Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Win a Prize Worth More than $10 if You Can Answer "Where Am I?"

Clue #1: Deja Vu  


CORRECTLY IDENTIFY WHERE THESE PHOTOS WERE TAKEN
AND YOU WILL WIN SOMETHING WORTH MORE THAN $10
ALONG WITH A FEW ORIGINAL ED NEW DOODLES.
LEAVE YOUR GUESS IN THE COMMENTS.
EdNote: Family members ineligible
as well as artists born in Detroit.

CLUE #2: Read my Blog Posts from the Past 3 Years

Monday, August 2, 2021

Who Was the Worst President In U.S. History? I Nominate This One

Warren G. Harding was one of the worst they say.
His sex scandals weren't even a consideration
By that measure we'd see FDR, JFK, Bill C
and others listed as well.
When it comes to voting for the best and worst presidents in our history, one must first establish some criteria. Currently there's no doubt a large contingent who say there's no point asking the question. Trump is most obviously such an odious president that there's no point in going further with this discussion. C'est la vie.

What triggered this blog post, though, was a book title that caught my eye on Amazon.com with the title: The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama

Really?

According to the promotional info on this book the author compiles more than 200 "inconvenient truths" to support his assessment including "his shocking abuses of taxpayer dollars; his bitterly divisive style of governing; his shameless usurping of the Constitution; his many scandals and cover-ups; his policy failures at home and abroad; the unprecedented expansion of government power...and more."

Now to be honest, in my opinion many of these accusations could be made against many presidents. Divisive? Abuses of taxpayer dollars? Policy failures? And as regards the last, "the unprecedented expansion of government power" I would suggest that the past 120 years of this nation has seen a continued and ongoing expansion of government power. The past three presidents have made "executive orders" a modus operandi for expanding the power of the executive branch. It's an innovation that frees presidents from bipartisan wrangling altogether. "Let's Make a Law" is practically a new program on The Game Channel.

So, I decided to ask Google and was directed to a U.S. News & World Report page that claimed it was able to identify our worst presidents.

The first listed was Zachary Taylor. His crime? He was a war hero who was utterly forgettable. He died in office and failed to complete his term, so I'm not sure he got a fair shake when it comes to making his mark. There are plenty of presidents who did more damage than that

Herbert Hoover gets the second nod, assuming we're going from worst to first. A poor communicator is his crime, as well as ushering in the Great Depression. Big problems create big opportunities for those who succeed in tackling them. Some of his decisions exacerbated, rather than alleviated, the challenges we faced as a nation. 

USN&WR gives John Tyler and Millard Fillmore a tie for 7th worst. Tyler was a defender of slavery and abandoned the party platform he was elected on. "You voted for me on this, but guess what? I am going to do my own thing now. Sorry, you losers." Fillmore's sins were greater still, beginning with the Missouri Compromise that permitted the spread of slavery. 

Warren G. Harding is tagged as sixth worst in this list. Scandals permeated his presidency I'm not sure he knew what his primary responsibilities were. "When the cat's away, the mice will play." 

William Henry Harrison died 30 days after giving his unnecessarily long inaugural address in the rain. I have a hard time saying he was a bad president. He never really had a chance to get any traction. 

Franklin Pierce. 
Franklin Pierce  is another of those presidents a majority of our citizens would be unable to identify in a final exam. It was his view that pursuing abolitionist would be a threat to the Union. Therefore, he acquiesced to the pro-slavery Southern Dems. "Staus Quo is the way to go," must have been his motto. "Don't rock the boat."

Andrew Johnson takes the #3 slot in this list. He opposed Reconstruction, was an enabler of carpetbaggers and scalawags, among other things. Ultimately there was an attempt to impeach him, but he was acquitted. These were turbulent times and it didn't help that he had a somewhat obstinate personality. Those first years after the Civil War would have been a trial for anyone.

USN&WR lists Donald Trump as #2 in this list of "worst" presidents. Whereas it's true that he never had more than a 50% approval rating, there were numerous presidents with a lower approval rating at the end of their service in the White House. Gallup Polls (measuring only since FDR) show Truman, Nixon, Carter and both Bushes to have the lowest approval ratings at the end of their tenures. In light of the ongoing media hostility toward the 45th president it's quite surprising his ratings were as high as they were.

According the this list, James Buchanan (1857-1861) gets to wear the moniker of "Worst President." He did nothing to stand in the way of the spread of slavery and set the stage for the secession by the Confederacy.

