Movie Review
The Vietnam War
Ken Burns & Lynn Novick

This isn’t a very deep review. It is, however, a very deep and sincere recommendation. The eighteen hour documentary is simply the best thing I’ve seen in years. PBS broadcast the first of ten episodes on September 17. I watched it and the next one, and was hooked. Circumstances kept me from watching the remaining episodes when broadcast, but I did eventually see them all via online streaming. It was announced that the stream would only be available through October 15 but it still appeared to be functioning on the 17th. Check The Vietnam War for details and other sources.

There’s no question that one reason I found this production so engaging is its familiarity. I recall many of the described events from when they happened in the 1960s and early 1970s. There was both a refreshing of memories and a filling in of unknown details. But there was also plenty of totally new information, particularly concerning the earliest years, that made me realize things were even more screwed up than I thought they were; And I thought they were really screwed up.

Burns and company pulled together a lot of sources in an attempt to present every aspect from every angle. The result probably isn’t perfect but it’s mighty close. Recent interviews with a variety of participants help illuminate some of those angles and add insight and credibility.

I was more on the sidelines than not, but I was there. Watching this movie made me remember some of the clearly stupid and arguably evil things my country did. Someone in their 20s or 30s for whom the Vietnam War is more ancient than World War II was for me, won’t have those memories to be reawakened. We will see the history telling aspect of the movie differently. But I can’t imagine anyone watching this epic and thinking of it as nothing but a history report. Seeing the divisiveness associated with the Vietnam War in the divisiveness of today seems unavoidable to me. I believe that the twentysomethings of both the 1970s and the 2010s can’t help but see some similarities.

If you’re looking for a little entertainment that will take your mind off the world, this ain’t it. This will, in fact, press your mind firmly against the world of fifty years ago and help it remember and/or understand that world. I’m betting it will also get your mind thinking about the world of today although it probably won’t help in understanding it.  

BLINK Cincinnati

It’s big. Twenty blocks big, they say. The southernmost installations are in the Banks area south of 2nd Street; The northernmost is a little north of Findlay Street. That’s where the twenty block measurement comes from. In between, displays can be found in an area three or four blocks wide. The simplest description of BLINK is that it’s a light show. Colorful images, such as the one at right, are projected on buildings throughout that twenty block area of downtown Cincinnati. Thursday was the first night; Sunday is the last.

I made it Thursday night, but not as early as I should have. I had thoughts of parking in the Washington Park and catching the nearby opening night parade. I was way too late for that, however, and could see that streets around the park were blocked off. I turned onto Walnut Street and headed toward Fountain Square. As I drove, I grabbed the picture at the top of the article from the car. Vehicle traffic was heavy but nowhere near what I’ve frequently seen in the past. It was foot traffic that was unusual. It didn’t approach gridlock levels either but it was certainly heavy throughout a large area. At this point, I wasn’t really surprised to see the Walnut Street entrance to the Fountain Square Garage closed. I was, however, feeling a little discouraged and the blocked entrance added to that. I decided to swing around to the other side and if it was also closed, as I expected, I would simply head home and try again on another night.

I did not have to cut and run. The Vine Street entrance was open and there were plenty of spots open in the garage. After a brief look at the area around Fountain Square I headed toward the river. These two photos are of the eastern side of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The lighted tops of the PNC and Carew Towers can be seen in the first one. All projected images are either constantly changing or in motion.

South of the Freedom Center, seesaws with illuminated beams occupy an area between it and the Roebling Bridge. I walked beyond the seesaws and looked back north for the second picture. Images are projected on all three sections of the Freedom Center. On the left are the PNC and Carew Towers with the Scripps Tower on the right.

The Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, is a participant with a large display of the event’s name and and a series of baseball themed images.

Food and beverages are available in a number of Hospitality Areas and there are several locations with live music. The first picture is of The Mambo Combo who were performing on the Freedom Center Stage. The second is of the Queen City Kings performing in the Saint Xavier Backlot. The King City projection, with rotating tape reels, is on the rear of Saint Xavier Church. I kind of wanted to talk with the young lady in the picture about what she was reading but I didn’t.

There was another snag besides my late arrival. As stated in the online FAQ, “BLINK is designed around the Cincinnati Bell Connector Streetcar route.” Around 9:00, when I decided to take the streetcar to the north end of the event, it was not moving. It wasn’t the streetcar’s fault. A section of 5th Street was blocked for what I assume was an accident. Yellow police tape crossed the streetcar track. When any part of a loop is blocked, the whole thing, in effect, is blocked. I chose not to walk the fifteen or so blocks so I missed a considerable portion of the exhibits. Just more bad timing on my part.

