Black Friday Thoughts

I’m trying hard to wrap my mind around the day after Thanksgiving being called Black Friday. Clearly, this isn’t a thing where “Black is bad!”, but it also isn’t “Black is beautiful”. It’s just the day after a national holiday to celebrate giving thanks, but somehow, it’s gotten known as the start of shopping season. Perhaps shopping for Christmas, but maybe just shopping for shopping sake.

It’s not widely known, or even remembered, that President Franklyn Roosevelt actually changed the date of Thanksgiving. It had been on the first Thursday by one president, and the fourth Thursday by most presidents. In 1939 FDR changed it to the third Thursday for federal employees, but half the states still celebrated on the fourth Thursday. Confusion reigned for two years, but finally Congress passed a law saying that President can’t change the date, and mostly it was going to be on the last Thursday of the month, so long as it wasn’t later than the 28th of the month,

Why was it changed? The National Retailers lobby. Apparently it was thought to increase sales, perhaps by having two Black Fridays before December comes around. When you want out of a Depression you will try anything. Who knew that a war was coming?

Now that the virus is keeping people out of the stores, there is a big on-line shopping push. This has been going on a few years before the virus, I remember back in the day, before the dot.coms, that selling things online was verboten. Two big problems, no one trusted credit card numbers on the internet. It was the height of stupidity to use a credit card. They even created credit cards with limited cash, cash that you would deposit just before using the card, for only the internet purchase.

The other reason was that most of the early users of the internet wanted to keep it pure of commercial purposes. If you tried to sell something you got swamped with bogus emails, crashing your system. They finally created the dot.com domain so that the purists could have .edu, .gov, and .org to themselves. How soon we forget, or never knew!

I’m still not in the shopping mood. Isn’t isn’t until three days before Christmas that I realize that I’m missing some joy, and then, the terror hits that I do not have enough time. I never learn, it’s the same every year. Perhaps this year….

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Last Road Story

Willys

The last road story is up on Terrorhousemag.com. In December I have two more in the pipeline, and one more story rattling around my frontal lobes.

It’s an interesting process, words… Words that want to become. To push Michelangelo’s metaphor yet again, “the figure within”, or better, “the words that need forming”.

https://terrorhousemag.com/road-part-3/

An easy link.

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Tribute to Hodja 2

The girls were fighting, there were doors slamming. My peace was being disturbed. My wife didn’t seem to mind, she went on with her morning as if nothing was wrong. I glared at the stairs leading down to the landing. I would have to go down those stairs, then up another set of stairs to the girl’s bedrooms. It took a lot of energy to bring peace.

“Girls! Come up her right now!” It was better to have younger legs moving up and down stairs.

When they presented themselves, I asked the older one to explain the problem without being interrupted.

She described a very long and detailed issue with the shared bathroom. It was full of disappointment and extra work.

“You are right! I can see the merit in your response!”

Then the younger one responded with her long and detailed issue. It was full of disappointment and lack of respect.

“You are right! I can see the merit in your response!”

At this point my wife looked up from her work, and said…

“That isn’t fair! You can’t sit there in an attempt to resolve a conflict by agreeing with both parties!”

I looked at her in amazement..

“You are right, also! I can see the merit in your response!”

“What was that terrible noise late last night? I almost got out of bed to investigate?”, my wife asked.

“Oh, it was nothing, my jacket slipped down the stairs.”

“That can’t be! A jacket doesn’t make that much noise!”, she argued.

“It does if you’re wearing it!”

It was late one night, the wind was blowing, and lots of noise was coming from around the outside of the house. My wife was in bed, snuggled under quilts, while I was up stairs reading, and listening to the storm.

It was then that I thought I heard something on the front porch, and maybe even the front door creak open.

I went over to the landing to look down at the foyer. It was a bad feature of our house that there was no light switch upstairs to turn on the light downstairs. I looked in the very dim light and thought I saw something standing by the closet.

“Freeze!” I said, not loudly, because I dint want my wife to wake up and get in the middle of this. Apparently he had heard me, because he froze. no movement!

I pondered my next step, do I wait until he moves? Do I say freeze again? Do I walk down the stairs? Can he see that I’m only pretending to have a weapon in my hand?

I slowly reached into my pocket to get my pocket knife, and slowly pulled out the blade. The stand-off maintained, he didn’t move, and neither did I.

Minutes passed, perhaps it was hours. In my tension, I discovered my legs tightening up. I would have to move soon. Then, I thought I saw a shoulder move slightly!

In my desperation, I flung the pocket knife with all my strength, coupled with a wild yell!

My wife came out of the bedroom, and turned on the lights in the foyer. There was my jacket, hanging on the closet door, with my pocket knife sticking in the shoulder.

“Thank G-d!” I declared.

“Why are you thanking G-d?”, she asked.

“Well, just imagine what would have happened if I was wearing it?”

I’m sitting on the back deck, enjoying the afternoon sun, looking at the wonder of G-D’s creation. The giant oak tree that had split several years ago, has repaired itself, at a small shoot that had sprouted from the left stump, was now a sturdy tree several stories high. The tree seems heathy although it has been years since I’ve seen acorns falling.

I mused about G-D’s design that the mighty oak bore such small acorns, while the spindly, and lowly vine grew such great pumpkins!

The wind blew softly, and I could hear the leaves tremble. Just then, a single acorn fell and hit my head.

I looked around, amazed, and at first, confused. Then I laughed, and thanked the Lord. I was reminded that if I had designed the world, the great pumpkin would have surely smashed my head.

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Auðr the Deep-Minded

By now I’ve gotten used to finding my great grandparents with additional naming devices. Harald “Bluetooth”, Alfred “The Great”, Godefroi “The Captive”, Harald “Hard Ruler”, Charles III “The Simple”, Æthelred “the Unready”, and even Eystein “The Fart”.

But now I have Auðr “the Deep-Minded”. Wow! She must have been something in addition to being my 38th great grandmother.

What did she do to earn this sobriquet? According to Wikipedia a tremendous amount.

First she was the second daughter of a Norwegian hersir, a military leader of a hundred men. She also married well, to Olaf “The White”, son of King Ingjald, who had named himself “King of Dublin”. After Olaf was killed in battle, Aud took her son Thorstein to the Hebrides, later he became a warrior with many raids into Scotland. After Thorstein was killed in battle, Aud decided to secretly build a huge knarr longboat. Aud knew that she didn’t have UCB of a chance to hold on to any of the territories that her son had conquered.

So she loaded up the longboat with the surviving family, servants, warriors, and slaves, and secretly sailed into the North Atlantic with her at the helm. Sailing with twenty crew and a dozen prisoner/slaves, she set sail for Breiðafjörður in Iceland.

There she made free-men of the prisoners/slaves, only requiring that they accept the free land being offered. Unlike most early Icelandic settlers, Aud was a baptized Christian and is commonly credited with bringing Christianity to Iceland. Aud erected crosses where she could pray on a prominent hill within her lands, now known as Krossholar.

Clearly, my 38th grandmother earned the title of “deep-minded” as she become one of the earliest settlers of Iceland, and gave leadership and safety to her family.

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Tribute to Hodja

So I’m constantly losing the channel changer, the clicker, or the remote. My wife misplaces her hearing aide. She has a built in GPS, but it has no beep. Fine, it’s lost in the house. How does that help? At least it’s not in the parking lot at the swimming pool.

The remote/clicker/changer is obviously in the house, it has no GPS. It probably is in the canyons of the chair, or couch. It might also be with the spoons, or single socks, wherever that is. I’m hoping it’s not on a shelf, or random horizontal space that is free.

I’m on the back patio, looking at random horizontal spaces. My wife asks why am I looking there?

I reply, “There’s better light out here!”

My wife asks me if I want to walk the dog? I immediately put that through my want/don’t want filter. Apparently I hadn’t thought about it at all. Was she picking up on a signal that I actually wanted to do this? Or, was this a clever way for her to ask me to do this? I punted.

“He’s asleep under the pool table.”

Just then he barks at the back kitchen door, not once, but several times!

“He is not asleep, he’s outside on the patio!”

“Who do you believe? Your husband, or your dog?”

My wife asks me if I want to take a drive with her, to pick up some presents for the grandkids. I say sure, I’d like to spend some time with you. We get on ours coats, and head to the car.

