Saturday, December 31, 2011

A fork in the road is in sight

Thanks to a young lady who wrote to me about the concept of the knights errant, I have stumbled upon a painter whose work I had not encountered in the past. Viktor Vasnetsov was among the founders of the folklorist / romantic, modernistic movement in Russian art. His paintings often focused on the mythological and the historical elements of Russian life. This particular oil on canvas is called "A Knight at the Crossroads" or "A Warrior at a Fork in the Road." Vasnetsov painted it twice, first in 1878 and then in 1882. This is the 1882 version. The inscription on the menhir, by the way, is this: "If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right, you will lose your head." Such is the life of a knight errant, it would seem, no matter into which century he is born and lives.

The dice just keep rolling

On December 31, 2010, I wrote the following words:

Three ideas are floating through my mind as a new year looms on the horizon:

Buy a house in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul and hang out for a year or two writing and writing. This = safety & security.

Move to Florida, buy a boat and hang out for a year or two diving and diving. This = adventure & long-shot gambling.

Travel by ship (a freighter that accepts a few passengers) from America to Europe and decide what to do next upon arrival. There is a run from Duluth, Minnesota, through the Great Lakes, up the St. Lawrence River, across the Atlantic Ocean, through the North Sea and into the Baltic Sea to Gdansk, Poland. This = learning potential & self-discovery.

So, then. How do those three thoughts rate in terms of rolling the dice? And, while I am thinking of it, how do you spell hiatus?

Well, it is evident that I selected safety and security. In the spring, I bought a house in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul and moved in on the evening of June 28. I have been here six months. I have been perfectly miserable in most regards ever since.

So, just this week, after some discussion with children and a friend or two, I made the decision to stay here for another six months. Then, I will roll the dice once again. One of these times, I expect to find the treasure at the end of the rainbow or to abruptly discover there is no water at the bottom of the cliff from which I leap.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Religion becomes art & art becomes religion, while Christmas music is what you imagine it

Jacopo Palma, better known to the world as Palma Vecchio or Jacopo Negretti, was an Italian painter who did a number of interpretations regarding the life of Jesus Christ. Many of them were variations depicting the birth of Christ, one of them, fascinatingly enough, including Mary Magdalene among the onlookers. (Mary of Magdala .... present at birth and at death and at resurrection and, some would say, at the Last Supper. What could be more alluring in the sense of religious mysticism?) Beyond these religious elements, the influence of Titian and Bellini are present in his paintings. This piece, entitled "Adoration of the Shepherds with a Doonor," was painted between 1523-25. Today, it is on display at the Louvre in Paris and, once upon a time, my eyes possessed it there. Religion can be art and art can be religion.

The advantages of being a free thinker

The best thing about believing in nothing or no one is that there is absolutely no reason to be annoyed, upset or angry about what someone else might happen to believe or to profess. Unless, of course, that someone is the zealot, fanatic or do-gooder type who insists that everyone else believe what he believes.

Another way of putting this is to begin by saying I have been pretty much of a life-long agnostic who runs along the border of atheism. There are two types of people who make me want to throttle them whenever I encounter them.

One type is the atheist who cannot or will tolerate a manger scene in front of city hall; or the member of a non-Christian religion who insists there cannot be a Christmas program in the neighborhood elementary school; or the spineless department store manager, who forbids his staff from greeting customers with a "Merry Christmas" as they carry out their shopping and tells them that they must use the generic "Happy Holidays" salutation instead.

The other type is the man who attends church weekly, if not daily, and who frowns and walks away from me when I reply, "No, I only attend church for weddings and funerals;" or the evangelical who notes with a contemptuous smirk that I am destined for hell because I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ; or the simple-Simon, indoctrinated fool who is incapable of understanding that mercy, compassion and kindness are not exclusive to religion.

If you are one of the aforementioned types, to you I say, "Bah, humbug. Take a hike to the Ninth Circle."

To the rest of the world, I say, "Merry Christmas, and may whatever you believe give you strength and confidence."

Now, back into my cave for me. I need to sharpen my spear and to repair my club ....

Monday, December 5, 2011

Once more: She said, There is no reason ....

Anyone who reads here knows that I have a rather narrow view of what constitutes art in terms of painting. The work of Picasso, for instance, is a masterpiece of marketing and a sham in terms of art, in my opinion. He represents money and "me, too" fad, not art. On the other side of the coin is a painter such as Charles Leickert. He was born in Belgium nearly two hundred years ago, and did much of his work in Holland. As one might guess from this particular painting in oil, titled "A Winter Scene," he preferred the season of winter for his work and was fascinated by the changing sky. The structure on the right apparently was a favorite of the artist, as it appears in several of his paintings. Once upon a time, I would have liked to have lived in a building like that. Art is beauty; it is reality and a reflection of reality. It is not convoluted designs and abstract scribbling.

Clarity = escape for a while

A few days ago, I wrote these words to a friend: "The world and the people in it are so damn fascinating, and there is not the time to learn about them all and to marvel at it all. Being sentenced to life on earth for a few decades is a criminal act in itself, I think. It is like holding out a candy bar to a child, then throwing it away before his eyes."

Well, at this moment I feel a bit overwhelmed by the world and all the people in it and all the candy bars life has to offer. In a sentence, I need some time to think and to search for clarity and direction in my personal life. So, I am going to escape from anything I feel distracts me for a couple of weeks -- which includes the sea of blogs. See you back here in time for Christmas.

By the way, I think the stars are approaching an apex for others in addition to me. It is a time for some of us to be making life-altering decisions ....

I've Been This Way Before
by Neil Diamond

I’ve seen the light
And I've seen the flame
And I've been this way before
And I'm sure to be this way again
For I've been refused
And I've been regained
And I've seen your eyes before
And I'm sure to see your eyes again

For I've been released
And I've been regained
And I've sung my song before
And I'm sure to sing my song again

Some people got to laugh
Some people got to cry
Some people got to make it through
By never wondering why

Some people got to sing
Some people got to sigh
Some people never see the light
Until the day they die

But I've been released
And I've been regained
And I've been this way before
And I'm sure to be this way again

One more time again
Just one more time

Monday, November 28, 2011

I think J.S., John, Will & Geoff would like it ... there is no reason and the truth is plain to see

The original album cover of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" -- know her?

