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Posts Tagged ‘black and white photography’

Sioux Warriors: The Long Struggle

October 31, 2016 Leave a comment

 

Halloween, the Day the Dead Walk; RT has been dealing with some ghosts of his own as we approach the end of the Celtic year, which may explain why out of the blue he checked out Larry McMurtry’s fine short biography of Crazy Horse, the famous Sioux warrior. Not much is known about Crazy Horse himself (though we do know that he was averse to being photographed), but quite a bit is known about the Sioux people and their struggle to save their land and way of life from encroaching settlers. And perhaps no survival from that long fight is more remarkable than this group portrait of many of the principal Sioux leaders. Though these men were active for decades, they are best remembered for their participation in the famous Great Sioux War of 1876, which gave us the Battle of the Little Bighorn, aka Custer’s Last Stand.

Hold on to your hats, folks, here they are:

Seated, L to R: Yellow Bear, Red Cloud, Big Road, Little Wound, Black Crow.

Standing, L to R: Red Bear, Young Man Afraid of his Horse, Good Voice, Ring Thunder, Iron Crow, White Tail, Young Spotted Tail.

To give the reader some idea of the scope of these men’s lives, RT offers a pair of brief biographical notes:

Red Cloud (1822-December 10, 1909). Best known as the leader of Red Cloud’s War (1866-1868); fought to protect the Powder River country from encroachment by whites. The Sioux were victorious, in particular winning the Fetterman Fight, one of the worst defeats the U.S. Army experiencing during its struggle with the Sioux. Also prominent as a negotiator and diplomat on behalf of the Sioux, including the negotiation of the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868).

Young Man Afraid Of His Horses (1836-July 13, 1893). Fought during Red Cloud’s War. A prominent Indian negotiator, active until the end of the Sioux wars in the early 1890s and especially in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

As the Dakota access pipeline protests bear witness to, the long struggle of the Sioux to preserve their traditional way of life is not yet over.

Photograph: Red Cloud and Other Sioux. circa 1860-1880. Library of Congress. WikiCmns. Public Domain.

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Worth It

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nh_01_stern_05_pluto_hazenew--NASA-PD

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Wow! Sometimes traveling 4.67 billion miles (or getting up at 4 in the morning) is worth it…  RT

Photo: Pluto Backlit by the Sun. NASA. NASA website. Public Domain.

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Chia Tao and a New Year

January 8, 2015 8 comments

The New Year has started, and it has been almost exactly a month since RT last posted. By way of explanation, he will say only that various transitions and plottings are afoot and have taken him away from his regular obligations and projects. More will be revealed as some of this work begins to bear fruit (which is to say, in the next post or two). Our distracted blogger’s first contribution of 2015 is his version of a poem by Chan Buddhist monk Jia Dao (old spelling, Chia Tao), 779-843 AD. Highly regarded during his life, JD is not now as well known as the small group of most famous T’ang poets that includes Du Fu and Bai Juyi; on the basis of the following poem, RT thinks this might be a mistake. JD seems to have combined a deep respect for natural process with indications of the intensity of his experience as a monk, linking his internal and external lives in unforgettable images.

Evening; Watching the Snow Stop

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Clutching my staff, I watch the storm lift; 

hills and clouds braid tight, dissolve in dusk.

Woodcutters disappear into their cabins

as a weary sun drops to its bed.

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And later: wildfire flowers in distant grass.

Tattered mist trailing; boulders, pine.

Hushed, I climb the monastery road—

night strikes the mountain like a bell.

Chia Tao/Jia Dao

version by Eric Quinn

copyright 2015, The Rag Tree

Photo: Tetons from Signal Mountain (1941); author, Ansel Adams. National Archives. Public Domain.   *

A Trilobite’s Suggestion

November 25, 2014 2 comments

 

ttttttttttt…ttttttttttttttttttttttt…a trilobite, that’s what we’re looking at.

RT likes this fossil of koneprusia brutoni, a Devonian period trilobite, unearthed in Morocco. Maybe it’s just the striking way in which the animal was preserved, on the edge of a large piece of stone; on the other hand, it could be the beast itself, in all its spiny, spiky glory. And the age of the find (420-360 million years old) adds some authority, too.

We have traveled a long way to get to our present state of affairs. The weirdness of the trilobites and other ancient fauna reminds us of the flexibility of life, its ability to adapt to almost any change in conditions. Viewed on this time scale, we are just one more adaptation to a constantly shifting environment; RT, however, likes to think that we get some of our toughness from these distant relatives and will be telling an amazing story to our descendants-in person-at some point in the far future.

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PhotoKoneprusia brutoni; author, Didier Descouens. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 unported.

