Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hiatus, writ with water & still loving you

If you are tired of hearing me rave about the love of my life, Frances Anne Hopkins, then stay cool, calm and collected. This is the last time you will see her on my page -- at least, for now. I am sort of (as I sort of just about everything) going to go absent without leave for a while. First, Frances: This painting is entitled "At Marquette, Michigan 1864." Marquette is on Lake Superior, the south shore, and writing as someone who has canoed past it a few times, I will guarantee you that Marquette has changed just a little bit since Frances made her visit. Seriously, I actually do recognize the point of rocks. Frances does have a way with colors and details, does she not? In case you think the "spots" in the sky are photographic problems with the painting, I will say this: It is the first time I have seen photographic problems, e.g., spots, fly in a "V" formation. Finally, I am winding down (or, maybe, winding up) for a time, beginning with this post. This post itself will be unusual for me in the sense that it is going to appear in two or three segments; not separate entries, but pieces added on, maybe all them today, maybe some after today. (So, I am busy for a change, and need some sleep, do not give me any grief.) Please, reserve your comment for after June ends or, if the mood strikes you, come back and check upon me again during the next day or two and leave a second comment. When the entry closes with music, you will know it is complete.

Hiatus is an idiotic word

As the length of daylight hours in the northlands begin to shorten (yeh, really), so does my time writing here. My thought is to leave "Sort of San Fran" alone for the most part for -- a sort of a hiatus. When the opportunity or a reason arises, I might not be able to resist temptation and produce a post. But, I am not going to worry about it or to think about it for the most part. I hope I will continue to make comments on the pages of others, but no promises to do it with every post you write.

This might be a stranger phenomenon for me than for most bloggers in that I have utilized writing in many of my work experiences. Other than letters or emails, this is one of the few times I recall not being paid to write. So much for newspapers and paid subscribers. Any and all of us can produce a "news screen" of our own and do everything from preach, to lie (possibly I repeat myself), to beg, to promote, to sell, to report, to editorialize, to show photos or to offer videos, to .... to .... to .... endless possibilities.

One last time before I retreat: My beliefs are that the world is becoming more dangerous, not less so; that while people in some nations, such as Iran, are demonstrating for freedom, people in other nations, such as America, are allowing their freedoms to slip away by blindly accepting promises from false prophets and power mongers; that music is deteriorating (just had to toss that one in); that population control is a significant problem which is being ignored while get-rich-schemers are selling the concept of man-made global warming to wannabe do-gooders; that there probably will be violence in the streets of the U.S. if maleficent government officials and corporate bandits are not all brought before the criminal justice system and .... and .... and .... that is enough.

Just remember, I do love you even if you are a liberal .... in some ways, I am, too, but that might only be a conceptual distinction, and you might actually be a conservative ....

A name writ with water ....

Katy Jackson, who calls her page "Moving Back, Moving On," once wrote a post about her final day in the office at a former job. More specifically, she and a colleague were collecting their own items, boxing up materials to be sent elsewhere, designating redundant paperwork for recycling and performing a general clean up / clear out operation. The last lines of her post were these:

We took one last look around the room and departed from 'our office' for the very last time. You'd never know by looking that we'd ever been there.

And, here is the comment I left for that post:

It is interesting, isn't it, how the history of so many people is written in the absolute trash they leave behind at a work place?

When I leave a job, I have been known to shred 99 percent of the material and take the remaining one percent with me. Then I replace my material with the material that had been left behind by my predecessor and which I had stored away in boxes for just this moment. Within a matter of a few years, no one would ever know I had been there. Similar to you, I guess.

And, this was Katy's remark to my comment:

Maybe it's a desire for workplace invisibility. Not necessarily during the actual occupation of the job, but afterwards - the desire to leave no trace behind like a particularly neat burglar perhaps?

Here worked one whose name was writ with water...

I loved that line, as well as the concept it vividly and brilliantly explained. That had been my intent when I departed this place. Some of you have heard before, perhaps too many times, that I am very guarded about my privacy. Before this page, no photograph of me ever had entered cyberspace, although I have been transmitting via personal computer since 1985. There were many ways and reasons to do it even before the Internet or Windows or browsers came into existence, some of you might be surprised to know. Similar to photographs, my name, rank and serial number were kept under lock and key.

Returning to the point at hand, I had thought to vanish when I decided the "Sort of San Francisco Fan Club" had run its course. Maybe that still will happen a bit further down the road, but not yet, and when it finally does happen, it will fade away with a notice of intent, rather than simply disappear.

