Monday, December 31, 2018

The future begins tomorrow

Although the painting here by Philippe Durand is entitled, "Time Machine," this post really has nothing to do with time machines or much of anything other than to note the conclusion of 2018 and the birth of 2019 -- which, you might be aware, begins as the bell finishes tolling midnight this night. I guess that is sort of a fib since I am adding two more resolutions to the three listed in my post of December 16. Also present are a pair of songs from Jon Bon Jovi and his crew. The scenes in the first number, "New Year's Day," remind me of the January 1 a few years ago when I spent the afternoon canoeing on The Lake, as I call it, known as Le Lac Supérieur by the early French explorers and better known as Lake Superior among those living today. The water is dark and cold and deep. Mostly it is beautiful and alluring. It is an invitation to be part of it. In every direction there is water -- only water. It would seem to go on forever .... maybe it does.

The primary difference between my excursion on The Lake and the waters in the video being that I was playing "ice breaker" with my canoe and I actually stopped to have a drink of brandy and to smoke a cigarette on a mini-iceberg .... ah, yes, those were the days, my friend. The second piece is pretty much the story of life from birth to death, which fascinates me in many ways for many reasons. Well, as sometimes is said, on with the show ....
A verse from the song
"New Year's Day"
composed by Billy Falcon & Jon Bon Jovi
performed by Jon Bon Jovi & his crew
I'm singing carpe diem
I'm saying seize the day
Come on, let's live forever
It's New Year's Day
New Year's Day & born again tomorrow ....
I have been thinking of resolutions for the coming year and essentially I want to find ways to renew my interest in life and living. Since firearms and the outdoors and reading have been the three greatest "loves" of my existence, I want to once again incorporate them more into my lifestyle.
I have more than a few guns I have not fired -- ever -- and, by this time next year, I do not want to have any that I have not shot a number of times and sent a large number of rounds through.
The concept of "large number" has different meanings to different people. My own definition in relation to shooting is three or four hundred rounds in an afternoon unless there are circumstances which create the need for more. I have acquaintances who now and then fire three of four thousand in an afternoon and, when opportunity is right, upwards of ten thousand in a week.
In relation to the outdoors, I will strive for a half-dozen or more multi-day canoe jaunts during the year, including one up in Michigan for at least a week in duration on my old friend, The Lake.
Once more, numbers have different meanings. There have been times when I was reading three books a week on average. That number has shrunk to about three a month. I will try to get back to at least one book per week and see where it goes from there.
Those three items form Resolution No. 4.
Resolution No. 5 is less complex but, quite possibly, more demanding: Find a new place to hang out ....


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Whoever, wherever you are, Merry Christmas

Guardian of the Christmas Tree ....
Comment by Kris Kringle
portrayed by Edmund Gwenn
in the 1947 motion picture
"Miracle on 34th Street"
"Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind ... and that's what's been changing. That's why I'm glad I'm here, maybe I can do something about it."
Peace and happiness to you
Believe it or not, I have put considerable time and thought into what I would post for Christmas. Now, here we are, it is Christmas and I still am walking in a never-ending circle, indecisive and undecided, having come to the proverbial "now or never" point. I am tempted to write the words, "Merry Christmas," and let it go at that, but I will add a few more -- largely because it is in my nature to write and to write ....
A few weeks ago, I made the following observation: "I like Thanksgiving, and have many good memories of it from years past and hope to create many more in the years ahead."
The only word which needs to be changed now, today, is replacing the word "Thanksgiving" with the word "Christmas." I could easily fill a book reciting happy memories from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day .... actually, two books -- one from childhood memories and another for the years since then. I suppose it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that I will write such a book or books in future times, but I will refrain from beginning such tales now for fear of boring readers into sleep. Instead, I will bore you with something else -- a bit of commentary about the evolution of language.
Many people are aware -- but many are not -- that all languages are evolving. British writer and bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the "Canterbury Tales" between 1387 and 1400 in Middle English -- the language of his times.
Here is the opening of the Prologue to the tales as it was written by Chaucer:
"Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote the droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote ...."
Here is the same opening after a translation to contemporary English:
"When April with its showers sweet has pierced the drought of March to the very root ...."
Most languages, if not all, have a similar history: There is Old Norse, Old French, Old Latin, Old Greek and on and on and on. The reason I mention this is because one of the songs here today, "Als I lay on Yoolis Night," dates back at least to the Fourteenth Century and is composed in Middle English with subtitles provided in both the "middle" and the "contemporary" languages. The singers are Donna Deam and Kristine Szulik.
Another of the musical compositions is, "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel," sung in Latin with both Latin and English subtitles. The singer is Hayley Westenra.
The final song is by Joan Baez. She is singing the, "Coventry Carol," a Christmas song which dates to Sixteenth Century England and tells the story from Biblical Matthew about the birth of Jesus. Again, we have a transitional language piece from medieval to modern.
So, for whatever it is worth, here are three Christmas songs you might never have heard before and a brief lesson in the evolution of languages .... Merry Christmas ....


