New Jersey to Los Angeles and Back
A travelogue by Mark Leeper
Copyright 2003 Mark R. Leeper
05/27/03 New Jersey to Farmville, VA
05/28/03 Farmville VA to Charleston WV: Appomattox
05/29/03 Charleston WV to Lexington, KY
05/30/03 Lexington KY to Louisville KY: Frankfort and FINDING NEMO
05/31/03 Louisville, KY: The Speed Art Museum
06/01/03 Louisville, KY: Louisville Zoo
06/02/03 Louisville, KY: Science Center
06/03/03 Louisville, KY to Mammoth Cave: Fort Knox, Lincoln Cabin
06/04/03 Mammoth Cave to Paris, TN: the cave, Fort Donelson
06/05/03 Paris, TN to Russellville, AR
06/06/03 Russellville, AR to Oklahoma City
06/07/03 Oklahoma City: Oklahoma U
06/08/03 Oklahoma City, OK to Albuquerque, NM
06/09/03 Albuquerque, NM to Needles CA
06/10/03 Needles CA to Los Angeles, CA
06/11/03 Los Angeles: Autry Museum of Western Heritage
06/12/03 Los Angeles: Funeral
06/13/03 Los Angeles to Holbrook, AZ
06/14/03 Holbrook, AZ to Roswell, NM
06/15/03 Roswell, NM to Amarillo, TX: UFO Museum
06/16/03 Amarillo, TX to Oklahoma City
06/17/03 Oklahoma City: National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
06/18/03 Oklahoma City to Tulsa, OK: museums
06/19/03 Tulsa, OK: Woolaroc and Tom Mix Museum
06/20/03 Tulsa, OK area: museums, HULK
06/21/03 Tulsa, OK: Gilcrease Museum
06/22/03 Tulsa, OK to Joplin, MO
06/23/03 Joplin, MO to Springfield, MO
06/24/03 Springfield, MO to Memphis TN
06/25/03 West Memphis, AK to Nashville, TN
06/26/03 Nashville, TN to Cookeville, TN
06/27/03 Cookeville, TN to New Jersey
05/27/03 New Jersey to Farmville, VA
(Postscript: When this trip started the plan was to go no further west than Oklahoma City. For reasons that will become clear it became a trip twice across the country.)
We are sitting in a place called the Hard Times Cafe on King Street in Alexandria, Virginia. They have four kinds of chili served in a bunch of different configurations. I had Teralinga Chili over spaghetti. The restaurant has amusing Western decor and western music.
This will probably be a shorter trip log than my usual efforts since for reasons that I may explain later I have less spare time this trip.
It took me about four hours to drive down to Alexandria. I had first drive shift and we left home about 9 AM. Frequently we pass electronic signs over the road that said SECURITY ALERT... REPORT SUSPICIOUS TERRORIST ACTIVITY. I would hope people would report any terrorist activity, suspicious or not.
It is a gray and ugly day with occasional rain. Most days over the last three or four weeks have been gray and ugly. After lunch we get a lot more rain. We are not visiting a lot that is noteworthy. This afternoon we are driving to the Appomattox.
Evelyn drove in the afternoon. We listened to radio plays recorded off the radio and the PC. The BBC does seven new plays a week: a 45-minute play each weekday afternoon. Friday and Saturday evening they do 60-minute plays. These seven plays get put on the Internet for download shortly after they are aired and they remain there for seven days. Because they are high quality productions they are worth transferring to audio tape listening to at a later time. I have some stored up for the trip.
In addition BBC7, the BBC entertainment PC-radio channel frequently does Sherlock Holmes plays. We listened to these while I studied linear algebra. Why all this study? In April I was introduced to a world famous mathematician. This man has three times been awarded the Order of Lenin in Russia. He came to the US and was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Grant for his teaching of mathematics. He was impressed by my enthusiasm for mathematics and on our first meeting suggested I attend his seminar and let him train me to work on cutting-edge mathematics. He wants to train me to put me together with some problems that need solving. Along the way I get an outstanding education in mathematics gratis. We both benefit. But it takes a lot of work. I am studying from the book he wrote on Linear Algebra. It is very densely written and takes a lot of work. I have to read each chapter multiple times and to experiment using pencil and paper and using the matrix operations from my palmtop's spreadsheet. I must be enthusiastic about math to put in this much effort.
It is about 7 PM when we get to the Comfort Inn in Farmville, Virginia. We registered and went to La Parota the Mexican restaurant next door. The food was pretty poor for Mexican. Back at the room we watched MORROCO on TCM while I worked on my log. I went to sleep watching a film called LIFE OR SOMETHING LIKE IT that had a good cast but a very bad script.
Our major stop of the tomorrow will be Appomattox Courthouse. It was here, as any United States citizen should know, that the surrender was signed ending the great American Civil War. After the South had accounted for itself exceptionally well in the early years of the war, the overwhelming industrial might of the North made the difference in the end. Both the North and the South treat the site as one of great national melancholia. For the South it was the death of their dream of independence. For the North it represents the forcing of its will on the South to save the union. Neither seems to have much joy in spite of the fact that it represents the end of our county's worst and bloodiest nightmares.
They have restored and rebuilt the entire town of Appomattox Courthouse and we will be visiting it.
There is a lot of talk on the radio about the National Spelling Bee. Few intellectual accomplishments seem to get national attention. This one does. There is a new documentary on the subject and the real event is coming up. My question is what is it good for? If you are really good at spelling obscure words what have you accomplished? What do you do with the talent? Even if you were a proofreader you would not get such obscure words. So is just an appreciation of the noble art of spelling or is it valuable for something?
05/28/03 Farmville VA to Charleston WV: Appomattox
The toilet in our room does not flush. When we got the room there were signs that it had been worked on. The seat was up and there was a tissue in the bottom of the bowl that flushing would not remove. We should have done something at the time. I think the desk sold the room knowing that it had a plumbing problem. They also charged us for using the safe, which we didn't. I pointed this out and took it off the bill. "If you don't tell us, we don't know." I guess they charge first not knowing if they have a sale or not. They expect the customer to point it out. If they don't say we shouldn't keep the towels, I guess we don't know. (We didn't, of course. Lest you get the wrong idea.)
There was continental breakfast but no tables so we sat with a textbook dealer and talked for quite a while. From there it was on to Appomattox. We listened to a BBC play, a mystery.
Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park. It was in this area that the Army of Northern Virginia fought its last battles. Grant's strategy seemed at that point to be more one of cutting Lee's supply lines. On April 9 Lee's army was surrounded so he could not run and fighting was futile. Grant had offered Lee surrender one or two days before and Lee had refused but asked for terms. Now Lee sent word that rather than fight the next battle he was ready to surrender. He got terms from Grant that All his soldiers would get parole papers so they could prove they were not deserters or rascals. They also got to keep their horses for farm work. Lee did not offer Grant his sword as might be expected in a surrender and Grant did not ask for it. This was not the end of the war as some assume today. But at this point the smart money really knew which way to bet. There was still an army in Texas that fought on until June. Lee's surrender was not the end of the Civil War, but it was an important milestone.
The place that was chosen for the classic meeting between Lee and Grant was the home of Wilmer McLean whose previous home was at Bull Run, the first major battle of the war. It is an interesting coincidence. The original McLean home is no more, but there is a reconstruction of it and the whole town of Appomattox Courthouse. (That's a town, not a building. The county seat was frequently given the name "Courthouse" as in Spottsylvania Courthouse.)
"General this is deeply humiliating; but I console my self with the thought that the whole country will rejoice at this day's business." A Confederate soldier said this during surrender ceremonies on April 12, three days after Lee's surrender.
Incidentally the Civil War was only a war from the Southern viewpoint. War is a conflict between sovereign powers. The north did not call the Confederate government sovereign. It was actually a 48-month rebellion from their POV.
The visitor center had two slide shows. One was done with watercolor art. I thought it was quite effective in discussing the emotional impact of the surrender on both armies. It uses music familiar from television and low-budget films. There is a music library that filmmakers can use to get free music appropriate for their films. That was probably where they got the music for this slideshow. Some of the music sounded like the jazz score from a 60s detective show.
The second slide show used photos and a few paintings and told the story of what led up to the surrender and what followed.
In edition to the exhibit there are talks by people dressed as Civil War soldiers. His talk was aimed at the numerous schoolchildren we were visiting on field trips. The talk is done as if it was 1865, and great care is taken to remind the visitors not to spoil the illusion.
Lunch was fried chicken at Jumbo Family Restaurant, a place we found on the road. For an appetizer I tried the oyster stew, a delicacy I like and one can rarely find.
A road winding among hills took us toward West Virginia, our next destination. We decide to take the scenic route to Charleston. It is called the Midland Trail. It takes you through a lot of little towns in the hills. Pass 20 buildings and one of them is probably a church. There are churches everywhere. There are churches made from old Quonset huts. Religion is the area's biggest growth industry. When you are not going past a town you are on a road dug from the side of a mountain. One side of the road is dirt or rock. Sometimes both sides. Houses 20 feet back from road are 20 feet higher. There are more falling rock zones than beer bottles by the side of the road.
The long twisty road goes by a restaurant called Biscuit World. We get stuck on the on two-lane road following a slow log truck. Where do these people get sushi? We are passing Hawk's Nest State Park.
As we get closer to Charleston we get closer to the Kanawha River. I guess this is a big industrial area. We pass factories with huge piles of coal. We pass metal bridges across the water with giant cranes. This is the future that H. G. Wells envisioned, but he saw it as a good thing. I wonder what he would have thought of the reality.
In 1953 my father went to work for Monsanto. They sent him to live at Nitro, West Virginia. The name makes the place sound more pleasant than it was. We lived in Charleston. We stayed until 1955 when Dad was transferred to Dayton, Ohio. I went to kindergarten in Charleston. Actually I have a lot of memories considering how young I was.
Getting to Charleston itself was something of a shock. We had picked out a motel on the main street of state capitol. However when we got to the street we found it a run down area that did not look safe. The people walking on the street look more dangerous than prosperous. There were lots of closed storefronts. We decided we didn't want to stay there. Instead we found a Motel 6 outside of town that seemed safer. Charleston looks like the kind of place that built its economy on coal and coal failed. It may be worse off than Detroit.
At the motel we worked on logs and watched a documentary about who killed Julius Caesar.
05/29/03 Charleston WV to Lexington, KY
Another rainy day.
We went to Bob Evans for breakfast. I had a strange combination of biscuit, gravy, egg, cheese, and a little minced sausage.
I lived from 1953 to 1955 in two houses, one on Laurel, one on Chappell Road. We had a hard time finding the houses and had to go many miles for what should have been a short distance.
A Hardees ad on a billboard shows a big breaded chicken sandwich and says, "size does matter." I think this little piece of gratuitous vulgarity would have been more amusing if it was note an idea that has been used so many times in the past. For example the American film GODZILLA used the same phrase as its tagline. The repetition of this unfunny joke in advertising over and over just shows the lack of wit and creativity we have today.
I did not remember our first Charleston house was on such a steep road. It was almost like being in a ravine next to the road. We parked at the corner and walked back to the house. We stood there on the other side of the street looking at it. I saw a Venetian blind move as someone was looking out. A woman came out of the house and asked if anything was wrong. No, I had lived in that house from 1953 to 1954. I learned to read in that house. I told her that there was like a den on the left and a living room on the right and stairs right near the front door. The current owner was Pam and she was quite friendly. We talked for about 15 or 20 minutes, all the time standing about 20 feet above her head on the road. Then we thanked her and left.
Getting to the second house we lived in was a bit of a mess. There was a large detour just at the head of Chappell Street. We had to go eleven streets down and back to find a place to cross the railroad tracks. Then to my surprise the street has become gentrified. That is a rather fancy street.
827 Chappell Road actually looks rather nice these days. I could not see the house very well but the hill is all forested in with stone steps going up. It was a little hard to see the house, now painted a dark brown. My father had told me the street number was 2807, but that was a house in Dayton, Ohio. The whole street looks a bit ritzy now but our old house looks about the nicest on the street with all the trees.
We stopped in Nitro but Monsanto does not seem to be there any more. Lunch was in Grayson at a Shoney. I had a hamburger and onion rings. I had asked for it rare but state law says it has to be well done.
In the car I studied linear algebra and reducing quadratic forms to diagonalized matrices by changing bases. Maybe some reader will know what that means.
Our next stop was to be Lexington, Kentucky. Evelyn had suggested the Mary Todd Lincoln House. I guess it has historical significance, but it sounds like a bunch of settees. I looked at the choice and suggested instead the Lexington Museum of Aviation on the grounds of the airport. They had a guide to take us around; Don Sproule and Richard Smith joined us on his first day as a guide. They took us around the small air museum and told us stories. Then they left us to see the museum, but Richard made a few more comments. Evelyn mentioned science fiction and Richard mentions he was a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, sort of the writers' guild. That was all he had to say.
After about 20 minutes I pulled away to look at the museum and take some pictures. Then I rejoined the conversation. The museum is not very big as these things go, but they have some interesting planes and other mementos on the floor.
Meanwhile Don got us some information on how to find a UPS office. (We had brought a package from home that we needed to send by UPS. I won't go into it.) Anyway they had been very nice to us and we have a lot of interests in common with each but especially Richard.
After the museum, we went to Mailboxes Inc. Then we got a room at Red Roof Inn. On TV they had 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD, a favorite of Evelyn's.
Dinner was at Planet Thai. Squid soup and Tofu Drunken Noodle. The food was decent but not as flavorful as we are used to at home.
At the room I did some math, worked on the log, took a shower. For background I put on SPIDER MAN. This is the first time I saw it since the theater. It is not as good as I remembered, I think.
05/30/03 Lexington KY to Louisville KY: Frankfort and FINDING NEMO
We were on the road about 8 and stopped at a Waffle House in Frankfort for breakfast. From there we wanted to go to the Kentucky Military Museum. When we got there we found they open at 10 AM rather than at 8 AM as the AAA book said. We reversed the order of sites.
The Kentucky State Capitol building was completed in 1910. It most striking feature is a huge dome modeled on Napoleon's Tomb. Under the dome is a rotunda. In the rotunda room are five statues. In the center is Lincoln, who was born in Kentucky. There is a statue to Jefferson Davis, also born in the state. There is a statue to Henry Clay. The other two are statues of Ethan Barkley and Ephraim McDowell. The former was Truman's second vice-President; the final was a pioneer of gynecological surgery. In 1809 he performed a famous operation removing a 22-pound ovarian cyst. It seems an odd distinction to have a statue in the state capitol, but there you are.
There is also a display of dolls dressed as each of the first ladies was during the inauguration balls. The faces are all the same on the dolls but the hair and eye color match those of the first ladies. The art on the walls seems to feature a lot of frontiersmen like old Dan'l Boone.
They took us to a reception room with a large marble table. The room is modeled after Marie Antoinette's reception room at Versailles.
The tour does not include the executive offices but does include the judicial and the legislative. You go into the state Supreme Court and both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
From there we returned to the Kentucky Military Museum, now open. They seem to have artifacts from wars that Kentuckians fought in. They start with the assault on Derna in Tripoli and go through to the Gulf War. The artifacts are the usual. There are guns, uniforms, war posters, canteens, that sort of thing. The Civil War uniforms had those little caps with the tiny brim. It always irritates me when I see them. The soldiers used to call the caps "sunburners" because the caps offered no protection from the sun's rays. The caps were designed purely for style, as far as I can tell. The fact that they were a stupid dysfunctional design bothered nobody but the people who had to use them and they didn't get a vote. I find that some corporations have that same attitude. That was what made it nice working for Bell Labs in the late 70s. Later they lost the will to worry a lot about the staff.
The uniforms tend to be small indicative of a smaller people. Evelyn noted that the displays of later wars were smaller and the woman at the desk gave a very strange explanation. She said that they had a lot more to display for these wars, but veterans would see it and lose control of themselves and do things like kicking in the glass. Seriously. I don't know why that should be more a problem here than in other museums that have bigger collections. In the upstairs they have a display of military guns from several different countries.
From there we drove to Louisville. The motel we pieced is from a chain called Signature Inns. I had not heard of them before but they charge about what the other chains charge and have much better rooms. They have a lot of nice details. The rooms have refrigerators and microwaves. The clocks have two-inch high digits. They have put in a lot of up front investment, but it is a chain I will want to stay at again.
It was now a little late to do any of the daylong activities we had planned for Louisville so we decided to go see...
CAPSULE: A timid tropical fish earns his stripes when he goes on a quest to rescue his son. Pixar animation's new feature is certainly an audience-pleaser, but for once their new feature is not clearly better than their previous work. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)
Pixar Incorporated, the computer animation company that partners with Disney generally manages to make each new film they make better than their previous effort. It is a faint criticism, but FINDING NEMO is probably no better than being just on a par with MONSTERS, INC. The animation is fine, at times spectacular. Much of the humor is just puns with sea-related words and small allusions to films and filmmaking. For example a shark is given the name of a famous prop shark used in another film.
As the story opens Marlin, a clownfish voiced by Albert Brooks and his mate are expecting hundreds of their eggs to hatch soon. In a moment's tragedy Marlin loses mate and eggs. Only one egg is left. Sometime later Marlin is a single parent of a single teenager-like offspring. Marlin has become extremely risk-adverse--terrified that something will happen to little Nemo. Then Nemo is captured for an aquarium in a dentist's office. Marlin begins the long odyssey to find his son and return him home. Along the way he picks up a traveling companion, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). Together they face the dangers of the sea to travel from the Great Barrier Reef to a dentist's office in Sydney and perform an apparently impossible rescue. The writers seem to have thought of all the ways a fish might possibly die and have put them into the story. Still this is a moving father and son relationship, and one in which for once Disney does not automatically assume that father knows best. The script develops many characters of different types, with voices by actors including Willem Dafoe and Austin Pendelton. Thomas Newman provides the score.
Younger children may be disturbed by scenes of violence against fish and a number of rather fierce and ugly-looking fish, including three sharks ambivalent about eating other fish.
