Tag Archives: Commodore Perry

2010: The First Year In Review

This snapshot by Rob Mendel (above) appears to have been taken at The John Lennon Auditorium at 703 Howard Street in Evanston, Illinois on what looks to be New Year’s Day 1982.  (Note my Beggars’ Holiday hair and beard.) My 18-month old daughter Maura appears to be grasping a champagne bottle in her right hand, the stage looks as though it’s set up for a Rockme gig, and the numerous empty beverage containers and crumpled gift-wrapping all suggest a big holiday party the night before. (Maura certainly didn’t close the party, so this must be the day after.) Of course, I’m on clean-up duty. (I trust the amazing Rush Pearson will let us know if my photo analysis is correct.)

30 years after this picture was taken — and just one year ago — I started this blog.

So far, it’s been a fine voyage.

As of this writing, Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 22,250 views. I’ve made 73 posts and readers have contributed 565 comments. That’s a pretty healthy start — and I’m grateful for everyone’s interest, enthusiasm, and participation in this admittedly idiosyncratic forum.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little...

I’m especially gratified by the 63 subscribers who have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And when Mark Lancaster gets his e-mail address straightened out, we’ll be back to 64.) Are you a subscriber? If not — just look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey, then look below the photo and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!” I know most of us just can’t get enough e-mails stuffed into our inboxes, but I promise my posts will be at least marginally more entertaining than the daily onslaught of Viagra ads, MoveOn broadsides, replica watch ads, and assorted unrelenting spam you’re already inundated with.

My posts on this blog largely stuck to the main topics I established at the outset: history, adventure, politics and rock & roll — including a four-part history of The Practical Theatre Company. And to what type of posts were readers of this blog most attracted? What follows is a list of The Top 12 Posts of 2010, listed in order of the most views. Taken as a whole, they represent a sort of oddball Year-in-Review.

THE TOP TEN POSTS OF 2010

Note: Just click on each the title of each post to access the original article.

1. The Saints Come Marching In…

The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles twenty years ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after decades of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints?

2. All About The Rockme Foundation

It’s not possible to write everything about Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation in one article, but I tried my best in this post to tell the basics of the band’s ongoing legend. A spring reunion gig at SPACE in Evanston was the catalyst for telling the story. The band is making plans to play SPACE again this year. Rockme-mania lives.

3. The Practical Theatre Co. Part 1

One of my goals this past year was to tell the story of The Practical Theatre from start to finish. (Is it ever really finished?) This first chapter covered the period from the company’s founding and the establishment of The John Lennon Auditorium  — to just before our 1982 comedy revue, The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee, brought the PTC to SNL.

4. Baseball Season Opens: Of Mud Hens & More…

Readers loved those Mud Hens. What was written as a tribute to The Practical Theatre Company’s contribution to the Chicago Theatre 16-inch Softball League became a post that hundreds of Toledo Mud Hens fans found online, attracted to the info and photos of Toledo Mud Hens history — especially that picture of Jamie Farr. Go figure. Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!

5. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

20 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! It’s true. I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog.

6. The Vic & Paul Show

After more than two decades off the stage, Victoria and I once again wrote and performed in an original musical comedy review, The Vic & Paul Show, in June at PUSH Lounge in Woodland Hills. It was the most fun we’ve had in years. We hope to bring the show to Chicago sometime in 2011. If you’re curious about what the show looked like — there are a series of clips on my YouTube channel. Click here to get there.

7. “I have not yet begun to fight!”

History and politics are two of my greatest passions — and this article combined the two. I’m gratified that so many people have continued to find it and read it since it was first posted on January 20, 2010 at the time of President Obama’s first State of the Union Address.

8. Le Salon de Crawford

I wrote this tribute to the incredible Crawford family early in the year — and I feel as though I must already write another. Ron and Sydney Crawford and their fabulous children are a gift that keeps on giving. I cannot imagine what this blog would have looked like in 2010 without all those wonderful Ron Crawford drawings lifting each post into the realm of true art. We love Ron & Syd. And we can’t say it enough.

9. Will California Buy a Used CEO this Election Year?

In an otherwise bleak mid-term election for progressives, California turned back the conservative tide by rejecting the self-funding, millionaire ex-CEO candidates, Meg Whitman for Governor and Carly Fiorina for Senator. Instead, liberal Democrat Barbara Boxer was returned to the U.S. Senate — and former “Governor Moonbeam” Jerry Brown was sent back to the California governor’s mansion (where he refused to live back in the 70’s). Maybe Jerry will pass on the mansion again. But thank goodness California passed on Meg and Carly.

