Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thinking of ancestors then & us now

Peter Paul Rubens painted two versions / variations / interpretations of "The Massacre of the Innocents," depicting the biblical account of Herod the Great's murder of all young, male children in and around Bethlehem as his solution to put an end to the prophecy that a newborn king of the Jews would oust him some day. The upper painting was done in 1611-12 and the lower piece in 1636-38. Rubens was a Flemish painter in the Baroque style who lived during an era when religious wars led to any number of battles and outright massacres of innocents. The key words linking these paintings with the words of my post are "massacre of innocents." It seems to be a common event in every era.

As for the music accompanying this post, who and what it is should be self-evident, I would imagine .... but, just in case: "Paranoid," baby !! Some would say this song is not at all related to the words of this post; others might see clearly and distinctly that it is. Whichever position you accept, here is a taste of what I was enjoying only a few miles down the road from home on the Minneapolis side of the river on Monday evening. In case you had better places to be that night and missed the performance by Black Sabbath in its "The End" tour, I actually think the concert formed the center of the universe for a few hours.

I also think I will have one more post coming yet before the blog doors close and are bolted shut for a while. This one is too desperate and too dismal and too disheartening to close out things. I am a chameleon, I am a mirror, I am a disciple of Bitter Bierce -- but, despite those things, remember: I only write happy endings ....

Words spoken by Alec Leamas
in the novel, "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold"
by John le Carre (1963)

"I reserve the right to be ignorant. That's the Western way of life."

The ancient man vs. the modern man -- 2

(This is Part 2 of 2 pieces, not including prequels or sequels. There will be no third segment. If I could do things over, several of my recent posts would be thrown into a kettle, stirred considerably and allowed to simmer before being poured out into different bowls to be consumed in different sequences and portions. Oh well, nothing here is for posterity or purpose, and I have other things on my mind.)

The partial remains of twenty-seven individuals, including at least eight women and six children, who evidently were murdered in cold blood were recently unearthed. Twelve skeletons were in a relatively complete state, and ten of these showed clear signs of a violent death, including extreme blunt-force trauma to crania and cheekbones, broken hands, knees and ribs, arrow lesions to the neck, and stone projectile tips lodged in the skull and thorax of two men. 

Several of the skeletons were found face down; most had severe cranial fractures. Among the in situ skeletons, at least five showed sharp-force trauma, some suggestive of arrow wounds. Four were discovered in a position indicating their hands probably had been bound, including a woman in the last stages of pregnancy. Fetal bones were uncovered.

The bodies were not buried. Some had fallen into a lagoon that has since dried; the bones preserved in sediment. 

It sounds like a story about the atrocities which have been occurring in places like Syria, Iraq and regions of North Africa during the past few years, does it not?

Well, it was not. Possibly a few of you noticed words like "arrow wounds" and "stone projectile tips" in the account. Arrow wounds are not especially common these days, and these remains were unearthed about eighteen miles west of Lake Turkana in Kenya at a place called Nataruk.

They were the fossilized bones of a group of prehistoric hunter-gatherers who were massacred around ten thousand (10,000) years ago. Findings suggest these hunter-gatherers, perhaps members of an extended family, were attacked and killed by a rival group of prehistoric foragers. Researchers believe it is the earliest scientifically-dated historical evidence of human conflict.

Why these people were killed in the manner they were will never be known. Were they interlopers or were they murdered by interlopers? It would seem certain they were brutally dispatched because they had something others simply wanted or because they were somehow "different" from their attackers.

I recently read a few dozen definitions and illustrations of the words "civilized" and "civilization."

From my point of view, I found them comedic. In as much as I am able to determine, humankind is no less barbaric now than it ever has been. The worst offenders, I think, are not necessarily those who cut the throats of helpless others or burn them alive in cages. The worst offenders are those who stand by and allow it to happen when they could -- in the least -- make an effort to prevent it.

Witness the actions of the "civilized," fearless leaders whose mailing address is Washington, D.C., who stand looking at themselves in the mirror, playing golf and attending political fund raisers while thousands of men, women and children round the world live in imminent threat of torture, slavery and death. How Americans can elect such vile, soulless "creatures" as their political leaders is inexplicable to me.

