Monday, September 30, 2019

Rita's Gone

The video of The Weight I posted a few days ago showcased many musicians I was not familiar with so I've been spending time listening to some of them.

This is the Marcus King Band, fronted by singer/guitarist Marcus King.  He's put together a fine band that plays an intriguing brand of jazz-tinged blues.   And catch his solo starting after 5:00.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

On The Island

After 36 years of vacationing on Mt Desert Island we bought a place here this winter.  Located in Southwest Harbor between Manset Village and the Seawall it's a 120 year old farmhouse and it certainly looks the part of a rustic Maine dwelling complete with tilting floors.  We are just finishing a month long stay.

Our view is of the Atlantic ocean and the harbor of Southwest as well as the mountains of Acadia National Park. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Fool Me Once

So, let me get this straight.

The folks who dragged us through 2+ years of the Russia Collusion Hoax - the Obama administration, Clinton campaign, Intelligence Community, Congressional Dem leadership, and the media now want us to believe them when they pull the same stunt on their new gameshow - the Ukraine Scheme!  At this point, only fools would believe them.

It even follows the pattern of the Russia Collusion Hoax in that those propagating it were the ones actually engaged in the behavior they alleged regarding Trump (for more background read these posts and the note below). 

With Ukraine we have Vice-President Biden boasting of using his influence to withhold Obama Administration funding in order to throttle an investigation of his corrupt son (who's made a lot of money in China as well the Ukraine due to his father's connections).

Democrats and the media continue destabilizing American politics in accord with Vladimir Putin's fondest wishes.

Who Colluded?

2008 - Putin openly supports Obama, opposes McCain.  Obama blames tension in US-Russia relationship solely on George W Bush.

2009 - SoS Hillary Clinton announces Russia "reset" to improve relations and blaming tensions solely on George W Bush.

2009-12 - While Hillary Clinton is SoS, Clinton Foundation rakes in tens of millions in contributions from Russia oligarchs associated with the Putin regime.  Bill Clinton makes $500k for making speech in Moscow.

2012 - Putin openly supports Obama, opposes Romney.  Obama ridicules Romney for claiming Russia is threat, tweeting "Mitt, the 80s called, they want their foreign policy back".  Obama caught on open mic telling Russia President Medvedev to tell Putin that after the election he would have more flexibility [to betray Eastern European allies regarding missile defense which, in fact, Obama does after the election].

2012-4 - Obama allows Putin to insert Russia into the Middle East, a role the Soviet Union had been ejected from in the 1970s, in order to ensure Russia support for Iran Nuclear Deal.

2016 - Clinton campaign uses law firm Perkins Coie to hire Fusion GPS which hires Christopher Steele who uses contractors to obtain from Russia intelligence sources what turns out to be false information allegedly damaging to Donald Trump (the Steele Dossier).  Information is leaked to select media and given to FBI, DOJ and CIA which use it to obtain FISA warrants to obtain communications of Trump campaign and later Trump administration.

2016 - Fusion GPS retained by Putin associated Russian lawyer who has obtained unusual visa waiver from the Obama Administration allowing her into the country to lobby on behalf of lifting US sanctions on Russian oligarchs.  Same Russia lawyer meets with Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower to discuss lifting of sanctions, just after meeting with head of Fusion GPS and then meets again with head of Fusion GPS right after Trump Tower meeting.

January 5, 2017 - President Obama, VP Biden, NSC Director Rice, FBI Director Comey, DNI Clapper, and CIA Director Brennan meet to arrange sting operation on President-Elect Trump.

January 6, 2017 - Comey meets with Trump to discuss sexual allegations in Steele Dossier in attempt to get Trump to say something incriminating.  Comey fails to discuss political origin of Steele Dossier.

January 7, 2017 - The fact of Comey's briefing is leaked to CNN and Buzzfeed which use it as excuse to report on Steele Dossier triggering wider media frenzy.

January 27, 2017 - President Trump tells Comey he is thinking of ordering FBI to investigate the allegations in the Steele Dossier.  Knowing the origins of the Dossier, Comey persuades Trump not to issue the order.

Friday, September 27, 2019

A Long Walk

In the midst of spending a month on Mt Desert Island in Maine I've been reading up on the state's history.  Here's a story I never heard before.

In the fall of 1569 the crew of the Gargaryne, French vessel anchored off a fishing station on Nova Scotia observed three white men in a native canoe approach.  Once aboard the strangers, David Ingram, Richard Brown, and Richard Twyde, told an astonishing tale.

Their story began in 1567 when they joined an expedition commanded by John Hawkins, a noted English sea captain, merchant, and slave trader (and later to be Treasurer of the Royal Navy, responsible for revamping and improving Queen Elizabeth's fleet and finally co-commander in 1588 against the Spanish Armada).  It was Hawkin's third slave trading voyage in which he would visit Africa, buy slaves from local kingdoms, and then transship them across the Atlantic for sale in the Caribbean (also capturing any Portuguese slave ships along the way and seizing their cargo).

