Hall of Influence – Class 3

Before I bestow the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Influence on new members, let us first refresh the collective memory and recall who has already been previously enshrined. On 9/27/09 the inaugural member was my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. Then five months later in February 2010 we inducted The Rooney Family (owners of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers), the greatest fictional detective of all time Sherlock Holmes & his creator author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra.

 

Today we celebrate three new honorees from the worlds of music, literature, and politics.

 

While Mr. Sinatra always did and still does seem to get most of the attention & respect of fans of mid-20th century popular music, I submit that there is another member of the legendary Rat Pack that deserves just as much admiration for his immense talent and unmistakably smooth, rich baritone. That man was born Dino Crochetti in 1917 just a couple of hours up the highway in Steubenville, OH, but we all know him better as Dean Martin. Dino was the very definition of multi-talented. He could sing, he could act, and he was what I like to call quietly funny. Lots of people…Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, etc…are hilarious in a sort of loud, obnoxious, crude way, and that is fine. Whatever works. But I tend to be drawn to humor that is more casual, caustic, & low-key, probably because it reflects my own personality. Martin honed his comic chops while working as zany partner Jerry Lewis’ “straight man” in the 40’s & 50’s and perfected his shtick as part of the Rat Pack in the 60’s. He also conquered the world of films, starring in over 50 movies…everything from screwball comedies with Lewis to war dramas to westerns. Then he became a television star in the 70’s. However, it is the music that stood the test of time. About 15 years ago I was in the car with my sister driving to a family dinner. I put a CD in and the soothing sounds of Dino emanated from the speakers. My sibling looked at me strangely and said “Oh my God…you’re turning into Dad”. At the time I just chuckled & shook it off. Now I realize that it might be one of the best compliments given me in my lifetime, not only because my father is undoubtedly among the finest men I’ve ever known, but also because somewhere along the line I was taught to appreciate good music and respect the wonderful gifts that God bequeaths to his children.

 

Our second honoree is one of the best writers that America has ever produced. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, wrote some of the greatest books of the 19th century, and 150 years later most of them are still being read by millions of appreciative bibliophiles. Works like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Pudd’nhead Wilson have left an indelible mark on the hearts & minds of readers everywhere, including your humble Potentate of Profundity. His writing is an interesting marriage of humor & societal contempt that I adore. Twain himself is a true piece of Americana, having grown up on the shores of the Mississippi River and tried his hand at a fascinating variety of gigs, including riverboat pilot, newspaper reporter, gold miner, and printing apprentice. Everything I have ever read by & about Twain indicates that he was just the sort of fellow I might have gotten along with famously…witty, charming, and self-educated, with just the right mix of intellectual curiosity & wanderlust to fuel the creative juices. I have tremendous respect for almost any writer that manages to get their stuff published & read by the masses, and when those stories are still being enjoyed centuries later it is worthy of the deepest admiration.

 

