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Political Speech

Posted 8/30/2006

I wish to offer an answer to Russ Smith's question (Right Field, Aug. 23), "What in the world was Cardin thinking last week when he told a small gathering at HopeWell Cancer Support Center that ‘We are going to lick cancer by 2015'?"

In the early 1960s, I took Econ 101 with Johns Hopkins University Professor Clarence D. Long, when he was in the midst of his first campaign for Maryland's 2nd Congressional District seat. Long (1908-1994), one of the most respected and straight-shooting profs on campus, would occasionally ruminate in class on how his campaign was going. I've never forgotten one of his utterances: "When I started this campaign, everything I said was the honest truth. Now, halfway through the campaign, I don't believe most of what's coming out of my own mouth!" Long won the election and stayed in Congress from 1963 to 1985.

I'm fairly certain that Ben Cardin's wild claim about licking cancer exemplifies what Prof. Long confessed to our class decades ago. Now, as then, it seems politicians under the gun will inevitably bottom fish. Sometimes, even the most capitalistic, self-serving candidates can start to sound like fired-up Utopian Socialists.

Herman M. Heyn

It Takes a Village to Raise a City

I am writing to applaud Christina Royster-Hemby for her cover story titled "Nation Building" (Aug. 16) and also to extend kudos to Farajii Muhammad. This is a man who understands the importance of teaching leadership skills and concepts to young people. Helping youths find a voice and develop their strength of character, as well as discover avenues for becoming potential leaders, is just as critical as their learning reading, writing, and arithmetic.

An important lesson to be derived from this piece can be summed up in the following: A city's strength is attributable to the strength and cohesiveness of the people within its communities. Proud neighborhoods, led by energetic, understanding, and willing residents, are necessary weapons in combating citywide social ills such as poverty, disease, and racism. Reasons to be proud are not necessarily readily apparent, and often they have to be constructed from the ashes of a neglected living space. They can be found, however, in simple traits such as a neighborhood's history, an annual Independence Day cookout, or in the voice of a local youth who stands proudly within City Hall to voice his or her concerns and solutions.

Whether or not you are in accordance with Mr. Muhammad's personal beliefs, the fact that so many young individuals have been inspired by his teachings cannot go ignored. He should be saluted for the positive impact he has made and continues to make on young people in our communities within our city.

Joel D. Miller

Mechanical Marvels

In his Film Clips review of The Illusionist (Aug. 16), Gary Dowell writes: "it stars Edward Norton as Eisenheim, the titular sorcerer, who performs the sort of illusions--making orange trees spontaneously grow from a pot of dirt--that could never be performed on an actual stage in front of a live audience without actual supernatural abilities, but that's part of the tale."

Actually, that's part of history. The blooming orange tree illusion was very much performed in front of live audiences, not only by its creator, the great Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (often called "The Father of Modern Magic"), but also by his legions of imitators, including the Scotsman John Henry Anderson, "The Wizard of the North."

As in the film, a pot of dirt was presented, and from it visibly grew a small orange tree, a bush really, and flowers appeared, fell off, and were replaced by real oranges, which were picked and passed out to the audience. A pair of butterflies did, in fact, flutter over the tree, carrying between them a previously borrowed and vanished handkerchief, or a borrowed ring tied onto a ribbon.

The illusion is an example of the height of the pre-electronic mechanical age, and a later version, presented by American Karl Germain in the early 1900s, featured a rose bush and mechanical birds.

While in The Illusionist, the feat is obviously accomplished via CGI, rest assured it can be done live. I have personally seen a version of the Blooming Rose Bush crafted by one of Harry Blackstone Sr.'s mechanics, Nick Ruggiero. Perhaps a dozen of these rest in the hands of private collectors around the world, presented on special occasions for close friends.

Please let Mr. Dowell know that, before making such absolute pronouncements, a simple web search--of, say, the review--would have provided the facts.

Eric Henning

The writer is past president of the Yogi Magic Club of Baltimore and International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 50 in Washington.

Support the Oppressed

In "The Trap" (Political Animal, Aug. 9), Brian Morton wrote, "The fact is, it is possible to oppose a president without opposing the troops." Such sentiment is worthy of debate.

As a pacifist, I oppose all wars. However, I was arrested protesting the death-squad government of El Salvador, the oppressor, even though some Salvadorans resisted by violent means. I was also arrested protesting the Indonesian government's invasion of East Timor. And I was arrested protesting the white-minority government of South Africa. In each case, I opposed the soldiers carrying out the policies of these oppressive governments.

Yes, I was arrested protesting the invasion of Iraq by George the First. During that invasion U.S. forces slaughtered Iraqi forces on the notorious "Highway of Death." How could I not oppose the soldiers involved?

I recognize there is an economic draft in this country, but a U.S. soldier has but one goal--to fight to preserve the empire. Nevertheless, I respect the courage of these soldiers and feel great pain when they are killed or maimed. So I urge all members of the military to join Veterans for Peace. Many veterans are very active in the peace movement, especially in counter-recruitment.

One of the signs I carry at demonstrations is "Support the troops, bring them home now." That is, in my opinion, the best way of showing one's concern for those in harm's way.

Max Obuszewski

Editor's note: With this issue we welcome Chris Landers and longtime contributor Jason Torres to City Paper as staff writers. Be on the lookout for their bylines.

In other news, the deadline for submissions for our annual Comics Contest has been extended to Sept. 15; the winner (and placers and selected also-rans) will get some inky love in our postponed Comics Issue, which will now hit the streets Oct. 11. Please click here for more details.

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