Posted in BOOKS, Music, NORTH AMERICA, Popular Culture

“Ceiling Unlimited” song by Rush

Points and stops along the healing road.

Today’s post will be a cocktail mix of part meteorology, part song lyric analysis, and part cross-country geographic transect. How are these three things related? Well, I like to use transects when I teach Geography … and I sometimes listen to rock music when commuting … and I also like to clarify meteorological terminology when I can.

You may have seen a current local conditions status page on The Weather Channel. The meteorological and aviation term “ceilings” refers to the height of the lowest layer of the flat base of clouds.  If you are looking up, how high do you have to reach in order to touch the cloud base – or the “ceiling”? This is a height usually reported in feet above ground level. Modern meteorologists use a ceilometer, which measures the cloud base height with a laser.  What if there are no clouds in the sky? In that case, a number cannot be reported – and so the condition is listed as “ceiling unlimited”.

The term is also the title of a song by the Canadian rock band Rush, off of their 2002 comeback album “Vapor Trails”.

Vapor Trails 2002 album cover art
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=563789

Listen to the song via the YouTube video posting linked here.

Make sure to view the lyrics of the song in the link posted here.

Fans of Rush are well aware of the personal life tragedies which occurred to drummer and lyricist of the band, Neil Peart. In 1997, Mr. Peart’s nineteen-year old daughter Selena was killed in a horrific traffic accident. He and his wife Jackie were devastated by the loss. A year later, Neil’s wife also died — from cancer officially, but many felt that she had died of a broken heart, and willed herself to die because she could not deal with the pain of her daughter’s death. Band members Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson agreed that Rush should go on hiatus, and possibly never continue. Neil Peart’s story of grief is told in the book “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road” (Amazon link here).

While still in a state of extreme grief, Neil suffered other indignities. His faithful family dog died soon after his wife, then his best friend was sent to prison for marijuana possession.  All alone with this own dangerous thoughts, Neil took off on a solo motorcycle ride across Canada.  A photo of his red BMW Touring Motorcycle, which was a gift from his wife during happier times, is seen in the photo gallery below. (Click an image to view full size.)

His first route (See Google Maps Route above), took him from his home in Quebec, across Ontario, and the Prairie Provinces, eventually crossing the Arctic Circle, then over the Canadian Rockies to British Columbia and Vancouver Island. He later continued riding south into the USA, down into Mexico and across to Belize.

Mr. Peart traveled approximately 50,000 miles, often riding 500 miles or longer each day. The lyrics he later wrote for the Rush album reflect his travels and feelings down this “healing road”.

The ghost rider with vapor trails overhead. A scene from the film documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage”.

Riding a motorcycle through the wilds requires concentration, which helped to take his grieving mind away from his emotional pain. Mr. Peart himself drew the example of how infants can be calmed by taking a car ride. Riding across North America calmed his “baby soul”. The “Ghost Rider” book – written some time later — includes many of Mr. Peart’s observations about the physical terrain and culture. The lyrics intertwine with his mixed feelings of anger, resentment, thankfulness and humility. He kept a journal, which includes excerpts from letters and other supportive messages exchanged with his friends. The Rush movie documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage” has a segment about Neil’s travel linked on this YouTube clip. Make sure to listen to Neil’s observation about travel at time 4:00.

His band mates thought that the group might not ever play together again, so Vapor Trails must be viewed as a “comeback” album for the group. (It was back to Rush heavy-metal basics (… and no keyboards were used!) The album title itself symbolizes the ephemeral nature of existence.  We live —  then soon we are gone — leaving only partial evidence of our lives. That trace will then also soon evaporate.  The record makes for some pretty good “motorcycle music” or for driving those long-distance geographic transects! The other songs also contain Zen-like travel philosophy. You can listen to the entire album, with on-screen lyrics here.

“Ceiling Unlimited” is probably my second or third favorite song on the album — the title coming from a Weather Channel forecast Neil happened to catch on one stop. When Mr. Peart’s experience is considered, these lyrics make perfect sense.

Lyrics are in bold italic, my vapid comments are in orange font.

It’s not the heat / It’s the inhumanity / Plugged into the sweat of a summer street / Machine gun images pass / Like malice through the looking glass

……….. Perhaps this is a grip about bad situations, and negative human interactions one might have when traveling. Neil was known for having a short-fuse and did not interact well with the public. Although Geddy and Alex relished meeting and interacting with Rush fans, Neil hated it. “Machine gun images” may allude to the rapid paced movement of objects coming into, and then out of vision very quickly on a fast moving motorcycle. It might also allude to his own dark thoughts.

