The Challenger

I remember that day. I remember January 28, 1986 because it was one of those moments in time that you can’t forget. I was a junior at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California. I was sitting in my AP History class when a student burst in and said that the Challenger had exploded. We thought that he was kidding but soon learned that he was not.

The networks ran the video footage of the explosion all day long. It was a moment that showed glimpses of a future when instant information would flood all sources of news and information with endless amounts of noise. That is one of the challenges of today, finding an effective way to sift through the noise so that we can determine what is significant and what is not.

Past posts:
The Challenger- Astronauts May have Lived Longer Than We Thought

200 Years of History in 4 Minutes


The US Civil War- Old Photos

The US Civil War or The War Between the States is something that has always interested me. For a brief timeline of the war click here. Those of you who are not from the states probably are less familiar with this and how many Civil War buffs are still walking around today.
Many of them spend copious amounts of time involving themselves in reenactments of battles and life as it was during that time.
Civil War Reenactment HQ offers a collection of information about this including a lists of events, units, and a beginners guide to reenactments.
The Civil War Reenactors Homepage has a lot of information as well. But what I really wanted to write about here are those old time photographs that we see from that time period. Photography was much more time consuming and difficult than it is today.

“During the Civil War, the process of taking photographs was complex and time-consuming. Two photographers would arrive at a location. One would mix chemicals and pour them on a clean glass plate. After the chemicals were given time to evaporate, the glass plate would be sensitized by being immersed — in darkness — in a bath solution. Placed in a holder, the plate would then be inserted in the camera, which had been positioned and focused by the other photographer. Exposure of the plate and development of the photograph had to be completed within minutes; then the exposed plate was rushed to the darkroom wagon for developing. Each fragile glass plate had to be treated with great care after development — a difficult task on a battlefield.”
Pictured above Cold Harbor, Va. Photographer’s wagon and tent Between 1860 and 1865

Aside from the difficulty in taking photos I always find it interesting to see how serious so many of the subjects of the photos were. Few if any appear to be smiling.Thanks to the Library of Congress I have a few samples to share here. This link takes you here:

The Selected Civil War Photographs Collection contains 1,118 photographs. Most of the images were made under the supervision of Mathew B. Brady, and include scenes of military personnel, preparations for battle, and battle after-effects. The collection also includes portraits of both Confederate and Union officers, and a selection of enlisted men. An additional two hundred autographed portraits of army and navy officers, politicians, and cultural figures can be seen in the Civil War photograph album, ca. 1861-65. (James Wadsworth Family Papers). The full album pages are displayed as well as the front and verso of each carte de visite, revealing studio logos, addresses, and other imprint information on the approximately twenty photographers represented in the album.

If you are not familiar with the story of President Lincoln’s assassination I would recommend that you read more about it here. It is a fascinating story and a reminder that Booth was not alone.
[Washington, D.C. President Lincoln’s funeral procession on Pennsylvania Avenue]
[Washington, D.C. Hanging hooded bodies of the four conspirators; crowd departing]

[Atlanta, Ga. Gen. William T. Sherman, leaning on breach of gun, and staff at Federal Fort No. 7].

Fort Monroe, Va. Officers and ladies on porch of a garrison house].
Regarding credit for all photos:Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-B8184-3287]

A Bad Case Of Blog Envy/Jealousy

I recently received an anonymous email that accused me of having a bad case of blog envy. It seems that they think that I must be very bitter that I don’t have more readers and that the brands haven’t bequeathed their bounty upon me.

It was kind of fun to read. Been a while since I got anything that resembled hate mail at least something that didn’t go off onto some antisemitic or anti-Israel rant. One of my favorites was the email that went on about Palin the Prophet. I responded to them that they mean to write Profit, but I never did hear back from them. Darn.

Anyway, back to my new friend the anonymous emailer. In my younger years I would have shared your email with all 17 of the longtime readers and the few stragglers that come along for the ride. But the kinder, gentler, er, dumber Jack accidentally deleted it and emptied the trash so we’ll have to do without for now.

