Sunday, November 30, 2014

Gotta photograph, picture of ....

This photograph is not one I took. But, possibly, I will take one from the same location someday in the not too distant future. Winter was too long last year; it still was winter in May in this neck of the woods. Winter began too soon this year. It has seemed like January here in recent days. Frankly, I am beginning to think I will never find a satisfactory location at which I wish to live and which could serve as a "base camp" for a few years while I wander about, so, instead, I have been thinking about a site in which to "hang out" for a few months. I like the looks of the place in the photo. Read on, if you care to learn more about this location and about the musical selection today.

Another "hilltop" with a view

I have decided on the type of place, if not the actual place, where I would like to set up shop for a while. Have you seen the James Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," from 2008? I watched it again a few days ago and replayed a particular segment a number of times.

During the film, the ageless Bond (played by Daniel Craig) enlists an old friend and associate, Rene Mathis (portrayed by Giancarlo Giannini), to assist him accomplish a "small task" in Bolivia. Mathis is "retired" and living with his companion in a magnificent house on a magnificent promontory with a magnificent view of an endless, blue sea. (Tell me, is it the Ligurian or the Tyrrhenian?) Mathis idles away his days drinking wine while his companion sunbathes. As the story goes, this dwelling was a gift to Mathis from the British government for imprisoning and torturing him when he was mistakenly thought to be a turncoat and one of the bad guys.

I wonder if I can find someone to torture me and then to pay me off.

Well, if not, the house in the film and in the photograph accompanying this post is the Villa Le Torre near Talamone in southern Tuscany in Italy, about one hundred miles south of Florence. And, it is available to rent from time to time. I have not learned any details yet, but, if one cannot live like a king, one can at least vacation like a king now and again.

After drinking wine for a few weeks at the villa while looking out over the endless, blue sea, possibly going north to Florence ?? Then, possibly, detouring a short distance out of the way for a day or two at Lajatico and the Teatro del Silenzio for a concert ?? There, probably, you already know who would be performing ?? In case you do not, a musical hint is provided forthwith ....

Ordinarily, I consider myself a realist and not an optimist, but I am trying to envision a couple of personal situations resolving themselves soon and .... maybe .... once again .... finally .... becoming a free bird in every sense .... once again .... anyway .... something to think about ....

Ending with a side note: Do you remember my Sanctuary/Refuge? It was high atop a hill and, from there, I could see for miles and miles and miles .... I am not a city boy; I very much miss not living in a house with a view ....
Goodbye, November .... Greetings, December
November -- the first month of five-month-long FramWinter -- ends today. November was a very cold/cold/cold month and a very expensive/expensive/expensive month for me. It had begun as a month in which I thought a view into my future would be revealed. It did not happen. So now I wait, expecting December to open this visual tunnel into the months ahead. Decisions made and actions taken in the distant past often come back, if not to actually haunt, to in their own way control today and influence tomorrow.

Here are some words, none of them mine

He: "You go around looking for something until you find it. Then you go around worrying about losing it."

She: "Nothing lasts forever, and some things are worth having even if it's just for a little while."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Golden years, gold, wop wop wop

It probably would be a safe wager that David Bowie had other thoughts than those present in this post today when he wrote the song, "Golden Years." But, who can say for certain and, besides, the concept of "golden years" means different things to different people, just as the definition of "success" has varied interpretations. This is a nonsensical post. (Perhaps, they all are.) It came to me the other night that I wondered what it would be like to sleep in a bed again. (That was, anyway, a portion of what I was thinking.) Then, my mind began to drift, and the words below emerged. When you have read them (I guess that is assuming a great deal), you might have a better idea of why I live alone. It is not just the concept of home decorations. To the contrary, my own belief is that a house, with the exception of one, lone room, is the domain of the woman (if/when there is one) who lives there. The lone room, of course, is for the man who lives there to hide within. The greater concept is finding a woman who either is willing to travel with me (and to sleep wherever we are when darkness falls .... I am laughing, are you ??) or who enjoys being alone much of the time when I am in a wandering mood. And, yes, I know the bottle in the photograph is Benedictine and not brandy. The brandy is in the kitchen where I pour my drinks and ice is at my finger tips.

Of what use are beds ??

Someone once looked me in the eye, smiled a soft smile and said: "You live in a house of books, brandy and bullets, but no beds."

