Sunday, December 27, 2009

Going .... going .... gone ....

Soon departing Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Well I started out down a dirty road

Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol' days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out, for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Should religion die, so, too, might music

The Cathedral of Saint Paul, beneath a summer sky

The weapons of choice

Whatever pathway a man chooses, he would be wise to carry with him pen, paper, pistol and prayer, and never be fearful to use them.

Advice given by an old man to a young man
in "Cottonwood Stasis: The Last Camp"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who, then, can be believed?

Playwright Arthur Miller, toward the center wearing the tuxedo, is on stage with the cast members of a 1999 revival of his play, "Death of a Salesman," at the Eugene O'Neill Theater. The play opened on Broadway in 1949, and has been a fixture in American theater since that time. Miller was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his drama.

Flexible, imaginative & innovative = ??

I simply asked him if he was making any money.
Is that a criticism?

Willy Loman

in Arthur Miller's
"Death of a Salesman"

My resume always has proclaimed me to be flexible, imaginative and innovative, which is to say without actually saying it, unorthodox. How much that might be true is in the eye of the beholder.

Once upon a time, my unorthodox journalistic existence included coordinating production of a weekly arts and entertainment section. I wrote a bit, but mostly assigned newspaper staff members and free lance writers, photographers and artists to produce elements such as reviews and critiques of books, motion pictures, plays, concerts and recordings, as well as interviews with the authors, artists and performers who created these works. Then, it became my task to turn these items into a page or two or three of dazzling data that would attract readers and draw their applause and cries of encore.

In deference to full disclosure, another of my weekly tasks was to coordinate production of a weekly outdoors section, which centered on hunting and fishing. At times, in addition to being flexible, imaginative and innovative, I also have been my own strange bedfellow. In any event …. to continue:

A few posts on other blogs, in addition to some recent events in my personal life, have gotten me to thinking about books, films, the theater, music and the role of the critic in examining these phenomena.

Among the gimmicks my innovative soul created was to assign three individuals, when it was feasible, to review and critique the same book or film or stage production or concert. They were, of course, pledged not to discuss their assessment until their finished work had been turned in to me.

To add still another aspect to this assignment, the three individuals would come from varying backgrounds. For instance, those whose task it was to review a college/university stage production might include a student from the university; a middle-aged woman who was a homemaker and mother first and a writer second, and who had community theater experience; and a man who ordinarily covered sports and had never been to a live theater production in his life.

It was educational and a great deal of fun to read their finished products -- at least, I thought so.

On one occasion, the newspaper received a letter from a person who could only be described as angry with my style of assigning reviewers. In brief, the letter writer complained that after reading three very disparate reviews of a college production of Arthur Miller's masterpiece, "Death of a Salesman," he was unable to decide if he wanted to attend the performance himself or not.

"What are you trying to do, confuse the reader?" he chided. "At that, you have certainly succeeded. I don't know which reviewer to believe."

So much for flexible, imaginative and innovative ....

A few words in passing about Arthur

While this post is not about Arthur Miller or "Death of a Salesman" per se, it would be a sin not to mention a bit more about him after having spoken his name. As one journalist put it, "Arthur Miller, one of the great American playwrights, whose work exposed the flaws in the fabric of the American dream .... grappled with the weightiest matters of social conscience in his plays. They often reflected or reinterpreted the stormy and very public elements of his own life, including his brief marriage to Marilyn Monroe and his staunch refusal to cooperate with the red-baiting House Committee on Un-American Activities."

"Death of a Salesman," a landmark of 20th-century drama, opened on Broadway in 1949, and won Miller a Pulitzer Prize. The play centers on Willy Loman, a 63-year-old salesman and an archetypal character representing the failed American dream. It has been made into films and television productions, and performed live on stage by hundreds (perhaps thousands) of high school, college and community theater groups. It has been translated into a couple of dozen languages. Willy, incidentally, kills himself at the end of the story, ostensibly to obtain life insurance money as a means to provide for his family.

Some of Miller's other plays included "The Crucible," a 1953 production about the Salem witch trials, and "A View From the Bridge," a 1955 drama of obsession and betrayal, both of which also would ultimately take their place as popular classics of the international stage.

Miller wrote other media, as well. Perhaps most notably, he supplied the screenplay for "The Misfits," a 1961 movie directed by John Huston and starring Monroe, to whom he was married at the time. He also wrote essays, short stories and a 1987 autobiography, "Timebends: A Life." Read it, and very possibly you will learn from it.

A few of Miller's attributes (flaws, possibly, depending upon one's world view):

He held that every man is responsible for his and for his neighbor's actions.

He believed every play should teach a lesson and make a thematic point. He imagined that with the possible exception of a doctor saving a life, writing a worthy play was the most important thing a human being could do.

He despised critics. He once dismissed them as "people who can't sing or dance .... I don't know a critic who penetrates the center of anything."

Right on, Art ....

And then, there was she. Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe were married four years, proving, in my critical analysis of life itself, that all things are possible. During their marriage, Miller wrote the screenplay for the film, "The Misfits," which featured Monroe. At this endeavor, the innate critic within me pronounces her performance as stellar.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An untitled post (it is about time)

Time to retreat. Time to prowl. Time to wander. Time to vanish.

