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:)

Something special ....