, prisoners of a remorseless presence, disregarding the people of this land, their lives and occupations. Storms care nothing for these; their movements, their actions; in everything they do explicable only to themselves and answerable to none.

8:30 a.m.

Darkness now covers the land, the day now awash in heavy rain from a darkening sky. Except for a few daredevils, impacted humanity is now inside, hopeful, a nervous prayer on their lips and quiet words to God for deliverance. My shutters are beating now against the glass… the chandelier above my head has now flickered and flickered again. Thus does the great storm announce its movements and threaten our already threatened equilibrium.

It is said that there are no atheists in a fox hole. Neither do such disbelievers abide in storm zones and catastrophes. In such times prayers come as easily as breathing. As the stormy sea rises, as the seas rush in to threaten and drown our realities, this is my prayer, for myself and my beleaguered fellow travelers now facing the fate that great Irene carries through the surges for us all:

“O Eternal Lord God, who alone spreads out the heavens and rules the raging of the seas, receive into your protection all those who go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business on the great waters. Preserve them both in body and soul, prosper their labors with good success, in all times of danger, be their defense, and bring them to the haven where they would be, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Let God hear this our prayer for we are all mariners today, threatened by Irene’s great wind, roiling the seas around us… and so now we wait… prepare… and pray,, our Lord our sure redeemer now and forever.

How to read an auction catalog and intelligently participate in auctions worldwide.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. The autumn auction catalogs have begun to pour in, a stunning library of things rare, notable, luxurious, just the kinds of things you know are necessary for the “look” that screams your name. You are — or want to be — a collector on an international scale… but you don’t know how to get started. You are seized with curiosity for what’s available but need a knowledgeable friend to show you the ropes. I am that friend, and it’s time to start your education.

I have selected Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for today’s background music. Written in 1874, it is lush, grandiose, opulent in the Slavic style, just the kind of music that gets you in the mood for seeking the treasures which will enhance your life and present you to the world just as you like. Go now to any search engine and find the rendition of your choice; make sure to include the celebrated “Kiev Gate” portion. Then come along with me as I open a spectacular world to you… by giving you the practical details you need to participate.

A word about your guide… me!

For the last twenty years and more, I have been an active, even obsessive, participant in the auctions presented by the greatest auction houses in the world… Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York, Rome, Paris, London, Amsterdam… Bukowskis in Stockholm… the Dorotheum in Vienna. Each sale always had a catalog… and I have learned what only other collectors, connoisseurs, museum officials etc. know: how to read an auction catalog and know the essential, hitherto unpublished facts, the facts which crack the code on participating successfully in these auctions. For you see, what the cognoscenti know they are not anxious to share with you. They want to hoard this information and keep it from you; the better to gather the treasures of the earth unto themselves and themselves alone… without being bothered by… you! That changes today…

The pivotal fall sales of the world’s great auction houses are now underway; nearly daily from now until the great pre-Christmas December sales take place, the eye-popping, mouth-watering catalogs arrive to titillate, frustrate, unsettle… for that is what these and all auction catalogs are so artfully designed to do… they aim to plant the seed of desire in your mind and so haunt you night and day. I know that siren song too well; it has insinuated itself into my brain often and expensively over and over again. And if you have an insistent eye for beauty and a need to acquire, it will insinuate itself into yours, too.

First, start today.

Success in auctions is based on these key factors:

1) the development of an “eye”

2) doing the necessary homework for each item of your interest

3) finding and listening to your experts

4) setting and living within a realistic budget.

Let’s look at these points one at a time:

1) Developing your “eye”.

Great collectors, sage and savvy collectors, are people who can see within even the most battered and mistreated object not just what it is now… but what it once was and with tender loving care can be again. This skill is pivotal and can only be developed by constant and detailed artifact review. ALL collectors know the value of doing their homework. The development of the Internet has made this easy, for the information you need is as near as your computer.

Gathering this information long precedes acquiring objects or having the necessary funds to do so. Thus, start visiting the websites of the auction houses mentioned above. ALL now post their catalogs online available for your scrutiny 24 hours a day, a benefit your parents and grandparents could only have imagined. With these e-resources you are able to be better informed than any previous generation of collectors. Use this advantage to develop the all-important eye.

The “eye” that it takes a lifetime to acquire through constant viewing, reviewing, and careful judgements is not something you can rush. Its development is predicated on constant catalog review, reading what experts have to say, attending museum lectures and events… assiduously working on seeing, perceiving, looking beyond the surface into the soul and meaning of each object. This is a lifetime’s occupation and should be undertaken as early as possible. People who do not do this are and always will be at the mercy of the market and will never develop a collection of merit that showcases your impressive knowledge and success on the never-ending hunt.

2) Doing the necessary homework.

Many wealthy people buy art and artifacts by the yard, advised by decorators who may know something about arrangement but who almost universally lack the essential knowledge of history, provenance, and underlying value and significance possessed by real collectors.

Like it or not (and you’d better like it) all true collectors understand the need for intense analysis of any item in which they’re interested. This information comes first by studying the catalog; then requesting a “condition report” from the auction house. This reports consists of what the auction house knows about the object in question. It will be honest but it may well raise more questions than it answers. If so, check the catalog to get the name of the auction house’s designated authority on this object. Either email or call. You will find these experts personable, candid, anxious to be helpful. Just remember at all times: they want to sell this object, and so condition reports must always been read with a grain of salt.

3) Finding and listening to your experts.

Because auction house experts all work to sell, you need your own experts, people who have no other thought than honestly advising — you. Where do you find such people? Auction house experts can help, by making referrals. They will know everyone who is anyone in the field. You will need their expertise. Take full advantage of it. As I can attest these folks, zealous in your service, can spare you the pain of expensive, embarrassing mistakes. Listen carefully too what they tell you, especially once you know they have that all-important eye.

4) Setting and living within a realistic budget. Have you begun to master the key points above? Good! Now it’s time to gather the funds you need to participate. Begin at once.

Depending on your particular area of interest, you may be able to start for as low as a few hundred dollars. Start small, start careful, go slow, as you come to know the vicissitudes of auctions. Remember, these great auction houses have existed for hundreds of years. Move forward with due deliberation. But don’t let deliberation become procrastination. Care is needed but so is the ability to take action as necessary, while always setting and living within your inviolable budget.

Last Words.

You are now ready to begin one of the most important and exciting journeys of your life… as you commence your walk down the red carpet towards the most beautiful, valuable, and important objects on earth. One last thing: don’t expert those who don’t appreciate such things to appreciate you and your sublime and never-ending search. Don’t let their uninformed remarks and blindness infuriate or irritate. By following these steps you will leave such people in the dust while embracing all the connoisseurs, experts, and knowledgeable friends who henceforth enrich your life. Be sure to include me amidst their number… and let me know how with this candid advice you get on with your passion.

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