My wife decides to drive and gets behind the wheel. I crawl up on the hood on the right side, facing her, wearing my warmest jacket.

My wife says are you mad? “Why don’t you get in the passenger seat, or at least in the back seat?”

“If I get in the backseat I will only be seeing the back of your head, coming or going. That’s not helpful in being together. If I get in the passenger seat, there will be the temptation to turn your head towards me, and that means taking your eyes off the road. That would be too dangerous for both of us. Out here on the hood we can still see each other face-to-face.”

“And I wore my warmest jacket!”

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Runic Alphabet

Feeling a little Nordic!
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Missing Teeth

(Another short story heading for Terror House Magazine)

I know this is going to sound weird. This is why I’m doing this in my journal. I do this for several reasons. I do it long hand because I don’t trust electronic snoops, I do it because I tend to aimlessly wander, if I’m trying to talk to someone, and I do it to organize my thoughts, because my brain tends to follow “bright shiny objects.”

I recently had two molars removed on the right lower jaw. This is important because two teeth in a row leaves a huge gap. Another issue is that the upper right molars have nothing to keep them in their place. Apparently over time, gravity goes into effect, and they drop down, and possibly out. I don’t like the chain reaction type of thing.

The main purpose of this journal entry is the tracking of my reaction to food!

Rip out two molars and suddenly food becomes a big deal. Right now if I’m not careful, something could slip over, and I’m compressing food between stitched up gums, and descending upper right molars. Even my food choices are changed. Soft mushy foods. Foods that do not have small seeds. Are they concerned that a blackberry bush will germinate in one or more of my tooth sockets?

So I decided to log my concerns about changes in my diet, based upon the change of my missing teeth. My dentist tells me that I could go for partial dentures. And then I’m back to normal. But how long will it take to get used to the hardware? And what if it gets loose and I choke on it?

I have too many fears. They asked me if I wanted implants, I wasn’t sure but apparently they wanted to know right away after the extraction, but later I could decide to go for the denture. Fine, I’d like the option.

I had the idea of a built in bridge, I already have one on the other side. The dentist said it wouldn’t work, there isn’t two teeth to anchor it. Can’t use an implant post, because it doesn’t move. It is drilled into the bone of the jaw. Teeth move around a bit, and if you tie it to a post it will just crack.

I feel like I’m learning too much about dentistry. I just want to eat the foods that I want.

It’s been a few weeks now, I’ve been to the dentist a couple of times, and the stitches come out in three weeks, it seems like a long time, but he says it looks fine, and try to eat the normal stuff.

I’m trying, but it’s different. Obviously I’m still reluctant to bite down hard on the right side, so I’m “chewing my cud” on the left. Food pretty much tastes the same, I guess no nerves have been damaged, but it certainly isn’t normal.

It’s been another few weeks and I have realized something. Ever define for yourself “comfort food”? Well, I have apparently lost mine. This isn’t a huge deal, I can still taste, but food that used to meet some sort of emotional need just doesn’t do it anymore. How can I go to the doctor or dentist to complain about the loss of “comfort food”? They would say it’s psychological. Maybe it is!

I have long suspected that food is somehow disconnected to the brain and logical sequencing. How many times have I gotten up, walked to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and then “woke up” wondering what I was looking for? Most of the it was “comfort food”. Hah! I still do it, but now I can’t find what I want.

I have recently used online shopping to try to find my missing comfort food. The old standbys are there, but I have no interest. The beef stew, the chili, the bleu cheese dressing… they all seem to have the same value. They probably taste the same. But they are not emotionally fulfilling. So maybe I need to experiment with some new food. What about jackfruit?

My online shopping cart list was getting longer, with dozens of odd choices. My personal shopper was commenting on the delivery that he never knew these things were available. I changed online grocery stores.

The new store had new, even more exotic food choices. Still the same story, it was food, but nothing was “comfort food”.

I had my last appointment for the stitches, and I thought I would just ask the dentist an innocent question about “comfort food”. His eyes widened a bit, but said nothing, except that it looked healed.

I asked why it took so long for the tissue to heal, my open heart surgery was good to go in a couple of weeks. He replied that the gums were not the issue, it was building up the bone in the jaw, for the possible implants later.

“Oh, okay. So the bone in my jaw is better?”

“Yeah, the bone dust implants seem to have done the trick.”

Wait… implants? Bone dust? I don’t remember bone dust. I was pretty loopy from the gas, but I don’t remember being cut open to scrape my bones.

“Bone dust? Hmm. Where did that come from?”

The dentist was quiet but the dental assistant seemed to take pleasure in announcing…

“Cadavers, they have a bone cadaver bank!”

Now I was quiet, very quiet. Why hadn’t I thought this through? Now I have “corpse mouth”. I can’t even undo this.

I left the dentist, and now I’m home with the internet. I have spent hours researching. Over and over the same two words seem to come up. “Cellular memory”, something that maybe even has DNA connections. Transplanted material that somehow has a subtle effect on the host body.

Great, it’s hopeless. I’ve lost my “comfort food”, and I have no chance to find the donor corpse in order to find the new “comfort food”.

I’ve hated Lima beans since I was little, maybe now I like them? Maybe I hate Fava beans. Ha! Hannibal Lecter loved Fava beans as a side dish. Wait…

Suddenly, I noticed just now, as I wrote the name Hannibal, my mouth started to salivate. Oh oh….

“Comfort food?”

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On Veterans Day

There is no point in me re-writing what has already been done so well. I give full credit to Julia Gusse and repost this excellent article.

By Julia R. Gusse

Every individual who has ever served in the U.S. military has taken an oath to support and “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… So help me God.”

But with this oath, there was no expiration date.  And many veterans take this oath as seriously as the day they enlisted (10, 20, 40, 50 or 75 years ago).  I have met veterans throughout the country that are still committed and “serving.”

A few years ago I attended a Veterans Day event. Along with being thanked for my service, a fellow veteran handed me a little wallet-
size card with the “Veterans Creed” which reads as follows:

I am a United States military veteran.
I mastered the weapons, tools, and techniques of war and security and I make no apology for the proficiency.
I became a leader by my willingness to both serve and subordinate myself to my superiors’, the mission and the needs of my team.
Foremost among first responders, I earned the ribbons of a volunteer, endeavor, defender, warrior, rescuer, problem-solver, and model citizen.
I am the visible conscience of a nation with regard to the costs of war and freedom’s true price.
I do not fail to support another vet who crosses my path with any need, large or small; he or she may have wounds or hardships that few others would understand.
I am part of the eternal flame of memory, of my brother and sister veterans who died in service to our country.
Honor, courage, and commitment define me to this day. I maintain my readiness, health, and fitness in order to serve again, should my community or nation call.
In all of the remaining moments of my life, I will be steadfast guardian of American ideals, freedoms, and history.
I am a one-percenter of the noblest order. I am… an American veteran.

I have kept this creed as a reminder of why I and so many others, veteran and non-veterans, do what we do.  There are many veterans who have committed themselves to helping our brothers and sisters in uniform and follow the creed but you do not have to be a veteran to help a veteran.

As Americans, on Memorial Day we remember those who have died in the service of our country and during Veterans Day we are to honor those who have served.  As our living veteran population grows, please make a commitment to assist and honor our veterans not only on Nov. 11 but every day of the year.

The “one-percenters” cannot do it alone and the commitment to honor and assist our veterans should be a commitment of all Americans.

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A Study in 1992

There were 47 transplant patients in a study published in 1992. There had been many unspecific reports of a condition called “cell-memory transference”. The concept that personal memories exist in cell tissue outside the normal brain tissue where memories are thought to reside.

The good news is that a whopping 79% of the studied patients felt absolutely nothing different after the transplant. They went on with their lives with the only difference that they had healthy tissues. Now, 79% of 47 patients does not make a resounding scientific fact, and 21% that feel something is different should call for a larger study. In fact, 6% of the 47 (for you math folks that’s 2.82 people) had significant feelings of change with the new transplant.

One patient was an emergency room doctor who had contracted hepatitis through his work, and required a liver transplant. He became more emotional, loved avocados, and enjoyed barbecue. None of these things were obvious before the surgery. Later he found that he had the liver of a young women who loved BBQ and avocados, and cried at emotional movies.

