Page 1


IOU .00 o l eo Cre to THE TEXAS OBSERVER ..vvvvvv,,,,vv Ralph on Booms WASHINGTON Senator Ralph Yarborough, in rejecting an official Pentagon defense of sonic booms over Austin, Texas, charges that they are causing “tremendous damage” to homeowners and manifest “utter disregard to the welfare of the civilian population.” Yarborough protested the official Air Force policy of intentionally causing sonic booms over urban .areas. Secretary of the Air Force Eugene Zuckert responded on Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara’s behalf. Yarborough wrote McNamara back; saying the answer was not satisfactory. “At one time it was possible to accomplish these flights only in remote areas,” Zuckert told Yarborough. “However, because of our large inventory of supersonic a ircraft and the need for realistic training, it has been necessary to schedule certain training flights near urban centers. “The training of bomber crews must encompass all practical aspects of an actual combat mission. Since the crews must be proficient in identifying strategic targets on land masses, and since most of these targets would be found in urban complexes, crew training must involve practice missions against cities in the United States which resemble those expected to be found in enemy territories. “The Air Force built and practiced bomb runs on ‘reflector cities’ in the desert,” Zuckert said, “but soon found that they did not challenge the skills of our bomber crews, except at the novice stage of training.” He said it would be too expensive to build sufficiently complete “reflector cities,” and besides. they would become “too familial to our crews, thereby degrading their training.” Zuckert said cities subjected to sonic booms are rotated “to prevent long term annoyance to the public” and to give the crews varied practice. “Once the route over Austin has provided the proficiency desired in the aircraft crews,” he wrote, “flights over that route will be discontinued. At the present time, Austin is scheduled for a period of inactivity in mid-1963. In the meantime, we will make every effort to reduce the noise problems associated with that route.” Yarborough replied in a letter to McNamara: “Enclosed is a paragraph from a letter which I have received from Mr. R. F. King, attorney-atlaw, 6700 Robalo Street, Austin, Texas. The paragraph of his letter dealing with sonic booms is as follows: ‘It appears that we have only had 3 to 6 jet-plane shocks \(“sonic months in the Central Texas area and many of these have been fairly light. The shocks have only loosened the foundations of a few weak buildings and burst the ear drums of three of four dogs in my neighborhood–\(it is pitiful to see these animals running around yelping wildly in pain when a shock strikes them, not knowing plateglass window damage, etc., to buildings. Probably what we need is about 30 or 40 of these shocks per dayreal building flatteners and dam-smashers \(not just would put people in the proper attitude of these shocks if the U.S. would explode 50 or 60 atomic or hydrogen bombs \(say 40 or 50 might show the world and the Russians how it stands on that question tooand the scientists could tell whether strontium ninety really poisoned the atmosphere or not. . . “This is only one of the many complaints I’ve received here from Austin. “From damages awarded over this country and architectural and design structural engineering testimony, it is patent that tremendous damage is being done to home owners in Austin and in any other city where it takes place, by these constant sonic booms. I believe that this training can be done without this utter disregard of the welfare of the civilian population. “To me, the letter of September 24th from the Secretary of the Air Force is not an adequate answer, and I think the Department of Defense has shown a callous disregard for the lifetime investment of the homes that most people have made. It is not a ‘sporting thing’ to fire these sonic booms off at various hours of the day or night, over densely populated areas. “This is to request that you will see fit to move this area of sonic booms from over densely populated areas in your next training program.” AUSTIN There is a small compartment in English letters reserved for those who came to the language from the outside and still excelled in it, indeed even made its rightful proprietors wince in pleasureful disbelief when a new secret was wrested from it. Some of them, like Belloc, Berenson, and Santayanawhose prose, it has safely been predicted, will long outlive his philosophycame to the language when they were young and malleable; others, like Conrad and even Nabokov, had far greater odds against them. In this select company we may also allow room for Isak Dinesen, who died recently at the age of 77. Isak Dinesen is the pseudonym under which Karen Christenze, Baroness von Blixen-Finecke, is best known in the English-speaking world. The Danes, her countrymen, know her as Karen Blixen. She became an author late in life and, she liked to maintain, really against her will; it was fate, she concluded, that had acted upon her. “Women,” thinks one of her characters, “when they are old enough to have done with the business’ of being women, and can let loose their strength, must be the most powerful creatures in the whole world.” KAREN BLIXEN stood outside the mainstreams of our busy days of industrialized