While not Pixar's best effort it still beats any Disney animated film through 1960 and probably a good deal later. I rate it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. The film is shown with an older but still enjoyable Pixar short, KNICK KNACK. Also the end credits have some humorous animation.
Buckhead Mountain Grill has a unique upscale style. The idea is that it is the kind of food you would get in a mountain lodge for people who have been hiking all day. The dishes are big and high in fat and calories. That's great food if you have been hiking all day. If you have been sitting in a movie theater it isn't really well-suited to your lifestyle. Very filling. I had some sort of turkey on bread with mornay sauce bacon and tomato slices.
Back at the room I worked on the logs. The evening movie was ROMANCING THE STONE then we went to bed.
05/31/03 Louisville, KY: The Speed Art Museum
I have been a little behind in my homework so while Evelyn was getting up I put in an hour or so. First stop is the continental breakfast provided by the motel. I thought they had a much better than average selection. They had biscuits and gravy. You could make waffles. They also had the usual stuff like bagels, muffins, etc.
The Speed Art Museum is at the University of Louisville. That is our site of the day. It is an extensive art museum with three floors. As you come in you are quickly seeing works by artists like Gutzon Borglum and even Picasso. Brancusi has a head that looks like it is from a stylized robot.
There is one room in the style of the English Renaissance. Actually this room was a little dark to see some of the nice carving. The wood is carved with the name of James I. Across the way there is a gallery with French tapestries.
One of the humorous pieces was Les Demoiselles d'Avignon vues Derriere. Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon as a painting of nude women. This artist used the same style to do a somewhat vulgar rear view.
I admit to having some disinterest in the glass exhibit. Glass is just not a great interest of mine. Surprisingly the most interesting piece of the day was a piece of glass art. Cube in Sphere is misnamed. It is more like a crystal ball with a square prism going through the center. However it is very science fictional. Bubbles left in the glass look like galaxies. The prism is like a passageway through a galaxy. As you look at the prism from different angles it seems to change shape.
In the ancient art section they had an ibis-like representation of Thoth, the god of writing and calculations. I presume that they had their share of geniuses who did their accounting. They probably paid their homage to this god under the assumption that it is not their gift but the Thoth that counts.
They don't necessarily have a lot of these artists but representative pieces from Chagall, Seurat, Gauguin, Rembrandt, and Cezanne. The Rembrandt cost a million dollars that the museum could not afford. Instead they asked to people of Kentucky to contribute the money to buy the painting. They did through contributions from all over the state.
At 2 PM there was to be a tour of the museum. We finished our own tour at about 1:40 and wrote until 2 PM. We were the only visitors who showed up for the tour so docent Anita Smiley gave us a private tour. She asked us what we wanted to see. I suggested she show us her favorite pieces. So she started taking us around.
I think Anita was surprised how much we already knew about the paintings from our own walk around. We also seemed to know a great deal about both the paintings and the artists. We seemed to know more about Othello and Shakespeare than she knew. This surprised her. At one point she asked us if we were English professors.
We saw some glass pieces, a Reubens, the Rembrandt, and a lot of religious art. She liked winter river scenes.
From there we drove to Bardstown Road for dinner and to visit some bookstores. Rifad's Kebab advertised Bosnian food. We had cevapcici (a lot like gyros) the first time since we were in Kosovo, Bosnia. We also got kabob and the sampler plate. Then we went to bookstores.
Back at the room we watched the film TIME MACHINE. This is the recent film with Guy Pierce. I think Evelyn found it better than she expected, but the second half really is not very good. At this writing we are watching a history of Russia in the History Channel.
I went to bed listening and must have fallen asleep just about the time Tsar Nicholas ascended the throne. He inherited the throne from Alexander II who was assassinated by a revolutionary. He did not see the writing on the wall. In fact he cracked down on the liberal reforms of Alexander II. Good luck.
06/01/03 Louisville, KY: Louisville Zoo
I woke up about 5 AM and will use the time to study.
I got in about 75 minutes. Breakfast was again provided by the motel and was good. Then we headed out for the Louisville Zoo. The admission is $8.95. I am incredibly impressed that it is not a full $9. I mean you give them $9 and they give you a whole nickel back. A whole valuable nickel. Oh boy. I feel so good that the high order digit of the price is not a full 9. It's nice to feel they respect my intelligence.
We see a building with a serval pacing his enclosure. There are about ten windowed cells with tarantulas. About a third of the cells either don't have their residents or they are too well hidden.
They pen an African and Asian elephant in together. That is unusual. At 11 AM they exercise the elephants. They have Punch weighing in at six tons and Mickey about five. They have to exercise the elephants to keep them healthy and they turn it into a circus-like show.
I don't think I had ever seen meercats alive. Meercats' most endearing attribute seems to be their posture of alertness. Anything happens near them and one or two will rear up on his haunches and look around with that towering extra six inches of height. And they do not seem to fear humans.
You cannot see much of the naked mole rats. They are in dark little passageways. I think they have been popularized by the documentary FAST, CHEAP, AND OUT OF CONTROL. Now they have people anxious to see the mammals with an insect-like social structure.
They put a lot of hype into their gorillas. They turn it into a whole large compound they call Gorilla Country. You walk on a long path to get to gorillas. I guess they are really giving you a buildup. Finally you get to their enclosure and the gorillas seemed unhappy to see us. They were mostly sleeping and look like they have given in to ennui.
There is a pool with glass windows for the polar bear. He swims in small circles underwater right at the visitors staring at him through the glass. He stops just short of the glass breaching, sticking his head above water, swimming back above the water, and diving to repeat.
Otters and sea lions seem to have very similar routines. I wonder if it comes naturally or if they were trained.
For me a zoo is always a sort of guilty pleasure. I do enjoy seeing the diversity of animal life. But I am someone who bores very easily and hates boredom. I think a zoo is a mechanism to transfer boredom from humans to animals and I feel a little guilty about that. I cannot help myself. Whenever I visit a zoo I start looking at the size of enclosures and I compare them in my mind with what living in the wild offered these animals.
Animals are a little less bothered by boredom than humans are, I think. If I remember Elizabeth Marshall Thomas in THE HIDDEN LIFE OF DOGS concludes that what dogs really want from life is just to be in each other's presence. They want to be surrounded by their loved ones. Humans want more. Language has given us higher aspirations and better things to do with our minds and our lives. I would like to think that boredom is more of a problem with humans than with animals. But zoos are factories of boredom for animals. They are incarcerated in pens and condemned to routine and an easy diet. This must be agonizing for them.
There are probably other reasons why our prisons are hellholes but one of the reasons is that when a prison is running ideally they are also boredom factories and humans cannot stand boredom. Animals may have a little higher capacity for boredom I believe, but zoos are just not designed to intellectually challenge animals and that must take its toll.
We saw in the gorilla enclosure the gorillas were just sitting around trying to sleep to pass the time. The awake ones would look listlessly at the spectators, but there is not much in the cells to interest the gorillas and the wall of glass reduces the spectators to just images of tangential relevance to gorilla life. These gorillas seem to have lost their fight with lassitude.
Is this unpleasant for the gorillas? I think apes have minds similar to our own including perhaps a sort of common decency not all that different from our own. People were astounded when at the Chicago Zoo a visitor accidentally and somewhat carelessly dropped her baby into the gorilla pen. In what is now a famous incident a female gorilla reacted by gently picking up the baby, cradling it in her arms, and taking it to the access door to wait for a human to come in and pick up the baby. I think most people would consider this an action of common decency. But we generally apply that word "common" only to humans and not to other apes. Apparently it is decency common to both humans and gorillas. I firmly believe that when you deal with a gorilla you are dealing with a being whose differences are perhaps in part from what we judge is a lower intellectual capacity, but also and perhaps more from a cultural difference. A gorilla seems to be a reasoning being with intelligence not far from our own.
It may sound like I am over-anthropomorphizing gorillas. But I think that science is coming out of the period when it refused to use similarity of some animal minds and human minds to understand animal behavior. Where we can apply the similarity it is probably the best tool we have for understanding animal behavior. Certainly it must be very applicable to ape behavior. Put an animal into an enclosure and give him the same easy routine from one day to the next and the reaction is lassitude or challenging the system with bad behavior. The same is probably true in prisons. For me the answer to this is to give myself opportunities to use my mind. That is probably not as easy to do for zoo animals. So zoos become prisons for animals.
Back to room after the zoo and I did math while I put a Western on the television for background. It is tough for me to read with the TV on, but math it is much less of a problem.
CROSSFIRE TRAIL is a Louis L'amour Western novel adapted into a film for TNT. It starts of some interest with a what's-going-on sort of plot but falls into cliches and builds to a standard gunfight shootout. It starred Tom Selleck. Evelyn watched a little and napped.
Dinner was at a Mexican restaurant, Ernesto's. There seem to be a lot of Mexican restaurants in the area. The food is more Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican.
In the evening I watched EVIL NEVER DIES. This is a made for TBS movie, but it at base is really very much the kind of film Boris Karloff made Columbia to trade off his Frankenstein fame. A murderer is brought back from the dead by a science experiment. He continues his murder spree while the husband of one of his victims tries to track him down. The setup is SF horror but the film builds to the same tired stalker crime film ending we have seen too many times before.
06/02/03 Louisville, KY: Science Center
We may have better weather from this time forward. I think that the East Coast is still having rain, but yesterday was nice all day and today seems to be starting well.
The following section can be skipped if you have no idea what I am talking about. The bathroom floor has a very interesting tile pattern. The repeating pattern is a large white square placed contiguous to a small black square placed side by side so that the two bases are collinear and intersecting in one point. There are three classes of tessellation of a plane: triangular, rectangular, and hexagonal. To get to any tessellation you can start with one of these three grids and linearly stretch it. You can then modify one edge if you make the complimentary modification on the edge that will fit into it. It was finding pictures you could fit to these constraints that M. C. Escher used as the basis for some of his most interesting pieces of artwork. The two squares give you a hexagonal tessellation. Three of the pieces come together at each vertex. The module of the two squares looks like it has six sides, but it does not have three modules coming together at the 270-degree angle vertex. Instead what you do is take the convex closure of the module. This adds a triangle to the figure, so the complementary triangle has to be removed from the opposite corner. This leaves us with a six-sided figure with opposite sides of the same length and parallel so this is a hexagon it is easy to see can be used to tessellate the plane.
Our destination today is the Louisville Science Center, the local science museum and IMAX theater. Somehow science museums seem to get IMAX theaters.
It turned out this was a good day to come. It was the first weekday after school ended. That meant that the museum was nearly empty at least in the first few hours.
The museum's biggest attraction is a temporary traveling exhibit. This was the first museum it has visited and it came here only about a week ago. It is brand new. So what is it? It is motorized mock-ups of dinosaurs. That is not new, of course. But these seem to use a sort of AI so that they react to people. I guess it is the sort of technology they put into Furby dolls. You come up to a velociraptor and it looks directly at you and snarls. It threatens you with its claws. After a moment or so it loses interest and looks at something else. But it is not in some sort of simple cycle of actions. The movements are fairly natural, but they still have some woggle. That is that when you stop a moving part there is a little bit of back and forth motion as it stops. This is what mimes use when they want to look like they are mechanical dolls.
There are about ten of these motion dinosaurs including Oviraptor, gallimimus, velociraptor, and t-rex. There is an edmontisaurus, but it lies on the ground and looks dead without moving. You don't need motors to look dead. A side room has an apatosaurus and a triceratops.
We went to a space station show that was just the two of us and the docent, a nice woman from Venezuela. It was mostly watching a NASA broadcast about the space station.
We had gotten tickets for the IMAX show T-REX. It started at 11 AM. It was sort of a fantasy where a young woman imagines herself at places where there were paleontologists and also back into the time of the dinosaurs. Even ignoring the fantasy elements the science was bad. The woman is trying to prove that dinosaurs had nesting behavior. They keep misstating it, however. She insists that the dinosaurs laid eggs and her paleontologist father is skeptical. Of course dinosaurs laid eggs. They were reptiles. The question is how much they tended those eggs. Also the film implies that a famous fossil hunter paleontologist knew more about Tyrannosaurus than do current paleontologists. He might know about fossil hunting but it is not like he's lived among the Tyrannosaurs.
The museum has some decent exhibits on biology and chemistry. One takes the visitor through some of exhibits of parts of the body and compares them to non-biological devices.
Visitors to science museums seem to have two kinds of problems. One is kids and the other is the destruction kids leave behind. If an exhibit is interesting it better also be durable. Parents seem to let their children use museums like playgrounds. Many of the exhibits simply do not work at this museum.
There was a decent exhibit showing the stages of development of embryos. Outside there is a sign out front warning parents that it contains mature material. Apparently they don't want to educate children without their parents permission.
There was a display of puzzles and problems. A computer would let you choose from three levels of problem. I chose the most difficult and found them not much of a problem. I guess I am geared for math.
We got done about 4 PM. We went to Mark's Feed Store, a chain of BBQ restaurants. I liked the food but the portion of ribs was small. They had a delicacy called fried corn on the cob. Evelyn liked it, though I tried a bite and did not think it was too different from traditional boiled corn on the cob.
Evelyn wanted to go to a used bookstore she knew of. I ended up getting three books, two war books and a book about Ancient Egyptian Mythology.
In the room I studied and watched two documentaries. One was a replay of the history of Russia under the Tsars (which we recorded a few days before) and one was a documentary about the story of the defense of Wake Island in December 1941.
06/03/03 Louisville, KY to Mammoth Cave: Fort Knox, Lincoln Cabin
We still have not shaken the rainy weather. We have a gray and drizzly morning.
As we drive we hear the music from the film HARLAN COUNTY, USA. This film was made in 1977. It is about a strike that took place right here in Kentucky. Somehow from the Spanish Civil War to the anti-war and civil rights protests of the 60s to these mine strikes part of the form of protest was eloquent songs. That seems to have passed by the wayside. Today it's "W. Bush has got to go. Hay-hay. Ho-ho." People like Woody Guthrie used to send a message to the people. This sends a message too, but it is a form letter.
At Fort Knox they inspected our car on entering the base. This was the most thorough inspection I have seen. They looked under the car, at the engine, in the gas tank, at the trunk, at IDs. (I have only an out of date passport.)
We parked and walked through the wet mist to the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor. This is a museum of the military and has a large collection of tanks to see. It is half a museum of war and weapons and half a museum of Patton himself.
Enter the museum and the first thing you see is the International Commanders Wall, which honors five commanders:
Rommel, Abrams (for the Battle of Bulge), Patton, Israel Tal (For the Six-day War) and Moshe Peled (Te Yom Kippur War and "the road to Damascus"). It is one German, two Americans, and two Israelis. Germany has been around since ancient times. America since 1776, and Israel since 1947. I think that says something about life in the Middle East. The board honors "innovative armor tactics and boldness."
The War in the Ancient World display is of special interest, but I guess anything about the ancient world is.
They have an alcove with a documentary on the history of the US cavalry armor and armored warfare. It was a little hard to hear, mostly because there were groups going around and talking. Most were in camouflage uniform. But I will say I would love to eavesdrop on conversations. They are talking about military history.
As you would expect there is a (large) collection of artifacts, many of which are themselves large. They are in the usual chronological order. There are guns, tanks, and a diorama here and there. I was impressed to see a British Mark V "rhomboid" tanks with the tread running over the top. Actually the name is a malapropos. The shape is a parallelogram, but not a rhombus.
You can compare American and Japanese light tanks for jungle warfare.
Not really in keeping with the rest of the museum, but where else would they put it: They have the model of Fort Knox from the film GOLDFINGER. The producers donated it to the museum.
I asked one of the uniformed men what distinguishes a tank from other armed and armored vehicles. The soldier could not be definitive but usage seems to be part of it. It is not for transport but it is a weapon.
The museum has a big collection, but I think Aberdeen Military Proving Grounds has more, but this is still a big museum.
They have a two-hour A&E Biography of Patton they run at the museum and we watched the entire thing. It is interesting that the man restrained and punished by his command in life and now he is highly honored by the same military. He killed or injured more than a half million Germans in war and he liberated a territory the size of France.
After that we headed out on 31W. From the road you can see the Fort Knox Depository. We stopped at J-Boys for lunch and had over-tenderized steaks. But they did a good job on the baked potato.
After lunch I studied some projective geometry while we drove to Lincoln's birthplace.
Some thoughts on Lincoln. It took a long time for Lincoln to get much respect and I suspect if he had not been assassinated he might never have gotten the special treatment that he had. In his own time a President he was called a "first class second class man." He certainly had some stern critics while he was in office and just a few months before the 1864 election it seemed absurd to think that he would get a second term. Yet he did preserve the Union. It is hard to predict what will be the verdict of history.
This is a National Monument smaller than most where the log cabin he was born into is preserved.
Well, they think this is roughly the place where his cabin was and this may or may not be his cabin. I guess it just takes some faith. You see an overripe film about Lincoln, the Kentucky years. Burgess Meredith narrates the film. Lincoln's accomplishments were small during the Kentucky years. He moved to Indiana at age seven. But they have a sort of Greek Temple at the top of 56 steps, one for each year of his life. Inside the building is the cabin. It is odd to go into a building to stand outside another building. The cabin is 16' by 18' and made of notched logs with clay to fill the chinks. Outside you also see a spring that he drank from.
We pass a sign for the American Cave Museum. I guess they have caves from all over the country. Over 100 exotic holes brought together in one building.
We get to Mammoth Cave Visitor Center and go in. You have to make reservations for tours. We look at the various tours available and after some farbling pick the Historic Cave Tour. We purchased tickets.
We saw a couple short films in the auditorium. On the way out we stopped at the bookstore and saw they had several books about Floyd Collins. Who is Floyd Collins? I learned about him from a Billy Wilder film called ACE IN THE HOLE (on TV: THE BIG CARNIVAL). Collins made national news when he became trapped in a cave by a cave-in. Efforts were made to rescue him and the story got national news coverage. Under the eyes of the country a huge project was mounted to rescue him. But the efforts took too long and Collins's dead body was all that was retrieved. There was a great national frustration after the death was revealed.