* * * 

Personally, I believe Millard Fillmore can't be far behind as an instrument of stupidity with regards to these matters. The absence of Andrew Jackson and his treatment of the Native peoples that resulted in the "Trail of Tears" seems an error somehow. 

You can probably poke a few holes in the inflated importance of Woodrow Wilson as well, in my estimation, the Ivory Tower President who really couldn't grasp the significance of many of the events unfolding in the aftermath of the First World War. His unrestrained use of propaganda to generate a hatred of Germans (our largest immigrant population) and Germany had consequences that extended far beyond his visual horizon. 

* * * 


Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Purpose of Propaganda: Social Engineering

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country." 
--Edward Bernays

These are the opening lines of an influential volume titled Propaganda, published in 1928. This relatively short work by Edward Bernays became an operating principle in this country even before it was adopted by the Germans. After the Second World War, the word had to be discarded because of its association with the Nazis. The new name, much smoother sounding, was public relations.

The CIA used propaganda as a tactic to undermine democratically elected leaders whom we (our U.S. government) disliked during the Cold War years. The belief that this is all good continues to motivate its use today. 

There was a time when leaders did what they wanted. According to Bernays, manipulation is a requirement of those in leadership because nowadays people with power "can no longer do what they want without the approval of the masses."

* * * 

Here are some additional quotes by Bernays:

"The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest."

* * *

"Only through the active energy of the intelligent few can the public at large become aware of and act upon new ideas."  

* * *

"The best defense against propaganda: more propaganda."

* * * 

"If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it?"

* * * 

These ideas are what set me to writing the article "He Who Controls the Narrative Controls the People." 

Friday, July 30, 2021

1966-07-29 Bob Dylan Hurt In Motorcycle Accident Near Woodstock, New York

ON THIS DAY
THIS STORY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PUBLISHED YESTERDAY

There were three big stories in 1966. One of them was Bob Dylan's World Tour, a fast and furious even that contributed to his icon status.

The second was the release of Blonde On Blonde, the third in a trio of remarkable albums unlike anything ever produced beforehand, or even since. (Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited being the two others in this trilogy.)

The third was his famous motorcycle crash, 55 years ago yesterday. 

Dylan was living in Woodstock at the time with his wife Sara. His album Blonde On Blonde was just beginning to ascend the charts. He went out for a ride on his Triumph motorcycle and what really happened we will never know. How badly he was hurt we don't know. How it happened, we don't really know. 

I say that only because some have concluded, after analyzing a lifetime of interviews, that anything Dylan says is suspect. 

Dylan in Woodstock. Even as a recluse,
the press could not stop talking about him. 

What we do know is that he stopped touring for a while. During this period of hibernation, the legend of Bob Dylan continuously grew. The recluse was talked about as much as when he were out in public.

I read somewhere that one of the reasons the Woodstock Festival of 1969 was held in Woodstock was because promoters were hoping Dylan could be induced to return to the stage. As it turns out, while Hippie Nation was descending on Woodstock, Dylan and family were packing their bags for the Isle of Wight Festival in the British Isles. 

Painting by the author.

* * * 

Other big events that have taken place on July 29 include the release of The Beatles' Help movie one year earlier, and the death of Vincent Van Gogh in 1890.

Related Links

Anniversary of the First Rock Double Album, Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde


That Thin Wild Mercury Sound by Daryl Sanders Turns Readers into Blonde On Blonde Insiders

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

NPR Takes a Swipe at Ben Shapiro

In March I wrote a blog post about the Top Ten Podcasts that people have been tuning in to. The reason for this was that I'd heard that one of these was a local Duluth Catholic priest called Father Mike. When I shared the list I noticed that Ben Shapiro was also in the top ten. 

I only listened to parts of his videos a couple times but have read enough about him in recent years to know who he is. I got the impression that his schtick is similar to the boy who said, "Oh my! The king doesn't have any clothes on!"

About ten days ago NPR did what I would call a "hit piece" on Shapiro. The angle was interesting because of the angle of their attack. The title of the article -- a transcript of what played on All Things Considered -- is "Outrage As A Business Model: How Ben Shapiro Is Using Facebook To Build An Empire."

The article begins by showing the size of his audience and the success he has achieved. He has more followers than the Washington Post.  What's more, the content he creates has more likes and shares than any other news producers "by a wide margin." In short, what he's doing is generating engagement. What's wrong with that? 

Well, to paraphrase, it's not fair. The NYTimes and Washington Post have big staffs to support. In other words, he gets so much more reach and has more impact than he deserves. 

