Monday, May 25, 2020

Waiting for an old-fashioned Memorial Day

Fort Snelling -- known in its original incarnation as Fort Saint Anthony -- has been a major fixture and landmark atop the bluffs near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers since the 1820s. Soldiers of the 5th Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Josiah Snelling constructed the fort between 1820 and 1824. Upon the completion in 1825, the Army renamed it Fort Snelling in honor of its commander and architect. The historic segment, shown in the lower photograph, is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. My first visit there was part of a class trip when I was twelve years old, and I can vividly remember being in the "round tower." Generations of military personnel have passed through Fort Snelling during its 200 years in existence, and many are buried in the national cemetery, a portion of which is shown in the upper photograph.
Sort of a genetics & environment mix -- I guess
I grew up in a small town in a house next to an American Legion hall. Memorial Day and Veterans Day were special times there, with church services and ceremonies conducted by the Legion. After arriving in the United States in the 1850s, my ancestors participated in "every war" including and since the Civil War. One, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army 2nd Calvary, was killed by Sioux during the Plains Indian Wars. His younger brother moved on and became an Arizona Ranger. In those respects, it seems like I was predestined to take the oath of enlistment at some point in time.
Memorial Day began informally. Decorating soldiers' graves with flowers is a tradition as old as time immemorial, and by 1865 some southern states had precedents for Memorial Day. A formal "Decoration Day" was held May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery. By the close of the 19th Century, traditions were merging and Decoration Day / Memorial Day was becoming the day to honor all Americans who died while in the U.S. military service.
Memorial Day was observed on May 30 until 1968 when members of Congress in their infinite zeal to curry favor passed a three-day holiday act which moved the day to the third Monday of May and designated it a federal holiday beginning in 1971. Nothing like faux patriotism and a pledge for a chicken in every pot to muster votes .... in my opinion.
The day gradually has evolved into an occasion to remember any and all family members who came before us. This, I recall from my childhood, driving to various cemeteries to place flowers on graves.
I will do a few things today -- Monday, May 25 -- since most everyone else is .... but, being sort of an old-fashioned traditionalist, I will wait until May 30 to pay homage to those who came before me and to put things in more of a military perspective .... see you then ....
In the meanwhile, here are three songs for you. Listen to one or to two or to all, but I hope you will listen to them in the context of Memorial Day and -- especially -- listen closely to the lyrics ....
Yiruma / River Flows in You ....
John Lennon  / Imagine ....
Queen  / Under Pressure (written by David Bowie) ....

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Hey Hey My My

I like to think and sometimes say my life style has to be among those least affected by the coronavirus pandemic. I have no worry or fear about myself and am able to view much of life in a sort of a detached fashion as an "objective" observer. My only concern is the safety and well-being of family members and friends, which is always present with or without a pandemic. Among the things I often do is pick up a canoe and a paddle and look for open water. Here are two photographs from such a recent venture. They were taken at Lewis and Clark Lake on the Missouri River in South Dakota. Actually, the far-side of the lake is Nebraska. My canoe, incidentally, is larger than most. It is an 18-footer meant for two people and lots/lots/lots of gear for extended journeys -- and, it has been on a few.
May you stay forever young
The bluffs along the Missouri River have been described as "fossil rich." All manner of "wildlife" from the Mesozoic and Cenozic eras, including not only raptors and tyrannosaurs, but prehistoric turtles and megafauna mammals have been found in states along or near the Missouri River.
Numerous specimens of Tyrannosaurus Rex  and Triceratops have been discovered in the region. The Ceratopsian, or horned-frilled dinosaur, which possessed one of the largest heads of any creature in the history of life on earth, has been found. South Dakota land also has yielded scattered remains of the armored dinosaur Edmontonia, the duck-billed dinosaur Edmontosaurus, the Ornithopod dinosaur Osmakasaurus and the head-butting Pachycephalosaurus.
Well, you get my drift ….
Beyond that, shifting to much/much/much more recent times, it may seem incredulous to think of encountering explorers and fur traders coming along the Missouri River toward you or to wonder if Native Americans mounted on painted ponies are watching your every movement from the shoreline, but it is not at all difficult to imagine people from centuries past camped just around the next bend.
All right .... enough words about dinosaurs and fur traders. This started out to be a few paragraphs about one approach to spend some time in the midst of Nature during the coronavirus pandemic or, anytime, for that matter. Just to make certain I did not fall asleep at night and awaken in the morning with guys in buckskins standing around staring at me, I ended my evenings with a bit of contemporary music blowing in the wind along the river. Here are some pieces of it ....
Hmmmm .... I wonder if Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark could hear the echoing refrains .... or John Colter, the first known person of European descent to enter the region which later became Yellowstone National Park and to see the Teton Mountain Range ....
 Yep, I wonder .... for an incurable romantic it is nice to hope some part of them still lingers within the river ....

