Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Run To The Hills" - Iron Maiden, 1982 (heavy metal)

White man came across the sea
He brought us pain and misery
He killed our tribes, he killed our creed
He took our game for his own need
We fought him hard we fought him well
Out on the plains we gave him hell
But many came too much for Cree
Oh will we ever be set free?

Riding through dustclouds and barren wastes
Galloping hard on the plains
Chasing the redskins back to their holes
Fighting them at their own game
Murder for freedom a stab in the back
Women and children and cowards attack

Run to the hills run for your lives
Run to the hills run for your lives

Soldier blue on the barren wastes
Hunting and killing their game
Raping the women and wasting the men
The only good indians are tame
Selling them whisky and taking their gold
Enslaving the young and destroying the old

Happy Thanksgiving! (or thereabouts). It's only fitting that this Thanksgiving episode of What's That Song About talk about Thanksgiving-type Indians, for that is exactly what this heavy metal ditty is all about. However, the song has nothing to do with thanks or giving, but has everything to do with taking. True to Iron Maiden form, it's actually a quite brilliant piece of historical poetry-set-to-music which describes, in retrospect, the white man's colonizing of Indian lands. Interestingly enough, there is no particular time period associated with the lyrics.

Verse One is written from the perspective of the Indians, particularly the Cree (which is stated at the end of the verse). The Cree are one of the largest group of indiginous North American peoples. Their tribes are still found across Canada and the American Northwest, especially in Minnesota and Montana. This large people group is made up of many smaller groups, for example: Moose Cree, Swamp Cree, Woods Cree, Plains Cree, etc. However, the name "Cree" is never used by these people unless they are speaking English or French. It is not their proper name, but rather a name that was given to them (as if they didn't have one already) derived from the French "Christenaux" (and other spelling variations), and thus this word is often shortened to "Cri" which then bacame "Cree" in the phonetic spelling. These people, however, do have a name for themselves. In their own language, they call themselves Nehiyaw, Nehithaw, Nehilaw, Nehinaw, which is to mean, "those who speak our nation's language", and Ininiw, Ililiw, Inyu, or Iyyu, all of which mean "person or man" who has descended from this nation historically.

The Cree were skilled buffalo hunters and horsemen who formed an alliance with the Sioux nation and the Stone Sioux (Assiniboin). Their lives were particularly peaceful and open to adaptation. They were first known to the Jesuit missionaries as early as 1640. This nation was known to be quite hospitable, though somewhat nomadic in their lifestlye, as like most hunting peoples they had to follow their food source's migration. The Cree were known to eagerly trade with the foreign white men as well as other Indian nations even if they were not allied. Since their first introduction, the Cree were open and friendly with the French and English settlers, who left the Cree comparatively undisturbed to roam their vast territory. Nevertheless, however well-intended their friendship with the foreigners was, in the long run it did not help them.

While there is very little written history about this nation, there are, however, a few mentions of quarrels and skirmishes between them and other neighboring tribes. Casualties from fighting amongst other native peoples was somewhat minimal. However, the greatest killer of this and other indiginous peoples was the white man's diseases (such as Smallpox and others, a concept which is self-explanatory)...and the colonization of native lands by foreign settlers. While the Cree numbers have recently bounced back, in 1776 the population was estimated at 15,000, but within the last century the population was estimated at a mere 2,000-3,000. It is common knowledge that not only did the intruders fight for the land they wished to settle (which spent lives on both sides), the development of hunting and grazing lands into large farmsteads eventually led to changes in the natural environment (depletion of food animals, deforestation, changes in vegetative dynamics, etc)., which meant to the near disappearance of these native people. The white man just took over and ultimately gave nothing in return...not even a "thank you".

Verse Two of our song is from the perspective of the white settlers who were out to achieve the ultimate goal in their belief in what would later be known as "Manifest Destiny" - the belief that it was obvious (manifest) and certain (destiny) that the United States would expand from the Atlantic Seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. In 1803, the United States acquired 828,800 square miles of French territory. Prior to its exploration, the U.S. had no idea how much it had actually purchased (or what the land consisted of), but, quite frankly, neither did the French. This Louisiana Purchase was explored by Merriwether Lewis and William Clark (helped, of course, by Sacajawea) and was the first official transcontinental crossing made by people who were not indigenous to the land.