In September 1568, Hawkins brought his six ships (the two largest of which he had leased from Queen Elizabeth) into the Spanish port of San Juan de Ulua (in Mexico near modern Vera Cruz) for much needed repairs.  Commanding one of the smaller ships was Hawkin's second cousin, Francis Drake. Unfortunately, a large Spanish fleet carrying Philip II's new Viceroy of Mexico showed up several days later.  The Spanish were concerned about the English intruding on their monopoly of the slave trade in their possessions and determined to take action.

On September 24, the Spanish attacked, capturing or sinking four of Hawkin's ships and killing several hundred of his crew.  Francis Drake (Hawkins' second cousin), commanding the barque Judith, escaped and sailed directly to England.  Hawkins, on the large carrack Minion, also made it out of the harbor.  Having picked up survivors from the other ships Minion was desperately overcrowded and short of supplies; Hawkins could not make it to England with this many on board.

Near present day Pensacola, Florida, Hawkins explained the situation to the approximately 200 men onboard and gave them the option of being put ashore and taking their chances of rescue or staying onboard and trying to reach England.  About 100 men went ashore while the rest stayed with Hawkins.  The sail home to England was not pleasant and only 15 were alive when Hawkins made it to Plymouth.

Of those who went ashore, many eventually surrendered to Spanish searchers.  They were imprisoned and some later tortured and executed by the Inquisition.  Ingram, Brown, and Twyde decided to walk to the Atlantic Coast and hope that a passing French or English vessel would pick them up.  It was a risky, but not insane plan as by the late 16th century European vessels, primarily fishing and trading ships, were occasionally putting ashore.  Eleven months and 2,000 miles later they reached Nova Scotia.

The only record we have of their journey is Ingram's account, given in 1582 to Sir George Peckham, and Elizabeth's Secretary of State Francis Walsingham.  Their summary appeared in the first edition of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation in 1589. Strangely, it also appears in the opening chapter of Documents Connected with the History of South Carolina, published in 1856.  After an introduction in which Ingram is described as currently about 40 years of age and hailing from Barking in Essex we are given a dramatic telling of their first encounter with the natives:
The first kings that they came before dwelte in a countrye called Gizicka who caused them to be stripped naked and woundering greatlie at the whiteness of their skin let them dparte (without) further harm.
According to the account, the three men rarely stayed anywhere more than three nights, with the exception being Balma, "a ritche cyttie a mile and a half long" where they lingered for a week.

It's often difficult to know what to make of Ingram's tale.  As John Toohey notes in The Long, Forgotten Walk of David Ingram;
A constant problem with his account is that the credible and the fantastic often inhabit the same sentence. A crystal sedan chair sounds like something out of a fairytale but because copper, silver, and gold were worked in pre-Columbian America this statement needs only a slight shift in perspective to be plausible, although it isn’t clear what he meant by rubies, especially of that size. More important is his constant reference to cities, a term that in the sixteenth century equated with civilization and advanced technologies.

The account frequently reads as though Ingram is answering questions rather than telling the story in his own term. There is no chronological narrative, rather descriptions of the people, the flora and fauna are set out in discrete sections. It is impossible in parts to tell whether he is talking about the south soon after they land, the mid-Atlantic, or the northern regions. When he says that, “there is a clowde somtyme of the yeare sene in the ayer (which) comonlye turnethe to great tempests”, he is talking about tornadoes, which he was more likely to have seen in what is present day Kentucky than Florida or Maine, though tornadoes can strike across the US and in any month.
And that's before Ingram mentions seeing an animal that sounds very much like an elephant!

So what can we say about this remarkable journey?  Did it happen?

Ingram certainly existed, though Twyde and Brown appear only in his account and we have no other way to verify their existence.  Some accounts of Ingram's journey have Hawkins putting the men ashore north of Vera Cruz but south of the Rio Grande while others speculate it was the Escambia River near Pensacola.  I believe the latter more plausible.  First, the 1582 account includes Ingram's estimate that their journey covered 2,000 miles and Google Maps gives 2,056 miles as the distance from Pensacola to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Second, a journey starting south of the Rio Grande along the Gulf of Mexico would have added 1,000 miles to the walk making it even more implausible for eleven months.  Third, Ingram's description of the lands he passes through is much more consistent with the Atlantic coastal plain than the more open and arid lands of Mexico and Texas.

As to the ending point, we have evidence that the Gargayne was a French vessel that sailed to the Americas.

