9.10.2022 – Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth
Michigan fan true colors
amazing maize and blue

Queen Elizabeth II was a Michigan fan.

I have that on the authority of my Dad.

Back back back to the days of the Glorious Bicentennial of the United States of America, the powers that be decided that it would be great if the President of the United States hosted a State Dinner (White tie no less) to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd, 1776.

(It WAS July 2nd – you can ask John Adams.)

It was also decided that the principle guest would be none other than the Queen of England, the Great-Great-Great Grand daughter of George III, the feller to whom, the Declaration of Independence was addressed.

BTW the Queen, in her remarks at the dinner did say, “After all, nobody can say that what happened on the 4th of July, 1776, wasn’t very much a bilateral affair between us.”

The dinner was held on July 7, 1976 and you can read all about here. (Notice that the official instructions for the President remind him to pause at the foot of the steps at 8:12pm)

By chance and by the workings of the Constitution, when Queen Elizabeth got out of the car that brought her and her husband to the White House for that State Dinner, none other than those wonderful Grand Rapidians, Jerry Ford, graduate of Grand Rapids South High School and his wife, Betty Ford, graduate of Grand Rapids Central High School were there to greet them.

PBS TV made arrangements to broadcast the dinner on live TV and it was one of the few Bicentennial specials that most of my family watched together.

PBS assembled an all-star cast to deliver commentary that included Julie Child who was concerned that due to the Washington July heat and the fact that they were eating outside in a big tent, many of the dishes might melt on the plate … but would still taste good.

We were watching as PBS showed the Ford’s come out of the diplomatic entrance on the South Side of the White House.

We were watching as the Queen’s limo pulled up.

We were watching as the Queen got out and stood with the Ford’s.

The Queen was wearing a bright yellow gown with a navy over-the-shoulder sash.

“Hey”, my Dad said, “Maize and blue! The Queen must be a Michigan Fan!”

President Ford was a graduate of the University of Michigan.

President Ford had also played football for the University of Michigan.

My Grand Father was a graduate of the University of Michigan.

My Father was a graduate of the University of Michigan.

At the time, it was 8 years before I could say I was a graduate of UofM.

I am still not sure how I managed to graduate but my roommates told me, Michigan has taken steps so it won’t happen again.

My Dad laughed and looked at me and said, “Or do you think the British advance team did their research and picked out the colors?”

I looked at my Dad and shrugged.

My Dad turned back to the TV and said, “Well, I think she is a Michigan fan.”

Who can argue?

9.9.2022 – declare before you

declare before you
that my whole life long or short
devoted to service

On her twenty-first birthday, 21 April 1947, Princess Elizabeth was with her parents and younger sister on a tour of South Africa. In a speech broadcast on the radio from Cape Town, the Princess dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth.

portrait by Annie Leibovitz

I was struck by much of the this simple speech.

A speech written and made with no idea, I am sure that anyone was thinking of another 73 years of service yet to come.

There are some really good lines here.

When she said at age 21, “I am sure that you will see our difficulties, in the light that I see them, as the great opportunity for you and me,” I want to say if you only knew.

Here is the full text:

On my twenty-first birthday I welcome the opportunity to speak to all the peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire, wherever they live, whatever race they come from, and whatever language they speak.

Let me begin by saying ‘thank you’ to all the thousands of kind people who have sent me messages of good will. This is a happy day for me; but it is also one that brings serious thoughts, thoughts of life looming ahead with all its challenges and with all its opportunity.

At such a time it is a great help to know that there are multitudes of friends all round the world who are thinking of me and who wish me well. I am grateful and I am deeply moved.

As I speak to you today from Cape Town I am six thousand miles from the country where I was born. But I am certainly not six thousand miles from home. Everywhere I have travelled in these lovely lands of South Africa and Rhodesia my parents, my sister and I have been taken to the heart of their people and made to feel that we are just as much at home here as if we had lived among them all our lives.

