What I See ~

A Connecticut Yankee

quote-Mark-Twain-whenever-you-find-yourself-on-the-side-206Mark Twain

Mark Twain died on this date in 1910. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, November 30 of 1835, Twain is considered our greatest American humorist. William Faulkner called him, “the father of American literature”.

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Mark Twain at 15

Oddly enough, in 1909, he predicted his death saying:

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

His prediction was pretty spot on as he died of a heart attack April 21, 1910 one day after the comet’s closest approach to Earth.

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His first successful tale, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, was my first venture into Twain’s work. I realized I was more than just a young smart ass, I could be a satirist! The piece was published in the New York weekly, The Saturday Press.

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Twain was a science and tech fan. He was friends with Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Spending much time in Tesla’s lab he liked fooling around with the scientist’s experiments. One of Edison’s earliest films is also the only known record of Mark Twain on film. To watch video click “watch on Youtube”.

Consider his novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”. It was about time travel which became a staple in science fiction story lines.

Twain even patented three inventions himself; an improvement to suspenders, a history trivia game and a self-pasting scrapbook. The scrapbook was his most commercially successful invention as you only needed to moistened the dry adhesive on the pages to stick things into it.

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Mark Twain’s opinions evolved as he got older. Though he was always a stanch supporter of the abolition of slavery and emancipation of slaves he changed his opinions regarding imperialism and religion.

He was anti-imperialism and eventually anti religion. A supporter of woman’s rights he campaigned for woman’s suffrage. One of his most famous speeches was his “Votes for Women” speech as he pressed to grant voting rights for women.

Here is a link to text of the speech:

http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/twain_votes.html

Being an animal lover he was also opposed to the then current vivisection practices. Vivisection was the experimentation on live animals often without anesthesia.

 

To this day we still don’t have a complete bibliography of Mark Twain’s work. He was so prolific publishing in numerous small publications and obscure newspapers. As recently as 1995 and again in 2005 researchers found newly undiscovered material of his.

Novels:

  • The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
  • The Prince and the Pauper (1881)
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
  • The American Claimant (1892)
  • Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
  • Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
  • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)
  • Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896)
  • The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens
September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople

A Little Rebellion Now and Then is a Good Thing

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Thomas Jefferson…

…intellectual, architect, philosopher, musician, essayist. He collected and studied fossils, was known to be down to earth, relaxed, unconventional. A common man with a fondness for receiving White House visitors in his robe and slippers. Thomas Jefferson was born on this day in 1743. [above image from Freaking News]

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Portrait by Charles Peale

Jefferson’s role in shaping American politics was monumental, not only being our third president but drafting the Declaration of Independence. He was afraid that some of his contemporaries would try to model the new nation after a monarchy – hell, we had just freed ourselves from a monarchy. Jefferson denounced oppressive government and was a fierce proponent of the freedom of speech and religion.

Though Jefferson desired the abolition of slavery, he owned human beings who worked on his plantation. In the context

Sally Hemings

Sally Hennings

of the times he treated his workers well. There has been much controversy concerning one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, being his lover. Sally was a mixed race gal who gave birth to six children the first of which was their son Eston. Jefferson ended the foreign slave trade beginning January 1, 1808. [Image below: Eston Jefferson]

Carl Smith Jefferson

By Richard Cosway

Maria Cosway by her husband Richard

Jefferson was a widower since the death of his wife Martha in 1782 but was thought to have a relationship with the beautiful (married) painter and musician, Maria Cosway. Jefferson met her while serving as minister to France. The relationship inspired him to write his famed romantic essay, A Dialogue Between the Head and Heart.

A Dialogue Between the Head and Heart:

 

A few Jefferson achievements and contributions

1. Wrote the Declaration of Independence (1776). Jefferson was responsible for writing the first draft of our Declaration of Independence. He did the first draft within 17 days which was reviewed and revised then presented to Congress.

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2. Wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1777). He declared freedom of religion a “natural right” which became the model for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

3. Advocated for free public education (1779)

4. Served as the first U.S. Secretary of State (1790–1793)

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5. Made the Louisiana Purchase (1803). For about $15 million, he effectively doubled the size of the United States.

