Rick Steves On Barrack Obama

Graffitti Near Christiana in Copenhagen, Denmark
Graffitti Near Christiana in Copenhagen, Denmark
A few days ago, Rick Steves the noted travel writer and PBS-TV commentator posted a rather long list of articles concerning Europe’s reaction to the new president-elect of the United States, Barrack Obama. If you are interested check out this page on the Rick Steves website. If you do not know who Rick Steves is, then you will have to tune him in on your local PBS station. Check your local listings for date and times.
This church is located in the middle of lake Bled in Slovenia
This church is located in the middle of lake Bled in Slovenia

Anyway Rick Steves has been putting out lots of interesting travel literature about the ins and outs of traveling in Europe for over twenty years. He has covered the Continent from before the fall of the Berlin Wall and has does an excellent job of providing great travel advice about the opening of Eastern Europe as a travel destination. He even gets himself invoved in political or what might be described as political-cultural commentary. Such was the case last Monday when he posted a list of newspapers that were delving into the recent election and how it was being perceived in European capitols. These articles make an excellent read and are worth checking out because the underscore how  the new president-elect is being received in Europe.

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Spruce Up Your Blog With NASA Images

ISS Crew, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Lab, JSC, NASA
Earth At Twilight credit: ISS Crew, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Lab, JSC, NASA

 

There is a great website put up by  Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP) of NASA called Astronomy Picture of the Day. Everyday a fantastic picture is posted, concerning some sort of visual image from outer space. Sometimes the pictures are even taken from the ground with the naked eye. Other pictures are taken from huge telescopes, while some of the most spectacular images come from the Hubble and other spacecraft.

NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage  (STScI/AURA);
Spiral Galaxy NGC 3370 as seen from the hubble spacecraft, Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA);
Images from the NASA can sometimes be used on your blog or website as background graphics or simple images associated with text. Other pictures are copyrighted and one must contact the maker for permission. Since the pictures are all displayed by NASA, I do not see why permission would not be easily granted. Enclosed at the end of this post is a link to the image guidelines. Check out this next photo that was posted by NASA on Halloween 2006.
Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF
SH2 136: A Spooky Nebula: Credit: Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF
If you are interested in using NASA images on your web, here are the guidelines.

The Red and Blue Of Barrack Obama’s Victory

A red abstract photograph
A red abstract photograph

 

On November 4, 2008 history was made in the United States with the dramatic victory of Barrack Obama over his rival John McCain. Today president-elect Barrack Obama is headed for the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How did the Democratic candidate beat the ever-popular Vietnam War hero and P.O.W.

Very simply it boiled all down to mathematics and a handful of battleground states. Over the past few years the United States has been divided into red and blue areas and battleground states. The red areas vote Republican, the blue areas vote Democratic and the battleground states, which include Ohio, florida, Indiana, Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado can go either way. This year Barrack Obama did very well in almost every battle ground state, thus assuring the Illinois senator a solid victory.

That’s the red and blue of it. How this came to be, I’m not exactly sure, but this is how our polotics will be defined, by afew crucial battleground states.

Blue in graphic design
Blue in graphic design

First Day of NaMoWriMo

The Cat's Eye Nebula
The Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is how my eye’s are going to look by the whole time this whole affair is done, provided I make it that far. I have written 1900 words today a pace that would give me a total of 57,000 words if I can write at that pace for thirty days straight. If today is any indication it will definitely be a struggle.

 

My first chapter came easy, but I struggled through the second chapter of my writing. I had expected to get more done because I have the day off, but I piddled around doing this and that and that and this. One of big distractions was going to other blogs and websites and making comments about my first day of NaMoWriMo, not a good way to begin the day. Anyway I hope tomorrow goes better than today. Fortunately, I get a break because of the change in time. How thoughtful that they could move the week in which we change time back a week just so NaMo writers could get an extra hour in. That was very thoughtful.

So long for now,

 

Henri

NaMoWriMo Begins

An advertisement of a watch in a window.
An advertisement of a watch in a window.
Well folks it’s time to begin the NaMoWriMo novel writing project, except I think I am going to pass until the morning comes. I’m too tired right now and I feel my efforts will be rendered useless unless I get a good night’s rest.
Still it has been fun signing up for the event at the NaMo site and putting out some feedback on their forums. I can’t wait to get started really. The task is awesome, but I think I am up for it.
Check back here in a couple of days and see how I am doing. I will at least have another picture posted.

