Friday, October 31

Happy Samhain

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By Art Cashin

On this day in (approx.) 823 B.C., the most inventive, charming and clever people ever to grace God's green earth came up with yet another ingenious idea.

They were, of course, the Irish (at this time A/K/A the Celts). Being bright they did not labor upon the obvious. So they let somebody else invent fire, the wheel, iron, astronomy, writing, calendars, etc. These they figured they could copy - - and boy did they. These clever folks....well.....they tended to save their strength for what was really important.

By this stratagem, even 1000 years earlier, while pagan types were grappling with such mediocrity as pyramids, irrigation and geometry, the Celts had learned to distill grain. This miracle medicinal cure (which would maintain mankind for over 3000 years) they called Usquebah. The amazed and very
indebted rest of the world mistranslated the name as "whiskey".

So for a millennia these wise and whiskey-witty folk enjoyed good health and good fellowship. Then as this particular day approached (circa 823 B.C.), gender problems arose. The women began expecting the men to hang out close to the cave as the evening came earlier each fall. If civilization were to progress, this would never do!

So the Celtic elders came up with the second great invention. They called it "Samhain" or end of summer. They explained to the women that as the season changed, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits came forth to threaten all humans. In order to protect the women and children, the men folk selflessly would have to put on old clothes, take some jugs of the magic Usquebah (possible snake bite you know) and go into the hills and light fires.

For nearly 1500 years the tradition held. Then came the good St. Patrick who was wise enough to keep the Usquebah but drove out the snakes. Conveniently, his Christian teaching did say that November 1st was the Feast of All Saints (or "All Hallows"). So it only seemed logical that if the saints were coming out, the devils would have one last fling. So, snakes or not, we would
still need those reliable old clothes, bonfires and protective booze on the eve of "All Hallows" or Hallow's Evening or Halloween.

To celebrate stop by "The Bog on the Moor" and fortify yourself against snakebite, but quit before ye begin to see the little people. For to go beyond, will surround ye with all kinds of devilment like - banshees and ghoulies and mothers-in-law.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Friday, October 3

The Great Imposter - No, It's Not a Politician

By Art Cashin

On this day (+1) in 1951, the Royal Canadian Navy found itself in a bizarre disciplinary proceeding. The proceedings were against a young naval surgeon who had recently become somewhat of a national hero.

It was during the toughest days of the Korean War (er...make that "Police Action"). In the choppiest of seas, the young surgeon was called upon to remove a bullet from a soldier's heart. Shortly after that, he saved a man with severe wounds and collapsed lungs. The medical work was so amazingly successful that newspapers and magazines ran special features on the young wonder surgeon.

Several folks who bought the magazines noticed the picture layout and the coincidence that the guy in the photograph had the same name as a doctor they knew...Dr. Joseph C. Cyr of Vancouver. They sent copies of the photos to Dr. Cyr. He noticed that the hero not only had his name...he had also attended the same schools, in the same years and got the same grades as Dr. Cyr of Vancouver. He called the Canadian Navy to question the coincidence.

That brings us to this day (+1) in 1951. They Navy had discovered that the guy who performed those delicate operations on a pitching vessel in primitive conditions was not Dr. Cyr. In fact, he was not a doctor at all. He was a U.S. citizen named Ferdinand Waldo De Mara. The Navy was ready to punish to the max...but De Mara's fellow officers, the crew and the men he had saved testified he was the most competent, dedicated and sincere man they had ever served with.

Perversely, the Navy inquiry also produced high praise for De Mara in the roles he had served in before he impersonated Dr. Cyr and joined the Navy. He was praised as a superior in a Trappist Monastery, a professor in three different colleges (in different subjects, no less), a jailbird (desertion from previous military service) and, perversely, later as a prison warden.

In all of the above positions and a dozen more (except jailbird), De Mara was an imposter. He had used different names and falsified various diplomas and accreditations he'd never won. His life was so remarkable and he succeeded at so many things others had trained for years to accomplish that the Press dubbed him - "The Great Imposter" and Hollywood made a movie about him.

But while they explained how he got into various positions, they never explained how in every one he was promoted time and again while being praised by co-workers, clients and superiors. For that you'll have to go to the Library and dig out De Mara's book (also called the Great Imposter). It is full of insights on human nature. The greatest of which De Mara called "the power vacuum" (an overstatement). Put simply De Mara felt that if you were put in charge of picking up cigarette butts you could soon be in management....simply because people don't want responsibility. They like power and pomp and titles and some even like making decisions...but whether in business, medicine, education or religion, folks don't want to take responsibility for their actions and decisions.

Interesting theory...but come on!!...this is America!!...this is capitalism!!....who ever heard of management ducking responsibility?

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

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