The site was very near Mammoth Cave. On the way out we stopped at Collins's grave and walked a 1/10th-mile trail to the mouth of Sand Cave, the cave that Collins was exploring. He was trapped by the cave-in on Friday, January 30, 1925. His body was reached Monday, February 16.
So we saw his grave and the cave. We also saw a wild turkey crossing the road. (PS Actually they are quite common here, I think. This would not be our last.)
We checked into the local Comfort Inn and went to dinner at a pretty bad place called Country Kitchen. Then we returned to the room to watch GOLDFINGER, set at Fort Knox.
06/04/03 Mammoth Cave to Paris, TN: the cave, Fort Donelson
We are staying in a town called Cave City, a satellite of Mammoth Caves. It is very quiet. We are into the first part of the tourist season and there are very few tourists. Part of this may be that people are not traveling because of SARS and terrorism and part may be that the caves are not attracting a lot of people. It may just be early, but the place looks dismal. We are told that there will be a lot more people here in a week or so.
Speaking of dismal it is yet another drizzly morning. We just cannot shake this rain.
The news this morning says that a ball player Sammy Sosa was caught cheating, using a corked bat. I was just reading this morning, minutes earlier, about Jason Blair, the New York Times reporter who was caught inventing material, plagiarizing and outright lying. It looks like Martha Stewart is going to be indicted for insider trading. Of course we had several companies prosecuted for all sorts of illegal practices to essentially steal the value of the company from the stockholders. An officemate I had at Bell Labs was just out of school. He told me that of course he cheated in school. School is so tough these days that you really are forced to cheat. You'd be stupid not to cheat. I told him I'd rather be stupid. Somehow there seems to be a generation that was raised with a widespread disregard for ethics and values. Gordon Gecko told them that greed is good. It is not a good sign for the coming years.
Breakfast at the Comfort Inn was not very good. I had cereal, a Hostess roll, and juice.
Our Mammoth Cave tour is at 9:30 but we arrived closer to 8. At this writing we are waiting in the car.
At 9:30 the tour started. You walk down a hill to the cave entrance. Most of the chambers are really very big as caverns go. The grounds here are very porous. That means that a lot of water at one time came rushing through. Interesting deposits are the results of slow drips and there aren't many of those here. Instead the waters have drilled out the longest cavern ever discovered but the wall is just plain rock. No stalactites or stalagmites (or few anyway). No boxwork. But there are some pretty big chambers. Generally the walking is comfortable, though there is a place where the passage is very narrow up to waste high (Fat Man's Misery) and a place you have to duck fairly low (Tall Man's Misery). These two areas come right in succession followed by an area call Relief. Then you climb up about a height of four stories.
The caverns were a saltpeter mine providing gunpowder for the War of 1812. When that war ended the caves became a tourist attraction and have remained so. For a while the cavern was used as a church. People would dress up in their Sunday best.
The cave tour lasted about two hours. It had to be cut short because the lights went out and we had to be guided out by flashlight.
After that we drove to Tennessee and a civil war site, Fort Donelson.
It was ten months into the Civil War and the South had won all the major victories. Lincoln was frustrated. Brig General Ulysses S. Grant wanted to control two parallel rivers in Tennessee, the Tennessee and the Cumberland. Each was guarded by a fort, Henry and Donelson respectively. Grant needed the rivers for supply. He was to use the four ironclads under the command of Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. Grant would have the ironclads deliver his men to the area. The ironclads would continue to Forth Henry and soften the fort. He would then have his men take the fort. He would repeat this strategy with Donelson. At Fort Henry things went better than planned. The strategy worked better than planned at Fort Henry. The gunboats beat the fort into submission by themselves. Fort Henry was capture on Thursday, February 6, 1862.
With the first surrender under his belt Grant marched his men about 25 miles east toward Fort Donelson. Foote's gunboats took the water route going north and then returning south on the Cumberland. Further luck gave Grant unseasonably mild weather for the march. Grants men waited near Fort Donelson as the gunboats besieged the fort. But things did not go as well this time for Grant. The weather tuned cold and icy. Gunfire from the fort disabled the gunboats.
The Confederate troops knew they had to attack Grant since each day he got reinforcements he got stronger and they got weaker. They attacked and were winning but confusion in their ranks robbed them of victory and Grant got the upper hand and captured the fort. This was the first great victory of the northern army in the war and it resounded through the Union states. Grant had ordered unconditional surrender from General Buckner, who was left in command of Fort Donelson. Buckner considered it unchivalrous of Grant considering that Grant was a personal friend whom he had helped financially the previous decade. The friendship was renewed in the reasonable surrender terms and Grand even offered Buckner money to help Buckner out of personal financial problems.
There is a visitor center at Fort Donelson where we saw some exhibits and a slide show. Then we drove around their tour of the battlefield.
From there we continued to Paris, Tennessee and got a room at the Super 8. We had dinner at a restaurant called the Family Table. The food was pretty bad. We stopped into a store afterward. The guy in front of us in line made some comment about Bill Clinton and looked at me sideways to see how I would react. I ignored him. I think he and I are both pleased he will get the results of what George W. Bush is doing with the economy.
Projective Geometry and CRIMES AND MISDEMENORS.
I should say something about CRIMES AND MISDEMENORS. I think it is Woody Allen's only really great film. It basically says that the conventions of film drama are wrong. There is no force that rights wrongs. Things in the real world just happen. Virtue is not rewarded. Sin is not punished. Getting rewards is rewarded. And frequently it is not the people who are the most virtuous who get the rewards.
My personal belief is that it is probably better that that is true. I sort of hope that there is no heaven. If heaven exists, then virtue is a mockery. Virtue would not exist. There would only be this scramble for better seats in the next life. True virtue is what one does with no hope of reward. Period. Not what one does in the belief of reward in the next life. The existence of heaven reduces us to rats running a maze not because we believe it is the right thing to do but because there is a food pellet at the end.
This has not been our favorite place to say. The TV cable signal keeps fading out and when it does it makes a sound like a band saw cutting through wood.
06/05/03 Paris, TN to Russellville, AR
Today may be a short diary entry. We are not seeing a lot and I did the morning's driving. I started with a minor victory. Yesterday Evelyn read an article about Jules Verne's character Nemo. The article said that Thomas Mitchell had played the role at one time. Evelyn was not sure who he was. I knew she would recognize the actor if I could tell her a famous role but at the time none came to mind. It was a mental block. This morning I reminded her of the incident and she still was not sure. I said his most famous line was probably, "Why Katie Scarlett O'Hara, do you mean the land means nothing to you???" That did it. By the way, the same article had an expert who had written a book about Nemo saying he had been a fan of the character since he saw Vincent Price play him in MASTER OF THE WORLD. Nemo was not in MASTER OF THE WORLD. That was another character whom Verne called Robur. Admittedly the character as played by Price seemed to be based as much on Nemo as on Robur.
Breakfast was at the motel, but very minimalist. A bowl of cereal and a powered mini-doughnut. I heated the doughnut in the microwave and some of the grease leached out. I am sure it still was just as unhealthy. The nice thing about calories in food is that they are dependable. If you store food you can destroy the vitamins. You can kill the nutrition. You can kill crispiness and the appeal. The green leafies can wilt. It can sog up. But the calories will not go away. Those stick around forever.
We crossed into Missouri and at this writing we are in Arkansas. We are driving two-lane blacktop through farmland and towns with names like "Oil Trough."
Eventually we are into the hill country and go to the Ozark Folk Center. The choice in this area seems to be that or the local caverns and we just did caverns yesterday. We discovered on getting to the folk center that neither of us was really all that keen on going to the folk center itself. Oh, it would have been of some interest, but not really at the price. The restaurant was recommended in the Triple-A guide so we ate there. It was inexpensive, and the decoration was at least decent. The food was inexpensive, though not great. I ordered chicken and dumplings, which should have been called "dumplings and dumplings with chicken sauce."
A lot more driving over Arkansas hills in the afternoon. At least it isn't raining. It was clear in the morning and gray in the afternoon. The Ozarks has some hills, but they are fairly low. We see a lot of farms. Most of the afternoon is on two-lane blacktop.
Eventually we pull into Russellville.
The evening was spent watching SHANE and doing various sundries.
06/06/03 Russellville, AR to Oklahoma City
A car alarm went off at 4:46 and continued for about 15 minutes. I think that it should be a law that if you car alarm goes off and disturbs people the burden or proof is on the owner to show that someone really tried to break into his car. If he cannot do that he should be prosecuted for turning in a false report and for disturbing the peace.
Of course I am the kind of person who gets one wake-up a night. That is all I have been allotted. At 4:46 AM I got my allotted wake up and I am up for the day.
I was still awake at 7 when the alarm went off again. We had breakfast at the motel. Every motel but one has provided breakfast. On the road about 8.
There is a lot of roadwork being done. We would get squeezed to one lane for ten miles at a time. Get off of one and the next roadwork was in sight down the road. But we were not driving too much further when we got to Oklahoma.
The rain keeps coming and going. The road is straight. I am (was) doing more adjusting the wipers more frequently than the steering wheel.
We stopped at the Oklahoma Visitor's Center and got brochures and coffee.
Evelyn was asking me if I wanted to see the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. I find myself curiously uninterested in seeing a memorial. I am not sure what the point of a memorial is. If it is really to remember an event, the memorial will be forgotten as soon as the event is. Do you know anyone who goes out of his or her way to see a Korean War Memorial? It is a little insulting to say that the event is going to be forgotten but this whatsis will keep it fresh in people's memory. I would rather spend an hour reading about the Vietnam war than seeing Maya Lin's artwork on the subject. That just diverts my interest from the war to Maya Lin. The only events that need memorials are those that are in real danger of being forgotten or falsified. Those exist, but you never hear much about those memorials. (Well, Holocaust memorials are perhaps needed because there are active attempts to cover and falsify that history.)
Not far from the Visitors' Center is Sequoyah's Cabin. Sequoyah was an early 19th century Cherokee. He saw that the Euros could communicate with each other with "talking leaves." He recognized the value of a Written language and spent several years creating a pictogram language. Then he threw it out, deciding that a phonetic language is better. He created a matrix of phonemes, each with its own symbol. We would consider each to be a consonant sound followed by a vowel sound. The matrix was six columns (one for each vowel sound) and 12 rows (one for each consonant sound). Memorize the symbols and you could phonetically read and write Cherokee. Three years later there were few Cherokee who had not mastered literacy in their own language.
Sequoyah used symbols from other languages but did not use their sounds in those languages. I consider that a mistake. He also avoided cognates. This is a barrier to other languages. If you can read Russian phonetically (which I do with a little practice) you can read a lot of their signs. Cherokee avoids cognates, increasing the barriers.
Like Lincoln's cabin, Sequoyah's cabin is in a larger building. Around the edges is a display of Sequoyah's language work and his agriculture.
On the wall is a tribute to him by Congressman Robert Latham Owen:
Ladies and gentlemen: In this National Statuary Hall, containing the statues of the great men and women of the various States of the Union, Oklahoma presents to the United States this heroic statue of one of her most honored sons, Sequoyah, a native American--a Cherokee Indian--who was every inch a man and worthy to represent Oklahoma in the Capitol of the Nation.
Sequoyah had courage, generosity, perseverance, great industry, a wonderful intelligence, and, best of all, a strong desire to serve his fellow men. No man ever rendered a nobler or a better service to his people than did Sequoyah, who, out of a heaven-born genius, was able to invent a syllabic alphabet of 86 characters with which a Cherokee child might learn to read and write the Cherokee language within a day.
The 86 symbols of this alphabet were each a syllable, except the letter "S," and with these symbols every Cherokee word could be written.
Sequoyah spelled his name Se-quo-yah, with three syllabic symbols.
It was impossible to misspell words with this alphabet, and a Cherokee had but to know the alphabet in order to read anything written in Cherokee or to write anything in Cherokee.
This alphabet opened up to the Cherokee people the doors of knowledge without requiring them to go through the painful process of learning a foreign language.
The Cherokees, with elaborate ceremonies, did notable honor to Sequoyah as an expression of their appreciation of his masterful work. They presented him with a great silver medal in token of the esteem with which he was held by the Cherokee people, and passed resolutions in his honor.
The Cherokee Nation established a printing press, had type made, and printed the news of the day in the Phoenix and in the Cherokee National Advocate with Sequoyah's letters. They printed the laws in this language. They printed the Gospels and the New Testament and many other books useful and interesting to the Cherokee people, and in this way the Cherokee people made rapid advance in knowledge and in civilization.
Sequoyah could not read English. He used the letters of the English alphabet and of the Greek alphabet, and invented other letters of his own, to each one of which he gave a syllabic meaning. The framing of this alphabet showed a talent of the first magnitude.
It is a strange thing that no alphabet in all the world reaches the dignity, the simplicity, and the value of the Cherokee alphabet as invented by Sequoyah. The European alphabet goes too far in providing analysis of sound and permits such large variations in spelling that it is a task of years to learn how to spell correctly in any of the European languages. With the Sequoyah alphabet a Cherokee could learn to spell in one day.
Thus the labor of years was saved to the student. So great an intellectual accomplishment was this that Canon Kingsley named the great red cedars of California, which towered as high as 400 feet into the air and which were 25 feet through at the base, "Sequoias" because they were typical of the greatest native North American Indian.
It must not be imagined that Sequoyah was able to frame his alphabet in a few days or a few weeks. Sequoyah was a natural mechanic. He loved to build. He loved to draw and paint. He made himself, with the crudest appliances, the best silversmith in all the regions around, and he made himself a die representing his name in English which he printed on all the silverware made with his hands.
He finally determined to undertake the alphabet, and it was a continuous labor for over two years before he finally completed it and demonstrated its value by teaching the young people of his tribe to write and to read. It required, therefore, the most persistent, determined purpose, that would not consent to any denial, an inflexible resolution, patient thought, day after day and week after week; but his triumph was complete, a triumph of courage, determined purpose, continued intense thought.
When the State of Oklahoma came to choose the first statue to be presented to the Government from Oklahoma it chose Sequoyah almost without a dissenting voice, because of the heroic qualities of the man as a human soul, surrounded with difficulties, but overcoming every obstacle and rendering the most signal service any human being could render to his fellow men by opening the fields of all knowledge to his people through the invention of a perfect alphabet.
Oklahoma, when it determined to present the statue of Sequoyah, chose as the artist a woman greatly beloved in Oklahoma, Mrs. Vinnie Ream Hoxie, the wife of Gen. Richard Leveridge Hoxie, of Washington City. Vinnie Ream's people were closely identified with Oklahoma through Robert Ream, her brother, who lived in eastern Oklahoma, near McAlester. Her house in Washington was a rendezvous for many years for the best talent representing Oklahoma in Washington, but it was not her charm of manner, her great social talent, which led Oklahoma to place this commission in her hands. It was her magnificent ability as a sculptor of the first rank. After receiving the commission from Oklahoma to execute this work, failing health compelled her to seek the assistance of another artist, and as one great genius is able best to perceive the talent of another so she selected Mr. George Julian Zolnay, the eminent sculptor of Washington, trained in Vienna and Paris, and well known in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis, to take over and complete this labor, which, with Vinnie Ream, was a labor of love, for she always loved the Cherokees and the Indian people.
As to the splendid manner in which this work has been finally completed by Mr. Zolnay on the model outlined by Vinnie Ream, I think no one can raise a question. The nobility of the pose, its grace, its strength, the firm characteristic Cherokee Indian face, all show the highest form of human art.
Sequoyah is entitled to rank as the ablest intelligence produced among the American Indians, and Oklahoma takes pride in presenting to the Capitol of the United States this statue of Sequoyah in memory of an honored son of Oklahoma, a native American of the first rank, a man distinguished by the chief of all virtues--an earnest desire to serve his fellow men.
Without great opportunities, he made wonderful use of the small opportunities he had. In character, in nobility, in spiritual and mental worth he well deserves a place in the glorious company of Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building of the greatest Republic of the ages.
On behalf of Oklahoma and in the name of Hon. Robert L. Williams, governor of Oklahoma, acting for the State, I present this statue of Sequoyah to the Government of the United States and to Statuary Hall.
We talk to Jerry, the ranger (or is he a guide? Or what?), for about half an hour. Then we head out for Oklahoma City.
On the way out we pass Hog Creek. I like that sort of name. In New Jersey everything is named in honor of some person. I like naming a creek for a hog. Then we drive to Oklahoma City. That takes several hours, but I like the result. It is big, open, and clean. It looks like a very pleasant town. We pick the Comfort Inn and like what we got here also. It is not quite up to the Signature Inn at Louisville, but it is pretty good. After registering we went out for errands. We wanted food for the room so went to an Albertson's. They had chocolate chip cookies on sale, two for the price of one. That seemed like a lot of cookies. I told Evelyn she didn't need to get two packages. She could get one and I could get one. She was not amused.
We had Mexican for dinner. I had tamales. Evelyn had a tamale and enchilada. The one thing wrong with the tamales is that they did not come wrapped. The presentation is all-important.
In the room I studied projective geometry for an hour then we watched FAR AND AWAY mostly for the Oklahoma Land Rush scenes.
06/07/03 Oklahoma City: Oklahoma U
The hair direr in our room has a sort of a light on that seems to flash at night. At first I was not sure what it was, I just saw the flashing after the lights were off.
Breakfast was OK but not as great as I had expected. I ended up with a doughnut and some cereal. They had toroid rolls. These are pseudo-bagels.
We drove to the Oklahoma U. Visitor's center for a tour of the campus and to see some museums. I was considering coming to Oklahoma U. for undergraduate work. They were building up their math department at that time and they wanted to recruit me. It would have had its positive aspects, I admit. I would not have married Evelyn, however. I was introduced to her in high school, but only got to know her in college. My life would have taken a very different course.
The university advertises free tours. However we got there and the student giving the tour let us know that the tours are slanted to prospective students. You could also take a CD guided tour. They lend you a portable CD player. I suggested to him that we could take that. He suggested instead we take a tour from a printed booklet. Then there was nothing to return. That also involved him the least. We took the booklet tour.
