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Cherry blossoms are a staple of the haiku poets as a sign of spring.
3 poems by Basho
old as a toothless woman,
blooms – mindful of its youth
A lovely spring night
suddenly vanished while we
viewed cherry blossoms
Kannon’s tiled temple roof
floats far away -
clouds of cherry blossoms
(Kannon is the Bodhisattva of Compassion)
3 poems by Issa
cherry blossoms scatter -
snap! the buck’s antlers
under every tree
a Buddha on display
on the paper amulet
(inmons are paper charms or amulets sold at Buddhist temples)
Washington D.C is famous for the thousands of cherry trees sent there as a gift from Japan more than a hundred years ago. In my home state of New Jersey, we have the cherry trees of Branch Brook Park in Newark which actually has more cherry trees than D.C. Every spring, residents and visitors can see the largest cherry blossom collection in the United States there.
Branch Brook Park has more than 2,700 Japanese cherry blossom trees that burst into full bloom during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival that features various events for visitors of all ages.
The park itself is historically unique for being the first county park in the United States opened to the public. It was designed by the famed landscape architectural firm of Olmsted Brothers, a successor to Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in New York City.
The neighborhood on the east side of the park, Forest Hill, is Newark’s most affluent and is the setting for the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Basilica, the fifth-largest cathedral in North America.
From April 5-13, the park hosts its spring festival under pink petals. (see essexcherryblossom.com)
This documentary combines photographs from private collections and restored footage from such films as Thomas A. Edison’s “Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest” and D.W. Griffith’s “The New York Hat,” featuring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore and filmed at the studios in Fort Lee.
D. W. Griffith made many one-reel Biograph dramas there (Mack Sennett appeared in his first film). Pearl White endured the “Perils of Pauline,” and Mary Pickford and Theda Bara starred in early features.
The American film industry got its start with the construction of Thomas Edison’s “Black Maria”, the first motion picture studio, in West Orange, New Jersey. New Jersey offered land for studios for much less than nearby New York City. By about 1916, a dozen major movie studios were operating across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
The movies came to Fort Lee when pioneer companies started to look for new filming locations. In 1907, it was found that the Palisades near Fort Lee and Coytesville could be used for “Wild West” scenes and other outdoor scenes. Rambo’s Hotel on First Street was used as a place to dress as well as for the exterior of a Western saloon.
In 1907, Thomas Alva Edison used the cliffs of the Palisades for the exterior of “Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest.” It was in this picture that D.W. Griffith, later to become more famous as a director, first appeared in a starring role as an actor.
In 1914, with the expansion of the giant French film companies into the United States market, Maurice Tourneur moved to the United States to direct silent films for Éclair’s American branch studio in Fort Lee.
His once-lost 1917 feature, A Girl’s Folly, is included on the DVD of Before Hollywood, There Was Fort Lee, N.J in a half-hour abridgement with views of the glass stages, rotating sets, tank for water effects, projection room, and crews at work, along with his hour-long 1914 feature, The Wishing Ring.
Watching these early films, you can see the development of film language with the early use of editing, intercutting and the variety of shots (fewer long shots and more close medium shots) which was rare in early films.
Fort Lee also prospered with the businesses that came to the city to service the film studios. Fort Lee’s reign as the film capital lasted about 20 years. Nestor Studios of Bayonne, New Jersey built the first studio in Hollywood in 1911. Later, Nestor merged with Universal Studios and co-owner William Horsley’s other company, Hollywood Film Laboratory, is now the oldest existing company in Hollywood (now known as Hollywood Digital Laboratory).
California’s climate was more cost-effective and by the 1930s pretty much all filmmaking had moved to the West Coast.
Another motivation to be on the opposite coast was because at the time Thomas Edison owned almost all the patents relevant to motion picture production. Movie producers on the East Coast who violated Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company were often sued. Movie makers on the West Coast were able to work independently of Edison’s control.
On Halloween back in 1938, Martians invaded the United States.
