"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Turning pages into the future which is now

Reading thrusts me on travels to new worlds, worlds in the past and  present and future I'd never experience otherwise. This Februrary, I turned the pages through two books on trips of discovery.
Early in the month, graduate and friend Andy Jensen (he who gave me the Fahrenheit 451 gift a year ago) dropped by to loan me another science fiction book by a favorite author of his, David Brin.
"This guy can crush a sentence," Andy said , warning me to be patient, and get through the first 100 pages of the this 556-page monster, Existence.
So it was, as I was plunged into the future less than 50 years from now when mankind finally makes contact with the remnants of other life in the universe.
But that was not the main story for me, because Brin's views of the near future are disturbing and all too realistic. This author, a Ph.D. scientist, has quite a following in science fiction, but he's more than a fiction writer. He's a futurist and uncanny predictor of how technology effects us. A previous book,  Earth, in 1990 visualized the World Wide Web, global warming and email spam, among other trends.
In this current book, just out in 2012, the seas are rising, drones, complete tyranny of free information overload and more make privacy impossible. Considering the current fragmented state of America, I find it chilling he predicts another American civil war, and genetic tinkering with animals, like dolphins, to enable communication.
Google "Google glasses" and
you get this image
But what really caught my attention was that people all wear Specs...glasses that provide instantaneous communication with the rest of the world, with built in gps systems, computers and much more to augment reality. Did you see what is in the news this month?  Google announced its "reality augmentation" glasses that will come equipped with a computer, video, etc. The future predicted, is now.
But as I said, he's more than a science fiction writer. He's a fellow of the Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies, has degrees in astrophysics, applied physics and the doctorate in space science. He's built  a sophisticated reputation. Check out his websites, including his blog, http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ and his website http://www.davidbrin.com/.
Read the book? Yes. Did I scan some of it...yes because I get to the action. Be prepared not to grasp much of it at first, or if at all, but his writing gives such a glimpse into our present that you can see the future.
The second book is a fifth of its size and written by friend and HR maven Jessica Miller-Merrill, Tweet This. I first met her at an OKC  blog gathering a couple of years ago. Here's an exciting, career-driven woman who has parlayed hard work and a bumpy employment history into a national reputation in Human Resources.
I've had her speak to my twitter and blogging classes, because she's mastered the field, and makes a full time living, working from home and speaking, through her digital foundation. 
She gave a copy of this book to each of my students in "Tweeting for Journalists"  class during the intersession class, and it's full of advice for the present, leading again to the future. I don't require textbooks, but this is one I will require.
You have to check out her blog, "Blogging 4 Jobs," to see what can be accomplished with passion and technology, now and in the future,  blogging4jobs.com
So those are the pages of February, making four book travels this year, two fiction and two non-fiction. Here's the Bradbury link:  http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2011/12/gift-of-teaching.html 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A "Red" state's flags and impact on America

Among the readers of this blog are citizens of another of the real "red" states, Vietnam, a country with a long history of invasion, colonization, and war, again deeply involved in American history and now culture.
For my generation, Vietnam went from someplace we'd never heard of to a years-long nightmare for the country and thousands of servicemen and families. That country has had a huge influence on America.
Vietnam first gained independence from China in 938 and flourished until the mid-1800s when the French occupied and colonized by the French. Today's flag, with the yellow star on the communist red background, was first used in 1940 in a communist uprising against the French, and later in 1941 against the Japanese in WWII. Ho Chí Minh declared Vietnam independent in 1945 and it became the flag of North Vietnam in 1954 after the French were defeated and the country divided.
The flag of South Vietnam
That's when the yellow flag with three red stripes--for the country's tree main divisions, became the flag of South Vietnam, the one that adorns U.S. veterans'  combat medals today. Fearing Communism and the so-called "domino theory," the US was drawn into the country's conflict less than five years later, to repeat the French mistakes. Those were the years, in the mid- 1960s to the early 1970s,  I lived in fear of the mailbox bringing a draft notice. I wouldn't have run, and came close to serving. Ironically, my final deferment is now a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
With the capture of Saigon, the American retreat,  the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the reunification of the country, the red flag now flies,  the red background of the communist part honoring the Paris commune of 1871, symbolizing blood and revolution with the yellow star representing the unity of workers, peasants, intellectuals, youths and soldiers in building socialism.After the war the country languished but initiated free-market reforms beginning in 1986 to become a robust Socialist country, with a burgeoning American tourist trade.
Some American notes on the effects of Vietnam:
  • The war divided America politically as much as Vietnam was divided. 
  • Thousands of Americans who fought and died in that war are named individually on the stunning Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. 
  • The war is still with us. Sen. John McCain, and newly appointed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are both survivors and veterans. Servicemen still hate Jane Fonda, "Hanoi Jane."
  • Among the healthiest, hardest working, most vibrant and growing populations in America are the Vietnamese. You have to look no further than the "Asian District" of Oklahoma City around Classen and 23rd to see.
  • Conclusion: fresh blood  and diversity revitalizes and energizes America. But the costs to both countries has been huge.  
"French" Indochina in 1913--including what is now Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia 

    Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Real "Red" states, rebellion, flags and freedom-1

    This is a complicated story of several countries and flags, two of their descendants. and a heritage of war, communism and independence.
    Slovenia's flag today
    How else could I summarize the countries  and flags of many readers of this blog, Slovenia and Vietnam, both of which have involved American history and affected American politics? In fact, Slovenia ranks tenth in the number of all time readers, and I, who pride myself on geography, had to look it up on the map, even though I knew where Yugoslavia and The Balkans were.
    When I grew up in the Cold War, These were "Red" states--Communists. Slovenia was a member of the country Yugoslavia, headed by the dictator Tito who had fought the Nazis in WWII. But when we were all afraid of communism, Tito was as close as we could get to a good Communist because he maintained independence from the USSR. Still though, Yugoslavia's flag carried that dreaded red star we associated with Russia.
    Yugoslavian flag, 1945-1991
    The area of Yugoslavia, which means "Southern Slavs," has and long and turbulent history, part of the Balkans where World War I was started when Serbs assassinated the Austrian Duke Ferdinand in 1914 in Sarajevo, fighting Austrian dominance. After the war, the country was formed in 1918 as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929.
    Invaded by the Axis in 1941, the Partisan Resistance Movement, led by Tito, added the red star to the middle of their flags, including Slovenia's. At the end of the war, the national flag of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia continued the red star, until the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991.
    That again brought a three-year war to the region and involved American, NATO and Russian forces trying to settle conflicts between the new countries of Bosnia / Herzegovina and Croatia, neighbors to Slovenia and Macedonia--all former parts of Yugoslavia. As a matter of fact,  residents of all those countries have been readers of this blog.
     Today, the national flag, designed in 1991, features three equal horizontal bands of white, blue and red, with the Slovenian coat of arms in the upper hoist side of the flag centred in the white and blue bands. The coat of arms is a shield with the image of Mount Triglav, Slovenia's highest peak, in white against a blue background at the center; beneath it are two wavy blue lines for the Adriatic sea and local rivers, and above it are three six-pointed golden stars arranged in an inverted triangle which are taken from the coat of arms of a great Slovenian dynastic house of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.
    The flag's colors come from a medieval coat of arms. The existing tricolor dates from 1894 in the Spring of Nations, designed by a group of students in the capital of Ljubljana.
    I told you it was complicated...flags have such interesting stories matching those of their countries.  Next, Vietnam.

    Monday, February 25, 2013

    Meditation on a winter walk in art

    Winter is almost over, but the voice of the wind and cold outside jars my memories. A couple of years ago, such a mood and Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" inspired this abstract painting, which appears in the right sidebar of the blog. And my blogfriend poet K. Lawson Gilbert brought it to life with her word images, also in the sidebar at right.
    But on this cold evening, it seems fitting to bring them back for another walk together.