The slackjaw gaze / Of true profanity / Feels more like surrender than defeat / If culture is the curse of the thinking class / If culture is the curse of the thinking class

………. Similarly, the “slack-jawed” insult may be reserved for the contempt he felt for ignorant people. Educated in the arts, and having an appreciation for literature as Mr. Peart is known for, was I also know what a burden it is when you have knowledge of art or esoteric subjects, but all of your daily interactions are with ignoramuses.

Ceiling unlimited / World so wide / Turn and turn again / Feeling unlimited / Still unsatisfied / Changes never end 

………. Could this be an awakening of some hopeful thoughts.  Now that his former life has been destroyed, is his future all open-sky? Unlimited in possibility? What would his wife and daughter have wanted for him?

The vacant laugh / Of true insanity / Dressed up in the mask of Tragedy / Programmed for the guts and glands / Of idle minds and idle hands

I rest my case – / Or at least my vanity / Dressed up in the mask of Comedy / If laughter is a straw for a drowning man / If laughter is a straw for a drowning man

………. Well, he had to set his luggage on the dressers in many small town hotels as he traveled. The motel television would provide nothing useful. Likely, he would have to put on a false face of friendliness when interacting with locals. Being or acting amused on occasion with a friendly clerk or waitress would not ease his pain, but perhaps it was all he had.

Ceiling unlimited / Windows open wide / Look and look again / Feeling unlimited / Eyes on the prize / Changes never end

………. Could this be an awakening of some hopeful thoughts.  Now that his former life has been destroyed, is his future all open-sky? Unlimited in possibility? What would his wife and daughter have wanted for him?

Winding like an ancient river / The time is now again / Hope is like an endless river / The time is now again

………. My favorite line is “the time is now again”. Because time in this situation does not matter. There is only the here and now. He had no destination. The natural environment, the river had been flowing and cutting its course for millennia. It may be the temporal version of the old country expression “no matter where you go, there you are.”

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Songwriters: Alex Zivojinovich / Gary Lee Weinrib / Neil Elwood Peart.  Ceiling Unlimited lyrics © Ole Media Management Lp.

It took the sap four hours to flow … added up in total … over the course of one week. If you want to borrow my copy of “Ghost Rider” or “Vapor Trails” see me in my office today!

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2019 Grand Strand/Pee Dee Walk to Defeat ALS

My Dear Friends and Family and Co-Workers and Students,

I strongly support RITTER’S RECRUITS at this year’s Walk-a-Thon in Myrtle Beach!

Please see the following link to find out more:

http://web.alsa.org/site/TR?team_id=376537&fr_id=13550&pg=team

http://web.alsa.org/site/TR?team_id=376537&fr_id=13550&pg=team
Posted in CULTURE, Popular Culture

Do American college students have something to learn from Japan’s “Coming of Age Day”?

Do American college students have something to learn from Japan’s “Coming of Age Day”?

The second Monday in January is a Japanese public holiday termed 成人の日 Seijin no Hi”. “Coming of Age Day” or “Adults Day” honors young people who have turned 20 years old since April 2 of last year, or will turn 20 by April 1 this year. Twenty-years old is termed the “age of majority” — meaning that the youth join all other adults in the larger society. Age 20 is also known as the “age of maturity”. The holiday is an important rite of passage for young people, and the tradition dates back centuries. The day is observed to congratulate and honor those young people who will accept the responsibilities of being an adult citizen. Certain legal rights are expanded at that age, but with that also comes with an expectation of increased responsibility.

https://tokyogirlsupdate.com/akb48-coming-of-age-ceremony-2015-20150134643.html

The legal age for drinking alcohol, smoking, signing a lease, getting a loan, or getting married without parental consent is 20 years old in Japan.  Japanese youth are expected to give up childish behavior, and commit to being a more serious adult. Ironically, as age 20 is also the official legal drinking age – thus many young people are welcomed into the adult majority by having their first (legal) drink of sake, and many become intoxicated in celebration. I think that most American college students would agree that the best way to demonstrate maturity and independence is to drink alcohol.

Two kimono-clad girls drink sake during a coming-of-age day ceremony in Tokyo. (Photo by Yamaguchi Haruyoshi/Corbis via Getty Images) https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/two-kimono-clad-girls-drink-sake-during-a-coming-of-age-day-news-photo/543775336

Seijin Shiki ( 成人式refers to the social celebration and observation of the youths’ commitment. This usually involves a ceremony at a Shinto shrine and/or commemoration at legal offices in local prefectures. The entertainment districts in Tokyo are filled with young people and their families. Even Tokyo Disneyland also hosts events.

