National Photograph Month

As I looked over the calendar page for this brand-new month, “National Photograph Month” was printed at the top.  I reflected that humans have probably never been involved in photography to this extent as now. PhotographMonth-00

Every day, I see selfies or pictures of lunch posted onto social media.  I also encounter amazing images displayed within the blogs of professional and amateur photographers that I follow.

Many years ago, I  spent a fair amount of my bank balances on camera gear, and film.  Sometimes, now,  I sit in a darkened room and click through carousels of old 35mm slides.  At other times, I might pull an old album of prints and become dangerously nostalgic for awhile.

Somewhere in my closet, is a slide converter that reduces  projected slide images down to an effective size to enable a digital camera to copy them. I really need to find that gadget soon.

I don’t consider myself an advanced amateur photographer, nor do I take selfies.  I do love to compose still-lifes, many of which find their way to Floral Fridays.  I haven’t yet decided upon any particular DSLR, but that’s OK, because I’m still learning the features of my obsolete digital point and shoot cameras.


Aside from selfies, sunsets and sunrises are the cliches of picture taking.  Who can resist capturing them? I have several in my portfolio. My weaknesses are open skies and trees, the two, together, form interesting, abstract designs.


I enjoy photographs that layer color and form horizontally, unaltered, of outdoors scenes.  My eye instinctively finds them, every day. The rural landscapes of Nebraska provide many examples.PhotographMonth-04

Sometimes it’s fun to create product presentation photos that will never be used in advertising. Oftentimes, these are spur of the moment pictures that appear almost by accident. A photograph of a mundane subject, like a glass of ice tea, can cause us to remember hot July afternoons and the joys of simple pleasures.

Artistic photography used to require the practiced mental skills of determining apertures and exposure times. A person had to be more mindful and careful because film or glass plates presented physical and financial limits.  I bought a motor drive attachment for my Canon AE-1. , but  I soon set it aside because the camera was eating up too much film.  Motor drives were better used in situations like sports photography.


I prefer to carefully compose an image. After all, photography is the manipulation of light.  Sometimes I like to use black light to help viewers see images in a different manner.

Digital photography is cheap, so multiple shots are no longer much of a consideration.  Yet, I retain the mental attitude of a film camera shooter.  That’s just the way I see things.

moi1988aThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Dorothea Lange. “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”

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Hostiles & Friendlies (Review)

Some of the best books about frontier life in the Great Plains of North America were penned by women like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Willa Cather.  Often overlooked are the writings of Mari Sandoz.  I don’t know why Sandoz gets short shrift.  I wonder if the reason has to do with her being a Nebraska native.  Nebraska is one of those forgotten flyover states.  Most of the world gives little or no thought about us.

I understand Nebraska being overlooked, but Mari Sandoz deserves higher praise.  She lived the hardtack life of early 20th Century Nebraska and South Dakota. Sandoz was the headstrong white girl who overcame great odds to become an esteemed writer.  Her experiences encompassed the hardships of early settlers and the Native Americans who lived among them.

I came across a new printing of a newer edition of some of Sandoz’s lesser known and unpublished works the other day at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library.  Hostiles  & Friendlies: Selected Short Writings of Mari Sandoz is a book I was unaware of until recently.

There are a few weak parts of this collection, but I took into consideration that they were minor works or magazine articles tailored to casual readers of the day.  Most of the book more than makes up for these few flaws.

Hostiles & Friendlies displays Sandoz’s sensitive, yet strong approach to the life and times of people who lived in the Sandhlls of northwestern Nebraska.  The book opens with an abbreviated autobiographical sketch that sets the stage for the rest of the collection. Sandoz-03SittingBull

Sandoz is famous for her book about Crazy Horse, so I wasn’t surprised to find her story about the two Sitting Bulls in this smaller collection.  Sandoz tells about Plains Indian culture and reveals the maturity and intelligence of the peoples.  In the process, we witness the decimation of native culture and humiliation of their leaders. Sandoz describes this sad period of history in a balanced manner that doesn’t overly demonize the whites who displaced the Indians.

