Thursday, December 7, 2017

Coming up for a breath of air

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose ...

Two days of infamy distant in time

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?
I was asleep in a motel room when the telephone rang to awaken me.

"Are you watching television?" the voice on the other end asked?

"No, I am sort of asleep," I replied. "At least I was before you woke me up."

"Turn it on .... a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center."

The conversation went on for a while longer and I did turn on the television and I watched the screen in rapt fascination for the next few hours.

Where were you on the morning of December 7, 1941?

Unless reincarnation is real and I was in another body, I have no idea where I was because it was well before my arrival on planet earth.

I was an adult man, alive and well, in 2001. It is easy to remember where I was and what I was doing when Islamic terrorists hijacked four passenger jetliners and used them as weapons of mass destruction. The attacks killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others.

Since I was not yet here in 1941, I have to rely on history books and the memories of others to know what happened when Japan attacked United States military bases in the Hawaiian Islands and elsewhere.
Today, the anniversary of that attack, is recognized as Pearl Harbor Day. According to statistical data, 1,998 U.S. Navy personnel, 109 Marines, 233 Army personnel and 48 civilians were killed when Japanese military forces attacked a number of U.S. military bases at and near Pearl Harbor. On the other side of the international dateline, Japan also struck American bases in the Philippine Islands. Many deaths .... many, many, many ....

I hope you will spend a few moments reflecting on life and death today and thinking of those who died both on December 7 in 1941 and on September 11 in 2001 .... as William Shakespeare said through the voice of Macbeth:

"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow ....

The best laid plans of mice and men ....

Some excursions go exactly as planned; some do not. Mine did not this time. I am not home yet, and I really am not certain when I will be .... hopefully, before Christmas. I guess I am what might be called "coming up for a breath of air" with this post.

Now, I will fade away into the shadows for a while once more .... take care and stay safe until our paths cross again ....


Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving, road time, religion & music

Jennie A. Brownscombe completed this oil on canvas painting entitled, "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth," in 1914. Working during the "Colonial Revival Period," Brownscombe chose to include some details that are inconsistent with history, such as the log cabin and the Sioux feather headdress, to symbolize early America. With its elements of religious solemnity, feasting and community, the painting never-the-less had strong emotional appeal to the Americans of one hundred years ago. I wonder if it does today?

Thoughts on religion

I have been attempting to come up with the best word with which to describe myself regarding a certain matter: Excellent .... superb .... preeminent ....

Actually, I suppose any of them or of a dozen others would be sufficient.

Jean-Paul Sarte, in a 1964 autobiography entitled, The Words, wrote this about his grandmother: "She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist."

Those words sort of describe me, as well.

As I occasionally mention, I was raised Lutheran. Sometime around age eleven I began to have doubts. In other words, I began to turn into a skeptic about many things, most notably, I suppose, about religion.
At age thirteen and one year into the Lutheran confirmation process, I wanted to stop going to church. My mother and I made a bargain -- if I completed the confirmation process, which would be in another year, I would be free to make my own decision. I did complete the process and I did make a decision: I never have been inside a church during a religious service since then other than for weddings and funerals.

Back on point: I believe I am a prince among skeptics and have been searching for the best adjective to use in this regard: An excellent skeptic .... a superb skeptic .... a preeminent skeptic.

The question is, how does one describe a person who does not always believe his own eyes or his own ears, much less the words/thoughts/beliefs of others?

Do not misinterpret my position. I admire and respect and envy individuals who have genuine religious faith. I suppose "faith" is the key word here. Devotion to any religion requires faith, and something within me blocks my ability to have faith in anything and, possibly, faith in anyone. Time will tell in both those regards, I assume ....

The ownership of music

I listen to a lot of music. Mostly classic rock. I usually enjoy "covers" of songs in which other singers and/or bands stage a song originally performed and sometimes composed by another singer/band. There are times, though, when I feel/think/believe no one can do a particular song as well as the original version. A few examples:

The Rolling Stones, it seems to me, "own" the song, Gimme Shelter.
Heart, more specifically, Mary Wilson, "owns" the composition, Alone.
Led Zeppelin, I absolutely know, "owns" the masterpiece, Stairway to Heaven.

Why did I write this ???? I have absolutely no idea other than thinking it might go on for a while. Obviously, it has not and will not .... finis ....

