deep waters

Anyone who has gone to sea for any length of time – and with a wink to my Coast Guard brothers and sisters I mean out past “ankle deep” (out of sight of the land) – knows the sea is vast.   And it really does not matter whether the vessel taking the mariner out is a sloop, a ketch,  a six-hundred foot Navy cruiser,  a thousand-foot aircraft carrier or nine thousand-passenger and -crew  cruise liner.  At some point, everyone realizes that we are but dots in the ocean.

For poets, scholars, kings, farm boys and  fishermen, the ocean casts a spell beckoning us to it,  and yet the depths and potential hazards have been a metaphor, even among land-lubbers, for danger and despair.  Who today has not heard or used the phrases “in over your head”, “you’re in too deep”, “the deep end”,  or being “out of your depth” to describe discomfort.

I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.   Proverbs 69:2 (NIV)

But getting in over my head was never a reason for me to avoid doing something.  I did  venture to sea, most of the eight years I was crew on 3 Navy ships.   Perhaps it was due to my early introduction to water.   I think I was learning to swim almost at the same time I was learning to walk.  My mother used to tell me how, as a toddler, I would venture off the step in the shallows of the community pool –  and her lightning-quick mother’s arm would shoot out to rein me in as my head went under.  I was a budding Jacques Cousteau.   As a young teen,  I took a class in Lifesaving, in order to become a lifeguard, and the instructor- as I recall it- tried to drown me simulating a panicked swimmer.  I punched him.  Later, in the Navy class on treading water, I never understood how some of my peers had never learned to swim.  I never feared putting my head underwater.  And in my twenties I obtained a SCUBA certification and spent some years going diving.

Still, I have a healthy respect for water whether it is gathered in rivers, large lakes, or the ocean. Perhaps it is due to my experience with lakes that appear deceptively shallow, or water that was particularly frigid on a very warm New England May day.  Or with currents in rivers, in saltwater marshes with an ebbing tide where I tried to navigate a little rowboat across.  And I’ve lost my footing in a shallow beach tidal outflow and been sucked out to the bay.

There is a magical quality to looking out at the sea,  and witnessing the deepening blue hue of the deep ocean, turn gray-blackish and whipped into white foam caps.  When a calm sea could become a violent storm in a matter of hours, there were some, myself included, who offered prayers of thanksgiving to Providence for never having been seasick . On a bright sunny day,  as the weather turns into a full-force gale.

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Vincent Van Gogh  /

In my childhood,  I was fascinated by nautical museums, sea captain’s two hundred year-old homes, touring lighthouses and old ships, steamers, and ferry boats.   And today I am blogging about such things now and again.   At my keyboard now  I remember the first work of fiction I wrote for a college literature class being a blend of all these memories.   And I quite clearly pictured Burgess Meredith as the crusty old Salt protagonist.

Dwellers by the sea are generally superstitious; sailors always are. There is something in the illimitable expanse of sky and water that dilates the imagination. Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Strangely, I never bought a boat after my assignments at sea ended.   While I have been on several since my career in the Navy ended,  I have never wanted to scrape barnacles, chip paint, or clean the salt-corrosion ever again.   But I still know port from starboard, and even on the maritime museum, the MIDWAY at the pier in downtown San Diego, I will still request permission to come aboard.  And I can wish for others a fond  time  getting  “haze gray and underway”.

from sails to “the Force”

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-Arthur C. Clarke,  via

Today I went to see the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi.  But this is not intended as a review of a movie that has been seen and reviewed by others.  My thoughts run to (technological) life imitating (science fiction) art.   Here’s what I will say about the movie: I enjoyed it.  Humor, blasters,  evil empires, love and courage.  Okay, so some of the plot does mimic a progression that I saw in the original trilogy.  And the feel is different from those original Star Wars  (non-remastered, CGI -modified rework by Lucas) films I saw in the 1970s  and 1980s.