The evolution of a mood in time, space & style

A Whiter Shade of Pale
by Gary Brooker
& Keith Reid
& Matthew Fisher

We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
And the waiter brought a tray

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

She said, "There is no reason
And the truth is plain to see."
But I wandered through my playing cards
And they would not let her be
One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast
And although my eyes were open wide
They might have just as well been closed

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

She said, "I'm here on a shore leave,"
Though we were miles at sea.
I pointed out this detail
And forced her to agree,
Saying, "You must be the mermaid
Who took King Neptune for a ride."
And she smiled at me so sweetly
That my anger straightway died.

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

If music be the food of love
Then laughter is it's queen
And likewise if behind is in front
Then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
Seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
And attacked the ocean bed

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

(Note: The last two verses of this song are not included in any of the performances posted here, and it is difficult to find one which presents them. That is a pity, I think, because some of the most vibrant literary and historical allusions of this composition (and there are more than a few) are contained within them. The song, in its entirety, climbs beyond mere art, I think. It was a once in a lifetime achievement for its creators; it is my second favorite piece of contemporary music and; it is absolutely magical to dance to .... try it.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Civilization vs. Tarzan

The French Revolution, which lasted from 1789 to 1799, is frequently hailed as the establishment of inalienable rights and democracy in Europe. It also happened to be one of the bloodier and more terroristic revolutions in history, with thousands summarily executed. And, it also more-or-less led to the "creation" of Napoleon Bonaparte as emperor of France in 1804. He is notable for a series of wars, justifiably remembered as the Napoleonic Wars, which led to more years of immeasurable death and destruction. This illustration is of the public "murder" of Marie Antoinette in 1792. Her crime was to be the queen of France, whose extravagant lifestyle proved to be unpopular among the masses of people. She died at age thirty-seven by the guillotine, along with several thousand others whose lives offended the common folk. Such is the way of the world when the "thin veneer of civilization" is stripped away. Is history repeating itself today?

The story of a two-edged sword

About a month ago, I wrote in a post that I had planned to reprint an essay about the "thin veneer of civilization," but I could not locate the book it was in among the several boxes of books I have piled up in this house.

Well, I found the book a few days ago, but decided against reprinting the piece because of its length. It was simply too long. However, today being the forty-eighth anniversary of the assassination of American President John Kennedy and this month being the two-hundred-nineteenth anniversary of the unjustifiable execution of Marie Antoinette, a queen of France, I decided to put down a few thoughts about human nature, civilization and the shallowness of the veneer that shelters us from savagery.

People who enjoy searching for the origins of things have so far determined that the first use of the "thin veneer of civilization" concept was in an 1890 preface to, "The Golden Bough," by Scottish anthropologist Sir James Frazer:

"The truth seems to be that to this day the peasant remains a pagan and savage at heart; his civilization is merely a thin veneer which the hard knocks of life soon abrade, exposing the solid core of paganism and savagery below."

Not surprisingly, I would be carrying around books such as these (two volumes, initially) since they dealt with mythology and religion.

Jack London, one of my favorite writers and one who is among the least appreciated today, used this concept in an essay entitled, "The Somnambulists," on June 13, 1906. This piece was first published in a newspaper, the Oakland (California) World, on July 3, 1906. Remember the location of this newspaper. Among the things London wrote:

"Civilization (which is part of the circle of his imaginings) has spread a veneer over the surface of the softshelled animal known as man. It is a very thin veneer; but so wonderfully is man constituted that he squirms on his bit of achievement and believes he is garbed in armor-plate."

The phrase appeared in a number of the "Tarzan" novels from the mind of the prolific Edgar Rice Burroughs. These novels enjoyed great popularity beginning in the early Twentieth Century. This term was, in fact, part of the cloak often used by Burroughs to describe Tarzan's actions and reactions. Here is one example:

"It was a woman's love which kept Tarzan even to the semblance of civilization -- a condition for which familiarity had bred contempt. He hated the shams and the hypocrisies of it and with the clear vision of an unspoiled mind he had penetrated to the rotten core of the heart of the thing -- the cowardly greed for peace and ease and the safe-guarding of property rights. That the fine things of life -- art, music and literature -- had thriven upon such enervating ideals he strenuously denied, insisting, rather, that they had endured in spite of civilization."

In any event, the absolute tidal waves, coming one after another, of political and social unrest in America and Europe brought the "thin veneer of civilization" concept into my mind again. Actually, concept is not the correct word to use. It is a fact, a reality, an actuality.

Students trash university buildings in California because tuition fees are increased (the epitome of idiocy); in a number of cities around America, participants in the so-called "Occupy Wall Street" movement break laws and clash with police for reasons none of them are able to articulate or clearly define; in Greece and England, rioters burn and loot because of economic problems created by their own greed and selfishness. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and other European nations are on the verge of financial collapse and civil hysteria.

Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are in the midst of struggling to determine if democratic or autocratic, radical religious states emerge. For all practical purposes, civil war exists in Syria. Pakistan has the bomb; Iran wants the bomb.

Back to Oakland, California, the site where Jack London wrote and published his "thin veneer of civilization" piece. This place has arguably experienced the most violent of the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations. The city has spent millions of dollars because of these demonstrations, businesses have lost millions, and people are more divisive than they were before the demonstrations began.

As London wrote more than one hundred years ago:

"It is the same old animal man, smeared over, it is true, with a veneer, thin and magical, that makes him dream drunken dreams of self-exaltation and to sneer at the flesh and the blood of him beneath the smear. The raw animal crouching within him is like the earthquake monster pent in the crust of the earth. As he persuades himself against the latter till it arouses and shakes down a city, so does he persuade himself against the former until it shakes him out of his dreaming and he stands undisguised, a brute like any other brute."