There are too many nice people who stop by here on occasion, that the last thing I want do is to be rude and inconsiderate of them on my last day in this office.

Achtung! Achtung! Still missing you, baby!

One more band is being featured right now because I consider the singer, Klaus Meine, to be No. 3 on my list of the absolute best male singers in the era of rock music. While the German band, Scorpions, is among the most significant in heavy rock, as a unit it does not approach the talent level of either Boston or Dokken. Song writing ability, much of it by the band's founder, Rudolf Schenker, and Meine's voice, are the strengths in this outfit.

Included here are two renditions of the same song, my personal favorite by the Scorpions, "Still Loving You." This song generally is considered the Scorpions' trademark piece, and was written by Schenker and Meine.

The first video shows the band performing with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2000. The audio is sort of out of control, but what a fantastic performance it would have been to attend. I would have stood in line to be present at this one. Meine's pronunciation of Americanized English is near perfect, but that his native language is German is impossible to miss. The tone, the mere natural guttural sound of his voice, is Germanic. A performance is more enjoyable to watch, I think, when it is obvious the singer is loving the moment. Meine clearly is happy with where he is and with what he is doing during these moments.

The second piece, once again, is present to be able to hear the strength and range of Meine's voice without concert hall racket. It is a studio recording, with more-or-less "romantic" slides replacing a video of the band actually performing.

The song is powerful, and I do not think I could understand how anyone would not like it, both for the impact of the message and the strength of the sound. Maybe the fact that in ancestral mathematics I am about 18 percent German shades my view a bit. But, maybe not.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Art, arrogance & a whiter shade of pale

Today, art lovers and those who simply love paintings created by beautiful young ladies, is another from Frances Anne Hopkins. I think I should like to name a daughter Frances Anne, but that occurrence is very doubtful. Oh, well. This one is titled, "Rue St. Dominique Montreal." The date looks to be July 4 (or July 9), 1866. It appears to be a watercolor, with soothing shades of pastel to send the viewer drifting away into the sky. (Sound like a wannabe art critic, do I not? Worse things could happen. Done books, movies and music professionally, why not art?) Note the tracks in the mud on the street. Note the pedestrians and, in the distance, a pair of buggies, and in the far distance, the church spires reaching for the sky. Frances knew what she was doing. Like another of her watercolor paintings, "Ile Dorval," also done in 1866, this is one where I want to close my eyes, to step into and to forever become part of the painting and of Montreal in 1866. Dream on, Fram ....

Sometimes the arrogant thrive ....

A few days ago, I entered into a difference of opinion discussion with an individual regarding what I consider good manners and consideration for other people.

While not directly related to that, one of my "personal rules" is that I will not stand in lines. This began after my departure from the Marine Corps. The "hurry up and wait" doctrine approaches near-religious dogma in the military, and I was done with it forever after, I vowed. I absolutely refuse to stand in a line for more than a few minutes, which, translated, means probably five or, maybe, even ten. When preciseness cannot be a consideration, for instance, such as waiting to be seated in a restaurant, I generally will grant two or three couples ahead of me as worth standing around and waiting to be seated before me. More than that? Adios.

My second rule, which was the topic of the conversation, centered on my devout habit of not being willing to wait for people who are late. Would I be chauvinistic to say that is a difficult rule to apply to a young lady?

When I first was starting out in the world of adult work, I made it a habit to arrive five to ten minutes early for an appointment. Almost invariably, I had to wait those minutes, plus another five or ten, for my appointment to arrive. Frustrating, to me, at the very least. Somewhere along the line, I changed by habit and began arriving five to ten minutes late, ostentatiously to ensure that I would not be kept waiting for anyone.

At some point, I decided that was not appropriate, and began to arrive a minute or two before a given appointment, but to wait no longer than five or ten minutes before I left, had my appointment failed to arrive. As a reporter, this tact worked well. The majority of people being interviewed wish to be interviewed, and do not want to get on the "bad side" of a reporter.

And now, once again, loom machismo and arrogance, in perhaps the strangest event from practicing this "rule." On one occasion, I was to be interviewed for a job as a reporter at a newspaper. When the person who was to interview me failed to appear in ten minutes, I began to depart the building. On the way out, I met a man who assumed I was the job applicant. He introduced himself as the newspaper owner. He said he was surprised the interview was finished so quickly. I told him there had been no interview, and explained by point of view on the matter. After turning several shades of red, the gentleman said he would conduct the interview personally. He told a receptionist to track down "Mr. Make Up A Name," and to tell him to come to his office immediately.

