Autumn in “Our Woods”

 

 

 

It has taken a while, but it’s unanimous now: Fall has fallen. My favourite Canadian season. We only have three here: Summer, Fall and, of course, winter. Spring is usually crushed by Summer before the poets can get more than a few lines scribbled down.

Fall has deliciously dawdled this year.

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My Attempt To End War Like Arlo Guthrie

This key statue, called Canada Bereft, confirms Vimy’s sense of “never again” and not of “glory.”

This is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans’ Day in the States. If you’ve never seen the Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge, it is an enormous, beautiful, monument that pays tribute to the courage of  the Canadian and allied soldiers who died there 100 years ago in and around deep trenches fighting the Imperial German Army. I visited it in 2009 and took the above photo. Then, it was about “never again.” Now we have politicians using Vimy to glorify Canada’s coming of age. Having “come of age,” Canadian troops are  part of a super-aggressive NATO in – wait for it – Latvia. Latvia, for Pete’s sake! ‘Nuff said here. I digress.

Anyway, this post is about a song I wrote in 1983, when I learned that the Russians  had so many ICBM missiles pointed at them so close that a Russian human could never respond to an American first strike in time to retaliate.

Vulnerable because of this proximity, Russia was forced to develop a computerized “launch on warning” system that would virtually, for them, take the decision out of human hands. Very scary…

The Nuclear Doomsday Clock got to 3 minutes before midnight in 1984.

So, to “save the world” like Arlo Guthrie, I wrote this country blues song called Radiatin’ A-bomb Blues and started contacting publishers. In those days we mailed them cassettes

In 1984 this light-hearted song was pitched by Mark Altman of Morning Music to Doc Watson for his Sugar Hill blues project, but it was heard too late to be considered. I performed it also live on the CBC’s Metro Morning radio program and was interviewed by its host Joe Coté, one of my all-time favourite CBC Radio people.

Then by 1991, the Cold War over, the Doomsday Clock had been moved back to 17 minutes before midnight.

I stopped singing this song, and look whats happened since!

Its now two and one half minutes to midnight, just 30 measly seconds farther than the closest it’s ever been!

So here is my 1983 song, which I sang again on Thursday. I asked the audience to sing the chorus with me and they DID. One of my listeners reminded me that Arlo said “If you want to end war and stuff, you gotta sing LOUD.”

So it would be lovely if, while you’re listening to my song you can sing along as loud on the chorus as you can:

I got the low down, radiation’ A-bomb blues…

Sing anything you want. Just sing, and LOUD…

Here’s Arlo’s Alice’s Restaurant

And Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzin’ Matilda is, to me, the finest anti-war song ever written. Have a listen…

 

Lili Marlen 1915-2017 – A 2015 Repost

Photo Credit: Corley Padgett

With Remembrance Day in Canada tomorrow (and the Doomsday Clock at 2.5 seconds to midnight) I’m reposting this famous song with my 2015 words, more faithful to Hans Leip’s 1915 poem:

This video, Lili Marlen 1915-2015,  is my new, and lyrically different, English version of the hugely iconic song, originally recorded in German by Lale Andersen in 1939. Her recording was much loved by soldiers from both sides in World War II and became the sign-off song for Radio Belgrade in German-occupied Yugoslavia.

The song was originally a 1915 poem written by Hans Leip, a teacher who was conscripted into the German Imperial Army. It was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze. It was so loved by soldiers from both sides that Andersen recorded it in English in 1942.  Soldiers relate deeply to this wistful, iconic song.

The version I offer here tries to be faithful to the original German lyric, though I have modified it slightly for poetic and other reasons. It is quite different from Vera Lynn’s English version and, I think, has a better resonance with what Hans Leip originally wrote 100 years ago. This version also tries to completely express a broader set of the subtle complexities associated with precarious, long-distance, wartime relationships.