As to his description of the Indians, the flora and the fauna is it plausible?  Parts, like the elephant, are clearly not.  But the fairly populated coastal area he describes is consistent with what we know now.  Coastal North America was to be transformed over the next half-century as increasing contact with European fishermen and traders introduced diseases to which Indians had little immunity and epidemics decimated the population (and it's possible Ingram and his companions could have been carriers of disease).   In 1620 the Pilgrims landed at a deserted village in Plymouth in an area where an estimated 90% of the Indian population had perished during the prior two decades.

But in the 1560s the area was still heavily populated and though cities on the European model did not exist, large sprawling settlements, particularly in the Southeast, are known to have been present.

Even with that, the ability of three Europeans to survive and travel 2,000 miles in eleven months without encountering any hostile Indians or, on the other hand, being overly delayed by hospitality is surprising.

Reading Ingram's account many questions occurred to me that I wished Peckham and Walsingham had asked or, if they had the information, had included it in order to further verify its truth.  For now, I rate it a whopping good story and likely true in its essence.

David Ingram disappears from the historical record after his interview in 1582.

As for Hawkins and Drake, the latter famously circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580, they both lead the English Navy in defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588 and then unsuccessfully tried to counterattack Spain.  In 1595 they embarked on anther piratical attack on the Spanish Caribbean, but after failing to capture San Juan, Puerto Rico, Hawkins and Drake died of disease, the former in November 1595, the latter in January 1596.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Pitching Ninja

If you love baseball and the art of pitching you should be following Rob Friedman, The Pitching Ninja, on twitter.  The best gifs to watch the best pitchers at work.

Here are a couple of samples of Gerrit Cole at work.  First up is a wildly breaking slider, followed by a fastball which moves out and then back in to catch the edge of the plate.

In May of last year I was at Chase Field to see Gerrit Cole pitch the most dominant complete game I've seen in person, striking out 16 Dbacks, giving up one hit and one walk, with his final pitches being his fastest of the night.

This year Gerrit started out slowly.  As of May 23 he was 4-5 with an ERA of 4.11.  Since then he's made 21 starts in which the Astros have gone 19-2 and his won-loss record is 15-0.   In 141.2 innings Cole has give up only 84 hits, walked 29 and whiffed 216 with an ERA of 1.58.

And this is Yu Darvish who recently got his mojo back.  When he is on it is impossible to handle his stuff.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Weight

For those taking it on for the rest of us.

A new version of the magnificent song by The Band, featuring Robbie Robertson (who wrote it), Ringo Starr, and a cast of talented musicians from around the world.

The original vocalists were Levon Helm and Rick Danko who are no longer with us.  Ringo's drumming sound on Abbey Road, the final Beatles album, was influenced by Helm who would stuff clothing into his bass drum to give that distinctive muffled sound - listen to Ringo's drumming on Come Together to hear how he emulates the sound of The Band.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Romeo And Juliet

Read recently that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Zefferelli's movie version of Romeo & Juliet which got me thinking of the Dire Straits song.  Here is a recent version by Mark Knopfler (despite the YouTube title, Emmylou Harris does not make an appearance).  Because of travel I'm missing Knopfler's appearance in Phoenix on September 21 which I would have very much like to have seen.

While doing a little background research, I realized that when I saw Dire Straits play in Boston in 1979 it was the first show on their first US tour.

Here's Romeo & Juliet followed by Dire Straits playing Sultans of Swing in 1979.  I've never gotten tired of listening to that song.

A lovestruck Romeo sings the streets a serenade
Laying everybody low with a love song that he made
Finds a streetlight, steps out of the shade
Says something like "You and me babe: how 'bout it?"

Juliet says, "Hey, it's Romeo. You nearly give me a heart attack."
He's underneath the window; she's singing, "Hey, la, my boyfriend's back.
You shouldn't come around here singing up at people like that.
Anyway what you gonna do about it?"

Juliet, the dice was loaded from the start
And I bet, then you exploded in my heart
And I forget, I forget the movie song
When you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong, Juliet?

Come up on different streets, they both were streets of shame
Both dirty, both mean, yes, and the dream was just the same
And I dreamed your dream for you and now your dream is real
How can you look at me as if I was just another one of your deals?

When you can fall for chains of silver you can fall for chains of gold
You can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they hold
You promised me everything, you promised me thick and thin, yeah.
Now you just say, "Oh, Romeo, yeah. You know, I used to have a scene with him."

Juliet, when we made love you used to cry
You said, "I love you like the stars above, I'll love you 'til I die."
There's a place for us, you know the movie song
When you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong, Juliet?

I can't do the talks like they talk on the TV
And I can't do a love song like the way it's meant to be
I can't do everything but I'll do anything for you
I can't do anything except be in love with you

And all I do is miss you and the way we used to be
All I do is keep the beat, the bad company
All I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme
Juliet, I'd do the stars with you any time