One things that's not fair to his competitors, including NPR I suspect, is that he doesn't do journalism. That is, he doesn't have a staff researching stories. Rather, he talks about the stories that the paid staff of other media enterprises create. He's basically a reporter on the way that they -- liberal media -- cover the news.

I think what irks left-leaning media like NPR and CNN is that Shapiro is successful. Also, he seems skilled at showing how THEY are spinning the stories they tell.

The story makes a fascinating accusation a little further on. They interview an expert who explains how even when there is nothing untrue in what is said, the effect is to create a false narrative. "If you've stripped enough context away, any piece of truth can become a piece of misinformation." 

Well, it takes one to know one. This is precisely the game liberal media has played for ages. Bernard Goldberg's book Bias showed how Dan Rather would discard stories that countered the narrative he was constantly striving to weave. Bias uses example after example to make its point. The book's subtitle is, A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News. (For the record, Goldberg was second in command behind Rather at CBS. He saw it all, firsthand.)

Last year there were journalists on the New York Times who protested when the Times printed an editorial by a conservative GOP congressman on their Opinion page. The impression I got from the article was that some staffers think balanced reporting is wrong, that we are in a war of ideas and journalists have to take a stand. (i.e. slanting the story is O.K. if it serves higher purposes.)

Here's another barb from the NPR story. "Traditional media would set the agenda but not necessarily tell people what to think," Freelon said. "Ben Shapiro is sort of cornering both aspects: telling [people] what to think about, and secondly, telling them what their opinions should be about those particular topics."

When Freelon says, "traditional media" he is referring to mainstream media, which conservatives have dubbed MSM as a pejorative. Conservatives like Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro (I suspect, having never listened much to either) may agree that MSM does not Tell people what to think, they just EXPECT you to think this way "because it is the correct way to think."

MY TAKE is that people need to use their brains, read both sides and not behave like infants eating baby food, eating whatever flavor is spooned into their mouths. We need to assume responsibility for mental hygiene as well as our physical health. "You know that what you eat you are" applies to mind food and not just to vitamins and veggies. 

HERE'S THE ORIGINAL STORY FROM NPR:  
https://www.npr.org/2021/07/19/1013793067/outrage-as-a-business-model-how-ben-shapiro-is-using-facebook-to-build-an-empire

SEE ALSO: He Who Controls the Narrative Controls the People

Sunday, July 25, 2021

An Alternate View of Hell from C.S. Lewis and Its Application

One of the reasons many people view Christianity as unpalatable may be because of the doctrine of  Hell. The notion of a loving God who throws people into an eternal burning fire doesn't come across as all that attractive. It gets more complicated still when Christians coming from a hard core Calvinist background suggest that the chosen ones were chosen before the dawn of time and if you're not part of the Elect, well, tough beans for you. 

Many sensitive Christian thinkers have resolved this seeming incongruity (the harshness of a final judgment by a loving God) by denying that there's a Hell at all. William Law (1686-1761) proposed as much. The Selected Mystical Writings of William Law that I acquired in the spring of 1976 has an introduction by none other than Aldous Huxley. To my surprise T.A. Hegre, the founder of the Bible school I attended that fall, held up a copy of this very book on the first day of class, which I found intriguing, my probably being the only one in the class who had a copy and had read it. 

William Blake (1757-1827), the noteworthy poet, painter and printmaker, proposed yet another view which he called The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Like Law, Blake was a mystic in his approach to theology. Unlike Law, he was an artist and something of a revolutionary.

Blake's Hell is to some extent an assault on the notions of Hell presented by Dante (The Inferno) and Milton (Paradise Lost). It's more Dionysian and expressive rather than repressive.

Most interestingly, Blake's book includes a phrase which Aldous Huxley borrowed for the title of his book The Doors of Perception, which detailed his psychedelic experimentation with mescaline.

Here's the line from Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern"

In light of the above, C.S. Lewis proposed a very different narrative about heaven and hell. The title of his book is The Great Divorce. His preface begins with this explanation:

Blake wrote the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. If I have written of their Divorce, this is not because I think myself a fit antagonist for so great a genius, nor even because I feel at all sure that I know what he means. But in some sense or other the attempt is to make that marriage perennial. The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable "either-or"; that, granted skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development and adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of everything we should like to retain. This belief I take to be a disastrous error.

In short, Lewis disagrees with Blake. 