That is the great privilege belonging to our place in the world-wide commonwealth – that there are homes ready to welcome us in every continent of the earth. Before I am much older I hope I shall come to know many of them.

Although there is none of my father’s subjects from the oldest to the youngest whom I do not wish to greet, I am thinking especially today of all the young men and women who were born about the same time as myself and have grown up like me in terrible and glorious years of the second world war.

Will you, the youth of the British family of nations, let me speak on my birthday as your representative? Now that we are coming to manhood and womanhood it is surely a great joy to us all to think that we shall be able to take some of the burden off the shoulders of our elders who have fought and worked and suffered to protect our childhood.

We must not be daunted by the anxieties and hardships that the war has left behind for every nation of our commonwealth. We know that these things are the price we cheerfully undertook to pay for the high honour of standing alone, seven years ago, in defence of the liberty of the world. Let us say with Rupert Brooke: “Now God be thanked who has matched us with this hour”.

I am sure that you will see our difficulties, in the light that I see them, as the great opportunity for you and me. Most of you have read in the history books the proud saying of William Pitt that England had saved herself by her exertions and would save Europe by her example. But in our time we may say that the British Empire has saved the world first, and has now to save itself after the battle is won.

I think that is an even finer thing than was done in the days of Pitt; and it is for us, who have grown up in these years of danger and glory, to see that it is accomplished in the long years of peace that we all hope stretch ahead.

If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing – more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world – than it has been in the greatest days of our forefathers.

To accomplish that we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors – a noble motto, “I serve”. Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the Throne when they made their knightly dedication as they came to manhood. I cannot do quite as they did.

But through the inventions of science I can do what was not possible for any of them. I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple.

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.

What can anyone say but the quote the Queen when she quoted Rupert Brooke (an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War), saying, “Now God be thanked who has matched us with this hour”

Now God be thanked who has matched this lady with this hour.

As Big Bill might have said …

I saw her once;

she was a goodly queen.

She was a woman, take her for all in all,

We shall not look upon her like again.

9.8.2022 – because girl like me

because girl like me
never supposed to be there
place for everyone

Adapted from the remarks made by Former First Lady Michelle Obama at the unveiling of Official Obama White House Portraits on September 7, 2022.

In part, Ms. Obama said:

Oh, believe it or not, it is still a bit odd for me to stand in this historic space, see this big, beautiful painting staring back at me. Growing up on Euclid Avenue, Mommy, I never could have imagined that any of this would be part of my story.

But even if it’s all still a bit awkward for me, I do recognize why moments like these are important, why all of this is absolutely necessary. Traditions like this matter not just for those of us who hold these positions, but for everyone participating in and watching our democracy.

You see, the people — they make their voices heard with their vote. We hold an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Those of us lucky enough to serve work, as Barack said, as hard as we can for as long as we can, as long as the people choose to keep us here. And once our time is up, we move on.

And all that remains in this hallowed place are our good efforts and these portraits — portraits that connect our history to the present day, portraits that hang here as history continues to be made.

So, for me, this day is not just about what has happened. It’s also about what could happen.

Because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kenne- — Kennedy and Dolley Madison. She was never supposed to live in this house, and she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as First Lady.

But I’ve always wondered: Where does that “supposed to” come from? Who determines it?

And too often in this country, people feel like they have to look a certain way or act a certain way to fit in, that they have to make a lot of money or come from a certain group or class or faith in order to matter.

But what we’re looking at today — a portrait of a biracial kid with an unusual name and the daughter of a water pump operator and a stay-at-home mom — what we are seeing is a reminder that there’s a place for everyone in this country.

Because as Barack said, if the two of us can end up on the walls of the most famous address in the world, then, again, it is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can, too.

That is what this country is about. It’s not about blood or pedigree or wealth. It’s a place where everyone should have a fair shot, whether you’re a kid taking two buses and a train just to get to school; or a single mother who is working two jobs to put some food on the table; or an immigrant just arriving, getting your first apartment, forging a future for yourself in a place you dreamed of.