Lewis and Clark had heard rumors during their journey that the Assiniboin nation was a ferocious people, but they did not encounter any of these people and were therefore unable to affirm or dispel this notion. It was based on these sorts of unexplored rumors that many white settlers advanced in the manner that they did. The white frontiersmen advanced westward, many under the assumption that all native people were savages and were to be dealt with before any harm could befall the settler, his family, or his possessions. Even if it could be said that the foreigners did know about the peaceful tribes, it was nearly impossible for the average settler to know the difference between the friend and foe. As many of us would do today, these native people naturally faught to retain their land. However, because their ways were not the white man's ways, this fight for survival was taken by the settlers to be outward and open hostility. Thus, the white man faught the Indians all the more fiercely.

Whatever the Jesuit missionaries and early settlers had learned about the many friendly nations was forgotten. The white man believed that, regardless, he was entitled to take whatever land he laid claim to. In 1823, the Supreme Court handed down a decision (Johnson vs. M'Intosh) that Indian peoples could own land, just not claim title to it, which proved to be an utterly dreadful decision for the natives. Ultimately, this expansion led to Andrew Jackson's 19th century concept of 'Indian removal' - a policy adopted by the U.S. Government to ethnically cleanse the land of Indian people so that the new frontiersmen could have it. In 1830, Congress approved and President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law. Ideally, this was to move southern nations and tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River (as if they thought those lands were yet unoccupied). One such act of this Act was the infamous Trail of Tears. In time, even the relocation of natives to the western lands would prove futile as white settlers eventually moved into these lands, themselves.

Finally, Verse Three of our song is from the perspective of an outside observer looking retrospectively at the deplorable goings-on of the western frontier. Not surprisingly, this observation more closely mirrors verse one than verse two. When we study our nation's history and development, we should realize that perhaps things were not handled as delicately as they should have been. No apologies can be made for man's natural instinct to go forth and expand, for deep inside, for all men feel inside that stagnancy is not survival; it is a death sentence. However, certainly the Indians were not treated fairly, and considering the circumstances surrounding our own fledgeling nation's birth, we as a nation should have been more sympathetic or at least more accommodating to those who were here before us, just as the Jesuits and other earlier settlers had been. For sure, hindsight is always 20/20.

**It should be noted that the acts of the nation as a whole were not condoned by the nation as a whole. There were a great many citizens (particularly Christians) and politicians (including Senator Davey Crockett, Tennessee) who opposed these expansion practices and opposed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and the passage of this Act was only after bitter debate and passage by a small majority.**

"Run To The Hills" - Iron Maiden, 1982

~information gathered from all kinds of friendly sources from east to west, including these particularly interesting places I tracked down along the way:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Sixteen Tons" - Merle Travis, 1946 (country)

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will

"Sixteen Tons" by Merle Travis is a song for the working man in one of the world's most deadly and miserable, but necessary, occupations: coal mining.

Anyone's who's family has ever worked in the mid-20th century mining industry can attest to the difficulty of such work. It wasn't just that the hours were long. It wasn't that the working conditions were unsafe. It wasn't that the work was back breaking and thankless. Probably the single greatest complaint from the coal miners was their earnings. There isn't a coal mining or coal-mining-reminiscent song around that doesn't mention the mean wages given for such a hefty work performance. What's more, they all describe the meager lifestyle of the workers and their families. In this song, Travis sings,

"You load sixteen tons what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt..."

This line is allegedly one that Travis' father (a coalminer, himself) used to say quite frequently. Coal mining didn't pay much. In fact, it paid so little that though one went to work, his wages were barely enough to cover his expenses. let alone any new debt he incurred or old debt that he fell behind on. If you didn't work, you didn't get paid, so there was no such thing as a sick day, personal day, or vacation. This normally would seem to not be a problem; however, considering the unhealthy working conditions (mild to severe) if you were a miner, you worked through the pain no matter what.

Many hazards assailed mine workers. Sometimes even the miners' own fatigue was to blame. Since OSHA didn't exist yet to govern the operations, very few precautions were taken around equipment, machinery, or electricity. There were many equipment and equipment related accidents, not to mention that the earth, itself, had some surprises. Mine shafts and roofs collapsed. The threat of suffocation from lack of oxygen far below the surface was real as was gas poisoning from undectable noxious subterranean fumes. The gas, however, was not always silent and deadly; sometimes it made quite an explosion. It also wasn't uncommon for a person to walk into a mine perfectly fine but walk out missing a limb or paralyzed.

