Monday, October 30, 2017


CwHD 27

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Conversations with a Hypoxic Dog began on May 1 of this year. On Thursday, November 6, a new format will be launched. Words and Language and other Nonsense will remain the focus; but a bit of History will be added.

Miss Construed

Historically, words misconstrued have created a great deal of mischief. In 1977, Jimmy Carter, then newly elected President, fell victim to inept translations. He said that he was happy to be in Poland; the translator rendered this as "... he was happy to grasp at Poland's private parts." Carter suffered several such incidents and became, literally, a Polish Joke.

Each week Miss Construed will visit CwHD with examples of and insights into word gaffs. How curious to think that an Italian astronomer's use of the 'canali' in his 1877 description of the Martian surface would lead to Orson Welles' classic 1938 radio broadcast 'The War of the Worlds'. Adapted from the novel by H.G. Wells, the broadcast caused a good deal of panic as a sizable number of citizens throughout the country thought they were listening to an actual news broadcast.

War of the Worlds Headline (linked to broadcast)

* * *

History also has its part to play in the ongoing travelogue, "A Brief History Of The Columbia River.' Travel literature is an old and respected genre. A Greek named Pausanias who lived some 2000 years ago is often mentioned as one of the earliest travel memoirest; but examples of the genre are fairly common in both Arabic and Chinese literature.

In 1336, Petrarch's climb on Mt Ventoux in France is often noted as the first mention of traveling simply for the sake of enjoyment. Petrarch wrote that he climbed Ventoux just for the pleasure of seeing the view from its famous height. In the 17th century, Japanese poet Bashō undertook several journeys for no other purpose than to visit friends and famous sites. His The Narrow Road To The Deep North is the definitive work of poetic prose.

By the 19th century, young English travelers had created the concept of The Grand Tour. Before a career could begin, one must travel to broaden one's horizons. Often a written account followed. This literature of tourism was pioneered by Robert Louis Stevenson. His An Inland Voyage (1878) and Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) are among the first books to suggest that camping might be an acceptable recreation.


These tales of bold journeys by mere tourists help to popularize the narratives of more daunting exploration. Cook's voyages, Byrd's attempt on the South Pole, Lindbergh's flight all became required reading. Darwin's account of his voyage in the Beagle has a far greater readership than his more important On The Origin of Species. And The Journals of Lewis and Clark are widely read and studied for their first glimpse of the Pacific Northwest despite the errant spelling, capitalization, and syntax. H. W. Tilman's climbing in the Himalaya in the 1930s and his subsequent sails to high latitudes in the 1950s provided the grist for many such tales. And it was Tilman's understated style that became the model for most of the writers who followed.

Exploration, whether physical, intellectual or spiritual, seems hard-wired into the psyche of homo sapiens. A need there is to go to terra incognito and then write an account. Sailor Webb Chiles has written:

People who know of me at all probably do so as a sailor; but I have always thought of myself as an artist, and I believe that the artist's defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports.1



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1Webb Chiles, Introduction to weblog www.inthepresentsea.com

Thursday, October 26, 2017



Dawg Sez
23

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This is the sixth installment of my brief history of the Columbia River. As I've mentioned, I am only considering the sections of the river that form the Oregon-Washington border. As Lewis and Clark's voyage down the river dovetails neatly with this part of the river, I will include snippets from their journals as well.

The journals are best read in their original format even though the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are all problematic. Any added annotation is mine. The river, historically, had changed very little for thousands of years before Lewis and Clark recorded what they saw.


Beacon Rock

I began this exploration of the Columbia River in part through the eyes of Merriweather Lewis and William Clark. Lewis brought with him a Newfoundland dog named Seaman. The dog is mentioned several times in the journals, but from August 1805 through July 1806 he receives not a line. Seaman's Creek in Montana was named by Lewis for the dog apparently on their return journey; but little mention after that. The creek today is called Monture Creek.

As the Columbia winds through what is now the Columbia River Gorge (with Clark and Lewis paddling along, Seaman standing in the bows), a major rapid and several large landslides mark its course before it reaches tide water at what is now called Beacon Rock. The Columbia derives its power as it drops on average two feet for every mile. Through the 100 mile section from above the Dalles to tide water, the drop is nearer five feet per mile. From the reach of tide to the mouth, the Columbia flattens to just a 1/2 foot drop per mile.

the 'cascades' and lock at Cascade Locks
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photograph (from Wikimedia Commons)

The aerial view looks westward,downstream, and was taken September 8, 1929. Clearly shown is the main drop of Cascade Rapids where the Columbia River has been diverted southward around the toe of the Bonneville landslide. At the left is Cascade Locks, completed in 1896, which facilitated steamship travel upriver of the rapids. The Bridge of the Gods, completed in 1926, took advantage of the natural constriction of the Columbia between the eroded toe of the Bonneville landslide and the southern valley margin. The bridge still stands at its present location but was raised about forty feet during construction of Bonneville Dam to accommodate ship traffic on the pool that now drowns Cascade Rapids. Lewis and Clark's map has this has this note: ... the Great Shoot or Rapid. 150 Yards wide and 400 Yards long crowded with Stones and Islands ...

