Monday, September 4, 2017

Old Man Trump

Racial intolerance remains perhaps the single largest obstacle ever to human evolution.  This isn't because we are incapable of overcoming it, but rather because we are not permitted to overcome it.  Racism and related issues such as immigration & poverty are just too effective as tools to separate us and keep us at one another's throats; and as we all know, "if it ain't broke don't fix it."

Just spend an hour watching mixed ethnicity children at a day care and you will know that racial intolerance is not something we are born with, it's something we're conditioned into with rhetoric, propaganda and outright lies. 

In the bloody wake of Charlottesville, Donald Trump has emerged as the second president of the confederacy and the new face of white supremacy.  Trump set the tone the very first day of his election campaign with his now famous remarks about Mexicans being "rapists, thieves and thugs."  That first hateful speech should have been his last, but he survived it, as he has every other wrong headed racist thing he's uttered on his surreal journey to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

 We were lulled into believing that racism was dying from starvation as humanity entered this new promising age of Aquarius, then along came Donald Trump serving up an endless feast of hate, becoming the hero of everyone who believes that the south will rise again.  Trump isn't making this country great again, he's setting the calendar back 60 years or so in an effort to make things like they used to be in one of this country's ugliest eras. 

To better understand where Trump is taking us; we first must look at where he comes from, specifically his father; Frederick Christ Trump.  The New York real estate developer often claimed he was Swedish in an effort to conceal his German bloodlines.
In 1927 the New York Times reported that Fred Trump was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally, for fighting with the police.  Some years later he was also investigated by the justice department for racial policies at his housing developments.

It is revealing to look into the beliefs and actions of Fred Trump because on several occasions Donald Trump has said his father was his hero and role model in life, so it figures he would adopt his fathers racial intolerance and other beliefs.  Looking farther into the Trump family tree we discover that Frederick Drumpf, Donald's grandfather was a German immigrant and by all accounts at the time; a pimp, and drug dealer, who made his fortune running brothels and opium dens.  This is where the Trump empire began, just for the record.  It helps to keep our perspective in the nervous now.  Trump family values.

Getting back to Trump's dad, turns out he was something of a weasel in more than physical appearance.  He was such an unabashed racist that the famous folk singer Woody Guthrie came to hate him, and expressed those feelings in many songs which may have been some of the first protest music.  While Woody wrote and sang many songs about Frederick Trump, the one history remembers the most was "Old Man Trump."

 When Fred Trump built the Beach Haven apartments for returning WWII war veterans, he used some slimy tactics to legally get away with creating a "color line" - no blacks allowed.  He is infamous for creating civic anti-black housing codes that are still on the books today!  In 1954 Fred Trump was investigated for profiteering from public contracts for housing, and overestimating the charges for Beach Haven by almost 4 million dollars.

Yes indeed, it does seem that Trump's daddy is his role model in business matters, while in his personal life he models himself more after his gramps.  Donald Trump has no special business acumen at all; he just copies everything his daddy did, with money daddy gave him.  Proof once again that the slime always rises to the top.

Back in Woody Guthrie's time; protesting social injustice with music was about all they had to push back with.  There was no public radio or internet platform from which to engage and enrage the powerful elite, and over time, Woody included Trump's daddy in many of his protest songs.

Back in the 60's you could hear protest music any time of the day on your radio; but those days are forever gone now with "clear channel" canned music for the masses.  Most of you still don't realize that all of the newspapers and radio/TV stations in America are owned by just six corporations.

Protest music takes a somewhat different form today, specifically the format of the YouTube video where anyone who wants can become a troubadour for truth, and rail against the social injustice & tyrants of today. This is why issues like Net Neutrality are so important, because they are the attempts by those six corporations to own & control content on the internet as well as news and television.  If they ever succeed in taking over the internet, it will be the end of free speech as we have known it.