literature not only by writing very little, but also, and particularly, by being primarily a teller of stories. Her chosen form was the tale, a form which doesn’t really exist anymore. In her childhood she had heard the dying gasps of spoken literature in the North, that of the folk as well as that of a vanishing yet brilliant aristocracy. Her stories are an enlargement upon these lost pastimes and also a sophistication of them. From the rich coffers of older literature Scandinavian, particularly English and French, hardly ever Germanshe fetched gems which she freely inserted in her own tales without bothering about any kind of explanation. But essentially her tales are still tales, and they are meant to please, for “all modern people long for magic and need magic to be happy.” Her art, then, is pastiche, a pasting together of the most diverse and seemingly disharmonious elements. In Karen Blixen’s tales, however, they attained a new cohesion, and help to convey the very regained naivet which, she thought, must be the end of all higher education. Her tales, which often have tales within tales within tales, were attractive and baffling, and she let them sail on their own without aid of commentary. One storyteller in the book states, as if in anticipation, “I will give you no explanation. You must take in whatever you can, and leave the rest outside. It is not a bad thing in a tale that you understand only half of it.” Before the other collections appeared, Karen Blixen produced her most accessible and most private book. It is quite possible to imagine that the Africa she knew, now already remote history, was for her a haven, perhaps the last one available, for practicing and experiencing true aristocracy. The tribal aristocracy of traditional Africa was to her no less obvious and recognizable than that of her own background. After describing one solemn meeting of the two, she comments, “The ceremony could only have been carried through so well by two parties of noble blood and great family traditions; may democracy take no offense.” IT SHOULD THEN also be said that the pastiches she wrote, remote in time, tone, and scenery though they be, also have a contemporary ring, indeed a direct simplicity. Behind their contrived exoticism, their playing at aristocracy, and their ostentatious exhibiting of rare treasures in our civilization, one finds a true concern for those who won’t and can’t find a home in bland respectability. Her central notion, in and out of fiction, is one of tragic heroism and acceptance of adventurous surprise. \(One of the three mottos she once postulated for her own life reads “Why marks of aristocracy she so admired do not signify an aristocracy of privilege, but one of character. The fools, the doomed, and the marked were her friends. “The true aristocracy and the true proletariat of the world are both in understanding with tragedy. To them it is the fundamental principle of God and the keythe minor keyto existence. They differ in this way from the bourgeoisie of all classes, who deny tragedy, who will not tolerate it, and to whom the word of tragedy means in itself unpleasantness.” So there she chose to sit, somewhat like a rare bird in the zoo, or an orchid by the roadside, sophisticating her way back to what she considered the permanent simplicities of the human condition. In one of her last books an old artist, late in the 19th Century, in the middle of a discourse on noses \(another derivative feature, of before me in a hundred years from now a gathering, just like ours, of your great-grandchildren. They will be very pleasant people, justly proud of having achieved great things in science and social conditions. . . . They will be able to fly to the moon. But none of them, to save his life, will be able to write a tragedy. For tragedy, far from being the outcome of the fall of man, is on the contrary the countermeasure taken by man against the sordid and dull conditions brought upon him by his fall. Flung from heavenly glory and enjoyment into necessity and routine, in one supreme effort of his humanity he created tragedy. How pleasantly surprised was not the Lord. ‘This creature,’ he exclaimed, ‘was indeed worthy of being created. I have done well in making him, for he can make things for me which without him I cannot make.’ All tragedies . . . are determined by the sense of honor. The idea of honor does not save humanity from suffering, but it enables it to write a tragedy. An age which can prove the wounds of the hero on the battlefield to be equally painful, whether in the breast or in the back, may produce great scientists and statisticians. But a tragedy it cannot write. Those very pleasant people, your grandchildren . . . at their tea party in a hundred years will have their troubles, but they will have no tragedy. They will have debts troublesome thingsbut no debt of honor, on life and death. They will have suicides troublesome thingsbut the hara-kiri will be forgotten, or smiled at. But they will be able to fly to the moon. They will be sitting round their tea table discussing their routes and tickets for the moon . . . I am an artist . . . I will not exchange the idea of honor for a flying ticket to the moon.” ANDERS SAUSTRUP SIMPLICITIES OF THE HUMAN CONDITION Dinesen’s Tragic Heroism “0000101.11.11….1170 reO l*C SO 1 Name Address City State to The Texas Observer, 504 W. 24, Austin, Texas