Friday, March 26, 1943

The Charlotte News

Friday, March 26, 1943


Site Ed. Note:

That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds his lamp, and, like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say; this seems so outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little into the history and philosophy of it.

It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the Right Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded large prices there. Also, that in Henry VIIIth's time, a certain cook of the court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce to be eaten with barbacued porpoises, which, you remember, are a species of whale. Porpoises, indeed, are to this day considered fine eating. The meat is made into balls about the size of billiard balls, and being well seasoned and spiced might be taken for turtle-balls or veal balls. The old monks of Dunfermline were very fond of them. They had a great porpoise grant from the crown.

The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would by all hands be considered a noble dish, were there not so much of him; but when you come to sit down before a meat-pie nearly one hundred feet long, it takes away your appetite. Only the most unprejudiced of men like Stubb, nowadays partake of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidious. We all know how they live upon whales, and have rare old vintages of prime old train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous doctors, recommends strips of blubber for infants, as being exceedingly juicy and nourishing. And this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel--that these men actually lived for several months on the mouldy scraps of whales which had been left ashore after trying out the blubber. Among the Dutch whalemen these scraps are called "fritters;" which, indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives' dough-nuts or oly-cooks, when fresh. They have such an eatable look that the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.

But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as the buffalo's (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that is; like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a cocoanut in the third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for butter. Nevertheless, many whalemen have a method of absorbing it into some other substance, and then partaking of it. In the long try watches of the night it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile. Many a good supper have I thus made.

In the case of a small Sperm Whale the brains are accounted a fine dish. The casket of the skull is broken into with an axe, and the two plump, whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely resembling two large puddings), they are then mixed with flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess, in flavor somewhat resembling calves' head, which is quite a dish among some epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among the epicures, by continually dining upon calves' brains, by and by get to have a little brains of their own, so as to be able to tell a calf's head from their own heads; which, indeed, requires uncommon discrimination. And that is the reason why a young buck with an intelligent looking calf's head before him, is somehow one of the saddest sights you can see. The head looks a sort of reproachfully at him, with an "Et tu Brute!" expression.

It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with abhorrence; that appears to result, in some way, from the consideration before mentioned: i.e. that a man should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its own light. But no doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy paté-de-foie-gras.

But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? and that is adding insult to injury, is it? Look at your knife-handle, there, my civilized and enlightened gourmand dining off that roast beef, what is that handle made of?--what but the bones of the brother of the very ox you are eating? And what do you pick your teeth with, after devouring that fat goose? With a feather of the same fowl. And with what quill did the Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of Cruelty to Ganders formally indite his circulars? It is only within the last month or two that that society passed a resolution to patronize nothing but steel pens.

--from Moby Dick, Chapter LXV, "The Whale as a Dish", by Herman Melville, 1851

From Tunisia, the front page again offers little news. General's Pattonís forces continued to maintain their "threat" from El Guetaria Pass into Maknassy against Axis forces, but there had been no American advance for the previous two days. Much of the effort in that sector concerned removal of Axis troops entrenched in the Orbata Mountains, providing high ground nests for operations against the Mahares-Gafsa railroad, running parallel with that range below along the plains. Likewise, pressure continued by Rommel against El Guetaria Pass, to the southwest of the Orbata range.

Meanwhile, General Montgomery was reported to have renewed his forward movement in the Mareth sector, as Rommelís counter-strikes slackened.

British reports estimated that Rommel had 80,000 men, over half of whom were German, the rest Italian, in the quadrangle bounded by Gabes, Mareth, Matmata, and El Hamma. While the strength of Montgomery's Eighth Army in this area was unavailable, Axis communiques had claimed that Rommel had inferior numbers--possibly, of course, merely a hedge against further diminution of morale in Germany, in preparation for the end inexorably to come in North Africa.

Despite reports from France that Pierre Laval's reign as head of Vichy appeared nearing its end in consequence of unrest stimulated by his arrest and jailing of Colonel Francois de la Rocque, head of the Croix-de-Feu, a French Fascist party, the rumors proved premature. In the wake of the arrest, the Vichy diplomatic corps in Spain tendered their resignations, signaling a loss of prestige for Laval's government. But, despite the signs following, indicative of rattlesnake hara-kiri, the Laval government persisted, until Allied liberation in the summer of 1944--complete puppet though it was, and would to the end continue to be, to its Reich masters subsequent to the total occupation of France after the Operation Torch landings by the Allies in North Africa, November 8. Subsequent to the liberation, Laval was tried as a traitor by the Free French, convicted and executed in October, 1945.

Parenthetically, Colonel de la Rocque had been an editorial focus of a few Cash pieces in the fall of 1937, such as the one of October 28, just as he began his regular stint as associate editor.

And, Dr. E. L. Nixon, former president of the Pennsylvania Food and Potato Growers Association, was quoted as saying that he foresaw Americans starving by the end of 1943.

Best start planting those Victory Gardens, friends. Don't forget the spuds.