 Of course protest music will not be enough to win the day all by itself.  Social injustice is such a cancerous monster nowadays we must literally take to the streets like folks did during the illegal, unjust Vietnam war, and shout it down where ever it rears it's ugly head and rebel flag.  Want proof?  How about the fact that after Boston's massive anti-Nazi rally neo-Nazis cancelled planned rallies in 36 states.  Like all cowards, the white supremacists don't like a fair fight or even odds.  They just want to drive their cars into crowds trying to kill as many as they can, and Donald Trump, is their kind of leader!

On the home front Trump is doing his absolute best to ignite the flames of a race war; while internationally he just cannot wait for the provocation that will permit him to nuke North Korea into the bronze age.  We can all just sit around watching to see what happens next; or we can stand up for ourselves and remove this deranged toddler from office before he creates damage we cannot walk away from.  What's your pleasure?

 Our self-appointed leaders have been using racial intolerance and hatred to keep us divided and hateful for all of our lives, going back generations.  It never changes, they just keep driving those wedges into society to keep us at each other instead of going for the ones in control.  You'd think we would learn after a few generations and wise up; but alas we do not, and cannot so long as we permit bottom feeders with no education to lead the chant of hatred from the highest office in the land.
© 2017 full re-post with permission only 

Inspired by Woody Guthrie's "Old Man Trump" I went searching for songs protesting
 the old man's son, and found some.  Actually I found quite a few, and
 I would be lazy & remiss if I didn't share the best results with you here.  

Woody Guthrie ~ "Old Man Trump"

* * *
From R.E.M. ~ "Final Straw"

* * *
From Roger Waters ~ "Run Like Hell"

* * *
From Roger Waters ~ "Another brick in the Wall"

* * *
"Sympathy for the Devil"

* * *
From Joan Baez ~ "Nasty Man"
* * *
From Bruce Springsteen ~ "That's what makes us Great"

* * *
"Mr Tangerine Man"

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Monday, August 21, 2017

2017 Crop Circle Gallery

The first thing that stands out about this season's crop circles is that they seem fewer and farther between than in past years.  As if somehow compensating for lower numbers; there seem to be a lot more complex & interesting designs laid down earlier in the season.  Again this season the availability of affordable camera drones provides us with some impressive aerial videos; while production values increase making them more professional looking.

As with my previous crop circle galleries; I've excluded some of the early season simple, basic circles etc. as well as those of dubious origin.  

April 22 -Wiltshire

May 4, Wiltshire

May 21 -Wiltshire
     This is 2017's first 3D crop circle

May 22 - Dorsett

May 25 - Wiltshire

May 28, Wiltshire

May 30, Wiltshire

June 4 - Oxfordshire

June 9 - Wiltshire

June 16 - Dorsett

June 17 - Hampshire

June 26 - Wiltshire

July 1 -Wiltshire

July 5 - Wiltshire

July 5, Sofia Bulgaria

July 8 - Hackpen
There will always be a few farmers each season who immediately destroy crop formations on their land; because it prevents further loss of crop.  Increasingly though others are open to working with researchers and the viewing/visiting public.  Often fields are made accessible for a modest fee, and some farmers allow viewing and photos before they destroy the formation. 

July 18 - Wiltshire
3D Mathematics 

July 19 - Sussex

August 4 - Wiltshire

August 5 - Oxfordshire

August 7 - Warwickshire

August 15th
Well, this is certainly being one of the strangest and quietest crop circle seasons in recent memory.  The largest oddity is the low number of crop circles.  Traditionally the months of June, July, and August have had the largest number of formations laid down, with sometimes 20 or more circles in each of those months.  In bygone years the season would sometimes even extend into early September.

So what is going on this year? Only 30 formations made from May until mid-August.
With the Solar eclipse coming on August 21st, perhaps something special is in the works to commemorate  the event?  Still, that would not necessarily explain the single digit monthly formations.  This year June is the hot month (so far) with a whopping ten formations.  Could it have something to do with disrupted harvesting conditions due to climate change?  Perhaps, but I still don't see a correlation to these low numbers of crop circles.

We have already passed the date of last year's final formation;
so does that mean this season is over?
We shall see.