Wind-time, wolf-time ....

See you later. Eventually. Maybe. Probably. Hopefully. Ultimately. In time.

Fram is taking to the woodlands and the waterways and the ethereal regions again, for now, vanishing into the mist of timeless time.

The song, "I'm So Afraid," is written and performed by Lindsey Buckingham, accompanied by the 2009 edition of Fleetwood Mac. The lyrics are a bit over the top for my personal taste, but everyone has days when feelings and emotions reach this height, or depth, or whatever. The only question is how long such a day might last.
The melody is fabulous, and the guitar work is utterly fantastic.

This performance took place less than a month ago in Paris. This song was first sung in concert by Buckingham in 1975. He actually wrote it in 1971; been around a while. Listen to this music and, if you have any magic within, you will see behind the curtain to the existence of eternal youth and everlasting love.

For me, it also seems to be a particularly good song to hear in the distance while waving goodbye.

Seriously, take care, see you around and, in the words of Mary Shelley: ".... and when I shall be no more, the very remembrance of us both will speedily vanish."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Miami Vice vs. Miami Nice

Blue sky + blue water + white sails = here comes the fun

And, the winner is ....

The ballots have been cast, the votes have been counted. No, it will not be the Baja and the Mar de Cortés. Neither will it be Texas. It will be Florida, but not the Golfo de México. Miami and the Atlantic Ocean will be December and December will be Miami and the Atlantic Ocean, at least in part. Additional details will be forthcoming.

It appears I allowed my destination to slip a few days ago. Anyone who noticed the verb tense I used in my responses to comments made by Magdalena in another post a few days ago would have surmised that I already had targeted Miami without actually waiting for the votes to be counted. Guilty as charged. "Outside influences" entered the picture and made a selection rather easy.

Some might recall that I have mentioned my two previous excursions to Florida. I finished (as to say, actually graduated) from high school on a Friday evening. The following Monday, another young man and I hitch-hiked from our small-town residence in Minnesota to Minneapolis, where we stayed for about ten days. We then hitch-hiked to Florida, where we spent most of our time in and around the Miami area for nearly four months.

Three years ago, I vacationed for a couple of weeks at Fort Myers, which is on the Gulf of Mexico. This was in the midst of the cold and snow of February. The intent of that trip should be self evident: Exchange winter for warm wind, open water and bright sun.

I am curious to discover how much I am able to recognize in the Miami of today. Probably nothing. What do I mean, "probably?" Undoubtedly, nothing. It has been a long, long while ....

Friday, November 13, 2009

Knowledge may come in unforeseen form

Once upon a time, in a world long ago and far away ....

Here roams the (blue-eyed) wolf

Here roams the wolf, the eagle whets his beak,
Birds, beasts of prey, and wilder men appear,
And gathering storms around convulse the closing year.
Now Harold felt himself at length alone,
And bade to Christian tongues a long adieu;
Now he adventur'd on a shore unknown,
Which all admire, but many dread to view:
His breast was arm'd 'gainst fate, his wants were few;
Peril he sought not, but ne'er shrank to meet,
The scene was savage, but the scene was new;
This made the ceaseless toil of travel sweet,
Beat back keen winter's blast, and welcom'd summer's heat.
Here in the sultriest season let him rest,
Fresh is the green beneath those aged trees;
Here winds of gentlest wing will fan his breast,
From heaven itself he may inhale the breeze:
The plain is far beneath--oh! let him seize
Pure pleasure while he can; the scorching ray
Here pierceth not, impregnate with disease:
Then let his length the loitering pilgrim lay,
And gaze, untired, the morn, the noon, the eve away.
Epirus' bounds recede, and mountains fail;
Tir'd of up-gazing still, the wearied eye
Reposes gladly on as smooth a vale
As ever Spring yclad in grassy dye:
Ev'n on a plain no humble beauties lie,
Where some bold river breaks the long expanse,
And woods along the banks are waving high,
Whose shadows in the glassy waters dance,
Or with the moon-beam sleep in midnight's solemn trance.

A few lines from

"Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"
By George Gordon, Lord Byron
This is largely an autobiographical, narrative poem that tells the story of a man's disillusionment with life within a self-indulgent, self-absorbed society, and his search for fulfillment as he traveled through countries foreign to his birthland exactly 200 years ago at this very moment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Knowledge often is costly

Marines storm the command bunker on Tarawa, November 1943

Remembrance Day .... just another reminder

For better or for worse, some battles become mythic in proportion in the memory of mankind after the guns have become silent. So it is in Marine Corps' lore when speaking of an epic struggle which took place on November 20-23, 1943, on the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. The primary fighting took place on Betio Island, where this photograph was taken on the third and final full day of "major" combat.

The "hill" the Marines are storming in the photo, incidentally, is not a natural phenomenon, but the Japanese command bunker, which had been constructed from tons of concrete with tons of sand placed atop that to make it virtually indestructible to air or artillery weapons of the era.

About 1,200 Americans and nearly 5,000 Japanese died during the 76-hour ordeal to determine which country would control a tiny piece of land -- only about 300 acres -- in the middle of an ocean. A few years in the aftermath, military analysts agreed it was an unnecessary island invasion in the American war effort to defeat the Japanese Empire -- a battle that should never have been fought.

