Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Greene's Greene

 In his new 900-age biography of George Washington, Ron Chernow describes another Revolutionary general, whose name adorns this county (and a dozen more around the United States) in these terms:       

Nathaniel Greene of Rhode Island was one of the first brigadier generals picked by Congress; having turned thirty-three that summer, he was the youngest general in the Continental Army.  Tall and solidly built with striking blue eyes, full lips, and a long straight nose, Greene had been reared in a pious Quaker household by a prosperous father who owned an iron forge, a sawmill and other businesses.   Discouraged from reading anything except the Bible, he had received little school and missed a college education as much as Washington.  “I lament the want of a liberal education,” he once wrote.  “I feel the mist [of] ignorance to surround me.”  To compensate for this failing he became adept at self-improvement and devoured authors both ancient and modern….
     After his father died in 1770, Greene inherited his business but was shadowed by mishaps.  Two years later one of the forges burned, and the following year he was banned from Quaker meetings, possibly because he patronized alehouses.  In 1774 Greene married the exceptionally pretty Catharine ‘Caty’ Littlefield, who was a dozen years younger and a preeminent belle of the Revolutionary era.  As relations with Great Britain soured that year, Greene struggled to become that walking contradiction, ‘a fighting Quaker,’ poring over military histories purchased in Henry Knox’s Boston bookstore.  At that point his knowledge of war derived entirely from reading.  Greene was an improbable candidate for military honors: handicapped by asthma, he walked with a limp, possibly from an early accident.  When he joined his Rhode Island militia, he was heartbroken to be rejected as an officer because his men thought his limp detracted from their military appearance….
    Nevertheless, within year, by dint of dawn-to-dusk work habits, Greene emerged as general of the Rhode Is;and Army of Observation, leading to his promotion by the Continental Congress.  Washington must have felt an instinctive sympathy for this young man restrained by handicaps and with a pretty and pregnant wife.  He also would have admired what Greene had done with the Rhode Island troops in Cambridge [MA.]—they lived in “proper tents…and looked like the regular camp of the enemy,” according to the Reverend William Emerson.
     Nathaniel Greene had other qualities that recommended him to the commander in chief.  Like Washington, he despised profanity, gambling, and excessive drinking among his men.  Like Washington, he was temperamental, hypersensitive to criticism, and chary of his reputation; and he craved recognition.  As he slept in dusty blankets, tormented by asthma throughout the war, he had a plucky dedication to his work and proved a battlefield general firmly in the Washington mold, exposing himself fearlessly to enemy fire.  Years later Washington described Greene as “a man of abilities, bravery and coolness.  He has a comprehensive knowledge of our affairs and is a man of fortitude and resources.”  Henry Knox paid tribute to his friend by saying that he “came to us the rawest, the most untutored being I ever met with” but within a year “was equal in military knowledge to any general officer in the army and even superior to most of them.”  This tactful man, with his tremendous political intuitions, wound up as George Washington’s favorite general.  When Washington was later asked who should replace him in case of an accident, he replied unhesitatingly, “General Greene.” 
  --Washington. A Life.  NY: Penguin Press, 2010, p. 202.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Star Turns

  Among Young Global Leaders newly crowned by the eminent World Economic Forum’s selectors is a new GreeneLander: Asli Karahan-Ay. YGL designation, according to a Forum release, goes to “outstanding young leaders from around the world for their professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.” 
  Honorees emerge from a rigorous screening of thousands of candidates who are under 40 years of age and come from the ranks of business, government, foundations, communications media and social entrepreneurship.  Included with Ms Karahan-Ay in the North American contingent of honorees are a novelist (Dave Eggers), a mayor (of Calgary), a governor (Nikki Haley of South Carolina), a news broadcaster (Dana Perino, former press secretary for President George W. Bush), a Gates Foundation executive, a politician who has turned to business (Harold Ford Jr.), and leaders of several go-ahead enterprises. Ms Karahan-Ay was chosen in deference to her work at the global bank, UBS, most recently as executive director of the office of the chief executive officer, and previously as director of the investment bank division.  And she won that distinction shortly after performing another feat: giving birth to her second son, Adrian Aslan Ay.
     Ms. Karahan-Ay and her husband, Evren Ay, recently bought a GreeneLand estate whose main house dates from 1754.  

