Albert Bierstadt’s View of the World

When I see the natural world it looks like an Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) painting:

Rocky Mountain Landscape

While Bierstadt is long out of favor for purportedly being overly gaudy, romanticized work, I like the magical impressionism in it. The world I see looks like the world Bierstadt saw.

According to the Bierstadt website, he “was a German-American painter best known for his large landscapes of the American West. In obtaining the subject matter for these works, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.”

Colorado’s 14,065-foot Mt. Bierstadt, near Denver,  is named in his honor. I climbed many Colorado mountains nearby but unfortunately, school called me away to New York before I got to this one.

You can see a wondrous display of his complete works here.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is a former mountain climber whose western novels include “Mountain Song,” “Sarabande,” and “The Sun Singer.”

Is this my country?

Wikipedia photographs

Some of you lost your innocence yesterday during or after the insurrection about the sanctity of the democratic process and the safety of those in the capitol building carrying out the work.

I first lost my innocence in 1954 when Puerto Rican nationalists fired 30 rounds from semiautomatic weapons in the House Chamber. Five representatives were wounded. Those who say yesterday’s violence was the first in the building since the British invasion in 1814 don’t know their recent history.

Plus, comparing yesterday’s insurrection to the British invasion is not only dramatic but carries the subtext that the mob invading the capitol building to protest what they believed was a stolen election is somehow of the same magnitude as the invasion. It was not a coup attempt in spite of what many politicians and media commentators said.

Many of us lost our innocence again and again during the Vietnam War when the federal government not only faked the Gulf of Tonkin resolutions that “legalized” our participation but seldom told us the truth about the conduct and progress of the war. As a supporter of Eugene McCarthy and a volunteer in the McGovern campaign, I note just how much the Democrats have changed.

Continued racism, violence in the cities, senseless foreign wars, the hoax of the Russian conspiracy investigation based on political angst, lies and faked documents, and the lack of a unified, countrywide COVID response have eaten away at our patriotic soul.

Nonetheless, giving up on our country is not an option. I still believe that.

–Malcolm

Happy Twelfth Night

“Food and drink are the center of the celebrations in modern times, and all of the most traditional ones go back many centuries. The punch called wassail is consumed especially on Twelfth Night and throughout Christmas time, especially in the UK, and door-to-door wassailing (similar to singing Christmas carols) was common up until the 1950s. Around the world, special pastries, such as the tortell and king cake, are baked on Twelfth Night, and eaten the following day for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations. In English and French custom, the Twelfth-cake was baked to contain a bean and a pea, so that those who received the slices containing them should be respectively designated king and queen of the night’s festivities.” – Wikpedia

The front door looks empty without its Christmas wreath and garland, and so, too, the widows without their (battery operated) candles. The decorations have been stowed away in the garage until they come alive again at the end of the year.

I won’t be taking ale or even moonshine from door  to door while singing:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

If I did, the cops would probably show up, and/or people would appear at their front doors with shotguns to inform us to “shut the hell up.” Either way, those consequences don’t seem very festive.

However you celebrate the beginning of the year, may you find hope and happiness in 2021 and all the traditional and/or personal epiphanies you need to ensure this year is better than last year.

Malcolm

Review: To Wake a Giant

To Wake the Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Jeff Shaara

 My rating: 5 of 5 stars


When General Billy Mitchell wrote a report in 1924 that not only predicted the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor but how they would do it, it was rejected out of hand.

Those who've seen documentaries and feature films such as "Tora! Tora! Tora!" know before they pick up Jeff Shaara's accurate and well written "To Wake the Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor" that military commanders and diplomats in the late 1930s and early 1940s continued to reject a Japanese attack out of hand.

Having read all of Jeff Shaara's historical novels, often about subjects I've studied, I'm accustomed to his impeccable research as well as the fact he makes history so human and readable that by the end of each novel, one feels like s/he was there. Unfortunately, some early Amazon reader reviews said Shaara's research on "To Wake the Giant" was sloppy. Subsequently, those reviews were shown to be inaccurate.

Unlike battles that last for days or weeks or months, the attack itself was short. So this book had to be a little different, focusing for many pages on the events leading up to 8 a.m. (25 minutes later than Mitchell's prediction) on the morning of December 7th, 1941. The events prior to the attack not only demonstrate the viewpoints of the major political and military players but show the attitudes of men serving onboard the Arizona and other ships in Pearl Harbor. Shaara shows the attitudes and emotions of those involved months in advance but while the attack is underway.