10. The Practical Theatre Co. Part 3

This installment of my Practical Theatre history covered the insanely creative and productive period from the aftermath of the PTC’s headline-making success in 1982-83 to the closing of The John Lennon Auditorium in 1985. Looking back, it’s hard to believe a bunch of inexperienced, counterculturally-inclined twenty-somethings accomplished so much in so little time. That Practical spirit lives on today — and I hope this blog has helped in some small way to keep it alive.

11. The Matey’s Log: Sailing Season Begins

This blog has a nautical theme for one reason: Captain George Moll, who invited me to sail with him some years back, and instilled in me a love of the sea that had first been aroused by my reading of the entire Patrick O’Brian canon. I am grateful to Captain George for allowing me to serve as a crewman aboard his fleet of racing sailboats — and my accounts of several of our races proved to me among the most popular series of posts on the blog this year. And did I mention we won this year’s TGIS Series Championship? Hats off to Captain George!

12. A New Day of Glory for the Great (you heard me right) Cleveland Browns!

Great football teams bookend this list. When my beloved Cleveland Browns upset the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints in the early part of the 2010 NFL season, I was moved to write this remembrance of the Browns’ glorious past. Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar are just a handful of the memorable stars that made history with the Cleveland Browns. Now, it’s up to Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis to write the next glorious chapter.

So, that’s the best of 2010. Stay tuned. Subscribe. Post those replies!

Here’s to another fine voyage in 2011!

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Filed under Random Commentary

“I have not yet begun to fight!”

Among all the depressing, defeatist, hand-wringing, and otherwise pathetic punditry on television and in print this morning in the wake of Martha Coakley’s upset loss in the Massachusetts election for Teddy Kennedy’s former seat in the U.S. Senate, The Christian Science Monitor had this headline (see above) in their online edition. I agree that there are lessons to be drawn from Coakley’s collapse, but not the lessons I’m hearing from all the usual talking heads.

It’s been nearly impossible to watch TV yesterday and today and listen to triumphant right-wingers crowing about the message that this election sends President Obama and the Democrats. Of course the GOP’s take on Coakley’s defeat is easy to dismiss. Today’s Republicans are a bunch of lock-step, talking-point spouting hacks whose analysis of everything in the last decade has been dead wrong. There are just two things the GOP knows how to do: keep their message focused and fight.

On the other hand, too many Democrats are already drawing the wrong conclusions from this debacle. And their messaging is all over the place. Conservative Democrats like Evan Bayh are using this moment as a call to centrism – which is code for a lack of political courage. And I shudder to think what a triangulating corporatist like Rahm Emmanuel is advising President Obama at this moment. I worry that Rahm, who was asleep at the switch in this critical Senate election (he’s supposed to be the White House inside politics genius), will also draw the wrong lessons from the loss of what should have been a safe Democratic seat in a very blue state.

Let me, then, suggest to my fellow Democrats four lessons in courage, and some bold messaging, courtesy of – no! not a group of politicians and pundits – but a quartet of American Naval heroes.

1. John Paul Jones: “I have not yet begun to fight.”

John Paul Jones is revered as the Father of the U.S. Navy, and his exploits in the War of Independence are legendary. But his greatest moment came when he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on September 23, 1779.  In what has been called one of the bloodiest engagements in U.S. naval history. Jones, in command of the Bonhomme Richard, slugged it out with the 44-gun English frigate Serapis. The gun crews of the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis traded thundering broadsides until Jones’ ship was burning and in danger of sinking.

Yet, when the Englishmen requested Jones strike his flag and surrender, he replied in defiance, “I have not yet begun to fight.” The battle raged on for more than three hours, ending when the tide of battle turned, the Serapis surrendered — and Jones took command of the defeated English ship.

Sure, the loss of a Senate seat is a terrible blow – but it would be great to hear Harry Reid say something very much like, “I have not yet begun to fight.”

2. Captain James Lawrence: “Don’t Give Up the Ship”

Sometimes a courageous example can turn a cruel defeat into an inspirational moment that transcends that loss – and helps to fuel an ultimate victory — as it did in a dramatic naval engagement early in the War of 1812.