In The Great Divorce, Lewis tells his story allegorically, much as Orwell presented the contours of totalitarianism in Animal Farm

Lewis' tale begins at a bus queue on rainy street at dusk. The narrator had been walking these dreary streets for hours. The crowd at the bus stop seemed too many for this bus, but there were quarrels and various folk who had a change of heart about the trip and our narrator found a seat after all. Next thing you know the bus leaves the ground and starts flying off. 

The bus itself is described as "a wonderful vehicle, blazing with golden light, heraldically colored." Even the driver himself seemed full of light. The destination is unknown, but all the clues are present.

As the bus rises he sees out the window an endless array of mean streets as far as the eye can see. A younger man seated next to him explains what he is seeing. The grey town had no mountains, fields or rivers. It simply sprawled out, filling the entire field of vision. 

When the narrator comments that what he can see seems empty, his seat mate replies, "Not at all. The trouble is that they're so quarrelsome. As soon as anyone arrives he settles in some street. Before he's there 24 hours he quarrels with his neighbor. Before the week is over he's quarreled so badly that he decides to move."

In short, this infinite space is filled with people who can't get along with one another. Building a new house here is easy since all one has to do is imagine it. But they're not really good houses. The rain comes right through the roof. But at least each one has his or her space. In this manner, people keep moving further and further away.

The fellow explains to our narrator that he once had a neighbor with a telescope and could see lights from inhabited houses millions of miles away. He noted that he met a couple fellows who even saw Napoleon in one of them, marching back and forth there in his distant dwelling.

* * * 
I won't spoil the story for you but there's a point that comes out from this story that is presents a very different picture of how people are winnowed, how our destinies take form. Lewis believes that God does not turn away anyone who wants to be in His presence in Heaven. Rather, they choose. 
Some people want to live in the light, some do not. Some want to accept and embrace the values of that realm called Heaven -- mercy, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, humility -- and others do not.

In this story, some got on the bus, and others who were waiting in line decided not to. The bus was only half full. In other words, there's always room for more.

What comes next? To read the rest of the story, Google your favorite bookseller. The book is still in print and not hard to find.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Primary Cause of Death for Giraffes and Other Giraffe Trivia

Photo by Ahmed Galal on Unsplash
If you've ever been to a major zoo, you've probably met a giraffe. They are certainly one of the most memorable animals in the animal kingdom, famous for their height as the tallest living land creature in the world.

There's probably a lot you don't know about giraffes. Did you know that in addition to being the tallest mammal, they are also the largest cud chewing mammal? The scientific word is "ruminant." That is, they have a stomach in the front part of their digestive system in which microbial fermentation takes place. Like cows, they regurgitate this mash and chew it and re-chew. This process of re-chewing is called rumination. It's a word we sometimes apply to our own mental processes in which we internally chew and re-chew an idea or thoughts and observations. During the pandemic year and the post-pandemic period we've probably all been doing a lot of ruminating.

The primary cause of death for giraffes is getting struck by lightning. Is anyone surprised? I suppose you could have guessed lions. Since giraffes only live to be about 25 years old in the wild, I would guess old age takes its share.

A Scientific American story says that when thunderstorms roll in, the giraffes actually compete with one another to see who can be the shortest. At Disney World, a giraffe was struck by lightning right in front of park visitors who were there. Sounds pretty traumatic to me.

Currently there are about 111,000 giraffes in the world. Not a whole lot, really, as their habitats are being continually encroached upon.

In reading about giraffes, I found their social habits to be interesting. I found this info on the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust website:

Giraffe are highly social animals and live in herds of 15-20 female giraffe and some young males. Male calves will leave their mothers and the herd from around 15 months and join bachelor herds of other young males. The female calves tend to stay with the same herd as their mothers but can leave after the age of around 18 months old, and most often stay in the same areas as the family herd they grew up in.

Females are ready to mate from four years old and have a gestation period of 15 months – at birth, calves endure an incredible drop of 1.5m to the ground! Newborns weigh around 100kg and can be almost 2m tall at birth but their height will almost double within their first year. Newborns need to be so tall when they are born so they can reach up to suckle; they are reliant on their mother’s milk for the first 9-12 months of life but will start eating leaves from 4 months old.

This last part seems pretty dicey. To fall more than three feet when you are born... well, what a rude way to exit the womb. 

There is a mistake in the quoted paragraph above, probably an easy one to make when one makes assumptions. They called a group of giraffes a herd. More accurately they are called a tower. (Thank you to one of my astute readers.)

One last thing that I found especially interesting had to do with the patterns they are adorned with. There are no two giraffes alike because, like human fingerprints, their spots are different. I never knew that. 