The human factor looms large in this novel and that's one of its major strengths. Once again, Shaara has put us into the action in a way we'll never forget. 

 


 View all my reviews

Every year we go through this: Christmas Day is the First Day of Christmas

Retailers love countdowns, one of them being their fake 12 days of Christmas that ends on December 25th. This helps sales, no doubt. But I cringe when I see it because it’s a marketing strategy that pre-empts the reality of the holiday.

Dear retailers: If you need to usurp a holy countdown, use Advent (November 29 – December 24.)

This brings us to December 25th, the first day of Christmas in most traditions, the days that old song refers to.

You probably sing the song at one party or another during “Twelvetide,” and perhaps you know the meaning of the verses:

The Twelve Days, of course, lead up to Twelfth night, the day when in most traditions, the greenery comes out of the house. My neighbors are used to our Christmas lights staying on through the 5th of January. The following day is Epiphany, the day the wise men visited the Christ Child.

I suppose many people sleep through Epiphany if they continue the tradition of the Twelfth Night party where everyone gets drunk:

This looks kind of expensive, so we don’t throw a party. However, if you’re throwing a party, please let us know. The first thing, though, is knowing when the Twelve Days of Christmas begin and end.

Malcolm

Do I feel lonely on days with no new SPAM?

SPAM? The short answer is “no.”

What I like to see on my dashboard.

I appreciate the fact WordPress catches these comments rather than dumping them into my weblog as purported real responses to my posts.

Sometimes I glance at the queue just to see what’s there. I’ve never once found a real comment mistakenly labeled as SPAM. I’m often amused by he things spammers (or their bots) say to get past the SPAM catcher: “This is my favorite blog,” “What a timely topic; I’m bookmarking this page” “Did you know your posts don’t display properly on my cellphone?” and “Can I help you with SEO optimization.”

The Worst Ruse

“Would you like to save time and energy using curated posts from real writers in this blog? Trust me, I know it’s hard finding new things to write about and composing them properly.”

Are you crazy?

Of course, I don’t send that response because I don’t want more SPAM. But I do want to say, “You pretend to follow my blog and yet you haven’t noticed that I am a writer. Why would I want other writers writing my stuff?”

So bloggers ever allow these kinds of comments to see the light of day? That is, does SPAM like this ever work? Should I feel heartless about the 59, 976 SPAM comments that I threw in the cyber trash can?

Now, if a spammer wanted to send me some real SPAM® from the Hormel Foods Corporation, I might consider it. When I was a Boy Scout, we sometimes took SPAM® on camping trips because it was easy to cook even though the Scoutmaster wanted us to cook our meals from scratch–and that was back in the old days before all these choices were available:

I’m not tempted enough to buy these at the store, but if all these wonders had been on the shelves when I was an eleven-year-old Tenderfoot Scout, I may never have cooked any real food over a campfire and earned a merit badge for it.

But, alas, none of the SPAM is the real deal.

The phony stuff posted by leeches in the WordPress Akismet swill catcher just doesn’t light my fire, much less make me feel loved and treasured as a blogger.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell just updated the book page on his website and invites you to stop by and take a look. 

Am bu chòir seann eòlas a dhìochuimhneachadh?

Should old knowledge be forgotten as my Gàidhlig title asks or as we are asking when we sing “Auld Lang Syne”?

I take comfort in this old song, perhaps from my Scots heritage, perhaps from the sweet sentiments set down by Rabbie Burns in 1788. When I think of him, I am saddened by the fact he was only with us for 37 years. But what a great influence he was.

I was very much aware of him as a child, and when we were asked in a high school class to memorize a poem and recite it to the class, I chose his “Scots Wha Hae” (Scots Who Have) about William Wallace, doing my fair best with the dialect:

Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gory bed,
Or tae victorie.

I’ll no fash you by copying in the entire poem!

My father knew Scots history and the particulars of our family tree, so I grew up filled with stories about everyone who opposed the English threat to the sovereign kingdom, especially the Highlands. I feel like I’ve been waiting for Scotland to break away from Britain ever since the sorry Acts of Union in 1707. 

But so much for politics. In “Auld Lang Syne,” Burns, I think captured our feelings for old times and the continuity of the past–and our feelings for each other over time.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

Chorus:

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Chorus

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

Chorus

Ah, now I’m ready to face 2021.

Malcolm

2020: Get out before midnight or else

There once was a year named 2020
That conspired to plague us aplenty,
Whenever we thought the bad times were said and done,
We were told, “the worst has just begun.”