External dangers weren't the only hazards that threatened the lives and limbs of the workers. Besides the usual back, joint, and muscle complaints, biological disorders also arose. Skin disorders in the form of many types of dermatitis from bacteria plagued workers' bodies, including feet, because of the serious lack of ventilation. Of course, pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) was fairly common and actually lead to a reduced life expectancy for the infected miner.

If you thought low wages and long hours for back breaking work was bad, wait until you hear how low, exactly, those wages were.

St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go.
I owe my soul to the company store.

This line is a reference to the payment system often used by early mining companies. Workers were not paid a regular wage with a regular check or cash handout. In fact, may of them weren't even paid with anything that was even considered valuable! Owing one's soul to the company store refers to the truck system and debt bondage.

In the truck system, employees are paid in commodities rather than actual money. This severely limits their ability to choose how their wages are to be spent. A common element was for miners to be paid with what was called a "scrip", which was merely an unexchangeable credit voucher for the company store. At the company-run store is where workers and families of workers had to purchase their various necessities. This form of exploitation became a routine business practice in the 18th and 19th centuries as industrialization left many without a means to support themselves and their families. Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the truck system was that it, by its very operation, made it impossible for workers to have any cash savings.

Many workers and their families incurred more debt to the company than their weekly truck wages could cover. Families and workers often lived in company-run dormitories or apartment buildings. Rent (and heat) was deducted from the miner's wages as if he was being paid in cash. The mining companies, themselves, were highly entrapreneurial. The cost of living was exaggerated so as to turn a profit, which left less voucher funds for the purchase of drug and sundry goods at the company store. Of course, even the prices of those consumables from the company store were highly inflated. However, since the miners didn't actually receive cash for their labor, what the voucher didn't cover could be bought on credit. The miner would owe the company more labor service to pay for his credit line. This became a viscious downward spiral. Miners were rarely paid enough to make ends meet, let alone enough to make ends meet and cover a credit line. It was a hole they could never dig themselves out of. Debtors and their families were bound to a life of servitude until the debt was paid.

In short, it took a special person to work in the filth and misery of historical mines. It was dirty. It was intense work. The days were always long and the mines were always dark. One had to possess physical resilience and muscular strength to even put up with the working conditions. Stories are even told of miners who have returned home from a day in the shaft, sat on their front porch, and fallen asleep for the night without even changing their clothes or cleaning up. Miners were a tough and salty sort. They had to be just to survive.

Luckily today, mining in modern countries has changed dramatically. There are extensive work condition rules that require compliance by law, and the overall external and biological dangers have been brought to a minimum, thanks to modern technology. While the work is still hard, labor regulations are also in place to protect workers. But perhaps most importantly, the truck system and debt bondage system have been views by modern civilizations as utterly unacceptable and is now illegal (although, sadly, it is still implemented in places).

"Sixteen Tons" - Merle Travis, 1946 (folk)
This recording is the later, chart-topping version sung by 'Tennessee' Ernie Ford, 1955

~tons of information mined from lots of places around the internet

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Why Does The Sun Shine?" - They Might Be Giants, 1993 (alternative indie rock)

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A gigantic nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen is built into helium
At a temperature of millions of degrees.

The sun is hot
The sun is not
A place where we could live
But here on Earth there'd be no life
Without the light it gives.

We need its light
We need its heat
The sunlight that we see
The sunlight comes from our own sun's
Atomic energy.

The sun is hot

The sun is so hot that everything on it is a gas:
Aluminum, copper, iron, and many others.

The sun is large

If the sun were hollow a million Earth's would fit inside
And yet it is only a middle-sized star.

The sun is far away

About 93 million miles away
That's why it looks so small

But even when its out of sight
The sun shines night and day.

Scientists have found that the sun is a huge atom-smashing machine.
The heat and light of the sun are caused by nuclear reactions
between hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and helium.