Okay, this seems suspicious. Obviously there are more books and movies that have explored this concept. Transplanted hands that want to strangle victims, transplanted corneas that see “evil” in people, transplanted hearts that are still in love with the people that they knew. Clearly, we can fabricate stories to fit any scenario.

But even a small Sam-lying of 47 with 6% having a big reaction should generate more studies.

So, at a breakfast with friends, three of the four have cadaver bone dust in there jaws. One one asked where the bone came from, but later found out. One body but me is concerned. Was he, or she a vegetarian? Did they hate Lima beans? Fave beans? Or maybe they loved Fava beans and human flesh.

I am hoping that my “comfort food” remains the same.

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It’s All Over

Okay, maybe it’s not. Who knows, the devil is in the details. The interesting thing is the silence of friends and family. Some are sad, but don’t want to say anything in case I’m celebrating. Some are happy, but don’t want to seem so in case I’m in despair.

I suppose it is mostly a case of “do no harm”. At least in the political sense. In some ways it is my own fault in that I have been unclear where I stand politically. I have long decided that individuals do not deserve my vote. I would love for that to happen, but heroes are hard to find. It’s much better to vote for platforms. If a platform wins then good, work with it. If a platform loses, then good, work with it. For all my thoughts of survival, I’m very optimistic.

There are basically four quadrants, 1) Good candidate personally (nobody is perfect) 2) Good platform (many promises kept) 3) Bad candidate personally (its an embarrassment) 4) Bad platform (Unworkable ideas that fail). In American politics we often get a mixture. Ideally the bad candidate and bad platform never get elected. In the best of times we get the good candidate and the good platform. Unfortunately these things are subjective, but over time, the truth is found out, and the rascals are voted out. That’s why I celebrate every election, because democracy wins.

I firmly believe we get the leadership we deserve!

And I hopefully will survive, unless someone puts me on the train.

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Brigida Haraldsdotter Gille

Riseberga Abbey, Sweden

Interesting person, my 23rd great grandmother. She was born in Hordaland, Norway. We think her mother was Tora Guttormsdatter Sudreim, but this is debated. Her father was Harald IV Magnusson Gille, king of Norway. Unfortunately she was also illegitimate as Tora was her father’s long term lover.

Her first marriage was to the Swedish earl Karl Sunesson, by which she had two boys, Algot and Knut Karlsson. Sometime after 1145 Karl was losing his influence, so she married Magnus Henriksson, who was an up and coming politician. It is thought that Magnus had arranged for King Swerker of Sweden to be assassinated. Naturally, Magnus became King Magnus II of Sweden, with Brigida as his queen. The Swerkers were still miffed with Magnus, so he only reigned for one year, and was killed in a battle for the crown. The Swerkers won.

Brigida didn’t miss a beat, and looked for a third husband. She found Earl Birger Bengtsson Brosa Skänkare of Sweden, and had seven children with him, four boys and three daughters. Unfortunately, three of her sons died in three different battles, so Brigida was in grief for a considerable time.

Brigida was a survivor, born in not the best of times, but she managed to have a family, and died somewhere between 70 and a 100 years old. She is buried at the Riseberga Abbey in Sweden. Thank you great grandmother.

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Richomer

He was a Frank in service to the Emperor Gracian, also known as Flavius Richomeres, born 350, died 393. For a time he was Consul of Rome, he was also my 48th great grandfather.

How does this barbarian Frank become a Roman Consul? Well, first off, he was the son of a Frankish general named Teutomer, 310-363. Teutomer, was the Duke of Dacia Ripensis, the area in the northern Balkan peninsula, immediately south of the Middle Danube, roughly in Bulgaria. It was home to the 13th Twin Legion, also known as Legio XIII Gemina, a legion of the Imperial Roman army.

It was one of Julius Caesar‘s key units in Gaul and in the civil war, it was the legion with which he famously crossed the Rubicon on January 10, 49 BC. Emperor Julian made Teutomer the commander. Rome had felt it best to hire a barbarian to control the barbarians.

Teutomer’s son, Richomer, was trained as a Roman soldier, and eventually became head of the Imperial Bodyguards (Comes Domesticorum) of Emperor Gracien.

In 378, Emperor Gratien sends him East at the head of an army to help Co-empereur Valens fight the Goths, but the Romans are defeated at the Battle of Andrinople on 9 August 378. While Valens is killed in the battle, Richomer survived the rout and remained in the East, where he was second to Theodosius I, the new Caesar of the East. Again at the head of a Frankish and Roman army, he is ordered to march against his nephew Arbogast (possibly the son of Bauto) to quell his rebellion. Theodosius names him Master of the Militia for the East in 383, and then Consul of Rome in 384.

In 388, Theodosius sent him to the West to fight the usurper Magnus Maximus, and he defeats him at the Battle of the Save River, and forces his surrender at Aquilea, after which he executes him. After the assassination of one of the co-Emperors Valentinien II (15 May 392), Arbogast places Eugenius on the throne and Theodosius sends Richomer to fight them, but he dies shortly after his departure, leaving it to Stilichko, the Vandal general, to defeat Eugenius and Arbogast at the Battle of Frigidus on 6 September 394.

Richomer’s son was the future king of the Franks, Theodemir. He supported the usurper Emperor Jovinus (411-413) in the Roman civil war with Emporor Honorius. Jovinus was executed and his head eventually was displayed on the walls of Ravenna, and later Carthage, along with four other usurpers to the throne of Rome. In retaliation Honorius also sends a legion to capture Theodemir and his mother Ascyla, then had them executed. This pretty much guaranteed that the Franks would no longer fight for the Romans.

Theodemir’ s son Chlodégar, king of the Salian Francs at Cologne, and his brother Clovis, actively attacked the Romans, and is said to be the ancestors of the Merovingian Kings of France.

In just a few short years my 48th great grandfather, Richomer, who was a Roman Consul, produced a grandson who became King of France, my 46th great grandfather, Chlodégar.

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The Intersection

I’ve been pondering the complexities of “knowing” and “believing”. It’s oblivious to me that this is not a new concept, but sometimes it takes some research to find the shoulders of greater minds.

The closest I found was Thomas Aquinas, who spent his life studying Aristotle and blending philosophy with Christianity. He believed that faith and reason would lead to reality. Along with Albertus Magnus a rational view of the world came into view. Most people are familiar with Aristotle, even if they only know that his was employed as Alexander the Great’s tutor. Nice to know that the conqueror of the known world was led by the greatest thinker. Also, many people, particular those in religious circles, are aware of Thomas Aquinas, even though they might not be able to quote anything.

Hardly any people are aware of the importance of Albertus Magnus, apart from a few people majoring in philosophy/theology, (or attended the college in Connecticut).

Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great, was a Dominican friar and bishop, who later became a saint. He lived 1200-1280 in and around Cologne, Germany. He was educated at the University of Padua in Italy, the second oldest college in Italy. Padua has just been founded by former students of the University at Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. Later, he was able to teach at the University of Paris, the second oldest university in Europe. It is safe to say that that Albert was very familiar with academia in the Middle Ages.

His expertise was generally Aristotle, and one of his best students was Thomas Aquinas. It is obvious that Albert had a great influence on the mind of Thomas Aquinas. Albert was the first academic to comment upon nearly all of Aristotle’s known writings. In addition, it was due to Arabic scholars that much of Aristotle was saved from destruction. Albert also wrote about the Arabic scholars Avicenna and Averroe, leading Albert to be at the center of academic debate.

According to Wikipedia, his writings included topics on logic, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, alchemy, zoology, physiology, phrenology, justice, law, friendship, and love. Obviously a curious and well rounded man. He outlived his famous student Thomas Aquinas.

While Albert was born very near to the death of Hildegard von Bingen, it would seem that he continued in most of the areas that Hildegard studied. He must have been aware of her work, and was obviously inspired by her depth.

Though he was a bishop and later a saint, his writing was mostly in philosophy and should be remembered as the greatest scholar of Aristotle.

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What I Know, What I believe

I know about physical mortality, I believe in spiritual immortality.

I know about free will, I believe in destiny.

I know about evil, I believe in the ultimate conquest of good.

I know about love, I believe it is attainable by everyone.

I know about science, I believe it is a gift from G-d.

I know about G-d, I believe in the existence of demons.

I know about the concept of evolving, I believe in evolution.

I know about a few concepts of time, I believe that time is truly unknowable.