The third and final new member of the Hall of Influence is the man I like to refer to as The Godfather of Conservatism. I am, of course, speaking about Rush Limbaugh. I grew up and still reside in the hardcore liberal state of West Virginia, where we hate rich people, love unions, and rely on the government to take care of our every need. My Dad has always voted a straight Democrat ticket, as did my grandfather. From a very young age I had an affinity for politics and fondly recall being fascinated by the memorable keynote address of New York Mayor Mario Cuomo at the 1984 Democrat National Convention when I was 12 years old. Then I went to college and met my friend Greg. Strangely enough Greg grew up just 15 minutes down the road, but we’d never met until the fall of 1991 when I was a resident advisor at Marshall University in my sophomore year and he was a freshman on my floor. Though we couldn’t be more different on the surface we quickly found out that we had much in common and were soon, as Forrest Gump might say, just like peas & carrots. I forget the exact circumstances and sequence of events, but it was Greg who first introduced me to Rush. At first I was reluctant. I don’t know how Greg managed to escape the Appalachian liberal indoctrination, but it was firmly entrenched in my mind that Republicans were mean, evil crooks that didn’t give a damn about poor people, and poor people were pretty much the only kind I knew. But I’m a bookworm who respects the opinions & recommendations of my friends, so when Greg gave me a copy of Rush’s first book, The Way Things Ought to Be, I gave it a whirl…and it changed my life. Everything Rush said made sense and the veil was lifted from my eyes. Rush taught me about conservatism and shed new light on things like media bias, the BS about  feminism, environmentalism, & racism, the truth about economics, and the value of liberty, rugged individualism, and self-reliance. In the ensuing 20+ years I have read Rush’s second book, See I Told You So, and for a long time was a regular listener of his radio show. In the past few years I have become less intensely involved in sociopolitical issues simply due to age, spiritual growth, and the conscious choice to concentrate on things that bring me more tranquility & quiet pleasure. However, I still listen in on occasion and would buy a new book by Rush in a heartbeat. I wholeheartedly agree with most of what he says, and become aggravated by those who criticize him without really reading or listening to what he says versus what others say about him. My only regret is that I was not exposed to conservatism far earlier in my life. I sincerely believe in the greatness of our nation and that, even though not everyone will succeed, everyone has the opportunity to succeed if they are taught the right values, provided access to the proper tools, and given the freedom to attempt to succeed. That is the biggest problem with government – so many people never really try, because not only are they taught that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, good looking enough, or rich enough, but they are taught that these deficiencies aren’t an issue because they’ll be taken care of no matter what. No need to overcome obstacles, no need to make tough choices, no need to go out on a limb and try something outside the comfort zone – just sit tight and let Big Brother pay your bills, put food on the table, and take care of everything from clothing to housing to medical expenses and it’s only getting worse. There’s only so much a lone radio host can do to fight this moral & ethical decay, but for over two decades Rush has done more to combat such destructive attitudes than anyone could have ever expected, and for that I salute the man.

 

 

 

The Sherlock Holmes Canon

sherlock_holmes_silhouette2I promised that The Bookshelf was going to get some attention, and there’s probably no better place to start than with my favorite book series of all time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon. I first became enamored with Sherlock Holmes back in junior high school when, for some reason, our English textbook contained the story The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. I instantly fell in love with the cleverness of both the writing and the character. Not too long afterward I picked up a two volume paperback edition of the complete works and spent the next few weeks devouring each and every story.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and 4 novels featuring the world’s most renowned amateur detective and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson from 1887-1927. Nearly all the stories were first published in England’s The Strand magazine, the 19th century equivalent of The New Yorker or Reader’s Digest. Doyle himself was a less-than-successful Scottish doctor who turned to writing to pay the bills. I assume Dr. John Watson was loosely based on Doyle himself. The main h1man though…Sherlock Holmes…was inspired by a professor of Doyle’s at the University of Edinburgh, Joseph Bell. Bell’s methods of deductive reasoning left a deep enough impression on Doyle that when he began writing stories Sherlock Holmes was created. Readers of The Strand fell in love with Sherlock Holmes immediately. In fact, the folks in merry old England had such an abiding affection for Holmes that when Doyle (who apparently didn’t love the character as much as his readers) tried to kill him off after just 2 novels and 24 short stories there was much consternation…so much that Doyle felt compelled to bring Holmes back to life, which would spur 2 more novels and 32 additional stories. Doyle seemed to have that yearning that so many artists – writers, actors, singers – have…to be taken seriously. Hopefully before his death in 1930 he came to realize that no other writings by him could have possibly come close to being the gift to the world that Sherlock Holmes was and continues to be a century later.