In 1813, Captain James Lawrence was in command of the frigate Chesapeake when he dueled the English ship Shannon at the mouth of Boston Harbor, barely a cannon shot beyond the shore upon which, two centuries later, Martha Coakley’s Senatorial hopes were sunk.

In a brief and brutal exchange of volleys at close range, the Shannon outgunned Chesapeake – and the two ships became so entangled in each other’s fallen rigging that Chesapeake could no longer fire at the English ship. Captain Lawrence gave orders to board the Shannon, but he was hit by an enemy musket ball and had to be carried belowdecks, mortally wounded. Before he was taken below, Lawrence’s last words to his officers were: “Tell the men to fire faster and not give up the ship. Fight her till she sinks!”

Although Chesapeake was forced to surrender, Lawrence’s valiant words served as a rallying cry for generations of officers and men in the U.S. Navy: “Don’t give up the ship!”

3. Oliver Hazard Perry: “We have met the enemy and they are ours…”

The immortal words of Captain Lawrence inspired his fellow officers. In fact, just months after the loss of the Chesapeake, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry honored his late friend Lawrence by having the motto “Don’t give up the ship!” sewn onto his private battle flag – which he flew during the Battle of Lake Erie.

During the battle on September 10, 1813, Perry’s fleet engaged a fleet of British warships determined to put the Great Lakes in English control as a prelude to a possible invasion from the north. Perry’s flagship, the USS Lawrence (named in honor of the martyred Captain James Lawrence) was destroyed in the battle – but did Oliver Hazard Perry simply throw in the towel and seek compromise with his enemies? No, by god! He had himself rowed a half-mile through shot and shell to transfer his command to the USS Niagara – carrying his battle flag with his buddy’s final words of defiance emblazoned upon it: “Don’t give up the ship!”

Parry's personal battle flag at the Battle of Lake Erie.

Perry won the Battle of Lake Erie, ending the threat of English invasion via the Great Lakes, and sent his after-action report to General William Henry Harrison. Perry’s message contained few words and, like the words of his fallen friend, they became legendary: “We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

I’d love to hear President Obama call out the obstructionist GOP Congress with a statement as blunt and bold as “We have met the enemy and they are ours…” The right wing may defeat us in Massachusetts, but like Commodore Perry in his rowboat, we must transfer our efforts to the next stage of the fight and press on until we win the battle.

4. Admiral David Glasgow Farragut: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

Stop worrying about the Coakley catastrophe, sagging poll numbers, what the GOP and right-wing pundits might say, or foot-dragging fears about your own re-election – just press on with a progressive agenda, keep trying to fix the stuff that Bush broke, fix the health care bill in reconciliation – and forget about bipartisanship. In other words,“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

Just about every American my age has heard – and used — this famous phrase many times, but few realize that it has nothing to do with torpedoes as we know them, and that it was actually coined during the Civil War. Of course, the phrase speaks of boldness, courage, and defiant resolution in the face of grave danger – and this time the words were uttered by Admiral David Glasgow Farragut.

Farragut was the highest-ranking U.S. naval officer when he fought the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864. Farragut was hanging from the rigging of his flagship Hartford, as his invasion fleet approached the entrance to Mobile Bay, Alabama, intent on sailing past the Confederate defenses and conquering the forts that guarded the Bay.

As the guns of the Confederate forts came to bear on the ships in Farragut’s fleet, the leading ship, the ironclad monitor Tecumseh, was destroyed by a submerged mine. (BTW — we call it a “mine” now, but in Civil War parlance, a tethered underwater explosive device was called a “torpedo”.) With Tecumseh knocked out of action, Farragut’s fleet began to drift in confusion under the guns of the Confederate forts. With disaster in the offing, as Farragut hung from the shrouds aboard the Hartford, he gave the orders, “Damn the torpedoes! Four bells! Captain Crayton, go ahead! Joucett, full speed!”

Farragut sailed his own ship Hartford into the lead — and across the mines, which failed to detonate. The rest of his fleet followed the Commodore’s bold example, ran past the guns of the Confederate forts, and hammered them into submission from a safe anchorage.

Farragut’s fearlessness and resolve — when all might have been lost — saved the day and immortalized his words. If I was President Obama, in command of our mighty Ship of State, that’s the order I would give to Reid, Pelosi, and all my officers. “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

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Filed under History, Politics, Truth