Or, as the teacher, philosopher and historian extraordinaire, Will Durant, a bit more eloquently wrote:

"Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be
savages again."

From my point of view, America and other parts of the world are on the verge of burning. The most pathetic part is that American politicians of all persuasions are unable or unwilling to act beyond their own, personal interests and liberal politicians actually are urging the upheaval onward in an attempt to ensure their own, personal political survival. The veneer of civilization has already vanished from them, and their desperation is evident to anyone whose eyes are open.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Caught up in love

For those unaware, while among the human species females tend to be the more decorative of the sexes, in Nature it generally is the male who flaunts the colors while the female blends in with the flora and fauna of her environment to ensure greater safety and security in a predatory world. This is because Nature generally considers the giver of life -- the female -- to be the more valuable of the mates. Form your own conclusions about that among the couples you encounter. As for our pair of quack-quacks here, as I often say, do not judge me on the quality of my photographs: The only purpose these ducks serve is to be a sort of illustration or link for the written words and the music. For instance, it does not require much imagination to visualize our many-splendored drake to be singing the song posted below to his well-camouflaged companion. Love comes in many forms.

Life, death, fate & memory

A few years ago, I spent a month in Knoxville, Tennessee, where one of my daughters was a graduate student at the University of Tennessee. (You did not know that, did you?) I watched her dogs while she and her then-boyfriend went to Yellowstone National Park. (I am particularly skilled at watching dogs; we almost are like cousins .... or something like that.)

I spent a few days canoeing on the Tennessee River and photographing (yes, me, with a Nikon in one hand and a Canon in the other) odds and ends -- mostly in museums and cemeteries.

In a "city cemetery," a number of tombstones caught my eye, but one in particular actually gripped me. It was for a young man. I cannot recall the precise details without checking my notes from the time, and I have moved so often in recent years that I am fortunate to know where I am, much less where my notebooks are located. Beyond that, I do not care where they are.

So, relying on memory for approximate dates, the young man died in 1898 at age twenty from "a fever." A block away from this city cemetery was a military cemetery. I went there next and, eventually, found myself standing beside a tombstone for another young man who had the same last name as the man in the city cemetery. He also had died in 1898, in Cuba, as a member of the American Expeditionary Force during the Spanish-American War. He was twenty-two years of age.

On both tombstones, the names of the parents were carved. The two were brothers, children of the same man and wife. I thought how cruel life must be to some, while it is so kind to others. It had been more than one hundred years since those deaths. I wondered then, while I stood in the cemetery, and I still do at times, if anyone other than me had thought about those two brothers and their parents during the century past.

By the way, both parents were also in the city cemetery, I discovered the next day, dead within another year after their sons. Heartbreak, I think. What else could it have been?

The re-birth of an idiom

Some of you might have read it, some of you might have figured it out, but next to novels, my favorite "objects" in the world are motion pictures. I saw a film the other night, "Maybe It's Love," in which there was an expression I had never heard before.

One character said to another: "Thanks, you're a regular."

I never had heard the expression before: "You're a regular."

It makes sense.

I have decided that my mission in life (well, one of them) will be to reinstate this expression into the idiom of Americana, although I do not think I would like anyone to call me a "regular." It would destroy my image of myself.

Anyway, it is amazing how easy it is to get an expression or a thought or a concept moving. By the way, this film was made in 1935. Watch it sometime. It was terrific.

Less thought & more walk

The four seasons really do influence my mood, greatly. Sometimes, I think that is the way it is supposed to be for everyone. As for me, I tend to work more hours and play less in the summer because the warm, sunny days make me happy. And, I often have said (and written) that I hibernate during January and February, and that if I could eliminate two months from the calendar, it would be those two. Of course, I meant it in the sense of the weather.

I have spent some time thinking (sometimes, I do this too much) about the seasons, and recently decided to try to live them as I did when I was a child. I enjoyed them all in an outdoor sense, actually loved them all in that sense, and pretty much ignored their climatic inconveniences. What child cares how much he sweats in summer's humidity or if he becomes chilled in winter's frigid winds?

Much of my distaste for winter has come from having had to drive in atrocious conditions on the road to a story when I worked as a reporter, or to and from work in town and home in the "outlands" during blizzard and icy conditions. It is amazing I am still alive, in a sense, considering some of my highway "adventures" during snowstorms.

But, it is absolutely fantastic to walk on an ice-covered lake at night in the dead of winter, or to wander through the twinkling snow in woodlands under a full moon. I love moments such as those, so this is where I will concentrate my "adventures" for now.

Less thought and more walk is the moral here .... I guess.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Who are a little wise, the best fools be

Jan (Johannes) Vermeer van Delft, a Dutchman, painted this work, "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter," in 1664. (Seems like yesterday.) If he were the Übermensch, he would be observing his 379th birthday today. His favorite colors were blue, followed by yellow, which causes me to like him far beyond his talent with a paint brush. He also created, "Girl With a Pearl Earring," which causes me to like him even still more because of his taste in women. Never mind rolling your eyes; I am only half-serious with my last remark. But, he was a master artist, a title which few painters in this age could claim to be with a straight face. Now, for a moment, look at her; wonder what the words are that she reads; wonder what she thinks .... wonder .... wonder .... wonder ....

October is the cruelest month

In the past, two or three times, I have written a few words here about T.S. Eliot. Once, I specifically concentrated on his poetic masterpiece, "The Waste Land." The first segment of the poem, "The Burial of the Dead," begins with these words: "April is the cruelest month ...."

After those words of his, I have written here that for me the cruelest month is not April. It is October.

October is the cruelest month.

Some would say that this is imagination. Or, that this is coincidence. Or, that this is mere superstition which I have come to delude myself as fact. Call it what you will, but, to me, it is part of my reality. As many bad things happen to me in October as they do during the other eleven months combined. It is a pattern of my life, and has proved to be as real as it is true that the sun rises in the East.