David Ross Boyd was the first president of Oklahoma U. He came here expecting a university and found it was flat prairie. The town had 900 people and no paved streets. His reaction was "what possibilities!" Almost all the buildings we saw were named for people. The chemistry building was not. It was at one time the Debarr Chemistry Building. Now it is the Chemistry Building. It was Dis-Debarred after a protest when it was discovered he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The science building burned to the ground in 1903. The college president asked the math professor Frederick Elder what he would need to start teaching math again. "Two yards of blackboard and a box of chalk." Hey, that's what I like about math. It is really portable. The other thing I likes was a fountain just for dogs to drink from. That's a good touch. I love dogs. (Now you know three things I love. Mathematics. Movies. Asian food. And Dogs. FOUR THINGS. And Evelyn. Five things. Of course Evelyn.)
Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is the largest college natural history museum. The museum has five galleries, though two are dedicated to Indian artifacts. One is Native American art; one is Oklahoma's Native people. I am not sure I could tell the two galleries apart. Western museums of course need something to show and on thing they can get cheaply and exhibit and show is Indian artifacts. As a result just about every museum you go to has an exhibit of Indian artifacts. If you go to one museum a year, they are of a certain interest. We, however, are going to many museums in a short period of time and the repetition of Indian artifact exhibits, one after another, gets a little monotonous. The other thing about Indian artifacts is they seem to fit into any subject matter, at least as far as the museums are concerned. Be they natural history, science, art, whatever, every museum of the western part of the country seems to have a place for them.
They also have a hall of World Cultures and a Hall of Natural Wonders. The latter is not big and the former is quite small. But their real drawing card is the Hall of Ancient Life. They have several dioramas of fossil skeletons, frequently with nice murals in the background. The older murals are by Ralph Shead though hey mostly use a computerized paint program wielded by Karen Carr. They start with Ancient Life like trilobites and go through large mammals of the Cenozoic.
They have a skeleton of a sauropahganax (a relative of an allosaurus) attacking apatosaurus. It is the largest apatosaurus skeleton in the world. They also have the largest pentaceratops skeleton.
I rather was interested in a small exhibit of the arts of China. There also is a collection of art created during Maximilian's and Bodmer's 1832-4 journey from St. Louis up Missouri River. The Bodmer watercolors are famous.
The museum is calculated to get the most complete effect from their specimen. They have two elevators to the second floor and have it right next to the giant dinosaur exhibit. You get a closer look at them from the elevator than from the floor. They call them dinovators. In the Hall of Natural Wonders there was a man giving a demonstration with spiders. Especially there were a tarantula, a brown recluse and a black widow. We discussed the spiders with the man (hopefully on a high level) and got what Evelyn calls the Zelig effect. The man asked if we were naturalists. At the art museum earlier the guide wondered if we were literature professors. What can I say? We read a lot. We sound like professionals.
After the museum we looked for a restaurant. We picked Thai Kum Koon and got a pretty good lunch.
After lunch the plan was to go to the art museum on the campus, but when we got there it was closed for renovation. Evelyn wanted to go to four used bookstores in the area. Remarkably we did not find one book to buy at any of them. We returned to the room late afternoon and did the usual room things.
In the evening we watched CABARET on TCM. Evelyn checked messages on our home phone and found out my grandmother had died last Thursday. It must have been in the evening. I called my mother that evening and my grandmother was still alive then. She had lived through three years of the 21st century and three years of the 19th century. She had suffered from Alzheimer's the last few years. I cannot say it was a really untimely death.
We have decided to add a side trip to Los Angeles for the funeral. It is the 12th. We will leave here early and return when we can after the funeral.
06/08/03 Oklahoma City, OK to Albuquerque, NM
We had a quick breakfast and finished packing. We have a lot of ground to cover.
I drive to Amarillo, Texas. The land levels out and things start looking a lot more Texasy.
Ad for a restaurant on a billboard says "Miss your mom? Calico County Home Cooking." I have to tell you that there is no overlap in my mother's cooking and Calico County. I bet they have different recipes for water.
For lunch we stopped in Adrian Texas. They seem to have one cafe and we stopped there. It is called the Route 66 Midpoint Cafe. They claim they are at the "geo-mathematical center of Route 66." It actually is fairly crowded. In fact, the joint is jumping. I think it is pretty much the only restaurant in town and this is Sunday afternoon. We sit at a booth. They have one special, the pork chop dinner. The window has a view of prairie over the cars of the parking lot. A tall woman sits in the next booth and the lose seatback thumps me not once but several times. Everybody but us seem to know each other. And they know each other by first name. "Hi there. Howwarya?" echoes from table to table. People wave to each other with forks. Many people are dressed for church. Actually we are not even on Route 66. This was Route 66 and now it is Route 40. I don't know why the government changed the number of the route, but a lot of people felt attached to the old number. I ordered a cheeseburger, rare. Evelyn got the BLT. It looks like just about everyone in the place either ordered the pork chop or is named Leeper. The burger came well done with an explanation that the law does not let them make the burger rare. I guess it makes sense.
Back on the road, now Evelyn drives. I work on projective geometry. Near Albuquerque the topography gets hilly. They look like sand hills with scrub. We stopped in a store to get clothing appropriate for a funeral. Somehow we neglected to bring any when we packed.
I also purchased myself a toy. I got myself a portable DVD player. It was a really good price and for years I have wanted a portable way to show and view films. I envisioned it with VHS cassettes many years ago, but it finally has become a product with DVD technology. The thing is a full DVD player with some nice features, but it also has earphone jacks, speakers, and a monitor screen. That basically means you have a portable DVD viewer smaller than a hardback. The cables and things make it a little larger. But the price is $169.
We watched a Discovery Channel program on the science of JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and what is really happening with earth science.
06/09/03 Albuquerque, NM to Needles CA
I am waking early. So what else is new? Maybe if I can get used to this time zone I will be more acclimated when I go back east.
I was reading an article about constants in mathematics and physics. Omega is a measure of the density of matter. If it were a little higher the Big Bang would not have happened. If it were a little lower matter would have just diffused. People use this as a proof that there is some intelligent tinkering. Sure it could have happened differently and the universe would have been different. Well then the universe would have been different. Perhaps something else would be contemplating the universe. If I had gone to Oklahoma U. when they tried to recruit me I would have had a future, just a different one. The universe has no shortage of possible futures.
As for the fact that certain constants show up in math and physics and get used over and over imply that there is some connection we do not understand. When I was a boy we had a typewriter and I was fascinated that there would be a little lever here and if you flipped it something that appeared unrelated and that was several inches away would move. I would turn over the typewriter and look at the mechanism and try to figure how they were related. There would be bars or sticks that linked the two areas together. The universe is much the same but it is harder to see the mechanism. A lot of it you can figure out with no more than pencil and paper.
Well, it will be more driving west today to get to a funeral.
We head out looking for breakfast and we pass the Happy Hocker Pawnshop. About all we see open is chains. Finally we find a Mexican restaurant that serves breakfast. I order Huevos Rancheros with green chili.
It is sunny and clear at last.
While I drive Evelyn looks in our last trip log to this area. Last time we were here we ate breakfast at the same restaurant, Garcias. We follow along the Rio Puerco from Albuquerque into Arizona. Rio Puerco. That is a title John Wayne never used.
This is the land of nice rock formations and really long trains. A lot of prairies. Arizona is nice too, but I think Evelyn prefers New Mexico. We cross over to Arizona.
In Meteor City is the world's largest map of Route 66. People seem to like to see the World's Biggest Anything around here. There is a feeling you appreciate the bounds of human creativity. Whether you are in Botswana or China you will not find they have a bigger map of Route 66.
We stopped in a Walmart and I got some cheap films on DVD.
I love the West. We pass a town called Two Guns. I'm sure that thereby hangs a tale. I was looking from a distance and there was one raincloud in the distance. It was about as big as my fist if my fist was held at arms length. (In other words my fist would just about cover it. I could tell it was a rain cloud because it looked like the painter had smeared it downward. You don't see that so much in the East, but in the big sky region of the West you do see smeary rainclouds. It must have been right over the road because we got it and the temperature dropped from 94 to 84. Shortly after it was clear and a few minutes later the temperature was back up.
I drove the last 90 min or so. The topography went up into the mountains studded with pine trees. Going down the far side of the mountains we got some beautiful rock formations. Places it looked almost like Canyon Reef. The roads are curvy going down the far side and I did not feel safe at the 75 MPH speed limit, at least on the curves. Nice country. The thermometer rose to 107 degrees. When we pulled into Needles, California, just over the border it was still at 107. That seemed high. We asked when we checked into Motel 6. They said it wasn't that bad. It was 106.
We got into the room and got set up. Then we went to dinner. There were not many restaurants in town. We finally went to the one recommended by Triple-A. It is called The California Pantry. I ordered pasta and am waiting for it.
Later: The food was mediocre. The spaghetti sauce was not as good as Classico.
The evening I tried out my DVD player and we went to bed early. I think we are somewhat jet-lagged. When Evelyn is jet-lagged she goes to bed early. When I am I wake up early.
06/10/03 Needles CA to Los Angeles, CA
I woke up at about 3 AM. That is 6 AM at home so there is some feeling that I slept late. Late for me.
To pass the time I listened to some Jean Shepherds. Before I went to college I used to listen to Jean Shepherd on the radio. He was what we now call a raconteur. He talks about his past and philosophizes about the world. The programs I was hearing were syndicated from WOR in New York.
When I went to college the radio station put him on five or six nights a week at 11 PM and I would go to sleep listening to him with the radio set to turn itself off. Several years later when I moved to New Jersey I was looking forward to hearing him from WOR but at that point he had just recently given up his radio broadcasts and had moved on to other projects. He did some PBS work and some of his stories were make into plays on television. There were a couple feature films made from his stories but the one to really catch on was A CHRISTMAS STORY. That film has become a sort of contemporary Christmas classic and it gets a lot of airplay every Christmas time. One of the Turner station I think more than one played only that film over and over some Christmas Days.
Meanwhile another New York station, WBAI, started picking up his old shows and playing them every Tuesday morning at roughly 5:15 to 6 AM Tuesday mornings. I have my VCR hooked up to my radio to record it most weeks and then I transfer the programs to audiocassette. Then when I cannot sleep I have a shot at being put to sleep listening to Jean Shepherd on a Walkman. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. If not, at least I get a chance to hear whole programs and scratch the cassette. I have been going through a lot of Jean Shepherd tapes this trip because of the time log. Well, I had a big pile at home I had not heard. At least I am getting a chance to hear them and free up the cassettes.
I went through two Shepherds this morning and got only a few minutes of sleep between them. I switched to a BBC play I had recorded, but there was a problem. It was something Evelyn would have liked so I set it aside to play in the car. That left me with nothing to listen to. But by then it was 5 AM and so I came into the bathroom where I can turn on a light and am writing my log.
Breakfast was at the Denny's next door. From there we head out. The round winds in among rock formations and desert. I drive to Barstow, about two hours. We listen to a very strange BBC play. Then we switch to the last part of HIS DARK MATERIALS. It is another BBC play, based on a famous fantasy trilogy.
Across the Cajon Pass there are low lying clouds and fog. It looks spectacular from a distance against the hills. However it is a bigger patch than I was expected. We are stopped for Triple-A maps and it is still a gray day. This is gray ugly weather is supposedly very atypical for this area.
We stop at NBC to get the studio walking tour that they sell for $7.50. There was a time when the tour would have been more meaningful. I watch very little commercial television, though I do watch two NBC programs: THE WEST WING and LAW AND ORDER. Rather I play them when I am on the computer. The program we are going to see them film is THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES.
As you get tickets you see a poster for CROSSING JORDAN "Medical Examiner Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh. Smart. Sexy. Refuses to play by the rules." Hot damn, that's dramatic. You can see that they have spared no expense. Rather than having a little water fountain for the visitors they have a cooler with bottle of genuine NBC Water. $1.25 a pop. They sell all the NBC material: golf balls, shot glasses, stuffed toy peacocks, and T-shirts.
While we were waiting for the tour we had lunch at the Wienerschnitzel across the street. It is a peculiar restaurant. It is a sausage fast food chain we used to go to back when we lived in California. It is named for a dish that it neither serves nor was there ever any intention of them serving.
In the waiting room they have a monitor playing whatever is playing on NBC. It is a soap opera, THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES.
I took the 1:30 tour, the first one available. This site does only videotaping. Programs shot on film are done elsewhere like Universal and Warner Brothers. The programs that are considered good prospects for syndication are shot on film. Film and tape make comparably good images, but tape has a shorter shelf life.
The tour takes you near prop rooms. They have to archive all the props they use so that any scene can be repeated in possible flashbacks. The floors are also stored as rolled mats.
They have a wood shop for any props they need made on 24-hour notice. Some are pretty weird for Jay Leno. Nearby they test explosives if required for scenes. We saw wig makers and wardrobe departments. They have the second largest wardrobe department in the state. Another department does makeup and masks.
I asked how many people get involved in making an episode of THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Well over 100 people ARE NEEDED to make one episode.
Our guide said he wanted to get positions of more responsibility for NBC. They were sort of apprentices. But he chewed gum the whole time he was taking us around. He talked about how network production is different from feature film production. It is mostly the pace. A feature film will shoot maybe three films a day and a TV production will shoot something like 60. There is also less delay. When you watch television you are seeing acting about two weeks old. It can be a lot more for films. We saw someone in a coma while we were seeing what was being broadcast on DAYS before the tour. On the monitor we saw the same character up and around, so apparently she survives. Generally a character going into a coma means the actor has a chance for a vacation. DAYS shoots in two studios so one can be set up while they are filming in the other.
Among the interesting fact is that in production they have what they call feminine and masculine doors. What is the difference? Size. Doors for men are smaller than real life. Doors for women are larger than real life. An ideal of womanhood seems to be petite. So women are made to look smaller by making the doors they walk through look big. I have heard on Westerns certainly they do just the opposite.
I just do not recognize current TV stars, but apparently we saw Josh Hartnett. I would have to look up who he is. We went to the lot and saw where Jay Leno parks his cars. He apparently has about 80 cars and drives a different one every day. He is the biggest star in the NBC firmament and makes about six million dollars a year. Nice to know his money is not going for something trivial.
We saw historic Studio 1 where all the Bob Hope specials and a number of other well known programs were shot. The guide told us that BONANZA was the first color TV show. I corrected him that it was NBC's first. SUPERMAN and THE LONE RANGER went to color long before BONANZA. NBC made color a big part of their appeal, using the peacock logo to capitalize on the image, but there was a lot of color around when they went to all-color.
They talked a little about sound production. They explained a little of how foley artists create the sound effects. They also talked about laugh tracks. I LOVE LUCY was the first TV show filmed before a live audience. I was able to tell the guide something the guide didn't know. He had a laugh track machine and he played a laugh. I asked him a piece of trivia. Did he know what the people were really laughing at when you hear laugh track laughs? He didn't. That is not surprising. For many years it was kept a secret just how a laugh track machine worked. So where did they get the laughs? Red Skelton used to do silent pantomime routines. He didn't even have music playing. The only sound on the soundtrack was the audience laughing at his buffoonery. The laughs were later collected and categorized and used to spice countless comedy shows since. Some of the older people on the tour on the tour gave a sort of gasp of recognition, remembering the old Skelton routines.
From NBC we went to check in at the Ramada Inn in Conoga Park. The motel is nicely appointed but not kept very clean and it is not in a very good neighborhood.
I had been feeling a little down since the day before because I was trying to do some projective geometry problems and was making no progress. I felt these were problems I should be able to do. Today they all fell into place. I felt like celebrating.
Dinner was at a Vietnamese sandwich shop. It was just OK. In the evening we watched PATTON via DVD.
06/11/03 Los Angeles: Autry Museum of Western Heritage
I woke up thinking about some e-mail I got about my review of the film ARARAT and quickly wrote one of my weekly editorials on the subject.
The motel provided breakfast and I spent some time talking to a math and electrical engineering professor from Texas.
It is a rather daunting thing to put together a museum dedicated to Western Civilization. That is what Gene Autry has done. Of course this is Western Civilization as in Western movies. This is a museum looking at various aspects of the old West and also how it has been portrayed in the movies. They don't have a really big section on movies, but it is bigger than most museums on the West have. I am thinking particularly about the Cody Museum in Cody, Wyoming.
Who is Autry? Gene Autry was a singing cowboy. My introduction to the Western was probably a daily program called "Badge and Bullets." It was a western and it alternated. Every other day it was Roy Rogers; every other day it was Gene Autry. I seem to remember preferring Autry, though I have no memory as to why. Autry was the most popular singing cowboy. Then the war came and he went into the service. He came out to find that Roy Rogers had supplanted him in the number one position. There was probably some resentment and certainly competition between them after that.
We started with what they call the Romance and Imagination galleries. The Romance Gallery is Western art. Artists seem to have varying degrees of naturalism, symbolism, and romanticism. Paintings are by the likes of Frederic Remington and Albert Bierstadt. They have a bronze Bronco Buster by Remington.
Next is the Buffalo Bill room with Buffalo Bill memorabilia as well as props from Robert Altman's film BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS.
They also have props from TOM HORN, and a lessor known TUMBLEWEED TRAIL. Then they have a history of the Western in film and TV. They talk about the early silent Westerns like THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY. It was probably one of the most influential silent films.
Then they get to the silent film heroes. Gilbert Anderson played Bronco Billy. Tom Mix had flashy clothes. Buck Jones had films with humor and story. Tim McCoy more story to his films also. Ken Maynard was famous for trick riding and did his own stunts. Hoot Gibson was a slow talker but his films had action.
When plots started to get repetitive the films introduced the singing cowboy. Gene Autry was the most popular from 1937 to 1942. More popular for his singing than his acting was Tex Ritter. Roy Rogers gets minimal attention.
There is a section that talks about blacks, women, and Mexicans in cowboy films. They have a fairly large collection of original costumes worn by cowboys. Then they conclude the chronological section with a display and tape on TV cowboys.
They have displays on other topics like one on John Wayne. Finally there is a tape about epic Westerns like THE COVERED WAGON, THE IRON HORSE, STAGECOACH, HIGH NOON, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, THE SEARCHERS, and DUEL IN THE SUN.