Without going into further needless detail, I will note that I did receive a job offer, that I did accept it and, approximately six months later, that "Mr. Make Up" A Name was demoted to a reporter and I was promoted to his position. Sometimes, displaying a machismo and an arrogant attitude pays off.

Another anthem from long, long ago ....

Without wasting my own time and words (= money), I shall again literally steal words from those brave souls who operate Wikipedia, this time to introduce an anthem that was born in the 1960s and persists to this day. It is, for sure, one of the most beautiful and haunting melodies ever produced, some of the most discussed and mysterious lyrics ever written and, quite simply, a really neat song. This version of "A Whiter Shade of Pale," by the one and only Procol Harum, was recorded two or three years ago in Union Chapel in London.

Whenever I hear this song, I want to pick up my drink, light a cigarette and drift onto the dance floor with the prettiest girl in sight. Oh, baby. Just listen to it, close your eyes for a moment and dance to it in your mind ....

From Wikipedia:

In April 1967, Gary Brooker began working as a singer/songwriter and formed Procol Harum with Keith Reid (poet), Hammond organist Matthew Fisher, guitarist Ray Royer and bassist David Knights. The band name was chosen by its original manager Guy Stevens after a friend's Burmese cat, and has been alleged to be Latin for "beyond these things," however the correct Latin translation of "beyond these things" is Procul His. The band's name actually means, in Latin, "of these far off things" (harum is in the feminine, genitive, plural). However, procul would not be followed by a genitive in Latin. The name of the band is frequently misspelled; often with Procul, Harem, both, or other variations.

At Olympic Studios, with session drummer Bill Eyden, producer Denny Cordell, and sound engineer Keith Grant, the group recorded "A Whiter Shade of Pale." The song was officially released on May 12, 1967. With the sudden success of this single and The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin," their label, Deram Records, became known as a premier progressive rock label.

With a structure reminiscent of Baroque music, a countermelody based on J.S. Bach's cantata no.140 assigned to Fisher's Hammond organ, Brooker's soulful vocals and Reid's mysterious lyrics, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" reached #1 on the British charts and did almost as well in the United States, reaching #5. In the years since, it has become an enduring classic, placing on several polls of the best songs ever.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Metamorphosis & Notre Dame de Paris

If the photograph seems to be a bit weak in a technical sense, this is why: It is a digital photo of a slide being shown on a makeshift screen. Not too bad, when that is taken into consideration, right? The exact location of this photo is not necessary to know, but it would be safe to assume the water in the background is Lake Superior and that the photo was taken atop a minor league mountain by a minor league photographer named Fram Actual. It also would be safe to assume that the top, as well as the bottom, of this "large hill" is closely associated to the photographer in question. Neat view to wake up to in the morning, is it not?

A new identity merging with an old

I do not know who among you have read Franz Kafka's masterpiece, "The Metamorphosis." I do know I have been going through that transformation since at least January.

My metamorphosis is not like the one experienced by Gregor Samsa, other than beyond what might be recognizable through the natural advent of age. Mine has been exclusively internal, philosophical, having to do with the senses and with perception, if you will, at least in as much as a battle has ensued between an old order under siege by a new and unblemished persona.

My inner self wants to remain a Marine forever and wants to exist in White Anglo Saxon Protestant male theology and political dogma forever. It wants to stand on a mountain top and shout defiance and challenge to any who dare to threaten it. (Yep, pretty typical male ego at work there.) These elements have been in conflict with new concepts that not many years ago would never have existed in my life because there was no Internet, no blogs, no person-to-person connection between worlds distant not only in miles but in thought.

I have had a personal computer since 1985, probably before some of you were born. Back in "those days," I could have bought a new car for the same amount of money. That is how much I was willing to pay to gain a foothold in then-new computer technology. So, this has not been a sudden process. No detail is necessary here, only a reminder that what is new to some is part of the old to others.

Only a few years ago, my life was set into a track that was leisurely and in which I was reasonably content, if not actually happy. But, fate intervened. The curse of modern life, commonly labeled as a divorce, led to more than the dissolution of a marriage. As I have written before, my Sanctuary/Refuge atop a hill vanished along with the marriage.

As implied, even before divorce, the last few years of marriage consisted of a life routine, somewhat dull and based on avoiding the world as much as possible. No love, no new experiences, no challenges. To repeat myself, as I said a few days ago: ".... life is experience and the object of living, to me, should be to collect it. This is a given. My own interpretation of my own words is that we are the sum of our experiences; and each experience, whether good or bad, is of value to the formation of the whole; and we should be grateful for it."