The Sun, ladies and gentlemen. 'Nuff said. Well, maybe not quite 'nuff. The tune is catchy, the cd is pretty good, and the facts are straight. As a matter of fact, while I was looking around for something intelligent to say about the sun that TMBG didn't already, I found the lyrics of this song included in some astronomy lecture notes from some pretty prestigious educational institutions. However, I find that in some aspects these lyrics fall short in discription. Allow me:
  • More specifically, 600 million tons of hydrogen are "built into" 596 tons of helium at a temperature of 5800 degrees Kelvin. That's 9,980.33 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's just on the surface where it's cold! The core temperature of the sun is modeled to be 15.5 million degrees Kelvin. That's 27,899,540.33 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunblock anyone?
  • Are you always reminding people at home to turn out the light when they leave the room? The sun's luminosity is 390 trillion trillion watts (that's 3.9 with 26 zeros after it) and a "watt" is the amount of light it puts out in 1 second. Since the sun burns night and day, that means that at today's rates, at 6.3 cents per kilowatt hour, your electric bill for ONE DAY (24 hours) would be $5.9 nonillion (yes, it's a word). That's a 5.9 with 30 zeros after it. Better start puttin' in for some overtime.
  • It takes 8 minutes for the light from the sun to reach the earth, but for you to outrun the shadow of the setting sun, you would have to travel at 1,038 mph. Fasten your seatbelt!
  • "Large" is an understatement. It would only take you about 2 weeks to drive all the way around the Earth at 60 mph. The sun is 2,733,185.6 miles in circumference (870,000 miles in diameter). At 60 mph, it would take you 5 years to drive all the way around...and that's providing you don't stop to eat, sleep, use the restroom, or ask for directions.
  • But remember it's only a middle-sized star. Stars the size of our sun are called "dwarf stars"...probably because the largest stars, called "giants" and "supergiants" that can be hudreds of times larger across than our sun. For example, Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation is 650 times larger in diameter than the sun.

I hope that clears up some of the ambiguity that the song leaves us with about certain things. Just please don't ask me to sing all of that.

"Why Does The Sun Shine?" - They Might Be Giants, 1993

~sun facts from stellar places such as Ohio State University's astronomy department and UC Berkeley's Center for Science Education and many other hot spots. The math is all mine, so if it's wrong, be a sport and give it a little help.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" - Gordon Lightfoot, 1976 (ballad)

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7 pm a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the words turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Well, it's November and we haven't wrecked anything this month, so I figured today was a good time. How about a boat...a really big one that sank on November 10, 1975? Happy (or not) belated sinking anniversary. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is more highly acclaimed by only one other shipwreck in history - the Titanic. That being said, however, it is THE most mysterious and most controversial shipwreck of all time, mostly because nearly every theory surrounding its disappearance and why it sank is pure speculation.

"The ship had been christened in 1958 and launched into the Detroit River on June 17. It was named after Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee's new board chairman, whose grandfather and five great uncles had been ship captains.

By 1975, the Fitzgerald was showing an average amount of wear for a ship on the Great Lakes. She had passed a rigorous two-month inspection (required yearly) in the spring of 1975, and had passed the Coast Guard out-of-water inspection (necessary every five years) in the spring of 1974. She was certified as seaworthy and safe for operation. An Oct. 31 inspection uncovered routine seasonal damage to the cargo hatches, but the Fitzgerald was granted permission to operate as long as the repairs were complete before the 1976 season.

There were 29 men aboard when the Fitzgerald launched that November. She was captained by Ernest McSorley, 63, of Toledo, Ohio. High water in the lakes since 1969 had prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to allow owners to load their ships to a greater depth and the Fitzgerald was no exception. She was loaded three feet deeper than had been considered safe in 1969, making her deck three feet closer to the water line." - Detroit News

On Nov. 9, gale warnings were issued for Lake Superior. By 2:15 p.m. on Nov. 9th, the giant lakes freighter had filled her cargo hold with 26,116 tons of taconite pellets in Superior, Wis., and was on her way south to Detroit, as an uneventful shipping season ran down.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was lost with her entire crew of 29 men on Lake Superior November 10, 1975, 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan. Once under way, the Fitzgerald didn't travel alone. She met up with another ore freighter near Two Harbors, Minnesota - the Arthur Anderson, who's captain was Captain Jesse B. Cooper. Cooper and McSorely maintained radio contact, discussing the storm. Due to the increasing intensity, they agreed to change course and to steer nearer to Lake Superior's north shore. They were hoping that by keeping close to the shores of Canada they'd be somewhat protected from the storm. The two ships weathered it together, maintaining radio contact and a distance of only 16 miles between each other.