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Addendum to Otzi the Iceman

Otzi, portrayed in a painting as he lay dying atop a mountain
Otzi, the Iceman, up close & personal
The last object or person seen as eyes close forever on this Earth; the last word spoken or heard; the last beat of the heart; the final gasp or breath .... some of these things are recorded for official records and some noted for the memory of family and friends. Everyone will experience death at some point during their life. Some will have time to prepare for their death; some will never know that it happened: The proverbial here one second, gone the next.
I have a habit of trying to closely examine some photographs and paintings. There are times I see things which I cannot be certain were intentionally placed there or not by the creator of the photograph or of the painting. With life draining from his body in the painting of Otzi the Iceman, for instance, he seems to be gazing at something or someone. Who? What? His demise is coming high in the mountainous Alps in the midst of snow and ice. It is cold. His breath seems to be hovering visible just beyond his mouth. Does he realize it is there? Does he even know that he is dying? Did the artist present the conception of the last moments of Otzi in this manner intentionally or did it just happen?
All I know is that things such as these make me curious and they are questions to which I never will know the answers. On a cosmic scale these things would seem to have no relevance; on a personal scale, I like to think the answers would hold some of the explanation of the reason for us being here.
Some years ago, I wrote a short story about the Earth being a "test tube" in an ever-expanding laboratory called the universe. In the story, a somewhat crazed scientist "learned" a way to shatter the test tube. The story ended with him struggling to decide if he should or should not shatter it. I suppose somehow, somewhere, he still is thinking about it ....

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Who knows where the time goes

No, this is not a painting of me .... although I have been seen like this a few times over the years.
Rather, this is an artist's impression of Otzi the Iceman just before he died. The uncredited painting appeared in yesterday's edition of the London Daily Mail along with a lengthy article.
But, this post is not about Otzi, whose well-preserved, mummified body was found in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps between Austria and Italy. It has been determined he lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE. Otzi interests me a great deal, both as an individual and as a representative of his era, which is the late Neolithic Period about the time the Bronze Age was beginning. We shall leave his story for another time, so to speak, possibly even for another lifetime.
No -- this post is about New Year's Resolutions .... sort of, anyway ....
Sort of New Year's Resolutions
I have decided it is time to get serious about lessening my possessions, and guns are about the easiest to unload. When my son was here at Thanksgiving, I gave him nine firearms to take home with him: Five rifles, two with scopes; a shotgun; a revolver; two semi-automatic pistols. Three or four or five more will be going home with him at Christmas. Redistribution of my "baggage" is Resolution No. 1.
When George H.W. Bush died (Bush the Elder, in my lexicon), television commentators noted that Bush once was asked how he could take both political wins and defeats so graciously. His reply was that each day is a new day and when he awakened in the morning, he made sure his attitude was set to reflect a happy, pleasant frame of mind. I think I will give that technique a try, although I am certain Ambrose "Bitter" Bierce will roll over in his grave. To begin each day thankful to be alive and to display it is Resolution No. 2.
My reading habit has been slipping away from me during recent months, but I think I have found a tale which will raise the level of my enthusiasm for books a significant notch. I just ordered a copy of, "Lost Secrets," by Bernard Grisoni. It is a new novel about Otzi, the so-called Iceman. He was murdered, it would seem, about 5,000 years ago. Grisoni's story weaves Tesimo's (Otzi's name way back when, according to the novel) life and travels with those of archaeologist Sophia Bruckner, who was among the first to examine the mummified body.
One reviewer described the novel in this manner: "'Lost Secrets,' is one of the rare books that appeals to both the left and right brain, and delivers two complementary stories to delight each. Right-brainers will enjoy the modern-day story where a heroine and a hero uncover important historical information while in the midst of a fast-paced adventure to thwart a villain. Left-brainers will enjoy the story that takes place 5,000 years earlier where a pair of men displaced from their home experience people, places and ideas of which neither ever dreamed."
This novel explores the intertwining destinies of Sophia and Tesimo, two seekers living thousands of years apart. To actually read this book rather than merely add it to my growing stack of "unreads" is Resolution No. 3. I just might even write a review of the book.
And .... I probably will add one or more resolutions to my list before 2018 disappears into history and 2019 emerges from wherever years await their moment in time ....