Why mention this battle today? Because today is Veterans Day, a day of remembrance. In the United States, it first was observed as Armistice Day to honor those who fought in World War I. The date selected to mark this event was that on which an armistice was signed to end the fighting in the "war to end all wars" -- the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Unfortunately and predictably, not all wars ended with the conclusion of World War I, so, in the 1950s, the decision was made to use this occasion to honor those who fought in World War II and Korea, as well, and the day was renamed Veterans Day. Some countries in Europe and elsewhere, maybe more appropriately, simply call it Remembrance Day.

Many of the men shown in the photograph died only minutes after it was taken. One of them, the fourth man from the right -- if you are able to distinguish him -- was one of four Marines to win the Medal of Honor that day.

Statistics from the battle include these: Four Medals of Honor, America's highest military award for valor (three of them posthumous); 46 Navy Crosses, the Marine Corps' and Navy's second highest award for valor (22 of them posthumous); four Distinguished Service Medals; 248 Silver Stars; 21 Legion of Merits. The Purple Heart is presented to Americans both killed and wounded in action, which puts that number at roughly 3,500 for this unnecessary, tiny island campaign.

The Battle of Tarawa was fought just a few days after Armistice Day / Veterans Day / Remembrance Day in 1943, barely 25 years after the final shots had been fired in the "war to end all wars." Today, still another 66 years later, it is very evident that few, if any, of those who have been entrusted to "replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" have learned a blessed thing.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Knowledge is power

Europe, Italy, pizza, ice cream and Harry's Bar will have to wait.

Wanted: Three weeks of sun

There is an unusual habit I have had for a number years. When I encounter a topic where my knowledge ranges from slim to none, I talk to people who have experience and I read books which offer facts. I say the habit is unusual because it seems so few people actually do this, politicians in particular, and simply try to pretend they know all things about all things. Sorry. I could not resist.

I thought I would be out of the country around October 1, in Europe, with Italy among the primary stops, however, my journey was postponed to mid-November. Now, it appears the trip has been delayed once again. Florence and Venice will just have to do without me for a while longer.

Therefore, bound and determined to avoid as much of a northern winter as possible (I am very, very bored with snow and cold), I wish to spend December in a warmer clime. My thoughts have centered upon somewhere along the Gulf Coast in Florida, maybe Texas or Old Mexico, or Baja might be an ideal location.

Any suggestions? No islands, please. I prefer to have land in at least one direction from me at all times. Unless I decide to go deep into Old Mexico, I probably will drive. I am wide open to ideas, and thinking it would be fun to rent a place on the water for about three weeks. Wind, water and sun are desperately needed by me. I definitely want a tan out of this excursion.

Odds & Ends from Friday ....

The temperature reached at least 67 degrees Fahrenheit today. I took advantage of it, and sat outside for a while observing the neighborhood. Through the back yard and across a street, an elderly man was hand-washing his garage door. I do not recall ever washing a garage door. I guess I am not the domestic type.

Down a street to the right of me walked a young, rather plump girl/woman pushing a double (dual ??) stroller which held two very small children, each tucked within a "personal" compartment. Twins, no doubt. Life goes on, sometimes in a beautiful way.

I noticed a "headline" from one of my posts last July. It read, "Never again, a winter alone." Time is getting short.

While I was enjoying the warm, autumn air, I wished I had a cigar to smoke. I miss them. In one more month, it will be twelve years since I last had a cigar, cigarette or a pipe in my mouth. Possibly, it is time to start again. I always enjoyed smoking, and it seems idiotic to deprive oneself of small pleasures. Does it not?

Friday evening, I received a telephone call from a boy/man who had looked at my Ford Mustang a few days ago. It is a GT 5.0, a car built for running fast and holding tightly to the road. He will buy it. Now, I am down to my Audi, a car built for running fast and holding tightly to the road. Hmmm, who needs two such vehicles, anyway? If only someone would buy this damn house. Oh, well. The albatrosses in my life definitely are lessening.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You are what you .... Eat? Wear? Drive?

He who walks through life as a chameleon sometimes goes to great lengths to present both an appearance and a persona to fit the occasion. Here is a photograph of Fram, taken while on the road (slightly off it at that precise moment) during a recent excursion. Judging solely from his appearance, it probably is safe to assume he was recognized by few and adored by many while on this trip, and that this "boy racer's" style of driving was somewhat more "accelerated" in an Audi than it would have been in a Chevrolet Suburban.
The chameleon returns .... well, sort of ....
It was not too long ago that I was writing an email and I made this comment: "I am melancholy, but happy, if that makes sense. A paradox. It comes whenever I listen to the music of Boston, which I am doing." Another day, I said I needed to play some heavy-duty rock and roll to prepare myself to be "warlike," so as to be in the proper frame of mind for cheering on the New York Yankees in the World Series. These are not the first times I have said such words in respect to the emotional effects of music, and it hardly is an original thought. After all, once upon a time someone noted, "Music soothes the savage ...."