Fram, as a character in a novel

I sometimes think of myself as a fictional character in a novel. That might explain why I write about myself often  -- my thoughts, my beliefs, my experiences. The problem with this habit is that I cannot foresee my ending and, short of a miracle, I will not be able to write about it from the grave. Well, one can always hope for a miracle ....

The voice of Ian Gillan

The music here today begins with a solo by Ian Gillan, the "off-and-on" front man with the "very hard rock" band Deep Purple. The occasion was a 1969 joint appearance of Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra entitled, "Concerto for Group and Orchestra."

I noted in a previous post that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, for Ian Gillan's voice and that Gillan was the first to perform the role of Jesus Christ on the audio album. He does have a marvelous voice. I hope you will agree after listening to this.

Just for the "fun" of it, there is another video included here of Gillan and Deep Purple in the band's usual "heavy, heavy, (heavy, baby)" rock venue. This rendition of Highway Star was performed in 1972. Sort of hard to believe it is the same singer, hah ????

Later, baby ….

I will be "heading out" for a few days on Wednesday morning and absent from the blogs until the following Tuesday. During that time, no posts, no comments, no replies to comments from me. I need a break from the blogs and from the world, and Thanksgiving seems to be a fine time to take one.

By the way, although there will be no religious services involved with this excursion, there will be religious solemnity, and I do intend on enjoying a Thanksgiving feast during my absence -- but, since this is the "Far North," I do not anticipate that it will be outdoors .... short of a miracle ....

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November 11, 2017 .... Veterans Day

I have included bits and pieces about the origin and the history of Veterans Day in years past. I will relinquish that this time around with the hope that anyone not familiar with the occasion and actually curious about it will take the time to do some research. Instead, I will include a poem by Alan Seeger.

Seeger was an American fighting with the French Foreign Legion and killed on July 4, 1916, at age twenty-six at Belloy-en-Santerre during the Battle of the Somme in World War I. Since Veterans Day began as Armistice Day following "the war to end all wars," it seems appropriate to have a poem here written by someone who fought and died during it. Seeger was a classmate of the British poet T.S. Eliot at Harvard, and this poem is said to have been a favorite of President John F. Kennedy.
"I Have a Rendezvous with Death"
by Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

 It may be he shall take my hand
    And lead me into his dark land
    And close my eyes and quench my breath—
    It may be I shall pass him still.
    I have a rendezvous with Death
    On some scarred slope of battered hill,
    When Spring comes round again this year
    And the first meadow-flowers appear.

    God knows 'twere better to be deep
    Pillowed in silk and scented down,
    Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
    Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
    Where hushed awakenings are dear ...
    But I've a rendezvous with Death
    At midnight in some flaming town,
    When Spring trips north again this year,
    And I to my pledged word am true,
    I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Semper Fidelis .... to the end of time

"I would not characterize my Marine Corps time as difficult. I think of it as a learning experience which involved events and activities both good and bad. In many ways I thrived there, and much of my self-discipline and a major portion of my belief structure are the results of having been there. I am proud of that segment of my life."

Those are words I wrote recently in my reply to a comment on an earlier post. The Marine Corps, for me, was a learning experience, which is what I hope each and every experience I have during my life will have been since, from my point of view, the purpose of life is learning and, hopefully, applying what has been learned in a useful and a beneficial manner. Hmmmm .... that was sort of a convoluted batch of words leading up to this:
Semper Fidelis
Happy 242nd Birthday
November 10, 1775 -- 2017
United States Marine Corps ....

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Buddy, autumn & martial affairs

What we have here is another photograph of Buddy -- my faithful companion through thick and thin, good and bad, fun and not-so-much fun. The photograph was taken last January by a friend who was watching him for me while I was otherwise occupied/indisposed/wandering.
October flees .... November rushes in ....
Buddy and I have been engaged in serious conversations the past few weeks. He is a bit younger than I am, so I have been attempting to pass on to him some of the wisdom I have gained through years of experience. (Yeh, sure ....)

He listens to everything I say, but I cannot gauge if he actually remembers what I tell him or if it goes in one ear and out the other. For instance, I have explained to him that I have a great deal of pride for having been in the Marine Corps, but that I am fortunate to have survived it both physically and mentally intact. Not everyone does .... and, I hope he never feels compelled to put on any manner of uniform.