While we were watching the tape a teacher was showing one of her students, about age 10, a display. "This is about John Wayne. He was a famous actor." Evelyn and I both had the same reaction. Are we that old? Is John Wayne so far in the past that 10-year-olds have never heard of him?
There is a temporary exhibit on naturalist artist Carl Rungius (1869-1959). He grew up in Europe but was fascinated with moose and with tales of the wilderness like LAST OF THE MOHICANS. He came to the Americas and documented what he saw in paintings. He did bears, cougars, and a whole lot of moose.
Another temporary exhibit is on surfing culture. There was little of interest here for Evelyn and me.
Now we had seen the main floor with exhibits of the West as it was portrayed in the arts. The lower level is about the West as it was. The exhibits were artifacts of the real west. There was the gear used to travel west and some stories of what it was like. There was mining equipment. There was all sorts of saddles. There was whiskey.
One brand of whiskey had a sort of eye-opening ad. If I had seen it in a movie I would not have believed it was real. It was an ad for Custer's Reserve Whiskey and the ad has a big picture, Buffalo Bill Poster style, of the charge on Black Kettle's village on 11/26/1868. It shows Custer, brave and tall, at the head of his troops charging into the village. There is an Indian brave fighting back and there right in front the troops are riding down an Indian woman and her child. The artist was apparently proud that Custer had killed unarmed woman and children. I know there were many who hated the Indians, but I did not realize that it went so far that they considered noble the act of killing unarmed women and children--so noble that they use the act to sell whiskey.
They have a recreation of a saloon with explanations of the items. They also have there poker tables and a roulette wheel. Nearby they have a not very good diorama of the OK Corral gunfight and a tape that should explain it but does an almost laughably poor job of explaining what happened. They tell you what some of the people said and then you just hear a lot of gunfire.
There are examples of barbed wire, more saddles, boots, branding irons, and more of that sort of thing. They also have a recreation of the restaurant of a famous local family, part Chinese.
That was pretty much it. There was a small garden behind the museum that recreates some of the topography of the West.
We had spent about two more hours in this museum than we had planned, and that left little time to go to another museum. Instead we went to a used bookstore and had lunch at a Thai restaurant. It was just a storefront takeout place and we got what we deserved. The squid was in a thick fried bread coating like sweet and sour chicken. It was like eating a squid doughnut. There was no warning on the menu to indicate that. Blech. I would have pointed out how un-Thai this dish was, but they probably would have sworn it is just like they make squid in Thailand.
Back at the room we worked on logs. Evelyn took a nap. In the evening we watched THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD on tape.
06/12/03 Los Angeles: Funeral
Well today is the day of my grandmother's funeral. There is not going to be a lot to put in my log probably. We went to breakfast about 7:30, talked with some other people, and then came back to the room. We showered and got ready for the day, but did not get dressed in our dress clothes in order to keep them fresh. I spent better than an hour studying. I am reading about complex Hermitian matrices of rank r being conjunctive over the complex numbers to diagonal matrices. It is hard to understand what that means. What is more scary is that I am reading it in an old textbook of mine and there are notes in my handwriting. I must have known this stuff about 1970 and have totally lost it from my memory. I feel like Charlie Gordon from the end of FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON.
We go out to a couple of book stores and I spend $1.08 on a book.
The second bookstore had a lot of older books hard to find. Unfortunately we did not find a lot we were looking for. The woman who owned it just discovered that the leak in her toilet was really from next door and they had somehow tapped into her water line so that she was paying for their water. She didn't know why her water bill had gone so high.
The news said that the hoped for peace in the Middle East did not come about. I was just telling Evelyn a day or two before that it would fail. What you have to look for is how big a group would it take to destroy the peace. Any group that size has to be in favor of the peace or it will fail. There were fairly large numbers of people opposed to peace at the end of the Civil War. Obviously some did what they could to disrupt it. One such person was John Wilkes Booth. He perturbed the peace but did not destroy it. Individuals are more empowered these days. This is an age of empowering individuals and small groups. It takes relatively few people to decide they do not want peace to disrupt a peace movement in the Middle East. As a Jew, my feeling is that the preponderance of such people, though by no means all, are on one side. It takes very little for a group to veto the peace movement. That means the peace movement has very little chance of being successful. If there is a serious possibility of peace there will be a sequence of attacks--probably suicide attacks--by the terrorist groups until Israel is forced to retaliate. That formula has been used over and over. It takes a government to make peace, but it takes a small number of people to overrule it.
We returned to the room to get dressed and then drove to the cemetery. I won't go into the ceremony. Afterward we collected at my nephew's house. One interesting feature of my nephew's house is that he bought it from Basil Poledouris, the film composer. I don't know that he is really one of the great film composers, but he did one score that in my humble opinion is the greatest film score I have ever heard. The film isn't so great but the score is. The score is the one Poledouris wrote for CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Now that is an odd choice for a great score, but I am choosing it purely on the basis of its musical content. It is hard to choose a great film score independently of how much one respects the film it accompanied. I do somewhat like the film, but not inordinately. The score, however, is powerful and beautiful. It is an extremely picturesque piece of music in the same sense that Mousorgsky or Rimsky-Korsakov is picturesque. It also does not just create one good theme and repeat it over and over. In fact it almost never repeats a theme. Like Berlioz, I think that Poledouris is an accomplished composer who almost always turns out something good, but who has just one masterpiece to his name.
I was in the room where that score was composed. I also was in the somewhat larger room where films like THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER was scored. Poledouris built onto the house a large raftered studio.
My nephew also composes music with Cubase, a fairly impressive program that allows the user to compose on the PC. Composition sure isn't what it used to be. In music and visuals the barriers between the finished product and what goes on in artists' heads is being really chopped away by the computer.
After visiting with my family for quite a while we returned to the motel. We watched 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA on DVD.
06/13/03 Los Angeles to Holbrook, AZ
I woke up about 3 AM. I could not sleep so I set up my new gizmo to play a movie and set it sideways on my pillow. I could watch a movie in bed and did not have to wear glasses. I could wear over-the-ear earplugs and direct the light from the screen away from Evelyn.
It took us better than an hour to get out of the Los Angeles area. That area covers a lot of territory.
Eventually we passing the Mojave Desert and some lava beds. I think most of nature in its original state is beautiful. Generally it takes the hand of man to make places ugly. There is an exception. The results of geothermal phenomena sometimes manage to be ugly without benefit of help from humans. They may not be ugly when they are still hot, but they are left that way when they cool. When you see a field of cinders left by volcanism there is little pretty about cinders. I saw nothing I considered particularly pretty about most of Yellowstone. The pretty areas were where nature was recovering from the damage heat had done. The Mojave is a little better. Not much.
Evelyn said we are going through Needles. I told her it felt better than having needles go through you. I asked her in what film do you see people going through needles. I told her it was FANTASTIC VOYAGE. Needles to say she didn't care for my pun.
In the car we listen to Stephen King reading his book ON WRITING. The book is largely autobiographical talking about how he became successful. Then it turns into a discussion of the principles of good writing. Who knows where else it will go? I think it is a book written without self-discipline. He just talks about what he wants to talk about. He starts out saying the writer should eliminate useless words and then goes into discussions of such an odd collection of topics that it seems he is breaking his own rule. Certainly I would say he is a writer who does not believe in eliminating the useless and his books have gotten long and bloated.
The plan was that we would go to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. We had been there several years ago but it has been refurbished. We got to Flagstaff a little after three only to find that there was a rodeo in town and all the motel rooms have gotten very expensive. I guess the rooms are in really short supply and so they feel they can really charge. Evelyn was not sure what to do. I said that this would essentially add better than $20 onto the price of the Lowell tickets for each of us. Looked at that way she decided that we could forego the observatory. On to Winslow, Arizona. It happened again. This was Heritage Day in Winslow. They were charging very high prices for rooms.
We passed a billboard saying "Meteorites 50% off." I told Evelyn that it was the atmosphere that does that.
The next town was another 40 minute ride down the road and was Holbrook. This turned out to be a one road town which was little but an Interstate pull off. There seems to be nothing of the town but motels and gas stations and just a few restaurants. We went to a restaurant with a Mexican name, Mesa, but it was Italian. Actually it was haute Italian. I had tortellini and ravioli Alfredo. Unfortunately it also came with linguini in a tomato sauce and they put it all on one place so the sauces mixed. But it was a nice meal.
In the room I worked on the log and in the background we watched an obituary issue of Biography on the recently deceased Gregory Peck.
This last week have very little sightseeing to report, but it is pleasant to travel and see the topography. Towers of rock 75 feet high and higher are always impressive. Still I hated to give up the Lowell Observatory, but it made the most sense under the circumstances.
06/14/03 Holbrook, AZ to Roswell, NM
Breakfast at the Econo-lodge is not so great. They put out instant oatmeal and bowls but no milk or hot water. Basically they have doughnuts, and other pastries, muffins, and coffee.
Again I do the morning drive so don't have a lot in the way of notes to describe what we saw in the log. Again it is majestic rock formations. We also passed a car pulling a trailer with something that looks like a racer of some sort. It looks to have a ten or 15 foot fuselage and an airplane-like vertical tail. The cover fits over it, so that is about all you see. I would like to see what the vehicle actually is.
Nineteen months ago I visited by brother for Thanksgiving. He had a new gizmo that impressed me. It was a clock that picked up signals and automatically synchronized itself with a government atomic clock. Now I try to keep my watch set to the precise time. It is a personal bugaboo. But I have a web site that I can use to get very accurate time. I decided that had to be good enough. I didn't find out the price of the clock, but it wasn't worth that much to me.
We stop for gas and to get some things at the grocery. We get some fruit juice that is a product of Mexico. They brand is Jumex. (The grocery has kosher Chinese food with a brand name Soy Vey. I suggested to Evelyn this was the same sort of name.) Their plum juice is very nice. The grocery is selling battery powered atomic clocks at $9.99. That's two gizmos I bought for myself this trip.
We listened to more of Stephen King's suggestions for writers. King seems oblivious to the fact that after he gives a bunch of rules, he breaks pretty much all of them in his later writing. For example he tells the listener not to use obscure words and later on he uses some real doozies. If neither Evelyn nor I know a word it is pretty obscure.
We stop at Albuquerque for lunch. Several years ago we liked Little Anita's Mexican Restaurant. I have a Taco Platter and Evelyn has some sort of meat soup they called green chili stew. We enjoy it so much when we get back to the car we turn on Mexican music.
As we drive we see a nice storm cloud, which cracks with lightning, but the rest of the day is bright. I love a good lightning storm.
We had been to the Roswell Museum and Art Center eleven years ago. We have some time and are going to see it again. The first thing we want to see is the material on Robert H. Goddard. America's pioneer rocket scientist. He lived in Massachusetts but came to the Roswell area to test his rockets. They have a recreation of his workshop and some of the rockets he built. There is a display of Goddard artifacts. There is a little notebook with some of his notes. (I was a little startled to see some of his writing looked like he was doing relativity calculations, but it was just that he was using (v/c) as an exponent. C was probably not what it seemed.
They did include a reprint of a Boston newspaper from his time with their publication of Wells's THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. They appear to have modified the text so that it took place in Massachusetts. I am not sure what this had to do with Goddard unless they are speculating it inspired him. The Martians' means of propulsion is not rockets but cannons. They also have a display of tings from local astronaut Harrison Schmidt.
While it is primarily an art museum, they also have the usual displays of Indian and cowboy artifacts. A museum in the Southwest is not complete without a comparison of barbed wire or a collection of Indian pottery. At least Indian pottery is in an art museum, where it belongs. It is so often in places like natural history museums like the one at Oklahoma U. Pottery is not made by animals and not a natural formation. It is art.
There are paintings of local artists. There are some bronze cowboys art in the manner of Remington. One caption got me thinking. The piece of art shows a trailer in a trailer park and it is sort of exaggerated to show the worst excesses of trailer park existence. The caption says that the people are "grappling with the realities of their existence." I suppose they are. Who isn't? I know I do. It is too easy to say that is a horrible existence. You ought to as the people who live it. They don't seem to be complaining a lot.
We check in to the Frontier Motel. Then we go for dinner at the Hungry American. They had BBQ beef ribs, which I prefer to pork and rarely, can get. I spent the evening grappling with the realities of my existence.
06/15/03 Roswell, NM to Amarillo, TX: UFO Museum
Breakfast was small but they had cereal and a doughnut. From there we returned to the room and Evelyn called her father to wish him a happy Fathers Day.
From there we go into town and UFO motifs. The town has really embraced their notoriety from the Roswell incident. Jewelry adds shows a saucer that looks like a diamond turned upside-down. It is called an unidentified shining object. That is just an example.
Roswell in the morning looks like the kind of town where you would see a giant tarantula coming down the street or where telephone linemen who had been replaced by aliens might be walking down the street. That has little to do with Roswell's UFO connection, but it looks a lot like a Jack Arnold movie setting.
International UFO Museum and Research Center is our major site of the day. This is certainly a town that knows how to capitalize off their fame. There are pictures of little green men just all over. Even the streetlight have black almond-shaped eye decals.
The museum is broken into alcoves. You go up one side and down the other. They start with coverage of the actual incident. Next they cover the supposed cover-up. They have some astronomy posters to put it all in context.
Coming back on the other side the displays seem to be in almost a random order. Then there are displays of investigations and IFOs (Identified Flying Objects--lenticular cloud formations, hoaxes, advertising, light from electrical discharge, etc.). There is Lubbock Lights and Area 51. An alcove covers crop circles and ancient culture. There is a piece on the metal fragments found at Roswell. One section talks about famous people who were believers and films about Area 51 and Roswell. There is a wall of cartoons and one of artwork. Several places there are fanciful models of crashes.
So what is this all about? Air pilots had frequently seen odd things in the sky, but they never got a lot of attention. Based on an account at the museum the following is the Roswell incident. I do not vouch for the truth or accuracy.
On Tuesday, June 24, 1947 was the first saucer sighting that got national attention. Kenneth Arnold claimed he had seen saucer-like objects in the sky. Ten days later on Friday, July 4, Roswell rancher Mac Brazel heard a loud noise on his farm. The next day Brazel found debris widely spread over one of his fields. He collected enough to fill a sack. The next day, Sunday, July 6, Brazel took the sack to town and showed it to the sheriff. The sheriff tells a local air base intelligence officer Jesse Marcel who comes to the ranch. The next day they collect some more of the debris and Marcel sows the debris to his son and his boss.
A local funeral director, Glenn Dennis, gets a call from the airbase asking how many child sized coffins he has and when can he get more. An errand took the same man to the airfield hospital where he saw a nurse friend who told him that something was happening at the hospital and he should leave immediately. He was escorted out by military men making threats to his life.
July 8 the head of the airbase told the press that the UFO had been removed from the area. Marcel takes the debris he has found to Fort Worth to a general. He claims that while there the material is taken from his and replaced by weather balloon debris.
Glenn Dennis's nurse friend tells him that she had seen on the examining table a strange looking man who looked like a large-eyed alien. The nurse is transferred to England the next day and shortly thereafter she is declared dead.
After three days of being held by the military Brazel refuses to say any more about the incident. The army issues a statement that what fell was a weather balloon.
That is the account they give and is pretty much what the public thinks happened. As a science fiction fan it would be fun to believe it and that aliens had visited us. I don't, but it would be fun. There are just too many reasons to be skeptical.
You can hear ABC News claim a flying saucer captured as they take you through artifacts. You see replicas of the metal and decorative materials supposedly from the craft.
For a while the Air Force at one point claimed the incident took place in 1957 and the principles were just confused in their dates. When you see newspapers from 1947 talking about the incident, it seems like a rather feeble attempt. I don't believe the saucer account, but I don't think much of the government's account either. For me the most likely explanation is that a government weapons test went wrong and they hid the secret. Probably there was a cover-up but of something purely terrestrial.
It is a little harder to believe the museum when it says things like "It is commonly accepted that ancient cultures on earth have been visited by extraterrestrial entities for many thousands of years." Commonly??? They have an alcove where people lists their personal experiences with UFOs.
Some of the quotes they have from eminent believers include this quote from Harry Truman. "I can assure you that flying saucers, given that they exist, are not constructed by any power on earth." That is not saying he believes in them.
Someone brought in their Schnauzer dog. It was howling. I petted it once and told the owner that somehow I knew I was in the presence of something that wasn't quite human.
The museum runs run films all day long making the case for the believers. We saw a film about rods. They seem to be something without head or tail that flies through the sky like a fish. (Uh, I mean with a fish-like movement. Fish don't fly through the sky.) Then they put on part two of the film FLYING SAUCERS ARE REAL! This is the stuff I choose not to watch on TLC. Why spend my vacation watching it? I turned to Evelyn and told her, "The truth is out there... but we are in here."
We head out in the direction of Oklahoma. We decide to stop for lunch in Clovis if we can find a nice place. In one side and out the other. So we snack in the car. Before too long we cross the border into Texas. We pass a huge pen with acres of cattle fairly tightly packed. This is in the aptly named town of Bovina. From one end to the other we are in Bovina only a couple of minutes.
We lost an hour when we entered Texas which means that if we continue driving to Oklahoma City we will be driving until 8 PM or later. We still have not eaten.
We get to Amarillo and grab a Motel 6. It is hard to find a place open for dinner. We pick County Line, a BBQ place.
In the evening we watch GIANT. It seems to go with the territory.
06/16/03 Amarillo, TX to Oklahoma City
We hit the road about 7:15. We got coffee at the office of the motel, but skipped breakfast. We each drove about half of the way. We listened to music and to Stephen King's ON WRITING. Some of that was a little difficult as he talked in detail about how he was hit by a truck. This is worse than anything he writes about in his novels because it is true. That makes it more painful to hear.
When I give the wheel over to Evelyn I delve into my linear algebra and a new chapter on linear transformations.
By the time we get to Oklahoma City we are both rather hungry and we decide to try a chain call Sonic. You order through a microphone and they bring it out. I order a burger and a chocolate malt. Evelyn orders a burger and a limeade. The burger is OK. My malted milk has little malt flavor. Not a lot of chocolate flavor either. Evelyn's limeade is carbonated! Not cool. It is a little hard to figure how to tip.