More recently, again while writing an email after having sold my Chevrolet Suburban, I made this comment: "I should have sold the Ford Mustang and the Audi, and kept the Suburban, I think. The Suburban was more me, and I do not drive crazy in it like I often do in the Mustang and the Audi. Style and mannerisms in dress, in vehicles, in music -- in many things -- affect one's attitudes and behavior more than commonly realized, I believe. I drive like a teenage nut case in my Audi, and like a mature, well-mannered adult in my Suburban."

Image is one of the magic words here. Attitudes and behavior patterns are other key terms in the sense they are influenced by the image we desire, and vise versa. Some examples:

I have a well-worn, black, leather jacket. Some might describe it as a biker's jacket, and it shows the wear on its front that only miles riding against the wind can make upon leather. At times when I wear my hair "a bit longer than the norm," I am more inclined to wear this jacket while out and about than I otherwise am when my hair is cut rather short. Visualize the image, if you would: Biker jacket, jeans, cowboy boots, hair over my shoulders and probably sunglasses. Then imagine my attitude and my behavior, even my speech and my gestures. A chameleon passes among you.

In other moods, I will wear a Marine Corps T-shirt or battle jacket when I stroll the shopping markets. The Marine Corps elements affect my attitude and my behavior differently than does my biker jacket or, going the opposite direction, than does wearing a pin-striped, navy blue suit. Similarly, I might not only appear to be, but actually take on, the persona of entirely different people when I wear cowboy boots in contrast to when I am wearing running shoes. We all do, do we not? Or not? As I wander through the sea of blogs, I wonder how accurate a portrait many internet authors present of themselves.

The interesting part about this, of course, is not only how a piece of clothing will alter attitude and behavior, but how the image presented will influence the reaction of people encountered.

Lightning strikes! After all these months, I am drifting back into thinking and writing about the chameleon mode again -- the reporter as a chameleon. Do you remember him? I dress and act and talk like the image I wish to portray, like the person I wish you to think I am, to accomplish the results I wish to achieve. One day, the reporter wears a leather jacket, jeans and boots to interview a drug dealer; the next day, the reporter dresses in a three-piece suit to interview a bank president. In its most elemental form, the idea is to look, act and talk like the person being interviewed in order to win his confidence and trust.

So, then, there is one consistent element in my life, it seems: The chameleon, or, to take it even one step further, the masked chameleon. By all means, lift the mask and reveal tomorrow. Where have I heard that before?

In this instance, though, my thoughts today originate from questioning how the chameleon persona might affect the individual who is one -- his attitudes and his behaviors -- rather than how it influences the people he encounters and interacts with along the path he travels. Absolutely "fascinating," to revive an oft-used word from the chameleon's past. It might be worth writing a post about someday .... somewhere .... over the rainbow ....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fight to win or get out

This March 9, 2007, family photo provided by retired Marine 1st Sgt. John Bernard, right, shows him with his wife Sharon, left, and late son, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, at Joshua's graduation from Marine boot camp, Parris Island, S.C. (Photo courtesy of John Bernard via The Associated Press)

Families outraged over engagement restrictions

By Dan Lamothe - Marine Corps Times Staff Writer
Posted : Monday Nov 2, 2009 9:38:12 EST

Enough is enough. Retired 1st Sgt. John Bernard has had it with the war in Afghanistan.

Enough of "shameful" and "suicidal" rules of engagement that leave U.S. troops vulnerable to ambushes. Enough of worrying more about harming Afghan civilians than American forces. Enough of politics.

Bernard was a scout sniper and platoon sergeant during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, so he's familiar with the warrior's creed. But as the father of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, he has reached his limit.

The younger Bernard was killed Aug. 14 by a rocket-propelled grenade, an attack that became a national story after The Associated Press distributed a photograph of Bernard’s son's last living moments in Dahaneh, Afghanistan. The father wrote his representatives in Congress several times during the weeks leading up to Joshua's death, each time expressing apprehension about the more-restrictive guidelines put in place by the new commander of U.S. forces there, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

It wasn't until he was thrust into the spotlight by the AP photo and the controversy that surrounded it that anyone paid him any mind.

After that, things changed.

Bernard, of New Portland, Maine, was mentioned by name Sept. 15 during the Senate confirmation hearing of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told Mullen that she had received a letter from Bernard before his son's death that "expressed serious concerns about the rules of engagement" in Afghanistan. Those rules were altered in July by McChrystal in response to mounting civilian casualties.

The new guidelines call on U.S. forces to limit the use of heavy fire power — close-air support and long-range artillery — when ordinary Afghans may be at risk. A week before Mullen's hearing, three Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed in an ambush after commanders allegedly refused their requests for fire support for fear it would kill women and children.

"I'm going to send you the letter so that you can read it," Collins told Mullen, according to a congressional transcript. "I promised Mr. Bernard at [his] son's funeral that I would do so. And I hope you and General McChrystal will look seriously at the concerns he raises ... about the rules of engagement."

It wasn't much, but it was a start, Bernard says now.

A fiery, blunt speaker, Bernard is just one among a growing group of vocal family members whose children were killed in fighting overseas. They support the cause and the troops still in harm's way, these family members say, but they also believe U.S. forces are handcuffed by rules and tactics and vulnerable as a result, leaving them with little help when such ambushes occur. Some also question whether the U.S. should have launched a counter-insurgency strategy so quickly, rather than employing search-and-destroy missions that proved successful in Afghanistan during the early part of the decade.

