Esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke

sea

Water is life. Without it we would perish. Our planet, the Earth, is exceptional for seventy- percent is covered by water, yet much of it is not potable being as the oceans and seas are too saline for humans to consume, but perfect for the countless animals and plants that coexist in its realm; from microscopic plankton to the giant blue whale; they can thrive within its boundaries. Though not all is salty; fresh water exists in all states of matter from foggy vapors to sheets of ice to running streams…

We turn on spigots when we are thirsty, purchase bottles of it to carry about, catch it when it is scarce, and pay homage to it for its return through prayers. We even go out of our way to vacation near it, live by it, or build pools to swim in it. We use it to clean, to soak, to wash, to nourish our plants. But with seemingly an abundant supply of this miracle substance, there are many who are not as lucky and its scarcity has sent generations of people in search or even war over it; while others have to build and secure methods in order for water to reach their lands and homes. Our love affair with water however is fickle and though we are ecstatic with its arrival during droughts, there are times when we curse its presence…like during floods.

Yet, no one can resist the beauty of water; it takes a multitude of forms and allows our senses to go through as many sensations and emotions as there are ways. The oceans’ shores are mesmerizing with their soothing churn of the tide… where eyes gaze out onto a distant horizon line and then our curiosity leaps over and steps beyond. The thunder of the river foams as though boiling in anger, crashing and cascading over rocks pounding and pummeling all in its path. The misty rain can be as gentle as an atomizer or as harsh as a hailstorm of pebbles. It can put one to sleep or wake us out of a sound dream.

And so, water holds great power over humanity, although most do not think much about it taking its existence for granted that it will always there, available, and clean…yet like all things in nature, the Earth is in a constant flux; changing ever so slightly as with erosion or with one grand natural disaster, as in an earthquake. Nevertheless, what does not change is the simple fact about water… we are beholden to it…

rupert brooke Today’s blog introduces a man who is not known today by many readers yet in his lifetime he held the title of being a literary national hero even though he died at the young the age of twenty- seven. I present to you the esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke (1887-1915 ). English born poet, scholar, dramatist, literary critic, travel writer, political activist and soldier, his work exemplified patriotism and lyrical genius. Also known for his good looks and sentimental poetry, he made influential friends in both literary and political circles; an illustrious line-up of names such as Winston Churchill, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and Yeats, who once described him as “the handsomest man in England”. Brooke lived during a grey period in England’s history, the start of World War I after which he earned notoriety as ‘one of the famous War Poets of the First World War’.

His quite famous work “The Soldier” is one that will most likely ring a bell to those who read poetry…Here are just a few lines to rouse your memory …
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;…

I now bring you the words of Rupert Brooke, extracted from a letter he sent to the Westminster Gazette in 1913 about his trip to Niagara Falls.

“…. He who sees them instantly forgets humanity. They are not very high, but they are overpowering. They are divided by an island into two parts, the Canadian and the American.

Half a mile or so above the Falls, on either side, the water of the great stream begins to run more swiftly and in confusion. It descends with ever-growing speed. It begins chattering and leaping, breaking into a thousand ripples, throwing up joyful fingers of spray. Sometimes it is divided by islands and rocks, sometimes the eye can see nothing but a waste of laughing, springing, foamy waves, turning, crossing, even seeming to stand for an instant erect, but always borne impetuously forward like a crowd of triumphant feasters. Sit close down by it, and you see a fragment of the torrent against the sky, mottled, steely, and foaming, leaping onward in far-flung criss-cross strands of water. Perpetually the eye is on the point of descrying a pattern in this weaving, and perpetually it is cheated by change. In one place part of the flood plunges over a ledge a few feet high and a quarter of a mile or so long, in a uniform and stable curve. It gives an impression of almost military concerted movement, grown suddenly out of confusion. But it is swiftly lost again in the multitudinous tossing merriment. Here and there a rock close to the surface is marked by a white wave that faces backwards and seems to be rushing madly up-stream, but is really stationary in the headlong charge. But for these signs of reluctance, the waters seem to fling themselves on with some foreknowledge of their fate, in an ever wilder frenzy…

But there they change. As they turn to the sheer descent, the white and blue and slate color, in the heart of the Canadian Falls at least, blend and deepen to a rich, wonderful, luminous green. On the edge of disaster the river seems to gather herself, to pause, to lift a head noble in ruin, and then, with a slow grandeur, to plunge into the eternal thunder and white chaos below… “