I will make the assumption that almost everyone from the youngest child to the greyest seasoned citizen has atleast heard of Sherlock Holmes and probably thinks they have a vague idea of what he’s all about…the deerstalker hat, the cape, the pipe, the phrase “Elementary my dear Watson!!”, the home address of 221B Baker Street. Holmes consistently appears in the top 5 of any lists dealing with beloved fictional characters, and at one time (I do not know if it is still the case) he held the Guinness world record for the most portrayed character in film. The character has been used in countless movies, plays and pastiches (in other words, imitations by other authors) that portray Holmes in a wide variety of ages and put him in all manner of fascinating situations…trying to track down real h2life serial killer Jack the Ripper, fighting Nazis in World War II, going up against Dracula. I don’t necessarily dismiss all non-canonical varieties of Holmes, but I do tend to tread lightly. Part of the magic of Holmes is the setting…foggy, gaslit, Victorian England. When one takes the character out of that setting it can either be an interesting fish-out-of-water scenario or a complete disaster. I am a traditionalist, so I like my fictional characters to stay in the era and locale of their origin, and I tend to prefer any new reincarnations be based on or atleast show respect to the author’s intent.  Putting a centuries old character in a modern day situation with guns blazing, car chases, and meaningless explosions does not impress me at all. For example, I sincerely believe that the powers-that-be responsible for the atrocity that was 1996’s Romeo & Juliet starring Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes should never be allowed to work in Hollywood again. At any rate, I recommend reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes canon first (obviously), and then being very selective in what other Holmes incarnations one digests. There was a PBS series in the 1980’s and early 90’s that was very good and pretty faithful to the canon. 41 of the 60 Holmes stories were produced, and the remaining 19 probably would have been done if not for the untimely death of its star Jeremy Brett (certainly among the best portrayers of Sherlock Holmes). I’ve always heard mixed reviews leaning toward positive about the 1940’s films starring Basil Rathbone, but to be honest my intent to see them has never come to fruition. The fact that only 1 of the 14 films, The Hound of the Baskervilles, is canonical is a concern, and it is well known that they portray Watson as a bumbling stooge which was not how Doyle wrote the character. I suppose one day I will cave and will attempt to be open minded, but I have a strong inclination that I’m not really missing anything.


The influence of Sherlock Holmes over the past 100+ years is truly amazing. Most mystery and detective type stories owe much to Holmes, and shows like CSIh3 wouldn’t exist without him. Sherlock Holmes was forensics before forensics was cool. Hundreds of societies (all based on the original Baker Street Irregulars, founded in 1934) regularly gather to discuss and celebrate Holmes. I cannot think of any literary figure with that kind of influence and following…not even Shakespeare. The stories themselves are interesting enough to keep the attention of adults, but uncomplicated enough that teenagers and maybe even overachieving and precocious pre-teens can read them. They are eminently readable, and one can go back to them over and over and they never seem to get old.  As a matter of fact, picking up a book of Sherlock Holmes stories is like reuniting with an old friend. I would strongly encourage anyone who has never read them to give them a whirl. You are unlikely to regret your choice.

Hall of Influence – Class 2

The time has come to add to the hallowed chamber that is The Hall of Influence. Today we will be inducting three new members from diverse fields…sports, literature, and music. Though these areas of interest may not measure high on the scale of significance in the big picture that is our universe, I am sure most will concede that they do add immeasurable joy, pleasure, and interest to most of our lives to some degree.

 

