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A year ago at this time our family gathered for our Christmas celebration. Normally a happy and joyous time it would be cut short and the mood turned somber as we eventually  made our way to the hospital to be with our precious little Amber. Her courageous struggle would finally come to a conclusion with her family members present to bid her farewell. It was not what we wanted at this time but not unexpected. I had written a post called, Amber’s Journey, back in March of 2009 when we learned she would become a permanent part of our family. Her health had always been precarious, but like most parents and grandparents we hoped for the best and always looked forward to the future.  On January 5, 2010 we celebrated her life and then prepared to move forward with our lives. It was and still is difficult at times.

Amber will always be a part of our life and we will remember her this weekend as our family again gathers for our Christmas celebration. We will remember how she taught us what unconditional love is all about. Amber gave us an opportunity to teach our children and grandchildren to accept others who may be ‘different’. Amber reinforced our belief that we must all be advocates for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is incredible the number of lives she touched. We often hear the bad news about children who slip through the cracks but this was not the case with Amber. We are grateful and remember the strong advocacy of the public servants in our community who worked tirelessly on her behalf. We will remember the exceptional group of young adults who supported my daughter and her husband.

We will remember her incredible ability to survive. We will remember her moods, her desire to be cuddled, and the way she  communicated. We will remember her smile, her rosy cheeks, and her beautiful long hair.

We will remember how blessed we were to know her and how much we loved her.

The title of this post is inspired by this performance by Raul Malo and Michael Guerra.

Peace and solidarity,

CHC

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In January of 2010 I was doing some searching for an appropriate piece of music for a video I was contemplating making. Of course, when you begin a search on the internet it can easily lead to endless possibilities and distractions. I came across a tune I had stuck in the back of my mind for about 35 plus years.

 In 1973 I was serving a 30 month stint at San Vito Air Station, Italy, as an airman with the United States Air Force Security Service (no, I was not a cop). San Vito A.S. was located in the heel of the boot in an area of the country that was mostly agriculture. The largest nearby city was Brindisi, an ancient port city on the Adriatic Sea. The Air Force installation was small, so housing for married couples was limited. When my wife arrived to join me we found a villa in a little resort town called Specchiolla.  Specchiola was home to many of the Air Force personnel stationed at the base and home to a few locals. During the summer this quiet, sleepy little village on the coast of the Adriatic Sea became the home to many people on holiday from northern parts of Italy and Germany. There were several restaurants in the village that were only open during the tourist season and were about four or five blocks from our villa. During those summer months they were very active and usually had live music most nights. It was during this time that I first heard a song that would stick with me all these years. We would often hear music on those hot summer nights coming from the restaurants. Our windows were open or we would be walking on the beach and there was one melody that apparently was very popular  in Europe at that time. We would hear it at least once a night but I never knew the name of the song or the name of the band that was playing.

My search in January, quite by accident, gave me some answers about this melody in my head and I found out how this simple tune has had an impact on at least two continents, and has been with me in one form or another all of these years.

Soleado

The origins of the  melody have not been firmly established but it is apparent that its modern form became popular in 1974 when it was recorded by the Daniel Sentacruz Ensemble. I don’t know if they were performing in Specchiola when I was there or if it was a local band doing a cover. This YouTube video shows the group and all their hippie garb performing their hit single on television.

Some of you may say, “hey, that sounds familiar”. Well, you’re right. Johnny Mathis recorded a version around 1975 but it was adapted with words and became a hit and a Christmas tradition called, When A Child Is Born.  I like this version by Andrea Bocelli:

This tune has been covered by many artists and in many forms. It seems to have been very popular in Europe where it got its start and climbed to top of the charts again in 1994 when German DJ and techno record producer Mark ‘Oh released a version called, Tears Don’t Lie. This Mark ‘Oh guy has got a nice gig. All he has to do is play a record, pump his fist in the air, and yell, “get your hands up” to thousands of screaming fans.

As I said, many artists, many forms. Here is one by a Czech crooner by the name of Karel Gott. His version is called, Měl jsem rád a mám (I loved and I still do). Of course he is accompanied by a bevy of beautiful women.

My favorite version is the original version because it brings back memories of the peaceful little village I called home for two and a years. I am glad there are still remnants of the Daniel Sentacruz Ensemble around and are still performing Soleado to appreciative European crowds.

Peace & solidarity

CHC

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11/09/09 UPDATE: Harmon Park is safe. According to members of the Save Harmon Park group the Pipestone city council met in closed session again tonight (11/09/09) and when they came out they announced that they had taken a vote and had declined Coborn’s offer for Harmon Park.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

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If you happen to be a Facebook user then you will know that you often get all kinds of unsolicited invitations to become a fan of someone or something or to join a cause. It is easy to do with a couple of clicks and you can then beat your chest and say, “I support the ____ CAUSE.”  Recently I received a suggestion from a FB friend that I have known for a long time. She suggested that I join the Save Harmon Park cause. My curiosity got to me so I signed up and discovered that the city of Pipestone was considering selling part of their premier city park so that it could be developed  into a Coborn’s Superstore which would include a car wash and a gas station/convenience store. Coborn’s, Inc. is a Minnesota grown corporation founded in 1921 based in St Cloud with locations in the midwest, primarily Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

The Pipestone County Star carried the first story, Coborn’s Superstore on the drawing board, about this development on October 7, 2009 and it was soon after that the opposition formed their group.