They did it in the form of a radio play. Orson Welles was behind this invasion and he used H.G. Well’s classic story, The War of the Worlds, as the blueprint.
I have written before about when the Martians landed in New Jersey that Halloween (October 30, 1938). So, why return to it now? It is because I listened to another great episode of Radiolab that told me more about not only the events of that day, but about the similar events that have occurred since.
The 1938 broadcast fooled over a million people when it originally aired. That includes regular folks listening to their radios, particularly in the area around Grover’s Mill, New Jersey where the Martians supposedly landed, but also the military, police and government officials.
The amazing thing I learned is that the broadcast was imitated a number of times since in places like Santiago, Chile, Buffalo, New York and in a quite tragic fashion in Quito, Ecuador.
As I wrote earlier, the audience reaction of panic and mass hysteria was more than Welles’ had expected, and it certainly had something to do with the pre-WWII atmosphere of that time. Radiolab said that some reports in New Jersey that night became that Nazis had invaded.
In the broadcast, Welles plays the role of an astronomer and Princeton professor who is called on as an expert.
I would assume that a 2013 audience listening to the original broadcast would not be fooled by its corniness. It mixes “real” radio music and talk with the radioplay and that was why listeners were taken in by it. The news breaks – which were a fairly new radio thing – get more frequent until they become all that we hear.
Of course, anyone in 1938 could have turned to another station and discovered that no one else was reporting news of an invasion by Martians. But most people didn’t change the channel.
Some people after the broadcast suggested that it was all planned by Welles, but that is like planning a viral video. It just doesn’t work that way. If you are a conspiracy theory fan, you’ll like this Wikipedia report:
It has been suggested War of the Worlds was a psychological warfare experiment. In the 1999 documentary, Masters of the Universe: The Secret Birth of the Federal Reserve, writer Daniel Hopsicker claims the Rockefeller Foundation funded the broadcast, studied the panic, and compiled a report available to a few. A variation has the Radio Project and the Rockefeller Foundation as conspirators. In a theatrical trailer for his film F For Fake, Welles joked about such theories, jesting that the broadcast indeed “had secret sponsors”.
I actually drove to the the “Martian landing site” near Princeton. I didn’t expect to see Martians, but I was hoping for a few UFO conspiracy people to have a conversation with – but it was deserted.
Go ahead and listen to the War of the Worlds original radio broadcast and you will probably be amused and a bit bored. That is how I reacted to hearing it years ago. And that is why I was so interested in the Radiolab show that took it further.
Could it happen again? Could more modern audiences be fooled?
Listen to that program, but in brief, when in 1949 Radio Quito did the play in a version for their Equadorian listeners, it was taken quite seriously and resulted in a riot that burned down the radio station and killed at least 7 people.
Okay, but that’s a long time ago. Well, then you also need to listen to the tale of when it was again redone in the 1960s in Buffalo, New York.
I think the story of how people reacted to news of a “cylindrical meteorite” landing in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey is a fascinating study in psychology. When that meteorite unscrews and a tentacled Martian comes out and blasts the crowd with a heat-ray, all hell breaks loose.
Why Martians? Well, the early news reports were of explosions on the Mars surface. We know that Martians were the stuff of science-fiction in the 1940s and 50s too.
Police, firefighters and the NJ state militia gets involved, Martial law is declared in Jersey. The Martians get out their tripod machines and soldiers, citizens, power stations, transportation and buildings fall before them.
The “Secretary of the Interior” advises the nation and there are reports of cylinders falling all across the country. Tripods cross the Hudson River and attack New York City. A reporter atop the CBS building in NYC is knocked out by some strange gas. Then we hear a ham radio operator (How did he get on the CBS bandwidth?) calling, “2X2L calling CQ. Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there…. anyone?”
After a station identification, the announcer reminded listeners that this was all a story. But by then people must have been packing and heading outside. My parents, who lived through it and listened to it live, told me that people in our hometown of Irvington, NJ headed for the South Orange Mountains. People reported smelling poison gas. There were reports of flashes of light – ray guns – in the distance.