I have told him October once was my favorite month, but now I dread its arrival because it became an unlucky month for me when I was in high school and remains so today. As an illustration, I was in a minor automobile accident on Monday. Nothing serious, but I decided to bypass insurance so my rates do not increase .... so-o-o-o-o, the mishap will cost me about $1,500 out-of-pocket for repair work. Let me see .... that adds up to a gun or two or three which will not find their way into my hands.

November is sort of a military month for me. The Marine Corps birthday is November 10 and Veterans Day (Armistice Day and Remembrance Day for other nations) is November 11. I have written posts specific to those days in past years, but I am really not thinking about doing it this year .... I suppose I might change my mind between now and then, but, just in case I do not, I am mentioning them now.

I accidentally watched a bit of news on television the other day and heard that President Donald Trump would like to have a Fourth of July -- Independence Day -- military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (I say "accidentally" because I am trying to avoid most television these days, especially news programs.)

The idea, supposedly, is not to show off the military strength of the United States, but to serve as a way to honor and to say thank you to those who now serve and have served in the armed forces. I know many in the military who would and do endorse the idea.

As one who marched in two parades while in the Marine Corps -- once in July in oppressive heat and once in January in freezing cold -- I would be less than enthusiastic if I were personally among the marchers.

Both months often are "hell months" in a weather sense -- one because of heat and humidity and the other due to frigid temperatures driven by biting wind. And, being Marines, the Corps likes to show how tough its troopers are and we were not permitted to dress for the weather conditions in either parade.

Someone else suggested that announcing a pay raise on the Fourth of July for those in the armed forces would be a better way to say "thank you" than a parade. That idea I would entirely endorse.

As way of visual entertainment, I have two videos. Since I lived in Poland for a matter of months, one is of a military parade there. Since I think the other is a glorious display of national pride, I selected it.

But .... but .... but .... just to avoid potential embarrassment or an investigation by a special prosecutor (or whatever), I wish to stress/emphasize/point out that I have absolutely no connections with Russia other than a German ancestor who lived there before moving along to Canada and, eventually, to Wisconsin in the United States, and, finally, here to Minnesota ....

And, I am not involved in any form of collusion with any Russian anywhere .... now or ever .... got that, baby ....


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Buddy, phantoms & existentialism

Buddy and his coat of many colors .... not to intrude on the Biblical Joseph and his coat, but Buddy has a few differing shades. He wanted a photograph to show him posed in a more "dog-like" position than the one which appeared a week or two ago, so I tried to oblige him. Was he happy when he saw it? Not exactly. While he liked it in a general sense, he complained that the least I could have done before taking it was brush his coat so that he would not look like a ragamuffin. I agreed with him, but told him that would have to wait until our next "photo shoot." He certainly is a fussy guy !!!!

Television journalists & other idiots

I know language is like a flowing river, ever-moving and often changing, but this seems a bit too much ....

For those who have brushed into Jean-Paul Sarte or Soren Kierkegaard or Franz Kafka or read/seen the play, "Waiting for Godot," by Samuel Beckett, it sort of grates to hear a television journalist flippantly talk about "existential threats" to the United States in reference to Islamic terrorism or North Korean dictators.
Never mind that I think television is a medium which should be used solely for entertainment (you mean it is not ????) or that I believe television journalism almost always is "bad journalism" (only surpassed in that regard by internet journalism).

One definition of existentialism, for instance, is this: "A philosophical attitude opposed to rationalism and empiricism that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices."

I suppose in that sense, a few thousand like-minded zealots could pose a threat, but to me it indicates any number of lazy or uneducated or just plain dumb journalists are looking for an easy, one­­­­-word way to describe a real or an imagined threat.

An avowed existentialist, Sarte, in his 1964 book entitled, "The Words," wrote this about his grandmother: "She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist." I assume many television journalists would describe Sarte's grandmother as an "existential threat" to something, somewhere.

Ahhhhhh, yes .... the music ....

The musical selections here are from the Finnish symphonic metal rock band Nightwish. The videos date back to the time when Tarja Turunen was the primary vocalist for the band. For those who think it is unusual or inappropriate for her to be performing, "The Phantom of the Opera," she is a classically-trained soprano and many rock 'n' roll "types" are well-grounded in a variety of music styles.
For instance, a little-known fact is that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the 1970 rock opera, "Jesus Christ Superstar," for Ian Gillan's voice and that Gillan, front man for the heavy metal/hard rock band Deep Purple, performed the role of Jesus Christ on the first audio album.