Benjamin Franklin and advice

Advice

As long as there have been generations advice has been passed from elder to child and those who bestowed such information were looked upon as sage-like and wise. Older individuals were assumed to have accrued knowledge and wisdom from their own personal trials and tribulations. It became a perfectly natural set of circumstances that parceling out answers to a child’s question or giving advice was the job of a parent and grandparent; a responsibility they inherited from the previous generation of elders…

However, that was once the course of action taken from the beginning of time until we have turned over the pages of the calendar to the present. Alas, today, finding and retrieving information, getting an answer to a question, seeking advice, these missions have all has been usurped and supplanted by the internet.

We live in an age where there is not only a demand but an expectation for instantaneous results; where retrieval is met with little patience for wait time. Just a “google away” one can eliminate the “middle man; no longer does a child have to wait for a parent to come home from work or interrupt their reading of the newspaper to get an answer. Now they are able to bypass this hierarchal position that has been “outsourced” by the internet.

So unfortunate does it appear to be for parents who yearn to be adviser and confidant… however, before one laments take heed… for in fact it is the child who we should be sad for. The internet may be able to answer with lightning speed, but it remains to be a rather cold and unaffectionate replacement for these sages.

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Benjamin Franklin (170Benjamin franklin6-1790), one of America’s “Founding Fathers”. The list of his accolades are so numerous that it shall be limited here to statesman, philosopher, inventor, publisher, scientist, and sage.  Barely rivaled, his illustrious career and writings make him a favored celebrity in America’s lively history.  Born in Boston, Massachusetts, his father, Josiah, had come to the British colony and set up shop as a candle maker, while his mother, Abiah Folger, took care of the home and ten children. His parents could not afford to get him an education, so Benjamin had only two years of formal schooling, however, his curiosity and thirst for learning kept him reading anything he could get his hands on, culminating in a most illustrious life.

His work in the sciences included shaping our understanding of electricity with inventions such as the lightening rod. As a statesman during the time when the United States was finding its own voice and independence, he was one of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence (1776).

And so, I bring you back to the early days when writing was the only way of communicating to those who were not in speaking distance. From his autobiography, Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin (1834) we will see that even such a great and wise man as he was took time to listen and reflect on his father’s advice.

“… I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was. He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and very strong: he could draw prettily, was a little skilled in music; his voice was sonorous and agreeable, that when he played on his violin and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and, on occasion, was very handy with other tradesmen’s tools; but his great excellence was his sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true, he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate and the strictness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade: but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading men, who consulted him for his opinion in public affairs, and those of the church he belonged to, and who showed great respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbour to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent as to what kind of food was set before me. Indeed, I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner of what dishes it consisted. This has been a great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites…”

First image: Created / PublishedNew York : Published by S. Zickel, No. 19, Dey-Street, c1871.

Second image: Benjamin Franklin: reproduction (1913) by Charles Willson Peale, 1741-1827, artist

 

John Muir and summer

Sierra forest Lake_of_the_Lone_Indian_JMW

Summer… when fireflies come out at dusk and ice melts too fast in lemonade; ice cream tastes better even though it’s the same-old flavor. It has two weather patterns, hot and very hot, and when it rains it likes to pour. We complain in the summer because the steering wheel burns our hands and the sand burns our feet. The weeds grow thick and the air grows thick and everything feels sticky. The mosquitoes swarm and the flies love the picnics. It’s too crowded at the beach and the jellyfish fills in the empty spaces. Days are long, nights are short but then, without us noticing, when we turn the calendar over Labor Day comes and goes… we feel a sudden sense of remorse because summer is no longer there to complain about!

Today’s blog brings us the esteemed thinker: John Muir (1838-1914), one of the earliest preservationist in the United State. Naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service. muirHis foresight and influence to convince the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks was a testimony to his writing. John Muir’s illustrious words came from a lifetime of work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

I now bring you from his work of 1911, My First Summer in The Sierra; surely his personal reflections will remind you of the wonders that nature brings.

