Saturday, October 24, 2009

Declaration of Independence

On display at the Virginia Historical Society was a 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence. Such copies are known as Dunlap Broadsheets. Around 200 were printed up on July 4, 1776 (by a guy called John Dunlap) and sent across the 13 States to be read publicly. Only 26 are known to survive. This particular example was found folded up behind a painting, which is a rather cliched circumstance of discovery, but makes it no less amazing that this 233 old piece of paper remains in almost mint condition. The Continental Congress commissioned the more familiar calligraphied versions of the Declaration, such as is on display in Washington D.C., which were not completed until August 2. Although the Dunlap Broadsheets are less visually stunning, you can't help imagine a town crier or army officer receiving this document and after announcing it's message, carefully folding and tucking it into a coat pocket for safe keeping, while others became lost in a pile of papers or forgotten on some noticeboard.
Seeing an artifact from any historical event also brings the story into the realm of reality. History easily becomes a myth, but casting your eyes on the physical evidence reminds you that merely human people were involved. This becomes even more evident when you take the time to read the words in their entirety. One would be forgiven for thinking that the Declaration of Independence is an eternal essay on human freedom and a blueprint for revolutionaries of any time and place. It certainly has it's highlights, for example: "We hold these truths self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness". Actually, that about wraps up the universally applicable highlights. The rest of the document is specific to the circumstances that the colonies found themselves in with respect to the crown. In fact the Declaration goes as far to say that in most cases civilizations are best served by striving to making a bad system of government better, rather than overthrowing an administration for 'light or transient causes'. Sound advice indeed in these trying times.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Around the Yard

The yard is beginning to look attractively autumnal. Writing that makes be wonder: is there an adjective form of Fall? I tried to think of one but couldn't so lapsed into Real English™. This delightful clump of mushrooms has sprouted in the front yard. I am enjoying a break from mowing and they grabbed their chance. In the rear, however, one plant is fearlessly holding out against the onset of Fall. Another donation from Pappy McKelvey, I stuck this guy in a soggy spot 'round back. It has been boringly green (although that's better than dead brown), but now has burst into color with these happy, daisy-like flowers.

The back yard is becoming somewhat off limits as the neighbors have a new dog that barks relentlessly whenever we step out the back door, and starts trying to bite through the fence. I extended an offer of friendship in the form a a stick to play with, but pooch was not buying it. Up close his yapping is earsplitting. Saddest of all is that the neighbors also have a St Bernard puppy which I am dying to cuddle - he is adorable and probably soft as a cloud. Unfortunately, until I find a way past pyscho puppy, shy Bernie remains hopelessly out of reach.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

OBX: An Anniversary

Kristal has been my woman for a little under three years, and we've been married a little over two months. Ergo, we must mark the occasion with a trip to the place where it all began. The NPS campsites close in October, so this time of year we try to fit in one last visit to the beach. We pitch a tent in the dunes, sit out on the beach and enjoy a bottle of wine in the glow of a full moon. On previous trips we have been caught out by campfire bans, too many trucks on the beach and terrible weather. This weekend, everything seemed to come together perfectly for a serene vacation.

You're not in the Outer Banks until you make a stop at a Brew Thru. For the first time ever I managed not to speed past the first one in Kitty Hawk, which is the only one on the right side of the road as you drive South. For some reason I view this as a minor triumph and an omen of good things to come. Beers acquired, we also made a pit stop at Mulligans for fish tacos and steamed shrimp, clams and oysters. After lunch it was on to the campsite, just a few miles outside of town. To the beach! The birds were good this year. I can positively identify the American Oystercatcher, which with its orange beak is strikingly beautiful. Aside from that, the other beach waders fall under the category of assorted Sandpipers and Sanderlings. The brown Pelican was of course also well represented.

On Sunday we drove a little ways down Pea Island. We had never actually stopped at the Pea Island Nature Reserve visitor center before. There is a short trail reunning between two man-made lakes on the lagoon side of the island, from which we saw some huge turtles, Redwinged blackbirds and a Yellowlegs. Also some diminutive form of Heron and several unidentified fish that kept jumping six feet out of the water.

Monday, October 05, 2009

U2 360

I know it's about the music, but sometimes you have to mention the engineering. U2 are touring to support their new album, No Line on the Horizon. The music was great, especially when they dipped into Joshua Tree, but what stole the show was the visual experience. The show was opened by Muse, and during their set the huge cylindrical screen meant we could get a close up of the band from way up on the hill. But when U2 took to the stage they really opened up all the stops. Being cylindrical, the width of the screen is essentially infinite, but somehow every member of the band could be seen all at one time without any obvious breaks in the image. Then, almost imperceptible, the bottom of the screen begins to extend downwards. After a few minutes the hexagonal units have completely separated and the screen displays full length images of an aging Bono, rocking out. In the center of the stage is a tower, the lights of which stream through the gaps in the screen creating the most awesome effect. Just when you thought it could get any more staggering, the screen begins to contract, from the top! Once the pieces have come back together again, the cylinder hangs just a few feet about the heads of the band. Did I mention the music was good?