By John Ruberry

Last night Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus since 1967, announced that it is pulling up stakes and shutting down the circus for good.

For a very brief period I was one of its center ring performers. More on that later.

Steeped in history more than any other American entertainment offering, the Greatest Show on Earth can be traced to the 1860s with a circus run by James Anthony Bailey. In 1881 he teamed up with P.T Barnum, a circus latecomer who made his name as an oddity museum and freak show operator, creating Barnum & Bailey Circus. Its first big attraction was Jumbo, purportedly the world’s largest elephant–and an unintended result was the adding of “jumbo” to the English language.

Three years after Barnum & Bailey was founded, the five Ringling brothers, entertainers from Baraboo, Wisconsin, started their circus.

Technology was at first kind to these circuses, trains allowed the shows to travel quickly from city to city, abandoning wagons except for the parades with wild animals that served as priceless publicity for drumming up ticket sales. Trains gave Barnum & Bailey the opportunity to travel outside of its base in the Northeast–and the Ringlings weren’t confined to the Midwest anymore.

The Ringling family purchased Barnum & Bailey in 1907 and the shows were consolidated in 1919.

An elephant helped establish Barnum & Bailey and the combined circus was partly brought down by elephants.

Sometime around 2000 animal rights organizations, notably PETA, began protesting circuses and the Greatest Show on Earth was of course its biggest target. The mud and dung started flying with animal cruelty accusations from these groups, particularly regarding elephants. But Feld Entertainment collected $25,2 million in a settlement from animal rights activist groups over their charges of cruelty to pachyderms.

The battle was over but the war was lost. Two years ago Ringling Brothers announced that its elephants would be retired from the circus in 2018, but that date was moved that up to May of last year, largely because of what Ringling CEO Kenneth Feld called “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” local ordinances.

When he announced the shutdown of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Feld didn’t cite one item but offered, “The competitor in many ways is time.” People, particularly children, are less patient than ever in the age of smartphones, tablets, and YouTube–and the length of its shows has dropped by nearly an hour since Feld Entertainment purchased Ringling Brothers. Technology now worked against the circus.

But Feld’s daughter, Juliette, went in a different direction, stating “We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Brothers was getting to see elephants.” Ticket sales, which have been declining for a decade, dropped noticeably when the shows became elephant-free.

Of course it’s the goal of the animal rights activists to have all circuses to be strictly human affairs. They’ll never deny that. So the camels, alpacas, lions, and tigers that are part of the Ringling menagerie will be retired, likely ending up in reserves.

Mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, 500 Ringling employees will be out of work, and it’s my fear that it will be tough going for them, as circus life tends to be a multi-generational endeavor.

Interviewer: “So, what makes you think you can be a good fit at our big box store?”

Job seeker: “Well, I’ve worked at Ringling Brothers for thirty years and I’ve lived on circus trains all of that time. I was educated at circus schools because my parents worked for Ringling Brothers too.”

Thanks for hanging in there, I’m getting to my center ring moment now.

Twice I attended Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey shows. My dad took my brothers and I to a performance at Chicago’s International Amphitheater in 1967. It was a dazzling experience–and the hall was packed. Nearly forty years later I brought Little Marathon Pundit to the Ringling circus, this time at the Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont. Yes, the show was shorter, there was a motorcycle daredevil act in addition to the animal performers, but there was no big band this time–a rock combo offered music and there were a lot of empty seats. Outside the auditorium there were protesters even though it was snowing.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Back inside, as David Larible, a clown, descended the stairs of the arena I snapped a photo of him with my then-exotic smartphone. He motioned me to follow him, brought me to the center ring, where I, along with a few other lucky attendees, participated in a musical instrument comedy skit, as my daughter heartily laughed. It was one of those unforgettable father-daughter moments.

Yes, I’m a former Ringling performer.

You can argue that Ringling Brothers was dying then–but certainly the animal rights radicals hastened its death. And when this venerable circus is dead–a part of America will have died with it.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The 21st century isn’t turning out so well for millenials.  They are making less than their parents did at their age.  Home ownership, one of the key markers of financial success, is down for their age group.  And, apparently, in general they are unhappier and more narcissistic.  It’s declined to the point you can now see how poorly you compare to other countries (although I can’t vouch for the data).

But hey, we got that going for us!

Why is this?  Most blame the recession.  But plenty of millenials have done well, despite a recession.

Me when I realized this while writing this article

My current job gives me some insight.  I work with junior Sailors on a daily basis, most in their early twenties.  As their commander, I get to interview them and get a peek into their lives.  I also keep copious notes, and as an engineer, I look for trends.