Leaving October behind for the moment, about ten days ago I watched a film on television entitled, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." It was based on an actual incident. How actual, I have no idea. Emily Rose's initial encounter with "demons" began at precisely 3:00 a.m., when she awoke alone in her room to the scent of something burning. The time, 3:00 a.m., came up a few more times during the movie. As is my habit, I also was on my computer "working" at the same time I was watching the movie. One eye on the film, one on the computer screen, so to speak. Therefore, I did not catch the significance of 3:00 a.m.

That night, I went to sleep on my "love seat" bed. It is not unusual for me to awaken approximately four hours after I go to bed (old, odd habit), so when I woke up in the middle of the night, I thought it probably was about four hours later. I said to myself, literally out loud, "At least it is not three a.m." I rolled over and looked at the clock. It was three a.m. -- exactly, precisely, to the minute. I am not kidding you. A real shudder and a real shiver ran through my body. Then, I laughed, literally out loud, curled up and went back to sleep before I would start thinking about it and scare myself silly.

I later assumed this was my subconscious mind reacting to what I had heard in the film. A bit strange, though, is it not?

In the morning, I did a bit of research to learn what, if any, significance the time 3:00 a.m. had in religious lore. I learned it is called the "devil's hour." There is belief among some that Jesus Christ died at 3:00 p.m., and that the opposite hour on the clock belongs to the devil.

It was a few days after this event that I really began to think about it. This was not a dream. This was not something I had thought about for a single second after the film and before I went to bed that night. Just as a spark might light a literal fire, so, too, might a word light a metaphorical fire.

A few days ago, I wrote these words to a friend: "Mankind wishes to explore the depths of the oceans and outer space, but the greater mysteries, I believe, are inside our minds and probably within fourth, fifth, sixth dimensions that so far are impenetrable."

So, what do a poem by T.S. Eliot, bad experiences during the month of October, a film about an exorcism, the devil's hour and my awakening at 3:00 a.m. have in common? Well, me, of course. I am the common element. At least, the only common element of which I am aware in this set of circumstances.

I guess the bottom line here is while you concentrate on your reality, I concentrate on moving the curtains back from my reality to see what might be behind and beyond them.

I wonder why more people are not trying to do this in their lives.

Forgive my sarcasm, but most of them probably are too busy trying to please someone other than themselves.

On second thought, do not forgive my sarcasm, but, rather, congratulate me for having managed to survive another October. It ends today, but I do not.

"The Triple Fool" by John Donne

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry;
But where's that wise man, that would not be I,
If she would not deny?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain;
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'tis read.
Both are increased by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

After summer, comes October

Forever Young

Let's dance in style let's dance for a while
Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst
Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don't have the power but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit life is a short trip
The music's for the sad men
Can you imagine when the space is one
As we turn our faces into the sun
Praising our leaders we're getting in tune
The music's played by the mad men

Forever young
I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever and ever

Forever young
I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, forever young

Some are like water some are like the heat
Some are the melody and some are the beat
Sooner or later they all will be gone
Why don't they stay young?
It's so hard to get old without a cause
I don't want to perish like a fading horse
Youth's like diamonds in the sun
And diamonds are forever
So many adventures couldn't happen today
So many songs we forgot to play
So many dreams waiting out of the blue
We'll let them come true

Forever young
I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever and ever

(Note: This post was not planned, but came about because unexpected things happen and I awoke to one such event Monday morning. Whatever .... this song has been playing in my mind all day. To me, October is the cruelest month, and this music reflects my mood and why I prefer to hibernate in October. Here are "then, now and abstract" versions of the song to suit your own personal moment in time.)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The beauty of being (lost)

Where there is a valley, there will be a river. Where there is a river, there will be a sandbar. Where there is a sandbar, there will be fish in the river. Where there are fish, there will be boys pursuing them. And, in this way, boys have forever become lost in a moment of adventure and excitement and belief that this Earth was made for them alone. This photograph is a reflection of the way it was Friday afternoon in the Minnesota River Valley. Count the fisherboys. How many do you see? Or think you see?

A river runs through it

If you were to drop me off in the middle of a wilderness, woodland or desert, a few days later I would walk out wearing a smile and weighing few pounds more than I did when you dropped me off. (If you actually decide to do it to me, please, remember that I would prefer woodlands.)

But, if you placed me in the center of a town much larger than two blocks square, I probably would be lost within five or ten minutes.

One is my strength and the other is my weakness. The first was partially learned, but, mostly, it came instinctually. The second is just that way it is for me and I can do nothing about it. In the first, I cannot become lost; in the second, I seemingly have no control over the situation.

You might have heard/read me say/write those words before.

These two characteristics seem to exist in the world of reality, but, in another sense, I can become lost in time anywhere from minutes to years. You probably can, too, in the manner of which I am writing about now. I can get lost in a song or in a number of songs on the radio. I can get lost in a book or in a series of books by a particular author. I can get lost in a job or in a woman or in an avocation or on a river journey in a canoe.

I have gotten lost in a dream, in a woman's eyes, in a storm on a big, big lake. I have gotten lost in Nirvana and while falling breathless in the white tunnel of death.

This week, I began unpacking a few boxes of the books I still tote around with me. It was symbolic of making a decision, I guess, to keep this house as "Firebase Fram" for a while. The reason I initially began unpacking the boxes, however, was because I was looking for a specific book, "The Lessons of History," by Will and Ariel Durant.

I have written at least two posts about that pair, and mentioned them briefly in other posts. They became lost, too, lost in each other and lost in the study of history. What I love most of them, in a romantic sense, is that she was about fifteen and he was about twenty-seven when they married. She roller skated to her wedding. They had some rough years, mostly because she was so very young, but they lasted until old age claimed them both -- they lasted, because they became lost in each other and in a mutual love, the study of history.

My intention had been to entirely reprint one of their enduring chapters of absolute wisdom from that book as a last post before retreating into the woodwork (note, woodwork, not woodlands) for a few weeks. But, although I have two copies of the book, I have not run across either one yet. So, that chapter will wait until another day to be reprinted here. The chapter I planned to use, incidentally, was about the "thin veneer of civilization." Civilization might be on the verge of collapse, I think.