It was comfort and conformity in exchange for learning and experiencing.

Thanks to a few individuals who frequent my page, I have been in a position to know more about how people live and think in countries other than my own. Reading a textbook or a novel does not help in this sense. Watching a travelogue on television or listening to news broadcast from other countries is near meaningless in this sense. Only real people convey emotions while they tell their truths and explain their thoughts as they understand them. This allows me to grasp how narrow my field of vision has been during the past decade or thereabouts.

Still, sadly for me, sometimes I think I might be the last romantic on earth. Everyone seems to be overly concerned with material goods and the personal accumulation thereof, most of these goods being little more than toys, or, as is the case with the new inhabitants of Washington, D.C., fixated upon radicalizing traditional America. Sadly, too, for practical reasons, I do not think there ever will be a house atop the hill from which the view above is shown.

In any case, thanks to a few individuals who talk here and who write their own posts on their own pages, while I still do want another castle on a hill, I do not want it for a while yet and no longer am bitter about losing the one I did have for a few years. Once, back then, I was ready to spend all my days roaming rooms and running woodlands. Now, I am curious once again. I want to learn more about what is beyond my own world. There is much out there to learn.

What? There is more to life than rock & roll?

Magdalena, who lives near Warsaw in Poland, regularly posts music on her page. A few weeks ago, she presented the performance that I have now "borrowed" from her and listed below. I knew absolutely nothing about this song or the show it came from, but I thought the music and the vision and to be lovely and irresistible beyond words. To discover more, I turned to a popular source of data these days, Wikipedia, of Internet fame. Here is the description found there:

"Notre Dame de Paris" is a French-Canadian musical which debuted on 16 September 1998 in Paris. It is based upon the novel, "Notre Dame de Paris," by the French novelist Victor Hugo. The music was composed by Riccardo Cocciante and the lyrics are by Luc Plamondon.

Since its debut, it has played throughout France, South Korea, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada. A shorter version in English was performed in 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and a full-length London production, also in English, ran for seventeen months. Popular songs from the show, such as Belle and Le temps des cathédrales have also been translated into Belarusian, Catalan, Czech, German, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and English.

"Notre Dame de Paris," according to the Guinness Book of Records, had the most successful first year of any musical ever. The score has been recorded at least seven times to date (2007): the original French concept album, which featured Israeli singer Achinoam Nini (aka Noa) as Esmeralda was followed by a live, complete recording of the original Paris cast. A complete recording of the score in Italian was made, along with a single disc of excerpts in Spanish from the Madrid production.

Monday, June 22, 2009

If I leave here tomorrow ....

Red River Expedition at Kakabeka Falls 1877
Another painting by Frances Anne Hopkins

Where hurry up and wait originated

Traffic jams might generally be viewed as a problem originating in the 20th Century with the advent of automobiles. Not so, as is illustrated in this painting by Frances Anne Hopkins, our painter of forever and always and even beyond.

Boat after boat after canoe awaits its turn at landing to begin the portage of Kakabeka Falls. The painting is teaming with life and action. There appear to be men fishing. Others are gathered round fires, almost certainly preparing food and eating. Many are moving up and down the "stairway," hauling goods, provisions and watercraft along the trail.

Note the "steps" going up the portage incline. Steps have been gouged into the earth with entire trees cut and laid in place to create a stairway traversing the steep slope. This was a common technique employed by French voyageurs and, very possibly, by the Native Americans who taught them the trails and the streams to follow while journeying in primeval America.

Anyone who reads travel tales written during the 18th and 19th centuries in the wilderness areas of America will discover that traffic jams were not at all unusual. There are accounts, not only of river and lake travelers spending a significant amount of time in line at portages, but also of wagon expeditions waiting, sometimes for days, in a line for ferry transportation across a river or, sometimes, even at a place that provided the only safe ford for miles across a waterway.

Artists such as Frances bring visual life to words in diaries and journals about those days when adventures were no less "hurry up and wait" than they are today.

Would you still remember me?

Someone recently asked me if my blog was becoming a music blog. No, I replied, but I shift gears frequently and wanted to try a few more demonstrative elements to illustrate some of the music I enjoy. Citing lyrics from songs I am listening to at the time of writing, or simply those I like, has been part of my blog almost since its beginning. In fact, not too long ago, one of my posts ended with the entire lyrics from today's song being printed.