I see one big, ugly trend: most Millenials come from broken homes. 

Almost 85% of my Sailors come from divorced parents.  These are people from across America, from every state in the union.  I was astounded by this.  In many cases, at least one parent (mom or dad) is completely out of the picture.

These broken homes don’t produce broken people.  My Sailors are hard working Americans, and they arrive with a very deep love of their country and wanting to do right.  In many cases though, their broken home hinders them.

How I feel sometimes

I take for granted that my parents cared about my education and well being.  While they didn’t pay for college (thank you Uncle Sam!), they did set me up pretty well, and helped me cover emergencies until I got on my feet.  My parents taught me about debt and savings.  I didn’t have a credit card until I was in college, and even then, I paid it off every month (and still do!).

Many of my Sailors don’t have this.  Too often they go to boot camp with very little in their pocket.  Many arrive with little to no furniture.  Plenty come in with credit card debt.  Luckily, we have free classes on financial management, and most turn themselves around.  For the average person though, these free classes don’t exist.

Broken homes break down other assumptions.  Driver’s license?  How to dress for an interview?  How to speak without using obscenities?  How to shake hands properly?  Speaking in public?  These basic skills can’t be assumed anymore.  Anyone who has worked with millenials would agree.

Although I enjoy watching my Sailors grow and develop these skills, I worry that in other parts of society, these skills are not being developed.  Yes, we should continue to work on our economy, but perhaps we’ve forgotten what a big influence good family life is on success.


Obviously I’m in the Navy.  In case it’s not obvious, this post only represents my views.  It doesn’t represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.  But you’re smart, so you already knew that…

If you enjoyed this, check out my blog, and drop Da Tech Guy some money!

Given the present kerfuffle over Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes anti-Trump philippic, this seems like the perfect time to … discuss an upcoming awards show. Namely, the Grammys. Specifically, a band receiving its first-ever Grammy nomination. Category? Best Rock Album. Band? Weezer.

Given conservatism’s pride taken in ignoring, save for mocking, most all things pop culture, many might be surprised Weezer is nominated for a Grammy. Or that it released an album last year eligible for a Grammy. Or that it still exists, given how it has been a while since anything by the band tore up the charts. It would benefit conservatism greatly if it would be more aware of such things so that it can intelligently engage the disaffected masses who do listen to new music. But that is a topic for another time; back to Weezer.

Weezer’s sophomore album Pinkerton, released in 1996, suffered the dreaded fate of being a critical modest success and commercial pretty much complete flop. Its opening track was doubtless jarring to listeners expecting more of the band’s debut album’s nerdy lyrical bent. Instead, it was a sardonic tongue in cheek humblebrag entitled “Tired of Sex” in which band leader and songwriter Rivers Cuomo lamented regularly – as in nightly – getting laid by different women when all he genuinely wanted was a real relationship. Given how Weezer had introduced itself as the house band for geeky guys who couldn’t score at Mustang Ranch with a wallet stuffed with hundreds, little wonder its fan base had a tough time relating to the tune no matter how unliterally it was presented.

The protagonist in Cuomo’s song is utterly tone deaf to his own farcical whining about how he wants something real while living the dream (that is actually a nightmare) of which so many others desperately dream. Regrettably, we see this same phenomena playing out in real life day after day. Where? Conservative new media.

Conservative new media (CNM for short) should be flying high and feeling really good about itself right now, what with ownership of the White House and both houses of Congress. The NeverTrumpets, their impotent rage over Ivanka’s dad presently filling out change of address forms redirecting all mail from Trump Tower to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue slowly morphing into smoldering butthurt, might disagree on the former. But social media noisemakers have no impact.

Which, actually, is the problem.

CNM talks a great game about being the antidote to CNN even as many of its individual members would cheerfully sacrifice body parts in order to appear on the network. The battle cries of “big tent,” “no litmus tests,” and “engage the culture” still occasionally reverberate through CNM’s echo chamber. But it rings hollow.

Look at the high flyers, the big names, the megatraffic sites. URLs change, but the song remains the same. The same tired faces, the same tired voices offering vapid expository masquerading as analysis, all aimed at keeping the faithful’s ears well tickled. There is no effort for outreach, no genuine attempt at promoting anyone or anything that would bring authentic culture change. Occasionally people bleat that they are trying to do so, yet they immediately wrap themselves inside the same cocoon. CNM has turned itself into Oakland minus the occasional downtown riot. There’s no there there.