If you hung in there for the end of the show, you got the same ending as in H.G Wells’ original The War of the Worlds novel – the Martians were defeated not by our weapons, but by our own “alien” germs and bacteria that killed them off. Orson Welles told listeners after the play for a third time that the show was just a Halloween story, but the damage (or fun) was already done.
More To This Story
Super Bowl XLVIII will be held next February in New Jersey, home of the football Giants and Jets (despite their New York names and heritage). New Jerseyans are happy about that and there have been preparations on roads and accommodations for the past year.
The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a “Storm Bowl” for the Super Bowl as part of its general prediction for a bad winter for the region. And if its predictions are right, the first outdoor Super Bowl in years will be a snowy one that will have pundits asking why have a Super Bowl in New Jersey.
The 197-year-old Almanac actually predicts a winter storm will hit the Northeast around the time the Super Bowl is played at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. It also predicts a colder-than-normal winter for two-thirds of the country and heavy snowfall in the Midwest, Great Lakes and New England.
The Almanac is not all weather lore and farmer predictions based on nature signs. They use planetary positions, sunspots and lunar cycles and have been doing it since 1818. That sounds like science, but scientists don’t actually think that sunspots or tidal action have much to do with our local weather. Still, the Almanac says its forecasts are correct about 80 percent of the time.
Last year, they were forecasting cold weather for the eastern and central U.S. and milder temperatures west of the Great Lakes. When winter started, it seemed just the opposite, but overall their prediction for the entire season was correct.
They also predicted the two biggest storms which turned out to be a February blizzard that paralyzed the Northeast with 3 feet of snow in some places, and then a sloppy late storm the day before spring’s arrival that buried parts of New England.
Now, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has also been predicting for 222 years. I didn’t realize that the Maine-based Farmers’ Almanac, is not the same as the New Hampshire-based Old Farmer’s Almanac. But that older almanac is also predicting a cold and snowy winter for 2013-2014. Similarly, they base their predictions for this winter on a drop in solar activity and a change in ocean patterns that are pointing to colder-than-average temperatures and higher-than-average snowfall totals.
Those of us in the Mid-Atlantic into southern New England should prepare to get lots of snow.
They are predicting a storm for February 1-3, 2014. Super Bowl XLVIII will be February 2.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a gentler winter for the lower Great Lakes, upper Midwest and the most northern states of the Northeast.
I remember being introduced to the idea of a utopia back in junior high school and becoming fascinated with the idea of creating a society of perfection. It was the same social studies class that introduced me to the idea of a sharing community where all were equal and work and the rewards were shared. Then out teacher told us this was called Socialism and Communism. Of course, those were bad things, we were taught.
But the idea that Sir Thomas More had back in 1516 in his book, Utopia, stayed with me. I particularly liked More setting his utopia on an island because I have always had a thing for islands.
Utopia has been used to describe “intentional communities” that attempt to create an ideal society, I wrote here earlier about Henry Ford’s failed attempt at a utopian community in the Amazon, Fordlandia.
New Jersey would not be the first place that comes to mind when you bring up utopian communities, but one example is an experiment by the writer Upton Sinclair.
Sinclair, who said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” was no fan of commercial society. He was born in 1878 and, when he was 15 years old, he started supporting himself by writing dime novels. He continued to write pulp fiction to get himself through Columbia University and he wrote a novelette a week all through college.
When he got an assignment from a socialist weekly to investigate working conditions in the meatpacking industry of Chicago, he was shocked at what he saw. He used his research to write The Jungle.
The manuscript was rejected a number of times, so Sinclair published it himself in 1906. He had already published five novels, but The Jungle was his first real success. It motivated people to demand reforms in the meatpacking industry. It was said that President Roosevelt received a hundred letters a day demanding reforms.
The success of The Jungle allowed Sinclair to start a utopian experiment in New Jersey.