    Just out the window,
    black silhouettes of trees
    remind me of those
    halcyon days with you,
    when we climbed out of the
    cellar toward enlightenment.
    Now, at a glance, the wild
    birds swing into view,
    obscuring the real world
    of young men dying
    to get home, and the
    snow that falls on
    our brains stays solid - never
    melting into springtime.
    On the ferry, we sit and
    compare notes as to whom
    in life has suffered the most;
    men, women, boys, or girls?
    Suddenly, in a revelation, you
    say it is the Buddha over on
    Main, who sits on his plywood
    altar, surrounded by plastic
    flowers, subjected to all the
    passersby, who have never had
    a Zen thought of their own…

    --K. Lawson Gilbert

    Flags, and stories of the invaded, occupied, free

     The world is full of countries that have been independent, occupied, and freed over the centuries. Among the readers of today's blogs are citizens of two of those countries, and I've experienced stories involving both--The Philippines and  Ukraine.
    The Philippines have a long history and were colonized and settled by the Spanish, taken over by America, and occupied by the Japanese.
    The flag is integral to that history. As a result of the Spanish American War, the country became a U.S. Territory  but the revolutionaries who had fought Spain under the flag, then declared war on America. Most hostilities ended in 1902, but some continued until 1913. In 1916 the U.S. passed the Philippine Autonomy Act, pledging independence. It was partially granted in 1935, but WWII interrupted, and Americans suffered more than 62,000 casualties and 13,000 deaths in the war against the Japanese. The Philippines were granted complete independence in 1946.
    That history is vivid to me because years ago a friend of our newspaper was a doctor who had survived the Bataan Death March. His stories were chilling
    The flag is different in that it twice as long as wide. The eight primary rays of the sun represent the first group of provinces to start the 1898 revolution against Spain. The three stars represent the country's three regions, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. White for equality and fraternity; blue for peace, truth and justice; red for patriotism and valor. The white and sun symbolize unity, freedom, peoples democracy and sovereignty. If the country is at war, the red stripe goes on top.
    Ukraine's flag was adopted in 1918 in its short lived Ukrainian People's Republic, following the Russian Revolution, but was later changed to red and red-blue flags as part of the USSR. It was officially restored in 1992 following independence, and flag day has been celebrated since 2004 on Aug. 23.
    The colors symbolize the blue skies and golden wheat fields of the steppes, but the first representations of the colors for the Ukraine go back to pre-Christian times for ceremonies and represented fire and sky.
    I remember growing up that one of my fellow high school students was a blond-haired girl who had Ukrainian royal blood. Her parents and grandmother had fled the Soviets.  That made the threat of communism very real to me.

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Flags of historic friends--Canada and the UK

     Of the number of readers of this blog over the years, Canadians and the Brits rank in the top 10. It's good to have friends, even when familiarity leads to jokes about the other, on both sides of the border and "The Pond." Of course there are differences and sometimes tensions, but like loved ones, you tolerate each other, forgive and know how important friendship is.
    The flags of Canada and the United Kingdom are among the most recognizable to most Americans, because of so much shared history and culture.
    The Canadian flag is relatively new, only officially adopted on Feb. 15, 1965 to replace the British Union Flag. That date is now the National Flag of Canada Day. It's also know as the Maple Leaf flag, and in bi-lingual Canada, the I'Unifolli', "the one-leafed," in French.

    "The Union Jack" of the United Kingdom, composed of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is deeply a part of American history too. It's the flag of  our "Mother Country, of many of our ancestors, and the flag we fought against, and then alongside, over the centuries.
     It was first adopted in 1606 by order of King James IV--the one who commissioned the King James Bible. It consists of the red cross of England's Saint George, patron saint of England, and the white cross of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland. The current design dates from 1801 when Northern Ireland became part of the UK, with the added  red cross, for the cross of St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. Wales' patron saint, David, is not included.

