Wednesday, February 25, 2009
To celebrate all things green, Chewy's started a new blog. This one is so he can ramble on to his hearts content about rain barrels, gardens, blueberries, natural kitty litter, and basically green living (or at least a valiant attempt to live green).
Moonshine Capitol will continue wandering through history, and occasionally the two interests may intersect, especially the way my mind rarely follows a straight line anywhere.
Feel free to join Chewy over at Green and Chewy:
Sunday, February 22, 2009
And those same readers were around through some dark days that we never talk about.
BUT - I've just seen the most incredible video, made by a guy named Jerry Levitan.
In 1969, when Jerry and I were both 14, he did what I wanted to do: he managed to track John Lennon down at his Toronto hotel room, and interview him. While I was 14 and endlessly playing the White Album and Abbey Road, Jerry got the interview.
Now, 40 years later, he's made the interview into a 5 minute film, trying to animate John's words "unfurling in the way I imagined they would appear inside the head of a baffled 14-year-old boy interviewing his idol."
And it really reminds me of how much I miss John, and the band, and the music.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I credit my fairly laid-back social views to a lifetime of more-than-a-few Mardi Gras seasons. You can't grow up watching transvestites and grown men dancing in feathered costumes without being affected on some level.
You also learn a certain amount of tolerance when your home is invaded by millions of people annually, usually for the last three or four days of Carnival (fortunately the visitors don't realize the parties actually string out for three to six weeks).
Mardi Gras is famous for its parades, there's always several going on somewhere in the city. For instance today, February 19, there are three. Tomorrow there are five. Parades are full of huge, colorful floats, the most incredible, complex, outrageous floats you can imagine. Each float (and sometimes the whole parade) is sponsored by a krewe. Krewe can loosely translate into "club", and several have been around since the 1800's.
My own favorite krewes:
Krewe of Rex: This krewe picked the famous Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green, besides thinking of the idea of collectible Mardi Gras doubloons. The very first doubloons were thrown out in 1960, which just happens to be the first year I was deemed old enough to go to a parade.
Mardi Gras Indians: Traditionally the focal point for New Orleans Black Mardi Gras, now front and center, and famous for their intricate beaded costumes worth thousands of dollars. The "Indians" name was chosen to show the black respect for the native Indians of Louisiana, who would help slaves escape during ante-bellum days. You can also see the Indians parade on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph's Day, March 19 (this year March 22nd), in an afternoon parade that starts around Orleans and Bayou St. John, and goes who-knows-where-from-there. Like any other Mardi Gras Indian parade, the exact route is not designated, and twists and turns through the city.
Krewe of Proteus: Totally themed on Egyptian mythology, dates back to 1882, and the second oldest Krewe
Krewe of Thoth: Named for the Eyptian god of Wisdom (he invented science, arts and letters). To me, letters means the written word, or books. You know I had to love them. Dates to 1947, before my time.
Krewe of Okeanos: Okeanos is the Greek god of oceans and valleys -very important when your city is perched on the edge of the Gulf.
Krewe of Cleopatra: Founded during my college years in 1972, the first all-female Krewe in the Westbank.
Krewe of Iris: The oldest and biggest all-female krewe in New Orleans proper, originated in 1917, and parading since 1959.
And Chewy's favorite:
Krewe of Barkus: the only krewe by and for canines of all types.
The krewe names alone conjure up mystical events and mythological gods: Adonis, Argus,Zeus, Isis, Hermes, Aquila, Jason, Morpheus, Muses, Chaos, Centurions, Nemesis, Rhea, Ancient Druids, Excalibur, King Arthur & Merlin, Pegasus, Caesar, Sparta, Shangri0La, Pygmalion, Gladiators, Ponchatrain,and so many more.
Traffic rolls to a stop in both the French Quarter and Uptown, as there is always a parade starting (or ending), and the floats line the sidestreets, waiting for their turn. Floats can be huge carrying hundreds (literally hundreds) of riders. In 1994, the Krewe of Orpheus set a record (at that time) with 700 riders on a single float.
The Krewe of Bacchus carries the various celebrity monarchs and is known for its elaborate floats (and its great souvenirs -thrown indiscriminately to the crowds who are shouting "THROW ME SOMETHING MISTER!")
Many people don't know that Mardi Gras was actually first celebrated in Mobile, Alabama -mostly because they were settled before New Orleans. Approximately 30 years later, New Orleans started in on its first Carnival, and proved to be much better than Mobile at partying, carrying on all night, producing the necessary strange and bizarre personages, and maintaining a live-and-let-live year-round spirit of total debachery.