Friday, December 7, 2018

Long time ago, but part of living memory

An unknown visitor to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., walks near a quote made by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other United States military installations in the Hawaiian Islands on December 7, 1941. Additional attacks on American bases followed in the Phillipines, Malaysia, Wake Island, Guam, Thailand, Shanhai and Midway. Since that time, each year December 7 is designated as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Today -- December 7, 2018 -- is the 77th anniversary of the attack. Included here are three videos, one a History Channel presentation featuring interviews with survivors of the Pearl Harbor assault which was broadcast for an earlier anniversary. I am including it now because the content is as relevant and as poignant today as it was when the conversations were conducted and recorded. The other two videos are self-explanatory.

For the record, 2008 sailors were killed and 710 others wounded; 218 soldiers and airmen were killed and 364 wounded; 109 marines were killed and 69 wounded; 68 civilians were killed and 35 wounded. In total, 2,335 American servicemen were killed and 1,143 were wounded. It would be fitting and appropriate for this "remembrance day" to exist as long as there is a United States of America .... I hope it will be ....

Saturday, December 1, 2018

"Look a new day has begun"

Buddy commented to me the other day that it has been quite a while since I used a photograph of him to accompany a post. I responded with a question.
Me: "Are you keeping track or what?"
Buddy: "Of course. Anyone who lives with you has to look after his own interests. It is pretty obvious you are wrapped up in Fram this and Fram that. What do you expect?"
Me: "Hmmmm .... all right, Buddy. You win. Any particular photograph in mind?"
Buddy: "How about the one from last September with me on the picnic table?"
Me: "Fine. I will use that one. Any other comments or complaints?"
Buddy: "Plenty, but we will save them for another day."
Moving right along, here are three songs to say goodbye to November .... or, if you prefer, to say hello to December. I never have paid much attention to Joan Baez. I suppose her music was not "heavy duty" enough rock 'n' roll for me. Anita recommended one of Baez's songs a while ago. I said I would listen to it, and finally did, this week. I enjoyed it more than I can describe, so it -- "Diamonds and Rust" -- is included here. The words/the melody/the photographs of the song combined to leave me more-or-less speechless. This week I also listened to a medley of singers doing the finale piece, "Memory," to the Broadway show, "Cats," posing the question of who performed it best. Although I am a rather hard core fan of Sarah Brightman, who was the original Grizabella in the London production, I decided I liked the voice and the style of Betty Buckley best. She was the original Grizabella for the United States rendition. For the record, Elaine Paige is/was my second favorite. Last December, on Saturday the 30th, to be precise, I attended a performance of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra here in Saint Paul. As fate would have it, the group is back again this December with two shows, on the same weekend as last year, the date being Saturday the 29th, to be precise. I have a ticket for the evening presentation. Here is, "Cannon Rock," from that show, my favorite number, as performed just a few days ago in Colorado Springs, Colorado.




Thursday, November 22, 2018

All our thanksgivings are perpetual

Some of my ancestors came from the vicinity of Vikøyri in Vik Municipality, Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. This is a photograph of the Hopperstad Stave Church there. While it is not possible and never will be possible to know if any of my ancestors attended a service there or even saw the church, it is not unreasonable to suppose some might have been there since my direct-line, paternal ancestry has been traced to the mid-1500s in that region and since the church is assumed to have been built around the year 1130 and still stands at its original location.
Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. I like Thanksgiving, and have many good memories of it from years past and hope to create many more in the years ahead. Anyone who comes here and reads here knows I like old books / old films / old music. Other than the photograph, all that is here today are three videos of music from the "last century" .... songs that I like, songs that I am thankful to hear ....
The Rolling Stones .. "She's A Rainbow"
= have you seen her dressed in blue?
The Three Degrees .. "When Will I See You Again?"
= moments of pure beauty in harmony
The Greg Kihn Band .. "The Breakup Song"
or When Love Goes
= one last dance, ok, baby?




Sunday, November 18, 2018

Lost in time & space on a Sunday morning

No, I did not catch a sudden case of religion. I lived in Montana for a while once upon a time and have been thinking about it and the beauty of the state. Actually, my first newspaper job was there and I was more into photography then than I am now. In fact, Montana is where I learned how to run a darkroom for developing film and printing photographs. Anyway, back on point: I was looking through photographs of Montana recently while listening to Bobby Dylan -- all on the internet, of course -- and encountered this view of a presumably abandoned church on the plains of Hill County near Havre, Montana. It does not take much imagination to guess where my mind went from there. Here are three among my favorite songs from Dylan to accompany the high plains church:
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (1965)
I Want You (1966)
All Along the Watchtower (1967)
A few lines
From "I Want You"
Composed & sung by
Robert Allen Zimmerman
Well, I return to the Queen of Spades
And talk with my chambermaid
She knows that I'm not afraid to look at her
She is good to me and there's
Nothing she doesn't see
She knows where I'd like to be
But it doesn't matter
I want you, I want you
Yes, I want you so bad
Honey, I want you ....