    Saturday, February 23, 2013

    Academy Award inspired art

    "The Crisis," 18" x 24", pen and ink, March, 1931, by Terrence M. Clark
    Flipping through channels the other night, I came across the old black and white silent movie,"Wings." I'd heard about it, but never watched it, but was immediately grabbed by the footage of WWI planes in combat. What a treasure met my eyes, both the footage and watching real acting--where actors' expressions told stories, not special effects.
    And as I watched the combat scenes, including planes falling out of the sky, I suddenly knew where much of my father's school boy art came from...watching this movie that came out in 1927 when he was 13 years old. He had to have seen it, this poor boy from Comanche, Oklahoma.
    grew up getting in trouble in school for drawing WWII aircraft and submarines in class. For Dad, WWI was recent, not history. The movie "Wings" must have enthralled him. I've written about this before, and other examples of his wartime art are posted in 2010. Here's the link: http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2010/10/forbidden-art-from-long-ago.html
    One of the drawings that's been around as long as I can remember is his pen and ink battle scene, "The Crisis," which was pinned to my studio room wall, rescued recently from a box in the garage. It's yellow and brittle, with stains from water and the years, but still alive, as the Brits and Huns clash on a broken battlefield. And in the sky, there are the biplanes, falling out of the sky, just as they were shown in "Wings."
    Planes falling out of the sky
    With the next Academy Awards approaching, I figured out why the film was being aired. It is the only silent movie to win an academy award, and it won the very first Academy Award for best picture in 1929, two years before my Dad drew this picture. 

    The film is about two WWI fighter pilot films, both involved with the same woman. It starred Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Roberts, and Richard Arlen. Gary Cooper appeared in a roll that helped launch his career, and an affair with Clara Bow. 
    It was rewritten to accommodate Clara Bow, as she was Paramount's biggest star, but wasn't happy about her part: "(Wings is)..a man's picture and I'm just the whipped cream on top of the pie," she said. 
    This has become a personal part of history for me, trying to imagine my Dad watching it in a theater in Comanche or nearby Duncan, inspiring him to go home and draw. 

    Independence protesting in the breeze

     We forget sometimes how integral protest and revolution leading to independence are symbolized on our flags. In America, constantly at war for years now, Old Glory is revered as a symbol of heroism, of identity, of sacrifice, of a free nation. But even during Fourth of July parades, the original purpose of the flag gets lost among the fireworks and speeches. At first, it was a symbol of defiance, of rebellion, of upstarts challenging authority. I think it is fitting that in times of turmoil, it is still used that way by those protesting one government policy or action. Turning the flag upside down, changing it with a peace symbol, or even burning it may offend most of us, and dishonor those who have served it, but it is an ironic testament to its power and history...it still signifies protest and independence of thought and action.
    As I've looked at these flags of the readers of this blog, I've discovered many of those flags have similar histories, some much older than ours, and some younger, inspired perhaps by Old Glory.
    So it is with the flag of the Netherlands, one of the oldest flags in the world. It dates from 1572 when William I of Orange joined Dutch nationalists in the struggle for independence from Spain. Originally it had an orange bar instead of red, reflecting William's livery, but the dye tended to turn red with age, so red was adopted in the 17th Century. It was confirmed by royal decree in 1937.
    South of here and more recently a flag of independence is the flag of Venezuela, and that flag is still a symbol of controversy and independence.
    It was first used without the stars in 1806 by in a failed attempt to gain independence from Spain. When the declaration of independence was signed in 1810, seven stars were added, representing the seven provinces that signed the declaration of independence. sounds familiar, doesn't it? Simon Bolivar, leading the country to victory in its war of independences from 1811 to 1823, wanted an eighth star added for another province, but apparently that didn't happen, and the seven  star flag was used until 2006.
    That's when fiery President Hugo Chavez, who likes to poke at the U.S., and is now in the news because of his health, ordered the eighth star added. The opposition party refuses to use it.
    And at the close of the Miss Universe pageant in 2010, the winner, Stephania Fernandez, pulled out a seven star flag.
    Independence, protesting in the breeze of many countries.