Let The Good Times Roll!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I come by my book-addiction honestly. It's literally in my genes. My great-great-great-great-grandfather Patrick Magruder was the second Librarian of Congress (of currently 13), appointed by President Thomas Jefferson.
The original Library of Congress was authorized in 1800 by President John Adams. He provided an allowance of $5,900 for the first books (almost the same as my monthly tab at Amazon), with a focus on law, history and economics.
At the time the Clerk of the House of Representatives was also the Librarian of Congress, and as such the salary for the Librarian could not exceed two dollars a day. The first Librarian was appointed by Jefferson, a Mr. John Beckley. (Sidenote: When Beckley died in 1807, his son inherited a large tract of wilderness in what is today West Virginia, establishing a little village named for his father: Beckley, West Virginia).
Mr. Beckley's passing left a vacancy, so President Jefferson appointed Patrick Magruder to the post. Patrick was a Washington newspaperman, and a former Congressman, plus he'd been named to the House of Representatives about 10 days prior -meaning he was the prime candidate to stick with the Librarian's job.
Seven uneventful years later in 1814, (smack dab in the middle of the War of 1812 with the British), Patrick's wife fell ill, and he took a long weekend to carry her to relatives in the Virginia countryside.
Unfortunately, this would be the same weekend the British decided to try to capture Washington. Patrick's brother, George Magruder, was head of the American troops left guarding Washington, and just to be on the safe side, he contacted the Assistant Librarian of Congress, who remains nameless, and ordered him to procur wagons and horses, load up the books and transport them to Fredricksburg for safekeeeping.
Said Nameless Assistant, upon being thrust into the limelight, had trouble rounding up any sort of road-worthy wagons and horses, but eventually came up with nine, barely got those few wagons loaded and dispatched before the British arrived.
While the wagons were enroute to Fredericksburg, the British captured Washington, burning both the Capitol and the Library of Congress. Then to add injury to insult, they advanced to Fredericksburg, and managed to destroy the nine wagonloads of books as well in the ensuing battle.
When the dust settled, and America won (again), there was, of course, A Congressional Investigation into the loss of the library and the library funds. Thomas Jefferson was no longer president and had retired to Monticello, and so could not protect his friend Patrick - at the end of the investigation, it was deemed Patrick Magruder's fault that the Library of Congress was destroyed, and he resigned from both the House of Representatives and the Librarian position on January 28, 1815.
(Remember this when you're tempted to take a sick day. Always make sure your own Nameless Assistant knows where to find the wagons, and if the Brits are coming to visit, never allow them to bring matches.)
Patrick went home to Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson (being in dire financial straits due in no small part to his own book-addiction) offered to sell Congress his own private library: all 6,500 books. With Jefferson's collection to start it off, the new Library of Congress covered not only law, history and economics but also added architecture, botany, science, literature and geography.
The Jefferson books were housed in a special reading room in Congress until 1886, when construction on the current building started.
At the time it was built, it was the largest and most costly library in the world.
This is the main reading room. Visiting this room always makes me hyperventilate-this is the Holy Grail for library lovers.
Look up and you see the rotunda ceiling. It's a completely incorrect architectual or historic fantasy, but I always imagine the Great Library at Alexandria looking something like the Library of Congress's Reading Room.
See! Grand sweeping steps, huge imposing columns, 650 miles of stacks, 32 million books,106 million maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints and drawings, mosaics and artwork by 50 American artists, bronze and plaster sculptures....why, it's a library!
Friday, February 13, 2009
It being Library Lovers Day reminded me of all the great libraries I've grown up with - real libraries, not these modern boxes with formica tables and multi-colored walls. So I went scoping out the web looking for pics of my libraries, the ones I lived in as a child, on account of while I was using them, I was reading, and not taking pictures.
The earliest one I visited on my own as an elementary school student was the Ames Public Library in Ames, Iowa. That's the building in the background in the top photo (taken at the dedication of the new 1985 addition). See how it has the huge round columns? Built out of granite blocks? This is a proper library and it set the tone for my library expectations for the rest of my life. Inside it had marble floors, dark carved woodwork, and a balcony mezzanine for the adult stacks. I was admitted to the adult stacks when I was still in elementary school, following a visit by my mother to the head librarian. I had read every book in the childrens section, and was detained trying to check out an adult selection. After this little misunderstanding was straightened out, I spent many long summer days, sitting in the floor up in the balcony stacks, reading one book after the other.
As much time as I spend there, I haven't quite fallen in love with our library here in town yet - it's too new, and has no imposing steps or the old architecture I love. It feels open and airy, two elements that never mesh with the word "library" to me.