August 17 - Sussex
This formation was laid down  next door to the Southend Airfield, and
definitely looks like it could relate to the looming eclipse on 8-21. 

Some see a guitar, or banjo, while others see an eclipse glyph with a tower of glyphs coming from it, perhaps a message from the makers.  Perhaps the message is simple, or is it too complex to decipher?  Historically the last formation of the season is a "jawdropper" being the best or most awesome of the perhaps the question should be, does this qualify; or is there more coming?

~Crop Circle Researchers~

These tireless Researchers/Investigators are doing a massive job
which deserves our support as much as our attention.  Just imagine if they 
could no longer afford the camera drones and other required equipment
to bring us these amazing images & videos.  The days of cameras on poles are
gone forever, and the new equipment sure isn't cheap.  Please support these people.
Subscribe to their sites, purchase their yearbooks & videos, make donations.
They're Doing it for Us!

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Friday, August 4, 2017

The Singapore Swim

My Attempt to win the Darwin Award

In nearly seven decades on this planet I've managed to outlive childhood, high school, Vietnam, two marriages, and my own stupidity, so far.  This then, is the accounting of one of the stupid things that very nearly ended my lucky streak.

I have always been something of a non-conformist mixed with equal parts of thrill seeker and trouble maker.  Joining the Navy during the Vietnam war didn't change those tendencies much but it did cramp my style; so I was always on the lookout for my next prank or stunt.  My personal policy was to never really cross the "line" but rather to slide right up to it and have me a peek over the top.

As luck would have it my first ship was literally the oldest ship in the navy at the time in the late summer of 1970, the USS Plate, AO-24.  The AO designated the old girl as an auxiliary oiler, a tanker; which was somewhat synonymous with being in jail with a chance of drowning according to fleet scuttlebutt.  Tanker sailors have a traditional reputation of being a rough & tumble bunch, owing perhaps to having about the worst job in the navy, being a floating gas station & grocery store.

It seemed overly hot, & mucky even for summer in the south pacific the day we arrived in Singapore and moored to a buoy out in the harbor.  It was the first time the ship had been in Singapore in quite a while according to the old timers; and whatever the reason, us deck apes were not given a memo.  It was announced after mooring that this was not a liberty stop, so nobody was going ashore. 

The news was not especially well received by an already over worked & stressed out crew, and you could literally taste the mood going sour all over the ship.  The perfect conditions for me to invent a little fun & profit for myself.  At days end; after evening chow, the ships business was done for another day and everyone went about their own off duty pursuits which usually meant card games in crew quarters until the evening movie on the mess deck.  Never being much for the cards, I worked my way back to the fantail area at the rear of the ship to see what opportunity I might find to have a little harmless fun.  Normally there is a lookout on watch on the fantail, but only when underway; which made it a popular place to gather and socialize when confined to the ship in port.

We had arrived in the late afternoon, and by the time I'd finished dinner it was getting dark as I joined the gathering on the fantail.  Hanging around the same bunch of guys on, and after work is, if anything, I knew if I was to be entertained tonight it was gonna have to start with me.  Tanker sailors are big on daring each other to do stuff, usually stupid or dangerous stuff; so leaning on the handrail some 25 or so feet above the water, I tossed out a little bait to see who would bite by making the comment that it was a perfect night for a swim.

My plan was simple.  Nobody knew I'd been on the swim team in high school, or that I especially loved the high dive.  My intention was to get enough guys to wager their money on whether or not I would actually take the plunge into Singapore harbor to make doing so worth the effort.  Of course diving in was the easy part; getting back aboard the ship, not so much.  The official gangway was lowered and manned 24 hours a day for ships business, but swimming up to it came with several problems, none of which were in my plan.  In this case, by diving into the harbor I would definitely be crossing over that line: The navy calls it Jumping Ship, and AWOL (Absent With Out Leave) & takes those charges seriously.  Getting busted for this prank was certain to draw brig time; or even worse, land me on suicide watch at the base psych ward.

