Friday, October 24, 2014

Flashback Friday

Back in college, whilst in the bubble of liberalism and free-thinking, I became enamored of three things:  Kahlil Gibran, the Report from Iron Mountain, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  All three, hopefully, have faded from the consciousness of past disciples and college campuses.

Since I was a sponge seeking to soak up everything, and to echo Holly's "thirst for knowledge" quote, I was particularly susceptible to all forms and types of philosophical-theological thought.  

Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese poet, writer and artist and rather than go into a long tortured biography I will leave it to you to explore on your own if you so choose.  There are probably better ways to spend your time, but I was surprised to see that he is the third best selling poet behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu of Chinese fame.  Not so surprising I guess when you corner the Arab and Chinese markets, respectively.   

His The Prophet was one of my first purchases when I was a freshman, and I read it often.  It was a series of inspirational writings, kind of spiritual and not so unlike the stuff you see on Facebook every so often when a friend will cheer you up with one of those nifty little sayings that energize you for 14 seconds before fading from memory.   Here are some examples of Gibran's nutshell wisdom:

  • In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all of he oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.

  • We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.

  • Hearts united in pain and sorrow will not be separated by joy and happiness.  Bonds that are woven in sadness are stronger than the ties of joy and pleasure.  Love that is washed by tears will remain eternally pure and faithful.

  • One day you will ask me which is more important my life or yours.  I will say mine and you will walk away not knowing you are my life.  

Okay, kind of get the feel for old Kahlil?  By the way his name is rightly Khalil, but immigration officials screwed it up, so, there you are.  It stuck.  Before you get the mistaken impression that I am putting down Gibran for his peppy little quips,  let me say that Gibran and The Prophet was my first indoctrination with a kind of philosophical thought.  He was important to me for a brief time, and that time was to usher me into philosophy, but not just the field itself.  He was the first to show me how to read philosophy.  And that is an important distinction.  Today I find Gibran kind of a freshman phase thingy, a springboard to deeper, greater thought, but in that time, in that instant, he is indeed a great great writer.  


The Report From Iron Mountain was a short paperback given to me by Ivan Ewing, a fellow IWC student who also hails from Seaton.   In it it describes in detail a formation of a government panel that was supposed to meet in secrecy (Iron Mountain, Michigan) and whose findings were never intended for public consumption.  The panel came to a conclusion that in order to remain influential and powerful, nations had to create war or at least a credible substitute.  Now, here's the thing:  to this day no one really knows if it was real or a hoax, or at least that is what the continuing controversy and allure of the book is.  Its stated conclusion is that peace is not conducive to a lasting peace.  LBJ was, according to US News And World Report (11-20-1967) told that it had leaked and supposedly "hit the roof" and ordered its perpetual suppression. 
Eminent US statesman and Harvard professor John Kenneth Galbraith apparently leaked that he was on the commission while writing in the Washington Post, but then backed off that assertion six days later.  Coerced?  Or just part of the hoax?  

To this day, which by the way, is still being passed around on college campuses and conspiracy theorists, no one knows for sure if it was real or fiction.  Either easy, it paints a 20th century blueprint for another way of looking at the nation-state, along with Plato's The Republic.  

It is available in PDF form and if interested you can download it here: Download the file

You can, no doubt see the intrigue and allure of this book to a dumb college kid straight out of high school.  Like a sponge I again soaked it up with relish.  


The third initial influence was the book by Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Another short book, hmmm, we have a trend here.  Apparently beer at the West Side couldn't wait for longer reads. 

In short, Jonatham a seagull is tired of fighting for food all day, every day.  He wants more.  So he takes to flight and goes on long journeys, perfecting his skills.  The flock outcast him because he won't conform.  He is met by two other gulls who teach him that there is a "higher plane of existence", and that there is no heaven, where food is always readily available, but that life itself can become richly rewarding by itself through knowledge.  

Once transcended he then returns to help other outcasts find their way to their higher existence.  Man, I'm getting goosebumps just typing this. See, Philosophy!  This little book has it all:  friendships, struggle, waste of materialism, higher beings, you name it.  This little bird got it going.  

The social phenomenon was huge at the time and spawned a movie  and Neil Diamond did the soundtrack.  I listened to it all the time.  (Psst, I still have it.)  Good music that holds up well even today.  

Here's just one of my favorites from that album, Dear Father.  

Hopefully it will work for you, otherwise go to YouTube and type in song title. 