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Martinsburg, the 14th Amendment, and Election Day 2014

November 4, 2014 Leave a comment

RT has had a busy morning running errands and putting together lunch for himself and his mother, but the tofu scramble was a hit, and the fudge bar for dessert was a bigger hit. Now it’s time to go downtown to see what he can do at Democratic Headquarters. But first, a few thoughts.

There is something mysterious about the U.S. constitution and elections in this country. Part of that mystery derives, RT thinks, from the first section of the 14th amendment to the constitution:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

RT thinks that “the equal protection of the laws” amounts to a perpetual, albeit slow moving, social revolution. As the decades have passed, “a woman’s place is in the house,” Jim Crow, and now the ban on gay marriage have all yielded to it. But of course this is confusing: nowhere does the constitution mention social revolution, but the attempt to create a society where all citizens are equal before the law (and not just in this country) may be the greatest such revolution ever undertaken.

And now the other part of the mystery: on election day, people cast their ballots in secret and, without having to explain themselves to anyone, sometimes overturn the counsels and predictions of the mighty. RT hopes that this election day will be one such moment.

And need RT remind his fellow citizens (and especially Democrats): by all means, get out and vote! (and if at all possible, volunteer to help).

Photo: Detailed View of Inclined Column and Support Brackets, Martinsburg Roundhouse. WikiCmns; Library of Congress. Public Domain.

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Midterm 2014 and the Long Struggle for Justice

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

RT has been struggling for a couple of weeks to write a post on the upcoming midterm elections. The problem has been finding some basis for optimism in the generally anti-President Obama atmosphere and its attendant prediction that Republicans will take control of the Senate in November.

That the country is in rapid transition seems to RT beyond doubt. He offers three statistics in support:

1) Twenty-six states have expanded Medicaid to offer people living below the poverty line Medicaid coverage (and RT is proud to say that West Virginia is one of them). On the other hand, 24 states have refused so far to take advantage of the federal program.

2) Thirty-two states have legalized gay marriage, including Utah, where a federal judge late last year struck down the state ban on gay marriages, starting the judicial revolt that has led to the current happy state of affairs. And it seems likely that several other states will follow suit.

3) Two states (Colorado and Oregon) have legalized recreational marijuana, and one more (Washington) is scheduled to do so soon. It seems likely that four or five more will vote to legalize marijuana in November, California among them.

The legalization of gay marriage in the United States amounts, in RT’s opinion, to a social revolution. That the collapse of legal opposition to gay marriage happened so swiftly has left him gaping. As with other social revolutions, this one will likely take decades to play itself out, and surely the American right wing will draw energy from the general confusion as people adjust to the new social reality. What, for instance, will gay spouses be called–husband and husband, wife and wife? It will take a generation for the language to migrate, taking our conversation and perspective along with it. But the central point seems settled: people have a right to marry the person they love.

The users of marijuana have experienced a journey towards legalization easily as arduous as gay couples. Pot, that darling of the 1960s culture wars, was so demonized that long after hippies were accepted as one of America’s tribes, smoking the substance was still considered a seditious act. But common sense seems to be carrying the day, finally: marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and tobacco and the grossly disproportionate sentences handed down to keep its use “under control” have ruined lives and cost the country untold fortunes in incarceration costs and lost human potential. In fact, this particular “lifestyle” reform is one of the few political issues that seems to enjoy support across the spectrum. Implementation at the state level will have to be monitored to ensure that the medical fallout from smoking is minimized and that teenagers and young adults are discouraged from developing a habit. But in general, Requiescat in pace.

Elsewhere in this blog, RT has proposed the following amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The right to eat nutritious food, to be adequately clothed and sheltered, and to receive necessary medical attention from a physician shall not be denied.” That the Affordable Healthcare Act has substantially increased the rolls of the medically insured (to the tune of 8+ million people) is perhaps the most important humanitarian achievement in the United States since the enacting of LBJ’s Great Society legislation in the 1960s. Not that anything worth doing is easy, but RT has a suspicion that the momentum here is also towards nationwide acceptance.

Was it Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “The arc is long, but tends towards justice”? Words worth considering, now that the midterm elections are almost upon us.

Photo: MLK Jr. at 1963 March on Washington. USIA (NARA). Public Domain.

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Discoveries

September 6, 2014 Leave a comment

640px-Dust_bowl,_Texas_Panhandle,_TX_fsa.8b27276_edit--WikiPD-2

In his research for his mother’s memoirs and family history in general, RT has run across many amazing images. He offers one such discovery here, Dust Clouds and Car, by American photo-journalist Arthur Rothstein. It’s worth noting that RT’s mom was driven by her adoptive mother three times cross country from New York City to Lake Tahoe, starting in 1937. RT has yet to find an image that captures the dangers and mystery of the 1930s as effectively as this one does.