On the opposite side of the ship there was a whisker boom extended from the ship which dangled a rope Jacobs ladder into the water.  This rig was used by the ship's service boats for use when the main gangway was busy; and was my way back on the ship since it was un-manned. 

The ship was 550 feet long and the whisker boom was located approximately a third of the way from the bow, which meant that I'd have to swim about 360 feet to reach the safety ladder attached to the boom.  Piece of cake for a former boy scout with the mile swim merit badge

Of course soon after saying it was a perfect night for a swim, someone challenged me, accusing me of only saying it because getting back on was impossible.  I casually replied that I figured on getting back via the aforementioned whisker boom.  A quick look around the corner confirmed it was indeed extended with the ladder down, so I had my way back on board.  Not satisfied, my accuser said I still didn't have the balls to dive in; and with that, human nature mixed with boredom took over and before long someone was holding over 500 bucks in cold cash.  This was going to be easy money.

I removed my shirt, shoes and socks, then carefully climbed over the guardrail, poised to take the plunge.  As I recall, there was a small amount of trepidation at what I was doing, but the sight of all that cash was stronger, so there was no chickening out, especially not on a tanker.  As I prepared to dive I turned and asked my buddy Mikey "What should I do, jack-knife or swan dive?"  My friend just looked astonished and said "I think you should climb back aboard before you slip & fall."  Knowing I'd never live it down if I failed to go thru with it, and having ultimate confidence in my swimming skills, I squared off, took a big breath and did a magnificent swan dive into Singapore harbor.

It was like diving off a two story building into semi-darkness, and when I finally hit the water the darkness became complete.  I knew that diving from that height would mean I would also penetrate deeper than usual into the water & I was ready for that.  I wasn't however, ready for the water temperature as it was several degrees colder than expected.  After several strong strokes I still wasn't at the surface, and that big breath I took was running out fast as I struggled to break the top.  Four or five more strokes and  I hit the surface, gasping for air. 

With head above water, the sight I saw terrified me to my core.

In real time less than a minute had passed since diving off the ship, but when I surfaced it was a couple hundred yards away and getting smaller fast.  It was as if in under a minute the ship had broke mooring, fired up engines and departed the scene at flank speed.  Of course my brain instantly knew that was impossible, leaving just one other really ugly reality; I was being carried away, out to sea on a swift moving 5 knot current and the outgoing tide.  The harbor looked like a glass lake when we arrived because it was at high tide.  Now, several hours later the harbor had become a swift moving river to oblivion.

My survival instinct kicked in remarkably fast, perhaps aided by having heard these are shark infested waters.  I began what became the swim of my life by doing my best to become a flesh torpedo.  Fortunately for me I just had the current to fight, there was little to no wave action.  At first it didn't seem like I was gaining any headway, but soon I could tell I was gaining on it, the ship was getting bigger as I swam; but if I stopped even for a few seconds to rest, I'd lose the game and likely my life as well.  It was that thought that kept my arms and legs churning even as the lactic acid began building and burning in  my muscles.

My mind was racing, as my stamina drained by the minute.  Initial thoughts like "how could I be so stupid?" were quickly replaced by thoughts of my high school sweetheart who I was engaged to marry.  "I can't go out like this" became a sort of mantra, "I have too much to live for."  Every time my arms & legs would feel like they could go no farther, images of sharks feasting on me somehow bestowed enough endorphins to keep myself going.  That will show you just how strong the subconscious will to survive is.

After swimming at my absolute strongest ability for what felt like 20  minutes I was getting close enough to encourage some hope.  I thought that certainly my buddies on the ship would by now have tied a life jacket on a line and tossed it over for me, but my heart and hopes sank when I looked up to see a totally empty fantail, without a single soul looking for me, and no rope in the water either.

Tanker sailors

As I approached the point at which I'd entered the water I knew I didn't have anywhere near the energy or stamina to make it to the whisker boom, and that nobody was close enough to hear me yell for help; leaving me but a single hope. 