Let us first venture onto the football field. Anyone who meets me knows within 10 minutes that I am a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan and have been for over 30 years. I began to be interested in and understand football at a very young age, even before I started school. Living in the state of West Virginia there are no professional sports teams because there just isn’t the population or economic base to support such a venture. However, I am fortunate to live within a couple of hours of the city of Pittsburgh, and I just happened to be born right as the heretofore hapless Steelers were morphing from a team that had never been very competitive to one that would ultimately come to be thought of as NFL royalty, one of the most successful franchises in team sports. They were the first team to ever win 4 Super Bowls, winning back to back titles twice within a 6 year period from 1974-1980 and have won two more since that time. When contemplating just who should represent the Steelers in The Hall of Influence many names ran through my mind. Terry Bradshaw was the quintessential franchise quarterback and led the team to all four of those 1970’s titles. Mean Joe Greene and Jack Lambert were the leaders of the most infamous defense in football, The Steel Curtain. Lynn Swann was poetry in motion and one of the most acrobatic wide receivers ever to catch a football. Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier were the leaders of a hard-nosed, smash mouth rushing attack that defined Steeler football. Less heralded players like center Mike Webster, safety Donnie Shell, and wide receiver John Stallworth embodied the blue collar attitude of a city and a team. All of these men were guided by the stoic, quiet, firm hand of head coach Chuck Noll. However, my choice to represent the Pittsburgh Steelers and my undying love for them is the family that has owned and operated the team since its inception in 1933, the Rooney family. The patriarch was Art Rooney Sr., The Chief, who used his winnings from time spent at the horse track to start a brand new NFL franchise. The Chief was a driving force in the growth of the league as a whole, and helmed the ship as the Steelers became a powerhouse team. He was aided by his son Dan, who worked alongside his father beginning in the late 1960’s. Dan ran the organization’s daily operations from the late 1970’s until 2003, when he handed over the job to his son Art Rooney II. In a world where many teams seem so unstable…changing coaches, owners, and even cities at the drop of a hat…The Rooney Family has been steady and consistent. Their long term leadership has been a major reason why the Steelers have been among the elite for such a long time, and that success has provided me with countless hours of happiness and entertainment.

 

One of the other ways I entertain myself is reading. I love a good book. My all time favorite literary series is The Sherlock Holmes canon, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I intend to go into a more detailed analysis of the books and my enjoyment of them in a piece for The Bookshelf section of The Manofesto, so I will keep my comments short for now. Suffice to say that Sherlock Holmes is one of the most endearing characters in all of literature, and he cannot really be separated from his creator Doyle. Therefore I have chosen to initiate both sides of the same coin into the Hall of Influence. I cannot thank them enough for all the times they have magically transported me to Victorian England and allowed me to forget about my problems for awhile. I would encourage any bookworm who enjoys a good mystery to give Holmes a whirl. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Our third and final inductee today is from the world of music. In my mind he is the ultimate musical performer…classic, timeless, the standard to which all others need to be compared. I am speaking of Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board, The Voice…..Frank Sinatra. I tend to have rather eclectic musical tastes. I like everything from hard rock to blues to 80’s pop to big band. Amongst the crowd of pretenders to the throne…Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson…only one man clearly stands above the rest. I am not saying those performers and many many others are not talented and deserving of their accolades, just that in my universe they are all a bit overrated. No one can ever legitimately call Mr. Sinatra that, not even close. During a career that spanned nearly 60 years, he had numerous #1 songs and albums, won 11 Grammys, and tried his hand at acting and won an Academy Award. Somewhere along the line Sinatra segued from a top selling singer to a legendary cultural icon. I was first introduced to Sinatra during my youth by my father. Like most youngsters I wanted to be cool and hip and thought Dad was just an old fogey, so I didn’t pay too much attention to his music. But as I grew older and began to have more of an appreciation for quality and excellence and became less concerned with fitting in with the crowd I began to develop an appreciation for various musical genres, including swing, jazz, and “crooners”. There’s no one that embodies all of those better than Frank Sinatra. With it being almost a foregone conclusion that all great (and even not so great) bands will eventually reunite for a big money tour and knowing that no musician ever really retires, it makes me sad to know that I will never have the opportunity to see Sinatra in concert because…well, he’s dead. But the music lives on. So while others waste their time gushing over the latest MTV/American Idol wannabe and embrace what is clearly a lower standard of musical mediocrity played on the radio these days, I will happily be listening to my Sinatra CDs and appreciating the greatest singer to ever live. For his many contributions to music and culture Frank Sinatra is a well deserving member of The Hall of Influence.