The Friendship Is a real Ship

The Friendship is at berth in Salem, Massachusetts
The Friendship is at berth in Salem, Massachusetts

 

Here is the sailing ship, called the Friendship. It’s official sailing classification is a ship. This means that the boat has three masts, which are all square-rigged. This boat is a replica that was built in 1998. The original ship was built in 1797 and traded all around the world until it was seized by the british during the war of 1812.

 

 

 

 

This new replica makes a great tour (when it is port) for anyone who is visiting Salem or the greater Boston area. Not only do you get to walk on board the ship, but you get to visit the custom house, where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked. It is just several hundred feet away. These sites are part of the Salem National Maritime Historical Site in Salem, Massachusetts.

 This tour is a traveler’s bargain, for once you have forked out your five dollars you get to go two seperate walking tours through the maritme site. Both tours are very good, but I particularly enjoyed this one for you got to spend about a half an hour on the Friendship.

The Amistad under sail.
The Amistad under sail.

 

Here is another replica sailing ship. This is the Amistad made famous by the movie. It was built in New London, Connecticut, just a few years before the Frienship was reconstructed. It is called a cargo schooner and in this case its cargo it was slaves. The ship sailed into Portland Harbor this summer and was berthed at the Maine State Pier, where visitors could take a tour.

Salem, Massachusetts Is Haunted

A Mummy In Salem
A Mummy In Salem

I was in Salem last week just in time for

“haunted happenings” in October. These take place in October and the whole affair is like some sort of strange morf between Halloween and “The Salem Witch Trials”. Whatever the reasoning, the combination works, because people from Boston and all over New England come in droves to celebrate. Reportedly, the place gets very busy on weekends leading up to the “big day” or night actually, which falls on a Friday night. However, I was in town on Tuesday, so things were quiet, but still the town was all decked out for the “Night Before All Saints Day”, better known as Halloween. Still it was fun to wander around and check the place out. I had some business to attend to in Boston, so I left at 5 PM.

Instead of concentrating on the solemn history of the Witch Trials (more about that later) I headed for Derby Wharf and the
Salem Maritime Historic Site, where for five American dollars, I received a grand tour of the Friendship ( a three-masted square rigged ship) the Customs House (where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked) and the Derby House, where the prosperous merchant lived. This part of Salem’s history is quite extensive, but usually overshadowed by the infamous Witch Trials.

Why we are so attracted to the macabre, I cannot say, but this is certainly the case here in Salem.

Inside the prosperous merchat's house in Salem, Massachusetts
Inside the prosperous merchant's house

Y-Eye-Right (From West To East)

Why I write?

I’m more of a visual person that a literary one, but still I found out that sometimes I had to write about my art to explain it to the world.

Was this really necessary? I think so, though it sounds kind of hokey, I’m aware of that. But really it was a part of getting the message across. So I kept writing in a journal to accompany many of the images that I was constantly making in my sketchbooks and drawing books. This went on for ten years or maybe longer.

Then in the fall of 2003 at age 50, I made my first journey to Europe. It was a real eye opener, as I roamed from one old world cobblestone city to another. I started in Copenhagen, then journied through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and back to Germany again. I ended up in Frankfurt; a new city courtesy of Allied bombers, where I boarded an IcelandicAir plane and flew back to the U.S.

Postcard from Prague
Postcard from Prague

 

This picture best expresses some of the things I experienced, while walking around  Prague. This city is a gateway to Eastern Europe and nowhere is that better seen than on the marvellous Gothic Bridge that spans the Vltava River.

Prague is an eerie city and a photographer’s delight. I made many photograph’s while I was here but nothing describes my experience better than this photograph.

Upon my return to the good ole USA, I started writing. Everyday I was up and at it, as if I was writing for a living. After a month of this, I had to go back to work, but finally last month I sold and published the first thing that I wrote upon my return to the U.S. It is called from “West To East” and here is the link. http://www.cstn.org/reports/europe/bus_europe_2008.html

In short this is how I became a part-time writer.

The White Cowboys

The iconic buttes of Monument Valley, AZ have been pictured in many western movies.

Non Stop Western Movies

A few months ago, back in the dead of winter, I found myself holed up in Southern Utah taking public assistance for a couple of weeks. As a result I had no control over what I watched on TV.  This wasn’t a bad thing really, for I got a chance to watch a whole bunch of western movies, mostly from the 50s. Not only did I enjoy viewing the films, but also, I learned something about moviemaking and storytelling.

The Movies

The movies I watched were Gun Glory (1957), The Last Wagon(1956), The Cattle King(1963), Fort Dobbs(1958), The Jayhawkers(1959), The Marauders(1955), The Sheepman(1958) and McLintock(1963). All except McLintock and the Cattle King  were made in the 50s and McLintock differed significantly from the rest because it was a comedy, even though John Wayne starred as George Washington McLintock, the eccentric cattle baron. More about that particular film later.