It has gotten hot. It is 86 degrees but sunny.
From there we go to the Oklahoma Historical Society. This is the state's historical museum. There are major parts of the history that are not covered. The only thing that is covered prior to statehood is the Civil War. There is a big exhibit of portraits of Cherokee. There is a tape about the modern Cherokee. Apparently the Cherokee are trying to come up with their own words for modern terms like hot dog, plastic, and computer. Why need a different word for these terms? English has little trouble adopting words from other languages. Translate the Japanese word "wasabi" into English and it becomes "wasabi." Spanish seems to have little trouble adopting English words whole. The French fight to keep international words out of their language out of nationalistic pride and they are only making things harder on themselves.
They have up some boards telling the history of the Cherokee in this region and some word and picture portraits of some current Cherokees. The point is to show their diversity of occupations. The tape talked about Larry Adair, the first Cherokee speaker in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Now did that mean that he was the first who could speak the language or the first speaker of the house who was Cherokee? I think it was the latter.
They had a piece on all black towns in the early years of statehood. Then they have just one room to give you an outline of state history. It is a 21 year old exhibit of 75 years of statehood. Each decade has a telephone you can pick up and hear a most unconvincing "typical conversation." They show women's fashions each decade. They try to show toys for most decades. They talk about rebellions and protests. They show toys like guns, erector sets, zeppelins, a simplex typewriter. That has all the letters on one wheel. You turn the wheel to put the right letter in place and then stamp it on the page. The typewriter then moves the paper one character width. It was agonizingly slow, but it typed and it really was only a toy. They didn't tell you this but when the electric typewriter was invented and they wanted to avoid having the type arms jam from this toy they borrowed the idea of putting all the letters on one wheel. This was an easier design to motorize.
On propaganda poster from the 1940s shows a Nazi hand bayoneting the bible. Religious arguments carry a lot of weight in this part of the country.
They show a man in a POW suit. They show a gas mask. They seem much less interested in what the average man wears than women's fashions.
They have a room on Oklahoma Indians with the usual beadwork, baskets, and bowls.
On a lower floor they have a room telling the story of the USS Oklahoma which was sunk at Pearl Harbor. They have a room covering Oklahoma and the Union in the Civil War. Then they have one covering Oklahoma and the Confederacy.
They did not have the Wiley Post exhibits that the Triple-A book said they would have. I would have liked to see that. Overall there was less here of interest than I was expecting, but the gift shop had a terrific collection of books about history. I have never seen a collection of so many different history books in one bookstore. We limited ourselves to one, and autobiography of Buffalo Bill.
From there we went to the Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum. This is the memorial of the Oklahoma City bombing and a museum of the bombing. We arrived at the same time as about 200 people in red vests that said "Woody Cooper National Conference."
The museum starts with the events of the day, Wednesday, April 19, 1995. They have a room that tells the history of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and one on terrorism around the world. There were a number of morning events including the Metro prayer breakfast. They take you through the first hours of the day.
Then you go into a soundproof room with recording from the day. It sounds like a dull meeting you are hearing, then suddenly you hear an explosion and the lights flash and go out. Then you move on to the display on the after effects.
In the explosion a third of the building was blown away and 168 people were killed, 700 injured. They show you glasses of people killed. They have accounts of people who were caught in the explosion. Then there are the accounts of rescuers. They talk about the process of collecting evidence.
They sections by time so in one section you see what was happening from 9 to 9:30. Then one on what is happening the next half hour.
A computer generated display shows a simulation of what happened in the building. The concrete looks like it has the flexibility of freshly baked cookie in a foot high model of the building. It is more rubbery than you would expect.
I like the fact they have the exhibits by time. What I don't like is that they don't say enough about Timothy McVeigh's motives. We would want to understand him better.
My other complaint is that they put a religious spin on their interpretation. That is not unusual in this part of the world. I don't mean that they reported religious events, though they did. They put their own religious soundtrack over their films including "Amazing Grace."
They have a piece on the thousand cranes folded to ask for peace. They have a case that tells about the Japanese custom. And in the case they have folded... the flapping bird with the wings folded horizontally in a feeble attempt to make it look a little more like the cranes in the picture in the same case. It is a small error but telling. Folding the crane is a lot like folding the flapping bird, but it is quite different toward the end and the result looks quite different. Believe me, I know.
They finished off with a room on the September 11 attacks. This attack killed twenty people for each one killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
From there we went to the motel. We again picked the Comfort Inn we stayed at last week. This time they did not give us nearly so nice a room.
Dinner was at a pizza buffet.
In the room we listened to the lecture on George Patton on the DVD.
06/17/03 Oklahoma City: National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Over breakfast (motel continental) we talked about the case in Tulia, Texas where on one person's word 38 black men were railroaded into prison. That one person was what is being called a freelance law man. Evelyn sees it as a terrific miscarriage of justice. I think she is right, but have reservations because her version and the newspaper's interpretation of what happened makes no sense. Why did it take this long for a story this weird to get out? How many different juries were there and did they all take just one man's word? How many different defense lawyers talked to their clients but then when they knew the case against their clients were based on just one person's word did not even attempt to question it? The newspaper's version makes the accused men seem awfully stupid. One or two men may have been brought up ignorant, but 38 men and their families sounds like too many to be possible. Why would anybody give a freelance lawman such power? The more I hear about the case the less sense anybody's version of what happened makes.
Today we go to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. It is a lot like the Autry Museum we visited in LA. But I think it has a little less on the western film and a little more on just about everything else. Especially art and especially now. They have a very big national show of art annually and they just finished it. All or the art is still on display. As with the Autry and with many museums we spend a lot more time than we were told to expect to spend.
Large art is the first thing we notice. When you come in you see about a 20 foot rendering of Remington's The End of the Trail. There is an 8 foot tall bronze of Ronald Reagan. A lamenting Abraham Lincoln statue is even taller. (There was a woman standing in front of it for about a minute, apparently taking it in. Then she said something and I realized she was just talking on a cell phone.) There is a dining room and in it Wilson Hurley has five 12-foot high triptychs of majestic scenes from the west.
We move to art still up from an art show the week before. Some of the paintings we see went for as much as $18,000. It is all on Southwest themes, but that is about all it has in common.
I like a sculpture "An Old Dog and a New Trick," which shows a cowpoke entering accounts into a laptop.
We then move into the section of artifacts of the old west. There is a gun gallery with Colts, Winchesters, and Derringers. It doesn't do a lot for me but there is some guy there who says it is the best part of the museum. Many in this region seem really excited about God and guns.
Artifacts include comparative collections of types of spurs, ropes, cowboy hats, chaps, shirts, boots, saddles, quirts, barbed wire, and horseshoes.
One of the more dramatic rooms tells the story of the cattle drives, delving into their history and the experience with storms, food, etc. They have the largest collection I have seen of barbed wire types. They have over 1000 different types.
There is a room devoted to cavalry life, one to hunting and trapping life, one to pioneer life.
There is a big display on rodeo but that is not a special interest of mine and we rush through. One fact of interest was that women had taken some part in the athletic events of rodeo all along but in the 1940s Gene Autry become fairly powerful in managing national rodeo. H decided to reduce women to glamour roles, to be used more as just decoration. They are moving back into the athletic events. Last year when we saw a rodeo there were some women's events.
The Western Performers Gallery, just completed in April of this year, is their account of the history of the western film. We saved it for near the end. It starts by taking several actors starting in silent days and giving their histories. Actors included Tim McCoy, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, Hopalong Cassidy, and Gene Autry.
I was a little Evelyn did not recognize the name Ben Johnson on the Hall of Fame wall. I told her that she had seen him in SHANE just this trip. He was also in MIGHTY JOE YOUNG and THE LAST PICTURE SHOW.
They had a fair section on John Wayne's career. (One remembered fact: His production company Batjac Productions took it name from a company in WAKE OF THE RED WITCH.) They had more about him than any other actor.
Walter Brennan apparently played old men most of his long career after he got his teeth kicked out filming a barroom brawl. He didn't mind. If the film fails nobody blames the guy who played the old man.
They also had an enjoyable film about the history of western movies. After that there was a western town street to walk down to look in buildings. There also was a garden outside where prize rodeo horses were buried.
There wasn't time to go to the infantry museum afterward. Instead we went to Hunan Garden, near our motel, which turned out to be a pretty decent restaurant.
On the way back to the motel we stopped in Best Buy to see if we could get a western to watch that evening. We were in the mood. We settled on the collectors' edition of UNFORGIVEN, which we watched that evening. We were reminded it is really a pretty good film.
06/18/03 Oklahoma City to Tulsa, OK: museums
We ate breakfast and I got an hour of study in before we checked out and we still were at our first site of the day the 45th Infantry Division Museum before it opened.
There is a lot of equipment on the lawn. This includes guns, planes, tanks transport equipment, etc.
The museum covers Oklahoma's military history with a few items from each incident. There are artifacts from the Civil War, from the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, and the Mexican Border War. Most will have one case each and typically will have guns, bullets and medals. Some cases have pocket reading, bugles, etc. At what point this becomes a history specifically of the 45th Infantry Division I am not sure. Up until 1940 the symbol of the division was a swastika. When Adolf Hitler also chose the swastika they changed their symbol to a stylized eagle.
They have a section dedicated to Bill Mauldin with more than 100 Willie and Joe cartoons.
There are a number of trophies of war appropriated by troops. Long knives and Mausers that troops took as souvenirs. Probably a centerpiece is Hitler's personal standard and a dress cape taken from his apartment. The Nazi insignia displayed, heavily into SS skulls and handguns. They have the greatest number of looted goods from WWII. The original history exhibit ends with Korea where they have a Chinese-made Russian submachine gun chained so it can be picked up. It is heavy, and feels a little cheap. I guess that is the point. They have Chinese uniforms and a Korean War parka. There is an exhibit of guns that starts at the beginning brings things more up to date past Vietnam. It is interesting to see flintlocks with pieces of flint stone in them. You rarely see them displayed that way.
Interestingly when better guns were available, single shot weapons chosen during Indian wars so as not to waste ammunition. In the display of the Korean conflict, the word conflict covered and it says "War" instead. A little bit of editorializing.
In the back part of the museum is another collection of exhibits. It is not clear why these are in a separate section. In a collection of gas masks there is a children's model decorated to look like Mickey Mouse. There is a museum with a lot of "stuff" sorted chronologically, most not explained only labeled.
The Dachau room show photographs and drawings of torture and persecution of the victims. It has a very graphic description of medical experiments that is a little nauseating. I heard the guide tell a group not to let anyone deny that these horrors took place. He was there.
We talked to the guide a little before leaving and walked the grounds which have tanks, planes, transport equipment, helicopters, etc. From there it is a couple of hours on the road to Tulsa.
We stop for gas when we get to Tulsa and I see a new place for advertising. They put a little screen on the gas pump and they project ads on it. Meanwhile the dialog to get the gas asks would you like a car wash and you have to find the button to answer no. It is the gas pump equivalent of "Would you like fries with that?" You ignore the question and you get no gas. The best minds in the country are working on the question, what new and creative places can we put advertising where it cannot be avoided? When you turn on your kitchen sink is there a way to drop an ad out? There must be a way. My motel key last night was a card with an ad for Pizza Hut.
The Phillbrook Museum of Art is or first stop in Tulsa. They have a current exhibit. The Modern Masters Corot to Kandinsky showing has late 19th Century artists. Some are neo-classical and of course Dali is just weird. Represented are Magritte, Chagall, and Renoir.
As I am looking at some of the masters I may not be attuned to what to look at. It seem to me many works of art become great not through their own virtue but as a result of a human need for something great and because of their availability.
This museum is formerly a mansion built by Waite Phillips, one of the three founders of the Phillips 66 Petroleum Company.
We had actually seen most of the museum when they announced a tour, so we took that. The guide was more interested in the history of the building than in the actual art.
The lower level has African art like masks, particularly a dragon mask. There are the inevitable Indian baskets and pottery. One piece of pottery was very valuable. It was from a process that was accidentally discovered where the pottery was in the kiln too long. The result was a classy looking black on black glazing.
They have yet another rendering of End of the Trail. This one in not by Remington. We saw a woven pot that the guide claimed was made of 5500 stitches. Doing a calculation now I think that is a low estimate, but I would have to see the pot again.
The guide told us about Villa Philbrook and showed us paintings of Waite and Genevieve Phillips. They had a room painted with a scene of a Greek Bacchanal featuring their friends in the nude. But Genivieve's mother was scandalized so they had clothes painted on the figures.
When the tour was over we finished our own visit, starting with two nice Thomas Morans: Angry Sea and Autumn.
It is hard to put a finger on exactly what my reaction to the museum was. It has a lot of OK art in a setting of some interest, but there was nothing in the museum to connect with emotionally. There was nothing that generated any excitement. I left the museum just feeling that I had gotten it out of the way.
We ate at a Vietnamese restaurant called Bihn-Le. The soup and appetizer were sufficiently Vietnamese, but the Spicy Ginger Chicken was more like bad Chinese.
In the evening we worked on our logs and watched the documentary "Walking with Cavemen."
06/19/03 Tulsa, OK: Woolaroc and Tom Mix Museum
The Hampton Inn has a reasonable breakfast bar. Then was back to the room for an hour of study. Then it was about an hour's drive to Bartlesville for Woolaroc Museum and Animal Preserve. What is this? This was the museum created by Frank Phillips, another of the three men who founded Phillips Petroleum. The huge grounds are the home to a great many wild animals. There is also a museum on the grounds. We did not see the preserve at a good time. Supposedly in winter is better than late spring. On the grounds we saw bison, emu, deer, highland cattle, llamas, longhorn cattle, ostrich, and Sardinian donkeys. I had thought we had seen relatively few animals, but we did see about half the species they claim to have. That is not too bad. Really we came the wrong time of year. The back roads which are supposed to be the best viewing have very little to see. Supposedly in the winter there are a lot of animals.
There is a museum on the grounds that has the feeling of a lodge, which was its original purpose. It is a museum of life in the wild. It has Eskimo and Indian artifacts, arrowheads, cowboy artifacts.
There is a series of Robert Lindneux paintings of American heroes of history starting with Leif Ericson and Christopher Columbus and going through Custer. They all have the same face, probably Robert Lindneux.
There is an exhibit of buffalo hunting and of the plane Woolaroc and its flight across US to Hawaii. Shortly after Lindbergh's cross Atlantic flight a similar prize was announced for the first non-stop flight from the US East Coast to Hawaii. Phillips Petroleum had new fuels they thought would be more powerful, arranged for a pilot, competed, and won. The name of the plane was Woolaroc, the same as the name of this place. It really is a made-up name taken from the words wood, lake, and rock. Yesterday Philbrook was also an invented name. Three Phillips brothers became filthy rich from oil and the wealthy have all sorts of nice advantages.
They also sponsored race cars to test their fuels. One they were testing for high speed in the early days. The driver said "I'll bet we're going 60 mile per hour. The passenger looked at the speedometer said it was actually 66. And the car was being tested on route 66. The bothers called this blend of fuels Phillips 66. That is the name that has stuck as their brand of fuel. (At this point I sang for Evelyn "Chain-chain-chain. Chain of fuels.")
The museum has a large collection of paintings and bronzes, some by Thomas Moran. All of this is from the Phillips private collection. Two holdings were out of context. There are two dinosaurs eggs given to the Phillips by Roy Chapman Andrews. And they have four or five Jivaro shrunken heads.
From there we drove into Dewey for the Tom Mix Museum. This is a whole museum devoted to a cowboy star. Mix was born 1880 in Driftwood, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the army, served, received an honorable discharge, reenlisted but deserted in 1902. As the government later put it, he left without saying goodbye.
He did some rodeo and in 1909 was in a bronco busting scene of a film. That was his start and he became a romantic screen star. He had temporarily been the town Marshall of Dewey in 1912 and they consider him a local hero. He spread his fame between his Wild West show and his film roles. Time and again he played the handsome stranger who came into town. He was used by corrupt locals, but in the end uses force to set things right. Mix lived the high Hollywood life while representing virtue on the screen to children, telling them not to drink and smoke.
In 1940 his chauffeur was driving him. Mix had aluminum luggage. He had piled this dangerously on the back window of the car. There was a short stop to the car, his career, and his life. He died of a broken neck.
The museum (or the one elderly woman who ran it) ran via VCR the 1932 film MY PAL THE KING. This film was made the same year as THE MUMMY, both from Universal. But somehow this film seems more technically polished. Techniques evolved very quickly in the early days of sound.
Mickey Rooney (!) plays the very young King Charles of a Ruritanian kingdom of Algonia (or Elbonia, it is not clear which). He escapes from his ministers and sees a parade from a visiting Wild West circus. He meets Tom Mix and they become friends.
The king goes to a performance of the show and Mix saves the king's life.
Mix convinces the king to give "life, liberty and happiness" to his people. This is a new idea to the king, but it is precisely what his advisors don't want. The evil ministers plot and execute a coup.
Now I hate to give away spoilers for films so here is a spoiler warning.
Tom Mix foils the plot by breaking into the castle and rescuing the young king.
We each had a small lunch steak at Montana Mike's. What a disappointment. Later we saw that Grandy's had livers and gizzards, all you can eat. Actually I eat almost everything but livers and gizzards don't appeal.
We hit a used book store on the way back. The prices were too high to make it of any interest.
Not much noteworthy for the rest of the day. A stop at Walmart to get something to drink for the room, a TV Guide, etc.
We watched a science program on Discovery.
This is a big media weekend. The new Harry Potter book is being released and kids and adults are lining up to buy a book that weighs a kilogram. There was a major theft of $200,000 worth of Potter books to be sold on the black market. Maybe this isn't really a post-literate society.
Also there is a fuss being made over the Ang Lee film THE HULK. THE HULK features a large supersized man. Harry Potter features a large supersized book.
06/20/03 Tulsa, OK area: museums, HULK
A hot and humid morning in Tulsa. Tulsa is more humid in general than I expected.