"The rules of engagement are so convoluted, so open-ended, that it puts the people on the ground at risk no matter what they do," said Bernard, who retired from the Corps in 2003. "It's insane. You don't let your guys languish there when these things happen. You err on the side of your guys, not the civilians."

These are not anti-war families. They want the military to succeed in Afghanistan. They're deeply proud of their fallen sons' sacrifices.

The Ganjgal ambush

Army, Marine and Afghan National Army troops experienced the effect of McChrystal's tighter rules directly Sept. 8, when their small outpost in Ganjgal, in Kunar province near the Pakistan border, was blindsided by insurgents.

Three Marines and a corpsman died that day, and a soldier, 41-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, who was shot through the mouth and neck, died Oct. 7 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. An embedded reporter with McClatchy News Service, Jonathan Landay, reported that "U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren't near the village."

(To continue reading this article, please go to the link immediately below:)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lift the mask & reveal tomorrow

Frederic Remington 1909 Moonlight Wolf
Frederic Remington 1902-05 The Scout: Friend or Foe
Frederic Remington 1905 Evening on a Canadian Lake
Frederic Remington 1908 Apache Scouts Listening
Frederic Remington 1902 A Reconnaissance

Not only look, but see; not only listen, but hear

I have been trying to think of something for a post for today, for Halloween, for October 31, for the last day of this month. Superstition drives me to put words on "paper" this day. My decision is to put down a few words from the abstract, some thoughts which arrive without logic or reason, as though they have fallen from the sky under the cover of darkness.

In my view of the world and of life, I cannot look at anything without including the historical aspects involved. This is to say, lift the mask and see who or what might be hidden behind it. Such it is with individuals, whether the individual is a passer-by on the street or a noted authority on this or that or a beautiful woman who would be my companion.

By history, I mean both personal -- which includes understanding things like family background, education, economic status, political predilections, traumatic experiences, military history, psychological characteristics and religious upbringing; and nationalistic -- which includes knowledge of the governmental system and the social mores/value system as a child raised within and accepted, as an adult, to live within, as well as other elements both concrete and esoteric.

Some would say I over complicate things, and perhaps I do. But, this is me. I feel I cannot know the universe unless I know all the stars, even the ones out of sight from me. I feel I cannot understand what comes out of a person (such as a piece of art or a belief) without knowing what has first gone into this person.

This is a common failing of critics and "believers," I think. They analyze the end result, the product -- a book, a film, a painting, a theology, a political concept, a way of dress -- without significant knowledge of its creator. Such incomplete examination primarily serves to give birth to blind faith in demigods, in miracles, in happily-ever-after, in cults, in false hope, in faux-art.

Beyond that, even in terms of studying the reflection an individual sees in the mirror, history is the most elemental of all disciplines. To know yourself and to accurately peer into your own future, all one needs to do is to study your own history.

My Halloween thoughts, then, are these:

It is not wise to accept a religion or a philosophy or a novel or a film without lifting the mask of the creator and looking behind it;

~ It is not wise to accept a companion without first lifting the mask worn by that individual, which is to say, without studying and understanding that individual's history;

~ History lifts the shadows from all things past and reveals what all tomorrows shall be.

~ Lift the mask .... trick or treat ....

A slight distraction

Be warned, of the Wolfen

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

-- Hamlet, Act I, scene v

If anyone should ask me why I posted these three segments from the motion picture, "Wolfen," all I would say is this: "Because the mood to do so came over me."

Perhaps, it is because it is autumn, and autumn is the beginning of the end of a season and an existing life and a year. Perhaps, it is because it is October 31, Halloween, which is a time for the unnatural and the supernatural and worlds within worlds, both pagan and orthodox. Perhaps, it is because it reflects what the woods dweller knows and the city dweller fears.

Be warned, some of the language is harsh, some of the visuals are harsh, some of the concepts are harsh. So, take about 33 minutes of your life to watch a few segments from a film which some consider to be a classic in its genre -- if the mood to do so comes over you, that is ....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Just for fun .... or whatever

Smile, when you say that, partner

When autumn leaves are blowing here and there on chilly winds, what better way to spend money and to have fun than by attending an antique show? It seemed like a good idea to me.

Then, as frosting on the cake or ice cream on the pie, what better way to top off an antique show than by also attending a gun show? It seemed like a good idea to me.

Since I ran three photographs from an earlier gun show a few weeks ago, I only ran one photo from this particular show (the last photo in line, no less), and four from the antique show. This, I trust, demonstrates my fair and balanced approach to the world, and my regard for antiques and firearms as equal entities under the sun. Smile, when you say that, partner.

The gun show illustrated a few weeks ago took place in South Dakota. Both this gun show and this antique show took place in Minnesota.

Please, feel free to interpret

Now, here is a plug for another song, as well. For those not familiar with the songwriter, musician, singer who bills himself as "Five for Fighting," take a chance and listen to the musical selection below. In addition to being a very pretty piece, it is fairly prophetic and certainly paints an accurate portrait of life for a significant portion of the male population.

As for the visuals accompanying the song, please, feel free to interpret them in any manner you desire. No questions asked; no answers given.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The few who live forever

Somewhere in time

I have fallen from beyond the sky,
And risen from the bottom of the sea;
Where else can I go, what else can I be?