As unlikely as that may sound, there have been other utopian experiments in the state, as documented in Utopia, New Jersey: Travels in the Nearest Eden. The cooperative colony in Englewood, NJ was founded by Upton Sinclair in 1906.
A fire would end the experiment after only six months, but the dream remained with Sinclair for the rest of his life.
It was called Helicon Home Colony. It was hardly perfect. There were sex scandals that were written about in the press right from the beginning. They had a policy that specifically excluded non-whites. But Sinclair really believed his experiment was the future of American living.
Matt Novak wrote a good piece on Helicon that goes deeper into this story.
Sinclair considered his Helicon Home Colony (AKA Helicon Hall) as living based on reason and science. His ideas were born in his reading of other 19th century socialist utopians.
My reading of the experiment is also that Upton wanted to get away from an unhappy family life. He was not getting along with his first wife, Meta. He didn’t like being a father. He had just spent three years secluded with them on an isolated farm to finish The Jungle.
He wanted freedom to write. A community would allow him to write while others kept his wife occupied and the community raised his son.
He did have some progressive feminist beliefs and wanted the community to have things like cooking, cleaning and child-rearing done by those who could do it best without regard to gender. Creative pursuits could be followed by anyone who desired them.
Sinclair wrote some articles, including one in the New York Times, to set out his principles and solicit people who might want to join the experiment.
The plan was more ambitious than what he had the time to create. It included lots of electrical conveniences, their own power plant, and their own food-producing farm.
Although Sinclair was a self-avowed socialist, he didn’t call the community a socialist experiment and he didn’t want political beliefs to be part of the experiment.
As I said up front, it was hardly utopian in who was welcome to join. Race, religion and profession were to be considered and writers, musicians, academics, artists and creative types to live there. There was a board of directors and members owned shares in Helicon. Sinclair controlled about 70% of the board’s vote and could have overruled anyone.
One of the rumors that immediately started about the community was that the 46 adults (along with 15 children) were just a sex cult of free love.
Sinclair didn’t want to employ traditional domestic servants and preferred using local students as interns. Interestingly, one of those interns was Sinclair Lewis who was then a budding author himself and who is often confused with Upton Sinclair. Sinclair Lewis would go on to write Babbitt, Main Street, Arrowsmith and other books and became the first writer from the United States to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. The interns did not work out and they ended up hiring servants which sounds less than utopian.
Whether or not Upton Sinclair’s idea of utopia would have succeeded will never be known. A fire, on March 16, 1907, burned Helicon to the ground. A carpenter died in the fire so there was an inquest. The hearings were a local sensation and exposed the “free-love nest” back into the newspapers. But no charges against Sinclair or anyone else were made. Members of the community got back their investments from the insurance money. But Upton was broke.
Sinclair considered starting again in California, Fairhope, Alabama and in Arden, Delaware, but nothing ever came of it.
Upton Sinclair went on to write almost 100 books. In his 1919 book, The Brass Check, he wrote:
I look back on Helicon Hall to-day, and this is the way I feel about it. I have lived in the future; I have known those wider freedoms and opportunities that the future will grant to all men and women. Now, by harsh fate I have been seized and dragged back into a lower order of existence and commanded to spend the balance of my days therein.
He may have idealized Helicon more because he never got to see it fail and so always believed that it could have worked.
“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.” ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh
My mom wasn’t a big reader when I was a kid, but she bought me books and encouraged my reading. She didn’t have the time for much reading that I can recall. She never had a chance to go to college and she marveled at how many books I would read.
Over the years, I came across a few books that she had read. One big surprise was when she asked me about Camus’ The Stranger. She had picked up a paperback copy I left in the bathroom. “I didn’t like the way he acted at his mother’s funeral,” my mother told me one morning at breakfast.
One of those books was Gift from the Sea. I thought about it again after all these years when I saw that yesterday (June 22) was the birthday of the author, Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
I read the book back then. I wanted to know what my mother saw in it.
I went looking in my books to see if I still had the old paperback copy. I have it. I hadn’t look into it since high school, but I saved it.