Online political discussion can be edifying. It can also be used as an dopamine-drenched reality escape hatch. Who cares about the dishes piling up and the bills doing the same – I’m schooling some fool tool about the latest Supreme Court pick! Because, you know, doing so has so much influence on what’s going on in Washington. Oh, wait …

What is needed is messaging from the heart for the heart, mind, and soul. What is needed is promotion of genuine culture changers such as quality Christian rock artists addressing the world in the light of Christ’s love for all. What is needed is writers who embody the Scriptural admonishment to be in the world but not of it, being all things to all people so that some might be won to Christ. If this involves political discussion, so be it. But do not prohibit culture and Spirit. Christ, soul, rock and roll.

Rivers Cuomo was far more accurate then he likely envisioned when he sang “oh why can’t I be making love come true.” The world has enough politics. The world needs more Jesus. Let’s start talking Him up.

 

Chicago’s Grant Park, where Obama gave his victory speech

By John Ruberry

On the Sunday after the 9/11 attacks, Jeremiah Wright, then Obama’s pastor, bellowed, “God d–n America” and “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” from the pulpit of his Chicago church.

Two nights from now President Barack Obama will give his farewell address in Chicago, his adopted hometown. The Hawaii-born 44th president moved to Chicago a year after graduating from college where he worked, with at best mixed success, as a community organizer on the Far South Side. It’s an area still beset by violence and poverty with no hope of a turnaround thirty years after Obama left that post so he could attend Harvard law school.

Ayers and Dohrn Chicago home

It was in 1996 Chicago where Obama launched his political career. One of his first campaign stops–perhaps his first–was at the home of his friends, unrepentant Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Eight years later another Chicagoan, state Senate President Emil Jones Jr, put Obama’s name on some key bills that bolstered his liberal credentials. Obama scored a surprise win in the Democratic US Senate primary, and after the Republican nominee imploded, he easily won in the general election.

You know the rest of the story.

However, Obama was not a slam-dunk in the 2008 presidential election against John McCain–what we now call the Great Recession sealed the deal–and America elected its first black president.

Chicago is still recovering from the ’08 economic collapse. Of the nation’s 35-largest cities, Chicago has the largest percentage of underwater home mortgages.Two years ago Chicago enacted its largest property tax hike in history, the impetus for it was to pay for underfunded municipal pension funds. What does this have to do with Obama? Chicago hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1931, Obama is the most hyper-partisan president in memory. Along the White House ride for Obama was Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisor and “Berlin Wall,” the former slumlord was a deputy chief of staff for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. It’s Daley, not his successor, former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who bears the responsibility for the Chicago pension debacle. But Chicago’s generous municipal pensions are political payback for public-sector unions, who’ve been an arm of the Democratic Party in all but name for decades.

Obama has always been very cozy government labor unions. 

Two years ago–under Emanuel’s watch–Moody’s downgraded Chicago’s bonds, and those of Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District to junk. Other rating services haven’t followed suit yet, but they absolutely don’t view Chicago favorably.

Chicago’s population is at it lowest level in 100 years.

Chicagoans pay the nation’s highest sales tax rate.

Chickens.

Last year at least 762 people were murdered in Chicago–an appalling 57 percent increase over the year before. Chicago suffered more killings than New York City and Los Angeles–combined. One of the reasons cited for the soaring murder rate was Rahm Emanuel’s inept handling of the shooting of unarmed black teen Laquan McDonald–with sixteen bullets–by a white cop, all of which has compelled Chicago Police officers to use less aggressive law enforcement tactics. Chicago is a hotbed for Black Lives Matter activists. The outgoing president has been supportive of this radical group, which deems racist the statement All Lives Matter.

Near where the Facebook attack occurred

That leads to last week’s racist atrocity in Chicago, the torturing of a white special needs man–thirty minutes of which was streamed live on Facebook–by four blacks in the East Garfield Park neighborhood on the West Side. The victim was bound, gagged, beaten, slashed, forced to drink toilet water, and coerced to say “F–k Donald Trump” and “F–k white people.”

Two months earlier in another West Side neighborhood a white man was pulled from his car and brutally beaten by four blacks. That attack was captured on video, the assailants screamed, “You voted Trump” and “Beat his a–.” While the victim was indeed a Trump voter–yes, there are a few in Illinois besides me–he told authorities that there was no way the thugs could have known that. There was no Trump bumper sticker on his car–he was white and that was enough provocation for these creeps.

Obama’s chickens–and those of Chicago Democrats–have come home to roost.

Our collectivist president has practiced identity politics for his entire adult life. which for the most part means race politics. Us versus them. And as a collectivist Obama has appointed himself as the savior to put the pieces back together.

Chicago’s Northwest Side

But breaking things is much easier than putting them back together.

Some final thoughts.