That’s why, for me, this day isn’t about me or Barack. It’s not even about these beautiful paintings. It’s about telling that fuller story — a story that includes every single American in every single corner of this country so that our kids and grandkids can see something more for themselves.

And as much as some folks might want us to believe that that story has lost some of its shine, that division and discrimination and everything else might have dimmed its light, I still know deep in my heart that what we share — as my husband continues to say — is so much bigger than what we don’t. Our democracy is so much stronger than our differences.

And this little girl from the South Side is blessed beyond measure to have felt the truth of that fuller story throughout her entire life, never more so than today.

So, thank you to President Biden, to Sharon, and to all of you today for playing a part in this day and all the days that led to it.

She was never supposed to live in this house, and she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as First Lady.

But I have also always wondered: Where does that “supposed to” come from?

Who determines it?

It is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can do anything.

That is what made America great.

This is what makes America great.

No shouting.

No bluster.

No threats.

A quiet voice.

A quiet voice that says, That is what this country is about. It’s not about blood or pedigree or wealth. It’s a place where everyone should have a fair shot, whether you’re a kid taking two buses and a train just to get to school; or a single mother who is working two jobs to put some food on the table; or an immigrant just arriving, getting your first apartment, forging a future for yourself in a place you dreamed of.

We talk a lot about what the ‘Founding Fathers’ meant when they set up this Country.

What they meant with words like ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

What they meant with words like ‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union.’

I want to say that if those guys, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin et al, were in the room and they listened to Michelle Obama, they would have looked at each and nodded and said, THAT’S IT!

9.7.2022 – monarch of all he

monarch of all he
surveyed, but it didn’t seem
to mean anything

The Tiger Who Would Be King

One morning the tiger woke up in the jungle and told his mate that he was king of beasts.

“Leo, the lion, is king of beasts,” she said.

“We need a change,” said the tiger. “The creatures are crying for a change.”

The tigress listened but she could hear no crying, except that of her cubs.

“I’ll be king of beasts by the time the moon rises,” said the tiger. “It will be a yellow moon with black stripes, in my honor.”

“Oh, sure,” said the tigress as she went to look after her young, one of whom, a male, very like his father, had got an imaginary thorn in his paw.

The tiger prowled through the jungle till he came to the lion’s den. “Come out,” he roared, “and greet the king of beasts! The king is dead, long live the king!”

Inside the den, the lioness woke her mate. “The king is here to see you,” she said.

“What king?” he inquired, sleepily.

“The king of beasts,” she said.

“I am the king of beasts,” roared Leo, and he charged out of the den to defend his crown against the pretender.

It was a terrible fight, and it lasted until the setting of the sun. All the animals of the jungle joined in, some taking the side of the tiger and others the side of the lion. Every creature from the aardvark to the zebra took part in the struggle to overthrow the lion or to repulse the tiger, and some did not know which they were fighting for, and some fought for both, and some fought whoever was nearest, and some fought for the sake of fighting.

“What are we fighting for?” someone asked the aardvark.

“The old order,” said the aardvark.

“What are we dying for?” someone asked the zebra.

“The new order,” said the zebra.

When the moon rose, fevered and gibbous, it shone upon a jungle in which nothing stirred except a macaw and a cockatoo, screaming in horror. All the beasts were dead except the tiger, and his days were numbered and his time was ticking away. He was monarch of all he surveyed, but it didn’t seem to mean anything.

MORAL: You can’t very well be king of beasts if there aren’t any.

From Further Fables for Our Time by James Thurber (1956)

I might change the title of the book of essays to Further Fables OF Our Time.

9.6.2022 – buy shirts for some men

buy shirts for some men
out of work as no work to
manufacture shirts

Adapted from the passage, “Within my lifetime in England money was (very properly) collected to buy shirts for some men who were out of work. The work they were out of was the manufacture of shirts.