I have given life, I have taken life,
And kept my life when all others have died;
What else is left to do, what else can be tried?

I have known brilliance, I have enjoyed beauty,
And scattered all the Muse with my sullen glance;
Who else might I find, who else is worth the chance?

I have flown upon visions, both in day and night,
And studied long to understand this endless chase;
When will it come to pass, when will I glimpse her face?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To the west lies Mythago Wood

From time to time

When I am in the city,
I sense I need to be going somewhere,
anywhere, but I know not where.

When I am on the river,
I always want to discover
what is around
the next bend.

When I am on the lake,
I must have a destination in sight,
and travel
from point of land to point of land.

When I am in the desert,
distant promontories call out,
come to me, come and see.

When I am in the woodlands,
my solitary instinct
is to be absorbed, to drift, to wander,
with never a destination required.

Only in the woodlands
am I without distraction;
no shackles, no burdens,
the only place I am truly free.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ageless emotions awaken

Time and again

Bodies crumble and minds deteriorate,

while emotions are ageless and timeless.

With a breath, you awaken mine;

witness, now, your creation rising from the wine-dark sea ....


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On the ninth day .... came the guide

Stairway to Heaven

There's a lady who's sure
All that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven.

There's a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook
There's a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There's a feeling I get
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it's whispered that soon
If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
Don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the may queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won't go
In case you don't know,
The pipers calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow,
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On the eighth day .... came the guitar

Starship Trooper

I. Life seeker

Sister Bluebird flying high above,
Shine your wings forward to the sun.
Hide the myst'ries of life on your way.
Though you've seen them, please don't say a word.
What you don't know, I have never heard.

Starship Trooper, go sailing on by,
Catch my soul, catch the very light.
Hide the moment from my eager eye.
Though you've seen them, please don't tell a soul.
What you can't see, can't be very whole.

Speak to me of summer, long winters

longer than time can remember,
The setting up of other roads, to travel on

in old accustomed ways.
I still remember the talks by the water,
the proud sons and daughter that,
Knew the knowledge of the land,
that spoke to me in sweet accustomed ways.

Mother life, hold firmly on to me.
Catch my knowledge higher than the day.
Lose as much as only you can show.
Though you've seen me, please don't say a word.
What I don't know, I have never shared.

II. Disillusion

Loneliness is a pow'r that we possess

to give or take away forever.
All I know can be shown by your acceptance
of the facts there shown before you.
Take what I say in a diff'rent way and it's easy to say
that this is all confusion.
As I see a new day in me, I can also show it you

and you may follow.

Speak to me of summer, long winters

longer than time can remember,
The setting up of other roads, to travel on

in old accustomed ways.
I still remember the talks by the water,
the proud sons and daughter that,
Knew the knowledge of the land, spoke to me

in sweet accustomed ways.

III. Wurm


Friday, October 2, 2009


Wait a minute baby ....
Stay with me a while
Said you'd give me light
But you never told me about the fire

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now it's gone
It doesn't matter any more
When you build your house
Call me home

And he was just like a great dark wing
Within the wings of a storm
I think I had met my match -- he was singing
And undoing the laces
Undoing the laces

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now it's gone
It doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Call me home

Hold on
The night is coming and the starling flew for days
I'd stay home at night all the time
I'd go anywhere, anywhere
Ask me and I'm there because I care

Sara, you' re the poet in my heart
Never change, never stop
And now it's gone
It doesn't matter what for
When you build your house
I'll come by

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now it's gone
It doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Call me home

All I ever wanted
Was to know that you were dreaming
(There's a heartbeat
And it never really died)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Let me see you write a better one

Michener 1,515 / Hemingway 308

My reading dry spell ended abruptly a week or ten days ago when I picked up one of my copies of "Centennial" by James Michener and began reading it for the sixth time. I frequently write inside books I own, even some old, first editions. Book values? Who cares? Inside a paperback copy I have this written:

"Re-read this book December 21-26, 1978. First read it two or three years ago. Been re-reading a lot this fall." Other re-read dates are 1980, 1984 and 1998. In addition, I have read my favorite chapters, three through seven, three additional times. Some books become a part of you.

This book is not a minor project. The paperback version is 1,086 pages. The hardback is 909 pages. I began this time by making myself read for a mere thirty minutes a day. Sort of like an exercise routine and, just like exercise, putting in an extra half-hour here and there is not a sin.

I am not certain when I first began reading Michener. Probably in high school. I had read an even dozen of his books (at least once) before he finally wore me out. He could write more than I could read, and published about forty books altogether, including both fiction and non-fiction.

My favorite genre is the historical novel, and by that I do not mean books where the emphasis is on wizards or knights wearing tights or fairy tales. Michener is an excellent example of a legitimate historical novelist. His success as an author gave him the ability to hire dozens of historical researchers and to visit the geographic locales (actually to live in them for a few months) he wished to write about and to interview people whose ancestors had been history incarnate.

Once the bait is tasted, the hook is swallowed. I had a very explicable urge to re-read Ernest Hemingway's "Across the River and Into the Trees." This came after, I might add, someone told me she was reading some of Hemingway's first forty-nine short stories. I joined in long enough to grab my copy and to fall under the spell of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."