This particular "musical magic" is an anthem of the 1970s and beyond: "Free Bird," by the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. This, some might deduce through personal knowledge and/or intuition, is my all-time favorite song. 'Tis the music of a true vagabond.

My introduction to this piece came in a small, all-night restaurant, after making the rounds of a few bars with a young lady of French-Canadian origins and whose name was Michelle. A juke box device was mounted on the wall in our booth. I flipped through the selections. I noticed a totally unfamiliar band.

"Lie-Nerd, Sky-Nerd, who are they?" I asked my companion.

She laughed at me, and explained the pronunciation and the origin of this southern rock band. Women always seem to know more than I do -- virtually about everything. The song on the juke box was "Free Bird." It immediately became my theme song. I suspect I was not the first, and I know I will not be the last, to adopt it ....

Both versions I have here are by the original band members, some of whom were killed in an airplane crash and others of whom have departed via a more natural route. For those who do not know, the singer here, Ronnie Van Zant, was among those killed in the crash, and his brother, Johnny Van Zant, now does the vocals for the band. Very similar voices, the two boys have (had?).

The lead version shows the band in action. The problem with it is that the guitar amplifiers are revved up (for the fellow who thinks he is Hawaiian, and is wearing the flowered shirt) to the point there actually is feedback, and the singer really cannot be clearly heard. Guitar guys, what can you say? Never loud enough for them. If you watch the singer, he does not hide his agitation about this problem, either. Contrarily, when the singing stops and the rocking starts, you can understand why the brightest girls cluster round the guys with the guitars.

The second version only offers slides of the band, but the music is a studio recording and words of the song can be distinctly heard.

The full song is approximately 15 minutes in length, however, apparently YouTube does not permit songs longer than approximately 10 minutes in length, so both versions are cut off rather abruptly.

Maybe I will post another song or two after this one, to include my selection for the third best (maybe tied for second best) under the category of absolute best singer in the era of rock music. Then, I will be "traveling on" to another idea .... or, maybe, to another place .... or even to another time ....

Actual band performance ....


Slides and studio recording ....


Thursday, June 18, 2009

A way few will ever be & more music

The Silver Strand of Coronado has known thousands of feet running the soft, deep sand before bellies hit ground and hands hold rifles at the ready during seven or eight decades as a training ground for Marine Corps and Navy personnel. This is a naval amphibious base across the bay from San Diego, California. This is a photograph from a few years ago of a Marine Corps Force Recon unit spending an afternoon working on a tan under the southern California sun. This was Fram's sand for a time. This is the way it is in the real world, like it or not.

Once upon a time in another world

A few hours ago, I wrote these words in response to a remark reflecting surprise that I never had seen the band, "Boston," perform live on stage: "I missed a lot of living being too heavy into work .... much of what I love today I never even noticed when it was 'real time'."

A few days earlier, I wrote these words in response to a question about some of my experiences in the Marine Corps: "For as many years since my departure from the Marines, that is how long my comment to such a suggestion (telling war stories) has been: Those stories are six-drink talk, and only with the 'right' people."

These two concepts are different in origin, but are parallel in thought.

War stories fall into line with my general barroom demeanor. Two drinks, and I might bid, to all, a good night. Four drinks, and we approach unknown territories. Six drinks, and I probably am in for the night. I have been in for more than a few.

More than that and far beyond that, actually, such talk, to me is reserved for others like me or for others I am really close to and who I want to understand me to the bottom of my soul. As I have said somewhere (at least two places) within the past couple of weeks or so:

"Late last night, I wrote the following words as part of a comment at another blog: .... life is experience and the object of living, to me, should be to collect it. This is a given. My own interpretation of my own words is that we are the sum of our experiences; and each experience, whether good or bad, is of value to the formation of the whole; and we should be grateful for it."

No matter what experience I have had, no matter how beautiful or ugly, no matter now sensual or painful, no matter how merciful or brutal, I am glad for it, thankful for it, feel fortunate for having had it.

I think there is something intrinsically wrong about or missing from or phony about anyone who can bare his soul on a street corner or in a written piece. By this, I do not mean to imply that the telling of a story about experiences or about obstacles overcome or about hopes and dreams is the wrong thing to do. I do mean to say that reciting moments of heaven or of hell on earth is more id than ego.

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe it is better to unload to the world at large. Maybe it is better to talk to anyone who will listen. But, for me, I know my soul is open only to brethren or to those I love and who I know love me. To each his own, but I also have a distinct line regarding who I listen to and who I walk away from, and that a wannabe who did not earn his merit badge does not count.

Hey, man .... rip it ....

