Thank you all for hanging in with me during this dry spell. It’s been difficult to find the motivation to do anything creative after taking not one but two tumbles down the stairs. I will be eternally grateful that bumps and bruises seem to be the worst of it all but to be honest I am not nearly as brave as I was when I was younger so it’s taking me a little longer than expected to get back up to speed.
Despite my age and girth I still have a soldier’s mindset – I can plod on through just about anything:
- When I developed a tremor in my hand that made painting problematic I switched to cut-paper sculpture.
- When I lost my teaching gig in Nashville I started teaching creative workshops out of my studio.
- When I
fractureddestroyed my right ankle I taught from a wheelchair.
…but for some reason this fire at the Notre Dame has shaken me and I can’t figure out why is proving so hard for me to deal with.
- Maybe it’s the unsettled state of our world today.
- Maybe it’s my age.
- Maybe its because I love Gothic architecture.
The only Gothic cathedral I’ve seen in person was the Duomo and it’s probably just as well that I saw only the one because my heart couldn’t hold up – I think I went into full-body Stendahl’s syndrome. I studied Gothic Architecture from Mark Hamilton at BYU and I usually dwelt a little longer (than usual) on the subject in my own art history as befits living art you can walk around in.
Stephen Royale created this cardstock model for my class and I think should be shown again given the circumstances.
By this point you can probably tell that I like to use nicknames. Special name connote special relationships and I love my daughter more than life.
Rerun Saturday has morphed into Rerun Sunday this week.
Going off to college was not the first time I had travelled away from home alone. By the time I left for the University of Alaska* I had flown between Alaska and California by myself on three different occasions, had been to several church youth conferences and attended Boys State. As a dependent of a retired Navy chief petty officer I had also spent a lot of time visiting military bases shopping, seeing movies, swimming at the pool and receiving medical care. Living away from home as part of a large institution held no terror for me.
While I was not overly concerned about living away from home, I was unsure about the social conditions As my departure date neared I would mentally try on different situations, wondering what the rooms would be like and whether or not I would run into old friends from Anchorage or other former Boys…
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Last Christmas I wrote about Unrequited, a Batgirl-themed cut-paper piece I did almost ten years ago. While I’ve always been fond of the concept the main figure quickly cooled off for me so I decided to extensively rework the project, keeping the Bat-Mite figure and the odd utility belt pouch but disposing of everything else.
I finished the new main figure today and as I look at it three things come to mind:
- While the differences are not screamingly obvious I am very glad I re-did the Batgirl figure.
- I’d forgotten how challenging cut-paper work can be.
- It’s been a great warm-up for my upcoming book cover-to-be.
It’s been a while since my last large CPS but I’ve thankfully retained, even refined all the pertinent skills. The next step is to create a new environment then reassemble all the components into a single composition
Eight months ago I moved my studio from a shoebox sized sitting room off the kitchen to the much roomier bonus room on the second floor. There were several reasons for the move, not the least being the good vibes I get in sitting in a room resembling my attic loft back in Sterling. The move also forces me to negotiate a set of stairs at least four times a day, providing the exercise that is too easy for me to avoid given the chronic pain I deal with.
Sometimes the stairs provide more than exercise. When I went to visit the second-floor bathroom this afternoon I found that there was no tissue to be found anywhere, which prompted me to head downstairs for the hall bathroom. I had no sooner started down the steps when I slipped/tripped/mis-stepped which caused me to fall down the rest of the flight. As I was bouncing between the banister and the opposite wall I kept waiting for that avalanche of pain that accompanies a fracture but evidently judo and jump school taught me how to fall correctly and so far the only damage I’ve found is some pretty ugly bruises.
I’ve been murmuring continual quiet prayers to myself – this could have gone SO badly for me but so far the only damage is to Jaybug’ s eardrums when I set a record for consecutive “son of a bitch” utterances. The incident also taught me one very important lesson:
“Always keep the upstairs bathroom stocked with toilet paper!”
Flight training entails the use of several items of clothing and equipment not normally issued to a young lieutenant, and while I readily understood the purpose of the SPH-4 aviators helmet1, and my flame retardant Nomex® flight clothing, other items like the E6-B flight computer2 baffled me. Fortunately I learned my very first day on the flight line that my single most important piece of equipment was my stick buddy – another student I was teamed up with. We sat in class together, studied for exams together, and when we transitioned to the UH-1 we flew together. We alternated between actually flying the aircraft and sitting in a jump seat just aft and between the student at the controls and the instructor pilot who was situated where he could observe. Then we’d swap places and learn from our mistakes.
I was fortunate to draw Scott the Former Cadet as my partner, and while as a rule he was a great guy to work with, there was one time when I questioned his sanity. I was at the controls, but out of the corner of my eye I could see his head slightly rocking, and I began to wonder if he had some sort of nervous tic brought on by the stress of flying. It turned out that he was in fact “rocking out”. Drawing on his background as an electronics maintenance officer he’d figured how to listen to music simulcast over an NDB at the same time he listened to the instructor pilot’s calm, thoughtful, and insightful commentary on my performance3 that day.
So what was an NDB? It was a “non-directional beacon”, an almost-gone old-tech radio aid that used outmoded technology differing a bit from other newer aids to aerial navigation. The NDB’s signal had no inherent locational information but in fact was the instrument flight version of a lighthouse giving a relative bearing to the transmitter with no reference to north or south. Finding your way with an NDB was a multi-step process: you had to find the transmitter’s location on a chart, and after some number crunching, figure out where you were and where you were going.