In the non-fiction portion of this book, Sandoz shares the stories in an intimate way through her personal observations.  Once, when Sandoz was only five-years-old, Buffalo Bill Cody spent a night at her family’s house.  The noise of his arrival awakened her from sleep so she got up to see who had come in. “There, in the light of our kitchen lamp, stood the handsomest man of my life, tall, in beaded buckskin, and with long white curls falling over his shoulders.”

The next morning Sandoz’s mother asked Mari to call Cody to breakfast but there was no reply to her knock.  So, “I pushed the door open a crack. Evidently Bill had gone duck hunting with my father, for the bed was empty, but on the bedpost hung that handsome head of curling hair. In that one moment, I learned something of disillusionment and something of the need for a second look, always a careful second look.”

Some of Sandoz’s most haunting words are found in the book’s short story section.  It’s in fiction that a writer is most free to tell the truth without much censorship.

The story that moves me most is “Mist and the Tall White Tower”.  The setting is at the reputed “most beautiful building in the World”, the then recently completed State Capitol Building in Lincoln, Nebraska. The story is told from the point of view of Irvy, a tragically down and out 13-year-old boy from Central Nebraska.  He has walked hundreds of miles to seek refuge in the home of his former teacher Lela Gray.

The story was written in 1936, in the middle of the Great Depression.  Irvy arrives in Lincoln, and finds a hidden part of the capitol building’s lawn to rest from his journey. “The Capitol tower stood straight and tall over the shimmering, dusty heat of the flat Sandoz-02prairie town. Alone it pierced the sky –timeless, enduring, a fluted shaft of stone and gleaming windows arising high from its broad base on terraced lawns to the banding of blue thunderbirds.”

Soon, other homeless people also settle into the lawn, so Irvy blends into the crowd and is able to better relax. He studies the architecture of the building and its tall stone tower as a way to distract himself from his tired muscles and aching hunger pangs.

The next morning he enters the capitol building and finds himself being passively drawn into a group of school children in their field trip’s guided tour of the building. It is within the tower that Irvy nearly meets his demise. No, I won’t spoil the ending.

Whether or not you’re familiar with Mari Sandoz and whether or not you live in the Great Plains, this small book is well worth reading.  Not only will you learn about Plains Indians, pioneer settlers, and rural life in the early 20th Century, you’ll find some deeply satisfying writing.

{ Hostiles & Friendlies: Selected Short Writings of Mari Sandoz originally published by The University of Nebraska Press in Lincoln, Nebraska and London, UK; Bison Book paperback edition, 254 pages, first printed in 1992. ISBN: 0-8032-9208-2 }

moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Mari Sandoz. “Indians still consider the whites a brutal people who treat their children like enemies – playthings, too, coddling them like pampered pets or fragile toys, but underneath always like enemies, enemies that must be restrained, bribed, spied upon, and punished.”

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Royal Haeger Panthers …Floral Friday

Today, I continue a mini-salute to Haeger Potteries to commemorate their 145th anniversary and their unfortunate decision to shutter their business.  In particular I decided to deviate from my usual Friday format a bit.


My all-time favorite Royal Haeger item is their Leopard console set.  It is composed of two differently posed leopards and a footed planter.


For some unknown reason, Haeger catalogues list the cats as tigers, even though they have no stripes nor are their bodies tiger-like.


The leopards are perhaps the most famous creations of studio stuylist Royal Hickman.  They are part of an entire line of accessories that include cigarette boxes and table lamps, which I don’t own.

Most leopard statuettes were finished in a leopard pattern glaze, but there was a run of them finished in a solid, grayish glaze that are not as attractive. They’re very difficult to find, so I’m guessing the single color glazed cats are more valuable.


I originally came across my set in 1999 and have displayed it since then, never placing it in storage at all.  Every couple of years I change the semi-permanent arrangement in the planter for the sake of variety.


Today, I decided to go with a red-orange dried tropical arrangement.  It needed to have a narrow, upward shape in order to fit on top of a crowded console display surface.

The finished project fits in well with the mid-century fire orange themed collection of other items.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Friedrich Nietzsche today.  “While dreams are the individual man’s play with reality, the sculptor’s art is–in a broader sense–the play with dreams.”

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Workers’ Memorial Day

I’m astonished regarding the daring of crews who build and maintain broadcast towers.  I once watched workers paint part of the free-standing WJAG tower west of Norfolk, Nebraska one afternoon.  The men looked like spiders as they went about their duties.  I admired their courage and willingness to do a job I couldn’t imagine ever attempting.

