Saturday, January 18, 2020

Still looking for those (probably non-existent) recordings or transcripts of "World Affairs are Your Affairs"

I was hoping that in a couple days, I would be able to "celebrate" the 70th anniversary of George H. Kerr's radio appearance on KNBC's "World Affairs are Your Affairs" with a post presenting what was actually said during that program. As I mentioned a week or so ago, Kerr was invited to the program and asked to provide an outline of his expected talking points.

I went to the Harvard Law School library on Thursday to look at their collection of the Bulletin of the World Affairs Council of Northern California, a publication of the organization that co-sponsored the program. I wanted to see if there was any mention of the program. The collection contains volumes 1-6 of the publication (I don't know if that's all the issues they had, but it seems to be the case judging from the WorldCat database), dating from 1947-1952. Looking through the issues, I found that they did include announcements about upcoming programs. But as luck would have it, the January 1950 issue was devoted to the annual conference (focusing on "Facing the Facts in China") hosted by the Council, and there was no mention of the radio program.

Kerr's name does pop up in a few places:
  • The November, 1949 issue's article, "Knowland, Douglas to Speak" at the annual conference, mentions that Kerr was invited to the conference, but the later issues (including the January 1950 special issue) don't mention Kerr.
  • The February, 1950 issue's "Calendar of Events": Thursday Open House, 4:30-5:30 p.m., "Feb. 9--GEORGE H. KERR, Lecturer in History, Stanford University, and Research Assistant, Hoover Institute; formerly, Vice Consul in Formosa. The United States and Formosa."
  • The April, 1950 issue's Calendar of Events: Public Meetings, "April 11, 7:30 p.m.--OAKLAND--GEORGE H. KERR, Stanford University. Formosa--A Hot Spot of Asia. Technical High School, 4351 Broadway, Oakland. Arranged by Oakland Technical Adult School Forum."
  • The June, July, August 1950 issue's notes on the activities of the World Affairs Council of Sacramento, including "a forum on 'The Current Crisis in China and Formosa' in which George Kerr, former Vice-Consul in Formosa, Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hearn (Ret.), and Tully Knoles, Chancellor, College of the Pacific, participated."
So that's the extent of what I found thus far.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Just read: Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country

Louise Erdrich, Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of My Ancestors. Harper Perennial, 2014.

My first book of the year. I picked it up at Brookline Booksmith from a table of sale books (there might still be some copies there if you hurry). I'm a weepy sort of reader anyway, but I never thought I'd get emotional over a brief description of a tree that was felled by a storm.

I bought the book because I'm teaching an online course in travel writing this semester. I bought it too late to make it required reading, but I quoted a portion of it in a letter to the students, where Erdrich describes a motel room that she and her infant daughter Kiizhikok stop at after they get back from spending time with friends and family outdoors in Ojibwe country (in northern Minnesota and southern Ontario):
The loneliness of roadside motels steals over me at once. Walking into my room, number 33, even with Kiizhikok’s presence to cushion me, the sadness soaks up through my feet. True, I might have dreams here, these places always inspire uneasy nights and sometimes spectacular and even numinous dreams. But they test my optimism. My thoughts go dreary. The door shows signs of having been forced open. I can still see the crowbar marks where a lock was jimmied. And oh dear, it is only replaced with a push-in knob that can be undone with a library card, or any stiff bit of plastic, I think, as I don’t suppose that someone intent on breaking into room 33 would use a library card. Or if they did, I wonder, dragging in one duffle and the diaper bag, plus Kiizhikok football-style, would it be a good sign or a bad sign? Would it be better to confront an ill-motivated intruder who was well read, or one indifferent to literature? 
I reign my thoughts in, get my bearings. There are touches. Although the bed sags and the pickle-green coverlet is pilly and suspicious looking, the transparent sheets are tight and clean. A strangely evocative fall foliage scene is set above the bed--hand painted! Signed with a jerky black squiggle. The bathroom shower has a paper sanitary mat picturing a perky mermaid, breasts hidden by coils of green hair. The terrifying stain in the center of the carpet is almost covered with a woven rug. As always, on car trips where I will surely encounter questionable bedcovers, I’ve brought my own quilt. There is a bedside lamp with a sixty-watt bulb, and once Kiizhikok is asleep I can read. (78)
I used that to introduce students to a "great tradition" in travel writing: describing one's iffy living quarters. I like a lot of things about these paragraphs, but one is the simple adjective "terrifying" to describe a stain in the carpet. It evokes so much without saying too much.