Ikuta Shrine Kobe, Japan https://hyogojapan.com/coming-of-age-day-japan/

Notable is the formal wear the young people wear. A formal kimono is traditional for young women. These are termed a  furisode (a long-sleeved kimono for unmarried women). These are all strikingly beautiful garments. Most young women rent them for the ceremonies, as these formal kimonos may cost thousands of dollars each.

Kimonos are one of the more unique and interesting aspects about Japanese culture:

https://tokyogirlsupdate.com/2018-seijin-201801136771.html

Young men wear either Western-style formal attire or a traditional men’s kimono with hakama.  Some celebrants instead wear traditional (historical) Japanese dress. A recent trend has begun, where participants wear “cosplay” type attire, as some may choose to dress as a famous Japanese character. They perhaps “party hard” on this day, because from then on they will have to be a responsible adult.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

See more photos at   http://netachou.blog.jp/archives/27809156.html

Unfortunately, there are fewer participants every year, which is a reflection of Japan’s declining birth rates and its inverted population pyramid. There is also an attitude of rejection of the concept by some youth.  The idea of taking on more responsibility merely because of age is not something some agree with. Japan’s “age of maturity” is scheduled to be legally reduced from age 20 to 18 in the year 2022. Japan’s leaders hope that more young people will mature faster, get married sooner and start families at an earlier age.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/25/national/social-issues/coming-age-japans-shifting-definition-adulthood/#.XD9PnVxKiUk

Do you think that a commitment to maturity would take hold among American youth? Why or why not? Is twenty years old the right age for American kids to accept responsibility? How about thirty? Please comment.

It took the sap about 3:00 to flow today.

Posted in Uncategorized, MY PHOTOS, OLD RESEARCH

My entry for the American Meteorological Society T-Shirt design contest 2018

Spoiler Alert: It didn’t win.  I had entered the American Meteorological Society’s annual “T-Shirt Design Contest” last summer. The winner was to be awarded free registration to the Annual Meeting of the AMS that is being held this month. They will  also be selling the shirts — of the winner — at the conference. Here is my design, although I never made it into a real fabric shirt.

I would like to tell you a little bit about how I came to make this design. The t-shirt I designed is just a plain white shirt with black text.  I suppose it could be made in color, but for the purposes of the contest, I just wanted the image to be as clear as possible for the judges.

How did I come up with the idea? I came up with the design from two different ideas. 1) I thought of the National Weather Service map symbols used on the station model on a synoptic weather chart. 2) I also have an interest in Japanese culture and art. (See my current work on Meteorology and Myth.)  The shirt depicts the Japanese kanji for “thunderstorm”.* The Japanese word is raiu.

Background: Kanji symbols are one of the three (maybe four?) methods of writing the Japanese language. There are thousands of kanji symbols. This system differs from our letters in that kanji is a symbolic — or logographic — system. The symbols (or “words” if you will) look like the real things the words represent.

The symbol on the left combines characters for “lightning” on top, with the symbol for “rice field” on the bottom. When the symbol is placed in this context, the symbol no longer means rice field — instead it   means “drumming”.  This is very appropriate! Thunder can sound like the pounding of drums as a thunderstorm approaches the observer. The symbol on the right is the kanji character for “rain”.  Note the symbol includes those four dashes which look rather like rain falling from the flat base of a cloud.  Maybe on to a rice field?

From “The Rising Sky” blog on WordPress.

When you put them together, it “spells” (cough) the Japanese word Raiu – or Thunderstorm. Link: Here is how to pronounce the word “Raiu”.

The other inspiration for my T-shirt design was based on the US National Weather Service symbols used on their synoptic weather charts. Meteorologists place these symbols on a map around a particular station, to represent conditions at a point in time.

Notice that the NWS symbols for thunderstorm, and the various conditions associated with types of thunderstorms storms look like logographic writing.  The basic thunderstorm shorthand symbol is a horizontal line with a perpendicular straight line down on the left side, and a zig-zag line with arrow on the right.  The zig-zag obviously represents a downward lightning path. Perhaps the left line represents the downward rush of rain and cold air, typical of a mature thunderstorm.

Actually, I had thought at first of just using the NWS thunderstorm symbol as the T-shirt design, but then thought the kanji script might be a good conversation starter.  I hope you like my design. Maybe someday I could have the shirt printed out. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might improve the design? Please comment if you want us to order some!

It took the sap about 2:05 to flow through this one.