I know I am sinful, I believe I am redeemed.

I know about the concept of purpose, I believe purpose is known over time.

I know about creation, I believe we can be makers.

(Starting a list of what you know, and what you believe, can be helpful.)

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I Believe

What a powerful statement! A verifying statement that determines the very existence of a thing or a thought. If you believe, it is there, if you don’t believe it isn’t there. At least that is one concept that is out there.

For example, there are two people arguing, one person makes a statement of fact, the other person hears that statement, processes the discrete pieces of information, and declares that he doesn’t believe. Now we have two people with two radically different ideas of reality. Theoretically there is only one reality, the question before us is whether realty is based upon an agreement with humans, in other words, that reality is based upon someone “believing”.

In many cases, this might be appear to be true. Humans can create potential realities that are described using language. The world is flat and the oceans fall off at the edge, descending into the Great Void. If one person hears this, and believes, then, it becomes a fact for him, and he will not sail too far lest he fall off the edge. If a person does not believe, he will sail, and no edge will appear.

Reality can appear to be created by “not believing”. Conversely, we can believe that gravity does exist by watching an apple fall from a tree. Because we believe it is real. Clearly stated this way, it is obvious that reality is independent of any humans “belief”. So where can we accurately use the word “believe”? I believe it is proper until we know! Just believing does not make it reality, but it is a preliminary stage to “knowing”.

A safe concept is to carefully observe reality, then declare that you believe that is exists. You are simply agreeing that you are observing correctly, and you can use that information in understanding more complicated realities. Knowledge is built upon correct observations. We don’t create the realities, we simply observe the facts.

Unfortunately the very word “believe” has the implication that “existence” is dependent upon a personal decision. This is the great dilemma in determining realty.

The silliest statement I can think of is “I believe in gravity” or “I believe in Light”. Yet we have an opinion whether we believe in evolution or “The Big Bang Theory”. In truth, both of these concepts are in the process of knowing. Some people are already there, they know! Some people are in the process so technically they “believe”. Some people do not believe, so they are comfortable in the denying of the existence. Reality is still reality, but are we in agreement?

The only way this is acceptable is by using the term “believe” until we know it is fact. We can’t allow a “belief” to remain as a static state. With careful observation, and repeated evidence, a belief transcends into a fact, and hopefully that expresses reality.

Does “false information” exist? Technically, if it is false, it does not exist, but only if we are correctly observing. Incorrect observation creates “false information”. And I believe (haha!) there exists a multitude of false information.

One last piece of information about “believe”, and that is being meaningful. Reality can often be perceived by humans as devoid of meaning. Believing is very often passionate, giving it great meaning. The solution to this is to be in awe of reality. Give great meaning, passionate meaning to the truth of realty. Unfortunately too many people develop so much passion in “believing” that they cannot accept the next step into “knowing” if it goes against a preconception.

We are complicated and ego-centric. Too many of us believe that we creat realities. There was only one moment of creation for everything. I know this!

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Worst Day in History

Norwegian Seed Vault

Time does exist, it may also be theoretical, but the reality of linear time is apparent to all. While “value” may be highly subjective, there has been some attempt to define the “worst day in history”. This could be seen as the birth of an evil dictator, a catastrophic meteor, the first use of atomic weapons, the election (or loss) of a presidency, or biting the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

In general, it is more than the event itself, but the linear consequences that follow the event, so pinning the “worst day” is very difficult. What part of the linear process is the crucial “point of no return?”

There are a couple of YouTube videos that suggest that 536 AD is the worst year to be alive in our history. More specifically, the early part of 536, due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland, North America, or El Salvador. We don’t know which or how many. In either case, it was the consequences that brutalized the world.

The amount of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere created a “nuclear winter” for the summer of 536 AD around the globe. Creating famine and hardship for plants, animals and humans. Medieval scholar Michael McCormick, in 2018 nominated 536 AD as the beginning of massive changes around the world, including a mysterious “fog”.

There were Visigoths in Spain from 600-800 AD. They weren’t indigenous, they came from Romania, because they were being pressured by Huns coming from the East. The Huns left the East because of famine in the Tundra. It was a cascading effect of the volcanic “fog” that created Hungary. And yes, certainly Attila had something to do with the success of the Huns, but leaders rise due to challenges, or their people perish.

This is just one example, more and more historians are attributing the climate change starting in 536 to the end of cultures in various parts of the planet.

So today we have bunkers to survive the initial nuclear blast, but can we survive two or three years of ash in the sky, blocking out the rays of the sun? How do we regain our plant life? What happens to our seed crop? Every farmer knows to put aside seed to plant new crops. A bad harvest may require dipping into the seed crop to provide food. Two or three bad harvests will eliminate the seed crop and the “shortage” of food will become permanent.

Never fear, there is a secure bunker in Norway. In 2008, the Norwegians finished construction of the Arctic Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It has been filled with seeds of every kind of plant. It is super secret, no visitors, and it will be the place to go in order to replenish the seed crop for the worlds farmers.

I hope they have enough.

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COVID Events

This could have happened in any case. But perhaps some AI has figured out that I would be interested. The older one gets, often there is less outdoor activity. Less activity outside often increases activity inside. With technology, increased indoor activity often means YouTube videos.

This is a long introduction to the last YouTube video that popped up in my social media feed. The title of “What if We Built the Deepest Bunker” definitely stopped my scrolling to other potential videos. This was something that I actually knew about! I watched with interest.

I wondering about the potential percentage of knowledgable people in the US about bunkers, and I’m guessing it is pretty small. I believe the standard US veteran percentage is about 1% that has served in the military. I’m guessing that the percentage of US military that has served in underground bunkers of any kind, is way less than 1% of the military. The number of veterans that served in hardened, substantial, bunkers is way less than that.

I spent nearly two years of my life serving in what was considered the underground Pentagon, in the Blue Ridge mountains of Pennsylvania. In the 1970s it was super secret. Later on, in the 1990s I believe it was deactivated, and even offered tours to the public. Local residents, who had known about the bunker had lined up first for the tours. Then 9-11 occurred, and it was activated once more, but in a reduced role. It was no longer super secret, but it was a super example of the Cold War, a Dr. Strangelove facility.

It can be found on the internet by researching Raven Rock, but doing so might place you on a “watch list”. Reading this blog might also place you on a watch list. I’m too old to worry much about it. Most of what I experienced has either been lost to time, or things have been changed. But I still remember being underground, safe from nuclear attack, and being at the center of a future wartime command center.

Three things come to mind. 1) There were offices for most of the important areas of the Pentagon, but they were 95% empty. Lots and lots of fully functional areas gathering dust. But since a lot of dust is shed skin cells, with no people, not much dust. 2) Most of the higher ups of the government/military had living quarters allocated. Not everyone could make it underground, but higher management had room for their families. 3) As a member of low ranking staff, there were no facilities for my family. In the multiple test alerts, where I had to be at my post with fifteen minutes of an alert, I knew that I would be safe, while my family was being vaporized outside the bunker. This was a burden throughout my time at this post.

The practical things of living underground? There were only a few exercises where we were required to stay multiple days underground. Usually we worked ten hour days, six days on, and two days off. The weekends were occasionally mid-week. Lots of down-time on the swing and grave shift hours when the higher ranking staff were not around. Hours and hours of walking empty halls, servicing empty offices.

The lasting memories is of multi-storied buildings, built in caves dug out of solid rock, lots and lots of bats, intense security, blast doors as large as a two lane road, a couple of lakes with fresh water, radiation showers with changing rooms with thousands of uniforms, pallets of food lining the interior access roads. Just a few of the memories.

The main thing I learned was that survival required lots of effort and planning. I grew more confident that leaders have put the effort, time and money to guarantee that this country will survive. The question will always be, at what cost?

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Language is Compressed Evolution

Sometimes a person reads a book and the ideas are so foreign that it takes hours of re-reading a paragraph, and in the end you still are unsure of the intent or the direction. It is as unsettling as sand beneath your feet.

If the opposite occurs, if the words on the page are so familiar that you know exactly what the next sentence will be, or the next paragraph, or G-d forbid the next chapter, then you might as well stop reading. You have already written this book, and it is boring, and a waste of time.