Don Dokken was a Norwegian lad who came out of the Los Angeles music scene in the 1970s. I use the word "was" in initial reference because Dokken is now in his mid-50s. Despite some people who insist on referring to a person who will be 56 on June 29 (Dokken, not me) as being in mid-life, I, personally, do not know anyone who is 112 years old. I believe applying the term mid-life to anyone in his or her mid-50s is being optimistic to the point of silliness.

Anyway, back on topic.

Dokken was one of the biggest and the best hard rock bands of the 1980s. Don was and always will be one of the smoothest and the best lead singers of the era. My vote would be to place him in the No. 2 position, immediately following Boston's Brad Delp, under the category of absolute best singer in the era of rock music. Unlike Brad, Don is still around and performing. I heard him last summer in Fargo, North Dakota, of all places. It was fun. It was great, but I wish I would have had the opportunity (made the opportunity) to have seen him and his band live on stage around 25 years ago, when they still were sort of kids and at their peak.

Below is a link to a video with Don performing the song, "Stay." The invisible powers that be do not permit this clip to be embedded, but the link is there for any who wish to watch and to listen. My personal favorite Dokken piece is, "Alone Again Without You," but his voice, like Brad's, lost more than a bit of its range over the years. This song offers a taste of, shall we say, the voice that was. This song also provides a considerable taste of guitar work by George Lynch, another among the half-dozen or maybe ten premier guitar players to come out of the 1970s and 1980s.

Wild times, loud times, crazy times back then. I am not so sure I would have survived them had I been a 20-year-old in the L.A. club scene during the 1980s. On the plus side, many of the bands back then actually had singers who had a voice, and who understood that songs are meant to be sung, not spoken or shouted; such is Don Dokken.

Here is the link. I hope you take the four minutes and thirty seconds this song lasts to enjoy it. Anyone who is not up and dancing inside of fifteen seconds should consider pinching his leg to make certain rigor mortis has not occurred:


Lyrics to the song
Sung by Don Dokken

Girl, when I think of you, you know it makes me sad

And I wonder, wonder about what we had, what we had

Say we're over baby
That we're through
Can't believe it say that it's not true
Please believe me when I say I do
I'm still missing you, loving you
Loving you

Won't you stay
Can't you see my love is waiting here
Darling, stay
Don't you leave me drowning in my tears

Do you love me baby let me know
Show your feelings 'cause I gotta know
Am I wasting my time, am I being a fool
For loving you, loving you

Every night your name is on my lips
I feel your body at my fingertips
Please believe me when I say I do
I'm still missing, loving you
Am I a fool?

Won't you touch me and stay for a while
I need you so badly
Won't you stay

Why not more from Boston?

Since the Don Dokken song could not be embedded, why not toss in another one from Boston and Brad Delp? Sounds like a plan to me. Here is, "Amanda."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can'tcha Say The Sun Also Rises

This song & this novel/film belong together

On the television, next to me, I can see the 1957 motion picture based upon Ernest Hemingway's novel, "The Sun Also Rises." I generally consider this to be the greatest, while at the same time being the most boring, movie made in the history of cinema: Great but boring. There should be an Academy Award for that category. It was near to the last performances made by actors Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn, who both died of massive heart attacks within two years after filming. Ava Gardner, the beauty among all beauties, appears as the Lady Brett Ashley. Yep, that she was.

On my computer, playing for perhaps the x00th time over the weekend, is the Boston song, "Can'tcha Say (You Believe in Me?)" This song was part of their 1986 album, "Third Stage," the name of which was designed to be symbolic of the onset of middle age. This song either wipes you out or not. No in between. The guitar work is magical, which is a hallmark of most Boston pieces. The singer, Brad Delp, who, in my not so humble opinion, was the absolute best, most versatile singer in the era of rock music, died by suicide at age 55 in 2007.

This novel/film and this song are a perfect match. They belong together. They were made to be together. They were "born" to be together. Possibly, a combined title could read "born too late." If you do not understand this combination, it is something to investigate, provided you have the time and are the curious type. Learn how good you are at reading between the lines, or if you even ever read/think that way.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A raft is a raft is a raft -- or is it?

Lumber Raft 1868 -- another painting by Frances Anne Hopkins

A river runs through the farm

Do you ever wonder, sometimes, how people living under primitive conditions are able to accomplish what they accomplish? My painter and your very own Frances Anne Hopkins provided an illustration of ingenuity 19th Century style in her painting, "The Lumber Raft 1868."