Here's something cool that a friend sent me. It's a live cam from the
giraffe home at the Texas Safari Ranch. Sometimes they are all in 
and sometimes, such as at this moment, they are out in the sunshine.
Check back from time to time to see Annabelle, Baby Betty and JM.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cx3Dxqbd_6U

Meantime, enjoy your weekend. 
We'll see ya on the flipside.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Frank Holmes' Portrait of A. Lee Sackett in the Style of Ingres

A. Lee Sackett by Frank Baker Holmes
Oil on panel, 22" x 19"
Frank Baker Holmes is a masterful painter who was awarded the Prix des Rome at the time he was my instructor (when I was a student in the College of Fine Arts) at Ohio University in 1973. I 've been following his career, albeit from a distance, ever since
 and have enjoyed each new veer. 

This summer I inquired as regards what he's been working on since I last visited his studio/home in 2019. He responded by sending this portrait of A. Lee Sackett in the style of Ingres.

For those unfamiliar, Jean-Augustine-Dominique Ingres was a French neoclassical painter of the early part of the 19th century. At the age of 22, he made his Salon debut in 1802. He was strongly influenced by past artistic traditions, just as Holmes is today.

The subject in Frank Holmes' portrait, A. Lee Sackett, had a long and distinguished career as an exhibit designer (among other things) with Parks Canada. 

As you can see from the portrait below, Holmes' painting is ‘related’ to Ingres portrait of Louis-Francois Bertin. Bertin was a French writer, art collector and director of the pro-royalist Journal des débats.

Portrait of Louis-Francois Bertin by Ingres

Another feature of this painting that interested me was that his life partner Jill Mackie is also a portrait painter.  In fact, I've privately dubbed her "the portrait painter of the family." This is not to suggest that Frank hasn't done his share of portraiture. 

Some of Jill Mackey's paintings have hung in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. Here's an excerpt from a 2017 interview: "Portraiture appeals to me because of the simplicity and beauty and character of the human being. It never fails me that in drawing and painting a portrait, the person begins to glow from the soul as we work."

I think Frank has captured a little bit of that glow in his Ingres-style portrait of A. Lee Sackett.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

A Tale of Two Ships: USS Maddox and USS Liberty

One President, Two Ships and Lots of Questions

Both of these incidents occurred while Lyndon Johnson was president. The response in each instance is shameful and sad, even incomprehensible.

USS Maddox
The notorious Gulf of Tonkin incident, involving the USS Maddox, served as the catalyst that legitimized our going to war on North Vietnam. The president told congress and the media that our ship had twice been attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats. He did not tell anyone that the reason for the attack (there was only one, and not two) was that for six months previous "South Vietnam began conducting a covert series of U.S.-backed commando attacks and intelligence-gathering missions along the North Vietnamese coast." (U.S. Naval Institute, "The Truth About Tonkin")

These raids were not working out, so General Westmoreland began bombarding the North using South Vietnamese patrol boats. (We were supposedly neutral, yet we were running the show and providing all the ammo.)

The Maddox was specially equipped with communications intercept technology and specialists. It had come down from Taiwan to monitor the situation from international waters. On August 2 while in the Gulf in broad daylight, three North Vietnamese patrol boats approached them. The Maddox fired shots across their bow. In turn they fired a torpedo. We proceeded to bring in four fighter planes in an attempt to blow them out of the water as they fled. One was sunk and the other two were damaged.


On August 4, at night and during stormy weather, overeager sonar interpreters mis-read signals coming from wave tops as incoming craft, first from the south, then the north, creating a fearful sense of being under attack. A 90-minute flyover by a fighter plan indicated that there was never anything out there.

LBJ persuaded congress that this was proof that we were dealing with an aggressive enemy and should not put up with it. "Let's go to war!"  (OK, he didn't say it like that, but Congress was near unanimous in endorsing this call to escalate the Viet Nam conflict, send troops and bomb the smithereens out of the North.)

Read my blog post The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Revisited and the U.S. Naval Institute's article The Truth About Tonkin, utilizing de-classified NSA documents 

* * * *
By way of contrast, Consider the USS Liberty
I first read about the USS Liberty incident in Alfred Lilienthal's 1978 book The Zionist Connection: What Price Peace. Wikipedia supplies this succinct account in its opening paragraph:


Damaged USS Liberty, post attack. 34 dead, 171 wounded.
The USS Liberty incident was an attack on a United States Navy technical research ship, USS Liberty, by Israeli Air Force jet fighter aircraft and Israeli Navy motor torpedo boats, on 8 June 1967, during the Six-Day War. The combined air and sea attack killed 34 crew members (naval officers, seamen, two marines, and one civilian), wounded 171 crew members, and severely damaged the ship. At the time, the ship was in international waters north of the Sinai Peninsula, about 25.5 nmi (29.3 mi; 47.2 km) northwest from the Egyptian city of Arish.