Written by CS Lewis in the essay GOOD WORK AND GOOD WORKS published in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, 1960, Harcourt, Brace and Company

 

9.4.2022 is subject to the

is subject to the
accumulated capital
power incentives

Referencing Karl Marx, Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote that, “Karl Marx held that alienation is the condition people experience when they have no autonomy over something personally or socially meaningful to them because it is subject to the power and incentives of accumulated capital.”

Mr. Mathis-Lilley’s reference was, of course, referring to the world of college football on TV.

In the article, Does Watching College Football on TV Have to Be So Miserable?, Mr. Mathis-Lilley writes, “I believe I embody the concept, as so defined by Marx, when I am watching five to eight consecutive commercials 16 times during a college football broadcast so that Disney shareholders and Rupert Murdoch might benefit.”

Mr. Mathis-Lilley does ask that most important question, “Is this a silly thing to worry about?

And he answers, “Yes and No.”

On the one hand,” he writes, “college football is not as materially crucial of an issue as, to take two examples, climate change and cancer. On the other, like all cultural narratives, highbrow and low, it has an intangible but foundational importance to the lives of those who use it to define their social communities and to explain their personal origins and values — to understand how life works, basically.

The CEO of the major communications company where I used to work once said 30% of Americans are rabid sports fans. 100% of rabid sports fans think all American’s are rabid sports fans.

My wife is one of those American’s who could care less about sports.

Somehow, after over 30 years of marriage, she cannot remember when the Michigan-Ohio State game is played every year.

Yet last night as we flipped around the channels on TV, when a promo for the Notre Dame – Ohio State game came on she looked at me and said, “The evil empire versus the bad guys … who do want to win?”

(For the record, while for most of my life I have wanted OSU to be undefeated when Michigan beats so it hurts more and for the most part, I am happy whenever ND loses at anything, I (maybe I am getting old or something) but I wouldn’t mind seeing this new coach at ND succeed and I have a growing concern over OSUs lifetime win total which thanks to Rich Rodriguez, the Morgantown Miracle Worker – no one in any sport ended one team list of accomplishments as fast as he did (consecutive bowl games, winning seasons, Top 25 Rankings etc) ((For crying out loud, at one point in Rich Rod’s career, Jim Tressel of that team down south had more BIG TEN wins in Michigan Stadium than Rich Rod did – But I digress)) and the one thing I want out of sports is that Michigan has wore total victories that that other team in my lifetime).

College football like all cultural narratives, highbrow and low, it has an intangible but foundational importance to the lives of those who use it to define their social communities and to explain their personal origins and values — to understand how life works, basically.

For me, when Michigan wins, the world just makes a little more sense.

And I have to say – watching some college football over the past couple of days … it just felt … normal.

It just felt fun and even good.

A step back or maybe beyond all the Covid/Political/News industrial complex that seems to have taken over.

I have to say I enjoyed it.

But why do I have to watch sooooooooooooooo many commercials!

BTW – For those who haven’t figured out that most public libraries offer access to New York Times, I have uploaded a PDF of this article that you can read here.

9.3.2022 – while I am I, and

while I am I, and
you are you, so long as the
world contains us both

Adapted from Life in a Love by Robert Browning.

Hard to forget that the first time I asked my future wife on a date she was at a loss for the many words and ways someone can say drop dead.

Well, in a nice way though.

Her lips couldn’t mouth the sounds but the words were there and her eyes said read my lips.

It is but to keep the nerves at strain,

Dried my eyes and laugh at a fall.

And, baffled, get up and begin again.

So the chase took up my life, that’s all.

Here is the complete poem from Mr. Browning.