First site is the J. M. Davis arms and historical museum. This is not so much a collection as a collection of collections. J. M. Davis had a hotel and became a collector of guns to decorate. Then his collecting just sort of got out of hand. Really out of hand. The collection now covers acres and includes gun, beer steins, WWI posters, uniforms, on and on. He has guns back to 14th century and up to the Great War. He has guns of famous people like Bonnie Parker and Pretty Boy Floyd. We were interested in his collection of WWI posters with messages like "Don't read American History. Make it." One shows a stern young man going off to war, telling his father, "Good Bye, Dad, I'm Off To Fight For Old Glory. You Buy U.S. GOV'T BONDS." Right. I bet A lot of people had that attitude. Yup. I guess we don't get war posters any more. There were no patriotic posters from Iraq war that I remember. I wonder if that would have helped.
There is a big collection of beer steins. Most have lids. I always wondered what those lids did. They wouldn't have done anything to keep the beer fresh. Actually we learn here that the lids were to keep flying insects out of the beer. One of the steins shows a monkey reading Darwin. Another has the inscription:
If you save your money you're a grouch.
If you save spend it you're a loafer.
If you save get it you're a grafter.
If you save don't get it you're a bum.
So what's the use?
The collections there include guns, swords, knives, saddles, and violins (how did that get in there?). There is a picture of some sheet music by Giuseppe Haydn. There is a collection of mandolins. Actually there are a lot of different kinds of musical instruments. They have the old favorites of Indian artifacts and a comparison of types of barbed wire. They have handcuffs, thumb locks, ropes used in executions, guns used in crimes, and card cheat devices. That might be how people lived, by the ability to pull out one good hand of cards from a sleeve. Of course if it has the ace of diamonds and someone has that particular card in his hand, you got shot. A lot of people gambled with their last dollar in their pocket. A turn of cards would determine if you slept that night in a cathouse or in the street. That was the classic question of buns or gutter. They had the guns of Bonnie Parker, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Wesley Hardin.
John Monroe Davis 1887-1973 was the hotel owner who collected all this "stuff." Well, it had been updated after he died. But he would have all this stuff on the walls of his hotel. And he had rooms with nothing but barrels of gun. Steins he just had out on counters. He lived to see it moved to a museum. Most of it got there but reputedly some of the nifty things disappeared along the way.
From there it was the Will Rogers Museum. That is in Claremore, Rogers's home town. It is a tribute to the humorist, actor, and cowboy performer. I have to say of Rogers that I have more respect for him than actual fondness for his humor. His jokes are fairly simple and I don't find them as funny as other people seem to. Like Chaplin I like who he was and what he tried to do. I just wish I liked his (or Chaplin's) humor more.
Rogers worked his way to popularity slowly. He was born in Olagah in 1879. That was Indian country in what would be Oklahoma. He did poorly at military school and when he left he did cowboy work in the US and in South Africa. Back in the US he joined Texas Jack's Wild West Show. His specialty was rope tricks and lasooing. He took his act to Vaudeville. While on the stage he introduced jokes into his act. It really worked like a charm. He became very popular and moved higher on the bill. He was discovered and moved up to the Ziegfield Follies with the likes of Fanny Brice. He moved on to silent movies doing trick riding in chases. He did not do really well. But sound movies were his medium. He could talk.
From there on Will Rogers would always be a celebrity. His jokes made his films really popular. He became a millionaire from his hits. He soon had a newspaper column and a radio show. He was seen with Presidents and kings. He became a sort of home-spun superstar. Then at the height of his popularity he went to visit Alaska with aviation explorer Wiley Post. On August 15, 1935 their plane crashed and Will Rogers died at 55.
The museum has a collection of artifacts from Rogers's career including saddles and ropes and awards and statues.
This day they were playing the film DOUBTING THOMAS. It was the film version of the stage play "The Torch Bearers." Rogers's style seemed to almost be ad libbing and at time he seemed to poorly deliver his lines. I guess that was just his style. But he was so popular the poster was just a caricature of Rogers and that was sufficient.
One room shows films of Rogers doing trick roping. Another is a recreation of a study from his home. Anything connected to the man is grist for the museum.
Will Rogers was one of the few civilians allowed to fly on government mail planes. He would kid Presidents and political parties. Some of his comments would have made him a revolutionary if he was not so well liked.
The museum displays let you hear his radio broadcasts. In the Depression this very influential man started getting very political in his broadcasts. He started talking against the Republicans. They give you three bad years and one good one. Somehow the good one is an election year so he expected things would get better in 1932. He talked about how things were wrong with the American system and how just a few people had too much of the money. That year the election swung to the Democrats and FDR proposed a "New Deal." The phrase "New Deal" came from A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT, a story now associated with Rogers. Three years of the New Deal did not end the Depression, of course, but it did have public support. Rogers and FDR were both populists. Rogers and his radio broadcasts would have probably been a strong weapon for FDR in the 1936 elections. However, Rogers was killed in a plane crash in 1935. I don't know if there is a connection. It probably is a coincidence. But it would make a good story.
I thought I remembered from our visit to Yuma that Carl's Jr., a hamburger chain, had a pretty good burger they called a "something-dollar" burger. I decided to try one here for lunch. Yup. That's one memory confirmed. Best meal we've had this trip in the total bill under $10 class. They call it the six-dollar burger (though they charge about four). I'd like to trade one of our local Burger Kings (of which we have an infestation) for a Carl's Jr.
We stopped at Gardner's, a used bookstore that was huge, but the books seemed overpriced. From there we went to a movie theater and saw...
HULK (a.k.a. THE HULK)
CAPSULE: Ambitious but ultimately dissatisfying film version of the Marvel comic. A man periodically turns into a not-so-jolly green giant. Ang Lee does the adaptation with ill-calculated sensibility and not much sense. Rating: 5 (0 to 10), low +1 (-4 to +4)
There are some moments of excitement in HULK, an introspective adaptation of Marvel Comics hero The Hulk. One has the big green smashing machine fighting three monster hulk-dogs, including what may be the screen's first monster French Poodle. But the films most intriguing scene has the ultimate in human rage fighting instruments of mechanized warfare, represented by several attack helicopters. It is the 21st century battle of the angry man versus machine. But the moments of real excitement are kept to a minimum for too long in this film. Until the final third the film is overly self-conscious and introspective as if Lee, in trying to bring more to the comic book story, lost the original vital essence. This is a film about rage turning a man into a monster and the audience needs to feel rage or they cannot participate in the experience.
Berkeley scientist Bruce Banner (played by Eric Bana) does bio-medical research. He struggles with the fact he cannot remember his early childhood. He gets his clue in dreams that keep prodding him with images from a past trauma that has cauterized his memories of the past. Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) works with him and strangely also contends with her own images from the past.
Bruce believes himself to be an orphan, but somewhere close by lurks his father David Banner (played by Nick Nolte and in flashbacks Paul Kersey). His father did something just awful with biomedical discoveries. We never find out exactly what it was, but it left a legacy in Bruce's genes which when combined with strong radioactivity turns him a pastel green, inflates him like a Macy's float, and allows him to disregard walls and ceilings when he moves his huge bulk around. Betty's father (Sam Elliot) is a military general. He knows that some powerful, weapon-related hocus-pocus is going on. and the army has left him in charge of making sure America gets it first.
This all sounds like it is a little more fun than it actually turns out to be. The problem is the film is so dark and so slow to unfold. It takes too long a time to unravel what the mystery incident was even in a film a languorous 136 minutes in length. In fact, we never actually learn the full story. We never even understand exactly what all the scientific research is all about. Equally strange is why General Ross is given such a free hand to handle the situations he faces in the film. His occasional ineptitude is so obvious that it telegraphs action well before it happens. He also is inept in his relations with his daughter as part of the two dysfunctional parent-child relationships that support the plot structure. Lee maintains a subdued tone, trying at times to be deep and psychological and even verge on the pseudo-mystical. The Danny Elfman score is not his usual fare but neither is it greatly notable.
Ang Lee bring gravity to superhero stories, but his hand is still unsure. I rate THE HULK a disappointing 5 on the 0 to 10 scale and a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.
There are at least two questions that the film version brings to mind. Bruce Banner seems to have something like 75 kilograms of mass. He at least triples his volume when he becomes the Hulk. Doesn't this make him rather fluffy rather than strong? Certainly it leaves the question of where he gets his strength.
Even more intriguing is the question of how his pants manage to continue to fit his midsection after it expands to several times its size without ripping out the seams. The place where his pre-expansion clothing would naturally be the tightest would be his waistline. His pants would rip first instead of being the only thing that survives. Lee seems to remember this detail in one or two scenes, at one point showing an elastic waistline, but usually he ignores it hoping it will not be noticed.
From there it was back to the room to work on the review. For dinner we went out to Bueno Taco. It was just OK, but it had some nice spicy jalapenos. Back to the room where we watched a film and went to bed.
06/21/03 Tulsa, OK: Gilcrease Museum
I got about 90 minutes of studying done. I had a tough theorem to prove. I struggled with it and gave up more than once. Finally just before we left I found a proof. Frequently if you just start out to prove something without a plan and list what you know, a proof falls out. Often it even looks like you knew what you were doing all along.
We were going to the zoo today but it was raining early on. It cleared up by the time we left but it would have been muggy. Tulsa is the rainiest place around for several states. Instead we went to the Gilcrease Museum.
They had works from the Rendezvous Competition. A large percentage were by three artists. Tom Cherry does stylized animals. Blair Buswell does realistic Western bronzes. Bill Anton does impressionist cowboy scenes. We saw some Cherry at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
Then we went to their regular collection, which starts with yet another bronze of Coming Through the Rye. The permanent collection features C. M. Russell, Frederic Remington, Olaf Seltzer, George Catlin, Albert Bierstadt, and Thomas Moran.
I like Russell's turquoise skies in his night scenes. There are several more Remington bronzes. I think Remington hated horses. All sorts of nasty things happen to horses in Remington Bronzes. One room has five bronzes. In each something nasty is happening to a horse: one is being rode down a steep cliff, one is being bronco busted, one is recoiling from a rattlesnake, one is being ridden to death by a thief on the run, and one is gored by a bison. That's a lot of rage.
George Catlin does not have as realistic a style and exaggerates facial expressions. John Mix Stanley does studies of Indian life. William R. Leigh has "A Close Call" and studies for the painting. It shows a large bear attacking a hunter and his dogs coming to the rescue. The bear looks mean and demonic, but my sympathies are with it. He also did "Landscape on the Moon." Not as good as a Chesley Bonestall, but of interest.
They have a little Indian art but bigger is the display of arts of Mexico and pre-Columbian art. They have terracotta statues and Mexican Revolutionary political prints. They have Mexican musical instruments.
We saw a short film on the Mexican sun disk. The Aztecs were sun worshippers who carved the disk in 1479. It is 3.5 meters in diameter. It weighs 10 tons. It was unearthed in 1790. Another film was on Diego Rivera who found that fresco murals were the best way to reach the common people. He was openly communist which made him the subject of controversy.
Lunch was at Chimi's, a Mexican restaurant. It was good Tex-Mex. The name implied it was Tex-Mex rather than real Mexican.
A stop at a bookstore and I got a book on matrix theory. Hopefully it will be useful. It was now 4-ish and we retreated to the room to work on logs.
06/22/03 Tulsa, OK to Joplin, MO
We never really saw Tulsa in darkness. We were here the longest days of the year. Last night sunset was at 9:44 PM. Sunrise is about 7. About 70 minutes of projective geometry homework.
Our visit for the first day of summer is the Tulsa Zoo.
Though the Tulsa Zoo is not a small zoo, it is small compared to the Louisville Zoo we saw earlier. The pens are not as open and are more restrictive. To stretch their collection they try to make it more like a museum with non-animal exhibits. The elephant pen was much in need of a cleaning. A lot of the exhibits made it hard to see the animals. I would not have minded that if it was for a reason that benefited the animals, but it just seemed to be bad design. We were there in the morning when you expect the animals to be energetic, but they seemed to be inactive, listless, and bored. Many of the enclosures looked empty altogether. Even in those that had animals frequently there was not much moving.
The polar bear was AWOL. Like almost every other museum there was a display of Indian tools and pots. The sharks seemed active enough. The Alaskan brown bear just was cooling out with only a head and a paw out of water. An amorous giraffe tried to interest his mate in some action. She rudely rebuffed him. The elephant museum accompanies a small dung-filled pen with two Asian elephants.
We drove to Bentonville, Arkansas listening to three episodes of Suspense and the BBC adaptation of John Wyndham's THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS.
Once we got to Bentonville we discovered that there were no cheap motels so went on to Joplin, Missouri. We picked a motel from the Triple-A book only to find it defunct. This was not a good day. We picked the Select Hallmark Inn. It got two diamonds in the Triple-A book but it has some problems. The toilet is broken and needs to be coaxed.
We tried a BBQ place called Red, Hot,& Blue. We had wanted to try fried pickles. They had that on the menu so we got that as an appetizer. Then we each got a meat sandwich. The movie came with fried corn on the cob. Everything you get out here you can get deep-fried. And it is surprisingly good. Not as good as the item not deep fried, but frying really does not do as much damage as you'd think. I think in Louisiana they deep fry Mars Bars. Walking outside the sun is merciless.
We got to the room and discovered the air conditioner could be more powerful. We put on AMC with GHOST and I put on a wet T-shirt. That works like a personal air conditioner.
06/23/03 Joplin, MO to Springfield, MO
The radio alarm went off at 6 AM. It must have been left that way by previous people using the room. Usually the housekeeper makes sure that is turned off. Here they didn't. They did turn down the air conditioner. There must be a whole long set of things that a housekeeper is supposed to check and you never notice it. You only notice when it is not done.
We have brought on our computer a listing of what is on HBO tonight. Most motels we stay at have HBO, but that seems to still not do a lot for us. Something has happened with the cable networks that nobody has really noticed. There was a time when the networks like HBO and Showtime all competed with each other. They all got the recent films, and frequently more than one or two showed a film because I was major enough.
People started buying the whole package of all the premium stations so that they got coverage of everything. In the meantime Encore seems to have gotten along quite respectably showing maybe one or two recent films a month and a whole load of older films. The premium stations realized there was really not a lot of use in competing with each other and adopted the Encore philosophy. Now HBO and the premium stations seem each to be picking two or three recent films and showing them over and over. And the rest of what they show are older films.
There is very little of any quality that they show because they really don't have to. This trip HBO is showing ICE AGE, THE TIME MACHINE, and LIFE OR SOMETHING LIKE IT. We seem to have had many opportunities to see those films.
Since the cable stations need to invest a lot less in films this way, they have discovered they can run multiple cable networks. There are now three different HBO cable stations as well as Cinemax, which they also own. Yet the choice among them is less than HBO used to offer. All are mostly showing mediocre backlist films--films that were not very good five and six years ago.
Breakfast buffet was actually fairly good. I guess if you can get biscuits and gravy, I think it is at least a decent breakfast. The motel still had some artifacts of Best Western, but was not one now. It was just a bit run down.
Our first stop was the George Washington Carver National Monument. It is the site where he was born in a one room cabin. The town was Diamond Grove, Missouri some time around the Civil War.
George was a sickly boy so was given lighter tasks by his masters, the Carvers. This gave him spare time to explore the woods. He discovered an interest in amateur botany. He could not be educated in the school because of his race, but teacher Steven Slane tutored George. George left Missouri for Kansas for more opportunity. He left one town after seeing a lynching. But he stayed in Kansas where he could go to school. He found people who would let him work for his room and board while he studied. He applied and was accepted to college but was turned away again due to race.
Iowa Agricultural College accepted him knowing he was black and he went to college there. After graduating with a Baccalaureate they offered him a teaching position.
Booker T Washington had founded Tuskegee Institute and wanted Carver to come teach. Carver readily accepted. He left a paying job and a well-equipped lab. He built a new lab from things he found in a landfill, making beakers from jars. He worked on subjects like soil conservation, plant disease, and mycology. He found specialized uses for crops that would help in soil conservation like the peanut and the sweet potato.
The visitor center has a documentary on Carver (with an occasional religious bias). The narration referred several times to "the Great Creator" not in Carver's words but their own. My tax dollars being used to promote religion.
The documentary said "Missouri was fertile place [for Carver] to grow." It just wasn't such a great place for a black to get an education.
The grounds also has a walk that takes you to sites that Carver saw on his sojourns, but it is more a pleasant nature walk.
They have a recording of Carver speaking. He had a high scratchy voice one might think was female. Then again, I think Lincoln did also.
From there it was in to Lamar for Harry Truman's birth house. It is just a small house. It is six rooms: four bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. None very big. The room that Truman was born in is five and a half feet wide and has a bed that goes from one wall to the other. Actually some years before the Trumans lived there a neighbor boy who burned down his own house when his wife died. He went west and had adventures of his own. His relatives lived in the Truman house after the Trumans moved out. The young man's name was Wyatt Earp.
There is not a whole lot to see at the Truman house. It took a few minutes and then we headed out of town.
We stopped at a dollar store to get some snacks for the car. We got cheese crackers that got less than a third their calories from fat. That is a reasonably healthy snack. Crackers and cookies from dollar stores have surprisingly high quality, I have found. They are not always a good deal, but they are not generally cheaply made. Where we live we get Penn and Liberty brand and it is a brand name that seems to be fairly good. I worked with someone who previously worked in a Nabisco plant. He was rather surprised the form in which they get the cheese they put into cheese crackers. I would have expected a powder like you get with macaroni and cheese. Curiously that is not the form. They get a big heavy block of cheddar cheese. I think he said they were allowed to shave a piece off and it was a very enjoyable piece of cheese.
Back in Joplin we stopped in the municipal building to see Thomas Hart Benton's mural "Joplin at the Turn of the Century." It is there with a collection of studies including a sculpture. The mural brings together many images like is done on a film posters. We see a cart on hill overlooking town's main street. In the foreground there are miners and gamblers. The whole effect is sort of storybookish.
We stopped for lunch at a Hardees. Just a small sandwich each. Evelyn thinks that Carl's Jr. And Hardees are the same chain in different states.