Here is my response to your comments. I don’t spend any time courting the brands. I don’t pitch PR agencies about my blog. Don’t spend any time talking to them about how influential my blog is. And I don’t lose any sleep over that.

I don’t feel an ounce of remorse for writing that some of the bloggers who are currently considered to be popular and or powerful would not be without gifts to give away. Their content is weak and their community is dependent upon the gifts they give.

This joint has moments of brilliance and moments of mediocrity. Over time it has developed a respectable following. I won’t deny that I think it would be great to have six times as many uniques and ten times the number of comments. It would be great.

But I want to earn that. I don’t want to by popularity. We’re not the Yankees. We don’t use our enormous payroll to buy championships. We earn them.

Anyway, I appreciate your note and hope that you stick around for a while. Leave me a comment or two- show some love ‘cuz a bitter old guy like me can use it. 😉

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I Cast Away My Sins

I cast away my sins today or I hope as I suspect that this year there were more than usual. I am not really sure what that means, but I feel like I need to say it. Standing at the cement banks of a man man lake I joined hundreds of others in feeding the ducks day old bread that symbolized my sins.

It is called Tashlich and it is an ancient ceremony that usually has a lot of meaning for me. This year I had trouble focusing. Perhaps it was concern that the dark haired beauty was going to fling herself into the water along with the bread or perhaps it was the lady who kept talking about cleveland, not sure.

What I do know is that at one point I closed my eyes and did my best to look inward and focus upon the moment. Oftentimes when I try to drown out the world around me I turn on a song on the mental jukebox. For some reason all I could hear was The Planets – Mars, the Bringer of War by Holst.

One section in particular stuck with me and I found myself wondering whether to laugh or cry. This is on my workout mix. It is something that I listen to when I am focused on lifting more. It fits well with trying to add another plate to the benchpress, less so with spiritual moments.

Ok, that is probably not entirely true, but it wasn’t really where I was trying to go with it. So I did my best to shuffle up a new song and came up with this. I get the connection, I am sure that John Williams was influenced by Holst. Certainly Darth Vader is a man who is in dire need of casting away his sins, but I am not him.

Confession time. If I had to go to the Dark Side I would always pick Darth Vader. Darth Maul had a cool double blade on his light saber, but the whole horns and Judaism thing doesn’t work for me. And the emperor just doesn’t do it. Nah, I’d be a 7 foot tall Sith lord with a cape and a bad attitude.

End of confession. Now we return you to your normally scheduled programming.

It took a moment but I finally managed to focus. I was surrounded by a sea of people but with my eyes closed I stood alone. Inside my mind I jumped off of a cliff into a sea of black. I could feel the air rushing by head and I really wasn’t sure when I was going to hit the bottom.

Had I been able to step outside my body I would have seen someone with their eyes clenched shut and a rigid back. Pretty sure that you would have seen my lips silently moving.

In short, I would have looked like I was crazy or constipated, maybe both.

But that is ok with me. I am in a period of transition and I have stopped trying to fight it. I accept that things are changing and that all I can do is deal with me. Depending upon who you are that can sound new agey or religious, but that doesn’t really matter to me. All that matters right now is riding out the storm.

If we continue along our Star Wars theme it feels a bit like when Obi-Wan fought Anakin. Ignore the bad acting and go with the theme. Anyway, I feel like the grizzled veteran who has seen incredible potential go up in flames. Perhaps it shall rise again like the phoenix, I don’t know.

Slowly opening my eyes I look down and see children staring up at me. The dark haired beauty and her friends are giggling the way that girls do. They may be five but I can see the future and I know that 20 years from now the giggling will still be there, but it will be accompanied by a certain amount of knowledge and life experience.

But right now I see happy girls who haven’t any idea that life can be so serious or that the grown ups don’t have all of the answers. That is ok with me, not having all of the answers. As much as I kvetch about it and wish that I could see the future there is a certain amount of excitement in not knowing everything. There is a joy and a rush in knowing that sometimes I may sail blindly, but with a purpose.

In the interim please excuse me. I have to go brush away the bread crumbs those giggling girls left on my pants and shoes.