Escape me?
Never –
Beloved!
While I am I, and you are you,
So long as the world contains us both,
Me the loving and you the loth,
While the one eludes, must the other pursue.
My life is a fault at last, I fear:
It seems too much like a fate, indeed!
Though I do my best I shall scarce succeed.
But what if I fail of my purpose here?
It is but to keep the nerves at strain,
To dry one’s eyes and laugh at a fall,
And, baffled, get up and begin again,—
So the chase takes up one’s life, that’s all.
While, look but once from your farthest bound
At me so deep in the dust and dark,
No sooner the old hope goes to ground
Than a new one, straight to the self-same mark,
I shape me –
Ever
Removed!

9.2.2022 – acknowledges with

acknowledges with
nothing enormity of
calamity ahead

In an article discussing the next Prime Minister of Great Britain, Polly Toynbee wrote:

But next week we face the appointment of a leader with nothing to say that acknowledges the enormity of the calamity ahead.

In writing about on the loser in the race to meet the Queen and ‘kiss hands’, Ms. Tonybee wrote:

Rishi Sunak pitching to Tory party members in leafy Hertfordshire this week faced not one question – not a single one – concerning the cost of living crisis. From this twilight zone of unreality emerges a leader unfit to grapple with the worst crisis of our lifetime, with a typical 10% fall in disposable income predicted by 2024, according to the Resolution Foundation, which would be worse than during the 1970s oil shock, the worst in a century.

New perils come daily. Corner shops and pubs will close. Libraries and museums can’t be warm hubs for cold people as they shut to save fuel bills. Schools, hospitals, nurseries and colleges can’t pay. Credit card borrowing will soar, and food banks are already running out of food.

Ms. Tonybee is writing about Great Britain.

It was John Adams who said of Great Britain, that he wished. “… to restore the old good nature and the old good humor between people who, though separated by an ocean and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood.”

The beginning as it were, of the ‘special relationship’ between GB and the USA.

A relationship so special that we here in the USA seem to have all the same problems, just 5 hours later.

When it is said that over there that new perils come daily.

Corner shops and pubs will close.

Libraries and museums can’t be warm hubs for cold people as they shut to save fuel bills.

Schools, hospitals, nurseries and colleges can’t pay.

Credit card borrowing will soar, and food banks are already running out of food.

You can bet, it is on the way here.

Sadly the same problem with leadership is already here.

Our leaders have nothing to say that acknowledges the enormity of the calamity ahead.

As Mr. Lincoln said on December 1, 1862, The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

And it was Mr. (FD) Roosevelt who said, “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Fear.

Fear itself.

Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.

Easy right?

Best I can do is point to FDR’s closing line for that speech in 1933.

 We humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.

Humbly, disenthrall ourselves, and then, maybe, we shall save our country.

9.1.2022 – ask smoking or non

ask smoking or non
but wait, where does that seat us
after forty years

I was thinking about my Mom this past week.

Hard to believe that it was 9 years ago at the end of August, 2013, that she died.

It is almost more difficult to believe that she had lived the last 25 years of her life without my Dad.

Difficult to believe because in my mind, my Mom and my Dad were a couple, a couple together in my memory.

My family was lucky enough to have had a summer place on Lake Michigan.

This place played a large part in our family.

Yet when my Dad died, my Mom was ready to sell it.

To her, she told me, that was her place to be with Dad and without Dad …

This place on Lake Michigan was a cottage, or so we called it, that had to be winterized as well and prepped for summer early in the springtime.

I started going along with my Dad to close it as well as open it up so I could take over these chores.

I learned where the well was and how to turn off the pump and drain the pipes in the fall as well as prime the pump and fill the water tank in the spring.

At some point, I started taking a week off in the spring and I would stay out at the lake by myself and get the water turned on, the furnace going and do any painting or other small repairs that might be needed.

What I really did was make a pot of coffee in the morning and sat either by the water or if too cold (this would have been Michigan in May), next to the big picture windows looking out over the water and read all day.

One year in the middle of week, my Mom and Dad drove out from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we lived to drop in on me.