Recently the FAA announced plans to drop questions about non-directional beacons from the written exam for instrument flight certification, a move that bothered me because as outmoded as they are these NDBs had their benefits. For example in one flying area where I logged a lot of hours the terrain was such that the newer and more sophisticated beacons were less reliable than the older versions. NDBs also had a longer range at lower altitudes and as a bonus could give notice of unknown thunderstorms when electricity released by lightening would “crackle” on their less distinct signal.
For most of my life I’ve had a circle of friends that functioned much like a system of NDBs, a group of people with a wide range of age, background, faith and gender whose positive examples helped me navigate the moral terrain of my life. I started out with most of them being home-grown Alaskans from my youth, but other “flavors” came along during my travels as a student, missionary, soldier, design professional and teacher. These friends – combined with my board of directors4 – formed a network of moral NDBs to guide me in life the same way the actual beacons gave directions for flying without visual reference.
Unfortunately I am now in the 55-to-dead demographic and both the state of the world and my own situation brings to mind the words of British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey on the eve of the Great War: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”. My personal NDBs are getting fewer and fewer as time goes on: some are passing away, some have succumbed to the ravages of different forms of mental impairment but sadly there are those who’ve lost their way and have been unable to keep their principles while becoming lost in a social overcast of catchphrases, buzzwords and political correctness.
Before the term “fix” took on its unfortunate drug overtone, the word was used in navigation as a reference to a point where two star-sightings or radio beams intersected and provided a location on the map. Getting a fix is OK, but what you really want is a “good fix” – three beams intersecting and giving a much more precise location. As I lose more of those moral NDBs it gets harder and harder to get a fix much less a “good fix” as I navigate on my journey through life.
Make no mistake – in my lifetime I have been witness to forms of prejudice and injustice that were sorely in need of redress, and while great strides have been made there is still much to be done.
However, there is something inherently flawed in the way both sides of the political spectrum are addressing these problems. As I listen in on the dialog about those unsolved problems it is especially distressing to hear that chilling maxim “the end justifies the means” uttered most often by those who do not know the source of the adage, namely Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, a 16th century Florentine government functionary and philosopher who first used the words as justification for manipulation and duplicity in his political treatise The Prince.
…and then I wonder if they’ve also missed the work of Georges Santayana when he wrote that “ those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” and are clueless as to how quickly political chaos can devolve into totalitarianism? Only ten years separate the Beer Haul Putsch 1923 from the German government’s national boycott of Jewish business which put the Holocaust in motion. Think about it – ten years ago for us now was 2009, the year that Micheal Jackson died, Barack Obama was sworn in and the Great Recession ran out of steam.
Doesn’t seem that long ago, eh?
As I get older I find that navigating perilous socio-political waters takes a lot more out of me, and just leading a good life doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Instead we’re called on to prove our “goodness” by negotiating a series of steps that seem to change in mid-stride, but just as the effort is more tiring the emotional response remains the same. My own set of values are well established, so I’ll continue on the moral path I have chosen…
…but it gets kind of lonely sometimes.
- AKA “brain bucket”
- Nifty slide ruler with a frosted Mylar(R) window that allowed you calculate airspeed, ground speed, fuel consumption and the myriad ways the wind could screw up your flight plan
- Please engage your sarcasm filter for this sentence.
- See Board of Directors Part 1: Richard Bird
Rounding out the Good Friday Earthquake trilogy/triad/trio….whatever. The three posts I wrote about the “Big One.”
April in Alaska was a slightly schizophrenic period of time: The snow was melting faster than the ground mass could absorb the water, creating so much mud that the season is referred to as “break-up” instead of “spring”. April of 1964 seemed to fit that pattern when the first hints of green appeared and changes started to happen outside as the weather got warmer.
Oddly enough the first big changes were inside our house: When the dust settled from extensive furniture and bookshelf rearrangement I had my own room again…or to be more precise I had an alcove partially blocked off from the rest of the front room. It was enough for me to have a trace element of privacy and a place to keep some of my things out on display without instant destruction at the hands of my little sisters.
One of the first items I wanted to…
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Carrying on from yesterday’s commemoration. It’s hard to believe it all happened 55 years ago – that’s almost as long as the gap between the Good Friday quake and the massive earthquake that leveled San Francisco in 1906
Normally I didn’t get up very early on Saturday mornings; other than a half-hour of old Mighty Mouse cartoons on television at 2:30 in the afternoon and spattering of old radio serial episodes on the radio there was no kid-specific entertainment to drag us out of bed. What did eventually get us out of bed was Mom’s wooden spoon as she “encouraged” us to do our chores, but on this Saturday everyone was more subdued than usual, especially as more solid information came in.
The tsunami news had been as bad as we originally heard, and we got our first notice that Anchorage had its own death toll. Local destruction was principally focused at two places: Turnagain Subdivision and the heart of downtown. Both places took a lot of damage for the same reason: They were situated on bluffs fairly close to the inlet, and both areas had a substantial…
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Normally I’d have waited until 2020 to re-run a post like this so soon but I couldn’t let this particular date pass by without some sort of acknowledgment. Older Boomers will ask each other “Where were you when Kennedy was shot” but for Alaskans of that vintage the questions is “Where were you during the Quake?
They will also talk about this television program:
As I start out let me note that there many more definitive and accurate treatments of the Good Friday earthquake in print. I’m just relating the story from the viewpoint of an almost-eleven year old boy…who was secretly pleased that the initials of this ruined café matched his own.)
One of the bonding elements of the Baby Boomer generation was the assassination of John F. Kennedy; ask that rhetorical question “Where were you when Kennedy was shot” at any gathering of members of that demographic the room usually goes silent as everyone remembers back…or tries to remember given the stage of senility we may be in. I was in the tail end of the b00m and I most definitely remember Mrs. Green bursting into my fifth grade class with “Oh my God the president has been shot!”…but there was an event that is even more firmly fixed in my mind and…
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