The sweet spot of language/literature/communication is when you follow the linear progression, and the concept of the individual pieces of data are understood, but the gestalt of that data is a brand new thought, or a familiar thought that you haven’t yet expressed. This is the glorious power of transferred information, whether is is acting, story telling, literature, or artwork.

My latest example of this, is a book first published in 1998, written by Leonard Shlain, titled, “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess”. It had me absolutely hooked in the first twelve pages. What is important is that I am not saying that I agree with his premise. I am not even certain of the boundaries of his premise. But I am completely enthralled with the problem, and the willingness to study the issue.

As I understand the problem, Shlain points out that women lost equality in the social structure, due to the development of written communication. He brings in a number of concepts that show a linear path to this conclusion. It is definitely worth reading more to verify what he believes.

One concept that he brings out, is the evolutionary development of the “opposable thumb”. It’s an old, yet compelling, discussion. Familiar, but not boring. Then he writes about the evolutionary development of “the heel”. I had never heard anyone write about this! It would be in the literature, but it hasn’t been in general discussion.

Two developments, due to environmental changes, the connectivity of the tree canopy disappeared. This forced some tree-based mammals to descend to the ground, and begin to walk. The grasping nature of the hind limbs, evolved into having a simple, hard, heel. Instead of four hands, they had two hands and two feet. This heel gave the former tree dwellers the ability to stand upright, and walk, and even run.

When the amazing hands no longer were forced to engage in limb grasping for climbing, they developed fine motor skills that allowed for tool making. This created larger brains in the mammal, but that was problematic for birthing. The evolutionary response was to make the pelvis wider in women, which made her walk different. If the brain size continues to grow then the women’s walk would become a “waddle”, so the brain size remained stable but certain developed areas became added later, after getting through the birth canal.

Al this makes perfect sense, even if all the dots hadn’t been connected. Evolution is marvelous and works amazingly. But it takes hundreds of thousand years, even millions of years.

At some point, when communication became strong enough, information important to the survival of the species, could be passed in less than a generation. That which depended upon a million years of experience, could be applied in less that a week. Communication compresses evolution!

Can’t wait for Chapter Two! Thank you Clay for recommending this author.

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Diestler Homes

Poking around Google Earth, I started a search for old residences of Diestler’s, at least the addresses that I could remember. This led to a general search of my photo file and the results where interesting.

This is by far the oldest Diestler home. A farmhouse that was in Prussia, now in Poland. Destroyed in WWII, it had “Diestler“ carved above the door, Built approximately late 1780s. Combination barn and home.

I tried to find where my father was born, but the 18 room farmhouse was moved from the acreage and I don’t know what direction. It was near Fingal, ND.

In the same way, all the known addresses of his home in Fargo have been torn down or flooded away. The Red River was not very controlled.

This is the “stoop” of the wartime housing. Our apartment is the door on the left.

In 1953 the family final bought their first house for $12,500, unfortunately it was haunted.

This photo was from 1958? The photo above that from Google Earth. Don’t know if it’s still haunted.

The family then moved to a duplex, with my brother living in the front apartment.

My parents then retired and moved in a cottage behind my brother’s house in Tacoma, WA

My first apartment after moving out was a small two bedroom upstairs corner unit.

Just before being drafted, I shared a home with Obert.

My first apartment after the military was in Point Richmond, a very small, very narrow studio.

Behind The Hotel Mac
First floor two bedroom behind the tree

A nice but windy rental…

The first purchased home
Extremely hot in the summer…

And that ends the previous home record…

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Some doors are one way…

If only we knew for certain that all choices can be undone without penalty. I can help with that statement, that all choices come with a penalty. The problem is the size of the penalty. For example, you are walking down a path, and you reach a fork in the road. You ponder which fork to take. From your vantage point you are aware that you have little information on which path will lead you in the right direction.

You observe the classic piece of data that one path is lightly used, the other path shows more wear. Briefly, you consider the old poem of choosing the lesser worn path. But this poem is not life, that was just literature. But then you measure the cost. You can easily retrace your steps should the path be not to your liking, so you enter the path least taken.

All is well until you look backward and you have lost sight of the fork in the road. You continue onward because you can still turn around. Many more paths converge from either side. This makes it harder to go backwards, but you can see the right path to take should you turn around, by following your footsteps. The tracking class you took really helps in this regard.

Eventually the path leads to a steep, long decline. The impact is that if you decide to turn backwards then it will take much more energy, and time, to get back to the fork in the road. The penalty of your choice is increasing. On top of everything else, it is beginning to rain, and the rain will erase all traces of your footsteps. Continuing now is a commitment to walking through the door, with no turning back.

This was not the thought when You first chose the lesser path. This is the important maxim to remember when facing a choice. You may try something without a full commitment, just to see if it is worthy, but if it begins to only make promises, and the path turns into a one-way choice, then back up!

I will hold to my maxim by following my choice. By choosing the road most followed, or by choosing the road least followed. What I will not do is let the road chose for me.

This is especially true in the coming elections. Some choices are one-way.

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A Solemn Day

Today is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement that comes after the ten Days of Awe, starting with Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year. Obviously if you are Jewish you would already know this. For the first thirty years of my life I was only vaguely of the terms, and mostly ignorant of the true meanings.

For the last forty years of my life I have learned and applied much of what I have learned. That doesn’t make me Jewish, but I believe it brings me closer to G-d, with a better relationship.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the concept of reverence, and how that it is expressed in the world. We can see examples of reverence by people bowing, or by people not turning their backs to the object of reverence. It is important to note that if you see an example of reverence, it doesn’t not mean that you are being reverent. Reverence is a personal choice that manifests itself in an action. Witnessing the action doesn’t somehow transfer reverence to you.

In fact, simply coping the act of others being reverent doesn’t not mean that you are actually reverent. It must be your choice, your action.

The discussion then centered on G-D’s name. In scripture it is written that G-d shared his name as “I AM”, and in Hebrew this was written using four consonants, “YHWH”. It is also described as the Tetragrammaton. How this word is pronounced has filled volumes of books. From early on it became a tradition to never say the name, out of reverence. The name was written, but if someone would read aloud, that reader would replace the name with Adonai, LORD, or HaShem (the name). This was an act of personal reverence.

When Scripture was translated into Latin, the Y was changed to the letter “I” or later, “J”. This is why we see the Hebrew word “Yeshua” written first in Greek as “Iesous” and then in Latin as “Iesus”, and finally in English as Jesus. Even though the “I” was pronounced with a “J” sound, so it still sounded like Jesus.

As far as the Tetragrammaton, this was not quite as simple. Without the necessary vowel sounds, the word could sound vastly different. There is much evidence that the word YHWH was pronounced “Yahweh”, an in some translations this is how it is rendered. It is still not pronounced aloud, but often replaced with Adoni, by the speaker. Again, this was a personal act of reverence by the speaker.

Later translations used the “J” instead of “Y”, and choose slightly different vowel sounds, so “Yahweh” became “JoHoVaH”, or Jehovah. And for some reason this was okay to vocalize, but hopeful said with reverence.

At some point the Hebrew scribes decide that “YHWH” sound not be written, o out of reverence it was replaced with the words that were used vocally when the scrolls were read. YHWH became Adonai, or LORD, or even many of the other names that were used in the oral tradition. This was done out of reverence, but logically it was only the reverence of the scribe. This replacement took the action of reverence out of my hands. I could still have a general feeling of reverence, but it is much less personal.

In the same way, I can write God, and the capital “G” implies the name with accompanying reverence. But when I type “G-d” that gives the same message, but adds the active act of reverence by the author. The reader of “G-d” is not expressing the act of reverence by simply reading “G-d”.

As you can see, this discussion with my friend covered some fine nuances. But it did help me to focus my acts of reverence as an active choice. That I can “coast” on the acts of reverence of others. That I can become more knowledgeable of Scripture, but I must also make it an action of faith.

Glad to finally be in a new year.

Shalom!

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What Films Can Do!

All this sequestering has upped my cinematic experiences. I have a tendency to select action films. Action plus historical fact is a guaranteed winner for me. As far as genres, it is only a very narrow slice of what is possible, and I recently took the time to ponder that fact. What is possible in films?

The first thing that comes to mind is Warhol’s film of the Empire State Building. I haven’t seen it, and I’m told that individuals who have seen it, wear a badge of honor. It reflects their hipness to sit through eight hours and five minutes of a silent, black & white shot of the Empire State Building, from 5:00 pm until 3:00 am. Okay, the badge doesn’t really exist, but the mindset is real.