I didn’t start out to write yet another version of this piece, already done by stars like Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich. It just happened. Here’s how…

I sing songs in different languages and just wanted to know the meaning of the German words. A patient in a local hospital sang it for me in German while I accompanied her on the guitar… M’s performance moved me very much and I wanted somehow to honour what she had felt. I had trouble finding a literal translation, and entering it whole left Google Translate, and me, thoroughly confused. After a long time “parsing” each individual word the stuff started to make sense and making it rhyme accidentally became part of the process. Listening to the German performance by Marlene Dietrich was very helpful, as I had not yet found Lale Anderson. Happy with the result, I recorded it and asked Corley Padgett (Flicker: hornedfrog4life) if she would let me use her superb, copyrighted photo as background for the lyrics. Corley immediately agreed to help, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And, speaking of history, 2015 is the 100th Anniversary of the writing of the poem.

In Defence Of Intellectual Oxygen

Some things are not wrong because Russians happen to believe them.

Charles King, Profssor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University in Washington in a March 9, 2014 with the CBC’s Michael Enright.

In my considerable reading on international affairs since the US-engineered Ukraine coup in February 2014, RT, the Russian news source, has been one of my go-to sources for that rapidly vanishing, endangered species: Latum alterum.

And a re-reading of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark might cause Democrats et al. to think twice about their immensely destructive campaign to thrash about, looking for a foreign scapegoat, in search of an innocent, victimized Hillary Clinton.

An Agony in 8 Fits, indeed…

I am disappointed that Twitter has caved in to pressure from the Blame Russia Chorus and singled out RT to be banned from advertising on Twitter.

Here is RT’s response.

A Special Book

 

I have just finished The Stones Speak by the prolific, much-loved, 20th Century writer, Thórbergur Thórdarson, born in 1888, who grew up on a remote family farm named Hali in southeastern Iceland, very near to Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak in Iceland at 2119 metres.

I bought the book at the Þórbergssetur museum, where our tour group stopped on July 18th, two days into our 10 day bus tour. The centre was built in 2006 in Hali, (near Reynivellir in Southeast Iceland) and is dedicated to this unique man. He was largely self-educated, being too poor to attend high school or university.

The Stones Speak, translated in 2012 by Professor Julian Melton d’Arcy of the U. of Iceland, is Thórdarson’s only complete book that has been translated into English. Written when he was in his 60’s, this is an inspired, witty and sometimes caustic collection of his earliest memories – those of a precocious, hypersensitive visionary who lived very close to nature.

The book is, in my opinion, a must-read for folks who plan to visit Iceland and really want to work at understanding its recent (20th C.) history and its people. The introduction and notes by d’Arcy deserve to be read both before and after reading the book. They even contain the simplest, best guide to Icelandic pronunciation that I have found.

I went to Iceland because it was my wife’s choice and must confess that, uncharacteristically, my only research before the trip was to google the heck out of each place we were visiting on our Ring Road tour and look for things worth escaping from the pre-arranged options to see. And because we were arriving in Reykjavík (KEF) at 6 AM on the red-eye from Toronto on July 16th I was looking keenly for the most interesting places we might explore that day on our own. Our Grand Hotel was only a half-hour walk or a # 15 city bus from the centre of town. These were, for this dyed-in-the-wool self-directed traveler, the vital facts, since we were not due to meet our tour director at the hotel until 5:30 P.M.

Combined with the superb tour itself, reading The Stones Speak has given me wonderful, intensely personal insight/hindsight into the unique Icelandic people. It was, for me, not an easy read. It does not grab you like The DaVinci Code. I put it down and picked it up several times, as I have done with Proust, until realizing that, by making margin notes and studying maps and breaking down words in what is for the superbly gifted Daniel Tammet this oh-so-special language, I fell in love with Iceland and humanity in general, starting with the folks in 1890’s Suðursveit. 

If you have already visited Iceland, take the time to study The Stones Speak. You will, through it, reconnect with human nature and, perhaps, yourself.

P.S. If you have not gone yet, check out Guide To Iceland, a great website community to which my post travel research luckily led me. They justifiably claim to be an “unrivalled source of information.”

 

Waiting For Winter? Not!

Sumac Confusion

Above is evidence of a serious debate between branches of Sumac near here as to whether fall has fallen. The majority Green Party seems to think not.