I chatted with one of the climbers after he ended his work day.  He said he fully realized that he made his living in one of the world’s most dangerous professions. The climber said he couldn’t afford to pay the premiums for high risk life insurance, but he did set plenty aside in a brokerage account for his family in case he was killed.  At the WorkersMemorialDay-03time, he billed clients about $200 an hour for each job. (Tower climbers charge over $300 an hour today.) Other tower maintenance technicians charge nearly $2,000 plus insurance fees per day.

The latest statistics verify that Tower Climber deaths are the highest per capita, per 100,000 employees, in the United States. That status will probably remain the same because of the number of cellular telephone and broadcast towers in this country.

Certainly tower climbers are the most extreme example of workplace danger.  People do other work that doesn’t outwardly appear as dangerous, but is actually quite hazardous.

I’m thinking of street and highway workers who do their jobs with heavy equipment and around speeding traffic. Building construction workers and carpenters face injury every day from falls, crushed limbs, or injuries from machinery. How about delivery people and couriers? They have to deal with traffic and the chance of being robbed or becoming the victims of other violent crimes.WorkersMemorialDay-02

Farmers and ranchers deal with unpredictable large animals every day. Plus they use dangerous equipment in the fields and around the farm.  Similarly, packing house employees who slaughter and process meat animals suffer high rates of injury.

We think of firefighters, for obvious reasons.  The same for policemen and body guards. We don’t usually think of astronauts and cosmonauts as having dangerous jobs. Blasting off into space atop rockets loaded with explosive fuel is a danting proposition, plus there is physical deterioration while in space.

Even data entry and other work at a computer is unhealthy.  Sitting all day at a computer has been proven to harm cardiovascular and skeletal health. It’s a subtle, insidious hazard.

There is a long list of other dangerous professions.  The point is, many people are seriously injured or die each day around the world just doing their jobs.  More people are killed at work than in battlefield combat. They died because employers did not prioritize safety or employees disregarded safety rules.WorkersMemorialDay-01

Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day. Now is the time for workers and their representatives to hold events, participate in vigils or even march in public demonstrations.

This year’s theme is “Strong Laws–Strong Enforcement–Strong Unions”. The theme was chosen because there has been a widespread movement to deregulate workplace safety.  Many politicians and governments are urging deregulation and are removing basic protections for millions of workers.  There is also a troubling trend of failing to enforce regulations that are already in place. Labor unions have long suffered misinformation campaigns against them and spotty reputations, in some cases.

Employee associations, labor unions, and official agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are working to recommit to healthy, safe working conditions. The best way to honor those who have died on the job, is to provide less dangerous working conditions. This can be done through training, education, assistance, and enforcing regulations.

Today, we remember coworkers who have suffered and died on the job as we renew our commitment to make work safer.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes William Blake. “Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but foresight is better, especially when it comes to saving life, or some pain.”

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Love Yourself Some Jazz

I’ve written before, that I deeply enjoy music of various genres.  Much of the expansion of my musical tastes has come about out of professional necessity.

The last AM radio station I worked for used to broadcast “Block Programming”.  That is, different types of programs were aired at set times of the day.  There was Farm Market Information in the early mornings and at noon. In mid-morning we had the “Kitchen Klatter Show” for homemakers. During the early afternoons was an opinion-discussion show called “Voice of the People”. The rest of the weekday hours were filled with country music.

Weekends were a variation of this lineup, there were more sports and news shows. Then on Sunday afternoons we aired the “Polka Party” and “Swingtime 78”. It was the swing show that brought me enormous pleasure and greatly enhanced my love of music.

As the station’s music director, I was given great freedom to choose the content of all the music portions of the station.  This was certainly a dream job.  Best of all, I was given some freedom to create, from scratch, new shows.  It is what I miss most about broadcasting.

“Swingtime 78” was entirely my brainchild. The program featured music from the Big Band Era and the Jazz that was massively popular.  There is a huge catalogue of JazzAppreciation-04artists, performers, and songwriters, documenting popular music from the first half of the 20th Century.  The program focused on records from the 1930s, 1940s and what was big during World War Two, because there is so much of it.

