Saturday, November 10, 2018

Sort of a split personality ....

Today is the 243rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. The photograph here of a Marine and his rifle in a combat situation pretty much portrays the stereotypical image of what the Marine Corps is all about .... does it not? Most individuals enter the Marine Corps because they have something to prove, most often to themselves. Beyond that, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a stereotypical Marine and the "Toys for Tots" program and the commentary by retired Sergeant Major Angela Maness are illustrations of that. Marine Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, founded Toys for Tots in Los Angeles, California, in 1947. The first toy was a handmade doll. About 5,000 toys were collected during the campaign that year. The annual event has grown exponentially since then.


The first video below shows the usual image of the Marine Corps; the second video illustrates the purpose and the significance of the Toys for Tots program. It is an old video, but the message it delivers remains the same. The program, run by the Marine Corps Reserve, distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. It is very active here in the Twin Cities and there is a ton of information about it on the internet. Check it out and participate in it if you want to feel good about yourself the day after Christmas. In the third video, Sgt. Maj. Maness describes how the role of women in the Corps has evolved since she enlisted in 1987 and what it takes to be a successful Marine. Her message essentially is as old as time itself: Be the best you can be. The final video is the traditional birthday greeting from the commandant to the troopers .... Semper Fidelis, now and always ....


 

 

 



Monday, October 22, 2018

"Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic"

It is nice to see everyone is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for today's session .... well, present and accounted for, anyway. The idiom just used dates to the 1930s and, at times, is used in a sarcastic or a factious manner -- as it is for this photograph. Whatever else it signifies, this photograph sort of fits the message of this post.
 
There is one piece of music accompanying this post. I had picked it out for my last post, the one about rereading books, in case you missed it, but decided to use the MsMojo recommendations instead. This song might well be one you never have heard before: "Blue Skirt Waltz," performed by Frankie Yankovic and his Yanks with the Marlin Sisters. I probably never would have heard it, either, if I had not had a German grandfather. He was an avid reader -- a devout reader, I might say. New Ulm, Minnesota, is a community settled by German immigrants, and one of the radio stations there once was regionally famous for its farm reports and its "old country" music. Most of my grandfather's Sunday afternoons were spent listening to that radio station while he was reading.
 
Incidentally, this will be my last post for a while and I am blocking comments on it.
 
Lessons learned .... part 1
 
Everyone has teachers they like and teachers they dislike. Right?
 
I know that certainly was (still is) true in my case. The negative element to this, I figured out at some point along the line, is that in (American-style) elementary and high schools a student almost always has no control over who the teacher will be and the student, for better or for worse, will be "stuck" with that particular teacher for an entire school year.
 
The situation improves (for the student) in college, especially in the institution which operates on a quarter system rather than on a semester system because the period of time the student will be in a certain class is shorter.
 
Teachers being human, it is to be expected they have "favorite" students and "wish you were somewhere other than in my class" students.
 
Students being human, it is to be expected some will be able to pick up on what types of students a particular teacher favors and adjust his "classroom style" to come under and gain the "good graces" of the teacher.
 
Lessons learned .... part 2
 
I have had teachers who, at the start of a certain class, have said words to this effect:
 
1) Read the books on our reading list thoroughly, carefully. My test questions often are straight from those books.
 
2) Take copious notes in class. Anything I say in class may appear in one of my tests.
 
Teachers who say either or both of those things are my favorites because I love reading text books simply for the sake of rote learning and I am a good listener and an excellent note taker because both aspects were part of my childhood experience, in a manner of speaking. I might elaborate on that more another time.
 
So, what I am saying is that an instructor who gave a list of books to read and who stood in front of the class with a prepared lecture every day was among my favorites and I would excel in those classes. An instructor who thought he was an entertainer and proceeded to hold classes in such an atmosphere was a bore from my point of view and I had a difficult time not showing that in my classroom demeanor. On both counts, I was in the minority.
 
Fast forward to today. I have come to realize that my posts, my comments and my replies to comments have entered the same realm, so to speak. I write in a text book manner and in a lecture fashion to the point where I am becoming bored with my own words and I would speculate others are, as well. I like it -- doing what I am doing, writing the way I am writing, I suppose, or I would not be doing it .... but it bothers me ....
 
What I am writing here is that I will not be posting for a while. For how long, I am not certain .... to borrow lyrics from an old song, I have been a man "with my both feet firmly planted way up there in the air." I need to find a way back to terra firma .... later, baby .... take care and stay safe and be happy ....
 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Is once ever enough?