A Common Theme?

What struck me most about the 50s Westerns was how quickly and easily the main characters changed partners. Even death of a spouse was often the catalyst for these changes. For example in the Jayhawkers, Fess Parker plays a man, just escaped from prison, who is headed home. Only problem is the woman in the house is not his wife, as she is buried nearby. No problem, for the moviemakers, because the homesteader, Nicole Maurey, ends of spending the entire film with Fess, as they try to find justice against the gangs of marauding men that are terrorizing the Kansas territory.

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara  during the filming of McLintock.

John Wayne In a Comedy

For the 50s movies, this seems to be a common theme among these Westerns, at least the ones reviewed in this article. Only with the sixties films of McLintock and The Cattle King, did I detect a more normal relationship between man and woman. The story of McLintock revolves around a powerful western couple, played by John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and their humorous escapades, as they try to reconcile their differences.

What’s Going On Here

The rugged reality of life in the Old West is definitely at work in a lot of these Westerns. The dangers were real, life was hard, and men and women could die suddenly for no logical reason. When tragic events like this did occur, survival may have quickly necessitated the relocation with a new partner of the opposite sex.

The Wars of the 40s and 50s

From 1942 till 1953, the U.S. went through two costly military conflicts. World War II was by the far the most deadly, but we should not forget the 50,000 soldiers, who perished in the Korean Conflict. Perhaps, some of the resulting turmoil on the home front is reflected in the Western movies that were being made in Hollywood.

Tom Mix was one of the first Hollywood cowboys

The White Cowboy

For just about all of our cinematic history, the Cowboy has been white. Mel Brooks put a crack in this myth with his landmark satire, Blazing Saddles, but even today, the hero of the Western tends to a white male mounted on horseback. Basically, the conquest of the West was told by the victor. Many good movies have been made using these parameters, but there still remains other stories out there that could be successfully brought to the silver screen, both real and fictional, or somewhere in between.

 

The Black Cowboys

A 19th century photograph of a group of working cowboys

The History

According to Smithsonian researchers, during the heyday of the Wild West, about one out of four Cowboys were black. To understand the rise of the black cowboy, one has to take a look at Texas in the decade of the 1860s, when war broke out between the states and during that war, The Emancipation Proclamation was passed.

For Texas ranchers, who went to war, this was a particularly difficult time, for if they survived the war (and many did), they only returned home to find affairs in disarray. For while away, the slaves had often been left in charge of managing the cattle herds, a task with which they took on with varying degrees of success.

It only took the ranchers a short time to turn things around. By taking on the now free black men as cow hands, they straightened out life on the ranch. And then as lucrative markets for beef opened up in the industrial north, the ranchers now had an opportunity to prosper. There was one catch; they had to drive their herds north to places like Kansas, where the product could be quickly shipped to market.

Nat Love was a real 19th century cowboy, who in 1907 wrote his autobiography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cowboy Autobiography

In 1907, Nat Love wrote his autobiography of his life as a cowboy. Born in 1854 as a slave in Tennessee, Nat eventually traveled West, where he found work on an Arizona ranch in the 1870s.  In Nat’s own words, his first-hand accounts differ only slightly from many of the stories that we see in the movies.

In his book, Nat talks about huge cattle drives from Arizona to Kansas, fights with Indians and visits to the Wild West cow towns like Dodge City, where saloons, gambling joints and ladies of the night flourished. During his travels, Nat met the likes of Billy the Kid, Pat Garret, Bat Masterson and even earned his own colorful nickname of Deadwood Dick after winning a cowboying contest in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Everybody Wants To Be the Cowboy

Back in 1996 the Fugees, released a song called The Cowboys. The tune appeared on an album called The Score, which in many ways embraced the gangster lifestyle. A year later, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, borrowed a line from the popular Fugees number and released this video, titled “Everybody Wants To Be the Cowboy”. Filmed on the shores of Jamaica, the following music video takes a slightly different tack on the rapster/gangsta attitude, which today seems quite popular and successful, even finding its way into our highest political institutions.

Sometimes Cowgirls Get a Notion To Sing

Montana Woman on Horseback, 1909

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cowgirl Poets

Women definitely held a major role, not only in the Old West, but also today, as ranching country faces the challenges of a new and changing world. Traditionally, women have been the more active participant in literary activities. Yet, in the world of Cowboy poets and self expression, women are definitely in the minority. Nonetheless, the woman of the open range can still spin a good yarn that will keep the audience tuned in and wanting for more.

