Birdwatching from my Living Room Window

I live in what could best be described as a “semi-urban” area in a fourth floor apartment. I cal it “semi-urban”, since while there are quite a few apartment buildings in the area, none of them are very large. And there are still plenty of single-family houses with backyards. It’s not quite “suburban”, though. Plots aren’t very big, and just beyond a small parcel of trees behind my building there’s a major commuter rail line. And just another line of trees beyond that is an interstate highway.

The trees are a mixed bunch. Beech, birch, oak, maple, locust, and perhaps others I could identify if I knew enough about trees. There’s a good deal of bushes, too. The copse outside is about a quarter of an acre in size. And my living room window looks right out into it. And with me being on the fourth floor, I’m at the best height for birdwatching.

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On the 2014 Baseball All-Star Game

Once again, in the voting before the game, we have seen the eternal conflict between fans who want the absolute best players at each position (based on some unspecified criteria) selected to start and the fans who think it should be the players that fans in general want to see (i.e. the most popular). In most cases, the two are the same. People usually want to see the best players. The discussion gets most wordy when it comes to the reserves and bench players. Who has been snubbed? Who doesn’t really deserve to be there? Why must each team have a representative? Meanwhile, they overlook the fact that a lot of these reserves aren’t going to get into the game until the late innings, might never come to bat, and probably won’t even be mentioned in the broadcast unless and until they are involved in a play. So it doesn’t really matter that much – at least not to the level of debate on the matter.

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BOOK REVIEW: “Tomorrow-Land” by Joseph Tirella

Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America
Joseph Tirella
Lyons Press, 2014

Ah, the 1964-65 World’s Fair. The last gasp of 50’s optimism, where good ol’ American Know-How and “can do” spirit would solve all the problems of the world and make the future wonderful. A showcase for America’s industrial might and corporate prowess, as well as a sort of “coming out” party for the new nations of the world that had just achieved independence.

Tirella doesn’t look at the Fair itself. This is not a guidebook. Rather, he uses the Fair as a focal point for all the changes taking place in American culture and society. For the Fair seemed to somehow draw them all into its orbit.

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Watching the World Cup

This past Saturday, I managed to watch the Argentina-Belgium World Cup match. It was on the TV in the restaurant where I was having dinner. A part of me wonders if what I actually saw was an edited highlight replay, since if it was all ninety minutes, then my meal took an unconscionable amount of time to get to me.

Now I could blather on about the Great Mystery of why soccer has never really hit it big here in the U.S. (Hint: Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and even the PGA and NASCAR aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future), but that’s for another essay at another time. Right now, there’s another mystery that baffles the heck out of me.

Stoppage Time.
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Happy Independence Day!

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from Britain for thirteen of the British colonies in North America.

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great  anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.” (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University  Press, 1975, 142.)

Generally, only the first part of this passage is quoted. It’s probably only to poke a little harmless fun at John Adams for dropping the ball on the date. We now celebrate the occasion on the date when the formal resolution was first signed and published.

But the rest is the more significant part. Adams, along with the rest of the delegates, were fully aware that the road ahead would be long and dangerous, and not just personally.

The war would drag on for seven long years, with many close calls. If the Continental Army had not been able to escape after losing the Battle of Long Island the next month… If Benedict Arnold hadn’t been able to build a fleet on Lake Champlain to block the British at Valcour Island that fall… If Washington’s surprise attack on Trenton in December, 1776 had failed… If Arnold hadn’t disobeyed orders at Saratoga… If Washington had been killed while doing recon near Brandywine Creek in 1777… If the “Conway Cabal” had succeeded… If the British had defeated the French Expeditionary Force… If Daniel Morgan’s troops had panicked at Cowpens… If the British had managed to escape at Yorktown… If the Newburgh Conspiracy had succeeded…

It would take even longer, but the thirteen new states would eventually fuse into something greater than the sum of their parts. I think we can all agree with Adams that “the End is more than worth all the Means”, and we have no reason to rue that Days Transaction.