Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My favorite day in February

This painting of a double steam engine train in snow is an oil on canvas by Howard Fogg. He had a bachelor's degree in English literature and was enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts when World War II interrupted his education. He became an Army Air Corps pilot and flew seventy-six combat missions in P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs. After the war, Fogg was hired as a company artist for the American Locomotive Company. He described himself as a railroader with a paintbrush, and his work was noted for its accuracy and realism. For the record, there are places in Minnesota where this might be the actual landscape.

Happy birthday, grandpa ....
Today is my grandfather's birthday. It has been a number of years since he last walked upon the Earth, but I think about him literally every day and my memories of him are clear and sharp.
I often credit my mother for my fascination in and with books, but my grandfather deserves a substantial amount of the credit as a role model in that regard. He read more than any other man I am aware of and he owned a near-countless number of books. Western fiction and non-fiction -- which is to say, tales about cowboys -- detective stories, mystery pieces and similar books were his primary picks.
He was full-blood German and had spoken that language at home until he began school. He loved polka music, and he always had his radio tuned to a New Ulm radio station when he was at home. During summer months, he often sat outside in a rocking chair beneath the shade of a tree with his radio and a few books, sipping lemonade as he read; during winter months, he sat inside the house in the same rocking chair with his radio and a few books, sipping beer as he read. He worked for the Great Northern Railway thirty-nine years, and would have made at least to forty years had not a heart attack forced him into retirement. He loved horses and had raised them as a young man .... I think he had been born out of time -- a few decades to late ....
When another heart attack took his life a few years later, his last word was my grandmother's name -- Rachael ....
I wonder/wonder/wonder
Do you ever wonder what if?
I like those words, too .... almost as much as I like "once upon a time."
Do you ever wonder where we were before our arrival on planet Earth? Do you ever wonder where we will go after our corporeal departure from planet Earth?
I have been thinking (and wondering) about those things more and more during recent months. Too much time on my hands? Very possible, but beyond that, the more I read about ancestry linkage, genome study, DNA and RNA and the multiple pre-human species which inhabited our island drifting in this mystical, mysterious, possibly boundless universe, the more questions I have and the more confused I become.
I like to think my questions will be instantly answered the moment I die, but I have no hope they will be then or at any time ever after.
As Ernest Hemingway once wrote: "Life is a cheat and don't forget it ...."
Depending upon how one views life, old Ernie might have been correct ....

Monday, February 19, 2018

An interim post ....

Do you recognize anyone is this group? I only recognize one individually -- a guy named Robert Plant. Put together, this crew is a band called the Sensational Space Shifters, which will be in town Thursday evening .... and, I plan on attending the performance. By the way, I found this photograph drifting along lost and lonely on the internet and brought it home with me ....

Rock, folk, blues, jazz, bluegrass & hmmmm ….

Ever hear of a rock band called the Sensational Space Shifters?

Me, neither .... until I opened the Sunday edition of a Saint Paul newspaper.

Ever hear of Robert Plant? Ever hear of Led Zeppelin?

Me, too .... in fact, (once upon a time) I saw both perform on stage -- together, which makes sense because Plant was the front man for the band. That was more than a few years ago.

If I kept up with the "music scene" to the degree I once did, I probably would have been aware that Plant is on tour once again at age sixty-nine and has been for a few years with his own group, namely the Sensational Space Shifters. He and they (no doubt an ungrammatical way of putting it) will be in the Twin Cities Thursday evening. I just used the magic of the internet to purchase a ticket .... one ticket, mind you, since me, myself and I will be alone at the event.

The appearance reminded me of how much there is to do in the Twin Cities for someone with an unlimited supply of time and of money and of energy. This is not New York City or Los Angeles or even Chicago (thankfully), but it is an area where someone could theoretically do something different, go somewhere different every single day in a lifetime.

To clarify things a bit, when I refer to the "Twin Cities," I am writing about a seven-county metropolitan area which includes Minneapolis and Saint Paul and too many suburbs and adjoining communities to count. According to the most recent census figures, nearly four million people reside in this zone, making it the fourteenth largest in the United States.

The world-renowned Guthrie Theatre and the Walker Art Center are here, along with a couple of professional orchestras, a professional ballet company, a professional opera group and countless museums. Professional sports teams -- the Minnesota Vikings (football), the Minnesota Twins (baseball), the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Lynx (basketball), the Minnesota Wild (hockey) and the Minnesota United FC (soccer) all are here. The Super Bowl was played here earlier this month.

Many major concerts take place here .... there is an international airport and a few "smaller" ones here .... the University of Minnesota is here and so many private colleges that I am not sure anyone knows the exact number .... I could go on, but since my mind is beginning to boggle trying to think of everything there is to do here, I will stop now.

I might add that I do not like going places by myself, that I am a master at entertaining myself, that I am a self-described bookworm and that I hibernate during winter months as much as possible .... so, consequently, the "delicacies on the menu of activities" available in the Twin Cities largely are not tasted by me: I am very selective about the fun and games in which I participate.

Here are two renditions of the same song -- "What Is and What Should Never Be" -- one with Plant and Led Zeppelin from way back when and the other recorded in London with Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters last October. The song is one of my three or four Led Zeppelin favorites .... pick your preferred version of it ....

Incidentally .... according to legend and lore and "named sources," Plant wrote the piece in 1969 following an affair with his then-wife's younger sister .... hence, the title of the song .... one more time, hmmmm ....