My selection of "Across the River, etc." was the result of wanting to tour Venice through the eyes of Hemingway -- to hunt ducks, to pursue young ladies, to eat and to drink and to soak in the Venetian atmosphere as it existed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many consider this to be Hemingway's weakest novel. To which I say, let me see you write a better one.

Once upon a time, I had a copy of "Across the River, etc." It has now vanished, disappeared, been swallowed up by time -- whatever. So, I turned to our ever-present ally to find anything and everything, the Internet, and in four-days received a first edition copy in fine condition (other than a very tattered dust cover). Let the reading begin.

The tale opens with duck hunting, which I no long do or even like, but I am able to identify with Hemingway's protagonist, Colonel Cantwell, and with the sights and sounds of being in a marsh covered with thin ice as the sun rises. His (Hemingway's / Cantwell's) marsh is a salt marsh just outside of Venice. Mine, for the most part, were in Minnesota. Other than location, everything is the same -- the sights and the sounds. These are the things that are most remembered from the experience of a hunt.

Most events which are near-identical in nature, such as hunting ducks in a marsh, are little different no matter where they occur, I think. Only the geographic location is different; all else is the same. I am not certain how much changing the location affects the event itself. Anyway, back on subject: I am enjoying the book, which at 308 pages is tiny compared to the works of Michener.

Finally, if this were not enough, I decided I need more and more and more, so I returned to the Internet and ordered a copy of "Poland" -- another book from the wandering Michener which doubles as a paper weight. This one is sort of brief for him, only 616 pages in the hardback edition.

Curiosity might be my downfall some day. I latch onto events or people or places because I want to know them and to experience them first-hand. Michener was hired to do a documentary of any country in the world of his own choice. He chose Poland. Why? Why Poland? I know inside myself that I have to read this book if I ever hope to discover his reason.

What evolved from this project were years of research, several trips to Poland and four years spent writing the novel. Why? Why? Why? "The devil drives," as some character in some novel once said.

In the instance of Fram Actual, Nicolai Gogol might have discovered a more logical explanation and described it in his short novel (or long short story -- take your pick), "Taras Bulba." If I seem to speak in riddles and your curiosity matches mine, read our ascetic, Ukrainian friend's book and, possibly, discover the answer to the riddle while enjoying a story our narcissistic, Michigan buddy, Hemingway, once proclaimed to be among the ten best books in the history of literature.

Life is a non sequitur.

Go Your Own Way

Ever see a Fleetwood Mac concert way back when? Here is a sample of the band's sound once upon a time, and on this occasion playing undoubtedly its greatest song, "Go Your Own Way." This is from a 1982 performance in Los Angeles. Most definitely chair dancing music.

Back then, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass guitar player John McVie appeared to have just arrived from an audition to act the role of Grigori Rasputin in a horror film, but look like kindly, old grandfathers today. Lindsey Buckingham was and still is a fine song writer and singer, and a virtuoso on the guitar. Stevie Nicks was a great singer and, in my mind, the most beautiful woman on the earth. Now that she is about 60, I think it would be only fair to move her down to the No. 3 or No. 4 position among the most radiant women in the world. Ah, yes, the allure of mature women. Other band members have come and gone.

You might note that an occasional stuffed animal is tossed upon the stage or handed to Stevie. This was a tradition, and probably still is, for her and for many Fleetwood Mac concert-goers. She took these stuffed toys, as well as others she purchased herself, and personally distributed them to kids who were undergoing medical treatment in children's hospitals.

Two thoughts:

(1) Anyone can quietly make a positive difference in the world without disrupting the lives of others or shouting, "Look at me." Someone should advise politicians of this fact.

(2) And, the type of music an individual prefers -- whether it be classical, jazz, country, rock and roll, gospel, Broadway and show tunes, pop, Christian, blues or whatever -- tells you absolutely nothing about the inner nature of that individual.

Life can be fascinating when it is read between the lines.

Go Your Own Way

Loving you
Isn't the right thing to do
How can I ever change things
That I feel

If I could
Maybe I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won't take it from me

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way

Tell me why
Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up is all you wanna' do

If I could
Baby I'd give you my world
Open up
Everything’s waiting for you

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What Is and What Should Never Be

And if I say to you tomorrow.
Take my hand, child, come with me.
It's to a castle I will take you,
where what's to be, they say, will be.

Catch the wind, see us spin, sail away,
leave today, way up high in the sky.
But the wind won't blow,
you really shouldn't go, it only goes to show
That you will be mine, by takin' our time.

And if you say to me tomorrow,
oh what fun it all would be.
Then what's to stop us, pretty baby.
But What Is And What Should Never Be.

So if you wake up with the sunrise,
and all your dreams are still as new,
And happiness is what you need so bad, girl,
the answer lies with you.