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6. Launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804). Jefferson appointed his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, who enlisted William Clark, to explore the new American landscape.

For More on Lewis and Clark

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7. Participated in the founding of the Library of Congress (1815). In 1815, Jefferson sold his personal library, consisting of almost 6,700 volumes, to the federal government. These formed the core collection of the beginnings of the Library of Congress. The current Librarian of Congress, James Billington wrote, “If ever a library had a single founder, Thomas Jefferson is the founder of the Library of Congress.”

8. Founded the University of Virginia (1819). Jefferson believed that universities should educate leaders rather than just preachers and professors. He founded the University of Virginia as the first nonsectarian university in the United States as well as the first to use the elective course system.

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9. Popularized macaroni and cheese in the United States. When Jefferson traveled to Europe he became enamored with pasta and the many ways of enjoying it. He would serve mac ‘n’ cheese to his guests at his home in Monticello and even had plans for a macaroni machine. He has been referred to as “America’s First Foodie”. There is even a mac ‘n’ cheese recipe in his own handwriting.

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10. Revolutionized gardening and advanced sustainable agriculture. Jefferson was a huge fan of vegetables. He experimented with his garden and loved tomatoes. At the time people thought they were poisonous and “from the devil” because they were red. He also pioneered techniques in sustainable agriculture.

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A Little Rebellion Now and Then is a Good Thing 

The quote came from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison. Jefferson was expressing himself in regards to Shays’ Rebellion. Farmers in Massachusetts were angry about their conditions in 1786.

Not being able to “pay up”, they were losing their land, cattle and homes to taxes and “rates” demanded by the state and courts. Jefferson was prompted to express the view that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing” for America. Jefferson felt that the people had the right to express themselves with grievances against their government.

Jefferson aired his sentiments in a letter to James Madison on January 30, 1787, expressing justification for the series of protests led by Daniel Shay and a group of 1,200 farmers.

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Excerpt from Jefferson’s letter.

“Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our Indians. 2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in a great one. 3. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 1st. condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.1 Unsuccesful rebellions indeed generally establish the incroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine necessary for the sound health of government.” – Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 1787

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Four Dead In Ohio

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March 29 of 1974: U.S. District Judge Frank Battisti dismissed charges…

…against 8 National Guardsman for shooting Kent State students. Judge Battisti said the prosecution’s case was too weak to warrant a trial.

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John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Jeffrey Miller lying dead with Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body.

The shooting killed 4 and wounded 9 students. All of them were in good standing with the University.

Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; was 265 ft. from the Guardsman. He was shot through the mouth and died instantly. Jeffrey was nearest to the soldiers. When he was shot, he was unarmed and facing the Guardsmen standing on an access road.

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Jeffrey Miller

Allison B. Krause; age 19; was 343 ft. away. She suffered a fatal left chest wound and died later that day. Allison was an honor student at Kent State. Days before the shooting, she was known to have said, “flowers are better than bullets”.

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Allison Krause

William Knox Schroeder; age 19; was 382 ft. away and also suffered a fatal chest wound. William died almost an hour later while undergoing surgery. Schroeder, who was not involved in the protest, was walking to a class. He was also a member of the campus ROTC battalion.

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William Knox Schroder

 

Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20; from 390 ft. suffered a fatal neck wound and died within minutes from a loss of blood. Sandra was a Speech Therapy honors student and was walking with one of her students when she was gunned down. She and her student had nothing to do with the protest.

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Sandra Lee Scheuer

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Civil actions were brought against the Guardsmen, the State of Ohio and the President of Kent State. After an eleven week trial unanimous verdicts were awarded to all victims for all claims. However the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the verdicts stating the trial judge mishandled the case. On remand the case was settled awarding $675,000 to all plaintiffs.

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The following are those wounded and their distance from the guardsmen:

Dean R. Kahler; 300 ft; back wound fracturing the vertebrae, permanently paralyzed from the chest down.

Joseph Lewis, Jr.; 71 ft; hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg.

John R. Cleary; 110 ft; upper left chest wound.

Thomas Mark Grace; 225 ft; struck in left ankle.

Alan Michael Canfora; 225 ft; hit in his right wrist.

Douglas Alan Wrentmore; 329 ft; hit in his right knee.