I had to agree, and to compliment my smug attitude of the moment with words, I replied: "I am a practical man. I only buy what I use."

I have not slept in a bed since the winter of 2010. Reflecting on the subject of beds (to what ends, I do not know), I have spent much of my life sleeping on floors or couches or reclining chairs. In a more esoteric and descriptive sense, I have slept on sandy beaches, rocky deserts, on ships and in canoes, on aircraft, in trees, on snow on ground and on ice on frozen lakes, on piles of leaves in forests, in wheat fields and jungle grass, in cars and trucks, in battlefield gullies where men have died in recent wars or, sometimes, in old or even ancient wars.

I spent a night on a rocky, mountain foot trail with portions of my body going downhill in three different directions. The trail was going up-mountain, with half my body on one side of the trail at a sixty-degree, downhill angle and the other half of my body on the opposite side of the slope at a sixty-degree, downhill angle .... my rifle tied to me by the shoe lace of one boot and my remaining gear tied to the shoe lace of the other boot to ensure it would stay with me should I tumble off in my sleep. I slept well; I loved it.

There was another occasion when I fell asleep in utter darkness on a moonless, starless night with my upper body on a muddy riverbank and my legs still in the river. It seemed like a good idea at the time. No need to shower in the morning; just push backward and resume swimming/drifting with the current.

I have always been able to fall asleep anywhere within two or three minutes and to set my "internal alarm" to awaken me whenever I wish, unless I am in a state of virtual exhaustion; it comes in handy.

Well, there are a few more places where I think it might be interesting to sleep before I enter into "the endless slumber," but, I wonder: Of what use are beds?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Destinies collide: Kennedy, Oswald, Johnson

           John                             Lee                          Lyndon
           Fitzgerald                     Harvey                     Baines
           Kennedy                       Oswald                     Johnson

One more junction in the pathway of history

It occurred to me a few days ago that the assassination/murder/execution (call it what you will) of John Fitzgerald Kennedy has one more thing in common today with the murder of Abraham Lincoln than it did only a short time ago: Moving beyond the fifty-year mark (the fifty-first anniversary is today), it has passed from the realm of the contemporary into the annals of history. Therefore, there is less and less chance the answers to all the lingering questions about it will ever be known.

Was Lee Harvey Oswald the lone shooter?

I am inclined to think so. No matter who conducted what experiments to cast doubt on whether or not Oswald could have accomplished three shots in under six seconds and scored hits on two of them on a moving target at the distance involved, I, as a "seasoned" rifleman, know it is absolutely possible to have done so if one has devoted himself to practice, has an innate calmness and has a coolness created from trained self-discipline.

Were there other accomplices behind the scenes?

I believe he had assistance. With all the theories about CIA involvement; wealthy right-wing/military-industrial complex types providing assistance; payback from Fidel Castro for assassination plots on his life; payback from anti-Castro Cubans for Kennedy's Bay of Pigs invasion betrayal; payback from certain Mafia figures for brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy's criminal investigations; and other assorted areas of speculation, I think it is entirely possible others played a role.

I have my own ideas/theories in that regard, have mentioned them once or twice in previous posts, but will not go deeper into them again right now.

The currents of history twist and turn often on random events. It seems to me the assassination of Kennedy is a good example of this. For instance, I believe most of the nearly sixty thousand Americans -- and thousands more Vietnamese -- would not have died where and when they did had Kennedy lived.

United States involvement in Vietnam began with President Harry Truman in the 1950s, continued on to a degree with Dwight Eisenhower and increased measurably under Kennedy. But, it was Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose decisions unleashed the debacle that became known as the Vietnam War.

All historical indications were that Kennedy was pulling back from Vietnam when he was killed, and the massive influx of American troops sent there in support of a corrupt South Vietnamese regime rests on the shoulders of another political liberal icon: Lyndon Baines Johnson.

I have not spent any serious amount of time studying or even thinking about the Kennedy assassination in recent years, but I stumbled onto a novel a few months ago which offered some fascinating theories about mysteries surrounding the so-called "magic bullet" and other physical elements of the event. The book, by Stephen Hunter, is titled, "The Third Bullet." Besides being a novelist, Hunter is a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper film critic and a firearms lover/expert.