I’m sure something good happened during the year. Okay, two of us at Thomas-Jacob Publishing released new novels. And we had some good meals even though we had to cook them ourselves. There was some good stuff on TV such as “The Queen’s Gambit.”

But all in all, from questionable police shootings to rioters/looters upstaging protesters to COVID cases/deaths, the news was bad. It got a little better when several COVID vaccines (one not yet available in the U.S.) were announced.

Too many people died, though, and the Feds are sending vaccine doses to Congressmen/women and/or criminals before attending to the nursing home population and the elderly. I cringe whenever I see the announced death of an “old” person who’s my age, followed by the usual hoo-haw, “Well, they had a full life.”

And then there were those with critical illnesses who were denied treatment because people with COVID–usually not life-threatening or even obvious–had first dibs on hospital beds. Triage sort of got forgotten.

Yet, as cynical as I usually sound, I think we can beat the damages of 2020 (for those who are still living) and get on top of all that ails us. We will cure and protect more people. We will stop pointless police shootings. We will acknowledge that Black lives matter. We will start protecting our environment again after rolling back protections that took decades to get approved. We will get people working again and our stores open once more.

So, I feel sane enough to wish you a happy new year that brings you the best dreams you can imagine.

Malcolm

FEDs retire ‘2020’ from use on future calendars

Washington, D. C., December 30, 2020, Star-Gazer News Service The U. S. Calendar Control Commission announced here this morning that it has banned the year 2020 from usage on future calendars.

Commission Chairperson Julian Gregorian explained to reporters that bad years are retired in the same manner that the names of bad hurricanes are retired.

“Eighty-two hurricane names have been retired,” Gregorian said. “You’ll never see another Carol, Donna, Hugo, or Katrina because those storms were so badass that we’re too superstitious to use their names again.”

According to CCC scientists, if Pope Georgory XIII had deigned to use Tarot Cards in 1582 when he introduced our current calendar system, he would have omitted years that were designated as controlled by demons, and the world would have avoided multiple plagues, wars, and bad luck.

“There never would have been a 1918 influenza outbreak, a 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, no 9/11 attacks, and no 20202 COVID-19 pandemic,” Gregory said.

A CCC backgrounder for reporters explained that even if the United States implemented a new calendar system, today’s action guarantees that ill years will never appear on it.

Calendar expert, Joseph Lunisolar told reporters that bad times could also be avoided by employing government astrologers.

“Until that happens,” he said, “we’ll continue to pay the price for thumbing our noses at the fates.”

-30-

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

What did Daddy do during COVID?

The question used to be: “What did Daddy do during the war?” Perhaps now, it’s “What did Daddy and Mommy do during COVID?”

The answers might be, “Got sick and died,” “Lost their jobs,” “Got evicted,” or (possibly) “Wore a mask and hoped for the best.”

When people ignore the lockdowns, as they did at Thanksgiving and Christmas, more people end up sick. And yet, when people stay inside their homes, more businesses go bankrupt and more people lose their jobs. Will the vaccines rescue us? Time will tell. Some say we’ll be fighting COVID for years. I’m not surprised at that assessment.

And after all the precautions we’ve been urged to take, lately, the news is that things are going to get a lot worse. That’s not reassuring.

According to today’s news, Mitch McConnell blocked Senate consideration of raising the stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000, something the leader of his party is pushing for. Needless to say, Senators aren’t losing their jobs, worrying about health care expenses, or with their lifetime pensions, having money for the future. I guess we’re all supposed to be grateful for the crumbs our rich Senators and Representatives give us.

So, another answer for that did Daddy and Mommy do during COVID is “Got screwed by their government.”

I got a notice from the FEDs today letting me know my Social Security benefits are going up 1.3% Wow, what a difference that will make. <g>  Meanwhile, even though publishing had a decent year, what with people staying home and reading more books, that “decent year” mainly applied to major publishers.  The rest of us are seeing a giant downturn in sales.

So, another answer for what did Daddy and Mommy do during COVID is published new books that got lost in the shuffle. My $600 stimulus check (thanks,  Mitch,  you sorry bastard) won’t make up the difference. What kind of math are the Feds using?

More or less, Daddy and Mommy muddled through, waiting to see if their numbers were up or if they would make it to 2021. At my age, I’m surprised I’m still here. A lot of us feel that way.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the four-book “Florida Folk Magic Series” that focuses on the KKK in the 1950s Florida Panhandle.