I went online to find out more about Anne. She was a Jersey girl, born in Englewood in 1906. She was 12 years older than my mom. When she was 20, she met Charles Lindbergh. They hit it off. He took her flying with him. She wrote in her diary: “Clouds and stars and birds — I must have been walking with my head down looking at puddles for twenty years.”
While she was on vacation on Florida’s Captiva Island in the early 1950s, she wrote about her life using the famous shells on the Captiva beach for her inspiration. The writing was published as Gift From the Sea in 1955.
My mom was 37 that year. I was 2 and my sister was 9. My mom was deep into a lower-middle-class American 1950s life. The book was about American life and particularly American women. Anne also wrote about youth and age, love and marriage, and attaining some peace, solitude and contentment at the beach. The beach for our family would be a week or two at the Jersey shore in a rented bungalow.
Gift from the Sea is probably considered ” inspirational literature” these days. It has sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into 45 languages. It connected with people, especially women.
When I read it, I was in high school. I didn’t love it, though there were parts that I really liked. I thought of it as a book for women. I don’t know if the words told me that or I had heard it elsewhere.
I have had a long fascination with another flyer, Amelia Earhart and because after Anne married Charles, he taught her how to fly, I think I made that connection. She got her private pilot’s license in 1931. They made a survey flight to Asia, flying over Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Anne used that as the basis for her first book, North to the Orient which became a bestseller. Her published writings include two novels, a book of poems and the essays that became Gift from the Sea.
Anne was a mother of five. My mom must have identified with that. But Anne was married to a famous man. She was a famous writer and an aviator.
I think now that the book about Anne’s escape from modernity and things that complicate our lives while pretending to make them simpler was my mom’s only escape.
I feel more of a pull to the ocean than my mother ever did. Anne’s life started with childhood summers with her family on a Maine island. For several years, they lived on Maui in Hawaii (where Charles Lindbergh died in 1974). Her life closed in their home on the Connecticut coast. I’m not sure of it, but I would guess that somewhere in between, while they lived in New Jersey, there must have been some trips to the Jersey shore.
I know that my mother was deeply moved and disturbed by the “Lindbergh kidnapping” when their first child, Charles Lindbergh Jr., was kidnapped at 20 months of age from their home in East Amwell, New Jersey outside Hopewell on March 1, 1932.
It was national and world news. My mom was a 14 year old girl living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania taking care of three older brothers who treated her like crap. Was she thinking about being a mom herself one day? What would it be like to lose your only child?
The kidnapping investigation ended with a baby’s body, presumed to be that of Charles Lindbergh Jr., being discovered in May 1933 four miles from the Lindberghs’ home.
My mother would leave home at 16 and go to New Jersey to start over. In a few years, she would meet her Charles, my father.
After the kidnapping, a trial and a conviction and enormous press coverage, Charles and Anne move to England and then to the small island of Illiec, off the coast of Brittany in France.
In their isolation, they became isolationists. Charles Lindbergh opposed U.S. entry into the impending European conflict with Hitler. Anne supported his views and when the U.S. went to war their reputations were ruined and some Americans viewed them as Nazi sympathizers.
They came back to the United States in 1938 and were still involved in the anti-war America First Committee. But after Pearl Harbor, Charles seems to have changed his views and eventually played a civilian role in the military.
My parents married just before my father, Charles, joined the Navy and went to war. He came home. My sister and I were born. They bought the New Jersey house where I grew up.
I think when my mother read Anne’s book, she was reading about that young mother who lost her child and how she had come into her post-war life. I talked to my mom once about the Lindbergh’s attitudes before the war. She said she never heard any of that. Charles Lindbergh was a hero. They went through a tragic thing, but now Anne had found peace.
Looking through that book again now, I still see the appeal of the woman’s perspective, but after more than 50 years, the book is also seen as an early part of the environmental movement and a search for a slower pace that still seems to elude most of us.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh died in 2001, at the age of ninety-four. My mom died in 2011, just before her 93rd birthday. In my mother’s beliefs, they might be on some heavenly beach walking along the shore, talking and looking for shells.
