Posts Tagged ‘history’


What am I sappy cat blogging?

December 8, 2017

Corporal Edward Burckhardt poses with the kitten that he said “captured” him on the battlefield of Iwo Jima.

Photo credit: Buddies: Men, Dogs and World War II, by L. Douglas Keeney.


What am I echoing?

December 5, 2017

Reblogged from Last Word on Nothing by Craig Childs

In caves and rock walls of the southern Utah desert, pictographs have been painted, added to the backs of clamshell-shaped sandstone enclosures. Many are noted to have acoustic properties, meaning these ancient, Indigenous images seem to be correlated with the way sound reflects around them. I’ve spoken in a normal voice back and forth from one sheltered rock art panel to another an eighth of a mile downcanyon. The way sound spreads and is refocused, we could hear each other’s every word.

James Farmer, from the Utah Rock Art Research Association, wrote that panels from the ghostly and enigmatic Barrier Creek tradition in Utah (pictured above) contain what he sees as thunderstorm motifs. At one of these Barrier Creek panels, he witnessed a cloudburst with thunder, waterfalls, and falling boulders. He wrote about the intensification of sound from the storm around the rock art, “it seems inconceivable to me that any ancient archaic hunter-gatherers witnessing a similar event would not have been just as astonished as me, and would have naturally invested the location with divine, supernatural powers.”

The nascent field of “archaeoacoustics” studies the way sound and archaeological sites interact. I look at this as not just an ancient feature, but one that we walk through everyday. Cathedrals and capital domes have been noted for the way they capture and amplify sound. By happenstance or not, resonance is part of the way we relate to architecture, whether human made or carved by nature.

Have you ever walked through an airport or the lobby of a building and noticed a sudden change in the acoustics? Even in a crowd, you hear your own footsteps as if you’d walked across a microphone. Like the acoustics of Barrier Creek panels, this is something I’ve explored in modern human environments. A friend who goes looking for them with me calls them “focalizers.”

Once you start looking and listening, you find them all over, outdoor gardens, entrances to skyscrapers. One of the best I’ve found is a dome of focused sound created by the ceiling of Terminal C of the George Bush International Airport, near the turn to Gates 24-27. It’s like stepping through an invisible veil into a secret space. These are architectural simplicities, a circle or cupola pleasing to the eye, maybe with benches or planters or sculptures. The center is often marked with some small feature, a compass star, an intersection of lines, a mosaic of a circle or globe, or simply a drain pipe if not too fancy.

If you happen to pass over that center, or pause in conversation, the effect is immediate. You’ll hear your own voice reflected back on you with startling and encompassing clarity, louder than any other sound in the vicinity.

A related phenomenon is the “whispering wall” or “whispering gallery.” This is where a curved surface carries the slightest vocalization to another, distant location. Grand Central Station in New York has a famous one. On the lower concourse, just outside of the Oyster Bar, the voice of a person standing in one corner will travel up and over the crowd and land on the ears of a person standing in the opposite corner 30 feet away.

The “focalizer” is slightly different, perhaps more ubiquitous. These are places that broadcast yourself back to you. I’ve taken to calling them “whispering wells.”

Circular is best, though a semi-circle will do. Step into the center and say something or make a hiss. Whatever sound you create, even a clearing of your throat if you don’t want to attract attention, will come back from surrounding walls at exactly the same instant, none of the messy humdrum of baffles and angles, no single echo point any closer or father away than the others.

Tell somebody about it, a stranger walking by. I’ve done this, it generally works once they get past their understandable suspicion. Lead them to the center (many of these are in very public and non-threatening locations) and when they speak to ask what they should do, they shut their mouth instantly, then say something else like hello or echo and look back at you amazed. Some people become giddy with excitement. Try the front of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, not the finest example, but an easy one to find. It just takes a few seconds. Step into the middle of one of its outdoor circles. An acoustic bubble envelopes you. You can hear the traffic and noise around you, but if you start singing quietly, which generally draws only mild attention, you are singing back to yourself, audience of one.