“… Warm, mellow summer. The glowing sunbeams make every nerve tingle. The new needles of the pines and firs are nearly full grown and shine gloriously… Summer is ripe. Flocks of seeds are already out of their cups and pods seeking their predestined places. Some will strike root and grow up beside their parents, others flying on the wings of the wind far from them, among strangers. Most of the young birds are full feathered and out of their nests, though still looked after by both father and mother, protected and fed and to some extent educated. How beautiful the home life of birds! No wonder we all love them…”

First image: Sierra Forest

4th of July

flag

All around the neighborhoods, in the cities, on the farmlands, in the mountains, along the grassy plains, and even rocking on the oceans and seashores. Americans are celebrating Independence Day…the Fourth of July. The skies are doused with the smells from smoky barbecues and diamond-studded sparklers…while the night skies will be ablaze with fireworks’ shows that dazzle, awe, and surprise… dogs will bark, some will hide, while children coax them out from beneath the bed with pieces of soggy hot dog buns. How lucky and grateful are we in the United States to be able to celebrate this historic occasion, while I lament that still others round the globe are unable to express freedom such as ours.

Today’s blog, in honor of the 4th of July, brings to you the words of the esteemed thinker: Edwin Percy Whipple (b. Massachusetts 1819-1886). Who? Oh, maybe you will recognize him by ‘E.P. Whipple’…is that better? Oh, still no recollection…well let me give you a bit of background about him. Of his time, he was considered a “compelling” speaker, lecturer, intellect, and literary critic; offering him an opportunity as the literary editor for the Boston Daily Globe. He was not stranger to the literary world having been the trustee of the Boston Public Library, 1868-1870. During the height of the lyceum movement*, he delivered as many as one thousand public lectures from Bangor to St. Louis.EP Whipple

From his essay The True Glory of a Nation, we take a moment to pause and read the words of Mr. Whipple…and though he may not be the most celebrated writer today, his thoughts regarding the people who “are” a nation indeed parallels the glory of why we “can” honor Independence Day.

“The true glory of a nation is an intelligent, honest, industrious people. The civilization of a people depends on their individual character; and a constitution which is not the outgrowth of this character is not worth the parchment on which it is written. You look in vain in the past for a single instance where the people have preserved their liberties after their individual character was lost. It is not in the magnificence of its palaces, not in the beautiful creations of art lavished on its public edifices, not in costly libraries and galleries of pictures, not in the number or wealth of its cities, that we find a nation’s glory. …The true glory of a nation is the living temple of a loyal, industrious, upright people…”

* Lyceum movement in the United States, especially in the northeast, was the beginning of adult education; organizations sponsored lectures and debates often on current interes

Esteemed thinker: Edwin Hubble

hubble-space

The idea that the universe is infinite is a term that defies logic. Humans are a species that likes to feel that beliefs and ideas can be packaged with a beginning and an end. So when it comes to comprehending beyond our visual scope of our universe, we have a difficult time comprehending that there is a forever expanding cosmos. The notion of “endless” is mind-boggling.  NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, launched on April 24, 1990, on the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida has given us its shared view from a space. It can see astronomical objects with an angular size of 0.05 arc seconds, which is like seeing a pair of fireflies in Tokyo from your home in Maryland. Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light years from Earth.

And so, having passed its 25th anniversary, there are some who may not know its namesake. Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), American mathematician and astronomer,  born in Marshfield, Missouri.  Having received his first telescope at the early age of eight, his passion for astronomy was established quite early.

Although his father wanted him to pursue different interests, Hubble studied astronomy,  physics, and law; after which he traveled to Britain as a Rhodes Scholar. On his return to the United States, he set out to teach high school and coach basketball, but, he soon switched gears and continued to pursue astronomy studies. In 1915, he earned time on one of the Yerkes Observatory telescopes, launching his new career.

He began his PhD in astronomy in 1914, but postponed his work in 1917 to enlist, serving in France during World War I.  After the war, Hubble was fortunate to be at Mount Wilson, the center of observational work underpinning the new astrophysics, later called cosmology, and the 100-inch Hooker Telescope, then the most powerful on Earth that had just been completed and installed.

He began to classify all the known nebulae and to measure their velocities from the spectra of their emitted light. In 1929 he made another startling find – all galaxies seemed to be receding from us with velocities that increased in proportion to their distance from us – a relationship now known as Hubble’s Law. This discovery was a Edwin hubblesensational  breakthrough for the astronomy of that time as it overturned the conventional view of a static Universe and showed that the Universe itself was expanding.