Here are seven of the eighteen books written by Douglas Clyde Jones. Most of his books were novels having to do with the American West. Jones began his career as a writer with a novel about the Seventh United States Army Cavalry encounter with a variety of Indian tribes at the Little Bighorn River in Montana on June 25-26, 1876. Another of his novels is about the "incident" at Wounded Knee in South Dakota on December 29, 1890, and involves many of the same individuals who fought in 1876 in Montana. Jones, by the way, served twenty-five years in the U.S. Army, then taught journalism at the University of Wisconsin. I have read all of his books, a few two or three times.
 
As for the music, there is none. But, there are two videos from MsMojo with lists of books you should read "if you know what is good for you" .... sort of teasing with that ending. Actually, MsMojo is a video content producer and publisher that is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It offers published Top 10 pop culture lists on infotainment topics catered to a broad audience, but with a core viewership of young female millennials. Whoops .... just to clarify, I am part of the "broad audience" ....
 
Not exactly a mystery, but a good question
 
"What makes us reread a book?" was the question posed by a headline for a newspaper article by Laurie Hertzel, senior editor for books at the Twin Cities Star Tribune. She went on to explain why she has read four times, "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, beginning in school -- in junior high -- she thought.
 
She then proceeded to name a few other books she has read more than once and to give a few of the "so many reasons why we reread books."
 
I have a few books I have reread multiple times, beginning with, "The Last Trail," by Pearl Zane Grey when I was in elementary school. (I would wager you did not know his first name was Pearl, did you?) It was when I had completed that novel I began writing the dates I had read a particular book inside the cover. I no longer recall the reason I began doing that, but the date usually was accompanied by a brief comment about where and when I had obtained the book and my opinion of it. This has been a handy habit over the years for obvious reasons.
 
My own record for Gatsby is only twice, but I like to brag that I have read every novel, short story and poem published by Ernest Hemingway, plus a few magazine articles and most biographies, some multiple times. The same is true of novels by James Michener, in particular his Korean War novelette, "The Bridges at Toko-Ri," and the epic settlement of the west tale, "Centennial." I continuously am going back to reread segments of Centennial.
 
I have sort of a collection of books about George Armstrong Custer. One of them, a novel, "The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer," by Douglas C. Jones, I have read nine times. The book is seriously researched and much of the story comes from testimony at the court-martial of Marcus Reno. Again, I would wager few are aware of this event. I have a copy of the official record of a court of inquiry convened at Chicago on January 13, 1879, by the then president of the United States upon "the request of Major Marcus A. Reno, 7th U.S. Cavalry, to investigate his conduct at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25-26, 1876."
 
I could go on, but I will wrap this up by giving an explanation Ms. Hertzel suggests as some of the reasons we reread books:
 
"The right book can be a touchstone through your life, something that brings you back to a particular time or feeling. Sometimes a book changes with each reading, grows more complex and interesting. Sometimes you just want to dive into a familiar story -- for the coziness of it knowing in advance precisely how much stress and angst there will be, knowing what ending you are heading toward. Comfort reading, I guess."
 
Those words describe some of the reasons why I choose to reread, even though I know there never will be enough time in a lifetime to read everything which I would like to .... and, to reread books is to lose the time which could be spent reading new books, which is a tacit acknowledgement that you are ending a journey before the natural time has arrived for it to end.
 
I would add another personal reason to those suggested by Ms. Hertzel. Reading to me is studying. I want to learn about people, places and things. In the simplest words, I want to know what makes people tick and use it as a tool to better understand myself. Novels are particularly beneficial, I believe, as character studies of the individuals in the story and, very often, any book (every book) allows me to see inside the mind of the writer.
 
 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Rosy-fingered dawn

This photograph hardly could be called an illustration of "rosy-fingered dawn" other than as a symbolic gesture. In reality, it was closer to a sunset photograph than to a sunrise photograph. It was taken at 8:03 p.m. on September 4, 2012, on the Dakota side of the Missouri River with Nebraska "across the river and into the" prairies where storm clouds were gathering. But, autumn and near-autumn are pretty much the same year-in and year-out, so it serves my purposes here.
 
The "Old Greek" Homer used "rosy-fingered" a number of times in, "The Odyssey," to describe the arrival of dawn. I seem to remember he used it in, "The Iliad," as well, but I have read that book only once and cannot recall with complete certainty. It is one of those descriptive phrases I absolutely love. I gather the technical name for such expressions is a "formulaic element" in "repeated epithets." From my point of view, it simply is an elegant way of wording a beautiful sunrise.
 
Remark by Jesse Stone
portrayed by Tom Selleck
in the television film
"Jesse Stone: Sea Change"
 
You know .... you live long enough, you have regrets. And the ones that nag at you the most are the ones where you knew you had a choice, the ones where you knew you could have stopped yourself, the ones where you looked into the mirror and everything good inside you said, "Don't do this."
 