As a public service I am recommending that if you are planning to attend Chicago’s McCormick Place address, please use public transportation. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit 45 of our 50 states. With the exception of Detroit, the worst-maintained streets and roads I’ve encountered are in Chicago. And while you’re driving around potholes and crevices, please beware of Chicago’s ubiquitous red light and speeding cameras. An astounding 1.9 million traffic camera tickets were issued between 2010 and 2015. Chicago has 2.7 million or so residents. Most of those tickets were written while Emanuel was mayor.

The former administrator of Chicago’s traffic camera program is serving a ten-year prison sentence for accepting bribes.

Someone needs to come up with a misery index for big cities like Chicago, which should include such items as corruption, low high school graduation rates, unfunded pension obligations, red light cameras, crumbling infrastructure, population loss, taxes, and yes of course, crime.

John “Lee” Ruberry

Perhaps Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s amiable pal who is an economics professor at the University of Chicago, can absolve himself of leftism and get to work on this much-needed project.

Thank God I left Chicago for the suburbs nearly two decades ago.

And Obama, at least for now, won’t live in Chicago after he moves out of White House next week. He’ll probably only return to visit his presidential library.

John Ruberry is a fifth-generation Chicago area resident who writes the Marathon Pundit blog. The Chicago Convention and Tourism Board had no input in composing this blog entry.

By John Ruberry

“So listen, there’s still a little bit of it to go,” the host of NPR’s witty Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, Peter Sagal said as he opened his New Year’s Eve show, “but all the pundits and the pollsters have already called it: 2016 will go down as the worst year ever.” Which led moderator Bill Kurtis, the longtime journalist and Chicago news anchor to reply, “Sure, 1346 had the plague, but at least Black Death was a cool name.”

I’m here to explain, at least for me and people who visit Da Tech Guy and my own blog, Marathon Pundit, that 2016 was a darn good year, and absolutely a better one than 1346.

Defying the “pundits and pollsters,” but perhaps not the same ones Sagal was talking about yesterday, Donald J. Trump was elected president–he’ll be sworn into office in nineteen days. Although not as historic as being the first African-American elected to America’s highest office, Trump will be the first president who was not a prior public office holder or a general. That’s yuge.

Like Bob Dylan in 1964 keeping his love for the Beatles to himself and not, initially, telling his folk-music pals, I secretly hopped on the Trump Train in the autumn of 2015, but I was a vocal passenger well before the Iowa Caucuses. Like Sean Hannity, I saw Trump’s, yes, historic candidacy as the last chance to save America from collectivism and socialism, mediocrity, malaise, globalism, cronyism; and in what would have sealed the unpleasant deal, a runaway leftist Supreme Court. I am not an aberration, there are tens-of-millions of Americans who look at the rise of Trump in a similar manner.

A Hillary Clinton victory could have possibly hobbled America as much as the 19th century Opium Wars did to China. A large and populous nation does not necessarily mean that it will be a prosperous and powerful one, as India and Indonesia show us. And Russia is not prosperous.

I look at Trump’s win as the best news of the decade. But even as blogs and new media continue to prosper–my blog’s readership soared last year–the old guard media, which is dominated by leftists, for the most part despises Trump. Their bad news needs to be your bad news.

My daughter at the old
M*A*S*H set

The old year of course will forever be remembered as the year of so many celebrity deaths, which included Leonard Nimoy, B.B. King, Ben E. King, Dick Van Patten, Omar Sharif, Yogi Berra, and in one last cruel harvest by the Grim Reaper, a beloved actor from the television show MASH, Wayne Rogers, passed away on New Year’s Eve.

Wait…wait…don’t tell me! Yes, those are deaths from 2015. Celebrities die every year. Trust me, they really do.

Okay, second verse almost as same as the first: In 2016 the celebrity departures included David Bowie, Prince, Florence Henderson, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and in one last cruel harvest by the Grim Reaper, a beloved actor from the television show MASH, William Christopher, passed away on New Year’s Eve.

[Editorial note: The WordPress blogging platform does not like words with asterisks within them.]

Admittedly, some of these celebs are a bit different from the Class of 2015. Although enigmatic, Bowie, Prince and Michael meticulously cultivated their public images, they became familiar presences on MTV; so people, even if they weren’t fans, believed they “knew” these performers, and their 1980s videos enjoy eternal life on VH1 and on YouTube.

Fisher played Princess Leia in Star Wars, which was arguably the most influential movie, both artistically and in the business-sense, since The Jazz Singer. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, then you probably haven’t seen many films. Florence Henderson’s TV show, The Brady Bunch, was not a first-run success, but it achieved legendary status on the re-run circuit. Like Bowie’s “Modern Love” video on MTV, sometimes you need to watch something every day instead of once-a-week for it to be properly digested.