It is a movie with time as the focus. Years later Boyhood was filmed, taking twelve years to film, the same cast ages without makeup. Again, in simple terms it was a film about time, with people passing through instead of a building.

For most of history of cinema, the content of films mimics literature, the media it basically replaced. There is a storyline, filled with characters, locations, and some dialogue. The linear development stretches all the back to stories around the campfire. It is well known, scripted, choreographed, and performed from generation to generation in some dimly lit cavern.

Then it is written down, and read aloud. Then literacy increases, and more words are added, the story is embellished because it can be. Eventually it goes back to theater, and sets are created, standards are met, music is added. In the final expression it is recorded in film. And for the most part it is almost like the story, almost like the book, almost like the play. And yet film can be so much more.

In the same way, I often realize that websites are almost like books or magazines, click and the page turns. I suppose that makes it familiar and comfortable, but the internet can be so much more.

So, what examples do we have of movies stretching the limits of what is possible? At first thought one might say the use of special effects. This is naturally tied to the development of technology. Hanging small models of flying saucers from fishing poles might pass in the early 1950s, but today it is comical, and it really doesn’t change the story, it just makes it more believable. Except for the noisy explosion of rockets in deep space. It’s flashy in space, but it’s actually deadly silent. At some point filmmakers tested audiences, and noisy lasers built the necessary drama.

I suppose that the examples of avant garde genre is the current standard of “pushing the envelope”. I’m thinking of “My Dinner with Andre”, or the 2001 film version of “Waiting for Godot”. Hmm, the play was better.

Some of my favorite movies in this genre are:

1. Un Chien Andalou, 1929, with Salvatore Dali and Luis Brunel, famous for the razored eyeball scene

2. Anemic Cinema, 1926 by Marcel DuChamp

3. Destino, 1946 by Salvatore Dali and Walt Disney

4. Spellbound, 1945 by Alfred Hitchcock

5. El Topo 1970, & The Holy Mountain 1973, by Alejandro Jadorowsky (very weird)

6. Eraserhead 1977, by David Lynch

7. Koyaanisqatsi 1984, by Godfrey Reggio

8. Being John Malkovich, 1999, by Spike Jonze

9. A Field in England 2013 by Ben Wheatley

10. You, the Living 2007 by Roy Andersson

And several more that slip my name memory. And today I’m adding…

11. I’m Thinking of Ending Things 2020, by Charlie Kaufman

Truly, very few directors push the boundaries of what films can do.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
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Who are you voting for?

There are few direct questions that gives me more grief. Immediately my brain goes to “Why?” And my mental answer is always the same. It goes through the filter, “Is this person so confused that they are seeking clarity from me?” Hmm, the tone of the question isn’t right. That isn’t it. “Is this person trying to engage me in a political discussion in order to convince me to vote for their candidate?” Hmm, have I signaled that I’m confused and need education. Nope!

Okay, maybe this person is just looking for minds that think alike. Possible, so I might respond. “I believe completely in the principle of the secret ballot in order to preserve our rights!” A better question is to ask what principles I support.”

At that point they generally walk away.

I elect representatives, in order to make the decisions that I would make if I was in attendance. The representatives have made statements to me about platforms that I have strong opinions about. I don’t elect personalities. It’s not about the individual. I re-elect a representative based upon the “actions”, or the ability to govern. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they represented me, but lost. Generally, so long as they haven’t given up, I give them another chance. It is still based upon the platform.

No one has asked the more accurate question. Not “Who did you vote for?”, but “What did you vote for?”

My response is still, “It’s a secret.”

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I am old enough

I am old enough to remember the Free Speech Movement, not from the newscasts of NBC, CBS, and ABC (the only main sources), I know it because I caught a bus and walked up University Avenue. I didn’t have a driver’s license.

Over the next few years I went from a back row observer in demonstrations, to an active, front line member. I placed my body on the train tracks, I surrounded buses filled with drafted young men, pleading for them to get off the bus. They were heading to be cannon fodder in Vietnam Nam.

I was tear gassed dozens of times,I was trapped in the entryway of a store, then pressed by bodies who were being beaten by baton wielding police. Eventually I was pushed through a plate glass window. I was there during People’s Park riots.

I was a monitor on the San Francisco Peace March, I rode backwards on a scooter, shouting through a megaphone, “Keep to the curb!” I know about peaceful demonstrations, I know about violent demonstrations where lives were lost.

These were the formative years of my life.

The Vietnam War was still on, I was finally drafted. I was in the bus this time. Some of my acquaintances were outside the bus in Oakland, pleading for us to get out of the bus, “Do not let yourself to be cannon fodder!”, they shouted.

I was flown up to Ft.Lewis, Washington for basic training. I lasted two weeks before I got an honorable discharge. Then I enlisted for three years in the regular army. This counted as a re-enlistment, so I got additional “professional” pay.

I spent almost 15 months in training. I had secret, top secret, and top secret crypto clearances. I was stationed for a year in the underground Pentagon in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was also stationed on the DMZ in South Korea. This was during a mini shooting war. I heard bullets come my way, I sent bullets their way. One early morning, around 3am, I got a classified message that the Vietnam War was over. The peace accord was signed in Paris. Six months later I left the army.

Both events were shaping in very positive ways. Both events left their scars.

I used to know stuff, the older I get, the less I know. Some things still seem to ring true. There are honorable people in the world, and they are diverse. There are misled people in the world, and they are equally diverse. They are evil people in the world, not in huge numbers, but at times they have great influence. This is the way of the world.

Another truth, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

To the extent that it is possible, I choose to be under a corrupt system that still gives me the freedom to protest. In this way I can still influence change. The Vietnam War ended!

And I gave my oath to defend that system against those who would attack by violence. That oath is still active.

I am not conflicted.

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Nuremberg Chronicle Map

Mentioned in a birthday gift from a good friend. Thank you Peter.

Also known as The Liber Chronicarum, of Hartmann Schedel, printed in Nuremberg by Anton Koberger in 1493. A complete history of the world from creation to the publication date. Famous as one of the most illustrated of all German books (printed before Gutenberg). Interesting, because many of the illustrated cities were adapted the same woodcut. Nuremberg was the largest city in the Holy Roman Empire, and the only city that had a two page illustrated spread in the book. The book also had a detailed map that illustrated “a parliament of monsters”, a collection of creatures believed to inhabit distant lands of the known world.

The book had well over a thousand woodcuts that were produced by the Michael Wolgemut Workshop of artists, which included Albrecht Durer. None of the artists signed their name, but Durer is suspected of helping to create many of the woodcuts. Albrecht Durer lived on the same street as Anton Koberger, the printer of the book, who was also Durer’s godfather.

The Sciapodes (Shadow Feet)

They were each owners of one very large foot and leg, while also being very nimble. In the summertime, while lying on their backs, they protected themselves against the sun by the shade of their single foot.

Six Handed Man

Said to have lived in India. Mentioned in the Histories of Alexander the Great, with some stories that were later deemed written by an author named Pseudo-Calliisthenes.

The Cynocephali

Dog-headed men of the mountains, possibly Ethiopia, perhaps based upon baboons. Solinus writes of the dog-headed Semeans who were ruled by a canine king. They communicated by barking, and used their claws skillfully to hunt birds. according to the Greek historian Ctesias, they numbered 120,000.

Alexander’s Bearded Women

A species of women with beards extending to their breasts, but whose heads are bald. Again this was part of the legends of Alexander’s travels. ‘

“Shun a woman with a beard as you would a pestilence.” -Pliny

The Blemmyes

In Lybia, there lived creatures “born headless and have mouths, and eyes”, writes Schedel. The Blemmyes were a real nomadic Nubian tribal kingdom described by Strabo as a peaceful race.in 700 bc. Later, they became factionalized as headless cannibals. Shakespeare mentions them in Othello.

The Panotii

In Sicily lived people whose ears were so large that they cover their whole body. The ears reach to their feet and they use them as blankets to keep warm. When frightened, they use them to fly away.

(Adapted from “The Phantom Atlas”, by Edward Brooke Hitching, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2018)

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The Ignorance of My Youth

This could be a very long blog post. I will limit it to a very short subject.