Hubble worked at Mount Wilson until 1942, when he left to serve in World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Merit in 1946. Returning to his Observatory, his last great contribution to astronomy was a central role in the design and construction of the Hale 200-inch Telescope on Palomar Mountain. Notes as being four times as powerful as the Hooker, the Hale would be the largest telescope on Earth for decades.

Although wishing to win a Nobel Prize, all the effort was in vain since there was no category for astronomy.

From The Realm of the Nebulae (1936), I bring you the words of the great Edwin Hubble, a man with dreams that gave us the universe. “With increasing distance, our knowledge fades, and fades rapidly. Eventually, we reach the dim boundary—the utmost limits of our telescopes. There, we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. Not until the empirical resources are exhausted, need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation…”

First image taken from the Hubble Telescope.

Esteemed thinker: Georgia O’Keefe

crayons  If you have ever wondered how some of your classmates may have grown up to be corporate executives one has to look no further than into your childhood. Take a mental sabbatical down memory lane and find your elementary school classroom. Picture a day the teacher asked you to take out of your desk or remove from your cubby the new box of crayons your parents bought for you. Maybe it was purchased the “Five and Dime”, or maybe it was from the toy store. Now, look at yours and then check out your neighbor’s desk. Theirs is not an ordinary box of crayons with just a handful of colors; but the jumbo pack of 64 with the built in sharpener. This is the box of crayons that was coveted by most of the kids. It’s the one that dared to be shared but in order to get inside the sacred lid had to be negotiated. This was the box owned by the student that could wield negotiations with others as if they were at the end of the conference table. To borrow a color would perhaps require relinquishing a turn on the swing, giving up being line-leader, or even handing over a chocolate chip cookie.

Owning such a box of crayons was more than a palette of colors to create pictures to impress the teacher, it was entrance into a world that allotted ‘carte blanc’ privileges; and like flying first class it could even get you window-seat on the school bus!

georgia o'keefeToday’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker” Georgia O’Keefe, (1887-1986) who was born and raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Considered one of the most prominent artists of the twentieth century, she began her career by studying at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and the Art Students League in New York (1907–1908), where she learned the techniques of traditional realist painting. By 1915 she had begun to develop her own artistic personality, a series of abstract charcoal drawings.
Her relationship as an artist was immediately recognized by Alfred Stieglitz, photographer and owner of the famous 291 gallery; one of the few places in the United States where European avant-garde art was exhibited. Their relationship blossoms into a well-known love affair and eventually they wed.

O’Keefe’s colorful paintings are world renown, depicting landscapes, flowers, and animal bones generated from her time in New York, Lake George area and New Mexico. She was able to create intricate detail, color shadows and distinct nuances on canvas. Her passion for her art and life can be seen in all her work.
I now invite you to read a most colorful excerpt from a letter written to her photographer friend Marie Chabot in 1941. It is not difficult to imagine how she viewed the world.

“It is breathtaking as one rises up over the world one has been living in, looking out at and looks down at it stretching away and away. The Rio Grande, the mountains, then the pattern of rivers, ridges, washes, roads, fields, water holes, wet and dry. Then little lakes, a brown pattern, then after a while as we go over the Amarillo country, a fascinating restrained pattern of different greens and cooler browns on the square and on the bias with a few curved shades and many lakes. It is very handsome way off into the level distance, fantastically handsome – like marvelous rug patterns of maybe ‘Abstract Paintings’…”

Georgia O'Keefe landscape

Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930, Oil on canvas mounted to board

 

Esteemed thinker: John Muir and respecting nature

IMG_9913

There are few people that would disagree with the idea that humans and plants should and can co-exist. Though we know that there are many species of plants that have raised the ire of both men and woman, for the most part our relationships are of the utmost importance, especially for people. Plants provide us not only shade, food, medicinal benefits, and aesthetics, they are the source that keeps our land from eroding and provides us with oxygen to breathe. All and all it seems as though they are certainly pulling their weight.

IMG_9963 Being this is the case, with all the positives they provide, one can agree… flora and fauna do not ask for much except to be left alone. However, it makes us wonder why it is that some humans have a propensity to destroy or maim with no regard for the outcome of the plants. For example, let us take the bamboo plants that are growing in a particular zoo’s habitat; it offers us the opportunity to walk among the gatherings of these majestic plants that have grown to heights that rival a tree. Such a lovely setting it is until you examine the stalks closely and see the bamboo  has been intentionally carved and defaced with names and dates of those who felt a need to molest the plants. An intentional act with seemingly little value or purpose.