Sweet Peas
Sweet Peas still here October 8

Thought I’d reaped the last of the sweet peas on Sept 28 for a tiny bouquet to greet Anita when she came back from a family funeral in Trinidad, but there were more. The garden has never stayed so beautiful for so long.

I thought that overseeding parts of the lawns on September 19 was tempting fate, but there’s been no frost and above seasonal temperatures and the seedlings have done well.

My enthusiasm shown in this post is, in view of the extreme, human-caused suffering experienced by so many in the Caribbean, North America, and by all forms of life worldwide that depend on our Planet’s finely-tuned biosphere, a “tad” selfish. It’s just that, from time to time, we all need to focus on happy things like this and show appreciation for the love and hard work that people close to us have put into making things so much more beautiful.

The only winter I have really come to fear is a nuclear winter.

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That said, here are the photos taken on October 8 that made the cut:

 

 

 

 

Going By In A Bus

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Jöjullsárlon Glacial Lagoon – Iceland

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Literally “going by in a bus.”

We passed the above on our way to visit the author Thórdarson memorial site in nearby Hali. Our date with the above lagoon was later that afternoon. There were poles quickly and determinedly going by the window as I shot AVCHD video with my Sony Alpha A-6000 using Sony’s e-mount SEL18-55mm zoom lens that has internal stabilization.

This is a screenshot I took while editing the video. The stains on the baby icebergs are volcanic fallout probably from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in southern Iceland. The added colour in the ice enhances the photo.

Behind, and just below the Parasitic Jaeger in full flight, is the gloomy-faced glacier whose calving produces the ice in the lagoon. For me the image creates a very special mood. I am grateful to my A-6000 and to the photography djinns for my being on the correct side of the bus as we whisked by between posts on our way to tea and a tour at the Hali Farm.

We had paid days in advance for a large, yellow, amphibious duck boat tour of the lagoon. When we arrived from Hali it was raining and I had to leave my camera in the bus and don rain pants, etc. For someone who has seen the Rockies’ Columbia Ice Field close up, this wasn’t much ice and the hectic decision making and running around caused by the bad weather induced me to tune out. We were treated to what seemed like standard tourist jokes by the young, non-icelandic park guide on the boat.

We dutifully chomped on 1000 year old glacier ice that he used a pick to break off for us from an armful-sized chunk.  To his credit, he held it in his bare hand with long-suffering, smiling patience. The chunk must have been captured earlier and kept in a fridge because we never saw him collect it. I was relieved when it was thrown back. Maybe it was, too.

Pale blue or not, it tasted like… ice. No hint of blueberry. To my undiscerning palette, it didn’t seem to have gone bad during that thousand years. Whatever molecules, if any, it may have absorbed from Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were invisible and tasteless.

There were many similar craft chugging down into the water at regular intervals. Ours had a bullet hole in it. We learned that they were originally US Navy craft. The afternoon sailings should have been canceled and our $60 pp refunded. I would then have walked around in my rain suit shooting under an umbrella. My camera, always the third person on our holidays, sulked for a day or so. I told it it hadn’t missed much. That didn’t help.

I have only now told “A” that it helped me capture the above surprise that just may be my favourite of the whole trip. Was it my imagination, or did I hear a tiny, high pitched sob of relief?

I may just treat it to its first partial eclipse of the sun on Monday. I’ll protect its face and mine with a piece of #14 welders glass I used to shoot the Venus Transit on June 8, 2004 and the solar eclipse on December 25, 2000.

AVCHD video has been a recent possibility for me. My old movie program on my PC would not accept HD video, so I’ve only been using it for about 18 months – after upgrading to an iMac desktop. AVCHD has made producing decent images of unpredictable moving subjects so much easier.

Iceland on the whole has been wonderful. The people we met (mostly associated with the tourist industry) were generous with their attention and many spoke impeccable English.

Later on our 10 day ring road circuit we had a chance meeting and delightful conversation at breakfast in the Kia Hotel in Akureyri  with two brilliant Icelanders whose names are, I’m sure, household words there. More later on that.