I have said such things before and probably will again. It is pointless to keeping repeating them because, it would seem, humankind has not advanced an iota other than in a technological manner during the past ten thousand years -- probably not in the past million years -- but it makes me feel good to say them.

There was a time when I thought a great deal about my ancestors and their contemporaries who left Europe in the 1850s to come to the United States -- men and women who lived on the prairies in sod shelters while they battled a hostile Nature and built their farms from nothing. More recently, I have been thinking about those unknowable ancestors who endured ice ages for thousands of generations to ensure the survival of their species. (And, in a way, to bring about the eventual presence of me on this Earth -- for which I am thankful and grateful.)

Now, I wonder, to ensure survival of what and to what end? The continuation of an enduring species which finds no difficulty at burning and cutting the throats of those whose religion or lifestyle is different from their own?

Oh, well. Why should I care who lives and who dies, who suffers and who prospers, who is the victim and who victimizes? The leaders of my country and other "civilized" nations do not care, so why should I? I can go to concerts .... buy guns and books and brandy every day of the week .... go just about anywhere I want whenever I want .... pretend I am doing something important by worrying about climate which is always going to be in perpetual, constant change whether I worry about it or not .... why worry, why think ?? Be numb, be happy .... that is the Western way ....

Sunday, January 24, 2016

An interlude: "But I never wave bye-bye"

What you see here is a pair of views of the latest arrivals to my assortment of firearms. Media know-nothings and liberal / progressive ideologues, no doubt, would define even this small number as an "arsenal." I saw a statistic recently which noted that among households in the United States which have guns, the actual average number of guns in the house is eight .... lots of arsenals around, I guess. I know some individuals who own a few hundred. Anyway .... as I occasionally mention, I have not hunted for a number of years and doubt I will again, but, to me, target shooting is considerably more fun than golf or bowling or any other recreational activity which I can think of at the moment. And, as I also occasionally mention, the Zen of shooting rifles and handguns and archery gear is quite an experience for those who are able to bend their minds sufficiently to enter into it. I also believe in the concept of self-defense and in the words of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Next, there are two pieces of music here, the first is another from David Bowie entitled "Modern Love," which I will leave for you to interpret for yourselves. This rendition is the closing number of the "Glass Spider" tour. The other is one from a fellow named Johann Pachelbel, who composed, possibly, the most wonderful element of music ever devised from the mind of mankind: "Canon in D." It is another piece I have used here frequently .... it is so beautiful I cannot help myself. Whoops, speaking of "cannot help myself," I am adding Carla Bruni's version of Bowie's "Absolute Beginners" to my parade of songs. She cannot sing, but she is so cute I cannot help myself.

Time for winter to wane

(Think of this post as an interlude between Part 1 and Part 2 [and, maybe, a Part 3] of the segment entitled, "The ancient man vs. the modern man -- 1," which ran a couple of days ago.)

January marks the mid-point of FramWinter .... (January 16).

January is one of a few months I always am eager to see end. It, in particular, because it brought me one experience which will haunt me forever until death and even, quite likely, beyond .... (January 17).

January is the month I began this blog seven years ago .... (January 21).

January is the month I signed on the dotted line with the Marine Corps .... (January 24).

There are a few more dates, too, but that is enough for this month, this year.

I am back at home again and, other than for a few overnight treks, plan to be until March. But, never-the-less, I think I will be away from my blog for a while longer .... so, if you come around after January once again has vanished for another year and find the blog closed with the admonition that it is open only to invited members, do not be sad or angry or puzzled. This simply means I have boarded up the doors to everyone for a few weeks to put my priorities and my perspectives into some sort of semblance resembling order.