I visualized a time machine journey for each show. I tried to recreate the ambience of the golden age of radio. Older listeners were given music from their youthful years. Younger people liked the show because there had been a short “rebirth” of Swing in global contemporary culture that introduced them to the genre. The Swingtime show was not only a nostalgia trip for the World War Two generation but was an ongoing education for younger listeners, and myself.

Of course Jazz is not limited to Big Band or Swing. This music covers a wide variety of styles, artists, and subgenres. Before the opportunity to create “Swingtime 78” arose, I already enjoyed some of the Cool Jazz of the 1950s and 1960s.  Progressive and Fusion Jazz found its way to my personal turntable quite often, too.JazzAppreciation-03

Once in awhile, I crave very early New Orleans Jazz, the “underground music”. The black music of the 1890s into the 1920s is harder to find, but this antique artform is utterly fascinating to people who love history.

Jazz is a large category that is full of subgenres and sub-subgenres.  To investigate Jazz, is to embark on a lifelong mission. Even my foray into the subgenre of Big Band made me feel very much like a dilettante.  All I can do is encourage my friends to sample various types of Jazz and play music from the genres they find enjoyable.

All things said, maybe we shouldn’t categorize Jazz music.

JazzAppreciation-01The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Louis Armstrong. “To jazz, or not to jazz, there is no question.”

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Emotional Security

Sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, or maybe from something we see or hear, we feel the tug of insecurity, deep in our guts. Who among us hasn’t felt the unpredictability of our emotional lives? Even the people who outwardly seem to be cool, calm, collected individuals feel moments of emotional insecurity.

In life, we might encounter a person who seems emotionally mature and wise.  That individual might be a spiritual teacher, a family member, or maybe a chance EmotionalSecurity-01encounter.  People admire this person for her or his diplomatic honesty, fairness, and warm-heartedness. He does not put anyone down, or scapegoat others as compensation for his own shortcomings. This person has an authentic self-effacing manner that comes from the core. He long ago, got over the practice of constructing façades, or “compensating” for some personal lack.

A person who possesses emotional security has no need to put on an act. She has grown mentally strong enough to allow herself to feel vulnerable at times and not apologize for it.  Yet, when you witness this person’s vulnerability, it seems to make her seem stronger and more secure.

These rare people are admired for their strong yet compassionate nature.  We intuit that somehow their personal strength is a product of their compassion for all things.  Have you noticed that the truly balanced, joyful people are those who deeply empathise with others? They seem to focus on the well-being of other people and try their best to build people up and not tear them down. They unconsciously provide a positive example for living, yet they never fall to the temptation to proselytize nor condemn.

The emotionally secure person is like a rock, but doesn’t put on airs of indifference or superiority. That person has coped with many difficult challenges and fully understands that everybody on Earth also has his or her own difficulties. She understands that it is not helpful to strut her stuff.

The emotionally secure person you may know, trusts people, but not in a naïve way. You have the feeling that he can see right through to your core, but will not use that knowledge against you in any way, shape, or form. You understand that he wants you to possess that same inner wisdom, because he has no desire to lord it over other people. He prefers to consort with equals, not preside over underlings. He has no desire for disciples.

You may know the person who focuses on the emotional well-being of others.  She uses all the tools at her disposal, be they intuition, logic, or rationality. She supports other people’s sense of calm and helps them get in touch with their own emotional security. Because she is compassionate and empathetic, she knows that to foster dependency is to cause further insecurity and a false sense of happiness.

The emotionally secure person knows that building other people up builds themselves up and strengthens their own emotional security. In that way the strong person has other strong people around him when he, himself, needs a boost to meet life’s difficult challenges. The emotionally strong person fully understands the inherent weaknesses of hierarchial structure.

The secure, strong person is like a fortress, yet she senses the needs of people around her. She is wise enough to know when to lower her guard and allow for passivity and receptivity.  She can be a safe harbor for others and is responsive to the feelings of EmotionalSecurity-02others.  At the same time she retains enough objectivity so that she is not sucked into the negativity of emotionally “needy” people. She keeps a wholesome balance between being open and having healthy boundaries.