I would be perfectly happy with an old, dark library, one having floor-to-ceiling shelves with those rolling ladders, some Oriental rugs on the marble floors, and -my one change- big overstuffed comfy chairs in the stacks. And maybe each chair could have a small mini-frig, so I wouldn't have to leave the stacks for non-literary sustenance.
I'll be the one in the comfy chair, way back in the corner.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The poster above is by a German artist, Oskar Graf, born in 1870, living until 1955, the same year I was born. No particular reason for posting it except I like it, and it fits nicely with a book I listed tonight: The Real Art of Japanese Management by Miyamoto Musashi.
I list boxes and boxes of books every week, and usually end up partially reading most of them. As a result I have a mind full of trivia and odd bits of knowledge (which leads to me popping up in conversations with "Hey I read a book on that.....", sortof like a Jill-of-all-trades). My friends tolerate this, for some reason.
It turns out that Mr. Musashi has the 9 rules of a winning strategy, and they appear to apply to more than just Japanese management:
1. Do not harbor sinister designs.
2. Diligently pursue the Path-of-Two-Swords-as-One (I admit for this one, I needed to read more of the book).
3) Cultivate a wide range of interests in the arts.
4. Be knowledgeable in a variety of occupations.
5. Be discrete regarding one's commercial dealings.
6. Nurture the ability to perceive the truth in all matters.
7. Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.
8. Do not be negligent, even in trifling matters.
9. Do not engage in useless activity.
Herein Lies the Secret of Success in Life.
My favorite is #7. And #8. And #6.
Okay I like them all, even the Two Sword one.
Monday, February 9, 2009
I'm in the middle of reading The Wettest County in the World, by Matt Bondurant. It's about Franklin County, but I had never heard of the book until I read the first chapter in the New York Times. I really have to get out more.
My own family's history with moonshine (being from two mountainous counties over) is more limited than Mr. Bonduant's. My great-great-grandfathers made their own (like every other self-respecting Scot-Irish settler in these parts, partially for entertainment and partially for medicinal reasons). My grandfather delivered moonshine loads back in the late 1920's to feed his wife and 5 kids. Then one night he was so busy making a run that he forgot to come home, during which time my grandmother had a baby, packed up it and the other kids, and returned home to her mother's house. When he went to collect his family, my grandmother told my grandfather that the next time he didn't show up would be his last. He never made a run again, and supposely never took another drop. My great aunt however, enjoyed good moonshine until the day she died, at the ripe young age of 89.
Matt Bondurant was raised in Northern Virginia but came down on the weekends and summers to see his Franklin County relatives (much like I was raised, out of the mountains, but home in the summers). Living in Franklin County now, I can only say that he is an extraordinary writer who has captured these people and their lives on paper. A brief excerpt:
Anderson watched the darkly clad figures in the Little Hub Restaurant. A few farmers sat drinking coffee. Temperance folks obviously, Anderson thought, as everyone else in the county surely must be out gallivanting around a bonfire somewhere in the mountains drinking illegal liquor. The counterman folded his arms over his bulbous midsection and smoked thoughtfully....
A faint hum in the air of the restaurant, and the man with the paper looked up. The counterman flicked his eyes to the window, then the Dunkards, and Anderson heard it too: the low moan of motors accelerating. A run coming through town....
Anderson saw through the window a long black Packard roaring up Main Street, swerving side to side, and behind it two cars, the first with a man leaning out of the passenger window with his arm extended, pointing a pistol. The Packard thundered past the courthouse and through the intersection of Court and Main, then slowed suddenly, the back end rising up; the chasing cars swerved to avoid collision, one going through a short section of clapboard fence, the other going up on the sidewalk. Anderson could see the hunched forms of the drivers, gray flannel suits, all shoulders and elbows, as they threw their bodies into the frantic steering......As the Packard passed the restaurant Anderson caught a glimpse of a passenger wearing a small bowl hat, curly hair, a tight smile on dark lips. A woman.
The Wettest County in the World is over on my Shelfari bookcase - go and read this book, pick it up from Amazon, or at the local library, but just read it.
While I'm a bookseller, I've just got the one copy, and it's mine, and I'm not selling it.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
On this date, 422 years ago, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded for taking a hit off a bong.
NO NO NO, wait, that's the last post (and a warning to you Michael Phelps).
Mary I was beheaded for being herself, meaning she was next in line to Elizabeth I's throne of England. At the time religion occupied way too much of people's time, and the Protestant Elizabeth was nervous about the Catholic support for Mary (as well as the Catholic opinion that Mary was the true Queen, and Elizabeth was an imposter).