RT has also managed to watch Grand Hotel, a classic early Hollywood talkie. Another trick-up-his-sleeve: he has run across Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, one of the great surviving silent movies, and will be watching it in the next few days. Expect reviews of both films in these pages in the next week or so.

The 1930s and 40s are widely understood as an epochal period, and we’re very lucky to be able to experience these years through the best artistic efforts of the time.

Photo: Dust Clouds and Car, Texas Panhandle (1936). Arthur Rothstein, LOC. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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Daughter’s Song & Dance–A sample page

August 29, 2014 Leave a comment

 

Chap12Page1snipped

 

RT is feeling good about his progress on publishing his mom’s memoirs, A Daughter’s Song and Dance. Not that the process isn’t a bit humbling. This is a 270-page book we’re talking about, and even discovering how to convert a MS Word file into a JPG can take some time, not to mention learning the basics of book design. Still, book production for ADS&D is going fairly smoothly, and RT is posting a sample page to give folks a feeling for what the finished product will look like. RT is proud of this particular page, and notes that the photo is a Dorothy Lange public domain image available on Wikipedia. Anyway, he hopes the effort satisfies. He’s currently setting chapters 17 and 18 (out of 24 total chapters).

RT

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 Book Page Image © 2014, The Rag Tree

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Storm, Storm, Rainbow

Barrymore_Garbo_Grand_Hotel_042432--WikiPD

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Well, things have been rough at RT’s premises lately. The roughest event was the accident his mother has been living through the last 4 or 5 weeks: at the beginning of July, she fell and broke her leg above the ankle. Now, things have gone well for her and are going better in the last couple of weeks. She had surgery on the day of the fall to repair the leg and then was transferred down to a rehab facility, a good one, as it turns out, in Winchester. She caught pneumonia, but the medical center in Winchester pulled her through with a blood transfusion and the last week or so she’s been sounding sharp and is making respectable progress in the various therapies she is receiving. Her ultimate status is still unclear, but she does seem to be moving in the right direction.

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In related news, mom’s memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, has been making excellent progress. RT is looking for manuscript readers even as he begins to assemble print-ready pages for the first two of the story’s three parts. The book is 260 double-spaced pages, but will be longer when RT has finished adding such minor items as an introduction, and it will contain photos and various ornaments, drawings, and scrapbook material. It is turning out to be a bit of a pot-boiler, but of the classier sort, and certainly mom and I have learned a lot about her childhood, early adulthood, and the times she grew up in (not least of which, for RT, has been discovering that the classic Hollywood film, Grand Hotel (1932) has survived; RT wants to buy a copy & watch).

RT is waiting for reader feedback before he makes any decisions about probable publication dates. He does, though, plan both publication online and via a print run of 50-100 copies. How he will finance the print-run remains unclear; perhaps through a crowd-funding site.

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RT’s other writing projects have not gone away. Working with a prose project like the memoirs and editing a narrative voice as distinctive as his mother’s has given him some perspective on Gilgamesh, and he thinks that when he returns to the poem (as he most likely will after DS&D is published), it will be with renewed enthusiasm. The Dragons of Grammar, a collection of RT’s posts on the informative and entertaining creatures,  may well be the other project that can completed in a reasonable short period of time.

RT’s blogs have also been on his mind now that things are better with mom, and doubtless he once again will be expostulating on his favorite topics and bloggers.

The DoGs send a fond smoke-ring or two in the direction of loyal readers, and RT adds a wink.        RT

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Photo: John Barrymore and Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel. Publicity Still. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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Bobby Kennedy and America’s Struggle

There are a lot of what ifs about the 1960s: what if Richard Nixon had been elected in 1960? What if LBJ had held out for one more term? What if that terrible series of assassinations–of John Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King, Jr.–had never taken place?

No single person, however important at a particular moment in time, carries forward the hopes of a nation all by him or herself. If one of these leaders is lost, the forces for reform pick up the pieces, reorganize themselves, and strive onward towards the goal.

Many of the most radical movements of the 1960s–just look at gay rights–have assumed a place in America’s mainstream. A black man is President. Hippies are organizing festivals and gatherings on a scale that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago.

Sure, we face new problems, income inequality prominent among them. But the trumpets have been sounded–the great work of realizing the blueprint that the Constitution gives us goes on. There are bitter and heartbreaking moments of defeat and loss; but there are moments of shining triumph as well.

On this day in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. No assassin’s bullet can destroy America’s aspirations.

PhotographAttorney General Robert F. Kennedy speaking to a crowd of African Americans and whites (1963); photographer, Warren K. Leffler working for U.S. News & World Report. Image donated to the Library of Congress. WikiCmns; Public Domain.