SCA Conference 2017

When I travel to a conference or festival, the journal often begins to lag once I’ve arrived and organized activities begin to take up most of my time. When there is no travel involved, when the event is in the city where I live, that lag kicks in immediately. With the 2017 Society for Commercial Archeology Conference being just twenty miles from my home, there was no “trip”, only non-stop conference activities. There was just no time for the journal until the conference was over. All four days have been posted at one time. 

The trip journal is here. This entry is to let blog only subscribers know of the trip and provide a place for comments and questions.

Trip Peek #62
Trip #51
2007 National Route 66 Festival

This picture is from my 2007 National Route 66 Festival trip. The festival was in Clinton, Oklahoma. It was the centennial year for the state of Oklahoma which was a factor in holding the festival there and it also meant there were other things going on. One of those was the opening of a time capsule in which a brand new 1957 Plymouth had been buried. This was a fly-and-drive trip and I arranged my flights to be in Tulsa for the Plymouth resurrection then cover a little Route 66 before the festival. The capsule had leaked and the Plymouth pretty much ruined but it was still a cool event. My time on Route 66 was enough to get me to my first overnight at the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and a look at two almost but not quite ready to open new businesses on the Route: Boothill Restaurant in Vega, Texas, and Pops in Arcadia, Oklahoma. Among the things making the festival itself memorable was the one and only appearance of Route 66 e-group founder Greg Laxton and the first of many appearances of the now legendary Road Crew.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Then There Was One

Keith Emerson died in March of last year; Greg Lake followed in December. Carl Palmer looks like he might be around forever. Keith was 71. Greg was 69. Carl was the baby of the progressive rock trio that ruled the 1970s but even the baby is now 67. At 67 Carl Palmer is nearly as quick and powerful as he was at 27 and quicker and more powerful than just about anyone else at any age. Of course, there is a lot more to Carl than speed and power.

I first saw Carl Palmer in 1971 when Emerson, Lake, and Palmer opened for The James Gang at Cincinnati Gardens. There were two openers that night. One, Free, I knew of and had heard a song or two. The other was completely new to me. ELP blew me away that night with such force that, until I looked up some concert details earlier this week, I had totally forgotten that Free had appeared between them and the headliners.

For starters, they sounded good. Nobody sounded good in Cincinnati Gardens but ELP did. What I mostly remember of Greg Lake that night was his singing. I know he played bass and guitar and may have even temporarily wowed me with his playing but it is his voice I remember. Emerson grabbed everyone’s attention. The synthesizer was new and exciting and seemed capable of delivering every sound imaginable. And Keith Emerson was its master.

But the drummer got a lot of my attention, too. At the time, I was an active (ever so slightly) drummer myself and, while I wasn’t particularly good, I knew enough to realize that this guy was great. Carl Palmer didn’t just pound on his massive kit; He played music on it.

I saw ELP once more but, while I was just as impressed with their individual performances, I was actually disappointed in the concert as a whole. It was 1977 and they were touring with an orchestra. A former co-worker thought this was possibly the best concert he had ever attended and an on-line article I just discovered gives me new appreciation for the accomplishment but it just didn’t do it for me. Part of what made my jaw drop back in ’71 was that three guys sounded like an orchestra. I didn’t find a 58 piece orchestra sounding like a 58 piece orchestra nearly as impressive.

There was no orchestra for Friday’s show at Live at the Ludlow Garage. Nor was there a keyboardist or vocalist. Carl occasionally stepped forward to introduce a song or tell a story and that’s what he’s doing in the first photo. Paul Bielatowicz stuck with his six string electric. Simon Fitzpatrick played both a six string bass and a ten string Chapman Stick.. A Chapman Stick can mimic a variety of instruments and both guitarists worked with plenty of effects. It wasn’t ELP but it was three guys sometimes sounding like an orchestra. We had joked about the possibility of getting a two hour drum solo. It was anything but. Carl had some very talented musicians with him.

Of course, it was Carl that everyone came to see and he did not disappoint. There were a couple of time he sat quietly and gave Paul or Simon a chance to show off a little but he never left the stage during the hour and a half show and wasn’t sitting quietly at all for most of it. No, it wasn’t 1971 again but it was closer than I had any right to expect.