Meanwhile, Joseph Palladino, a.k.a., Joe Beans--whose brother, "Rocky" Palladino, was trainer for "Little Beans", a favorite in the 1941 Kentucky Derby--had been shot in the right hand, as Joseph Guerino, his presumptive companion, was shot in the right elbow, in the Latin Quarter, posh Boston nightclub--whether or not the krum elbow having constituted the Latin Quarter or the French Quarter, not being revealed.

Pools of blood on a table and on the floor indicated that a third man, unidentified, had been wounded. The police rounded up the usual suspects, the other 25 in the club.

The third man, they say in circles in the know, on the hush-hush and on the Q.T., transacted his business under the name "Harry Lime". He fled to the Austrian Alps to await the end of the war so that he might become a profiteer.

On the editorial page, Dorothy Thompson characterizes the war as something which was wholly unsuited to expectations of the people of America, had caused confusion and angst among the masses in trying to define the sides of the conflict: what means "democracy"; what means "socialism"; what means "fascism"? No one had answers. All foci were diffuse.

She offers a metaphor for the times: "The bow calculated to bring forth sweet music, as often as not brings forth a screech of pain. Then the musician becomes afraid of his instrument."

But, as anodyne to the pain had come the speech of Prime Minister Churchill Sunday night, one, she ventures, which was destined to endure long in the annals of historical speeches for its providing just such a much-needed definition to the times, both the present and those uncertain lying perilously ahead in the murky future.

Raymond Clapper examines the question of Russian territorial acquisition to come at the close of the war, specifically the fates of the three Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The Russian constitution had been amended to annex them subsequent to a plebiscite agreeing to the incorporation as satrapies to the Soviet state. But that had been accomplished only during Soviet occupation, thus accompanied with the taint of coercion.

Churchill had said Sunday that such territorial questions must be postponed until the end of the war. The State Department was in agreement. The Russians had not pressed the question and ostensibly stood bound by the Molotov agreement from a year earlier so postponing such questions until warís end.

Mr. Clapper points out, however, that reality had begun to intrude to raise the question of whether, realistically, it would not be better simply to concede the issue of this territory to the Russians as a fait accompli. The prevailing hope, nevertheless, was to defer it and, instead, concentrate on the more exigent circumstances of war, such as overcoming the U-boat menace to shipping lanes along the North Sea route into Murmansk and Archangel, substantially improved during the winter months but likely to devolve again to the disastrous intermeddling of the previous summer as the approaches to the ports again thawed spreading the shipping lanes beyond the narrow passages which afforded some degree of security in ice.

Samuel Grafton examines the neo-isolationists' support for the new Churchill doctrine expressed Sunday, advocating establishment of a Council of Europe and a Council of Asia, post-war. He finds no surprise in the policy's support by such isolationists as Herbert Hoover, as the notion of regional divisions fell squarely within isolationists' bounded concepts of world order hinged to nationalist doctrines, with the larger countries dominating governance of each region.

Mr. Churchill had, suggests Mr. Grafton, simply become tired of awaiting the Republican solution for the post-war peace plan to place alongside and meld with in some manner that of Vice-President Wallace and Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, plumping for internationalism, global trade and global political union, organized, tempered, and policed by a United Nations organization. If there was to be no U. S. consensus on how the post-war world would look, then Churchill would take the lead in proposing it.

"New Flattop" is not precognizant of the 1950's hair craze but rather fits the new class of cruiser carrier of medium size and speed into the overall picture of the Pacific war being waged by the Allies. The Essex class characterized them. They included the new Independence, Belleau Wood, Cowpens, and Monterey.

The editorial stresses that the lessons learned the hard way in the Pacific, with the loss the previous year of the Yorktown, the Lexington, the Wasp, and the Hornet, were being put to good use to outfit the new ships to withstand, with better armor, bombs and torpedoes.

That which they could not yet predict, however, was the dive-bombing Kamikazes which would come later in the war as the Japanese became desperate, the first such attacks coming during the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June, 1944, in which the Japanese lost over 400 carrier-based planes in just two days. Against such suicide dives, there was little defense except to be in the right place at the right time and out of harm's way.

"For Freedom" comments on the Danish elections, the results of which had been reported on the front page Wednesday. The Nazi occupiers wound up with mud on their faces when the Social Democrats and the native Conservatives, two of Denmark's "Big Five" parties, each of which made gains, demonstrated significant increases in popular support, while the Nazi Party experienced a definite decline, the latter polling only 40% of the votes garnered in the last previous general election of 1939.

The editorial finds it a telling harbinger, especially in light of Nazi rule being less pervasive in Denmark than in most other Central European occupied countries, thus not deterring the Danes from voting their true will.

"Wolf, Wolf" shrugs at the notion expressed by Drew Pearson in his "Washington Merry-Go-Round" column that a Catholic board of censors exercising its will to ban from the mails obscene literature might endanger a free press. The editorial believes smut ought be controlled and that the Catholic board would be less intrusive to freedom of thought than the overbearing publications it would likely censor.