This time, I am not certain of the exact location where this event took place, but I would not be afraid to put a few dollars on the table betting that it was on Lake Superior, and probably an enterprise associated with building projects in Fort William and Port Arthur in present day Ontario, Canada.

Look closely at the painting and at the scope of the activities. The raft in the foreground, one of two in the painting, has three large sails and a tent. What appears to be five large barrels or bales are on the deck, probably food supplies. A cooking fire burns. There are approximately 50 men scattered around the raft. No small enterprise, this. No better eye for detail than Frances.

Although mine was not a task comparable to the one captured on canvas by Frances, when I was a boy, about 11, I built a raft by creating a double layer deck from old, dried fence posts. For a few weeks that summer, I was a Minnesota version of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, exploring a river that ran through my grandmother's farm. The raft met an untimely end when it was consumed in a grass fire the next spring. It was timeless and ageless fun while it lasted.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

The concluding lines from
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I have nothing to say

Ile Dorval 1866 -- another painting by Frances Anne Hopkins

Fram Actual & Fram the First meet Frances

I have nothing to say. My mind is filled with thoughts, but nothing wishes to emerge. In which case, I will take the opportunity to post another painting by Frances Anne Hopkins. This one is titled, Ile Dorval 1866.

Dorval is a small community located on the southwest portion of the Island of Montreal, along the shores of Lake St. Louis. Many wealthier families from in and around Montreal, mostly English-speaking, went there in search of a summer refuge during the latter half of the 19th Century.

The history of Dorval dates back more than 300 years to 1667, when Sulpician priests established a mission on the outskirts of what was then called Ville-Marie. The mission, originally named "Gentilly," was later renamed "La Présentation de la Vierge Marie" and finally, "Dorval," after the nickname of a French landowner.

Offshore is Ile Dorval. Such was the view when Frances painted it in 1866. This piece demonstrates her skill and her versatility, as well as her knowledge of the fashionable art of her day.

And, if the gentleman reclining in the foreground looks at all familiar, I will admit to being present that day, and was captured while admiring the antics of the three young ladies in the rowboat offshore. For those with keener eyes, they might also notice the head of Fram the First in view just in front of me. He chose to appear in Wolfen form and fashion that day. He is a funny joker, and rarely bites.

Music Note: Listening to Iron Maiden
Specifically, "Brave New World"
Some lines from "Dream of Mirrors"

Have you ever felt the future is the past,
but you don't know how?
A reflected dream of a captured time,
is it really now, is it really happening?

Don't know why I feel this way,
have I dreamt this time, this place?
Something vivid comes again into my mind
And I think I've seen your face,
seen this room, been in this place
Something vivid comes again into my mind

All my hopes and expectations,
looking for an explanation
Have I found my destination?

The dream is true, the dream is true
The dream is true, the dream is true

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Where have all the flowers gone?

June 6, 1944, D-Day, Normandy, France

In the distance are the 100-foot cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, climbed by American Army Rangers while under fire from German troops who were fortified above. During two days of fighting below and above the cliffs, the Ranger units suffered about 60 percent causalities. Fram's photos, taken in 2004.

Not just another day in June

This is one of the monuments commemorating the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Approximately 160,000 Allied troops invaded France from the air and from the sea. This is on Omaha Beach, which was stormed by American troops.

About 1,500 Americans died on that one day

One of many cemeteries in which are buried thousands of soldiers from several nations who died 65 years ago during the invasion of France, and during ensuing weeks as Allied troops forced the German Army ever steadily to retreat into its homeland.

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"
Words and music by Pete Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ecclesiastes & Bierce had it right

Thinking in terms of timeless and traditional today, here is another painting by one of my all-time favorite young ladies, Frances Anne Hopkins. This one is quite unlike the paintings of voyageurs and canoes and Lake Superior that I previously posted. This painting is titled, "Plains Indian Left to Die." I would love to know the story behind this piece. This one also is different in the sense that unless Frances thinks of herself as being among the riders galloping away, she is not to be seen.

The more things change, the more ....

If there is a god, surely he (or she) knows that I have tried to be everything in life that time has allowed me to be, short of being totally irresponsible. If there is not a god, well, then, anyone else who passes this way will know it.

Some people do not believe the varied types of work I have tried or how often I have jumped from one field or location to another just for the pleasure of new experiences, new places and new faces. When I was age thirty, I bragged that I had already done everything in life there was to do in one form or variation. This was not quite true, of course, but close. Permission is granted to use your imagination to fill in some of the blanks.