There were also happy to have a cup of coffee and sit and look out over the water as we chatted about eveything and nothing.

Then my Dad suggested lunch.

I knew what that meant.

He wanted to go to local hamburg joint named Russ’.

It was bad English, but everyone called it ‘Russes’.

It had started in Holland, Michigan and we stopped there often when we were out that way and back in the 1980’s it was starting to expand and open locations in Grand Haven and Grand Rapids.

I knew my Dad wanted to order a hamburger they offered called the Big Dutchman.

Somewhere in Grand Haven there was a street sign near a school that said STOP – ALLOW CHILDREN TO CROSS.

Someone had taken a Russ’ bumper sticker and stuck it on the sign so that it read, STOP – ALLOW BIG DUTCHMAN TO CROSS.

My Dad would drive out of his way just to pass that sign and laugh and laugh.

It helps if you grew up Dutch and in West Michigan.

So off I went to Russes with my Mom and Dad.

And so the moment began.

Back in the 1980s, people smoked in public but it was popular if not required by law, that restaurants offer no smoking sections.

It didn’t matter if it was one big room, restaurants would say this side people can smoke and this side people can’t.

They all breathed the same air but there it was.

Russes tried to accommodate non smokers by building on new additions to their restaurants that would at least put smokers and non smokers in separated rooms.

My Mom liked non smoking.

My Dad liked service.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, my Mom mentioned that she would prefer to sit in the non smoking section.

My Dad said that he had no problem with non smokers but that the location of the no smoking section at this location was down, back and around the corner from the kitchen.

“I will not sit back there.” my Dad said.

“Might as well as sit in Death Valley. No waitress goes back there.”

My Mom said that maybe things had changed and the non smoking section might have been moved to the front.

My Dad turned off the car and got out and said, “I am not sitting in Death Valley.”

Russes was the place to have lunch in Grand Haven and it was packed.

We had to wait for a bit and then the hostess called our name.

“HOFFMAN?”

From the name we were in the Dutch Club.

We walked up and the hostess asks, “Smoking or non?”

“Non smoking, please” my Mom answered.

The hostess grabbed three menus and asked to follow her.

My Mom and I walked off but my Dad held back and watched.

We walked down a long aisle between tables to the back of the dining room and turned right to go around the kitchen back to the no smoking section.

“Lorraine!”

“Lorraine!” my Dad YELLED.

We stopped and the hostess looked back.

My Dad was now running up the aisle and waving.

“Lorraine,” he said, at one of those moments where the entire restaurant went silent.

“I am 65 years old and I do not have to sit where I don’t want to sit. I will not sit back there.”

My Mom looked at him and then asked, “Where do you want to sit then?”

My Dad pointed at the first empty booth, still with some dirty dishes, and said, “Right there.”

My Mom looked at the hostess who was quick to say sure we could sit and sat my Dad did.

My Mom and I slid in the other side of the booth and the hostess removed the dirty dishes and handed out the menus.

My Dad picked up the menu and held it up high so he could read it through his bifocals.

I heard he say something about Death Valley then he said, “I think I’ll order a Big Dutchman.”

I bit my tongue to keep from saying something about stopping to allow Big Dutchman to sit where they want.

My Mom looked at me and I looked at my Mom.

She caught my glance shrugged with her eyes and held back a laugh as well.

My Mom was known for her hospitality.

My Mom was known for her laugh.

My Mom was known for her smile.

Once in Church when the Pastor was preaching about spiritual gifts and the fact that some folks had certain gifts and said something along the lines of the gift to always be smiling and happy in the way that if you SAT next to that person, you began to smile and feel happy.

Then the Pastor paused and said if you want to know HOW to do this .. go sit next to Mrs. Hoffman … and FIND OUT HOW SHES DOES IT!

My Mom sat across from Dad at Russes.

“Oh Bob,” she said.

They had been married 40 years.

My parents and sister Lisa at the lake with a cup of tea