So there you go.  Some early influences that got me curious, hungry and thirsty for more.  From these readings and listenings,  would come other philosophers, thinkers, avenues and pursuits.  Mssrs. Gibran and Bach and Iron Mountain opened the door for me to peek around and question.  To see the world no longer from  small town eyes.  To look at the broader realities, the burgeoning amount of things to read.  So I went into philosophy and theology.  I read Socrates, Hegel, Keirkegaard and the usual troops too many to mention here; ushered out like parade soldiers being inspected by a foreign diplomat.  And I loved it, for better or worse.  If I had it to do all over again, I would have become an electrician.

They provided a stepping stone, an impetus to wonder...and while they seem small and irrelevant today from my perspective, for a few months a long time ago, they were giants.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Morning Study Along The Road


My friend and BFE neighbor, Tim, took a series of pictures while traveling on the job a while back.  I forget if he said these were in Iowa or not, but it was early morning and he had just started his day on the road. I thought they were pretty darn good and I think he used his phone camera.  It gave these an ethereal look,  landmarks in the mist.  

I'm no expert on cell phone cameras.  Mine takes either very very good ones, or is singularly bad.  There is just so much you can squeeze into a thin sardine tin and still make it commercially viable.  In these pictures I don't know if they are poor which enhances their qualities of mystery, or if they are excellent.  Whichever, these are little mini-canvasses of art - of a mystical landscape that existed for that moment.  Mr. Stage had an eye for the scene, which most of us walk through thinking of other things.  

Sometimes we need to detach ourselves from the usual routine and step back and stop.  Grab the camera and capture a scene that could change in mere seconds.  Beauty is all around us.  We only need to see through the din of our earthly thoughts to see the unearthly.  Be prepared.

Thanks, Mr. Stage for contributing to EIB.

BFE Reporter Days here on the blog are designed to showcase your pictures.  If you have something you'd like me to post send them to 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Harvest Supermoon

The Harvest Moon is the cool one we remember in the Fall.  Sometimes it looked so huge and with Halloween around the corner it was maybe a little eerie, too.  Usually we saw it peeking over the treetops with a yellowish or gold tinge.  The Harvest Moon was also a Supermoon.  This year, I didn't see much color and it lacked the eeriness of a cool crisp evening in Northlandia.  Down here, in the mecca of meh, many things are underwhelming.  

Even so it presented a pretty good photo opportunity.  The problem with a post featuring the Moon, where else do you go?  You take one picture of it, then what?  Why post four pics?  Well, then you do a little cropping and zooming, and, voila, a salvaged post barely able to wobble on four legs. 

With the October Blood Moon coming up soon and another meteor shower after that, it's time to grab my lawn chair and do some more night shooting, even in this citified sky.  The blog is always hungry.   

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits

St. Pete Egg Platter patron and Red Skelton look-alike here has unique facial hair.  I've never seen anything like it, and when you do off-kilter stuff like this, you get pictures taken of yourself and pasted on the world wide web.  Looking a lot like a patch of yard that doesn't get mowed, this guy has decided this is a cool look.  I'm not sure it will take off, buddy, er Red.


 This is amazingly good Bloody Mary mix that I had at Tim's Neighborly Bar and Sometimes Grill.  I thought Whiskey Willy's was the best, but it has now been toppled from the top spot by Jimmy Luv's.  Perfect blend of tasty spices that includes 2 important ingredients:  horseradish and anchovies.  An added bonus is it has a watery consistency unlike others where a fork and knife is sometimes necessary.   

Now that the long tendrils of Fall are upon us and beckon us toward another Winter, let me recommend a couple of movies for your consideration. 

Still Mine is a Canadian flick that stars James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold.  Cromwell is known as Farmer Hoggitt in Babe, the Warden in The Green Mile, the Nazi doctor in American Horror Story and many other roles.  You may not know his name but he is easily recognizable.  Bujold, well, I don't recall many films of hers, but  do remember that I thought she was cute when I was a wee lad. 

No cars careening, no explosions, no thumping music designed to heighten suspense, Still Mine may be the best movie you see this year.  This is a movie about people and about aging.  I don't want to say more about it, just see it.  Rent this DVD and if you don't like it, let me know and I'll send you the DVD or pay your On-Demand fee.  Promise. 

It's not often you get a chance to see truly great storytelling, great direction, inspired writing, stunning acting and production values all rolled into one project.  True Detective is one such series.  Apparently this is going to be an anthology but if they can top their first endeavor then we really are going to be in for an annual treat.  This whodunit is secondary to the character development between McConaughey and Harrelson as they track a serial killer in Louisiana.  One of the best ever.  Smart, adult, clever, philosophical, metaphysical with unbelievable location shots

My last recommendation is The Normal Heart about the early fight for AIDS recognition and treatment.  