There was a time, when I was first introduced to Medieval Art, probably in high school. I was impressed by most, and some seemed almost stencil-like. As if there was a formula of neck length, head shape, and lip formation. A lot of the portraits looked like they were all family members. And most of the royals did intermarry. Very few actually painted the truth. And when they did, I remembered them.

Federico Montefeltro was one that I remember. Not his name, nor the name of the artist, I remember how odd he looked in that hat. And when I saw his wife, I just had to laugh. Two very homely people had found each other.

Battista Sforza and Federico Montefeltro

Time passed, I was now teaching art appreciation at the college level. I still made sure to present the two images, but this time I mentioned the artists name, Piero della Francesca, 1415-1492. The students looked at the images that were in the textbook, but there was no back story about the people, just their names. Wanting to be better informed, since I was making fun of their image, I finally did some research.

Federico was Duke of Urbino from 1474-1482 (Lord of Urbino from 1444). Urbino was a small duchy that was given to the Papal States by Pepin the Short, Charlemagne’s father. By the 1200s it had become connected to the House of Montefeltro, becoming famous under Federico’s reign. Later, it was also ruled by Caesar Borgia, and even the Medici’s. In general, Urbino fell into the camp that favored the Holy Roman Emperor over the Pope, after the Montefeltros left, it swung over to the Papacy.

During Federicos reign his court was the model of what a court should be. It attracted the thinkers, the artists, and the writers of the time. The only product that Urbino exported was their military. When Federico committed his troops to a side, the opponent sued for peace. For years Urbino never lost, so in the end, they no longer had to fight. Several times the opponents had tried to offer more money for Federico to switch sides. He never did, and his reputation increased. Eventually, the sons and daughters of European royalty came to study at his court.

I came to respect Federico, even if he looked a little odd. Then, I learned that he had lost his right eye in a jousting match. He not only lost his eye, but much of the right side of his face. When Francesca painted his portrait, that was the reason for the stark profile.

I felt a little ashamed of my ignorance.

Then I read about the bridge of Federico’s nose. I had made fun of that as well. It seems that he had a typical Classic Roman nose, even after his jousting accident. But with only one eye, during battle he had difficulty responding quickly to attacks coming from the right. Federico had his surgeons remove the bone and flesh bridge, so that his left eye could see better to the right.

I felt even more shame.

The likelihood is that there are hundreds, or thousands, of half-truths about individuals in the present, or in the past, that falsely justifies our “judgement”. I know this now, because I’m old.

(The hat is still a trip.)

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William I

My 25th great grandfather is William the Bastard, or William the Conqueror, as he was known later. That month of October in 1066, I had four great grandfathers fighting for the right to be king of England. Three that were ancestors from my mother’s side, and one from my father’s side. Dad’s side won.

I have always been attracted to “turning points” or “history hinges”. Sometimes the world is changed by one individual. Certainly everyone makes a difference, but in some cases it is radically modified, and cascades throughout the following years.

England was always a target for invasion. It has been referred to as the “anglo-saxon” nation, but that was only after the two different Germanic tribes, the Angles, and the Saxons, took to their boats and invaded the lands.

The land already had Britons, Picts, Celts, and Romans with developed roads, villages and towns. The Anglo-Saxons intermarried with most, and established various kingdoms that slowly became England. The Vikings also came to raid, and to settle. So, being invaded by the Normans under William was perfectly normal, but the change was dramatic.

William was a descendant of Rollo, a Viking who had raided the French coast of Normandy. He asked permission from the French king to settle the land if he agreed to defend against further Viking raids. In time, William Longsword, was made Duke of Normandy and the title was passed down to Robert I and even to William, although his legitimacy was an issue. Perhaps invading England was the motivation to remove “the Bastard” from his name.

William spoke French, not German or English. For centuries afterwards all the English kings spoke French, some never even learned English. The Normans immediately placed Norman lords over the lands that were conquered. They even sent for Norman royals back home in order to fill positions in the new country. Customs were changed forever. The world changed.

History will always have the debate of whether change is for the better. Harold Godwinsson was the last English king, but even he was the descendant of foreign invaders. Harold was also my 25th great grandfather. His kingship ended at Hastings in October of 1066, with an arrow in his throat.

William, the Conqueror
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The End

There was a beginning, there was most certainly a middle, it only makes sense that there is an end. I just never thought I would recognize it. I thought it would come like a thief in the night. That it would steal its way in, on padded silent feet, and I would taken in quiet surprise.

Or perhaps it would be in my half-sleep. The dreams where I go back to work, but everything is unfamiliar, brand new equipment is everywhere, but it’s all a sham, only for show. The cables are all disconnected, and mice have made nests in the corners of the desks.And I’m allowed a quick scan of the upper shelves, where I find the service cap of a first class uniform, with neatly drawn letters on masking tape fixed to the bill, identifying the owner. The owner is me! I have forgotten it all these years. And only now, at the conclusion of my thoughts, I have this old memory to process before everything fades. Only this time it’s not fading to consciousness, it’s fading to discharge. The circuits are shutting down, the electric synapses dim. It is the End.

But instead, there is this clear certainty, almost cold logic. No time to get ready, it is here, in sudden ferocity, with professionals stepping in to do their jobs, without direction from me. I am in the last moments, only along for the ride, fully alert but not in charge, not directing the next action. It’s now out of my hands.

It’s so surreal that I fail to communicate what is happening. When I close my eyes I still recognize what is happening all around me. I’m not sleeping, I’m not even resting. I’m registering events, moment to moment, proving my existence to myself, and then with almost a shout, it’s the beginning.

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Newsflash

I have some very stressing news. I just read a news article that I trust very much. It reports on trends based upon hard data, and it seems absolutely reliable. The hard data calculates (with a 98% accuracy) that within 100 years, over 7 billion people will die. That’s a seven with nine zeros behind it.

Fortunately, they don’t think it will happen all at once. Some are calculating that 170 thousand per year, but multiplied by 100 does not quite add up. By my calculation, 7 billion divided by 100 is 70 million per year on average. That’s a huge discrepancy, so I suspect some agency is trying to soften the data.

If the general public was made aware of the truth, I would think that some dramatic changes would be made. 7,000,000,000,000 is a staggering sum. 70,000,000 is also unimaginable, but the hard data suggests that almost 191,000 people will die every day for the next 100 years. Every day!

Of course this is an average, some days it might be less, but some days it could be as much as 400,000. World-wide, the brunt will be on Chins and India, but the US, Russia, and Europe are not far behind. It will be a world wide pandemic, affecting everyone.

The only thing that I can remotely think as similar is when God told Moses that 625,000 Hebrews will die before going to the Promised Land. That was 99.99 percent of the entire nation that left Egypt, everyone except Joshua and Caleb. Not even Moses was saved.

I’m not 100% sure that I will survive this event. I do plan to make things as right as I can. The data is pretty bleak for anyone reading this, so I suggest that you do the same.

(Math corrected from first post, haha)

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I Grew a Flower

The more I think about it, I have come to the original source of most of our woes on this planet. That’s a bold statement, so it should be “thoughtfully” thought about.

I was thinking about Robert Heinlien’s book “Stranger in a Strange Land”, it’s a classic book that shought be revisited now and again. It particular I was thinking about a character in the book that was called a “Fair Witness”. This was a person that was trained to assist in legal trails and the making of contracts. An example was how the “Fair Witness” would describe things. The lawyer would ask “What color is that house on the hill?”, the “Fair Witness” would respond, “The color I see reflected is based upon the daylight from our sun, but I only see that from the side facing me. I do not know what colors are being reflected on the backside of the house.”

Is takes thoughtful work to tell the truth, “I grew a flower!” Really? Or did you plant a seed, and then tend the flower that grew? Most people will say that it’s the same thing, we only like the first sentence because it’s simpler and shorter. I think it leads to sloppy, ego-centric thinking. Extend that same concept outwards and you have a real mess of half-truths, with your own ego in the middle of it all.

I long for “Fair Witness” training.