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Bobcat in search of Xanadu .... or wherever

As April slowly drifts off to meld within the mist of memory ....
.... not too long ago, photographs of a mountain lion feasting on a dead buck in the middle of the night were featured here. Today, we have a photograph of a bobcat on a mid-afternoon stroll taken by the same inexpensive trail camera about ten feet from where the mountain lion posed with the deer.
From Wikipedia: Bobcats range from Canada to Mexico. They prefer rabbits and hares, but will hunt insects, chickens, geese and other birds, small rodents and deer. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season and abundance. Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial and largely solitary. An adult stands about 12 to 24 inches at the shoulders. Adult males range in weight from 14 to 40 pounds, with an average of 21 pounds. There are unverified reports of them reaching 60 pounds. Females average around 15 pounds.
One dictionary definition of a neighbor is a person, place or thing located near another. I guess that makes Lonnie Lion and Bobby Bobcat (or should that be Lori Lion and Bonnie Bobcat) sort of my neighbors. Both photographs were taken about forty yards away from the house in which I formerly was a fulltime resident and one in which my son now lives and I am a periodic accomplice.
For obvious reasons, we shall hope that the paths of these two "kitty kats" never cross ....
Just for fun, we have three videos here. The first is Piano Concerto No 1, B Flat Minor, Op 23, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The second is "Alone at Last," a song written by Johnny Lehmann and performed by Jackie Wilson. Notice any similarity? I think it falls under the category of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery -- or something like that. For those unfamiliar with the players in this game, Tchaikovsky's piece came nearly a century before "alone."
The third is the Rolling Stones performing "Love in Vain," in 1972 somewhere in Texas. The guitar solo work is by Mick Taylor, whose face first appears about 2:51 and who many would argue is among the best -- if not the actual best -- guitar player ever to set foot on a stage. To each, his/her own ....

Thursday, April 23, 2020

What is and where is reality?

Texas welder and Vietnam War veteran Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin) stumbles across the proverbial "drug deal gone bad" in the West Texas desert. He grabs a suitcase containing two million cash and the chase begins in the 2007 film, "No Country for Old Men."

Ready / Set / Go

The Coen brothers -- Joel and Ethan -- many are aware are "products" of Minnesota -- the metropolitan suburb of St. Louis Park, to be more precise. They also are the "makers" of many (shall we say) unique films: "Fargo," staring Joel's wife, Frances McDormand, and "No Country for Old Men," to select just two.

I recently watched a video titled, "Ending Explained: No Country for Old Men," and have included it here. The purpose of this post, however, is not to specifically center on the brothers or on the film, but sort of on a state of mind in terms of what is real and what is not in the film. Here for examination is a conversation between "no country" Sheriff Ed Tom Bell and his wife, Loretta, in which Bell is telling her about two of his dreams:
Second one, it was like we was both back in older times.
And I was a-horseback, going through the mountains of a night.
Going through this pass in the mountains.
It was cold, and there was snow on the ground.
And he rode past me and kept on going......never said nothing going by, just rode on past.
He had his blanket wrapped around him and his head down.
When he rode past, I seen he was carrying fire in a horn......the way people used to do, and I......I could see the horn from the light inside of it......'bout the color of the moon.
And, in the dream, I knew that he was......going on ahead.
He was fixin' to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and cold.
And then I woke up.
The dream scene video also is included here, with Tommy Lee Jones portraying Ed Tom Bell and Tess Harper playing Loretta.
My immediate question was whether the dream is a creation of the imagination or one that actually occurred to the author of the novel, Charles "Cormac" McCarthy, or to one of his acquaintances. I have not read any of McCarthy’s works so really have no idea of the who, what, when, where, why and how of his books or his writing habits / styles / characteristics.
On the surface, the scene seems to illustrate a belief in an afterlife and to demonstrate great love and confidence on the part of Ed Tom Bell toward his father. I suppose it could be as simple as that, but in our complex world I generally am thinking nothing is plain and clear-cut .... rather, that anything and everything must be part of a puzzle and a mystery.
I have seen the film twice in its entirety and portions of it a few times. I have a copy of the film script, which is where I obtained the quote. I have a copy of the novel on order and, theoretically, will read it and possibly find a few answers to that scene and other questions I have about the story.
Actually, I cannot recall being aware of McCarthy before the appearance of the film based on his novel .... so much out there to read and never enough time. I can identify with him in the sense that he was raised and educated in Knoxville, Tennessee, and I have personal linkage to the city and to the university and have spent a number of weeks there. From the little I have read about him, he seems to be sort of weird .... hmmmm, like who is not ....
If this post seems somewhat dazed and confused, it probably is because I am pretty much thinking / wondering / speculating with my fingers on the keyboard .... in the meanwhile, any thoughts / comments / opinions?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

More than just another Wōdnesdæg

Ordinarily I do not "advertise" a particular event until the day it arrives. This means I assume most people know Memorial Day / Decoration Day is the last Monday in May and Veterans Day / Armistice Day / Remembrance Day  is November 11 and that no one much other than Marines and former Marines know or care that November 10 is the Marine Corps birthday.
But, in the instance of Earth Day, I am mentioning it early so no one has an excuse for not knowing Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day and this year –- 2020 -- is the fiftieth anniversary of the event.
The idea of a global holiday called Earth Day was introduced in 1969 at a conference on the environment. It was to be celebrated on March 21 with the advent of spring, and it was in some places. A separate Earth Day focused on the United States was founded by then-Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22, 1970. Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations.
Any further background about Earth Day is there for you to research. It would be "nice" if more people did just that. We all need to be part of the Earth Day movement ....
One of the videos here is "Paradise" by Coldplay. It should be self-explanatory. The other might be mistaken for a celebration of the American Indian Movement, a militant civil rights organization founded in Minneapolis in 1968 by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Eddie Benton Banai and George Mitchell. Russell Means, who became a prominent film actor ("Last of the Mohicans," for instance) later was a major spokesman for the group. Some of those guys are in the video and the reason it is here is because Native Americans are primary among activists fighting for a clean environment. Think about it .... and, it is another chance to hear Joan Baez sing "Brothers in Arms" ....

Something special ....