Oh, I mentioned earlier that Dick Van Patten of Eight Is Enough died in 2015. And few cared because I’m pretty sure you have to buy DVDs of his show to watch it.

As members of the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation pass on, there are proportionately more self-absorbed people remaining, those of course being the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Snowflake Generation, many of whom view every event, whether it is a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, an election, and of course, a celebrity death, as being about themselves. When Ish Kabibble, a kind of proto-Jerry Lewis, died in 1994, my parents didn’t take it as a personal loss.

John “Lee” Ruberry of
the Magnificent Seven

Here is some more good news from 2016: Third quarter growth in the United States was a robust 3.5 percent, perhaps because the end of the Obama era was in sight. And since Trump’s win, the stock market has been soaring, clearly many people, smart ones, are confident that 2017 will be a year of strong economic growth.

Now if we can only convince the self-absorbed ones to stop thinking about themselves so much, then 2017 will certainly be a great year.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

This is the 2nd of three guest posts I did for Ladd Ehlinger’s site back in late 2011.  I’m reprinting them here (With Ladd’s permission) because I think the election of Donald Trump is a significant event in the culture wars and these posts (and the follow ups that I intend to write) serve to explain what happened to our friends on the left who are still pulling out their hair over the events of November.  While Ladd’s old blog isn’t there you can find the original piece via the wayback machine.

One of the things about the passage of time is that it changes perspective.

In the 50’s the producers of the British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood used Ring Lardner Jr., unwelcome in the US for TV capposter1work due to his communist connections (which he stated as late as 1987 he did not regret) under an assumed name to write episodes that he gleefully described as attacks on Capitalism. When viewed today, however, these stories that supposedly celebrated collectivism instead come across as a love letter to the Catholic Church and a bastion against tyranny. A message that modern liberals, normally happy to view Lardner’s work, do not appreciate.

This dynamic comes to mind when examining the 1937 pictureCaptains Courageous starring Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew and Lionel Barrymore.

Let’s look at the IMDB summary of the plot:

Harvey Cheyne is a spoiled brat used to having his own way. When a prank goes wrong on board an ocean liner Harvey ends up overboard and nearly drowns. Fortunately he’s picked up by a fishing boat just heading out for the season. He tries to bribe the crew into returning early to collect a reward but none of them believe him. Stranded on the boat he must adapt to the ways of the fishermen and learn more about the real world.

It sounds like a liberal wet dream: A rich kid, one of the 1%, throwing his weight around and oppressing his schoolmates, made to see how the other half lives and taken off his high horse. Give that summary to a liberal film teacher who hasn’t seen it and they will book a showing in their classroom faster than you can say “racist tea party”.

Alas poor liberals, it turns out the movie is chock full of conservative themes and highlights modern liberal foibles.

You would think the early scenes showing poor little rich kid Harvey (Freddie Bartholomew) throwing his weight around in school, at the school paper and playing on other student’s fears of joblessness to be full of promise for our instructor, but unfortunately Harvey seems to resemble a Harvard yard occupod, a member of the elite, a child who has never been disciplined or told “no”. That resemblance hits too close to home for our socialist instructor, the vision of too many campus protesters come to mind.

It takes a plan gone wrong for his widower father (Melvyn Douglas) to bluntly inform Harvey that his sobbing act will no longer work. Determined to get more involved in his son’s life, he includes him on a trip to Europe by steamship where, as he hides over horseplay, he promptly falls overboard. If he had drowned our instructor could have talked about the bad karma of wealth but instead Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracy) a fisherman from the Schooner We’re Here, out of Gloucester Massachusetts, fishes him out of the water and takes him aboard the ship and the Movie shifts.

Once again our instructor has hope, our rich kid is among the common men, the 99%.

At first the Captain (Lionel Barrymore) is willing to let Harvey’s attitude go and offers to make him part of the crew beside his son Dan (Mickey Rooney). He refuses to work, he starts ranting about sending the entire crew to jail unless they take him to New York, disrupting the ship.

Remind you of any group of people protesting in the streets lately? Remind you of an entire generation of children who will have what they want when they want it from their $600 iPhones to the latest video games? Our film instructor is torn seeing a mirror and not liking the reflection, and that’s where one of the pivotal moments in the film takes place.

Captain Troop, with the good of the ship and the livelihood of the entire crew to worry about, notes he can’t risk months of fishing on a boy’s yarn. When Harvey still rants Troop finally concludes: “I guess there’s nothing left for it.” He rears back and gives Harvey a slap that knocks him flat. Harvey for perhaps for the first time in his life doesn’t know what to say:

You HIT me!