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*References: I found a WordPress blogger who has posted articles about Japanese kanji script. He also posts interesting articles about Japanese culture. I defer to his expertise here.

https://therisingsky.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/kanji-tip-15-%E9%9B%B7%E9%9B%A8-thunderstorm/

Weather map symbols:

https://www.joshtimlin.com/learning-center?lightbox=dataItem-irgddmlj

https://www.thoughtco.com/symbols-on-weather-maps-3444369

 

Posted in ASSIGNMENTS

“Don’t MEME me …”

Don’t mind me … I was just blogging! 

Students, please view this collection of blogging meme’s. Which one is your favorite? Which one(s) do you think you might identify with?

Think and reflect on your blogging experiences this semester!

ASSIGNMENT: Please create your own meme based on your blogging experiences. It can be about the entire semester, or one particular issue you had. Generally, they should be light-hearted or humorous. If you want to go for poignant, please do.

Include your link in my comment section below!

Please post by the day and time of our final.

Posted in COLLABORATIONS, MY PHOTOS

Graduate Student’s “Cultural Geography Mini-Symposium” December 12, 2018

The students in my graduate geography held a “Mini-Symposium” instead of taking a regular final exam.. These are the posters presented by the students December 12, 2018.

The students were to experience the professional experience of presenting an academic poster, perform a ‘conference-style” oral presentation, and submit a research paper for review. All of this experience in one day!

Geography and Voting Patterns in North Carolina  — DeVare Jenkins

Jenkins voting in nc poster

Peyotism and the Native American Church: An Ethno-Geographic Study Employing a “Five Themes” Approach. — Richard William Varner II

Richard Peyote poster 2018

Teal’s Wonderful World of Golf — Jimmy Teal

teal Wonderful World of Golf poster

Buddhism and the Five Themes of Cultural Geography  — Sonya L. Hunt

Sonya Hunt Buddhism Poster

Global Human Trafficking — LaToya Gholston

Gholston Poster

The Diffusion of Jazz in America from 1917-1969: Examining Jazz Through Recordings —Brandon Hyatt

Brandons jazz poster

Cultural Geography of Religious Cults – Katheryn Sonnen

K S cults Poster

It was also good to see that some faculty and administrators were able to attend:

Good job people! Let’s present these at the Graduate Symposium this April!

 

Posted in COLLABORATIONS, CONFERENCE PRESENTATION, MY PHOTOS, OLD RESEARCH

Seen at the North Carolina Academy of Science! (The Annual Meeting, March 23-24, 2018. Wake Tech Community College.)

Seen at the North Carolina Academy of Science! (The Annual Meeting, April 2018. Wake Tech Community College).

dennis edgell and julian butler NCAS Meeting 2018
It turns out that “Degree-Days” are neither “degrees” or “days”!

Dennis Edgell (L) and Julian Butler (R).

Dr. Farley and his students NCAS 2018
Dr. Farley would rather “bee keeping”

Dr. Farley and some of his “Kids in the Garden” research.

the big screen IMG_0178

Turned out the entire academy March 24 2018

I also presented a degree-day paper, expanding upon Julian’s pilot study.

I thought it would be attended only by the other presenters. Who knew that the entire academy would be there?

 

Posted in BOOKS

My favorite chapter from “Twelve Rules for Life”

I have not bought many “self help” books before —  actually, I probably never did. However I bought Jordan B. Peterson’s book “Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”.  I think that it is a great read.

hold on prof peterson

Dr. Peterson is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. Many people are already familiar with his work, his website and his YouTube channel. He has his fans and he has his detractors. Dr. Peterson has been unfairly maligned in the mainstream media. Although he considers himself a liberal, he is detested by radical college leftists, and the “SJWs”. Which is a good reason to like him right there! My purpose here is not to discuss his controversies however.

The book is divided into twelve main chapters, each based on a simple phrase, such as “Chapter 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back”.   Professor Peterson’s readers often report that his book contains “things that they already knew, but did not know how to express in words before.” I think that I can attest for that. I do not always follow his reasoning on some issues, but do I admire him for his manner of communication. It should be noted that he treats fellow academics much more fairly than other academics often treat him.

Professor Peterson has hours of lecture material available on YouTube. There is a lot to watch, and a lot to choose from. I wanted to share with you today — my favorite chapter from his bestselling TRFL book. Professor Peterson himself reads the chapter: “Rule 6: Put your own house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”

I hope that you can listen and take it to heart.  If you like this chapter, let me know. Maybe I will send you a copy of the book for Christmas … and some fudge too.