Memorial Day 2018, at the Texas State Cemetery

Memorial Day is one of the least understood holidays on the permanent calendar of the U.S. The holiday was founded to honor our fallen war dead. If you look at the information on Wikipedia, you can see what a complex history the day has. These days, it is notable because of the absolute lack of major ceremonies honoring the true reason for the holiday. There was one held yesterday morning at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, sponsored by the Thankful Hubbard Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Patrick Henry Chapter, Texas Sons of the Revolution.

We searched hard in the newspapers and online  before we found this moving and patriotic Memorial Day event. Kathy’s dad was a military chaplain, who served in World War II and beyond. Buried in an honored position on Chaplain’s Hill at Arlington, we strive to honor his memory. Any event that includes the National Anthem, prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, The American Creed and speeches praising everyone that made the ultimate sacrifice for our country is fairly unique these days.

The National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance are tenets of our Country’s greatness. They are also ready targets for outrage these days. This is not a perfect country. Mistakes and injustices do occur. When and where we express our outrage is something to consider. I was happy that, in this sacred cemetery yesterday, a group of us was able to say thank you to those who died defending our country without discord.

 

Ellsworth Kelly’s AUSTIN @ the Blanton Art Gallery at UT

Promenade through the Blanton

Unique, exciting and cool is the best way I can describe the evening at the Blanton Art Gallery at UT last Thursday. It was also free, which makes it as good as it gets. The Blanton features a free Third Thursday event each month. This month’s event featured a Michael Alec Rose composition called THREE INTERVENTIONS. Austin Camerata performed the music as we promenaded through the gallery to enjoy three art works commemorating dramatic interventions. The first intervention was the sparing of Abraham’s son Ishmael. The second was Esther’s plea to save the Jewish people from an edict of death. The third was a unique portrait of  C.J. Walker, the daughter of slaves who was the first black woman business woman to become a millionaire. Walker’s intervention was that she gave thousands of black women jobs in the early 1900s when opportunities were few.

The featured photo with this post is Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, the structure he created on the UT Campus next to the Blanton. The structure is a marvel, and I won’t attempt to describe it other than it’s a combination of textures, a soaring totem, and works miracles with the natural light. It is well worth the visit.

The bottom line of all this is that Kathy and I are trying to take in the culture that surrounds us in our Austin and Washington, D.C. homes. Sometimes it is hard to get up the energy to make the hike where ever there are opportunities to experience the things that can enhance life. This was an exciting evening that sure beat watching television. I was reacquainted with the story of Esther and learned about an early black woman’s success. We took a chance, took a brisk hike, and found out many new things. Try it, I bet you’ll like it.

 

Call me Ishmael (and then listen to me on Audible)

Long ago, in some long-forgotten university course, I was assigned Moby Dick, and somehow passed the class without reading it, yet somehow misremembered, as memories of that class grew dimmer and dimmer, having somehow gleaned its contents. Many times such pleasant self-deceits go with us to our graves, without a hint of their falseness.

Recently, I published my book Anahuac on Audible. Audio books were a mystery to me before that experience, and so I felt like I should join Audible. After I downloaded Anahuac into my audio library, I had an opportunity to purchase another book. Audible suggested Moby Dick. Actually, it was on sale and I got two books for my one monthly credit. The first thing I discovered on my quest for the great whale was that I’d never actually read the book. Quickly, I understood that if I’d actually opened the book as an undergraduate, or at any time, I would have never finished it.

But Audible saved the day.

The audio book was 24 hours long. Some of it is so dense with technical information about whales and such that I would have stopped reading had it been a physical book. But I labored on, listening in my car, while I did paper work, or sometimes even with the television on and muted. (I am an inveterate multi-tasker.) At its conclusion, I’m only left wondering what my answer should be to the question: “Have you ever read Moby Dick?” I’ve heard it, and given that I’ve retained the plot and developed a newfound appreciation for the prose and even poetry-within-prose Melville is able to craft, I’d go as far to say that I have indeed read it.

Many of my friends and I are of a certain age that we well remember radio drama. Most audio books are not exactly like radio, but do come with the some of the advantages. An audio book can make a long car or airplane ride go faster. You can wash dishes and listen. The list is endless.

Moby Dick is obviously not a quick listen. Many audio books, as it turns out, demand less time than Melville asks of you. Anahuac, for instance, clocks in at a fraction of what Moby Dick demands, in just over nine hours. My story doesn’t have whales or Captain Ahab or a motley crew on a boat, but it does take you back to 1972, has a preacher in a sharkskin suit, an ambitious young lawyer, three women who fight valiantly (each in their own distinct way) to control their dreams, and a motley crew who camps in a public park awaiting the verdict in a murder case. If you’ve ever wanted to try an audio book, you might give Anahuac a try.