Every ship has various discharge pipes built into the hull thru which to dump various unwanted types of dirty water etc.  These scuppers as they're called are sometimes a vertical pipe welded to the side of the ship, so as not to leave a slimy streak on the nice haze grey paint job. Because painting the hull was one of my jobs as a deck ape; I knew exactly where one of these enclosed scuppers was; and it was close enough for me to get to it and hang on to the side of the ship.

With literally the last ounce of energy in my body I made it to the scupper pipe and grabbed ahold of the pipe bracket.  The pipe & bracket were covered in a layer of sharp barnacles, and soon after grabbing them with waterlogged pruned fingers I was bleeding into the water.  I knew I had to climb the scupper up the side of the ship so the time to begin was now: before the blood drew in unwanted company.  The brackets holding the pipe only gave me about two inches on either side of the pipe for climbing on, and my feet were mere inches above the water standing on the lowest one, and bleeding now, just like my hands were.  The brackets above me were free of barnacles as well as being farther from the sharks I knew were coming, if not already there.  I tapped that survival instinct one last time to give me the energy to pull myself up to those higher brackets; and making it was the first break I'd caught all night so far.

My feet were now a safe height above the water.  Although I didn't see any sharks yet that didn't mean there were none nearby, and not seeing them was somehow worse than actually seeing them.  This was still an issue because my legs were shaking uncontrollably and my arms were aching from the swim and holding onto the life saving pipe.  If I were to slip, or just lose focus for an instant I'd be right back to being in the water, and bleeding.  As I was eyeballing the next bracket some four feet above me; I noticed someone leaning on the handrail a few yards down the deck, I even recognized him; it was a kid from the personnel office named Clark McGarr.  I called to him by name, and to my relief he heard me...but didn't see me.  I called out again with a hint to look down and aft; then he saw me and was soon looming 15 feet or so above me on the handrail.  "What happened?" he asked.  "Long story, go get a rope..." I replied.  Just like a life saving boy scout; Clark took off to get a rope...but soon returned with a heaving line, about the same thickness as a clothesline.

I was at first disappointed with his choice of rescue rope as he lowered one end down to me to tie around myself; but being in no position to criticize I just went with it and tied myself on.  A few feet above me, along with the next set of brackets, there was a porthole glowing with incandescent light from the engineering crew quarters; and it might become a problem.  I was very close to getting back on board the ship and was still very keen to avoid punishment for my stunt if at all possible.  Being seen hanging around outside that porthole could mean serious trouble.

With the rescue line secure, Clark says; "You ready? - Here we go!"  Before I could reply the hay bale tossing Iowa farm boy pulled me right up the side of the ship, hand over hand; as if I was a wet rag doll.  Fortunately when he paused to get a fresh grip on the line; there was a pipe bracket for my feet to stand on.  Unfortunately however I was now looking directly into that porthole, and at a first class engineer named Joyner, just as he was taking a swig from a bottle he wasn't supposed to have aboard ship.  He looked at me with what seemed suspicious eyes, not quite registering what he was seeing.  "You ain't supposed to be out there!" he says to me... so I replied, "I'm not here and you ain't supposed to be drinking that." at which point the burly Mr. McGarr gave another brisk pull on the line which brought me right up to the handrail.  Clark manhandled me over the top rail as my rubbery legs gave out.  Now, Clark was smart enough to know that I was up to no good; and that he might be complicit for helping me; so as he disappeared around the corner he says, "I was never here man.

Even with the movie playing on the mess deck there were always a few guys loitering on the fantail smoking weed or whatever; but not on this night.  It was empty.  I grabbed up the rescue line and just tossed it over the rail to eliminate evidence, then sat down to collect my wits & recover from my ordeal.  When I could stand & walk again my body ached like a train had hit me, and I was already dreading how I'd feel come morning; as I made my way to crew quarters for a shower, some dry clothes, and bandages for my feet.  Nearly everyone was watching the evening movie, and no one in the compartment had been on the fantail when I dove.  So far, so good.