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Terror House Magazine

Terror House Magazine is published on-line by a division of Terror House Press, based in Sheridan, Wyoming and Tirana, Albania. A combination that is international and certainly unusual. The magazine was founded in 2018 in Budapest, Hungary by author and journalist Matt Forney, Terror House’s mission is to publish outsider literary fiction, literary nonfiction, and cultural criticism/analysis. It’s published mission statement is, “follow in the tradition established by trailblazers such as Fluland, Loompanics Unlimited, and Feral House, publishing works that are too edgy, unusual, or honest to be released elsewhere. We stand against both the stultifying Beigeism of major New York publishing houses and the hysterical cliquishness of the “alt-lit” community. Both groups seek to crush literature by promoting an endless stream of hack immigrant coming-of-age stories and sterilized Iowa Writers Workshop pieces from pampered white trust-funders. Terror House Magazine seeks to cultivate the Charles Bukowskis, Louis-Ferdinand Célines, and Philip K. Dicks of the 21st century: bold, audacious writers who depict human life in all its ugliness and comedy.”

Well…

I was encouraged to submit a story here, and since I have never done so, I decided a rejection from Terror House might be some sort of literary badge. Instead, I was published. So I immediately sent another. They published that one as well. I sent a third, thinking surely this was a mistake. They published that one. I think a fourth was also accepted, maybe a fifth.

They would like to expand and produce a typical paper product, but for now they are still collecting authors. They keep an author page, and it is quite interesting.

My poet/author friend Lucy encouraged me to investigate Terror House, and I’m thankful to the extreme.

http://www.terrorhousemag.com

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Trees Wearing Pants

You never know what you are going to find in a Google search. I once put that title in three different search engines, and I got nothing, zip, zero. Not even a literary reference. I suppose you are thinking that would be the expected result.

I was checking because it was something that I had nibbling in my brain since I was 15 or 16. That’s a lot of nibbling over time. I wanted to know if this nibble had repeated anywhere that could be found in the net. Nope, it appeared unique to me.

Well, I thought I would pop it in one more time, and this time an artist based in New York popped up. He had lovely photos of trees in pants. I was inspired to write the following letter.

Peter,

It was probably in 1966 in the SF Bay Area. My best friend and I had a habit of going to the local mall after hours to sing at the top of our voices, what is now called “classic rock”. Lots of Simon and Garfunkel, maybe even Jefferson Airplane. It sounded great, the music bouncing from one window display to another. It was an outdoor mall with a half dozen planter boxes, each with two fully grown trees to provide the shoppers with shade.

With no “mind altering” apart from rock and roll, I began to see these trees as fallen giants from the clouds. They plummeted head first into the soft ground, buried up to their waist. You could see the trunk, and then the crotch, and then the legs disappearing up to the leaves. Never saw a foot, but sometimes the tree took a bend, and it looked like a knee. My friend just nodded, but I know I failed to communicate what I saw.

Fast forward 35 years and I’m teaching photography at a community college. I have used this example in a lesson plan teaching the taking a picture of a concept is a far better way to describe your vision. Naturally, the students asked to see my “trees with pants”. Of course I didn’t’ have them.

So, I made it a priority. I asked for donations of Levi’s, big Levi’s because I wasn’t sure what type of tree I would find. Students gifted me with several pair. I already had a large roll of Velcro hook and tape. In less than a day I had my pants, now I just had to find my tree.

I decided to utilize a walking trail near my house, it was a paved trail, a disused railroad, with lots of mature trees on either side. My idea was to place the pants, and a title card, then a notebook for comments. I would leave it up for a few days then uninstall “the installation”.

Everything worked well, I even hung around as a bystander to engage in any conversation that occurred. That probably was not the best idea. Some people were offended. “If they wanted to see art they go to a museum”, “did they have permission?” ‘This was public property and that was like graffiti on a BART train. I quickly turned to drive the fifteen minutes to home.

I went through several hours of contemplation, then went back, and took the pants off the tree. The label was still there, but not the notebook.

It wasn’t important to show people who didn’t want to see, so I took a lot of pictures, of that tree and others. Then I stopped thinking about the giants that fell from the sky. If I had to describe it, I could show the photos.
The only item of note is that my college aged daughter brought a small potted tree that was mostly dead. She took a weekend, sewed a small pair of Levi’s and gave it to me for Christmas. I still treasure it. I think this was 2004.

So I write this to let you know that while we may not have exactly the same vision, you should know that you are not alone. I completely understand the ins and outs of trees in pants.

Making art whenever I can,

John
http://www.johndiestler.com

johndies1

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Writing Prompt- City in the Sky

Someone I know had the grace to encourage writing by constructing a small phrase that may have a cascade effect. A few words that opens a gate for a torrent of words. Of course I only know her by the words she has given, but I like what I’ve read. Her second prompt stopped me in my tracks. 2) City in the Sky. Wow!

It is a widely known theory that communication is largely based upon common understanding. Speaking the same language is 99% of the issue. Have the same context and meaning is farther down the list, “City in the Sky” has such wonderful classic contexts ranging from St. Augustine to the Wizard of Oz. And throw in interpretations of clouds and you have thousands of potential words.

But I didn’t go there. Instead I went, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

About 15 years ago I purchased a new digital camera. Better resolution, better walk-around lens, so I made a small trip to San Francisco to test it out. At some point I took this shot that had the intersection of three distinct architectural styles. I redrew it a bit in PhotoShop and it made a nice image that sold a few times.

But something about it caused me to start thinking. I was thinking about the negative space. I went back to the city a few weeks later. I made a bee-line for the financial district, and quickly took shots from the middle of intersections. At the very least I stopped in the crosswalk and took vertical shots of the streets between buildings.

That created a ten year project of a half dozen cities. San Francisco, Portland, Boston, Chicago, NYC, and Seattle.

The writing prompt has reminded me to continue with what I have started.

Three different buildings
Interest in the negative space
The buildings create an upside down sky building
Sky skyscrapers
Sky skyscraper

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The New Normal

I’ve been moving around on this sphere for over a half century, so that has given me some perspectives. Some things I have seen, and some things I am seeing again. That is as it should be. But there are some new things. The cycles are longer for some things. You have to do some research to dig back in the past to find when some things last made their presence known.

When was the last time we used the phrase, “the new normal”. I certainly don’t remember it from any historical texts. I’m thinking that, “keeping up with the Jones’ is not exactly the same thing. Or “have lemons? Make lemonade!”

Something tells me that “the new normal” comes out of counseling or recovery ministry. It does beg the question “what is normal”.

Theoretically there is no judgement there. Normal is equilibrium, action and thought that is unique to the individual, and not the result of outside influence. So, this “new normal” is not normal. I had a whole life planned based upon my past and the general sense of past history. The “new normal” has me masked and living in a bubble. A strong Darwinian sense is the only motivator. It’s possible it won’t be enough.

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I Think Gestalt


I think what I love about poetry,
Is the spaces it creates.

Not only the scenery,
With the wild descriptions,
And the subtext messages.

But also the gaps of the story,
Filled in by the reader.

It is a sort of joint project,
The poet providing a phrase of context,
And the reader remembering the unsaid words.

In the end, the poem is true gestalt, more than the
sum of its parts.

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Rod McKuen- Stanyan Street

www.youtube.com/watch

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After a Time

After a time, a very long time of muteness, a word was made. It was a very good word, or so it thought of itself. Perhaps it thought too highly, because the word left to go search for the best ear, in order for it to be heard. Not any ear, but the very best ear.

This brought up all sorts of judgement, categories, assessment, and labels. None of these things were natural, and certainly none of these things had anything to do with the word, except that the word felt it was justified.

The word travel the length and breadth of the land in search of an ear. It received many hints that the best ear lived just over the hill in a river valley, not far off. The word immediately went in search of the home. There was a fine home perched on a small hill, this must be the place! This word knocked on the door and waited patiently. While waiting, the word practiced being the word, and felt it would be heard correctly. But no one answered the door.

A neighbor walked by and said that the ear had left on a long trip, searching for a perfect word.

A small story for my small grandkids, but it is still true today. There are words in search of a proper venue, and there are thousands of venues scrolling past us on digital highways. Maybe there is a perfect match somewhere.

The best thing we can do is to freeze the word in time by writing or recording, and then placing it somewhere safe and accessible. Perhaps in time it may be found, or a least discovered in a concentrated search.

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Leonard Cohen- Famous Blue Raincoat

www.youtube.com/watch

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Leonard Cohen- Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye

www.youtube.com/watch

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Leonard Cohen- Is This What You Wanted?

www.youtube.com/watch

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