Friday, June 19, 2020

Sir Ian Holm, 1931-2020

Sir Ian Holm in his roll as Bilbo Baggins
in The Lord of the Rings Movies directed
by Peter Jackson

"I've thought up an ending for my book: 'And he lived happily ever after, to the end of his days." -Bilbo Baggins, from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings.

Sir Ian Holm, (12 September 1931-19 June 2020) who acted in such  works as Lord of the RingsChariots of FireDay after Tomorrow, etc. has passed away. I enjoyed his performances, and thought him to be a supurb actor. I am sad to hear of his passing.

"Go in Peace! I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil"- J.R.R. Tolkien (Gandalf, in Return of the King.)


Juneteenth, which is a contraction of June and Nineteenth is a celebration that originated in Texas commemorating the day on which General Gordon Granger announced federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. This came about two and a half years after the  Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect.
The Emancipation Proclamation freed all previously enslaved people in the U.S. As the Union Army advanced into the south, or as escaped slaves crossed into Union territory, either action freeing a person from the control of the Confederate government, that person was considered free. When the Union won the war in April 1865, it permanently freed all people previously enslaved under Confederate law. But Texas was remote compared to the other slave states. Granger's announcement on June 19, 1865 helped enforce the Emancipation Proclamation more consistently in Texas. After Juneteenth, there were some people still owned legally as slaves in the Union Border States (slave states that did not join the south during the Civil War) but these people were officially freed on December 6, 1885 by the 13th Amendment.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872-1906
I remember first reading We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar when I was a high schooler. It wasn't at school, it was at a mid-week church youth group, or Mutual as it is called in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The lesson being taught was about the pain that we often feel but hide from others for the sake of appearances, and how we need to be aware that other people might be feeling pain that we can't see.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was well acquainted with hidden pain. He knew, first hand, the injustice of racism, and how other people who hadn't experienced racism, too often don't see or want to see the pain they are casually causing their fellow humans by the way they treat them. It teaches a powerful lesson in how people who are treated badly, beaten down over and over again, can develop a fake exterior, acting happy and contented because the majority want them to act happy and contented. So they do so for the sake of survival. While I haven't experienced racism myself on a long term basis in my home country, I know what it's like to be systemically pushed down and silenced. I appreciated the poem, because I can relate to much of what it is saying.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born June 27, 1872. He was the first black person to make enough off of his writing to live off of it. He was born free, but his parents had been slaves before they were freed. He wrote numerous poems and novels during his short lifetime, and died tragically of tuberculosis at the age of 33. I often think, when authors and artists die young, like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sylvia Plath, or Vincent Van Gogh, what great works they could have created if they lived longer. Of course, that question can't be answered. And I am grateful for what Paul Laurence Dunbar did put out into the world, particularly We Wear the Mask, which is my favorite of his poems.

We Wear the Mask
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

D-Day, The Beaches of Normandy

On this day, 76 years ago, Canadian, American, and British soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy to fight against tyranny. The battle on June 6, 1944 became known as D-Day. There were five beaches on which the soldiers landed, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. 4,414 men died on that day. Despite these casualties, that day was a turning point in World War II. The allied forces went on to free France and defeat the axis powers. I hope that during this current time of unrest and uncertainty, that we can remember these men, their courage, and the ideals they fought for.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Sounder (c) 1969 by William H. Armstrong
Sounder by William H. Armstrong is a moving story about a boy and his dog. The boy is never given a name. The only important character with a name, is Sounder, the dog. He is a loyal, loving dog, who is badly injured while trying to protect his master, the boy's father, who is arrested for stealing a ham to feed his hungry family. The boy is unable to find his dog for a long time, but doesn't give up hope that somewhere, Sounder is alive. Finally, Sounder comes home, wounded, but alive. The boy and his dog make a strong pair as they go looking for the boy's father on various chain gangs. Meanwhile, the boy works hard to teach himself how to read, partly on his own, and partly with the help of a generous, altruistic teacher. Racism against the boy and his family is very prevalent in the book. But so are courage, caring, and love; from several characters, but especially from Sounder.

I recommend this book to people who are willing to learn uncomfortable but important things, and who enjoy stories of overcoming hardships, and stories about loving, loyal dogs.