While referred to as "Queen of Scots", Mary had actually been raised in France, and Scotland was only the jumping off spot for reclaiming her throne.
The definitive book on Mary is by Antonia Fraser, Mary, Queen of Scots, and it's a story full of treasonous plots, intrigue and mystery, child brides, castles with dungeons, "rough wooing", doomed love affairs, and of course, beheadings and at least one murder by explosion.
I just had to mention the anniversary because we love all things Scottish, and Braveheart is only the tip of the iceberg.
What I have seen in the last week though is the photo of Michael Phelps taking a hit off a bong, assumedly smoking pot (although there are other things you can smoke in a bong. How do I know this? I don't remember.) And nearly everyday since I've seen Michael's name all over the press: should he lose his endorsements, should he apologize to millions of young swim fans, should he be prosecuted, how long should he be sent to jail for this?????
What finally caught my eye was a media poll with (to them) surprising results: in the 50-70 age group, the most common result was "Hey I had a bong like that!" and in the 18-24 age group "Hey where can I get a bong like that?". It was the folks in between, the 26-late 40's range that were incensed that he dare smoke pot, and immediately concerned about his image as a role model. Or should I say - it was the group that came of age during the late Nixon and Reagan years.This struck me because as a junior in college, I specifically remember the fall that the very first wave of conservative kids arrived, and it was like night and day. We went from workshirts and buffalo sandels to topsiders and Izod shirts overnight.
But I digress.
Apparently pot did not turn Michael into a slacker.
I guess my point is: when did people stop minding their own business? And dear readers, please spare me the emails saying "it's illegal, he's setting a bad example, it's irresponsible".
We are living in a scary society that highlights and publicizes every single thing we do, exploding our various shortcomings into monumental horrors, and preserving them for posterity via the internet. More than anything, I feel sorry for the generation growing up now. They have no chance to push the envelope, to find their own boundaries, to make poor choices or less-than-wonderful decisions (the kind that provide the best learning opportunities of all) without having it follow them for the rest of their lives.
I can assure you that I remember many, many people who never would have survived this kind of scrutiny, and yet managed to grow up and become perfectly respectable members of society. Some people develop drug problems, and millions of others don't. The next time you're talking to your favorite professional who might fall in that 50-70 age range, subtract 35 years from their age, and marvel at how they turned out okay. My generation, my parent's generation, the "Greatest" generation, the Flappers in the Twenties,and all the way further back, people have been allowed to make mistakes, learn from them, and proceed along the "growing up " process.
Michael, I feel your pain.
Friday, February 6, 2009
So I put the pups out and went searching for Miss Seri, in all her usual places. This time she was one step ahead of me, but I remembered seeing her:
In just about any empty box that's meant to pack books in,
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
If your parents live in Ames Iowa, and you go to college in St. Paul, Minnesota, you spend a great deal of time driving up and down I-35. From Mason City Iowa going north all the way to Albert Lea Minnesota, it is properly regarded as No-Man's Land - just four empty lanes of interstate traffic. Those four lanes in the middle of winter can be horrendous and scary.
Back in 1959, at 1 am on February 3rd, in a light snow, and total darkness, long before I-35 was built, there was a spot along a fenceline, just visible from the interstate now. That vacant bit of Iowa farmland became famous as the final resting place for a small light-weight plane, carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.
The three had played a concert at the Surf Ballroom earlier that night (actually the night of February 2nd), and then tossed a coin to see who got to ride in the plane versus taking the unheated bus to the next stop in North Dakota. Ritchie Valens won the coin toss, leaving Kris Kristofferson to take the bus.
Twenty years later, in 1979, the Surf Ballroom held a memorial concert, with Wolfman Jack to mc. I drove down with college friends, in a light snow, on dark roads, and fortunately arrived without sliding off into the drifts. About a year later, I received a set of photos from a man who was the newspaper photographer at the crash site (all copies, from his negs, most published here or there through the years). The top photo is one of his prints - now available everywhere on the net. But at the time, prior to the internet, I treasured those photos - it was a direct connection to someone who had been at that last place -and I still have them.
Not very likely, Mr. Olson.
3 ROCK 'N' ROLL STARS DIE
Airplane Crashes In Iowa
Iowa Pilot Also Killed; Trio Had Performed At Clear Lake
MASON CITY (AP) Three of the nation's top rock 'n' roll stars were killed during a light snow when their chartered plane crashed shortly after taking off from the airport here early Tuesday.