The storm worsened. Not uncommon on and around the Great Lakes, it began snowing heavily, blurring all visibility. As if that wasn't enough, the waves grew steadliy to 12-16 feet. Winds gusted at 90 mph. The Soo Locks, where the Fitzgerald was due, were closed. The Coast Guard issued a warning that all ships were to find safe harbor until the storm subsided. By 6 pm on November 10, the crashing waves towered a hulking 25 feet over the vessels.

The crashing waves knocked out the ship's radar; so, Captain McSorely let the Anderson catch up and help him navigate the now treacherous waters. At 7:10 pm, Captain Cooper radioed Captain McSorely to warn him that they were approaching another vessel 9 miles ahead. However, Captain Cooper also a ssured Captain McSorely that upon their present course, the ship would pass to their west. The first mate of the Arthur Anderson signed off by asking, "How are you making out with your problem?" The Fitzgerald replied: "We are holding our own."

That was the last anyone ever heard from Captain McSorely or any of the 29 crew aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald. The 729-foot behemouth had vanished in the blink of an eye. On November 10, 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald was lost at sea with all hands. An extensive search was launched to find or recover the lost vessel, but not a single trace of her was to be found: there were no bodies, no debris...nothing. As the song says, in Detroit, Michigan, the bell at the Mariner's Church rang 29 times - once for each of the crew. On November 14, she was located. They were found 530 feet below the surface of Lake Superior, just 17 miles from their safe harbor of Whitefish Point.

Even though it was found, the Fitzgerald was never salvaged nor was the remains of the crew ever recovered. It remains in it's finaly resting place even today. However, on July 4, 1995, at the request of the crew's surviving family members, the ship's 200 lb. bronze bell was retrieved by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society. The endeavor was jointly executed by The National Geographic Society, The Sony Corporation, the Canadian Navy, and Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians (who maintain the legend, as the song says). The bell is now in the Great Lakes Shipwreck museum as a tribute to her lost crew.

The Crew: Ernest M. McSorley, 63, Captain, Toledo Ohio; John H. McCarthy, 62, Mate, Bay Village, Ohio; James A. Pratt, 44, second mate, Lakewood, Ohio; Michael E. Armagost, 37, third mate, Iron River, Wisconsin; Thomas Bentsen, 23, oiler, St. Joseph, Michigan; Thomas D. Borgeson, 4l, maintenance man, Duluth, Minnesota; John D. Simmons, 60, wheelsman, Ashland, Wisconsin; Eugene W. O'Brien, 50, wheelsman, Toledo, Ohio; John J. Poviatch, 59, wheelsman, Bradenton, Florida; Ranson E. Cundy, 53, watchman, Superior, Wisconsin; William J. Spengler, 59, watchman, Toledo, Ohio; Karl A. Peckol, 20, watchman, Ashtabula, Ohio; Mark A. Thomas, 2l, deck hand, Richmond Heights, Ohio; Paul M. Rippa, 22, deck hand, Ashtabula, Ohio; Bruce L. Hudson, 22, deck hand, North Olmsted, Ohio; David E. Weiss, 22, cadet, Agoura, California; Robert C. Rafferty, 62, steward, Toledo, Ohio; Allen G. Kalmon, 43, second cook, Washburn, Wisconsin; Frederick J. Beetcher, 56, porter, Superior, Wisconsin; Nolan F. Church, 55, porter, Silver Bay, Minnesota; George Holl, 60, chief engineer, Cabot, Pennsylvania; Edward F. Bindon, 47, first assistant engineer, Fairport Harbor, Ohio; Thomas E. Edwards, 50, second assistant engineer, Oregon, Ohio; Russell G. Haskell, 40, second assistant engineer, Millbury, Ohio; Oliver J. Champeau, 4l, third assistant engineer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Blaine H. Wilhelm, 52, oiler, Moguah, Wisconsin; Ralph G. Walton, 58, oiler, Fremont, Ohio; Joseph W. Mazes, 59, special maintenance man, Ashland, Wisconsin; Gordon F. MacLellan, 30, wiper, Clearwater, Florida

