Tuesday, February 08, 2011

One of the great political fixtures here in New England, and in particular here in New Hampshire, is Town Meeting.  Sandown's Old Meeting House is typical, although Town Meeting might be held in one of the local churches, at town hall if it had a chamber big enough, or at a local school.  A lot of the feistiness and independence of the classic New Englander can be traced back to the Town Meeting tradition, the forum to which everyone who wishes entry is welcomed to help hash out issues and initiatives of importance to the local community.

Along with open meeting our town, and I presume many others, has a newspaper that reserves a great deal of space for letters from the public on any subject and any viewpoint.  I was particularly impressed with this one:
"There have been several letters to the editor recently regarding the separation of church and state.  Many Christians feel separation of church and state is not part of the constitution, because it is not worded as such in the first amendment.  Thou shalt not murder is not in the constitution either, but is very much part of our law.

"During the Supreme Court case “Everson” in 1947, Justice Hugo Black defined what the establishment clause means in a very definitive manner.  Virtually every court case involving separation since 1947 has relied heavily on his words.

"The clause also allows atheism to be part of our culture.  Trinity College has done a survey of religious affiliation in 1990, 2001, and 2008.  In 2008. The percentage of Christians was 76%, down from 86% in 1990.  The only group that grew in every state was “no” religion.  Atheists average 15% in the U.S., with Vermont at the highest rate of 34%.  New Hampshire is 29% non-religious.  Atheists tend to be intelligent, educated, don’t go to church, don’t try to convert everyone, and have respect for other religions until they try to control our lives.  More atheists should come out of the closet."


Allen Ginsburg, not the beat poet but a contemporary blogger, made this observation that I feel beautifully captures the reality of present day America, not the pure white, purely Christian fantasy that the Republican Party is trying to con the nation into believing is what the country is -- or should revert to being in their very limited vision of what the United States used to be:

“This is America, where a white Catholic male Republican judge was murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon, all eulogized by our African American President.”


I learn much by reading other blogs.  Joe Jervis at Joe.My.God reported the other day that Sarah Palin is applying to trademark her name and her daughter Bristol's name.  He wondered aloud (ie. in print) if her name will now appear in print media as Sarah Palin™.  We might read that Sarah Palin™ is speaking at a Tea Party Convention, or that Sarah Palin™ told Glenn Beck that all children over the age of six should be required to carry an automatic weapon to school in their lunch boxes.  
The concept of a person becoming a brand name raises some interesting questions, many of them involved with marketing.  Given the fact that getting elected these days has ceased to be about the candidate's intelligence or competence and is much more involved with issues like the number of guns owned (as in the recent screening of candidates for the position of chairman of the National Republican Committee) or complete ignorance of American History (as in Michele Bachmann's recent, appalling public performance) marketing candidates like junk food has a certain grim appropriateness. 


Sad news from Los Angeles about the famous Watts Towers of Simon Rodia.  The amazing openwork constructions of concrete with inset mosaic surfaces are deteriorating from neglect.  While not immediately endangered, they've suffered enough damage to be vulnerable in a seismically active area like southern California.   The neighborhood in which they stand is still shunned by many potential visitors because of the the violent Watts Riots of 1965.  

European tourists to LA frequently list the Towers very high on, or at the top of, their list of must-sees, but Americans largely stay away.  The Towers have become culturally isolated from their own country, as well as from potential contributions to support their maintenance.  

The approximately hundred foot high towers have been compared in style to the spires of the still-unfinished cathedral La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona.  In continuous construction from 1921 to 1954, and designated a national landmark in 1990, they consist of 17 discreet structures, all interconnected, made of metal pipe, wrapped in baling wire and then coated with cement into which was pressed found objects including bottle caps and tons of smashed glass and ceramic of every kind.  The artist-architect was Italian-American Sabato (aka Simon or Sam) Rodia, 1875-1965 -- although different sources give different dates of birth.  

The triangular lot on which the complex stands is a California State Park but responsibility and funding for the towers' upkeep is now a matter of contention among different organizations, leaving the remarkable structures in a state of uncertainty.      

I have never heard of these towers, which supports the theory how they are not in our national thoughts

If Mrs. Palin becomes a trademark name, is this one more nail in the coffin of 'not running"? If so, please give her the TM.
I must say the picture of the town hall caught my eye, so New England.

I too have never heard of the towers.
The state of the Watts Towers turns my mind toward the multitude of art pieces and installations made of 'non-traditional' materials. (And I'm not talking about pieces made of corrugated cardboard, chopsticks, and feathers, which collectors will pay good money for -- the mind reels.) What would the conservation of the Towers require? Their 'official website' doesn't really have any reference to your blog information about their state of preservation. As to Sarah Palin trademarking her name, the funny part -- well ONE of them -- about this is that you know she didn't come up with the idea herself. That would have required a modicum of critical thinking, which we know she is not capable of.
Hi, Dave--
My attention was caught by a news paper article -- can't remember which paper, but I Googled Watts Towers Deterioration and found this, which is pretty specific. It also points up the fact that the problem has been going on for a long time:

From the Los Angeles Times:

Hope for ailing Watts Towers

October 23, 2003
Your intelligently researched Watts Towers article by Diane Haithman ("Officials Take a Close Look at Watts Towers," Oct. 16) told the public that the California Department of Parks and Recreation (towers owner) has brought the city of L.A. (towers lessee for 50 years) to task with specified requirements that can, if performed correctly, reverse the city's decade of refusal to fund the towers' maintenance and repairs.
We send our gratitude to the state officials who listened to our three-year guardianship advocacy for improved towers welfare: Dr. Knox Mellon, chief of the State Office of Historic Preservation; Steade Craigo, state preservation architect; and new chief of California State Parks Southern Division in Los Angeles, Ted Jackson.

We send our thanks also to their two evaluators who studied the towers' condition and to city management for a report which made the state's requirements possible. We thank, too, the source of funds which powered the work. (No one but our determined volunteer engineer, N.J. Bud Goldstone, works on the Towers for no pay.)

If the city completes the state requirements correctly, it will turn around the city's neglect that has produced the active deterioration now in progress. Shards fall from the spires daily, and the invasive, intrusive, huge city amphitheater radiates crack-producing solar heat into the north side of Rodia's masterwork.

Jeanne S. Morgan
Santa Barbara
Jeanne S. Morgan has been chairwoman for the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts/Guardians since 1958.
Thanks for this information here, and the copy on my blog! I follow your blog, but little evidence of that by way of comments -- by no means lack of interest, just lack of focus. A trifle scattered is the very nicest way to put it;-)
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