The incident was brought to mind again while reading Seymour Hersh's The Samson Option, an account of how Israel came to have a nuclear weapons program. This history of the development of a nuclear facility parallels Israel's emergence as a power in the Middle East. Chapter 12 is about the U.S. ambassador  to Israel, Walwourth Barbour. According to Hersh, Ambassador Barbour was actually present in the Israeli war room during the Six Day War.


A portion of the damage. Public domain photo.
Even though the naval intelligence ship was flying the stars and stripes, the Israeli Air Force fired rockets and strafed the Liberty mercilessly, despite its being in international waters. Israel didn't want to even acknowledge what it had done. Barbour wasn't even angry, Hersh writes, but a lot of people inside Washington were none too happy at how the president downplayed it.

The whole purpose of the ship's existence in these waters was to monitor communications taking place during the Six-Day War. It would have been easy to know that the Israeli pilots bombing and strafing the Liberty were fully aware that this was a U.S. ship.

The many survivors of this horrendous assault are still dealing with their agitation and frustration today. The "official story" is that the attack was a case of mistaken identity. According to Hersh, Israel didn't even want to acknowledge that it was they who attacked and disabled the ship.

Eventually they did apologize, calling it a case of mistaken identity. According to this Chicago Tribune story, "for those who lost their sons and husbands, neither the Israelis' apology nor the passing of time has lessened their grief." And every single one of the survivors interviewed for the Trib story rejected Israel's explanation that it had been "a case of mistaken identity."

Likewise, documents released in 2007 show that very few inside the NSA and U.S. leadership believed "the official story."

Transcripts show that even some of the Israeli pilots were reluctant to attack because it was clearly an American vessel. Read the full Trib story

* * * * 
So how is it that a muffed torpedo shot by a North Vietnamese gunboat that hurt no one can be used to justify the murder of thousands of civilians through bombing raids and deployment of tens of thousands of American youth to do even more damage in that corner of the world, while this particular atrocity is totally buried, ignored and unaddressed?

As it is written in Ecclesiastes 1: 18
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

Related Links
USS Liberty Veterans banned forever from Am Legion Nat’l Convention

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Artists of Yellow Bird Fine Art Have Found a Nest in Duluth

Saturday I shared images from a multimedia project called FISHNETSTOCKINGS, now appearing at the Joseph Nease Gallery along with a pair of paintings by Jonathan Thunder. While there I learned about the Open House at the Yellow Bird Fine Art Gallery located adjacent to Zeitgeist. So nice to see the new resident in our Downtown Duluth Arts District.

There were many familiar faces at the opening, and the walls are filled with works by many or our regional artists. I thought I'd heard someone say that there are 70 artists represented, though I am not entirely sure I heard correctly. In addition to paintings, they have glass works, pottery and jewelry. Here are just a few of the names represented: Karl Weber, Kris Nelson, Karen Nease, Sophie Irvine, Margie Helstrom, Anna Marie Pavlik, Jean Hedstrom, Luke Hillestad, Sue Rauschenberg and many others.

The Yellow Bird Fine Art gallery is located on Superior Street at the corner of 3rd Avenue East, adjacent to the Zeitgeist. Here's a clip from Fox21 about the new gallery and its team.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Bob Dylan's Shadow Kingdom: Swoons for Many, a Letdown for a Few

Sunday evening fans from around the world saw Bob Dylan's first "concert" since the end of 2019. The event was called Shadow Kingdom, which turned out to not be a concert in any conventional way but more like a series of dreamlike David Lynch produced MTV videos of Dylan performing many of his early classics in a gritty village cafe.

The show was slated to begin at the top of the hour, but the show's producers did something wise. The had a clock ticking for ten minutes to allow viewers to fix they audio and video setups, lest they be annoyed at their inability to catch the first song. It also allowed those who may be fashionably late (haha, who is late to a Dylan concert?) to get set up for the opening number.

Along the right hand side of the screen there was a scrolling "chat" window in which people from all over the world could send greetings or make comments. There were some early on making critical comments, much like drunks in row three at a Philadelphia concert during his "Saved" tour. 