     *”Sparrow Lane” is the title of a short movie to be shot, all being well, during April 18-24 in Catskill.  According to director Patricia Gillespie, it will be a “true fable” of a young man who experiences a “crisis of honor.”  Desperate for money to stave off foreclosure on his home in up-state New York, and to care for the pregnant widow of his lately deceased older brother, he sees no solution other than working as a well paid strike-breaking scab.  Some footage will be shot in the Cus D'Amato gymnasium, with local young boxers working under trainer Ernest Westbrooke.  Main location of the action would be on Water Street, between Factory and Bridge.  The crew of 15, and the acting cast of 10, would come up from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  There may be openings for an extra or two, including a uniformed Catskill cop.  (Not quite on the same scale as “War of the Worlds.”).  Queries: yellowbellyfilms@gmail.com
*Casey Biggs has been busy on both coasts.  Out in Hollywood, he played the part of the president of Wells Fargo Bank in the forthcoming movie “Too Big to Fail,” and he taped a choice role in an episode of the television series “The Good Wife.”  Moving up the California coast, he spent quality time sampling the cookery, as well as the charms, of spouse Brigit (Roadfoodie) Binns in the zinfandel-growing region around Paso Robles, where he also taped a trio of commercials for a California zinfandel-growing region.  (The first one is delightful: http://www.youtube.com/wach?v=XVaNxB5TN2M&feature=youtube_gdata_player).  Then too there was a weekend in San Antonio, where he gave the keynote speech at the remembrance of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of The Alamo.  (He played the fort’s commander, Col. William Bliss, in the IMAX movie re-enactment of that ordeal).  Meanwhile, in Manhattan he has been teaching New School of Drama classes, including performances of a play that he conceived and directed: a blending Anton Chekhov takes, in "Uncle Vanya," "Three Sisters," "The Cherry Orchard" and "The Seagull," on the themes of love, lost and leaving. Next year, he confects Shakespeare’s Henry plays) 
*Warner Shook too has been out west, away from his Catskill abode, in Los Angeles directing the Irish-flavored play written by Colin McPherson, “The Weir.”   Now he is in Seattle, his old theatrical/dramaturgical stomping ground, directing a fresh production of “The Prisoner of Second Avenue." 
*Joseph Capone is here at home, writing a play about Sybil Ludington, who is celebrated in statues and memorial postage stamps as the female Paul Revere.  In 1777, when she had just turned 16 years old, Sybil made a 40-mile circuit (twice as long as  Revere’s), in darkness, in the rain, through Putnam and Dutchess counties, spreading the word that the Redcoats were coming.  Four hundred militiamen responded to the call to muster in what is now Kent NY, under the command of Sybil’s father, Col. Henry Ludington.  The call-up came too late to prevent the sacking of Danbury CT but it brought vital Revolutionary force to the Battle of Ridgefield soon afterward.  Sybil subsequently was married to a lawyer named Edmond Ogden and they lived for some 12 years on Main Street, Catskill.
*Robert Lupone of Coxsackie will be retiring at the end of the current academic year as director of the Master of Fine Arts program at New York’s New School of Drama.  He will continue to spend time in New York, as artistic director of the MCC theatre company, which stages three new plays per year.
     *Frank Cuthbert returned to GreeneLand just in time for last Saturday’s Beaux Arts Ball at Hunter Mountain, after a Winter retreat in Asheville NC working on the libretto of a musical for which he has written music and the lyrics….
     *”Oliver” will be performed at Cairo-Durham High School this weekend.  Saturday (4/8) and Sunday at 2pm and 7pm, Sunday at 2pm.   239-6922.
     *Mozart pieces for woodwinds will be played by a Bard College ensemble on Sunday from 2pm at Beattie-Powers House in Catskill.
      *Alternatively, a seeker after novel experiences could devote this weekend to apprehending “The Energy of Money.”  In Acra, at the Peace Village Learning & Retreat Center, participants will explore “inner dynamics of wanting, hoarding, receiving, donating, and generating prosperity.”  www.peace-village.org589-5000.
 While redecorating the home of Jennifer Aniston out in California, Stephen Shadley finds time to supervise reconstruction here of his Potic Mountain castle.  That historic edifice was built in 1913 for Winifred Grier, daughter of a Canadian timber baron. Its designer, Wilfred Buckland, was primarily a theatrical scene designer whose career took him from David Belasco productions on the Broadway stage to silent film epics in Hollywood.  As for the castle, Winifred Grier sold it when she moved to England as bride of Ion [sic] Hamilton Benn, baronet and Member of Parliament.  The place was last occupied back in 1976.  It was heavily damaged by arson in 1977, during winter when fire trucks could scarcely reach it. It is now receiving the careful attention that Mr Shadley has given to dwellings of luminaries such as Diane Keaton and Woody Allen