Of course, there's a lot more to recommend this book than a description of a motel room and a fallen tree, but I'll leave that discovery to the reader.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Looking for recordings of the KNBC radio program, "World Affairs are Your Affairs"

A query posted to the ether: I'm trying to find a recording or transcript of a January 20, 1950 broadcast of the KNBC radio program, World Affairs are Your Affairs. George H. Kerr was invited to participate in a panel discussion on "strategy in the far Pacific" along with Captain John G. Crommelin, Staff Commander, Western Sea Frontier. The moderator was Frank Clarvoe of the San Francisco News.

In a January 12, 1950, letter to Kerr, (Mrs.) Sally Smith Kahn of the World Affairs Council of Northern California described the program as "an informal roundtable type with give-and-take discussion, rather than prepared speeches." "However," she continued, "if you have time, it would be most helpful if you could draw up a brief one-page outline of points which you would like to see covered on the program."

Kerr complied with an outline that emphasized "the gravity of economic and political problems involved," which he argued "appear to outweigh the military and strategic advantages to be gained" by direct US intervention in Formosa. He called Formosa "a military liability" to the US because of the presence of Chiang Kai-shek and argued that Taiwan without Chiang could become "an important training base for the 'Little Marshall Plan' being considered for Southeast Asia."

He also argued that "American policy regarding Formosa has been based on a seriously inaccurate premise, mainly, that Formosa in 1945 and thereafter is indistinguishable [sic] a part of mainland China and must be treated as such."

Anyway, I've made some inquiries to the World Affairs Council, but haven't heard back yet. No luck with various types of Googling and searches in some archives. But maybe I missed something, so I make this plea for help. HEELLLLPP!!!

[Update, 1/8/2020: Wow. Just read the New York Times obituary for Crommelin, who died in 1996. Relevant portions to this post:
In 1949, he was a captain serving at Navy headquarters in Washington when steps toward unification of the armed forces were being discussed and made. But strategic, organizational and personal differences between the Navy and the Air Force -- and also, on a lesser scale, between the Army and the Navy -- exploded into a series of charges, countercharges and public hearings that shook the Pentagon.

Captain Crommelin, as he then was, publicly complained that the Defense Department was scuttling naval air power and showing improper favor to the Air Force. He also asserted that ''a Prussian General Staff system of the type employed by Hitler'' was being imposed on the armed forces under unification.

He was relieved of his duties at the headquarters and publicly reprimanded by Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations, for making public confidential Navy letters linking top admirals to active opposition against unification.

Captain Crommelin was transferred to San Francisco to be air officer of the Western Sea Frontier. After he continued his criticism in the face of orders to keep silent, he was ordered by Admiral Sherman to be furloughed at half pay, beginning early in 1950. That year, The New York Times's military affairs expert Hanson W. Baldwin wrote that Captain Crommelin was a ''stormy petrel who wouldn't shut up.''

Then, the captain moved to his native Alabama, applied for retirement and ended his three-decade Navy career in May 1950, with the rank of rear admiral because of his combat record.

In later years, he operated part of his family plantation, named Harrogate Springs, in Elmore County, raising a variety of crops. He also ran unsuccessfully for various public offices. He was a candidate in the Democratic Presidential primary in New Hampshire in 1968 and also repeatedly announced himself as a candidate for the United States Senate. The National States Rights Party, advocating white supremacy, nominated him for Vice President in 1960.
And so on... ]

[Update, 1/16/2020: So far, no responses from the World Affairs Council chapters that I've contacted... ]