Film director Norman Jewison wanted Gillan to reprise the role for the motion picture, but Gillan turned down the offer because he was touring with Deep Purple. Jewison then hired Ted Neeley for the role in the film, which was released in 1973.

Remember my "chair dancing" episodes from posts in years past? I still do it, and I for sure do it whenever I hear Nightwish performing, "Ever Dream" .... so, rock on, baby .... and, enjoy it while it is here and you are here .... it simply is fun to watch the band and the audience interacting with each other .... play with each other, if you will ....

Friday, October 13, 2017

Buddy, surfing & Egyptian girl

Buddy is a perfect gentleman, although it might not always appear that way. He often sleeps on his back and he takes his own sweet time getting out of bed in the mornings. He prefers breakfast in bed, but I insist he get up and eat at the table. There are times, like this particular morning, when he waits until "last call" for breakfast before greeting the day. This is a "mix it up" post and includes sort of tying up loose ends and clearing up a few matters.  Read on for further information.
Ahhhhhh, Egyptian girl ....
I cannot recall the first time I heard the Dick Dale version of the song, "Misirlou," but it has been more than a few years. I never really thought about it other than to assume it was one he had composed. It was enough that I liked it.
When I heard a different rendition of it a few days ago, I did a bit of research and learned that it is a traditional song of Eastern Mediterranean origin. There are Greek, Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Indian and Turkish adaptations of it -- and, most certainly, a few others. The first known recording was in 1927. Dick Dale's father was Arab and his mother was Polish-Belarusian, so, undoubtedly, he was familiar with the song when he decided to record it in the surf music style.
"Misirlou," sometimes spelled miserlou, incidentally, is Arabic for "Egyptian girl" and is a popular song among belly/exotic dancers .... catch the connection ???? Just for fun, I have both the Dick Dale interpretation and what might be described as an original adaptation by a Greek singer named Kalliopi Vetta here for "your listening pleasure" .... or whatever ....
More seriously, I have listened to a few dozen versions of the song in a number of musical styles/variations during the past few days. It seems one-half of the bands/orchestras in the world have recorded it at one time or another .... and, it might seem I was the only one in the world who thought Dick Dale not only played it, but composed it.

Of those versions which I listened to, I think Kalliopi Vetta's interpretation is far and above the most beautiful and it is absolutely tantalizing. She has the voice of an angel .... or so, I would imagine.
Surfing has real dangers
My post on October 1 included a video about surfing. All the photographs in it portrayed the "romance" of surfing, so to speak, with nothing to illustrate the dangers. It is a high-risk sport .... of that, have no doubt. Many surfers are injured every year -- some severely and some even killed.
The earlier video showed the best of the best making surfing look easy. But, even they succumb to injuries at times and narrowly escape catastrophe at other times and occasionally are killed.

Writing as someone who tried surfing on five- to six-foot waves while in the Marine Corps, I guarantee there is no more helpless a feeling than being drawn down to the bottom after taking a spill and being mercilessly bounced along the seabed like a basketball. Fortunately, for me, the seabed where I took my spills was sand; rock or coral bottoms always are worse and can be deadly.
Some waters have a reputation for an abundance of sharks. More often than not, the surfer will go one way and the shark another way. But, there are times when their paths do cross and which often spell disaster for the surfer.

Accompanying this post is a video about "wipeouts," which probably present the most accurate portrait of what to expect when you pick up a surf board and head for the beach. You ask, what is a "wipeout?" Watch the video and be enlightened ....

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

One more encore for Tom

          Tom Petty .... October 20, 1950 -- October 02, 2017

A couple of verses from
"Something Good Coming"
by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:

I'm watching the water
Watching the coast
Suddenly I know
What I want the most

And I want to tell you
Still I hold back
I need some time
Get my life on track ....