“I want first of all – in fact, as an end to these other desires – to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact – to borrow from the language of the saints – to live ‘in grace’ as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh
It has been 17 years and now a new cohort of cicadas are ready to emerge again in Paradelle.
Why? We’re not quite sure – which is one reason I am intrigued by them.
I am reading now a book on phenology, which is the study of how we can observe seasonal change in plants and animals. I am also reading a book on the daily rituals of creative people. The two books are mixing in my brain in interesting ways.
Cicadas are chirping around in my head this month too, as are the migrating red knot birds that will be coming to New Jersey to feed on the horseshoe crab eggs as those ancient creatures perform their annual ritual that is connected to the moon and tides.
I like reading and thinking about these things that scientists haven’t quite figured out. I like wondering how those migrating birds or homing pigeons find their way. Researchers say that it seems to have something to do with magnetic fields and maybe the sun or moon. But really, we’re not completely sure. And I like that there is still that mystery to it.
With cicadas, one theory is that the cycles were a mechanism to deal with a cooling climate during the ice ages that occurred over the past several million years. Another posits the cycles are a way of avoiding predators.
Most of you probably can recognize the male cicada’s choppy, chirp, summer mating call. I was talking to a friend about this and she said, “How can it be a 17 year cycle when I hear and see them every year?”
Good question. These particular “periodical” cicadas are different from the annual cicadas that we hear every summer. Periodical cicadas might have been called “17-year locusts” or “13-year locusts” in your neighborhood. “Locust” always suggest some plague of insects, but cicadas are not true locusts (which are a type of grasshopper).
I am writing here about the species, Magicicada. You can spot the adults by their black bodies and bright red eyes and orange wing veins. They have a black “W” near the tips of the forewings.
In New Jersey, we commonly have the Macicada Septendecim which, like our mosquitoes, are the largest in size and have orange bands on the abdomen.
That rather ugly mating call, which some people say sounds like they are saying “pharaoh,” can get on your nerves, but is very much a sound of the start of summer to me since they appear mostly in May and June. Right now, soil temperatures are still in the mid-50s across New Jersey and Rutgers University reports that the cicadas are expected around the time we head to the Jersey Shore – late May. Soil down 8 inches warms slowly and cicadas won’t be fooled by a some 70 and 80 degrees days.
2013 is expected to be one of the largest broods recorded. That excites entomologists and probably repels most of the population. I don’t find cicadas lovely, but I do find these periodical ones to be fascinating. I am imagining them underground for 13 or 17 years waiting for some signal that it is time to emerge. We know that they won’t come out this year until the soil temperature about eight inches below the surface is a nice constant 64 degrees.
But why this year? Why wait 17 years? We are just not sure. There are exceptions. One swarm emerged in NJ four years ago ahead of this year’s due date. We don’t know why that happened either. Scientists didn’t get to study them because they were killed off by predators before researchers could study them. It just wasn’t their time.
After they emerge from that Rip van Winkle sleep, they go through a metamorphosis just a few hours later. They go from the flightless, slow-moving nymph stage into a large, flying insect.
They try to head for the sky before predators like dogs, cats, snakes, squirrels, deer, raccoons, mice, ants, and wasps get them. Once in the air, they still have to avoid birds.
They don’t need to worry too much about people, although some people do eat them. It is said that they have a taste that is sort of asparagus and nutty and best served when they molt and are still soft.
This post duplicates most of a post from another blog of mine called Endangered New Jersey – although periodical cicadas are not endangered they are a rather rare occurrence. If you want to be a citizen scientist, you can report cicada spottings at magicicada.org and your data will help map where and when the cicadas emerge this year.
Another interesting citizen scientist project comes from WNYC radio and the program Radiolab (which I wrote about earlier) who have created a place online to track cicada emergence in the northeast. If you are a DIY type, you might get into building the device they describe to predict their appearance in your backyard. See the WNYC Cicada Tracker page.