I move through the city the same way I move through the desert, looking for shaded alcoves that might hold rock art, hissing or clucking my tongue to hear the sound bounce back. Buildings become canyons, and the rounded architecture of lobbies, capital domes, or outdoor sitting areas where professionals eat their lunches, become natural shelters, sites of acoustic reflections. And there I stand humming out loud, apparently imbued with supernatural powers.


Photos: Barrier Creek petroglyphs, Utah; Grand Central Station Whispering Wall, NY; US Capital, Washington DC.


What am I sappy cat blogging?

December 1, 2017

Perce Blackborow and Mrs. Chippy (really a tom) both members of Ernest Shackleton’s crew on the Endurance.


What am I watching?

November 28, 2017

Our Story in One Minute from WordlessTech


What am I sappy cat blogging?

November 24, 2017

Prime minister Winston Churchill strokes Blackie goodbye, the ship’s cat of HMS Prince of Wales, as he is about to cross the gangway to the USS McDougal (DD-358), an American destroyer, during a ceremonial visit in 1941.



What am I remembering?

November 14, 2017


What am I celebrating?

October 10, 2017

The Scandinavian community of Metropark Centralis, including those from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland gathered at the bust of Leif Ericson in front of Shooters in Cleveland’s Flats. Leif Ericson was a Norse explorer regarded as the first European to land in North America (excluding Greenland), nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

According to the Sagas of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, tentatively identified with the Norse L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland in modern-day Canada.

In 1964 the United States Congress authorized and requested the president to proclaim October 9 of each year as “Leif Erikson Day”. Each year local Scandinavians meet at the bust of the exploerer which is in front of Shooter’s restaurant in the Flats. Here they toast Ericson and his maritime accomplishments with a drink of Aquavit, a 40 proof Scandinavian liqueur. Aquavit is said to get its special flavor from its trip to the Equator.

That’s right; Aquavit is placed in barrels and put on a ship bound for Australia. It must pass the Equator and return to get the right flavor. All of the sloshing in the barrels on the long ocean trip makes the drink unique. It also has a distinctive flavor, partially because of spices such as caraway. Skol!

Facts and quotes . . .

  • Leif Erikson was actually born in Iceland but his family was Norwegian. He died in Greenland in the year 1020.
  • On October 9, 1825, the first wave of Norwegian immigrants arrived on US soil in New York City. Between 1825 and 1925, nearly one-third of Norway’s population immigrated to the US.
  • Erikson named his settlement Vinland or Wineland due to the many grape vines that he discovered there.
  • There are more than 4.5 million Americans with Norwegian ancestry living in the US today, of which 55% live in the Upper Midwest states.
  • Histories have been written and more will be written of the Norwegians in America, but no man can tell adequately of the tearing asunder of tender ties, the hardships and dangers crossing the deep, the work and worry, the hopes and fears, the laughter and tears, of men and women who with bare hands carved out of a wilderness a new kingdom. – Rønning, N. N., from the book Fifty Years in America

What to do on Leif Eriksson day  . . .

  • Purchase a Leif Ericson Millennium Commemorative Coin from the US Mint. The coins were released at the beginning of the century however you can purchase some from collectors online or even try to find them in public circulation.
  • Visit one of the many Leif Erikson statues in the United States. There are statues in Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Virginia, Seattle, Minnesota and North Dakota.
  • Take a trip to Iceland, Norway or Greenland and visit the homelands of Leif Erikson.
  • Take a trip to UNESCO site of L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada. This is believed to be the site of Erikson’s first New World settlement.
  • Watch a movie about Vikings and Leif Erikson. Some movies include: Leif Ericson (2000) and The Vikings (1958), The Viking Sagas (1995) and The 13th Warrior (1999).

Leif Erikson Day was yesterday, but today is Tattoo Tuesday!