This tale also offers a plausible explanation of how Oswald might have been "set up" as the fall guy for the murder of a president in which others, who remain unknown, were also actively involved. Hunter's book has Oswald being one of two shooters. You might find the story interesting, even fascinating -- or, you might not.

History sometimes is a straight line from Point A to Point B. More often, it is a pathway going uphill and downhill and filled with twists and turns. The pathway which met at a junction called Dallas, Texas, USA, on November 22, 1963, affected the lives of millions of individuals, not just the lives of three men named Kennedy, Oswald and Johnson, and changed the course of history in irrevocable and immeasurable ways.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I have been this way before

What you are looking at is a Colt 1911 Combat Commander in .38 Super caliber, along with a couple of boxes of ammunition, resting atop a black, leather motorcycle jacket. Neat, hah? This is my most recent acquisition (last week) in the realm of firearms. As for the music, October is over, and it is safe to play Vixen and to remember Jan Kuehnemund, who died on October 10, 2013, at the age of 51. She created Vixen in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1980, while still a high school student.

Maybe, 38 is the perfect number

I managed to go four months without buying another firearm.  Yes, that sentence means I did buy another. Which reminds me, why are people who are affected (or should that be infected ?? afflicted ??) by computers called "nerds" or "geeks," but people who have the same attachment to firearms called "gun nuts?" On second thought, I guess I prefer the term "nut."

Anyway, while I do utilize the personal computer and have done so since before the days of the internet, I still love "things" from the past more than I do those from the present. Would you believe the pistol I just purchased is built to fire a cartridge introduced in 1929? And, that this is the first handgun I, a self-admitted gun nut, have owned which will fire this cartridge? The pistol itself, incidentally, is a Series 70 Colt Model 1911 Combat Commander. As the model number implies, it has been around since 1911 and this particular one dates to 1976.

A thirty-eight caliber in a thirty-eight-year-old pistol .... neat ....

The .38 Super cartridge was a "hot" round in terms of velocity and energy, and state of the art in 1929. Technology has passed it by, as it has so many things. But, as I said, that which is old appeals to me. I carry a portable Royal typewriter, for instance -- 1950 date of manufacture and still like new, that I bought in an antique shop in Knoxville, Tennessee -- on road trips in case power is not available and the battery for my laptop takes its own vacation.

Back to the .38 Super. In the 1930s, the cartridge in a 1911 Colt pistol became a favorite among FBI agents like Melvin "Little Mel" Purvis, as well as many notorious criminals of the era like Lester Gillis, better known as Baby Face Nelson. It was one of the guns carried by lawmen when Bonnie and Clyde "bit the dust," and it was the pistol used by an FBI agent to shoot down John Dillinger.

The cartridge faded away over time, but resurfaced in the 1970s among competition shooters for practical reasons which I will not elaborate upon today. It now has evolved into sort of a "cult round." I do not mean this in a negative sense, but only that, like a number of cartridges, the .38 Super has found itself the favorite of a significant, but relatively small, number of shooters. The .41 magnum is another such example among revolver aficionados.

The .38 Super also is popular in Mexico and some other Latin countries, where pistoleros are not permitted to own handguns which fire military designated rounds like the 9 mm and the .45 ACP caliber.
So, you might ask, why am I writing this piece? Simple, because I want to, and I like to do what I want .... and, because it helps me to escape from thoughts of snow and frigid temperatures .... and, because even gun posts sometimes lead to new people, places and ideas .... and, because I become absorbed in the historic role of many people, places and things, and what is more intrinsic to the history of the United States than the firearm? 
And, I suppose, because it is one ingredient in my never-ending (so it seems) search for the "perfect handgun." Remember? My interpretation of the quest for the holy grail .... the perfect rifle, the perfect pistol, the perfect car and/or truck, the perfect house on a hill, the perfect companion .... and, yes, I suppose, the perfect god .... or, at least, as Lew Wallace wrote, "The Fair God" ....

Now, you might ask yourself why you are reading this ....