When you see this strong person, you want to emulate him. At the same time, you don’t want to be subservient to him. You want to be like him and befriend him as an equal. You know that you can learn positive life lessons from him. At the same time he lets you know that he values you for your capacity to be his equal. He has learned the value of true, honest friendship.

The emotionally secure person follows his heart and his mind. He encourages you to do the same.

I hope you know somebody like this or will soon meet that person.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes social psychologist Daniel Gilbert. “Your emotions are meant to fluctuate, just like your blood pressure is meant to fluctuate.  It’s a system that’s supposed to move back and forth, between happy and unhappy.  That’s how the system guides you through the world.”

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Nachtsender Radio 1212

During international tensions and war, propaganda is a key ingredient for governments on all sides of a conflict. The first effective large scale use of covert broadcasting propaganda occured in Europe, during the Second World War.

By the 1930s most people in the west had access to radio. As tensions increased in the late 30’s, the major Allied and Axis powers understood the effectiveness and necessity Nachtsender1212-03of radio broadcasting to further their aims. Political and military entities geared up agencies devoted entirely to the broadcasting of propaganda. One radio station, in particular, played a key role in the dissemination of misinformation for both Nazi Germany and later the Allies.

In the early 1930s Radio Luxembourg broadcast under the auspices of the private corporation, Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Radiodiffusion or CLR.  The station provided standard broadcast fare of music and news to European listeners. As war appeared imminent, CLR and officials of the Duchy of Luxembourg decided to halt normal programming and limited operations to official communiques plus some music on September 2, 1939. Then, on September 21st. Radio Luxembourg was officially ordered to completely halt all broadcasting and suspend operation.

By May of 1940, the Duchy of Luxembourg was occupied by Nazi Germany.  Broadcast operations at Radio Luxembourg were taken over by Großdeutscher Rundfunk, the German broadcasting arm.  Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels ordered the station to resume broadcasting, this time as a secret transmitter to France, then later to the British Isles.Nachtsender1212-01

This was the time when an American-born Irish expatriot came into play. William Joyce was a senior member of the far-right party, The British Union of Fascists. He escaped Britain after he learned about his planned arrest in August 1939 by British authorities.  Joyce was recruited by the Nazis and began his career as “Lord Haw Haw” at the beginning of the war. Joyce was the main “Lord Haw Haw” in a line of several announcers to broadcast anti-Allies propaganda to Britain during the Nazi occupation.

In Early September of 1944, allied military forces took over the Radio Luxembourg studios and transmitters.  By September 23rd, the Allied controlled Radio Free Luxembourg began broadcasting in ten languages in the longwave band (232 kHz).

Then, in early December of 1944, the Allied Forces’ Psychological Warfare Department inaugurated “Nachtsender 1212” (literally night-transmitter 1212) at a different frequency to broadcast misinformation to the Axis audience.  On December 19th, Radio Luxembourg temporarily stopped broadcasting due to the Battle of the Bulge, but it resumed programming on the 23rd. Allied forces continued to use Radio Luxembourg as a misinformation source until the Nazi surrender.  The military finally relinquished its control in December of 1945. CLR resumed normal commercial broadcasting on December 23, 1945.

Nachtsender1212-02Nachtsender 1212 was the first effective use of a type of misinformation known as “Black Propaganda”. That is, bogus information that pretends to be from sources on one side of a conflict but actually originates from that side’s adversaries.

Black Propaganda, skillfully used, is an effective strategy to misrepresent, embarrass, and vilify one’s enemy. Black Propaganda gets its name from the fact that it is covert in nature. Black Propaganda’s agenda, sources, and true identity are secret.

Because Black Propaganda purports to represent a source other than its true origins, listeners are not aware that they are being manipulated. In its role as Nachtsender 1212, Radio Luxembourg was accepted by its target audience who believed the radio station’s creative deceit. Nachtsender 1212 was able to pull off its big lie because the broadcasters fully understood the mindset of the Axis audience. In other words, the station sounded credible.

Nachtsender 1212 was a successful real-time experiment in the use of mass-media misinformation and disinformation.  The use of Black Propaganda continues to evolve and to be used by many political and private institutions to influence public opinion.

Nachtsender1212-04iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes former President George W. Bush. “See, in my line of work, you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the ‘truth’ to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

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