.... And I'm in for the long run
Wherever it goes
Ridin' the river
Wherever it goes

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"Hour of the gun"

Two rifles, both old, both new for me. Maybe, one is the perfect one for me. We shall see.
The rifle on top is  a Winchester 94 in .30-30 caliber and the one below it is a Browning 92 in .44 magnum. Renowned gun maker John Browning designed them both. From there, the story gets complicated, so we shall let it go at that for now.
As for the music, it is my belief the soundtrack is among the ingredients which can make a film or, in some instances, break it. "Hour of the Gun," is a 1967 film centered around the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, which took place on October 26, 1881. Do a bit of research, if you are curious.
Anyway, the film is among my "favorite flicks" and the theme is one which often plays on and on in my mind. Jerrald "Jerry" Goldsmith composed the score for this and dozens of other movies and television shows. He, too, is among my favorites. The Prague Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra is performing it here. Since this post is about my two new rifles, the title and the music sort of fell into place.
Dick Dale, who pioneered the surf music style, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among the best with a guitar, provide the music on the second video, which I happened to run across while "surfing the net." Even better than the song are the fantastic waves and the surfers challenging them. Too good .... makes me want to take a walk on the wild side ....
It had been a while ….
When I left on my "road trip" a week or two ago, the primary intent was to pick up a rifle. It was the first firearm purchase I had made since January 3 this year.  This was a Browning Model 92, lever action, with a carbine-length 20-inch barrel in .44 magnum, made in 1980 and in near-new condition. It obviously had been a while between purchases and, since I had bought eight guns in 2016, circumstances this year might be thought of as inexplicable. 
The lack of acquisitions was not that my "love" for firearms had diminished any great degree; it simply was they had lessened in importance and relevance to me when I finally had realized that no matter how many guns I might own, they did not create a sense of real happiness or of actual satisfaction within me.
More interesting, perhaps, was the fact that I left home to retrieve one rifle and I returned home with two rifles. While doing the transfer paperwork on the first purchase, my "gun guy" brought out another which was nearly identical to one I had owned a number of years ago.
This was a consignment gun -- a .30-30 Winchester Model 94, lever action, octagon 26-inch barrel, made in 1919 and in fantastic condition for being a hunting rifle ninety-eight years old. I looked at it, played with it a bit, examined it closely and when he said the owner would take a thousand for it, I asked him if he would take a check. The transaction had taken less than two minutes.
I have not fired it yet, but I play with it a bit every day .... both of them, actually .... sooner or later, I might find the one rifle that is perfect for me .... until then, all I can do is keep searching .... with the belief that surely such a rifle must exist ....


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat"

The legend of Prometheus dates to a trilogy called the "Prometheia," originally attributed, but now disputed, to an ancient Greek named Aeschylus. It tells the story of a Titan, Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humankind. As punishment, Zeus had him bound to a rock atop a mountain where an eagle comes every day to feast on his liver. Eventually, Prometheus is freed by Hercules .... and, you can read the trilogy if your curiosity is sufficient to learn the rest of the tale. The painting here is an oil by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. It was begun in 1611/1612 and completed in 1618 and is titled "Prometheus Bound." It is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art collection. The eagle was painted by Frans Snyders, a specialist animal painter.

Quotes to remember ....

It is said there is a quote for any and every occasion and, when one finds it, someone else will find another which contradicts it .... and, someone else will locate an earlier version of both.  (Or, should that be "of each?")

As a college boy, I encountered a number of quotes which struck my fancy. Among them was this one: "Whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad."

The line was spoken by Prometheus in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Masque of Pandora."

I since have discovered a number of references using descriptive words other than the term, "mad," to illustrate the concept, and written examples demonstrating that the thought goes back to other "Old Greeks," ­such as Sophocles and Euripides, if not to even more "distant" times.

English poet and playwright, John Dryden, who lived about two centuries before Longfellow actually wrote this: "For those whom God to ruin has design'd, He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind." Sort of sounds the same, does it not?

No matter who, what, where, when or how, I still like the quote, occasionally use it and have seen indication it often is reasonably correct and accurate.

A fascinating side note of this (to me, anyway) is the possible connection between the Greek mythological woman Pandora and the Biblical woman Eve. There is a theory, which I will not elaborate on at this time, that they are based on the same individual. I sort of think it is a very plausible theory.

And, with that, here is another quote which I recently discovered and to which I am drawn:

Written on a t-shirt /
Worn by rock front man Doogie White /
While performing an on-stage concert /

I have no job
I have no money
I have no car
But, I'm in a band

I like that one, too ....

Something special ....