These spicy remarks were the minority, subsumed in the commentary that went like this:

no signal
sounds impeccable
This is historic
Viva Cuba Libre
in black and white not great
Now he's on it
Unique
Anyone need a smoke?
I'm enjoying it
Loving the shirt
His Face
I can feel the emotion
VIBES
 >>>What was it you wanted?  
  I am crying               
Beautiful
Best song so far
WOW
I will Bobby
love love love this arrangement
OMG I'm crying now
I'm crying too
Like how the set looks like a party
It's weed for sure
Down in front
The Best Dylan show ever

>>>>Wicked Messenger 
 
His most underrated album
Bob 2024
This is my Pandemic Cure
Mobius Bob

I must have that jacket
The LEGEND Lives
Bob Dylan my heart belongs to you
More
Bronx Here
His shoes WOW
Too Short
Perfect
Ehhh
Brilliant
I want more
Thanks Bob

* * *

In response to the person who said they didn't like it being in black and white: Do you think Citizen Kane should have been in color? Would Casablanca have been a better film in color? This Shadow Kingdom was indeed a shadowy realm with real ambience. This ambience was masterful, and actually conveyed a little of Casablanca's mystery and suspense.

The idea of a ticking clock to pass the time during those first ten minutes was actually pretty clever. It served as a nice audio check and gave those first tuning in a few minutes to get everything set up.

Another complaint that I saw scroll up the screen went like this. I think some people wanted to have the "big venue Bob" with an energized tight band rockin' it out. This complaint, too, seemed silly. Consider the venue, dude. An intimate venue like that requires a different kind of performance from what you might expect at the Beacon in New York. 

The concert began with When I Paint My Masterpiece, and the tenderness of vocals was immediately apparent. Following this we heard You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine. Between songs there was a fade out overlaid with a fade in to new visuals and each time Bob had a different outfit on, which got lots of comments in the chat feed.

Each song had been delivered in an altogether new form, which is once again a Dylan trademark it seems. 

Queen Jane was superbly rendered and was probably the point at which I began to feel something special was happening. The first songs were well done, but my critical observational self was trying to process what was happening rather than just getting into it. Other songs I especially enjoyed included an exceptional What Was It You Wanted from Oh Mercy, Pledging My Time, Watching the River Flow, and Tombstone Blues.

I'm sure there will be plenty written about it. The ending felt abrupt and unexpected for me. For some reason I thought it was going to be a two hour show. The best part is that people can watch it again for two more days.  Five times, or ten, if you wish. 

It must have been fun to be part of the band, even if you were masked and anonymous.

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One last thought. In a public speaking class our instructor once made a statement that struck a chord with me. "It is better to go ten minutes too short than two minutes too long." The point being, leave them wanting more. 

There was a lot of gratitude expressed at the end. "Thank you, Bob" messages were arriviing from around the world. And yes, we're always wanting more.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Memory Games: How Well Do You Know Your Presidents? (Part I)

Purple martin. (Public domain)
I have a problem with names. Unfortunately, as I get older it seems to be getting worse. When my mind reaches for a name, it often seems to find a hole there. It's like the brain is a pantry with shelves of products, but when you look for the one you need, it seems to have been moved. At that point, I don't know where to even look.

Anyways, there are techniques one can use to improve your memory. What I plan to share here is an easy way to remember the first 20 U.S. presidents. You should be able to accomplish this in a relatively short time, especially since you probably already know the first few.

One way people remember lists of things is to use mnemonic devices. A mnemonic device is a technique that enables you to more easily retrieve information. One such device is to assign images to correlate to the numbers in a list. Then, as you recall each image you pair it with the thing you want to remember. Here are the first ten images in my mnemonic list: 1 is a gun, 2 is a shoe, 3 is a tree, 4 is a door, 5 is a hive, 6 is for sticks, 7 is heaven, 8 is a gate, 9 is a vine and 10 is a hen. If memorize this, reciting the first ten presidents is a snap. 

1. Picture a gun shooting one dollar bills. George Washington is the president on the one dollar bill, though this is easy because everyone knows he was first anyways. Nevertheless, if you did not know that, the one dollar bill is a clue.

2. Picture a shoe being studied under a microscope by a scientist. The microscope is so powerful it can actually see the atoms in the leather. John Adams is the second president.

3. The tree you picture here is decorated with ornaments which are all in the shape of Monticello. Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's home near Charlottesville, Virginia. If you prefer another image, maybe you can picture a Chef serving a plate with a tree growing on it. Chef-erson.