Initially people in the trenches had to fight public perception, governmental and political disinterest and each other.  Today AIDS seems to have been swept under the rug but 6,000 people get infected every day.  Ebola is a piker in comparison.  

The acting is superb (watch for the bearded guy's rant/speech toward the end of the movie), the story riveting and heartfelt.  So cuddle in under a blanket one of these cold nights and watch excellent drama.  We still have plenty of exploding cars and action superheroes to turn to when there is nothing better to watch.  


Tried to take some pictures of the Orionids meteor shower today at 2:00 AM at Vinoy but the cloud cover was too great.  Today is when they peak.  So, back to bed.  While not as numerous or bright as the Perseids, they would have been worth taking while coming in over the Bay.  I'll try again tomorrow morning, weather permitting.        

Monday, October 20, 2014

Largo Public Park

It was one of those spontaneous stops with which you have low expectations.  Driving back from the beach a sign "Largo Public Park" beckoned at the 4-way stop.  A smattering of cars on this Sunday morning was a good sign…for me.  Crowds and all that pit wetness inducing thing that vexes me.   So far, so good. 

This is a baby owl.  How studly at this age.  How regal and cool.  They had a person on the walkway holding this guy and another one.  They keep wounded birds they find on their grounds and these birds were either healing from wounds or will never be able to survive in the wild.  Of all the parks and nature preserves I have visited this is the first place that had their birds outside for easy viewing during open hours instead of in their cages.  

This gives you a little perspective on Little Guy's size.  

I finally go this guy head-on.  He didn't want to face me and his trainer/keeper kept trying to get him to look over.  Finally he did and you can tell he's a bit pissed.  Not sure why I wasn't worthy of his glare, but something about me tick whim off.  

This walkway out into the water is kind of nice.  Fairly long it's a nice place to just gaze at all the things around you.  Now I'll keep still awhile as you walk with me through the all the vegetation.

These turtles were basking in the dryness of the log.  Unfortunately we have spoiled these guys.  There is a place in the education center that will sell you some turtle food.  

When you stand on the deck you can see the water roiling.  That's the turtles coming over to get food, much like a dog begs for a treat.  Not having bought anything I therefore felt badly for making them go to all that effort for nothing.  Next time I'll get some food, darn it.    

Friday, October 17, 2014

Flashback Friday

Today's Flashback focuses on a couple characters we have met before on the blog.  The swarthy dark terrorist looking fellow below is the Wombie, aka Aquaman, who is providing a comfy pillow to family dog, Magic, who we met formally a few weeks ago on the August 29th post.  

At that time I showcased a painting I did over 30 years ago for Marj.  I thought you might like to see her in person, and the Wombie has provided a secondary reason since he is closing in on his retirement as Aquaman in Aledo.    

Written on the back of this picture is "Aug '76" so Mark would have been working in Orion at this time in the water department and I was enjoying a summer working for Uncle Ed before heading back to my second year of grad school in Denver.  Maybe we had finished playing a ballgame for the Seaton Church League team.  

The Wombie hasn't changed all that much - perhaps a bit more around the middle, less hair but still a beard, maybe a little older looking.  Meanwhile, I have appeared to defy the aging process whilst probably prettier than in my youth. I notice the finger splint, perhaps an industrial accident?   I'll have to ask next time I talk to him.  

Magic died sometime between this picture and the painting 6 years later.  She was a Hell of a good dog, we were lucky, we had two great ones growing up.  Archie before her, magic was a feisty pup who liked to scoot around with some encouragement and hand clapping.  She hated Bill Greer down at his gas station when he would wash the windows when gassing up.  Never saw a dog so intent on getting that hand and towel.  She'd be all over the front then move to the back when Bill took care of that window, too.  I think maybe he egged her on a little, but still, it was just one of those quirks that all dogs have.   If "a faithful and loving companion" is the hallmark of a great pooch, then we had two.  Lucky, lucky boys.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Anatomy of a Catch

On a mission seeking that which is food, these gulls sweep the beach on a constant quest to live.  Spend any time here at all and you will see their never-ending surveillance of the sea and very often a perpendicular plunge downward.  

Scan, Swoop, Dive, Catch.  Evolved through millennia, hunter and hunted.  Life and death.  Can't beat fun at the beach.