Clean & dry; I made my way back to the mess decks & quietly sneaked into thru the back, taking a seat to watch the rest of the movie, "The War Wagon" with John Wayne, a film about betrayal & revenge.  Sometimes you just gotta love the irony.  As I sat there among the handful of guys who were on the fantail when I dove; my anger at just being left for dead intensified.  It was a most powerful wake-up call about how cold life can be. 

Being fairly certain I wouldn't be busted for my stunt, I mulled over the dynamics of collecting my hard won $500 bucks.  The last I saw, my "buddy" Mikey was holding all the loot; and chances were good he hadn't yet given it all back.  You just don't do that sort of thing out in the open unless you want the whole ship knowing your business. 

By the time the credits were scrolling on the screen I still hadn't settled in on how to handle the confrontation, so I decided to just go with the flow.  All I knew for sure was I had the element of surprise on my side & I wanted to get the maximum effect from it.  There was a newspaper on the table next to me so I grabbed it as the lights came up, holding it open as if reading it.  The closest place to light up a smoke after the evening movie was the fantail area; thru the back door behind me.  I had to fight to suppress the urge to giggle a little as the crowd exited past me, many of whom were there when I took my dive.

Last man out, I laid down the paper and stepped out into the hot summer night.  There were maybe ten guys on the fantail when I rounded the corner to join them, and the ones I wanted were all grouped together talking in whispers.  When I was spotted standing there a few feet away...just staring at them, someone yelled "Holy Shit" and with that it became sorta like the old E.F. Hutton commercials where it got so quiet you could hear the fish farting.

My fellow shipmates looked like they were seeing a ghost, or more specifically a dead man.  Before any of them could say anything I stepped right up to them with my hand out saying "Where's my money guys?" Mikey glanced furtively, like a weasel to the guy who originally challenged me to dive.  "Don't look to him pal" I said to Mikey; my voice dripping with anger & sarcasm, "We have some issues here: first you all put up five hundred saying I wouldn't dive, and I dove, so just cough up my cash; then we'll talk about all of you cowards just leaving me to die."

By now more sailors were within earshot, drawn like moths to a flame by the confrontation and my angry voice.  As his hand slid into his pocket for the cash, Mikey asked how I got back on board the ship; I told him "Dive in and I'll talk ya thru it!" As I snatched the cash from his hand faster than a Singapore pickpocket.  Looking my "buddy" in the eye I said "You just ran away and left me to die out there...all of you did."  Having collected my loot & spoken my mind I silently declared victory, and walked away into the darkness.  I was experiencing a powerful urge to throw some bodies over the handrail at that point but being outnumbered; was in no mood to find myself back in the water. The important thing in such circumstances is to know when to take your winnings and leave.

If you're a tanker sailor, your life aboard ship is largely driven by your reputation.  The nervous, weak & foolish have a much less enjoyable experience than those who project a degree of boldness and confidence in themselves.  In the fullness of time the story of my evening swim made it around the ship's rumor mill.  Only two people other than myself knew how I got back aboard the ship that night; one of them was drunk like a warlord at the time and the other one never spoke a word to my knowledge, so my reputation had a degree of mystery to it which I came to rather enjoy.  My friends would pressure & cajole me to tell how I got back aboard, but like a good magician, I never give away how the trick is done.

Despite being embarrassingly stupid for not thinking to check local sea conditions before diving from the back deck of an oil tanker; my ordeal taught me first hand the importance of "look before you leap."  If I had just thought to toss a wad of paper over the rail to test the current, I would never have said a word about swimming and my night would have been very different, perhaps even boring.  However, to this day I still contend that some of life's most important lessons are only learned thru the stupid acts of ourselves and others. 

Additionally, my Singapore swim forever etched into my brain the simple fact that when you take that step into raw wild nature, where ever it is; you most usually just get the one mistake.  Remembering the details, physical pain and fear of that night while writing this account; what stands out most is the sheer luck tossed to me like a life preserver from the universe.  I took that as the universe wanting me to stick around a while longer; and although it gave a certain maturity to my judgment I remain a steadfast non-conformist and thrill seeker.

© 2017 full re-post with permission only

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