Just a taste: Before I reached age thirty, I had a master's degree, been married and divorced, become a father, been in the Marine Corps, been a high school teacher, and had newspaper reporting and editing experience under my belt. I had been on wilderness canoe trips that stretched into weeks, "visited" a few foreign lands, dived to below 100 feet with scuba gear and jumped from airplanes. I was about to give up hunting because it had become too easy.

What follows now is part of a comment I wrote a few days ago. I am not certain how many people come around and read comments, but I decided I wanted to print this as a post, as well, to explain my more-or-less provincial view of art. I think my view has been formed mostly as a result of my lifestyle.

My view of many things in the community of art is particularly narrow. This is especially true in visual arts. To a lesser degree in music and in written words, but in those things, too.

This, then, makes me very opinionated, not so much in labeling things as good or bad, but in terms of like or dislike. I generally leave the decision as to whether art is good or bad to the marketplace, but I am not shy about saying what I like or dislike and the reason for that judgment.

In most instances, my preferences in writing tend toward subtlety, finesse and probably the least dramatic language available. My admiration goes toward writers who have the ability to paint pictures with words, and who use words which imply, suggest or insinuate rather than burst, explode or excite. Let the writer propose; allow the reader to interpret.

Whether one likes or dislikes a painting or a song or a book, it is only beneficial to know when reasons are given. In my case, almost anything "traditional" is going to win out over anything exploratory or experimental.

As for possibly liking something someday that is disliked now, I have found that to be happening to me in the sense of the work of some painters. Again, who knows?

In still another comment I made a few days ago, I said this:

I tend to put more credence in the visible (historical fact/archaeological rubble) than in the invisible (psychological theory/mythological memories). I tend to see civilization as William Golding saw it in his "Lord of the Flies" or George Stewart in his "Earth Abides."

Those two sentences reflect the same attitude, the same belief system.

Experience and environment, I think, are the primary elements in molding and forming the individual. My experiences here, upon this sea of blogs, are part of my overall portrait. So far, whether a student, a Marine, a reporter or a participant in blog conversations, life continues to fall under the category of, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Ecclesiastes had it right: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."

But, unfortunately, my old friend Ambrose Bierce also had it right: "There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know."

Revised last sentences: For me, solutions and answers are to be found in searching the ruins of the known and the wisdom of the past, from reading writers who teach rather than writers who shock, from viewing paintings of beauty instead of splashes of paint, from seeking lyrics of logic while ignoring clever allusions. Many of us hit the ground running, and already had "been there, done that," while others idled away their time and, by that means, some of us have come to the conclusion that the past is the future.

Music Note: Listening to Ratt ....
Specifically, "Point Break"
Some lines from, "Nobody Rides for Free"

In my dreams see I'm on tv
Get back exactly who I wanna be
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
I'm sick and tired of everyone in my way
Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free

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

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The falls of Minnehaha still sing

Possibly as long as a month ago, I ran across a few turn of the century (19th Century, that is) post cards of Minnehaha Park, Creek and Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here are some of them. Things are pretty much the same today, attire and transportation modes to the contrary. Rather than paraphrasing someone else's research, below is printed a brief description of the area, written by Clara James from About.com.

A metropolitan interlude in time and space

Minnehaha Park is on the banks of the Mississippi River, surrounding Minnehaha Creek, a tributary of the Mississippi, and Minnehaha Falls. The falls have long been an important site to the native Dakota people. Minnehaha means "falling water" in Dakota, not "laughing water" as it is often translated.

White settlers discovered the falls around 1820, not long after arriving in Minnesota. Minnehaha Falls are very close to the Mississippi River, and only a couple of miles from Fort Snelling, one of the first places inhabited by settlers in the region. A small mill was built on the falls in the 1850s, but Minnehaha Falls have considerably less power than the St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi and the mill was soon abandoned.

The falls were to become a tourist destination after the publication of the epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1855. Longfellow never visited the falls in person, but he was inspired by the works of scholars of Native American culture and images of the falls.

The city of Minneapolis purchased the land in 1889 to make the area into a city park. The park has been a popular attraction for locals and tourists ever since.

As unto the bow the cord is,
So unto the man is woman;
Though she bends him, she obeys him,
Though she draws him, yet she follows;
Useless each without the other!"
Thus the youthful Hiawatha
Said within himself and pondered,
Much perplexed by various feelings,
Listless, longing, hoping, fearing,
Dreaming still of Minnehaha,
Of the lovely Laughing Water,
In the land of the Dacotahs.
Wed a maiden of your people.

Some lines from
"The Song of Hiawatha"
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Something special ....