I need a new avocation, if not actual occupation, and a new place to hang out and a new incarnation. I might emerge from time to time before all this is accomplished, but I might not, either. And, this does not mean I might not visit your blogs on occasion. But, right now I wish to hibernate. It is not unusual for me to hibernate in January and February

In the meanwhile, if you have not already, I hope you all will find a way to see the film, "13 Hours," an account of what happened at Benghazi, Libya, the night of September 11, 2012. It is not often one is apt to find more truth in a Hollywood production than in words spoken by the President of the United States and his Secretary of State, but such is the case here. Americans were abandoned on the altar of political correctness and one man's fraudulent determination to be re-elected president, no matter if others died as part of the price. Even if you are not a political creature, truth should be more important to you than political orthodoxy when it is corrupt.

Whatever .... later, baby .... and, there will be a Part 2 to "The ancient man vs. the modern man -- 1" before I lock the door for a while ....

Friday, January 22, 2016

Thinking of me as I was then, rather than now

As an illustration for this evening's endeavor, ladies and gentlemen / girls and boys, we have here a photograph of ancient art estimated to have been created more than thirty-seven thousand years ago. It is located at the El Castillo cave in Spain. Imagine, if you are able, being among those present and watching this being done, perhaps adding your own handprint to the adornment. Why are you doing it? What are you thinking as you do it? The questions are endless .... the answers lost except to speculation. The photograph is from Bristol University. Read on, if you are curious about what I am thinking.

Next on the agenda .... Glenn Frey, another of the classic rock hierarchy, bites the dust. Actually, I enjoyed Frey mostly as an actor and I never have been a great fan of the music which came from the Eagles. The band's piece, "Hotel California," is the only one I really am crazy about to the point where I can listen to it for hours. And, I suppose that is because I associate it with a certain hotel I "encountered" while I was in California with the Marine Corps. Actually, I associate it with two hotels -- one in La Jolla, California, and the other somewhere between Reno, Nevada, and Pickel Meadows, California. Actually (again), I am not so sure it was not the same hotel, transported to both places in a "twilight zone" created for me to experience alone. I will not bother to try to explain that any further. In any case, here, tonight, we have the Eagles and "Hotel California" so as to spend a moment with Glenn Frey.

Oh, by the way .... yes, I am home again.

The ancient man vs. the modern man -- 1

(Editor's Note: I am uncertain whether this is a sequel to the material I have been writing recently or a prequel to the next post that will be arriving here shortly -- or, more in tune with my nature, a few thoughts about the past -- with the present and the future whirling about in an ethereal zone. Put more simply, part one of two or, maybe, three.)

I knew a man who tried hunting black bear with a spear. He said once was enough, but he was glad he did it. His motivations, I know, were to demonstrate his "manliness" to himself and to others.

I have tried a few "tricks" myself to "submerge" into life as it was in the distant past. My purpose was not to prove anything, rather to know it and to experience it and to understand it. I believe this began as a boy hunting with bow and arrows. As a man, it has included stalking and hunting by even more primitive means. I will note that "experiment" did not include black bear. The stalking actually grew easy. Practice makes perfect, you know, at just about anything.

I suppose this was an extension of the way some people dress up like mountain men or "wild west" cowboys or World War II soldiers or Civil War soldiers .... people re-enacting. I once took part in a wagon train reenactment on the Oregon Trail in Nebraska for a week. It was fun and fascinating, but not really serious like hunting in a stone-age fashion. Re-enactment, from my point of view, primarily is a form of self-entertainment and, pretty much, pure silliness -- although, it probably teaches a degree of actual history to many who otherwise might never learn it. 

I am too serious an individual for that sort of game.

I frequently have lain back in a canoe in a wilderness area where there was no sign of civilization for as far as the eye could see, not even in the sky, not even a single contrail from a passing jetliner. With a bit of concentration -- or, perhaps, lack of it -- it was not difficult to slip into a state of mind where time did not exist and "now" was without form.

I can recall being seventeen during a blizzard in a shelter made of snow and ice on a frozen lake eating fish caught through a hole in my ice floor, wondering if I actually was any different from a man living during the last ice age fifteen or twenty thousand years ago who was experiencing then the same thing I was experiencing in the present. The difference, of course, was by knowing I would awaken in the morning and could walk five miles back to a warm house with a refrigerator filled with food and go to sleep in a warm bed. Psychologically I could not be him; physically I could and that alone provided me a sense of the essence of what it was to be alive in any epoch.