On the way out of Joplin we stopped at a bookstore called Vintage Stock. They had used DVDs. I got GET CARTER, a crime film with Michael Caine, reputedly very good. I had wanted to see it for a while. And they had ULZANA'S RAID. I had seen that once and, if I remember right, was quite good. I think it represents the Indians not as irrational villains the way Westerns of the 50s did. Nor does it portray them as lamb-like victims. It is more like ZULU portrays the Zulus, brave and dangerous fighters.
We drove to Springfield, Mo. We checked into a motel, the Country Hearth, and with extra time on our hands we put on GET CARTER. It turned out to be a very unusual film. Michael Caine plays Jack Carter, a London hit-man who goes to Newcastle to investigate the death of his brother. He finds his old friends from Newcastle are playing around with him and using him against each other. That somewhat oversimplifies things. It is a tough and a nasty film.
We wanted dinner so went out. My one rule was that whatever we picked it had to have a full parking lot. We saw one place at a distance that looked like it had a bunch of cars in the lot. I said we should eat there. It turned out to be a car dealer with his stock in the lot. Evelyn had a cruel little laugh at my expense. We did find a restaurant with a crowded lot. That turned out to be Mexican Villa. The food was pretty good and we ate surprisingly cheaply.
We watched the AFI tribute to Robert DeNiro. It mixed insights on acting with comedy. They ran ads for the new Gillette disposable shaver. Every two years they come up with ads about how their old shavers were crap and now they have the design right. The new one plays music for a closer shave. No, really they have added another blade. I guess when they went from one to two blades they figured that they had the problem licked. Now years later they realize it still didn't shave, but they missed the concept but just a bit. It wasn't two blades it needed, it was three. By the year 2053 they will be up to seven blades to give the close, comfortable shave that the 2047 six blade model just could never give the user. Now you know why I grew a beard.
06/24/03 Springfield, MO to Memphis TN.
Spent the early morning trying to draw a 16 point affine plane. It should have been easy but it turned out to be a bear to put on paper.
Breakfast was not all that good in spite of this being a fancier motel.
First stop this morning is Wilson's Creek Battlefield. There are road signs on how to get to Battlefield. Don't follow them. There is a town called Battlefield in another direction.
We got to the Wilson Creek Battle Visitor Center a little before 8. We saw a slide show that told the story of the Wilson Creek Battle.
Most Missourians Wanted to be neutral in the Civil War though Governor Claiborne F. Jackson had strong sympathies with the South and pushed for secession. When some Missourians pushed for secession Lincoln ordered the governor to stop them. Jackson refused troops to put down rebellion. The State Militia sided with the governor and the Confederacy. Captain Nathaniel Lyon sided with the North. He saw the tide turning to the South and Moves most of the arsenal's weapons out of Missouri. He made several attacks on the Confederate troops including Fort Jackson and Jefferson City. He installed a pro-Union state government. For his actions Lyon was made a general.
The Union wanted Lyon to prod Southern troops being trained near Springfield in an area the north called Wilson's Creek and the South called Oak Hills.
Lyon planned an attack with a pincer action. Colonel Franz Sigil was to lead the other half of the pincer. On August 10 Lyon caught the Confederate troops unprepared and overran them and took positions on good ground on what was later named the bloody hill.
Sigil faced resistance, but was doing well until he mistook a troop of advancing confederates for Union reinforcements from Iowa. It seems Iowa dressed its soldiers in gray. Sigil was pinned down and could not reinforce Lyon.
Lyon had high ground, but the South had numbers. It was a bloody six hours of battle in which the Union lost 1317 soldiers and the confederates lost 1222. Lyon was wounded twice during the battle and killed the third time. The battle was inconclusive, but it was clear the Confederates could not force out Union control of the state government.
The ranger told another that today he was 28 years old. This was his 28th birthday. When I got a chance I told him, "Ah, so you were born on a Tuesday." "No, as a matter of fact I was born on a Monday." "Had to be Tuesday. The calendar is on a 28-year cycle." "My mother always told me it was a Monday." I pulled out my palmtop and found June 24, 1975 was a Tuesday. "But I was born in 1974." I knew he was confused about something. Evelyn pursued it. "Doesn't that make you 29?" "Does it? Maybe it does."
There is a loop to rive seeing eight locations of the battle. You see where Sigil made his mistake and you see the Bloody Hill from both the Union and Confederate viewpoints.
The road through the Ozark is hilly, foresty and twisty. It is very green. We are driving through the hottest part of day, which is probably a good thing. The air conditioning keeps the car cool, though it is in the 90s outside. Driving around in late June you see fireworks being sold just about everywhere over the main roads. Usually it is under a big tent. I guess it must be legal in Missouri.
What ads do we see a lot of that feel different from the Northeast. Fireworks. Gunshops. Pawnshops. Jesus.
I tell Evelyn we must have just crossed a state line. Evelyn hadn't realized it and had not seen a sign. But the road mile numbers read 4 and then 5 and that is usually a sign that we just entered a new state. So now we are in Arkansas.
We stop in Arkansas only for a quick lunch at a combined KFC and Taco Bell. I get a little chicken, but mostly get a lemonade I can suck all afternoon. Evelyn gets a burrito.
And now we are in Tennessee. Almost. We are in West Memphis, which is over the state line. There is something about the road design here. You have to drive miles just to go a short distance. Evelyn has decided we must see the Memphis Belle. This was the first plane to reach its designated number of bombing runs over Europe and have its crew sent home. Actually they went on publicity tours to sell war bonds, I believe.
The director William Wyler, who had volunteered for military duty, was assigned to make a documentary, "The Last Flight of the Memphis Belle" about the last European mission. It was not that eventful a flight, but it served as a basis for the film MEMPHIS BELLE in which the Germans threw pretty much everything they had at the plane. After the war the plane came to Memphis and has been on public display. Last time we were in Memphis we found out the plane was on public display. She decided to make seeing it a major feature of this trip.
Triple-A said there was automobile access to mud island and that Tuesday from 4 to 8 PM the museum on Mud Island is free. Evelyn decided to take advantage of both. It took an hour getting to Mud Island to see Memphis Belle. Somehow the roads are screwed up so it is never straightforward how to get anywhere. Even getting to the Motel 6 off the Interstate had been a royal mess.
During that time finding how to get to Mud Island we found out that there is no automobile access, you have to park on the mainland, paying $5 for a relatively few hours. You can walk the bridge to the island but with the heat index at well over 100 it would be foolish. You pay for a monorail. The museum is never free. They claimed that it was Triple-A that "screwed up." (I cannot imagine how they would get that in their heads unless they were told it was true.) And as the final kicker we got to the museum and saw the sign that the Memphis Belle was away being renovated. Evelyn was really disappointed and I was moderately disappointed also.
The museum has Indian pottery (of course), accounts of explorers, displays on riverboats, displays of handling the floods, and there is a film about disasters on the river. For the Civil war you have a mockup of a gunboat. They have information on post-war industry. Then they decide that music is their main thing. They cover Honky-tonk, Ragtime, blues and soul, rock and roll, and Elvis.
More interesting is the tour of the Riverwalk. They have a scale model of the Mississippi River. One pace is a mile. That is about 1/2112. This makes it stretch a very great distance since the Mississippi is the third largest river in the world. It is a huge, huge map of the river in stone. It would be five city blocks long. It includes the depth of the river. 1,500,000 gallons of water circulate through it in a 12-hour day. It is probably more interesting than the Memphis Belle.
We were done about 7:30 PM. We had a small Mexican dinner at a not very good restaurant.
Earlier we got a cheap DVD of some Bonanza episodes to pass time when there was nothing to watch on TV. Generally the writing on Bonanza was supposed to be good. This one was horrible. It was clearly a pilot for a series that no only did not sell but should have been buried. One of the Cartwright suns falls in love with White Buffalo Woman. That is what the Indians call her. Also Spirit Woman. She is a European who knows some medicine and cures the Indians. They treat her with awe and think she has supernatural powers but she just knows a little medicine. Even the music was substandard. Whenever Parnell Roberts sees her they play the same familiar piece of classical music. I can't quite place what it is, but I know they got it free. I don't know why Bonanza's producers stood by and let their program be degraded this way.
06/25/03 West Memphis, AK to Nashville, TN
It is almost impossible to get on the interstate from Motel 6 without going a convoluted path that takes you way out of your way. The interstate runs just past the motel, but the entrance ramp is just a bit upstream. Evelyn intentionally drove about ten yards the wrong way down a road to get to a position to be able to make the ramp.
We cross over into Tennessee and Memphis with that weird pyramid on our left. Really it is an auditorium, but because the town has been named for a place in Egypt, the Egyptian motif has been chosen.
It is about a two-hour drive to Nashville. In Nashville we intend to see the Cumberland Science Center. It has been renamed the Adventure Science Center to sell a little better.
We have missed breakfast and it is 11:00 so we stop for something to eat. I have a bowl of chili. Then we head to the museum.
The Adventure Science Center is a rambunctious museum that has given a lot of thought how to involve children. Exhibits are designed to have a maximal amount of visitor participation and particularly child participation. In some places it seems more a playground than a teaching device. Up the core of the museum is a large framework in the shape of a rocket. On it are science exhibits and playground devices like big tubes for children to crawl through. It is like a McDonalds play area mixed with a science museum. A very unusual concept. Around the rocket is a more traditional science museum, but even there they have creativity. They have what they call Frankenstein's Lab. It is a four-room section that teaches about cosmology, physics, conservation, etc. But it is all done weakly on a theme tied in with the Universal Pictures monster films of the 1930s and 40s. The connection is weak or non-existent. They will have Dr. Frankenstein's View of the Universe and it will be Dr. Phillip Morrison (he's sort of a Carl Sagan, but to a lessor extent) narrating the famous film "Powers of Ten."
They have their own exhibit of moving dinosaurs, with a triceratops and a tyrannosaur, but they are a generation older and are not interactive and reactive like the ones we saw at the Louisville museum. They just move around a little paying no heed to the visitors all to the music of JURASSIC PARK. On the second floor are some exhibits on biology which are not quite as engaging.
Many of the exhibits teach only a little, but are designed to engage kids. The Parachute Drop illustrates how a parachute works but is more a big toy than anything else. A loop of rope goes up to a pulley about fifteen feet above the visitor's head. It has a clamp designed to let go at the top. You clamp a little parachute to it and send up a parachute to fall when it hits the top. Clever but it does not teach a lot to anyone who has seen a parachute.
People come with large groups of kids. Evelyn says managing the kids is like trying to herd cats. Actually it is worse. With cats at least it is legal to use hammers. We went to a science show that supposedly was connected to Frankenstein's lab, but it really just demonstrated Jacob's Ladder and a Van DeGraff generator. We talked with the woman about the machinery and about Kenneth Strickfadden's devices that were used in the Frankenstein films.
I guess what struck me as odd was a woman giving food to her kids and telling them that when they were done they could go play. The concept of going to play at a science museum was strange.
From there we picked a motel. It was actually more a hotel. The room seemed nice. The best value on a place to stay seemed to the Quality Inn and Suites. It got a three-diamond rating from Triple-A and had prices in the $50 range. That was a little strange in an area where motel rates are pretty high. We found out why. The motel goes north and south and features a big window in each room. Our window faces west. Outside the sun is merciless. So it has a reasonably strong _air conditioner next to an oven that is intended as a window. The sun doesn't go down until after 9 PM and the room gets really hot. Even with the air conditioner it must be about 80.
Dinner was at a cafeteria-style restaurant called Jack's BBQ. It supposedly is quite popular. They had three different sauces and they were each great. A good BBQ sauce really makes the restaurant. The flavor of the sauce can determine how good the experience is more importantly than the grade of the meat.
In keeping with the Frankenstein theme we watched YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. We could not hook it to the TV so watched it directly from the DVD player.
06/26/03 Nashville, TN to Cookeville, TN
The bathroom is still pretty warm in the morning. Breakfast at the motel was actually fairly decent.
Our first site of the day was the Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, soldier, lawyer, Congressman, and President of the United States. He had been in the Indian Wars. But he became famous for the Battle of New Orleans.
Actually let me say this about Andy By-God Jackson. He was in many ways a schmuck. He believed the Union had to be preserved but he was an enthusiastic slaveholder. He was worse in his attitudes toward Indians. He believed that Indians should be moved out of white man's way and had little patience with Congress when they suggested Indians should be treated as humans. And he did not win the Battle of New Orleans. British General Pakenham lost the battle. If I remember right Pakenham gave what Winston Churchill the stupidest command any British commander ever gave in the field. Pakenham essentially marched his men in front of the American gun line like ducks in a shooting gallery. The British were killed in the thousands and 13 American's were killed. That made Jackson a hero. I could have commanded the American side and won.
This is a museum built around the Jackson family home, the Hermitage. Jackson considered himself a "gentleman farmer." He financed the farm, but the slaves did the labor. For a surprisingly high admission fee you see a 15-minute film on Jackson, some artifacts of his career, a tour of his mansion, and a walk around his farm. This is a private site and one I will not describe in great detail.
From there we headed for Murfreesboro and the Stones River Civil War site.
Earlier this trip I talked about Grant's victory at Ford Donelson, and in a previous log I talked about Shiloh. Those victories left him in a position to grab Nashville bloodlessly. Southern General Braxton Bragg retreated to Murfreesboro. Northern general William Rosecrans rested his men in Nashville leaving the day after Christmas (1862). Rosecrans wanted to break supply Southern lines. He broke his troops into three groups to find the confederate army. On December 30 he found Bragg's 38,000 man army at Murfreesboro.
That night the two armies camped in sight of each other and each even had their bands played for their own troops and competed with each other. They finished the evening playing together "Going Home."
The following morning Bragg's men rose early and attacked the Union forces, catching them unprepared. By 10 AM they had driven them back to the Nashville Pike. At that point the Union troops refused to retreat any more. Now they brought their artillery to bear. Bragg's troops could not fight cannons and canister. The day was spent in hard battle.
Bragg had inflicted bad losses on the Union and expected them to retreat. There was no fighting New Years Day. Bragg impatiently awaited the retreat. Next morning the Union troops had been reinforced and Bragg realized there was still a fight ahead of him. Bragg attacked again, but Union artillery was now in place. It was Bragg's turn to pay. Bragg ordered his troops into a suicidal attack. This sort of order was part of the reason Bragg's troops hated him almost as much as the enemy did. By the end of the battle, by mutual consent, the Union had casualties of 13,000 out of 43,000 troops. The South 10,000 out of 38,000. That was the bloodiest battle by percentage. 30% of those who were in the battle ended up killed or wounded.
Of course there is some question of the arbitrariness of what is and is not called a battle. If a Confederate was in the bushes when a Union scout went riding by. The Confederate shoots the scout mortally wounding him but the scout still has the strength to return fire and kill his attacker, could this not be said to be a battle in which there was a 100% casualty rate? It might not qualify because it was too small an engagement, but then you have to arbitrarily decide what is and is not a battle. I think Antietam had the bloodiest day by actual count of casualties and you don't need to get arbitrary about what engagements get counted.
But getting back to this battle...Both sides claimed victory. But the North had gained control of farmland and position they would use to grab the all-important railhead at Chattanooga.
There was the belief in the late 60s and early 70s that military command was insensitive to the pain and death they caused in fighting their wars. In fact, they were nowhere nearly as bad as they had been in Civil War days. 23,000 casualties in one action, in one day. 30% of all involved in a battle killed or wounded. That is 7 2/3 times the World Trade Center toll. Someone asked how Bragg could have ordered his men to charge artillery knowing they would be mowed down. I said that the Civil War had a lot of "glorious charges." By "glorious" I mean "stupid." At Fredericksburg, Pickett's Charge, etc. generals gambled with soldiers' lives and gambled stupidly. I would like to think commanders are more sensitive these days.
A ranger was giving a talk on the battle and we joined that when we arrived at the visitor center. They were renovating the visitor center so we went to the temporary and saw a film on the battle. Then we followed the loop around by car seeing sights of the battle.
We headed for Knoxville, TN. We stopped for dinner at a buffet called Ryan's in Lebanon. I thought I was being careful but I still left feeling stuffed. I just don't have the capacity I once did. It was too far to get to Knoxville in one day. We lose an hour from the time zone. We stopped in Cookeville.
I worked on my log and watched EIGER SANCTION. Not a very good spy film. It is more about mountain climbing.
06/27/03 Cookeville, TN to New Jersey
I won't say much about today. We were saying last night that we could make it home in two days. We were about 850 miles from home. Somewhere in the day we recalculated and decided it was more like 790. Come time to stop it was something like 300. At the end there was no motel we had to get. It seemed worth it just to keep going. I did the driving from Virginia to New Jersey which meant driving the Washington Beltway at rush hour, which was a mess.
Some time was wasted in toll lines. At one point there was a long toll line for a four dollar toll. Evelyn started to hand me a ten-dollar bill to get change. She had the money in ones, but it was more convenient to give me a ten. But it would slow things down a little. How much? It might be 20 seconds longer for us. That would make it 20 seconds longer for the car behind us. In fact each car currently in line there would be delayed 20 seconds. That is not all, but after that it becomes hard to compute. What is the total effect of having the line 20 seconds slower? You would think anyone joining the line would be 20 seconds slower, but since this line competes with other lines for cars, to some extent the time loss becomes less. If there were only one toll-taker the 20 seconds would continue to be distributed to cars until the frequency of arrivals drops below serving rate.
We have been twice across the United States and driven over 7000 miles in the course of a month and a day. We have been to a lot of museums. The art museums were enjoyable, particularly those that featured pictures of the old romantic West. But as with previous trips it was the Civil War sites that are most memorable and most meaningful. The four years of the Civil War were the defining moment of the United States as a nation. They really were the birth the modern world not just in this country but really worldwide. Many of the lessons the US learned in those years were not learned by the rest of the world until World War I. It was the birth of scientific and technological warfare. In Singapore we saw a shop selling action figures of Union and Confederate soldiers. I didn't see any Chinese soldier action figures. They recognize it as an event of international importance.