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Marine & The Rifle .... Happy Anniversary

                      The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon

This is my rifle

In observance of the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps -- November 10, 1776-2014 -- printed here is an excerpt from, "Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines," by Marion F. Sturkey:

"In boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, or San Diego, California, and in the Basic Officer School at Quantico, Virginia, no one escapes from the Rifleman's Creed. Every Marine is trained, first and foremost, as a rifleman, for it is the rifleman who must close with and destroy the enemy. The rifleman remains the most basic tenet of Marine Corps doctrine. All else revolves around him. Marine Aviation, Marine Armor, Marine Artillery and all supporting arms and war-fighting assets exist to support the rifleman. It is believed that Major General William H. Rupertus, USMC, authored the creed shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It is commonly known as the Rifleman's Creed, but it has also been called 'My Rifle: The Creed of a United States Marine.' Every Marine is expected to live by the creed:"

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...

My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!

Friday, November 7, 2014

It is time to smash all the mirrors

The electorate has spoken, as illustrated in the Dave Granlund cartoon; now we shall see if the victorious, surging Republican Party can put its act together and actually accomplish anything positive and beneficial for the United States and its citizens. The election was Tuesday; today is Friday. Yes, I know I am late, but I do have other things to do and other places to be on occasion. So, anyway, late or whatever, here are my thoughts about the 2014 elections.

Now, we shall see

This will not be long or detailed -- well, not too much of either, anyway .... maybe. It will be a few facts and a few opinions and a few hopes.

Tuesday was not a victory for the Republican Party, although it has regained control of the United States Senate for the first time since 2006 and increased its degree of control in the U.S. House of Representatives by picking up an additional dozen seats. Neither was it a victory for conservative women or for minority Republican candidates, although they outdistanced both liberal men and liberal women in their contests.

What it was is a victory for conservative-political opportunity ....

What it was is a potential victory for the American people and for a possible resurgence of belief in a smaller, less intrusive federal government, and in the freedom and the rights of the individual.

It is an opportunity for conservative philosophy to restore the integrity of a living, breathing document -- the U.S. Constitution, which an American president, Barack Obama, has ignored, betrayed and broken during six years in office. It is an opportunity for conservative politicians to restore prosperity through economic progress, energy independence and employment growth. It is an opportunity for conservative philosophy to regain international influence in a positive way by reaffirming friendships and alliances with democratic nations and by protecting small and/or weak nations from the aggression of tyrants, wanna-be dictators and renegade religious fanatics.

Then, there is the overwhelming number of wins by Republican candidates over Democrat candidates for governorships around the country. Thirty-two of the fifty states now have a Republican governor.

And, a look at some of the individual races demonstrates that minority groups blindly following Democrat "propaganda slogans" may have begun to sway: Republican Mia Love of Utah became the first black woman ever elected to the House of Representatives; Republican Joni Ernst became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Iowa and the first-ever woman military veteran (with a tour in a combat zone) elected to the U.S. Senate; Republican Tim Scott became the first black man to win election to the U.S. Senate in the South since the era of Reconstruction; Republican Elise Stefanik of New York has become the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives.

I will not take the time to list some of the Democrat icons who lost election or re-election bids. The times certainly "might" be changing.

The results of Tuesday elections cannot be described as anything but breathtaking for supporters of conservative policies. Whether the elections are a repudiation of Obama and his socialistic programs or of liberal Democrat programs in general is an open question. Based on Obama's angry/aggressive/arrogant reaction to election results and the pattern of his presidency to this point in time, I truly believe he is not only a megalomaniac, but clinically psychotic. (Watch his actions during the next two months, if you doubt my opinion.) The answer to any and all questions will be written during the next two years and finalized when the next round of national elections, including that for the next president, will take place in 2016.

It is now up to a Republican House of Representatives and Senate to curtail Obama's socialistic policies, to force him to adopt legislation which improves the economic climate rather than curtails it, and to generate legislation which places the U.S. on a pathway to become a leader once again rather than a bystander on the world stage.

It is now or never for Republican office holders. The question is whether or not they have the intelligence and wisdom to get the message. They are not rock stars; they are politicians, and it is time for them to understand that simple point. A good beginning would be to smash all the mirrors in Washington, D.C.

On a closing note, it is difficult for me to understand why anyone would vote for Al Franken to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. In his first election, six years ago, he won by fewer than four hundred votes among millions. There was a recount and there were accusations of voter fraud. I believe voter fraud did occur. This time, he won easily. It should be obvious that by electing Franken, Minnesotans have clearly demonstrated that they are among those who have their heads buried in the sand in terms of political common sense.