The other major geographical feature, alluded to in the photograph description above, is the Bonneville landslide. Clark remarks (October 30, 1805):

a remarkable circumstance in this part of the river is, Stumps of pine trees are in maney places at Some distance in the river, and gives every appearance of the rivers being damned up from below from Some cause which I am not at this time acquainted with ...

These landslides from the steep cliffs to the north dammed the river until it was eventually able to breach the tongue of the slide and carve a new path through the vast slide debris. In legend, native Americans recall this as the Bridge of the Gods. No consensus exists on the dating of the various slides. The probability is that all of the dating is correct in some way. From 1200 to 1700, the cliffs tumbled and diverted the river.

Southern face of Table Mountain, slide scar, photograph by Eric Prado

Below 'the Great Shoot', the river began to level and the currents eased. Near what Clark first named 'Beaten Rock', they got there first taste of salt. The huge rock, known in geology as a monolith like Gibraltar, marks the eastern extent of the Pacific Ocean's tidal reach. Despite Clark's entry, the explorer's intent no doubt was to affix 'Beacon' as the name. This was a milestone in their journey. They all felt then that the end was near.

Beacon Rock, U.S. Geological Survey photograph


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Monday, October 23, 2017


CwHD 25

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This edition of CwHD continues my series of observations on writers and how character, or the lack of same, stamps its mark on their literary style. As I observed earlier, how one lives colors every aspect of what one does. The old computer science dictum still applies: garbage in equals garbage out.


KNOW THYSELF

This pre-Socratic momento mori was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Socrates later expanded the idea and his thought became: The unexamined life is not worth living ( Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν).

mosaic from Roman excavations

Hemingway's protagonist in For Whom The Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan, struggles with a more salient momento mori as he sits on a Spanish hillside, mortally wounded, waiting for the soldiers to come. He thinks suicide may be an option; but decides against this option for there was "... still something you can do yet." Written in 1939, Hemingway himself still had something he could do. By the late 50s, his options were gone; and the shotgun beckoned.

As I mentioned last week, the man's life style went counter to his writing style. How he wrote---simply, incisively, with an understated elegance---was not how he lived. His life seemed to be one futile attempt to be the characters he created in his fiction. He knew his creations; but he did not understand himself.

This conflict between creation and character and the abusive lifestyle that followed led to a breakdown of his abilities and ultimately his death. His life became complicated, his thinking muddied, and his actions predictably angry and destructive.

Heminway, Cuba

Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard's Almanack wrote: There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one's self. Need something to do? Have a good long look in the mirror.



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Thursday, October 19, 2017


Dawg Sez
22

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This is the fifth installment of my brief history of the Columbia River. As I've mentioned, I am only considering the sections of the river that form the Oregon-Washington border. As Lewis and Clark's voyage down the river dovetails neatly with this part of the river, I will include snippets from their journals as well.

The journals are best read in their original format even though the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are all problematic. Any added annotation is mine. The river, historically, had changed very little for thousands of years before Lewis and Clark recorded what they saw.


Memaloose

'Native people' is a clumsy phrase. Those who use it mean well, and there is no better term. 'Indian' carries a slightly (and in some cases, not so slight) pejorative tint. And, of course, the word is based on a serious error of navigation on the part of one Cristofor Columbo. Indigenous people, the original inhabitants of a region, have no nifty moniker. They might be known as first people, aboriginal people, or even autochthonous people. Native will do for this account.

From the Dalles to Hood River is about 22 river miles. The terrain and flora begin to change as the river cuts its cleft through the Cascades. The transition is obvious. Lewis and Clark make several observations on the change.

Near the end of October, 1805, they pass a village near the Klickitat River and stop to smoke a pipe.

after brackfast we proceeded on, the mountains are high on each Side, containing Scattering pine white oake & under groth, hill Sides Steep and rockey; at 4 miles lower we observed a Small river falling in with great rapidity on the Stard. Side below which is a village of 11 houses here we landed to Smoke a pipe with the nativs and examine the mouth of the river, which I found to be 60 yards wide rapid and deep ...