The trio, BUDDY HOLLY, 22, of Lubbock, Texas; RITCHIE VALENS, 17, of Los Angeles, and J. P. RICHARDSON, 24, of New Orleans, known professionally as the Big Bopper, had completed an engagement at the Surf ballroom in nearby Clear Lake a short time before. They were on their way to Fargo, N. D., for an appearance Tuesday night.
The 4-place plane was chartered from the Dwyer Flying Service of Mason City.
The pilot was ROGER PETERSON of Clear Lake, who was also killed.Cause of the crash was not immediately determined, although authorities tentatively blamed weather conditions at the time of takeoff.
The 3 rock 'n' roll singers killed in an Iowa plane crash Tuesday were to have appeared at Danceland in Cedar Rapids Friday night. DARLOW OLSON, Danceland manager, said replacement stars will be obtained. The trio was to have appeared in Sioux City Wednesday night and Des Moines Thursday night.
HOLLY, who sang with the Crickets, sailed to Rock 'n' Roll fame with his recording of PeggySue.
The BIG BOPPER gained fame through his recording of Chantilly Lace and the more recent Bopper Wedding.
VALENS was identified as having one of the current top hits, a recording called Donna.
A strong southerly wind and light blowing snow filled the air when the plane took off about 1 a.m.
The Beechcraft Bonanza burned when it crashed into a field on the ALBERT JUHL farm 15 miles northwest of Mason City.
Other members of the troupe which appeared at Clear Lake had left after the show by chartered bus for Fargo. They are DION and the Belmonts, FRANKIE SARDO and the Crickets, of which HOLLY was the singing star. HOLLY, VALENS and the BIG BOPPER decided to fly in order to arrive ahead of the troupe and make advance preparations.
Later observers of the wreckage said the plane apparently hit the ground first at the left wingtip, and plowed a furrow about 20 to 25 feet across a stubble field. Then the body of the craft evidently struck the ground, peeled off the surface of the field, and bounced as the left wing came off and remained there.
The plane then struck the ground again about 100 feet farther northwest, and skidded the length of about 2 city blocks before the wreckage piled up against a fence. Three of the bodies were lying on the ground near the wreckage, and one still was inside of what was left of the plane.
The plane was just a jumble of wreckage, with pieces here and there. Along the path of the plane also were scattered a suitcase, a shoe, and other articles.
It took that long to find the county coroner, notify him of the accident, and get him to the scene.
The trip to Fargo was expected to take about 3 and one half hours.
Both RICHARDSON and VALENS had written some of the tunes they recorded.
VALENS started singing while still in high school and composed Come On, Let's Go which first established him as a jukebox favorite. He was scheduled to appear on the March 7 Perry Como television program.
RICHARDSON started out as a radio station disc jockey.
HOLLY began his musical career studying the violin at age 4. He won an amateur contest a year later, but by his high school days had switched to the guitar. His interest in western music won him appearances on several broadcast shows and in 1955 he came to the attention of recording officials.
His first click disc was That'll Be The Day, followed by Early In The Morning and Peggy Sue.
Just released was his recording of It Doesn't Matter Anymore. HOLLY was married 7 months ago. The other two were single. (Not correct - The Big Bopper was married, had a 4 yr old daughter, and a son born 2 months after he died).
(Courtesy of The Cedar Rapids Gazette Iowa 1959-02-03)
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Our weather the last few days has been bizarre - yesterday morning it was 60 and sunny, literally T-shirt weather, and then down at 34 by late afternoon, with warnings on snow and ice by late night.
Today, at our immediate location, it was cold, but sunny with a clear blue sky. However, the second snow storm is suppose to come through late tonight, dumping anywhere from 7" to barely a skiff.
This isn't the first time we've had a weather buffet in a 24 hour period. Several years ago, also on an late winter day, we woke up to sleet, snow, 65 degree weather and then fog and steam rising from the roads, all in a 4-5 hour period.
The cause of this - or so people tell me - is our close proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains. They act as a natural buffer for any weather moving from west to east. Most storms just hit the mountains and get nudged northward towards Philadelphia.
Several years ago when I was flying out of Roanoke on my way back to Minnesota, I took the top photo from the plane, showing a fog bank rolling against the Blue Ridge.
A year or so after that, someone much more talented than myself (grubbphoto.com) took this famous photo of the same phenomena:
There's also a sister photo taken on the same day, showing the fog rolling over Bluefield, Virginia.
So I have my mountains to thank for our safe trip up to Bedford tonight - they held off the snowstorm, at least so far tonight. Who knows what we'll wake up to?