Memories of "rosy-fingered dawn"
 
When I was a boy and autumn arrived, I lived for football and for hunting .... up to a certain point, that is .... that point being when I began to notice young ladies. Waterfowl hunting was the primary season in southern Minnesota where I lived. Ducks and geese were my favorite quarry. They continue to be my favorite birds, although I no longer hunt them.
 
Although I have not been a hunter for a number of years, experiencing the beauty of sunrises and sunsets over open water when hunting seasons began and over frozen water in the days before they ended .... of sensing a brisk, chilling breeze on my face .... of seeing the seasons changing as summer slid into autumn and, at times, of feeling the hammer-blow-like arrival of frigid temperatures and snow and ice .... those things and more were pure joy to know. The memories of those days -- of those experiences -- still are fresh in my mind.
 
I remember how the colors of the plant life changed from green to brown as the days progressed. I vividly recall how cattails extended a few feet over my head while wading blindly in a slough during the early days of the hunting seasons, but had become crushed and broken to leave distinct trails before the final day arrived.
 
There is no reason an individual has to be a hunter to enjoy Nature and to absorb it into his system, but because I was a boy who was a hunter I did experience those things then and have memories of them now and I am grateful life was that way for me.
 
The most alluring vision of all to me, in the words of the "Old Greek" Homer, was the arrival of the sun over the rippling, blue waters of the lake:
 
"Then when rosy-fingered dawn came, bright and early ...."

 



Saturday, October 6, 2018

A girlfriend & a President & a month

President Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters after arriving on Air Force One at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport Thursday afternoon for an evening rally and fundraiser in Rochester, Minnesota. I went to the evening event and, although I happened to be at the airport waving goodbye to another individual when Trump arrived there, I did not take this photograph (too lazy to carry a camera) and I have no plans to relate anything about his "message to Minnesotans" (too lazy to carry a pen and a notepad, much less a laptop computer). By the way, give Evan Vucci credit for the AP photo.
 
There is only one piece of music this time around. It is the Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish performing one of my favorites, "Ghost Love Score," at the Wacken Open Air concert. The piece was composed by the band's keyboardist, Tuomas Holopainen, and is sung here by Floor Jansen. You might recall I attended a Nightwish concert here in Saint Paul last March. I had been whining and crying before the concert because Tarja Turunen no longer was the vocalist. Somewhat to my surprise, I enjoyed Jansen's singing so much I have been listening to her regularly since then. Like Turunen, Jansen is a soprano and her music comes in a variety of flavors -- from hard rock to operatic. I do not think Jansen's voice has the quality of Turunen's, but it actually is sort of wonderful and she certainly has stage presence. Standing six feet tall even without her spike heels, I can envision her with sword in hand leading a charge of Viking shield-maidens a thousand years ago.
 
The girlfriend ....
 
One of my progeny just spent a week and a day in the neighborhood celebrating his birthday. He brought his new girlfriend with him .... sort of to introduce her, sort of to show her off. Her initials are L.A. and the young lady is from L.A. He met her at a party there. Her name is Lauren Alice Avery. Like Jansen, she is a six-footer and she sings. Look her up on the internet.

Ms. Avery is a fascinating young lady who has had (and still does have) a very interesting life. At the moment, he and she seem to be enchanted with each other .... time will tell if and how well their relationship works out. It was Ms. Avery's departure from the airport that took me there coincidentally when President Donald Trump was arriving. L.A. was flying back to L.A.
 
The President ....
 
Your friend, not mine, but I do respect the office and generally agree with this guy's policies, was in Minnesota Thursday afternoon and evening to campaign for a few local office seekers and to raise a few bucks. The "friend" in question was Donald John Trump, the 45th and current President of the United States.

Although he spoke in Rochester, Minnesota, about an eighty (80) mile drive for me each way, I decided I would brave both his remorseless tongue and the unrelenting traffic to see him and to hear him. I actually have been present to see a couple of other presidents make their pitch and been able to shake the hand of two of them. As for Mr. Trump, put it this way: I left the rally before el presidente finished talking.
 
The month of October ....
 
Between hunting and football and the beauty of Nature as summer turns to autumn, October was my favorite month of the year when I was a teenager and a young man. At what point it began to slip away from that status, I am not certain, but eventually the harshness of the winter weather which follows autumn washed October forever away from being my favorite.

Giving up hunting and getting too old to play football certainly were factors in the equation, as well. I still love October, especially for the beauty of Nature as its days come and go, but, for me, FramWinter begins on November 1 -- which is all too soon.




Something special ....