“Now you just sit there and think about it.”

It is here, with the establishment of discipline, that the movie begins to shift. Harvey gets out of the way a bit but still refuses to work. The crew believes that Harvey is a “Jonah” because he is a passenger and not a crew member insisting Manuel do something about it as he fished him out. Manuel reluctantly takes him under his wing and slowly through trial and error begins teaching him the realities of life.

Harvey, now given direction and discipline for the first time in his life, slowly warms to Manuel as a father figure and mentor and Manuel, still missing his father, warms to him. The situation comes to a head as Manuel and Long Jack (John Carradine) get into an argument over hand lines vs. a trowel. Manuel wagers his new razor vs half a buck that that he and Harvey can out-catch LongJack and his partner Nate. When Harvey manages to catch a halibut Manuel is proud like a father, but Harvey apparently Harvey hasn’t shaken his old scheming habits.

Disappointed, Manuel brings Harvey back to the ship and finishes the day fishing alone. Easily losing his bet, he brings his razor in payment to Longjack who stayed out fishing despite injuries, and hooks in his skin from his tangled trowel. He insists someone had fouled his lines. Manuel tries to laugh it off but as Longjack gets angrier Harvey steps in, admitting what he’s done not just to Longjack and the crew. When Jack prepares to go after him Manuel is ready to throw down.

From this point he begins to earn the crew’s respect and begins to learn the ways of a fisherman. We see the boats at the final fishing area rushing to fill their holds and sail for home. Troop seemingly fills his hold first, but his arch rival Walt Cushman as we have seen a few times before, has stolen a march on him and the race for port is on. Both ships cram on all possible sail, and after a game of chicken it looks like Troop has the race won, when tragedy strikes.

Spencer Tracy death scene

Here again, we see a different set of values.

Manuel doesn’t rage against fate, he doesn’t blame Troop or the race, telling his captain that he’ll beat Walt Cushman next year. He simply accepts his fate, says goodbye to Harvey, declares that he’s going to see his father, and then drowns.

Here is a person, comfortable, well off, pampered and well educated, a person told all his life how special he is and given what he wants when he wants it. As if that isn’t enough he has just managed one of the most miraculous feats of luck that one can achieve, being rescued after falling overboard on an ocean liner in the dark in the middle of the ocean without even a life jacket. What is his response to his good fortune? Anger, indignation and demands, after all… he’s entitled.

The end is almost anti-climatic; the ship gets home, and Harvey’s father is informed by wire that he’s alive. He flies back from Europe to find a son changed and matured from hard work and discipline. After a memorial service to the sailors who did not survive the fishing season they head home.

Pity our poor liberal film teacher who can take no pleasure in this picture.

Not from the spectacular visuals of the ships and sailing nor of the performances from a fine cast such including Lionel Barrymore in one of his last roles on two legs, child Star Freddie Bartholomew, who managed a normal life when all was said and done, A young Mickey Rooney, already with ten years under his belt in film and the only actor in history to appear in movies made in 10 different decades, John Carradine, one of the most prolific actors of all time, and of course, Spencer Tracy, in the role that would earn him the first of back-to-back Academy Awards.

Even with all of this history, our instructor is stuck with a picture advancing conservative values, hard work and personal responsibility. Our instructor isn’t even able to take solace in the bringing down of a rich kid, since the catalyst of this entire process is an act that would shock the modern sensibilities of the instructor, who would have had the captain brought up on charges in an instant. In fact, the very concept of a pre- teen like Harvey doing such menial work has been a line of attack on a presidential candidate who dared suggest that those who don’t have the model of a work ethic needed such an example.

Perhaps with a different election cycle it will be less painful, but the illustration and the parallels showing that our friends on the left just are no longer connected with the common man.

That’s why in universities both history and classic film are things the left will want to keep on the shelf.

A former student of mine decided he needed to send a thank you letter to a man who fired him.

The purpose was to tell the supervisor that the dismissal was an important experience that made him reflect on what he was doing wrong and how he could improve himself.

I decided to eliminate the names of the individuals and the company for privacy reasons, but my former student gave me permission to use the letter.

“It has been more than 12 months since my final day at [the company]. In the time in-between I realized I needed to contact you. I needed to contact you to thank you. By firing me, you gave me the most effective coaching lesson I ever received during my five-year tenure with the company: In order to be a successful leader, I needed to improve my work-life balance so I could be a better son, brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, friend, neighbor, community leader, volunteer and employee.