So, instead, I decided to write a few paragraphs with my own words about the "thin veneer of reality." If you doubt that reality is thin, then, in the simplest sense, you have no imagination; or, in an abstract logic, you have lived a very sheltered life and never have accepted the fact that Mythago Wood and Neverland and Somewhere Over the Rainbow actually do exist. Dante Alighieri wrote about the nine circles of hell. Has it occurred to you there might be nine circles of earthly life? Probably not.

And, allow me to simply say here that I hope we all will become lost again and again -- hopefully, lost in the eyes of another. If not that, at least lost in a book or a dream or a vision of a dream yet to become a reality. Life really is wonderful for those who have the ability to become lost in it -- if only for a few hours or a few weeks at a time. Maybe, even just for a moment at a time.

As for myself, I am adrift in a canoe on a river where mist and fog shroud the approaching bend. If I seem to be rambling a bit, that is because it is my nature, too.

So-o-o-o-o, send me a smile, blow me a kiss, wave until I am out of sight .... I am about to become lost again. For a while, anyway. Possibly, never to return to reality. Good. It is about time. See you around. Maybe. If I am able to determine which reality is real.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Perfect endings .... are where you find them

The British rock band Queen was composed of Brian May, top; Freddie Mercury, bottom; Roger Meddows-Taylor, right; and John Deacon, left. This photograph was not supposed to be here. My words were not suppose to be here. This post was simply going to be two versions of the song, "The Show Must Go On," by Queen. But, as often is the case, my mind began to tumble up and down, back and forth, and then my fingers began to type.

A personal note

The first time I saw the rock band Queen perform on television, I was in a bar with friends. The band members were dressed as women, complete with makeup. After a few words among us, I threw my half-full bottle of beer at the television and scored a perfect hit. A cheer went up in the bar.

The owner of the bar knew me. I was an after-work and sometimes evening regular. He brought me another bottle of beer and said, with his typical smirk a bit wider than usual, "This one will cost you $500." I laughed, took out my wallet and peeled off five $100 dollar bills. Oh, to be a punk kid again.

In any event, the $500 bottle of beer turned out to be worth it in many ways, not the least of which is that the broken television still is mounted on the wall in the bar and bears a sign which reads: "The only perfect pitch ever thrown by Fram." Local myths and legends can live a long time.

Within a few years, the members of Queen were less often seen in their feminine finery and, over time, this band became my favorite among all those which roamed the air waves the next few decades. I will not get into Queen's lead singer, Freddie Mercury's, choice of lifestyles, but I will say the only thing that mattered after a while was his unbelievable talent as a singer, song writer, musician and on-stage presence. That is the way life is supposed to be, I think now, but did not then, a few years earlier in that bar.

Trivial as it might sound, one of my bigger regrets in life is that I never saw the band, with Freddie, live on stage. Now, it is too late.

As for the music posted here, both versions feature "The Show Must Go On" performed by Queen. In the first, a series of still photographs of band members is shown with the song. The second is taken from Maurice Bejart's ballet celebrating the life of Freddie Mercury and ballet dancer Jorge Donn. It was filmed at the Theatre Metropole in Lausanne, Switzerland.

I know as much about ballet and dance as I know about flowers, which is nothing. But, there are times and places in a person's life when you do not need any knowledge, much less any expertise, and all that is required is to look and to listen and, maybe, to let your emotions drift free while being glad that you are where you are at the time you are because you are in the midst of a magic moment. So it has been for me a time or two over the years. I hope for a few more magic moments.

This piece of writing has been ended three times already, but I keep adding onto it and I still want to say this: There exists myth that people are formed as children and remain within that mold their entire lives. I have no doubt that is true of many people, but I call it a myth because I believe experience and education -- as vast and available as they have become -- cause many people to change and to evolve from the "mold of their childhood."

As Hamlet told Horatio: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

I have no doubt "the experts" usually are the last to figure this out. They have become so specialized in their fields of expertise that they develop tunnel vision and are incapable of seeing the actual ways of the world or the people who are in it.

If you have no idea what I just said, neither do I. We are even.

The Show Must Go On

Empty spaces - what are we living for
Abandoned places - I guess we know the score
On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for...
Another hero, another mindless crime
Behind the curtain, in the pantomime
Hold the line, does anybody want to take it anymore
The show must go on,
The show must go on
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on.
Whatever happens, I'll leave it all to chance
Another heartache, another failed romance
On and on, does anybody know what we are living for?
I guess I'm learning, I must be warmer now
I'll soon be turning, round the corner now
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside in the dark I'm aching to be free
The show must go on
The show must go on
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die
I can fly - my friends
The show must go on
The show must go on
I'll face it with a grin
I'm never giving in
On - with the show -
I'll top the bill, I'll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on
On with the -
On with the show -
The show must go on...

Friday, September 23, 2011

The first time .... will not be the last time

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

The first time ever I saw your face,
I thought the sun rose in your eyes.
And the moon and stars were the gifts you gave,
To the dark and the endless sky, my love.

And the first time ever I kissed your mouth,
I felt the earth move through my hands.
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command.

And the first time ever I lay with you,
I felt your heart so close to mine.
And I know our joy would fill the earth,
And last till the end of time, my love.

The first time ever I saw your face.

(Note: Johnny Cash modified the lyrics
of this song to suit his own taste. These
are not the original words of the song.
Beyond that, you wish to understand
a moment of perfection? Then listen.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drifting toward an endless sea

Since I do not have any recent photographs of myself on a raft (my last one burned in a grass fire when I was around twelve or thirteen), I drafted this 1920 painting by N.C. Wyeth of Robinson Crusoe on his raft to illustrate a dream I had a few nights ago. Of course, the raft of my dream was not laden with supplies and was on a river flowing through a desert, but I think this painting will serve the purpose just fine. The paramount question of all this might be: Who is sitting, unseen in the painting, behind the mound of supplies on the raft?
This time around the horn

I have been experiencing a variety of dreams recently and, although there seems to be few around here who like to comment about possible interpretations, here comes still another one:

I was floating down a river that was neither deep nor wide, and the land all around was desert -- rolling, wave-like, barren hills of sand dunes. I was looking ahead to where the river emptied into a delta with many streams, and then coursed its way into a vast sea beyond. I was dirty and bearded and my clothes were in tatters. (Yes, no doubt it was me; that describes me perfectly.)