James Dennis Russell; 375 ft; hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot, both wounds minor.

Robert Follis Stamps; 495 ft; hit in his right buttock.

Donald Scott MacKenzie; 750 ft; neck wound.

Lest we forget

Where’d This Come From?

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Ever Wonder Where This Came From?

ERIC_AUSTEN_FIRST_CND_BADGEWe’ve all seen it. Been used for decades. Ever wonder how or where it started? Who designed it? On this day February 21, 1958, Gerald Holtom [image below] completed his design commissioned by the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Holtom was a professional designer and artist who had been invited to design the artwork for use in a protest organized by the Action Committee against Nuclear War.

The symbol was inspired by flag semaphore, a telegraphy system for conveying information at a distance by using hand held flags. The symbol for the letter “N” is formed by holding two flags in an inverted V. The letter “D” is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up with the other pointed straight down. If you superimpose these two signs they form the shape of the peace symbol.

 N    nsemaphore     D   dsemaphore

The “N” and “D” stand for Nuclear Disarmament.

The symbol first appeared in public on Good Friday of 1958 in Trafalgar Square in Aldermaston (a ward in Berkshire, South-East England) during the weekend march for Nuclear Disarmament. Five hundred cardboard lollipops on sticks were produced for the protest.

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BayardRustinThe peace symbol crossed the Atlantic almost immediately. Bayard Rustin [image left], who was a close associate of Martin Luther King, participated in the Aldermaston March. He brought the symbol back to the US where it was used in civil rights marches, later appearing in anti-Vietnam demonstrations. Hell, we even saw it on necklaces and the helmets of American GI’s.

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Though the peace symbol was specificity designed for the anti-nuclear movement it has never been copyrighted. No one has to pay or get permission to use the symbol. As a symbol of peace it is free for all to use.

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…And Yet It Moves!

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Galileo Born

Galileo Galilei was born today, February 15, 1564. He’s been referred to as the father of modern astronomy, the father of modern physics and the father of science. Dang, that’s a lot of fathering.

Galileo Portrait by Leoni

Galileo portrait by Leoni

He is considered the first person to use a telescope to observe the skies, discovering the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, sun spots and solar rotation; that solar rotation thing got him thrown in jail. He confirmed Copernicus, that the Earth orbits the Sun. This didn’t sit well with the “powers” that be as he was going against scripture and the Church’s teachings. Boy, were they pissed.

In September of 1632 Galileo was ordered to come to Rome to stand trial in front of the Roman Inquisition. In view of Galileo’s rather unconvincing denials, his final interrogation concluded with him being threatened with torture if he did not tell the truth. The sentence of the Inquisition was delivered on June 22. It was in three parts:

Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that:

– the Sun lies motionless at the center of the universe,

– that the Earth is not at its center and moves,

– and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared               contrary to Holy Scripture.

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Cristiano Banti’s 1857 painting “Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition”

At the pleasure of his Inquisitors, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. On the following day his imprisonment was commuted to house arrest which he remained under for the rest of his life. His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden. Not only that but even anything he MIGHT write in the future was also forbidden.

According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly turned and muttered the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves”!

Galileo showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope (Fresco by Giuseppe Bertini)

Galileo showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope (fresco by Giuseppe Bertini)

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I’ve always admired Galileo as he displayed a peculiar ability to ignore established authorities. He questioned Aristotelianism, which happened to be the established mode of thinking for his times. His work marked steps towards the eventual separation of science from both philosophy and religion, a major development in human thought. He was even willing to change his views in accordance with his observations.

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Galileo introduced the basic principle of relativity; that the laws of physics are the same in any system that is moving at a constant speed in a straight line, regardless of its particular speed or direction. Thus, there is no absolute motion or absolute rest. This principle provided the basic framework for Newton’s laws of motion and is central to Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

According to Stephen Hawking, Galileo probably bears more of the responsibility for the birth of modern science than anybody else. Albert Einstein called him the father of modern science.