A Cowgirl at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Men tend to dominate the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, but does not stop the women from stepping up to the microphone.

Honoring a Canadian Songwriter

Ian Tyson is a well-respected Canadian songwriter, who has received special honors and tributes at the National Cowboy Poetry gatherings. One of his most famous songs, which is written from a female point of view, is featured here by Suzy Bogguss.

Cowboy Poets and Storytellers

Participants in the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gatherings

Cowboy poetry readings are usually called gatherings and may occur at any time of the year. For example, The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is held every winter (late January or early February) in Elko, Nevada at the Western Folklife Center. The get-together lasts for a long weekend and includes film and music performances, along with the traditional poetry reading and storytelling sequences. It is also a big social event, where members of the sponsoring organization have a chance to get together and share experiences.

The Network

Besides the big event at Elko, there are many other Cowboy poetry events that are held around the country. Not surprisingly, many are held in Western States, where ranching is still a way of life. For example, Texas, Montana and Wyoming all have such events on an annual basis.  And then, on a smaller scale, fans of this venue can find numerous smaller poetry events, usually supported by interested municipalities, folklore museums and heritage sites. Add all this together and you have an extensive network that supports the colorful poets, storytellers and musicians.

The Bet at the Bar

Watch below, as Waddie Mitchell recounts his humorous tale, The Bet at the Bar. This performance is from the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

Music and Poetry

Music is also an important part of Cowboy poetry gatherings. Here Michael Martin Murphy, a successful recording artist in his own right, performs a song at the Elko national gathering.

Cowboys have been singing and telling stories for many years

A Real and Genuine West Texas Ghost Story

This WPA was done by Tom Lea and can be found at the Odessa, Texas post office

Stampede Mesa

Somewhere in West Texas, there is a real place called Stampede Mesa. It is situated east of Lubbock,  along the Blanco River on a private ranch. There is a ghost story attached to this high spot of grass that many researchers believe is the origin for the song, Ghost Riders in the Sky. Furthermore, it is completely, plausible that the lively story might have traveled by word-of-mouth from West Texas to Arizona, where the author was born and raised.

Stan Jones would have been an obscure C & W songwriter except for one massive hit, Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Ghost Riders in the Sky

The song was originally written in 1948 by a relatively unknown songwriter of the name, Stan Jones. At the time, Stan was a Death Valley National Park ranger, who wrote songs on the side. During his lifetime, he recorded over 100 songs with the Ghost Rider tune, being by far the most popular. Jones, who grew up on an Arizona ranch, claims to have heard the story while he was kid.

Burl Ives was the first major recording artist to pick up on the number. He did so in 1949, after being sent the song by Eden Ahbez, an iconic California folksinging character, who was best known for living under the grandiose Hollywood sign, before being discovered by Nat King Cole in 1947. Since its initial release, Ghost Riders has been performed by over 50 musicians. Styles vary from full out, loud rockin’ country as done by the Outlaws to a simple folksinger’s tale as Don Edwards does in the following video.

A Real Texas Ghost Story

The story of Stampede takes place back in the 19th century during the heyday of the cattle drives. According to legend, a band of cowboys were driving 1500 head of cattle from South Texas to Kansas. While traveling along the Blanco River in West Texas, the group approached a flat-topped mesa that overlooked the river.

Since there was good grazing on top, they drove their heard up on the small plateau, being careful not to get too close to the large cliff that overlooked the river. Much to their surprise they encountered an old man, who was camped out with his own small herd of about 50 steers. Without much discussion, the drovers from the South decided to share the mesa with the old man.

Unfortunately, this decision did not sit well with the old man, for sometime in the middle of the night, he arose and deliberately started a stampede that killed 1200 head of cattle and two cowboys. Then, he hightailed it away from the mesa, but the cowboys tracked him down and brought him back to camp.

For his callous crimes, the old man was blindfolded, placed on a horse and driven off the cliff. From that day on, the hallowed place has been known as Stampede Mesa. Not surprisingly, the land is believed to be haunted with strange sounds and apparitions of cattle stampeding being reported by those who travel along the Blanco River.

Cowboy Poetry Week: “I Ride an Old Paint”

An American Paint Horse at a horse show in the Czech Republic, from Wikipedia, photo by Karakal

The Death of the Old West

Depending on who you talk to, rumors of the death of the Old West, may be somewhat exaggerated. Some say it died when the railroads started carrying beef on the hoof to places like Kansas City and Chicago. Others say it died when barbed wire was invented. Even today, there are those that infer that the Old West lasted until the automobile and paved roads became the norm for transportation. And finally, there are those that believe that the Old West may still exist in small pockets, where a few determined herders somehow manage to work what’s left of the open range.