I started thinking how science fiction,  particularly Star Trek and then Star Wars, have given us a world where we have satellite-beamed entertainment,  video-communicators in everyone’s pocket (Iphone and android),  and space travel that is so routine, few are awed anymore.  Yet we all yearn to visit other planets, other stars and engage with whomever is “out there”.  How many were fascinated by the flyby of Pluto, and the still-communicating Voyager satellites entering interstellar space.  We have started to change our view of aliens from those wanting to eat us to visitors.

What lists can you come up with of the science fiction later becoming science fact?   Mine starts with writings from a hundred-fifty years ago.

  • From the Earth to the Moon,  Jules Verne (1865) a vessel in which men travel to the moon.

Science: Sputnik, Soviet launch a man-made satellite into orbit.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C. Clarke (1951)  Origins of man. Finding alien technology and a depiction of space travel (10 years before it became reality) with a supercomputer pilot to Jupiter

Science: NASA space program ( Project Apollo, 1963 -1972) overcoming technical hurdles and developing tools and systems to travel to the Moon, land and then safely return to earth.

  • Star Trek  ( TV series, 1966 -1969) Drama and adventure at faster than light-speed. Stories on the difficulty of maintaining unity in the galaxy.  Racial diversity, Love, loss, greed, lust, and alien civilizations.

Science: Apollo – Soyuz, Skylab (1973 –  1979)  Initial efforts at cooperation in space,  long-term habitation in space orbit, and coexistence on Earth.

  •  Star Wars  (1977).   This story of good versus evil,  love, journey to discover one’s identity and high-tech shoot ’em ups, started what became one of the world’s top-earning movie franchises in history.  Planet-vaporizing weapons and plasma-laser light-sabers.

Science:  the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983 (called mockingly, Star Wars).  Intent was to develop – particle beams, lasers and  missile defense systems

  • Star Wars movie trilogy  and Star Trek movie/ television  franchises, (1980s -2009)  Food synthesizers, medical diagnostics, hibernation, and transporter “beaming”

Science:   naval electromagnetic rail gun, launching projectiles at supersonic speeds  (since 2007)

Science:  quantum teleportation experiments and transporting particles in 2017 (“beam me up, Scotty!”) With quadrillions of calculations needed to beam Kirk about,  the technology is still in a galaxy, far, far away.


a hole in the ocean filled with cash

The most expensive hobby a rich man could have is a boat, and the second most expensive hobby he could have is a very old house.
– Barbara Corcoran

Hobbies for the rich and powerful, are several orders of magnitude above what I or my co-workers can afford to enjoy.  I take a week-long cruise with six thousand fellow passengers to the Caribbean.  A billionaire rents an island and charters guests to it.  A friend leases a quaint home in an Italian town using AirBnB; an executive I know rents a villa in Florence for a month and brings his entire family.    My neighbor owns a new boat – I assume it is the property of the son, a Navy Sailor.  Nobody will confuse him for a wealthy man.  While not a hobby, the expansion of electric vehicle ownership also reveals a little disparity.  Teslas and a couple BMW electric vehicles share the charging aisles with a couple Fiats and one Ford.

I am always stunned by the embrace socialism has among American and European elitists, academics and revolutionaries.  From my study of history,  the socialists disdained hobbies that symbolized exclusivity, gentility or were impractical for the general welfare, and were very careful about outside influence on their constituency.  Of course, those were the very things the elites afforded themselves.

New York Times, 10/15/16

The same media that sympathetically portrayed changes coming to one of the most wealthy, but politically and socially, medieval countries, has been understandably confused.    I heard a story today that a thirty -something Saudi prince, Mohammed bin Salman,  a  powerful deputy in the royal family  was seeming disingenuous about starting an austerity reform campaign in his country.  Apparently, the New York Times only recently learned that this refreshing new leader was the buyer, a couple years ago,  of the most expensive estate in France, the Chateau Louis XIV, a Leonardo Da Vinci painting and a half-BILLION-Euro yacht.  An austerity measure of almost a billion and a half dollars.

By Ngw2009 at English Wikipedia -**

You have to marvel at his hobbies though.  And their upkeep.   I found an article that says he ran his new yacht aground in the Red Sea a month or two ago.   The prince may need to get a skipper for his boating hobby.