One political pundit explained the voting habits of Minnesotans by noting that the state bird is the loon. This would go a long way in explaining why Franken is the majority choice to be their senator .... typical Minnesota voter + Al Franken = two loons.

P.S. The song is dedicated to the man in the White House who would be king ....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Run, run, run forever following the rainbow

Once upon a time there was an English poet named Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Among his loves was the Arthurian Legend, and his work included pieces drawn from that fable with titles like "Galahad" and "Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere" and "The Lady of Shalott." There were two variations of "Lady," one written in 1833 and the second in 1842. An English painter named John William Waterhouse, inspired by Lord Tennyson's "Lady," produced his vision of her in 1888 in the form of an oil on canvas. This is what you see here today, Waterhouse's "The Lady of Shalott." Because this post does not revolve directly around this poem and that painting, we shall leave further discussion of them for another time. Instead, since the characters in this poem and that painting are a blend of history, myth and legend, it does not seem much of a leap to have them mingle with fairy tales generally relegated to stories for children. So, that is what I am doing in this post, as well as broadening the definition of "fairy tale" to include reference to a contemporary story more fiction than fact. To complete the circle of illustration/words/music, also present is a beautiful song called "Catch the Rainbow." It is performed by a band called Rainbow and portrayed in a marvelous video created by someone who calls them self Deep46Blue.
Part I .... the beauty of being a child ....

I recognized all the characters illustrated in this video rendition of "Catch the Rainbow" by Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio and other members of the band Rainbow. How did you do? These characters appeared among the stories my mother read to me as a small boy. I probably had most of the tales memorized long before I could read them myself and, I suppose, the presence of these stories actually is how I learned to read. Hmmmm .... I remember that .... remember learning to read. I think I was a lucky boy.

Fram the Fortunate, then and now .... who had a mother, and a grandmother, who taught me not only how to read and never to fear an enchanted forest or the wine-dark sea, but to be honest and how to distinguish the providers from the takers, the good from the evil, the givers from the users, the fairy tales from reality.

I might act like a self-indulging dreamer at times -- a man with an idealistic vision searching for the end of a mythical rainbow where a mysterious princess playing solitaire awaits me as I travel along battling Fafnir and other lindworms and wyverns from here to there on my way to her -- but, I will not be fooled by false prophets or wizards or assorted charlatans along the journey.

Part II .... the allegory of then and now ....

Chicken Little likes to walk in the woods. She likes to look at the trees and hug them. She likes to smell the flowers. She likes to listen to the birds singing.

One day while she is walking an acorn falls from a tree, and hits the top of her little head.

- My, oh, my, the sky is falling. I must run and tell the lion/king about it, - says Chicken Little and begins to run.

She runs and runs. By and by she meets the hen.

- Where are you going? - asks the hen.

- Oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling and I am going to the lion/king to tell him about it.

- How do you know it? - asks Henny Penny.

- It hit me on the head, so I know it must be so, - says Chicken Little.

- Let me go with you! - says Henny Penny. - Run, run.

So the two run and run until they meet Ducky Lucky.

- The sky is falling, - says Henny Penny. - We are going to the lion/king to tell him about it.

- How do you know that? - asks Ducky Lucky.

- It hit Chicken Little on the head, - says Henny Penny.

- May I come with you? - asks Ducky Lucky.

- Come, - says Henny Penny.

So all three of them run on and on until they meet Foxey Loxey, who in human form is Al Gore and is accompanied by Barry Soetoro and a cohort of liberal power/money mongers.

- Where are you going? - asks Foxey "Al" Loxey.

- The sky is falling and we are going to the lion/king to tell him about it, - says Ducky Lucky.

- Do you know where he lives? - asks the fox.

- I don't, - says Chicken Little.

- I don't, - says Henny Penny.

- I don't, - says Ducky Lucky.

- I do, - says Foxey "Al" Loxey. - Come with me and I can show you the way.

He walks on and on until he comes to his den. The sign above the entrance reads: Church of Climate Change.

- Come right in, - says Foxey "Al" Loxey. You can have anything you want while you rest here before resuming your journey, and I will read to you from the Gospel of Cradle to Grave.

They all go in, but they never, never come out again.

Something special ....