Then, the dream shifted to a panoramic view, as though in a film, and I was watching myself on the raft from a great distance as it entered the delta area, drifting on toward an endless sea. Only then did I notice that there was someone else on the raft, too, sitting behind me. The distance was so great I could not tell who the other person was and, abruptly, the dream ended.

Again, since there are few (if any) willing to suggest an interpretation for my dreams, I will offer my own for this one: I have joined with another individual, at least temporarily, on a path. This is represented by the two of us drifting along aboard a raft on a river.

The river is shallow and narrow, meaning either or both of us could leave the raft and wade ashore if we wished to do so. But, the land is empty desert, which offers little incentive to actually do so.

Still the land, empty as it is, is there, and might be the best choice given the vastness of the unknown sea upon which the raft, with the two of us drifting upon it, is about to enter.

So ends the dream and one way of looking at it.

But, with this dream and a rather meaningless sixteen months behind me, I have decided to fall out of the tree and to begin actual plans for an idea I have mentioned here recently but had not previously committed to doing: On December 31, either someone will arrive here -- or I will arrive somewhere else -- to observe the start of 2012.

Ian Fleming wrote: "You Only Live Twice." It was a novel. From my point of view, I am pushing maybe a dozen lives in real time -- and, I am only counting this voyage around the horn.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A signature of America, lost love & no roses

This gun shop advertising 5,000 firearms in stock, in rural, southern Minnesota, is located by a town with fewer than 1,000 residents. It has been there for decades. Some people, no doubt, shudder at the thought of the right of an individual to own firearms. Some political systems fear the concept. No matter how a person or a state feels about this constitutional guarantee, it is reality in many regions of America and part of life the way it goes on, day-to-day, in this neck of the woods. It is a signature of free people, a signature of America. The photograph, incidentally, marks the first one I have used with a post that was taken with my Blackberry. I did have a "real" camera with me, but I guess I was feeling lazy and I also wanted to email the photo immediately.

A tale of love & revenge

As I have mentioned before, I bought my first camera at age five. Actually, it might have been around the time of my sixth birthday. The money had to have come from somewhere.

From that time on, it was not unusual for me to carry my trusty camera here and there, usually to birthday parties or similar events, to record the momentous events in my life and the embarrassing moments of others.

About now, you might ask, what has this got to do with loves lost or lost loves or whatever. Getting to it. I am getting to it.

During a class trip of sixth graders -- all around age twelve, give or take a few months -- at the close of the school year, I carried my camera to capture the events of our magical adventure.

This group I grew up among, you might recall from previous posts, was made up of small town and country kids from rural, southern Minnesota. Our idea of a hot date at that point in time was sitting side-by-side Saturday night at the local theater, possibly having pop or ice cream after the film, then country kids riding home with their parents while city kids hung out until the town shut down for the night.

You might also know, if you have been raised in such an environment, that every class of students had its own group of girls publicly acknowledged as among the most beautiful "women" in the world. Our class had six such princesses of the universe. No boy dared approach any of them unless summoned. Any boy blushed various shades of red should one of these girls notice him looking at her. You get my drift.

Well, as these young majesties lined up for me, the kid with the camera, to take their photograph on this class trip, my creative forces came to a peak. I had them sit down in a line, place arms around one another and lean to one side as far as possible. It looked silly, but everyone loved the idea.

At the last moment, I grabbed the hand of one poor girl who was not among the most beautiful in the galaxy, but who was one I had my eye on, pulled her to the end of the line and placed her among the others. She resisted at first, but I was stronger. I pulled her along. The smile she gave me was radiant. No one among the class lovelies objected. After all, it was my camera. In that manner, Kathleen became a "made member" of the class queens and my first real girl friend.

For the next few weeks, she and I sat side-by-side in the theater on Saturday nights, eating our popcorn and holding hands. I bought her what we called a "friendship ring." Actually, I bought two, when my first purchase turned out to be too large for her finger.

All good things must come to an end.

One Saturday night, while I was sitting with some friends waiting for Kathleen to arrive from the country, her brother tapped me on the shoulder. "Why is Kathleen sitting with Jerry?" he asked with a smirk and a taunting tone to his voice.

I turned and looked. She was. To make this all the worse, Jerry was only a fifth grader.

I shrunk down in my seat.

A minute or two later, Kathleen tapped me on the shoulder. "Here," was her only word as she handed me my two friendship rings. I was humiliated in front of not only the sixth graders in the theater, but also the fifth graders, the seventh graders, the .... well, you get the picture.

Kathleen and Jerry lasted two or three weeks, if I recall correctly. Jerry dumped her like she had dumped me. It took me a few years, but I got my revenge on Jerry. I dated his sister when I was in tenth grade. She was in twelfth grade -- an actual senior. And, by then I had a driver's license, a car and a favorite parking place.

As for Kathleen, I did not need to get revenge. I did not understand then what happened to her next, and I still do not, but she was ejected by the other sixth grade beauty queens from being among their numbers. She was literally shunned by them, virtually ostracized by them, which meant, since these girls ruled the school hallways, everyone who worshipped them also black listed Kathleen.

On the other hand, I was asked by Sharon -- one of the original magnificent creatures -- to sit with her at the next Saturday night movie. This began an "affair" that lasted with us as a couple for nearly the entire seventh grade school year. Our romance ended when her parents -- like so many others -- fled the farmlands for the big city, and took her away from me forever.

After that, I concentrated on football and hunting for two or three years. I had concluded women were too complicated and beauty queens were too expensive.