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Beautiful – Skill and Composure

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Miracle on the Hudson

Remember on this day, January 15, 2009, Captain “Sully” Sullenberger put an Airbus 320 “gently” into the Hudson. Sully turned a potential disaster into an incredible display of composure and skill after a flock of geese turned off his engines.2082945_miracle-landing-on-the-hudson2_u4otpkuoohegc34cxym6cgqbeyoxpy7q62c4u66siw3t6qwph3oq_757x567

Air traffic controllers instructed him to head for nearby Teterboro Airport. Captain Sullenberger calmy told them he was unable to reach the runway. “We’re gonna be in the Hudson” was his reply.

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After he incredibly and expertly brought the plane down, the flight attendants ushered passengers into life jackets, through the emergency exits and onto the wings of the bobbing jet. In moments sightseeing boats, commuter ferries and rescue vessels were on the scene to pick-up shaken passengers and crew.

 

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All 150 passengers and 5 crew members survived with one survivor suffering two broken legs. Others suffered only minor injuries or hypothermia. Captain Sullenberger was the last to leave the sinking plane after walking up and down the aisle twice.

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Hudson Flight 1549 HD Animation with audio:

Con Edison Security Camera Captures Miracle On The Hudson:

For more on the Miracle on the Hudson, check out National Geographic’s site:

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/miracle-landing-on-the-hudson/

 

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Plastic’s Finest Form

pluto-platter1January 13, 1957: Wham-O Produces First Frisbee

In 1871 William Frisbie opend the Frisbie Pie Company. Not long after that students from nearby universities began throwing the empty pie tins to each other yelling “Frisbie” as they let it fly.

 

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Walter Morrison

Enter Walter Morrison a Los Angeles building inspector. Morrison’s father was an inventor (he invented the auto sealed beam headlight) and the pedigree rubbed off on young Walter. As a boy in Utah he would sail paint-can lids, pie tins and the like. Remembering those pleasurable moments he thought he could turn the idea into a marketable toy. He tried different versions of saucers but not until plastic entered the mainstream did he find the ideal material. [top picture above, Morrison promoting his saucers]

In 1948 he invented a plastic version of the Frisbie that could fly further and with better accuracy than the tin pie plates collage students were using. It seemed the Frisbie just might be plastic’s finest form.

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The original “Vane” model of Morrison’s Flying Saucer’s was named for the six topside curved spoilers (vanes). They were designed to improve lift by facilitating the Bernoulli principle. Oddly, the spoilers were on backwards, they would only work with a counterclockwise spin. In 1951 Morrison vastly improved his model and the design which served as Wham-O’s legendary Pluto Platter. The Pluto Platter is the basic design for all succeeding Frisbees.

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At that time in the 50’s, flying saucers from outer space were the craze and beginning to capture people’s imagination. He thought why not capitalize on the craze. The Pluto Platter saw the UFO influence in its design with cabin portholes and planet rings hinting at an extraterrestrial origin.

Enter Wham-O

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Melin right and Knerr

Rich Knerr and A.K.”Spud” Melin fresh from the University of Southern California were making slingshots (and eventually Hula-Hoops and Super Balls) in their fledgling toy company (Wham-O) when they first saw Morrison’s flying saucers whizzing around southern California beaches. In late 1955, they cornered Morrison while he was hawking his wares and tying up traffic on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Just before he was asked to break it up by the local cops, the duo invited him to their San Gabriel factory and made him a proposition.

Thus, flying saucers landed on the West Coast in San Gabriel, and on January 13, 1957, they began to fly out from a production line that has since sent over one hundred million sailing all over the globe.

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At first the saucers had trouble catching on,” Rich Knerr reminisces, “but we were confident they were good, so we sprinkled them in different parts of the country to prime the market.” On a trip to the campuses of the Ivy League, Knerr first heard the term “Frisbee.” Sure enough, the term from the Frisbie Baking Company of Bridgeport CT was still hanging around. Harvard students said they’d been tossing the pie plates around for years. They called it Frisbie-ing. Knerr liked the term and not knowing the historical origins spelled it Frisbee. Thus Frisbee1 was born.

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1Frisbee is a registered trademark of Mattel.