Oh the wind won’t blow
and we really shouldn't go and it only goes to show.
Catch the wind, we're gonna see it spin,
we're gonna .... sail, little girl ....
Do do do, bop bop a do-oh,
my my my my my my yeah.
Everybody I know seems to know me well
But they're never gonna know that I move like hell.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Against the Wind

It seems like yesterday
But it was long ago
Janey was lovely, she was the queen of my nights
There in the darkness with the radio playing low
And the secrets that we shared
The mountains that we moved
Caught like a wildfire out of control
Till there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove

And I remember what she said to me
How she swore that it never would end
I remember how she held me oh so tight
Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then

Against the wind
We were running against the wind
We were young and strong, we were running
Against the wind

And the years rolled slowly past
And I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home
And I guess I lost my way
There were oh so many roads
I was living to run and running to live
Never worried about paying or even how much I owed
Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searching
Searching for shelter again and again
Against the wind
A little something against the wind
I found myself seeking shelter against the wind

Well those drifters days are past me now
I've got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

Against the wind
I'm still running against the wind
Well I'm older now and still
Against the wind

Thursday, September 24, 2009

With or Without You

See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I wait for you

Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait without you

With or without you
With or without you

Through the storm we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I'm waiting for you

With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

My hands are tied
My body bruised, she's got me with
Nothing to win and
Nothing left to lose

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you

With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you
With or without you

Monday, September 14, 2009

Symbols of personal freedom

The Great American Gun Show

The great American tradition: Mom, apple pie and baseball. In some parts of the United States (probably most parts), add to that gun shows. Usually not much is heard about them unless it is a real or imagined negative commentary coming from anti-gun activists. In reality, gun shows are happening all around you several times a year, and they draw people of all ages and all occupations and all religions and both (all ??) sexes.

For instance, I drove a few hundred miles to attend this show. I encountered six other people who I know: A university student, a diesel engine mechanic, a land surveyor, a real estate agent, a bank president and a medical doctor, each of whom had driven at least a hundred miles individually to attend this event.

This particular show was sponsored by the Dakota Territory Gun Collectors Association. The group puts on about fifteen shows a year at various locations in North and South Dakota. While the primary ingredient for this particular show was collector and antique firearms (the value of many ranging into the thousands of dollars), guns are not the only objects bought, sold and traded at the association's events.

Firearms-related accessories are the secondary items present, of course, but as shown in the center of the middle photograph is an original Oscar Howe painting. Oscar was a Yanktonai Sioux artist whose work is known and recognized worldwide. Many would argue he is the individual who brought contemporary Indian art to the attention of modern America.

His style was unique and is now much imitated. He took traditional Sioux painting and injected it with Cubism, which turns his paintings into mystical, dreamlike and tremendously beautiful works of art. In addition to being a producer of art, Oscar was a teacher of art, first at the high school level and later as a professor at the University of South Dakota -- a small school, which has had some giants among its faculty members.

A portion of another of his paintings is barely visible on the far right end of the same table. Someday, I might do a post on Oscar; in the meanwhile, those who appreciate art, especially work which reflects the American Indian culture, might care to check him out on their own. Here is a start:

The firearms in front of the center painting in the middle photograph, incidentally, are cased sets of matching, antique, dueling pistols -- also mystical and beautiful, but potentially deadly. As the old saying goes, "God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal." Although, I suppose a few men with names such as Winchester, Henry, Smith, Wesson and Remington might argue the finer points of who exactly deserves the credit.

Personal note

I am roaming about, here and there, but have made no extended treks to date. That is coming in the not too distant future. I also have been tending to business, which is to say, pack up a house full of "things" and prepare otherwise, as well as to pay social calls. To a couple of people who sent emails during the past week or so, I promise I will catch up and respond.

For heavy-duty rockers only

The song I have posted this time is not a love song or a ballad. It is hard rock, metal rock, from a motion picture called "Point Break," which is a hard film, a metal film. There is no particular reason for posting the song other than it goes with my mood = follow the sun (and the stars).

The band is known as Ratt, and the guitar men are excellent. Too bad the vocalist is more of a raspy-voiced screamer than a singer. The music is dandy, and the lyrics are sort of arrogant. There are at least two versions of the lyrics, and I have mixed them both into one. The song is, "Nobody Rides For Free."

Nobody Rides For Free

In my dreams see I'm on tv
Get back exactly who I wanna be
If she could really see herself in my eyes
This wouldn't be such a big surprise

I'm sick and tired of it getting in my way
I'm sick and tired of everything I seem I know

Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free

Don't stop to think cause I know where I stand
I'm on my way, no, you're not gonna change my plan
If you can break away and see what I say
You'll understand what I'm trying to be
If you can break away and see what I say
You'll understand what's burning inside of me

Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free

I'm sick and tired of talking bout little things
I'm sick and tired of everyone in my way
I'm sick and tired of talking to my little dates
I'm sick and tired of everyone in my way

Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides
Noooobooody...nobody rides for free
Noooobooody...nobody rides for free
Noooobooody...nobody rides for free

You've gotta pay to play
So don't you stand in my way
Now the world's at stake
The card was drawn
Cause nobody, nobody rides for free

Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free

Now the water was deep
The current was strong
You thought he could swim but I guess you were wrong
You sink to the depths of your misery
Baby, the past will set you free

Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides
Noooobooody...nobody rides for free
Noooobooody...nobody rides for free
Noooobooody...nobody rides for free

You've gotta pay to play
So don't you stand in my way
Now the world’s at stake
The card was drawn
Cause nobody, nobody rides for free

Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free...

Something special ....