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Flags, crosses and Nordic readers

    From left, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark
     Writing a blog is about discovery, about always finding out things you didn't know before. Thus it was when a reader from Finland clicked this blog yesterday and today. Since I started running flags and maps of my readers, I began searching for the images, preferring a photo instead of just a graphic. Some are easy to find, and others difficult because of copyrights. Thus I came to this photo of the flags of the five Nordic countries, all carrying the Nordic, or Scandinavian, cross design.
    There are stories behind them all, and Finland has the youngest flag, dating from 1917 when the country gained independence from Russia. Then I found out that Denmark's flag is recognized as the oldest continuously used national flag in the world of an independent country, dating from a 13th Century battle and legend. Denmark's flag obviously inspired the others.
    Finland's flag, the blue cross on white, is as symbolic as the others. The cross is obviously for Christianity, with the blue for its sky and water, and the white for the snow  of the northern winter.
    Iceland's first national flag was a white cross on a deep blue background. It was first shown in parade in 1897. The modern flag ----which I posted earlier--dates from 1915, when a red cross was inserted into the white cross of the original flag, when it gained independence from Denmark. The colors stand for the three elements that make up the island. Red is the fire produced by the island's volcanoes, white recalls the ice and snow that covers Iceland, and blue for the Atlantic Ocean.
    Also posted earlier was the Swedish flag, the yellow cross on the blue field. It is probably descended from individual coats of arms, and dates from the 1400s. It is also possible it was a resistance flag against Denmark, and Sweden gained its independence from the Danes in the 1500s. 
    Like many countries, Norway's flag has changed over the years. It is also an adaptation of a coat of arms.  The current flag was designed in 1821 when the country gained independence from Denmark. The blue perhaps comes from the Swedish flag, but others say the red, white and blue of the France and the USA were influences.

    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    Friends and flags

     Among the readers of today's blog are residents of Bulgaria and India, places where I've made friends. I've not been to Bulgaria, though I've had several students from there, all smart, talented, fluent in English and hard-working. They've invited me to come. I'm fortunate to have visited SRM University in Chennai, and have friends there among faculty and students. You can see previous posts of mine, including video, by searching India on this blog. That was two years ago this March. Here's one link from my "India Journal" posts:
    The Indian flag, by law, is to be made of khadi, a special type of hand-spun cloth of cotton or silk made popular by Mahatma Gandhi. Saffron, white and green are the three bands, representing courage and sacrifice, peace and truth, and faith and chivalry respectively. In the center is the Ashok Chakra, a 24-spoke wheel representing righteousness, order and the eternal wheel of law.

    The Bulgarian flag has changed over the years, especially with the influence of the USSR, but it's now back to its basic three colors. It was first established at the end of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 when Bulgaria gained its independence. White is for peace and honesty.Red represents hardiness, bravery, strength and valor, and green,  hope, joy and love and in many cultures have a sacred significance.
    A note on the map. It is no longer Yugoslavia on Bulgaria's western border,  That area next to Bulgaria is now Serbia.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Stars, and stripes, south of the equator

     Among the readers of today's blog are citizens of Brazil and Thailand. I discovered that the flag of Brazil features stars representing each of the country's states. Sounds familiar does it? And in Thailand, on the other side of the world, the flag is red, white and blue stripes...red for the land and people, white for the  Buddhist religion, and blue for the monarchy.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    New flag from far away, and an old friend

     A surprise this morning...a new reader from far away in Kazakhstan, the 92nd on the roll of countries for Coffee with Clark. Little known here, the country is the largest landlocked country in the world, bigger than Western Europe, and only landlocked country int eh world to be in two continents, Europe and Asia. Part of the geography we were never taught, because it used to be part of the USSR.
    And this week, other readers returned from very close, yet sometimes very far away culturally for us gringos, Mexico.

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    And new, from Africa

    Another first. Today, a reader from Kenya, the 91st country recorded on my stat sheet of followers. The flag includes the Maasai warrior's shield.

    Similar flags, hemispheres apart

     Today's blog readers include the Polish and the Indonesians. I discovered their flags are  opposites, just like their hemispheres. Although you see the Polish coat of arms here, that is the official government flag. Elsewhere in the country it's just white over red. And in Indonesia....

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

    Flags and countries and blog readers

     Among the readers of this blog today have been residents of Israel and South Korea