 

 

ZAPPA

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Zappa

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It was just after I graduated from high school that some of my more “radical” friends introduced me to Frank Zappa, I thought, damn this guy is different. He sang of plastic people and the brain police, had several rhythms going on at the same time and used saxophones, vibes, violins and who knows what else to create music. Frank Zappa died of prostrate cancer on this day, January 4, in 1993.

zappaZappa was a harsh critic of our mainstream educational system and organized religion. An outspoken advocate of the freedom of speech, frank_zappaFrank was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1997. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 71 on the list of the “100 Greatest Artists of all Time” and at No. 22 on the list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention had their first breakout album with Freak Out in 1966. After Dylan’s Blond on Blond it was only the second double rock album ever released. Freak Out praised non-conformity, bashed the consumer culture of America and put down authority.
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After Freak Out, Frank met Adelaide Gail Sloatman. He’s said that he fell in love within “a couple of minutes”. It was Zappa’s second marriage. They had four kids and stayed together until his death.
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https://youtu.be/Ql_3LS_B4q0 Zappa on the Steve Allen Show [click to view]
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Zappa was so prolific it would be impossible to highlight even half of his work in this short tribute. But there are a few albums that stood out with my circle of friends (right Mike H?).
Like Cruising with Rubin and the Jets. Believe it or not the inspiration came from Stravinsky’s neo-classical period. Stravinsky was one of Zappa’s heroes. He said, “If he could take the forms and clichés of the classical era and pervert them, why not do the same … to doo-wop in the fifties?”

Cruising

The Grand Wazoo was Zappa’s foray into Big Band fusion and guided me deeper into jazz.

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In describing his philosophical views, Zappa stated, “I believe that people have a right to decide their own destinies; people own themselves. I also believe that, in a democracy, government exists because (and only so long as) individual citizens give it a ‘temporary license to exist’—in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself. In a democracy, you own the government—it doesn’t own you.”

Quintessential Zappa, Peaches En Regalia

 

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IF

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Rudyard Kipling Born…

…December 30 1865. He was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist. In 1907 he was the first English-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Kipling was a prolific writer including works such as, The Jungle Book, Kim, Mandalay, The Man Who Would Be King, Gunga Din, Wee Willie Winkie, Just So Stories, Captains Courageous, and a ton of other stories and poems.

But there was one poem that especially left it’s mark on me:

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http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175772 [click for poem text]

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Rudyard Kipling

Clouds Inside A Cave?

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December 27, 1966: Cave of Swallows Discovered

At least the first documented exploration of the cave by T.R Evans, Charles Borland and Randy Sterns.  The Cave of Swallows is the largest known cave shaft in the world. It is so deep that clouds form inside it.

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The Cave, also called Cave of the Swallows, is an open air pit cave in the Municipality of Aquismón, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The mouth is 49 m by 62 m (161 ft x 203 ft) wide.  The floor widens to a room approximately 303 by 135 meters (994 ft by 442 ft).

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The floor of the cave is a 333 meter (1092 ft) free fall drop from the lowest side of the open4-501px-golondrinaprofing, with a 370 meter (1,214 ft) drop from the highest side, making it the largest known cave shaft in the world, a skyscraper such as New York’s whole Chrysler Building could easily fit within it.

5 -apus1Despite its name, this natural refuge doesn’t host swallows, but rather white-collared swifts (apus apus) and the parrots Aratinga holochlora, known as green conures.6-aratinga_leucophthalmus_white-eyed_parakeeti_jsa138

 

These birds do a morning ritual. At dawn, thousands fly in an orderly fashion to the coasts of Veracruz, more than a hundred kilometers away, in search of food. To exit the cave, the birds fly in circles, gradually flying upwards until they reach the surface. This exodus has become part of the tourist attraction.

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The cave is a popular vertical caving destination. The high side of the mouth is covered with heavy foliage, so cavers most often fix their ropes on the low side, where bolts have been fixed into the rock and the area is clear of obstructions. Rappelling to the floor takes about twenty minutes, in which time abseil (descending) equipment and rope can heat up to hazardous levels. Cavers use water spray to cool their equipment.

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Climbing back out may take from forty minutes to more than two hours. A person without a parachute would take almost ten seconds to freefall from the mouth to the floor. An average-sized hot air balloon has been navigated through the wide opening and landed on the floor below. Base jumping, or being extracted by rope is no longer allowed. Local villagers are focused on protecting the birds.

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