I have found it is not difficult to lose a few hundred years or even a few thousand years in terms of survival and living as conditions then dictated, whether it involves hunting with bow and arrows or a muzzle loader rifle or living for a number of days in an ice house on a frozen lake. I can duplicate any age, any point in history or pre-history, I suppose, in a physical sense, but how does one achieve these things in an intellectually believable, non-delusional manner?

More recently, I have wondered how it might be to have lived fifty thousand years ago or, even, as a pre-homo sapiens sapiens in, say, Neanderthal or Denisovan style and method and mind. I guess there is no way to emulate such an existence, but knowing it is impossible makes me no less curious. And, that is only the tip of the ice berg in terms of humankind before actual humankind.

Journeying beneath the tip, I could write another lengthy post entirely on ancestry. I have mentioned here previously that I know all my ancestors back to the early / mid-1800s when they left Germany and Norway for the United States. A cousin even has traced our paternal lineage back to the mid-1500s in Norway. What is nagging at me now is to understand who (or what) I came from fifty thousand years ago, for instance, or even back beyond the pre-contemporary being to a creature who roamed the earth, say, a million years ago. From what "creature" did my genome originate? Anyway, that is a topic for another time -- or, for never.

When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to write science fiction novels. Now, it seems, I live in a science fiction world and I want know the reality of the far distant past. Essentially, I imagine, what I really am curious about is learning if humankind has advanced at all in the last few hundred thousand years in any manner other than technologically. On the surface, it does not seem that way.

Oh, well. My curiosity serves no real purpose, but my instinctual reassurance is in knowing that when push comes to shove, individuals such as myself always will have an advantage. I am descended from hunters. Yes, I am shifting into writing about two disparate things now, so I will stop. More duality of man stuff, I guess.

Hmmmm .... maybe, it is time for me to go back to school ....

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"As long as you're still smiling"

Doing what I often do -- which is to say, drifting off on a tangent into Neverland -- here is a series of photographs of one obvious tomahawk head and what I believe is a variation -- albeit smaller and in a different configuration -- of another hatchet or tomahawk head. In the interest of brevity, I will not enter into the realm of history other than to say I believe the style of the obvious implement evolved through the Vikings and followed them into Normandy and, generations later, the French carried them on to North America for personal use and for trade with the Native American tribes. The heavily encrusted one, if I am right, is a much older style and had been submerged underwater for a few hundred years or more before being found. It was discovered on a rock-lined riverbed at a depth of about three feet at the confluence of two rivers in, shall we say, rather remote country. It will be undergoing metallurgical and other tests too numerous and complex for my pedestrian mind to explain. The obvious "hawk," incidentally, is what might be described as sort of a family heirloom. You will note the edge of a coin at the head of the handle. The date on the coin is 1818. It has been around for a while. Enough about tomahawks for today.

A thought about David Bowie: He never seemed old to me, much less old enough to die, but cancer does not pause to inquire about the age of an individual before it strikes. I suppose the illusion of youth was personified through his video performances, and here is one of them -- one I have posted a few times in the past because it long has been among my very favorites and because with it comes a memory of a few wonderful, happy hours in a place called The Duval in another time in another city in another country.

Moving right along .... Happy Birthday, SLHVN ....

And, finally .... I still will be gone for a while, ya know .... sort of incommunicado .... later, baby ....

A bit of dialogue to ponder
from the film
"Full Metal Jacket" (1987):

Pogue Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor?

Private Joker: A peace symbol, sir.

Pogue Colonel: Where'd you get it?

Private Joker: I don't remember, sir.

Pogue Colonel: What is that you've got written on your helmet?

Private Joker: "Born to Kill," sir.

Pogue Colonel: You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?

Private Joker: No, sir.

Pogue Colonel: You'd better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.

Private Joker: Yes, sir.

Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you'll be standing tall before the man.

Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.

Pogue Colonel: The what?

Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.

Something special ....