4. Four is a door, and for this image I have stapled Mad magazines all over the door. James Madison was our fourth prez.

5. For this one, I picture two men in suits rowing a boat with a beehive in the back of the boat. They are trying to get away from it as fast as they can. The one man is shouting, "Row, mon, row!" James Monroe was our fifth president.

6. For this one, I envision a wreath made of sticks floating in the air. There are sticks intersecting the wreath on the lower right, forming the letter Q. The Q reminds me that John Quincy Adams was our. sixth president.

7. Up on a cloud we see the Pearly Gates. (Seven is Heaven.) In front of these there are a couple children playing jacks. Andrew Jackson was our 7th commander-in-chief.

8. Now we come to a gate. Sitting on the gate is a purple bird. The purple bird is a purple martin. Our 8th president is Martin Van Buren. 

9. For this one I picture a hairy vine. You can make it a giant Jack-in-the-beanstalk vine if you want, but it is really hairy, which is the operative clue for William Henry Harrison. If want to picture the vine growing fast, then wilting, it will be a reminder that President Harrison died one month after taking office, the shortest term of any U.S. president.

10. Ten is a hen, a giant hen wearing a tie. I envision a necktie, but you can put a polkadot bowtie on this hen if you wish. The tie stands for John Tyler. 

Now, I'm going to switch to a different kind of mnemonic device, once again using unusual or absurd images but in a different manner. For presidents 11 thru 20 I will picture a humorous sequence of images as if in a movie. The movie begins with Tyler, the giant hen wearing a tie. 

John Tyler
The giant hen (wearing a tie) is poking a tailor with a stick, while the tailor is busy sewing a button onto a dapper pinstripe suit worn by another man. The tailor puts down his needle and thread to take a trowel and begins filling this other man's pockets with dirt while that fellow is shouting "More!"

Suddenly an arrow pierces this man's thigh and we see that it has been fired from a cannon.

This little visual sequence covers the next five presidents: Polk (11), Taylor (12), Fillmore (13), Pierce (14) and Buchanan (15).

Since we all know Lincoln was 16, no need for a tool to remember that, but we will use Lincoln as a starting point for the next set. 

Picture Lincoln sitting by a fire pit cooking Johnson brats over an open fire with his left hand while signing a document  with his right that says Land Grant at the top. There's a smoky haze wafting around Lincoln's face which we think is from the fire pit, but as the camera pans we see it is actually from a giant cigar lying in the field behind him.

That's it. If you visualize this scene you will recognize Lincoln (16), Johnson (17), Grant (18), Hayes (19) and Garfield (20).

* * *

OK. Test yourself. Have you nailed it? Here's the full list if you want to make your own humorous mnemonic images to memorize the rest:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_presidents_of_the_United_States

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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Yellow Bird Fine Art Spreads Its Wings In Downtown Duluth, But First -- FISHNETSTOCKINGS at JNG

I was in the neighborhood of the Tweed Museum this afternoon and found it to be still closed until fall, so I headed to Joseph Nease Gallery to see what's new there as things begin to open up. There was an artist's talk Thursday that I missed but as a Joellyn Rock fan I knew I'd have to visit. soon to see a couple new Jonathan Thunder paintings and the collaborative interactive installation FISHNETSTOCKINGS.

While discussing various aspects of the work with Joseph Nease I learned that the Yellow Bird Fine Art gallery of Grand Marais was having an Open House this afternoon for a second loacation here in Duluth. Naturally, I was heading over there, as it is located within walking distance from the JNG, in the space formerly occupied by Art in the Alley. 


It was nice to see the unmasked smiles and to meet the co-owner and curator. The Yellow Bird will be a nice addition to the Duluth's downtown arts district. 

Tomorrow I will share some of the work I saw displayed at Yellow Bird Fine Art, Duluth. Here are some snaps from FISHNETSTOCKINGS. The primary creators of this installation are Joellyn Rock and Alison Aune, both of whom I have followed with enthusiasm for many years, plus computer scientist Pete Willemsen. 

The work is a mashup of art, design, historical references, folk patterns and story frags plucked from the project's Twitter feed. There's a QR code on the handout that you can use to add your own imaginative contributions.

To learn more about this mermaid story and the project visit this FISHNETSTOCKINGS link or https://joellynrock.com/portfolio/fishnetstockings/


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Below are the two new paintings by Jonathan Thunder


The Joseph Nease Gallery is located 
at the corner of First Avenue East and First Street