As they drifted and paddled downriver, they came upon 13 graves on an island. This is Memaloose, today only 1/3rd remains above the flooding waters of Bonneville Dam. Repeatedly looted and, in native people's view, desecrated by the grave and obelisk of one Victor Trevitt, the native remains were relocated in 1937 (either by the various tribes or the Corps of Engineers), and the count then was given at 650 burials.

Penny Postcard 1908,  Gifford photograph

Clark described the above ground graves as 'squar vaults.' These burials, odd to Clark, were common among native people world wide. In Tibet, for example, a similar practice is called 'sky burials.' The body is placed in the open, usually a high rocky place, and allowed to decompose and be scattered by winds and birds and other carrion eaters.

passed three large rocks in The river the middle rock is large long and has Several Squar vaults on it. we call this rockey Island the Sepulchar. The last river we passed we Shall Call the Cataract River from the number of falls which the Indians say is on it- passed 2 Lodges of Indians a Short distance below the Sepulchar Island on the Stard. Side river wide, at 4 mile passed 2 houses on the Stard. Side, Six miles lower passed 4 houses above the mouth of a Small river 40 yards wide on the Lard. Side

Clark's 'Sepulcher Island' is, of course, Memaloose. The name Memaloose seems to be derived from the Chinook word memalust, which means "to die".



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Monday, October 16, 2017


CwHD 25

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This edition of CwHD continues my series of observations on writers and how character, or the lack of same, stamps its mark on their literary style. As I observed earlier, how one lives colors every aspect of what one does. The old computer science dictum still applies: garbage in equals garbage out.


PAPA HEMINGWAY

Ernest Hemingway went to Europe as a young man during the First World War, driving an ambulance in Italy. He had worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star, and later said that the Star's style sheet was "the best rules I ever learned in the business of writing."1 The opening paragraph of the style sheet begins:

Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.

He finished his war in a Milan hospital, returned to Illinois, but was soon back in Paris, determined to forge a career as a writer. 40 years on, in Ketchum, Idaho, he took his own life with a shotgun blast. Hemingway was 61 years old.

Hemingway 1927

His writing style was understated, economical; and his work became a major influence on 20th century fiction. He wrote a dozen or so excellent short stories ("Big Two-Hearted River"), and what was once the definitive book on bullfighting (Death In The Afternoon). Three good novels added to his reputation; and one book, The Old Man And The Sea, is as good as a piece of writing can be. In 1954, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Curiously, the man's lifestyle went counter to his writing style. His adventurous life---shooting big game on safari in Africa, fishing the Gulf Stream for marlin, the bullfight, his escapades during WWII, his four marriages, becoming 'Papa'---was just as influential as his writing.

One of his credo's was this: Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed, but not defeated.
Hemingway Ketchum

In For Whom The Bell Tolls, a novel set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, Hemingway's protagonist (and alter ego), Robert Jordan, lay beside a tree looking downslope waiting for the soldiers to find him. Shot in the leg, dying, he had decided to stay behind and let his band of rebels escape:

His leg was hurting very badly now ... You're not so good at this, Jordan, he said. Not so good at this. And who is so good at this? I don't know and I don't really care right now. But you are not. That's right. You're not at all. I think it would be all right to do it now? Don't you?
No, it isn't. Because there is something you can do yet ... As long as you remeber what it is you have to wait for that. Come on. Let them come. Let them come! Let them come!2

Next week I'll continue with Papa Hemingway.

1 Kansas City Star Copy Style PDF, www.kansascity.com
2Ernest Hemingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls (Scribner's and Sons, New York, 1943). p470


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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dawg Sez
21

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This is the fourth installment of my brief history of the Columbia River. As mentioned last week, this history is brief on several counts, not the least of which is the fact that I am only considering the sections of the river that form the Oregon-Washington border. As Lewis and Clark's voyage down the river dovetails neatly with this history, I will include snippets from their journals as well. These journals are best read in their original format even though the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are all problematic. Any added annotation is mine. The river, historically, had changed very little for thousands of years before Lewis and Clark recorded what they saw. This week the story brings us to the first major rapids of the river below its confluence with the Snake River.