Somehow, we doubt the proposition. Exhibit A: Lady Chatterley's Lover; Exhibit B: Ulysses.

Last we read it, there is nothing in the First Amendment excepting obscenity or obscene literature, anyway. While a Catholic censorship board does not equate to Congress, banning material through the U. S. mails is tantamount to an act of Congress.

One man's obscenity is another's art and vice versa. Where is the line? That we know it when we see it? Very unlikely. Community standard? Very unlikely. Whose community? Whose standard? The King's? By plebiscite, overseen and coerced by Nazis?

What "obscene" works did the Nazis burn?

What is that which appeals to prurient interests? To some, it is a film of an ordinary fire.

Ourselves, we see things on ordinary network television, when we have occasion to watch it for a few minutes, which appear most obscene. Yet some think it wholesome entertainment. Nevertheless, we would not advocate banning it, merely educating to watch and listen to that which you are viewing and hearing. And, if it offendeth thee, do as we do regularly, turn it off.

Our definition of obscenity, as we have before indicated, is the Zapruder film. But that is freely accessible to everyone, of any age, no matter the damage to the younger, as it has been since the mid-1970's, stills from which, since the week the scene it descries happened.

Not to mention the obscene tv "news" media which probe regularly, as peeping toms, obssessively so, into the bedrooms of celebrities, and of anyone else, who grab the "imagination" (unusual proclivity toward prurient stimulation derived vicariously from viewing others, once admired, disgraced, (best if articulate and substantive politician), and in writhing public pain, a repressed form of sado-masochism run amok) of the "public" (bored people with boring lives who are very boring and believe themselves saints because they never dared to look in the mirror for fear of what they might see, pure vanity), to the point of obscenity, and without restriction to the eyes of the young, increasingly so, arithmetically so, since our own youth back in the pre-post-Renascence era in America--all turning a decidedly blocked bloc of the country into a bunch of superannuated, self-hypnotically naive, helpless, hopeless, prudish, prunish proverbial "little girls", demonstrating an aesthetic standard consistent with the taste and discrimination of the little girl who, a few years ago, ran home to her mommy after the class fieldtrip to the Dallas Art Museum, and informed of the mean, bad-old teacher who took them to see statuary posing in the nude--I mean really naked, mommy.

When we were young, one February snowy day in early 1968, when school was not in session for the snow, even if by midday it had mostly melted away for the sun revealing itself, we were transported, along with a friend, by the friend's mother, a tolerant person of high intellect, to see, on our own, without parental accompaniment, "The Graduate". When we returned home, our mama asked us what we had been to see, never inquiring of content before we went to the movies, only afterward--an interesting custom, but one which was instructive. When we informed her of the day's title, she became very disturbed, not because she had seen "The Graduate", but because of what some of her friends had told her about "The Graduate". We then explained the film to her. She never again mentioned it. No doubt, she saw it a few years later on the tv and realized that her disturbance was much ado about nothing, a film of mixed pathos and humor anent life, contrasting sex and love during the groping years of extended-adolescence (which, like it or not, everyone endures, no matter prior "experience"), not a film about an illicit affair with a mother while exploring innocent romance with her daughter, subsequently interrupting the daughter's happy-happy life by stalking her, and finally alienating her affections from her betrothed in the middle of their wedding ceremony. The latter is merely the cold "plot", but says nothing of the poetry of the film. Nor is it even a film about rebellion. Nor does it warp its youthful viewer. In any event, our mama stopped asking us about the films which we went to see.

Our mama, at the time, incidentally, in addition to our favorite tv series, used to watch, regularly, "Peyton Place". We didn't like it, wouldn't watch. But, around the same time, with the same friend, we went to see "Valley of the Dolls".

A little over a year later, in the spring of 1969, we went to see, on a double-bill at the drive-in, "The Odd Couple" and "Rosemary's Baby".

Don't tell anyone, but when we were barely twelve, we saw "Fail-Safe", and on tv, no less. Later, under the rose, we even read a book by James Baldwin.

"Sweater Girls", with undoubtedly deliberate juxtaposition, points out that the latest trend in fashion was creating danger, not to mention probable excitement, in the workplace among those donning sweaters, and likely their co-workers working opposite them, apt to become caught in machinery to make them shredders, creating, at very least, embarrassment should they also become shedders.

A gay reporter, it says, reported of a female expert who went into the factory and decided, rather than be sex-specific, to neutralize the affair and, instead of banning sweaters, mandated uniform work clothing. Though silent on the particular form that took, we assume that it meant overalls assumed over all.

As to the lady's consternation with regard to the confusion created in the press by reportage on sweaters, the report is silent on whether she had in mind the piece from Yank, re-printed a couple of days earlier in The News.

"There is a wilder premise upon the land, stretching across the plains of difficulty, transecting the rivers of discontent, transgressing the bent fields of blent blatherskites, forging commitment to the hollows of disenchantment." --We said that.

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