And so, the next time you come upon a plant, take heed for although you may have a yearning to claim it as your own, think twice before putting you signature on Mother Nature’s creation.

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker John Muir (1838-1914), a revolutionary preservationist naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club. Born in Dunbar, Scotland in 1849, the Muir family emigrated to the United States, settling first at Fountain Lake and then moving to Hickory Hill Farm near Portage, Wisconsin.muir

In 1867, while working at a carriage parts shop in Indianapolis, he suffered a blinding eye injury that would change his life. When he regained his sight one month later, Muir resolved to turn his eyes to the fields and woods. He walked a thousand miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, sailed to Cuba, and later to Panama. After crossing the Isthmus, he sailed up the West Coast, to San Francisco making California became his home.

John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service, convincing the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks through his writing. John Muir’s words came from his lifetime work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

So, I take you out of your hectic world into a day with John Muir and his observation of trees; Feast upon this vivid excerpt from Steep Trails.

“No lover of trees will ever forget his first meeting with the sugar pine. In most coniferous trees there is a sameness of form and expression which at length becomes wearisome to most people who travel far in the woods. But the sugar pines are as free from conventional forms as any of the oaks. No two are so much alike as to hide their individuality from any observer. Every tree is appreciated as a study in itself and proclaims in no uncertain terms the surpassing grandeur of the species. The branches, mostly near the summit, are sometimes nearly forty feet long, feathered richly all around with short, leafy branchlets, and tasseled with cones a foot and a half long. And when these superb arms are outspread, radiating in every direction, an immense crownlike mass is formed which, poised on the noble shaft and filled with sunshine, is one of the grandest forest objects conceivable. But though so wild and unconventional when full-grown, the sugar pine is a remarkably regular tree in youth, a strict follower of coniferous fashions, slim, erect, tapering, symmetrical, every branch in place. At the age of fifty or sixty years this shy, fashionable form begins to give way. Special branches are thrust out away from the general outlines of the trees and bent down with cones. Henceforth it becomes more and more original and independent in style, pushes boldly aloft into the winds and sunshine, growing ever more stately and beautiful, a joy and inspiration to every beholder…”

 

 

Esteemed thinker: James Smithson

Smithsonian InstituteTo preserve the past is to save the future, and though this observation may be heard by some as a contradiction, it is the very irony of its verbiage which makes it true.  Not all of the events of the past are positive and for that very reason we must not forget them. To discover, reflect, and evaluate what came before may help humanity not repeat its mistakes and crimes.  And so, what better place is there than a museum to learn about what it was like “before”. In glass cases and plexi-glass displays, on walls and  on pedestals are the gatherings of artifacts and relics, all of which made the world we inhabit today. Setting forth newly acquired facts in the fields of anthropology, biology, history, geology, technology, and the arts…they all are set before us with the intention of simply allowing us to ponder.

And so, I encourage you to take a walk and stroll through the corridors of any museum for surely there will be a bit of the world that will amaze you.

James smithson1

Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: James Smithson (1765-1829) British scientist who willed his estate to the United States for the creation of what we know today as The Smithsonian Institute. Born in Paris, France, he was the illegitimate son of Hugh Smithson and Elizabeth Keate Hungerford Macie, a widow of royal blood. He was named James Lewis Macie at birth however, in 1800 following the death of his mother, he took his father’s name.

Because of his birth status, he was unable to pursue careers of most nobility at that time in the military or clergy, so he turned to the sciences. He went to Pembroke College at Oxford University, and there became interested in the natural sciences. He graduated as a mineralogist and chemist, devoting his life to research. He published at least 27 papers on chemistry, geology, and mineralogy in scientific journals and proved that zinc carbonates were true carbonate minerals, not zinc oxides as popularly believed.

He inherited a great deal of land from his mother and his management brought him a great deal of money. Having never married, he left a portion of his wealth to his nephew, and “Under the arrangements of his will, the whole estate went “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” As such the reasoning was most likely his resentment over the circumstances of his illegitimate birth. He had once written, “My name shall live in the memory of man when the titles of the Northumberlands and Percys are extinct and forgotten.”

Smithson died in Genoa, Italy, on June 27, 1829, however in 1904, Smithsonian Regent Alexander Graham Bell brought Smithson’s remains to the United States to rest at the Institution he had established.

