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Monday, November 23, 2015

St Luke The Ox

A collection of agricultural equipment
in the Torquay Museum in England

Last month, I attended church to find the congregation celebrating the Feast of St. Luke. As Luke was a physician who attended Paul on his missionary journeys, we recited the litany of healing. Then everyone in the congregation was ushered up to the altar to be anointed. As two members of my family were facing debilitating illness and infirmity, I thought of and prayed for their healing. 

During the sermon, the priest mentioned that Saint Luke was associated with the symbol of the ox, which farmers in previous eras used to plow their fields. I found the way he described the association powerful, and so I picked up my sketch pad and started drawing.

That night, we received a phone call. One of the relatives I had prayed for during the healing service was in the hospital, about to undergo an operation. The prognosis was not good. This situation threw our normal lives out the window. We packed up and got on the road to be there, and help him and other family members in any way we could.

The days spent in the hospital gave me time to finish the drawing I started in church. Interestingly, in addition to serving as the patron saint of physicians, St. Luke is also a patron for artists. 

Now, the only question remains: do my efforts qualify me for his patronage?

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Nazi Stamp Album: Part 2

Arnold might have accepted the situation better, had he understood what had happened. But how can a child understand what has happened to family, his community, and his country, if his father refuses to talk about it? How can he make sense of such an upside-down situation, when all the men in his town who fought on (he thought) the side of right refuse to speak about, or even remember, their involvement in the war? How can he feel any sense of identity, and hope for his future in his home or his homeland, when forces from other countries walk his streets, and dictate how his government should function? Even his cherished stamp album was taken away from him. This album had fired his imagination with the grand new, modern world Hitler had promised to build. Instead, just as Allied forces had destroyed Hitler's dreams, the foreigners occupying Austria stole Arnold's cherished album, along with everything else associated with the Nazi party, and consigned it to the flames.

How could any child deal with that?

Is it any wonder that, as a child, he fixated upon the idea of America, the world's conquering hero-nation of World War II, and the home of all the movies that helped him escape the poverty and emptiness of his childhood, as being the land of opportunity and freedom? Is it so incomprehensible that he looked for a way to escape Austria, and when he found a means that seemed to work for him in bodybuilding, threw himself so fully into it that he became the most successful bodybuilder in history? 

Extraordinary times breed extraordinary people, and, as Total Recall demonstrates, one such person is Arnold Schwarzenegger. He worked hard at Bodybuilding, and when his successes gave him the opportunity to emigrate to the United States, he leapt at the chance. After working one's muscles to failure for four, five, or six hours each day, most bodybuilders lack the energy and focus to do much else. Not so Arnold. In addition to his rigorous gym sessions, he took business classes in community colleges, helped run Joe Weider's Muscle And Fitness empire, promoted bodybuilding contests he didn't compete in, ran his own mail order bodybuilding business, and operated several home repair businesses with fellow bodybuilder Franco Columbu.  

Note: Arnold Schwarzenegger thought most of his fellow bodybuilders were "lazy."

Arnold's hard work paid handsome dividends. He made his first million dollars in the real estate market. When he tired of all his conquests in the Bodybuilding world, he turned his focus and passion toward Hollywood, and helped make the kind of movies that he adored as a child. When he tired of being a movie star, and desired to give back to the country that had given him everything he ever dreamed of achieving, he threw his energies into serving as the governor of California. In addition to serving Californians everyday needs, he helped design and fund infrastructure projects that would improve cities, update highways to relieve congestion, and build high speed rail systems. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger's life might have been far different had his father really reached out to him, talked to him, and helped him understand the Austrian government's reaction to the post-Hitler years. His life might have been more conventional had he been allowed to carry some relic of the past, such as his cherished stamp collection, into the future. Instead, he worked hard, never lost sight of his goals, and eventually transformed all his desires and dreams into reality. And unlike Hitler, he didn't need to start a war, or oppress an entire culture and race, to build a better world for all of us to live in.

Dragon Dave

Monday, November 16, 2015

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Nazi Stamp Album: Part 1

Arnold Schwarzenegger's father was not a hate-filled person who dedicated his life to the extermination of the Jewish people. At least, that's not the way Arnold remembers him in his autobiography Total Recall. He was an Austrian gendarme, or policeman, who served in the German army during WWII. Thus, in his small way, he worked to transform Hitler's dreams into reality.

All conquerors and empire-builders dream of doing good works that will benefit the majority of their subjects. Like my grandfather with his stamps, and me with my Wacky packages, Arnold remembers collecting Nazi stamps, and putting them into an album. Its pages awed young Arnold with the glorious new world Hitler promised to create. 

The book was actually a do-it-yourself album for promoting the mighty accomplishments of the Third Reich. There were sections for different categories, such as public works, tunnels and dams under construction, Hitler’s rallies and speeches, great new ships, new monuments, great battles being fought in Poland. Each category had blank pages that were numbered, and whenever you went to the store and bought something or invested in a war bond, you would get a photo to match up with a number and paste into your book. When the collection was complete, you’d win a prize.

But WWII turned against the Germans, and Hitler's dreams turned to ashes.