Saturday, February 17, 2018

When winter was winter ....

This photograph was not taken in a snowbound Rocky Mountain pass or, for that matter, at any other mountain range. It was taken on the flatlands of Minnesota shortly after the Nineteenth Century turned into the Twentieth Century -- not long after the word "blizzard" had been adopted to describe the raging winter storms which brought death and destruction to plains states. The Minnesota winter, so far this year, has been colder than normal, but with less snowfall than usual. Gone, but not forgotten are the storms which left snow measured by feet rather than by inches, and when trains with rotary "snowblowers" were needed to clear the tracks. The date on the lower right is Feb. 04 -- I think -- but could be Feb. 09.

Music is a matter of both sound and sight

I sort of stumbled across "Munrow's Retros" a year or two or three ago when I was looking for a version of Procol Harum's absolute masterpiece, "A Whiter Shade of Pale," to incorporate with a post. I played it; I liked it; I used it.

Since then, occasionally I have returned to Munrow's Retros to see what else might be in his/its repertoire. My post today includes three of them. Some are more cleverly done than others, some are easier to understand than others, all are somewhere between interesting and fascinating. It is not unique to find elements which bring a smile and even a laugh. To really grasp them, it seems to help if the listener/viewer is more or less addicted to classic rock, to motion pictures -- mostly older ones -- and to literature, both in the form of prose and poetry.

The songs here are:

"The End," by The Doors.” For obvious reasons, I never heard/saw the group perform on stage, but I have been to Jim Morrison's grave in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and my youngest daughter once gave me a book of his poetry .... on which, incidentally, she later quizzed me.

"Little Wing," by Derek and The Dominos. Eric Clapton formed this group, for those unaware. The drummer, Jim Gordon, in a psychotic episode associated with undiagnosed schizophrenia murdered his mother in 1983. He still is being held in a facility in California.

"Classical Gas," by Mason Williams. It is a beautifully played guitar piece and, in a way, the visual content is a serious and sort of a sad, pictorial synopsis of 1968. Elements of it might bring a tear to your eye if you think about the ramifications of the sights in the photographs.

These are not necessarily my favorites from among Munrow's Retros, simply ones I enjoy .... and, I hope, a few of you will like them, too ....

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Once upon a time never comes again ....

Once upon a time, there was a little Dutch boy who plugged a leak in a dike with his finger. Such is the story of, "Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates," a novel by Mary Mapes Dodge published in 1865. The wood cut illustration is of Hans and his sister, Gretel. Although this tale does not begin with the words, once upon a time, it is a good paradigm of the genre of story the phrase usually has been identified with over the years.

Have you ever wondered?

Have you ever wondered when and where the phrase, "once upon a time," originated?

I like it and I use it occasionally, so I decided to do a bit off "internet research" to learn the history of those four words. This is what Wikipedia has to "say" about the matter:

"Once upon a time" is a stock phrase used to introduce a narrative of past events, typically in fairy tales and folk tales. It has been used in some form since at least 1380 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) in storytelling in the English language and has opened many oral narratives since 1600. These stories often then end with "and they all lived happily ever after", or, originally, "happily until their deaths".

The phrase is particularly common in fairy tales for younger children, where it is almost always the opening line of a tale. It was commonly used in the original translations of the stories of Charles Perrault as a translation for the French "il était une fois", of Hans Christian Andersen as a translation for the Danish "der var engang", (literally "there was once"), the Brothers Grimm as a translation for the German "es war einmal" (literally "it was once") and Joseph Jacobs in English translations and fairy tales.

The phrase is also frequently used in such oral stories as retellings of myths, fables, folklore and children's literature.

That explanation is pretty much all-inclusive, so it would seem senseless for me adding anything else to it ....

My first recollection of the phrase is in the form of my mother reading "fairy tales" to me as a small child. There were many among my favorites, including, "Rapunzel," which was among those collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812, and, "The Princess and the Pea," written by Hans Christian Anderson and published in 1835. I am no longer sure what appealed to me about Rapunzel in the tower and her long hair, but I sort of assume I identified with the princess and her physical sensitivity.

Stories such as these were how my mother taught me to read and, I assume, the same is true that many mothers taught their children how to read using fairy tales. Quickly becoming a bona fide bibliophile, I continued to read these stories as I moved along immersed in the "fairy tale stage" of life .... and beyond. I can remember at some point collecting all my books which contained these types of stories and deciding to read each of them one last time before I gave them up .... and, that is what I did .... sort of ....

As for the music

Final verse of the song
"Once Upon a Time"

Once upon a time, the world was sweeter than we knew
Everything was ours; how happy we were then
But, somehow, once upon a time never comes again

Not long ago, I ran across a song entitled, "Once Upon a Time." Charles Strouse composed the melody and Lee Adams wrote the lyrics for the song, which was among the numbers in a 1962 Broadway musical play, "All American." As for the song, it might not fall into the category of "classic rock," but, all the same, I love it and I decided to include it here.

 A week from today is Valentine's Day and since it is doubtful I will post again between now and then, I will dedicate this song to Saint Valentine .... and to Geoffrey Chaucer, who in his poem, "Parlement of Foules," was the first to associate the day with romantic love .... and to all the young ladies who gave me a Valentine's Day card way, way back in elementary school.
Having listened to more than a dozen singers give the song a try, I settled on Vic Damone's recording as my favorite of it. His voice seems to be made to sing this song .... I think ....

Something special ....