(In 1865 a fire at the Smithsonian Institute destroyed most all of Jameson’s published work)

First image: Rendering of the Castle Smithsonian Institute, 1840

Second Image: Painting of James Smithson by James Roberts, 1786

 

Esteemed thinker: Herodotus and the past

 

street sign

If you think you can escape the past, think again. We are reminded, though in a subliminal way, of those events or people who came before. In any town, hamlet, and city, one has only to look up at the street signs to be reminded of those who may have made a big or little mark in history. It is a way of honoring those who contributed to a community, a well-meaning intention to give recognition to a person. However, like landmarks, airports, and cities that were named after persons of notoriety, the past today has often little meaning and has become as commonplace as the billboards we drive by each day.

So, here’s to those who may have made a positive mark and those who remember the ones that came before.

Herodotos_Met_91.8

Today’s blog brings the esteemed thinker: Herodotus (c. 484 – 425/413 BCE) a writer who invented the field of study we know today as “history”. He is documented as being the world’s first historian, having authored of the first great narrative history written in the ancient world, the History of the Greco-Persian Wars. He was well traveled, going over the East, Egypt, North Africa and Greece. Acquainted with the Sophoclean circle, he joined the Athenian colony at Thurii in Southern part of Italy and died there before the end of the century. The information he gathered was derived mainly from oral sources, as he traveled through Asia Minor, down into Egypt, round the Black Sea, and into various parts of Greece and the neighboring countries.

Although there are some who claim that his narratives are all but fabrications of tales he designed, criticism of his work may have originated among Athenians who took exception to his account of the Battle of Marathon (490 BCE). While it is said that Herodotus makes some mistakes in his work, it is also believed that his Histories are moreover reliable and scholarly studies in all disciplines concerning his work continue to validate his most important observations.

And so we take time from our busy day to look back into antiquity, and read a snippet from his work, An Account of Egypt (440 BCE) Place yourself in this era, if you dare, and imagine how unbelievable his description must have sounded. I bring you the “father of history”, known only by one name, Herodotus.

“… Of the crocodile the nature is as follows: —during the four most wintry months this creature eats nothing: she has four feet and is an animal belonging to the land and the water both; for she produces and hatches eggs on the land, and the most part of the day she remains upon dry land, but the whole of the night in the river, for the water in truth is warmer than the unclouded open air and the dew. Of all the mortal creatures of which we have knowledge this grows to the greatest bulk from the smallest beginning; for the eggs which she produces are not much larger than those of geese and the newly-hatched young one is in proportion to the egg, but as he grows he becomes as much as seventeen cubits long and sometimes yet larger. He has eyes like those of a pig and teeth large and tusky, in proportion to the size of his body; but unlike all other beasts he grows no tongue, neither does he move his lower jaw, but brings the upper jaw towards the lower, being in this too unlike all other beasts…”

First Image: Street sign and houses, Yates Gardens 1920

 

Walker Evans and choices

Cereal aisle One has only to take a stroll down the aisle of the grocery store to see that the choices offered are more than one stomach could ever tolerate. Perhaps that is why we are often reminded that if you are trying to watch your weight you should not go to the store hungry. The cereal shelves are a fine example of choice overload, flakes of every size and concoction, from sugar coating to corn and rye, it seems as though we have been given quite a palette of breakfast delights.

But lest we really take time to pause just perhaps all this abundance is actually what could be referred to as “false generosity”. Are all these enticing products for our nutritional benefit or have they been formulated for our ever-greedy taste buds and another’s financial appetite? And although the food industry and manufactures have given us such ample reason to eat, their generosity may actually be something very different than what meets the eye.

Today’s blog reintroduces the esteemed thinker: Walker Evans (1903-1975), an artistic icon who became one of the most influential American photographers. In 1926 he traveled to Paris where he developed an interest in literature. However, upon his return to the United States a year later, he resorted to a different medium, photography, as his artistic outlet. Rejecting the prevailing aestheticized view of artistic photography, he instead chose a straightforward and direct style where he concentrated on photographing quotidian American life during the second quarter of the 20th century. He is universally regarded as the premier photographic artist among the Farm Security Administration staff during the late 1930s.

I now bring you one of his photographs, Grocery Store Window, Macon, Georgia (1935) a flashback in time to a date in history when choices of what to eat were often not a luxury but rather a function of necessity.

walker evans grocery store