Those who worked hardest to bring Hitler's dreams to life--those who survived--were imprisoned, tried in courts of law, and executed. The rest--those who merely served, and carried out the orders of their commanders--were sent home, to rebuild their communities, and resume their ordinary lives. Yet what can be ordinary about returning home to a devastated land, one in which all the glorious visions that the media has inundated its citizens with have failed? What can be ordinary about returning home as a soldier, after having lost the war, and being told by the world community that you must atone for your crimes? Imagine doing your civic duty for years, then returning home, and as the years go on, you work hard in relative poverty, and keep learning more revelations of the cruelties and horrors the regime you served had perpetrated. Definitely not a situation you'd want to relive with your friends every Saturday night, or regale your family with your war stories.

Arnold would have loved to have talked with his father, and understood why his nation, Austria, now had to atone for its participation in WWII. But Arnold's father refused to discuss the war. And then, one day, Arnold's cherished stamp album disappeared. Like all such reminders of the Nazi movement, it too was spirited away by the forces now occupying Austria, never to be seen again. 

This is the societal and familial situation in which Arnold Schwarzenegger grew up. It wasn't a situation of his own making. Yet, it was one he had to live with. Amid poverty, feelings of isolation, and an authoritarian upbringing, Arnold forged his own path to independence. He would become the greatest world championship bodybuilder of his era, a world-famous star on the silver screen, and a two-term governor of one of the largest and most famous states in the United States of America. But he started off poor, lonely, and without any real resources to call his own. Aside from ambition, of course. But then, what else do you really need in life?

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sherlock Holmes' Expenses in The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sherlock Holmes & the dreaded hound
in Princetown, Devon

In The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry Baskerville is staying in a hotel in the Charing Cross region of London when he receives a letter warning him not to travel to Baskerville Hall in Devonshire, England. Only one word in the letter was handwritten. The rest were clipped from a newspaper, apparently with nail scissors, and affixed to the foolscap paper with gum. From their distinctive type (or font), Sherlock Holmes identifies the words as having been clipped from the inside page of yesterday's Times. Holmes wishes to determine where the paper might have been sent from. So he instructs a boy named Cartwright to visit all twenty-three hotels near the one in which Henry Baskerville is staying. At each, he is to give the outside porter one shilling, and tell the man he wishes to see yesterday's waste paper. 

In each case, the outside porter will send for the hall porter, to whom also you will give a shilling. 

Holmes gives the boy an additional ten shillings, in case he encounters any unforeseen expenses.

In all, Holmes is entrusting the boy with two pounds and eighty pence. This may not seem like a lot in today's money, but it's probably equivalent to what the boy earned for a six-day work week, working ten hours a day. Apparently the boy showed some ability during a prior investigation. On this occasion however, young Cartwright could find no copies of yesterday's Times with parts of the second page cut out. 

After Henry Baskerville left 221B Baker Street, Holmes and Watson followed him. As he hoped, Holmes spotted a man with a beard following Baskerville in a hansom cab. Holmes contacts the cab company, and the driver later visits him. Holmes offers the man half a sovereign if he can tell him the name of the man with the beard. 

"His name," said the cabman, "was Mr. Sherlock Holmes."

For a moment Holmes sat in silent amazement. Then he burst into a hearty laugh.

I've no idea how much the cabdriver earned after expenses, but he was so concerned about his reputation that he visited Holmes when he learned of his inquiry. Yet he readily tells Holmes about his charge when Holmes offers him a half-sovereign, which equates to a half-pound. All total, Holmes has now spent three pounds and thirty pence on his investigation on Henry Baskerville's behalf. I wonder what that might equate to in today's money, don't you?

The investigation will prove much more expensive, as Holmes sends out Watson to stick by Henry's side while he stays at Baskerville Hall. And then Holmes will have many more expenses in research, sending wires (telegrams), food, and travel. It makes me wonder how much Holmes earned in comparison to other classes of people in London at the turn of the twentieth century. He certainly dresses well, and lives in an apartment in the heart of the city. And he has enough to send Watson out to purchase a pound of the strongest shag tobacco on the first day of the investigation, all of which he smokes while considering whether or not to take the Baskerville case.

Thankfully, Sherlock Holmes smoked so heavily before tobacco caused lung cancer. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case today. While I may not understand the value of wages and the cost of living in 1901, we all know what the cost of lung cancer is today, don't we?

Dragon Dave

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Lord of the Manor

When searching for a new home, it's important to determine exactly what you want. If you want to get away from the city, and live in a cozy rural environment, then the English county of Somerset is worth a visit. There you'll find lots of stately homes, built from stone and lovingly maintained, such as this gentleman's manor house in Cricket St. Thomas. 

Looking for a property with an interesting history? It was here that writer Peter Spence set his TV series "To The Manor Born." His father-in-law owned Cricket St. Thomas back then, so it became a natural place to film the series.

Looking for a home in a pastoral setting? A stream flows through the grounds, which are filled with colorful trees and gardens.

Need some outbuildings to house your servants, and ample room for guests? As Cricket St. Thomas currently serves as a hotel, it can supply the most demanding owner.

Do you want to a house you can be proud of? Again, Cricket St. Thomas is for you. A walk around the manor house is a feast for the eyes. Every side of the building impresses, and tempts the budding artist to break out his sketch pad.

Is keeping fit an important consideration? Do you enjoy competitive sports? You'll find both needs fulfilled at Cricket St. Thomas. In addition to the ample grounds, you'll find a carefully manicured green, where you can while away the afternoons bowling with family and friends.

The only question is, can you handle owning such an important piece of English history? Can you really see yourself as the lord of the manor? 


Dragon Dave