“My recovery from losing my job took longer than I wanted. But eventually I discovered running, and I lost more than 30 pounds from mid-September to late November. Next, I began to exercise my mind. I researched and thought long and hard about delegation, prioritization, boundary-setting and multi-tiered goal setting. I revised my resume and practiced job interviewing skills.

“The memory of what happened to me over a year ago still haunts me today. When I recall that day, however, I will always think positively about your closing words, ‘It’s time to start caring about yourself more.’ That sentiment provided me with a glimmer of light as I began my year-long journey inside the dark tunnel that my life subsequently became.

“I respect your ability to lead. Within the short amount of time that I was able to interact with you, I learned a few valuable lessons. When you gave me your personal phone number, I should’ve kept it in a safe place. Instead, I lost it. And it is truly a shame because a year later, I realized that you were reaching out to me then.

“Today a new job awaits me, and I have entertained serious thoughts of returning to college to obtain my Journalism degree and also to pursue a degree in Education. My confidence has soared in the past few weeks, and I feel like anything is possible. The lows, however, still remain. The juxtaposition of the extreme high of obtaining a new job has contrasted with the extreme low of how my tenure at the company ended. This internal conflict has presented me with a tough mental challenge I’ve had to face daily.

“Am I confident that I can deal with these up-and-down feelings? Yes, I am.

“Again, I want to thank you for setting a plan in motion that helped me to discover who I truly am.”

The letter underscores the need to reflect on failure—not to dwell on it. But the evaluation of failures–as well as successes–is a worthwhile resolution for the New Year. It’s an analysis that helped my former student and may help all of us. Happy New Year!


Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist who teaches media law.

A few weeks ago we reprinted the first of what will be three pieces on movies and the culture wars on the picture Gunga Din. When getting permission to reprint these pieces I stated that with the election of Trump the cultural significance of these pieces and these movies had increased. Why? Consider this passage from my Gunga Din piece:

Through the entire picture manly virtue is celebrated: It’s celebrated when the survivors of the first battle, after an arduous trek bearing their wounded, form to march into the camp parade in good order. It’s celebrated as Din, with Cutter’s support, dreams of being a soldier instead of a water bearer. It’s celebrated when Cutter allows himself to be taken so Din can give warning. Ballantine refuses to leave his friend in the lurch even for the woman he loves. Cutter and MacChesney endure torture, Din gives his life to warn the regiment, and even the villain of the piece sacrifices himself in the hope of victory for his cause.

These manly values are not only conservative values, but are instinctive human values that since 9/11 the left has been unable to suppress.

The idea of work is a manly virtue, a virtue of labor, sometimes hard and oftimes monotonous but allowing you to support yourself and your family. And while such labor can seem oppressive, particularly to one who has never done it, it confers dignity and independence. It says that come hell or high water my wife and my children will be fed and sheltered and it will be done by my own hand.

But it’s even more than that, it’s also conveys an optimism that given time and effort one’s hard work will be rewarded, either by one’s own success or the success that the work allows one’s family to achieve.

This is the rust belt virtue that the industries so despised by the left has rejected.

And that brings us to Donald Trump.

Trump is a person embraces the manly art of doing, not just as a person who works hard, in the value of labor, but the OPTIMISM of doing the idea that working hard brings rewards!

And part of that hard work is to stand up for yourself, and when Trump bluntly defends American labor, American products, American jobs, even when these things carry a risk, he is illustrating the manly virtue of courage, the willingness to accept risk to achieve a right end.

That virtue is one that our friends on the left are horrified of, and one that comes hard to the cultural elites such as André Leon Talley:

It sounds as though he wanted to play a part in the fashion and design side of the new presidency, but he couldn’t bear the risk.

As we sit in the hotel lobby, he muses: “I’m not a big person in the world. I’m maybe a big figure in the fashion world. I mean, sort of iconic. But I don’t want to get phone calls in the middle of the night, telling me I’ve gone over to Trumpland and I’m going to Darth Vader because I said nice things about Melania…..”

He’s afraid of bullies.

Those bullies of the left can’t intimidate the rust belt worker who has the courage to defy convention and to say to those who would shun him over said virtue and support for Trump.  “Who cares?”

He’s not afraid of the bullies of the left, and that’s why the bullies of the left hate them and Trump so.

Closing thought.  It’s fitting that this piece leads on December 26th because it is the feast of St. Stephen, the very first Christian Martyr who even as the mob screamed for his death had both the manly virtue to stand for the truth as he knew it, and derivative of that virtue the willingness to forgive.


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From Trump’s Twitter feed

By John Ruberry

For as long as I can remember the words “Merry Christmas” have been pushed away from public life, in the both the political and business world. I get it. No one wants to offend people who aren’t Christian, or those few Christians, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who shun Christmas.