About the Great Lakes (and why they're so treacherous):

Unless you live here (like I do), you know there really are no words to describe these bodies of water. The term "lake" is the understatement of the year. They're more like inland seas than lakes. The Lakes are actually one giant waterway system, all connected to each other, flowing from west to east, down the St. Lawrence, and out into the Atlantic Ocean. These Lakes are so enormous that they actually create their own weather systems, capable of even creating inland hurricanes. The Lakes make up 22% of the world's fresh water. There is enough water in the Great Lakes to cover the 48 contiguous states with 9.5 feet of water. Even under normal circumstances, when Canadian winds sweep across these Lakes, the winds draw an incredible amount of moisture, but when these winds finally make landfall they cannot hold it any longer and dump that moisture on the surrounding land.

In the summer, the Lakes are fairly calm and precipitation is normal, although because of them we have a saying, "This is Ohio. If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes." However, winter time is when it really gets going. The "Witch of November" in the song is what us locals know as that cold, hard west wind that just blows incessantly during the month of November. You've probably heard of "The Bible Belt" down South and "the Corn Belt" in the MidWest. Here in NE Ohio, off the shores of Lake Erie, we have "the Snow Belt". Because of the Great Lakes, it is not uncommon for it to snow several feet in a matter of just a couple of hours (from the air that can't hold it's moisture as it rises over the land). And yes, it gets REALLY cold AND snowy here, usually around January and February.

But the intense weather isn't the only reason these Lakes are deadly. Having dived these Lakes, I can personally attest to the fact that these Lakes (at least Lake Erie) can go from having great depths to extremely shallow in a matter of just a few nautical miles. The silt sea bed is always on the move and forever changing shape. Also, because one Lake feeds into another, the water levels go up and down seasonally, as well as the occasional surge or sudden withdrawl of water levels. This can make shipping quite dangerous, as in the case of the Fitzgerald, where they were laden with enough ore to lower their hull significantly, which could have caused the ship to run aground on the many shoals found in each of the Lakes. However, the shape and depth of the shoal can vary a great deal in as little time as a day, making safe navigation a real chore in calm water, let alone during a severe storm. The Lake bottoms are just as unpredictable as the weather above!

"The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" - Gordon Lightfoot, 1976

~information gathered by "surfing" the internet, specifically the Detroit News

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" - The Four Lads, 1953 (popular)

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night

Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you've a date in Constantinople
She'll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way

So, take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks


Why did Constantinople get the works? Well, it's not nobody's business but the's pretty much well-documented world history. The reason for the name change is really quite simple.

Contstantinople was the imperial capital of the Roman Empire. It was founded by Emperor Constantine I in 324 A.D. on the site of the already existing city, Byzantium, which was the capital of Christendom succeeding ancient Greece and Rome. Rome was entirely too far away from the frontiers, and Constantine needed a place where, while he was away, he could still be readily defended and yet have military access to the Danube and Euphrates frontiers. The name "Constantinople" is a shortening of the city's christened name, "Constantinopolis"...Constantine's City. Six years later, in 330 A.D. it was proclaimed the new capital of the Roman Empire.

Constantinople grew to be a city of great importance as the Roman Empire grew, located strategically between the Great Horn and the Sea of Marmara where Europe meets Asia. Throughout the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest cities, and was often referred to as the Queen of Cities. The city has also been nicknamed the City on Seven Hills and the Door to Happiness. However, the name Constantinople was how everyone knew the city well into the 20th century.

The city had many nicknames, official and unofficial; colloquial and international; documented and undocumented. Naturally, the nicknames reflected the city's various attributes from its wealth to its location. Eventually, one name began to stick - Istanbul. The irony of it all is that "istanbul" really isn't a name, either and the use of this particular term for the city in regular Turkish speech dates back to at least the 10th century. It's another description. The word "istanbul" is from the Greek istim boli meaning "in the city", "to the city", or more simply "downtown".

So out of all the hundred or so poetic licenses taken to describe today's third largest city in the world, in 1930 the Turkish government proclaimed that from that day forward, all letters, packages, communiques, correspondence, and any other communication to or about this city should essentially be addressed: "Downtown".

"Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - The Four Lads, 1953

~information gathered from "the net", "the world wide web", or more generically..."online".