The Great Falls of the Columbia

The Columbia is a curious river. As Lewis and Clark discovered, long wide reaches, shallow and calm, are followed by short treacherous drops of "great impetuosity"1. Just above Miller Island (RM 207), for example, the river is nearly a mile wide. At Celilo, just fifteen miles downstream, the river, before the Dalles Damn, narrowed to as little as 75 feet and churned itself into a series of rapids and falls (Threemile, Fivemile, The Dalles, Tenmile, and Celilo). Over a 10 mile stretch, the river dropped some eighty feet culminating in the horseshoe falls that effectively blocked travel on the river.

Lewis and Clark had left the Umatilla Rapids (and the mouth of a small river on the "larboard side" --- most likely the John Day?), and paddled another twenty miles or so before arriving at the Great Falls. They landed and took council.

"... 6 miles below the upper mouth of Towarnehiooks River (Deschutes) the commencement of the pitch of the Great falls, opposite on the Stard. Side is 17 Lodges of the nativs ... we landed and walked down accompanied by an old man to view the falls, and the best rout for to make a portage which we Soon discovered was much nearest on the Stard. Side, and the distance 1200 yards one third of the way on a rock, about 200 yards over a loose Sand collected in a hollar blown by the winds from the bottoms below which was disagreeable to pass, as it was Steep and loose. ..."
Journal of William Clark, October 22, 1805

Celilo Falls was the great meeting place of the Pacific Northwest. Archaeologists can date human occupation of the site for as long as 12000 years (just after the last of the Bretz Floods). The place and the falls went by many names (Horseshoe Falls, The Chutes, Wy-am), but Celilo was not one of them. According to the Oregon Historical Quarterly (April 1915) " ... the name does not appear in print before 1859, as far as yet discovered. The earlier journals and letters of fur traders and travelers do not mention it ..."

Lewis and Clark at Celilo Falls, Mural at Oregon State Capitol

The journals of Lewis and Clark provide the first glimpse of Celilo. 7000 - 10000 people lived between what today is Cascade Locks and The Dalles. In the Pacific Northwest, ethnographers estimate that there were 125 different tribes that spoke 56 different languages. Klickitat, Wishram, and Wasco would come from the inland plateaus to trade with the river tribes, the Clackamas, the Wahkiakums, and Chinook. It was Captain George Vancouver, noting that these natives had developed a common language, who labeled it Chinook jargon. It was Lewis and Clark who noted that disease from early contact with American an European traders at the mouth of the river had already begun to scythe its way through the tribes.

It was fish that made the relatively large population possible. Annual runs of 11 million to 16 million salmon and steelhead made the river a magnet for native Americans. Though rife with hazards, the fishing provided a lifestyle for many and a means of trade for many more. With the coming of the horse around 1730, this Columbia River crossroads became the hub of the Pacific Northwest.


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1Alexander Ross (1783-1856), fur trader, as quoted in The Oregon Encyclopedia.

Monday, October 9, 2017


CwHD 24

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Thinking Errors

At one end of a spectrum, let me posit a 16th century Japanese sword master. At the opposite end of this spectrum stands a 13 year old American male middle school student. The first fellow is trained in martial arts and steeped in Zen Buddhism. The second is an indifferent student who plans on playing in the NFL. The sword master manages his thoughts and emotions to perfection; the boy does not.

Learning how to think and behave is the single most important task that our species has before them. Our myriad thoughts and many emotions often become a thicket from which we rarely escape unscathed. Understanding a problem begins the process of solving the problem.



Despite many long lists of various errors we commit while attempting to negotiate life's little byways, all can be placed in one of five categories:

Generalizing: I'm so bad at math (so why bother with the subject)
Fantasizing: I'm going to play in the NFL (so I don't have to study)
Rationalizing: it's only a little dent (so I don't have to be concerned)
Minimizing: NBA rules, no blood, no foul (so why make a big deal out of nothing)
Maximizing: the sky is falling (so who cares)

All of the above types of thinking errors involve deceiving another person. Deception, according to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) seems to be innate. It is what all organisms do to survive. Deceiving ourselves, on the other hand, seems to be uniquely human.

Awareness helps us to steer clear of the thinking pitfalls. Not fooling ourselves is a necessary first step. Learning mathematics might be the best way to learn how to think clearly. As I have pointed out previously, 2 + 2 is always 4. Math might be as near as we can get to clarity.

One might try Zen meditation to clear one's mind, but most people are too far removed from the essence of this philosophy to make that practical. Besides, math teachers are much easier to find than Zen masters.



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Thursday, October 5, 2017



Dawg Sez
20

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Two weeks ago I began a brief account of the history of the Columbia River. This history is brief on several counts, not the least of which is the fact that I am only considering the sections of the river that form the Oregon-Washington border. As Lewis and Clark's voyage down the river dovetails neatly with this history, I will include snippets from their journals as well. As I mentioned last week, these journals are best read in their original format even though the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are all problematic. Any added annotation is mine. The river, historically, had changed very little for thousands of years before Lewis and Clark recorded what they saw. This week the story brings us to the first rapids of the river below its confluence with the Snake River.