Don't Come Knocking

You're everything I could want
There's no house you couldn't haunt
You're the key that could keep me in
You're the sense, under the skin

I won't bring you roses
I'll bring myself instead
Time only is time
For what is meant
Not what was said

Don't come knocking don't come knocking
Don't come knocking at my door
Don't come knocking, knock, knock, knocking
Don't come knocking no more

You're a dream I could wake up in
You're a fight I shouldn't try to win
You're the door, I'll always leave open
You're the heart that's always hopin'

Off a tree-lined avenue, in a college made of stone
I'll sit there not dreaming, I would rather live alone

Don't come knocking don't come knocking
Don't come knocking at my door
Don't come knocking, knock, knock, knocking
Don't come knocking no more

All the stars in the sky
They can't light our way, oh no
All the maps, and all the charts
All the dreams…
Dreams …won’t… leave… you…

Don't come knocking don't come knocking
Don't come knocking at my door
Don't come knocking don't come knocking
Don't come knocking at my door
Don't come knocking, knock, knock, knocking
Don't come knocking no more

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The life of fire & ice

After a long, hard, strenuous week sitting in front of a television and a computer, eating various chips and drinking assorted beverages, an exhausted White Bear rested under the shade of a tree Friday afternoon, doing what else, but enjoying assorted beverages while playing with his newly acquired buddy, White Puppy. Since White Puppy has not had his photograph appear in a post, the little dickens commanded me to find the camera and to remedy this oversight on my part. So, the oversight is now remedied. With that, the little dictator ordered me to fetch some ice for his drinks, and I gave him a fiery glare. Hence, was born the notion of once again contrasting these two insurmountable and elemental forces of Nature: Fire and Ice.
To return or not, and why

The twists and turns of life are ironic. Last year, in September, I was pleased with my life (if not exactly happy or enthused about it). I had no responsibilities (which probably explain much of my mood back then), I was looking forward to a few events/activities and I was living by a lake watching autumn arrive. This year, these aspects of my life are one-hundred-eighty degrees in the other direction -- and, my mood right now reflects it.

I have a habit of returning to the same poets, the same writers, the same painters, the same musicians, the same battlefields, the same myths and legends, the same concepts of perfection and beauty, the same ideals of fairness and justice -- returning to everything except the same places, the same locations, the same memories drifting in time.

This is because, I believe, a poem or a song or a concept does not change, while a place does change and a memory does fade. I look for things which are constant while I constantly am in motion pursuing a dream which probably does not exist in reality. A paradox.

Someone asked me yesterday who I was. I have no idea, depending upon the concept behind the question. I know where I have been and what these experiences have molded me into, but I am not certain if that is who I am or, merely, a fabrication of random chance events formed by the paths I have walked and the people I have met. I am fire and I am ice. I am an constant unconstant. I am certain she wanted a more definitive and simple explanation (like maybe my actual name), but .... I also am illusive, if nothing else.

So, here again, we return to another constant in my repertoire of poetry:  Robert Frost and "Fire and Ice." Here again is Enya, with its own interpretation of fire and ice. Here again is Apocalyptica, not with fire and ice, but, any melancholy music will do today and the magic of the wolf is part of it if you listen closely. When I think about it, the graphics accompanying the piece, "Romance," are reminiscent of fire and ice.

While Frost writes about the end of life in his poem, another poem, an Old Norse epic -- the "Poetic Edda" -- has the creation of life beginning when a drop of water from the ice of Niflheim collides with a flame from the fire of Muspelheim and causes an explosion to create the universe and the Earth, with life upon it. The "big bang" theory has existed since before the dawn of recorded history. Imagine that -- if you are able.

Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Perfect Strangers .... then and now

Perfect Strangers

Can you remember, remember my name
As I flow through your life
A thousand oceans I have flown
Oh, and cold spirit of ice
All my life
I am the echo of your past

I am returning the echo of a point in time
Distant faces shine
A thousand warriors I have known
And laughing as the spirits appear
All your life
Shadows of another day

And if you hear me talking on the wind
You've got to understand
We must remain
Perfect Strangers

I know I must remain inside this silent well of sorrow
A strand of silver hanging through the sky
Touching more than you see
The voice of ages in your mind
Is aching with the dead of the night
Precious life (your tears are lost in falling rain)

And if you hear me talking on the wind
You've got to understand
We must remain
Perfect Strangers

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Love .... it's just a kiss away

Gimme Shelter

Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shade
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin'
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost its way

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

The floods is threat'ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A perfect shot, a perfect novel, a perfect kiss

A few times in recent weeks, I have mentioned this thought: One man's fantasy is another man's reality. The same concept can be applied in any number of directions, such as: One man's idea of perfection is another man's idea of failure. I do think there is such a thing as perfection, but it is fleeting, just as our lives are fleeting. The definition is filled with variables. Winslow Homer was a Nineteenth Century American illustrator, painter and printmaker. This is his work, "The Sharpshooter on Picket Duty," done in 1862 and showing a Civil War soldier perched in a tree taking aim downfield. Perhaps, it is a perfect painting, depending upon the criteria used to measure it and what variables it reveals in the mind of someone looking at it.

So, you think nothing is perfect?

There are a number of reasons James Dickey has been among my favorite writers for a number of years, and I have posted about him and his fabulous novel, "Deliverance," more than once in the past.

The first piece I read of his was the utterly frightening and fantastic poem, "Falling," in which he describes the thoughts and actions of a stewardess who has fallen from an aircraft and is descending to certain death upon her impact with the earth. I was in graduate school at the time I read it, and had a number of jumps under my belt by that time. Each had involved a device known as a parachute, something not available to the unfortunate stewardess.

Having read and discussed that poem in class created a fear (well, just a little) that persisted powerfully until my next jump and was significantly greater than any fear I had known on any previous jump, including the very first. But, I was barely eighteen on my first, and men that age usually have no fear. (Age and experience give birth to fear.) Just to make things a bit more "poetic" and as a means to conquer fear, I actually read some of the lines from Dickey's "Falling" on that next jump.

But, I am drifting again, in a manner of speaking. Like who cares, hah?

Back to the here and now.