However, 83 percent of Americans are Christian, and for many of them Christmas is their favorite time of the year. And I know some secular progressives who set up Christmas trees in their home.

When  President-elect Donald Trump on the later stops of his ‘thank you’ tour replaced his ‘USA’ lectern logo with a ‘Merry Christmas’ one, it got my attention.

And Trump’s Christmas spirit didn’t end there

“We’re gonna start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” Trump said at a Michigan ‘thank you’ rally. “How about all those department stores, they have the bells and they have the red walls and they have the snow, but they don’t have ‘Merry Christmas. I think they’re gonna start putting up ‘Merry Christmas.'”

About ten years ago the ‘War on Christmas’ compelled Christians who wished to say ‘Merry Christmas’ at their workplace to bite their tongues, including those working extended Christmas shifts at retail stores to accommodate Christmas shoppers. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, one of the defenders in the ‘War on Christmas,’ declares the conflict all but over, as increasingly more retail outlets use the word ‘Christmas” in their holiday advertisements. On Christmas Eve I was greeted with a hearty “Merry Christmas” when I walked into the local Walmart–and when I left.

Meanwhile, the outgoing president’s final Christmas card, oops, I mean holiday card, oh wait, make that a seasonal card, features the first family and a sprig of holly. Nothing else.

I’ll be shocked if Donald Trump’s first presidential Christmas card isn’t much different, even though his oldest daughter is a convert to Judaism.

Howard Kurtz ended today’s always excellent Fox News’ Media Watch program with “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.” Yes, like a rare planetary alignment, Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah share the came spot on the calendar.

And from me to you, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

A couple of weeks back I completed my latest television binge-watching quest, in this case it was the neo-western Longmire.

Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is the Rainier Beer-drinking, unshaved sheriff in the fictional county of Absaroka in Wyoming. He’s a widower putting his life and career back together after the recent death of his wife. It’s easy to imagine Gary Cooper paying this role. His deputies are the loyal Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), Jim “the Ferg” Ferguson (Adam Bartley), and not-so-loyal Branch Connally (Bailey Chase), who runs against Longmire for sheriff.

The series is based on the Walt Longmire mystery books by Craig Johnson.

Originally an A&E show, the network, despite high ratings for the show, cancelled it after the third season. Netflix picked it up, airing the next two editions. It has been renewed for a sixth and final season. The books are set in Buffalo, which is coincidentally in Johnson County, Wyoming. In the show Durant is the county seat of Absaroka. So assuming that Johnson is Absaroka, that would give Longmire’s county 8,500 residents. And since, especially in the first four seasons, there is a murder in almost every episode, that could give this rural county a homicide rate higher than that of Chicago, perhaps, yes, even higher than the small Maine town where the television series Murder, She Wrote, was set. Recurring Longmire character Louis Herthum, has experience with this scenario, as he played a cop in Murder She, Wrote.

Also in Absaroka is a Cheyenne Indian reservation, which isn’t in Walt’s jurisdiction. But just as Captain Kirk was never supposed to violate the Prime Directive in Star Trek, circumstances often force Longmire to pursue police work on “the rez,” which for the most part annoys Mathias (Zahn McClarnon), a Bureau of Indian Affairs police chief. His predecessor, Malachi Strand (Graham Greene), was jailed after Longmire busted him for extortion.

By the third season the murder-a-week package is less relied upon as the events surrounding the death of Longmire’s wife, the release of Strand from prison, the building of a Cheyenne casino, and development projects in Absaroka driven by Deputy Connally’s father, Barlow (Gerald McRaney), collide with Walt and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), the owner a local bar and restaurant. A Native American Longmire regularly tangles with is casino operator Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez). Also captured in this web is Longmire’s daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman), an attorney who is more like her father than either character realizes, as she also discovers that doing the right thing is often an insurmountable challenge in an flawed world.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the
Magnificent Seven

I thoroughly enjoy Longmire and I’m eagerly awaiting season six, as season five concluded with things in a very complicated state. As a western, the cinematography is of course superb, although the show is filmed in New Mexico, not Wyoming. Starting of course with the lead character, the acting is superb, and the story lines generally contain much depth. Although I am curious why Phillips’ Standing Bear character, like those in True Grit, particularly in the Coen Brothers remake, never uses contractions in his speech.

If you prefer westerns that aren’t “neo,” I still recommend that you give Longmire a look. Just imagine cowboy Walt riding a horse instead of driving a Ford Bronco, and replace moonshine with narcotics. And after all of these years there is still conflict between whites and Indians. And vigilantism is also a welcome plot development in any western.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.