White Water

Before the dams, fourteen named rapids made navigation difficult between Beacon Rock (RM 142---River Miles are charted from the mouth of the river just beyond Cape Disappointmment to the north and Clatsop Spit to the south) and Wallula Gap (RM 312). Some were mere riffles; others, like Celilo Falls, were big drops with hazards at every hand.



These days, four major dams harness the Columbia below the confluence with the Snake River. The first, built in 1936, was Bonneville (RM 146). Then followed McNary Dam (RM 292) in 1954 ; the Dalles Dam (RM 192) in 1957 ; and the John Day Dam (RM 216) in 1971. Each of these dams was built at the sight of a rapids, and the reservoirs they created filled the gorge with hundreds of feet of water and eliminated the river and shoreline as known by Lewis and Clark.

The first rapids the explorers encountered they named Mussel Shell[s] Rapid. As was often the case, their name did not last, and those same rapids in modern times were called Umatilla Rapids. They were flooded out of existence by the construction of McNary Dam.

From Clark's notes of October 18, 1805:

we came too on the Lard [larboard] Side to view the rapid before we would venter to run it, as the Chanel appeared to be close under the oppd. Shore, and it would be necessary to liten our canoe, I deturmined to walk down on the Lard Side, with the 2 Chiefs the interpreter & his woman, and derected the Small canoe to prcede down on the Lard Side to the foot of the rapid which was about 2 miles in length ... This rapid I observed as I passed opposit to it to be verry bad interseped with high rock and Small rockey Islands, here I observed banks of Muscle Shells banked up in the river in Several places, I Delayed at the foot of the rapid about 2 hours for the Canoes which I could See met with much dificuelty in passing down the rapid on the oposit Side maney places the men were obliged to get into the water and haul the canoes over Sholes ...

While Lewis and his best watermen were attempting to negotiate the rapids, Captain Clark hiked up a butte on the south side of the river and saw two mountains in the distant west. He misidentified Mt Adams as Mt St Helens, but correctly spotted the 'conical' Mt Hood. Both St Helens and Hood had been charted by Lt Broughton, under George Vancouver's command, on his exploration up the river in 1792.

Between the Mussel Shell Rapids and the John Day Rapids, the Corps of Discovery had 85 miles of fairly easy water, and covered that distance in six days. They camped on the Washington side of the river near an Indian village. An oddity in what otherwise is a fairly meticulous account is their failure to mention the John Day River.

They camped in the same location on their return journey in April of 1806. They note the high bluffs and rocky arid landscape. They comment on the more hostile attitudes of the Indians they encountered. Condors and geese and ducks are mentioned. The John Day goes unnoticed.

mouth of John Day River from Washington side

An obvious explanation for the oversight is that Lewis and Clark were on the Washington side, the Columbia's river level was several hundred feet lower than it is today, and the John Day might well have been taken for an insignificant creek.

Next week: On to Celilo


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Monday, October 2, 2017


CwHD 23

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STYLE, LIES, AND OTHER CONUNDRUMS

Two weeks ago, I began a series of observations on writers and how character, or the lack of same, stamps its mark on their work. I defined style, in this context, as the way a writer used grammar, syntax, and vocabulary to embellish or compress his work to fit a specific context, purpose, or audience.

A useful exercise is to consider style in a different context, using images of two cars and a truck. All are from 1959. Eisenhower was president. Hawaii became a state. Gigi won nine Oscars including best picture. I chose that distant year to give some separation from the reality of now, and to give your imagination more room to play.

Consider the following three images. Who are the drivers you see behind the wheel of these vehicles?




With your drivers clear in your mind's eye, use your mind's nose to smell a rat. All images lie, and moving images lie absolutely. Is a picture worth a thousand words? Not in my book. Words do not stimulate the imagination as do photographs or video. Words are just symbolic representations of actions, ideas, people, places, and things. They are one step removed from the reality they represent.

Images, on the other hand, put us in the driver's seat. Thinking errors do the rest. Questions of style can be answered superficially with general responses. Tall, short, quick, slow: descriptors of that ilk. Or, as I did with Tilman in the previous editions of CwHD, one can probe a little deeper.

Before I move on to the character of Ernest Hemingway, I want to consider those errors we commonly make when trying to think our way out of a closet.




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