As a (former) hunter, among the elements that appeal to me instinctually in "Deliverance" is Dickey's concept of the Zen in archery. This is to say that the archer travels with, rides with, becomes a part of the arrow as it flies toward the target and, more significantly, upon impact with the target.

I had been an archer and a bow hunter since I was a boy, and Dickey's thought was new to my experience at the time. It expanded my entire perception of hunting and, to put it bluntly, of killing. Not only that, but I expanded my range of thought from Dickey's archery to firearms and the flight of a bullet from the weapon to the target.

No, we are not going there.

My whirling and swirling mind connected these thoughts (abstract dots) with a song sent to me a few nights ago. It was "Nichts ist vollkommen" or, in English, "Nothing is Perfect," from and by Romanian Michael Cretu and Austrian Peter Cornelius, whose musical careers include association with Enigma.

Yes, there is perfection in many things and in many ways, my mind countered as it immediately entered into argumentative mode while listening to the song. I have made a few perfect shots (firearms, not camera) in my life -- once with a handgun at more than a half-mile and once with a rifle at a touch and a breath beyond a mile. (Into the "great beyond," one might say, with a laugh on his lips.)

Of course, this depends entirely on the definition of "perfect." In my illustration, if, at one hundred yards, I placed a rifle bullet into a target the size of an American half-dollar, is that not a perfect shot? But, some would counter, if the target had been considerably smaller -- say the size of an American dime rather than a half-dollar -- and the round was off just enough so it would have missed a dime by the width of a hair while still striking the half-dollar, would the shot still have been perfect?

Although that argument is not silly and worth putting forward, is perfection the difference between a half-dollar and a dime when the target was a half-dollar and not a dime? Once again, define perfect. Is not perfection accomplishing the intended goal in the prescribed manner?

Here, we will depart from Dickey and his Zen of the arrow and mine of the bullet. Maybe, we will discuss it and its ramifications another time. Probably, never -- at least never here. Maybe, in a novel.

In my own opinion, I also have experienced perfection once or twice or three times in stories I wrote as a reporter. They were well written, were factually accurate, with all details and elements covered and had no grammatical or typographical errors. Might someone else have written them better? Could be, but I do not think so. Written them differently and equally effectively, sure, but better? No.

Wandering back to James Dickey for a moment, while his personal life was most imperfect, I think a case could be made that "Deliverance" is a perfect novel. The subject matter puts it into a category which probably does not appeal to a vast audience, but, from my point of view, Dickey captures the "thin veneer of civilization" concept in a most definitive way and lays bare the essence of (or the lack thereof) archetypal, primeval man.

I prefer to think that perfection is like happiness. It comes and it goes. It is momentary. It can and does exist now and then, here and there, once in a while -- then it is gone again.

Do not believe what I have written here, if you so wish. But, I do believe there is such a thing as a perfect shot from a handgun, a perfect story by a writer, a perfect photograph by a man or a woman with a camera, a perfect painting by an artist -- and, most importantly, a perfect kiss emanating between a man and a woman. Who would dare to argue against the last?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Time to let slip the wolf

Either in 1953 or 1954, depending upon which source one utilizes, John Huston directed and, along with Truman Capote, did the screenwriting for a motion picture entitled, "Beat the Devil." Gina Lollobrigida portrayed Maria Dannreuther, Humphrey Bogart was Billy Dannreuther and Jennifer Jones played Mrs. Gwendolen Chelm as the lead roles. I watched the film a few nights ago for the first time, and fell in love with the story -- a comedy and a parody -- and the characters. I wish I could meet such people in real life -- and, in the meanwhile, find a few more films as special as this one to escape the bonds of reality for a few days.

Julius O'Hara (Peter Lorre) in the film, "Beat the Devil:"

"Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook."

A tale with two purposes

I am not here writing this. What I mean is, White Bear is typing this as he takes dictation from me via cell phone. Obviously, I have no idea if he will publish what I say or, sneaky fellow that he is, he might publish whatever happens to be on his mind at the moment.

I wrote the following to a friend a few days ago: "I stumbled into a film, 'Beat the Devil,' a comedy. I usually do not go for comedies, but I love this one. (It was) Made in 1954 with Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley and others."

The story centers around four crooks/con men, their accomplices and people they meet on their way to Africa from Italy, supposedly to sell vacuum cleaners, but actually to swindle the owners of uranium-rich land. I fell out of my chair watching the antics of Ivor Barnard as Major Jack Ross and Mario Perrone as the purser on the SS Nyanga. (It was) Written by John Huston and Truman Capote. I feel like the characters are all people I personally know. The film was sort of designed to be a spoof on the ever-famous, 'The Maltese Falcon'."

Capote was relatively young and relatively unknown when he was asked to drop everything and fly in to the Italian countryside to work on the script on a day-to-shoot basis. One story has it that he would speak to his pet Raven every day on the telephone. One time, the Raven refused to reply to Capote's voice on the telephone, so Capote hopped onto an aircraft and flew to Rome where the Raven was boarded in a hotel so he could visit the bird. Yeh, my kind of people.

Apparently, the film has become a cult classic. I can understand why. It is absolutely marvelous. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered a copy, which is rare for me. I really recommend it to anyone who needs a bit of real, old-fashioned, genuine comedy in his/her life.

But, the primary purpose of this brief post is to say that I have been on the road a few days and, before the journey even had ended, I encountered a personal situation which has demanded my time and my attention. More importantly, it was a mood changer, a destroyer of my patience and a forecaster of the end of the particular trail I happen to be on at the moment. My emotions right now are ranging from anger to depression to frustration to a bit of confusion. I need a few days to read novels, to watch films, to escape long enough for my mind to push aside the fog.

So, please pardon me if I ignore you for a couple of days and fail to comment at any of your blogs until I slip the knots which bind me.

Petersen (Robert Morley) in the film, "Beat the Devil:"

"You mean Mrs. Chelm is an unqualified liar?"
Billy Dannreuther (Humphrey Bogart):

"Well, let's say she uses her imagination rather than her memory."

(For the record, I fell instantly in love with Mrs. Chelm and her imagination. What man would not?)

Something special ....