To bring Saudi Arabia into the 21st Century, the Prince may need his expensive hobbies.   A Millennial with a vision for his people.  And from his estate in France, if he gets too un-sheikh like, he can let the people eat cake.   In the interim,  if his news media gets a little too nasty,  he probably has an executioner with scimitar on speed-dial.



**  Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC0,

the naked and the dead

Thirty years ago, I read several of Norman Mailer’s work.  It was a time of controversy during the maturing of society in the post-Vietnam era.  The Death Penalty, scandals in Government,  Presidents and Senators losing their positions.  Foreign revolutions.  Domestic terrorism.  Sex.  Religious charlatans.  While my thoughts today run to the passing of an old letch, Hugh Hefner, yesterday, the impact of Hefner’s life’s work cannot be left unmentioned.  Playboy  followed the American culture in the last half of the Twentieth Century, and over fifty years the culture, unfortunately for Hefner, matured past him.   But military lockers,  battlefields, firehouses, and little boy’s attic cubbyholes in the 1960s and 1970s were adorned with centerfold images.  Some stolen from their dad’s collection.  With the sexual revolution of the Flower Children which became the hedonistic ’80s, the age of AIDS, and then the gay culture, everything about the onetime bedroom subject  can now  be taught in grade school.   Talk about a real life satire.

I was in the 1980’s  a fan of satire, particularly on the military.  M.A.S.H was still popular on television,  Joseph Heller’s Catch-22,  the war movie Kelly’s Heroes was often on television.  In the mid-1980s, I had several friends ( some I regularly talk with today) who served in Vietnam.    I was mentored by World War II and Korean War vets.   I spent twenty-six years over a thirty-two year span in a Navy uniform.  I saw a lot of things about bureaucracy, opportunists, and the occasional subject satirized in these stories happening through the experiences of my friends and from my personal observation.

Hefner’s Playboy – and then its competitors,  and with new technology, brought sex out into the mainstream, made it a commodity, and cheapened it, from a wonderful bonding relationship between two under God’s blessing, to a mainstream yardstick for judging maturity.   As America matured,  women and men very often were colleagues or competed in the same profession,  and just as the race identity was removed by the military,  the gender barrier also came down.  This is not to say that it was a smooth transition.  Change takes a generation or two to fully be accepted.   And perhaps, the nation is on the verge or putting it back into the bedroom.  When “taboo” becomes the mainstream, a new counter-culture icon may find a new audience.    Hefner is dead.  The Playboy Mansion, already sold, has lost its previous occupant.   And now, with a few truckloads of Lysol,  scrub brushes, and an army of health control professionals can sanitize fifty years of the “cosmopolitan” stains away.   Wonder if Helen Gurly Brown or Hilary Clinton might shed a tear.   There’s one less Neanderthal in the world.

Appreciating paper art

Image credits: Gen Hagiwara Image credits: Hoàng Tiến Quyết Image credits: Akira Yoshizawa Image credits: Adam Tran Image credits: Patricia Crawford Image credits: Hoàng Tiến Quyết Image credits: Artur Biernacki Image credits: Hideyuki Kamon Image credits: white_onrice Image credits: Roman Diaz Image credits: Cristian Marianciuc Image credits: White On Rice Image […]

via Stunning Works Of Origami Art To Celebrate World Origami Day — FLOW ART STATION

Art Historian? No, but I slept in a Holiday Inn Express….

If I had the money to jump on a plane and jet across the country this week for the heck of it, there’s a lecture series I want to attend.  Of course, I have no particular training as an art historian or artist, but I know the subject of this lecturer’s presentation, Edwin H. Blashfield , muralist.  I doubt there is a single one of my peers who hasa clue who he was or what a muralist does.   Forty years ago, I lived a few years on Cape Cod in a mid-18th Century home which at the turn of the 20th Century was the home and studio of this artist.   What began as a curious find of a large book full of his work in pictures and lithograph prints at the house became a small collection of prints and books he wrote today.   In several state buildings, courthouses and libraries from the MidWest to Washington, DC and New England, his work is prominently featured.    Here’s the editor’s new book on Blashfield  edited by Mina Rieur Weiner