The Save Harmon Park group has been busy. They now have 276 members in the FB group and are using this social media tool for discussion, communication and organizing. They have contacted news organizations to get their story out, organized a petition drive which garnered 400 signatures to present to the city council, generated numerous letters to the editor and had over 100 people at a recent city council meeting to speak against the sale.

The city of Pipestione has had a rough year. Bayliner shut down its operations and Suzlon announced significant layoffs. The stagnant economy and unallotment by the Governor have also contributed to the tough situations faced by the city council. While the influx of cash from the sale of the park and future property tax collections may seem attractive now the Save Harmon Park group believes that it is short-sighted and I sympathise with them. I think it is a bit arrogant for Coborn’s to believe that the citizens of Pipestone would give up their park without question. I wonder what they were thinking when they were picking their ideal spot for a new store.

Did the conversation go like this?

 “Here is a great location” !

 “But wait, isn’t there a city park there”?

 “So what, our green will trump their green”.

For me, another reason to dislike this idea is Coborn’s political stance on health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act. They have opposed both and urged their employees to do the same in an internal memo. In a Minnesota Public Radio report, Coborn’s director of communications, Steve Gottwalt says, ” the company frequently shares information with its employees about factors affecting its business”. Steve Gottwalt also happens to have another job as a  Minnesota state representative in district 15A and  is a member of the Republican caucus.

Visit the Pipestone County Star website to keep abreast of the situation and to read the letters to the editor. Here is just one example. If you are on Facebook search Save Harmon Park.

I can’t help but think of this song.

Peace & solidarity,

 

CHC

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I think I remember my mother telling me, ” If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything at all”.

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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 moerkealbumpics030August 6, 1945, Sentimental Journey by Les Brown was topping the charts and the war in the Pacific was lingering on, but on this day it would take a historic turn. A lone B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay would release a single bomb nicknamed “Little Boy”. The ensuing blast would virtually destroy the city and thousands and thousands of its residents. President Truman would make an announcement later that morning that the United States had used a new weapon, an “atomic bomb”. The devastation of Hiroshima and 3 days later of Nagasaki quickly brought and end to the war and a new era of weapons of mass destruction.

The pictures in this post were taken by my father who was part of the occupation forces in Japan. He and his fellow soldiers were on a train that passed through Hiroshima and he managed to snap a few pictures. The picture above shows the magnitude of the destruction. One lone building and twigs sticking out of the ground that I imagine were once trees.

This next picture shows the remnants of a tank near the railroad tracks. What is notable about this picture is what is absent. There is nothing in the background.

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In the picture below we see several men from the Australian military at the train station in Hiroshima. Waiting to leave? Pondering what they have seen?  

 

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As they travel to their next duty station the train would take them to scenic parts of Japan, untouched by the war. My father took this shot as they crossed a river and it is one of my favorites. I often look at the young man with his head resting on his folded arms and wonder what thoughts are going through his mind.

 

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Peace & Solidarity,

CHC

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Wal-Mart has once again become the symbol of our nations over-zealous consumerism. The BlackFriday death of Jdimytai Damour is tragic and my heart goes out to his family. Many words have been written and spoken about this event. Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press writes about the event in his column, Black Friday finally claims a life.

Ojanpa writes:

“The safety of our customers and associates is our top priority,” Wal-Mart lawyerly intoned post-stampede.

OK, then, prove it by doing this: No more whipping waiting mobs into a shark frenzy by teasing them with pulse-quickening prices on purposely rationed items.

Go read the rest of his opinion piece here

The death of this worker was preventable. The barbaric crowd bears some responsibility for this death but the police in Long Island will find it difficult to bring criminal charges against anyone. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, has a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace and failed dismally in this case.

CNN reports that UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce Both has called Wal-Mart’s actions, “blatant irresponsibility”. 

This incident reminded me of a song I downloaded a few years back by MC Lars called Wal-Mart Nation.

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Over the past few months I had been actively working to help elect Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States. Sometimes it was tedious-setting up phone banks, door knocks, work-site visits and recruiting volunteers. As November 4th grew closer the anxiety and excitement became more intense. The poll numbers were looking good but nobody was leaving anything to chance. The final four days were intense but enjoyable. I had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of excited volunteers. A young African immigrant who was voting for the first time was actively participating in getting her community registered to vote and getting them to the polls, retired teachers were training door knockers, college students were volunteering, packing house workers and professionals were knocking on doors side by side. We all shared the same goal and dream. November 4th was our day to bring about change and we were successful.

While I went home that night to sip a little brandy and watch the returns and celebrations on tv and the internet, others took to dancing in the streets in America and the world.

 

Mick Jagger and David Bowie do a little dancin’ in the streets in this music video that is older than many of the volunteers I worked with.

 

 

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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