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Sort of a split personality ....

Today is the 243rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. The photograph here of a Marine and his rifle in a combat situation pretty much portrays the stereotypical image of what the Marine Corps is all about .... does it not? Most individuals enter the Marine Corps because they have something to prove, most often to themselves. Beyond that, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a stereotypical Marine and the "Toys for Tots" program and the commentary by retired Sergeant Major Angela Maness are illustrations of that. Marine Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, founded Toys for Tots in Los Angeles, California, in 1947. The first toy was a handmade doll. About 5,000 toys were collected during the campaign that year. The annual event has grown exponentially since then.

The first video below shows the usual image of the Marine Corps; the second video illustrates the purpose and the significance of the Toys for Tots program. It is an old video, but the message it delivers remains the same. The program, run by the Marine Corps Reserve, distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. It is very active here in the Twin Cities and there is a ton of information about it on the internet. Check it out and participate in it if you want to feel good about yourself the day after Christmas. In the third video, Sgt. Maj. Maness describes how the role of women in the Corps has evolved since she enlisted in 1987 and what it takes to be a successful Marine. Her message essentially is as old as time itself: Be the best you can be. The final video is the traditional birthday greeting from the commandant to the troopers .... Semper Fidelis, now and always ....




Monday, October 22, 2018

"Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic"

It is nice to see everyone is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for today's session .... well, present and accounted for, anyway. The idiom just used dates to the 1930s and, at times, is used in a sarcastic or a factious manner -- as it is for this photograph. Whatever else it signifies, this photograph sort of fits the message of this post.
There is one piece of music accompanying this post. I had picked it out for my last post, the one about rereading books, in case you missed it, but decided to use the MsMojo recommendations instead. This song might well be one you never have heard before: "Blue Skirt Waltz," performed by Frankie Yankovic and his Yanks with the Marlin Sisters. I probably never would have heard it, either, if I had not had a German grandfather. He was an avid reader -- a devout reader, I might say. New Ulm, Minnesota, is a community settled by German immigrants, and one of the radio stations there once was regionally famous for its farm reports and its "old country" music. Most of my grandfather's Sunday afternoons were spent listening to that radio station while he was reading.
Incidentally, this will be my last post for a while and I am blocking comments on it.
Lessons learned .... part 1
Everyone has teachers they like and teachers they dislike. Right?
I know that certainly was (still is) true in my case. The negative element to this, I figured out at some point along the line, is that in (American-style) elementary and high schools a student almost always has no control over who the teacher will be and the student, for better or for worse, will be "stuck" with that particular teacher for an entire school year.
The situation improves (for the student) in college, especially in the institution which operates on a quarter system rather than on a semester system because the period of time the student will be in a certain class is shorter.
Teachers being human, it is to be expected they have "favorite" students and "wish you were somewhere other than in my class" students.
Students being human, it is to be expected some will be able to pick up on what types of students a particular teacher favors and adjust his "classroom style" to come under and gain the "good graces" of the teacher.
Lessons learned .... part 2
I have had teachers who, at the start of a certain class, have said words to this effect:
1) Read the books on our reading list thoroughly, carefully. My test questions often are straight from those books.
2) Take copious notes in class. Anything I say in class may appear in one of my tests.
Teachers who say either or both of those things are my favorites because I love reading text books simply for the sake of rote learning and I am a good listener and an excellent note taker because both aspects were part of my childhood experience, in a manner of speaking. I might elaborate on that more another time.
So, what I am saying is that an instructor who gave a list of books to read and who stood in front of the class with a prepared lecture every day was among my favorites and I would excel in those classes. An instructor who thought he was an entertainer and proceeded to hold classes in such an atmosphere was a bore from my point of view and I had a difficult time not showing that in my classroom demeanor. On both counts, I was in the minority.
Fast forward to today. I have come to realize that my posts, my comments and my replies to comments have entered the same realm, so to speak. I write in a text book manner and in a lecture fashion to the point where I am becoming bored with my own words and I would speculate others are, as well. I like it -- doing what I am doing, writing the way I am writing, I suppose, or I would not be doing it .... but it bothers me ....
What I am writing here is that I will not be posting for a while. For how long, I am not certain .... to borrow lyrics from an old song, I have been a man "with my both feet firmly planted way up there in the air." I need to find a way back to terra firma .... later, baby .... take care and stay safe and be happy ....

Something special ....