The Search

Back during the Roaring Twenties, when speakeasies and Jazz music were the rage, Carl Sandburg went on a search. He was looking for genuine cowboy songs from the Old West. To do this properly, the young Midwesterner dropped out of college, crisscrossed the western mountains and prairies, looking for old remnants of years gone by. Somewhere in the high desert of New Mexico, he came across this beauty of a song.

What’s an Old Paint

First of all, an Old Paint is a type of horse common to the American West. Basically, it is a stock horse with a “pinto” pattern of color. The splotched color separates this breed from the solid, American quarter horse. Except for the color pattern, the two types of horses are similar in size, build and stock. Nonetheless, they are considered two separate breeds, which are both quite popular among American horsemen.

About the Song

Too many, “I Ride an Old Paint”, embodies the spirit of the Old West, as well as any folk song. There are many wonderful elements to the horseman’s tale, but perhaps the unusual method of burial is most telling about the special appeal for this Western lament. I seriously doubt that many (if any) cowhands were treated this way after leaving the world of the living. Yet still, there is a communion with the outdoor range, rarely expressed in Western music,when the corpse of the main character is tied to the back of his horse and then set loose into the bush.

Carl Sandburg at age 77

Who Was Carl Sandburg?

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois in 1878. After serving in the military in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War, Carl returned to the Midwest, where he worked a variety jobs before he began publishing his own poetry in 1916. As an offshoot of his poetry, he put out a recording of folk songs (1927), gathered from traditional sources. This landmark album included such noted American classics, as the “Sloop John B” and “I Ride an Old Paint”. Over the years, the Old Paint song has one of the most recorded songs in American music.

 

Earth Day, Cowgirl Poetry, Richard Nixon and the EPA

Since 1970, Earth Day has always been observed on April 22.

A Brief History of Earth Day

Earth Day was the idea of Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson, who came up with the idea in 1969, as a way to promote environmental awareness on a planetary level. In April 1970, the first celebration of Earth Day occurred with the majority of activities, occurring on college campuses and in large urban areas in the U.S. A year later, not only did President Nixon give Earth Day official recognition, but he made April 22 part of Earth Week.

Earth Day is still celebrated today, as over the years, the global challenges have changed and environmental legislation is nowhere as universally popular as it was back in the 70s.

The President and “the King” in 1970

Richard Nixon: Our Greenest President?

Richard Nixon was not much of a cowboy, but as an environmentalist, he did pretty good, signing 14 pieces of Environmental legislation during his tenure.This little known fact about our 37th president may come as a surprise to many political observers of that era, especially since he showed little or no interest in environmental issues before becoming president.

Nixon began his environmental legacy in 1969 by signing into law The National Environmental Policy Act, which created environmental impact statements.

Then in 1970, Nixon proposed and pushed through Congress the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, which was quickly followed by the Clean Air Act and the creation of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration}.

By the time Nixon resigned in 1974, he had also passed the Clean Water Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (actually signed by Ford in 1974).

Yes, folks that’s quite a legacy.

Cowboys and Environmentalists

Today, the rancher (and the Cowboy) have their backs against the wall financially, as they face increasing pressure from a changing world to their way of life.  Loss of grazing land is just one challenge, as other threats can come from growing populations in the New West and the a new kind of activism arising from radical environmentalists.

Nonetheless, the Cowboy poets are thriving, as larger audiences thirst for the old storytelling skills of bygone eras. Even though these modern-day bards may be out of sync with the urban reality of rap and slam poetry, they have caught the attention of many, who have never saddled a horse or roped a calf.

Sometimes Cowgirls Don’t Get the Blues

Today, cowboys and cowboy poets are generally pictured as having a close relationship and understanding of the land. However, in today’s complex world, they do not seem to be overly concerned about global warming or climate change.

Perhaps, this attitude is best summarized by Nevada poet and rancher, Carolyn Duferrena.

A Cowgirl Contemplates Climate Change

by Carolyn Duferrena

I have to say it’s kinda nice
Not to spend the winter
Chopping ice,
And to tell you the truth
When I wake up in the morning
The last thing on my mind
Is global warming.

 

Final Note

This blog has been also posted at my alternative site, Bluefoxcafe, which can also be found at WordPress.com. I am currently undertaking an experiment to determine which place gets more traffic.